Girl Rising

Nine girls, nine countries, nine gut-wrenching, tear-jerking, heart-warming stories.  That is the film Girl Rising, and it’s about how educating girls changes the world.  It is a documentary that I got to see in Grand Rapids last summer, and it was on my mind a lot this fall, when my students started studying global education to prepare for their first Global Classrooms conference.  I really wanted to share this film with them, and while I was at it, why not share it with all of Santander?


So that’s what I set out to do (and along the way, re-discovered that I’m terrible at advertising anything), but with the help of Fulbright-connections in Santander, I was able to schedule two public showings of the film, one at a theater, another at a cultural center. Teacher friends, fellow-Fulbrighters, and community members came to see the film, and I got very positive feedback. At one of the showings, I even organized a little bake sale (shout-out to Ally and Sam for baking delicious treats!) to raise some money to send to the organizations behind the girls in the film.  All in all it was a great experience, but I am very glad that part of my project is over.

Now, on to the good stuff.

I have the privileged position of being a teacher, which, in theory, means my students have to listen to what I tell them and do what I ask them to do (practically speaking, it’s a different story).  But I decided that we were going to do something fun: “Who wants to watch a movie in class today?!?” Disclaimer (that I didn’t actually tell them): “It’s educational and tells lots of sad stories about girls who are forced to work instead of going to school.”  My goal in all of this was for my students to learn a little bit more about why girls don’t go to school in some places (no, Pablo, they’re not sitting at home playing Playstation 3 or sleeping), and why it matters.

And so we began with Suma’s story, the Nepali girl worked as a bonded laborer, while her brothers went to school.


Then we watched Wadley’s story, about a precocious Haitian girl who insists on going to school, even though her mom can’t pay for it.


And Senna’s story, set in a harsh gold-mining town in Peru.


And finally, we ended with Amina’s story, the Afghan girl who was married at age 11.

CNN Films: Girl RisingAmina portrait. Film still

It’s one of those movies that you just have to sit there for a while when it’s over, before you can move, or stand up, or even form a coherent thought.  The stories are told in a way that really make you consider your life, the lives of others, and how it can be that so much beauty and so much meanness exist in our world at the same time?

The best part of this unit has been the reflections the students wrote last week.

They are incredible.  The fact that 13 year old students, boys and girls, are articulating in their second language, that educating girls is important and that it matters to them and that men and women deserve to be treated the same, no matter where they live or what religion they practice is truly inspiring to me.

But then sometimes they put a space between every sentence they write.

Like this.

Because they are counting lines not sentences.

And then they

center their title using the space bar

And it




a little bit.

But once I explained how to center the heading and what I wanted in a paragraph (“please don’t press enter between every single sentence you type! OR TESSA WILL HAVE AN ANEURISM.  DO YOU KNOW WHAT ‘ANEURISM’ MEANS?”) things were looking up, and my students impressed me, and I think they even impressed themselves with what they were capable of accomplishing.  I hope they impress you too.

A reflection from Mario (8th grader):

The topic of girls’ education is a very important topic, because some girls can’t go to the school. In fact they want to go the school because they want to study for the future, so they can work.

It’s the case of Wadley. She lives in Haiti. Before the earthquake, she could go to the school and she studied. One day there was an earthquake and her family lost all, therefore Wadley couldn’t go to the school any more. She insisted to go to school, but she can’t go the school because she was very poor.

In conclusion we must help these girls so they can go to school and they can work for money. Can you imagine the life of these girls that they can’t give their opinions? Her life is horrible!! What can you do to help them?

A reflection from Vanesa (9th grader):

Afghanistan is a country located in Asia where women must wear a burka and stay at home, because they haven’t got the same rights as men. This topic is important because during the rule of the Taliban, women were treated worse and, for example, parents sent their girls to get married or engaged by the age of 10.

 Amina is an example of this. She was 11 years old when she was married, although she didn’t want to be married. She worked all the time at home cleaning the house, getting water and doing other housework. On the other hand, she went to school for a short time, but in general she didn’t have a good education. Even so, she was strong. I think that her future will be better if she want it. Anyone can change his own life, the change will be better or will be worse, but we always need to have hope.

I think that this topic is very important for all the girls in the world. We all need to live in the same conditions to be happy. We all need to be free and enjoy life. My country is completely different from her country. We haven’t got these problems or these rules. We’re freer and we have more opportunities. I also think that it’s very necessary to learn about women’s feelings and minds, because they are as important as men.


One thought on “Girl Rising

  1. I am very glad that YOU were afforded the opportunity for an education so YOU could bless these wonderful children of today. You go girl!

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