Screening of Girl Rising

Panelists:
Maaza Mengiste Writer, Ethiopia, Girl Rising
Tom Yellin Executive Producer, 10x10; President, DocGroup
Description

Girl Rising is a film, directed by Academy Award nominee Richard Robbins, which tells the stories of 9 extraordinary girls from 9 countries, written by 9 celebrated writers and narrated by 9 renowned actresses. Girl Rising showcases the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to change the world. Explore the film in detail at www.girlrising.com.

Audio
Transcript

TOM YELLIN: I'm Tom Yellin. Thank you all very much for coming. I'm the executive producer of the film you're about to see.

I learned from a lawyer a long time ago when I was working in network television and got sued for some reporting we'd done that the best thing to say about your work is that it speaks for itself. (Laughter.) So I'm going to let the work speak for itself.

But I want to thank you all very, very much for coming. And afterward, led by the wonderful Isobel Coleman, we'll have a little bit of a discussion. I want to point -- you're going to see five -- the film "Girl Rising" is composed of nine stories, with some things in between meant to give it context. We're going to see five of those tonight. I want to point you particularly toward the fifth one, and that's because it may be one of my favorites, although I'm not supposed to say that, but it was also written by Maaza Mengiste.

Maaza, do you want to stand up and say hello to everyone? Maaza is an extraordinary writer, and so pay particular attention, if you would, to the fifth one, and then after that we're going to stop.

The only thing I'd like to say before we begin is that our intent with this film is to satisfy three different masters. I am a journalist by training. I worked for many years in network news. So this film is intended to be journalistic. In other words, everything in it is based on facts; it's based on reporting. And the film is meant to be journalistic.

It's also intended to be storytelling, an exercise in storytelling. And we used every trick we could think of to figure out how to convey the stories of the five girls you're about to see tonight to make those stories compelling to you.

And it's also -- and in a way that's perhaps most complicated for me because I'm a journalist, it's meant to be advocacy. The goal of this film is to motivate the people who see it to not just learn something but to do something.

And this combination of journalism and storytelling and advocacy was very, very complex for us to navigate and poses some interesting questions that might be one of the things we want to talk about after you've had a chance to see it. So with that in mind, I am thrilled to be here and present to you the first five stories of "Girl Rising."

(Audio break.)

ISOBEL COLEMAN: Incredibly moving film. Beautifully done. Very artistic. For someone who has worked on these issues for a really long time, it was really gratifying to watch this and to know that these issues will be brought to the attention of so many people around the world, which I think is really exciting. And as you said in the beginning, this -- the film really speaks for itself.

So let me -- I'm Isobel Coleman. I'm a senior fellow here at the Council on Foreign Relations. And we're just going to have a short conversation. We'll get y'all out of here within about 25 minutes or so, but I thought it would be a great opportunity to hear from the executive producer of the film and one of the writers about a little bit of the backstory of making this film.

So Tom, maybe you could actually start and just tell us how you came to make this film. You're a journalist, a documentary filmmaker, but as far as I know, didn't really have any connection to this issue before it landed on your plate.

YELLIN: That's true. That's true. Yeah, that's true. That's true.

First of all, I just want to say thank you all for coming. It's -- some people dream about showing films on -- in Hollywood on Sunset Strip. For me, the Council on Foreign Relations is the ultimate. (Laughter.) So -- and in our group, there was almost a fistfight for who would get to come tonight. (Laughter.) And since I'm the oldest -- (laughter) -- I won.

So the reason we did this -- there were really three reasons. One was editorial, one was creative, and one was practical. The editorial reason is that we were asked to research strategies for attacking global poverty. And in the course of doing that research, we stumbled on the data around investing in girls and what that really means. And it was so stunning and so powerful that it seemed like we had to do something.

And you know, if you're a journalist -- I sort of define news as a powerful truth that most people don't know. And a few years ago, when we started this, the truth about investing in girls, particularly girls' education, was something that very few people knew outside of places like the Council on Foreign Relations. So the editorial reason was irresistible. And we felt, honestly, a sort of responsibility, a personal responsibility, when we discovered that, to try to figure out how to share it.

The creative reason is that we knew it would be really hard. Telling stories about girls in school is not particularly interesting. And so we figured if you -- if you do what I do, you want to challenge yourself a little bit, and so we figured this would be a really big challenge -- (chuckles) -- how do you tell stories about the importance and values of girls' education in a way that justifies people actually sitting and watching it in a dark room?

And the practical reason is that we thought we could get it funded. If you know -- I used to work at a network for many years. If you don't work at a network, you have to eat what you kill, I think is the right phrase. (Laughter.) And we thought this was a subject that was so important and so powerful and so -- and so valuable, and creatively, we thought we had a pathway to do it, that we thought we could get it funded. So that's really why we did it.

COLEMAN: And you have a very creative marketing strategy for this film. Tell us a little bit about that.

YELLIN: Well, the film is really -- we view it as a tool. It's embedded in something called 10x10. Originally we intended to do 10 stories and put them in the film, and so the -- I called the -- I called the project 10x10. That also speaks -- ultimately it came to be a metaphor for the multiplier effect that happens when you educate girls. We ended up running out of money and time and screen time, so we ended up telling nine stories, so there's a tenth story we're planning to tell and use in the future. But the film is at the center of a campaign called 10x10, and that is designed to move people to act and enable them to do things that will support this growing movement that already existed before we began and is growing now around educating girls.

So we felt like if we went the normal route for a documentary, even though this is more of a hybrid, we'd end up showing it in New York in a small theater, in LA in a small theater and two other cities, and maybe we'd win some awards, and off we'd go. And that just seemed like an inadequate response to the opportunity.

So I hired someone last year to look into film distribution, and she came up with this idea that you could actually create theatrical film on demand. It's something that's never been done at scale before. There are two companies that do it. We obviously chose the less-established one, because that would be harder. (Laughter.)

And so we partnered with a company called Gathr. And the way this works -- if you go on GirlRising.com, you'll be able to see it. If you want to bring the film to your community, you can sign up to be a captain. And we then provide you with all these tools and -- meaning we find -- provide you with email messages and other things you can message to your friends, colleagues and people you might know and groups you belong to. And if enough people respond to that and decide to buy tickets in advance, then there will be a screening in your community.

And as of this afternoon -- I'm now obsessed with this. I have it on my thing. I refresh it all the time. As of this afternoon, we've sold 44,152 tickets already. (Applause.) And we've already had 150-some screenings since Thursday night, and there are 774 -- not that I'm counting -- (laughter) -- screenings that have already been created, and we expect many more.

So it's a very different way to do it, and it only works if -- the reason it's working for us is we have this broad network of partners, NGOs and some big companies and lots of grass-roots organizations who already are sort of poised to support this project. And even though many of them haven't seen the film, they're willing to put themselves out there to encourage other people to do so. And so that's allowed this demand-driven model to work.

COLEMAN: I'm showing the film at my various children's schools, so I encourage you to do the same thing.

YELLIN: Yes, please do that.

COLEMAN: It's an easy way to do it.

MAAZA MENGISTE (?): Yeah.

COLEMAN: Maaza, this film deals with poverty, rape, violence against women, cultural practices, religious constraints, child marriage. It touches upon a whole range of different issues that impact girls in a particular way.

