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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs