“Girl Rising” and Conversation with Justin Reeves

You’ve seen the film.  You’ve heard about the movement and the “Girl Rising” campaign.

Now consider: what’s next?  Can you imagine challenges the campaign might face?  Are there some places its more likely to succeed than others?  Is there anything you would do differently?Girl Rising Movie Poster



5 Replies to ““Girl Rising” and Conversation with Justin Reeves”

  1. I found this film extremely powerful, honest, and sincere. The film is made beautifully, guiding the viewer through the lives and the minds of young girls living in the developing world with the use of dialogue, imagery, and fact. One statistic that stuck with me was that if India put 1% more girls through secondary school, the GDP would rise by $5.5 billion. With education comes empowerment, health, happiness, and a brighter future for the countries and the world. The movie states that “a girl is simply one more thing the world has thrown away”; it is outrageous how unjust the world of opportunity is. In wealthy nations, children often shy away from school, feeling pressure from their societies to learn. The girls that I learned about today in Girl Rising: Mariama, Wadley, Suma, Yasmin, Puksana, and others, fight for their seat in a classroom and a chance to show what they are made of. Giving these girls the right to education will simultaneously acknowledge other issues, like early marriage and domestic slavery.
    I believe that this story and this movement have endless potential. Justin Reeves is a determined man with a concrete goal and ample resources. Of course, challenges are inescapable; these issues are rooted in the foundation of these societies. On top of poverty, disease, and hunger, submission of females is widely understood to be yet another heartbreaking truth about the third world. The movement must start somewhere, and I believe that the makers of Girl Rising have seized the opportunity to target the right individuals and to expose their stories to the viewers of the film. From background knowledge as well as watching the movie, I think the most difficult nations to target are Afghanistan, Peru, and Egypt. Afghanistan is governed by fear and religious belief; this kind of reality is much more difficult to influence.

  2. This documentary truly reveals the inconsistencies in this world, regarding education. In some parts of the world, education for girls may not be so much of a problem. However, as portrayed, some parts of the world do in fact struggle to provide an education for young girls. It is truly moving to know that certain organizations have taken the initiative to fight this problem around the world. As seen in the movie, these little girls are ecstatic and smile from ear to ear when the topic of education is discussed. Yet, it is interesting to note the irony behind this. A good majority of young individuals in America, who are blessed enough to actually sustain an education, take this ability for granted. This eye-opening documentary makes an educated individual think that perhaps their lives are not that bad, and there are people in this world that are struggling to get an education.
    It is truly remarkable to see that education is such a problem in this world, and the consequences of its absence are even more astonishing. One can perhaps think that the absence of education is many times the result of crimes, slumping economies, and unsuitable environments. However, some countries are going to succeed more compared to others, if their economies can support the movement and its citizens help the cause. Thus, it is important to note just how necessary education is, especially for these young girls, and these organizations are doing the right thing by targeting the younger children.

  3. I am not sure the order of relevance when it comes to influencing the future of girls’: culture or religion. What was made clear in these films, however, is that there is very limited opportunity and encouragement to pursue education. Internalized drive appears to diminish under pressure from the external. For example, Wadley of Haiti received no support from her mother in pursuing education. Likewise, Mariama of Sierra Leone would have ben married off young as a result of her mother’s superstitions had her brother not intervened. Additionally, Ruksana of India was denied education in favor of her brothers. Meanwhile, her parents did not make efforts to reclaim her and a social worker needed to put in a lot of effort and time just to save one girl out of all those who needed help in India. The pattern I am seeing here is lack of opportunity: money is always an issue.
    Initially, I did not know how to answer a question such as this, but on Thursday, I met Emily Strauss, an employee of Lawyers Without Borders, who volunteered with the Peace Corps for two years in Cameroon. She was posted in a village with no paved road, let alone amenities. Students would be packed into a small schoolhouse, squished shoulder-to-shoulder, with no government-issued textbooks. Since that country’s education is designed in a French fashion, there are certain exams that students must pass every few years. Emily mentioned that of the 500 enrolled students, 100 of them were girls. By around 2nd grade (the time of the first exam), many girls drop out. Before graduation, about 20-30 girls have left school. While many students do not complete their education because the family member paying tuition dies or they must go to work to help support their family (in other words, “life happens”), oftentimes it is a result of discouragement. For girls this is most commonly found. Emily was trying to establish various education programs in Cameroon, and one day she received a call from a woman who wanted to donate money for girls’ education. With this, Emily launched a merit scholarship initiative. She wanted to encourage girls to keep working at school by rewarding them with financial support if they succeeded. I think that an opportunity such as this secures the means necessary to inspired many girls to stay determined and not be dissuaded by gender status. Especially knowing that oftentimes a family will elect to send a son to school over a girl, a scholarship program provided primarily to girls is a way to positively impact that extrinsic and intrinsic drive required for success. As it turned out, Emily passed this project down to the next set of volunteers and since her initial efforts; it has become a national scholarship opportunity promoting girls’ attendance in schools in Cameroon.
    While I am unaware of the specifics of her program, I cannot imagine that any cultural or religious attitudes will be able to interfere with education in the long run, especially with so many people willing to help.

