We had the opportunity to interview Lauren Manning, Girl Rising’s Campaign Manager. She shares a passion for storytelling, education and social change and has a deep interest in international affairs. She has attended Northwestern University where she studies journalism, sociology and civic engagement. Prior to joining Girl Rising, she lived in Northern Uganda and worked in communications with Invisible children.
1. Can you brief our readers about Girl Rising and it’s work?
Girl Rising is a global campaign for girls’ education and empowerment. We use the power of storytelling to change the way the world sees and values girls. Together with partners, we launch high profile campaigns to bring visibility to the issues girls face and inspire people to dismantle the barriers that hold them back.
We are currently running campaigns in India, Nigeria, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the United States, and we work to expand our efforts to other places where our message is timely and girls are especially vulnerable. We work to empower everyone- men, women, girls, boys, students, presidents, celebrities, teachers, etc. to take their own actions to unleash the full potential of girls will result in improved health, prosperity and stability for everyone.
Our impact video will give you a sense of the work we have done and the actions we have inspired.
2. What are the major projects the organisation has undertaken for reaching out to girls and women in
In the last three years, Girl Rising’s stories have reached millions of people around the world, inspiring thousands of girls and boys, parents and teachers, corporate leaders and government officials, to take
action and lead change in their own communities. You can read more about our impact here.
We started out as a film project, looking to answer the question “How do you end global poverty?” One of the answers we found was to invest in girls’ education. Yet, this was years before anyone outside of small
circles was talking about girls’ education as a necessary opportunity for change.
Since then, we’ve shared our feature film across the world and documented hundreds of cases of action inspired by the film, driven over $2 million in resources to our partners and see dramatic growth in awareness around the issues. We built a strong network of partnerships that have allowed the film to
continue to reach new audiences. Now, we are localizing our tools. We run campaigns in India, Nigeria and the DRC, where we release new versions of the film in local languages and work with community partners and governments to reduce discrimination, build awareness and spark community led solutions to increase
access to education for women and girls.
Last year, we partnered with First Lady Michelle Obama to launch the #62MillionGirls digital campaign, earning over 1 billion impressions in just three days. Girl Rising content – the film, our free curriculum and the Teacher’s Guide –is the centerpiece of educational initiatives all over the world. They have been
downloaded by over 4,000 teachers in 60+ countries.
3. How can young girls and women requiring assistance reach out to you?
There are many ways that girls and women can benefit from our work gaining a sense of purpose, learning
the power of their own voice, seeking opportunities to empower themselves but, Girl Rising is not and has
never been a grant making organization. We are unable to offer support to those requiring financial assistance yet invite everyone to get involved in the campaign and create change in their own communities.
We recommend that those requiring this sort of assistance look locally for support to organizations that provide programming and interventions necessary to keep the girls in the film and thousands of others like
them safe, learning and healthy.
4. Can you tell us about your Films?
At the heart of our movement is our feature film, Girl Rising. This feature film includes stories from Egypt, Afghanistan, Nepal, India, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Peru, Ethiopia and Cambodia, written by acclaimed female writers and voiced by some of the world’s finest actors including. The stories bring to life some of the
barriers that girls face to getting an education and prove the power of voice, resilience and collaboration needed when it comes to helping her break down those barriers.
There is a lack of high quality media around issues like this. We could have spent the same amount of money to build 100 schools in just one country, but a powerful film, distributed widely, can change the way governments allocate resources, the way philanthropists choose investments, the way mothers and fathers
value their girls. In the long term, millions of people changing their attitudes and behavior will create more impact than 100 new schools.
5. Why does Girl Rising looks towards education as a tool of empowerment for girls and women ?
One of the surest ways to break cycles of poverty is to invest in girls’ education. Economic insecurity is at
the core of most of the world’s greatest challenges from war and instability, to health challenges to
corruption. Finding that girls’ education has the power to reduces poverty made it a critical focus of our efforts.
