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10x10: The Girls Education Project

by Ten Times Ten, LLC
10x10: The Girls Education Project
10x10: The Girls Education Project
10x10: The Girls Education Project
10x10: The Girls Education Project
10x10: The Girls Education Project
10x10: The Girls Education Project
10x10: The Girls Education Project
10x10: The Girls Education Project
10x10: The Girls Education Project
10x10: The Girls Education Project
10x10: The Girls Education Project
10x10: The Girls Education Project
10x10: The Girls Education Project
10x10: The Girls Education Project
10x10: The Girls Education Project
10x10: The Girls Education Project

I poked my head through the door of a classroom no larger than a storage closet. Thirty squished students sat on the floor with knees tucked under chins. It didn’t matter that tiny pieces of burnt plastic rained from the nearby thrash dump or that the heat was so sweltering that my pants stuck to my legs like cellophane. This was a universe away from their morning routine.

I was filming the recently released video below at one of India’s most innovative after-school programs in New Delhi—a program run by 10×10 nonprofit partner Pratham. One of 10×10’s commitments to our partners is to tell their story—to show how they’re changing the world by educating girls.

The children in Pratham’s programs attend public schools that follow a traditional educational model where students sit in rows and learn through fear and memorization. Teachers are known to mistreat “slum kids” or simply ignore a child who can’t keep pace or pay for supplies. Most of these students will drop out by age 12.

Pratham caters to those less fortunate where the cycle of poverty repeats generation after generation. One of these kids was Parvati, a precocious ten-year-old girl who told me how she loved taking her work home to show her parents: “They can’t read or write, but I am showing them how.”

Watch Parvatis’ story here:


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It was my first glimpse of Afghanistan: a man prostrate on the ground, praying beside a hollow-eyed merchant selling flat bread; barbed wire, almost like a child’s tight curls, cascading over walls, over street partitions, everywhere; bright neon-lit venues where families pay hundreds of dollars they don’t have for elaborate weddings; and women, some with heads covered in black, eyes just visible…some in blue burkas, no eyes at all…their faces down, scurrying into hidden spaces.

View of Kabul Airport

Kabul International Airport

As I wrote previously, the status of these women hangs in the balance in the face of an uncertain future for Afghanistan. We believe that Afghanistan, or any country for that matter, cannot experience its full potential unless the female citizenry experience theirs. And that begins with equal access to quality education for all children. Empowered girls become empowered women who invest in their families and communities.

That’s the story we hope to discover and tell here in Afghanistan. And that’s what brought me to Kabul today. I’m in transit to the northeastern Warsaj region to scout for the 10×10 film and hopefully discover the one girl whose story will represent the potential of this troubled land.

I’m joined by the wonderful Dr. Sarah Fane who will be 10×10′s guide in Afghanistan these next few weeks. Fane fell in love with Afghanistan in her twenties when she worked as a doctor along the northern Pakistan border delivering babies and other urgent medical care there.  After returning to England a few years later, marrying and having four children of her own, Fane started a non-profit called Afghan Connection which has built dozens of schools in the northeastern part of the country with the help of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA).  Our team could not be in better hands.

bed and nightstand at the Swedish Committee's compound

My simple, but immaculate room in the SCA compound

After landing in Kabul, Dr. Fane and I are driven to the Swedish Committee compound in the city. A real “compound” it is.  We pass through one guarded gate, then another. What appears to be a metal wall suddenly parts before us, and two men with machine guns usher us in to a small, surprisingly peaceful courtyard.  This will be our home in Kabul until heading onward to the Warsaj District.

To understand more about the current situation for Afghan women, read 10×10 Advisory Board member Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s new Daily Beast article, Women of the World Unite! where she argues that a democratic Afghanistan won’t work unless Afghan women are involved in the peace process.


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Girls Soccer Team
Girls Soccer Team

Hello All--

In the past few months, we have been continuing on our journey to find stories of the most inspiring girls around the world. Recently, our team traveled to Haiti and India, where we worked with NGO partners like World Vision and Plan International, and had the  opportunity to meet some very courageous girls.

Currently, our team is on its second trip to Ethiopia, with our writer Maaza Mengiste. The team has also met with grassroots organizations all around the country and met with a girls' soccer team that uses sport to educate girls abut HIV/AIDS. These girls' attitudes shine as an inspiration to all of us every day. From the field, 10x10 team member Justin has been sending us updates. Below is one of his notes from the field:

And be sure to read more about what is going on qt 10x10, at .

Hello Homeland 10x10ers!


After my last shower in New York on Friday and a few last minute e mails

from the airport, I am for the first time in five days both freshly showered and

connected to the internet! Luxuries are rewards in Ethiopia, and their absence

a testament to the lacking infrastructure in the country, but nevertheless at this

moment, putting a huge smile on my face. I am pleased that I did not have

running water or internet connection for my first few days in Africa,

made adjusting easier.


