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Girl Rising

Aired June 22, 2013 - 22:00   ET


FREIDA PINTO, NARRATOR: A little while ago, not that far away, a young girl was on her way home from school. She was on the bus, laughing with her friends. It was just an ordinary day. A regular school day. Until a stranger stepped on to the bus. He asked for the girl by name. Malala. And then the stranger took out a gun and shot her.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Malala Yousafzai was shot --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- in the head on her school bus.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Directly targeted by the Taliban --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: She is the face of a movement much bigger than herself.

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: One of the bravest girls in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: She was a student who wanted to learn but now she's fighting to live.

PINTO: What had this girl done to make this stranger so angry? So afraid and so violent? She had said something. Something dangerous. Something powerful. Something important. She had said that all girls should be in school. All girls everywhere. And that's an idea that scares some people. Because when girls do go to school, when they learn, things change fast.

Knowledge is power. And ignorance, ignorance is the enemy of change. But change is coming. And we are the change.

LIAM NEESON, NARRATOR: This is Wadley. She's 8 years old. She plays herself in the story from her own life that you are about to see. Just like the other girls you will meet. Senna, Suma, Mariama, and Azmera. Two others we will call Yasmin and Amina could not appear in their stories out of concern for their safety.

Each of these girls was paired with a writer from her own country to help tell her story. These are true stories. If sometimes re- imagined to capture the things these girls and these writers want you to see. And their stories are important because these girls hold our future in their hands. If they and the millions of girls like them succeed in getting the kind of education they need, incredible things will happen. For them, for their families, for their community, for their country, for all of us. But here's the hard truth. In spite of the fact that educating a girl is one of the highest return investments available in the developing world, there are 66 million girls out of school.

So what exactly changes when girls in the developing world get a good education?


CATE BLANCHETT, NARRATOR: The morning of January 12th, 2010 was bright and beautiful. In a way that Wadley could not remember any other morning ever having been before. It was the dry season when wildflowers bloomed and flowers that bloomed on their own without rain fascinated some little girls. It made impossible things seem possible. Unachievable things appear doable.

And the flowers, the hibiscus, the azaleas, the bougainvilleas, they all looked even brighter when Wadley was happy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wadley. Wadley. Wadley. Stop dreaming. You're going to be late for school.

BLANCHETT: That morning, Wadley was working to memorize Toussaint Louverture's final speech as he was removed from Haiti by the French after he tried to win independence for the country. Wadley liked to imagine herself defiant like brave Toussaint Louverture. But she also wished she had been given some words by women to recite. Brave and strong women, like her mother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wadley, one bag is enough.

BLANCHETT: Every day Wadley brought two snacks from her mother's tray. One for herself and one for another child. That day, she chose a new friend, Shelda. The girl whose father had been killed the week before. He was a taxi driver and someone had gotten into his car with a gun and asked him to get out. He had refused and the person had shot him.

Soon the moment came for Wadley and her classmates to recite their quotes from the history lesson. Wadley watched as some of her friends recited, or failed to recite. Their stammers, stutters and hesitations seemed to her like a long poem, a love poem to history.


WADLEY, STUDENT: "In overthrowing me, you have done nothing more than cut down the trunk of the tree of black liberty in St. Domingue. It will spring back from the roots because they are numerous and deep."

BLANCHETT: That afternoon, all Wadley could think was it was the dry season when wildflowers bloomed. And these words seemed a perfect beginning for her composition. And a fitting book end to her day. For they seemed to emerge somehow out of the dream that she had been having that morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLANCHETT: Wadley could not remember how she and her mother got to the open field near the university. It was still the dry season, but wildflowers no longer bloomed. In the tent camp, she often heard the most dazed of the adults say, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. This, they said, when they were finally resigned to the fact that their missing loved ones would never be coming back.

Life tried to return to normal, except now her mother ran the city during the day looking for friends and family from whom to seek help. And instead of school, Wadley went to the water fountain with a bucket. Every day now, as she passed through the camp and the ruins of her neighborhood, she thought about school.

Sometimes as she walked by the rubble of the school itself, she thought she heard the voices of her friends reciting the lessons that she now missed so much.


WADLEY: Mama. Mama. Mama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened, Wadley?

