“Women are half the sky.” It’s a pleasing Chinese proverb, a rare acknowledgment of Woman’s indispensable contributions the world. Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn chose the metaphor as the title of their 2009 book Half the Sky. But the book belies the positive connotation: Half the Sky is a deeply researched compendium of stories documenting the oppression and abuse that continue to crush women in the developing world.
This is, the authors declare, “the central moral challenge of our time . . . . Just as slavery was the defining struggle of the 19th century and totalitarianism of the 20th, the fight to end the oppression of women and girls worldwide defines our current century.”
Finally, finally, attention is being paid. On Monday and Tuesday, October 1 and 2 (9 p.m. EDT; check local listings), PBS will premiere a four-hour documentary series, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. six celebrity activists, including Diane Lane, America Ferrera, and Olivia Wilde, help tell the story. Shot in 10 countries, the series introduces “women and girls who are living under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable—and fighting bravely to change them.” Hearteningly, “their intimate, dramatic and immediate stories of struggle reflect viable and sustainable options for empowerment.” Best of all (for those of us who can’t imagine seeing real progress in the lifting of these ancient burdens), the series offers “an actionable blueprint for transformation.”