New Internationalist

When you educate girls, extraordinary things happen

And new film Girl Rising will show you how, as Moira Moderelli explains. 

Schoolgirls in a refugee camp in Central African Republic
Schoolgirls in a refugee camp in Central African Republic Pierre Holtz for UNICEF

How do you end global poverty? It’s the kind of question that’s too big to tackle in an easily accessible way. The kind that can make one turn away in frustration. But the journalists and filmmakers behind the feature film Girl Rising didn’t turn away. They were committed to finding an answer – propelled by the most basic tenet of journalism: follow the truth wherever it leads.

So they asked that question. Relentlessly. They asked policy leaders, economists, experts in agriculture and public health and so on. And the same answer kept coming back.

How do you end global poverty? Educate girls.

Simply put: educating girls is the highest return investment possible to break cycles of poverty. Research shows that an educated girl will marry later, have fewer children, and educate the children she does have – sons and daughters equally. She is more likely to avoid contracting HIV/AIDS, and less likely to be a victim of domestic violence. She’ll earn more money, and is more likely to become a community leader.

But the other overarching truth that the filmmakers encountered at every turn was this: girls around the world face barriers to education that boys do not – and they are being left behind by the millions. Gender violence, discrimination, bonded servitude, school fees (parents forced by economic necessity to choose typically educate sons over daughters)… and the situation that three girls in the film faced: early or forced marriage.

This was clearly a story that needed to be told, and on a grand scale. But it was more than that. It was the first time, for these award-winning journalists and documentarians, that telling the story was not enough. There was an obvious opportunity to change the world here, and they embraced it. They formed the 10x10 global action campaign for girls’ education, and created the inspirational film Girl Rising for its centrepiece.

Girl Rising showcases the stories behind the statistics.

The film, directed by Academy Award-nominee Richard Robbins, spotlights nine extraordinary girls from nine countries, whose stories are written by nine celebrated writers and narrated by nine renowned actresses.

It is unquestionably compelling – but Girl Rising is not about being uplifting: it’s about telling the truth. It’s about real life. Life is messy, life is hard – and life is beautiful and striving and hopeful. Just like the girls of Girl Rising. Girls who are not victims, not heroes – simply tellers of their own stories. The truth is complex – and these filmmakers trust their audience to understand that.

They also give viewers a way to become a part of an exciting movement. A portion of screening proceeds goes to the 10x10 Fund for Girls’ Education, and we encourage everyone to contribute directly to the Fund. To learn more, and to donate, go to: girlrising.com. And that will make you feel good. But Girl Rising is not a mere ‘feel good’ film – it’s a feel real film.

And you will leave it knowing this: when you educate girls, extraordinary things happen.

Moira Moderelli, for the 10x10 Campaign

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Girl Rising is being screened by Oxford University Student Union at 6pm on 29 April at Exeter College. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion. Tickets (£3 each) can be booked through the University online shop.

For screenings elsewhere, or to arrange your own screening, please visit girlrising.com

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