YWCA to screen documentary on educating girls around the world

Contributing writerMay 2, 2013 

The YWCA of Olympia will screen "Girl Rising" at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts on Friday night.



    What: This documentary explores the barriers to education for girls in the developing world. The YWCA is co-sponsoring the screening and it will be followed by a panel discussion and a short dessert reception.

    When: 7 p.m. Friday

    Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia

    Tickets: Free; donations to the YWCA accepted

    Information: 360-352-0593 or ywcaofolympia.org

    10x10: The film is a project of the global action organization 10x10. For more information, go to 10x10act.org.

    Ages: The documentary is rated PG-13, and commonsensemedia.org suggests that the film is suitable for ages 12 and older.

“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 film’s stories are, they weren’t the biggest surprises for director Richard E. Robbins.

“This shouldn’t 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. “That’s 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. “Here’s 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 don’t 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. “That’s 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. “They’re 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, what’s happening locally in terms of efforts to make sure that people are receiving the education that they need,” said Hillary Soens, the YWCA’s girls advancement director. Panelists include people who work in education, from early childhood through adult community education.

There’s a lot of focus on education in communities, but Robbins said he realized when he began researching global education that many people aren’t aware of how much needs to be done.

“It’s akin to where the issue of global warming was 20 or 25 years ago,” he said. “There’s a small group of people thinking about it, talking about it, but it’s not widely known outside of that group. As a filmmaker and a journalist, I thought, ‘That seems like a great opportunity.’ ”

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