The film was in four parts, covering Nicaragua, India, Jamaica and Burkina Faso. War and poverty has left many children parentless and on the streets in Nicaragua, and glue-sniffing and prostitution are common among these kids. It was not obvious that the girls were worse off than the boys, and anyway statements like 'These girls deserve a childhood' are of little practical value.
In India, the focus was entirely on education, and how girls are pulled out of school at a young age. It ended with a statement about the value of education. A sentiment I agree with, but it's not that simple -- the film did not bother to examine the social forces behind limiting girls' education. The implication was that the parents were just mean or stupid?
Jamaica, where single motherhood at 14 is not uncommon. Several non-Jamaican, non-black psychologists pontificated on the reasons for this early pregnancy, and how girls need self-esteem, and how they were encouraging the girls to stay in school. If they stay in school, do they earn a better living? Or, like Kenya, is this lack of interest in school a direct consequence of the poor economy and few jobs?
The best segment was about female genital mutilation, from Burkina Faso. The women, for once, were allowed to speak for themselves, which was immensely more powerful than having their thoughts interpreted for them by the filmmaker. The women were uniformly in favour of FGM, except for a social worker. A young girl said she couldn't wait to have the big party that accompanies the circumcision ceremony at puberty. A mother said a girl could never get married without it. An elderly woman who performs the circumcisions said there was no pain, and described (in gory detail) how it is done. I am reasonably open-minded about many cultural practices, but FGM sends a chill down my spine. Yet the film expressively showed how hard it would be to change such a custom.
I don't know about progressive groups in Jamaica, Nicaragua or Burkina Faso, but in this film there was no acknowledgement of the many groups in India who are working to change these social issues. As with many such Western books and films, it was presented as though the filmmaker's viewpoint was completely novel.
-- Susan Chacko