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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Girl Rising

Four of our secondary level learners and I attended a special screening of the documentary film, A Girl Rising, depicting the sad plight of girls throughout underdeveloped areas of the world seeking an elusive education. The film shared the inspiring tales of several different girls who had persisted in gaining an education despite overwhelming obstacles.

There was a girl in Nepal who escaped the life of indentured servitude (beginning at age six) with the help of a determined social worker. A girl who lived on the streets of India but still managed to attend school through the commitment of her family that valued education above all else. A girl from Afghanistan who endured the horrifying constrictions of her culture (forced marriage at age eleven, childbearing soon thereafter, beatings from her husband) and insisted on seeking an education despite the threat of death for doing so. A little girl from Haiti who had attended school, only to lose hopes and dreams as a result of a devastating earthquake that destroyed her school and deprived her mom of the means to continue to pay for her education, but regained her attendance through sheer willpower. There were several other vignettes of similar confrontations with adversity by indomitable girls intent on improving their lot in life through education.

All of the stories featured in the documentary included schools that require tuition. There were no free public school programs in the countries appearing in the film. While the finances certainly represented a potential barrier, that proved the least of their worries given the myriad impediments they all faced.

Given the nature of the documentary, our school selected four girls to attend the screening along with representatives of several other Albany area high schools. There was a question and answer session following the movie which involved the producer, a man associated with a Non-Governmental Organization in Pakistan devoted to educating girls, and a young man from the region who had spent a month in India researching the subject of education for girls in that country. The resulting discussion was enriching and enlightening.

After the movie, we stopped at a restaurant and enjoyed lunch while sustaining a conversation about the meaning and value of the documentary. One question stumped us as we reflected on our shared experience. Why, in the richest and most powerful nation on earth, do we have girls in America who willingly forego a free public education by dropping out of an opportunity that girls in underdeveloped countries pursue despite incredible odds against them?

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