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Speeches & Transcripts

Transcript: Girl Rising: Special Event on Girl’s Education

April 18, 2013

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, actress Frieda Pinto, Secretary of State for International Development for the United Kingdom Justine Greening, co founder of the School of Leadership in Afghanistan Shabana Basij Rasikh and executive producer of Girl Rising Holly Gordon Girl Rising: Special Event on Girl’s Education Washington, DC, United States


MS. MAKGABO:  Wow!  So many people in this room.  You look fantastic.

First of all, personally I thought that sounded fantastic, and unfortunately, considering the volume in this room, I don't think that you guys did enough justice to Sweet Honey.

So, ladies and gentlemen, another round of applause, please, for Sweet Honey.  Let me hear it!


Thank you.  Thank you.  And I'm sure the ladies appreciated that.

My name is Tumi Makgabo and anybody who was watching any information about this event before a few hours ago will have known that a gentleman named Jake Tapper was supposed to have been with you today.  But of course, with the very tragic events that happened in Boston, Jake is in Boston covering the event on behalf of CNN.  And I suppose me having been a CNN employee once in my life, it's appropriate that I'm here to fill in for him.

And yes, it is‑‑yes, all right, I agree.


And yes, of course, it is a very sad circumstance under which Jake had to not be with us today, but I think it's also fair to say that the reason we're gathered here is fairly serious and important in and of itself.  So, although it is a serious and an often, many occasions a very heart‑wrenching experience, I hope that by the end of today we will recognize that it's also an extraordinary celebration and a moment in which we can acknowledge strength and courage.

But before I talk too much‑‑because of course once people give me a microphone, I do tend to go on for a minute, so I won't do that‑‑let me say to you that I'm not going to be standing by my own‑‑by myself today.  I am going to be joined by some very, very special guests, who will, of course, be addressing you. 

So, without any further ado, I would like for you to please put your hands together for Jim Kim, the President of the World Bank Group, our host this evening. 


Ban Ki‑moon, the Secretary‑General of the United Nations.


Frieda Pinto, the renowned actress, activist; and plans Because I'm a Girl Ambassador.


Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for International Development for the United Kingdom.


Shabana Basij‑Rasikh, co‑founder of the School of leadership in Afghanistan.


And Holly Gordon, who is the executive producer of "Girl Rising," the remarkable film that, of course, has been the catalyst for this evening's events.

To each and every one of you, very, very warm welcome.  Thanks for joining me.  It was getting a bit lonely up here.  Please do take a seat, though.

I personally am South African, and I have to say that I did grow up in a township.  I did grow up during Apartheid, and I suppose in many ways that was a little bit of a double‑whammy.  So, for me, the question of empowering young women or girls should not even be an issue.  And granted we can recognize there have been significant strides made in the past decade or two when it comes to equity, gender equity, women's empowerment, the empowerment and enrichment education of young girls, I think anybody standing in this atrium this evening won't argue that there is a lot‑‑a lot more‑‑that we still need to do.

And I hope that today, at the end of this evening and certainly with seeing the film, it will inspire you to act in whichever way that you can, because we all recognize that it doesn't always take 500 people to do one thing to effect change and to make a difference.  It takes each and every one of us doing one small thing in our lives and in our environments that can effect that change and mean a positive story for young women.

But before we do that, I also want to be sure to acknowledge the partners who helped make this happen.  They've worked really, really hard, and I think you will also appreciate the fruits of their labor a little bit later.  Vulcan Productions, 10x10, whose director, Richard Robbins.  Richard, where are you?  There you are.  He's over there.  He really was the creative genius behind this film, and when I say‑‑when you see the film, you'll understand why I say that.  So, Richard, good job for you.

And also Intel Corporation, whose executive Susan Miller [phonetic] is also standing over there.  So there she is in the blue jacket.  She just waved.

To all of you, thank you for your hard work, your commitment and your dedication to this project.  I think it makes a huge, huge difference to the question of gender equity and the empowerment of women and young girls.

So, I told you I could talk a lot, but I shan't anymore.  I shall move straight on to a gentleman who in effect really doesn't need any introduction, but I am the emcee, so I guess I do have to introduce him.  But it wasn't even as long as just a few hours ago that today he said, "We can't end poverty without putting girls and women at the center of development."  I don't think anyone could frankly have said it any better.

So, ladies and gentlemen, once again, please put your hands together for Jim Kim, the President of the World Bank.


DR. KIM:  Welcome.  Welcome, everybody to the World Bank.

You know, as some of you may have heard, the World Bank is a happening place now, and we're glad to have you here for our regular Thursday Party, which looks just like this.