Every girl has a right to education. And yet, at every step of her educational journey, there are a series of roadblocks awaiting the girl child. This includes societal, physical and infrastructural barriers. The onset of puberty, security and safety are serious concerns. Paid work, unpaid domestic work, marriage and mobility
all bear on a girl’s ability to continue her education. Even if she manages to get to school, other barriers appear in the form of poor schooling processes, unsavory environment and curricular issues.
When girls are educated, families and communities thrive – educated girls grow up to have healthier children, whose children are also more likely to be educated and healthy. Every additional year of secondary school raises a girl’s future income by 10-20 percent; and if girls receive the same secondary school opportunities as boys, the Indian economy has the potential to grow by $33 billion per year. In short,
educating girls isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.
6. In most remote parts of the world, girls are expected to stay home and look after the hearth, what is
Girl Rising doing for helping such women and girls?
As mentioned above, we are leading campaigns in India, Nigeria and the DRC. These are places where girls
face even higher barriers to getting an education than boys do. We work with local NGOs, schools and
government partners to catalyze longterm behavior change.
I wouldn’t describe our work as “helping” them. In order for our work to be effective, it needs to be collaborative. We don’t simply deliver a service to a community, but work closely alongside them. For
example, in two Indian states, we’re working with a partner organization to include students, community leaders and families in community mobilization efforts that use media to ignite conversation around girls’
education. We’re also planning to integrate our tools into schools to advance gender sensitization efforts amongst students, teachers, and administrators.
Thus, we ground our programs in breaking down the pervasive sociocultural barriers around daughter
discrimination that have held girls back for generations and exist across all classes, castes and
7. Why does Girl Rising believe in the power of storytelling ?
A powerful story, shared widely, has to power to change hearts, minds and behaviors. You can provide as many scholarships, uniforms and schools if you want, but if parents simply do not value their daughters
enough to send them to school, to invest equally in her education as they would for their sons, or to even give birth to them (in an age where female feticide is increasingly common), those resources will go to
8. What would you advise people who are willing to spread awareness regarding Girl Education?
Think locally. With 62 million girls out of school around the world, the girls’ education crisis can feel
incredibly overwhelming. But Girl Rising exists as a tool for changemakers to bring the film to their community and start making change for girls, right then and there.
Think about what challenges girls face in your community. Is it a lack of access to education? Is it a lack of confidence? Is it limited resources, like poor quality books and supplies? Is it sexual violence? We’ve learned that you need a person standing up and speaking out to catalyze change and local leaders are critical when it comes to sparking conversation.
I would advise people to start small. Realize that individual actions one conversation, one fundraising, one
event, one piece of writing-have to chance to help us work towards a world where girls aren’t held back
because of their gender. And each of those individual actions does matter.
9. Can you share with us an experience that you personally had while empowering girls, which touched your heart?
When I was in my second year of university, I was lucky enough to travel to Malawi for a reporting trip from a refugee camp. The conditions were horrendous and the lack of hope was palpable, but it was a turning point for me as a young journalist and storyteller. I remember feeling utterly distraught by the end of the trip. Am I powerless to create change? By asking the community members to share their stories, did I create more harm than good? Every storyteller grapples with this tension. But, then my translator, an educated woman, thanked us for our time. I remember her saying that it’s easy to lose sight of where you are going if you don’t
reflect on where you’ve come from and the hurdles that you’ve crossed. When the girls’ education crisis feels too big, I always remember this.
I don’t think I can truly refer to myself as one who is empowering girls. I think the girls and women ultimately
empower themselves, they just need my help, and our movement’s help, to see power in their own voices
10. What do you think about the stories we sent to you? How do you feel about our work?
I think it’s wonderful to see young people adding their voice to the girls’ empowerment conversation. The only way that we will prompt real change is when individuals stand up against the injustices they face or they
see others facing. At Girl Rising, we vehemently believe in the power of storytelling so we’re instantly inspired every time we see others doing the same.