WADLEY: The school. The school is open.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know. Please go get the water, Wadley.

WADLEY: The school is open. Why can't I go to school?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because we have no money.

BLANCHETT: Money was still not completely clear to Wadley. She knew that there was never enough of it. That some people had more of it than others, and that it determined in many cases how people looked at you and talked to you and treated you. It was the reason some people ate three meals every day while others ate every couple of days. It was why, she was learning now, that some kids went to school and others did not.


WADLEY: Bye-bye, mommy.

BLANCHETT: The next morning, Wadley decided that she would go to school and sit on the bench in front of Madam Laurie along with the others. No matter that there was no money. That's what she would do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you go to school here?

BLANCHETT: For a moment, Wadley wondered how Madam Laurie could not recognize her. But, remembered Wadley, the earthquake had twisted a lot of people's minds. Many people did not even recognize themselves anymore.

WADLEY: Yes, madame. I was your student here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know that, Wadley. But actually this is a new school. Did your mother pay the money?

WADLEY: No. There is no money.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm sorry. But you have to go, Wadley. Come back when they can pay.

BLANCHETT: Wadley decided that even though money could do many things, it was also a curse because only a cursed thing could keep her out of school. But she was not cursed. Hadn't she been hearing from her mother and the others in the tent camp that those who had survived the earthquake were blessed? Surely it meant that she was supposed to do something special. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, she thought to herself.

The next morning Wadley started for the tent school again. She wasn't sure what she was going to do. But she was determined to go and stay.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has your mother paid yet, Wadley? Has your mother paid the money?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you leave, Wadley?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need to go home, Wadley.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the last time I'll tell you.

WADLEY: If you send me away, I will come back every day until I can stay.


WADLEY: Even if you send me away I will come back every day until I can stay.

BLANCHETT: And the flowers, the hibiscus, the azaleas, the bougainvilleas. They all look even brighter when Wadley was happy. They even seem to thrive.


NEESON: Girls who go to school see immediate benefits beyond the things they're learning. Being a student enhances their status in the community. It makes them safer. But in the developing world, getting an education is not what people expect girls to do. Girls are expected to work. Expected to fetch water. To care for younger children. To get jobs. Or worse.

It happens to girls like Suma. Suma's parents didn't send her to school. They sent her to work. It's called Kamlari. KERRY WASHINGTON, NARRATOR: I write songs to remind myself that my memories are real. And often because there's so much sadness behind me, what comes out is sad. Both of my parents were bonded as Kamlar and Kamlari in their childhood. That's the way things have been around here. That's the way they have been for the poor. You have to bond yourself to a master, otherwise, how will you live?

This was the house of my first master. My mother and father bonded me just so that I would have somewhere to live and enough food to eat. I was 6 years old.

Pagataru was a landlord and a miller. He made me work from 4:00 in the morning until late at night. I had to clean the house and wash the dishes and go to the forest to fetch firewood. When I wasn't minding the goats, I had to mind the children.

The goats were nicer. The daughters made fun of me because my clothes were torn. They teased me. They beat me. I wanted my mother and father to take me back. I wanted them to let me stay at home and go to school like my brother.

But when I thought about how poor they were and how much they, too, had suffered, it made me feel weak. I couldn't ask.

This was the house of my second master. Jonna Camala wore a uniform to work. He and the mistress of the house were very hard-hearted. Unlucky girl, they used to call me. Hey, unlucky girl, do this, they'd shout. They made me sleep in the goat shed and wear rags and eat scraps from their dirty plates. I can't really talk about everything that happened to me here, but I will never forget.

This is where I began to write songs. Only the songs got me through.

SUMA: (Singing) Thoughtless were my mother and father. They gave birth to a daughter. They gave birth to a daughter. My brothers go to school to study. While I, unfortunate, slave at a master's house. It's a hard life, being beaten every day.

WASHINGTON: This was the house of my third master. I was 11 years old when I arrived at Chitai's house. I had been a kamlari for five years. It wasn't as bad here. I mean it was bad because there was a lot of work, but there was a ladra in that house, a school teacher called (INAUDIBLE). He changed my life.