Often times after a long journey to a faraway place, when the cockpit door of the

plane opens and you take that first breath, it serves as the first impression of a

place, and leaves a lasting sensory impact that will forever remind one of what

it meant to be there. A pleasing welcome, Africa smelled of semi-damp myrrh,

smoked dung, cedar and diesel, which set the scenario for everything to come

while reinforcing that I had, indeed, arrived in Africa.


There are certain aspects of Ethiopia that indeed make you sit back and say, this

is Africa, while others make you feel like you are simply in any other developing

country: the diesel-infused air, the instant coffee and dry bread (which tastes

smoked) with jam, the laundry hanging from lines, the aggressive flies, street

vendors, and cars dodging donkeys and goats. Africa is both heartbreaking and

hopeful. Perfectly symmetrical concave faces always gazing with piercing eyes

of hatred, desperation and admiration cut through you like barbed reminders of

the injustice of one’s birthright. From time to time, bright white smiles protrude

this façade, serving as genuine happy reminders of of hope, human interaction

and a bright culture embracing opportunities.


After nearly 36 hours of travel by airplane, taxi, and mini-bus, we finally

arrived late Sunday afternoon to Haramaya University, in the mountains just

before the lowlands of the Somalian-Ethiopian border. The resilience of the

students and the teachers were what left the biggest impression on me.

There are no showers, no internet and electricity is very sporadic. Buckets

serve as receptacles for water when it is available. The water schedule

is inconsistent, sometimes once a day for one hour, sometimes not for a

week. Ironically, when the water does run, most likely you can't turn it off. Most

faucets do not shut off, so water just pours until the entire community is shut

off at once. For a country living in a near 20-year drought, this practice seems

illogical to me, but perhaps it is just another reminder of the clear lack of

infrastructure in Ethiopia.


The closest internet is a ride down the mountain, almost one hour away to Dire

Dawa. This trip is both time consuming and expensive, making most curriculum

internet free. Electricity is the most consistent commodity, usually only going out

once or twice a day for 3-4 hours. Student housing are 1 story dorms made of

sheet metal with out-houses. Up to 12 men sleep in the same room, mattresses

are yellowed, sheets are sometimes hung to give a bunk a bit of privacy instead


of used as bedding. The girls are in a similar unit, far from the boys, which I

assume must not smell quite as bad. The resilience and dedication of people is

incredible. Despite all odds, these are the future leaders of Ethiopia, the ones

who had the opportunity to go to school and have received scores high enough

to get into University. These are students so happy to just be studying that the

lack of water, privacy, bathrooms, electricity or internet doesn’t matter. Studying

is the focus, and these students know that they have a role to fulfill to their

country. The students smile and are proud.


The expats in Ethiopia are exhausted and hopeless. Our first nights dinner

was at a VSO employee's home. Patricia Basset is a wonderful woman from

the UK who has dedicated her later years and nursing expertise to teaching

nursing in Malawi and now Sociology in Ethiopia. She is an advocate against

FGM practice. Generally, the expats and volunteers in Ethiopia who we've met

are frustrated by the work of their peers and themselves not seeming to have any

impact. They all seem to critique the lack of local government support and lack of

infrastructure. They all have the same question: will anything ever change here?


The next day we went to the walled city of Harar, a 16th

century Muslim pilgrimage site, with 368 cobblestone alleyways carved into a

1km square hill. The city was incredible, equally Muslim as Orthodox Christian,

both groups co-existing peacefully and praying constantly. The cloaked women

and girls were beautiful, flowered prints flowing as they sauntered down the

streets balancing baskets of figs and mangos on their heads. Cardamom and

ginger permeates the air as you get lost in bustling alleyways, spice markets and

fabric shops. The children in the city yell - FARANJI (foreign) - upon spotting

bright white skin and sneak out of dark corners and little doors to get in a quick

touch. Certain brave ones would latch on to my hand and accompany me a

block of two, smiles from ear to ear, while others would rub my arm and look

at their hand, a curious gesture answering whether or not the white rubs off or

not. Unfortunately, most of these children are not in school.


I was pleased to sit down and interview a Gender Expert in the Gender Office

at Haramaya University. Rozina, a stunning 25 year old Ethiopian from Addis,

spoke with me for almost 2 hours about the situation for girls growing up in

Ethiopia, what it means to go to University post-secondary, as well as the

tremendous barriers girls and women face, even into adulthood.


I have just made it to Addis and have a few good hours of work before I am off at

7:00 a.m. with CARE Ethiopia to drive to the Northeast region of Ethiopia to visit

schools and girls in migratory pastoral communities. We will be there for the next

three days. From my understanding, the climate in this region, low desert and

soaring temperatures, make it among the most unbearable places to survive on

the planet. I can hardly wait! My excitement is insatiable now that I have gotten

a taste!


We are in good spirits, happy, healthy and humbled. Probably will be off the

radar for a couple of days, so please don't worry. Hope all is well at home base!




Thank you all for your support!


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A note from our director, Richard Robbins, who is in Ethiopia with co-producer Alex Dionne.

Hello all-


End of a long but fruitful first day of work.


