Last Thursday, I was part of the effort to bring the movie Girl Rising to Reno. Girl Rising is a powerful film showcasing the strength of the human spirit, and the power of educating girls in impoverished countries to change the world.
The evening was a prime example of everything I love about Reno. We had 225 of Reno’s most passionate and educated mothers, fathers and children. Not only were people touched and inspired by the film, but they generously opened their hearts and their wallets to help make a difference for girls across the world.
When I came home from the movie, my heart was full of all the love and support of the Reno community, but it also weighed heavy from the stories I had heard. I immediately went upstairs to check on my children, and I knelt at the side of my daughter’s bed as she slept. I stroked her hair, and looked at the curves of her beautiful face, thinking how she and my son are my greatest treasures. As I gazed at her, I thought about the scene in the movie where a woman was so upset at having a daughter that she would not look at her daughter and the newborn baby girl was set aside in the dirt as the mother mourned her birth. I am so thankful that I was born in a country where us girls are loved just as much as boys and have a fighting chance at equality.
Photo credit for all: Adil Photography.
I coordinated the event along with numerous co-workers and in partnership with the event sponsors, local non-profits Think Kindness and the Junior League of Reno. We hosted it in the beautiful new William J. Pennington Health Sciences Building at the University of Nevada, Reno.
This was the first time I attempted to arrange anything of this sort, and I was completely paranoid that it was going to be me and 10 people sitting in this huge auditorium. But thanks to the amazing social marketing, planning and network of Brian Williams of Think Kindness, and the event planning team made up of local Microsoft employees, we ended up with 225 people packing the room full and generating almost $3,000 to fund the education of girls in Kenya.
I discovered Brian through his TEDx Reno speech and was so moved by his message that I decided I just had to meet him and support the work of Think Kindness, which is an organization that strives to inspire measurable acts of kindness both locally and in communities throughout the world. If you haven’t watched his video, you really need to do so; he is doing some amazing things all from his office in the Reno Collective.
The film shared some powerful statistics. There are 66 million girls who are not in school; 14 million girls under 18 who will be married this year; and 150 million girls are victims of sexual violence each year.
Uneducated girls are extremely vulnerable to atrocities such as rape, early marriage, child trafficking and bondage. Making a girl aware of her fundamental human rights through education can change those cycles, as girls who are educated marry later have fewer and healthier children, achieve self-sufficiency and continue the cycle of education with their own children.
In essence, if you educate girls, you will change the world.
The stories that the film shares are heartbreaking, such as an 11 year old who was married off and had a baby soon afterwards. There was also a girl who was sold into bondage at 6, and had to work from 4 am until late in the evening, washing dishes, scrubbing floors and taking care of her master’s children. She slept in a goat shed at night, and the master sexually abused her there.
Brian Williams summed up the evening for us by reminding us that we are blessed, and with these blessings comes responsibility to help people who are not as blessed as we are. There are so many ways to help both locally and internationally. Here are some ideas for you:
- Sponsor the education of a girl in Kenya through Think Kindness
- Advocate against human trafficking and for the rights of women and children through Junior Achievement
- Sponsor the education of a girl in countries around the world through World Vision
- Mentor a girl locally through Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Northern Nevada
- Share what you have learned with your social network
Girl Rising will be airing on CNN on June 16. I encourage you to set your DVRs and gather your girlfriends for a movie night. If you have a book club, I recommend reading the book Half the Sky as well.