Up Next From the Half the Sky Movement

On March 4th, the Half the Sky Movement releases a wide-reaching Facebook game designed to inspire many.

The Half the Sky Movement is cutting across platforms to ignite the change needed to put an end to the oppression of women and girls worldwide, the defining issue of our time. Inspired by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book of the same name, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide brings together video, websites, games, blogs and other educational tools to not only raise awareness of women’s issues, but to also provide concrete steps to fight these problems and empower women. Change is possible, and you can be part of the solution.

Last year, the movement released the documentary series as a special presentation of Independent Lens on PBS, making decisions along the way that would help the series reach a wider audience and bring awareness to the work of the nonprofits on the ground in 10 countries. This proved successful when the October broadcast garnered one billion mentions on social media – a true feat for a 4-hour long documentary on these sensitive issues. Continue reading

On the Road with Community Classroom

November was a busy month for Community Classroom, the ITVS program dedicated to creating educational film resources for use in high schools, colleges, and community settings. We took Community Classroom on the road to three annual educator conferences, including the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS), National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), and National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA), and reached thousands of America’s finest educators.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sheryl WuDunn delivers a keynote address about her book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

At the NCSS conference in Seattle, Sheryl WuDunn, author of the book that inspired the documentary film series Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, gave a keynote speech to a crowd of more 700 social studies teachers. WuDunn, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, spoke of the work she and her husband, Nicholas Kristof (also a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist), have been engaged in to shed light on the oppression women and girls face worldwide–from Tiananmen Square twenty years ago to the innovative, media savvy Half the Sky Movement of today.

After watching clips from the documentary, the audience had a chance to engage a panel of educators, youth advocates, and teen activists in a discussion about how to teach issues related to gender oppression in their social studies classes. The event came just days after NCSS officially endorsed the curriculum that ITVS’s Community Classroom program created for the documentary. The endorsement is a significant milestone for ITVS, now part of an exclusive group to receive the stamp of approval from America’s largest association devoted solely to social studies education. Continue reading

ITVS Receives 2012 Honoree Award from Women’s World Banking

Women and Girls Lead NGO partner, Women’s World Banking, hosted their annual Global Dinner on October 10, celebrating 30 Years of Inclusion, Innovation, and Investment.

This year, Women’s World Banking strengthened its commitment to improve the lives of low-income women by creating sustainable financial services specific to their unique needs. As an NGO partner for the Women and Girls Lead campaign, Women’s World Banking and ITVS share a passion for increasing awareness and women’s access to both financial and health services, education, and a life free from violence.

ITVS president and CEO Sally Jo Fifer was presented a special honor for outstanding achievement in bringing women and girl’s issues to light through the Women and Girls Lead initiative and its pillar program Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for women Worldwide. Half the Sky director, Maro Chermayeff, and the producer team including: Jeff Dupree, Jaime Gordon, Mikaela Beardsley, and Joshua Bennett also received honors for their extraordinary work on the landmark PBS mini-series. Continue reading

Women Are Not the Problem, They Are the Solution

The issues women and girls face stretch far and wide across the globe, and progress can often feel slow when the numbers of oppressed women are so high. But if there is one thing to take away from the Half the Sky Movement, it is this: There are solutions.

Sex trafficking. Gender-based violence. Maternal mortality. Forced prostitution. How do we combat these issues?

Paired with education, economic empowerment is the most powerful tool used to battle many of the issues that plague women in developing countries. Through microfinance loans, livestock gifts, and proper vocational training, women can begin to take charge of their lives and the family income. Studies suggest that women are more responsible with their income than men – they invest approximately 80 cents of every dollar earned back into their family.

As the only microfinance network catering solely to women, Women’s World Banking is actively working to give women the chance to transition from oppression to opportunity through economic empowerment. Access to the means of production, such as loans for small businesses or the ability to save for building a business, will open the door for women to the formal economy, a door that has been sealed. Continue reading

Edna Adan Addresses Maternal Mortality: A Women and Girls Lead Social Screening

Women and Girls Lead presents an online social screening of the Maternal Mortality segment of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide with special guest panelist Edna Adan. The event will take place here.

A landmark series based on the book by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky follows six celebrity activists including Diane Lane, America Ferrera, Olivia Wilde, and Gabrielle Union as they travel to nine countries and meet inspiring, courageous individuals who are confronting oppression and developing real, meaningful solutions

We’re honored to have Edna Adan joining us for a live chat about her inspiring work to decrease maternal mortality in Somaliland. Adan was raised in Somaliland and studied nursing, midwifery, and hospital management in Britain. When she returned to Somaliland, she became the first qualified nurse-midwife in the country.

Adan was recruited to join the World Health Organization (WHO), where she held various key positions advocating for the abolition of harmful traditional practices, such as female genital cutting. After retirement, she sold her life’s possessions to finance the construction of the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital, which provides maternal health care to Somaliland’s poorest women. Adan’s new goal is to train and dispatch one thousand qualified midwives throughout Somaliland. Continue reading

Half the Sky, Three Times the Badges

“Check-in” to the documentary and engage with Half the Sky and other viewers with Get Glue.

When Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide premieres on PBS tonight (9/8c), viewers will engage in a variety of ways: discussions with fans, friends, and stars on Twitter and Facebook; exclusive video content of celebrities and change-agents in yap.TV; and more.

Independent Lens has also partnered with GetGlue, the social TV check in service, to provide a special bonus badge to anyone who checks into both nights of broadcast. All you have to do is unlock both halves of the sky! (Clever, eh?)

Get one “half” badge for checking in tonight (pictured above); a second half for checking in on October 2; and a third, special bonus for checking into both nights.

So don’t forget to tune in, check in, and get involved!

Gender-Based Violence: A Worldwide Crisis

The victimization of women and girls is one of the most common, yet least visible forms of oppression. Its effects extend beyond the bruises and the fear to tear at the very fabric that holds families and communities together.

Although the civil war in Sierra Leone  ended in 2002, the war on women has not. Despite the fact that more than a decade has passed since open conflict ended, many fear that rape is more of a problem today than it was during the war. In a country where it is no longer acceptable to shoot someone, raping women is still common practice.

Amie Kandeh, coordinator of an International Rescue Committee program in Sierra Leone, says “Gender-based violence encompasses a lot of things: rape, female genital mutilation, child sex abuse, domestic violence, and wife beating.”

As the manager and leader of the Rainbo Centers in West Africa, Amie is one of the leading voices against rape in Sierra Leone. The Rainbo Centers are a network of facilities that provide medical care, counseling, legal aid, and educational support for survivors of sexual violence. These are among the first sexual-assault referral centers in West Africa, and in their first eight years, they have served over 9,000 survivors – 80 percent of whom were children, some as young as two months old. Continue reading

Half the Sky Inspires Audiences in Chicago

Panelists Rachel Durchslagm, Jane M. Saks, Mony Ruiz-Velasco, Serena Chen Low, Sheherazade Tillet, Kathy Im, and Naomi Walker.  Photo credit: Fred Hickler

Chicago Cultural Center’s screening of Half The Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide was a huge success with over 300 people in attendance  Naomi Walker, ITVS National Engagement Consultant, gives a rundown of the events as they unfolded in Chicago, IL.

On Saturday, September 15th at the Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago Community Cinema, WTTW Channel 11, and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events presented a special preview screening of Half The Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. The screening was followed by a discussion and Agents of Change Expo. Over 300 people came to witness, participate, take action, and commit themselves to becoming agents of change on issues facing women and children everywhere.

Kathy Im from MacArthur Foundation set the perfect tone, talking about the Foundation’s great work and how people can get involved in ways both big and small. K. Sujata, President of the Chicago Foundation for Women shared stories about the amazing women she met in her years at Apna Ghar, and how gratifying it is to be able to support the work of everyday heroines here in Chicago, people who are committed to being agents of change, much like Amie in Sierra Leone and Somaly in Cambodia.

After viewing the preview of Half the Sky, which showed Amie Kandeh fighting for victims of rape in Sierra Leone and Somaly Mam, offering young girls and women forced into the sex trade a chance at another life in Cambodia, the audience was eager to learn ways to get involved and to hear about people in Chicago who have taken that leap. Continue reading

“Prostitution is Absence of Choice”

Economic necessity, a lack of employment options, or coercion by family, pimps, or traffickers are all factors that can force women into sexual slavery. In Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwidecelebrity activist America Ferrera traveled to India with Nicholas Kristof to visit Urmi Basu and the New Light shelter. 

No girl should have her future determined for her before she is even born. Especially when that future is defined by life in Kalighat, one of Kolkata, India’s largest red light districts where prostitution is a thriving business.

Yet in India, 90 percent of girls born to commercial sex workers will one day take up their mothers’ profession. The typical age of a girl entering sex work? A staggering 13 years-old.

Poverty, scarce opportunities, and the remnants of a caste system, which ranks prostitutes among the lowest of the low, make it difficult–if not impossible–to climb the social ladder out of the red-light district. It’s an environment where intergenerational prostitution is synonymous with forced prostitution. Continue reading

Investing in Education

Educating the world’s girls and women is one of the best social development investments to be made. But despite gains in access to education, keeping girls in school remains a struggle in the developing world.

What started with a case of job burnout and a much needed backpacking trip to Nepal for John Wood, soon evolved into a highly effective non-profit organization focused on literacy and gender equality in education in the developing world.

After a chance visit to a school in the Himalayas, Wood was shocked to discover that the few precious books the school owned were locked up in order to protect them from the students. Dismayed by this lack of access, John reacted by collecting over 3,000 book donations and returned the following year, with eight book-bearing donkeys in tow. It was the reaction of the children that spurred John to then leave the corporate world and create Room to Read in 1999, with the mission to build schools and establish libraries in these underdeveloped areas.

In the PBS documentary Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, audiences meet an array of individuals who battle against the various social issues that plague women and girls in developing countries. The poor living conditions and lack of opportunity found in countries such as Kenya, Cambodia, and India are met with the fierce resilience of aid organizations, such as Room to Read, who are unwilling to surrender to the brutal and unyielding cycle of poverty. Continue reading