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.

A Donation in the Name of the Day of the Girl

This week, according to an article found in the Khaleej Times,  Dubai Cares, a non-profit organization whose goal is to break the cycle of poverty through primary education, pledged Dh22 million (approximately 6 million USD) to girls’ education in the Philippines, South Sudan, and Mozambique. The money will go to improving school infrastructure, create new classrooms, and more teachers.  Working with Plan International Canada, the funds will be distributed over 4 years to local NGOs that work to reduce barriers to education.

This donation is given in support of the International Day of the Girl, a UN recognized day, celebrated October 11.  Though a great cause, one must question Dubai Cares’ motivation.  When speaking on the issue, CEO of Dubai Cares, Tariq Al Guru, says:

“This is one of the gifts from Dubai to the world. As future mothers and wives, who will play an integral role in nurturing and raising families, these girls hold the key to a future generation of educated and enlightened children.”

And though it is true that girls are a crucial part of the future and should be treated as such, why does he refer to the girls as future mothers and wives? Why are they not called the future scientists or political leaders? Are the intentions of the organization to educate the future mothers who will then in turn educate their sons? More emphasis should be placed on what the girls can come to be besides just mothers and wives.  Don’t get me wrong, being a mother or wife is a very important job and one that should not be looked down upon, but for these girls it is important to break cultural barriers and tell them that there is other roles open to them.  They are not restricted to the conventional, traditional role of being a mother.  If in the end they still choose to be mothers or wives, than that is great, but the choices must be out in the open.

The article goes on to name some of the common practices in countries with low literacy and poor access to schools, including: forced marriage, sexual exploitation, and gender discrimination.  NGOs must look deeply into the root causes of these injustices and what works to perpetuate them. Education cannot be seen as the panacea for these problems.  If more money is spent to improve access to girls’ education, these problems will not just disappear.  More needs to be done to make sure that as a community forced marriage, sexual exploitation, and gender discrimination are no longer acceptable.

Source:

Shabandri, M. (2013, October 9). Dh22 million pledged for girls’ education.Khaleej Times. Retrieved October 15, 2013, from http://www.khaleejtimes.com/kt-article-display-1.asp?xfile=data/educationnation/2013/October/e.