Travel Log 11: “Holding up Half the Sky,” by Stephanie Schmitt. Florence, Italy

This video was one of the most moving things I have ever experienced. I found that I was only able to watch in for thirty minutes at a time, because a lot of the scenes were disturbing and shocking, to say the least. After watching, I have preached endlessly to my mother, my sisters, and my roommates about how they need to watch this. I think that it is something that everyone, especially women, needs to see in order to understand the desperation that other people are living in. As Sheryl said in the video, the main message is that women are not the problem but they are the solution. People need to be taught that in order for societies to reach their fullest potentials, we need to empower women everywhere. Also, a major theme in this video was that in order to achieve great things, you have to start small. Somaly in Cambodia said, “Sometimes they [people] want to do so much and they do nothing.” She means that all of the problems cannot be fixed all at once, but if we slowly start to focus on one thing at a time, we can make meaningful changes. All of the amazing female leaders in this movie exemplified this perfectly. Each of them did a small thing that empowered young women and many of these young women went on to help empower other young women.

One of the stories that really stuck with me was Long. She was the young girl in Somaly’s school who had her eye stabbed by the brothel owner. Long had been kidnapped and taken by a brothel at an incredibly young age, where she was forced to take clients, even as her eye bled after being gouged out. When Long tells her story, she cries as she discusses what she went to. Although Somaly Mam has helped her and saved her, the emotional burden of what she went through will never be forgotten. However, Long showed that after reflecting on her situation, she could use it to relate to other girls with similar stories. She joined with Somaly’s force of girls who go into the brothels and offer support and love to the other girls living in the brothels, and she also helps to rescue them. Long recognizes that what happened to her was unjust and cruel, but she does not let it consume her. Instead, she takes her sadness and turns it into an action of empowerment and hope.

The segment about Somaly and her girls was one of the ones in the documentary that upset me the most. It made me realize that there are so many little things that I take for granted as a woman. I do what I want, when I want. I am getting an incredible education, I have a loving family, a great boyfriend, and most importantly my innocence was never stolen from me. The girls like Long were forced to grow up and were exposed to very adult situations at very young ages and it is horrifying to think that this is considered normal in some parts.

I also connected to the segment about Edna Adan’s hospital in Somaliland. I am a health science major and I will be starting PA school at Quinnipiac in 2017, so the healthcare part of this film really struck me. It was horrifying to see the pregnant woman die of complications like hypertension and anemia that are totally curable in the United States. Jane Peters from MWFE says, “Women are expendable.” In these parts of the world, people do not value women, and so they do not see the need to give women the health care that they deserve. It is absolutely enraging to think that so many women are depraved of a basic human right. After seeing the program that Edna set up to train community nurses to aide with child birth, it made me realize that I am being trained in a skill set that will let me make a difference. I know that when I am a practicing PA I will go on mission trips to these places where healthcare is not accessible to women, in the hopes that I can make a difference; because as I mentioned before, no act is too small. Empowering one woman can start a chain reaction that empowers many women to come after her.


4 thoughts on “Travel Log 11: “Holding up Half the Sky,” by Stephanie Schmitt. Florence, Italy

  1. Steph, I also want to do medical mission trips. This movie really inspired me to want to help women around the world as it seems to have done for you as well. I cannot believe the conditions these poor women have to suffer through and anything that we can do to help we should. We are so privileged and often take it for granted, I want to be able to share all of my blessings with those who are not as fortunate.


  2. Your reaction to the video was the same as mine. I really connected to the end where you talked about medical mission trips because as a Physical Therapy major that is something I am really interested in as well. The story about Long was also extremely sad and touching and her resilience is incredible. She stands out as a great role model and leader.


  3. I also connected with Edna’s story in Somaliland. She is a true hero among her people. Also being a future PA I can connect with her want to help the helpless women of her country. It’s unacceptable that pregnant women are dying because of very treatable conditions. This entire film was very enlightening; it opened my eyes towards issues that I was quite blind to before seeing it. The first hand stories of these individuals were truly moving.


  4. I also had a similar reaction although I watched it completely through, I admit I cried alot. I felt really connected with Ni’s story just because of personal experiences, but I have to say every single story moved me. I was blown away with each woman and girl’s courage. It makes me feel connected to them. It is horrendous to see women being treated this way and absolutely saddened by what they go through. I’m currently a Biomedical Science major on premed track, one of my goals after finishing medical school is to participate in doctors without borders. This documentary just re-lit the passion and fire to make sure that that happens, I’m determined. Even if it’s something small, I’ll do it.


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