We Will Rise

We Will Rise

A Film Review


Shannon Sutherland
Former Assistant Editor
Pencils for Africa
What is Smart?
Girl Smart Africa
African Kitchen Table


In We Will Rise, the CNN documentary released in league with Michelle Obama, there are even more amazing stories of girls making unfathomably large sacrifices in order to get an education.

Seeing the sacrifices of these amazing young girls and seeing them struggle against the will of their families, their cultures, and their peers for a chance to learn got me thinking about my own life and privileges. I recall the old patterns of thought which I used to fall into:

The guilt at all that I had while my sisters all over the world had so little; the false sense of helplessness; thinking that the issues I was learning about were simply too much to handle. I know these same emotions are in the hearts of many in America regarding girl’s education in rural areas of developing countries.


Now allow me to rid us of that mental fog, that cloud of useless emotions which tell us we are powerless to effect change. As members of the global community who happen to be more financially and resourcefully fortunate, we have the greatest power to effect change!

Often, the trap we fall into is not knowing how we can help, or feeling deterred by the sheer size and complexity of human rights issues such as girls’ education in rural areas in developing countries.

I would like to offer some mental bolt cutters with which to expel these enslaving chains.


We might think of girls in developing countries as comparatively disempowered and enslaved within their limited opportunities to obtain education – that part seems obvious to you, doesn’t it? However, here is the part that may not seem so obvious to you: You and I are also disempowered and enslaved within our own self imposed view of what we can do to help our own sisters within our own global neighborhood; you and I are also disempowered and enslaved, as global citizens, whenever we indulge ourselves in guilt and pity.

We should rejoice, for we are capable of effecting change.

— Shannon


Nobody ever got anywhere by sitting around in their own guilt and pity.

That is no help to anyone, and especially not to those girls who deserve change.

What we should feel is compassion and empathy for these girls, that they are not treated as the humane, capable, strong, intelligent leaders that they are. We should feel solidarity, for no girl should have to choose between her education and her culture. We should feel inspired by movements such as Girl Rising.


And finally, we should rejoice, for we are capable of effecting change for these girls.

By educating ourselves about the struggles that these girls face to learn, we can understand how to better channel our activism and resources. By listening to girls around the world, we can better understand their struggle and spread their stories to the world. By treating these girls as our own sisters and supporting them in their fight for their right to knowledge, we empower them to make decisions confidently and believe in their truly unlimited value as honored members of our global community to effect change for good.

This problem is not hopeless. It is fixable.

— Shannon

CNN - Girl Rising Shoot: Flotus visits Liberia

This problem is not hopeless. It is fixable.

And we, as members of a global community – not a local community – do have an obligation to educate ourselves, recognize what we can do to empower these girls, and then make a practical impact for good.

— Shannon