Thursday night, I attended a showing of “Half the Sky Live,” the one-night-only, nationally screened event that brought the book Half the Sky by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn to life. Half the Sky follows the stories of extraordinary women around the globe as they struggle to overcome oppression. It calls for the education of girls as the solution to the world’s problems. This event, originally taped at NYU in February, featured musical performances, celebrity commentary, and the world premiere of a short film “Woineshet,” co-directed by Marisa Tomei.
As we watched “Half the Sky Live” at the Loews of Union Square, what I most admired was that it didn’t feel like a girl’s club…it was a co-ed show of concern and call for action. That’s exactly what we want for She’s the First. Yes, our name is feminine but the campaign isn’t exclusive to women — the action we encourage needs guys’ support too, because when all are educated, families have higher incomes, healthier children, and greater happiness. Here’s where I think “Half the Sky Live” triumphed in sending this message:
1. Most obviously, the book backing this movement for women and girls was authored by a male, Nicholas Kristof, who’s dedicated his career as a journalist to shedding light on the most neglected women, whose own countrymen have cast them in the shadows.
2. The show opened with a call to action by CARE Ambassador Michael Franti, an American musician. Many high-profile women participated in the event — Marisa Tomei, Sarah, Dutchess of York, Maria Bello, India.Arie — so the choice of a male opener was definitely strategic.
3. In Marisa Tomei and Lisa Leone’s short film “Woineshet,” which reenacted the true story of an Ethiopian teenager who was raped and then protested a forced marriage to her rapist, special emphasis is placed on Woineshet’s father supporting his daughter despite cultural taboos. As The Washington Post had reported, “Woineshet’s father recalled that he felt caught between the draw of the modern world in the capital and the traditions of the village. He said he was offered bribes of cows and cash by local elders to keep quiet. He also endured pressure from some members of his family, who thought that Woineshet should marry her abductor. Ethiopian law absolves abductors of their crime if they marry their victims.” But because he stood by Woineshet, she was saved and a new law precedent was set, protecting many other victims. Both Woineshet and her father were at the live event and received standing ovations.
She’s the First is incredibly inspired by Half the Sky‘s growth since publication last year. Just as the book ignited a whole movement that now incorporates music, film, educated panel discussions, and grassroots book clubs to spread awareness in the mainstream, we hope our small beginnings with a PSA video take on a multiplatform presence in the artistic, political, and online worlds as well. But we need you too, guys! So ladies, send this to your guy friends on Facebook and encourage them to link up to the campaign.