In an increasingly digital world, the role of media and creative content cannot be undermined. Powerful storytelling has the potential to enable critical reflection, and initiate important dialogues. We catch up with Basil Poulose to learn about his experience of hosting a Girl Rising film screening!

How did you hear about Girl Rising?

I do audio visual production for organisations, corporates, and government agencies. During one of our projects focusing on girl child education, a colleague mentioned Girl Rising and that discussion led me to watch the film trailer. Since then I have been actively following Girl Rising’s initiative across digital media channels, and subsequently learned about the full Hindi film (Woh Padhegi, Woh Udegi), and the opportunity to host a screening.

Basil Poulose

Why do you think it is important for a film like Girl Rising’s Woh Padhegi, Woh Udegi to be screened to a wider audience?

In this era of communication outpouring, media at times becomes “noise” because it comes from various forms. Girl Rising’s well-crafted, targeted, compelling film speaks to the masses on a critical issue that affects us all.

In the Indian context, literacy levels are not high and parents are not highly educated especially in the rural areas. Most of them are constantly engaged in earning their bread and butter. This film is a powerful visual capsule which communicates lot of thought-provoking content in a simple manner, to this very audience.

How did your background of journalism and mass communication apply to organizing the screening?

My mass communication background and passion for debating, public speaking and team management helped in organizing the screening. I first introduced Girl Rising to the NGO and church group where the screenings were planned and was successful in convincing them for a screening and discussion slot.

After the screening, I spoke about the film, discussed the gender-related issues presented, and conducted a quiz based on the film for the participants. Facilitating an open discussion with inputs from students and youth leaders helped in understanding the issues.

Adolescents attending the film screening

How do you think media could be used in India to elevate the conversation on girls' education?

I feel today’s modern city youth are extremely passionate, creative, thoughtful and most importantly, always wanting to do something substantial for the society. However, amidst all the social evils and constant discussion about poverty and the lack of education, we all feel pity and overwhelmed very easily, and believe these things are beyond our control and that we can’t do anything.

Therefore, media should not just discuss about girls' education, but should also highlight the different ways this could be addressed. How each individual, such as a college student, a school student, a working professional, a housewife, or a corporate, can contribute towards the cause. Therefore, media can be used as a call to action.

On the other hand, in rural areas, different media approaches should be used to address this issue, especially with regard to parents and society elders. I feel most of them don’t know the positive impact or the life changing influence if a little girl in their village is educated. So, I think a targeted media approach highlighting or showcasing what positive futures could be witnessed if girls are allowed to study should be followed. This more responsible media approach would be much more influential.

What were the most interesting insights from the discussion that followed the film screening?

As this was my first screening, I was surprised how the girls, especially, responded very seriously about the issue. All credit goes to the powerful film. The most striking comment from a young boy was that he felt men are responsible for girls not being school, and it’s not the girls fault. Such level of empathy was not expected.

Another interesting point of discussion was how this film should be shown to all parents especially in the rural areas. The students suggested this and felt that we should have another screening at the same place where they would invite their parents too.

Another interesting insight from both the screening was that, immediately after the screening, many students could identify girls from their neighbourhood who had somewhat similar stories as the girls in the film, since they didn’t attend school. This was a surprise for me too. They were motivated to talk to such neighbours convince them to allow girls to school.

What piece of advice you could give to men on the role they can play to improve access to girls' education?

Many think and believe that some fathers, brothers, husbands and uncles are cruel and unfair to girls and their education. But I feel it’s not entirely their fault. For generations, they have been taught and shown within their families and societies that males go to school, college, and work and earn money for the family, while the females stay at home and take care of the home.

Times have changed - equality is understood and experienced by a minority in India. who are aware of the progressive benefits of educating girls. The majority, however, are not invited to see the miracles and progress if girls are educated. Thus, I would like to convey to all the men in the country to witness the great impact when a girl child is educated. This will spark change.