You know, the Secretary General, Ban Ki‑moon, and I have just come from a really remarkable meeting.  It was the first time that we've had ministers of finance together with ministers of education to talk about development and to talk about what we need to do to make sure that every child can go to school and that every child is learning.

We all agreed on the need to take urgent action to address the global learning crisis, which poses a serious threat to our mission to end poverty and build shared prosperity.

Our vision is simple:  This should be the first generation in history in which every child‑‑girl or boy, rich or poor‑‑is able to go to school and attain a quality education.  And every child should have an equal opportunity to live her life free from threats of poverty and oppression.  Every child should be empowered to realize her dreams.

The World Bank is very proud of the support we've given to countries to get millions more children into school and to ensure they gain the knowledge and skills they need to secure good jobs, lead productive lives, and care for themselves and their families.

We also have made promoting gender equality a top priority for the entire institution.

So, many of our partners here in the development community, including the U.K., represented here by Secretary of State, Justine Greening, have championed these efforts, and I just want to take a moment to commend all of you for the incredible work you do every day.

But despite the important gains we have made, this new film serves as a powerful reminder that far too many children, and especially far too many girls, are still unable to go to school.  Too many girls are prevented from making their own choices.  Too many girls are denied the chance to determine their own futures.  This must change.

Unlocking the opportunity of learning for all can have a transformational impact.  Just look at what we know.  We know that children born to a mother who can read are 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of five.  We know that a girl with an extra year of education can earn up to 20 percent more as an adult.

On my recent trip to Afghanistan, I saw education is changing the trajectory of so many girls' lives for the better and charting a future of hope and opportunity in their country.  As Liam Neeson says in the film:  Want to grow the global economy?  Educate a girl.

He's right.

So, tonight, as you watch the "Girl Rising" film, and I hope you will all stay to do that, I call on you to ask yourself:  What will it take to get all girls, all children into school and make sure that they learn?  What can you or your organization do to help ensure that all girls have an equal opportunity to get an education and pursue their dreams?

We now have less than a thousand days until the end of 2015 and the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals.  This deadline must add urgency to our action.  So, once you draw your strategy, go do it.  Do it for Wadley in Haiti, who is determined to go to school and learn after the earthquake, even though her mother doesn't have the money to pay school fees.  Do it for Sena in Peru, who is determined not to let her father's job loss keep her out of school.  Do it for Amina in Afghanistan, who is determined to make sure her children have more choices and better futures.

Tonight, join me and commit to take action for all the amazing girls featured in this film, and for the empowered women they and their daughters, all of our daughters, have the right to become.

Thank you very much, and now I would like to introduce the Secretary‑General of the United Nations to say a few words.


SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON:  Thank you, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank.

Ladies and gentlemen, good evening.

It's a great pleasure to see you.  We are gathering here in the World Bank.  I really feel energy and power and dynamism coming to me from all of you.  I hope we can generate this energy and dynamism for "Girl Rising," and I thank organizing this "Girl Rising," particularly Ms. Holly Gordon, the producer of "Girl Rising," and I thank very much, and I also thank talented actress Frieda Selene Pinto and Ms. Shabana for this 10X10, and I thank all the leaders of the world and civil society leaders of business communities who have been working together with the United Nations to empower girls and women.

I am very grateful to those who made this "Girl Rising" possible.  The stories which you are going to see this evening speak for themselves.  So I don't need to say much more.  I don't have much things to add to that.  But let me just say a few words, what United Nations is doing.  United Nations is doing all best efforts to empower women and girls, particularly through education.

As you know, September last year, I have launched a Global Education First, during General Assembly last year, to ensure every single girl has a chance to go to school.  We still have 61 billion children who are out of school.  Our target, by 2015, is that to bring all these 61 million boys and girls to get primary‑‑at least a primary education.

In Haiti, UNICEF has provided three‑quarters of a million school kids to girls and boys.  In Afghanistan, UNESCO, they have a literacy program which has reached more than 50,000 women to school.  The United Nations Global Stop Rape Now campaign aims to end sexual violence against women.  And when emergencies hit around the world, the UN Population Funds distributes dignity kits to women and girls.  These are just some our life‑saving activities for girls and women.

It is now important to raise funds and organize.  This is exactly what we are doing on the occasion of the World Bank and IMF's finance ministers meeting.  This is the first time that the Secretary‑General is now meeting education ministers, finance ministers.  Why I'm doing?  I really want to give hope to many, many girls around the world.  Most of the programs which I am dealing as Secretary‑General of the United Nations comes from abject poverty, despair, and lack of education.  I have seen so many children wandering around the street during the time when they should be at school.

