W4’s field partner Project Soar, based in Morocco, is launching a new online YouTube channel, “Soar TV” to inspire and empower girls in the MENA region. The show, delivered in both Darija and Modern Standard Arabic, by animated “talk show”-style hosts, will share news and interviews highlighting the accomplishments of prominent women from the MENA region. The show aims to offer girls and women positive, uplifting role models and depictions of women. The W4 editorial team interviewed Project Soar’s Program Development Manager Heyab-Mariam Ogbasion about this ambitious and exciting new project!
What motivated your team to launch Soar TV?
Working closely with teenage girls, we saw how heavily social media influences their choices and the paths they take. Research shows that the content that is currently out there, in Arabic and for girls in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, portrays women and girls in a negative way — as illiterate, weak, and oppressed.
Our objective is to promote girls’ empowerment, to provide motivational content that inspires girls. We want to highlight women and girls who have taken unconventional paths and who can be role models for other girls and women. This is what inspired us to launch Soar TV and to mobilize social media as a tool to spread these positive messages.
What are your key objectives with Soar TV?
Our overall objective is to provide progressive content for girls in the MENA region and for this content to be in Arabic, coming from girls and women who look like the girls in our audience. That is super important because the content currently out there is very traditional and a lot of popular TV shows here, such as soap operas, do not portray women in the best light. We want to enable girls to explore possibilities and see beyond the traditional portrayal of women and girls in the region.
We want to show them that girls just like them are doing very powerful things, through the channel on YouTube, which is a very effective vehicle that can reach not only Project Soar girls, but many more girls across the region. Right now, we have nearly 1,000 Project Soar girls in the network — and through YouTube, we would be able to provide content beyond that network. We would be able to make it public, so that any girl can access this content.
What are the key themes you would like to cover on the channel?
It is really important to enable girls to simply explore different ideas about what they can do and to offer them content that will inspire them to discover their potential and their talents. Many Project Soar girls have mentioned that one of the things they have been able to do through the Project Soar empowerment program is to discover themselves. Often, girls have very structured lives and are not able to have that space to think and dream and be themselves. Soar TV is something every girl can watch and relate to. It can inspire and motivate her to explore different career paths that she may not have had access to or even been aware of.
When a girl sees another girl or woman achieving non-traditional goals or pursuing unconventional career paths, she may believe that she herself can do something different too. So, we are highlighting stories from girls and women who are leaders and have taken initiative in their futures. , For example, a woman who is a weightlifter, a woman doing really well in business, women in STEM , women in leadership positions in government and politics, and women and girls in the arts, entertainment, and journalism. We use a talk-show style, in which the Project Soar girls themselves are delivering this message in a cool, fun, hip way.
At W4, we admire the innovative nature of Soar TV: it addresses stereotypes and the limiting perceptions and mindsets that often lie at the root of gender discrimination. What benefits do you hope Soar TV can bring to Project Soar’s already impactful work to promote girls’ and women’s empowerment in the MENA region (and perhaps other regions)?
The content will be delivered in Arabic, but will also be translated into English. Our primary audience is made up of girls and women in the MENA region, but by subtitling the show in English, we will be able to share this content with more and more girls. We don’t want it to be a closed space. We also want others to understand the work we are doing and to recognize the accomplishments that women in this region are achieving.
We want to share that kind of inspiration beyond this region, to build confidence in girls and allow them to discover their talents and their potential. We want them to see these role models and know that they also are capable of achieving success. We want girls to feel that they can explore non-traditional paths in their lives and that here is not just a single path of getting married and having children. There are many fulfilling things beyond that.
Is there anything else you want to add?
This is something to share not only with girls and women, but with everyone. We are trying to shift perspectives and dispel long-standing negative ideas, to enable the world to see how capable girls and women are. Gender equality is our underlying message: girls and women are able to do just as much as, and even better than, men!
Find out how you can support Project Soar to create a progressive online news channel for girls and women in the Middle East & North Africa