  4. Girl Rising is an absolutely amazing campaign. It does an incredible job of portraying the return of girls’ education. However, I say this as an American woman who can easily be convinced to get behind the movement. This movie is excellent for a liberal western audience. The girls’ stories easily strike a chord with these sort of viewers and could likely provoke people to support the cause (either monetarily or through advocacy). However, with all the money in the world, an education campaign will not be able to build schools in rural Afghanistan without the Taliban’s permission. The question is, how can communities in which girls’ education is so taboo be convinced of its importance? I believe that the first step is to assume a total sense of equality. There is absolutely no way that girls’ education will be embraced if it is forced upon a community or “bequeathed” upon them. There are clearly some communities that will be much more accepting than others. In many countries, such as Nepal, girls often do not receive an education for purely economical reasons. If a family can only send one child to school, it will most likely be the boy. In other areas however, girls are banned from school for religious regions. This is a much more difficult situation. How does one convince a group to go against what they believe is the word of God? I have seen this film twice before and this is the question I have come away with each time. I do believe in the end of the day the majority of women and girls would want an education if it was safe for them to obtain. If this is the case I think that eventually those who stand in their way will fall. How those of us so far removed can offer assistance in a productive way is yet to truly be determined though.

  5. The film “Girl Rising” left me feeling simultaneously humbled, privileged, proud, ashamed, hopeful and hesitant.

    One one hand, the stories of these nine girls, all of whom are no older than 15, charged me with a sense that this campaign, this film, and these girls were headed somewhere. With their stories, there’s this promise of being part of a movement that is so much greater than any individual girl, and something that is so much bigger than any one of us. Simply by watching the film, I was all of a sudden hopeful that there would be a change – that perhaps this film would touch individuals all over the world in the same way it touched me. I mean, who wouldn’t be able to sympathize with a girl from Pakistan who was shot point-blank in the head for refusing to deny herself her education, or a girl from Peru who belongs to a coal mining family and sees no way out except by means of her poetry. Not one story is more striking or more powerful than the next. And the dialogue and images that flow across the screen impact the audience in a way that makes it difficult to forget them.

    On the other hand (this is the unfortunate part), though the film does stay with you and leaves you thinking, life catches up – it often has a tendency to do so. Everything from that paper that’s due over the weekend, or the meeting with your professor you have to start preparing for, or how annoyed you know you’re going to be when the Brandeis shuttle into Boston takes much longer than it should be allowed to take. And just like that, the film becomes something of a “Oh yeah, I remember that film.” That’s what scares me.

    Girl Rising is a beautiful campaign that uses education in a different context than the one students studying in the Western world (like myself) use. Though it’s hardly fair to speak collectively for everyone, I for one certainly know that education is never something I took for granted – or not something I plan to take for granted anytime soon. Because I know how much investing in my education means to me, being a student is something that has become such an indispensable part of my identity. But, let’s be honest. If any college student says he or she didn’t crawl into bed and sleep and not leave for 24 hours, or if he or she claims to never have missed a class (for no noble reason) – they’re all lies. This isn’t so much an implication that we don’t value education, as it is the case that sometimes, we lose sight of the bigger picture. And in this way, Girl Rising is so compelling because it frames education against the context of developing, or war-ravaged countries, wherein there’s really no room to consider the alternatives. Education is the only way out.

    I can only hope that Girl Rising continues to put girls’ education on the global radar, and make it so that the freedom by education that these girls so desperately need remains immediate and urgent in our consciousness. Girls’ education needs to remain a topic of global conversation, otherwise, it becomes just becomes another instance of “Oh yeah, I forgot..”

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