A silence descended on the room as the movie ran. The only sounds were the sobs of a 13-year-old Halima as her husband, old enough to be her grandfather, yelled at her.
In one year, she had lost her childhood, lost her schooling, become pregnant, lost her baby at birth and come down with obstetric fistula.
She was condemned as a witch, taunted for smell that clung to her. Her husband’s yelling was to send her packing.
Since 2014, the movie Dry has been evoking tears and deep emotions in full-packed theatres, and it still does.
There was a reason it got on the agenda for the visit of United Nations youth envoy Jayathma Wickramanakaye to Nigeria.
Her visit was to meet young people in their cities, bring the UN system closer to them, and take their concerns to the UN.
The problems—early child marriage, lack of education opportunity, girls rights, gender equality, health care—all collide in Dry.
Wickramanakaye spoke about filling “some gaps that we have in our system when it comes to engaging with young people.”
“Not only do you give solutions to the problems you face, but you also give a voice to the voiceless,” she said to young people out to watch the screening with her.
“From education to early child marriage, female genital mutilation, fistula, all the messages have resonated.
We should get political commitment to end these issues, not in 2030, not in 2020, but end them now.
“And I will be taking this message across all the work that I do. I will always make sure I stress on girls and young women. I know what it takes for a woman to thrive, so I take the messages very close to my heart.
One of the viewers in the room is Torben Gettermann, Denmark’s ambassador to Nigeria.
Denmark hosted the 2016 Women Deliver conference—and its UN mission is working with the UN youth representative.
“We are focusing on various issues, girls’ right, gender equality, health care, sex reproduction, everything that has to do with how we treat our women, and how women are so important to us,” Gettermann said.
In the run-up to the conference and ahead of the next one in Canada in 2019, gender equality, health care, education, child marriage, the girl child and female genital mutilation remain hot-button issues.
“It is so important that we get this message out, that it can be done, if we do so much. I see so much energy with the young people in Nigeria. They are the ones who are carrying this forward but the politicians need to understand they have to act also.
“I want to see so many more young people become politicians, raising these issues, making sure they are carried through and laws are implemented to ensure everybody, women and girls too, can have a good life, a good education.”