Tell us about the story in Ethiopia, which you so beautifully crafted and which we just -- it was the last segment that we just saw. Ethiopia is one of the countries that does suffer from very high rates of child marriage and -- as we saw in the film. But, I mean, it really is a terrible issue the country faces. Despite laws that keep the marriage age at around 18, we know that the practice, particularly in the countryside, is very prevalent. And it -- and it really becomes the end of girls' education. So tell us a little bit about how you wrote that chapter.

MENGISTE: I -- I'll start off with maybe the very beginning when I got an email from Richard Robbins, the director, asking me if I would be interested in working on a documentary that would feature Ethiopia, amongst other countries. And they said, you know, we're still looking around at some issues, but right now we think that forced early marriage, child marriage, is a significant issue in Ethiopia, but maybe there's poverty, maybe there's something else, and, you know, what do you think?

And I was a little bit hesitant at first of the forced early marriage -- I -- as an Ethiopian and as a woman, I felt in a way very protective of the female -- the women in my country, and I didn't want to sexualize them any more than they sometimes tend to be. And I didn't want to show an issue that maybe -- may have broader -- may have a broader umbrella to fit under.

But I started doing my own research and found, as you said, that Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of forced early marriage. But I was speaking to my mother also, who is in Ethiopia, and she said, Maazi (ph), don't you remember your great-grandmother had your grandfather when she was 10? And my grandmother -- I'm named after my Grandmother Maaza -- and she said, she was married at maybe 11. And I said, OK, you know, this is something that hits very, very close to home, very close to home. I remember my great-grandmother very well.

So I said -- I emailed Richard. I called the producers. I said, you know, I'm in, and I really want to work on this issue.

And I started finding out more and realized that the Amhara region, which is the northern part of Ethiopia, has one of THE highest rates in Ethiopia -- the national average tends to be, I think, 1 in 5 girls get married before 15, I want to say --

COLEMAN: Fifteen.

MENGISTE: -- in Ethiopia, but in the Amhara region it's 1 in 2, 50 percent. And it was astounding to me. It was quite shocking. It's not that way in the city anymore, but if you think, my mother's generation was the first generation who could, at least some of them -- could choose who they wanted to marry and then could choose when they wanted to marry. And that's my mother's generation.

But I know friends of hers that are -- who have children who are my very close friends, their -- my friends' parents were arranged -- 16 years old, 15 years old. It's not -- it's not that far removed from us.

So I am really supportive of the work that's being done on this film and with Ethiopia, and I know it has broader implications also.

COLEMAN: Yeah. One of the implications, we know, and there's some really interesting work from Ethiopia that looks at differing fertility rates --

MENGISTE: Yes.

COLEMAN: -- and girls who have a high school education have, on average, two, 2.4 children, whereas in Ethiopia girls without a high school education are -- like five or six children.

MENGISTE: Yes.

COLEMAN: So I mean, there are enormous implications across the board.

One of the reasons I like the Ethiopia story so much is because the hero is her brother.

MENGISTE: Yeah.

COLEMAN: And you know, I talk on these issues a lot, and I always make the point that it's not as if women are on one side and men are on the other. Men and women are on one side, and you find women as complicit as men on the other side in perpetuating these traditions and --

YELLIN: But it's interesting, Isobel, because one of the things that I found interesting about the Ethiopia story is that the mother's motivation is not -- she wants to try to save her child.

COLEMAN: Yeah.

YELLIN: So it's complex and --

COLEMAN: It's very complex.

MENGISTE: Yeah.

COLEMAN: And that's true with all sorts of these issues. Whether it's early marriage or FGM or any of the things that are going on, mothers of course think they're doing the right thing by their daughters, and yet it does perpetuate these practices.

Tom, when you look across all the stories, are there any that posed a particular challenge for you in terms of an issue that was dealt with?

YELLIN: I would say there were just the nine. That's all, really. (Laughter.)

No, I think --

COLEMAN: These are controversial topics.

YELLIN: Yeah. I mean, I think there are a couple that -- there are four you didn't see. There's a story about India. There's a story from Peru. There's a story from Sierra Leone and a story from Afghanistan.

They all posed different kinds of challenges. The very first one, about Cambodia and -- was the first one we shot, it's the first girl we found, and it's the last one we finished. And the reason for that is that we couldn't sort out how to tell this girl's story in a way that makes sense. And what we ended up with is really a sort of metaphor of transformation that narratively is very thin. I'm not even sure you all were able to infer the story properly. This is a girl who was an orphan who was living in her -- by her wits going to the dump every day to pick things out of the garbage and was rescued by an NGO and got in school, and she's going to be president of Cambodia one day. We couldn't figure out how to tell that story in a way that made sense. So that one creatively was actually the most challenging.

The issue that was -- I mean, all of the issues were hard. The -- Sierra Leone -- I mean, I'm sorry, the Nepal story about the girl who was forced into indentured servitude by her parents in some ways was the most straightforward, but we really struggled with how to write that story so that it had a narrative progression.

The story from Afghanistan was particularly challenging because the country is so difficult, and the issues that girls face there are so extreme. And I'd urge you to watch it. I think it presents a very interesting opportunity to have a conversation about how to tell stories about people in that circumstance that make an impact.

Ethiopia was in some ways the easiest. I'm not saying that -- (chuckles) -- but it because Maaza is so exceptionally talented as a writer that what she brought us the first time was -- actually, that was the first time I breathed a sigh of relief is when I read you story because we were putting our creative life in the hands of these third parties, these writers, and we weren't sure what they were going to give us. And the first couple we struggled a little bit, but Maaza's story was so compelling that -- anyone who knows me will think I'm joking, but I sort of cried a little bit when I watched it -- I mean, read it. So each of them was different.

COLEMAN: Maaza, one of the things that excited me about this entire project was the idea that the movie and the chapters are going to be shown, I hope, in the countries where they were filmed. Tell us about bringing this to Ethiopia.

MENGISTE: My -- well, my entire family is waiting. They just called me yesterday wondering when it's going to be there. But there is an international plan that is being developed right now. And I know that the producers are working on the best ways to get it to Ethiopia. I know next week I believe it's going to be in Haiti --

YELLIN: Yeah, can -- you want to tell the story?

MENGISTE: No, you can tell it.

YELLIN: No, you tell it. (Laughter.)

MENGISTE: And so Wadley, who is just absolutely adorable here, will have a red carpet to walk on -- (laughter) -- (inaudible) -- so it was just really fantastic.

And I -- so I was talking to my family, and they are really excited. We are -- I kept saying, we are bringing it to Ethiopia, don't -- we are bringing it. But I think what will be really moving for me and I think what will be most powerful is the opportunity for Azmera and her family to watch this. And not just her family, but also there were several other little girls in her school and in her area who are younger than her who also said no to forced early marriage. And they have now the chance to see this. So they are going to see this story. And it becomes another method of outreach for that.

COLEMAN: What was the NGO that you worked with in Ethiopia to bring --

MENGISTE: World Vision.

COLEMAN: World Vision.

MENGISTE: Yes.

