Fontbonne students join global campaign for girls’ education

“Girl Rising” is the name of a global campaign to promote the education of women and girls in developing countries. Students at Fontbonne Hall Academy, a Catholic high school for girls in Bay Ridge, learned about the campaign from a filmmaker who presented “Girl Rising,” a movie focusing on the struggles of nine young women in the developing world.

Davinia James, who works with the “Girl Rising” campaign,  recently presented the film “Girl Rising” to students at Fontbonne Hall Academy, who viewed the documentary with a group of out-of-town guests: students from Cabrini High School in New Orleans.

The Huffington Post called “Girl Rising,” which was directed by Richard Robbins, “the most powerful film you’ll see this year.”

Following the screening of the film at Fontbonne’s Shore Road campus, members of Fontbonne's CSJ (Congregation of Saint Joseph) Mission-In-Action Club, along with students from Cabrini High School, met with James in a small group setting, listening to her life story and the reasons why she is passionate about the cause of equal access to education for girls worldwide. She is originally from Jamaica.

The students discussed the film over a potluck lunch prepared by Fontbonne students. The two groups of students also brainstormed about the ways that they can continue their partnership, which started when the Cabrini High School community provided spiritual support and financial aid of Fontbonne students in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Fontbonne officials said dozens of students lost their homes in the storm.

The campus ministers of both schools agreed that tackling the issue of education of women and girls is a uniting force for their students. Mother Cabrini worked tirelessly teaching immigrants who arrived in America, and one of the main mission points of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, founders of Fontbonne Hall Academy, is to educate young women, Fontbonne officials said.

Elyssa Silverman, a freshman in Fontbonne’s Global Honors class, wrote the following reflection after watching the film and listening to the presentation by James. 

“It is widely believed today that gender equality exists throughout all of the world. While American women were granted suffrage in 1920, it is important to recognize the fact that this did not guarantee the same rights across the globe. In fact, there are women worldwide who are still attempting to earn what are considered basic privileges in the United States, such as the ability to simply go to school. The film 'Girl Rising' tells the stories of numerous girls from different countries and their quests for education. Davinia James visited Fontbonne Hall Academy to give some insight and share personal connections to the injustice modern girls are facing. Showing us that the word “love” can be found within the letters of “revolution,” Davinia expressed her steadfast ambition to find a peaceful solution for girls who are struggling to attend school. 

“Davinia’s presentation was intriguing. It made me consider how much we can take education for granted when it is a normal part of our lives. In America, children of both genders are required to attend school up to a certain age. Students frequently complain about how much they dislike it, wondering if they will ever use any of the knowledge that they attain. If education was to be taken away from us tomorrow, we would be appalled and suddenly yearn for what once vexed us. Some would wonder how society could continue without the accumulation of knowledge. In certain countries, the solution to this problem is to allow male children to attend school. 

“Males have, historically, almost always been seen as superior to females. The theme of female oppression can be identified constantly throughout the history of the world. As an advanced society, we need to acknowledge that all people, regardless of gender, must be given the right to an education. Women have the same intellectual capabilities as all humans do. With this potential, the next generation of girls can continue to improve our world.”