(INAUDIBLE) convinced my master and mistress to enroll me in a night class. All of us would gather after finishing our day's work, and we would learn to read and write. I loved that night class so much. It was run by social workers for girls just like me. Kamlaris.

We would also talk to the teachers about what it was like to be a kamlari. And as we talked, we began to realize that bonded labor was, and isn't it, slavery.

The teachers who ran the night class began to go from house to house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a smart girl working here. I am here to take her.


WASHINGTON: They wanted to liberate us. One teacher, Cita Didi (ph), told my master that he was breaking the law by keeping me as a kamlari. She talked about the law against bonded labor and the law about children's rights. And the law on labor rights. And the law against domestic violence and trafficking.

She talked to him about justice and injustice. And she demanded that he set me free. My master said no. Once made, a bond couldn't be broken. Cita Didi didn't give up. She kept arguing. She came back day after day and in the end, she led me home to my mother and father.

I am my own master now. I have no mistress. I was the last bonded worker in my family. After me, everyone will be free.

I feel as though I have power. I feel like I can do anything. And I have important things to do. Inside this house is a girl like I was. Away from her parents working morning to night, wanting so badly to be free. We have come to this house, the house of her master, to say we know you have a kamlari working for you. You must set her free.

I've seen where change comes from. When it comes, it's like a song you can't hold back. Suddenly, there's a breath moving through you and you are singing. And others pick up the tune and start singing, too. And a sweet melody goes out into the world and touches the heart of one person. Then another. And another.

NEESON: The practice of kamlari has been illegal in Nepal since 2000.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look to the lens and smile.

NEESON: With the help of girls like Suma, it's finally coming to an end. For Suma, it is not enough that she herself is free. She's using her education to make sure all girls are getting to school.


NEESON: When parents have to choose, they usually choose to educate the boys. So girls have less opportunity, less freedom, and less education than the boys they grow up with. This means the girls suffer more hunger, more violence and more disease.

It's a simple fact. There is nobody more vulnerable than a girl. And in far too much of the world, girls still suffer unspeakable things. Girls like Yasmin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Sergeant Saif. This is Officer Mansoor. How old you, Yasmin?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you go to school?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have no money to send a girl to school. She works with me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We sell tea by the Sixth of October Bridge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And your husband?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's just a street kid.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I'm not a street kid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's probably trying to shake down a customer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us why you're here?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop this nonsense, Yasmin. Tell them what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was with my friend Aya. We were going to get juice. From the juice man at the roundabout. He has the best juice.

CHLOE MORETZ, NARRATOR: Aya had 80 piastre and I had two pounds. It was hot and we didn't want to walk. A man with a donkey cart said that he would drive us to the roundabout to get juice. But then when we were nearing the roundabout, he turned off. We didn't know where he was going. He said, don't worry, that it was a fast way. I got scared and ran away, but Aya was not scared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were not scared at all?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I am strong. I can fight. He said we had to stop at his house for a moment. He said he had juice at his house, too.

MORETZ: When we got to his house, I saw that his wife was there, too, so I didn't think anything bad would happen. He told her to bring us some drinks and then leave us alone. There was juice like he promised, but it wasn't good. It tasted sour. He was drinking some beer, and I don't like it when people drink beer, so I got up to leave.

But he stopped me and said he would take me home. We got back in the cart but he didn't take me home. He -- he took me to a very dark place. He told me he would not hurt me but that he wanted to be with me. He wanted -- and I said -- I told him I was not an ordinary girl. That I was a superhero, that I am powerful. But he did not believe me.

He drew his sword and told me it was time that I should fight for my honor. And I told him that I did not want to kill him. Because a true hero does not kill.

He swung his sword at me, but I was too fast for him. I drew my knife from beneath my clothes and let him feel the sharpness of my blade. He was strong, but I was stronger. He was fast, but I -- I was faster.

