By Claire Ala
“Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide” shows how men have been placed in positions of power while women are mistreated solely because they don’t have a Y chromosome. It’s a PBS documentary that provides an emotional, unforgettable experience of feminine struggle against injustice in third world countries.
Only two countries’ stories — and a panel discussion — were presented in the Fayetteville Public Library’s early screening of “Half the Sky.” Wither just having seen a glimpse of this film, I think it does a phenomenal job at promoting awareness of women’s oppression globally, including realistic solutions.
The Vietnamese and Kenyan women face horrendous situations, but their courage and determination lead to a stronger sense of self and determination. This film is remarkable at creating a bridge from the audience to these women living across the world. It’s like a door opens into a side of humanity and society that many people ignore or never have a chance to see.
“What we see is what’s important to use. A blind state of mind,” said Kenyan native and local film viewer Mary Machira.
It’s easy to forget about the world’s poverty and sadness when you’re living in a stable, developed society. Technology, like a car ride to school, is taken for granted. One girl in Vietnam rides her bike 17 miles to school daily, showing that education is not an equal or readily accessible opportunity for women, and often they face social persecution for attending.
However, John Wood (an ex-Microsoft software developer), founder of Room to Read has devoted his life to helping educate impoverished youth. His non-profit organization provides literacy opportunity to children in Vietnam plus several other countries. Room to Read pays for a child’s school tuition, uniforms, supplies and homework coach.
But sadly the lack of educational opportunity extends beyond Vietnam. Residents of Kenya face the high cost of an education along with every day economic strain. Starving, jobless people crowd the streets. One-fifth of the population lives on less than $1.25/day.
But having economic empowerment is important for Kenyan women. One woman focused on how the microfinance concept taught her how to manage money (i.e. savings and loans). Eventually, she opened up a restaurant and became self-sufficient. The women interviewed in Kenya are strong-willed and independent. As single parents, they do a wonderful job in raising their children.
The film also visits the Umoja Women’s Village in Kenya where many women find solace. It’s a safe haven for women abused by their husbands/community. Umoja means united. The women work together by making jewelry to sell, providing protection for each other, and educating both male and female children.
“Women’s issues are very easy to overlook,” panelist Cyndi Nance commented, “In order to empower other women we need to see what they can be as well.”
This film shows women of Vietnam and Kenya that are revolutionary in their thinking and drive. They understand solving women’s oppression is far from easy but prove that change is possible and worth the effort. Their life-changing stories need to be heard. I’m going to finish watching this film and I suggest you tune in, too.
The full documentary airs on Oct. 1 and 2 at 7p.m. on your local PBS station. For more information, check out www.pbs.org/halfthesky