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“girl rising”

Girl Rising

I have very mixed feelings about International Women’s Day, which was celebrated this past weekend. On one hand, yay for acknowledging the gender that makes up more than half our population. On the other hand, WTF?

Last year, I kind of protested the day and wrote about why I look forward to a time when we no longer have to set aside a day to celebrate women who have risen above the challenges placed in front of them but, instead, simply give them the same rights men are granted every day. (Note: the Equal Rights Amendment has still not been passed, people, contrary to what many Americans apparently believe.)

Girl Rising DVDThis year, I decided to take a different approach to the day by watching Girl Rising, the powerful documentary from Academy Award-nominated director Richard E. Robbins.

The film follows nine girls in different parts of the world, each of whom is paired with a writer from her own country to help tell her story. These stories are heartbreaking yet ultimately inspiring. By making their voices heard, each of these girls is helping to change not only her own life but those of girls all around the world.

The brave girls include Suma, a former slave in Nepal; Yasmin, a 13-year-old rape survivor in Egypt; Sokha, a Cambodian orphan discarded like the trash around her in the landfill in which she grew up; and Amina, an 11-year-old in Afghanistan who was sold in marriage to her cousin for $5000.

What we are reminded after each story, narrated by A-listers like Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Kerry Washington and Alicia Keys, is that the way to break this cycle of poverty and violence is education. Yes, it is as simple as that.

Studies prove over and over that educating girls provides one of the best returns on investment in developing countries. Economies improve dramatically, mortality rates and disease decrease. It’s why Oprah opened her Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

Knowledge is, literally, power, yet there are 66 million girls out of school around the world.

Why are we holding our girls back?

I sobbed as these girls talked as dreamily about attending school as our daughters talk about shopping or their latest heartthrob. Malala is obviously not alone in her determination to receive an education.

In the film, I was so moved by young Wadley who had just memorized and presented a poem in class when the earthquake hit Haiti. Despite the devastation and destruction, all she wants is to return to school. She refuses to accept the fact that her family has no money to pay for it now, and she comes back every single day until the teacher finally relents and lets her stay. It’s a triumphant and empowering moment not just for her but for those watching. I can’t wait to see the impact she makes on the world when she gets older.

The documentary itself has inspired a global movement. Schools, families, community groups and individuals are getting involved by screening the film (which should be required viewing by all), sharing stories and making donations. Find out how you can make a difference at GirlRising.com.

Let’s get those 66 million girls into school and make this International Educating Girls Year. That will be a much more sincere and effective way to honor females than waiting until next March to celebrate International Women’s Day.


  1. This is SUCH a powerful documentary, and important for people to watch. I, too, look forward to the day when we no longer have to set aside a special day to celebrate women who have beaten the odds and uphill battle they are presented with just for being women.

  2. Stories like the ones these girls tell pull me toward a service trip. Helping girls. Oh, the odds are stacked against them in so many nations.

  3. Great post. Really reminds me of how far a kid can go on their own spirit and resilience, and how incredibly deserving they are.

  4. This sounds like a documentary that I really need to take the time to watch. I had never heard of it, so thank you for bringing it to my attention!

  5. Wow – this sounds like one I need to see!

  6. I hope there will always be an International Women’s Day and a Women’s History Month. I just wish that someday we would only be celebrating our successes and not counting the failures.

  7. Knowledge is definitely power and something that in most normal situations cannot be taken away from you. I agree. This is such a powerful and wonderful way to spread the word and help everyone understand. Very enlightening.

  8. I feel the same about the day that you do

    And I haven’t watched
    This but am interested in seeing it

  9. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    Watching those bright shining faces brings me to tears. All they want is the right to an education. Why in this day and age, wherever you are in the world, is this not a given? Thank you for bringing this to us, Lois,

  10. I’m raising 3 girls, luckily in the United States. While there are certainly obstacles in our country, the difficulties other girls have to overcome in other parts of the world is unbelievable. I think it’s important to educate my daughters so they know what other girls their age have to overcome.

  11. I would love to see this myself! I agree, it’s so hard for girls in some other countries and this should not be the case.

  12. Wow, I want to see this now! Finding out how I can get it! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Thank you for bringing this movie to my attention. I look forward to watching it. Stories like these should always be told, and I am glad the filmmaker and narrators brought it to our attention.

    Hooray for Lois for another thoughtful and important post!

  14. Very powerful and emotional. Thank you for sharing this!!

  15. This sounds like a very informative and powerful documentary. I wrote it down to look up.

  16. This is so sad, we take it for granted in this country how blessed we really are.

  17. I would love to see this documentary. It looks really interesting!! So glad that I live in the USA – we are truly blessed here!

  18. Amy Desrosiers says:

    I had not idea it was National Women’s Day! I feel blessed that God allowed me to grow up in the beautiful USA!

  19. Brittnei says:

    This was the first year that I ever heard of it before. I think the only reason I know is from reading blogs 🙂 Thanks for sharing with us about the movie and your feelings around the circumstances that go on with women and girls around the world.

  20. I just heard of this recently and if it helps empower people and get others thinking, then it’s a good thing.

  21. I used to have to write about Women’s HIstory Month at my last job, and it was always so hard. It’s difficult to find an approach now that things are much more equal than they used to be, and it often felt like I was being condescending. I do think it’s important to celebrate, though. For any group that is or was oppressed.

  22. I Love Stories Like These I Can’t Wait To See it!

  23. Sounds like quite an interesting story. Thanks for sharing, looking forward to watch it.

  24. This documentary sounds amazing. I must see it.

  25. Thank you for telling about this documentary. I am going to watch it with my mom and sister. Education is so important, and I just don’t understand why so many are without it!

  26. Wow, this looks such a great film, but probably so so sad. I think I’d like to watch this with my girls.

  27. This looks like a great video to watch.

  28. I have heard of this, but haven’t seen it. I can promise you though that I will watch this…what a story and message.

  29. This sounds like a movie that I really need to take the time to watch. I had never heard of it! Thank you for sharing it!

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