A girl is not defined by what society sees. A girl is defined by what she sees inside herself, Intel states in a TV ad. Intel is an American multinational semiconductor chip maker corporation headquartered in Santa Clara, California.
What does a multinational corporation have to do with girls and women's issues? The Intel corporation is actually one of the sponsors of the documentary "Girl Rising" by Academy Award nominee Richard Robbins.
Throughout the film, the viewers are introduced in the world of 9 girls from 9 different countries. These 9 girls are heroes who have overcame life challenges: child labor, early marriage, no access to education and other similar social injustices.
Like Malala from Pakistan who was shot in the head for claiming all girls deserve to get an education, each of these 9 girls rise above the social challenges ahead of them. Far from playing victims, they took decisions that changed their lives.
7-year old Wadley from Haiti did not take no for an answer when her teacher refused to allow her in the classroom because her mother could not pay for her school fees. "I will come back every day until I can stay," she said. And she did. Her teacher let her in.
The documentary is captivating because the viewers are also given important statistics that illustrate the gender bias occurring daily in the developing countries. Every day, girls are used and abused. Because of their gender, girls will not go to school, but instead they will become wives and mothers before the age of 18.
However, some girls like 13-year old Azmera says no to the oppressive traditions and customs kept in their societies for decades. Ethiopian girl Azmera, supported by her older brother, dared to reject her fate of getting married instead of going to school. Even though her mother and her grand-mother endured this fate, she questioned whether there is more to a girl's life than being a wife and mother?
The statistics presented in "Girl Rising" are indeed alarming. There are 33 millions fewer girls than boys attending primary school. 50 percent of sexual assaults in the world are on female under 15. The plight of girls in developing world is real. However, there is a hope when families invest in girls' education.
Educating a girl does not only change her life but others benefit as well. Studies show that educated girls improve the lives of their communities and their countries. CNN presents us four benefits of educating girls:
- Poverty reduced. For every extra year in primary education beyond the mean, a girl's wage rate increases an average of 10 % to 20% , according to World Bank studies. An extra year in secondary school can translate into an average increase of 15% to 25%
- National economic growth. In a World Bank study of 100 countries, every 1% increase in women with secondary education boosted a country's annual per capita income growth rate by 0.3 percentage points.
- Better health. A child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5, according to UNESCO. A girl with basic education is 3 times less likely to contract HIV, according to a report by the Global Campaign for Education.
- Reduction of child marriages. Girls who receive an education beyond grade 7 marry four year later, on average, 2.2 fewer children.
Based on these facts, an educated girl is obviously a beautiful gift for her family, her community, and her country. Educate a girl, develop a nation. Girls and boys all have the right to an education. Unfortunately, millions of girls will never become doctors, engineers or journalists they are called to be. All of this because of how society sees them. The film "Girls Rising" clearly shows that this plight against girls must change, if we desire to make our world a better place. Besides, girls are rising. World, are you ready?