TL11: “Holding Up Half the Sky” by Danielle Tomlinson Normandy, France

“Young people graduate from university without understanding of poverty at home or abroad.” (Kristof, WuDunn) Half the Sky tells the stories of women and girls alike around the world who suffer from issues such as lack of education, sex trafficking, lack of proper healthcare and gender based violence. A mother in Somaliland faces death upon conception. A girl in India faces the commercial sex trade. A girl in Vietnam tries to use her education as mobility.  And a girl in Sierra Leone who was raped realizes that gender based violence is ingrained in her culture. The stories of these women and girls convey a very real reality that often we are not exposed to. Women and girls face these acts of violence, discrimination and violations each day. Half the Sky embodies these tragedies and shows that in the face of adversity many of these women rise above. “Of all the issues… Gender-based violence is the most widespread. Sure enough, in a country like Sierra Leone, it’s very extreme; it’s a past conflict situation but rape and domestic abuse happen everywhere. They really are one of the most ubiquitous forms of gender based oppression” (Kristof, WuDunn) In Half the Sky the authors talk about a woman named Amie Kandeh who has been abused by her husband, threatened on a daily basis. What was interesting to note was that this woman though abused by her husband was able to help other women with their crises. Gender based violence encompasses a number of violations perpetrated to one gender specifically, in the case of Half the Sky, the gender targeted is women. The problem with gender based violence is that it has now become institutionalised in many countries across the globe. And so in a post conflict Sierra Leone, a husband abusing his wife was not out of the norm. Often girls and women were raped and abused sexually as a form of violence not only to suppress themselves but their male counterparts with whom they were associated with. These women were targeted and abused not only physically and sexually but mentally. Often perceiving themselves as inferior and living in fear of what could happen. The women and organizations in Half the Sky seek to show now only the injustices dealt to women across the globe, but the capabilities women have but are never often explored. “Women aren’t the problem but the solution. The plight of girls is no more a tragedy than an opportunity”(Kristof, WuDunn) It is an opportunity to empower girls and women to reach their full capabilities; moreover, to contribute to revolutionizing the mindset of girls and women across the globe by bringing to lights these violations and bring about a social change where girls and women are viewed as equal to their male counterparts. Thus they should be endowed the same resources and protections, if not more given the history of gender based violence. While I was reading Half the Sky, I kept thinking about how important it was not only to engage the girls and women in various societies but also the boys and men as well. If we teach our boys to treat their girl friends the same as their boy friends then we have accomplished something. “Sex trafficking and mass rape should no more be seen as a women’s issue than slavery was a black issue or the Holocaust was a Jewish issue.” (Kristof, WuDunn) The violations perpetrated against women are not solely exclusive to women. In certain societies, these violations also extend to their male counterparts but because the perception of the male is different, it is not often talked about or addressed. And so the victimization of people as a whole continues. “Cultural barriers can be overcome relatively swiftly where there is political will to do so” (Kristof, WuDunn) Gender Based violence won’t be solved very easily it will take time and the changing of not only hearts and minds but institutions and societies alike. Whether it be a postwar country or even our own backyard: our perceptions, perspective and preconceived notions of how our society is and how the world at large is, often contributes to these problems. And so keeping with our global responsibility and our duty as citizens of the global community. It is our duty to recognize these injustices and to target them in our own households and communities. It is our responsibility to help contribute to the change of mindset in the perception of women at home and abroad. And once, we have revolutionized our own outlook, we can then take this to a global level by helping others in the global community to change their outlook in their society.


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