“And that is how it happens. One girl follows behind the other, until together they move toward something – a future.”
Girl Rising, a recent film directed by Academy Award nominee Richard Robbins and voiced by actors such as Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Kerry Washington, and Liam Neeson, exposes some of the most tragic threats to girls’ education worldwide, and inspirational stories of triumph. The film documents the experiences of 9 heroic girls from all over the world who have struggled in their pursuit of equal access to education, facing hardships from natural disasters to rape. Each girl’s story is uniquely real, and has been told by a writer from her home country. Regardless of the struggles that they faced each and every day, these girls did not give up on their quest for freedom, equity, and possibility.
The UW-Madison chapter of She’s the First, a nonprofit that sponsors girls’ education in developing countries, joined over 600 other locals at the Barrymore Theater this Tuesday night for the film’s highly anticipated premiere. The film, produced by the non-profit organization 10×10 Act, in partnership with several other organizations working toward a better future for girls and women worldwide, has been screened all over the United States in major theaters, and is hoped to be an agent for change and call for action.
Amidst the poignant and poetic words and beautiful, vivid cinematography, the film is peppered with statistics and cold hard facts about the power of educating girls. If you’ve been hearing a lot about girls’ education lately, there’s a reason: it works. Educating girls has been proven to have both social, economic, and health benefits for the individual, her family, her community, and her country. From an economic standpoint, recent empirical studies from the World Bank and UNESCO have shown ties between educating women & girls and nations’ GDP growth (worldbank.org). An educated girl is also more likely to marry and have children later in life, raise healthier children, and send her children to school.
While the girls and women in Girl Rising were the focus of the film, I found some of the men involved to be particularly inspiring. A father that refused to move back to his village in India, because he knew his daughters would receive a better education in the city, a brother who would not stand for his sister’s early marriage—these stories showed that educating and empowering girls and women is not just something that women must fight for. Equally important as educating girls is educating boys from a young age that all individuals are worthy of a future, and change can only be made when men and women stand together.
While the status of educational opportunities for girls and women has improved dramatically throughout the last century in many parts of the world, there is still much progress to be made. The stories of these girls were enlightening and inspiring, but we must not forget the millions of girls worldwide that are not able to achieve their ambitions and dreams. For those girls, we must keep fighting, and we must never stop.
“Look into my eyes. Can you see it now? I am change.”
For more information on the film, visit www.girlrising.com. To get involved in the cause of educating girls in developing countries, visit www.shesthefirst.org, or www.facebook.com/ShestheFirstWisconsin