It can be difficult for people who live in fully developed nations, like the United States, to fathom that there are children in the world struggling to get a grade-school education. But the reality is, “Right now, 66 million girls are out of school globally”. This is one of many haunting statistics revealed in 2013 movie, “Girl Rising”. On Wednesday, October 30th, the UCLA Center of African Studies, along with other departments, put on a free screening of this film.
“Girl Rising” follows nine extraordinary girls from different countries that come from uniquely tragic circumstances. A multiplicity of experiences are represented in the film as poignant stories of an Afghani girl being forced into marriage at age twelve, or a Nepalese girl being sold into bonded servitude at a mere six years old, expose discrepancies in treatment and power. But as the girls desired a better life than what was planned for them, many of them fought for their education. Each girl in the film (besides two of them due to concerns for their safety) plays herself as she enacts stories from her own life. Additionally, these stories are written by writers from their native countries and narrated by familiar names like Meryl Streep and Kerry Washington.
Following the screening of the film, director Richard E. Robbins held a question and answer session.
An audience member eagerly asked why the specific countries were chosen to be featured. Robbins revealed, “We looked at what the U.N. (United Nations) said were the worse countries on the planet to be a woman”. Gender plays an essential role determining the fate of many girls’ lives. In some countries, expectant mothers hope to only give birth to a boy. Being the mother of a son gives her more social status in her community, as opposed to having a daughter. This was the case of Nepalese girl, Suma, as seen in the film.
Co-sponsor of this event, Francoise Lionnet, Director of Center of African Studies at UCLA, shared why this film was screened as she said, “We have a grant from USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) and HED (Higher Education for Development) and were doing a big project in Rwanda on girls’ education. We are focusing on this particular topic”.
Director Robbins further shared what he believed to be the core goals of the film. “Change lives, minds, and policies”. But in order to change policies it is necessary to spread awareness of the injustice girls face in their attempts to receive an education.
The public typically believes that girls in other nations are held back from school solely due to cultural norms.
However, the film points out that being economically disenfranchised is one of the biggest factors holding girls back from their education.
Schooling is an expensive luxury, which requires families to pay for tuition, books, and much more. So when families are unable to pay, they seek desperate options to find a way to support their daughters. Consequently, this desperation leads to arranged-marriages because they believe that their daughters are better off being taken care of by a husband.
The amount of girls forced into this tragic cycle is heartbreaking and must be changed. Education empowers young girls and empowered girls can spark change and start a revolution. So let’s continue this revolution! If you are interested in getting involved in order to make a difference in girls’ lives, check out Girl Rising.