Girl Rising in the eyes of a European


Another Article for our regular SPARK JOURNAL. Here is what Anna, one of our Interns from Germany thought of girls rising and how it changed her perspective on the topic. Living in Germany she was aware of all these things happening but the visualization of the 9 stories brought the topic closer on an emotional level.


Girl rising – educating girls, change the world

‘Educating girls can break cycles of poverty in just one generation, yet millions of girls aren’t in school. ‘Did you know, that according to UNESCO, 66 million girls are out of school globally? And that a child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5? Well neither did I.

Girl rising is a documentary telling the story of 9 girls, all around the world who were born into challenging circumstances. It showcases the traumatizing experiences each of these girls had to endure and how they managed to turn life-changing struggles into something bringing them forward, simply by gaining access to education. When it comes to education, girls all over the world still face barriers boys do not. Raising awareness and changing the view of how women should be treated around the world is one of the main messages this movie tries to convey.
Educated women stand up for their rights and are more likely to educate their own children thus breaking the vicious cycle of non-education they were trapped in for generations.
Slavery, rape, child marriage and missing access to education are just a few examples of what these girls went through.

I found the documentary to be informing while at the same time shocking. In my opinion, hearing about reality and seeing real life stories makes a big difference.

Coming from Germany, I was aware of all these things taking place around the world, but Girl rising managed somehow to show me the urgency and seriousness about facing the reality and change the existing.

My personal favorite was Ruksana, a young girl living on the streets of Kolkotta, India. Her story is one of a girl growing up in a poor family nonetheless her parents are dedicated to offer her and her sisters’ proper education. Her part in the movie features her love to the arts, how the lack of her ability to use art affects her school work, the dangerous live of girls in India and the tragedy of how her family loses their housing.

Through all of that, her loving family but especially her passion for arts keep her strong and help her to get through.

I think Ruksana is my favorite girl because I could relate the most with the overall experiences I’ve made in the Philippines so far. The living conditions reminded me of the Slums I pass by every morning I go to work and all the children playing there. Also my recent work with Spark in the Event “Connecting Communities through Art” proofed the ability of art to help overcome traumas, give positive influence in live and power to keep on going even in the most desperate situation.


The overall message the movie conveyed to me, is that every girl has the same equal right of education that boys have and that even if the situation seems hopeless, with a strong will a girl can achieve anything. There are always going to be obstacles in live, but isn’t life about how you manage to overcome these obstacles and your own personal development? One of the most important messages for me in this movie was a short sentence that Ruksana said:” That’s when I learned to never give up.” Together we can achieve a world where education is not differentiated between girls and boys but simply is what it is, education!


(Share your thoughts with us and the rest of the world. Write an article and submit to )

Girl Rising, a Pakistani Approach

M. Arslan Manzoor

We are excited to introduce our regular SPARK JOURNAL. Thoughts, musings, opinion from our interns, participants and partners on our programs and advocacies. Read what our intern, Arslan – who hails from a predominantly Muslim society, Pakistan –  had to say about Girl Rising – ED

“A thousand rivers flowing with life. And us, adrift. No place in the soaking world for roots to hold. Everyone was crying, even my drawings… but I learned never to give up; because after the rain, there’s always sunshine” – Ruksana (India)

Girl Rising elegantly expresses the lives of 9 underprivileged girls from diverse parts of the world facing the worst of circumstances, where education for girls isn’t a priority. These girls tell the world that people even in the worst of conditions can soar to the highest peaks, that is get back up to stable positions in society. The film emphasizes on the importance of education and stresses how education can highly improve the living conditions of not only individuals but also future generations to come.

“If a warriors name was my father’s gift to me, a brave heart was his second. There is no hardship I can’t overcome” – Senna (Peru)

What makes Girl Rising unique is the way these accounts are depicted, perhaps like a painting on canvas, where you can absorb each stroke as the narrator paints along with each story progressing. And at the end, you can see the masterpiece, a beautiful strong girl who tackles the hardships the world throws at her. Perhaps this canvas is what makes you want so much to meet each girl, yearn to know more about her, and regain faith in humanity.

“Do not tell me the blame lies in my religion, in my traditions, in my culture…” – Amina (Afghanistan)

As a Pakistani, Muslim and someone who lives in a third world country, I was already aware of most of the issues faced by girls in today’s society. Most of them are not even because of the country, but wicked people misusing the norms and religions of their regions. I was aware that proper rights of girls are not given throughout many parts of the world, and that girls are raped, tortured and forced to do things against their will, like early marriages: leaving them no space to grow and become the women they deserve to be. I always found it very offensive when I heard others blaming my culture or my religion for the way people are being mistreated; when they say Islam is a “terrorist religion” or that Pakistani’s are terrorists. I was in the United states during 9/11 and moved to New York just a month after the attacks and it was difficult for me as an over-protected nine year old to comprehend the situation and live in a society that despised me for something that I had no relation to at all. Girl Rising, changes that, it shows the lives of Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and perhaps other religions too: our religions mold our beliefs, but do not define our character, and no one should have to suffer because of the beliefs he/she has. We’re all humans and we should all work collectively for a better world.

