________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 15 . . . . March 30, 2001

cover Of Hopscotch and Little Girls.

Marquise Lepage (Director). Marcel Simard & Monique Simard (Producers, Virage Productions), Nicole Lamothe (Producer, NFB).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1999.
52 min., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9199 074.

Subject Headings:
Girls-Social conditions.
Sex discrimination against women.

Grades 6 and up/ Ages 11 and up.

Review by Cheryl Archer.

*** /4

Of Hopscotch and Little Girls is a 52 minute video portraying girls, aged 8 to 14, from countries such as India, Thailand, and Haiti. These girls play hopscotch outside their homes, and they share similar dreams: owning a new pair of shoes or a new bike, or becoming rich and famous one day. However, because they are girls, many never have the opportunity to strive for their dreams.

      In heartbreaking testimonials--that are translated by the kind voice of an off-camera woman--these girls tell their stories. Many are denied an education and are forced into the labour force, often working as child prostitutes. Others are married by the age of ten and become slaves to their husbands' families. Still others are sexually abused, mutilated, and subjected to other injustices. All have their childhood stolen from them.

      In addition to the girls' stories, factual information is presented in the form of several printed messages. Inserting the messages this way helps the video flow smoothly from one child narrator to the next, as well as preventing the information from becoming too preachy. These nuggets of info also provide a larger picture of what is happening to girls around the world. Many of the facts will shock viewers, especially Canadian youngsters, who, for the most part, live comfortable, protected lives. For example, "One million children (mostly girls) per year are recruited for the sex trade," "two-thirds of the children who don't attend school are girls," "in Haiti, 250,000 girls work as slaves," "from the age of five, girls in developing countries work 4-16 hours per day at household chores," and "girls and women provide 70% of work hours and get 10% of the revenue."

      At the end of the video, just in case viewers are feeling smug about being safe from this horrific discrimination because they live in Canada, we are reminded that--yes, even here--there is still much work to be done. Eighty-four percent of sexual assaults in Canada happen to girls eighteen and under, and one-third of the victims are under six (as witnessed in a recent home invasion in Calgary where two young sisters were assaulted.) (Also, according to a Statistics Canada report issued March 12, 2001, women are still doing a lot more work for a lot less money. Women on average took home [in after-tax income] about 63% of the earnings of Canadian men in 1997.)

      With all this depressing information, one might think it would be impossible to end the video on a positive note. But, to the credit of its producers, Of Hopscotch and Little Girls leaves viewers with hope. An adult narrator tells us that girls the world over are beautiful, and they just want to be girls, and play hopscotch....

      This video will present an excellent opportunity for classroom discussions about discrimination and violence against girls in countries around the world as well as in our own communities. However, prior to showing the film to students, teachers are strongly advised to preview it. There may be some scenes too disturbing for pre-teens, or perhaps proper preparation of younger students is all that is needed. Regardless, if used appropriately, this video can be an effective teaching tool.

      Of Hopscotch and Little Girls delivers a powerful message about the denial of girls' rights because of poverty, perversion, spite, superstition and ignorance. Hopefully, as a result of educational films such as this, more and more girls will have the opportunity to live their dreams.

Recommended with Reservations.

Cheryl Archer, former Manitoba Officer for the Canadian Children's Book Centre, and author of a non-fiction for young people (Snow Watch) is currently writing full-time in Cochrane, AB. She viewed this video with her 15-year-old daughter who was astonished to see how girls are treated in other countries and is so very thankful she lives in Canada.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364