The University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) chapter of Girl Up put on a screening of sections from the documentary “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
Girl Up is a women-and-girls centered initiative of the United Nations. Currently, the organization has three major foci: Healthcare, education, and safety from violence. Within these categories, some of the goals include ending child marriage and giving girls access to higher quality education, as well as access to regular checkups, clean water and more. There are over 240 Girl Up campus chapters at various colleges and universities that organize different outreach events in order to raise money for The United Nations Girl Up Initiative.
The Girl Up chapter here at UNH decided to offer a showing of two particular segments from “Half the Sky” that highlighted important issues taking place in both India and in Kenya that revolved around young women being bound to prostitution.
“Independent Lens,” the creator of the documentary, filmed the footage in 10 different countries, confronting issues of oppression against women and trying to find solutions for problems involving sex-trafficking, violence, forced prostitution, economic instability and maternal mortality. In the portions shown at Girl Up’s event, the documentary highlighted mothers struggling to save their daughters from the dark lives they had been forced to lead. The film excerpts shown depicted an abundance of women only able to make small amounts of cash due to micro-finance loans and a lack of traditional banking services. These mothers do all they can in an attempt to send their daughters off to boarding schools in hopes of providing them with more opportunities; however, the world they live in severely lacks economic empowerment.
A variety of UNH students showed up to view the documentary in Theater I of the Memorial Union Building (MUB) at UNH. The president of Girl Up Marisa Rafal, conducted a discussion following the film as well as an activity where viewers could write down their takeaways and potential action items on a cloud-shaped piece of paper to indicate the ideas of how social changes could be affected in the future. Rafal, a senior at UNH, backed up her reason for choosing particular segments of the documentary by stating, “We did want to bring these issues to light, so we definitely wanted people to know about them in a way that was as sensitive as possible to both the issue of sex trafficking and also the efforts of microloans.”
An attendee of the event, senior Marinda Weaver, stated her views about micro-financing from her perspective as a Whole Foods employee. She explained how different products being sold at Whole Foods have labels printed on them that explain where the product came from and who made it.
“I guess just really be aware of what you’re consuming and the products you’re using because some products like those sold at Whole Foods, if you look closely, they’re being sold, and the money is going back to micro-financing programs that help empower women in different countries across the world,” she said.
The women in the documentary, despite their situations, displayed stoic amounts of resilience while keeping faith in the changes they hoped would eventually come. Victoria Baxter, the vice president of Girl Up, closed the event with a quote from the documentary; “[Girls] need to be allowed the power to create her own fate.”