Aisha happens to be an ambitious, hardworking and successful woman who stands out from the rest. She returns to her village in Pangani, where she realises that people have labelled her because she has changed the script about women in Tanzania. Men feel threatened by her position in society, especially her childhood lover, Ramadhani. Aisha turns down his advances and he decides to ‘punish’ her as a way of putting her in her place.
Despite being blamed for an organised gang rape, Aisha fights all the way until justice is served.The film, ‘Aisha’ received the Audience Prize during this year’s edition of International Images and Film Festival (IIFF) held earlier this year. Below is an interview I had with Wilson Rumisha, marketing and Production Manager of Kijiweni Productions.
Daphne Jena: Aisha is a film that focuses on a woman’s experience of rape in Tanzania. Considering that this was produced by a male team, what informed the script and the roles of the film?
Wilson Rumisha: Kijiweni Productions (KP), the production house that produced the film including putting the team together, consisted of a both male and female heads of department. As KP believed it was necessary to have women involved in decision making roles in such a powerful film, both the 1st and 2nd Assistant Directors were female in addition to the Art and Wardrobe directors. In response to script and the roles, Aisha is a film that took a year to complete from development to its conception consisting of the Producer, Amil Shivji and Writer, Hamadi Mwaipachu who spent weeks in Pangani, Tanga where the basis of the violence came from, which in addition is the place where the story and the film came from and was shot, respectively. Victims of this attacks were spoken to including perpetrators themselves, so that a story that is true to the societal context would be written.
DJ: It is quite unusual for women who have gone through such a terrible experience to quickly stand up strong and confront, society and the system, like Aisha did. Why did you decide to have her appear strong and unfazed in the film?
WR: Aisha like many women was a survivor of violence, but I would not say she was unfazed. She was assaulted, no one believed her, no one wanted to help her, she was left by her husband, she went through what many women go through under the same situation. But nevertheless she believed in justice, she believed that she must fight for herself since no one else will. In addition she knew her perpetrator and that was all she needed. In some cases women are unaware of who the individuals are hence why they choose to keep quite. But being aware of who her perpetrator was , Aisha had that to work with. She was going to capitalise on it and by any means necessary fight through injustice to right the wrongs. If you pay very close attention when watching you will see that she is generally a strong woman.
DJ: The village head and the police kept insisting that they needed a witness to come forward for Aisha’s report to be considered under investigation. To what extent does this represent what rape survivors go through in today’s Tanzania?
WR: According to research conducted by the NGO Uzikwasa, who we collaborated with in making the film, such is still the case. As shocking as it may sound, within a patriarchal framework it is not just in Tanga but worldwide where victim blaming and shaming takes up more space than seeking justice and equality. It must be known that the events in the film may have taken place in Tanga but were meant to strike a chord worldwide.
DJ: What was the aim of producing the 1year old film and how much influence has the film had in policy making and in changing society’s attitudes? If you have classic examples please include them.
WR: Aisha’s aim was not just to create awareness but curb the violence in Pangani, Tanga. By giving people, men and women alike, the chance to watch the film, we hoped to activate their humanity with the hope of either bringing out perpetrators, or in relation to men, not getting involved in such acts and assisting victims where necessary. For women it was the same but also for survivors to believe, fight and strive for justice no matter how small the odds maybe be against them, not to hide in silence but fight for justice. Aisha has been touring Tanzania and from the statistics received there has been a significant decrease of gender based violence in a number of controlled areas and we have high hopes for other places. We don’t expect the film to suddenly change the on-ground situation over night, but there has been some cases of this piece of work being referenced in local cases of sexual violence. The community is definitely talking louder about a topic that was once labeled a taboo.
Main Image: Goldiver Gordian, who plays the role of Aisha in the film. Image used with permission from Kijiweni Productions