Travel Log 11: “Holding up Half the Sky” Reaction Paper by Samantha Prevot. Notting Hill, London, England.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide, a book written by Nicholas D. Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn, is an incredibly powerful, incredibly insightful work that not only sheds light on many different women’s rights issues around the world, but also makes things personal by telling individual stories from women around the world who are facing these issues. I was captivated by each story and learning about these issues, some of which I already had some knowledge of, made me feel compelled to share this knowledge with the people around me.

To me, the overall message of this book is that women are the key to making true change in the world and if the oppression of women continues, then the world, especially the poorest countries, will not be able to thrive. Through the information given and the stories that are told in the book, we see the impact that providing women with better health care and education has, as well as putting in the effort to increase their social status and eliminate harmful cultural practices such as genital cutting. The book also tells us that getting involved isn’t difficult, time-consuming or costly, unless you would like to invest the money and time, and even provides various resources for ways to get involved. As a woman, I felt even more connected to the stories presented in this book and the issues that these women are facing. One issue in particular that I connected to was the issue of women’s education and the story of Dai Manju, a young girl in China.

Dai Manju’s parents were barely literate, as they had dropped out of elementary school. To them, Dai Manju’s school fees seemed to be a waste of money and so they told her to drop out of school. Dai Manju was the top student in her grade, and desperately wanted to keep going to school. She would hang around her school, hoping to learn something even though she could not go inside. Her teachers tried to help support her, but it wasn’t enough. Then after Kristoff and WuDunn wrote an article about Dai Manju, a reader wired them $10,000 to pay her tuition. The man’s bank made a mistake, as the donation was actually only $100, but they were kind enough to donate the difference. Because of these generous offers, Dai Manju was provided with tution-free schooling as long as she passed her exams, and the school was given much-needed renovations in addition to a scholarship program being set up for local girls. Dai Manju passed through all levels of school, including the equivalent of accounting school. She ended up becoming an executive at a Taiwanese electronic company, but wanted to start a company of her own and her boss supported her. Dai Manju has been able to send money home to her family, and they have upgraded from living in a small shack to a six-room concrete house and they added electricity, a stove, a television, and a fan.

Dai Manju’s story is one of the many in this book that demonstrates the power of educating girls. Reading this story, and the countless others about girls struggling to get an education, made me extremely upset. I have been privileged to receive a wonderful education throughout my life; I attended New York City public schools from elementary school until high school, and got the opportunity to receive education in programs for the academically gifted at my public middle school, The Scholar’s Academy and my public high school, Townsend Harris High School. Today, I am attending a wonderful private university, and am paving my way for a bright future. I am very grateful for all of the educational opportunities I have received throughout my life, and I am grateful that my parents, who are both teachers, encourage me to grow and learn every day. It deeply saddens me that many young girls around the world do not get the same educational opportunities or support from their families. To me, education is a right, but in some of the countries mentioned in this book people see education, especially the education of girls, as a luxury or something that should not be allowed. I believe that knowledge is power, and all girls should have the opportunity to become empowered. It has also been shown that educating women has a positive impact on society. Kristoff and WuDunn write, “One study after another has shown that educating girls is one of the most effective ways to fight poverty. Schooling is also often a precondition for girls and women to stand up against injustice, and for women to be integrated into the economy.” They also mention that education causes women to marry later in life and have fewer children. In addition, it is shown that countries such as Rwanda, that have a parliament that is made up of a majority of (educated) women, are some of the least corrupt, best governed, and fastest growing in Africa. In short, educating women is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal. Learning about this and reading stories like Dai Manju’s made me want to put in effort to help educate women around the world.

As a journalism major, I always consider the media and what they choose to cover, and it always astonishes me when certain issues, that seem very important, are not covered. After reading this book, I wonder where the features are about issues such as genital cutting, women’s education, maternal mortality, and obstetric fistulas. I am also always thinking about the inequality women still face in America because I aspire to become a sports journalist, and sports journalism is still very much seen as a man’s world. Many women who are hired to cover sports are young and good looking, and in my opinion usually offer nothing significant in the way of analysis. Even when I tell people that I want to be a sports reporter and that my favorite sport is hockey, they are often skeptical and doubt my knowledge of the sport. Some men have even told me “You only like hockey because the players are good looking.” It’s times like these that remind me that I have an uphill battle in my chosen field of work and that I will spend a lot of time trying to prove myself when I should not have to do so.