I wanted to teach him a lesson. To show him that girls are -- that we -- he just -- this man, he was a bad man. And he left me no choice. We fought in that dark place for a long time. He begged for me to -- to spare him. So I spared his life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your mother said there was blood on your clothes when you returned home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it was a hard battle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you show me your knife? I promise I will return it to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't you go with Officer Mansoor and let me speak to your mother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hungry, aren't you? Go ahead, eat this delicious cookie. It's good you didn't kill that cart driver. I'd hate to put a smart girl like you in jail.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I saw the blood. I saw it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are very difficult cases. Very hard to prove. Perhaps we can get you some money. The man has a cart and an apartment. Some means.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My god. What are you saying? I would rather die than touch any of his money. She is my daughter. Ruined by some -- I only want justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Justice? Nowadays?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is that supposed to mean? Forget the case? The girl loses her rights? Sir, she won't be able to get married. Sir, who would accept that? Who would?


Yasmin, can you show us where he lives? Good. You know, I have a daughter a little bit younger than you. But I'm afraid she's not as strong or brave as you. Perhaps you should meet her. I would like her to learn to be a superhero, too. NEESON: Fifty percent of all the sexual assaults in the world are on girls under 15. Fifty percent. The risk of sexual assault is one reason parents keep girls at home or marry them off young. The man who raped Yasmin is still free. She has never been to school, cannot read or write. And did we mention she's 13 years old?


NEESON: Early marriage is the future for millions of girls. Fourteen million girls under 18 will be married this year. That's 38,000 girls married today. That's 13 girls in the last 30 seconds.

MERYL STREEP, NARRATOR: Look up. There is a child in the sky. There are angels. There are beliefs to challenge, wishes to be fulfilled. And here is a girl named Azmera. Feet grounded in the Ethiopian soil. And a young girl's life. Her eyes turn toward possibility.

Azmera, named for harvest, golden crops, bounty, loved by family. Intensely curious, painfully shy, stubborn and kind. Not yet 14. Trapped.

Look up. There are myths among the clouds. A myth about a boy locked in a prison tower with his father. A famous maker of labyrinths. A father made his son wings from wax and feathers and told him to fly out of the window to freedom. Don't fly too close to the sun, he warned. The wax will melt and you will fall. But the boy rose up, flew too high, then fell to the ground. The burning sun, the only witness to his descent.

This is a myth. This is a lesson about limits. It reminds us that man was not meant to fly. We cannot reach the sun with wings crafted from feathers and wax and desperation.

But look. Here is Azmera. She is in a life that is not a myth, living in a world with its own limits. She is the only living daughter of Atenish. My sister, she is called. Atenish was once the wife of a loving man and the mother of three. A son and two daughters. Azmera, her youngest. Her life was full. Then her husband died. And then her eldest daughter.

And Atenish became a widow and a grieving mother left with nothing to remind her of those she lost. No photographs. No drawings. No letters.

What she has is Azmera. And an older son. A young man who loves his sister with the same devotion as their mother. What she's left with is the determination to give her surviving children what she can. The elders warned Atenish that Azmera, too, would die, unless she was married young. Give her hand, she was told. Give her possibility, a chance to live.

How much fear can one woman carry? How many children can she stand to bury? So, when the man 20-years-old and stranger came to ask for Azmera's hand and Atenish open the door and let him in. She turned to the man and said here is my daughter. And she held Azmera and said here is a chance, here is possibility, go. In Ethiopia, this is how it was done. When the Atenish was a girl than when her own mother was a child and when her grandmother was barely old enough to do more than play and fetch water.

Here, it is said that a girl is married too young. She is in endangering of being split by her husband.

Thirteen is considered to be a safe age, for the loses 18. Girls as young as seven have been married.

What does it mean to split a girl? Is it like tearing a photo down the middle while each half witnesses the making of a ghost?

What if a girl's life could be more? What if a mother's hopes could mean something? What if a boy could look up into the sun without falling?

Look at this young man. He is not myth. He is not a stranger to failed dreams. Salu (ph) was the son to a dying father. He left school at 7-years-old to do the work of an adult, a farmer who wants nothing more than to be able to read. He wants to try to left passed the edge of his world and fly away from it all, but here is the heart of a man's strong enough to return to his mother and to sister.

He was in the field working, but then a man came for Azmera's hands. He walked in to the house and saw strangers talking to Atenish and he knew what was happening.

Each of our stories pivot on a single moment, that short pause between what is and what could be. In a breath, we can decide between what we wish to be true and what can make happen.

