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I was Worth 50 Sheep

February 5, 2013
screen shot from the webpage for "I was worth 50 sheep"

screen shot from the webpage for “I was worth 50 sheep”

I Was Worth 50 Sheep” is an hour-long documentary film about the dire conditions for women and young girls in Afghanistan. In a country torn by war, women have few rights and most are tucked away into the corners of society, hidden from view by their blue burqas and tall mud walls of their prison homes. This documentary follows one family’s struggles to protect their daughters while trying to beat poverty. What begins as their struggle to save the elder daughter from an abusive marriage to a much older man, ends with the younger daughter being handed over to face a similar situation. The younger daughter’s reply when asked how she felt before being handed over, “I was worth 50 sheep.” She was twelve years old.

With the Arab Spring, many women are joining the revolution in the Middle East and Central Asia to demand equal rights and equal treatment, but change does not come over night. It was not so long ago that our “Western” society was also denying women their equal rights. However, with modern technology and globalization, we are becoming more aware of the events in other regions of the world. Places we might not know about if it weren’t for television and the internet (and even with them, I am sure there are a large number of people who couldn’t place a single Middle Eastern or Central Asian country on a map). Rather than continue to allow this systematic abuse of women around the world, we must act to change the underlying reasons for the abuse. It is apparent in the movie that although the girl’s father wishes to help her, he is poor and seems unsure of how to resolve his agreement with the man to whom he promised his young daughter. He is uneducated and incapable of seeing beyond the traditions that have told him that it’s ok to sell your daughter. While viewing from afar it is easy to point fingers, but we must recognize that to help women around the world to have a better future requires changing centuries old traditions. It requires the education of both the men and the women. It requires providing the families with opportunities to enhance their lives and helping them find a way to get out of poverty without selling their daughters.

For people interested in women’s rights, I recommend watching this film. With a journalistic approach, the film shows viewers the poverty and difficult circumstances which many Afghan families face. With little education and the inability to find an alternative solution, many fall back on their traditions and sell their daughters. It is a depressing documentary, but hopefully it will help to spread awareness of the situation and to bring some positive change to the region.

The film ends with the haunting message that neither her family nor the women’s shelter know where Farzaneh (the  youngest daughter) is. Sold to a husband and moved to a Taliban controlled region of Afghanistan, the younger sister has fatefully followed in her older sister’s footsteps. Perhaps this film can raise enough awareness of her plight that she too can be rescued from a life of servitude and abuse.


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