This leads into the other connections I made to this book having to do with the women’s rights issues that we still face in America today. I am not normally a very outspoken person when it comes to politics, although I am very opinionated, because I know many people have many different values, but when it comes to women’s rights I will always say something. In high school, I did a project about the United States’ family leave policies, particularly maternity leave. The U.S. is the lowest ranking amongst developed nations when it comes to maternity leave. We are also still in heated debates within our government about funding planned parenthood and what rights women should have to their bodies. In addition, according to Half the Sky, 17% of our House of Representatives were women in 2008. I’m not sure how much that number has grown in 9 years, but I’m sure it hasn’t grown much. To me, these things are all outrageous and wrong. How can we, a developed, democratic, civilized nation, still be so far behind when it comes to women’s rights? If we are going to try to help other countries take steps forward to help women, then we need to set an example and take some steps forward as well. I also think that journalists need to shed more light on these issues to make them better known to the public, and people like Kristoff and WuDunn are helping pave the way for that to happen. Many of the women in this book are women they have written features of in the past and to me personal stories are the best way to inspire people to act because they evoke emotion in people and create feelings of sympathy and empathy. If people can put a face to an issue, they will feel more connected to it and have more of a desire to do something to help. I think that it’s important for people my age in my field to become more educated on these issues because then as they enter the field they may be more inspired to put a spotlight on them to spread knowledge to the public. This is because while older people in the field may be set in their ways, younger people can come in and try to make a change for the future. I hope that there will be more people like me, especially my fellow women, out there who learn about these issues and feel as passionately as I do and want to get the word out there so we can begin to help more and more girls all around the world and begin to bridge the gap between men and women. Women are vital to making a better world and without proper health care, education, and general respect, then that better world will not be possible.


Works Cited

Kristof, Nicholas D., and Sheryl WuDunn. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014. Print.


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.

Travel Log 11 “Holding up Half the Sky” by Doug Beebe. London, UK

“Half the Sky” is probably one of the most powerful documentaries I have ever seen. It had the powerful to bring up so many emotions all at once to the point in which I had no idea how to feel or what to feel. I was so inspired to try and help; yet so depressed and saddened by the fact that these types of actions happen still, even in the 21st century. One of my friends had mentioned to me before I watched the documentary that she could only watch it in small segments because of how emotional it made her. Without knowing much context about the documentary, I thought she was crazy, that I wouldn’t be as emotional as her, but I was wrong. This documentary has to power to make you think and become emotionally invested in the lives of the girls you are seeing on the screen. It is so difficult to pick a part out of this documentary that I connected with the most or the part that moved me the most because all of them were equally as upsetting. As I watched the documentary the only thing I could think of were my family back home: my younger sister and all of my cousins, my mom and all of her sisters. It made the situation on the screen so much more real because I thought about it in the context of, ‘what is that was my sister or cousin or best friend?’ This type of thinking is what made this documentary so difficult to watch.

The word ‘destroy’ was used many times throughout “Half the Sky” and was a world that made me extremely uncomfortable sometimes. In the world I know, destroy is used in a context of “I destroyed that test” or “we are going to destroy this building to build a new one,” not in the context of “this ten year old girls life was destroyed by the men who owned the brothel she was kept at” or “this girl cant get an education because her parents do see her as an actual child.” To describe a ten-year-old girl as destroyed is heart breaking. Children should not be considered destroyed, they should be considered kids who always have a smile on their face because the have nothing to worry about besides living their life and being loved.

There were so many parts of this documentary that really affected me and upset me a lot just because of the sheer hell that girls are put through throughout their entire lives. The story of Fulumatu, the brave girl who stood up for herself against her uncle that had raped her, was truly infuriating and a part of this documentary that really did not sit well with me at all. The part that frustrated me the most was how even after standing up for herself, she is still considered unworthy and shameful to her family. I was really upset by the fact that she just went through such a traumatic time in her life yet she is given absolutely zero support or love from her family because she was raped. This isn’t something that happens once-in-a-blue-moon, but something that happens regularly. The craziest part for me is that a man can completely destroy a girl’s life and have her banished from her family, school, and the happiness she once held by forcing himself on her for his own personal pleasure. I relate this back to how loved I am, and how loved all of my family is and it is truly confusing to me how it is the complete opposite for other families around the world.

