How ‘Wadjda’ Brings Girl Empowerment To Girls All Around the Globe

First, I love the film Wadjda (2012)for indulging in femininity. Wadjda reminds me of my younger self, who had wavy, untamed hair and preferred sneakers over flats and heels. There was a time when the only fictional character that resembled me physically was Princess Jasmine from Aladdin (1992). Although we were from different backgrounds, Jasmine had long, flowing hair and light brown skin like me. I didn’t have many female role models that had my type of hair or my skin color. Watching Wadjda, I told myself, “Where was this film when I was ten? “. I kept imagining how great it would have been to meet a real-life Wadjda. We could have colored our sneakers together.

Wadjda on her bedroom floor, coloring her sneakers black
Wadjda coloring her sneakers black

I may not be little anymore, but I could still relate to what Wadjda was experiencing. She’s under observation from her headteacher at school, her mom, and society itself. In one scene, Wadjda’s headteacher asks her to wear plain black shoes instead of her purple converses, and she compromises by coloring them black. What I love about this scene is, how Wadjda chooses to participate in her culture. There are moments when she is told to behave a certain way, but Wadjda doesn’t let her country’s customs and traditions take away the part of her that makes her Wadjda. This is where girl empowerment plays a role. In Wadjda, the main character’s transgression from not wearing black shoes, and not always covering her hair fully with the hijab, shows agency in women; the Western narrative is quick to associate hijabs with oppression, but hijabs can represent gender expression and spirituality.

Wadjda in her bedroom, putting on her purple converse sneakers
Wadjda is wearing her school uniform and is putting on her purple sneakers

I also felt that this film is about girlhood. I remember a scene where Wadjda saw two older girls putting on blue nail polish. In a later scene, Wadjda also puts on blue nail polish on her toenails. The nail polish symbolizes girlhood to adolescence, which is why the film indulges in femininity. Wadjda’s hair, which is also tied to her femininity, represents her free spirit. In the scene below, Wadjda’s mom catches her riding a bike. After this confrontation, Wadjda sobs because what’s the point of owning a bike if she can’t ride it? While this shot shows Wadjda in a vulnerable state, she is a high-strong, rebellious girl who doesn’t take no for an answer.

Wajdja is crying on the roof , she has her head bend down to her leg
Wadjda crying after her mother finds out she is riding her friend’s bike.

Another aspect of the film is the relationship between mother and daughter. There are times when Wadjda’s mom scolds her for wanting a bike, but her intentions are out of love. The only reason her mom wouldn’t buy her a bike is because Saudi Arabia’s society doesn’t allow girls to ride bikes. In the end, her mother bought her the bike because a parent’s true happiness is making their child happy. Waad Mohammed’s performance as Wadjda has empowered me, and I know other girls will be too.

Wajdja and her mother are intertwining their hands together as a sign of reconcile
Wadjda and her mother reconcile






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