Everybody has a role to play.  If you have a Twitter, if you have a mobile phone if you have a blog or Tumblr, just speak out.  You can challenge your president, prime ministers, ministers, and your congress leaders.  You have the right to have equal opportunity‑‑if not better‑‑equal opportunity for your decent life, decent job, and dignified life.

One of the girls in this film [unclear] is a super hero.  I quite agree that she is a super hero.  I think we have another super hero whom you know very well, with whom I have spoken, I have Skyped just only this month.  Her name is Malala Yousufzai of Pakistan.


SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON:  She is a symbol of hope for many billions of girls.  She was hit, almost she has died, by the Taliban because she wanted to have right to go to school because she wanted to read textbooks.  We're going to make so many billions of girls like Malala.  We are going to invite her to the United Nations General Assembly to show that we can make it, we can make all the girls go to school and empowered.  The billions of our outstanding young women in our world, when we nurture their minds, protect their bodies and release their potential, we will create an unstoppable force of change and progress.

Let us make this world better for all, particularly for girls and women, and I thank you very much for your commitment.

Thank you.


MS. MAKGABO:  Mr. Secretary‑General, thank you very much.

And I have to say, when you stood up when you were talking about how you felt the energy, I really expected you to bust a move, but that's a conversation for another day.  We will organize that just for you.  So, thank you very much.

Of course, this is also about the voices of strength, and a woman who I don't think anybody can question her credentials when it comes to championing gender equity is Justine Greening.  So, Justine, please.


MS. JUSTINE GREENING:  Thank you, and good evening.

I stand here today as Secretary of State for International Development for the U.K. Government, but I must tell you that I never planned to become a politician, but I did for three reasons:

Firstly, because I came to understand that in this world it's people who make the difference, people who take a fundamental decision to reject that the status quo is the way that things will always be.

Secondly, I went into politics because I believe that everybody, whoever they are, deserves to be heard.

And, thirdly, I went into politics because I passionately believe that it shouldn't matter where you start in life.  Opportunity should be there for us all.  And yet, for millions of girls, the status quo is what they have to accept:  routine violence every day, never setting foot in a school in their life, and still facing the fact that simply having a child will be the main cause of death in their teenage years.  And if ever there was a film that shows us why we cannot accept the status quo, why we must listen to those unheard voices and why opportunity has to reach into every corner of our globe, it's "Girl Rising." 

And gaining the most basic human rights of girls around the world right now is perhaps the most profound human challenge that the world has.  In my role, I will relentlessly pursue opportunities for girls.  It will be my priority, and Britain will never stand on the sidelines when it comes to this agenda.

A hundred years ago, suffragettes were campaigning in Britain for votes for women:  "Deeds Not Words."  That's what they shouted.  And yesterday, I was at the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, one of the world's first female prime ministers and leaders.  These women taught me to have the courage to take a stand for the things that I believe in, and they changed the world I grew up in forever.

If we want to, we can all be role models.  And I went into politics to make a difference.  None of us can change the world on our own but perhaps working together we can.

Thank you.


MS. MAKGABO:  Thank you very much, and certainly I think that is going to be the underlying theme, that inasmuch as there is an expectation we each do our own bit, as a collective, of course, we can change the world.  So, Justine, thank you very much for those words.

The next person who is going to speak is not only a renowned actress, but she's also hugely, hugely passionate about the question of empowering young girls.  So, ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for Frieda Pinto.


MS. FRIEDA PINTO:  Good evening.

I was roughly in the fourth or fifth grade when I began understanding the difference between a luxury and a basic need.  A BMW M3 convertible?  A luxury.  Water?  A basic need.

So, when I saw this precocious 10‑ or 11‑year‑old girl around the same age as me back then, begging for money at a traffic signal in my home town in Mumbai, her hair bleached by the overexposure to sun, looking longingly at my school uniform, I asked my mother:  "Is education a luxury as well?"

Some questions that children ask, as we all know, stump and baffle adults and we make them think.  My mother being a teacher herself and also being aware of the fact that there are many children who do not enjoy the joys of just being in school, who are not fortunate enough to be in school, wanted to answer this question in a way that would motivate me and not depress me.  So, she said:  "Education should be a basic need like food, clothing and shelter.  There are many who are not so fortunate.  You have all four, so value it and work even harder so one day you can use your voice and be heard."  I can't thank my mother enough for being such a source of inspiration in my life and giving me the right answer at the right moment when I really needed it.

