International Women’s Day celebration: Showcasing African women’s leadership in film and TV

Share this...

On March 8, as the world gathered to celebrate International Women’s Day, MIP Africa shined a spotlight on the remarkable African women who are revolutionising the film and television industry: Mo Abudu, CEO: EbonyLife Media; Mimi Bartels, Co-Founder: Anakle Films; Sara Blecher, award-winning director and producer; Zandre Coetzer, producer and director at Nagvlug Films, Harriett Gavshon, Co-founder: Quizzical Pictures; Dorothy Ghettuba, Director of Content (Series & Film) Africa at Netflix, Nomsa Philiso, CEO: General Entertainment at MultiChoice and Nicola van Niekerk, Head of Premium Content and Co-Productions at MultiChoice.

These inspiring women have navigated the complexities of the media landscape to tell stories that resonate, challenge norms, and open doors for generations to come. Join us as we delve into their journeys, exploring the power of their voices and the impact of their work. Get ready to be inspired by their resilience, creativity, and unyielding dedication to transforming African narratives on the global stage.

Redefining the narrative

Recent studies illuminate a promising trend: the increasing visibility and influence of women in film and TV across Africa. Despite the global entertainment industry grappling with gender disparities, African women are making notable strides. For instance, in South Africa, women constitute approximately 40% of the film and television workforce, a figure that, while reflective of ongoing challenges, also highlights the progress being made towards inclusivity. In Nigeria, commonly referred to as Nollywood, women occupy about 30% of the executive production roles, indicating a gradual but positive shift towards gender inclusivity.

This shift is mirrored in initiatives like Netflix’s partnership with African creators, led by visionaries like Dorothy Ghettuba, aiming to bring authentic African stories to a global audience. Ghettuba’s role underscores the crucial need for representation, “My job is to help them integrate into our culture, which prizes innovation over efficiency—a cornerstone of our success … Our aim at Netflix is to make African stories globally accessible, to highlight our continent’s diverse cultures and creativity,” she affirms, showcasing her dedication to diversity in storytelling.

Pioneers in the narrative craft

Harriet Gavshon with her decades-long career, has not only produced award-winning work but also championed the evolution of women’s roles on and off the screen. Reflecting on this progression, Gavshon notes, “It’s evolved in that we see wider options of what women do – so they can be psychopaths and mass murderers alongside men,” pointing to the broader range of narratives being explored adding “We’re observing a transformation where female characters are not merely ancillary but central to the story, presenting a broad spectrum of human experiences.”

Mimi Bartels discusses the complex balance between personal and professional life, emphasising the urgent need for authentic representation. “Our stories must reflect the resilience and complexity of women, demonstrating that our vulnerabilities are also our strengths,” she articulates, advocating for narratives that empower and resonate. Her story, emblematic of many African women in the sector, emphasises the significance of multifaceted representation and the depth of female characters in African cinema. Bartels’ advice to aspiring creators resonates with empowerment, “Embrace the journey with passion and resilience, highlighting the importance of solidarity among women in the industry.”

Establishing global platforms

Mo Abudu at EbonyLife Media has played a pivotal role in presenting African stories on international platforms, challenging stereotypes and expanding the global perspective of Africa. “Our vision is to narrate African stories that resonate on a universal level, bridging cultures and connecting people,” Abudu shares, underlining her ambition to globalise African narratives. Her philosophy, Her advice to women in the industry, “Never give up on your dreams. Stay focused, work hard and believe in yourself,” serves as a beacon of inspiration for women worldwide”.

Empowering future talents

Leaders such as Nomsa Philiso, Director of Local Entertainment Channels at MultiChoice, and Sara Blecher, an award-winning director and filmmaker, are dedicated to fostering new talent and advocating for greater gender diversity in the industry. “Creating opportunities for young African storytellers to have their voices heard on the global stage is essential,” Philiso states. Blecher adds, “Achieving diversity behind the camera enriches our storytelling, introducing a plethora of perspectives that can only enhance the narrative fabric.”

Overcoming industry barriers

Despite these advancements, significant obstacles remain, particularly in achieving gender parity within technical roles. Nicola van Niekerk and Zandre Coetzer highlight the importance of creating supportive environments for women. “We are committed to fostering an inclusive culture where women’s talents are recognised and nurtured,” van Niekerk says. Coetzer reflects on the dynamics within the industry, “Providing support for working mothers by accommodating their needs is crucial for promoting a truly diverse and inclusive environment.”

A united call to action

This International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate the accomplishments of these exceptional African women in film and TV and recognize the ongoing efforts needed to support and amplify female voices. The industry, policymakers, and audiences must collaborate to ensure diverse and vibrant narratives shape our world.

In embracing the wisdom of these pioneers, we’re reminded to dream boldly, uphold our unique perspectives, and transcend barriers. The narratives of African women in film and TV are not solely about overcoming challenges—they’re about forging paths for future generations, guaranteeing that every story, irrespective of its origin, is heard and valued.