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By Lucy Howard-Robbins


Wadley’s story is about determination and perseverance. The 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti shattered Wadley’s happy life and ripped her from her muchloved schooling. She now accept a future of a poverty stricken shanty town and no education.

more so – a force for activism and change than horror. Amid a world of campaigns that operate primarily through guilt and shock factor, it is refreshing to watch girls like Suma take their lives into their own hands and feel the impact of the difference they can make.

“Wadley decided that although money could do a lot of things, it was a cursed thing, because only a cursed thing could keep her out of school” – Cate Blanchett voicing Edwidge Dantican’s words in ‘Wadley’.

“I’ve seen where change comes from … when it comes it’s like a song you can’t hold back. Suddenly there’s a breath moving through you and … you’re singing. And others pick up the tune and start singing too. And a sweet melody goes out into the world and touches the world of one person … then another” – Kerry Washington voicing Manjushree Thapa’s words in ‘Suma’

Girl Rising

“This is a simple story.”

This, the opening line of Girl Rising, is simultaneously a deeply accurate and inadequate description of the nine girls and their communities who are portrayed in this documentary that has birthed a global campaign for girl’s right to education. Girl Rising is comprised of nine short films woven together into a larger narrative and, in many ways, the nine stories depicting the thirst for education, equality and freedom among girls in the developing world are indeed simple stories. The things that they desire most are the most basic, simple human rights that every girl in the world should have access to. By our privileged and wealthy comparison, their lives and futures could be described as simple. Yet each girl’s narrative is bursting with complexities. Their struggles, devastation and oppression will be, thankfully, unfathomable to most of you reading this. Their daily realities are far from simple. Their passion and determination to learn and prosper in a world that seems to be working against them is far from simple. These girls – their courage, their kindness and their strength – are far from simple. The film comes from director Richard E. Robbins and introduces nine unforgettable yet ordinary girls who represent millions of others in their situations of poverty, struggle, oppression and danger. Each girl was paired with a writer from her own country and together they created a short film to tell her story, and renowned actors narrate the films.


Each film represents a different culture and a different message but there are many commonalities as well. Eight-year-old Wadley from Port-auPrince, Haiti, and teenager Mariama from Freetown, Sierra Leone, both seem relatively fortunate compared to the others. They live meagerly but comfortably with families that love them. They both begin their films at school where they devour learning in different forms.

Mariama’s life is not shattered by a terrible event but, she too, shows the power of perserverance. Mariama battles prejudice and tradition in a community that still suffers from the effects of a decade long civil war. She speaks up and fights for her own future, refusing to be denied her voice by the beliefs of older generations. The stories of Suma in Nepal and Sokha in Cambodia are both reflections on a childhood of suffering. Suma recalls the life of a Kamlari – a practice where young girls growing up in poverty are sold into bonded labour by their families to provide the family with food, money or simply as a way for the daughter to receive food and shelter she otherwise may not. Becoming a Kamlari at the age of six sentenced Suma to a childhood of slave labour, hunger, abuse and no schooling. Suma’s story is about transformation. Education gave Suma freedom and with it the power to take charge of her own life. Sokha’s too, is about the transforming effect of education. She was a child of the dump, picking over piles of rubbish rife with danger and disease, only to eke out a mere existence. Education pulled Sokha from this nightmare world and floated her into one of her dreams.

It is also important that Girl Rising addresses the role of men in the campaign to give girls an education. While women and girls are the focus of the film, it is not

neglected that the men in the lives of these girls have just as important a role to play. It is just as vital to empower impoverished men to educate their daughters and sisters as it is to empower the girls and women themselves. Fourteen-year-old Senna from La Rinconada in Peru, Ruksana from Kolkata in India and thirteen-year-old Azmera from Yilmana Densa in Ethiopia, all experience the positive effect of having men in their lives who fight for their right to freedom, safety and, most of all, education. Senna’s family live in harsh poverty in the world’s highest human habitation but Senna’a father sees for his daughter a better life than his: a life where she does not have to risk her life carving specks of gold that she will never own from a frozen mountain or parade herself in a brothel risking fatal disease and abuse. Senna and her father fight side by side to keep her in school and give her the tools she will need to build a better life.

Hers was a simple dream: the bright white shirt of a school uniform, the crisp pleats of a skirt, shelves full of books

“She had not dreamt of gold. She had not wished for beauty. Hers was a simple dream: the bright white shirt of a school uniform, the crisp pleats of a skirt, shelves full of books. The dream of school” – Alicia Keys voicing the words of Lound Ung in ‘Sokha’. These stories show that the fight for girl’s rights in the developing world is not solely about misery and despair. Girl Rising recognises that hope and inspiration are just as powerful – if not


Ruksana’s champion is also her father. Pavement dwellers in the chaotic city of Kolkata, Ruksana and her sisters are in

Profile for AM-UNITY Magazine

Edition 5  

Welcome to Edition 5 of AM-UNITY Magazine! In this issue we focus on Indigenous rights, refugee rights, and gender equity & diversity. Insid...

Edition 5  

Welcome to Edition 5 of AM-UNITY Magazine! In this issue we focus on Indigenous rights, refugee rights, and gender equity & diversity. Insid...