The importance of educating girls

'Girl Rising' links education to ending poverty
May. 15, 2013 @ 11:44 PM

Wadley, a young Haitian girl, always loved school, but when the 2010 earthquake displaced her family, they could not afford to send her to school. Wadley saw a tent school near the camp where her family was living and decided to attend, with or without money.

The family of Suma, of Nepal, “bonded” her with several masters to ensure she had food and a roof over her head. A teacher in the house of one of her masters convinced her to attend night school. She now works to help other girls from her country escape bonded labor (now illegal in Nepal) and get schooling.

An audience from RTI International heard the stories of Wadley, Suma and seven other young girls during a screening of the documentary “Girl Rising” on Wednesday. Justin Reeves, the producer of the documentary, said he and other reporters and filmmakers created the film “to have measurable results on the ground” to improve girls’ access to education.

In the developing world, some 66 million girls worldwide are not in school, leaving them vulnerable to assault and disease. Reeves said that as he helped research the film, he realized that the cycle of poverty in poor countries is tied to girls not being educated. “Every single barrier we found had something to do with women not getting educated,” Reeves said when he introduced the screening.

The documentary follows nine women who have overcome obstacles to education – including forced early marriage, slavery, lack of money for tuition and cultures that value boys over girls. Other women profiled in the film are Sokha of Cambodia, Ruksana of India, Yasmin of Egypt, Senna of Peru, Azmera of Ethiopia, Amina of Afghanistan and Mariama of Sierra Leone.

The filmmakers wanted the documentary to be more than just a report about girls and education. They wanted the film to be a catalyst for change, Reeves said. Reeves created 10x10, a nonprofit that has partnered with various non-governmental organizations to advocate and fund girls’ education.

“Girl Rising” is part of that effort.

Instead of shopping “Girl Rising” at film festivals, the filmmakers have chosen an “on demand” model. Any community that can reserve enough tickets to guarantee a screening can get a copy of the film. So far, more than 150,000 tickets have been sold in the United States, Reeves said. RTI International is a research firm that helps nations solve problems in health, education and other areas. RTI sponsored Wednesday’s screening.

Aaron Williams, executive vice president of RTI’s International Development Group, told the audience an anecdote that drove home the importance of the theme of this film. He visited a rural school in Nairobi, Kenya, where he saw two young women attending school. The youngest looked to be about 3 years old, Williams said. He asked her older sister if her younger sibling was a bit young for school. The girl replied that she wanted her younger sister to understand the importance of schooling.

“What they discovered was a simple truth,” that investing in girls’ education is the best way to end poverty, Williams said of the filmmakers.

“Girl Rising” was written by Loung Ung of Cambodia, a refugee of Pol Pot’s murderous Khmer Rouge regime, and directed by Richard Robbins.

Reeves asked everyone in the audience to go home and discuss the issues in the film with family and friends.

“I can’t tell you how much after this experience I’ve changed as a person,” he said.


For information about “Girl Rising,” visit