COLEMAN: And Tom maybe can mention some of the other NGOs too that --

YELLIN: Yes. World Vision was -- all of our partners were remarkable. World Vision and CARE --

COLEMAN: So the partner brought the girl and the girl's story to you.

YELLIN: Yeah. I mean, if you're a journalist, you know that when you go to these places, you need guides. And for us, the guides were primarily NGOs that do programmatic work in the countries. And we chose very carefully with guidance from people like Isobel, especially, to work with NGOs that we thought were engaged in best practice. And so each country we decided to go to -- and actually, the trickiest part about choosing a country was finding the Maaza in each country. They were -- sadly, there are many, many countries around the world in which we could tell these stories. We wanted geographical diversity, but we needed someone with talent who could bring these girls' stories to life. And so the most challenging thing was finding a writer.

But we worked with World Vision -- I'm going to get these wrong -- World Vision; CARE; Plan International; Partners in Health was our partner in Haiti; New Day Cambodia turned out to be our partner in Cambodia; Room to Read was our partner in Nepal; the U.N. Foundation; and -- oh, and I forget one.

COLEMAN: Peru?

YELLIN: Peru was CARE.

COLEMAN: CARE.

YELLIN: And the -- can I just expand on that very briefly? The interesting thing about our relationship with these NGOs is that when we went to them at first and said, look, here's what we want to do; we want to go tell some stories about girls that you deal with programmatically, and what we're going to do is make these tools that you can then use to raise money for yourself, and you can also use them as programmatic tools and as examples of success, as Maaza just said is going to happen in Ethiopia. And we don't want your fundraising list.

And they didn't believe us, actually. (Laughter.) They thought, (well ?), these guys talk fast, wow. (Laughter.)

But the truth is that what we were trying to offer our partners in the -- in the community that work with girls are tools that they can't afford on their own. They are not in a position to spend money on storytelling with this level of intensity. And once we -- it's been a really interesting process to see them sort of come round to believe the thing we told them originally, that we're going to make -- we're going to take these stories, give them to them and allow them to use them to do more work and to drive more resources to themselves. So it's worked quite nicely so far, but it was a process.

COLEMAN: I'm on the board of one of these partners, Plan. And I can tell you from being on the inside at board meetings, it would be -- really? They're going to do what? For free? (Laughter.) And then when we saw the early cuts that related to the girl that was provided by Plan, you know, it's breathtaking, and you had people sitting there saying, and how much did we have to pay for this? Nothing? Really? (Laughter.) You know, it's just sort of disbelief (across the board ?).

YELLIN: But it's interesting, we also had the opposite reaction, that we showed Partners in Health -- I'm sure it's an organization you guys know quite well -- was our partner in Haiti, and we showed them the first cut of Haiti, and what we got back from the person that works in our project who deals with the NGOs was they don't get it. They just don't get it. What is this -- I mean, how are they supposed to use this.

And so I ended up having an hourlong conversation with the people at Partners in Health because from their point of view, it wasn't the kind of advocacy they're used to. You know, it wasn't, look at this girl; we gave her medicine, now she's better, and her whole life is going to be wonderful. It's a sort of lyrical story about a girl who lives in very fragile circumstances whose life was upended by an outside event, and now she can't afford to go to school, and yet her determination carries her. And so I had this hourlong conversation with the people from Partners in Health in which I tried to show them how if they surrounded that chapter with their own content and they talked about how a healthy girl is not just someone who's physically healthy but it's someone who has a healthy life and education is part of total health and that's part of their messaging, that this could be an incredible tool for them, and they went, oh, yeah, right, I get it. (Laughter.)

So I think there's a learning process for everyone here, and we're very, very excited about the way that the film itself and its component parts is going to be used (in the world ?).

COLEMAN: Let's take some questions from members in the audience here who -- anybody -- I think we have a microphone. There's one in the back here. Could you just wait for the microphone, please? It's right here.

QUESTIONER: Congratulations. It's fabulous. The Cairo one was -- could you talk a little bit about that and --

YELLIN: Yeah, the Egypt story, as you saw, is about a girl who's never been in school. And some people have said, what does that have to do with girls' education?

But you know, to me, that's -- if I -- I don't have a favorite, but if I have one that gets me every time I watch this film, it's that one, because the -- what I -- what I've learned from that story is how prevalent sexual assault is on girls. I mean, the facts of that are just stunning. And I have four daughters, so I am particularly vulnerable to that kind of storytelling. And I think for us, the relevance of that story is that if girls are in school, they're far less likely to be attacked, for a whole bunch of reasons. So school is -- has an immediate impact on the health and welfare of millions and millions of girls around the world.

And that particular case -- and maybe, Maaza, you can speak to this -- in every country, what we did is we went in and interviewed many, many girls and ended up with a short list of four or five girls, and then we put that list in front of the writers that we were working with, and we asked them to choose. And in Egypt, the writer that we worked with is Mona Eltahawy, who I'm sure many of you know, and she's the one who chose the girl that we call Yasmin because in her view, the incidence of sexual violence is one of the great barriers that girls face to living meaningful lives and healthy lives.

So this notion -- and for us, we were actually -- wouldn't have chosen her. We would have chosen another girl in Egypt. But we went with Mona's choice, obviously, and in Ethiopia, we wouldn't have chosen Azmera, for sure. (Laughter.) So maybe you can -- if I may -- and I take John's (sp) question and turn it to you.

MENGISTE: (Chuckles.) Yeah, it was the -- the same -- they wouldn't have chosen the young girl that I picked either for Ethiopia.

But I was given four videotapes -- four videos -- four different girls telling their stories of marriage or almost married life. And each of these girls seemed to have -- I guess the other three girls that I watched were very forthright. They were -- they were very adamant about -- they knew their rights. They knew they shouldn't be married. They resisted. And one little girl even said she had told her parents, you can't talk to me anymore about this until I'm 16, and then we'll discuss it again.

YELLIN: The TV producer in me is going, yes, yes. (Laughter.)

MENGISTE: And -- but Azmera was painfully shy. She was -- she could barely look at the camera. She could barely get her words out. And so I kept watching these, and -- but for me as a writer, not as a producer, not as a director, but as a writer, I felt that there's a story there. If a girl that timid and that shy could say no, then I need to find out what it is about her, how it is that she came to stand up to her parents, to tradition, actually. So I told Richard and the producers my choice, and they said what Tom said --

YELLIN: Are you sure, I think is what we said.

MENGISTE: Are you sure? (Laughter.) That's not the one we would have picked. (Laughter.) But it turned out really well.

And again, we find the role of men in this, like you were saying, Isobel, it's -- I can't -- I can't agree enough that it's not just about educating girls. It's also about educating boys, who will be the people who will be told to marry a young girl. And if we don't reach them and if we don't reach people like Azmera's brother, then we're only fighting, I think, half the battle, that it's not just about girls.

COLEMAN: Thank you. In the front.

QUESTIONER: Eric Miller from J.P. Morgan, but more relevant, father of two little girls, and we'd love to show them the movie when it -- when it's appropriate. But I guess one of my questions is in terms of the stories, why not a domestic story?

