Local female fire fighter is shattering gender stereotypes and inspiring the Nation
Born in the small town of Beaufort West, Vuyiseka Arendse is shattering gender stereotypes as a member of the first-ever all-female fire fighting team in South Africa… protecting local landmarks from wildfires in the Western Cape region. Content marketing specialists, Fell + Co, celebrated the global launch of ‘Her Way’, a short film for Salomon’s International WMN campaign, at a private screening in Cape Town on Thursday, 29 April 2021.
Taking just over a year to produce while navigating cross-border COVID-19 challenges, the film celebrates three incredible and humble women from South Africa, New Zealand and the United States of America. From completely different cultures and backgrounds, these women are brought together through one common trait – their determination to do things their way.
Born in the small town of Beaufort West, South Africa, Vuyiseka Arendse began volunteering as a fire fighter when she was 19. Now 26, the single mother and family breadwinner works for the NCC in Cape Town as a member of the Juliet Crew, the first-ever all-female firefighting team in the country, protecting local landmarks from wildfires in the Western Cape region.
Chinese-born Nancy Jiang moved with her family from Ma’an Shan to Auckland, New Zealand, when she was five. She studied structural engineering and today is the only female engineer in her firm. Small in stature and needing to prove herself in the workplace, she found her release through a love of trail running in the mountains of Queenstown, despite having been told as a kid that “Chinese people do not run.”
A caregiver at heart, Melody Buck Forsyth is a mother of four and a delivery nurse. In 2015, she gave birth to her daughter, Ruby, who was born with Down Syndrome. Despite “sometimes getting looks on the trail” because she might not fit the hiker stereotype, the outdoors has served as an escape for Melody and her family, where they connect and decompress.
The concept evolved from the 2019 Salomon WMN campaign, whereby women were displaying their defiance of common stereotypes. This year’s campaign focuses on sharing real stories of women who simply lived as though these stereotypes did not exist. Capturing this in a documentary style was crucial in relaying an authentic message that women could truly get behind.
“It’s not about putting women on a pedestal; it’s about taking the pedestal away and allowing equal opportunity to do anything in life we choose to pursue. The film’s authenticity is captured by its three characters and how they resonate with us as women. We all have the ability to be and achieve more if assumptions and stereotypes are ignored,” says Kirsten Gerber, producer at Fell + Co.
Fell + Co.’s selection process to source these three unique women took months to complete. After narrowing it down, they chose the characters based on who would be relatable and remarkable, not for extraordinary achievements but simply and unapologetically following their own path. The production spanned over three continents and with more than 19 hours of time difference. Due to COVID restriction, the sourced film crews needed to reside in the same city as the three characters.
Her Way is largely a female effort, with nine women contributing to the production. The film also includes an original score titled Her Way, composed for the film by Clare Vandeleur with lyrics and vocals by Danielle Bakkes.
“Brands are starting to move into a better space representing women in the media but there is a long way to go. With Her Way, we had to remove the status quo to be completely true to how we made the film. We wanted to tell the stories of women excelling, exactly as themselves, with no points to prove. With documentary story-telling, there is no scripting to skew the narrative; we need to tell more stories like this,” says Greg Fell, Executive Producer at Fell + Co.
“A stand-out moment for me was sharing the finished film with the three characters. Seeing their reactions to their stories being told back to them was very emotional and rewarding; we had achieved what we had set out to do,” says Caroline Brouckaert, Director at Fell + Co.
Sources: Her Way and Good Things Guy