“While Women Weep” documents hope and strength in Kenya

Loyola film student Nikole Lim starts Freely in Hope, a non-profit organization, after recording womens’ stories in Kenya.

Lena Smith, Writer

Your title here…Correction: The headline and summary originally said the stories were recorded in Uganda, but they were recorded in Kenya. The Chimes regrets this error.

Every 30 minutes, a woman is raped in Nairobi, Kenya. Over 13,000 Kenyan girls are kicked out of school each year for being pregnant. Nearly 14 percent of pregnancies in Eastern Africa are terminated by illegal abortions.

Filming stories in Kenya

It is under these circumstances that the women of Nikole Lim’s documentary “While Women Weep” have fought to thrive. Lim showcased the film at Biola University on Thursday, Nov. 17 in Sutherland Auditorium to an intimate gathering of students.

Lim traveled to Nairobi in 2009 as a film student at Loyola Marymount University with a desire to profile the lives of women in the Third World for her thesis project.

“I’ve always had an interest to tell stories, especially of the Third World. I’ve always noticed that the media has depicted the Third World as a place of despair and sadness,” Lim said. “My purpose as a filmmaker and photographer is to really leverage those stories of dignity through storytelling.”

Lim is also the founder of Freely in Hope, an organization that seeks to “empower women and children to overcome adversity and live freely in hope by liberating young women from sexual oppression, providing opportunities for dignified work and advocating security through education.”

Lim’s search resulted in the stories of three Kenyan women, each of whom represent the stories of millions who have faced similar struggles endemic to the Third World. Major Genes Miluni, a widow, shares her journey of finding hope after her husband was murdered in their own home. Grace Nambuye Wangosi testifies to how God’s mercy led her from a life of prostitution to one spent caring for physically disabled children. Eunice Macharia, a 22-year-old student at Nairobi Polytechnic University, recounts her journey from a pregnant rape victim wrestling with the prospect of having an abortion to a joyful mother and psychology student.

Stories inspire Freely in Hope ministry

While the film was shot in one month, the stories of these women accompanied Lim back to California.

“When I came home, I was putting the film together and the stories of the women kept repeating over in my mind,” Lim said. “I was questioning my purpose as to what I was supposed to do with all this information.”

Lim was called to action when she learned that Macharia needed $300 to attend Nairobi Polytechnic University for the term. Recognizing that the term fees were equivalent to about one unit of coursework at Loyola Marymount University, Lim personally provided the scholarship for Macharia to attend the university. By the end of the term, Macharia had risen to the top of her class.

Macharia’s success inspired Lim to consider the potential of thousands of young women who were bound in poverty by a lack of opportunity. Out of these experiences, Freely in Hope was established and cultivated.

Currently, the organization provides scholarships to eight young women. Freely in Hope is in the process of developing a more holistic program, called Hope Venture, which will provide counseling, education opportunities, scholarships and entrepreneurial training to women in Nairobi, Kenya. Lim would also like to see the program extend beyond East Africa, specifically into Pakistan and the Philippines, noting that women in these two countries are significantly oppressed.

Reaching larger audiences

At the age of 22, Lim’s journey from film student to ministry founder has been one of tremendous growth, both professionally and personally.

“When I created this film, it was just going to be an advocacy piece,” Lim said. “I was going to pursue my dream of working for National Geographic. When God challenged me to do something greater than myself, I was very hesitant because I knew I was very inadequate. I studied film, not business. But God has been moving in so many unexpected ways.”

“While Women Weep” has been showcased at universities, churches and conferences around the United States. Earlier this year, the documentary was shown at the National Youth Workers Conference.

As the platform for the stories of these women expands with each conference and event, Lim hopes their ultimate message will continue to work in the hearts of their audience. The message that resounds out of their Third World circumstances is one of strength and hope.

“There are stories of dignity in the midst of brokenness,” Lim said. “There is beauty in the midst of poverty. There is a face to poverty. We hear so many statistics and see so many pictures. We have to bring the dignity back to these people. They are nothing less than the children of God.”

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