INTRODUCTION Despite being devout Moslems the people of Western Sahara exist in a society which is predominantly a matriarchy.
SV ZOOM IN TO CU Woman sitting in desert
GV Settlement of tents in desert with children walking over sand
SV & CU Polisario women digging out sand
LV & CU Women mixing mud and water with feet (2 shots)
SV Women mixing mud and sand to make bricks
LV & CU PAN Women making mud bricks in moulds (2 shots)
GV Stacks of mud bricks
CU PAN Army sergeant instructing female army recruits
CU & SV Women recruits with riffles during training (3 shots)
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Background: INTRODUCTION Despite being devout Moslems the people of Western Sahara exist in a society which is predominantly a matriarchy.
SYNOPSIS: The role of women has become even more important since the fight for complete independence escalated about a year ago. It was then that the former Spanish Sahara was handed over by the Spaniards to Morocco and Mauritania. In the middle of the handover were the thousands of people, most of whom are nomadic, living in the largely barren wastes of the desert state.
While the men of the nationalist, Algerian-backed Polisario Front are at war, the women have no time to weep. There is much work to do. Here the women are making mud and sand bricks. Teams of about 20 women make the bricks to build hospitals, following a system that has been used for many centuries. This work is going on at Camp Nas'r in the west of the country. Nas'r means victory and reflects the optimism of the people that one day they will control their land which is rich in phosphate. Most of the people live in tents but these bricks will be used to build not only a hospital but also a building to house widows and orphans and fallen soldiers. The woman are organised by a central committee of eleven. Each woman is responsible for a group.
An army sergeant is one of the few men remaining. his task is to teach women the essentials of war. For the day has arrived when the women not only have to bear children, care for the helpless and build their dwellings. They'll be expected to defend themselves and their property against the enemy -- in this case the soldiers of the Moroccan and Mauritanian armed forces.