Indeed, education has given me not just the power to dream but the confidence to go out there and make my dreams come true.  Last year, my friends at Plan introduced me to 10x10.  I immediately saw an opportunity to become part of an ambitious and very important movement.  I believe that this campaign will help engender the shift in consciousness, which is very much required for girls to thrive, and today's learning for all ministerial meeting we just had has further solidified this belief.  Change is not going to happen; it is already happening.

Further to my work that I did with Plan International and "Because I'm a Girl" campaign, I met some girls in Sierra Leone, and this is where I derive most of my inspiration from.  These girls face tremendous odds:  child marriage, forced or self‑imposed prostitution to make ends meet, denial of education, and the shocking female genital mutilation that is unfortunately embedded in tradition.  For some of these girls, staying in school was a challenge, not because they did not want to learn, but because the long walk to school itself can be quite dangerous.  They might be abducted, molested or raped.

But the more I spoke to them, the more I sensed their burning determination, the more I realized that their dreams were not different from mine or yours or anyone here.  They dreamt of becoming journalists, doctors, politicians, world leaders.

I also visited some fantastic youth empowerment programs in India last year, what added to the uplifting stories of girls trying to better their own lives was the willingness of the young boys to help these girls enjoy the same privileges as themselves.  We do not ignore the boys when we talk about girl education.

This made me realize that there is a lot of hope, if you just look for it in the right places.  These girls do not see themselves as victims, but they do need our help, and they are asking for it to achieve their full potential.  This is where 10x10 and its film "Girl Rising" comes in.  I believe that the girls like the nine you will meet in this film hold our future in their hands.  By educating a girl, she will have a voice.  She will be self‑sufficient.  She will marry later.  She will have educated children, her daughters‑‑and this part is crucial, my friends‑‑she will educate her sons who will, in turn, educate their daughters, and the cycle continues.

This is the part I'm very excited about because I have proof.  I feel very privileged to introduce to all of you a remarkable young woman who became my hero today.  She's a beacon of courage, light, and positivity.  She's the shining example that leaders can be born in every part of the world, including those parts that are struggling with pressing political, social, and economic issues.  Please meet Shabana Basij‑Rasikh. 

Shabana was six years old when the Taliban came into power in Afghanistan and decreed it illegal for girls to go to school.  Just 23, Shabana is the co‑founder and head of Sola, the School of Leadership Afghanistan, a boarding school for girls in Kabul.  She's also a global ambassador of 10x10.  Please put your hands together for Shabana.


MS. SHABANA BASIJ-RASIKH:  Thank you, Frieda.  It's wonderful to be part of a team with such a committed advocate.

Good evening.  I'm one of the lucky 6 percent, an Afghan woman who has made it beyond high school.  But I'm educated because my family defied the Taliban regime who banned education for girls.  For six years, I dressed as a boy and slipped off to a secret school.  It was dangerous for all of us, but there was no question that all the children in my family would be educated, no matter what the risks.

I feel privileged that I was well educated, but education should not be a privilege.  It must be a right, which is why I co‑founded the first boarding school of its kind in Afghanistan, in a country where illiteracy rate for a woman is more than 90 percent.  I'm committed to helping these girls receive the quality education that they deserve.

I want to talk about a couple of things tonight that I believe is critical if we are to successfully challenge this education gap.  The first one is how we define the problem.  Well, it is just that:  a problem.  The Afghan girl in the movie that you are going to watch this evening will implore you not to blame culture, religion, or tradition for why girls are kept out of school.  So do I.  You see, if we dismiss it as a cultural norm, we give ourselves a reason why not to do something about it.  What it is, is a problem, so we must call it that so we can fix it.

The other point I want to make is about men who value their daughters like the men in my family, like my grandfather who insisted on educating my mother and was exiled from his family because of it; like my father, who chose to marry my educated mother; and like my brothers who will educate their daughters.  This, too, is Afghan culture, so please don't blame culture.

My father is my greatest champion who always challenged me to dream bigger.  He speaks four languages, and he will always tell us that it would be a shame if my children also speak only four, so I speak five.

[Laughter and applause.]

MS. SHABANA BASIJ-RASIKH:  The fathers of my students have similar ambitions.  Recently, one of my students went home on holiday.  On the road to the rural village, they just missed being killed by a bomb.  The phone rang when they reached home.  "I was planning your funeral," the caller said.  "If you send your daughter back to school, to Kabul, we will try again."

The father's answer?  "Kill me now, if you wish, but I will not stop my daughter's future because of your narrow and dark mind."


MS. SHABANA BASIJ-RASIKH:  These men who fight for their daughters exist in Afghanistan.  This is one very important reason why we are seeing more girls being educated today.  It was not so long ago that girls who went to schools in Afghanistan numbered in hundreds, but today they are more than six million.