Girl rising ignores all statuses and titles and emphases on education as the key focus, as the narrator states: “Educated girls are a powerful force for change, and this kind of change, it happens fast.” Watching this film has made me not only grateful for what I have but has helped me regain hope in humankind. I firmly believe that there can be change, we just have to spread faith in others and help them with the push they need to become whatever they pursue.

“She knows this is no longer a simple story. She is now the author and it is her story to write. It is just the beginning.”


(Share your thoughts with us and the rest of the world. Write an article and submit to )

Leyte post-Yolanda in the Eyes of Our Interns

Two of our interns, Hayley and Anna travelled with us to the Municipalities of Mayorga and Palo in Leyte for the second part of our Connecting Communities through the Creative Arts Program supported by Give2Asia’s Ap Foundation Typhoon Haiyan Fund. These are the stories they weaved, in their own words…

Palo showed us so much vibrance and so much hope. Thanks to the youth of this Municipality, the future looks bright.


DSC_7153Before going to Tacloban I had a lot of expectations in my mind. I had seen all the devastating pictures that dominated international media sources on the topic. I recalled, as our flight was landing, pictures of people crying over the extent of the destruction, whole areas that used to be lower-income housing flattened by the Typhoon Haiyan, and pictures of international volunteers helping with the clean up.

As we drove from the airport to our hotel, I was fascinated with our surroundings. The first memory I recall from that trip was the small communities of people living under UNHRC tents.   I also remember the infrastructure.   The frames of some buildings were bent over which provided evidence of how strong the typhoon was. However, what was surprising was the level of infrastructure that either survived the typhoon or which was rebuilt in the 8 months following it. From the influence of international media I was under the impression that the extent of the damage because of Typhoon Haiyan was so bad that it would have taken much longer to rebuild.   However, once I discussed this issue with my co-workers, I found that this expectation was misguided. My co-workers informed me that the lack of coordination between NGOs and the government on the issue of allocating resources has actually made the process of rebuilding much slower then it should have taken. This revelation was very interesting to me, as media had portrayed NGO involvement in Tacloban as extremely successful. Although international NGOs have made considerable strides in the area, from my perspective and from what I learned from those who had been there before, there is still a long way to go in Tacloban.

The following day we started our first workshop in Palo. As the workshop began, I was really excited to get to know the kids and help in facilitating a safe space for them to use the creative arts for self-expression. I could see right away that we got off to a good start when some music was played and the kids danced. They got so into it that a dance battle naturally commenced. It was at this point, even so early in the workshop, that I could see what SPARK was doing. They were taking alternative activities to let the kids release some of their feelings, but at the same time help them reflect. I really saw the reflective aspect of the workshop when the kids designed and created puppet shows. I believe that by giving them the opportunity to make a puppet show with basically no guidelines, they really gave them the opportunity to express what was on their mind and reflect on how it has an impact on their day-to-day lives. In an area which has faced such trauma, I believe SPARK’s approach is that you need more then just resources to heal trauma. People are people, they cannot just consume basic necessities to survive. They also need maintain good mental health as well as physical health. For me, that is the most important lesson I took away from my trip to Tacloban, and something that I am very grateful for being able to experience.

Hayley gives rings as tools for the young people to make their very own dreamcatcher

Lastly, something that I really enjoyed about the workshop was the team dynamic with the staff. As anyone who has worked with a team can tell you, it is extremely important to have a team that communicates well and is very supportive of each other to facilitate a good workshop. The team that was in Palo exceeded any expectations I had. They were wonderful and positive people, who were not shy to lend a hand when I asked. I believe that the first day of the workshop was such a success not only because the participants were focused and were enjoying the activities, but because the staff had created such a safe and comfortable environment to be open and express themselves. – Hayley

Infectious energies from the young people of Palo. Here in a dance battle together with the Spark team
A young participant proudly shows her own dreamcatcher. Catch the good dreams, let the bad ones slip through.


IMG_2537Tacloban- I heard so much about this place before I ever went there. I watched documentaries , listened to the radio but the more information I had, the harder it got to actually imagine it.

So I was really excited to finally get my own impression of this city and to be able to help the ones devastated by this gruesome natural catastrophe.

Landing at the airport in Tacloban already indicated the signs of destruction caused by Haiyan and the only slowly progressing repairs and rebuilding. But the people make do with what they’ve got and master everyday life.

On our drive to the Hotel, the vast destruction became more evident, ruins of houses, makeshift huts and tents showcase the circumstances people have been living in, showing how great the need of the people is even after 9 months.

The first impression of Tacloban was a shock which turned into admiration for the people who face this everyday but don’t lose hope and keep working to rebuild their city.

The Location of our first event ‘Connecting Community through Arts’ in Palo, was a 20 minute car ride from Tacloban giving us the chance to see more of the  effects of the Typhoon.

Once we arrived, everyone got down to work.

The mood that was created was vibrant, loaded with energy, simply infectious. All in all the perfect start to the day. The children were enthusiastic over every activity offered and I found it admirable how they appreciated and enjoyed every minute of it while still processing and slowly releasing their experienced traumas.

A smiling Anna assists the youth in forming their teams

Even though I only got to experience the first day of the event, I can say that the hope and energy transmitted to the children by this event really impressed me. Every single kid with its own fears and problems became part of a Unity giving them power and hope, showing them that they are not alone. – Anna