Daughters of Destiny

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Daughters of Destiny TV Poster Image
Gripping documentary follows five girls moving up in India.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

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Positive Messages

Interviewees talk honestly about their lives, their hopes, their dreams; positive messages are everywhere, from Manjula explaining that her family considers girls inferior and that she's proving them wrong by working hard at school, to Karthika discussing India's caste system: "It is unfair. If people understand this and are not working against it, I don't understand what kind of humans they are."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Just about everyone the camera follows emerges as a role model: the students, aware that they have been given a great gift that comes with difficult obligations; the school's founder, who talks movingly about lifting a generation of children out of poverty; the parents, who bravely give up their children to a hope for the future. 


Matter-of-fact descriptions of violence, like when Karthika talks about the death of her father, who was found in a ditch and believed to have been murdered by people upset that he married a lower-caste woman. Manjula's mother talks about her husband, who committed suicide when he could not pay the debt he took on for a car. 


Brief mentions of girls who married as young teens, against their will. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Daughters of Destiny is a four-part documentary series about a school for India's poorest children, and some of the young female students there. Moving and honest, the series contains a few anecdotes and ideas that may be too mature for young viewers, such as one girl explaining that her dad was probably murdered by people who were angry that he married her (lower-caste) mom, and a women admitting that her husband committed suicide because he couldn't pay a debt. There are also images that may disturb young/sensitive viewers: children living in poverty, very young children helping with sweatshop-type labor, people working in a rock quarry with no protective gear. Still, this documentary is full of positive messages from the hardworking students and the adults who help them, and may be particularly touching to teens, who may realize how good they have it at home and school. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byFatema S. April 20, 2018

This one will follow you through the day

You won't be getting an in depth look at a caste system, but enough to get you started with having conversations with your children about how they can be... Continue reading
Parent of a 10 and 11-year-old Written byDina S. February 20, 2018

A must see!

An amazing series about an amazing project. "Daughters of Destiny" covers so many aspects of poverty and education that I could talk about it for mont... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

In 1996, Indian-born American success story Dr. Abraham George sold out -- to a Fortune 500 company. He plowed everything he had into The Shanti Bhavan Children's Project, a school for India's poorest children. Each year, the school takes in children from nearby impoverished villages, caring for the children from when they first enter the school to when they get their first job. The children come to live at Shanti Bhavan when they are age 4. They don't leave until they're ready to go to college. DAUGHTERS OF DESTINY introduces us to five young Shanti Bhavan girls from the so-called "untouchable" caste. Following them from ages 7 to 23 over the course of four episodes, we learn about their challenges and their triumphs as they attempt what seems nearly impossible: to lift their own families and as many others as possible out of poverty.  

Is it any good?

With every-shot-a-painting visuals and startlingly honest interviews with participants, this documentary earns its four-hour running time. The girls we're introduced to quickly emerge as individuals: impish Thenmozhi, conflicted Karthika, Manjula, whose own family thinks her schooling is a waste of time, and who sleeps (or doesn't) on a hard stone floor with her mother and grandmother. The same mother and grandmother that she must leave to attend school at Shanti Bhavan, a reality the series doesn't shy away from: The very first scene we see is of teary-eyed mothers and sometimes-shrieking 4-year-olds, separating for the first time. 

And yet we see, too, how the experiment seems to be working -- how Shanti Bhavan widens these children's horizons and expands their opportunities. In Thenmozhi's house, her mother sits all day making matchboxes just to have enough food to feed the family. Thenmozhi's older sister, who was not invited to attend the school -- only one child per family is accepted -- has already started to make the matchbooks too, dully watching dubbed Cartoon Network shows as she works. Thenmozhi now dreams of being a vet, an ambition, she frankly tells us, she wouldn't have had without Shanti Bhavan. She also tells us if she had one wish, it would be that her mother would come take her home, that very day, and she could be with her mother. Hope, at great cost. Daughters of Destiny shows us both, and makes us hope for these girls too. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Shanti Bhavan and the students who go there. Does it sound hard to leave your entire family and go to boarding school? Do you think the parents miss their children? Why are they prizing their children's education over emotions? 

  • How do the Shanti Bhavan students in Daughters of Destiny demonstrate curiosity and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?

  • Documentary films are supposed to show real life. Do they? How does the presence of the filmmakers change how the subjects act? Is it possible to capture people realistically if they know they're being filmed? 

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