International Women’s Day Celebrated with Half the Sky Live!March 11, 2010
This past Thursday, I was given the opportunity to represent AAUW and celebrate International Women’s Day with my peers in a packed theater for a showing of CARE’s Half the Sky Live. While the rest of the building was filled with posters for Jennifer Lopez’s new romantic comedy and Tim Burton’s recent take on yet another children’s book, I felt good going in to the one room with priorities — the one room focused on something bigger. Walking out, I would give the event a 4/5, but I’ll get to that later.
The event revolved around one main premise: Educating women and girls is the best and most efficient way to fight global poverty and extremism. It is through educating this half of the population (i.e., Half the Sky) that we can achieve social, economic, and medical equality because, if given the tools, women will use them to transform their community.
The film event was, to say the least, inspiring. Marisa Tomei presented a short film about Woineshet, a brave woman who, after getting abducted and raped at the age of 13, revolted against being just a statistic when she refused to marry her rapist. Woineshet fought long and hard to bring her attacker to justice and against the Ethiopian law that let attackers walk free as long as they marry their victims. In doing so, she started a national conversation that has changed the way communities view abduction.
Woineshet was at the event to say a few words, with her supportive father by her side. As more horror stories of courageous women dying painful deaths during childbirth due to uneducated midwives and negligent governments were shared, it became harder and harder for me to hold it together in front of the surrounding strangers.
The event also included performances by India.Arie, Angelique Kidjo, and Michael Franti, as well as a panel discussion on women’s development with United Nations adviser Rachel Mayanja, Half the Sky authors Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof, Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, and CEO and President of CARE Helene Gayle. The message was loud, clear, and perfect for International Women’s Day: Make women’s equality a priority and start with access to education.
While I will admit that this event was leaps and bounds away from my usual Thursday routine of chai tea and Project Runway, I did have some qualms with it. To begin with, considering the book’s purpose, I would have preferred to see more of Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof talking together as a team when discussing the book, as opposed to Kristof taking more of the stage. I also wished for an American case study (they do exist) because it would have reminded our audience that we still have work to do domestically.
The need to educate women is palpable and coincides with so many of AAUW’s goals. I suggest that all readers keep themselves educated, pick up Half the Sky if they haven’t yet, and check out CARE’s and AAUW’s websites to see what is being done and what can be done globally and domestically.
This post contributed by Cori Fordham, AAUW’s public policy fellow.