Last night was one big sister act at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
The center’s first female leader, Jane Harman, jokingly referred to Anita McBride, the former chief of staff to Laura Bush, as her “little sister.”
McBride is now executive in residence at American University’s School of Public Affairs. Harman is the center’s director, chief executive and president.
She welcomed “many women and a few good men” to a screening of “Girl Rising,” a documentary produced by 10X10, a global advocacy organization for girls’ education, and backed by Intel Corp.
The men included Frank Islam, the chairman and CEO of FI Investment Group LLC.
“Why is everybody sitting in the back?” asked Harman, looking at the rear of the theater. “I’ll be picking on you first.”
Directed by the Academy Award-nominated Richard Robbins, “Girl Rising” chronicles the struggles of nine young women for basic education and dignity in various parts of the world. The 100-minute film is narrated by top Hollywood artists.
“I was 11 years old when my father arranged for me to be married,” reads Anne Hathaway, who won her first Oscar on Sunday as best supporting actress in “Les Miserables.”
Among the other narrators are Oscar winners Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep.
Holly Gordon, 10X10’s executive director, said she was glad Hathaway mentioned the plight of girls in her Oscar acceptance speech. Her character in “Les Miserables,” Fantine, becomes a prostitute to escape poverty like some of the children in the film.
“We started asking ourselves if we were setting girls up to succeed,” said Shelly Esque, Intel’s vice president of legal and corporate affairs and president of the Intel Foundation.
Intel has a long history of investing in educational causes, including donating millions to girl’s educational programs. Last year on the International Day of the Girl Child, about 4,000 Intel employees volunteered in company-sponsored events.
Esque recently returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos, where she screened “Girl Rising” to an audience of political and financial players like Klaus Schwab, the forum’s chairman and founder.
After the screening of the first 30 minutes of “Girl Rising,” guests gathered for a panel discussion featuring Gordon and Rangita de Silva de Alwis, director of the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative at the Wilson Center, Tara D. Sonenshine, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs at the State Department, and Shradha Basnyat, a student activist from Wellesley College.
Sonenshine praised former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for creating the position of ambassador at large for women’s issues in the State Department. Sonenshine said the status of girls around the world must be “interwoven into the fabric of American foreign policy.”
A buffet dinner of salmon and couscous was served after the discussion.
“Girl Rising” is in theaters March 7, the day before International Women’s Day. Gordon said that 22,000 tickets have already been sold, and 850 requests have been made by concerned citizens to bring the film to their communities.
(Stephanie Green is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
Muse highlights include James S. Russell on architecture and Catherine Hickley on theater.