But Salu (ph), he would sell everything he owned to keep his sister in school, to give her the gift of a life with choices, to give her chances he never had. He told Atenish no. And Azmera step forward and told her mother, I want a better life. Together, they refused this marriage.

I want to tell Azmera, the most important parts of this story about a boy trapped in a tower, the same son that brought this boy down, raises you up, and gives you strength. You can go as far and as high as you want as you are able to dream. It is not ambition that this tries us, it is not hope that will lead us to stray. You are a girl who has used her voice to say, no. And every time you open a book, you continue your journey forward and up.

We are from a country full of split girls. We must reach out with firm hands and hold until the pieces fit again. You are showing how to live by letting them hear you say, I want a choice, but, if life is mine to make.

This is how it happens. One girl follows behind the other until together they move forward towards something, a future.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER (voice-over): In a lot of the world, school is free. Parents don't just have to pay for school. They have to buy books and uniforms. Sometimes, they pay for exams and report cards. For millions of families, it is simply too much.

A girl born on planet today has a one and fourth chance of being born into poverty. And a very good school, that is where she will stay.

But the right education could change all that. Knowledge is power, just ask Senna.

SENNA, 14-years-old (through text): The Black Heralds, by the great poet Cesar Vallejo. There are blows in life, so powerful. I don't know. Blows as from God's hatred; like a riptide of human suffering rammed into a single soul, I don't know.

The first time I read that it took my breath away. The rhythm of it, the force. For me, it was unforgettable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Poverty is how I turn opinions into art, dark into light, fear into will. I didn't learn this over the year as I learned my first history. I learned it all at once in a swift kick to my heart.

SENNA (through text): My name is Senna. I am 14-years-old. I live and study in La Rinconada.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): La Rinconada is a gold-mining town in Peru. Torch from the side of a dead volcano 17,000 feet of, if it perpetual snow of (INAUDIBLE). They tell me my town is harsh, hazardous, the highest human habitation in the world. I don't know. My father named me after famous warrior, Senna.

She had seen her on TV, but since he could neither read or write she didn't know that her name started with an X. She said that like her, I was grow up to be fearless defender of the poor, a heroine prepare to go to war against ruthless men, if honour demanded it.

SENNA (through text): If a warrior's name was my father's first gift to me, a brave heart was his second. There is no hardship I can't overcome.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My knew something about brave heart for he, like all the men of La Rinconada was a miner.

SENNA (through text): He comes looking for hope and finds nothing but misery. For every problem my --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For 35 years, my father drilled and dug hunted tirelessly for a glimpse of glitter winking in the granite. But this mountain, she will trample the fiercest spirits, shattered the strongest black. I still don't know what happened that day, but I imagined. Lava vice, debris of rock, the crash, the grind, the sudden black, and then the choke in dust, that toxic stink, the airlessness. I can hear my father's groans. He is alive but he never returned to the mines. And each day after that, he died a little bit more.

I was barely five, but the memory of that day still haunts me as if a shadow has followed over my father.

As weeks went by and week through desperate for money, my father became a cook and my mother took his place on the mountain. Every day she and my sister join the women who scramble their way off stripping, climbs (INAUDIBLE) of rock looking for gold, the miners had missed. Once the night failed and colds deepen their fingers.

Still, my father seized it that I go to school, learn all the things he hadn't. There is no hope for me, he would say. But there is for you. Make a better person of yourself and study. He made sure I still what became of many girls who did not go to school. It was impossible not to.

Besides every gold buy or stole, was a loud rock cantina. About every cantina was a busy Brussels. Miners squander their gold as fast as they could find it. Drunks staggered out of horror house before light of day. I had heard about the thousands of girls sold to many in those places. Many of them infected with AIDS. They seem hard face while died with an infinite sadness about them.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I went to the man who owned La Rinconada public toilet and beg him to give me work. My job was to get to the soles by dawn, wash down each cubicle, scrub out the holes and the floor, and take 20 centavos per person.

SENNA (through text): I could add the earning in my head as fast as the owner with his calculator.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My father beamed when he heard of it. You see, he groans. You have all the makings of an engineer. In La (INAUDIBLE), the engineers are the bosses, the owners, and the ones with all the money.

In truth, I was having a hard time in school. I was so worried to do anything, but think about my father. With everyday, he has sunk to new lows.

