Lioness shows how a documentary positioned at the centerpiece of a strategic outreach campaign can put an issue on the public agenda and have a direct impact on public policy.
The National Defense Authorization Act for the Fiscal Year 2010 was approved by the House Armed Services Committee this week.
Included in its recommendations is a section titled . "Recognizing Service Women Who Have Participated as ‘‘Lionesses’’ During Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan (see p. 315-316).
This insert into the bill (H.R. 2647), which should be approved by the House this week, is the direct result of the March 31 screening and events surrounding the documentary film, Lioness, on Capitol Hill, which was supported by key members of Congress.
According to co-director/producer Meg McLagan,
If passed, this would be an indirect but significant step toward moving the Department of Defense to officially acknowledge that women are engaging in direct combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which in turn should eventually encourage the DOD to revise its outdated policy governing the assignment of women in the military.
This is the culmination of long campaign, the beginnings of which we described at the 2009 Making Your Media Matter conference.
Lioness follows members of "Team Lioness," a group a female soldiers who were sent to Iraq as support troops in 2003 and became the first American service women to be sent into direct ground combat - in violation of Department of Defense policy. It highlights the presence of women who were tapped for service in combat units dealing with women and children in culturally sensitive situations.
Filmmakers Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers aimed to bring public attention to the challenges faced by women who – because they lack official status -- fail to get the training, recognition or benefits they deserve. The ultimate goal was to reach decision-makers capable of providing resources and official status due male and female support soldiers in combat.
For the strategic campaign, McLagan and Sommers formed partnerships with Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), and Center for Women Veterans, Department of Veterans Affairs. The film has become a tool for Veterans Administration facilities treating post-traumatic stress in women and has been widely screened at veteran facilities.
The Independent Television Service (ITVS) became an outreach partner prior to the November broadcast of Lioness on the national PBS documentary series. Independent Lens, bringing the film to community audiences across the country.
Partner organizations helped to mobilize the support of members of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, and other key legislators for the screening, which played to an overflow crowd.
We’ll be following the progress of pending legislation on lionessthefilm.com, where the filmmakers have added helpful widgets to track related bills.