‘All eyes in the West are on Saudi Arabia,’ says campaigner for girls’ education

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Time: April 04, 2018

JEDDAH: The producer of the documentary film that has spearheaded a global campaign for girls’ education hosted a panel in Jeddah on Monday to discuss innovations in the Kingdom and how to take the campaign forward.
Martha Adams’s 2013 documentary “Girl Rising” told the stories of nine girls from developing countries — Haiti, Nepal, Ethiopia, India, Egypt, Peru, Cambodia, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan — overcoming obstacles to receiving an education. Their journey changes not only their lives but also those of the girls around them.
In the five years since the documentary film was released, the campaign the film launched has spread exponentially, changing the minds of millions of people across the globe. The film has been dubbed into 30 languages, and has been screened in 3,000 cinemas across India.
Adams said that she was very excited to be in Jeddah, witnessing the rapid changes happening in the Kingdom. She thanked the council for inviting her to Jeddah.
“All eyes in the west are on Saudi Arabia, so it is such an honor to be here,” she said as she opened the panel discussion.
She added that she had been pleasantly surprised at the number of educated Saudi women, adding that “certain statistics of girls’ education in Saudi Arabia (showed) that surpassed the United States at one point.”
Excerpts from “Girl Rising” were shown to illustrate the different problems women face in developing countries, such as slavery, underage marriage and child labor.
During the showing of the clips, the audience’s rapt attention provided further evidence of the power of the movie.
The film was made with an unusual combination of traditional documentary with scripted narration and dramatic interpretation, which its Oscar-nominated director Richard Robbins has said previously was possibly the first instance of this technique being used in the film.
“We wanted all types of people to see it, we couldn’t just film a documentary,” said Adams “so we brought together celebrities and the girls whose stories were being told. To make sure it reached all types of audiences.”
”Girl Rising” has narration from stars such as Meryl Streep, Selena Gomez, Priyanka Chopra and Liam Neeson.
The audience was told about the painstaking process of making the film. Adams said: “We went to the countries three times. First, we interviewed hundreds of girls from those countries, then we had our writers choose the stories. The second time, we went to find the girls and had the writers spend time with them, and (then) the last time we went there to film.”
Adams added that she was looking forward to meeting more people from Saudi Arabia and hearing about the changes to come in the Kingdom.
“Saudi Arabia is one of the leading countries of the Arab world, so, as a country, it can make a significant impact on the people of the developing world,” she told Arab News.

This article was first published in Arab News

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