A Call For Action?

On October 31, USAID announced its new partnership to raise awareness for girls’ education in India. Partnering with several other organizations, they will create local-language releases of the film “Girl Rising” to increase public dialogue on issues surrounding girls’ education in India.

Girl Rising is a powerful film that highlights the real-life stories of nine girls born into difficult circumstances in India, Haiti, Cambodia, Peru, Afghanistan, Sierre Leone, Egypt, Nepal, and Ethiopia. Many of the girls play themselves, and well-known actresses, such as Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett, Alicia Keys, Meryl Streep, and actor Liam Neeson, narrate the film.

Girl Rising has been stirring up attention all over the world. For the International Day of the Girl on October 11th it was shown at more than 2,000 events in over 150 countries. Though the film is about girls in 9 specific countries, it reflects the common issues girls face in most developing countries. USAID’s partnership in India is not the only example of a country putting hope in the film’s ability to bring change. In the Philippines, Intel’s Yvonne Flores mentions, “they are currently in talks with the Department of Education on the possibility of integrating the Girl Rising film in the curriculum”.

I would like to note that I have not personally seen the film, but nonetheless, I still want to weigh in. I appreciate that the partnership in India is working to translate the English film into local languages, ultimately I think this will allow the film to have a stronger impact on a wider audience. Yet, I am not entirely convinced that showing the masses the issues girls are facing will have any major effect. People in developing countries know that girls aren’t going to school. Most of them could probably tell you the top three reasons why they are not. It isn’t rocket science. The thing is that a major factor behind lack of girls’ education stems around cultural beliefs that girls are inferior to boys. Showing a video to raise awareness about the struggles girls go through will not ultimate convince people that girls should be valued. Last week I wrote a post about Kakenya Ntaiya a masaai woman who has opened up a school for girls in her village. What I liked most about Kakenya’s story is that she was actually changing the beliefs of the men in her village. Yvonne Flores said that the film promotes awareness and, “calls for commitment and action from everyone“. How? More often awareness does not lead to action. Those of you reading this are most likely aware of issues preventing girls’ education. Are you doing something? Raising awareness is a great first step, but I think the Girl Rising film is just that: a first step.

If you would like to watch the film here are some upcoming showings of “Girl Rising” near Philadelphia:

  • When: Tue, November 12, 2013 at 07:30 pm   Where: Plymouth Meeting 10
  • When: Tue, November 19, 2013 at 07:30 pm  Where: King Of Prussia Stadium 16 & Imax
  • When: Mon, December 23, 2013 at 07:30 pm  Where: Barn Plaza Stadium 14

To find a showing where you live, check out this website

Sources:

Barawid, R. (2013, October 10). Girl Rising. Manila bulletin. Retrieved from http://www.mb.com.ph/girl-rising/

USAID (2013, October 31). Girl rising partnership in India [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.usaid.gov/news-information/press-releases/oct-31-2013-girl-rising-partnership-india.

One generation of educated girls is a revolution

Melinda Tankard Reist, the author of this “news” article in the Sydney Morning Herald, an Australian newspaper, begins her stream-of-consciousness entry by talking about slum girls in an unnamed Indian town who had been given the chance to go to school. Reist is a blogger, social commentator, and advocate for women and girls worldwide. From the start, Reist infiltrates emotional propaganda into her work, perhaps to cover up the fact that any newsworthy information is lacking in numbers and strength, but I digress.

These Indian girls had been brought up living off the waste in nearby landfills, selling cloth they found for money to buy food. In India, in many communities, girls are not given first priority. Inserting her propaganda again, Reist tells us how a Christian NGO gave them this gift of education and now they are graduating and she gets to hand out the graduation certificates. Hooray!! Happy endings for all. Sarcasm aside, yes, it was a beautiful story, but what about the other “66 million girls currently out of school”? There are far too many unhappy endings to be rejoicing just yet.

For the second half of her written celebration, Reist gives an overview of the recent documentary Girl Rising. In all seriousness, if you haven’t seen this it is worth your time. Reist highlights three of the girls portrayed in this documentary and their heart-wrenching stories of oppression and determination to be educated. In their personal fights for education, these girls faced pre-pubescent marriage, poverty, and child slavery. The documentary brings to light issues faced by millions of girls worldwide whose significance is not recognized by patriarchal societies.

Ironically, the quote Reist chooses from the film is from a child bride, saying, “Don’t tell me you are on my side; your silence has spoken for you.” If Reist had wanted to bring up the disappointing statistics pertaining to girls denied education, it is my humble opinion that she should have focused more of her article on suggested solutions or current global legislation such as EFA or the MDG. It felt as if she were saying, “There are so many poor, unfortunate girls out of school, but let’s look past them to the happy endings and all the progress being made.” This is why change is so slow. If you feel strongly enough to write an article about sending girls to school for the purpose of reduced poverty and world change, you should do something about it.

In light of a recent class on the topic of feminist perspectives of development, it is worthwhile to note that Reist, a self-proclaimed feminist, seems to fall neatly within the Women in Development (WID) viewpoint. Those who ascribe to WID, though advocates for the advancement of women in society, still view women as helpless victims. Reist ends her article saying, “‘If [these girls] get what they need incredible things will happen. Can we help them do that?’” It seems to me that these girls are heroes all on their own.

Reist, M.T. (2013, October 6). One generation of educated girls is a revolution. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/comment/one-generation-of-educated-girls-is-a-revolution-20131005-2v0qx.html.