Documentary to show the importance of education for women worldwide

Published 7:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2014


Paige Bennett

Paige Bennett

Three local graduates are preparing to film a documentary that will show how women across the world face similar adversities in life.

Paige Bennett, a 2002 graduate of Picayune Memorial High School and 2006 USM graduate, was introduced to a very different culture after leaving WLOX to take a public relations and marketing job in the country of Oman.

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During that time, Bennett said she became friends with a number of women about her own age, which is the first generation of women to secure an education and some independence. Instead of accepting arranged marriage proposals and raising families, these women became a minority in the country by seeking a university degree, or embarking on expeditions to far away places such as Antarctica.

While the majority of women in Oman still endure pressure from their families to get married and carry on the tradition of raising children, Bennett became inspired by the brave few who, like her, sought education and career.

During her time in the country, Bennett said she met a number of women from various backgrounds who chose various paths in life.

In those interactions she discovered that no matter what country or culture people grow up in, everyone faces the same battles as they work to reach their dreams, find love and establish a sense of worth.

“So we bonded very closely because what was true in ourselves was the same,” Bennett said.

While Bennett met women who were able to acquire an education, she also became friends with women who followed the traditional path of marriage and child rearing.

She watched women lose their self worth when pregnancies ended with a stillbirth or became impossible after their husband suffered a paralyzing accident.

During her time in Oman, Bennett kept a journal, and wrote letters to her family.

When she arrived stateside, she told herself she would write a book about her experiences, about women who were bound by the common thread of love and hope.

As she talked with an old high school friend, Alee Franklin Willis, and her husband Nathan Willis, the idea changed from a book to a documentary of five women who represent various lifestyles in the country.

In addition to Alee Willis, who is a 2004 Picayune Memorial High graduate, Bennett spoke with Hannah Nunez, who is a 2011 graduate of the same high school. They are now collaborating to bring the documentary to life.

With a team in place, funding still needs to be secured.

Currently the team is filming a teaser video to help secure the pre-production funding required. Bennett said the teaser will focus on her rereading the journal and letters she sent home about her experiences.

One of the experiences that sticks out in her mind was how that society deals with death. When her friend’s pregnancy ended, the family had to bury the child before sunrise. Bennett said the country’s culture mandates that the deceased be interred before the next sun cycle.

“So often times it’s a very quick process,” Bennett said. “You don’t get a lot of time to think about it.”

To ensure she was on the right track, Bennett consulted a non-profit organization that advocates for the education of women to break the cycle of poverty worldwide through their own documentary.

Once the organization heard of Bennett’s idea, they encouraged her that the story of women in Oman held value.

Bennett hopes her documentary will encourage women in Oman to seek an education, take study abroad programs and to help the country become a place where women can not only seek independence, but also become leaders.

Preproduction of the documentary is set to take place sometime this year, and Bennett said she plans to head back to Oman by December. If all goes as planned, then the documentary should be ready for a 2015 showing at a film festival.

Bennett hopes all of the people in her hometown keep up with the documentary as it is filmed and released.

She remembers the support she received from her friends and family when she traveled to Oman.

“Picayune has a big role to play in this and I would hope the community would want to follow along with us on this,” Bennett said.

A blog and social media sites are planned, but for now people can follow the progress of this documentary, tentatively called “Behind the Veil”, at their Twitter page, located at @gobehindtheveil.