Travel Log 11: “Holding up Half the Sky” By Alexandra Borges. Cardiff, Wales.

Wow, I mean what can I say? I was absolutely blown away with the stories presented in this documentary. I mean I haven’t been ignorant to any of the areas in which “Holding up Half the Sky” touches, but I think I didn’t fully realize the severity of female targeting in each. It was very eye opening.

I think the best way to convey the overall message of the stories presented would be explaining that if you support the growth and education of women, you support the world. I think often women of our country take for granted the rights we have and focus more on the nitty-gritty things we still have to overcome. Women in 1st world countries have come a long way and most of us reap the benefits of our predecessors. These women in the documentary that represent the women of their respective developing countries, have worked hard to get where they are and will have to worker even harder, to try to catch up to the changes that we women of the 1st world countries don’t even think about.

Unified as a gender and way of living, it only seems fair to encourage and support these women and help in the journey to bettering the lives of women in their own countries. Honestly, if I had half the courage, bravery, and strength these women have it would be a blessing. The amount of hardships that they have overcome and horrendous acts done to them and they continue to live and smile, is a miracle. Women are the bringer of life to this world no matter what anyone says, the world survives and grows on the backs of women all over the globe.

I think the story that impacted me the most was Nhi’s. Here is the young girl juggling  school life, home life, and work life all at once. She is a determined young girl that fights for the sake of her education regardless of obstacles she faces. She’s the breadwinner of the household. Her father,who refuses to find another occupation even though it brings in no income,  forces his daughter to sell lottery tickets; should she not meet his quota he beats her. Yet she perseveres in the classroom always coming 1st in the class and even goes far as to attend tutoring, which she pays for one her own with what money she saves. Her daily life consists from going to school then working until late, then comes home (depending if she’s reached quota is beaten), cooks dinner, schools her little brother, and does the same thing the following day.

She is absolutely amazing and incredibly strong to not only support her family at her age, but to be able to continue living her life as accomplished as she has regardless of the challenges and pressure. She’s an open book, her emotions displayed for all to see, yet refuses to let it betray or gain the advantage over her. From what one can tell, she knows the hand that she’s been dealt and she knows what fights she can and cannot win. She realizes that going to school to be educated is already a huge step, that it’s going to be difficult to reach her end goal, but for now can only take baby steps. Even if she’s frustrated, she continues to walk down the path that she has laid down for herself. However, there is that sense that although she’s accomplished this much that her father’s word still lies heavily on deciding her life. You can see this when she refuses to speak of homelife aside from what is already known by outsiders, and never directly says anything to bring attention to her father. She’s very cautious around him and maintains her distance when possible.

Yet, despite the all this she continues to excel in her studies. I think that’s what really draws me in, in spite of the abuse she pushes herself to do even better in school, to becomes educated. As someone in the documentary said, “School is her safe haven and so she puts her all into it.” Perhaps, this is to escape reality or maybe a way make a future for herself in order to be able to physically escape her father for good, it could be a little of both.

To be honest her story hits home with me on a personal level, granted not as extreme because I live in a society where I have a right to education, but still there are aspects of myself reflected in her story, especially with the relationship between her and her father. So, when her story came up in “Holding Up Half the Sky”, I was surprised, but also I reflected on my past. It was a little hard to actually think back with an objective view. However, I think it was really necessary and that it helped me realize the impact education has had on my life, especially with how it has shaped the person I am today.

I think a lot of the issues in “Holding Up Half the Sky”, can be relayed back to the lack of healthcare freedom for women. This is especially seen in the stories related to rape, child birth/death, FGM, and malnutrition. The horrors and downright abuse of these women’s rights and bodies absolutely astounds me, it’s atrocious. However, regardless of the atrocities, the documentary doesn’t hold back. I like that because it exposes the truth of things in a cut clean way. Despite the horrors we were able to stay along with the women throughout each ordeal and that gives perspective and insight that would have otherwise been lost. The audience feels the pain, the anger, the sadness, the bitterness, the hope, the despair when hope is snatched away, the fear, the community; we feel everything alongside these women. And if you’re a woman as well, these emotions and feelings are felt on a deeper and soulful level, one that not even we women can explain. Things like these should not be censored, people need to know what really goes on in the world. Learning what needs to change and what these women really need, put into perspective the things we need to do in order to help and contribute. No women, in 1st world countries or developing world alike, should go through what any of these women within this documentary have gone and go through on the daily.

Back home I’m a Biomedical Science major on a Pre Med track. My ultimate goal is to become a doctor (specialized in Cardiology, a doctor nonetheless). Honestly, I can’t count the number of times I specifically told my mother that I want to participate in doctors without borders. Regardless of my specialty, you learn the basics first and then specialized anyway, so anything that I can do, even in the smallest way for these women, I will try my hardest to accomplish. A lot of people in the medical field get more and more worried about doctors without borders because of the rising risk, but I continuously aspire to be like those who continue to risk their lives despite the risk and distance, to help those in need. We need more people like these, we need to do something for this plagued world.

Support women, and you support the world.


Institute for Cultural Diplomacy



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