Tonight The Fountain of Praise Church (TFOP) hosted a viewing of the documentary, To Educate a Girl, with the local UNICEF office. I recently saw GirlRising with some friends at a viewing hosted at a local movie theatre. The viewing of To Educate a Girl was held in the FountainLife Center, a community-center style facility that TFOP built to serve the Southwest side of Houston, TX.
Honestly, both To Educate a Girl and Girl Rising are very similar in style and content. Each goes back and forth between continents across the globe as they follow the lives of several girls. Both films highlight issues such as the trafficking and early marriage of girls, extreme poverty and the pressure for girls to leave school and work, the pattern of parents choosing to educate their sons instead of their daughters. The similarities go on, and on and on. Thankfully, each film tries to leave you with hope as you see girls beginning/returning to school as their parents become educated about the importance of their daughters matriculation.
Tonight, the audience is what stood out most to me. When I saw GirlRising I was with some women philanthropy colleagues at a theatre in Upper Kirby. My colleagues and I do this sort of justice work for a living. We review proposals and conduct site visits for organizations working to solve some of society’s most complex problems. As we watched Girl Rising in a the theatre filled near to capacity with mostly Anglo women, I couldn’t help but feel that ‘savior mentality’ that often comes when we sit in positions of power. We left the room saying, ‘this is wrong’, we need to do something about this,’ ‘enough is enough’…but we were preaching to the choir and as a consequence we have done little to follow-up.
At tonight’s viewing of To Educate a Girl, about 40 mostly African-American women sat in a room with about 25 ethnically diverse high school students there for a class assignment. As I sat in the room I thought about how much more important it was for tonight’s audience to view the To Educate a Girl. Tonight’s audience represented parents and peers of the nearly 50% of Harris County (mostly black and hispanic male) students that do not graduate from high school in four years. They also represent the parents and peers of young people in Harris County that contribute to a teen birth rate that is 50% higher than that of the nation. Tonight’s audience had future leaders who will have learned at an early age about problems around the world and in their community and ways they can get involved. And parents who can support the steps they take to make our world better than the adults in charge have left it.
I watched as most of the young people lined up to visit the UNICEF table that offered Trick or Treat for UNICEF boxes – a Halloween activity to raise awareness and money to help children around the world. It left me with a feeling of hope. It made me realize that showing this film and others like it to youth on the Southwest sides of towns across our country is infinitely more impactful that to a room of my peers. I have hope that these young people will take what they learned tonight and change the world for themselves and their peers.