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Brave Girl Rising: A Short Film Symbolizing International Women’s Day

Grant Whittington headshotWords by Grant Whittington
Community Engagement
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Making its debut on International Women’s Day, the nonprofit Girl Rising is releasing a 20-minute short film, Brave Girl Rising, which tells the story of a 17-year-old girl’s inspiring commitment to continue her education despite the hardships occurring while growing up in one of the world’s largest refugee camps.

Nasro, the story’s heroine, fled violence in Somalia with her grandparents and settled in the Dadaab camp in nearby Kenya when she was just 7 years old. Ten years later, Nasro, who still calls Dadaab home, is pursuing an education in hopes of one day becoming a doctor.

While she shines in the film as a passionate young changemaker who inspires her peers through her resiliency and commitment to learn, Nasro’s pursuit for education has not come easy. Barriers like sexual harassment, gender-based violence, forced early marriage and stubborn social norms constrain many of Nasro’s would-be classmates from chasing a future outside of the limits of Dadaab. Girls in Dadaab are often forced into dangerous situations during their miles-long treks to retrieve basic necessities like water, food and firewood for their families.

While the film spotlights the tragedy and pain Nasro has suffered in her young life, it also sends an inspiring message that hope and the dream to better your livelihood can ultimately prevail. Nasro is a model of inspiration for millions of young refugee girls in similar situations.

The film was made in collaboration with the International Rescue Committee, whose widespread women empowerment programs in Dadaab include a club where adolescent girls, Nasro included, join forces to discuss their experiences and learn about sexual and reproductive health in a safe space.

Girl Rising, IRC and Citi, the film’s primary funder, teamed up with HP and Amplifier to create a comprehensive communications campaign to support the film and the lessons it can teach all of us. The campaign features screening toolkits, curricula, a street art initiative and calls for action. This partnership serves as an example of how the private sector can work closely with nonprofits to push forward on gender equality through powerful storytelling.

“At a moment when 68.5 million people are displaced worldwide, around half of whom are women, this film brings much-needed awareness to the challenges faced by women and girls in crisis,” said Nicole Behnam, senior director for violence prevention and response at the International Rescue Committee. “Campaigns like this ensure the most vulnerable women are part of the global conversation, and show the importance of prioritizing their safety, education, and wellbeing."

Girl Rising, the creators of the film, utilizes its creative storytelling platform, social media campaigns, PSAs and partnerships with local organizations to reach various stakeholders and effect change.

The film shares the stories of nine girls defying the odds and breaking barriers in their search of a better life. The critically acclaimed film, featuring the voices of Kerry Washington, Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep, has been translated so far into more than 30 languages.

Behind the pen of writer Warsan Shire, the esteemed former young poet laureate and daughter to Somali refugees, and the voice of narrator Tessa Thompson, a rising young actress featured in blockbusters like Creed 2 and Thor, Brave Girl Rising packs similar star power.

Releasing the film on International Women’s Day (IWD) fosters the perfect opportunity to amplify the voices of girls and women like Nasro - the day has grown into a global platform upon which all of us can celebrate women’s invaluable and vibrant contributions to society as well as advocate for gender equality. While IWD may serve as a time to reflect on the progress that has been made in recent years toward achieving gender equality, it’s also a time to double down on commitments to ensure that women are continually given opportunities to advance and succeed in societies.

Watching the film is one of thousands and thousands of ways to reflect and celebrate International Women’s Day.

Check out IWD events near you, and follow the conversation on social media with the hashtag #InternationalWomensDay.

Image credits: Girl Rising/Facebook; GirlRising.org

Grant Whittington headshotGrant Whittington

Based in Washington, DC, Grant works as a program assistant at SEEP Network, an international development nonprofit. A proud graduate of the University of Maryland, Grant spent four months post-grad living in Armenia where he worked for Habitat for Humanity and the World Food Programme. Grant is passionate about humanitarianism and finding sustainable approaches to international development. He enjoys playing trivia with friends but is still seeking his first victory - he ceaselessly blames his friends lack of preparation.

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