Girl Rising, screening tonight in Olympia, reveals the lives of girls living in poverty including Suma, sold into indentured labor at age 6, and Amina, a child bride in Afghanistan. Shocking though some of the films stories are, they werent the biggest surprises for director Richard E. Robbins.
This shouldnt have been surprising, but it really was: The girls themselves were incredibly inspiring, Robbins said. I expected to find girls who were much more damaged and broken by the deprivation that they had grown up with.
Over and over again, I found girls who were tough and resilient and determined.
The documentary is an attempt to educate people about poverty and about the value of educating girls to improve their lots in life. Along with the film, Robbins and others started the global action organization 10x10, which is working to, as its slogan puts it: Educate girls. Change the world.
Such change really is possible, he said. Thats one of the most exciting things about the whole issue of girls education.
When we think about these big international problems global warming, the AIDS epidemic we hope that someone really smart comes along and figures out what the solution is, he added. Heres a situation where we know what the solution is.
The parents of girls in countries such as Cambodia, India and Nepal were receptive to the idea of giving them more education, he said.
There is a trend for us in the states to imagine that the treatment of girls grows out of the fact that parents dont care about them, that they are somehow seen as not valuable, said Robbins, a journalist who worked as part of Peter Jennings' documentary unit at ABC. Thats a very shallow way of looking at the situation.
What surprised me was how truly loved these girls were. The things that happened to them, things we might see as medieval, are what their parents see as the best thing for them.
The issue, he said, is one of suggesting new ideas of what might be best for their next generation. If we as a global community had to convince people to care about their children, that seems insurmountable to me, he said. But what we need to do is convince them that what they are doing because they care about their children is not the best strategy.
There are many nonprofits working to improve girls access to schooling in the developing world, and 10x10 has partnered with some of those. Theyre already doing amazing work, he said. They just need support and resources to do more.
The YWCA is doing its part here in South Sound. Among its programs is Girls Without Limits, focused on educating girls about science, technology, engineering and math, areas traditionally not chosen by women.
Following the film, we are going to have a panel with four women from the community talking about some of the local issues related to education barriers to education, challenges, whats happening locally in terms of efforts to make sure that people are receiving the education that they need, said Hillary Soens, the YWCAs girls advancement director. Panelists include people who work in education, from early childhood through adult community education.
Theres a lot of focus on education in communities, but Robbins said he realized when he began researching global education that many people arent aware of how much needs to be done.
Its akin to where the issue of global warming was 20 or 25 years ago, he said. Theres a small group of people thinking about it, talking about it, but its not widely known outside of that group. As a filmmaker and a journalist, I thought, That seems like a great opportunity.