Pinto and Pal get together to espouse the cause of Girl Rising, in New York.
NEW YORK: Actress Freida Pinto got to interview Sangita Pal, a teenager who comes from the same village as portrayed in the runaway hit Slumdog Millionaire – which made Pinto the star she is today – at a breakfast reception and panel discussion hosted by Girl Rising and the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
Pal, an advocate for Magic Bus, an NGO which uses sports as a catalyst for education, and Pinto, the Ambassador and Producer of Girl Rising, participated in the discussion entitled ‘Innovations in Partnerships: Re-Imagining Models for the Empowerment of Adolescent Girls in India.’
The event was held two days after First Lady Michelle Obama announced a new campaign called #62MillionGirls at the Global Citizens Festival in Manhattan’s Central Park.
Girl Rising is hosting this campaign in support of the ‘Let Girls Learn initiative’, championed by the First Lady, to help adolescent girls stay in school until they graduate.
Girl Rising uses storytelling to improve access to girls’ education around the world. In India, the need is dire: over 40 percent of girls never make it to secondary school. Advancing girls’ access to education not only empowers young women; it drives economic growth. If India enrolled 1 percent more girls in secondary school, the country’s GDP would rise by $5.5 billion.
“We are here to come up with programs to mobilize not just nonprofits and communities, but also bring in government leaders, entrepreneurs…we need them and their voices to be heard,” said Pinto, speaking at the meet.
Pal explained to the audience staying in school after the age of 12 or 13 becomes a challenge for girls in India, especially in rural areas.
“Our communities believe we should stay home and just get married,” said Pal. “We all deserve a better life…and that comes from education. Why can’t I have that?”
The keynote speaker, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Catherine Russell, remarked, “More than 25 million girls in India are married before they turn 18. That has huge implications for girls’ health, their safety, and their education. But if we work together, we can tackle these issues effectively, and we will see the incredible benefits that come from empowering adolescent girls.”
Panelist Dr. Amita Vyas, a professor at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, and Chair of the U.S.-India Advisory Board, added, “The campaign is big, bold, and ambitious and exactly the kind of entrepreneurial effort that many of the Indian Diaspora are excited to be a part of. Our goal is to harness the energy and enthusiasm of the Indian Diaspora in partnership with Girl Rising in providing a real, tangible platform for girl’s education.”
There was a call-to-action by Girl Rising’s Vice President of Global Programs Samantha Wright, who said in a speech, “our goal is to move the needle for girls, and partnerships are key to making that happen. Girl Rising brings partners together through inspiring stories to tackle the barriers girls face together.”
Susan Markham, USAID Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment agreed.
“Only with the power of partnerships can we tackle the problems of our time,” said Markham.
Over 100 people attended the event, which included an engaging conversation by panelists Deval Sanghavi, Partner and Co-Founder, DASRA; Dr. Amita Vyas, Chair of the Girl Rising, U.S.-India Advisory Board; and Jean-Pierre Le Calvez, Vice President of Marketing, Hewlett Packard.