Travel Log 11: “Holding up Half the Sky” by Bryan Riemer. Cork, Ireland

I believe the documentary Half the Sky is a story written to make the world aware of how women are treated in 3rd world countries. The women in the film are referred to as expendable or 2nd class citizens because of how they are treated by men. This is a very sad but eye opening film that makes me think about how I should further appreciate the fact that I was born into a 1st world country and received everything I needed to succeed in life.

While watching the film, a certain story impacted me in a greater way than the rest. It was the story about Meg Ryan and Nicholas Kristof traveling to Cambodia to visit Somaly Mam and her girls. Somaly Mam was trafficked at the young age of 12-13 years old where she saw her best friend get brutally murdered by a brothel owner. Shortly after witnessing that tragic event, Somaly escaped and rehabilitated herself back into the world. Now Somaly Mam rescues other trafficked girls from their brothels and brings them to her home where she helps them become brave, strong and independent woman. There was one girl in the group who was particularly interesting because she stayed strong throughout her time in the brothel. Once she had been rescued by Somaly Mam she changed her name to Semana which means forgiveness.  Kristof asked Semana why she chose her name, she said; “the moment I became a victim, no one would forgive me. They always said I was a whore. If they kept doing that I couldn’t stand it. Everywhere I went they kept repeating that I’m a whore. There was no love for me. But I’m not angry. I’ll stand taller to help other girls” (Semana). When Semana was 13 years old a strange woman approached her and asked her if she wanted a job because she saw how poor her family was. Not knowing any better Semana agreed to go with the woman and was dropped off at another woman’s house. Once Semana realized she had just been sold to a brothel owner she started to cry and wanted to go home. While she was in the brothel she would refuse to take clients so the brothel owners beat, electrocuted, and starved her. But Semana remained strong and continued to refuse clients, although the clients did not really care if she refused because they were all drunk according to her. One of the clients got Semana pregnant because none of them whore condoms. The brothel owner aborted the baby right away which was very painful for Semana. The brothel owners nor the clients cared if the girls were in pain or bleeding, they still continued no matter what. In fact one of the brothel owners stabbed Semana in her eye which of course then started to bleed, but instead of taking her to the hospital she was forced to take clients. Shortly after the stabbing, police had raided the brothel and found Semana there and immediately rushed her to have her eye taken out and treated properly. When she was released from the hospital Semana went home expecting her parents to be welcoming but they were the exact opposite. She was not wanted in the house so she went to go stay with Somaly Mam where she has grown into a strong, independent woman.

I was amazed at the fact that Semana’s parents would not welcome her back into their home filled with enjoyment and relief that she is alive. To me that was the saddest part of the whole documentary. I could not imagine going through what she went through and then not being welcomed back into my home, it is just something I did not think parents could ever do to their children.

My particular area of study at Quinnipiac is marketing, and there are numerous ways I can think of that can make a positive difference in the fight for women’s rights throughout the world. The best idea that I thought of is to take the political route and try to increase the amount of rapists who get convicted to more than 1%. If there are marketing campaigns shown throughout first world countries portraying the fact that nearly 100% of rapists are not punished for their action the people will start to take action. Once action is taken against the courts the entire government would hopefully be forced to change thus creating a greater country all together.

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One thought on “Travel Log 11: “Holding up Half the Sky” by Bryan Riemer. Cork, Ireland

  1. Bryan, I too wrote about Somaly. She is truly one of the strongest women in the world. The story about Semana was so saddening but also inspiring at the same time because of how she became so strong for other girls who went through similar experiences. When Semena was describing how the brothel owners aborted the baby and still forced her to have sex with other customers, I was appalled. These things are so eye-opening because we may never even realize that they happen or exist.

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