Academy-award winning British actress Helen Mirren has lent her voice to a series of 10 documentary shorts highlighting worldwide women’s rights issues.
The films, none longer than three minutes, explore issues facing women both in the third world and more developed societies.
Produced for Danish humanitarian charity The Why Foundation, they shed light on such topics as health, family life, sexual rights, education, political participation and economic equality.
One Bride, Seven Cows or a Box of Heroin, one of the shorts, highlights the plight of girls as young as six years old who are forced or sold into marriage by desperately poor, debt-laden families. A small Afghan girl is sold for $2,500 to pay off the hospital debt of her sick mother; another young girl is given to a 60-year-old man in return for two boxes of heroin.
The Benefits of a Toilet, using pen and ink images on a roll of toilet paper, details the health and economic benefits of providing sanitation for the two-thirds of the world’s population with no access to a toilet.
Mirren reveals that educational enrollment in countries that provide a toilet for girls at school rises by 11 percent. Toilets also help stem drop-outs by girls when they reach the age of menstruation.
One Extra Year lists the benefits just one additional year at school gives to girls from increased income of up to 20 percent, lower rates of underage marriage and reduced risk of HIV infection to increased economic well-being and democratic participation.
Images for the films were gathered from directors worldwide via a crowdsourcing platform and assembled according to scripts written by Danish author Trine Beckett and Danish feminist activist Emma Holten.
The 10 top films, chosen from more than 160 submissions by a jury of international TV documentary commissioning editors including BBC’s Storyville editor Nick Fraser, were launched online Monday, ahead of next week’s Women Delivery conference in Copenhagen, the world’s largest conference on the conditions of girls and women worldwide.
In a statement released by The Why Foundation, Mirren said: “Every day, 39,000 girls under the age of 18 are forced into early marriage. In some countries it is not acceptable for a woman to relieve herself during the day.”
The actress added that “95 percent of all countries have a male head of state,” and “there are still so many obstacles for girls and women. We must never forget to fight this battle.”
The films are being released at a time when women’s roles in the film industry are under growing scrutiny. Earlier this year, the European Women’s Audiovisual Network released a report showing that fewer than one in five films in Europe are directed by women.
On Sunday, during the Cannes Film Festival, women’s advocacy group Women in Motion will honor Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon for their contributions to the film industry and women’s causes as part of a program designed to support women professionals.
Watch three of the short films narrated by Mirren below.