Nearly 90 per cent of girls tell Plan International that they have more opportunities in life than their mothers did. That's progress. But in developing countries, girls are twice as likely as boys to suffer malnutrition, and 63 million girls (many more than boys) don't attend school. Removing barriers to education, health care and other rights isn't enough. We need to focus on how girls can move beyond merely surviving, to thriving.
In Africa, Ebola and women's rights are not unrelated. As Bertha, one of the young women in the book, says: "When you educate a girl, everything changes." Everything. Among the many ugly lessons from the Ebola zone is the cost of poor primary health care, and how it is directly correlated to female literacy. We know better. From Vietnam to Jordan to Ghana, we know that frontline health care improves when women are involved. Better still if they are in charge, as professionally trained workers, and educated mothers with freedom to make health care decisions for their families.
When the students at Kisaruni All-Girls Secondary School in rural Kenya had the opportunity to set their school hours, they pushed the limits. The girls begin their studies each morning at 4:45 a.m. and end at 10 p.m., with classroom instruction from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The grumbling resentment toward schoolwork that typifies the North American high-school experience seemed, well, positively lame, compared to the Kenyan girls' fierce dedication to learning.
Africa's 600 million hectares of uncultivated land -- more than half the global total -- adds up to a recipe for a better food future. Agricultural innovation, education, and the resulting empowerment of women and girls promises to make the coming population boom a turning point toward truly sustainable development.
It is widely acknowledged that Japan needs more females in business to make up for a shrinking workforce and to boost economic growth and opportunity. With this admirable goal in mind, we must work to make Japan a nation where every individual, male and female, has equal opportunities to realize their full social, economic and political potential. As a Japanese youth, I am not afraid to break from traditional practices and defy what is expected of me. I am ready to pursue my own dream to become a fearsome business leader and 2014 G(irls)20 Delegate representing Japan.
When the headlines fade, the daily, persistent, and pervasive violence against girls and women around the world will continue unabated and generally unreported. And it will persist until people and their governments start connecting the dots between these headline-making atrocities and the everyday, out of the headlines, violence targeted at girls and women on public streets, in the household, in the workplace, and in and around schools and why these incidents happen.
The latest headlines about the kidnapping of some 300 Nigerian girls are part of an even larger and generally unreported story -- the widespread, worldwide tolerance of violence against women and girls. While the kidnapping is clearly an act perpetrated by an extremist group, it is also much more than that.
Girl Rising tells of girls facing arranged marriages, child slavery, and other injustices we only read about here in Canada. But the girls in the film all have a common ally: education. By getting an education, they're all able to change the course of their lives, breaking barriers and creating change.