Educating girls has a multiplying effect in developing countries. Every extra year in schooling increases incomes by 10% to 25%, studies show. National wealth rises. Rates for child mortality and HIV/AIDS fall. Future generations are better educated. And so on. Which is why the investment is said to have the best returns, dollar for dollar, of anything we can do in low-income locations.
To fully appreciate the impact, check out Girl Rising, a documentary featuring nine girls from nine countries (Yasmin, Amina, Senna, Suma, Azmera, Sokha, Wadley, Ruksana, and Mariama) as they seek out an education. The stories are written by nine well-known writers, and narrated by actors like Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, and Meryl Streep. It’s been showing in theaters since March, and will be shown on CNN on June 16.
Executive producer Holly Gordon says there have been about 6,000 screenings so far, including about 5,000 through the Regal cinema chain, 500 at college campuses, and—crucially—about 660 through Gathr, which pools film requests. Gordon says more than 160,000 people have requested and paid for a local screening this way. "The film probably never would have made out it out of L.A. or New York if we’d done traditional distribution. Chances are it never would have got to Poughkeepsie or Peoria, or some of the smaller markets." She says a percentage of the roughly $1 million in receipts will go to girls education programs.
The plan over the next few months is to spread the film even wider. 10 X 10, the film’s production company, is planning other versions involving French and Indian actors, as well as subtitles in six languages. The film was screened to officials at the World Bank, and will be shown to Indian leaders soon (India has a poor record). Gordon is also planning a big push around the International Day of the Girl in October.
"We can overcome many challenges that we’re trying to address in global development when girls are safe, educated, healthy, and empowered," she says. "It’s the best investment you can make if you’re trying to make long-term strategic change in global development."