In her first on-camera appearance since she was shot by the Taliban for speaking out for the education of girls, 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, declared, “Today you can see that I’m alive.” She is also renewing her push for the right of “every girl, every child, to be educated.” And there are several groups that are using Malala’s message as a cornerstone.
One of these organizations is Mend. Mend is a social enterprise started by Invisible Children that strives toward improving the quality of life for women affected by the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) in Uganda. The LRA, led by wanted war criminal Joseph Kony, began as a rebel group seeking to free northern Uganda from government oppression. When Kony couldn’t keep regional support, he began abducting children to complete his army. Kony and the LRA abducted more than 30,000 children in northern Uganda.
The Ugandan women with Mend create handbags by hand that are then sold in the United States. Many of the seamstresses who participate in Mend were captured at a young age and missed out on getting a basic education. Once they escape from the LRA, they are given counseling and trained in tailoring at rehabilitation centers. However, the skills of a seamstress are currently not in high demand because of an existing saturated market. This often leaves many of the women without means to support their families.
Mend provides these women a beneficial outlet for their skills. While with Mend, the seamstresses have access to a social worker, who provides counseling and teaches safe health practices, family planning, and about gender-based violence. The women also participate in weekly meetings that teach reading and writing in Luo, their native language.
Inside each Mend bag you can find the name of the seamstress who made it, and on the group’s website, you can learn about her through video bios and photos. The profiles allow each woman to share how her life has improved through the program.
Another similar groundbreaking organization is 10x10. Driven by a desire to educate girls, 10x10 uses film as a vehicle to drive its social action message. Their documentary, ‘Girl Rising,’ follows 9 girls in 9 different countries on their educational journey in order to promote the importance of keeping girls in school. 10x10 says it uses “the power of storytelling and the leverage of strategic partnerships to deliver a single message: educating girls in developing nations will change the world.”
Through its research, 10x10 has found that educating girls is not only important in terms of gender equality, but it is also vital in ending the cycle of poverty in developing nations. According to its website, “educating girls will reduce poverty, reduce child mortality, reduce population growth, reduce HIV infection rates, change the conditions that lead to terrorism [and] reduce corruption.”
10x10 is a unique initiative that has created its own form of filmmaking by bringing together progressive nonprofits, celebrities, policy leaders, corporations and other citizens. The making of ‘Girl Rising’ has allowed 10x10 to spread its message and enact change at the same time and therefore, yield immediate results. In addition, they have harnessed the social media tool Gathr, to help individuals find and host screenings in their own neighborhoods.
‘Girl Rising,’ which premiered on March 7th, is directed by Academy Award nominated director Richard Robbins and narrated by nine prolific actresses, including Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Salma Hayek. The film also includes girls from Cambodia, India, Nepal, Egypt, Peru, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Haiti and Sierra Leone.
The power of Malala Yousafzai and organizations such as Mend and 10x10 exemplify Girl Rising’s tagline: “one girl with courage is a revolution.”