Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

Half The Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide

Airs Monday, Oct. 1, 2012 at 9 p.m. & Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Girl at New Light Crèche in Kolkata, India.

Credit: Courtesy of Josh Bennett

Above: Girl at New Light Crèche in Kolkata, India.

A landmark series based on the book by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, "Half The Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide" follows six actress-advocates, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union, America Ferrera, and Olivia Wilde, as they travel to six countries and meet inspiring, courageous individuals who are confronting oppression and developing real, meaningful solutions through health care, education, and economic empowerment for women and girls.

The film, introduced by George Clooney, aims to amplify the central message of the book –- that women are not the problem, but the solution –– and to bolster the broad and growing movement for change.

Episode One airs Monday, Oct. 1 at 9 p.m. - Eva Mendes and Nicholas Kristof investigate gender-based violence in Sierra Leone, a country where most of the 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.


“We, as Americans, have won the lottery of life and the distinction between us and people living in Kalighat is not that we are smarter, not that we’re harder working, not that we’re more virtuous — it’s that we’re luckier.” - Nicholas Kristof

“When you educate a girl, there’s a ripple effect that goes beyond what you would get from a normal investment,” says Sheryl WuDunn. “When you educate a girl, she tends to get married later on in life, she tends to have fewer kids. She takes better care of her kids. She has greater economic opportunity. She might create a business so she can contribute to the local economy. When you educate a girl, you educate a village.”

“One of the best ways that we can deal with all of the abuses that are so troubling against women and girls is through economic empowerment,” says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “Unleashing the economic potential of women is a win-win economic strategy.”


The issues women and girls face stretch far and wide across the globe, and progress can often feel slow when the numbers of oppressed women are so high. But if there is one thing to take away from the Half The Sky Movement, it is this: There are solutions.

Share Your Story

We love hearing about how "Half The Sky" has inspired you to help empower women and girls worldwide. Everyone can be an agent of change. Share your story

30 Songs/ 30 Days

Legendary and emerging female musicians from around the world have come together to support the Half The Sky Movement. One song available every day.

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 with the help of local authorities and Kristof and the cameras capture this dramatic and dangerous effort to free underage girls being held as sex slaves.

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.

Episode Two airs Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 9 p.m. - 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.

In India it is estimated that 90 percent of sex workers’ daughters follow their mothers into prostitution and, of the three 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.

Economic empowerment is key to turning the tide against poverty, violence, and the oppression of women. When women have money of their own, they invest more than twice as much as men in their families, education and the future.

"Half The Sky" is on Facebook, follow @Half on Twitter, and explore "Half The Sky" on Pinterest.

Half The Sky Trailer

A four-hour documentary based on the bestselling book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, it follows Kristof and celebrity activists America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union and Olivia Wilde as they travel throughout the developing world to introduce women and girls who are living under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable—and fighting bravely to change them.

Half The Sky Movement: Fistulas & the Edna Adan Hospital

Worldwide, two million women are living with fistulas. Every year there are 100,000 new cases. Only 14,000 cases are treated annually. In Somaliland women have an estimated 1 in 50 lifetime chance of developing a fistula during childbirth. When funds allow, the Edna Adan Hospital treats fistulas for free and this is the story of Fadumo Ibrahimo Juisaw who has come to this free fistula camp for women. Visiting Head Nurse Jayne Peters and Dr. Edna Adan explain how a fistula occurs and how the repair needs to be made. For Fadumo Ibrahimo Juisaw, she had six normal pregnancies and on the seventh, her urethra was torn resulting in her desperate need for surgery. The doctors and nurses at Edna Adan Hospital work to treat and fix her fistula and the fistulas of the many other women who come through the hospital.

Half The Sky: Forced Prostitution Feature

America Ferrera, Urmi Basu of New Light and Ruchira Gupta of Apne Aap discuss forced prostitution in India.

Half The Sky: Ann Cotton on Gender Equality

Half the Sky Movement: Helene Gayle on Gender Inequality

Helene Gayle talks about the need to raise awareness about the status of women and girls around the world for the Half The Sky Movement. Dr. Gayle is president and CEO of CARE USA, a leading international humanitarian organization with approximately 10,000 staff whose poverty fighting programs reached 122 million people last year in 84 countries. Since joining CARE in 2006, Dr. Gayle has led efforts to reinforce CARE's commitment to empowering girls and women to bring lasting change to poor communities.

Half the Sky Movement: Leymah Gbowee on Women's Rights Worldwide

Leymah Gbowee talks about women's rights worldwide for the Half the Sky movement. Gbowee is a Liberian peace and women's rights activist and also a Newsweek Daily Beast Africa columnist. As war ravaged Liberia, Gbowee realized it is women who bear the greatest burden in prolonged conflicts. She began organizing Christian and Muslim women to demonstrate together, founding Liberian Mass Action for Peace and launching protests and a sex strike. Her part in helping to oust Charles Taylor was featured in the documentary "Pray the Devil Back to Hell."

Half The Sky Movement: Sakena Yacoobi on Education

Sakeena Yakoobi talks about girls' education for the Half The Sky Movement. Dr. Yacoobi is Executive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), an Afghan women-led NGO she founded in 1995. The organization was established to provide teacher training to Afghan women, to support education for boys and girls, and to provide health education to women and children. Under Sakena's leadership AIL has established itself as a groundbreaking, visionary organization which works at the grassroots level and empowers women and communities to find ways to bring education and health services to rural and poor urban girls, women, and other poor and disenfranchised Afghans.

Half The Sky Movement: Desmond Tutu on Gender-Based Violence

Desmond Tutu talks about gender based violence and the need to change traditional practices that are harmful to women. Desmond Mpilo Tutu is a South African activist and retired Anglican bishop who rose to global fame during the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid. He was the first black South African Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa. Tutu has been active in the defence of human rights and uses his high profile to campaign for the oppressed. He has campaigned to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism in 1986, the Pacem in Terris Award in 1987, the Sydney Peace Prize in 1999, the Gandhi Peace Prize in 2005 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. Tutu has also compiled several books of his speeches and sayings.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.