SENNA (through text): I told myself was a warrior, a defender of the weak. He reminded me to stay strong. I sang to him, did all his sums.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One day my mother told us that she would take my father down the mountain for find a shame and the nerve. Then he thinks to slow his raising pulse, stop the bone rallying cough that was threatening to claim him.

SENNA (through text): I never saw my father again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He collapse and died in my mother's arms shortly after they got out of the bus at the foot of the mountain. When my mother told us this, it was as if I had been punched in the chest, as if the ground beneath us had fallen away.

For all the years that my family had climbed that frozen rock, for all the gold that had been dug out, burnt clean, sent to glitter around the world, we had never owned a flock of it. We were born bone poor, the poorest family in the mud hall of poor people. I curst the mountain, curst the mines, curst the gold garden beneath my feet.

SENNA (through text): And then, I found this. This poem about the black herald of death, about the powerful blows, fate can rain on us. I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those poems, those words altered something in me. It was as if I had chance of (INAUDIBLE) buried treasure. Each page open a world, each lines stop my heart. I memorized every word on every page.

SENNA (through text): Then all the people of the earth surrounded him. Then said corpse gazed at them, touched. Slowly he sat up, embraced the first man and began to walk, and so I say.

In time, I saw that my father had been right all along. I was a fighter, brave, and words made for mighty weapons. I began writing poems. I recited them for all my schoolmates to hear. I even won a poetry contest. I will be the engineer my father always wanted me to be. I will be a poet.

I know now that the fortune my father sought so helplessly was always buried in me. It was just a matter of finding it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Filled with half the girls in the developing world will ever reach secondary school. By beating the odds, Senna is writing a new chapter for girls in Peru.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Girls need good schools and they need to stay because a girl with one extra year of education can earn 20 percent more as an adult, because women operate the majority of farms and small businesses in the developing world.

If India alone enrolled one percent more of its girls in secondary school, their GDP would rise by billions. Educated girls are a powerful force for change. And his kind of change, it happens fast.

MARIAMA, FREETOWN SIERRA LEONE (voice-over): You are probably wondering, is that an ad for some charity? But I actually have a normal life for a teenage girl. I get up. I brushed my teeth. I listen to Rihanna. I pick my outfit. I text.

Welcome to my world. This is Freetown Sierra Leone.

This is my mom and this was my dad. My dad died when I was really little. I like to think he still watches over me.

This is my dad's younger brother. He had to marry my mom because she was his brother's widow. She could have said no or she could have become a plain wife which is sort of like being a wife without the ban. But then my uncle was really quite in them so he became my stepdad.

A few years later, papa married Hawa (ph). Now, that that was a love match from the start. I guess you could call a perfect family and it is true.

But I'm 16. And being a teenager is hard work because everyone has got problems. When my friends have problems, they call me. The truth is solving problem is my thing, everyone agreed. And in Sierra Leone, problems are hard to find. In fact, if you hear Sierra Leone, it is probably because we have so (INAUDIBLE). Here is the low down (ph).

Not that long ago, we had a war and thousands of people were killed and hurt. Everyone still talks about how frightening it was. But now, things are getting better. In 2010, the president announced the celebration when we stop being the poorest country in the world, according to something called the human development index.

Isn't my school cool? I'm the first person in my family to go to school. Everyone says I'm the lucky one. Lots of people think science is boring, but I don't.

Science is about asking questions and solves any problem. And as you know, I like to solve problems.

This is my physics teacher, Mr. Ellis. You have to admit, he is quite cool. He told us about Isaac Newton, the biggest problem solver of all time. He sat under a mango tree. Well, it was an apple tree but we don't have those so, I think of mangoes instead.

And this Newton asks why does the mango fall down, why not up? That's when he came up with the idea of gravity and his laws of motion. Take his first walk. Every object in the state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to. Well, in another words, things they have stay until something makes them change.

The most exciting change of my life was when I got my first real job. I'm so happy when I landed the spot as a host at Eagle Africa 91.3.

(On-camera): My name is Mariama. You can call us if you want to be part of this program.

(Voice-over): These days, radio is the biggest thing in Sierra Leone. Almost everyone listens to it. On the regular show, I'm able to talk to lots of girls all over the country and help them. Every week we discussed a problem. I don't mean a physics problem, I mean, real stuff.

