In 2018 Nadia Murad was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize alongside Denis Mukwege, according to the prize committee, “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.” Four years earlier, Nadia Murad was a young woman living peacefully in her small Yazidi village of Kocho in northwest Iraq. Not only had she never heard of the Nobel Peace Prize, but she could not have imagined that one day she would be an international activist speaking on behalf of her community in front of the United Nations.
This dizzying rise to international attention is as worthy of study and attention as the events that brought Murad to the world stage of humanitarian and human rights work. Today we see Murad as a source of strength and resilience. She is a survivor, even called a hero by many for telling her story of survival again and again on behalf of her Yazidi people. But at what cost does Murad tell her story, and for whose benefit?
In this lesson, students will have the opportunity to consider this question and broaden their media literacy skills by identifying the moral and ethical parameters journalists follow when interacting with and reporting on survivors of genocide. By viewing excerpts of On Her Shoulders—a documentary portrait of Nadia Murad, who survived the 2014 Yazidi genocide—students will evaluate the balance between the media’s desire for survivors to tell their stories, the public’s need for stories of strength and heroism and the survivors’ pursuit of justice for their community.
Important Note to Educators
On Her Shoulders is a film about a war, collective violence, rape and trauma as a weapon of war. Regardless of whether you or someone you know has ever been affected by war or sexual violence, the story of Nadia Murad’s torture and survival is emotional and difficult. Bringing these elements into a classroom requires care, context and a strong culture of respect and trust in one another in order to share and process this information.
To prepare yourself and your students for this lesson:
Watch all the film clips from On Her Shoulders prior to screening them in your classroom. Watching the full feature film is highly recommended.
Read through all the handouts and review the Resources for Further Learning section of this lesson to learn more about the history and culture of the Yazidi people and Nadia Murad’s work and international recognition since 2014.