A film review by Emilie Ingebrigtsen
Modern day slavery, a commonly ignored topic. We tend to look the other way when people say that slavery still exist. Forced labor and human trafficking is slavery. Girl Rising touched on very sensitive topics that might be hard for people to process and say, “This is real.” That is because cruelty like this seems inhumane. In the film we learn about a few of the possibly millions of stories similar or worse.
In this Documentary directed by Richard Robbing we met nine different girls throughout the developing world. This film was released March 7th, 2013 (USA). They all have their own stories, but it ties together to a crucial and important theme, the lack of education and gender equality.
In the beginning of this film we see a girl working in the dumpster. She dreams about an education. This is the introduction of the film and the story of Sohka. It can also be viewed as a reality check for the people who live in ignorance and denial that this is a real issue. Sohka is an orphan and works forced labor. After days and days of hard work, she finally finds her way into education. Today she is a fierce woman. Sohka was even invited to speak at an International Women’s Day Conference in New York and she visited the White House and met then First Lady, Michelle Obama. She is still to this day a top-class student and wishes to study in the US.
Next in this storyline we met a seven year old girl with the name, Wadley. She went to school in the beginning of her story, but that changes rapidly. Her village was prone to a massive earthquake, causing both her school and home to collapse. They lost everything. This caused many residents in Wadley’s village to struggle financially and that included Wadley and her family. However, she was not giving up. When school started she arrived in class, but got sent home because her family could not pay the tuition. Day after day she came back and stood up for herself until the teacher finally let her stay.
Other girls were “sold” to work for “masters” (bosses). Suma is one of the few that got freed from slavery. When she was six she had her first master. He made her clean and fetch firewood. The second one mistreated her, and she was deeply enslaved. Suma’s third and last master she got when she was the age of eleven. This boss was not as bad and even agreed to let her take night classes as long as she did her chores throughout the day. The teachers in the classes educated the slaves that they were in fact, enslaved. Teachers demanded that the master let them go and they continued demanding until the masters agreed. Suma is now working against the masters herself and is working on freeing the slaves.
The girls in this documentary is fairly young. They are what we would call only children, but in their culture, they are treated like adults. Yasmin for instant was engaged when she was only thirteen years old, a child. At twelve she got sexually assaulted by a man she was hitching with. He led her the wrong way and her friend caught on and jumped off the vehicle, but Yasmin’s curiosity got the best of her. In her police statement she called herself a superhero because she managed to escape the assaulter.
It seems like a cultural thing when girls in the developing world are engaged or married at such a young age. Azmera was also thirteen when she got engaged to a twenty year old man. This was something her brother and herself did not like at they protested on the marriage. She wanted to study, not be wed at such a young age. Azmera is to this day studying and aspires to become a teacher.
Ruksana was daydreaming and drawing when her teacher caught her off guard. She got dismissed and sent home. Her father saw his daughter’s talent and instead of yelling at her, he took her to an art supplements store to buy coloring pencils and a sketchbook. She got picked on by some street thugs and her father chased them away. When Ruksana’s mother learns about this she wants to move back to the village where it is “safer.” Her mother then takes them to a shelter for the night where they needed to do forced labor throughout their stay. Police then tears down their homes (the slum). This triggers the mom’s fighting instinct and she changes her mind about moving. However, Ruksana is still living on the street but, she is still in school getting the education she needs.
Senna has a passion for poetry. Her family is struggling and trying to survive in a gold mining town in Peru. Her father taught her to have a though and brave heart. He also wanted her to study and get an education. In this town there are thousands of girls being sold into brothels. After a while Senna’s father got sick and passed later on. She then began writing her own poems. With the help of the organization CARE’s help Senna and her family have moved off the mountain. She is now in secondary-school and recently stood up and demanded better sanitation for her old school.
Mariama has a “normal” life, she lost her father and her mother married her dead husband’s brother. She was the first person in her family to attend school. She was also a radio host, but she dreamed of having her own television show one day. Once a girl called in to her show and talked about her abusive aunt that she lived with. Mariama helped this girl and gave her a voice and a platform to speak up. Her Papa got criticized for letting her host the show and refused her to continue hosting the radio. Mariama wanted his father to hear her out and after he finally did, he changed his mind. She has later on passed her senior exams which is a great accomplishment.
Lastly, we met Amina. She needed to cover her face and identity in order to prevent her to be endangered. In her village and in large areas of Afghanistan females are covered, muted and forced to work. This is all done for the men. They fetched water to them, cleaned them, cooked and cared for the children. Amina have a few years of education but, got married at the age of eleven. She got married to her cousin and her parents accepted the proposal and roughly 5000$ that they all spent on her brother’s car. Amina also became a mother at a very young age. If she tries to speak up it will only result in her being punished. Girl rising can not reach out to her in risk of both endangering her and ruining all the work of the organization.
In this documentary all of the girls’ story impacted me in different ways. The whole process made me more openminded and enlighten me about this topic and its severity. I do not think that either girls’ story was more important than the other. They were equal. However, seeing people being abused, being enslaved or a child being wed at such a young age and then becoming a mother. It seems surreal but, it is real, and it is still happening to this very moment. Slavery is commonly shoved under the rug like it is non-existing or exterminated. This is not the case, and it is our responsibility to raise awareness to the rest of the world. We in the western world, also known as the developed world can use social media to get the message out to the mases. We can give these girls a platform and a place where they can speak up. The quote “One girl with courage is a revolution” is to encourage others to not be afraid and if we can help them share their stories. We should, just like they did in this documentary.
This film on the other hand, was interesting. It was easy to get lost in the stories. Especially when their stories got retold or animated. This makes the viewer go from sympathizing to empathizing, because it shows the girls being strong and fierce. You might even think to yourself. “You go girl, tell them your truth.” The way the director and producer tells this story seems empowering rather than seeking for other’s pity.
That being said, this story has a message behind it. We are taught the ways of modern slavery. They show us how strong and independent we females can be and once we come together we are the strongest and most powerful unity there is. Like the meaning behind the quote, it only takes one before everyone comes forward and that’s why “One girl with courage is a revolution.”