Half the Sky, a global advocacy group that seeks to empower women and girls, formed a new branch at Georgetown this semester.

Moriah Lenhart-Wees (COL’13) was inspired to create Georgetown’s Half the Sky chapter after reading the book “Half The Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.” The book, which was co-authored by New York Times journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, tells the stories of individual women who overcame oppression through economic and educational opportunity.

According to Lenhart-Wees, college students will form a key component of the movement.

“One of the ways that the authors of the book are seeking to spread awareness about their campaign is through college students,” she said.

Currently, Georgetown’s chapter includes five ambassadors who act as liaisons between other chapters throughout the world
“Half the Sky is not going to acquire club status, per say,” Lenhart-Wees said. “We are part of the GU Circle of Women, and we’re going to work within that organization while communicating with the international Half the Sky movement.”

Fellow Half the Sky ambassador Stephanie Arzate (SFS ’15) also joined the group after reading Kristof and WuDunn’s book.

“As the title of the book itself says, women hold up half the sky,” Arzate said. “I do not believe that a country can reach its full potential if its women are not given the equal opportunities to lead and learn. More than anything, I hope that our tenure as campus ambassadors allows others to understand more about how female empowerment truly is the key to solving some of the most critical issues the world faces.”

Kristof and WuDunn encouraged readers to take action in their own communities and educate their friends and family about the challenges that women face in the developing world.

The book, which was published in 2009, rose to the number one position on the New York Times’ non-fiction bestseller list after its release. The authors have also partnered with PBS and several celebrity actresses, including America Ferrera and Meg Ryan, to air a four-part miniseries.

Georgetown’s Half the Sky chapter will hold its first event, a screening of part of the miniseries Nov. 13 in the Intercultural Center auditorium. The Georgetown University Circle of Women and the Georgetown Women’s Center are cosponsoring the event.

“Our call to action … was to bring the whole idea of Half The Sky to campus through the film and other venues of action, and that definitely aligns with the type of work that GU Circle of Women tries to promote,” said Katia Teran (SFS ‘13), president of GU Circle of Women and a Half the Sky ambassador.

“The film is just the introductory portion of our project,” Lenhart-Wees said. “We’re showing it to explain to people what the Half the Sky movement is.”

The screening will emphasize the importance of education and economic empowerment for women.

Lenhart-Wees said that the main difference between Half the Sky and other women’s advocacy groups on campus is its ability to form partnerships with grassroots organizations around the world.

“I believe that working directly with the women who are themselves experiencing oppression and not through an outside aid organization is a much more effective way to empower them,” Lenhart-Wees said. “Our goal is to work with those women in communities all over the world to bring to life the solutions they themselves have already come up with. … I just want people on Georgetown’s campus to realize that the world is bigger than Georgetown and that although women on our campus are doing pretty well, we should extend that and try to help women around the world reach that level of education.”

Teran agreed.

“Women and girls in the developing face issues that impact issues on a larger scale,” she said. “We need to change the hearts and minds of both boys and girls and raise the value that these societies assign to their women.”

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