YELLIN: That's a question, as you might imagine, we've gotten many, many times, and I'm tempted to punt that one to Isobel. Do you want to take that, Isobel, because we were -- (laughter) -- no, no, it's not -- it's not because it's a hard question. It's actually an easy question, and --

COLEMAN: It's not -- it's not -- no -- it's an easy question, because I was posed this question by the executive producer four years ago, and I said, oh, great; you want to do a story about access to education for girls in America. Well, here's the problem: Girls have more access than boys. So the story in America should really be a story about boys' education. I mean, we have now in this country girls outnumbering boys at every level of education, and in some cases, the gap is actually pretty big. So by the time you get to college, around 60 percent of college graduates are female in America. And, actually, that's a trend that's happening around the world, so it's not just in this country. But to do justice to that story, it would -- you really can't do a story about access to girls' education without looking at boys' education, and that wasn't really what the movie was about.

YELLIN: In the parlance of moviemakers, that's a different movie, is how we talk about it. (Laughter.) But I will say this, that I was -- I was sitting in the owner's box of an -- owner of a Major League franchise -- I won't say which one -- and he said, this is a great project, and we'd love to support it; I'll give you half a million dollars today if you'll do a story about a girl from West Virginia. And we said no, because it just wasn't the right thing to do. So that was hard, but I think it was the right answer.

COLEMAN: Right here.

QUESTIONER: Wonderful film. I have a 16-year-old daughter who is deeply involved in this area, and she's made a couple of films, not of this scale, but in India and South Africa, et cetera.

We traveled to Myanmar back in December, and you may know this, but human trafficking in child brides is extremely prevalent there. And we didn't realize this one -- and perhaps you discovered this -- but China is one of the key perpetrators that's fueling the demand for China -- for child brides out of Myanmar, and that's largely due to the one-child policy and the demand for -- you know, the prevalence of men.

And secondly, many of the traffickers themselves -- I don't know if you've found this -- are actually relatives, family members that sell the -- sell the young girls into slavery. I was wondering if you found that -- those patterns in the other countries.

YELLIN: Well, we didn't take on a trafficking story specifically. There were a number of issues that we didn't get to, and I don't even want to say what they are, because you might think we made huge, bad choices. But I think where -- when we faced issues that we couldn't deal with, what we said to ourselves to make ourselves feel like that was OK was that sort of bigger issue of gender equality and treating -- and valuing the girl is embedded in every story. So that's our logic for not doing everything. I don't know if that responds to your question, but --

COLEMAN: Contessa Burbonn (ph) from The New York Times. You have a great partnership with many NGOs. What about the governments? How can they transform the lives of many children in their countries in terms of policies? What is your message?

YELLIN: Well, that's a wonderful question. Thank you for asking. We have a -- this is a term I never thought I would use as a journalist, but we have a theory of change that we've tried to apply to this project. And our theory of change is that impact has three dimensions.

One is to change minds -- in other words, change the way people think so that the girl is properly valued equally with boys. And the messaging is designed to do that. The second component is to change lives -- in other words, give tools to our partners so that they can use what -- the stories we're telling to drive resources to best-practice programs. And we also have a fund that we've created that we're distributing to our NGO partners. So that is designed to change lives. And the third is change policy -- in other words, change the rules that affect girls. And that is our ultimate goal. So it's a great question.

I think there are a lot of ways to do that. One way to do that is to demonstrate to businesses that gender equality is a primary objective, and before they go and invest in countries, they need to examine gender policies. And Intel, which is a great partner of ours and has been an extraordinary contributor to this project, is one company that's doing that, and they're leading the way with others. We have -- because of Isobel and others, we've been at the Clinton Global Initiative. This year we were at Davos. We are going to present the film at the World Bank on April 18th to global leaders from all over the country -- I mean, all over the world. There is a whole international plan, as Maaza suggested, that we're in the process of developing that's -- and one of the key components is to use the film itself and the component parts of it as a lever for policy change and advocacy in -- all over the world, so -- I mean, I can talk about that forever, but I think changing the rules for girls is a key component. And we're guided by Isobel and others in designing that.

QUESTIONER: So thank you for asking that question because that was my question, but -- one of my questions. But a follow-on to that question about -- oh, sorry. My name is Diana Pollack (sp), Dr. Pollack (sp). I'm a former educator, professor and now businesswoman. I'm curious, with the -- with the young women who weren't selected as well as the women who were selected, we've seen -- this is a snapshot in their lives. I wonder what we're doing for the women we've seen and also the women who weren't selected. You can answer that question, and then I have to think about the second one I was thinking about. (Laughs.)

YELLIN: OK. Well, I can answer that quickly.

That's something we gave a tremendous amount of thought about. You know, you -- whenever you intrude on someone's life and you ask them to reveal themselves to audiences, you have to understand the implications of that. And we've seen examples and situations where people live in distressed circumstances where they're turned upside down by being exposed in the way that we wanted to do.

So we have developed a plan to try to support the girls who you see in the film and their pursuit of education through college if they choose to do that. But we're doing it through the NGOs that the girls are working with. And we -- and that -- the actual fund that does that is funded by Intel. And they made that commitment from the very beginning.

More broadly, we're working with the individuals NGOs that support these girls to support the broader community that these girls live in because we don't want these girls to be singled out and become targets as a result of their cooperation with us. And I have to say that's an incredibly complex and subtle process.

We've had mixed results in some instances. In Egypt in particular, as John (sp) suggested, that's been very, very challenging with that girl. As you saw, she's 13; she's engaged to be married. She has not been -- we've not been able to keep her in a program. I think her prospects going forward are not very bright for her to have the kind of life that one might want for her.

So we've struggled with that. It's been hard. What we've been determined not to do is distort these girls' lives and ruin them because they are willing to cooperate with us. But it's been hard.

QUESTIONER: So here's my second question before we leave tonight. You talked about activism. So can you recommend, for those of us who are in the audience, how we can spread the word and what we can actually do?

YELLIN: Absolutely. That's incredibly easy. (Laughter.) Go to -- we have two websites, one for the larger entity, 10x10act.org. It's 10x10act.org. And that has a broad range of opportunities for you to get engaged. If you want to support the film specifically, please go to girlrising.com, and you'll see ways to generate a screening. There's -- you can donate to the fund. You can spread the word. It's a very easy thing to do. And our focus now is to encourage as many people as we can to be exposed to the film, and the net result, we hope, will be a much broader engagement for everyone involved.

COLEMAN: I think last question right here.

QUESTIONER: I wonder if you -- (off mic) -- what, if any, relationship with UN Women, both to have the film shown within the U.N. context -- you said it's at the World Bank -- but then more importantly, to be able to be shown at country level as well and really disseminated as widely as possible?

YELLIN: Right. Well, we have a very close relationship with UNICEF and U.N. Foundation, which is not -- I'm sure you all know that group Ted Turner started is not directly affiliated with the U.N., but it's a partner; it's a core partner. And so we think the U.N. is a wonderful vehicle to reach audiences of influencers around the world, but it's not the only one we're using. And I'm sort of dodging the question a little bit because Holly Gordon, who runs the 10x10 campaign, would have a much smarter and better answer than I would.

So Isobel, can you help me with that one at all?

COLEMAN: I think you're on your own here, Tom. Sorry. (Laughter.)

YELLIN: OK, good. OK.

COLEMAN: "Don't know" is the answer.

