Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Women Empowerment Film Competition 2019 Winners

25 Apr, 2019

Gold Grand Prize: A Different Way

A Different Way, a film by Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook and Lauren Merkley, is the 2019 Women Empowerment Film Competition Grand Prize winner. Rev. Dr. Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook shares her experience as the first female chaplain for the NYPD and how interfaith relationships were essential in fostering hope and rebuilding a city after the events of 9/11.

Amb. ‘Sujay’ served as the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom from April 2011 to October 2013. She has served as a policy advisor to President Bill Clinton and was the first female senior pastor in the 200-year history of the American Baptist Churches USA and a close friend of Coretta Scott King. Lauren Merkley is a documentary filmmaker and photographer passionate about capturing the beauty of people and stories in their own environment. She seeks to share the good in the world and believes in the power of film to touch audiences across the world.

Silver First Runner Up: Equality by Olfa Arfaoui and Randy Abbassi

A Tunisian female shares how women’s empowerment, with religious liberty at its core, is a pathway to peace and prosperity.

Olfa Arfaoui, a scholar at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, looks at the importance of women’s economic empowerment and what a new equal inheritance law in Tunisia could mean for gender equality.


In this age of global media that can spread messages of intolerance in an instant, it is urgent that we identify, equip and mobilize leaders to share empowering messages that advance interfaith understanding, religious freedom and peace. The Women Empowerment film competition challenges women to collaborate together to produce short films that promote freedom of religion and belief in the workplace. Women Empowerment films represent a collective effort between the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and Empower Women Media to contribute to a growing movement to equip women as media advocates.

In this second edition of the Women Empowerment film competition, the new award-winning films will be screened at the Damah Film Festival in Tokyo, May 10-11, 2019. The grand prize winners of the competition received $1,000 and their film as well as all the finalist films will be shared at film events in the coming year with religious freedom networks, NGOs, government and faith-based organizations around the world.

The three-minute films are artful and compelling explorations of how freedom of expression and religion in the workplace and our communities helps empower women, religious minorities, displaced and/or communities with disabilities. Whether inspired by real-life events or fictional, animated, or experimental, the films thoughtfully seek to affirm that inclusion, diversity and religious freedom are good for business.

The winning and finalist films include:

  • – $1,000 GOLD GRAND PRIZE: A Different Way (by Ambassador Suzan Johnson and Lauren Merkely)
  • – SILVER FIRST RUNNER UP: Equality (by Olfa Arfaoui and Randy Abbassi)
  • – SECOND RUNNER UP: Honour-Able (Jennifer Bryson and Bess Blackburn)
  • – THIRD RUNNER UP: Moving Mountains (Mariz Doss and Karen Schenk)
  • – FINALIST: Bleu (by Maryam Farahzadi)
  • – FINALIST: B Me (by Elizabeth Schenkel)

For more information about the Women Empowerment film competition guidelines, visit RFBF’s film competition page or contact the Empower Women Media Director, Shirin Taber at shirin@visualstory.orgSee 2018 winners here.