Still I Rise: Girl Rising

Searching for hope & finding a call to action

The last couple of months have been disturbing to such a degree that I have found it extremely difficult to articulate my thoughts and feelings, to put words to paper, and to know how to heal my wounded heart. I have worked diligently throughout my life to believe that the world is essentially a safe place, that violence is not pervasive, and that we, as a community, at bare minimum, are civil.

Trigger Warning: Content and graphic images about rape and violence towards women and children follows.

Today, I’m unsure of those basic beliefs and I search for signs of hope. Personally, I’m grateful for many things: I’m not an oppressed minority, I’m an adult (and not a vulnerable child), I have shelter, a good education, a job, my health, food on the table, and the love of family and friends. Today, I’m not a victim, but like so many other women and girls, in the past I have been. Today, I fear for my younger sisters, the girls and women in the world who seek an education, control of their bodies, basic human rights, personal freedom, and safety and protection from rape and violence, including murder, especially murder by family, loved ones or neighbors.

In the past few months we’ve responded in protest #BringBackOurGirls to the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria on April 16 who were simply seeking an education and were subsequently punished and held hostage, removed from their homes and separated from loved ones by terrorists, and the hanging deaths in India of two girls, cousins 12 and 14 years old, who were murdered, hung from a mango tree on display until they died, not for anything they did (if that even mattered) but for what was brutally done to them; they were gang-raped, and then murdered by the community which failed to protect them.



I debated about whether to post the following image and I decided we can’t afford to look away. We cannot continue to portray violence in cartoonish or entertaining ways. We need to look at the reality of our crimes and not deny it, morph it into something else, or cover it up. What we need to do is stop it.


Gloria Steinem has written a lot about victim-blaming and violence towards women (and children) and her words still ring true and loudly today:

“Women’s rights are human rights, and we must shift the blame from women who suffer sexualized violence to men who inflict it; from women who are raped to men who rape; from battered women to battering men; from sexually-abused children to adults who sexually abuse.”

“Right now, the victim still may be punished more than the criminal, men may assault females to punish other men, and victimized females are often punished more than the males who victimize.”

In Isle Vista, California just over two weeks ago, a 22-year-old privileged young man, Elliott Rodger, allegedly murdered seven people who he judged worthy of death because he had been rejected for sex and the attention he believed he was due. He saw himself as the victim and then became the executioner, killing innocent people, targeting women, prompting a Twitter hashtag and social media campaign #YesAllWomen where women shared personal stories of violence, harassment, misogyny and discrimination. Within four days of the first use of #YesAllWomen, the hashtag had been tweeted 1.2 million times.

Still I Rise

Ten days ago, a powerful voice went silent when Maya Angelou died. Fortunately, we have her words preserved in print and her audio and video recordings; her legacy lives on in her work and inside all of us who were moved by her words. I found comfort in Angelou’s poetry this week and in her lectures and interviews.

Photo Credit: Maya Angelou Official Website

Photo Credit:
Maya Angelou
Official Website

She wrote and spoke from lived experience and found the courage and strength to rise above the violence and oppression she endured:

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

(From Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise)

Girl Rising

Another beacon of hope during these dark days was the mural that appeared in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin at Mother Fool’s Coffeehouse on Williamson Street. Mother Fool’s donates a wall of their building to graffiti artists.

Mother Fool's

Mother Fool’s

It’s a rotating canvas which features colorful, graphic, and powerful messages by communities and artists who are outside the mainstream. The mural there now celebrates Girls Rising and promotes the message and call to action #BringBackOurGirls.

Mother Fool's Mural

Mother Fool’s Mural

The mural spoke to me in many ways. First, it symbolized the efforts of girls who pull themselves up, who rise above the poverty and challenges of their gender and place in society, and climb to success. The tree also represents the tree of knowledge and when you look at the trunk you’ll see the names of the kidnapped Nigerian girls.

Names of the Nigerian Girls

Names of the Nigerian Girls

Girl Rising is a film and a global campaign promoting the education of girls. From the website:

What is Girl Rising?

Girl Rising is a global campaign for girls’ education.

We use the power of storytelling to share the simple truth that educating girls can transform societies.

Girl Rising unites girls, women, boys and men who believe every girl has the right to go to school and the right to reach her full potential.

Our mission is to change the way the world values the girl.

Everything we do is to ensure that girls’ education is part of the mainstream conversation.

We raise awareness about the issue, inspire action and drive resources to our partners, and together we make change happen.

We do this through film and other tools, such as educational and advocacy videos, screening guides and a free standards-aligned school curriculum.

I saw Girl Rising last year as part of a special screening at Sundance 608 in Madison. Girl Rising has partnered with Theatrical On Demand film distribution service, Gathr Films, to allow individuals and groups to book screenings around the U.S. See the website for more information on how you can host a screening event, purchase the DVD, or purchase and download the DVD.

Girl Rising Poster

Girl Rising Poster

About the Film

(From the Girl Rising website)

“From Academy Award-nominated director Richard E. Robbins, Girl Rising spotlights the unforgettable stories of nine girls living in the developing world, striving beyond circumstance and overcoming nearly insurmountable odds to achieve their dreams. The narration talents of renowned actors and the moving words of prize-winning authors combine and give voice to the girls’ stories and this powerful truth: educating girls can transform families, communities, countries and eventually, the world.”

“One girl with courage is a revolution” – Girl Rising

#girlrising #instamovie #movie #women #girls #rights

A Call to Action

Lastly, during these past couple of months I was struck by the horrifying image of two girls, 12 and 14 years of age, young cousins from a rural village in India, hung from a mango tree. This week, I found hope and a call for action when I saw the mural at Mother Fool’s Coffeehouse of Girl Rising and was reminded about the power of education.

As a society, as a community, and as individuals, we need to do everything in our power to educate our girls, educate ourselves, educate each other, and finally educate our sons and the men we care about, and teach each other how to rise above violence, and love with an open heart instead.

Courage 2

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