Girl Rising is an inspirational new film that recounts the desire and struggle of nine young girls around the world to seek an education. These girls from countries like Nepal, Peru, Haiti, Egypt, India and Afghanistan face some incredible barriers – bonded labour, extreme poverty, early marriage or even the destruction of their school after an earthquake.

Girl Rising is a kind of docudrama with powerful tales about hardship in the quest for education. It’s beautifully and cleverly shot with superb narration by actresses like Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep. More than anything you come away wondering why you ever lamented an exam, a class, or the chance to learn, but forever grateful that you’re parents didn’t sell you for the chance to buy a car or have a better life themselves.


Pic: Suma from 10x10act.org

Pic: Suma from 10x10act.org

In each case a local writer was assigned to the girl and worked with them to tell their story. This, along with the narration, takes away a little bit from the idea of the girl telling the story themselves – some don’t even speak and can’t be shown fully on camera for security reasons so it’s a case of seen but not heard. While the message is undeniably powerful one also doubts whether it would be as strong without the money behind it or power of the voices of these well paid actresses most who would know little of the circumstances these girls face.

However there are some incredible messages in the film. Two of my favourites are:

Suma is a Nepali girl sold as a bonded worker or Kamlari when she is five years old. While the practice is illegal she has to wash dishes, collect wood and water, tend the goats and mind children from 4am until late at night. Her own brother however is able to go to school. When she is finally freed she decides to use her experience to help free other Kamlaris. Her experience can be viewed in full here.

I feel as though I have power, as though I can do anything. And I have important things to do … I’ve seen where change comes from. When it comes it’s like a song you can’t hold back. Suddenly there’s a breath moving through you and suddenly you’re singing and others pick up the tune and start singing too. And a sweet melody goes out into the world and touches the heart of one person and then another and another.

Afghani girl Amina is sold to her cousin when she is 11 years old. Her family buys her brother a car with the dowry money. She is lucky to survive childbirth when but a child herself. Life is hard and she says the happiest days are when she learnt to read and write. She is determined to continue her education:

I will read. I will study. I will learn. You try to stop me I will just try harder. If you stop me there will be other girls that will rise up and take my place. I am change.

Pic: Wadley from girlrising.com

Pic: Wadley from 10x10act.org

Inspired? You should be. And there are other stories. Wadley from Haiti lost her school in the 2010 earthquake but told her teacher in the new school where money was now sought that she would come back to school every day even if they sent her away. In Egypt, “superhero” Yasmin doesn’t go to school but she is strong. She stabs her rapist and spares his life when he begs her too. The police are kind but admit to her mother there will be no justice.

For all of these girls education plays a critical role in their lives. Their success in going to school, or being able to continue their education despite incredibly difficult situations, has a profound impact on all of them. One desires to become a poet and inspire others, another to host her own television show to help other girls. It also has, or should, have a profound impact on the audience. For throughout the film there is another narrative about the statistics regarding girls’ education. All are horrific:
* There are 33 million fewer girls than boys in primary school.
* 66 million girls are out of school globally.
* If India enrolled 1% more girls in secondary school, its GDP would rise by $5.5 billion.
* A girl with an extra year of education can earn 20% more as an adult.
* Girls with 8 years of education are 4 times less likely to be married as children.

Girl Rising was screened on October 11 in Australian cinemas thanks to World Vision to coincide with the International Day of the Girl that recognizes girls’ rights and the unique challenges they face around the world. In 2013 the focus is on “Innovating for Girls’ Education”.

It’s not too late to see it. To learn how you can arrange a screening of the film click here. The screening will not only raise money but spread the message that more needs to be done. Be part of the movement for change.

Star rating: 8 out of 10.

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