Travel Log 11 “Holding up Half the Sky” by Chris Wilner, London, England

Coming from the United States, you never realize what you have until someone explains how much worse off they are or how much better off you are for living in the country that you do. Across the world I have always known that women are treated differently than men, just as they are in the United States, but in the United States is something as minimal as lower wages for the same work. I’m not saying this isn’t an issue because it is, but compared to the hardships that woman in the rest of the world face; wages are nothing but a drop in the bucket. Half the Sky was an eye-opening documentary depicting the hardships that women must endure in order to stay alive.

I decided to watch the documentary instead of reading the book and thinking about it now, I’m not sure which would have been harder to do. Through watching the documentary, I was given the visuals of the injustices that women were and are subjected to even today. In order to watch the documentary I had to do it in two sittings because it was too hard of a topic to subject myself to the pain that the women were enduring for four straight hours. During the breaks that I took, I went into my kitchen to find my flat mates sitting at the kitchen table and I did in fact try to explain what the documentary was about, but I don’t think I was effective in my description. Sitting here actually thinking about the documentary and how I would explain it to my mother if I were to tell her about it I would most likely start by saying that Half the Sky is a story about hope. In every aspect of the documentary, you find women and girls hoping to find a better life or hoping to forget the lives they had before they were saved. Half the Sky recounts the injustices that women are subjected to in developing nations, many of which are a way of life for these women. Things like rape, and female genital castration are two very gruesome examples and yet they are seen as things that just happen in these nations. It is hard to think of the documentary without feeling angry because of the way that men treat women. In the developing world women are seen as objects instead of people. In India, women get married and then their husbands sell them to brothels and collect the money that they make from servicing customers.

When we think about the history of the United States and the problems that women faced including fighting for the right to vote, it is interesting to think about what those women would feel if they knew about those problems now. I also think it is bewildering that we know about these issues and yet there is not much that has been done to correct the problems. The people that advocate for the issues are the ones that have faced those issues in their lives. The person that I was stricken by the most from watching the documentary was the woman who was extracting children out of brothels in Cambodia. There were two things going through my mind when I was watching the documentary; I kept thinking that this woman reminded me of my mother because they are both strong women that are willing to help anyone in need. I admired the woman in Cambodia because she was in the same position as the girls that she was rescuing from the brothels and she was the one going to the brothels to rescue the girls. She would go into territories that were extremely dangerous and risk her life in order to make the life of another girl better. The other thing that I kept thinking about while watching the documentary was what if my sister was in a predicament like this? I wouldn’t be able to sit by and let something like that happen to her and it makes me wonder how anyone really thinks any of the actions that are taking place are acceptable.

I remember when watching the segment in the documentary about the sex trafficking of young girls in Cambodia and I was horrified that something like this could actually be capable, that parents were okay with selling their daughters into prostitution and especially at ages as young as two or three. The woman in Cambodia, I believe her name was Samalimom, is extremely brave for not only risking her own life to save the girls, but also willing to provide education for them. This woman is an example of what everyone should do when they see injustice; although she may exert fear, she is strong. She advocates for this cause not only because she was subject to it, but also because she doesn’t want anyone to have to continue to face the hardships that those girls are subject to. In the documentary there was a point where they went to a brothel in order to extract a girl and they had to leave because of the military forces that were coming to prevent girls from leaving the brothel. The fear from a force like that would deter anyone from wanting to complete a task such as that and yet this woman continues to do it because of how passionate she is for the survival of girls and the treatment that they endure. When in the field Samalimom wears a hat and sunglasses in order to try to mask her appearance and yet people know who she is because of the work that she does. It makes me wonder if she fears for her life when she goes home because someone might try to get back at her for “stealing” their “property”.

Living here in London, it’s hard to think of a particular issue described in the book because I don’t see many of those issues occurring. The way that I imagine London is in the same context with New York City, it is a metropolis in which people come to live in order to have better opportunities than they had in the past. One issue that I can think of that might happen here in England would be gender-based violence. Now, this may be due to the region that people emigrated from or it may just be a part of society. The reason I say this is that for many cultures and throughout history, women were perceived more often as objects as they were people. Objects that were meant to take care of the man of the house, doing all of his cooking, cleaning and taking care of his offspring. This topic was introduced in the documentary through threats and physical abuse. This topic is something that is prevalent throughout the entire world and manifests in a variety of ways. Physical and verbal abuse are something that I can relate to in a personal sense as my mother was a victim of both and although I will not go into detail about it, I can say that it is something that no one should have to endure in their lives.

There are two different senses in which an individual in my field of study might be able to have a positive contribution to gender based violence (GBV). As a student, simply spreading the word about it to my peers and through social networks would go a long way as it would show the problems that one might face if found in a position of GBV. Talking from the sense of a marketing perspective, spreading the word takes on a whole different meaning as advertisements could be created to reach entire communities. In order to prevent a problem from happening, people need to know that it is happening in the first place. The first step in any problem is recognizing that there is one. It is important to increase the scope of the problem and its impact, services should be improved to those who have been involved in gender-based violence and prevention methods should be strengthened in order to make the largest impact on the problem at hand.

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5 thoughts on “Travel Log 11 “Holding up Half the Sky” by Chris Wilner, London, England

  1. I’m here in London, too, and I agree with you that gender-based discrimination isn’t something you encounter really on a daily basis in a place as advanced as this. But I think it’s important to remember that even small things are considered gender discrimination. For example, one time, I was walking down the street, and someone whistled at me. I know this is something really small, and it didn’t really phase me, but thinking about it, it really is discrimination based on gender. That would not have happened to me if I was male. I think the main point of this book/documentary was to make sure that people are aware of the differences in treatment between men and women, no matter how small they may be.

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  2. I also found Somalymam’s work extremely impressive and so brave. My jaw dropped as I listened to her story. She is such a strong woman and it amazes me how not only was she able to escape her old life and better her future, but she dedicated her life to helping other girls in similar positions. It’s people like her who make the world a better place.

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  3. I really liked how you tried to think of these situations in relation to your own. For instance, you mentioned not being able to fathom how you would feel if it was your mother or sister in these situations. I think that if everyone thought in this way, they would be more apt to take initiative and help others experiencing these adversities.

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  4. After reading this text/ watching the movie I think we all realize that the realities of our situation are a thousand times better than those currently living in parts of Africa or Asia, for example. However, it is still important to realize that gender based discrimination happens in first world countries. It’s so hard to solve all of the problems of the world at once, especially because they vary by region but none of these problems should be ignored. It was interesting hearing your thoughts about how this related to London!

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  5. I completely agree with the fact that many of the issues that occurring worldwide to women are not being treated like problems and instead just something these women have to endure because of the place they were born. It is sad that we are treating humans like this when here we are looking for equality and world peace. I think that we are trying to accomplish the impossible if we cannot even try to correct problems as horrendous as forced prostitution and female genital castration. I really liked how you mentioned how it is difficult to imagine these acts happening in London and I feel the same way which is exactly why these problems need to be more made more public.

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