An inspiring new film reveals the struggles of young women to access education - 8 March 2013

In the wealthier countries of the West, there may been giant strides towards gender equality over the past few decades, but a documentary receiving its US premiere tonight illustrates that, in many parts of the world, girls’ access to education still lags a long way behind.

An inspiring new film reveals the struggles of young women to access education

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 8 March 2013

Stephen Exley

Much of the focus of International Women’s Day is on the issue of ensuring that girls in developing countries receive access to education. Indeed, former prime minister Gordon Brown – now special envoy for global education at the United Nations – has added his voice to the debate.

“Unless we act, 531 million of today's girls will never complete a school education, and in the poorest countries only one in 700 will go to university,” he writes in the Huffington Post

His comments follow the Hollywood premiere of Girl Rising, a film that looks at the stories and struggles of nine girls who go to extraordinary lengths to fight for what young people in the Western world take for granted. Each of them comes from a different country, ranging from Ethiopia and Sierra Leone to Haiti and Peru.

The film is a project of 10x10, a social action group dedicated to improving the access to education of girls in developing nations. This, the group believes, is the key to reducing poverty and improving women’s quality of life.

Directed by Oscar nominee Richard Robbins, the film is divided into separate segments, each narrated by a different Hollywood actress. Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep are among the big names to have taken part.

But the real stars of Girl Rising are the young women themselves. In one of the segments, Amina, a child bride in Afghanisatan, decides she has had enough of being expected to serve men. “I will read, I will study, I will learn,” she says. “If you try to stop me, I’ll just try harder. If you stop me there will be other girls who rise up and take my place. I am change.”

And while the girls’ stories – which especially resonate today on International Women’s Day – may have been treated with a touch of Hollywood stardust, the struggles their subjects face are shared by millions of others across the world.

A 2011 report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) found that for every extra year of primary schooling received by a girl in a developing country, her future wages increased by 10 per cent.

By highlighting the stories of these nine young heroines, 10x10 is hoping that millions more girls will be able to receive the kind of education they deserve.


  • Why is education important?
  • How do you think your own life might be different if you did not have access to an education?
  • Empowering girls benefits both men and women. Discuss this statement.
  • Think about how Hollywood tends to represent masculinity and femininity. What messages do these representations send?

Resources for you

The Education of the Girl Child

  • Discuss why it’s important that girls everywhere get a good education with this resource to raise awareness in your school.

Malala Day

  • Remember Malala, the 15-year-old Afghan girl shot by the Taliban because she wanted an education, with this assembly from TES partner TrueTube on Malala’s fight for equal rights.

Women’s Rights

  • Find out to the background to women’s rights in the UK with this lesson pack, starting with the suffragette movement and ending perhaps with a comparison on the rights of women around the world.

Why is education important?

  • Explore this question and stimulate further discussion with a lesson idea on why education is important for children’s futures.

Further news resources

First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

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