11/13/2013 11:16 am ET Updated Feb 26, 2014

For Women to Be Seen and Heard

Why is it that women and girls around the world so often lack the opportunity to be seen and heard? What is it about being born a girl that instantly places you in a category of second class citizenship? Who has the power to lift this unfair marginalization of women and girls?

We know the stats:

The statistics are typical in many developing world countries. We know that 42% of girls are not enrolled in school in developing world countries, and a recent World Bank blog post stated that in Yemen,

"Female illiteracy runs at 70 percent, double that of men. An average of eight women dies every day because of poor health or lack of services. There is no legal minimum age for marriage and when girls as young as 10 are married away their young bodies can often not handle the birth process too soon thereafter. They perish. Women raise children, cook, clean, tend the land and graze sheep and cattle -- yet only 7 percent earn a wage."

We know what helps:

According to UNFPA, "The education of parents is linked to their children's educational attainment, and the mother's education is usually more influential than the father's. An educated mother's greater influence in household negotiations may allow her to secure more resources for her children."

Bridging the divide for female voices to be heard:

Film has the power to capture emotions, move people and spur action. This is one of the reasons Connecther launched the Girls Impact the World Film Festival. Students involved are making their films dynamic and active; not just sitting in a gallery, waiting to be seen.

Empowering change through local communities is the most effective way to solve problems. This is why we partner with so many organizations that have local roots -- one recent partnership is our DIFF Prize which offers an exciting new platform for young (under 25) filmmakers to share their stories and visions in the post-Arab Spring era. If in Yemen, women raise children, cook, clean, tend the land and graze sheep and cattle -- yet only 7 percent earn a wage -- who better to address this issue than Yemenis, who know the people and culture and have a trusted presence?

The majority of students who submitted films from Southeast Asia focused on the issue of gender inequality. When Connecther relayed that data to them, they decided to create a petition calling for mandatory gender equity studies in Bangladesh starting in 6th grade in all public schools for both genders. The students will take their petition to government leaders in Southeast Asia. Southeast Asian students who entered last year are now mentoring younger students who want to voice their opinions about and solutions to gender inequality.

Dan Brown, a young male student, and Veronica Jurkowski created a film about speaking out against sexual assault, their film is now being used as teaching material in a college course. Men absolutely need to be a part of this conversation. Assault against women does not just happen. Over 90 % of violence against women is perpetrated by men. The only way to change this is to get more men actively involved in this issue. Dan's film, Bring in the Bystander, helped him understand how his male voice fits into feminist issues: "Before last year, I didn't understand how my male voice fit into feminist issues. By making my film, I learned a lot about myself and gender roles."

By addressing change in their films, these amazing students are able to envision hope and solutions and contribute to the voices of women and girls being seen and heard!