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In 2011, Mohamed Hamir read about a documentary filmmaker in the early stages of a project to advocate for women and young girls in India who are victims of violence, a problem that has taken the lives of tens of thousands. It was an issue close to Hamir’s heart. His own granddaughter had been adopted from an orphanage in Kolkata.
“Whenever I think about the consequences my granddaughter would have faced in India without an intervention like adoption …” said Hamir, whose granddaughter is now nine, “it just touches the core of my heart.”
Hamir decided to use his Fidelity Charitable Giving Account, or donor-advised fund, to help the movie Petals in the Dust get made. He contacted the San Francisco filmmaker—who had learned about the gender violence through her own journey to adopt in India—and became the film’s executive producer. His grant recommendations to the film’s nonprofit sponsor, the San Francisco Film Society, contributed to the costs of travel and production, post-production crew, and publicity, ultimately providing more than half of the film’s $150,000 budget.
Petals in the Dust was four years in the making, Hamir said. Its co-producer/director, Nyna Pais Caputi, traveled across India, documenting stories from families and women survivors about the “horrific practices under which gender selection was carried out, and some ghastly practices in which newborn girls were murdered,” Hamir said. In many parts of Indian society, particularly in poor, rural areas, girls are unwanted for a number of cultural reasons, a bias he said that has created a dangerous decline in the female population and given rise to human trafficking and prostitution.
“The whole idea of gender discrimination is just abhorrent to me,” said Hamir, who lives in Southern California and retired from a career in finance in 2001. He opened his Giving Account five years later, drawn to its tax advantages, ability to time his giving and the opportunity to grow his charitable funds by recommending investment options.
Since then, Hamir also has used his Giving Account, which he has funded through donations of appreciated securities, to help address poverty and social injustice. He serves on the advisory board for Pratham, an education foundation based in India that serves the most marginalized of that country’s youth; and the Aga Khan Foundation, which supports education, health care and rural development in third-world countries. The Hamir family also gives domestically to Girl Scouts of the USA, Wounded Warriors and the American Red Cross.
“My wife and I are so lucky,” said Hamir, who was born to Indian immigrants in Tanzania and immigrated West with his family after political upheaval. “We arrived in this country with almost nothing, and it has been so good to us. We made a career of getting opportunities. We now have more than most people in the world, and my passion for giving comes from helping the less fortunate. I get the most emphatic pleasure out of it.”
Petals in the Dust, meanwhile, continues to create awareness and generate dialogue about gender selection and discrimination through its screenings at festivals, including the United Nations Association Film Festival, and at nonprofits and private businesses, including many West Coast technology companies, throughout North America. The film was awarded the Best Documentary Film prize at the SF Global Movie Festival. Eventually, Hamir says, he and Caputi hope to show the documentary in India.
For Hamir, who had no experience in the film industry before Petals, using his Giving Account to create more conversation–and, he hopes, action–around gender violence is the best way he can give back.
“Hopefully, in my own little way, I’m making a little bit of difference in people’s lives,” he said.