Girls are awesome.

Here at Cult of Clair, we’re pretty big fans of girls and women.

I mean, if you had been out to dinner with us last night, you’d know we love men. A lot.

But we think girls are pretty amazing.

Earlier this week, I saw a screening of Girl Rising, a new film by Academy Award-nominated director Richard Robbins, a quasi-documentary about the power of education to change girls’ lives.

Nine girls from all over the world were partnered with writers from their countries, who helped them tell their stories. Throughout the movie, each girl acts out scenes from her life, set to narratives spoken by a host of famous women, like Meryl Streep and Salma Hayek.

Often when we see images and stories from developing countries, they’re focused on the terrible suffering – starvation, oppression, trafficking, rape. For sure, Girl Rising illustrates some of the challenging – often even horrific – things these girls have gone through, but it also focuses on the power of girls to change their lives and change the world. In places where getting an education isn’t easy, girls find a way. In places where it’s almost impossible, they try anyway.

There’s Suma from Nepal, a girl who was forced into bonded labor at a young age, and now uses her education to free other young girls.

There’s Azmera from Ethiopia, who was almost forced to marry when she was only 13, but whose brother helped her get an education, instead.

And there’s little Wadley from Haiti, whose life has been torn apart by the earthquake in 2010. Unable to afford school fees, she goes to class anyway, and when her teacher tells her she must pay, she defiantly says that she’ll keep coming back every single day until she’s finally allowed to stay. This girl – this girl will make your heart so happy.

If you see this movie, you’ll walk away wanting to learn more, do more, give more, focus on people more. But you’ll also feel a sense of pride when you realize how resilient and bold these girls are.

Although I have no desire to ever be a teacher myself, I’m a huge proponent of the power of education to change lives. In the U.S., because we’re forced to be in school until age 18 – and many of us have the opportunity to keep going past then – it can be difficult to grasp how lucky we are. In so many places in the world, that’s just not a reality for girls.

An educated girl is more likely to be safe and healthy and less likely to marry and have children when she is still a child herself. Educating girls means stronger economies and less disease. Seriously, the ripple effects are amazing. In the movie, Liam Neeson rattles off fact after fact about the amazing things that can happen when girls are educated. You’ll hear these facts and be like, “WHAT! Why aren’t we doing something about this??”

When I was 20, I spent a semester living with a family in rural Kenya. One of the girls in the family was 12-year-old Christine, who was young enough to still be going to school. In her community, though, most girls would stop going to school as they entered their teen years. Some had to help out around the house, and some would end up marrying and having babies. Most teenage girls in that area simply didn’t go to school.

When we first met, Christine knew about as much English as I knew Swahili (very little), so we would have mini lessons together, and teach each other our languages. Through those lessons, I learned that she wanted to be a doctor someday. She was bright, funny, studious, and full of life. Although I haven’t heard any updates from their family in a long time, I do often think of them – and especially of Christine. She’s 18 now, and I hope she’s in school. She may not still have her childhood dream of becoming a doctor, but I hope she is still pursuing a dream. I don’t really care if she’s studying to be a doctor, or if she’s studying something else, or even if she’s doing something completely different – but I do hope she was able to stay in school, and gain the knowledge and confidence to live a healthy life.

All girls have dreams. And when they’re allowed to dream, and allowed to learn, amazing things happen.

To find a screening of Girl Rising near you, check here.

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