” I am the beginning of a different story in Afghanistan. Look into my eyes. Do you see it now? I am change.” – Amina, Afghanistan.
Girl Rising is an empowering and a well-written masterpiece by the award-winning documentary director Richard E. Robbins, which he made in 2013. The documentary follows 9 different girls, with 9 different stories where each one of the girls gets an author from their country to tell their story. This documentary is based upon real events, told by strong female characters and shows the audience contrast of the developing countries. All throughout the film, there was cinematic videography, fascinating illustrations, and breathtaking biography. Going through topics related to the girl’s education, Girl Rising is also a global campaign that aims to educate girls around the globe. This documentary is making a change in history when it comes to the importance of girls´ education around the world, showing how various girls are treated as they grow up in countries such as Nepal, Egypt, and Peru.
As I previously mentioned, the documentary follows 9 young girls around the world in developing countries. From Yasmin in Egypt to Azmera in Ethiopia, the girls´stories show both similarities and unlikeness. One thing they do have in common is that none of the girls show signs of apology or seeing themselves as victims, not to mention that most of them get harassed, sold, and punished for being born as a girl. Throughout the film, I could not help to understand the thought of surviving every day knowing that being a girl is known to be a discrimination in most of the countries that they lived in. Amina´s strength, willpower and desire to succeed in life made her stand out of the crowd.
That is why I chose Amina, the 13-year-old girl from Afghanistan, for the reason that I thought she had the best mindset out of them all. How does one choose from all these different girls, you might ask? Well, subsequently watching the documentary Amina was the girl who was stuck in my mind. Her story was simply astonishing, growing up to live a lifetime of servitude – yet not giving up, and fighting to succeed against the odds. Amina seemed grown up for her age, started working at 3 years old from cooking, cleaning and taking care of her younger siblings – to being sold for 5000$, and given her hand in marriage to her cousin when she reached the age of 11. Amina´s older brother was given a used car for the money, in comparison to her who received nothing. She was not afraid to tell her story to the media. You could tell that Amina had passion and was dedicated when talking about her experiences and that she is an extremely brave girl and sets a huge example for the hundreds of girls in Afghanistan.
Girl Rising is one of the documentaries that has changed the way I look at the world. I have not watched something that has impacted me in such a way, for instance, I never knew that a girl has one of a fourth chance of being born into poverty; or that a girl who goes to school one more year will earn 20% more as an adult. In many of the stories, a lot of the girls wished they were born as boys, for the reason that they feel that they would have been more appreciated and worth something.
Sexist killing is, heartbreakingly, a frequent happening in Afghanistan (also called femicide). What that means is that the person has intentions to commit a homicide by the reason that they are females. According to AIHRC, 119 women who died in 2015 were victims of honor killings and were tortured, burned and brutally murdered. In Afghanistan girl´s school get burned, children and teenage girls get raped, beaten and education stop when they get forced into marriage at an early age.
Growing up in an Afghan society where women live to serve their men, it is acutely important to educate the girls and teach them that they have the right to speak up for themselves. I surely felt empathy for the girls who felt they owned their family, but on the other hand, girls should not feel guilty over being born a certain sex like Sokha did. She grew up in Cambodia, where children suffer for the sins of their fathers. I believe she did not consider herself as a victim of forced marriage considering she thought she helped her family, by giving herself away for money to give the family financial support.
Amina was one of the girls succeeding against the odds. At the present time, there are more girls enrolled in Afghanistan and given the chance of an education than ever before in history. I believe women are the ones who will lead a revolution in Afghanistan, however, we have a long way to go. “One girl with courage is a revolution” – and I surely agree with that phrase. If we take Amina as an example, a girl with a burning desire and the hunger for change, her courage will make a revolution. Being a girl and growing up with limited rights, she felt the need to stand up for herself.
66 million girls are still out of school, waking up each day doing the best they can to support their family, and themselves. The opportunity of getting enrolled in school and being given the chance to educate yourself is something we, in industrial countries, take for granted in comparison to the children in developing countries, who would beg for the opportunity to go to school. People not being familiar with this film might be most astonished over the detailed facts that pop-up on the screen throughout the documentary, also speaking for myself. For an example; If India enrolled one percent more girls in secondary school, its GDP would rise by 5.5 billion.
Considering that all of the girls had unique and determined stories to tell, another girl who stood out was Mariama from Sierra Leone. We can compare her to Amina, they both strived for something they wanted. Mariama was the first girl in her family to get enrolled in school, and she helped girls through the “call-in” on the radio show, where she worked. She followed her passion just as Amina, and as she said: “I am the lucky one.” Later her father refused her to work on the radio show, considering it was a disgrace for the father and the town talked. After begging, getting help from Halla and a great speech about education he changed his mind, and Mariama continues living her dream. These empowering women both had gripping stories, but also most importantly, the illustrations and the clips intertwined in such a good way that it made me much more interested, and left me wanting to learn more about aid-workers.
To compare this documentary to another, I wanted to intertwine a statement that was made by Goli Mohammed Ali from the Norwegian documentary “De Andre” directed and produced by Margreth Olin. Goli was born in Afghanistan and was one of the main characters speaking up about their experiences, and he, as a 19-year-old boy, meant that in Afghanistan there was no future for him. He did not want to grow up where bombing, killing, growing gang members, and felonies are the way of everyday living. We are familiar with the associated knowledge that girls grow up in a society with drudgery and underestimating, however, we do not hear from the perspective of how boys grow up in Afghanistan.
These empowering women both had gripping stories, but also most importantly, the illustrations and the clips intertwined in such an excellent way that it made me certainly interested, and left me wanting to learn more about aid-workers. I would recommend this documentary to both ignorant and well-informed people, due to the great awareness information the film spreads to the audience and you get an insight of 9 raw, heartbreaking nevertheless inspiring stories.
The sources I have used to find information for my review on Girl Rising:
The Story Behind Girl Rising, taken from Huffingtonpost.com and written by Christine Horansky. Published 17.03.2014 and latest updated 17.05.2014.
How To Write A Film Review, from NDLA. Published 19.08.2012 and latest updated 04.03.2017.
Girl Rising; Meet the girls, taken from GirlRising.com. I chose Amina as my girl of choice.
Girl Rising photo from Google. Downloaded 13.09.2017. Original photo from website AAUW Girl Rising.
Femicide in Afghanistan, taken from Sandiegouniontribune.com. Published 08.03.2016
Trailer for the documentary “De Andre” directed by Margreth Olin, taken from Youtube.com. Published 27.09.2012