Every day we meet girls doing incredible things to change the world. They know that you do not have to wait to take action and that often the greatest change can come in the most familiar of places. Mimi Thompson, a high school student in Thailand, called on her own school community to live a bit differently when she challenged her peers to think about equality, human rights and education. This is her story.
Today, around the world, 130 million girls are not in school. What can we, as a community, do to change this? This has been the impetus for my Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) project this past academic year. I also wanted to tackle the issue of what I felt was a lack of discussion of gender inequality at my school and to try to address this gap. Girl Rising was my opportunity to effect a change.
I am a year thirteen student, enrolled at Bangkok Patana School in Thailand, undertaking the International Baccalaureate diploma. CAS is a requirement of the IB programme. My school not only fully supports the CAS programme, but does so in a way which makes us students commit wholeheartedly and passionately with causes which are meaningful to us. I am heavily involved in each strand of these three activities and use them to pursue my deep-rooted commitments inside and outside of school. Girl Rising was the perfect opportunity to highlight the promotion of an outstanding and immensely important message within an educational institution.
I did not intend for this project, this social campaign, to take up such an immense part of my school and extracurricular life. As a young female in today’s society, I have always been interested in any discussion involving gender inequality; I take time to read articles about girls or young woman who have exceeded against all odds and I feel pride in this. I understand how fortunate I am to fulfil many personal expectations within my education, knowing that many girls do not have the same opportunities I do. I think my upbringing, combined with my inner thoughts and perspectives, stimulated my immediate connection to Girl Rising, a global film campaign advocating for equality of education for girls in developing nations and recognising the difficulties in overcoming barriers to education.
This CAS project, however, did not always have a clear route. We had started out with the plan to raise funds for charity by screening a children’s movie at school, to engage the whole community in one enjoyable afternoon. I spent weeks trying to establish contact with a movie licenser, going over the legalities of screening a film for public viewing, and sending numerous emails, but after many fruitless meetings regarding the complexities surrounding the process plus the expensive costs involved, it was evident that a light hearted movie would not be shown.
In her role as CAS coordinator, a teacher, Ms Ferguson actually directed me to the website of Girl Rising. Upon watching the first few seconds of the trailer, and hearing about the “simple dream” of “the bright, white shirt of a school uniform”, I knew that my CAS project would be invested in sharing this dream. I was passionate about bringing this documentary to share with the Patana community. Public relations and event planning within a social service framework is an area I would like to pursue as a career and I knew that organisation and planning were key qualities in order to make this event happen. Thanks to partial funding from our very supportive PTG, I bought the screening rights to the film, reserved the theatre, coordinated with my supervisor on equipment bookings and met up with several technical assistants testing the sound, projection and lighting. And I also promoted. With the assistance of my CAS project group we set up a stall at the school clubs fair, speaking passionately of the motivation behind the film and why everyone should be encouraged to see it.
Again we pushed the facts: economic growth will reach its highest potential if we educate girls, these girls will be able to develop the skills needed for work, cases of child marriage will decline. The promotion was oriented around the fact that ‘learning’ is not the only product from educational opportunity. In addition, empowerment is achieved from having an intellectual platform which leads to an audience to listen to you and your ideas. The final product of this ‘learning’ is respect.
Girl Rising has been the mode to spark discussion at school into the movement of battling gender equality through education. I am delighted and incredibly proud that the school has responded so well to Girl Rising both as a film and as a campaign of equality of education. These responses have taken the form of students wanting to show the film to their entire year group, teachers finding ways to incorporate the stories in the curriculum and discussions taking shape about emotional connections made to the film. I believe connection to a cause is essential in order to make a change. Girl Rising creates a multitude of valued connections through the form of human rights, education, gender equality and female empowerment.
An integral part of my life, inside and outside of school, involves commitment. I will extended my commitment to Girl Rising in a TED-style talk at the Global Learner’s Conference on October 20, where I will discuss the very same topic and its relevance to me as a student. I can only urge and hope that this commitment stays present within my school, and within the world, in order to strive for this educational change.
I have learnt from engagement and perseverance that without a true connection to a cause, change will not be implemented. However, by creating these connections, personally and on a widespread scale, the possibilities for positive changes are endless.
Mimi proves that Girl Rising’s stories have the ability to prompt real change, community by community. Until March 10, 2017, you can bring Girl Rising to your community without paying for a screening license! Register today.