Have you seen "Girl Rising?" This documentary is (rightfully) having a moment
Some readers of Jewesses with Attitude might remember that almost a year ago, I wrote about the documentary film Girl Rising, which at the time was being shown here in Boston as Abby Mohr’s bat mitzvah project. I was frustrated that I couldn’t see the film at the time, so I was thrilled when Tara, JWA’s Director of Engagement and Social Media, posted on our Facebook that the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) would be screening a shortened version of the film. I made it a priority to go to this event—not only to make up for missing it last year, but also to finally see what I’ve been hearing so much about since the making of this film.
Girl Rising tells the stories of girls in developing countries fighting to earn the educations they need and deserve. What’s so powerful about the film is that it is truly a docu-drama. Each story focuses on a young woman who worked with a writer from her country to present her story the way she wanted it told. For example, the first girl featured is Wadley from Haiti. We meet Wadley as she would like to be seen – running and dancing in a field of beautiful flowers, followed by scenes of her happily learning in school. After the devastating earthquake of 2010, Wadley’s family can no longer afford to send her to school. One day, Wadley decided that she would go to school anyway. It is impossible not to celebrate Wadley’s quest for knowledge.
While I have no doubt that each girl's story is powerful enough on its own, they’re even more poignant when beautifully portrayed on screen. Each girl's journey is different; many of them must be seen to be believed. To be truthful, I wept through most of the screening out of anger, joy, and inspiration.
These are unfinished stories: each of these girls are fighting ongoing, real-world issues, struggling to highlight the fact that there are still women and girls who are not receiving the education and respect they deserve. Events occurring just this past month further prove this fact, from the kidnapping of the Nigerian girls to the Isla Vista killings in California last weekend. And if you think these stories seem far away, take a look at the stories being shared by women everywhere on a recently created tumblr, When Women Refuse.
So many of us hear stories of violence and injustice and claim there’s nothing we can do since it’s so far away or it has nothing to do with us. The truth is that this has everything to do with everybody, and these events often occur right next door. This is not a “women’s issue,” this is a human issue. We need to not only listen to the stories told in Girl Rising, we must take them to heart and ask, “what can we do?” And here’s what can be done: tell your own story. Speak up when you see injustice. Girl Rising bravely puts these stories forward, so who are we not to do the same?
In the last few weeks, so many women have shared their experiences with JWA. Please join the conversation by posting your stories below. Raise your voice!