I could go on and on about all of the different parts of this documentary that broke my heart and then truly inspired me, but that would just keep reiterating my point about how disgusting the world can be but also how important to listen to these girls stories and hear how powerful and strong they are. This documentary has made me think a lot about my own life and my future and how I how I should appreciate the life that I lead and not complain about little things, because there are people who have it so much worse than me, especially these little girls. The girls who lived with Sumaly Mam really touched me. The fact that they were abused so incredibly much as children and were destroyed but still push through and strive to help girls just like them, to comfort them and make them feel like they are safe just like they were treated when they were saved, and to educate people about what was done to them in hopes that they can help stop more girls lives from being destroyed too is truly inspiring to me. These girls really made me want to help, to get involved in any way I possibly can, because the only thing I can think of when I watch these girls talk about their stories is, “what if that was my sister?”

Travel Log 11 “Holding up Half the Sky” by Kristen Sullivan. Barcelona, Spain

Watching the video “Half the Sky” was absolutely incredible. I am shocked that I had never heard of this documentary before because of how heartbreaking and touching it was. It had a huge impact on me especially as a woman, but I think that it would be an amazing thing for everyone to see. I encouraged my roommates and my family to watch it. The slogan of the video, “turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide” is the central point and focuses on the vital role of women. If we look back in history, there is a common theme of women always being the “problem”, doing the “wrong thing”, or being considered as less important. Women are often used for their bodies, lacked education, and did not have equal rights. The documentary specifically focuses on sex as a huge issue for women. Their bodies are mistreated through sex trafficking, gentile mutilation, sexual violence, and lack of protection from HIV and AIDs. Throughout this movie, my jaw dropped as they travelled and the mistreatment of women continued to worsen.

Although the movie honed in on the horrible acts being done to women, it also focused on the importance of empowering women to overcome their oppression. In the middle of all of the cruelty, there were bright spots of powerful women leaders who tried to do small things to improve their quality of living. They look on leadership roles to display that they can be empowered and try to change their situation a little bit at a time. Watching these women stand up as leaders and displaying their pride in being women became a domino effect and helped to empower other young women. The incredible female leaders serve as amazing role models for the rest of the community.

All of the stories were extremely difficult to listen to. It makes me feel so blessed to have grown up where I did, but hearing their stories hurt my heart. One of the stories that stuck with me was Showma from India. She spoke of her experience of forced prostitution and how she had to “entertain clients even when she was extremely sick.” On average, she had to entertain 20 to 30 clients a day and was completely isolated from the other girls in her situation. She said the guards would hold guns and knives to her throat if she didn’t do what they wanted. The worst part of the story was the fact that she called herself disposable. There were so many girls in her situation that if she didn’t comply with their rules, they would not think twice about killing her because they had so many women. Thankfully, she was rescued and is now a mother. Rather than being upset with her situation, she utilized it as an empowering experience and has great hope for her daughter’s future. She serves as an incredible role model for not only her daughter, but for other women in her community. Showma’s life as a young women is completely different than mine or anyone I know. She had to grow up so fast and her innocence was stripped from her. She had to experience the harsh and darkest realities of the world at a young age and lived in basically hell on earth. I can’t imagine because treated that way and experiencing that amount of violence and sexual mistreatment.

Another part of the documentary discussed a hospital in Somaliland. My major is Physical Therapy and all of my classes are based around science, medicine, and health care. Last semester, I took Bioethics which focuses on bioethical issues in our world today. Throughout all of my studies I have never seen such horrible healthcare issues like that shown in the video. In the hospital in Somaliland they let pregnant women die that would easily be cured in the United States and other places in the world. Their medical attention to these women was horrific. Women should have equal health care rights and the hospitals should do everything in their power to save people regardless of gender. This part of the video disgusted me. Although this part was not an issue with physical therapy, as a physical therapist I would love to travel to different parts of the world and ensure that proper medical care, including physical therapy, was provided. My advisor at Quinnipiac is taking this semester to go to Guatemala to set up physical therapy clinics in these types of areas and I would love to get involved in that. If everyone helps even a little bit, it can make a huge difference in the lives of women, and people in general, around the world.

