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‘Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide’ to premiere on AETN Oct. 1-2

Posted 13 Nov 2012

CONWAY, Ark. (AETN) – “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” a special television event that uses in-the-moment investigations and emotionally explosive storytelling to confront the moral challenge of the oppression of women and girls around the world, will premiere on the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 1-2, at 8 each night.

Women and girls around the globe face threats – trafficking, prostitution, violence and discrimination – every day. Filmed in 10 countries and inspired by the best-selling book by Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the series is driven by the growing awareness that empowering women is the best way to increase prosperity and stability around the globe. Six actress-advocates – Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union, Diane Lane, America Ferrera and Olivia Wilde – join Kristof as he travels to Asia and Africa to meet face-to-face with inspiring individuals working to bring about change and the women and girls who confront extreme gender inequality in their daily lives. Introduced by George Clooney, the film is a special presentation of “Independent Lens.”

“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,” WuDunn said.

“Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” is a Show of Force LLC and Fugitive Films production developed in association with the Independent Television Service (ITVS). This landmark transmedia project features content across multiple platforms, including the four-hour PBS and international broadcast event, a Facebook-hosted social-action game and mobile games created by Games for Change, two websites, 20 educational video modules with companion text, a social-media campaign supporting over 30 partner NGOs, and an impact assessment plan. The project is part of the Women and Girls Lead initiative, a multiyear public media initiative to focus, educate, and connect citizens worldwide in support of the issues facing women and girls, spearheaded by ITVS in partnership with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and PBS.

“Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” airs in two parts. Episode one, airing Monday, Oct. 1, at 8 p.m. includes:

•    Eva Mendes and Kristof investigate gender-based violence in Sierra Leone, a country where most assaults and rapes go unreported. They meet with Amie Kandeh, who works with the International Rescue Committee and runs three of West Africa’s sexual assault referral centers. Kandeh reveals that the vast majority of the center’s rape and sexual assault cases are young women under 17, with 26 percent under age 12.
•    In Cambodia, where 30 percent of prostitutes are children, the series examines the issue of sex trafficking. Meg Ryan and Kristof meet Somaly Mam, herself sold into slavery as a young girl, but who is now a world-renowned leader in the anti-trafficking struggle. Mam runs a center to rehabilitate and educate girls rescued from brothels. She introduces Somana, sold at age 13 and forced to work as a prostitute, her eye gouged out by the brothel owner. When Mam learns that underage girls have been discovered in a brothel on the Thai border, she organizes a daring raid.
•    Gabrielle Union and Kristof visit Vietnam with former Microsoft marketing executive John Wood, who started Room to Read, an organization which works to promote literacy and equal education for girls across the developing world. In Vietnam women have been traditionally devalued, and many girls are kept at home to tend to household chores while boys continue their education. Duyen, a teenage girl in the Room to Read program, travels 17 miles by bike and boat to get to school from her rural home. Nhi, age 14, is the primary earner in the household, put to work by her father selling lottery tickets seven days a week. Phung, also 14, rises at 3 a.m. to care for her younger brothers and sisters while her father works as a day laborer.
Episode two, airing Tuesday, Oct. 2, at 8 p.m. includes:
•    Diane Lane and Kristof investigate maternal mortality in Somaliland, where one in 12 women dies in childbirth due to poor nutrition and the effects of female genital mutilation (FGM) – also known as cutting – a brutal ritual that has been performed on more than 130 million women around the world. They meet with Edna Adan, founder of the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital, Somaliland’s first maternal health facility. Adan saves the lives of pregnant women on a daily basis with sophisticated health care and C-sections.
•    In India it is estimated that 90 percent of sex workers’ daughters follow their mothers into prostitution and, of the 3 million prostitutes in the country, 1.2 million are children. In Kolkata, America Ferrera and Kristof visit the Kalighat red-light district to meet Urmi Basu, who is working to break the tradition of forced prostitution passed down from mothers to daughters. Basu’s New Light shelter program was established to protect and educate young girls, children, and women who are at high risk for commercial sexual exploitation.
•    In Kenya, Olivia Wilde joins Kristof to see firsthand how women entrepreneurs are changing not only their lives, but also their communities. Ingrid Munro founded Jamii Bora, a microfinancing organization for women; one of Jamii Bora’s greatest success stories is Jane Ngori, a former prostitute and single mother of four who is now running a dressmaking business. In Nairobi, they meet Rebecca Lolosoli, the founder of an all-women’s village called Umoja, which was established as a haven from rape and violence and sustains itself by creating and selling traditional beaded wares.


Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn are the co-authors of the national best seller “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” and two other books, “China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power” and “Thunder from the East: Portrait of a Rising Asia.” They are the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism, awarded in 1990 for their coverage of China as New York Times correspondents. Kristof, a New York Times columnist since 2001, has served as bureau chief in Hong Kong, Beijing and Tokyo, and as associate managing editor. At the Times, WuDunn worked as a business editor and a foreign correspondent in Tokyo and Beijing; she is currently a senior managing director with Mid-Market Securities.