Film screening spotlights girls’ education |

Film screening spotlights girls’ education

‘Girl Rising’ will show at the library

Emma Stephens, far left, met four young women who traveled from countries such as Malawi, Pakistan and Jordan to share their stories at an event hosted by first lady Michelle Obama. Meeting the young women inspired Stephens to focus on girls’ education for her senior project at Barnard College.
Courtesy of Emma Stephens

Orphan Sokha would dream of sharpened pencils and stacked books when she would rummage through trash hoping to find something of worth.

Sokha, who was one of many Cambodian children forced to scavenge landfills for valuable items, was not enrolled in school at the time. She was where, as writer Loung Ung put it, “a girl is one more thing the world has thrown away.”

Ung’s story on Sokha, narrated by Alicia Keys in the film “Girl Rising,” is part of why Emma Stephens is hoping to shine light on the need to educate more girls.

Stephens said the lack of public awareness is a barrier to increasing girls’ education, adding there are 66 million girls in the world who aren’t in school.

Stephens has planned a free screening in Park City of “Girl Rising,” a film that tells the struggles of girls from across the globe fighting for an education.

The film, part of her capstone project at Columbia University’s Barnard College, will show at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 13, at the Park City Library.

The college senior also organized a group of panelists who will speak after “Girl Rising’s” credits roll.

“The film is really designed to educate people about the issue and show people what’s going on,” Stephens said. “The panel is designed to teach people what they can do to help, whether it’s from their homes or on a volunteer trip.”

Like Sokha, Stephens has a story. A graduate from Park City High School, she recognized how privileged she was to have access to public education when she went to Cambodia on a volunteer trip with Youthlinc, a nonprofit that does service projects abroad.

While in Cambodia, Stephens met a man who was targeted in the 1970s by the Khmer Rouge Regime. He was tortured for being educated.

“I remember sitting on the floor in his home, hearing this story firsthand, thinking how blessed I am to be able to receive an education,” Stephens said. “I think that really struck home for me.”

The realization from the trip she took as a high-school student stayed with Stephens when she headed to college in New York City. But it was her volunteer work at an event hosted by first lady Michelle Obama that truly opened her eyes to the need for more opportunities for girls not in school.

The event, Broadway Shines a Light on Girls’ Education, welcomed four young women, who spoke about overcoming poverty, child marriage and the lack of access to education.

Halima Robert’s story spoke to Stephens. From Malawi, Robert was a child bride forced to drop out of school. Fortunately, she was able to escape her marriage and return to school. Stephens hopes there will soon be more stories like Robert’s.

Stephens thinks girls in developing countries, who often stay home while their brothers go to school, also deserve an education. She doesn’t think the country one is born in should determine a person’s path to education.

The college student feels her panelists will convey the need for girls’ education.

The list of speakers includes Nancy Lyon, a former United Nations representative for the Mormon Church, and Rinda Hayes, founder of the nonprofit Kenya Keys.

Justin Powell, one of the panelists and executive director of Youthlinc, wants to talk about the many issues that can be solved if more girls are educated.

“When I started getting to the core of the humanitarian issues they (developing countries) are up against, it seemed to me that a lot of it boiled down to girls’ access to education or the value people place on girls,” he said.

Stephens added that giving girls access to education will help break cycles of poverty in many cultures.

Educated women are more likely to marry and have children later, educate their own children and fight for their rights, Stephens said.

“Girl Rising” will screen at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 13, at the Park City Library, 1255 Park Ave. Three panelists — Justin Powell, Nancy Lyon and Rinda Hayes — will lead a conversation once the film ends.

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