Gender inequality has eased up in certain respects over the past few decades worldwide, but incidents like the attack on young education activist Malala Yousafzai and sobering statistics (66 million girls each year are denied educations) remind us that it's still an incredibly big problem.
Last year, the United Nations marked October 11th as the annual International Day of the Girl Child—a day to raise awareness for the fact that girls across the globe lack equal access to education, health care, nutrition, and freedom from things like child marriage and violence. What better way to mark the occasion than with a screening of Girl Rising, a film that celebrates the triumphs of eight inspiring girls from developing countries like Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Haiti, and India?
The film, released earlier this year, is the brainchild of a group of journalists who were investigating interventions into the cycle of poverty. Eventually, they hit upon the idea of education—and what a difference it can make in the lives of girls who have access to it. "The idea to make a movie was a natural one," says executive producer Holly Gordon. "Once we had that piece of content, how could we get it out there? How could we make sure it actually had an impact? We took that extra step into advocacy, and it was not lightly taken."
Girl Rising—which is now more of a movement than a mere film—has been distributed through a network of nonprofit and corporate partners. Intel has been one of the biggest boosters, investing in the film early on and organizing screenings (the company also recently announced She Will Connect, a program committed to improving digital literacy skills in young women living in developing countries). Google chipped in with a half million dollars for the Girl Rising fund, and companies including Dell and Charles Schwab have been hosting hundreds of screenings at their offices. "If you can engage corporations who share [these] values, you can start to push social norms and behaviors," says Gordon.
As with many awareness-raising documentaries, the Girl Rising movement is currently struggling with how to measure real-life impact from the film. With Intel, Gordon says, Girl Rising has more "sophisticated systems for measuring engagement." The company is doing a volunteer program this year around female education, for example, and Girl Rising will receive the numbers on who that volunteerism touches. The filmmakers are also keeping track of individual screenings and the fundraising and awareness goals that each organizer hopes to achieve as a result.
Screening are happening all over the world, thanks in part to international distribution from CNN. And a Girl Rising school curriculum, created by Pearson, was just released for educational institutions in the U.S. and U.K.
The film may not be the last we hear from the Girl Rising team. "We're definitely open and excited about the idea of creating more content," says Gordon. "It will be budget and demand pending."
Want to check out the film for yourself? Screening information is available here.