Travel Log 11: “Holding up ‘Half the Sky'” by Erin Schirra, Gold Coast, Queensland

The overall message of the documentary, Half the Sky, is meant to show the raw details of stories of women around the world. It intends to bring to light the challenges and oppression women face, and the strength and courage women possess in order to overcome these challenges. Within the first fifteen minutes of the documentary, I found myself silently crying. I even found some of the movie difficult to give my sole attention to, as it evoked a vast amount of emotions. The first story revealed a shelter that took in females who has been raped, attempting to mend their physical health and begin to tap into assisting with their mental health. When the owner of the shelter revealed a girl who had just been brought in at the age of three, I knew that this documentary would provoke many thoughts and feelings, and would impact me greatly. Half the Sky works with multiple famous actresses, all of which hold a personal mission to help share these stories of multiple communities. It is a blunt representation of many of the cruelties that women face throughout international societies.

There were two particular stories that stood out among the rest, and they focused on two girls, lading separate lives, and their dedication to the pursuit of education. One girl was forced by her father to spend all day selling lottery tickets. If she did not reap profit, he would beat her. She would collect any of her small share of profit and save up in order to pay for her tutoring at school. Her father refused to acknowledge her intelligence or courage, showing his beliefs to the camera crew that she was still a child, and would one day achieve those virtues. Another young girl takes care of her younger siblings, cooking, cleaning, and raising them while her dad works to support their family. He mentions that when there are parent teacher conferences, he makes sure to attend, so that he can assure his kids are staying on track. That one day of conferences, however, sets their family finances back. He tells the reporter, “If I take just one day off, I will be slightly more poor, but if my kids do not get an education, they will always be poor” (Half the Sky). Both of these girls care about their education so much that they will work and travel for hours to achieve it. For both of them, an education is equal to freedom. With, or without their families support, these girls have dreams of degrees that they have turned into real goals. This impacted me because it made me realize how lucky I am to have goals and access to resources to achieve them. I connected with these girls because I have always loved school, but it is not often that I sit down and reflect on how privileged  I am to have had a great public school system, or parents that supported my pursuit of health sciences, or even an upbringing where I did not feel restricted in my goals for the future. One line that stood out to me was “you educate a girl and she can change the world around her” (Half the Sky). I hope that the women and girls in this film truly believed that, and I hope that one day, the gift of education will not be considered a gift to them, but a right.

One topic that struck a chord with me in relation to my field of study was the issue of maternal death during childbirth. At one point in this section of the documentary, a birth case was detailed, describing the situation in depth. A woman had gone into labor, but her commute to the main birthing center took four hours. She was in massive amounts of pain, more than that of a regular childbirth, and was suffering from Eclampsia (seizures due to high blood pressure, which has been increased due to the pregnancy itself). By the time she arrived at the hospital, she was unconscious. Although she gave birth to her baby, she did not survive. Eclampsia is common in many pregnant women, and with careful monitoring, positioning, and treatment, should not be majorly life-threatening. The sad thing is, it was detailed in the documentary how common maternal death is, not only in those communities, but around the world. For my major, we are all required to take an Emergency Medical Technician training course, in which we reviewed obstetrics and common emergencies related to it. I also connected with this story because miscarriages are common in one half of my family’s history, and the medical components, in addition to astounding societal challenge, grabbed my attention. The national association of Physician Assistants, or AAPA, has a foundation called Physician Assistants for Global Health. The AAPA assists in funding the works of volunteer PAs on an international level for communities in need. In addition to this, I have heard that there is an option to take a clinical rotation abroad. I feel as though it would be beneficial to look more into this, and see if I could work in communities in need, even while in training. For now, I think I could initiate fundraising projects for this organization during our annual PA week in the fall, so that Quinnipiac’s undergraduate Physician Assistant club could help assist in lowering the drastic number of childbirth related deaths occurring in nations around the world.


If you are interested in checking out the organizational page, here is the link!



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