Knowledge is power
There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says “Women hold up half the sky”. This was the inspiration for the book turned documentary Half the Sky, which talks about women across the world and how we can turn oppression into opportunity. The movement “focuses on sex trafficking, maternal mortality, sexual violence, microfinance and girls’ education” (Wikipedia) across the world to raise awareness for these issues. Many of the countries discussed in the book and documentary we have also talked about in class. The video below highlights the documentary and gives the viewer an idea about the purpose of the book.
The documentary features influential women, including Hillary Clinton, Mary Robinson, Dr. Helene Gayle, and celebrities like Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, and America Ferrera.
They all talk about the same thing: the importance of empowering women. Hillary Clinton says, “How we treat women and girls is absolutely essential to who we are as a people” (Youtube) and Dr. Helene Gayle expands by saying empowering women and helping them succeed is “the way that we can bring greater peace and balance in this world” (Youtube).
One of my favorite images from the documentary comes from when Eva Mendes travelled to Sierra Leone and wrote this on the blackboard:
I feel like this images captures the goal of the Half the Sky movement and highlights the importance of focusing on women as a way to build a brighter future.
The country I was assigned this semester was Liberia so I wanted to focus on that country and explore any policies they had to empower or protect women. In the video below, both women and men discuss the issue of domestic violence in Liberia.
According to this article from Rescue.org, women across the board agreed that a national law was needed “that would criminalize domestic violence and spell out sanctions, including imprisonment” (Rescue.org Liberia Domestic Violence) and urged President Sirleaf to pass a bill that would criminalize domestic violence because “at present, there is no law in Liberia that explicitly forbids domestic violence or that prescribes any punishment for perpetrators” (Rescue.org). (Shortly into her term as president, President Sirleaf enacted a national law against rape).
In a later article from VOAnews, it says how “Liberia has become the latest nation to sign a pledge to end violence against women and girls” and shared some statistics about domestic violence in the country, such as how “the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO) show 33 percent of married women in Liberia have reported experiencing domestic violence. Up to 77 percent of Liberian women say they have been the victim of sexual violence” (VOAnews). In February of 2013, “President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf took a step forward in addressing the issue when she signed a U.N. pledge to end violence against women and girls. She is only the 19th head of state to do so” (VOAnews), which is definitely a step in the right direction for the women of Liberia.
Bring Back Our Girls
Earlier this year in April of 2014, the “Bring Back Our Girls” movement swept the world. According to the website, “on April 15th, 273 School girls were kidnapped from the Chibok Government Secondary School by Boko Haram Terrorists in Nigeria. Approximately 230 are still missing”. Much like how celebrities became involved with the Half the Sky movement, many celebrities began showing their support for the missing girls with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.
This social media movement was an effort to try to spread awareness for the missing girls and get not only the Nigerian government to put more resources into finding the girls, but also the United States and United Nations into helping bring these girls home (NYTimes Bring Back Our Girls). (As an interesting side note, the author of this NY Times article is also the author of the book Half the Sky and was also featured in the documentary).