Last night Millsaps College was buzzing with excitement in anticipation of Half the Sky. In our auditorium that holds 200 people, students, faculty, staff, and community members where having to scavenge for seats- we even had people sitting in the stairs! With approximately 20% of our student body represented, this was the most diverse group of people I had ever seen assembled at Millsaps. I was SO EXCITED.
Upon arrival, everyone in the audience received a blank sheet of paper and a marker. “You will see things tonight,” I said, “that may shock you. That may anger you. That may move you to action. This piece of paper is there for you to vent.” We collected all of them at the end of the night and will put them into a reaction book to chronicle the lives effected by Half the Sky and its message.
Carol Penick, the director of the Women’s Fund of Mississippi, was in attendance, and she opened by telling us that our state is the worst in the nation for women, as determined by the Women’s Policy Institute. She wisely reminded us that we needed to not only be aware of the status of women in the world, but in our community as well.
When in Cambodia, the audience was shocked right alongside Meg Ryan when meeting girls ages 10, 14, and 3 years old who were sold into sex trafficking. These girls have been rescued by Somaly Mam, who runs a foundation by the same name; a survivor of sex trafficking herself, she offers a home to survivors where they learn how to recover, how to support one another, and how to be children again. Her young students now courageously provide condom demonstrations to local men and host awareness events at police stations to teach them how to rescue children forced to work in brothels.
Our final stop on this painful but necessary journey was to Vietnam with Gabrielle Union, where the organization, Room to Read, is giving girls the opportunity to attend school. In this developing country a girl is more likely to work in a rice patty or to be a child bride than to finish secondary school. One girl from a school highlighted is the daughter of a single father who does not support her education. Who beats her. Who makes her work selling lottery tickets to support their family. She meticulously saves the little money she earns to pay for her tutoring and spends hours studying every day. She hopes to go to a university. Her family situation is far too common in the developing world.
The first comment after the documentary came from a guy in the 7th row. “Wow. I had absolutely no idea that this was happening in the world. No idea.”
“I’m angry. Why girls? Why is it ok to treat them this way?”
“What can we do? Do we have a responsibility to help?”
“So what now?”
Half the Sky is a call to action. My goal is to send at least 10 girls in the developing world to school. Approximately $4,000. The Millsaps student body will choose which school will receive the money. When this goal is accomplished, these scholarships will have a direct impact on those girls, their families, and their communities. These investments in girls have infinite returns: peace, justice, and hope for a girl, for a community, and for a nation.
In high school I made hundreds of shirts with several awesome friends to raise money for victims of human trafficking in Birmingham, AL. The shirts will now be used to raise awareness and funds for girls in the developing world. These shirts say, JUSTUS, which embodies the idea that the world needs JUST US FOR ALL. 100% of the profits go to educating girls in the developing world.