11 Documentaries About Women’s Struggles for a Better World

11 Documentaries About Women's Struggles for a Better World. A collection of documentaries to celebrate National Women's History Month.I’ve been finding a lot of inspirational information being passed around since it’s National Women’s History.

This post was inspired by a National Geographic special for “He Named Me Malala”, which about the Pakistani school girl, who was shot for standing up for girls education in Pakistan.

It led me on a search for these others, which gave me an enlightening couple of weeks, learning about the struggles of women everywhere. I hope one or all of them catch your attention, so you can share in these struggles with me and we can work to build a better world for our hurting sisters.

  1. A Walk to Beautiful

    This short documentary follows the struggles of five women in Ethiopia suffering from devastating childbirth injuries, obstetric fistula, which is a hole in the birth canal that causes foul-smelling vaginal discharge, urine or passage of stool from the vagina, usually caused childbirth, cancer, radiation therapy, and surgical complications.  After this injury, they become an embarrassment to their family and are rejected. Fortunately, all of these women journey to a special hospital in Addis Ababa where they attempt to transform their lives. About 50,000 to 100,000 women worldwide suffer with this injury.

I was in awe of their struggle, how completely rejected they were, and they just wanted to go home to be with their family again. They never gave up. Definitely worth a watch.


2. Girl Rising

This is different than almost any documentary I’ve ever seen and I do believe it should be classified more as a docudrama. This movie reenacts/tells the stories of nine girls from different parts of the world who face arranged marriages, child slavery, and other heartbreaking injustices. Despite these obstacles, the brave girls offer hope and inspiration. By getting an education, they’re able to break barriers and create change.

There are some parts I didn’t like, but this documentary was so captivating and really felt like watching a movie. That tells you both the good and bad. I liked it because it felt flowed better to me, but almost too much. I would have liked to hear from the girls themselves, instead of actors reading from a script. They also didn’t tell you which parts were reenacted and what was real, but it kind of seemed like everything was reenacted, as it just didn’t seem to have that real or raw effect. I’ll let you decide whether their approach resonates with you.


3.  Beyond Belief

We meet two seemingly ordinary soccer moms grieving the loss of their husbands in the turmoil post 9/11. Instead of turning to hatred, they choose to channel their grief into service by helping women in Afghanistan who have experienced similar circumstances of violent loss.

This documentary touched my heart. They talk about something called the post traumatic growth period, instead post traumatic stress. It’s something that really resonates with me, but something so rare to see. What was the most touching was at the end the American women, women who still had their nice houses and lived just as well as they did before their husband’s died, were telling their story and the Afghanistan women were actually crying and saying how sorry they were they had lost their husbands. In Afghanistan, when a women loses her husband they lose everything and they have to support their kids when its very rare for women to be able to have a job and not only that, but Afghanistan is in constant war, yet they have not become immune to it. They still feel sorrow for their sisters.


4. Gloria: In Her Own Words

Gloria Steinem discusses her high-profile involvement in the second wave of feminism during the ’70s. I couldn’t find a way to watch it online, but I saw this trailer for it and found it intriguing.

While some people have preconceived notions about what a feminist is “supposed” to look or act like, she is unbelievably modest, finding it awkward to talk about her accomplishments.

5. Jane’s Journey

No synopsis can do this woman justice. I was familiar with Dr. Goodall’s work, ongoing research about the chimpanzees of Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania, but this was an eye opening and soul restoring documentary. She has nothing, but peace and love in her heart for not just chimpanzees, but nature and people affected by environmental issues. She talks much about how environmental issues aren’t just about the environment or nature, it’s about the people affected by them too. Her ongoing nonprofit Roots and Shoots programs that bring education and eco friendly enterprise to people in need around the world is proof that she practices what she preaches. She is a diminutive woman whose accomplishments are larger than life. This documentary combines Dr. Goodall’s personal evolution to become the iconic activist environmentalist she is today, and follows her on her tireless travels to help people by bringing hope and practical solutions into their lives. Need some hope for your journey, any journey, watch this and let your heart be refreshed.


6. Blessed Is The Match – The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh

This documentary was the heartbreaking and inspiring story of a modern day Joan of Arc. During World War II, Hannah Senesh, a young Jewish women, emigrated from Hungary to Palestine, but valiantly returned to her birthplace to attempt to save the Hungarian Jewish population, including her mother, from death at the hands of Hungarian Nazis.

The title of the movie was named after a poem she wrote. Usually, I don’t enjoy documentaries about specific people, but more about subjects of interest to me, but this documentary really captured my heart and squeezed every amount of emotion out of it. They interviewed her cell mates and other people she knew in Palestine and even now, so many years later, tears were brought to their eyes. Even as she faced her death, she was brave and courageous. She was captured during a parachute mission, on the way to save her mother. Both her mother and she were kept in prision, until Hannah’s ultimate death.  If you enjoyed the stories of women like Anne Frank or Sophie Scholl’s, you will be interested in this one. It’s available on Hulu.


