'Girl Rising’ documentary to debut on Island

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Kathy Lynch was so moved by a viewing of ‘Girl Rising,’ a film about the power of education, that she appealed to School Superintendent Michael Hynes to show the film to students and the community this month.

You might have heard the name Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban in October 2012 for daring to seek an education.

Ms. Yousafzai was undeterred, blogging about the importance of education to other young girls banned from this essential human right.

For her efforts and courage, she was on the short list for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

Her story struck Islander Kathy Lynch, who paid $20 to view the film, “Girl Rising,” in East Hampton. The film tells the stories of nine young girls who have been virtual slaves from an early age; girls having little role in their societies except to fetch water from far-off sites because there is no clean water near where they live; girls giving birth to babies when they are mere children themselves, Ms. Lynch said. Seventeen magazine described their lives as a series of “arranged marriages, child slavery and other heartbreaking injustices.”

Ms. Lynch asked Shelter Island School officials to screen the compelling film without charge to students, parents and community members here. She acknowledged that watching the film is painful, but said it’s an inspiration to see what children can achieve in moving the world forward.

Ms. Lynch enlisted support from teacher Janine Mahoney and Superintendent Michael Hynes to arrange for segments of the film to be shown in the school’s classrooms on Tuesday, January 14 and Wednesday, January 15. The entire community can see the film on Thursday, January 16 at 7 p.m. at the school.

“Girl Rising” started out as a documentary film, but has given life to a global movement building awareness and raising money for programs enabling girls throughout the world to go to school, Ms. Lynch said.

Besides the subject matter, what makes the film more compelling, Ms. Lynch said, is the way the girls’ stories are told and the ability of the producers to involve Liam Neesen, Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Selena Gomez and other A-list actors in narrating the film. Their voices resonate with audiences, Ms. Lynch said.

“I think the fact that we’re showing it is progressive,” Dr. Hynes said, noting that while the film is disturbing, it’s an important look at the world around us where girls are not only denied education, but are subject to unimaginable abuses. Showing the film here “allows our students to take the blindfolds off” and be more aware of what life is like for girls in many third-world countries.

Dr, Hynes is optimistic that a community discussion after the full film is viewed January 16 will blunt parental criticisms of the raw subject matter.

Ms. Lynch has viewed the film several times now to identify segments appropriate for students in grades six through eight, who will see those segments on Tuesday. Students in grades nine through 12 will view them on Wednesday.

“We want it to be a stepping stone for them to come and watch the whole movie,” Dr. Hynes said about the segments the students will watch during the school day.

A visit to girlrising.com affords the opportunity to stand with these young girls, Ms. Lynch said, and others like them to try to help change lives throughout the world.

Those who want to contribute financially can go to the website or send checks to Tides Foundation with a memo that funds are for The Girl Rising Fund. They should be mailed to the Tides Foundation at P.O. Box 29903, San Francisco, California  94129.