At the April 2014 International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) weekend in Tampa, Florida, actress-singer Priyanka Chopra focused on the Girl Rising Project - a global campaign for girls' education. The campaign brings together visionaries: girls, women, boys and men who know that educating girls is the smartest investment of our time.
In the media event, Priyanka introduced the Girl Rising Project and its efforts:
"... to just tell the stories across the world of how hope, faith, belief in little girls who have none of that - and we, coming from India, have seen so much of it - can just have a hope to have a better future if you give them a chance. And each one of us has the ability to do that. It doesn't take too much from our lives. It's a cause that's extremely close to me. Educating one girl educates a family. If you educate your girl, she takes a family forward. Every single person. Her children and everyone that goes along with her creates a movement and that movement will create a revolution. Our children are our future and our girls are the mothers that make the future a brighter place. It takes very little from each one of us to give that kind of support."
Actor and social activist Shabana Azmi joined the conversation, saying ...
"... a country cannot be measured by her GDP alone but by a human development index of which the important yardstick is the degree to which a country and a nation's girls and women are empowered. India, as you realize, is a country that lives in several centuries simultaneously. We have people living back-to-back in the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st century and her people encapsulate all the contradictions that come from being a multiracial, multilingual, multireligious society and so it is with the position of women. On the one hand, we've had a woman president, a woman prime minister, we have several chief ministers who are women. We see that we have very important women in the corporate sector. But the sad fact is also there - that female foeticide is still being practiced in India. Not, as you would imagine, in the rural hinterlands but in the metropolitan cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, in Haryana, in Punjab, in Masana, in Tamil Nadu. And there should be really, zero tolerance for that. Now when we talk about the necessity for empowerment, we do recognize that education - really, education of the girl child - should be the first important stepping stone."
Priyanka went on to say:
"I hear stories like a girl is not given education because she is going to go to another family. A boy is educated because he will bring income to the family. It is horrible. I feel the mindset of people need to change in India that a girl child is not a burden."
The Girl Rising film revolves around nine stories on young women from around the world who empowered themselves with the help of education. The briefing showcased a short portion of the film, "Girl Rising-The India Chapter", which was dubbed by Priyanka Chopra. You can rent or purchase the full movie via YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes.
Priyanka Chopra has taken on other initiatives related to the rights of girls and youth in India, including:
- In 2013, she was the ambassador for "Our Girls, Our Pride", a national movement spearheaded by NDTV and Vedanta provide support and financial resources for girls in India. On the International Day of the Girl Child - an United Nations observance held annually on October 11 - Priyanka visited with students, talking with them about the importance of education, and answering their questions.
- Beginning in 2008, Priyanka began working with the children's rights and relief organization UNICEF. In 2010, that relationship was made official when Priyanka was appointed UNICEF National Ambassador promoting child and adolescence rights in India.
The issue of education for girls is one that is gathering momentum around the world. The Elders - an independent group of global leaders brought together in 2007 by Nelson Mandela - have long recognized the importance of education for girls. In 2010, they founded the "Girls Not Brides" initiative which highlights how child marriage threatens the rights of girls to health, education and the opportunity to fulfill their potential.
Education is crucial for the empowerment and emancipation of girls and women, and the realization of all other human rights. Educating a girl has a transformational effect that changes communities and societies:
• Education empowers girls by introducing new ways of thinking about traditions and issues, and challenges traditionally held gender roles.
• Education helps a girl to respect herself and to be respected by others.
• Education drastically reduces child marriage. On average, a girl with 7 years of education will marry 4 years later and have 2.2 fewer children.
• A girl who completes basic education is three times less likely to contract HIV.
• Knowledge and skills learned at school will be passed onto her parents and the community.
• Education is essential for a strong economy. One extra year of school boosts a girl’s future wages by 10-20 percent.
• Children born to educated mothers are two times more likely to survive past the age of 5.
• Education fosters critical thinking skills, which are essential for effective leaders and democracy. More women are needed to solve global problems!
The following video playlist features highlights from the IIFA Girl Rising Project briefing, the trailer from the "Girl Rising" film, videos from the "Our Girls, Our Pride" campaign, and videos from UNICEF India and The Elders.
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