The Power of Education in the 21st Century. Girl Rising: Stand With Her

On April 27th, Bocconi Students for Microfinance in cooperation with Women in Business _Bocconi Female Students Association is organizing an on-campus screening of a narrative documentary “Girls Rising”, depicting the lives of nine girls from developing countries.

The idea for a movie coupled with an action campaign about combating world poverty came from the Academy award-nominated director Richard Robbins who felt the need to raise awareness about the impact of educating girls on poverty alleviation. Stunned in front of the figures and numbers, he reckoned the importance of engaging people in this issue of a world matter that is limiting the development of our population as a whole.

Nevertheless, the recent UN report on women education has revealed substantial improvements in the enrollment at all levels of education, especially among girls, making a step towards bridging the gap between boys and girls enrollment at all levels of education (Graph 1). While there is nearly universal primary school enrollment in both developed and developing countries, an estimated 58 million children are still out of school of whom more than a half are girls and nearly 57% of them live in Sub-Saharan Africa. (Figure 1)

Graph 1


Figure 1

Source: UNESCO eAtlas of Gender Inequality in education

In countries that have not yet reached the gender parity, the numbers concerning girls are striking. The most common indicator used to track and evaluate the inequality between girls and boys in terms of access to education is the Gender Parity Index (GPI), taking values between 0.97 and 1.03 in case of a parity state (according to UNESCO practices).  On the other hand, a GPI with a value greater than 1 indicates a disparity in favor of girls and vice versa when the value is lower than 1.

From Graph 2, we can observe a greater spread in values of GPI in countries of the developing world, therefore showing a clear evidence of a greater gender inequality in terms of access to education than in the developed world, especially in the secondary and tertiary level.

In addition, one out of eight children aged 6-15 are deprived of basic education and girls are the first to be excluded. (Figure 2)

According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics data, gender disparities are the greatest in the Sub-Saharan Africa, Arab States and South-West Asia. Twice as many girls as boys will never start school. In South-West Asia, 80% of out-of-school children that will never enter classroom are girls, compared to 16% out-of-school-boy.

Figure 2

formazione donne

Putting the spotlight back at the movie, the whole project was not aimed at making a story of victimhood, but rather giving a voice to the girls to speak out about their hidden identity, unspoken dreams and the ways they cope with hardships of their reality.

Unlike other movies on similar topics, Robbins managed to give his project a peculiar character that could bring a wider attention of the masses and make people understand the urgency of taking action and getting involved. The team behind production soon realized they needed an innovative approach, something that would support a community–led change that the movie alone could not achieve. So, the entire movement arose with an aim to empower and make girls rise up against all the odds.


Girls rising is not merely a movie, it is an entire curriculum using traditional documentary and scripted narration to convey the story that would inspire and push people to take part of a global movement for positive world change. This is the opportunity Robbins took to change the momentum of the movie into a true action towards improving life’s misfortunes of still too many young women on this planet. By bringing it closer to peoples’ hearts, 10×10 Act and The Documentary Group managed to relate millions of people to the lives of nine girls that could have been our daughters, sisters, mothers or any other women in our environment.

“Illuminating and hopeful” says the LA times about the far-reaching stories of 9 girls from some of the most remote and impoverished parts of the world. I would say it is concrete and revolutionary. It represents a unified effort from multifold areas of expertize in helping spread awareness and ultimately driving a force for a positive change in the world.

If we all understand the answer, why don’t we solve the question then?

If you’re by any chance in Milan by the end of April, don’t forget to stop by Bocconi University and take part in the Girls rising initiative!

#GirlsRising@Bocconi #GirlRisingENGAGE

Ana Lepojeviḉ

Women in Business_Bocconi Female Students Association