Travel Log 11: “Holding up Half the Sky” By Ashley Moreau, Cork, Ireland.

Watching the documentary Half the Sky was definitely one of the most humbling, graphic, and informative videos that I have ever viewed for school before. If I were to sum up its message in a short phrase is would be about women empowerment. The whole premise of the Half the Sky movement, started by Nicolas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn, is “turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide.” The stories that they told in different countries throughout the world from India to Kenya were all unique but they all had a connection—women’s fighting spirit to overcome various adversities and helping themselves to have a better life.

The overall message of this documentary is to bring awareness to the important human rights violations that exist against women all around the world. From female genital mutilation (FGM), to sex trafficking, to maternal mortality, to being sold into prostitution, to not being able to get educated, women in many nations face an insurmountable amount of challenges. At the same time, this documentary is to demonstrate the incredible resilience and inspiring stories of these women, who despite their horrible situations, are often able to go out and find work for themselves, save up money and support there families. The commonality among each story was that every mom wanted to provide a better like for her children than she had; I thought that was really special. It was interesting that Kristof decided to implement various celebrities in this movement. By doing that, it makes it easier for more people to hear about these stories. Actors and actresses can be some of the best activists because so many people keep up to date on what ventures these people are doing. Further, many of them have the financial means to give back to the community and I feel it is their moral responsibility to be involved in movements like Half the Sky.

While all of these women’s stories really touched me and brought out emotions in me that are hard to even put into words, I think the one story that really stood out to me was Amie’s. Amie is a victim of domestic violence herself, eventually she managed to leave her abusive husband, but even during that relationship she was and still continues to run the Rainbo Center. This center provides counseling to victims of sexual assault and violence. What was startling to me was that Amie said their youngest person was 2.5 months old. That is nearly impossible to fathom. Further, she gave the statistic that nearly 26% of the people that see are under the age of 12. These facts sickened me really. The emotion of fear that you could see in the victims’ eyes was really moving but also saddened me. I think that is important that Amie runs this center because she can relate to these girls on every level of their experiences, more than any westerner could ever even come close to. Further, you could see that these girls looked up to her for help and sought out her comfort in times of pain, which was amazing.

As a PA major, I think the most relevant story that really hit home to me was the piece on maternal morality in Somaliland, Africa. A startling fact that video shared is that “1 and 12 women in Somaliland will die in childbirth.” Edna, a trained midwife who came from a family that afforded her the opportunity to study in London, came back to her home and opened up a hospital. Even still, there are many remote areas throughout this region where mothers don’t have access to a midwife and have to give birth at home by a family member who aren’t aware of things like sterile conditions and fetal complications. What complicates this laboring process even more is that most girls are have had their genital mutilated, so it makes the birthing process a lot more difficult. This made me think back to my EMT class this past year, as an EMT it is our responsibility to be able to assist a women in giving birth, and we always carry birthing kits on our rescues. It made me realize that in America we take for granted how many trained professionals are so close to us and accessible in the time of pregnancy. In fact, when pregnant I would imagine that most women do not fear that the process of labor might kill them, the way it does in Somaliland far too often.

This documentary really inspired me to want to be involved in women’s rights, and as all the actors said it doesn’t have to be on an enormous scale. Even just empowering and helping one woman’s life does make a difference. A place that I know I can start to make a difference in this movement is at Quinnipiac in the spring. I looked up online and realized that we have a club called WISH (Women in Support of Humanity), and in the spring I am definitely going to seek it out and join it. I have always been very interested in feminist ideas and this topic of women’s rights and empowerment, although I have never actually joined a group. Seeing this video really did inspire me to want to finally get actively involved.


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