MS. SHABANA BASIJ-RASIKH:  After graduating from Middlebury College, I had many opportunities to stay here.  But I chose to go back home to live in a place where I'm sure all of you want to go on vacation; right?  But I went back home because I believe in the future of Afghanistan because I see a world of possibilities in the eyes of my students, and so much hope. 

And it is a fragile place, and we need support.  Through your work, you have an incredible opportunity to effect change.  I'm sure you're here today to bring economic, social, and political stability to our world.  We're giving you‑‑we're here today to give you an amazing tool, "Girl Rising," and we're here today to urge you to please join us in spreading this message.  Invest in girls' education; it pays off.

Thank you.


MS. MAKGABO:  Yeah, I think she got all the applause.  Thank you very much to Frieda and, of course, Shabana, to you for those very inspirational words because really that is what today is about, inspiring us all to action.

Partly, to be honest, I don't think we would be gathered in this room in this way talking about the subject in the manner in which we are if it wasn't for the inspiration of this film called "Girl Rising," so the last speaker, but I wouldn't say the least by any stretch, please welcome to the podium one of the producers of "Girl Rising," Holly Gordon.


MS. HOLLY GORDON:  That's so much, and thank you to the panelists, and thanks to all of you for lending your Thursday night to this extraordinary screening of "Girl Rising," and I'm here to tell you‑‑and Richard, the director, can attest to this‑‑that dreams really do come true, being here today. 

When we set out on this adventure six years ago, our goal was to capture the stories and the opportunity that educating girls represents and to give to policy leaders like all of you, leaders who have worked for years and years in this space collecting the data and the arguments for educating girls to give you a tool that you could take to your country and spread the word.  Spread it to the farthest corners of the universe, because what we know is what all of you know:  Educating girls works.

So, to be here tonight is a great, great privilege.  And Dr. Kim asked you to think about, while you watch

the film, what can you do, what can your role be in this movement, what can you do as a result of tonight's event?  And what I would like to ask all of you to do is to bring "Girl Rising" to your country.  Use the stories of the nine girls you're about to meet tonight to change the minds of your presidents, your fellow ministers, your non‑profit leaders, your girls, your boys, your men, and your women. 

Let everyone in your countries understand what we understand so well by sharing these stories:  that educating girls is a pathway to prosperity for all of us, for men, for women, for mothers, for children, because if we can turn skeptics into believers, then we can move one step closer to ending poverty.  Now is the time to make educational equality a priority.

So, here is what you have to do:  you have to set your intention and move forward boldly.  Now is the time to grab the headlines.  We created "Girl Rising" with the extraordinary help of global figures like Frieda Pinto because those sorts of movie stars help grab the headlines.  This film is created to help you grab headlines for your work.  So, create your strategy, and let's go for it.

And when it comes to strategy, our founding partners at Intel, as part of their commitment to 10x10, are creating a policy framework to help you set your strategy.  I hope you will use that policy framework and call on them and call on us to help you build momentum because now is the time to step up.

Philanthropist Paul Allen and his team at Vulcan Production have stepped up, doubling down on their investment to help us make this film, so that you can use it to move the needle on girls' education.  Everyone who shared the stage with me tonight‑‑and I invite you to join me again, standing now‑‑is standing up for girls' education:  Dr. Kim, Secretary‑General Ban Ki‑moon, Secretary Greening, Frieda and Shabana.  All of us stand here together with you and ask you to help us put girls' education at the top of everyone's agenda.  Help us change the world for you, for me, for the nine girls in our film, and for every girl who will some day be a businesswoman, a wife, a leader, and a mother of both our boys and our girls.

So, watch the film tonight and then act.  Each one of you will receive a sheet with information about how to bring "Girl Rising" to your country and to your community here in the United States.  Malala's birthday is in July.  International Day of the Girl is in October.  I posit to each one of you that those are both excellent days to announce your girls' education strategy.

Girls are rising, and they're waiting for you to join them, so please join us.


MS. MAKGABO:  Thank you.  Thank you so much, Holly, and to each of our guests this evening, Jim Kim, Ban Ki‑moon, Frieda Pinto, Justine Greening, Shabana, Holly, to each of you thank you so very much, and I can't help but recognize the fact that one of the important things that the President actually said was it really is about giving young girls or young women a voice, the choice, and control, and I think if we manage to do that, we will, in fact, effect significant and sustainable change.

Once again to you, it's been my pleasure to be with you for the past half an hour.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I do, and I hope to soon join you once again in this gorgeous atrium.  Ladies and gentlemen, to our guests, thank you very much once again.  And thank you for being so very attentive, and please welcome back on stage Sweet Honey.