“Having lost both my parents at a young age, Zambia, like most African countries, offered me only early marriage, life of poverty, and always depending on someone else. In fact, what gives me strength today is that I learned to love myself, not feel sorry, and not rebrand myself into what someone else expected of me. Had I done that, my dreams would have ceased to be.”
Jessie Chisi is a film maker and social entrepreneur. Her first full length film, Between Rings, gave her the visibility and platform to advocate for empowering women to find and use their own voices.
Listen now to this podcast interview with Jessie Chisi:
What’s the story behind Chisi’s film ventures?
As an entrepreneur, she founded the Zambia Short Film Festival and Young Cinema in Zamia, through which she trains 35 young filmmakers and entrepreneurs each year. Of the venture, Chisi states, “90% of these young people find jobs all of over the continent.”
In making the film Between Rings, the story of Zambia’s first woman boxer, she found voice in expressing just what a woman’s life is: living in a male dominated world, expecting what others think we should be, and ‘fighting’ for our place, not necessarily in the home.
This film is about Esther Phiri and how she, despite the pressure to marry and have children, became a 7 time world lightweight champion, and now an icon for women who pursue their dreams.
Jessie says this is about her life too and about how she–through Esther’s story–has become an icon to the young people who see her in her career making a difference.
What advice does Chisi have for other film makers and social entrepreneurs?
She offers this advice to fellow film makers and social entrepreneurs:
- Never give up. Jessi took five years to make this film. On her bad days, she told herself, tomorrow is a new day. And then she would start fresh the next day.
- Dream bigger. Your dreams are never too big. From poverty into a role model, Jessi knows.
- Don’t forget those who help you along your journey. You have the ability to empower others.
- Everyone has their own battles. The journey she says has made her aware of the different levels at which all women have their own battles. To her, she knows what she is fighting for: films are the mirror to help society learn about and address social ills.
What does she see as her purpose in her career?
“I make films about women because women’s stories are just lying motionless, and I want to bring them to life.”