After what seemed like an exceptionally long few days of travel - LA to Paris, long layover, Paris to Addis Ababa, long drive - we have landed in Hawassa (or Awassa, depending). We are a four or five hours drive South and East from Addis Ababa. From here we drove another two hours into the countryside to Hula. As this is my first time here, there is much to say about Ethiopia in general. The beauty of the landscape is exceeded only by the beauty of the people. Ok, mainly I mean the women. The roads are quite good, thanks to an explosion of building by the Chinese (if you haven't seen the Documentary Group's show for ABC on this subject I highly recommend it). The Chinese infrastructure projects are everywhere. There is so much building going on, that sometimes you wonder if everything has just started, or nothing ever gets finished. Beautiful churches abound. The sky has that high cloud look that I've only seen in Africa and Montana. Big big sky.



People here do not like having their pictures taken, which is unfortunate, as we take a lot (and they are very photogenic).


So in the Hula district we stopped at the side of the road where we met some of the local World Vision staff. I hope Room to Read won't be jealous if we say how great the World Vision staff is. I don't know why the dedication of all these people is so moving. Perhaps because I live amongst so much jaded self involvement in Los Angeles.


We walked a mile or so through the countryside (no roads) where you could hear our presence being heralded (literally) across the hills by farmers and children unaccustomed to seeing white visitors. I actually caused one toddler to burst into tears at the sight of me. He had never seen a white person. Finally we came to a small, very primitive school where a dozen or so girls were waiting for us. They had come specially for us, as there is no school right now (they are on break).


The girls ranged in age from 9 to 14 - a younger group than we had seen in Nepal or Cambodia - which was fun. These girls are far more shy than any we've met before. They do not smile easily, but when they do it feels like the sun has broken through a bank of heavy clouds. They are the children of poor coffee farmers, and none had literate parents. Like Cambodia they all come from very large families. The issue here, and the reason we came, is early marriage. Unless they are very very lucky, all these girls will be married by the time they are 15 or 16. And pregnant soon after. Their education will never progress past 5th or 6th grade. Some are married even younger, at 10 or 11. Several of these girls are already engaged - by their parents arrangement of course.


So, the good news and the bad news. The bad is that there is not much prospect for these girls to avoid this fate. In some ways it is already too late for them. Help will likely not come soon enough. Their parents will be paid in exchange for their marriage, and that payment is all too inviting. Education may offer a better long term reward, but the parents cannot see it.


The good news, is that the awfulness of this situation has not dampened their hopes and dreams. Time and again we heard that they believe they will find a way. They are convinced they will convince their parents that they should stay in school. They don't know how, but they will. Their spirit is so so strong. Of course it is hard not to notice that it is the younger ones who are the most joyful. The closer they get to the age of marriage, the more serious and focused they become. Of course Alex and I marveled at how certain they were that their future was hopeful. And we repeatedly looked for an explanation for their optimism. I suppose youthful optimism shouldn't need a reason.


I will save the really wrenching story for tomorrow when I hope I will have less jet lag and more energy. I promise it's a killer. We always promise each other in the field that we will not dare complain to those of you back home. We know how lucky we are to be here. But

since our traveler's hardships seem to amuse you all so much...  


Last night I slept without a mosquito net, which was a huge mistake. I awoke with bites all over my face. I am dutifully taking my malaria medication, so hopefully the damage is only cosmetic. This

morning I was so tired that I started brushing my teeth with hand lotion, and spent the day with an awful taste in my mouth. We had several serious production problems, mostly as a result of our delayed luggage - but thankfully this is primarily a research trip, not a production one.


Tomorrow we are visiting another nearby area for more of the same. Thanks to all of you for the support and encouragement. It is deeply appreciated.




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During the last couple of months, 10x10 has been as busy as ever, and we have lots of news to share with you.

In August, 10x10 director Richard Robbins and producer Martha Adams, went on the first scouting trip to Cambodia.  There, they worked closely with our partner Room to Read, as well as other organizations, to meet with amazing girls and hear their remarkable stories.

The stories they came back with are stories of bravery, courage and enduring spirit.

Next, we are heading to Haiti, where 10x10writer, Edwidge Danticat, awinner of the National Book Award and MacArthur Fellowship recipient is from.

And, if you don’t know yet, we have a new website,  Stay tuned for lots of new updates, pictures, videos and stories from our trips in the next few months.

It’s the remarkable stories of the girls we meet that embody the spirit of 10x10 and give us all hope that what we are doing will create tangible, positive change for millions of girls around the world.

Needless to say, none of this would be possible without the support of all of you! 

Thank you all so much for being a part of the 10x10 community, and for sharing the project with your friends and family.  Please continue to do so, because the more people we can reach, the more lives we will change.


Warm regards,

The 10x10 Team

Director Richard Robbins at a school for girls
Director Richard Robbins at a school for girls
Producer Martha Adams interviews Cambodian girl
Producer Martha Adams interviews Cambodian girl


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Ten Times Ten, LLC

Location: New York, NY - USA
Dan McIntosh
Project Leader:
Dan McIntosh
New York, NY United States

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