Travel Log 11: “Holding up Half the Sky” by Jared Walsh. Barcelona, Spain

The documentary Half the Sky was a very hard film to watch. It captured the very cruel realities that many women face on a daily basis. And one of the worst things about it is that it’s not localized in one area, but rather globally. The documentary covered ten different countries which all contained women who are oppressed their entire lives. Stories about sexual violence, prostitution, human trafficking and lack of proper health care and education represented a gruesome theme across all countries. It’s one thing to hear about issues like this from a post on Facebook or from a protestor in the streets. It’s a totally different thing to see individuals from countries such as Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Vietnam on screen telling their personal stories. A lot of it is difficult to even fathom. Women around the world are oppressed and treated poorly on a daily basis, denied their most basic human rights. This documentary’s main message is a slap in the face to the rest of the world who stands by and lets the global oppression of women just move on by. It’s both a call for help and a necessary of dose of awareness for those who watch it.

The story that impacted me the most was that of Edna Adana Ismail. She’s a strong woman who founded the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital. After the Somali Civil War, few medical personnel were left in the area. Maternal and infant mortality was astronomically high. Edna Adan saw the need for health care in the region and began to put a plan in motion for this hospital. The only land the government of Somalia only allowed her to use was a previous garbage dump zone. As the first Somali girl to study in Britain, she became a nurse-midwife. From then on is history, for she has used her political power and medical know-how to achieve great things. The fact that women have many less rights than men in Somalia and she was still able to create this hospital speaks to her power and drive. Since opening this hospital, she has helped thousands of women go through labor, has helped connect women with fistulas to surgeons that can remove them, and has campaigned against female genital mutilation. She’s a true hero within her community and is a role model for those to follow.

I think the reason that Edna’s story resonated with me is because of the fact that I’m going into the health care field. Even the most basic health care can be considered a luxury in some parts of the world. We see even in the United States that some are without health insurance and can’t always get the treatment they need. As a future physician assistant, it will be my duty to provide health care to all who require it, regardless of race, religion or ability to pay. This is something that I feel very strongly about; once I gain medical training, I hope to participate in bringing basic healthcare to third world countries. It’s a topic that Quinnipiac University also acknowledges too. A majority of the PA class in graduate school heads to a third world country every year to provide such health care. However I also feel that it is far too often an overlooked topic. Had I not seen this documentary, I would have known nothing about the suffering of many women and children in Somalia due to little maternal care. But that is precisely the reason for this documentary – to bring forward these issues that are of extreme humanitarian importance.

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

This video was one of the most moving things I have ever experienced. I found that I was only able to watch in for thirty minutes at a time, because a lot of the scenes were disturbing and shocking, to say the least. After watching, I have preached endlessly to my mother, my sisters, and my roommates about how they need to watch this. I think that it is something that everyone, especially women, needs to see in order to understand the desperation that other people are living in. As Sheryl said in the video, the main message is that women are not the problem but they are the solution. People need to be taught that in order for societies to reach their fullest potentials, we need to empower women everywhere. Also, a major theme in this video was that in order to achieve great things, you have to start small. Somaly in Cambodia said, “Sometimes they [people] want to do so much and they do nothing.” She means that all of the problems cannot be fixed all at once, but if we slowly start to focus on one thing at a time, we can make meaningful changes. All of the amazing female leaders in this movie exemplified this perfectly. Each of them did a small thing that empowered young women and many of these young women went on to help empower other young women.

One of the stories that really stuck with me was Long. She was the young girl in Somaly’s school who had her eye stabbed by the brothel owner. Long had been kidnapped and taken by a brothel at an incredibly young age, where she was forced to take clients, even as her eye bled after being gouged out. When Long tells her story, she cries as she discusses what she went to. Although Somaly Mam has helped her and saved her, the emotional burden of what she went through will never be forgotten. However, Long showed that after reflecting on her situation, she could use it to relate to other girls with similar stories. She joined with Somaly’s force of girls who go into the brothels and offer support and love to the other girls living in the brothels, and she also helps to rescue them. Long recognizes that what happened to her was unjust and cruel, but she does not let it consume her. Instead, she takes her sadness and turns it into an action of empowerment and hope.

