Women Hold Up Half the Sky at Skirball Cultural Center


Women Hold Up Half the Sky is a new exhibition at the Skirball Cultural Museum, and we got a sneak peek last week. After weaving around sail-like walled spaces, learning about inspiring women from around the world, we inscribed wishes on blue wing-shaped paper. The wishes, addressed to a woman facing a difficult situation, will be tucked inside a clear plastic sleeve in an elegant Wish Canopy that hangs over the exhibit space.  Our wishes, along with those of countless other visitors that will flock to see Women Hold Up Half the Sky will turn the Wish Canopy ‘sky’ from white to blue!

Skirball Women Hold Up Half the Sky

Women Hold Up Half the Sky, a new exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center through March 2012, was inspired by a book that addresses the worldwide oppression of women and girls as the human rights cause of our time and the exhibit illustrates individual stories of persecution and triumph as well as demonstrates myriad ways that we, too, can be part of the solution. Pulitzer Prize winning writers Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn are convinced that the abuse of women and girls is the central moral issue of our time — they also believe that “the best way to fight poverty and extremism is to educate and empower women and girls”.  The authors, the first married couple to win a Pulitzer together, worked with the Skirball’s curators in this landmark exhibit to first heighten awareness of the issues, and then to spur visitors to action. Again and again, throughout the exhibit, we learned how a simple act could help a woman change her circumstances — whether here in LA, or around the globe. We learned how CARE put locked boxes in an African village, allowing a woman to save a few dimes and start a thriving potato farming business. How a Pakistani woman received a micro loan and began an embroidery business that freed her from an abusive relationship and now employs thirty other families. From postcards to California Senators to bookmarks with simple actions that families can do with specific charities, to a wonderful pop-up shop with handcrafts from women’s cooperatives around the globe, we were inspired to take part in simple actions for change. We particularly loved an iPad station where we could make a microloan with a dollar that comes with our exhibition ticket — what a direct way to establish that what might be pocket change to one family could change the lives of another.

Don’t Miss: A large pop-up store at the Skirball features items produced by female artisans and women’s cooperatives from around the world. Each is tagged with a story, and we particularly love the beaded animals and this spectacular necklace made from bullet casings. Shop for the holidays with a clear conscience! The shop can also be found online.   (use necklace and beaded animals)

Who Should Go: The subject matter of oppression is not appropriate for small children (sexual slavery, human traficking and genital mutilation are just some of the horrors faced by women around the globe). But, the show is an important one for young adults who can handle global issues of poverty and injustice. Parents who are interested in human rights and globalization issues will find lots to discuss with tweens and teens: an iPod station near the end of the show allows visitors to make a microloan with a dollar that comes with their ticket, establishing the habit that what might be pocket change to one family might change the lives of another.

Read: Nicholas Kristoff is a New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist whose wrote Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (Knopf, 2009) with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn. Here is a photograph of Kristoff, at the Skirball, discussing his work ‘giving voice to the voiceless’ around the world. Here is more information about Kristoff.   And here the website for the book.  (use Krisfof)

Focus for Families: Make a wish for the Wish Canopy (use two photos: notes and sky). Learn more about the power of the written word and the work of journalists such as Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn (who are the first married couple to win a Pulitzer together).

Doing: During the holiday season, we make donations to charity organizations. Why not help your kids get in this habit by giving them a small amount of money (from $25-$100) to make a micro-loan to someone in another country? We’ve found that a one-on-one approach makes giving tangible to kids.  Check out Kiva.org and let your child choose a project they’d like to fund. Some kids will want to reinvest their money — the loans are paid back fairly quickly — some will want to recoup their cash!  Other interesting approaches include Women for Women International, whose founder Zainab Salbi is featured in the Women Hold Up Half the Sky, and whose model is for donors to become pen-pals with a woman in a war torn country. Sharing simple stories about each others lives helps collapse the international borders.