Travel Log 11 “Holding up Half the Sky” by Kristen Sullivan. Barcelona, Spain

Watching the video “Half the Sky” was absolutely incredible. I am shocked that I had never heard of this documentary before because of how heartbreaking and touching it was. It had a huge impact on me especially as a woman, but I think that it would be an amazing thing for everyone to see. I encouraged my roommates and my family to watch it. The slogan of the video, “turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide” is the central point and focuses on the vital role of women. If we look back in history, there is a common theme of women always being the “problem”, doing the “wrong thing”, or being considered as less important. Women are often used for their bodies, lacked education, and did not have equal rights. The documentary specifically focuses on sex as a huge issue for women. Their bodies are mistreated through sex trafficking, gentile mutilation, sexual violence, and lack of protection from HIV and AIDs. Throughout this movie, my jaw dropped as they travelled and the mistreatment of women continued to worsen.

Although the movie honed in on the horrible acts being done to women, it also focused on the importance of empowering women to overcome their oppression. In the middle of all of the cruelty, there were bright spots of powerful women leaders who tried to do small things to improve their quality of living. They look on leadership roles to display that they can be empowered and try to change their situation a little bit at a time. Watching these women stand up as leaders and displaying their pride in being women became a domino effect and helped to empower other young women. The incredible female leaders serve as amazing role models for the rest of the community.

All of the stories were extremely difficult to listen to. It makes me feel so blessed to have grown up where I did, but hearing their stories hurt my heart. One of the stories that stuck with me was Showma from India. She spoke of her experience of forced prostitution and how she had to “entertain clients even when she was extremely sick.” On average, she had to entertain 20 to 30 clients a day and was completely isolated from the other girls in her situation. She said the guards would hold guns and knives to her throat if she didn’t do what they wanted. The worst part of the story was the fact that she called herself disposable. There were so many girls in her situation that if she didn’t comply with their rules, they would not think twice about killing her because they had so many women. Thankfully, she was rescued and is now a mother. Rather than being upset with her situation, she utilized it as an empowering experience and has great hope for her daughter’s future. She serves as an incredible role model for not only her daughter, but for other women in her community. Showma’s life as a young women is completely different than mine or anyone I know. She had to grow up so fast and her innocence was stripped from her. She had to experience the harsh and darkest realities of the world at a young age and lived in basically hell on earth. I can’t imagine because treated that way and experiencing that amount of violence and sexual mistreatment.

Another part of the documentary discussed a hospital in Somaliland. My major is Physical Therapy and all of my classes are based around science, medicine, and health care. Last semester, I took Bioethics which focuses on bioethical issues in our world today. Throughout all of my studies I have never seen such horrible healthcare issues like that shown in the video. In the hospital in Somaliland they let pregnant women die that would easily be cured in the United States and other places in the world. Their medical attention to these women was horrific. Women should have equal health care rights and the hospitals should do everything in their power to save people regardless of gender. This part of the video disgusted me. Although this part was not an issue with physical therapy, as a physical therapist I would love to travel to different parts of the world and ensure that proper medical care, including physical therapy, was provided. My advisor at Quinnipiac is taking this semester to go to Guatemala to set up physical therapy clinics in these types of areas and I would love to get involved in that. If everyone helps even a little bit, it can make a huge difference in the lives of women, and people in general, around the world.

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