Giving voice to girls around the world

January 9, 2014 8:45 AM

Aidan Smith

Gabriella Runnels

Gabriella Runnels, a sophomore from Baton Rouge, La., is inspired to raise awareness of the terrible injustices some girls face. (Photo by Sally Asher)

Inspiration can strike at any time. A moment alone with a magazine changed Gabriella Runnels’ life path. “I was sitting on my couch, reading National Geographic, and crying my eyes out. The article described how in some places, girls are married as young as seven years old. I was horrified to learn about girls losing their futures to forced early marriage,” says the Tulane University sophomore.

Then a high school student in Baton Rouge, La., Runnels started researching girls’ issues around the world, and wanted to tell their stories. Her research inspired her to create a short film, It Only Takes a Girl, describing the injustices girls face around the world, including bride burnings, child marriage and female genital mutilation. At first, she shared her video with friends and family, but her work soon went viral. 

“To my surprise, a lot of people started sharing the link on Facebook, and after a couple hundred views I decided to make the video public.”  

After a week, the viewership had climbed to 100,000, and today the video has more than 400,000 views. 

Runnels’ film was part of her application for the John Hainkel scholarship at Tulane University, which fully funds her expenses. Since enrolling, she has made her mark on campus, becoming part of the 2016 class of Newcomb Scholars

Thanks to funding from the Newcomb College Institute, she was able to intern in New York with 10x10, the production house behind the film Girl Rising, a documentary that tells the stories of girls from around the globe. 

“Seeing how passionate all of the women in the office were was a huge inspiration to me. Their work showed me that with enough effort and determination, change really is possible.”

Runnels’ outreach continues. She is coordinating an on-campus screening of Girl Rising in March, co-sponsored by Tulane University Campus Programming, the Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching and the Newcomb College Institute.

Aidan Smith is external affairs officer for the Newcomb College Institute.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000