I am Generation Equality: Neha Manoj Shah, Kenyan film maker and winner of Mobile Film Festival Africa award 2021


Neha Manoj

Three actions you can take to promote gender equality:

  • Teach your children to be empowered and to follow their dreams no matter the gender
  • Be proactive in supporting and engaging with content that’s being made by women
  • Have open conversations in safe non-judgmental spaces for both men and women.
    Icon- a girl raises her arm

I am Generation Equality because…

It was during university that I fell in love with film. I wanted to be a filmmaker, to tell stories. After I completed my university studies, I started knocking on industry doors. All doors closed on me, they said this industry isn’t for women, especially young women like me. They had the nerve to give me their two cents – find a nice man and get married. I have fought very hard to get where I am now and I am still fighting. It got me wondering why women or men can’t be anything they want to be. Who made the rule that men should be this and women should be that? It needs to stop.

How can film help change patriarchal social norms?

Through my films, I can show a different perspective to that which is being shown in the media, the perspective of a woman. Seeing different perspectives helps people understand things better. When women see other women going through the same difficulties that they go through, it helps them realize that they are not alone and they have choices. When men see the difficulties that women face they develop an understanding that they may not have had before and gradually change their behavior. The most important thing that film does is bring representation to the table. Now we cast women of all shapes and sizes and strengths who are natural and real, and women can relate to them. It gives us encouragement to speak up and show that women HAVE the power to change.

Why is artivism important and how are you contributing to it?

Artivism brings about change. Through my films, I tell stories about those who are misrepresented, misunderstood, and unheard. I take the audience through the character’s journey, and it helps the audience to empathize and understand. Digital film reaches a much wider audience so I can bring change faster.

How can men be a part of the solution?

I have worked with amazing men who have come on board and helped me create impactful films. They have walked beside me, and I think other men should do the same. If a woman wants to speak and the men can see no one is listening to her, they should stand beside her and say “Hey, she has something to say, and you should listen to her”. Men have a lot of power over other men. Use it, and show support! If you help the women now, it will help the next generation to be whatever and whoever they want; to have more; to be free to choose.

Why should everyone be a women’s rights activist?

Everything in life must be balanced. A tip of the balance causes problems in this world and this is the same with men and women, both are equally important. Women have a large economic power that’s overlooked at the moment, they have influence in communities and they need to use their voice to create change. Women can contribute to the economy, to creativity and technology, and help to improve society for everyone. It isn’t right that people who are not women are making laws for women. This is why it is imperative for everyone to stand up and speak out. We want a better world to live in and a better world to leave behind for the next generation.

Neha Manoj Shah is a Kenyan writer, director, and production designer in her 30s in the film industry in Nairobi. She has written and directed 6 short films which have been shown globally. Her1 minute film Face Mask on Sale is a 1-minute film about a first-time pregnant woman in the time of COVID-19, trapped, with no choice but to survive. It was the only film that won multiple awards at Mobile Film Festival Africa 2021. It won best African female director, best original music, and best actress. 90% of the crew and cast on this film were female.