YELLIN: Yeah.

COLEMAN: I think we're just about out of time. Show the film. Talk about the film. Get other people to see the film. And join me in thanking Maaza and Tom for -- (inaudible) -- (applause) --

YELLIN: Thank you.

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

TOM YELLIN: I'm Tom Yellin. Thank you all very much for coming. I'm the executive producer of the film you're about to see.

I learned from a lawyer a long time ago when I was working in network television and got sued for some reporting we'd done that the best thing to say about your work is that it speaks for itself. (Laughter.) So I'm going to let the work speak for itself.

But I want to thank you all very, very much for coming. And afterward, led by the wonderful Isobel Coleman, we'll have a little bit of a discussion. I want to point -- you're going to see five -- the film "Girl Rising" is composed of nine stories, with some things in between meant to give it context. We're going to see five of those tonight. I want to point you particularly toward the fifth one, and that's because it may be one of my favorites, although I'm not supposed to say that, but it was also written by Maaza Mengiste.

Maaza, do you want to stand up and say hello to everyone? Maaza is an extraordinary writer, and so pay particular attention, if you would, to the fifth one, and then after that we're going to stop.

The only thing I'd like to say before we begin is that our intent with this film is to satisfy three different masters. I am a journalist by training. I worked for many years in network news. So this film is intended to be journalistic. In other words, everything in it is based on facts; it's based on reporting. And the film is meant to be journalistic.

It's also intended to be storytelling, an exercise in storytelling. And we used every trick we could think of to figure out how to convey the stories of the five girls you're about to see tonight to make those stories compelling to you.

And it's also -- and in a way that's perhaps most complicated for me because I'm a journalist, it's meant to be advocacy. The goal of this film is to motivate the people who see it to not just learn something but to do something.

And this combination of journalism and storytelling and advocacy was very, very complex for us to navigate and poses some interesting questions that might be one of the things we want to talk about after you've had a chance to see it. So with that in mind, I am thrilled to be here and present to you the first five stories of "Girl Rising."

(Audio break.)

ISOBEL COLEMAN: Incredibly moving film. Beautifully done. Very artistic. For someone who has worked on these issues for a really long time, it was really gratifying to watch this and to know that these issues will be brought to the attention of so many people around the world, which I think is really exciting. And as you said in the beginning, this -- the film really speaks for itself.

So let me -- I'm Isobel Coleman. I'm a senior fellow here at the Council on Foreign Relations. And we're just going to have a short conversation. We'll get y'all out of here within about 25 minutes or so, but I thought it would be a great opportunity to hear from the executive producer of the film and one of the writers about a little bit of the backstory of making this film.

So Tom, maybe you could actually start and just tell us how you came to make this film. You're a journalist, a documentary filmmaker, but as far as I know, didn't really have any connection to this issue before it landed on your plate.

YELLIN: That's true. That's true. Yeah, that's true. That's true.

First of all, I just want to say thank you all for coming. It's -- some people dream about showing films on -- in Hollywood on Sunset Strip. For me, the Council on Foreign Relations is the ultimate. (Laughter.) So -- and in our group, there was almost a fistfight for who would get to come tonight. (Laughter.) And since I'm the oldest -- (laughter) -- I won.

So the reason we did this -- there were really three reasons. One was editorial, one was creative, and one was practical. The editorial reason is that we were asked to research strategies for attacking global poverty. And in the course of doing that research, we stumbled on the data around investing in girls and what that really means. And it was so stunning and so powerful that it seemed like we had to do something.

And you know, if you're a journalist -- I sort of define news as a powerful truth that most people don't know. And a few years ago, when we started this, the truth about investing in girls, particularly girls' education, was something that very few people knew outside of places like the Council on Foreign Relations. So the editorial reason was irresistible. And we felt, honestly, a sort of responsibility, a personal responsibility, when we discovered that, to try to figure out how to share it.

The creative reason is that we knew it would be really hard. Telling stories about girls in school is not particularly interesting. And so we figured if you -- if you do what I do, you want to challenge yourself a little bit, and so we figured this would be a really big challenge -- (chuckles) -- how do you tell stories about the importance and values of girls' education in a way that justifies people actually sitting and watching it in a dark room?

And the practical reason is that we thought we could get it funded. If you know -- I used to work at a network for many years. If you don't work at a network, you have to eat what you kill, I think is the right phrase. (Laughter.) And we thought this was a subject that was so important and so powerful and so -- and so valuable, and creatively, we thought we had a pathway to do it, that we thought we could get it funded. So that's really why we did it.

COLEMAN: And you have a very creative marketing strategy for this film. Tell us a little bit about that.

YELLIN: Well, the film is really -- we view it as a tool. It's embedded in something called 10x10. Originally we intended to do 10 stories and put them in the film, and so the -- I called the -- I called the project 10x10. That also speaks -- ultimately it came to be a metaphor for the multiplier effect that happens when you educate girls. We ended up running out of money and time and screen time, so we ended up telling nine stories, so there's a tenth story we're planning to tell and use in the future. But the film is at the center of a campaign called 10x10, and that is designed to move people to act and enable them to do things that will support this growing movement that already existed before we began and is growing now around educating girls.

So we felt like if we went the normal route for a documentary, even though this is more of a hybrid, we'd end up showing it in New York in a small theater, in LA in a small theater and two other cities, and maybe we'd win some awards, and off we'd go. And that just seemed like an inadequate response to the opportunity.

So I hired someone last year to look into film distribution, and she came up with this idea that you could actually create theatrical film on demand. It's something that's never been done at scale before. There are two companies that do it. We obviously chose the less-established one, because that would be harder. (Laughter.)

And so we partnered with a company called Gathr. And the way this works -- if you go on GirlRising.com, you'll be able to see it. If you want to bring the film to your community, you can sign up to be a captain. And we then provide you with all these tools and -- meaning we find -- provide you with email messages and other things you can message to your friends, colleagues and people you might know and groups you belong to. And if enough people respond to that and decide to buy tickets in advance, then there will be a screening in your community.

And as of this afternoon -- I'm now obsessed with this. I have it on my thing. I refresh it all the time. As of this afternoon, we've sold 44,152 tickets already. (Applause.) And we've already had 150-some screenings since Thursday night, and there are 774 -- not that I'm counting -- (laughter) -- screenings that have already been created, and we expect many more.

So it's a very different way to do it, and it only works if -- the reason it's working for us is we have this broad network of partners, NGOs and some big companies and lots of grass-roots organizations who already are sort of poised to support this project. And even though many of them haven't seen the film, they're willing to put themselves out there to encourage other people to do so. And so that's allowed this demand-driven model to work.

COLEMAN: I'm showing the film at my various children's schools, so I encourage you to do the same thing.

YELLIN: Yes, please do that.

COLEMAN: It's an easy way to do it.

MAAZA MENGISTE (?): Yeah.

COLEMAN: Maaza, this film deals with poverty, rape, violence against women, cultural practices, religious constraints, child marriage. It touches upon a whole range of different issues that impact girls in a particular way.

