OAKLAND -- Thirteen-year-old Mia Operario has seized an opportunity to tackle the issue of female education in the developing world by seeking sponsors for the documentary "Girl Rising," which will be shown at the Regal Cinemas Jack London Stadium 9 on April 6.
A portion of the proceeds from the ticket sales will go to the movement to educate girls in developing countries. The film was produced by Academy Award-nominated director Richard Robbins and features voice performances by Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Selena Gomez, Salma Hayek and Alicia Keys.
The film tells the story of nine girls from developing countries around the world, portraying the challenges they face in their lives and the hurdles they must overcome to obtain something as simple as an education. Mia first learned about the project from her mother, Tam Operario, who works for Holy Names University in the Redwood Heights neighborhood.
"Mia felt it wasn't fair that girls didn't have the same rights and opportunity to get an education," Tam Operario said. "She was angry."
Mia said: "I was inspired to work on this project because not everybody (students at my school) takes school seriously, and they take it for granted. They don't think school is important, and that they don't need it in their life. I want to let kids my age know about these girls in this movie and how they really want an education but can't have it, and they have to go through a lot just to get an education."
Mia, an eighth-grader at Montera Middle School, witnessed the disadvantages girls face in many developing countries firsthand when she visited the
Philippines with her family in 2009.
Mia has two younger sisters, ages 3 years and 5 months. She had an older brother who died five years ago at the age of 14 of a rare childhood cancer. To date, she has sold 169 tickets in a 250-seat theater.
When her cousin, Ameer Baluch, an 11th-grader at Oakland Technical High School, heard about Mia's efforts, he decided to join forces with her.
"I watched the trailer, and it inspired me," Baluch said. "It reminded me of my trip with my father to Pakistan to attend my aunt's wedding.
"I thought that every country was like America," Baluch continued. "It was a completely different environment and not what I expected. I realized that the wedding was arranged. I was surprised. I realized that males and females have different roles. Men are more prioritized. I realized that girls were encouraged to stay home and not even go to school. I was surprised. I have carried this thought with me; I began to think about equality.
"Some of my friends don't realize that this is going on in Third World countries," continued Baluch. "I understand. This is the same view I had before I went to Pakistan. I've been looking for more opportunities like this. This movie is a big first step."
"Kids don't have a world perspective. They only know what they see," Tam Operario said. "This movie will give them a perspective of what girls have to go through. This is something that I wanted Mia to see. There are so many countries that she doesn't know about."
"I learned that I can help make a change for girls in other countries, even though I'm just a kid," Mia said. "I learned there are people out there who care about education for girls, and they feel it's important, too."
To see the trailer for "Girl Rising," go to http://10x10act.org/girl-rising. To purchase a ticket to see the movie, go to http://gathr.us/screening/1821.