Girl Rising: Breaking Cycles of Poverty by Empowering Girls

Photo credit: akshayapatra. CC0/Public Domain license.
Photo credit: akshayapatra. CC0/Public Domain license.

The following is my interview with Girl Rising, a campaign to empower girls and to fight poverty through education. Female empowerment has to start from childhood. Strong girls make the whole society strong.

(All Photos Courtesy of Girl Rising)

MR: What are the objectives of Girl Rising?

GR: Girl Rising is a global campaign for girls’ education and empowerment. We use the power of storytelling to change the way the world sees and values girls. Together, with partners, we launch high profile campaigns to bring visibility to the issues girls face and inspire people to dismantle the barriers that hold them back. Girl Rising has launched campaigns in India, Nigeria, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the United States, and we continue to expand our efforts to other places where our message is timely and where unleashing the full potential of girls will result in improved health, prosperity and stability for everyone.

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MR: What are the most important things for girls to fight poverty? How can education change the world?

GR: The barriers holding girls back look very different community to community so this is a challenging question. Still, when it comes down to it, we believe that education is one of the most critical tools for girls to fight poverty. There is an increasingly powerful body of research showing the positive effects of education on a girl herself and also for her family, community, country and our world. This narrative deserves repeating. Educated girls grow up to have healthier children, whose children are also more likely to be educated and healthy. Every additional year of secondary school raises a girl’s future income by 10-20 percent. It makes perfect economic sense. Educated girls are more likely to speak up for themselves and understand their rights. One could argue too that if more boys and men see more educated and empowered girls, they would be less likely to view women as objects, view women as inferior and view women as those without potential from the classroom to the boardroom. All of these contribute to breaking cycles of poverty and enhancing access to opportunity.

Of course, this work has to be done in tandem with other interventions. Ensuring girls have access to education is one thing, but ensuring that she is actually safe, healthy and learning is another. The onset of puberty, security and safety, paid work, domestic work, even transportation – these all bear on a girls’ ability to continue schooling. The other main thing that a girl needs is to be recognized as an individual with rights. In many places, attitudes, behaviors and cultural practices suggest that a girl does not have the same rights as her brother, that she is not worthy of schooling because her primary role in life is to be someone’s wife, without any choice. Too often society tells a girl, that just because of her gender, she deserves less. The most empowering tool is to provide her with independence, value and agency to make choices for herself.

For every person who does not receive access to equality application, that is a significant portion of our population that is un-employable or under-employable, less likely to access healthcare and basic resources, less likely to make informed decisions in an election, less likely to seek opportunities to be entrepreneurial and more. But education has many ripple effects. When people are educated, especially women who were previously denied access to education, household income is bolstered. A woman is more likely to invest back in her family and community than a man. This cumulative, multiplier effect is very meaningful both as an economic issue and a human rights issue.

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MR: Why is story telling so important?

GR: The human mind is wired for stories. Stories activate parts of our brains that facts don’t. They shape how we see the world. Global crises can be difficult to comprehend. The numbers can be overwhelming – millions of people displaced from their homes, millions more children out of school, millions without proper healthcare or economic opportunity. The list goes on. Storytelling makes the foreign familiar by humanizing the numbers. Stories appeal to the emotion and make taking action a mandatory next step  Organizations that work hard  to build schools, provide scholarships, supplies, skills and empowerment programming are crucial, but, if parents and communities believe that a girl is not worthy of education, those resources will go un-utilized. We’re here to help spread the word and provide opportunities to create conversation. We also want to inspire others to see themselves in these stories and to remember that they have power to make change for themselves and their communities.

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MR: Tell us about the film.

GR: From Academy Award-nominated director Richard E. Robbins, Girl Rising journeys around the globe to witness the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to change the world. Viewers get to know nine unforgettable girls living in nine different countries in the developing world: ordinary girls who confront tremendous challenges and overcome nearly impossible odds to pursue their dreams. A writer from each girls’ country penned her story and renowned actors give them voice. The film was born in a search for how to end global poverty. And the answer was pretty simple: educating girls is the highest-return investment you can make in breaking cycles of poverty. The film stands at the heart of our campaign for girls’ education and empowerment. It has been screened for millions of viewers, government officials, students, parents, teachers, corporate leaders and more.

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MR: How can people help Girl Rising?

GR: Global change begins with individual action. The best ways for individuals to get involved is the spread the message in their local community. We are stronger when we work together. For every girl out of school, there is another person who does not realize that there are girls who do not have access to education or equality. Use your voice and talent to help us create meaningful change: spread the message, raise funds, and rally your community to advocate in anyway you can.

We have four easy ways to get involved to start:

Host a Screening. Share the amazing stories of Girl Rising, and raise awareness about the importance of girls’ education. Learn more

Join us on social media: Help us spread the word about the power of girls’ education. Follow Girl Rising on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and add your voice using #girlrising.

Make our work possible:  We use your donations to improve the lives of girls and empower the voices of global education advocates. Give today.

Explore our curriculum: Stories have power and school is one of the first places that many of us learn our gender biases. Explore the free tools and film chapters and think about you can bring Girl Rising to your school, in your volunteer work or even adapt for your company.

Originally published at ProMosaik

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