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Thoughts on Women Hold up Half the Sky

21 Nov 16
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I recently had the opportunity to attend the opening of a new exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.  The exhibit, entitled “Women Hold Up Half the Sky” reflects upon the struggles worldwide to achieve equality for women.  Inspired by Nicholas Kristof’s and Sheryl WuDunn’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, the exhibit seeks to share solutions and be a catalyst for change both here at home in Chicago, and around the world.

“Women Hold Up Half the Sky” juxtaposes global women’s rights issues with those faced locally in Chicago.  I think we, as Americans, as Chicagoans, have a tendency to believe that the horrors of sex trafficking, gender based violence, and oppression of women are the problems of other nations. I believe we tend to distance ourselves from these horrors because they seem far too appalling to be happening in our own neighborhoods.  But the unfortunate truth is that violence against women and sex trafficking are pervasive in Chicago and throughout the United States.

Attorney General, Lisa Madigan was among the speakers at the opening of “Women Hold Up Half the Sky.”  Madigan, who has been a dedicated advocate for women’s rights in Illinois, called upon the crowd to get involved and join in the fight for equality.

Fritzie Fritzshall, President of the museum, also spoke at the opening of the exhibit.  She shared her own harrowing story as a survivor of the Holocaust.  She spoke of “The darkest days of human history.” She implored the audience to “Remember.”  Her eloquently simple request is a reminder to us all to learn from the past and to continue the fight against egregious human rights abuses today, like those faced by women around the world.

JCAST Chicago Steering Committee member Beth Gordon, said, “The new Women Hold Up Half the Sky exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum is a compelling reminder of the many forms of oppression of girls and women around the world, yet the also introduces visitors to several extraordinary people who have taken a stand and are making a difference, including here in Chicago. The exhibit is inspired by the stories of girls and women, as featured in Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl Wu Dunn’s book, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Wordwide.” Both book and exhibit remind us that “global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all battles of the 20th century.” It is also a call to action that we simply cannot ignore. As stated by Kristoff and Wu Dunn in their book ” …the challenge today is to prod the world to face up to women locked in brothels and teenage girls with fistulas curled up on the floor of isolated huts. We hope to see a broad movement emerge to battle gender inequality around the world and to push for education and opportunities for girls around the world. “ I urge you to visit the exhibit, and join the movement, for we can no longer look the other way.”

JCAST Chicago Steering Committee Co-Chair Susan Rifas said that the exhibit is a “powerful and important exhibition that everyone … men and women … should see. It brings home in a very visual way what women around the world are subjected to, including sex trafficking.”

“Women Hold Up Half the Sky” runs from September 25, 2016 – January 22, 2017 at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, IL.  Don’t miss this important exhibit!

~Haley Braun, Intern, JCAST Chicago, Clinical Psychology Doctoral student at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.  Graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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