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The Creation of Brave Girl Rising

March 22, 2019
Jeni Yaghoubi, Citi Global Branding & Sponsorships

The task before them was far from simple: create a film about a real young woman pursuing her education in one of the world's largest refugee camps. But you can only film for 4 hours a day inside the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, because it closes to outsiders at 1pm for fear of security breaches. You also need armed officers to accompany you at all times and translators who speak Somali, Sawhili and English to the staff and predominantly Somali refugees, who play themselves in a movie about their lives. And you need to explain what a film is in the first place to people who most likely have never seen one. Yet who, despite the odds, continue to dream and persevere with courage and conviction.

Brave Girl RisingMartha Foster, Brave Girl Rising Director

That is just part of the story behind the creation of Brave Girl Rising, a new short film by Girl Rising in collaboration with Citi, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), HP, Shearman & Sterling, and Amplifier. The film follows a young refugee woman named Nasro who sees education as her lifeline, yet every day faces formidable challenges in accessing this fundamental human right. In telling her story, the film seeks to illuminate the plight facing millions of refugee girls around the world striving for an education.

Brave Girl RisingMartha Foster, Brave Girl Rising Director

"The truth is that most of the time we couldn't allow ourselves too much space to think very deeply about the human tragedy that we were surrounded by," said Richard Robbins, who wrote about his experience in Dadaab as the film's co-director. "I feared that if I really let my mind take it all in, I'd be paralyzed by the scale of the suffering and the relative hopelessness of the lives unfolding here. If we think of freedom as the basic right to pursue your own life choices then it's hard to deny that these people, hundreds of thousands of them, are not free. And maybe the girls are the least free of all. That's a tough thing to accept. But it kept us working especially hard to tell a story about a girl who thrives and fights and dreams."

The film premiered on International Women's Day, March 8th, and launched a global campaign to inspire action for girls' education and empowerment. Citi has a deep history and commitment to supporting gender equality and women's empowerment as part of our mission to enable growth and progress for all. As the leading global bank, we have a responsibility to use our footprint in over 100 countries to amplify issues that affect people across the world. In celebration of Women's History Month, Citi colleagues are hosting 159 screenings of Brave Girl Rising across 61 countries this month alone, including a screening at Citi's Global Headquarters in New York last week with over 350 colleagues and external stakeholders in attendance.

Nasro's story reflects many of the universal challenges women and girls face around the world: a mother lost during childbirth, a month-long trek to an unknown country; daily threats of violence; the absence of running water and electricity; the pursuit of an education.

Brave Girl RisingMartha Foster, Brave Girl Rising Director

Written by a refugee – acclaimed poet Warsan Shire -- performed by refugees, and made in collaboration with refugees in one of the world's largest camps, Brave Girl Rising is a story about how hope, love, and friendship can propel us beyond even the bleakest of circumstances.

"We want to get people talking about the reality for refugee girls all over the globe, the barriers they face in securing basic human rights and the truly transformative power of education for girls living as refugees", said Christina Lowery, CEO of Girl Rising. "We believe films like ours can turn bystanders into activists and we have seen first-hand the results of people who become engaged in the issue and are inspired to act."

Watch the film and get involved at