Two students are taking the campus to a different part of the world where the oppression of women is very real through a presentation of “Half the Sky ” at 5:45 tonight in 104 Thomas.
“Half the Sky” is a book written by journalist and married team Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn that follows women in developing countries and the problems they face.
The book’s title is inspired by the Chinese proverb “Women hold up half the sky” and it portrays heavy material such as mistreatment of women, and even young girls, who are forced into brothels or who suffer serious health problems. It tackles heavy material, but the attitudes and ideas of hope and success are laced throughout the women’s stories.
This year, the book was translated into a four-hour documentary that aired on PBS in October and was filmed in places such as Cambodia and Somaliland. It featured celebrities, such as Olivia Wilde and Eva Mendes, among others, who traveled with Kristof.
As their service project for their English 202H (Writing in the Humanities: Adult Literacy) course, students Sarah Dafilou and Lili Hadsell are showing a shortened 40-minute version of the film tonight with a discussion afterwards. They hope the event will inspire students to take action in the movement to end oppression.
“You don’t hear about a lot of this stuff,” Dafilou (senior-Jewish studies) said. “You think it’s so far away. We need to be aware of it and work to end the oppression for women around the world.”
She added that the “Half the Sky” movement has many ways for everyone to get involved, and there is a list at the end of the book.
Hadsell (junior-women’s studies) has read the book before, and has even seen Kristof and WuDunn speak. She said the book shows that everyone can help, even if students may not necessarily think they can.
“It can be hard to think ‘How can I change?’ ‘What can I do?’” she said. “‘Half the Sky’ shows that it doesn’t matter if you’re one person.”
She said she has been connected with the movement for four or five years, and it has inspired her to change her major to women’s studies. She said she and Dafilou have been working on putting the project together and holding the film screening for about a month.
“We’re all hoping that through the discussion questions we come up with we can really get people to start thinking about the broader issues the film focuses on and for ourselves as well,” she said.
Stephanie Scott is a “Half the Sky” ambassador for Penn State’s campus and helped Dafilou and Hadsell obtain the film and put the presentation together.
Scott (graduate-English) said the “Half the Sky” campaign has campus ambassadors whose job it is to spread the word about the movement and increase awareness.
She said the ultimate goal is to start a conversation about how to promote better opportunities for women in developing countries and in the United States because these issues are present here as well. She said this will be a starting point to achieving this goal as it becomes a “discussion piece.”
“I think one of the most interesting things about the film and the project is solidarity,” she said. “You’re becoming something much larger than yourself.”
English 202H is taught by Lorena Waselinko , who is “thrilled” Dafilou and Hadsell took on this project.
Waselinko said the focus of the course is on adult literacy in many forms, such as international literacy or even on a local level. She said “Half the Sky” fits with the main theme of the class.
“This book goes with the theme of the course in that it really looks at the plight of women, and the impact that education, or lack thereof, has on half the population,” she said.
Hadsell hopes it will encourage students to get involved with the movement and know they have the ability to “speak out for someone when they can’t speak out for themselves.”
“Only by individuals believing they themselves can make a change will a larger change occur,” she said.