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Eleanor Roosevelt once stated, “A woman is like a tea bag; you never know strong it is until it’s in hot water.” This famous quote from the longest-serving First Lady of the United States accurately describes the girls in Richard Robbins’ revolutionary film Girl Rising. The groundbreaking work showcases the willpower of girls to receive an education and change the world. Girl Rising would be more fittingly titled “Girls Rising” since it tells the stories of nine resilient girls from nine different countries, is written by nine well-acclaimed writers, and is narrated by nine celebrated actresses. Though theses women and girls are fierce and independent, the documentary is not a one-woman show. It unites strong women and girls from all over the world and harnesses their determinism to ignite an educational revolutionary for girls.

In Girl Rising, the girls are given nicknames that encapsulate their personalities.  For example, Wadley, also known as The Undaunted, doesn’t let her inability to pay for school prevent her from receiving an education. Wadley audaciously remarks to the teacher, “If you send me back I will come back every day.” Suma, The Emancipated, shares Wadley’s determinism to pave a better path for herself and other girls in her situation. With the words “I am my own master now. I was the last bonded worker in my family. After me, everyone will be free, Suma declares her freedom and devotes her life to fighting for the emancipation of other girls.  This sheer willpower and courage of Suma is also present in Yasmin, The Defender. Though Yasmin falls prey to an evil man, she is not your traditional damsel in distress. Instead of being a helpless victim she becomes a superhero with the words “No, I am not a street girl. I am a superhero.” Yasmin shows that girls can fight back claiming, “Because I am strong. I can fight.” Though all the girls are from different countries and have distinct personalities, they share the common thread of courage, resilience and strength.

Like the girls, many of the female writers have endured difficult pasts and are fearless fighters. For example. the writer Loung Ung from Cambodia was an orphan of the Khmer Rouge and fled Pol Pot’s cruel regime at the age of ten. Additionally, the film not only tells the girls’ stories that these writers bring to life but also reveals various facts about the dire conditions for women and girls around the world. Statistics are interspersed throughout the film such as “eighty-percent of all human trafficking are female” and “66 million girls are out of school.” The film works to depict the power of educating a girl through not only the girls’ inspirational stories, but through these facts. Meryl Streep who is one of the narrators explains how the education of women and girls is pivotal to the advancement of society. Streep comments, “This film gives visual corroboration to knowledge we already have: Educating women and girls has the most optimistic, positive effects on families, communities, and economies worldwide.” For more information about the movement and film visit http://girlrising.com.

Image Courtesy: girlrising.com