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From Haiti to Waco: Baylor Highlights Education Awareness with “Girl Rising”

By Sara Ligarde and Elisabeth Marrs

Girl Rising, a movie about nine young women and their quest for an education, made its Baylor debut on Monday, April 8, at the Hankamer School of Business in Kayser Auditorium. The room was packed with students and faculty, most females.

The movie begins with a young girl foraging to survive at a large dumpsite, which is, as the movie voiceover describes, “a place where a girl is simply one more thing to throw away.” However, the girl still holds on to her simple dream of going to school with other children. Liam Neeson’s unmistakable voice introduces the chilling fact that 66 million girls are not receiving an education. The movie continues to reveal the stories of the eight other girls, each one facing issues like poverty, sexual abuse, and cultural stigmas.

Dr. Brooke Blevins, assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, explained the significance of the movie for the Baylor audience. “The overall message for women in the U.S. is that they can make a difference – that there is an opportunity for women to be agents of change,” Blevins said. “And for women at Baylor, we want them to appreciate the amazing privilege we have to be educated at such a great university.”

The film was co-sponsored by the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, the Academy for Teaching and Learning, and the BU Women’s Colloquium. These three departments focus on raising awareness for women’s education and decided to share the movie’s message with Baylor.

The movie was directed by Academy Award nominee Richard E. Robbins and is narrated by eleven renowned actors and actresses, including Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Neeson, Cate Blanchett, and Salma Hayek.

Girl Rising documents the hardships the nine girls face on a daily basis, in their hopes of achieving an education. Each woman is from a different country, including Nepal, Peru, Haiti, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, and Ethiopia. “It’s a beautifully told story about a world that we have little knowledge about, but a world that we are connected to. It’s a film that provides tangible and hopeful possibilities for us to change the world,” Blevins said.

“The biggest thing we want is to raise awareness about education in developing worlds, particularly for women,” Blevins said. “Education has one of the highest return-on-investments you can get. And educating women is one of the most effective ways to eliminate poverty.”

Each girl has her own heroic tale, just like Amina, a young girl living in Afghanistan. From the time she was born, Amina was taught that her personal worth would never match that of her older brother. She was offered in marriage at a very young age for money to buy her older brother a used car. For Amina, any form of education is hard to come by.

Although Amina’s story seems to be one of sadness and abuse, all of the girls’ stories end with hope. “I found it very moving,” said Baylor senior Bethany Simons. “It’s incredible because it only costs $35 a year to educate a girl in Haiti. I was like wow, that’s all it costs? That’s nothing. That’s what I spend in a week on Starbucks and a T-shirt. I was heartbroken walking out, but it wasn’t a hopeless heartbroken. The fact that the documentary is being shown shows you that change is happening.”

For more information about the film, where it will be playing, or to watch the trailer, visit Girl Rising.

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