Tell us about the story in Ethiopia, which you so beautifully crafted and which we just -- it was the last segment that we just saw. Ethiopia is one of the countries that does suffer from very high rates of child marriage and -- as we saw in the film. But, I mean, it really is a terrible issue the country faces. Despite laws that keep the marriage age at around 18, we know that the practice, particularly in the countryside, is very prevalent. And it -- and it really becomes the end of girls' education. So tell us a little bit about how you wrote that chapter.

MENGISTE: I -- I'll start off with maybe the very beginning when I got an email from Richard Robbins, the director, asking me if I would be interested in working on a documentary that would feature Ethiopia, amongst other countries. And they said, you know, we're still looking around at some issues, but right now we think that forced early marriage, child marriage, is a significant issue in Ethiopia, but maybe there's poverty, maybe there's something else, and, you know, what do you think?

And I was a little bit hesitant at first of the forced early marriage -- I -- as an Ethiopian and as a woman, I felt in a way very protective of the female -- the women in my country, and I didn't want to sexualize them any more than they sometimes tend to be. And I didn't want to show an issue that maybe -- may have broader -- may have a broader umbrella to fit under.

But I started doing my own research and found, as you said, that Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of forced early marriage. But I was speaking to my mother also, who is in Ethiopia, and she said, Maazi (ph), don't you remember your great-grandmother had your grandfather when she was 10? And my grandmother -- I'm named after my Grandmother Maaza -- and she said, she was married at maybe 11. And I said, OK, you know, this is something that hits very, very close to home, very close to home. I remember my great-grandmother very well.

So I said -- I emailed Richard. I called the producers. I said, you know, I'm in, and I really want to work on this issue.

And I started finding out more and realized that the Amhara region, which is the northern part of Ethiopia, has one of THE highest rates in Ethiopia -- the national average tends to be, I think, 1 in 5 girls get married before 15, I want to say --

COLEMAN: Fifteen.

MENGISTE: -- in Ethiopia, but in the Amhara region it's 1 in 2, 50 percent. And it was astounding to me. It was quite shocking. It's not that way in the city anymore, but if you think, my mother's generation was the first generation who could, at least some of them -- could choose who they wanted to marry and then could choose when they wanted to marry. And that's my mother's generation.

But I know friends of hers that are -- who have children who are my very close friends, their -- my friends' parents were arranged -- 16 years old, 15 years old. It's not -- it's not that far removed from us.

So I am really supportive of the work that's being done on this film and with Ethiopia, and I know it has broader implications also.

COLEMAN: Yeah. One of the implications, we know, and there's some really interesting work from Ethiopia that looks at differing fertility rates --

MENGISTE: Yes.

COLEMAN: -- and girls who have a high school education have, on average, two, 2.4 children, whereas in Ethiopia girls without a high school education are -- like five or six children.

MENGISTE: Yes.

COLEMAN: So I mean, there are enormous implications across the board.

One of the reasons I like the Ethiopia story so much is because the hero is her brother.

MENGISTE: Yeah.

COLEMAN: And you know, I talk on these issues a lot, and I always make the point that it's not as if women are on one side and men are on the other. Men and women are on one side, and you find women as complicit as men on the other side in perpetuating these traditions and --

YELLIN: But it's interesting, Isobel, because one of the things that I found interesting about the Ethiopia story is that the mother's motivation is not -- she wants to try to save her child.

COLEMAN: Yeah.

YELLIN: So it's complex and --

COLEMAN: It's very complex.

MENGISTE: Yeah.

COLEMAN: And that's true with all sorts of these issues. Whether it's early marriage or FGM or any of the things that are going on, mothers of course think they're doing the right thing by their daughters, and yet it does perpetuate these practices.

Tom, when you look across all the stories, are there any that posed a particular challenge for you in terms of an issue that was dealt with?

YELLIN: I would say there were just the nine. That's all, really. (Laughter.)

No, I think --

COLEMAN: These are controversial topics.

YELLIN: Yeah. I mean, I think there are a couple that -- there are four you didn't see. There's a story about India. There's a story from Peru. There's a story from Sierra Leone and a story from Afghanistan.

They all posed different kinds of challenges. The very first one, about Cambodia and -- was the first one we shot, it's the first girl we found, and it's the last one we finished. And the reason for that is that we couldn't sort out how to tell this girl's story in a way that makes sense. And what we ended up with is really a sort of metaphor of transformation that narratively is very thin. I'm not even sure you all were able to infer the story properly. This is a girl who was an orphan who was living in her -- by her wits going to the dump every day to pick things out of the garbage and was rescued by an NGO and got in school, and she's going to be president of Cambodia one day. We couldn't figure out how to tell that story in a way that made sense. So that one creatively was actually the most challenging.

The issue that was -- I mean, all of the issues were hard. The -- Sierra Leone -- I mean, I'm sorry, the Nepal story about the girl who was forced into indentured servitude by her parents in some ways was the most straightforward, but we really struggled with how to write that story so that it had a narrative progression.

The story from Afghanistan was particularly challenging because the country is so difficult, and the issues that girls face there are so extreme. And I'd urge you to watch it. I think it presents a very interesting opportunity to have a conversation about how to tell stories about people in that circumstance that make an impact.

Ethiopia was in some ways the easiest. I'm not saying that -- (chuckles) -- but it because Maaza is so exceptionally talented as a writer that what she brought us the first time was -- actually, that was the first time I breathed a sigh of relief is when I read you story because we were putting our creative life in the hands of these third parties, these writers, and we weren't sure what they were going to give us. And the first couple we struggled a little bit, but Maaza's story was so compelling that -- anyone who knows me will think I'm joking, but I sort of cried a little bit when I watched it -- I mean, read it. So each of them was different.

COLEMAN: Maaza, one of the things that excited me about this entire project was the idea that the movie and the chapters are going to be shown, I hope, in the countries where they were filmed. Tell us about bringing this to Ethiopia.

MENGISTE: My -- well, my entire family is waiting. They just called me yesterday wondering when it's going to be there. But there is an international plan that is being developed right now. And I know that the producers are working on the best ways to get it to Ethiopia. I know next week I believe it's going to be in Haiti --

YELLIN: Yeah, can -- you want to tell the story?

MENGISTE: No, you can tell it.

YELLIN: No, you tell it. (Laughter.)

MENGISTE: And so Wadley, who is just absolutely adorable here, will have a red carpet to walk on -- (laughter) -- (inaudible) -- so it was just really fantastic.

And I -- so I was talking to my family, and they are really excited. We are -- I kept saying, we are bringing it to Ethiopia, don't -- we are bringing it. But I think what will be really moving for me and I think what will be most powerful is the opportunity for Azmera and her family to watch this. And not just her family, but also there were several other little girls in her school and in her area who are younger than her who also said no to forced early marriage. And they have now the chance to see this. So they are going to see this story. And it becomes another method of outreach for that.

COLEMAN: What was the NGO that you worked with in Ethiopia to bring --

MENGISTE: World Vision.

COLEMAN: World Vision.

MENGISTE: Yes.

COLEMAN: And Tom maybe can mention some of the other NGOs too that --

YELLIN: Yes. World Vision was -- all of our partners were remarkable. World Vision and CARE --

COLEMAN: So the partner brought the girl and the girl's story to you.

