Travel Log 11: “Holding up Half the Sky” by Rachel Marino. Florence, Italy

The issues discussed in Half the Sky are topics that I have been very passionate about for a long time.  This interest led me to an information night at Quinnipiac about a new minor- a Global Public Health minor.  After the seminar, I couldn’t help but feel inspired because prior to that, all I could feel was helpless.  I lived in a world of injustice every single day and I felt it.  If I felt the injustice of the inequality and still somehow pervades in our nation, it is unimaginable what the women around the world in less developed countries as well as first world countries feel.  I have been living in Italy for nearly three months now and have traveled to other countries in Europe and the association that many Americans have of Europe’s progressiveness has dissolved in my eyes.  Inequality is even more persistent here than in the United States.  This leads me back to my minor, I decided to take on this application for the Global Public Health Minor, a task not generally necessary to declare a minor, because I can’t keep feeling helpless about my own life and even more than that, I can’t continue motionless against women around the world less fortunate than I am.

I am blessed with access to so many resources, most importantly: schooling.  I wondered how women across the world would utilize the access to education that I have to help the rest of the female population worldwide.  I think about Malala Yousafzai, a young girl who was attacked and was the victim of attempted murder because she didn’t fully conform to the radical idea that women should not receive education.  Malala’s story helped me come to the realization that the reason I have felt so helpless for so long is because it is completely impossible for one person to bring about this change to the world to create equality between men and women.  “It takes a world to bring about this change.”  Gender equality often gets underplayed as women not earning as much as men or being underestimated intellectually, physically and even emotionally.  The stigma associated with feminism is misleading and while equal pay and assumed first impressions are important points of change.  It is about so much more than that.

In my first Global Public Health Class we learned about the incredible lack of necessary feminine products in Africa and the efforts to provide these products to girls of the area.  We also watched a short video about a birthing clinic in Kenya followed by a graph of statistics about how many children and mothers die during or around the time of childbirth.  These deaths could be prevented if the staff had access to more knowledge and many, many more supplies.  Around the world and yes, even in the United States, girls become child brides and are married off to men of all ages solely for the purpose of producing children, usually at ages that is extremely unsafe to be pregnant at.  Rape culture awareness is spreading across Facebook pages and still somehow rapists are being defended with “boys will be boys” and victims are being blamed and accused of lying or “asking for it.”

On a daily basis feminists are deemed “man haters” and views of feminists’ priorities are skewed.  Nicholas Kristof is a great example of a feminist because he is a man.  Feminists are not aiming to bring down men or reduce their power.  Feminists’ goal is to empower women, bring women up, even the playing field and allow women to serve whatever purpose she deems necessary for her own life.

In the very beginning of the video, Eva Mendes talks about how men don’t see consequences of their actions so “they keep doing what they’re doing.”  Enforcing laws is a huge first step but the place that every nation should come to is not that men are punished for the crime of rape but that rape should not be a crime such that it is something so unspeakable and so despicable that it should not ever cross a man’s mind.  That every man views women as completely equal and any time a man looks at a woman, he thinks of the person he loves most in the world male or female, or his thinks of himself and he thinks about that woman as he would think about a loved one.  On the most basic and fundamental level, every man should view every woman as a human and vice versa.  Consequences should not even be necessary.

According to Michelle Bachelet and Zainab Salbi, rape is not part of a third world or first world, it is everywhere and it is a problem for everyone but it is of course much more extreme in countries like Sierra Leone.  Salbi says that it is not yet fundamental in the minds of many men that they do not have the right in any way to touch a woman or a girl or speak to her derogatorily.  This all comes back to the way that women are viewed, what their worth is.  But women should never be assigned worth because human beings cannot be attached to a number; the value is not numerical is always the same, man or woman, regardless of age

I was astonished that as early as toddlers, age two or three, these little girls will be sold to brothels in Cambodia.  What surprises me most and perhaps one of the biggest differences between countries like Sierra Leone and Cambodia is the way the parents treat their children and the lack of respect.  In the United States, for the most part, parents try to protect their children and teach their girls how to be safe.

I identify most with Meg Ryan because she describes this situation as “unspeakably cruel.”  That’s the best way to describe my view of this.  I cannot identify with any of the girls so much because they are all much braver than I am.  They see life in such a different way than I do and that has been eye-opening for me much like it was for Meg Ryan.  She talks about the community that Somaly has created and how it starts off as a community of pain but is healing because these girls can find family and love and compassion in each other.  Somaly provides mental health care to these girls by helping them to talk about their stories and creating songs to express what they have been through.  She creates this environment in this village so that these girls can be children and play but also encourages them to share their stories.  Somaly provides a level of care that no social worker, no mental health professional can ever compare to because Somaly knows from experience how these girls can be tricked like she was, or betrayed by family.

Nick talks about the voicelessness of these girls and taboo associated with this culture in countries like Cambodia.  Melanne Verveer says that “we need heat at the top and heat at the bottom.”  She talks about how everyone needs to do more, on a governmental level, on a community level and on a parental level, everyone has to do more.  Parents need to learn the worth of their girls and girls need to learn their own worth.  Finally, Somaly says that everyone wants to help but people want to do too much and they end up doing nothing or people don’t know where to start.  I have fallen into that latter category for a long time.  I have always been curious about Doctors Without Borders but I am quite a few years, a few degrees and a lot of experience away from being eligible to help through a program like that and so I have been waiting for my opportunity to help.  Through my minor I want to escape that category of wanting to help but not knowing where to start and I want to do something, even if it is small.  Part of the Global Public Health Minor require a month or two months stay abroad.  This will quite obviously be a very different experience than my current abroad experience and I will be searching for the spark to the difference I can make.

In my lifetime my goal is to become a doctor.  I want to be able to help not only rape victims but all people whose lives I can change with a medical interference.  Areas of the world like Sierra Leone and Cambodia lack medical professionals and that is something that I hope one day I can change, one doctor at a time.


2 thoughts on “Travel Log 11: “Holding up Half the Sky” by Rachel Marino. Florence, Italy

  1. Rachel, I thought that your reflections from the documentary “Half the Sky” was truly relatable. I also have been angered by these ongoing issues, however, never knew how or where to get started in lending a helping hand. This is definitely an important part of our global issue, as people either don’t know how to help, figure others are helping, or do not think they can help. If this incorrect mind-process can be changed, I am confident that communities can come together in order to further empower women world-wide.

    I am glad that you were able to connect with this topic on a deeper level, being that you recently claimed a Global Public Health minor. Education is definitely key in order to “get started”, so you are on the right path in order to learn the best ways to help change this issue. Did you find that the courses you’ve taken for your minor helped you to better understand this documentary?

    Another great topic you introduced in your travel log is in regards to Feminism. People definitely have several misconceptions of what a feminist is: they are not all man-hating hippies! By changing the view of what it means to defend women’s rights and raise them up to equality, perhaps more men and women would feel comfortable in labeling themselves as “feminists” as well and get involved in the global community.


  2. Hi Rachel,

    I found your post very inspiring and could clearly see how passionate you are towards this topic. It was fascinating to see your views and opinions considering your background in pursuing a Global Health minor. I completely agree with you when you brought up how rape should not be punished, but instead it should be something that a man never even thinks about doing. It is very evident all over the world that men and women still are not equal, and unfortunately women are on the oppressive side of this. One person helping another can be the start to fixing this, and hopefully some day we can all be equal. Great post!


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