Cathie Black is taking notes. The topic is 10×10, a social action campaign aimed at raising the bar for the worldwide education of girls, and at the living room table in her Park Avenue apartment, Black is jotting down what her friend, film producer and 10×10 executive Kayce Freed Jennings, is saying. Between questions, Black lobs her own, scribbling as she goes, and it’s easy to see how the women feed off of each other’s enthusiasm.
There’s plenty to be passionate about. What started as a film project about alleviating global poverty has become much more: a global crusade to educate young women involving nine NGOs and comprising not only fundraising ventures but also multimedia projects, including a film, Girl Rising, (narrated, in part, by Meryl Streep) slated for theatrical release in March 2013 and a spring date on CNN and CNN International, as well as events timed to coincide with the United Nations’ inaugural International Day of the Girl Child on Oct. 11. (See a trailer for the film below and share it—every time the video is shared, a donation is made to the 10×10 Fund for Girls’ Education.)
The draw of the project? “If you can educate girls,” says Black, the former president and chairman of Hearst Magazines, “you can change the world.”
Jennings (whose husband was the late ABC evening news anchor Peter Jennings) agrees. “It’s a fact,” she says. “You can argue about all sorts of things, but not the impact of educating girls and the impact it has on families, communities, countries and the world.”
The women take turns listing education’s benefits: educated girls are less likely to contract HIV, become laborers against their wills, marry early or become young mothers. They’ll even live longer.
“I’d like to see everyone aware of the impact that educated girls can have on our world,” says Jennings. “I’d like everyone to realize that investing in their daughters is a really powerful thing, a really good investment and not just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do.”
On Oct. 10, 10×10 will host a Manhattan event for the cause, premiering a trailer for the Richard Robbins–directed movie—which will present the stories of 10 girls, each told by a woman writer from the girl’s country—and featuring speakers on the plight of girls worldwide. The film will also be teased at the Sundance Film Festival.
“It’s an auspicious time for us to launch,” says Jennings, “so we’re creating a major event in New York, but—more important—events all over the world to celebrate the girl, the empowerment of the girl and the value of the girl. We want people to be able to act every time they hear about us.”
Indeed, support for 10×10 can come in different ways. Of course, the group is already raising funds for the NGOs in its network (visit 10x10act.org to donate). However, other goals—like reaching one billion social media impressions to spread the word about the cause—are just as important considering 10×10’s objective isn’t just to heighten awareness but also to change policy. It’s also an opportunity for the socially active, philanthropically inclined women to work on a project with deep personal meaning.
“I’ve been involved in women’s issues since I first started working,” says Black. “I spent six years at Ms. during its early days. I also have a daughter who’s turning 21, and I know a lot of women who also have daughters, and we think about women and girls. Giving back to girls and women is what’s close to my heart.”