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"Awakening" Reviews

Library Journal - July 15th, 2007

The new story of hope is the awakening of the poor to the opportunity of microloans. This film focuses on two particular groups of women. In Bihar, India, Sister Mary Lobo has given the poorest of the poor, the Outcasts, empowerment by teaching them the basics of personal economics. The women work and save and eventually qualify for small loans that they can use to improve life for themselves and their children. In Kabul, Afghanistan, the women recall their lives before and after the Taliban. Their terrible misery under the fundamentalists has given way to glimmers of hope through microloans to build small businesses that provide food, stability, and a sense of self-worth. The larger lessons in this beautifully filmed documentary are about the common wishes of women everywhere, rich or poor: the desire for personal and familial independence, the need to make life better for their children, and the importance of helping one another reach these goals. This film is recommended for high school and college libraries supporting courses in women's history or Third World economics.Ellen Druda, Half Hollow Hills Community Lib., Dix Hills, NY

Video Librarian - November/December 2006

Awakening: Empowering Women Through Microloans
(2005) 48 min. DVD: $99.95. Choices, Inc. PPR. Color cover. ISBN: 1-933724-05-6.
Joel Weber and Dominic Howes’ Awakening: Empowering Women Through Microloans is a technically modest but informative documentary on providing small loans to the impoverished in underdeveloped countries, with the aim of not only improving immediate circumstances but also instilling long-term habits of investment and self-improvement. The emphasis of the film, which is divided equally between cooperatives in India organized by Sister Mary Lobo and a mini-bank in Afghanistan that distributes modest sums for homegrown businesses such as weaving or the raising of livestock, is on bringing women into the economic system. Awakening strikes a good balance between straightforward explanation of how microloans work (by Sister Mary and others, who see it as a promising means of addressing poverty) and testimony from loan recipients about how their lives have been changed for the better. DVD extras include a bonus featurette about programs in Colombia and on the Pine Bluff Indian Reservation in South Dakota (here the focus is on men—a South American shop owner and a Native American with a herd of buffalo), an interview with Sister Mary, and a photo gallery. Recommended. Aud: H, C, P. (F. Swietek)

Educational Media Reviews Online - March 8th, 2007

Recommended

Reviewed by Triveni Kuchi, Rutgers University Libraries

Awakening: Empowering Women Through Microloans is a documentary about hope for the poor to live a better life, to change and control their destiny, to achieve their dreams and to expect a better future for their children. Reducing poverty in the world continues to be a challenge. Most methods of reaching out in any lasting or meaningful way that uplift the circumstances of millions of poor around the world are rare. The lack of income as well as the privilege to borrow for the poor continues the vicious cycles of poverty and despair in these countries. Many of the poor typically live indentured lives or have lives of servitude that continue from generation to generation. Given this, microloans have brought a beam of hope – a means for positive change in the poverty-ridden circumstances of the poor around the world.

This documentary portrays simply and effectively the way women are able to transform the future of their families with the assistance of grassroots groups that provide elementary financial literacy and training. Women who belong to such groups learn basic mechanisms of saving, borrowing and building creditworthiness by paying off loans. The groups save together and provide loans to each other until the financial strength and credibility of the group grows stronger. The size of loans typically needed by these women are very small – a maximum of $100.00. Such loans help women gain access to materials or start small income generating businesses to contribute to their family’s earnings and try to get out of their poverty-stricken circumstances. The repayment rates for women from these groups tend to be very high (over 95%) that helps build the financial integrity of the group. With improved credibility of such grassroots groups, banks such as the Grameen Bank are able to help thousands of poor women and men finance their growth and movement away from poverty.

With clips from interviews of different grassroots groups in India and Afghanistan, this documentary presents the trails, travails and successes of women as they learn, contribute, and grow financially independent and stronger within their society. Interviews with Sister Mary Lobo, Nari Jagran Manch (India) and Katrin Fakiri, Parwaz (Afghanistan) among others present the essence of this sustainable movement. The film clearly demonstrates the growing popularity and success of such programs and the determination of the poor to seek change and “claim their place under the sun” given the opportunity. Awakening: Empowering Women Through Microloans provides an excellent introduction to the subjects of microloans, empowerment through financial literacy and development through leadership of women and grassroots social movements.

Awards

  • Winner Audience Award for Best Short Documentary, Santa Cruz International Film Festival
  • Second Place for Best Short Documentary, RealHeART International Film Festival, Toronto, Canada

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