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Little Stones advocates for equal gender rights

The Ware center hosted a showing of Little Stones, a documentary displaying advocacy for Women's Rights. Photo Courtesy Alexander Bershtein.

Alexander Bershtein

Staff Writer

Millersville University and the Lancaster community was granted a view to the multi-
awarded documentary on advocacy for Women’s Equal rights, Little Stones, on February 28 th
before it was presented at the United Nations on the morning of International Women’s Day,
March 8 th . The film won Best Documentary at the 2017 Vail Film Festival, Best Foreign
Documentary at the 2017 Female Eye Film Festival, Humanitarian Award at the 2017 Docutah
Film Festival, and Award of Excellence at the 2017 Impact Doc Awards, as well as others. The
film was directed by the Emmy award winning Sophia Kruz and tells the story of four women;
Sohini Chakraborty, Panmela Castro, Fatou Diatta, and Anna Taylor, have changed so many
lives. They have helped many people through direct interactions and spreading of awareness of
many issues inflicting harm throughout sections of the world, and are continuing in their
advocacy and practical methods.

The event in Lancaster was hosted in the auditorium of Steinman Hall in Millersville
University’s Ware Center. The event began at 6:15pm with panel of some Lancaster’s locally
living Women’s Right activists. The panel included Almaz E. Amante a volunteer for Keystone
Human Resources, Dr. Carol Davis a professor at Franklin and Marshall College and founder of
the chartable theatre organization of the Nepal Health Project, Brittany Leffler a sexual assault
counselor at Lancaster’s YWCA, Julie Peachey the director of Innovations for Poverty Action,
and three faculty from Millersville University; Dr. Kimberly A. Mahaffy a professor in sociology
and coordinator in the campus’s Office of Diversity and Social Justice, Dr. Wanja Ogongi a
professor in social work and works on international human rights for women and children, and
Dr. Elizabeth Powers a professor of children’s education a current chair of the Commission on
the Status of Women at Millersville University. The commentary of the panel began with
worldly view of how change is coming about through advocacy efforts of various people and
how those efforts started. Ms. Brittany Leffler took a different approach as she asked the
audience to directly relate the issues presented in the film to Lancaster area itself because she
explained, “Little Stones was a film that moved me to make the connection between worldwide
gender-based violence and what’s happening in our own community.  Lancaster County has all of
the problems that we saw in the film: domestic abuse, sexual assault, human trafficking, wage
inequality, and gender-based poverty.” The final commentator, Dr. Carol Davis, surmised the
documentary for the audience when she explained that she believed the hidden message of the
documentary is that everyone has the ability to advocate for equal gender rights, or as she
poetically put it, “We are little stones being cast and causing ripple effects.”

International Education Week

After a brief intermission the documentary started a few minutes after
7pm with music encompassing the auditorium. The stage lit up with the title screen of a mosaic
of “little stones” that rotated to show depictions of the different art-forms of dance, song, painting, and craftsmanship that are used as the advocacy tools of the four advocates in the documentary. Afterwards, the film began its storytelling.

The first advocate that inspired Director Sophia Kruz to create the
Little Stones documentary is Sohini Chakraborty, who is a dancer and sociologist from India,
and uses her talents in Dance Movement Therapy to help women and children who have escaped
and survived the sex trafficking industry. She does through the organization Kolkata Sanved,
which she founded. In her advocacy she has affected 10s of thousands of lives with survivor
even achieving acceptance to a preeminent dance school.

Panmela Castro is a graffiti artist in Brazil, who creates expressive
artworks throughout her city that symbolize the trauma associated with domestic violence. Even
though she has become a star in the graffiti world through the awareness she spreads from the
walls of building to building, she also goes into school to explain the issues of domestic abuse to
students through the same artful implementation in the classrooms.

Fatou Diatta is a Hip-Hop artist from Senegal with the stage name of
Sister Fa. She uses her music primarily in her home country to advocate for the end of a cultural
practice that encompasses West Africa, and medically harms women through trauma and
reduction in immunity to various fatal diseases, including AIDs. She has faced even life-
threatening opposition from communities she has been to, but explains those are the places she
needs to advocate the most. Nowadays her advocacy has spread from West Africa to Europe
where the practice has been illegally happening as well.

Anna Taylor is a United States fashion designer that has worked with a
seamstress named Judith in Kenya since her college years. They developed a clothing and
jewelry business around the culture of the country, Judith and James, that directly funds the
education of women in the slums of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. The women are given livable
salaries and meals to support their families at the same time of the education and craftsmanship.
The business has gotten successful to the point where they won the New York Fashion Week.
The documentary travels back and forth across the world between
these stories as they begin to entail the obstacles and inner feelings of the activists. The lives of
the activists and the in-depth motives are shown, sometimes to a graphic and provocative point
that caused the Lancaster audience to get mixed emotions.

After the documentary finished the applause came with the entire
auditorium of Steinman. The director of the movie, Sophia Kruz, walked on to stage for the
commentary and explained how the idea for the documentary started when she came to across
the efforts of Shahoni Chakraborty, and then how her curiosity of others advocacy attempts in
indifferent countries around the globe led her to Panmella Castro, and later the others. Little
Stones was meant to further spread the awareness of the needed human rights that these
advocates were pursuing. She complemented the panel and agreement she concluded with a
statement for all future advocates for women’s rights as human rights, “Yes, we are all those
little stones” meaning that we all can contribute to the mosaic of human rights.