Short Film ‘Brave Girl Rising’ Uses Warsan Shire’s Words & Tessa Thompson’s Narration To Illustrate The Ongoing Refugee Crisis

Quyen Tran/ Girl Rising

There are a lot of issues to devote one's time to this Women's History Month, and with so many worthy causes around the world, some can easily slip through the cracks, perhaps due to lack of understanding. The Guardian reports that there's a pervasive myth circulating that the worldwide refugee crisis has ended, when that very much isn't the case. For Women's History Month, the nonprofit group Girl Rising, whose mission is to "ensure that girls around the world are educated and empowered," has released a short film called Brave Girl Rising that brings the refugee crisis back into the spotlight, particularly as it affects women and girls.

According to the Girl Rising website, over 68 million people worldwide have been displaced from their homes due to terrorism, war, poverty, and civil unrest, among other reasons. Directed by Martha Adams and Richard E. Robbins, Brave Girl Rising tells the story of Nasro, a 17-year-old Somalian refugee who has spent most of her life in the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya. “I am a child with no mother, from a people with no home, in a present with no future,” Nasro says in the film. “I carry my mother's fears in my feet.”

Her story is told in a series of poetic vignettes, some shot in real-time, documentary-style, and some scenes created for the film. The effect is a kind of moving poetry that embraces the film mediums's potential as visual art.

And poetry is truly at the film’s heart. The screenplay for Brave Girl Rising was written by Warsan Shire, a Somalian refugee herself, whose poetry became the backbone of Beyonce’s Lemonade visual album. Born in Kenya to Somali parents, as her biography in the Brave Girl Rising press notes detail, Shire was raised in London. She won the Inaugural Brunel University African Poetry Prize in 2013 and was named London’s first Young Poet Laureate at 24 years old. In creating this piece, Shire spent hours speaking with Nasro about her life. They shared their similar experiences and the script took shape as they worked together to tell the story of the young people born into this life of uncertainty. “No one has done this before...few have seen this place... and fewer still have cared,” Shire says in the press notes.

Girl Rising Ambassador and actor David Oyelowo provides some informative narration at the beginning of the film, but to read Shire's words and represent Nasro's voice, Girl Rising turned to Creed and Thor: Rangarok star Tessa Thompson.

"When I read Warsan Shire’s gorgeous script, I was blown away by the beauty and strength of her prose," Thompson says in the film's press notes. "The women's movement is about all of us. We have a responsibility to stand up for the rights of women everywhere — and that includes the 17 million girls around the world who have been forcibly displaced from their homes."

Quyen Tran/Girl Rising

For many of those girls, education is the key to finding stability and living a happy life. Nasro says that her salvation is school. "When you have lost what I have lost," she says in the film, "school becomes your everything." Nasro attends a school in Dadaab, and her devotion is evident in the fact that she gets to wear red, the color reserved for the highest-ranking student in the class, while the rest of her classmates wear green.

Indeed, education can be the very thing that leads young, female refugees into a better life. As Girl Rising notes on their site, "Education reduces girls’ vulnerability to exploitation, sexual and gender-based violence, teenage pregnancy and child marriage. Their families and communities are more likely to improve their social and economic position. [And] if all girls finished secondary school, child marriage would plummet by 64 percent."

If Brave Girl Rising moves you to action this International Women's Day, there are plenty of ways to help. The Girl Rising website offers a handful of options, from donating, to student advocacy, to volunteering with the International Rescue Committee’s resettlement offices. As you celebrate all the women in your life, this film will also help you remember all of the women around the world who've been driven from their homes.