Documentary to help women in Mali by raising funds

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    By Taylor Simmons

    The BYU Women?s Research Institute is teaming up with Barnes & Noble Booksellers to improve the plight of women in Mali.

    A book fair will be held to fund the production of a short documentary focusing on this topic by the Women?s Research Institute.

    Purchases can be made to contribute to the production of Women in Mali until the 30th of this month at Barnes & Noble at 330 E. 1300 South, Orem.

    Between 15 percent and 25 percent of purchases can be sent directly to the documentary fund by presenting vouchers with purchases. Vouchers are available at Barnes & Noble and other locations in the community.

    The documentary was created from over 40 hours of digital videotape, with translations from African into English. While researchers recently completed the production phase of the documentary, fundraising and advertising are necessary to acquire the remaining $30,000 still needed for distribution to the public.

    Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, a researcher for the Women?s Research Insititue, and her colleagues have spent nearly eight years working on Women in Mali, a documentary depicting the lifestyle of those living in the North African country of Mali.

    In order to evaluate humanitarian efforts to alleviate social and economic problems, Institute researchers have gone to Mali to see the changes first-hand. They have made eight trips the Ouelessebougou region, living in villages and talking with the people.

    ?We were overwhelmed by the work and the lives of these women,? Ballif-Spanvill said.

    Women in Mali live in societies with limited opportunities, generally excluded from the political process, according to the Women?s Research Institute Web site. While their husbands go to work in the villages, the women are left to work the farms and run the communities, working up to 16 hours a day.

    Relief efforts, such as digging wells for drinking water and teaching literacy in the villages, seem like they would be helpful forms of aiding these people, but often this is not the case, Ballif-Spanvill said.

    When literacy efforts are enforced, women are not allowed to attend the classes, and men do not use the acquired skills in effective job seeking. Ballif-Spanvill said they found more problems than anticipated in the 72 villages in the Ouelessebougou region.

    ?There is far more failure than we would like to admit,? she said.

    Through the distribution of this documentary Baliff-Spanvill said they ?hope people will understand the lives of these women and have the desire to learn how to reach out to our other sisters in the world.?

    Lucy Cannon, a research associate for the Institute, said very little is known about Malian women, and this weekend?s Women?s Conference is a great time to educate attendees about other women and cultures.

    The Women?s Research Institute has united with Barnes & Noble Booksellers to hold a book fair in order to fundraise for the distribution of Women in Mali. Vouchers are available at Barnes & Noble and other locations in the community. Between 15 percent and 25 percent of purchases can be sent directly to the documentary fund by presenting vouchers with purchases other than food products, gift cards or opening accounts.

    Heather Keele, community relations manager at Barnes & Noble in Orem, said they are happy to help any non-profit organization. She said Barnes & Noble regularly holds book fairs to help promote schools and other non-profit organizations in the area.

    ?The success of book fair depends on the organization,? she said.

    Vouchers are available at Barnes & Noble and other locations in the community.

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