Mercy Corps - Half the Sky: From Oppression to Opportunity

A film and panel-discussion about worldwide oppression of women and girls and the efforts to expose and end it. The evening features a condensed version (41 minutes) of the PBS documentary film Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (based on a book by the same name by Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl Wudunn's) and is followed by a panel discussion about the issues and solutions. Panelists include Dr. Sabine Volchok, a family practitioner who volunteered recently at a Somali hospital featured in the film, and Lynn Renken, Mercy Corps' youth and adolescent girls senior advisor.

"In the 19th Century," writes journalist Nicholas Kristoff in a 2009 New York Times article, "the paramount moral challenge was slavery. In the 20th century, it was totalitarianism. In this century, it is the brutality inflicted on so many women and girls around the globe: sex trafficking, acid attacks, bride burnings and mass rape." Kristoff goes on to make the point that the countries where women experience the worst and most prolonged oppression are often the poorest and most chaotic. We have now come to realize that the best way to fight poverty and extremism is to focus on girls.

"The world is awakening to a powerful truth: Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution," writes Kristoff.

Kristoff wrote a book with his wife, journalist Sheryl Wudunn, called Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide that chronicles the experiences of young women and girls in Africa and Asia who are subjugated to relentless and brutal oppression. As is often the case, these women are extraordinarily strong and resilient -- against all odds. Driven by their devotion to their children and families, they survive and in some cases, work to change the fortune of other women and girls.

The book was made into a documentary and aired earlier this month on PBS. Filmed in 10 countries, Half the Sky follows Nicholas Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn, and celebrity activists America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union, and Olivia Wilde on a journey to tell the stories of inspiring, courageous individuals. The 2-part, 4-hour documentary is condensed down to a little over 41 minutes for this viewing, and will be followed by a panel discussion of the issues raised, focusing on education for girls in developing countries.


Sabine Volchok, MD MPH, is a physician practicing family medicine and obstetrics at Salud Medical Center in Woodburn, Oregon. Her lifelong passion for maternal and child health most recently took her to the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital in Somaliland where she worked as a staff physician in the maternity ward and pre-and postnatal clinic. Volchok received her medical and public health degree from the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon, completed her residency in Family Medicine at Providence in Portland, Oregon and a fellowship in advanced obstetrics in Boston, Massachusetts. In addition to enjoying an active medical practice here at home providing clinical care for migrant farm workers and other immigrants and underserved populations, her international work includes time spent working in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, India, Bangladesh and Cameroon focusing on improving the quality of obstetrical and neonatal care through education and capacity building.

Lynn Renken is Mercy Corps’ youth and adolescent girls senior adviser, responsible for assisting teams design, implement and evaluate adolescent girl and youth-centered programs. She was a senior fellow at the Nike Foundation, where she managed adolescent girl investments and girl-focused research. From[masked], she was a Mercy Corps program director, supervising program activities, ensuring program quality and leading program development in Indonesia. In Mercy Corps’ headquarters office, she supported programs in different including Central and South Asia. Lynn received her B.A. and M.A. from the University of Oregon; she was a Fulbright recipient in[masked] in Pakistan.

This event is free and open to the public.

Here is a short video clip of the movie -




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  • A former member
    A former member

    Very sorry I missed this... i hope there's more with Mercy Corps soon! Thank you

    November 15, 2012

  • Peter

    This was quite the reality call I need once in awhile. Often we really loose touch with reality and what other people suffer outside of our own "bubble".

    November 14, 2012

  • Morgan

    I agree it was really an eye opener that this still goes on and landed up getting the dvd and the book! Thank you so much for having this documentary as an event!

    November 14, 2012

  • Natcharee

    Thank you!

    November 14, 2012

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