Inspiring Change through Education: Women’s Forum @ UNA-GB celebrates International Women’s Day early with a screening of Graceland Girls!
This past Monday, March 3, UNA-GB members and friends learned about the power of education through a film screening of Graceland Girls and panel discussion with global education activists and experts! Following a lively reception and the screening, the Women’s Forum hosted panelists Jordan Salvatoriello, director of Graceland Girls; Monte Allen, Senior Director of CARE; and Richard Rowe, Chairman and CEO of Open Learning Exchange (OLE). Some of the questions posed by Women’s Forum members and the audience centered around Ms. Salvatoriello’s experience in Kenya while filming the documentary, ways in which organizations like CARE and OLE are partnering with local communities in the developing world to provide education, and how members of the greater-Boston community can become global education advocates.
Graceland Girls tells the story of high school students at the Graceland Girls School in central Kenya, an educational environment available to girls who were “fortunate and bright enough to receive sponsorship.” Many of the girls come from remote areas in Kenya, where their parents struggle to provide for themselves and their families. At various points in the film, the girls express the responsibility and pressure they feel to succeed in school and their future lives so that they can support their families. “Seen as their last chance for a better fate than that of their parents,” the girls’ stories reflect an awareness about the importance of their hard work. When asked what they want to pursue after going to university, many of the girls confidently list occupations such as “lawyer” and “neurosurgeon.” Faced with difficult circumstances and seemingly unsurpassable obstacles, the Graceland girls exhibit undying determination and hope, knowing that they “could create a ripple effect so powerful, it could end the cycle of poverty there.” (Learn more about the film here).
But what about girls (and boys) who are not lucky enough to go to the Graceland school? Monte Allen from CARE and Richard Rowe from OLE are involved in the struggle to address this need.
Mr. Allen shared in the panel discussion that one of CARE’s main goals is to empower communities to help themselves, a strategy that hopes to enable long-term and sustainable solutions. By providing resources and training to communities that want their guidance, CARE strives not only to reach young generations of under-served girls and boys, but also their elders – who become their teachers, mentors, and partners in education. You can read more about CARE’s work in girls’ education in Afghanistan, where they support over 300 schools!
Richard Rowe’s comments added to the theme of sustainability by presenting OLE’s philosophy on the necessity of activity-based learning and educational content that is available through Open Education Resources (OERs). This aspect of OLE’s work puts it at the forefront of initiatives that seek to provide affordable and sustainable education solutions to the developing world. You can read more about OLE’s work here.
Jordan Salvatoriello further elaborated on her experience in Kenya while making the film, noting that she wanted the girls to feel comfortable sharing their stories in full, and that she didn’t want her own experience or bias to take over their narratives. She also shared that the project was an incredible learning experience: she learned as much from the students as they learned from her. Parts of the film portray small workshops and field trips centered on photography and filming skills that Jordan led the girls in. These activities involved the girls reflections on their work, illuminating how they see the world, relate to one another and perceive themselves. Ms. Salvatoriello emphasized that there are many ways her film can be used to create change, encouraging a young audience member to share and discuss it with her local school group. If you, too, are inspired by Jordan’s work, find out how you can become involved! Also, watch the entire panel discussion here!!
Finally, we rounded off our evening with an incredible a capella performance by Women of the World!
Now that you know how we celebrated International Women’s Day this year (even if it was 5 days early!), we invite you to share your stories! What IWD events are you going to? How will you celebrate the achievements of the world’s women and girls?
A special thank-you to our co-sponsors for this special event: African Community Health Initiatives, Boston Glow, Boston Network for International Development, Care, Center for Women’s Health & Human Rights at Suffolk University, Girl Up, Tufts University School of Medicine: Public Health Programs and Center for Global Public Health, Open Learning Exchange, Our Bodies Ourselves, Women and Health Initiative at Harvard University, and Women of the World
On Thursday, October 10th, Katrina Sousounis introduced Girl Rising to about two hundred and sixty attendees at a film screening hosted by UNA-GB. She explained that the most pervasive issues affecting the people of the world today (including poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, violence) disproportionately affect young women. Katrina finished the speech with a call for educational reform to give opportunities to women everywhere, and ended with this quote from the film: “Boys need to believe in girls, and girls need to learn to believe in themselves.”
Katrina is 13 years old.
Founder of the first Girl Up club in Massachusetts, Katrina was inspired to try and solve the problems so carefully outlined in her speech. Her club is part of an organization founded to help girls and young women around the world to reach their full potential by ensuring that they are educated, safe, well-fed, and guaranteed basic human rights.
Because of this, Katrina was asked to introduce Girl Rising at UNA-GB’s screening of the film on Thursday, which was a fundraiser for Girl Up. Her presence and hard work demonstrate a distinctive part of Girl Up’s message: to help girls reach their potential around the world, we must empower girls themselves to effect the change that they want to see.
Girl Rising is the story of nine girls from around the world: Sokha from Cambodia, Wadley from Haiti, Suma from Nepal, Yasmin from Egypt, Azmera from Ethiopia, Ruksana from India, Senna from Peru, Mariama from Sierra Leone, and Amina from Afghanistan. Each girl was paired with a writer from her country to help tell her story. Each story is artistically captured differently, with varying experiences when it comes to cultural restraints, parental support, and environmental circumstances. In essence, Girl Rising is a movement to deliver a “simple, critical truth: educate girls and you will change the world.”
The UNA-GB decided to screen this film to get a dialogue started to help men, women, boys and girls in Boston and elsewhere think about solutions to various forms of discrimination against girls around the world. After the film, a musical group called “Women of the World”, which sings in 21 different languages, performed. They chose a song that resonated with the idea that together, we can create positive change.
In 2011, the UN declared October 11th as the first annual tribute to its goal to improve gender equality everywhere. This year, the theme of the day is “Innovating for Girls’ Education.” It sounds simple enough, but the task of ensuring that girls worldwide are educated is complex, both in implementation and consequence.
What exactly is keeping girls from going to school?
A wide breadth of causes keep girls out of school each day. Governmental policies and social issues alike can keep girls and boys out of school. Here are a few major perpetrators:
- School is not free everywhere, and many poor families cannot afford to send any or all of their children to school. In some countries, boys are sent to school while girls stay home and work.
- It can be dangerous: in 2012, Save the Children reported that there were more than 3,600 attacks on education around the world.
- About half of all girls living in the world’s least developed countries are married before the age of 18. Child marriage greatly decreases a girl’s likelihood of finishing school, according to World Vision.
- Lack of sanitary protection means that girls may miss up to five days of school a month
- When basic needs aren’t being met and students are not healthy or well-fed, school may be a low priority.
- There may not be a school within walking distance, especially in rural areas.
- Governmental policies and societal norms can make it illegal or abnormal for girls to become educated
So, how exactly does educating girls help the world?
- According to the UN: “When girls are able to stay in school and avoid being married early, they can build a foundation for a better life for themselves and their families and participate in the progress of their nations.”
- Educated mothers educate their children; this not only breaks the cycle of poverty, but their sons will be more inclined to educate their daughters.
- UNICEF connected discrimination against women and girls and hunger. Child malnutrition in South Asia is highly linked to women’s limited access to education and difficulties with finding paid employment.
What can you do?
- Education, education, education! Educate yourself by exploring the issue even more- try checking out some of the links below
- Donate! Visit Girl Up’s website, or one of the other initiatives below, to give to the cause.
- Become an activist! Join one of the causes below, or create your own!
Happy International Day of the Girl Child!
UN Day of the Girl Child