Africa Rising

The Grassroots Movement to End Female Genital Mutilation

A film by Paula Heredia, Produced by Equality Now

Kenya/Mali/Somalia/Tanzania | 2009 | 62 minutes | Color | DVD | English/French/Somali/Swahili | Order No. 09980


Every day, 6,000 girls from the Horn of Africa to sub-Saharan nations are subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). With fierce determination and deep love for their communities, brave African activists are leading a formidable, fearless grassroots movement to end 5,000 years of FGM. An insightful look at the frontlines of a quiet revolution taking the continent by storm, this extraordinarily powerful film is one of the first to focus on African solutions to FGM.

Beautifully directed by Emmy Award® winner Paula Heredia and produced by Equality Now, AFRICA RISING travels through remote villages in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali, Somalia and Tanzania. Weaving together dynamic footage and the poignant stories of girls personally affected by FGM, it shows how African women and men are putting an end to this human rights violation. Convincing circumcisers to lay down their knives, engaging the police to implement the law, and honing leadership skills in girls, these determined activists have been working tirelessly for years to conceptualize their campaign. AFRICA RISING paints an intimate portrait of the broadly-based but little-known anti-FGM movement and shows that courageous, creative and resourceful individuals can change the course of history.


“Stunningly honest, soberingly frank…An unparalleled window into the ‘business of FGM’ – of the cultural and economic pressures brought to bear on the girls who are cut, and the cutters themselves. And yet, woven throughout is the hope and a vision of a world free from FGM.”

Tamera Gugelmeyer Executive Dir., The Sisterhood is Global Institute

“Reveals a sense of hope, demonstrating that FGM is not an acceptable cultural practice, and that a people, culture, religion or nation cannot and will not allow themselves to be defined by pain, cruelty, and destruction.”

Kate Schaab Asst. Dir., Women's Resource Center, Northern Illinois University

"Portrays voices rising across the continent to question and challenge the controversial, puzzling issues of FGM. Beautifully filmed...A well-informed [and] remarkable cross-cultural collaboration depicting courage and hope to awaken the deafening silence surrounding this taboo subject."

Glen P. Davis, MD Dept. of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine

“An inspiring and hopeful film. Despite the deep sadness I felt for these girls, the good news is that the grassroots movement is strong and leading the global fight against female genital mutilation to save each and every girl.”

Edwidge Danticat Author

"Recommended...effective in making viewers aware of the positive impact of the hard work of African activists in eradicating FGM."

Educational Media Reviews Online


  • Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO)
  • Zanzibar International Film Festival
  • Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival
  • Kenya International Film Festival
  • Brilliant Light International Film Festival
  • International Film Festival Egypt


Paula Heredia

Paula Heredia is an award-winning documentary filmmaker based in New York and Suchitoto, El Salvador. She received an Emmy® Award for the HBO documentary In Memoriam, NYC 9/11/01, the ACE Eddie Award® for the documentary Unzipped, and a nomination for the HBO series The Weight of the Nation. Her film portraying the grassroots movement to end female genital mutilation, Africa Rising received the Best Woman Director Award at the IDFF in Soria Spain and Alborada was official selection at the Festival of Cine Invisible in Bilbao and the Cuban International Film Festival. Paula received the Humane Society's Genesis Award for her film Toucan Nation. She is currently in the final stages of a new film portraying the consequences of poverty and lack of rights for women and young children in El Salvador. (7/19)

Equality Now

Equality Now works to end violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world through the mobilization of public pressure. (6/10)


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