An award-winning film called Yemeniettes has proven that violent wars, poverty and gender constraints are no match for a determined teenager.
The documentary follows the true story of a team of girls in Yemen, who use ingenuity and entrepreneurship to secure an education in an increasingly difficult country to survive in.
Against the backdrop of conflict between Al-Qaeda and Yemen’s Houthi population, these girls were struggling to get ahead in their education, specifically when constant power-outages stopped them from being able to do their homework. Three determined girls came up with a clever way of overcoming their disadvantage – by starting a company that produces solar-powered lamps.
Their story is captured by Layalina Productions – an organisation that aims bridge the divide between the Arab world and the United States. Layalina president and executive producer Leon Shahabian said he was honored to be a part of the story.
“Yemeniettes is the story of three amazing teenage girls, from Yemen - the worst country to be a woman in, according to reputable polls,” Mr Shahabian explained.
“They are 16-year-old and 17-year-old entrepreneurs from one of the worst public schools in Sa’ana, the capital. So, what do you do when you’re a woman in the worst country to be a woman in, when you don’t have a lot of opportunities for a good education, when your home – your country – is a failed state, when everything is stacked against you – between Al Qaeda, and the Houthis, and foreign intervention, and drone attacks by the West? You start a company,” he said.
“That’s what these girls have done – they are saying ‘Ok, this is the hand we have been dealt, we are going to see if we can make things better. We are going to create jobs for us, for our friends, for our communities. We are going to bring money back to Yemen and it’s going to be a great line of business – we are going to harness the power of the sun, not to prove that we can do it, but because there’s not a lot of electricity and when the power is out we can’t study at night. We are not going to wait for the government to figure out how to provide enough power, we are not going to wait for the government to get us a job after we graduate, we are going to take care of things on our own.’”