'Girl Rising' documentary advocates for equal education

By Rachel Huck | 3/30/16 11:10pm

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GVL / Sara Carte - Grand Valley alumni and students come to watch the documentary screening of “Girl Rising” in the DeVos Center on Friday, Mar. 25, 2016.

by Sara Carte / Grand Valley Lanthorn

Around the world, millions of girls and women are denied access to education simply because of their gender. Often, the privilege of a quality education is taken for granted by those who have access to those resources.

On March 25, Grand Valley State University’s Phi Alpha Chi Epsilon chapter, a national honor society for social work students, hosted the global Girl Rising campaign, which uses storytelling to raise awareness on the educational rights of girls and women around the world.

The event featured the "Girl Rising" documentary, but the campaign also uses other tools for change such as advocacy videos, screening guides and a free standards-aligned school curriculum.

After the screening, professor Lois Smith-Owens, from GVSU’s school of social work, shared stories of a program she founded in South Africa called “Little Stars.”

“As a girl and an immigrant from Malaysia, I have experienced what can happen when one is denied the right of education. I am the first generation college graduate,” said Ouen Hunter, president of Phi Alpha. “I had to work to get the education that I am receiving now. I believe education should be more accessible to children to teach them that there are no limits to education.”

Hunter has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master's degree in bio-statistics and is currently pursuing her second master’s degree in social work at GVSU.

“The more education girls receive, the more social issues can be addressed,” Hunter said. “You will learn in the movie that educating girls can reduce poverty, prevent sexually transmitted diseases, prevent young labor, bring awareness to sexual assaults and prevent young arranged marriages.”

The free event was LIB 100 and 201 approved, and provided three Social Work continuing education credits, granted through the National Association of Social Workers, to current licensed social workers.

“The goal of this event was to raise awareness for the Girl Rising campaign, which seeks to bring education to the 62 million girls around the world who are denied access to education because of their gender,” said Aubrey Dull, Phi Alpha member and graduate adviser of Eyes Wide Open at GVSU. “We also had a goal of raising money for the Girl Rising Fund and Little Stars.”

Friday night's event had 41 people in attendance, and raised $300 to donate to Little Stars and the Girl Rising fund.

“We hope that people took away from this event a deeper understanding of the importance of education access and of the struggle faced by millions of young girls around the world,” Dull said. “We hope that they were inspired to take part in the fight against oppressive systems that bar equal access to education for all.”

The movie is now available for all GVSU students to screen at no charge.

“Every student at GVSU should be interested in this topic because we are not only Lakers, we are also citizens of the world,” Dull said. “What harms one of us harms all of us, and the denial of education to girls around the world harms millions. Educating girls and women is one of the most beneficial things a nation can do to improve the standard of living of its citizens.”

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