“A safe space to open up, talk about the issues in my field, and also those facing the society with like-minded people” Fathmath Nafha Asim, 21 years old
I have been living in Maldives, ‘the tropical paradise’, for more than twenty-one years and yet there are so many things I haven’t been able to explore. Our country, with its stunning white sand beaches and amazing underwater world, has always lured my interest in the marine field. However, I have always been afraid of the open ocean. The waves scare me. What lies beneath is unknown and I couldn’t imagine myself alone, swimming along reefs and diving down to explore. Nevertheless, I am determined that this can’t stop me from following my dream of becoming one of the recognizable faces in the Maldives as a marine biologist and an environmental conservationist. So while I have my trepidations, I am glad I have taken a step towards achieving this dream.
My hesitation has increased when I realized that I had to break countless social norms to achieve my goals. Women are not expected to work in ‘male-dominant’ industries such as tourism and fisheries or take part in formidable activities such as diving in the Maldives. These kinds of ideas usually initiate within the family, including mine. I had a hard time convincing my family that being a marine biologist or a marine researcher would not stunt my future, and that I am more than capable of handling the pressures of such work, even as a female. Even though my family is fully appreciative and supportive of my decisions now, many women in the Maldives still hesitate to work in such fields that are branded as ‘not appropriate’ for women.
So far, my journey has been one of struggle as one of the few women in the conservation field. Maybe this is why I have always been determined to create something which people would appreciate and get motivated from. I want to relay whatever knowledge I have of the environment and its importance to the society. Raising people’s awareness through any means possible is the first step to begin a change from within. As it is the society who makes a country more susceptible or sustainable with regards to its environment.
‘Film for Change’ is part of this process. The platform gave me the opportunity to present my knowledge to a broader audience, through a medium that is enjoyed by many. In the Maldives, women usually work in front of the camera, but being a part of the production crew for Film for Change has sort of proved for many who shared that experience with me, that women actually can handle what is traditionally deemed ‘a man’s job.’
It has given me the safe space to open up, and talk about the issues in my field, and also those facing the society, with like-minded people. I hope to use the platform as a new stepping stone in my career, and one that I can reach to society with a message, and for support towards conserving our beautiful environment.
Film for Change is a joint project by UNDP in the Maldives, supported by the Government of Australia, held in partnership with Dhiraagu. It is aimed at empowering young people to explore social issues through the medium of film. Under the project, Maldivian youth are provided with the necessary technical and creative skills on writing, directing and producing documentary-style short films using minimal equipment. The purpose is to stimulate dialogue on different social issues amongst young people, decision-makers and the wider community. This year marks the second installment of the project, and every year, films are based on a social issue inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
By Fathmath Nafha Asim