Girl Rising is not a movie about oppression and victimhood. This is not to say that the nine girls that the movie stars have not faced staggering obstacles due to their gender, race, and class. These girls, who are representative of millions of girls worldwide, are survivors of natural disasters and national tragedies. They inhabit worlds where young girls are commoditized, over-worked, abused and silenced.
Suma, a young Nepalese woman, was sold into Kamaiya, a form of domestic slavery, at six years old. She was passed between masters, alternatively abused and ignored. Yasmin was raped in Cairo, and her attacker has yet to be apprehended or prosecuted. Since her rape, Yasmin has been engaged to marry. She’s thirteen. Girl Rising intersperses these stories with short segments that emphasize the challenges facing girls today. Young girls in fields hold up signs bearing startling statistics. To start, 33 millions fewer girls than boys are in primary schools worldwide. This education gap strongly correlates to the number of female AIDS victims in the world, as well as the percentage of women who are trafficked and the horrifying worldwide statistics on sexual assault. The movie makes the argument that girls who have educational opportunities are healthier and safer; they fuel their economies and have fewer and more literate children. Essentially, girls are one of the highest returning investments in the developing world.
Despite the obstacles that they face, the girls featured in this movie are not victims; they are writers, artists, and heroines. Each girl was paired with a female writer from her own country and given the opportunity to tell her own story. And each girl uses her time to reiterate her strength, determination, and total faith in education (and eventual women’s world domination). Amina, an Afghan girl who could not act in her own story due to safety concerns, explains, “I am a girl masked and muted.” But, still, she perseveres, insisting, “I am change.” All of these girls are heroines. Yasmin, unable to cope with her rape, imagines the assault as a cartoon in which she slashes her assailant, but mercifully lets him live. Suma, after she is freed, works with other girls in order to free other bonded young women throughout Nepal. Simultaneously, these girls explore their academic interests and creative passions; from the Freetown native who wants to be an astronaut to the young girl who paints fantastical images in her Indian slum. The message here is pretty clear: if these young women can accomplish so much with so little, imagine how much we can all do together.
This creed resonates throughout Girl Rising, which is the centerpiece of the 10x10 global campaign to educate and empower girls. The 10x10 fund supports non-profit leaders in girls’ education worldwide. The film, which premiered last night in New York at the Paris Theater, will be showing at Cinema Village in New York and the Laemmle Theatre in Los Angeles through March 15th. 438 screenings have been organized nationwide, and 10x10 is hoping to crowd source the movie into hundreds of local theaters. The film will also be broadcast on CNN this summer. It’s apt that a movie about the redemptive power of bonds between women (between girls across the world, the female writers who helped them craft their stories, and the celebrities who agreed to narrate the tales) is relying on grassroots organization and public demand. In honor of International Women’s Day tomorrow, you should definitely try to see this movie—in addition to giving you goose bumps, it might also inspire you to take action and, you know, change the world.
Images Via 10x10