Friday, 8 November 2013

One girl with courage is a revolution*

Girl Rising 19 (5)
I saw a screening of the documentary
'Girl Rising' this evening. I've been meaning to catch screening for months now, but unlike a regular movie which would show in theatres for a set period of time, a screening of Girl Rising requires active participation. Anyone can decide to organise a screening - you can either 'crowd source' by requesting a screening in a theatre near you and letting friends know. If there are enough people - the screening will go ahead. So finally I found out about a screening in Brooklyn and decided to go and see it.

Girl Rising is undoubtedly one of the most engaging documentaries I have ever seen. It features a number of girls of varying ages from all over the world. Their stories are told in beautifully poetic accounts by writers from their countries and narrated by mostly famous people some of whose voices you may recognize. Each story is a snippet of the life of a girl in a developing country where education is a luxury and where at times girls face unspeakable hardships. 

The thread that binds the stories together is the narration that speaks of what it means to be a girl in this world. The statistics, some of which you may have heard, speak of the injustices faced by girls in the world today. Statistics that we so often ignore - and sometimes view as an inconvenient truth that, if acknowledged may force us to do more - engage more and most importantly demand more of ourselves and our elected leaders. The website also publishes these statistics (below) - no doubt as an important reminder of the urgency of the situation and the necessity for things to change.

  1.  Globally, 66 million girls out of school. (UNESCO) 
  2. 80% of all human trafficking victims are girls. (UNFPA) 
  3. There are 33 million fewer girls than boys in primary school (Education First)\ 
  4.  75% of AIDS cases in sub-Saharan Africa—the region hardest hit by the disease—are women and girls. (UNAIDS) 
  5. In a single year, an estimated 150 million girls are victims of sexual violence. (UNIFEM) 
  6.  50% of all the sexual assaults in the world are on girls under 15. (UNFPA) 
  7. 14 million girls under 18 will be married this year; 38 thousand today; 13 girls in the last 30 seconds. (UNFPA) 
  8. The #1 cause of death for girls 15-19 is childbirth. (World Health Organization) 9. Girls with 8 years of education are 4 times less likely to be married as children. (National Academies Press) 
  9.  A child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5. (UNESCO) 
  10.  Educated mothers are more than twice as likely to send their children to school. (UNICEF) 
  11.  School is not free in over 50 countries. (UNESCO) 
  12. A girl on planet earth has a 1 in 4 chance of being born into poverty. (The World Bank) 
  13. A girl with an extra year of education can earn 20% more as an adult. (The World Bank) 
  14. Women operate a majority of small farms and business in the developing world. (Focus on Five) 
  15.  If India enrolled 1% more girls in secondary school, their GDP would rise by $5.5 billion. (CIA World Factbook) (Global Campaign for Education and RESULTS Education Fund) 
  16.  There are 600 million girls in the developing world. (The World Bank) 

Most of the stories had a uplifting end or at least the promise of a better future. One however, about a girl in Afghanistan who could not even appear in her story as she feared for her life, moved me to tears beyond anything I could have imagined. As I listened to the account of this girl, no doubt ordinary by the standards in her country, learning of how she was rejected by her mother for being born the wrong sex, then forced into child labour, married off at 11 and thrust into child-bearing shortly after, I couldn't help but sob...and sob loudly. I suddenly felt overwhelmed by a strong sense of sadness and sense of resignation I think. The idea of a child of 11 being impregnated and going through the trauma of child birth - her body, having barely reached puberty was more than I could take. It seemed to me to reflect the plight of so many girls and women. Fortunately her story ended up being one of triumph because of her courage and determination. 

There was a large group of girls, probably aged 10-13 in the cinema and although I didn't think it was appropriate for them to witness all the injustices and unspeakable trauma that children their age, around the world face, I did hope that they would go away more informed, and more determined to make a difference.

It goes without saying that I would recommend this film. As a woman brace yourself. As a woman with a daughter, brace yourself even more because it will rip at your heart, but as the title suggests it is a story of change and optimism. The overriding message is that change is possible with courage and support. We can build the momentum of change by spreading the word, supporting the cause in whatever way we can. We owe it to the future of this world to ensure that every girl finds the courage and gains the support to rise way above her adversities to do and most of all to be something great in spite of all the challenges she faces. 
Please visit

*the documentary's full title is Girl Rising: One Girl with Courage is a Revolution

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