When we returned from break, we began a new unit on race, ethnicity and gender. Picking the third option wasn't a difficult choice for me because I have always been passionate about women’s rights, not only because it hits very close to home, but because sexism and misogyny still exist in the world. Even though in the US the rights of women are more apparent than those in other parts of the world, girls and women alike are still faced with stereotypes and misconceptions about their gender. I loved the Girl Rising videos that we watched because although each one told a different story, they were all tied together by one key factor: education. In my essay, I will be examining each story and drawing connections about how cultural beliefs affect and influence a girl’s life as well as how little to no education also come into play.
The first video we watched was about Suma, a young girl from Nepal. There, girls are expected to work and 80% of them are victims of human trafficking. Suma is forced to perform laborious tasks for a master while her brothers go to school. Eventually, her master lets her go, but Suma’s journey doesn't stop there. She joins up with a group of girls who set out to protest and rescue other girls. By working instead of getting an education, the girls in Nepal grow up without any schooling. Because of this, they are trapped in a rigid system that forces them to be dependent on the men who benefit the most from this practice.
The next story began with a picture of what looked like an “ad for a charity campaign” as this rising girl, Mariama, put it, but it actually turned out to be her family! Mariama is a teenager from Sierra Leone with big ambitions. She has her own radio show in which girls from around the world call to talk about the problems they face in their home countries. However, as the show gets more popular, Mirama’s stepfather finds out and demands that she stop because he thinks the topic is too “controversial”. This simple yet poignant remark only further proves that a girl’s rights—as well as a good education—is necessary. Unlike Suma, Mariama is able to attend school, but only about half of the young girls in Sierra Leone make it to primary school. Even less of those girls continue on to secondary school! If people like Mariama’s stepfather can’t even consider this ongoing issue, then thats another problem in and of itself. It’s bad enough that these girls have to put up a fight every day for their own basic rights, but without the support of family, the battle becomes even more daunting and gargantuan.
Amina is a child form Afghanistan. When she was born, her parents were mortified that she was a girl instead of a boy. In Afghanistan, young girls are to do all the housework and eventually be married off when they reach a certain age. This practice benefits the girls’ family in the form of money while their daughter gives birth and continues to work for the men in her life. Amina was able to escape the system and meet in secret with other girls who were eager to learn and change the current practices in Afghanistan. Similar to Suma’s story, both girls were robbed of their well-deserved education and forced to grow up significantly faster as a result of these ideals in their cultures.
All three girls from the movie are strong, courageous and empowering young women. They have all of the odds in the world stacked against them, yet they continue to battle for their rights as females and revolutionize the corrupted ways of their countries. They are leaders and practitioners of a greater moment for change. When I saw these young girls on screen, they filled my heart with hope that they could make a difference for girls everywhere.