Catalytic Content and the Power of Storytelling: How Girl Rising changes minds

By Girl Rising


Girl Rising has partnered with the International Rescue Committee and Citi to create a film and campaign around the story of one brave young girl named Nasro, whose daily life is a fight to get the education she deserves. The film, Brave Girl Rising, will be released this March on International Women’s Day, and is just one of many ways Girl Rising, the IRC, and Citi are working to ensure girls everywhere on the planet have access to safe schooling. In our previous blog posts, we explained why we are telling the story of Nasro and introduced you to Warsan Shire, the poet who is writing the screenplay. Now we’re going to take a step back and talk about why we make films the way we do--something we call catalytic content.


If you’ve seen the film Girl Rising, the movie that started the movement, you already know that our films are a fusion of documentary and drama. We meld our roots in documentary filmmaking with the creativity of writers and artists to make something original. It’s true, but it’s not a documentary. It’s emotional and expressive, but it’s strongly grounded in each girl’s reality.


“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark”

—Warsan Shire

Normally, when we select the screenwriter for our films at Girl Rising, I come up with a list of three to five acclaimed writers with relevant backgrounds to tackle the story. But this time I had only one name to nominate: Warsan Shire. Her work was that perfect.

There’s a reason Beyoncé chose her work to be the dramatic framework for her Lemonade album and film. Warsan’s poetry is ferocious and raw, and yet all the while gorgeous. Her debut book of poetry, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, led to her winning the Inaugural Brunel University African Poetry Prize in 2013. And in 2014 when Warsan—herself a refugee from Somalia—was only 16-years-old, she was named London’s first Young Poet Laureate.

Today, quotes from her poems spill across social channels and find their way to dorm room cork-boards, coffee house journals and the walls of refugee centers. Her Twitter and Instagram feeds are shared by thousands.


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