By Jinal Shah
New York: In celebration of International Women’s Day, Women’s Education Project (WEP) on Monday honored Kaycee Jennings of the Documentary Group and producer of the film ‘Girl Rising’ with WEP’s first ever Red Bangle Award at the Indian Consulate here. The award goes to ‘exceptional women who by their life and accomplishment demonstrate the indomitable eloquence of the human spirit and inspire others to higher goals’.
The film, from Oscar-nominated director Richard E. Robbins, presents the stories of nine courageous young girls/women from developing countries and the challenges they overcame to pursue their dreams. Jennings is the first to be honored with the Red Bangle. She accepted the award on behalf of the nine young girls/women featured in the film.
“It could be depressing -- extreme poverty, child marriage, gender violence, child trafficking, HIV/AIDS -- except that there is a solution: education. Let them go to school, let them stay in school, let them thrive, let them contribute to our world,” said Jennings adding, “These nine girls are the faces of Girl Rising, they are also faces of change - Sokha from Cambodia, Wadly from Haiti, Suma from Nepal, Yasmin from Egypt, Asmera from Ethiopia, Ruksana from India, Senna from Peru, Mariama from Sierra Leone and Amina from Afghanistan. I am proud to be here representing them. The circumstances these girls come from were tough and the barriers they face are truly daunting, but these girls’ spirits are indomitable. They are strong, courageous and determined and given an opportunity they can change our world.”
Take Ruksana, daughter of a pavement dweller in Kolkata. “Ruksana is a dreamer. She sleeps in the colorful world of her imagi
nation - world of flowers and birds and bright blue skies. It’s a stark contrast from her real world pavement of Kolkata where she lives. Ruksana’s parents are committed to their children’s education and despite their hardships they moved to the city just so that their daughters could be educated. Ruksana is now going to school, and learning dance and karate and when she grows up she says she wants to teach art,” said Jennings.
Ruksana represents the next phase of the Girl Rising’s global campaign - Girl Rising India.
"The transformative power of education is overwhelming, so we’re incredibly excited to have the opportunity to bring the Girl Rising campaign to India. With the support and guidance of a group of local partners, we look forward to using all the persuasiveness of Girl Rising storytelling to focus attention on the critical goals of raising secondary school completion rates for girls and reducing gender-based discrimination,” said Jennings.
As part of the Girl Rising India campaign, the film ‘Girl Rising India’ will harness talents of nine of Bollywood’s biggest stars in a Hindi version. The campaign, which is aimed at changing the lives of girls across the country through powerful storytelling and visible advocacy, is designed to spark grassroots, community-led change for girls.
The award ceremony at the Consulate was followed by a discussion with Jennings and Zoe Timms, WEP project director, that was moderated by Mythili Rao of the South Asian American Journalists Association (SAAJA). The discussions highlighted the work done and challenges faced by WEP at their centers in Madurai, Hyderabad, Kadapa and reflected on the issue of rape in India.
Consul General Dnyaneshwar Mulay announced the 2015 Media India series after the success of the 2014 lecture series. “For the 2015 lecture series called ‘Womenity’ we will have all women speakers. They will not necessarily talk about women’s empowerment. Instead these empowered women will talk about their success, challenges in their own fields,” he said.
Update: 20 March, 2015