Prostitution. Slavery. Sexual abuse.
These are just some of the horrors faced on a regular basis by the girls featured in the illuminating documentary Girl Rising by Oscar-nominated director Richard Robbins, which screens in Whistler this week.
But in spite of its frank discussion of these grim topics, the film is ultimately a story of hope, and is part of a growing campaign aimed at empowering girls around the world through education.
Girl Rising spotlights the remarkable lives of several girls raised in dire circumstances in countries where education isn’t a top priority. It follows a Nepalese girl from an impoverished family who’s been sold into indentured servitude, a 13-year-old Ethiopian whose mother considers forcing her into an arranged marriage, Senna, a Peruvian teen whose only options in life appear to be working in the local goldmine or the brothel, until her father demands she go to school.
With 33 million fewer girls in primary school than boys, according to an Education First report, this resonant film is part of an international campaign to capture the attention of global leaders and get girls’ education on the United Nations’ agenda.
“The campaign’s goal is to use storytelling to get individuals everywhere to take action,” said Dee Raffo, public relations specialist for Ki Communications, which is hosting the local screenings with Vancouver-based volunteering coordinators GoVoluntouring. “They don’t want people just to watch the film, when you screen the film they’re asking people to invest in the girls and then stand by them.”
The first of two Whistler screenings, on Friday (Oct. 11), runs in conjunction with 82 other screenings around Canada marking the UN’s second-annual International Day of the Girl. The film has inspired over 2,500 events worldwide since its official release in March.
“This year the United Nations chose ‘Innovating for Girls’ Education’ as the theme for International Day of the Girl, so that’s what makes the film Girl Rising so appropriate, about the fight for girls education, so it’s such a perfect tie-in,” said Raffo.
The screenings at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre will be bookended by expert speakers, who will discuss the impacts of education for girls around the globe and provide opportunities to get involved with the Girl Rising movement. So far the movement has attracted over $1.3-million in donations and support from several high-profile celebrities like Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett and Liam Neeson, who all narrate the film.
The speakers for the Oct. 11 viewing include Quest University lecturer Jonathan Warner, who will discuss the various long-term economic benefits to providing wider access to educational opportunities for young girls, and Kirby Brown, director of Playground Builders, a charity that constructs playgrounds for children in war-torn regions. He will also be on-hand to discuss the work of Lunapads, a female-owned Vancouver company that provides sanitary products to girls in Africa.
It’s all part of the efforts to get people to take action and stand up for girls’ right to schooling, something that’s Raffo said is often missing from the typical socially-driven event or lecture.
“I really love going to these inspiring talks, but sometimes there’s a frustration in that you don’t know what to do next,” she said. “You’re all for it and then you’re not given an outlet or a venue to actually put what you’ve learned into something.”
Attendees to the screenings will have the opportunity to sign the Girl Rising petition, donate to various educational initiatives and even register for one of GoVoluntouring’s international volunteer-based trips.
While tickets sold out in just four days for the first screening there are still some available for the Oct. 23, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. event at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre at www.tinyurl.com/g-rising. Tickets are $10, with proceeds going to the Girl Rising campaign.
Visit www.girlrising.com for more information.