Tessa Thompson and David Oyelowo Join Brave Girl Rising
Star actors to voice Warsan Shire’s poetic screenplay


Girl Rising has partnered with the International Rescue Committee, Citi, HP and Amplifier to create a film and campaign around the story of one courageous young woman named Nasro. Brave Girl Rising, to be released this March on International Women’s Day, is written by the poet laureate Warsan Shire. In our previous blog posts, we explored the refugee crisis and took you on-location for the filming in Dadaab Refugee Camp. In today’s post, we introduce you to two Hollywood actors who lend their voice and stature for good.

Photo by Andre D Wagner

Photo by Andre D Wagner

In years past, when producing our other film chapters, Girl Rising has turned to the finest talent in the world. Meryl Streep voiced Maaza Mengiste’s screenplay about an Ethiopian girl refusing marriage. Cate Blanchett narrated Edwidge Danticat’s story of a young Haitian girl fighting for an education. And for this latest screenplay by Warsan Shire, the young poet laureate who set the world ablaze when Beyoncé made her poetry a centerpiece of her Lemonade, we set out to find an equally talented actor.

Tessa Thompson, an acclaimed actress and thought-provoking activist, was moved by the story and immediately said “yes.” Known for her roles in Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters — Thor: Ragnarok, Westworld, Creed (I and II), and the upcoming Men in Black—she has also received praise for her performances in independent films like Sorry to Bother You and Dear White People. She leverages her influence to do good, and with millions of Instagram followers, her voice carries. 

“When I read Warsan Shire’s gorgeous script, I was blown away by the beauty and strength of her prose.” said Thompson. "The women's movement is about all of us. We have a responsibility to stand up for the rights of women everywhere- and that includes the 17 million girls around the world who have been forcibly displaced from their homes.” 


"The women's movement is about all of us—and that includes the 17 million girls around the world who have been forcibly displaced from their homes."

- Tessa Thompson


Thompson is often called a rising star, but the truth is she’s been a powerhouse for some time and a role model for Hollywood insiders set on upending stereotypes. Frustrated by the sameness of the roles she was offered—a slave in a period piece, an angry mother in an urban drama, etc—she scaled back to be more thoughtful about the roles she’d accept. In 2018, she told The Guardian: “I had all but decided to take a break and do some plays, and to see plays and read books and not work—literally not work—until I was going to burn for something.”

The strategy was a smart one because her roles of late are routinely strong, multi-dimensional female characters from Diane Nash in Selma to the performance artist-provocateur named Detroit in Sorry to Bother You, to a Norse Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok.

"As one of the founding members of Time’s Up, Tessa is frequently using her platform to advocate for women and girls of color, and Brave Girl Rising is an extension of those values," said Christina Lowery, CEO of Girl Rising. “She frequently plays heroic characters onscreen, but the truth is she’s a real-life heroine for millions of young women around the globe.”

MV5BMjA3NDExNzY4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTQ0OTgzODE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,666,1000_AL_ copy.jpg

"Being a father to a beautiful daughter myself, I look for ways I can be effective rather than just angry about the injustices I see.”

- David Oyelowo


Tessa’s voice performance of Nasro, the 17-year-old girl at the center of Brave Girl Rising, will be complimented by Girl Rising Ambassador David Oyelowo, who voices the introduction to the film. Oyelowo has long been committed to raising awareness for refugee girls and plays an active role in the non-profit GEANCO, which awards the “David Oyelowo Leadership Scholarship for Girls” to victims of terrorism and gender inequality in Nigeria. The actor best known for Selma, Gringo, and Queen of Katwe will soon star opposite Angelina Jolie in Come Away.

"Being a father to a beautiful daughter myself, I look for ways I can be effective rather than just angry about the injustices I see,” shares David Oyelowo. "That is what I find to be so valuable about Brave Girl Rising: the film tells a powerful story and the campaign show us how we can be part of the solution.”

Girl Rising is deeply grateful to both Tessa and David for their help in amplifying this film and changing how people—from parents to presidents—value and invest in girls.

Join us
Sign up to receive news and updates
from Girl Rising and from the IRC.