Wadley loved going to school. She woke early every morning and rushed to her classroom seat. Wadley’s world changed when an earthquake hit Haiti and destroyed her school, making the already inaccessible school system even more unavailable.
Wadley’s is one of nine stories about the pursuit of education showcased in “Girl Rising.” Through chronicling the struggles and triumphs of girls in developing countries, Academy-Award winning director Richard E. Robbins shows how education changes the world, and calls viewers to act for girls’ educational rights.
Each story is chronicled by writers from the girls’ home countries and narrated by Hollywood stars. Loung Ung, a bestselling author from Cambodia, worked with Sokha, asking questions and listening to stories about Sokha’s earlier childhood. Alicia Keys speaks Sokha’s story in the film.
Many stories in the film emphasize the important role of family in each girl’s life, all in different ways. Suma’s parents committed her to bonded labor in Nepal at age six, and though she longed to attend school, she dared not speak against her parents, whom she knew wished only the best for her. Azmera’s brother helped her refuse a marriage proposal to instead pursue an education in Ethiopia. Ruksana’s father moved their family to the streets of India so the daughters could go to school. These examples show the importance of family unity prevailing in cultures around the world.
The voice of Liam Neeson shares statistics about education and the girls’ opportunities throughout the film, forcing viewers to realize the magnitude of the education crisis.
Viewing the film sparks realization about the issue of gender equality. Anne Hathaway tells that Amina was never given an option regarding her future. Rather, she lived with the societal assumption she would serve in the home in Afghanistan. Not only was education inaccessible, any option about the future resided out of Amina’s hands.
The “Girl Rising” website describes the organization’s passion for education this way, “Removing barriers such as early marriage, gender-based violence, domestic slavery and sex trafficking means not only a better life for girls, but a safer, healthier and more prosperous world for all.”
The sobering accounts of nine girls reaching for access to education leaves some viewers feeling inspired; education is the key to empowering girls. Others are left with a sense of anger. They resent that girls lack access to basic rights, like education. Yet all viewers realize how educating girls changes their situation. With that, some viewers will move to improve the situation. Regardless, “Girl Rising” shows the power of education.
“Girl Rising” draws attention to the lack of educational opportunities for girls in the developing world. By utilizing well-known figures in writing and acting, the organization intrigues viewers. From there, viewers experience the hardship and hard work of each of nine girls, forcing the audience to empathize. In that regard, “Girl Rising” achieved its purpose. However, the end of the film encourages viewers to act to improve education for girls around the world. The film website suggests donating money to a series of organizations, but is unclear just what the money will do to improve the situation. That is to say, viewers realize the scope and are called to act but remain unsure how to help girls in the developing world access education.
To understand a clearer model, consider the girl effect, and movement to help adolescent girls reach their full potential. This organization gives supporters two options when donating money. First, much like Girl Rising, the girl effect invites the public to donate to the Girl Effect Fund. They offer a few ways the money might help, but refrain from including specifics. The girl effect is set apart because the organization allows supporters to designate money to a specific program. They explain various projects around the world for the public to read about and select. Offering supporters options makes some feel more comfortable and passionate about sending money by giving them an idea of how their gift helps.
The United Nations (UN) compiled a set of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), one of which is to promote gender equality and empower women. A key component of the goal involves increasing educational opportunities for women. The UN’s 2013 MDGs fact sheet says only 93 girls attend school for every 100 boys, and commits to using education to improve girls’ lives. “Girl Rising” is part of a worldwide goal put forth by the UN. Both the MDG and the film seek to educate the public about the importance of education.