Saturday, March 8, 2014

Movie Review: Girl Rising

Happy International Women's Day!!

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I am a huge advocate for women's empowerment and, more specifically, girls' education.  This all started when I was in Peace Corps, mostly because I worked at an all girls' school and I saw the ability of some of my students, as well as their dreams and aspirations.  I also got to see, first hand, how women in a country such as Uganda were treated.  How they often weren't given the same opportunities as men and how this contributed to the structure of society.

This week I went to a film screening on my college campus.  The film I saw is called Girl Rising.  This is a movie that I heard about a few months ago and ever since I heard about it, I've been dying to see it.  However, it isn't like a regular movie in theaters.  There have been selective screenings around DC, but every one I found I couldn't go to (usually because I had class).  So when I finally found one I could go to and it was right on my university's campus, I couldn't pass up the opportunity!

Girl Rising tells the story of nine girls in different developing countries throughout the world.  Some of these girls have been through tremendous amounts of hardship.  They have experienced natural disasters, sexual assault, arranged marriages, child slavery, and other unthinkable injustices.  Despite the hard lives that they have had, they tell their stories about how they were able to rise above it, become educated, and gain support from those around them.  Each girl was paired up with a writer from their country, who helped them write and tell their story.  The film also provides a multitude of statistics about the disadvantages that women have in today's world.

Certain parts of this movie really took me back to my life in Uganda and my students.  I was really touched by these stories and the fact that these girls had the courage and the will power to tell them.  I really don't think I can better describe this movie.  I don't care who you are or what you think, everyone should see this movie.  It will change the way you think about feminism and women's empowerment.  Feminism is unfortunately often thought of as a negative thing, imposed on people by dominant, outspoken women.  However, when I speak of feminism, I'm simply talking about equal rights.  In the U.S., women have fairly good lives.  Everything isn't entirely equal across genders, but I know how much worse things can be.  I think this film portrays feminism and gender equality in a way that no one can really argue with.

However, as with almost everything in this world, there are criticisms for Girl Rising.  The film only shows girls with stories that ended on a somewhat positive note.  They didn't show the number of girls who die of HIV or other diseases.  They didn't show those who are victims of sexual assault and never seek help.  They didn't show those girls who never overcome the struggles of child slavery or arranged marriages.  And I even though I know this would have been extremely difficult to portray, it would give a much more well rounded picture.  This film also doesn't tell most of the stories in the voices of the girls themselves.  I would have much preferred to hear their voices (voiced-over, of course), so that you could get a better sense of who they really are.

In general, I think this film was incredible and as I left campus that night all I could think about was how much I just wanted to see it again!  It also made me realize how much I miss my students.  I wish I had kept in touch, but at the time I left my site, I was so fed up with the administration of my school that I didn't want to keep ties.  However, now I'm seeing the downside to that.  I may never know what happens to my best and brightest students.  There is one in particular that I might try to contact.  This could end up being extremely difficult, but before too much time passes, I feel like I should try.

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