7. Missrepresentation

This calls out mainstream media for its limited and often degrading portrayals of girls and women. The documentary intertwines interviews with teenage girls with ones featuring famed women such as Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Lisa Ling, Rachel Maddow and Gloria Steinem.

I have to admit that by the time I watched this one, I was fuming about so many of these other women’s issues that I was kind of annoyed with this one. Not that this isn’t a real issue, but its like a first world problem. The whole thing blamed the media for all our problems, objectifying women and not enough female leadership, but it really didn’t hammer home that we, as women, need to take responsibility for the part we play. The world doesn’t owe us anything. We ask for permission, but we don’t make a place for ourselves, except to play the stereotypical part of the dimwitted blonde or the sexual object. We have to stop playing those roles and make our own way, our own opportunities. We have to stop asking for permission and waiting for someone else to step up. We are the someone. We are the media. We are the audience they are trying to capture and we fall for it. We don’t look pretty enough? We aren’t happy with the way we look? Who cares? If we spent half as much time working to solve real problems as we do complaining about the hair out of its place, we’d probably wouldn’t have the energy to complain. Want little girls to not be upset because they don’t look the girl in the magazine? Start showing them real problems, women suffering from obstetric fistula or the women working hard to bring education to young girls across the world, who don’t have time to care if their jeans make their butt look too big.


8. Half the Sky

This documentary—filmed in 10 countries with narrations from celebrities such as Olivia Wilde, Eva Mendes and Meg Ryan—tells  uplifting stories of women around the world who are fighting back against systemic oppression. The film presents gender equality as the unfinished business of the our time and highlights women who are working to improve everything from healthcare to education.Though one of the faces of the Half the Sky movement, Somaly Mam, has recently been exposed for allegedly fabricating her harrowing story, it doesn’t diminish the power of this meaningful film.

I found Part 1 on YouTube, which you can rent for $2.99. Here is Part 2.

I LOVED this documentary. They really have the right idea. It’s more than facts, people need stories and to see the problems first hand, for the struggles to really hit home for people to care more. Originally, this was a book written by the two journalists mentioned. This is what I had hoped to see with Girl Rising. I found the celebrities distracting, but I understand the reason they have them. Sometimes, a familiar face might be a more relatable talking head, but at the end of the day, I felt like they missed the point. They focused more on the actual girls and the women in the trenches, so there was at least that.

More girls and women have been discriminated to death than all the deaths committed on battlefields in the 20th century.

More  age 15- 44 women die from violence than cancer or malaria or war combined.

Violence, sex trafficking, education, were all covered in this first part.

Most of the women working so hard to make changes in these areas for their community do not see an end to this problem in her lifetime. A lot of people see a problem they know they can’t possible stop, so they just do nothing. But doing nothing is something, contributing to the problem. This woman didn’t let that be her excuse. She put one foot in front of the other and making a real difference, being on the cover of Newsweek, in this documentary, spreading the knowledge of these issues, but most importantly, loving those who have been disowned by everyone.

In the education segment, they were talking about a little girl who had to ride 17 miles to and from school. We have heroes who ride about 95 miles for 23 days in the Tour De France, much less in other competitions, but what about these girls, girls who ride 34 miles a day every day of their young adult life just so they can get an education?


9. The Invisible War

Using interviews with survivors, this documentary explores the culture of impunity that has allowed a military rape epidemic to flourish. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York credited the film as her inspiration for drafting a recent bill that aims to curb rape in the military and bring justice to perpetrators. The film was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 2014 Academy Awards.

This was hard to watch. The recent bill mentioned in the synopsis was was dismissed saying sexual assault was considered an occupational hazard and in the military, you are not allowed to sue for these situations. One woman had her jaw dislocated during the assault and part of her journey was about getting compensation for these medical expenses. It makes me angry knowing this is happening to women everywhere, you have loyally fought for our freedom and their whole lives our ruined by this, but we are doing nothing to make the perpetrators pay for their actions. Horrible.

This is available for free on Hulu.


10. Hunting Ground

From the makers of The Invisible War (2012) comes a startling exposé of rape crimes on U.S. college campuses, their institutional cover-ups and the devastating toll they take on students and their families. Weaving together verité footage and first-person testimonies, the film follows the lives of several undergraduate assault survivors as they attempt to pursue – despite incredible push back, harassment, and traumatic aftermath – both their education and justice.

There is such about this that just makes me angry. I can’t believe the responses these women and men are getting for something that happened to them. One of these universities had 183  expulsions for cheating and other honor board violations, but ZERO expulsions for sexual assault out of 205 reported cases. They’re lives are forever changed and ruined the violators get to go completely free. The two women who did the research to make easier for all their all their fellow women to file complaints and created a structure that could help them know what to do.

