Forty plus years into the modern women’s movement there are still undeniable atrocities happening to girls and women throughout the world. For centuries these atrocities have gone on as part of life, but now, in the modern world these practices have been exposed and there are people throghout the world working to change them.
Half the Sky is an incredibly moving two part documentary beginning tonight based on the ideas espoused by the Pulitzer Prize winning writing team of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It shockingly illuminates those horrific things that girls and women go through in many parts of the world go through just because they happen to be born with two X chromosomes.
The two of them got started on this issue in the 90s when they realized that millions of girls were discriminated to death in a multitude of ways including self selective abortion, malnutrition, becoming child brides, and the lack of basic health care.
So began their crusade that has moved many of us in the pages of the NY Times and in their groundbreaking book Half the Sky. Now the work is taken to a whole new level in a transmedia project that will premiere on PBS stations tonight.
In attending a launch event at the Ford Foundation this past week it was obvious that this work has touched a nerve and there is some real potential to make lasting change that will alter the paths of girls lives. Girls who before were going to be married at 12 and sentenced to a life of perpetual childbirth, if they survived. Girls who were going to be sold in sex slavery. This has become a movement with the capacity to transform the world. Heads of worldwide agencies are standing together with heads of states are making pledges that will change the lives of girls. Organizations and goverments have begun to realize that by denying girls rights and not giving them opportunities to succeed they are hurting their countries futures. Making it an economic message works even in countries where girls are looked on as possessions.
The film takes us to Cambodia and Sierra Leone and India and Nigeria and Somaliland, places where key decisions about girls and their rights to live full lives have to be fundamentally altered in order for these girls to have any potential for hope. They show us the people who have dedicated their lives to saving these girls and their futures, many times taking their own lives into jeopardy as they fight for the girls. Nick Kristof smartly heads to a hot spot and brings in celebrities like Eva Mendes, American Ferrara, Diane Lane and Meg Ryan to help tell each story and raise awareness. But these are not celebrities just trying to pad their resumes. These women deeply believe in this issue and you can see them also being transformed by the experience.
And as the viewer you can’t help also be transformed. This is a bold and audacious movement with a simple goal, to change the world. Watching it and seeing the hope and the possibilities is one of the most uplifting and affirmative experiences that I have had in a long time.
The series airs tonight and tomorrow night on PBS stations. Don’t miss it.