16 October 2013

Part II: An American Educator's Thoughts on Girl Rising

Today is Blog Action Day, so I thought it would be the perfect day for part 2 of my thoughts on the film, Girl Rising and its campaign to impact girls' education.  If you read part 1, you will remember that I focused on the resources available for an educator to use chapters from the film in a classroom, to better educate youth about global issues.  Part 2 is more personal as I explore the issue of human rights and the goals of the Girl Rising Campaign.

Everyone has the right to education...
Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms...
(excerpts from Article 26 from The Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

"I write songs to remind myself that my memories are real and often because there's so much sadness behind me, what comes out is sad..."  ~Suma

to read my article...check out Cake & Whiskey magazine's fall issue

changing minds + changing lives + changing policies 
= 3 goals of Girl Rising Campaign

Changing Minds

In a telephone interview with Holly Gordon, Executive director/producer, of the Girl Rising campaign, I asked her to differentiate between changing minds and changing lives.  She explained that the first step is to change minds of people across the globe who need to understand the impact educating girls can have on a country’s economic system and development.  Since the Girl Rising film is at the center of the Girl Rising campaign, it’s perfectly situated to change minds through the narrative and stories of the girls seen in the film.

However when running a campaign, stories alone won’t continue to bring in the necessary funds to impact change.  The 10 x10/Girl Rising campaign gauges its impact quarterly with a quantitative look at the donations being provided by the massive audiences the film reaches.  Gordon referenced several partners who help change minds by reaching audiences.  Specifically mentioned was CNN because Gordon believes the film would not have reached as many communities without the national and international viewings from Taiwan to Geneva. “This is important because of the content and message of the film but also CNN is helping amplify the global network (the campaign).”

Not only is the campaign seeing the support of major corporate partners such as Intel (who serves as a strategic partner), it is also seeing support by young people who see the film.   Gordon shared stories of 8th graders in San Francisco creating and playing original theme songs at a recent concert and then donating all of the money earned to the Girl Rising fund for girls’ education.

Gordon and her team like to hear these stories but also understand “events like these happen everywhere—I don’t know about them all and don’t need to know about them all— I’m just glad the events are happening to change minds of young people from an early age so they will know it’s important to be involved in a global world.”  By changing the minds of people about the need to educate girls, lives are also being changed.

Changing Lives

When I asked how they were determining whether the campaign or the film at its center were really changing lives, Gordon began by mentioning that they measure success in part by the return of funds to nonprofit partners.  She talked about “making people aware—getting them to do more.”  But then she naturally moved into more stories of compassion and ingenuity—the very kind of stories that move us in the film.

Gordon told me about a couple, Kevin and Clare Cohen, who founded Pink Bike, a nonprofit that provides girls with bicycles to get to school.  The couple founded the nonprofit organization prior to the completion of the film because they were following the film’s creation virtually—another example of the power of social media and networking to connect people globally. 

She also shared the story of Anastasia, an artist and toymaker who now helps children design wearable wings “to rise.”  Inspired by a New York screening of Girl Rising, this artist empowers youth, especially girls, to use their imaginations and to enjoy creative play.  Gordon said the artist donates proceeds of the toy wings to the Girl Rising campaign.

Changing Policies

The Girl Rising campaign recognizes the importance of getting the film in front of leaders who have power to make change, and one such opportunity arrived in April 2013 at a World Bank event.  Partners from around the world gathered to speak to Ministers of Finance and Education.  When Dr. Jim Kim, President of the World Bank, spoke, he talked about economic development and the need to ensure that every child, regardless of gender, has an opportunity to go to school and to learn.  He referenced recent progress toward the goal of equality but made it clear that Girl Rising “serves as a powerful reminder that far too many children, especially girls, are still unable to go to school.  Too many girls are prevented from making their own choices.  Too many girls are denied the chance to determine their own futures. This must change” (from the World Bank event transcript).

Holly Gordon referenced two other marks toward changing policy—
1) Intel Corporation is hosting policy workshops to impact technology in education and they are also creating gender sensitivity workshops.  2) In India, senior ministers and government officials are working on a gender sensitive framework that will impact hundreds.

According to Gordon,  “We can only make global change if we connect people,” and that’s exactly what the Girl Rising campaign is doing—connecting the dots.   Girl Rising is calling us together to break down the barriers girls across the world face to getting an education.  Are you ready to connect?