The film Girl Rising “showcases the problems girls have in developing countries,” says Lara McMurray, an 8th grader at Westland Middle School in Bethesda, Maryland. Lara was part of the group of Westland female students who convinced school officials to host the showing of the film Girl Rising. This movie focuses on the struggle for empowerment of several young girls: Wadley, Suma, Yasmin, Azmera, Ruksana, Senna, Mariama, and Amina. Each girl lives in a developing country.
Wadley is elementary school-age and is from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She loves to read and dreams of a life of contentment, living in colorful fields and jungles. She attended school each day and studied hard in all her classes, but an earthquake shattered her dreams when her school was destroyed and her mother lost all the money she had and couldn’t pay for Wadley’s education. However, that did not stop Wadley from attending a tent school. She showed up each day, until the teacher realized that Wadley would not take ‘no’ for an answer.
Suma is from Bardiya, Nepal, where she worked every day from 4 a.m. until late at night. As a six-year-old, she often washed dishes, cleaned houses, took care of other children, and ate with as well as tended goats. As a youth, she worked at her master’s home to help support her parents and, as a result, could not attend school. As a teenager, she finally managed to attend night school. However, given her workload at her master’s house, she sometimes had to miss her classes.
Yasmin hails from Cairo, Egypt. She is fearless, brave, and adventurous, yet she can neither read nor write. At 13, she was sexually assaulted. Though she went to the police to file a complaint, she has received no justice.
Azmera is from Ethiopia. She is curious and stubborn, and resides with her widowed mother. Azmera’s mother wanted her to marry at 13 to a man seven years her senior. Azmera’s brother rejected the marriage arrangement, and promised to work harder to help provide a better future for Azmera and her mother.
Ruksana comes from Calcutta, India. She loves to draw flowers and butterflies, and dreams of her drawings coming to life. Her love of drawing gets her into trouble at school because she was not paying attention to lessons, resulting in her ejection from the classroom. Ruksana makes it through because she looks forward to seeing her mother, father, and sister and being able to draw whatever she desires. One day, she returned home from school to see her home torn down by police officers, because she lived in a “slum.” As a result, she and her immediate family were forced to live in a shelter and work there.
Senna, from La Rinconada, Peru, is 14 years old and loves poetry. She lives in a coal mining community with her mother and father. Her father switched careers from mining to cooking because of the harsh working conditions and the adverse long-term side effects of working in the mines. However, he did not switch soon enough. Not long after becoming a cook, he died of respiratory issues.
Mariama was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone. She is a perky and outgoing student, who also loves to advise people through the radio show she hosts. However, Mariama almost lost her job as host, because her uncle did not like the criticisms he received from citizens in the neighborhood by letting Mariama host the show and because she hung out with other teenage friends after work. Mariama, with the help of her aunt, convinced her uncle to allow her to be back on the show.
Amina comes from Afghanistan, where she has worked since was three years old picking wheat and washing dishes. When she was born, her mother burst into tears after learning that Amina was a girl. As a result of being female in Afghanistan, Amina was prevented from attending school. She married young, at age 11, and also gave birth before her 12th birthday. She could neither read nor write.
This movie was sad to watch. Many students at Westland Middle School commented on how they often take many things for granted and sometimes rant about hating school. Jeremy Scheck, an 8th grader who also saw the film, mentioned that “it was very inspiring, and very well done.” Likewise, Alison Serino, Westland’s principal, says, “I wish every Westland student could see it. It’s sad, and empowering at the same time.” This film showcases not only the struggles girls from some countries experience, but also shows their common thirst for an education despite the overwhelming odds against them. To learn more, visit www.girlrising.com and see what you can do to help these girls rise or to bring this film to your school or community.
Article by Corrina Davis, MoCo Student staff writer
Image from girlrising.com.