The segment about Somaly and her girls was one of the ones in the documentary that upset me the most. It made me realize that there are so many little things that I take for granted as a woman. I do what I want, when I want. I am getting an incredible education, I have a loving family, a great boyfriend, and most importantly my innocence was never stolen from me. The girls like Long were forced to grow up and were exposed to very adult situations at very young ages and it is horrifying to think that this is considered normal in some parts.

I also connected to the segment about Edna Adan’s hospital in Somaliland. I am a health science major and I will be starting PA school at Quinnipiac in 2017, so the healthcare part of this film really struck me. It was horrifying to see the pregnant woman die of complications like hypertension and anemia that are totally curable in the United States. Jane Peters from MWFE says, “Women are expendable.” In these parts of the world, people do not value women, and so they do not see the need to give women the health care that they deserve. It is absolutely enraging to think that so many women are depraved of a basic human right. After seeing the program that Edna set up to train community nurses to aide with child birth, it made me realize that I am being trained in a skill set that will let me make a difference. I know that when I am a practicing PA I will go on mission trips to these places where healthcare is not accessible to women, in the hopes that I can make a difference; because as I mentioned before, no act is too small. Empowering one woman can start a chain reaction that empowers many women to come after her.

Travel Log 11 “Holding up Half the Sky” Brenda Kittredge. Lugano, Switzerland

I found this documentary to be even more impactful than I was anticipating. I think it is easy sometimes to get caught up in the narrow view we have and forget about some of the major problems the world is facing. The oppression of women has certainly come a long way, but it is clear that there is an incredible distance to go. I was not aware of some of the horrific conditions that women all across the globe are facing. Hearing the women’s stories about sexual abuse, violence, and simply lack of support from their loved ones broke my heart. The documentary, however, did not give just a bleak outlook of the monumental task that tackling the oppression of women is. It highlighted incredibly strong and bright women who are taking a stand to make a better life for themselves.

The story of Filamatu and several of the stories of the sex trafficking in Cambodia were the most powerful for me. With Filamatu, you have this courageous young girl that is willing to stand up for justice and it ends with her and her mother being thrown out of the house. The simple idea that a young child could be raped and it would somehow be her fault and she would have to feel shame for it is simply despicable. The movie discussed how the clinic has seen girls as young as two and a half months old. It is unbelievable that someone could inflict such harm on an infant and get away with it. An environment has been created in which it is shameful to seek support and justice for what has been done to you. This has allowed it to become acceptable for men to rape and get away with it.

The stories from the young women in Cambodia who have had to deal with sex trafficking were extremely hard to hear. I cannot begin to imagine the emotional and physical harm that those girls experience. Many of these girls already had so little and then were bought into slavery and held as hostages. These young girls managed to find some refugee in the recovery center. The community aspect allowed them to know they are not suffering alone. However, there are only so many people that can be helped by these few individuals. More action needs to be taken and on a larger scale before any major change can occur.

One of the qualifications that many people look at in a future profession is one that makes a difference. We all wonder what type of impact we will have on the world and whether we can say that we did all we can to make it a better place. Going into the field of biomedical marketing, I will get to work with surgeons and medical device manufactures to create innovative medical technology. Although this career will not put me on the front lines of care, it can certainly make a difference in peoples lives. One of the actresses mentioned that simply receiving an education is a privilege and it is our job to do something to help others with it. I want to use my career not only to help other people, but also to stand for the empowerment of women myself. The woman in charge of the Cambodian recovery center said that people often want to do so much that they do nothing at all. I think this often applies to many of us. We can watch a very moving documentary and be inspired for change but quickly lose faith and move on. However, change starts on an individual level and anyone can help with the changes they want to see in the world.

