This month’s Cine Club marks International Women’s Day with a screening of the award winning and controversial film, Vessel. It follows the life of one women’s rights activist and her efforts to help women around the world give themselves safe abortions. Ahead of Tuesday’s screening, find out more about the film and the organisation, Women on Waves. View the trailer & book tickets here.

About the Film

Vessel begins with a young doctor who lived by the sea, and an unlikely idea.  Rebecca Gomperts, horrified by the realities created by anti-abortion law around the world, felt compelled to challenge this.  Her method: to provide abortions on a ship in offshore waters.

Her project, Women on Waves, begins as flawed spectacle, a media frenzy, faced with governmental, religious, and military blockades.  But with each setback comes a more refined mission, until Rebecca has the revelation that she can use new technologies to bypass law – and train women to give themselves safe abortions using WHO-sanctioned protocols with pills.

We witness the creation of an underground network of emboldened, informed activists, working at the cutting edge of global reproductive rights, who trust women to handle abortion themselves. Vessel is Rebecca’s story: one of a woman who heard and answered a calling, and transformed a wildly improbable idea into a global movement.

Vessel premiered at South by Southwest Film Festival in 2014, winning the Audience Award for Documentary in Competition and a Special Jury Award for Political Courage. The film was released theatrically in New York, and went on to screen at over 230 festivals and community screenings worldwide. Additional awards include the inaugural Peter Wintonick Award from Sheffield DocFest, the Adrienne Shelly Excellence in Filmmaking Award, the Moving Mountains Honorable Mention from Mountainfilm in Telluride, the Calgary Underground Audience Choice Honorable Mention, and the SIMA Lens to Action Jury Award.

 

About Women on Waves

Women on Waves was founded in 2000 with the aim to prevent unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions by providing sexual health services, including early medical abortions (abortion with pills), on board a Dutch ship, outside the territorial waters of countries where abortion is illegal.

In the last 10 years Women on Waves has generated enormous public interest, and much controversy, with ship campaigns in Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and Morocco.  The ship campaigns are conducted by invitation and in collaboration with local partner organizations, and are designed to add momentum to activist efforts already on the ground working to liberalize law.

Although legalization of abortion is important, medical abortion now gives women the possibility to take their lives into their own hands, regardless of the legality of abortion or the willingness of doctors. Ensuring that WHO-researched information about medical abortion is easily available to women can save women’s lives. Therefore, Women on Waves now focuses on helping women access information about medical abortion by distributing information through the internet, grassroots efforts on the ground, and by supporting the creation of safe abortion telephone hotlines in collaboration with partner organizations across South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

For more information, or if you need help, please visit www.womenonwaves.org

 

About Rebecca Gomperts

Rebecca Gomperts, founder and director of Women on Waves, studied medicine and visual arts in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. After graduating Gomperts became an abortion doctor and sailed as a ships doctor with the environmental activist Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior. While sailing in South America, she was first exposed to women who suffered greatly due to lack of access to reproductive heath services and safe, legal abortions. These women and their stories inspired Rebecca to start Women on Waves.

She has won numerous awards for her work with Women on Waves, including the “Allan Rosenfield Award for Lifetime Contributions to International Family Planning” by the Society of Family Planning (2012), the “Global Women’s Rights Award” from the Feminist Majority Foundation (2007), the “Rosie Jimenez Award from the Women’s Medical Fund” (2005), and Planned Parenthood’s “Margaret Sanger Woman of Valor Award” (2004) and “Women Making History Award” (2002). She was named one of Women Deliver’s “Top 100 most inspiring people delivering for girls and women” (2011), one of the “1000 Peace Women for the Nobel Prize” (2005) and “Woman of the Year” by Ms. Magazine (2001).

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