News / Asia

Exhibit Enlists Visitors in Helping Abused Women

Women who have enrolled in international's programs in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are shown sewing.
Women who have enrolled in international's programs in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are shown sewing.

Multimedia

Audio
  • http://www.voanews.com/MediaAssets2/english/2011_11/Osullivan_Opressed_Women_11_30_2011.mp3

There is a Chinese saying that “women hold up half the sky,” yet in many societies, the contributions of women are ignored and women are often the victims of sexual violence and abuse.

Husband-and-wife journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn documented some of those women’s stories in the 2009 book Half the Sky.

This photograph shows a young Pakistani girl, Javaria, who is now attending school.
This photograph shows a young Pakistani girl, Javaria, who is now attending school.

The exhibition at the Skirball Cultural Center features stories of women who have taken action to change their lives: Saima Muhammad, a Pakistani woman who built an embroidery business with a $65 dollar micro-loan and gained financial independence from her abusive husband and Goretti Nyabenda, a woman in Burundi, who started a business brewing banana beer to provide for her family.

It also shows women who have made a difference on a wider scale, including Edna Adan Ismail, the former first lady of Somalia.  She is a former nurse who has campaigned against female genital mutilation and used her life savings to build a maternity hospital in Somaliland.

Their stories are told through photographs, art works, and recorded sights and sounds.

Columnist issues moral challege

In his columns in the New York Times, journalist Nicholas Kristof has described sex trafficking, denial of education and other abuses of women, and he says the exhibit conveys several important themes to visitors.

“We hope that they will take away an appreciation that one of the central moral challenges for the world today is this oppression that is the daily lot of so many women and girls around the world.  Second, that if one wants to bring about positive change in a lot of countries, then using women as a catalyst for change tends to work better than most other approaches," Kristoff adds.

The display features women and girls in Africa, India and Latin America.  Kristof knows these people well and has written about them, but says it is emotionally moving to see them as part of this large display.

“It is a very strange and wonderful feeling to walk through this exhibit and see these people, who I’ve known for years, who I've sometimes met when they were just in terrible circumstances," Kristof says. "I look over there and I see a young woman who I saw for the first time in a brothel in Cambodia.”

Tales of oppression

A photograph shows two Cambodian teenaged girls who had been lured into prostitution. Kristof paid the brothel owners several hundred dollars to buy their freedom. One went on a new life. The other, addicted to drugs, would later return to the brothel.

There are tragic stories of women who died in childbirth, a serious problem in many developing countries. They include a Ugandan woman surgeon beloved in her town, who is memorialized in a pennant.

But there are also glimmers of progress. In one photo from Hyderabad, India, boys and girls are shown praying before eating. They are at an education center dedicated to preventing sex trafficking and rehabilitating survivors.

Some narratives have been captured in sound. Recording artist Ben Rubin created audio-visual displays of women held hostage as commercial workers or domestic servants in Los Angeles.

The recordings were made with help from the narrative history group StoryCorps. Rubin says the women are told they cannot leave until they repay their travel costs to come here.

“And you owe us $12,000 for all the expenses that brought you here, so you’ll work for us for 10 years without pay. This kind of a typical story." he says.

Consulting curator Karina White says these are not isolated cases, and that women face serious problems in many parts of the world.

“Women dying in childbirth, violence that’s perpetuated against girls and women is really prevalent and completely debilitating to women, especially in the poorest countries, and human trafficking,” says White.

Visitor Jay Segal, a retired immigration judge who has heard many similar stories during hearings for people requesting political asylum, is not surprised by any of the accounts in the exhibit.

“Not at all," he says. "But I’m happy to come, I’m happy to see and listen to what’s going on, and I think we have to do a lot more than we’ve done, although we’ve done a lot.  And I hope more things happen.”

Visitors empower abused women

Nicholas Kristof says this is also a story of hope and that change is happening, even here in Los Angeles.

Visitors to the exhibit “Women Hold Up Half the Sky” are each given one dollar to invest in a woman's business somewhere in the world.  They can make the investment on a computer at the center, connected to an Internet-based micro-loan site.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs