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'Superstar of Sierra Leone'

By Betsy Anderson, CNN
June 17, 2013 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
  • Watch CNN Films' "Girl Rising" June 16 at 9 p.m. ET on CNN
  • Sara left her village to live with her aunt so she could attend school
  • Gender violence and early marriage are problems in Sierra Leone

CNN Films' "Girl Rising" documents extraordinary girls and the power of education to change the world.

(CNN) -- Sara lives in Sierra Leone and just wants to go to school.

She left her village and her family to live with an aunt who is a teacher. Sara's aunt supported her education and helped her study. Sara is now attending secondary school near her village and wants to go to college. She says she is going to be a lawyer.

"I want to be a superstar of Sierra Leone," Sara says.

Sara is the exception among girls in Sierra Leone. During the country's decade-long civil war, many schools were destroyed. Families were often forced from their villages and now live in poverty. If they have the money to pay school fees, many girls still miss out on an education simply because a family usually will choose to send a boy to school before a girl.

Girls are often forced to marry at an early age, exposing them to early pregnancy and even HIV. Gender-based violence and genital cutting are also major problems in Sierra Leone.

The nonprofit Plan International USA is one group working with girls in Sierra Leone and other West African countries. Sara is one of hundreds of girls who have taken part in the organization's Girls Making Media Project. Teenage girls in some of the poorest areas of Sierra Leone learn how to write, produce and broadcast radio programs -- empowering them to speak up for themselves and raise awareness of the issues they think are most important.

"I report on the gender discrimination against girls in Sierra Leone. If you do that through the radio, I think people deep in the village will open their ears and hear something about it," Sara says.

Watch the video for more on Sara's story and how she wants the education her mom couldn't have.

How you can help girls like Sara in Sierra Leone:


You can help advance Plan's work by donating to its "Because I am a Girl" campaign, which supports projects that help girls and women in the developing world. There is also an opportunity to give what Plan International calls Gifts of Hope. You can symbolically donate things like school uniforms, vaccinations, school supplies or even girl-friendly latrines.


Plan international USA created resources for students and teachers. These online booklets are designed to help people of all ages understand the challenges that many girls and women face around the world.


For even more ways to make an impact for girls education around the world, check out CNN's Impact Your World resources or take action with 10x10.

- More about CNN Films' "Girl Rising" project

- More from CNN's Impact Your World

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