'Half the Sky:' Series on exploited women looks to empower
'Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide' is airing as part of public TV's 'Independent Lens' series. The documentary is based on New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's 2009 bestseller.
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A woman "can be at the bottom of the bottom and find a way not to just lift herself up but her family and her entire community," Ferrera said. "That made me really proud to be a woman."Skip to next paragraph
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Ferrera, Ryan, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes and Gabrielle Union took turns accompanying Kristof as he traveled to Asia and Africa to spotlight work being done to change the status of those who "hold up half the sky," as a Chinese proverb says of women.
Ryan said she and her fellow actors aren't claiming expertise.
As a celebrity, "you can just saddle up next to something smart and important and that will get some attention. And it's not like any of us are ... any more clear about it than anybody else," she said.
The documentary includes investigations of child prostitution in India, sexual assaults in Sierra Leone and maternal mortality in Somaliland where, according to the documentary, one in 12 women dies in childbirth because of malnutrition and the effects of genital mutilation.
These and other examples of abuse and neglect add up to an urgent global imperative, WuDunn said.
"In the same way that slavery was a moral challenge for the 19th century and totalitarianism was a challenge for the 20th century, the challenge that women and girls face around the world is the moral challenge of our time," she said.
At a news conference, Kristof responded to a question about whether America was imposing its beliefs on other countries.
"There are values that are oppressive to women that are embedded in a culture, sometimes in a religion, and I don't think one can ignore that fact," he said. "And it's also true that sometimes one can go in and end up causing more harm than good in the process of trying to bring about change."
"What we've tried to do is focus on organizations that are on the ground," at the grass-roots level, and try to "amplify their voices," he said.
"Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide," introduced by George Clooney and airing as part of public TV's "Independent Lens" series, includes companion websites, social media campaigns supporting non-governmental organizations, and educational components.
The project, directed by Maro Chermayeff, is part of an initiative on female leadership from documentary producer Independent Television Service, PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which funds ITVS.