Travel Log 11: Holding up Half the Sky. Madeline Eldredge; Cork, Ireland

The overall message that I would convey to my friends and family regarding the documentary Half the Sky is that in order for women to become powerful, they need to be empowered by the people surrounding them. It is a depressing thought that there are females of all ages that have been told that their dreams and aspirations are nonexistent solely due to the fact that they are females. It is also quite unfortunate that most of these females have their futures, major decisions, and fates are already decided for them. I would explain to my friends and family how absolutely fortunate we all are for the outstanding healthcare that we receive, in comparison to less fortunate countries examined in Half the Sky.

edna adan

This is an image of Edna Adan outside of her hospital.

One women’s story that impacted me in a particular way was the piece about female genital mutilation and Edna Adan. Edna Adan was the first Somali girl to study in the United Kingdom and became Somalia’s first qualified nurse-midwife. The fact that she built an entire hospital, the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital, from scratch but takes little credit for the structure, saying that the community built it and not just her, says a lot about her character. In Somalia, it is an unfortunate fact that female genital mutilation, or “female cutting”, is still widely practiced. It is completely harmful to their bodies and results in serious physical and psychological health consequences. This inhumane act is motivated by the belief that it will keep the girls chastised and illicit sexual acts. Being a nurse-midwife, Edna is faced with mutilations on a daily basis and will visit different villages to promote ceasing female cutting due to the side effects. In her hospital, she provides women with the health and care they need and deserve while delivering babies to mothers who have undergone the mutilations. What I found most inspiring about Edna is that she is also a mentor and trains nurses and midwives and was looking to send them to the more isolated areas of Africa where their expertise is necessary in order to bring down the substantial death influx from the lack of medical centers and healthcare in Africa.

In correlation to the interacting ABC components, Edna portrayed many emotions, was taking strong action and had many thoughts. For affect (A), the biggest emotion that she showed was hopefulness. She was fearful for the future of the women in Africa but shows immaculate bravery and fearlessness when fighting for the rights of women and their sexual health. Adan also showed anger towards those who believe that female genital mutilation is a healthy choice to make considering that most of the people making these decisions are men. For behavior (B), Edna trains and creates nurses and midwives in order to better the quality of healthcare and the medical facilities in Africa where places need them the most. She also promotes the idea of ending female genital mutilation by outlining the risk factors associated with it. Edna also does everything that she can to ensure the comfort and safety of her patients even when she knows that their future is grim. For her thoughts (C), Edna wholeheartedly disagrees with the idea of female cutting due to the health complications along with personal experiences that she has endured.

Edna Adan’s story spoke to me because she is doing everything that she can to increase the quality of healthcare in Africa. She faces disappointment everyday but still manages to see the brighter side of situations. Going into nursing after I graduate, I hope to develop the same attitude towards the profession that she has created over time. I have always had a thought of going into the women’s health side of nursing and after watching this documentary, I am almost positive of this decision.

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Travel Log 11: “Half the Sky” by Sam McGrath Cork, Ireland

Well that was depressing to say the least. I’ve never really seen that much hardship and despair visually. I’ve always heard of the plights of underdeveloped nations but never seen it from that perspective. To get the full impact of this documentary and really convey the overall message people would need to actually see the work. I can try my best to express the horridness and awful conditions that the women in the film face on a day to day basis though. The documentary “Half the Sky” is based on a novel of the same name by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Both these works    focus on the hardships of women living in extremely difficult circumstances in various places throughout the globe. Both pieces of work also are meant to spread the word about a topic that most people overlook, with the video meant to reach a larger audience than the book (more people today watch films rather than read books). It shows the effects of poverty and violence that put women into dangerous areas such as prostitution, sex trafficking, and rape. Some of the countries shown include Kenya, Liberia, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, and the United States of America to name a few. The overall reason behind the documentary is to spread the word of these atrocities women have to live in under these extreme circumstances. There needs to be more awareness and support for these women who don’t have the ability to help themselves. The documentary wants to introduce a larger audience to this and move more people towards contributing towards stopping the cycle of despair and poverty.