One time, a girl named Satu (ph), called in. She lives with her aunt who used her to run errands instead of letting her go to school. Even worst, her aunt's boyfriend had a really bad wondering hand problem. Poor Satu (ph) didn't know what to do so she called the show.

I thought about what I would do. I told her to tell her everything, to not be afraid. She wasn't doing anything wrong and that she should be going to school. A few weeks later, she called the station. She was back living with her mom and going to school. She said I helped her solve her problem. When I'm older, my plan is to have my own TV show solving the greatest mysteries in the world.

Welcome to Doctor Mariama's miracle mystery show in which I, Mariama, finds solution to the planet's most fixing problems just like Isaac Newton, film sharing Freetown in front of a live studio audience.

My big dream is to go to outer space, to be the first African in space. But the truth is, I never been on airplane. Actually, I have never even been to another country. But I'm not afraid to dream big.

While I was busy dreaming, Papa was having some problems of his own. He was being criticized by other people in my town about me hosting a radio show and staying out at night with my friends from the radio station.

One night, when I was out, he found out where I was and stormed in. I had never seen him so angry. Papa refused to let me host the show. I tried to talk my way out of it which is something I can almost always do, but he didn't want to listen.

That night, I didn't sleep. I told my parents never went to school, right? Well, what I didn't tell you was what Hawa (ph) told me. That people in those days thought kids who went to school lost respect for their parents. I worry that maybe my father thought I had respect for him by having a job at the radio station.

For the first time, I had a problem I couldn't solve. My future plan has just been derailed by an external force, my father.

I thought, what would Isaac Newton do? For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Newton's (INAUDIBLE). I needed to find the force equal to my father, someone my father would listen to. Maybe Hawa (ph) could be my force.

So, I borrowed a radio and turned it to Eagle 91.3. I hated to hear the show going without me. Hawa (ph) really listened. She liked was she heard. She told Papa that he might have made a mistake.

Papa was still angry, but he agreed to hear me out. I told them all the good things the radio show is doing like the way I was able to help Satu (ph) go back to her mother. By being on the radio I could help even more girls like her. Hawa (ph) said I should have another chance. Together, we were a force to be re-conned with.

Finally, Papa agreed to let me carry on with the show, only if I promised to come straight home afterwards and always let him or my mom's know where I was. I was back on the air. Now, everything is cool again.

So, you out there, watch the space because one day you are going to see Doctor Mariama's miracle mystery show. Now, there is nothing to stop me, nothing in the world, nothing in this universe because I'm the lucky one. Because I'm the lucky one.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Here is unsettling fact, the number one cause of death for girls 15 to 19, it is not AIDS. It is not hunger. It is not war. It is childbirth. And girls marry young, education ends and the old cycles continue. Cycles of poverty, cycles of violence, cycles of eco-nerves (ph).

But a get who gets an education, starts a different kind of cycle because she is going to stay healthier. She is going to get married later. She is going to the fewer and healthier children. And most of all, she is going to have educated children.

Girls are not the problems, their problems Somers (ph).

AMINA, AFGHAN (voice-over): If my husband heard these words, he might kill me, so might my father or my brother or anyone of thousands of my countrymen. Killed because I want to learn, killed because I want to read, or are doing my own truth because I am a girl.

Now, that I am no longer a child, I cannot show you my face. I'm a shredded shower of blue, shall. I'm a girl in mask and muted. So, what can you really know of me?

But I will speak. I will not be silenced.

My story is like thousands of others, millions. Now, I'm bothered to record the date of my birth. As a girl, I was considered unworthy of a record. I'm from my mother burst into tears when she learned my sex, set me aside in the dirt. She already had one son but wants another, wanted a status of being of boys.

Mt mother never learned to read or write. She has never open a book, written in a diary, can't even decide for the scribbles on the bag of rice.

From the age of 3-years-old, I spent my days working. My hand and face were chopped from carrying icy mountain water to wash man's hands. I work before dawn, clean the house, wash the clothes, the dishes. I carried my siblings on the back until they were old enough to walk.

I learned early to serve. I learned that this is the way things were always intended to be for the women of my family, a lifetime of servitude.


