Unlocking the potential of women benefits all

Half the Sky: Why Unlocking the Potential of Women Benefits Us All

by Marjolaine Chaintreau – WAM UK Co-Founder


On May 14th 2013, the WAM UK and Women in Social Finance networks got together to organise the UK Premier screening of the highly acclaimed film documentary Half the Sky. As a co-founder of WAM UK, I wanted to explain why it was such an important milestone for us and why we wanted to share this movement with you.

Half the Sky started as a book, written in 2009 by Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn, both acclaimed journalists at the New York Times and Pulitzer Prize winners. At its core, the book seeks to ignite the change needed to put an end to the oppression of women and girls worldwide. For Nicholas and Sheryl, the fight for gender equality is the moral challenge of our century, like slavery was before us. Further, the key to our economic progress they argue, lies in unleashing women’s potential. Building on the tremendous success of the book, the Half the Sky film documentary was then shot in 10 countries with 7 celebrity advocates; America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union, Olivia Wilde; and released in October 2012.

Half the Sky represents a breakthrough on how the world should think and talk about gender equality. Unfortunately one thing has not changed: the topics covered in Half the Sky are as heavy, difficult, and overwhelming as issues related to girls and women have always been for everyone. What makes Half the Sky unique is the strength of Nicholas and Sheryl’s method, painfully documenting the facts, clarifying the drivers and mechanisms behind some of these issues, and providing a balanced diversity of examples.

But Half the Sky is not about showing how difficult the life of women and girls are in some parts of the word.  It is about promoting examples of courage; life transformation; hard work; virtuous circles; leadership and the economic power and hope represented by women worldwide. Both the book and the film are based on the power and emotion of the extraordinary, and hopeful, stories of women and of the local organisations supporting them.  Half the Sky focuses on the solutions and opportunities that women represent in the fight against oppression and poverty.

Today, in some countries women and girls represent the greatest unexploited economic resources of our time. Unleashing women’s potential is not only the right thing to do, but it is the best strategy for fighting poverty globally and benefiting everyone in our society. This is the reason why “it is impossible to stand by and do nothing after reading/watching Half the Sky”.

Our only objective is that learning about the Half the Sky movement will urge you to become a champion for women globally and act to unlock the opportunities women and their businesses represent for the world’s economic and social development.

Women Advancing Microfinance (WAM UK) and Women in Social Finance are two networks bringing together women professionals working in the field of social impact finance or personally engaged in women empowerment, financial inclusion and how to use the power of business to solve some of the world’s pressing issues.


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