Interview with Samantha Wright

Samantha Wright is the Director of Girl Rising; in this interview she talks about how the campaign is mobilizing the world to educate girls.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself, about your work and what has brought you to Girl Rising.

My name is Samantha Wright, and I am the Campaign Director for Girl Rising. I have a background in international development, and started my career working for the United Nations. Throughout my professional career, I have seen the importance and power of tackling damaging social norms that are the cause of many problems we face in development. Realizing the importance of changing these social norms led me to become fascinated with story telling, which is something that Girl Rising does incredibly well. Through our story telling efforts, we harness the power of high quality media and strategic communication in order to communicate the importance of educating girls in the developing world. Using advocacy tools, we tackle those social barriers and norms that hold girls back. This strategy, in combination with our innovative partnerships, allows us to break new ground in helping girls rise around the world.

2. What is Girl Rising? What problem are you addressing, and how are you doing it?

Girl Rising began as a groundbreaking film, directed by Academy Award nominee Richard Robbins, and tells the stories of 9 extraordinary girls from 9 countries, written by 9 celebrated writers and narrated by 9 renowned actresses. The film grew into the Girl Rising global action campaign for girls’ education, founded by award-winning journalists at The Documentary Group and Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Productions, along with strategic partner, Intel Corporation. Centered by the new feature film, Girl Rising, the campaign uses the power of storytelling and the leverage of strategic partnerships to deliver a simple, critical truth: Educate Girls and you will change the world. We are creating a new paradigm in social-issue filmmaking by bringing together production and advocacy right from the get-go. Girl Rising partners with forward-thinking nonprofits, celebrities, policy leaders, corporations and concerned citizens to build a global movement and demand equal opportunity for girls.

3. What motivated the creation of the campaign? How did the idea of making the film come about?

The film started as a proposal the Documentary Group received to make a film about how to best address the problem of global poverty. In doing research and talking to experts, everyone consistently pointed to the long term benefits to society that come from investing in girls. It seemed clear to us that educating girls was the most efficient intervention there is when it comes to solving the problem of global poverty.

The campaign was developed around the film as a central tool. We knew that if we wanted to drive impact and create change, we had to have a community-based infrastructure around the film to provide the foundation for real change to happen. As a result of the campaign, we have a wide range of supporters across social media, who are connecting and communicating about the issue of girls education across borders. It is incredibly powerful and helps amplify the impact of the film itself.

4. What impact have the film and campaign had so far, especially on girls’ education?

We have had immense success in getting the film shown in countries all over the word. We have approximately 2,000 different events registered globally, where students, parents, community members, and various nonprofits are organizing all different kinds of events to bring awareness to the issue of girls’ education. Our success has been deep and broad engagement in communities around the world, getting people come together, listen, and mobilize to support this cause in their own communities.

5. What is the importance of the International Day of the Girl?

International Day of the Girl, or IDG, is an official observance of the United Nations that began in 2012 to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges they face. The 2nd annual International Day of the Girl has a new theme –Innovating for Girls’ Education, calling for fresh, creative ideas, not just in technology, but in “partnerships, policies… and, most of all, the engagement of young people themselves.”

This year’s International Day of the Girl marks the moment when everyone around the world can rally around the issue of girls’ education, and bring attention to the different barriers girls face to staying in school. For us, IDG is a time when we can show the diverse and wide ranging support for girls’ education- reinforcing that educating girls is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.

6. Globally, what activities and events are you coordinating and which countries are involved?

There approximately 2,000 events taking place in October in celebration of IDG, in 158 countries around the world. There are truly some awesome things happening, ranging from 11,000 women across West Africa ringing the peace bell in support of girls’ education, to a film festival in a Western Sahara refugee camp, to a photo exhibition in New Zealand paired with a discussion about the representation of girls in artwork. This is truly a day to show a diverse array of voices and support for girls.

7. What is the change that you hope Girl Rising will inspire?

Our aspirations are simple. We hope that our film and campaign will inspire a combination of successful community organizing at the grassroots level, and top down policy change that makes a difference in helping girls rise.

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