Educate girls, change the world

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By Daniel O. Escasa

When an earthquake devastated Port au Prince, Wadley (pictured below) and her mother lost their house and settled in the tent city that sprouted in the Haitian capital.

She also lost the chance to go to school since the ?tent school? was asking for money her mother didn’t have.

What she didn’t lose was the determination to go to school. So, she went to the tent school anyway, risking embarrassment. Sure enough, the teacher asked her to leave when she admitted she hadn’t paid.

Still, she came back the next day, and the teacher again asked her about her paying the school. But this time, she said that if the teacher asked her to leave, she’d come back again the next day, and the day after, and still the day after that.

Recognizing the futility of arguing with Wadley, the teacher motioned her to take a seat.

Wadley -- Photo courtesy of 10x10 Educate Girls, Change the World

In Nepal, Suma (pictured below) rides her bicycle to a house to sing to its occupant to free his slave. Yes, slave ? although in Nepal, they’re called Kamlari, ?bonded? female servants, mostly children.

Suma herself was ?bonded? at the age of six, and had to do hard labor unimaginable to even those of us in Third World Philippines. She endured six years of labor and abuse in three different homes, then went back to her own home.

But, having gone away at a young age, and for so long a time, she no longer knew her native language and couldn’t communicate with her own family. Like Wadley, Suma was determined to get an education, and was accepted into the Girls’ Education program of “Room to Read”.

Now 20, Suma is on track to graduate from secondary school next year and wants to become a health educator so that she can help empower more girls in her community.

Suma -- Photo coutresy of 10x10 Educate Girls, Change the World

She also wrote?songs?that helped her endure forced servitude in Nepal and today crusades to free others.

Wadley and Suma are but two of the nine remarkable girls whose stories are told in the film Girl Rising, a film by Academy Award-nominated director Richard E. Robbins. Produced by award-winning former ABC News journalists of The Documentary Group and Paul G. Allen?s Vulcan Productions, Girl Rising is powered by strategic partner, Intel Corporation, and global television distribution partner, CNN Films.

Girl Rising is rated PG-13.

Each girl is paired with a renowned writer from her native country: Marie Arana (Peru, with Senna), Edwidge Danticat (Haiti, with Wadley), Mona Eltahawy (Egypt, with Yasmin), Aminatta Forna (Sierra Leone, with Mariama), Zarghuna Kargar (Afghanistan, with Amina), Maaza Mengiste (Ethiopia, with Azmera), Sooni Taraporevala (India, with Ruksana), Manjushree Thapa (Nepal, with Suma), and Loung Ung (Cambodia, with Sokha).

These stories are narrated by celebrated actresses: Cate Blanchett (Haiti), Priyanka Chopra (India), Selena Gomez (Sierra Leone), Anne Hathaway (Afghanistan), Salma Hayek (Peru), Alicia Keys (Cambodia), Chlo? Moretz (Egypt), Freida Pinto, Meryl Streep (Ethiopia), and Kerry Washington (Nepal)

Girl Rising also features Freida Pinto and Liam Neeson, with original music from Academy Award-winner Rachel Portman and Lorne Balfe.

But the stars of the film are the girls themselves, who played themselves. While all of these girls are exceptional, I should single out Amina, whose face we never see in the movie.

From the director’s notes: ?Amina is fearless. You noticed that we never showed her face in Girl Rising ? but that was our decision, not hers [emphasis mine – DE]. Amina was the bravest girl we ever met. She was ready to show herself to the world, even though she knew it could be dangerous. We were worried about protecting her, so made the decision not to disclose her identity… but I’ll never forget how willing she was to proudly reveal her true self.?

The film will be screened in the Philippines starting Oct. 11, the International Day of the Girl.

Schedules are as follows:

  • October 11 – 1:30 to 3:00 p.m., Jose Rizal University, Mandaluyong City
  • October 11 ? 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., Munoz Covered Court, Betty Lou Daul Center (BLDC), Livelihood Street, Batasan Hills, Quezon City
  • October 13 – Children International Youth Health Corps, Betty Lou Daul Center (BLDC), Livelihood Street, Batasan Hills, Quezon City

For other screening schedules, contact Liezl Dunuan of Fit-Ed at girlrisingph (at)


The Nepal Kamlari system was ?officially? abolished in June of this year.
Intel takes the opportunity to make a big difference for the children of Payatas.
The producers aim to change minds, change lives, and change policy. Thus, each screening should be supplemented with a discussion among the viewers. Downloading it from a torrent would defeat the aim of the film.

Resources: ? includes trailers, info on the girls and the writers, directors’ notes, etc
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