A Don’t Miss Exhibit at The Skirball: Women Hold Up Half The Sky
I’m not sure I have the words to convey clearly how important the current exhibit, Women Hold Up Half The Sky, at the Skirball Cultural Center is, but I will try.
A year ago I read a book called Half The Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide that revolutionized my thinking about being part of the solution to the sex trafficking, rape, gender-related violence, maternal deaths, births wounds (fistulas) and poverty that a vast number of women experience on our planet today. Far from being depressing Half the Sky gave very specific suggestions on how to get involved in helping these women and I was able to take action by joining Women for Women International and KIVA.
Half The Sky was written by married, Pulitzer prize-winning journalists Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Both authors have visited paternalisitic villages, slums and sex slave brothels in India, Africa, Asia and Indonesia. They’ve been essential in telling women’s stories in order to bring funding to on-the-ground, grassroots programs that bring relief and hopefully, over the longterm, change to the misogynistic paradigm of many of these cultures. Just telling the stories is powerful in itself.
I decided to take my daughters, Rowan 9 and Willa 7 to the exhibit because I was told there was a Family Friendly tour. When we arrived a docent gave us a map of the areas that would be appropriate for my girls. The first thing we did was sit down and view a video of The Girl Effect.
It explains, in an engaging way, that in many countries when a girl turns 12 she is viewed as a woman. This is often when her schooling ends. She is frequently married by 14 and having children by 15. The video quickly and pragmatically explains how this can lead to more poverty, disease and women who must sell their bodies to support their families. The video ends by giving suggestions and solutions which aren’t just helpful, but hopeful. This opened up a conversation between my daughters and me that I feel is very important. Each parent may want to view the video first at the link above, then think about how they would like to discuss it with their child.
Next we visited the Change Is Possible wall. On the wall are 60,000 little bubbles that represent the 60,000 girls who are missing world-wide. Because of my children’s age I explained that these were the little girls who are not in school and who have no voice in their community. (For kids 8th grade and above I think it’s appropriate to tell them many of these girls are sex slaves – obviously this is up to the parents’ discretion). Next we were allowed to take pencils and fill in as many of the empty bubbles as we liked. Rowan and I filled the bubbles in fully. My daughter Willa chose to use the bubbles to send a message, placing a letter in each bubble. When she left I read her message. It said, “Keep on going. Don’t give up.”
Next we visited the Wish Canopy, which is a major art installation on the ceiling that looks like hundreds of white wings making up one large white wing. The girls were allowed to write “a wish for a woman facing a difficult situation” on purple paper in the shape of wings. Their wishes and other visitors’ wishes will be added to the wing canopy over the run of the exhibition.
Finally we visited a kiosk of Ipads where we were able to make a micro-loan to a woman in any country of our choice (we chose Africa), selling a product of our choice (we chose food and textiles), and the money came from the entrance fee we paid to go to the exhibit.
It was very emotional for me to bring my daughters to this exhibit, because I have the privilege and responsibility of shaping their world view. And women helping women is at the top of my list of values. Especially when I consider that just by virtue of good luck my daughters are not among those 60,000 missing girls.
After the family friendly tour my husband took the girls to the fabulous Noah’s Ark installation (everything in the ark is made by re-purposed materials), so I was able to take my time and see the rest of the Half The Sky exhibit. The images and stories were heart-wrenching, but so respectfully wrought and each with the purpose of bringing solutions to the dire circumstances of these women’s lives.
I hope all of you will consider visiting this exhibit which runs through March 11, 2012. Trained docents will help orient visitors to the gallery experience and lead discussions of exhibition themes Tuesday-Sunday at 1 p.m. 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Also at 12 p.m. on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Please also check the Skirball calendar for upcoming special events related to Half The Sky.
Keep on going. Don’t give up.