(Voice-over): My happiest times with a few short years of my education, I learned to read and write on an old blackboard fixed to a crumbling stonewall. Girls in other parts of my country where the Taliban were in tight control, were not allowed to go to school at all, were not allowed to step outside their homes so, I was always aware of my privilege.

I was 11-years-old when father arranged for me to be married. My mind was (INAUDIBLE), but my body can settle a dispute, I hate that. My body is a resource which can be spend for man's pleasure or profit.

So, who care that I have been married against my will for 250,000 Afghanis or for $5,000. For that price, my father offered in marriage to a cousin. My auntie and mother approved the match. When the transaction was complete, they spent the money to buy a used car for my brother.

I am an Afghan woman and I know from history that it hasn't always been this way. That I was born once upon a dark time, a time of one war same which to dream to others, an eye for an eye ignorant time, from the law prohibited flying kites. When there was no music, no dancing, no joy. A time when an entire village is washed and even cheered as teenage girls were stoned for the crime of falling in love.

In Afghanistan, most men give woman power only as best hold for other man. Young mothers even dust their bodies with gas and set themselves to flame because they could not see a future.

On my wedding day, I tried to think about all the many strong Afghan women before me. I heard about Murlalay (ph), (INAUDIBLE), women who lived a hundred years ago. They could read and write. They spoke their owned minds and were heroes for my country. But now, I'm imprisoned in marriage. Only in (INAUDIBLE) in this cover. There is no owning from my mouth to talk. My eyes are hidden in a system embroidered to cage.

The first night of my marriage, my new husband barely spoke. And the seed he planted was not only the son he wanted, but the anger that has grown in me ever since. I vowed that night I would find a way not only to endure but to prevail.

The midwife who delivered my son was out complications said I was one of the lucky ones. More women died giving birth in Afghanistan than any other place in the world. When I birth the baby, to praise Allah, a boy, I behaved beautifully. As they suckle his innocence of my breast, cuff his tiny feet in my hands, all I felt was impatience. Impatience because we are poor, because we are silenced, disenfranchised, beaten, cuffed, married as children, sold, raped.

When we seek freedom, we are burned. When we speak the truth, we are stoned. When we go to school, we are bombed, poisoned, shot. Don't tell me it is simply it has always been so. I don't believe in our resignation. I refuse ignorance long ago. Don't tell me you are on my side. Your silenced has already spoken for you. Don not tell me to blame lies in my religion, in my culture, in my traditions.

I have not forgotten my vow. Change is coming. I will read. I will learn. I will study. I will return to school. I dare you to tell me it is waste of time. If you try to stop me, I will just try harder. Put me in the bed, I will climb out. If you kill me, there will be other girls who will rise up and take my place. I will find a way endure, to prevail, a future of man lies in me and this is the future I see.

I am the beginning of a different story in Afghanistan. And when my granddaughter explains how I would stood the odds against me, it will become legend or yet perhaps only be with critic first, but just you watch. It will grow into a roar and in exhaustible voice that will assure in a brighter future. Do you doubt me? Do you underestimate my will?

Look into my eyes. Do you see it now? I am change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amina joins millions of girls in Afghanistan who have returned to school there in spite of the dangers.

Thanks to a new generation leaders, men and women, there are more girls in school in Afghanistan now than its anytime on its history because Amina refused to give up, just like someone. Like (INAUDIBLE), like Senna and as Mira, lie girls everywhere.

There are more stories, a remorse facts and figures, but the simplest is the most important. Educating girls works.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): While making film, we met hundreds of girls all over the world. Our partners in this journey where organization, large and small, filled with extraordinary people who spend every day helping girls, trying to fill the gaps between what fills half and what fills need.

Each day, they see what you have just seen, girls will prostituted and courage, spirits and drive, girls succeeding against the odds.

Girls are rising, but there are millions who still need your help. The girls of the world need as much financial support as you can give. Yes, they need money. And donation will change a young life. This is for sure.

The Ten Times Ten Fund for Girls' Education supports the organization that supports girls including our partners in making girl rising, a contributing to Ten Times Ten, you send a powerful message of you strongly believe that girls are worth the investment. Please join us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)