But We Are Strong: Films by Jeni Lee and Sarah Wishart

'But We Are Strong' tells the untold stories of five young women who have survived Sierra Leone's Civil War. This documentary series highlights these young women's strength and their resilience to the horror and atrocities that took place in their home.
Jeneba's Story
Jeneba was abducted at the age of seven, she was trained in the bush and forced to marry a commander. Her parents were both killed in front of her when they came to rescue her. Jeneba has a seven year old daughter, Cecilia, who she cannot afford to send to school. During the making of the film, Jeneba was learning farming skills at the Red Cross centre. She has a dream to lease her own plot of land and save enough money to build a house. When Jeneba first joined the centre she was suffering depression and post traumatic shock. Now she tells us, "whenever there are any new activities at the centre they put my name down, they know that I am bold."
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Doris' Story
Doris is from Liberia. She was abducted by the rebel forces when she was thirteen. She was forced to marry a commander and brought to Sierra Leone. She hasn't seen any of her family since. At the end of the war, her forced husband held her at gunpoint in the forest so she couldn't register as a refugee. He left her when she was pregnant. Even now Doris is particularly vulnerable as the local boys know she has no family to protect her. Up until recently the only way she had of feeding herself and her child was to have sex with local men. She is paid around US40 cents each time. Doris has just started a new business cooking and selling cassava at a local school. Her dream is to return to Liberia and find her family, she has been trying to raise the money for 4 years now.
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Hawa's Story
Hawa's own Uncle planned to sacrifice her to the rebel army. Her mother was killed in front of her as she tried to protect her - she was four years old. Hawa was forcibly taken by the rebels and trained to be a spy. After Hawa's own bodyguard raped her she became actively involved in the fighting. Hawa is now 18 years old and is learning to do traditional tie dyeing and weaving at the Red Cross centre. Hawa is vocal about not needing a husband and recently acted in a play on the pitfalls of early marriage.
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Jande's Story
Jande was fortunate to have received support at the end of the war and receives assistance to go to school. Jande is very active in the community. She is the treasurer of a local children's club facilitated by Save the Children, she advocates amongst the community for child rights and hosts a local radio show. Jande is fifteen years old. She lives in one room with her eight siblings. The girls at Jande's school have lately been speaking up for their rights - common complaints for girls at school range from having no female teachers to being forced to have sex with their teachers to get good grades.
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Kadiatu's Story
Kadiatu's grandma was killed protecting her from the rebels. Kadiatu was taken captive and forced to carry heavy ammunitions. She was violently raped and her captors burnt her father alive. Kadiatu has a 2 year old son, Tamba. During the making of the film Tamba fell very ill. He had malaria, pneumonia and suffered chronic anaemia. Without help, Kadiatu would have had no way of paying for the fees and medicines she needed to save his life. The father of the child has left her and she earns only meagre amounts of money doing hard labour for neighbours. The hospital fees amounted to $25US.
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War began in Sierra Leone in 1991 when an armed rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front, began a campaign against the President, capturing towns along the borders.

During the eleven years of war, children in Sierra Leone were severely affected.

The roles and struggles of young girls during the war in Sierra Leone have not been widely acknowledged.

Many young girls were abducted by rebel groups during attacks on their towns or villages and forced to directly participate as frontline fighters, cooks, spies and sex slaves.

The war was officially declared over in 2002 following UN intervention and the disarment of 45,000 fighters.

But We Are Strong tells the untold stories of five young women who survived.

Nominated: Best Film Zoom Awards SA 2007Nominated: Best Direction Zoom Awards SA 2007Nominated: Best Documentary Zoom Awards SA 2007Nominated: Best Cinematography Zoom Awards SA 2007
Official Selection: International festival of Human Rights 2007Official Selection: Bologna Human Rights Film Festival, Italy 2007Official Selection: Addis International Film Festival on Rights and Justice, Ethiopia 2007


Produced and directed by Jeni Lee and Sarah Wishart
Camera by Jeni Lee
Edited by Bryan Mason
Sound by Best fx


Copyright 2006 South Australian Film Corporation, Save the Children (UK), Save the Children (Sweden) and Jeni Lee and Sarah WishartSouth Australian Film CorporationSave The Children UKSave The Children Sweden