by KATIE BEMB
In September of 2008, husband-wife team Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn published a book about economic empowerment, education, forced prostitution, gender-based violence, maternal mortality, and sex trafficking. Since then, they have produced a documentary to accompany it, as well as a sequel novel and documentary.
Kristof and WuDunn’s mission to change minds and spread their message inspired the launch of a new group on campus in the spring of 2014 known as Half the Sky Movement. A group of graduate students along with the help of the Director of Public Health Initiatives, Elisabeth Maring, decided that they wanted to bring Half the Sky to College Park because they desired to spread awareness on the wide variety of topics that this book covers according to Molly Crothers, former president of Half the Sky UMD.
The club has since organized events and hosted screenings of documentaries Half the Sky and its sequel, A Path Appears. Each screening was followed by a discussion and presentations from organizations on campus and in DC to talk about some of their events and goals.
The current executive board includes Mahrukh Malik and Raye Weigel as co-presidents, Jacquie Neminski as vice-president, Nicole Grap as secretary, and Carly Brody as treasurer; all of whom have been involved with the organization since its founding.
“I’ve been involved since the first interest meeting with Dr. Maring. In one of my Global Public Health Scholars’ classes, which was also taught by Dr. Maring, we were reading ‘Half the Sky,’” said Crothers. “The book and video clips really impacted how I looked at the world and the world’s issues so I wanted to become more involved with the Half the Sky movement.”
According to Crothers, the most important aspect of this movement is fighting for women’s education globally.
Last spring, Half the Sky UMD participated in the Students Rebuild Water Challenge. In this challenge, for every 20 paper beads made the program donates a certain amount of money towards the construction of wells in Tanzania. This provided a chance for girls to go to school there. The club has also held a sexual assault awareness workshop in collaboration with other organizations and partnered with Students Ending Slavery and Public Health Without Borders.
“This year, we want to make this more of a book club. In the past, we’ve focused our meetings on planning events, but this year, we want to focus on continuing the discussion about women’s rights,” clarified Crothers. “Each meeting, we want to discuss a chapter from a book, or an article, or discuss a segment from a video to continue learning about the ongoing struggle for women’s rights.”
At the same time, Half the Sky UMD plans to have opportunities for its members to attend events sponsored by other organizations they partner with. Additionally, they will be continuing their fundraising efforts for Shining Hopes for Communities, which is a school in Kibera, Kenya that provides schooling for abused girls.
Next semester, Half the Sky UMD plans on opening up volunteer opportunities at a local domestic violence shelter.
“We hope to educate our campus about these topics as much as possible in hopes that this will inspire more people to get involved with domestic and international women’s rights issues,” said Crothers.
Half the Sky held their first meeting on September 22, where there was a turnout of about 20. The leaders of the club emphasized that anyone can join, and anyone should join.
“If you’re interested in public health, education, women’s rights, sex trafficking, maternal health, or domestic violence, Half the Sky is the place for you,” said Crothers. “The Half the Sky Movement is important because women hold up half the sky. Without providing women human rights the world will not function properly or peacefully. It is important that we spread the awareness and then take action! We meet on Tuesdays at 7 pm in Jimenez 2122.”