YELLIN: Yeah. I mean, if you're a journalist, you know that when you go to these places, you need guides. And for us, the guides were primarily NGOs that do programmatic work in the countries. And we chose very carefully with guidance from people like Isobel, especially, to work with NGOs that we thought were engaged in best practice. And so each country we decided to go to -- and actually, the trickiest part about choosing a country was finding the Maaza in each country. They were -- sadly, there are many, many countries around the world in which we could tell these stories. We wanted geographical diversity, but we needed someone with talent who could bring these girls' stories to life. And so the most challenging thing was finding a writer.

But we worked with World Vision -- I'm going to get these wrong -- World Vision; CARE; Plan International; Partners in Health was our partner in Haiti; New Day Cambodia turned out to be our partner in Cambodia; Room to Read was our partner in Nepal; the U.N. Foundation; and -- oh, and I forget one.

COLEMAN: Peru?

YELLIN: Peru was CARE.

COLEMAN: CARE.

YELLIN: And the -- can I just expand on that very briefly? The interesting thing about our relationship with these NGOs is that when we went to them at first and said, look, here's what we want to do; we want to go tell some stories about girls that you deal with programmatically, and what we're going to do is make these tools that you can then use to raise money for yourself, and you can also use them as programmatic tools and as examples of success, as Maaza just said is going to happen in Ethiopia. And we don't want your fundraising list.

And they didn't believe us, actually. (Laughter.) They thought, (well ?), these guys talk fast, wow. (Laughter.)

But the truth is that what we were trying to offer our partners in the -- in the community that work with girls are tools that they can't afford on their own. They are not in a position to spend money on storytelling with this level of intensity. And once we -- it's been a really interesting process to see them sort of come round to believe the thing we told them originally, that we're going to make -- we're going to take these stories, give them to them and allow them to use them to do more work and to drive more resources to themselves. So it's worked quite nicely so far, but it was a process.

COLEMAN: I'm on the board of one of these partners, Plan. And I can tell you from being on the inside at board meetings, it would be -- really? They're going to do what? For free? (Laughter.) And then when we saw the early cuts that related to the girl that was provided by Plan, you know, it's breathtaking, and you had people sitting there saying, and how much did we have to pay for this? Nothing? Really? (Laughter.) You know, it's just sort of disbelief (across the board ?).

YELLIN: But it's interesting, we also had the opposite reaction, that we showed Partners in Health -- I'm sure it's an organization you guys know quite well -- was our partner in Haiti, and we showed them the first cut of Haiti, and what we got back from the person that works in our project who deals with the NGOs was they don't get it. They just don't get it. What is this -- I mean, how are they supposed to use this.

And so I ended up having an hourlong conversation with the people at Partners in Health because from their point of view, it wasn't the kind of advocacy they're used to. You know, it wasn't, look at this girl; we gave her medicine, now she's better, and her whole life is going to be wonderful. It's a sort of lyrical story about a girl who lives in very fragile circumstances whose life was upended by an outside event, and now she can't afford to go to school, and yet her determination carries her. And so I had this hourlong conversation with the people from Partners in Health in which I tried to show them how if they surrounded that chapter with their own content and they talked about how a healthy girl is not just someone who's physically healthy but it's someone who has a healthy life and education is part of total health and that's part of their messaging, that this could be an incredible tool for them, and they went, oh, yeah, right, I get it. (Laughter.)

So I think there's a learning process for everyone here, and we're very, very excited about the way that the film itself and its component parts is going to be used (in the world ?).

COLEMAN: Let's take some questions from members in the audience here who -- anybody -- I think we have a microphone. There's one in the back here. Could you just wait for the microphone, please? It's right here.

QUESTIONER: Congratulations. It's fabulous. The Cairo one was -- could you talk a little bit about that and --

YELLIN: Yeah, the Egypt story, as you saw, is about a girl who's never been in school. And some people have said, what does that have to do with girls' education?

But you know, to me, that's -- if I -- I don't have a favorite, but if I have one that gets me every time I watch this film, it's that one, because the -- what I -- what I've learned from that story is how prevalent sexual assault is on girls. I mean, the facts of that are just stunning. And I have four daughters, so I am particularly vulnerable to that kind of storytelling. And I think for us, the relevance of that story is that if girls are in school, they're far less likely to be attacked, for a whole bunch of reasons. So school is -- has an immediate impact on the health and welfare of millions and millions of girls around the world.

And that particular case -- and maybe, Maaza, you can speak to this -- in every country, what we did is we went in and interviewed many, many girls and ended up with a short list of four or five girls, and then we put that list in front of the writers that we were working with, and we asked them to choose. And in Egypt, the writer that we worked with is Mona Eltahawy, who I'm sure many of you know, and she's the one who chose the girl that we call Yasmin because in her view, the incidence of sexual violence is one of the great barriers that girls face to living meaningful lives and healthy lives.

So this notion -- and for us, we were actually -- wouldn't have chosen her. We would have chosen another girl in Egypt. But we went with Mona's choice, obviously, and in Ethiopia, we wouldn't have chosen Azmera, for sure. (Laughter.) So maybe you can -- if I may -- and I take John's (sp) question and turn it to you.

MENGISTE: (Chuckles.) Yeah, it was the -- the same -- they wouldn't have chosen the young girl that I picked either for Ethiopia.

But I was given four videotapes -- four videos -- four different girls telling their stories of marriage or almost married life. And each of these girls seemed to have -- I guess the other three girls that I watched were very forthright. They were -- they were very adamant about -- they knew their rights. They knew they shouldn't be married. They resisted. And one little girl even said she had told her parents, you can't talk to me anymore about this until I'm 16, and then we'll discuss it again.

YELLIN: The TV producer in me is going, yes, yes. (Laughter.)

MENGISTE: And -- but Azmera was painfully shy. She was -- she could barely look at the camera. She could barely get her words out. And so I kept watching these, and -- but for me as a writer, not as a producer, not as a director, but as a writer, I felt that there's a story there. If a girl that timid and that shy could say no, then I need to find out what it is about her, how it is that she came to stand up to her parents, to tradition, actually. So I told Richard and the producers my choice, and they said what Tom said --

YELLIN: Are you sure, I think is what we said.

MENGISTE: Are you sure? (Laughter.) That's not the one we would have picked. (Laughter.) But it turned out really well.

And again, we find the role of men in this, like you were saying, Isobel, it's -- I can't -- I can't agree enough that it's not just about educating girls. It's also about educating boys, who will be the people who will be told to marry a young girl. And if we don't reach them and if we don't reach people like Azmera's brother, then we're only fighting, I think, half the battle, that it's not just about girls.

COLEMAN: Thank you. In the front.

QUESTIONER: Eric Miller from J.P. Morgan, but more relevant, father of two little girls, and we'd love to show them the movie when it -- when it's appropriate. But I guess one of my questions is in terms of the stories, why not a domestic story?

