Travel Log 11: “Holding Up Half the Sky” by Katheryn DeMarey. Florence, Italy

With such a powerful topic such as treating all human beings equal, I feel as though conveying a message like the documentary Half the Sky communicated to others wouldn’t be too difficult here in the states. Knowing the nature of the people that surround me, it would be easy to talk about the need to empower women and step in the middle of the problems that are happening across the world such as rape, women education, sex trafficking, and gender based violence. I feel as though many American’s feel strongly about these types of topics, especially my friends and family. I would start by telling them some of the stories about the women and children and I would also show a few photos to help make emotional connections between my audience and the suffering women. If we were talking about doing this same task (discussing and presenting the overall message of the book/documentary with people from different cultures), I think we would have to go another route.  I can’t imagine how hard it would be to keep everyone on the same page with such a controversial topic.

Numerous quotes and topics from the documentary stuck with me. The thought of the inequality that happens in other foreign countries that we don’t know about is skin crawling.

‘Rape and shooting was accepted throughout the war…but then the war ends and the acceptance of shooting ends…but the rape culture does not change….and this is where the root of the problem stems.’

Throughout the whole documentary, I was continuously touched. It took me quite some time to be able to figure out which specific case I was going to address in this blog because I feel as though not one case is more important than the others. Thinking back to the emotions that filled me when hearing about the first case of a three year old little girl coming into the Rainbow Clinic for a rape follow up, I decided that this was the moment when I found myself impacted the most.

A three year old little girl? Coming back for a follow up appointment? A follow up appointment for a rape case? The perpetrator is unknown?  The rape case was discovered after the child was brought to the hospital for other bodily issues? All of it just didn’t seem real.

I decided that this first case impacted me the most because it was the first time this kind of information was being thrown at me. I never really thought someone could morally or even physically rape a girl that was of such a young age and I was just informed that it happened regularly in places across the globe. At first I felt really bad, (I actually paused the movie and started talking to my roommate next to me about the case) but then I seemed to be filled with a little bit of anger and hate. I was mad that this was happening so frequently and no one was doing much about it. I felt as though women were, and still are, being taken advantage of and me, being quite the feminist,  I was quite frankly becoming enraged at the nature of some other cultures. This case went hand in hand with the case after which talked about an 11 year old girl who was raped by her uncle. I affectively experienced very similar emotions to the first case I spoke about because they were back to back with very similar topics. Behaviorally, the little girl that was raped by her uncle took direct action. She may have been too scared to go to her parents, but she ended up being able to tell the police and take matters further for the wrong-doing by her uncle (who was also the local pastor!). Cognitively, this little girl was terrified at first but you could see her enthusiasm and mood change when this man was arrested. Her thoughts seemed to include not having to hide, not having to keep an eye out for her friends and more or less, taking a weight off her shoulders. Further along in her case, moods changed and she ended up being kicked out of her own home by her father who thought she was being a type of ‘disgrace’. I think the beginning of this case though is more important because it showed the hurt emotions turn into joyous ones which is essentially the point of this documentary – to take these hurt women and turn their lives around. Reflecting back on this story, I think it is incredible how strong these girls are and how shockingly hard it is for any woman to live in these conditions on a day to day basis.

My area of study is business, so in concrete terms, I should address the economic topic that was discussed in this documentary, but I found a more underlying topic to relate much better to what I experience in the real business world; respect on a social level.

Having run a landscaping business for over 5 years in a male predominant industry, I feel as though it’s easy to relate the topic of ‘treatment women receive in not only social environments, but in a one on one context’ to my area of study. When I walk into any type of supplier, I am always looked over. When I walk into any type of repair shop with one of my male employees, I am addressed and told to get my boss. When I call in to the automotive dealership and ask about the progress and specifics on the services being performed on my trucks, I am told to not worry and they are taking care of everything. Since I am a woman, it is thought that I am incapable. Incapable of running a business or being knowledgeable about things other than hair and nails. Incapable of knowing what a male knows, incapable of earning an equal wage, incapable to do a whole mess load of things in the business world. Yes, this problem is presented on a much larger scale throughout the entire documentary, but I felt as though it hit home for me since I feel like I am in a way directly affected and I also have a good understanding of the daily mistreatment of women in America. The smaller effects of social standing between men and women may seem small, but when dealing with it on an individual basis (even if it’s something as simple as being looked over) has a big effect on me so I can’t imagine the impact that other types of treatment (such as rape) has on women across the world.

Individuals in my field of study could start bringing workplace inequality problems to the forefront. The salary differences between men and women don’t seem to be changing any time soon and with the support from not only business women, but the business men, we should be able to start making a difference. It is key to have both male and female support because each side holds over half of the population. If we are unable to find men willing to fight for our equality, change will be far and few between. More specifically, to help make a positive contribution to women rights, the males of a workplace could begin by addressing this inequality issue with their regional manager or higher up boss. This would alert them of these concerns which should in return spark discussions in the next meeting about women starting salaries.

There is of course a long way to go in terms of men and women becoming equal. When looking outside of the states, progress seems even further from the future. At this point in time I feel as though we should all tackle one issue at a time to start making a little headway to our final goal.

As stated in the movie, “Women are not the problem…they are the solution”.

Source: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide Documentary



4 thoughts on “Travel Log 11: “Holding Up Half the Sky” by Katheryn DeMarey. Florence, Italy

  1. I was also deeply struck and saddened by the case of the 11 year old girl that was raped by her uncle. The documentary chronicled a sense of hope and justice, so rare in Siera-Leone, that might have been available to her. But, as I sense happens most times, persecution of the perpetrator fell through, and ultimately it was the victim who was blamed. My heart broke for her upon learning that the ‘reward’ for her bravery in coming forward was to be kicked out of her home, of being a disgrace to her father. We can only hope that this situation is improved all around the world.


  2. I completely agree. I wish there was more we all could do around the word to help situations like this one. I feel as though the first emotions the little girl felt was the sole purpose of this documentary. The sigh of relief, the weight off her shoulders. It is a shame that things went south in the end but if enough people become involved in cases like these, maybe we will be able to see a change.


  3. Your thoughts provoked many interesting thoughts in my mind. the concept of violence vs. rape in these cultures is particularly disturbing. The quote regarding the ending of war violence coming to fruition but the violent sex crimes or spousal abuse not ceasing was also troubling. There is a priority in ending these oppressions across the developing world. I wonder if you find that women in nations such as America fighting for privilege is obstructing the ability for the world to see these much more extreme oppressions, or if you believe that this type of activism in America is good in the sense that it brings attention to women’s equality?


    • I think that any action for women rights will shed light as the problem as a whole. Since the citizens in America are not able to see whats going on around the world first hand, I think that it makes it a difficult topic to focus on when there is a different type of women inequality right under our noses. Do I think the problems in the documentary and around the world need to be focused on more than the issues about women inequality in the states? completely. But I think that for now, the focus for the women in America is on their own country. Maybe after the elections or in the next few years we will be able to send more aid and shed more light on the problems overseas.


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