One women’s story that stood out to me was when Olivia Wilde travelled to the Kibera slum in Kenya, 20 minutes from Nairobi. This slum is the largest slum in Africa and the 2nd largest in the world, 2nd only to Neza Cholco Itza in Mexico City. This story stood out to me because it dealt with the education of some of the small girls in the slum through the Shipping Hope for the Community Program. I think that the education of the women youth in Africa would be the best form of long term solution for this global problem, so they can be educated enough to fight for what is right and against the horror of the slums. Olivia Wilde was so taken aback by the message of the book by Nicholas Kristof that she jumped at the opportunity to go out and participate in the documentary. Once she got to Kibera she was taken aback by the intelligence of these small underprivileged girls and their capabilities. Already 82% were performing at U.S grade level or above. Some of the other statistics she was told had the opposite effect on her, making her disgusted. She was told that 30% of the young girls had been raped, many of them at 5 years old, and half of them were malnourished.

These statistics and the message of the novel moved Olivia to help in any way that she could, so she decided to use her capabilities and career of acting to help benefit these girls, that way being through the documentary. The statistics of the young girls and their stories got to me as well. It’s disgusting that this is happening in places like Kibera around the globe and that not much is being done to stop it. The purpose of the documentary, to spread the awareness and move people to action, definitely worked on me and hopefully worked on other people as well. The movement got Olivia Wilde and actresses like her to use their careers towards helping the cause and volunteering to help the women riddled with violence and poverty. I think I could also use my future career of marketing in ways to benefit the cause. The documentary is good in opening society’s eyes about the subject, but I think even more people could be moved towards helping and volunteering with the right type of marketing. If the cause was marketed not only in novels and documentaries but using platforms such as social media we could let more people know about the subject and move more people towards volunteering. The more people who know the more people like Jessica Posner, the Co-founder of Shining Hope for the Community there can be. Although some people aren’t open to physically volunteering in the area, the increase of awareness can help in more donations towards the cause, eventually leading towards the betterment of all women’s lives in underdeveloped communities throughout the globe.

Travel Log 11: “Holding Up Half The Sky” by Jenna Paul. Cork, Ireland.

When watching the documentary on Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, I immediately felt sadness and shock when listening to those young girl’s stories. As a girl, it is not easy to hear the things that are being done to these women worldwide. It talks about the dichotomy between the “privileged” western world and the “oppressed” women around the world. It talks about the rape, sex work, female genital mutilation and other horrible things that go on worldwide. Although it might not be easy to watch or hear about, it is the truth of what is happening. This is no joking matter because every day women are being bought and used as slaves and workers, being objectified and exploited throughout the world.

One of the stories that was told was about a girl name Nhi who is fourteen years old. She is from Vietnam and lives with her brother and father. Her mom abandoned her when Nhi was only a few months old because her father was beating her mother. Nhi works hard every day selling lottery tickets in the streets to make money so she can pay for her schooling. If she doesn’t sell all of her tickets her father would beat her. When listening to her story I was so sad to hear everything she has gone through in her life, but later inspired. She pushes through every day so that she can get an education so she will not have to be selling lottery tickets on the street for the rest of her life. She knows the consequences and goes out and gets her work done. She is working for her future when she doesn’t even know if that future is possible. It is truly inspiring to hear her story. Her father says that he is hard on Nhi because if he is hard on her now, then when she is on her owns she won’t have a hard life later on. He goes on to say that, “She is doing okay. I try to guide her in the right direction.” He talks about how he is not proud of her yet because, “She hasn’t done enough.” I hope that Nhi keeps working hard and gets to a point where she is at least proud of herself even if her father might not ever get to that point. She needs to realize how strong she is, and that is without any parental support. Imagine what Nhi could accomplish with a little support from her family.

My area of study at Quinnipiac is biomedical marketing. In other words, the selling of medical products or pharmaceutical sales. These girls all over the world go through so much and many of them have great mental suffering. Besides the mental suffering, there is the other side of the picture, the actual physical suffering and damage that they have suffered. I understand that there is little or no money in the countries this is happening in, but that can’t be it. A person in my field could find a way to make some sort of deal maybe like Toms shoes. For instance, whatever drug or medication they are selling to doctors, they could do a one for one type of deal. For every prescription sold in the United States, one is given to a girl in a third world country. There is so much money that goes into pharmaceuticals and medicine in general, something has to be done. There has to be a way for these girls to get the treatment they need. It is one problem that the suffering is happening in the first place, but it is a whole other issue with the medical treatment.