But the thing is most of these sexual assaults are from repeat offenders. Eight percent of the perpetrators, usually male students, are responsible for 90 percent of the sexual assaults. If universities are so afraid of having their crime rates go up, then get rid of that 8 percent, it would solve their number problems.

Unfortunately, there is cases that false accusations and that just gives doubters more of an opportunity to say that it isn’t a problem. But there isn’t any more false accusations than there is for any other crime, which is about 2 to 10 percent.

And the documentary that inspired this post:


11. He Named me Malala

HE NAMED ME MALALA is an intimate portrait of Malala Yousafzai, who was wounded when Taliban gunmen opened fire on her and her friends’ school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. The then 15-year-old teenager, who had been targeted for speaking out on behalf of girls’ education in her region of Swat Valley in Pakistan, was shot in the head, sparking international media outrage. An educational activist in Pakistan, Yousafzai has since emerged as a leading campaigner for the rights of children worldwide and in December 2014, became the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

I didn’t know this came out until a few weeks ago when it was being promoted as a special on National Geographic. I knew then, I wanted to use as inspiration for this post.

In this film she says, she doesn’t tell her story because she’s special, she tells it because she’s the same. When the Taliban bombed several schools in her area because of the girls attendance, she stood up and said demanded that girls have the right to go to school. At age 11, for three 3 years before she was shot, she had an  anonymous blog about life under Taliban rule in north-west Pakistan. I’m not entirely sure how many speeches she made, or how major of an impact she was having, but it would seem that on a global scale, she was very small. Once the Taliban shot her in the head, at only age 14, it gave her a platform to receive attention not just on a local scale, but a global one.

Her parents played a large part her in passion for education, as her father was a teacher of a private school and huge supporter of education, he always encouraged her to speak out for her right for education. He even chose her name after woman, who died giving support to the Afghan army against the British.

While in Britain, no one has heard of her, in Afghanstan Malalai (or Malala) is a legend. Eventually there came a point in the battle where the Afghan army, despite their superior numbers, started to lose morale and the tide seemed to be turning in favor of the British. Her words gave many of the Afghan fighters and ghazis a new resolve and they redoubled their efforts. But then Malala was herself struck down and killed. “It is better to live one day as a lion, than 100 years as a slave,” she said.

And that was the last on my list. I hope you found inspiration and understanding for what women every where are going through. You can check out the posts from my other group members about the women they find inspirational below.

Women are Superheroes

Teach Our Girls to Be Inspirational Women

Inspirational Women: Honoring the Women Who Encourage Us

God’s Glory

Lady Bountiful, Part 1

Lila Dean – The “Reelest” Lady I Ever Knew


About Kayla Kamp

Hello, my name is Kayla and I’m a multimedia journalism graduate working on first documentary about recycling in Stillwater, OK. I would like to show others how a little more compassion for people, the environment and animals would go a long way in the world. I am striving to shed light on this.
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19 Responses to 11 Documentaries About Women’s Struggles for a Better World

  1. Pingback: Women are Superheroes! - Little Sprouts Learning

  2. I love your molly rachet poster at the beginning of the post, did you know my grandmother Bessie was a molly rachet during the war? She was so cool. This post is very inspiring. Thank you for bringing these issues to light.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Teach Our Girls to Be Inspirational Women

  4. aimeefauci says:

    I won the book for #11. I cannot wait to receive it and hope my girls will read it. I love documentaries and am going to try and look these up. I am I really Love documentaries.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kayla Kamp says:

      Oh how cool! I’m kind of jealous of your book. The videos go to YouTube trailers which have the full movies so they’re easy to find, unless you have a streaming service you’ve already paid for that has them. Please keep me updated and let me know which one is your favorite.


  5. Pingback: Lady Bountiful (Part 1) | Sharing Life's Abundance

  6. Pingback: “GOD’S GLORY” – HOME AGAIN Jiggety-Jig!

  7. Wow!! I feel like I’m drinking from a fire hose (in a good way!!) I know that I’ll be revisiting this over and over again. Good Job, Kayla!


  8. I really enjoyed your article and trailer about Jane Goodall. I saw a documentary about her life’s work years ago and have never forgotten it. Thank you for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kayla Kamp says:

      Yes, that was by far one of my favorites and my goals in life are along the line of what she is doing, so it was very encouraging to her succeed in so many areas. I’m glad you enjoyed it!


  9. Pingback: Lila Dean - The "Reelest" Lady I Ever Knew (An Inspirational Role Model)

  10. You shared about a lot of inspirational women! Women that had to be courageous and I can tell this was a very thoughtful and reflective journey for you. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Kristin Cook says:

    I’ve only really heard of the Malala documentary, but she is really cool. And I think it is AWESOME that the wives who lost their husbands in 9/11 turned to help the women overseas! So cool!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: 7 Women Who Influenced the Environmental Movement | Ever Change Productions

  13. Pingback: 11 Documentaries About Women’s Struggles for a Better World | Me, Myself & Who

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