YELLIN: That's a question, as you might imagine, we've gotten many, many times, and I'm tempted to punt that one to Isobel. Do you want to take that, Isobel, because we were -- (laughter) -- no, no, it's not -- it's not because it's a hard question. It's actually an easy question, and --

COLEMAN: It's not -- it's not -- no -- it's an easy question, because I was posed this question by the executive producer four years ago, and I said, oh, great; you want to do a story about access to education for girls in America. Well, here's the problem: Girls have more access than boys. So the story in America should really be a story about boys' education. I mean, we have now in this country girls outnumbering boys at every level of education, and in some cases, the gap is actually pretty big. So by the time you get to college, around 60 percent of college graduates are female in America. And, actually, that's a trend that's happening around the world, so it's not just in this country. But to do justice to that story, it would -- you really can't do a story about access to girls' education without looking at boys' education, and that wasn't really what the movie was about.

YELLIN: In the parlance of moviemakers, that's a different movie, is how we talk about it. (Laughter.) But I will say this, that I was -- I was sitting in the owner's box of an -- owner of a Major League franchise -- I won't say which one -- and he said, this is a great project, and we'd love to support it; I'll give you half a million dollars today if you'll do a story about a girl from West Virginia. And we said no, because it just wasn't the right thing to do. So that was hard, but I think it was the right answer.

COLEMAN: Right here.

QUESTIONER: Wonderful film. I have a 16-year-old daughter who is deeply involved in this area, and she's made a couple of films, not of this scale, but in India and South Africa, et cetera.

We traveled to Myanmar back in December, and you may know this, but human trafficking in child brides is extremely prevalent there. And we didn't realize this one -- and perhaps you discovered this -- but China is one of the key perpetrators that's fueling the demand for China -- for child brides out of Myanmar, and that's largely due to the one-child policy and the demand for -- you know, the prevalence of men.

And secondly, many of the traffickers themselves -- I don't know if you've found this -- are actually relatives, family members that sell the -- sell the young girls into slavery. I was wondering if you found that -- those patterns in the other countries.

YELLIN: Well, we didn't take on a trafficking story specifically. There were a number of issues that we didn't get to, and I don't even want to say what they are, because you might think we made huge, bad choices. But I think where -- when we faced issues that we couldn't deal with, what we said to ourselves to make ourselves feel like that was OK was that sort of bigger issue of gender equality and treating -- and valuing the girl is embedded in every story. So that's our logic for not doing everything. I don't know if that responds to your question, but --

COLEMAN: Contessa Burbonn (ph) from The New York Times. You have a great partnership with many NGOs. What about the governments? How can they transform the lives of many children in their countries in terms of policies? What is your message?

YELLIN: Well, that's a wonderful question. Thank you for asking. We have a -- this is a term I never thought I would use as a journalist, but we have a theory of change that we've tried to apply to this project. And our theory of change is that impact has three dimensions.

One is to change minds -- in other words, change the way people think so that the girl is properly valued equally with boys. And the messaging is designed to do that. The second component is to change lives -- in other words, give tools to our partners so that they can use what -- the stories we're telling to drive resources to best-practice programs. And we also have a fund that we've created that we're distributing to our NGO partners. So that is designed to change lives. And the third is change policy -- in other words, change the rules that affect girls. And that is our ultimate goal. So it's a great question.

I think there are a lot of ways to do that. One way to do that is to demonstrate to businesses that gender equality is a primary objective, and before they go and invest in countries, they need to examine gender policies. And Intel, which is a great partner of ours and has been an extraordinary contributor to this project, is one company that's doing that, and they're leading the way with others. We have -- because of Isobel and others, we've been at the Clinton Global Initiative. This year we were at Davos. We are going to present the film at the World Bank on April 18th to global leaders from all over the country -- I mean, all over the world. There is a whole international plan, as Maaza suggested, that we're in the process of developing that's -- and one of the key components is to use the film itself and the component parts of it as a lever for policy change and advocacy in -- all over the world, so -- I mean, I can talk about that forever, but I think changing the rules for girls is a key component. And we're guided by Isobel and others in designing that.

QUESTIONER: So thank you for asking that question because that was my question, but -- one of my questions. But a follow-on to that question about -- oh, sorry. My name is Diana Pollack (sp), Dr. Pollack (sp). I'm a former educator, professor and now businesswoman. I'm curious, with the -- with the young women who weren't selected as well as the women who were selected, we've seen -- this is a snapshot in their lives. I wonder what we're doing for the women we've seen and also the women who weren't selected. You can answer that question, and then I have to think about the second one I was thinking about. (Laughs.)

YELLIN: OK. Well, I can answer that quickly.

That's something we gave a tremendous amount of thought about. You know, you -- whenever you intrude on someone's life and you ask them to reveal themselves to audiences, you have to understand the implications of that. And we've seen examples and situations where people live in distressed circumstances where they're turned upside down by being exposed in the way that we wanted to do.

So we have developed a plan to try to support the girls who you see in the film and their pursuit of education through college if they choose to do that. But we're doing it through the NGOs that the girls are working with. And we -- and that -- the actual fund that does that is funded by Intel. And they made that commitment from the very beginning.

More broadly, we're working with the individuals NGOs that support these girls to support the broader community that these girls live in because we don't want these girls to be singled out and become targets as a result of their cooperation with us. And I have to say that's an incredibly complex and subtle process.

We've had mixed results in some instances. In Egypt in particular, as John (sp) suggested, that's been very, very challenging with that girl. As you saw, she's 13; she's engaged to be married. She has not been -- we've not been able to keep her in a program. I think her prospects going forward are not very bright for her to have the kind of life that one might want for her.

So we've struggled with that. It's been hard. What we've been determined not to do is distort these girls' lives and ruin them because they are willing to cooperate with us. But it's been hard.

QUESTIONER: So here's my second question before we leave tonight. You talked about activism. So can you recommend, for those of us who are in the audience, how we can spread the word and what we can actually do?

YELLIN: Absolutely. That's incredibly easy. (Laughter.) Go to -- we have two websites, one for the larger entity, 10x10act.org. It's 10x10act.org. And that has a broad range of opportunities for you to get engaged. If you want to support the film specifically, please go to girlrising.com, and you'll see ways to generate a screening. There's -- you can donate to the fund. You can spread the word. It's a very easy thing to do. And our focus now is to encourage as many people as we can to be exposed to the film, and the net result, we hope, will be a much broader engagement for everyone involved.

COLEMAN: I think last question right here.

QUESTIONER: I wonder if you -- (off mic) -- what, if any, relationship with UN Women, both to have the film shown within the U.N. context -- you said it's at the World Bank -- but then more importantly, to be able to be shown at country level as well and really disseminated as widely as possible?

YELLIN: Right. Well, we have a very close relationship with UNICEF and U.N. Foundation, which is not -- I'm sure you all know that group Ted Turner started is not directly affiliated with the U.N., but it's a partner; it's a core partner. And so we think the U.N. is a wonderful vehicle to reach audiences of influencers around the world, but it's not the only one we're using. And I'm sort of dodging the question a little bit because Holly Gordon, who runs the 10x10 campaign, would have a much smarter and better answer than I would.

So Isobel, can you help me with that one at all?

COLEMAN: I think you're on your own here, Tom. Sorry. (Laughter.)

YELLIN: OK, good. OK.

COLEMAN: "Don't know" is the answer.

YELLIN: Yeah.

COLEMAN: I think we're just about out of time. Show the film. Talk about the film. Get other people to see the film. And join me in thanking Maaza and Tom for -- (inaudible) -- (applause) --

YELLIN: Thank you.

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