Written by Anna Silk, Women LEAD Team Member in LA.
Walking into a screening of the newly released documentary “Girl Rising”, the excitement of the audience was palpable. People were perched on the edge of their seats, chattering about their expectations for the film. As the lights dimmed and the crowd hushed, I gazed at the screen and was soon taken on a journey, an hour and a half of poignant footage chronicling 9 girls’ lives in 9 different nations around the world. It was an amazing compilation of stories and tales that struck the bitter chord of reality with touching narratives of defying adversity and the fight for basic freedoms. Beginning with the story of Wadley, a young girl living in the reeling aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake and ending with Amina, a young Afghani bride, the film’s message was achingly clear: while the girls depicted in the documentary are strong and heroic, role models of adversity, there are still millions of girls out there who need help.
What struck me most about the film was the optimism these girls possessed, despite their situations. For me, going to school is something taken for granted, dreaded some days. I do not think twice about being allowed to go outside by myself, being allowed the freedom to wear whatever I want, or having the liberty to do participate in extracurricular activities. It was amazing to see how genuinely happy the thought of new pencils and pressed school skirts made these girls, how through all the obstacles thrown at them in their lives they found some piece of happiness and appreciation to cling to and help them deal with the travails of a hateful master or an early marriage. Some of the girls in the film found outlets in art, such as Ruksana of India, who loved to paint and draw. Others found hope in their family, such as Azmera from Ethiopia, whose brother saved her from an arranged marriage.
I appreciated the balance of the film, how it would oscillate between stories of sweet success and stories of measured acceptance. The transition between each story included a short interlude of facts about girls’ rights and education worldwide, statistics about child marriage, rape, inequality and workload leading into the stories. I have heard all these facts before, thrown at me in speeches, lectures, and pamphlets. But to see the stories behind these facts, to see the true reality of them in the film, was moving. This film has so much power in it. The art of the visual really brings the obstacles and limitations that girls in the world face on a daily basis to life, and the realization of the horror and universality of these hurdles acts as a jumpstart, an inspiration to help. Coming out of the screening, I felt the audience feel driven to go out and help these girls; the film had a great impact on them. The film was narrated by celebrities such as Liam Neeson and Meryl Streep. By giving the film several voices, it created a greater unifying significance. The audience understood that the fight for girls’ rights on an international level is not an exclusive cause for women to support, but, rather, one that men can and should support as well.
One of my favorite stories of the film was of Suma, a girl from Nepal. She became a forced servant at a young age, forced to clean the dishes and rooms of a home she did not belong in. She was handed off from master to master until she was finally given her freedom after a woman from an organization that worked toward the liberty of forced laborers convinced Suma’s master to let her go. Suma used her love of song to help support the independence of other forced labor servants, helping those just like her reach liberty.
Overall, the film was a great inspiration and I highly recommend that everyone see it! The film’s website is: http://girlrising.com/#66-million-girls.