We are incredibly fortunate to have celebrated our Dutch Premiere with HERA, the charity started by the protagonists in Freedom Fields.
*3 minute read*
Who are HERA? The protagonists of Freedom Fields set up an NGO called HERA in Tripoli in 2016. As in the football team, HERA is also made up of a diverse group of women; bankers, school-teachers, artists, scientists, mothers, migrant-workers and sports science specialists. Together, they are using the power of football to unite and inspire young women in Libya.
HERA’s goal is to develop and support young women, girls and youth in the community by using sport as an active learning tool around issues of gender, health and reconciliation. They believe that the ability for children to play has an impact on their psychology far deeper than initially meets the eye, but unfortunately sporting sessions for girls aren’t utilised in Libyan schools.
Prior to IDFA, HERA have been working with Discover Football, and held trainings with Right To Play in Lebanon, to grow and develop their young organisation in order to reach as many schools and Scouts associations in Tripoli as possible, with the hope soon to move to Internally Displaced Persons camps as well.
You can find more information on HERA on the Support HERA tab on our website.
Thanks to the help of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we were so fortunate to be able to invite nine women from HERA to Amsterdam, to see the film and discuss their hope for the future of Libya, with film audiences and with the embassy in Holland.
On Saturday 17th November, the team gathered to watch Freedom Fields together for the first time at Pathe Tuschinski, an institution of Dutch cinema. In the sold out cinema, you could feel the audience engrossed in the film, as they cheered for the players, perhaps forgetting they were in a cinema and not a stadium.
Being screened in the Best of the Fests program allowed Freedom Fields to be selected for a DocTalk on Sunday 18th November at Kleine Komedie. Hosted by programmer Ozge Calafato, Naziha and three members of HERA were invited up on stage to discuss their experience of making the film. And after filming for 5 years, the women had a lot to say! The final question Ozge presented opened the floor when probing “What is it like to be a woman in Libya today?” Our protagonists reflected upon the need for strength in the face of many obstacles. With HERA’s work and aspirations for the future, a sense of optimism was in the air. Before the women could leave the stage, a standing ovation and applause erupted across the room.
With their film debut a success, the next four days included a busy schedule of meetings for HERA as an NGO. After screening excerpts of the film at The Dutch Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Birgitta Tazelaar facilitated a discussion about the importance for decision-makers in political affairs to connect with the people working on the ground within their project areas. Naziha and HERA also shared their ideas on the connections too between film and peace-building, and how art can continue to be used to benefit us all.
We were also fortunate to introduce HERA to important players in the international arena such as Cordaid, the KNVB WorldCoaches program, Hivos and Women Win. And of course we found some time for football in the mix! HERA were fan-girling throughout a wonderful training session with AFC Ajax Vrouwen’s Soraya Verhoeve and Marieke Ubachs, and KNVB were kind enough to donate their infamous orange fan kits for all nine women to take home.
Come Friday, and two women from HERA were on a plane to Doha in Qatar to travel with the film as it opens the Ajyal Youth Film Festival!
For most of HERA, with day-jobs awaiting, they boarded a plane to return home to Tripoli. After only a week, these incredible women expressed they were invigorated with hope for the future of their NGO and couldn’t wait to resume their work with schools in Tripoli. They departed having been inspired by the progression of women’s sport in the Netherlands, and most importantly, having received recognition from others who believe that their work matters. Support from others in the MENA Region and in Europe, both fiscal and non-fiscal, is crucial in giving this young NGO the confidence and the persistence to overcome many obstacles and fight for a future they want to see in Libya.
In HERA’s words: “It was great to meet people who believe that your work matters, and that you can actually make a difference in society. For us, this was the big push we’ve been looking for, and we can’t wait to get back home and resume work on our projects”.
If you would like to donate to HERA’s work in Libya, please head to the support HERA page on our website.