The Stories

Facing the threats and finding solutions

Women and girls across the globe face threats — trafficking, prostitution, violence, discrimination — every day of their lives. But hope endures. Brave men and women have developed innovative ways of helping those living in some of the most challenging conditions.

A girl in India is on the brink of being sold into the commercial sex trade. A young mother in Somaliland may die giving birth. In Sierra Leone, a girl has been raped and must confront the norms of her community. A women whose husband abused her now helps those suffering at the hands of their spouses. 

These are the stories of individuals who represent hundreds of millions of women and girls around the world who are victimized and abused, denied access to education, medicine or property, prevented from reaching their full potential and contributing in more meaningful ways to their communities. These are stories of dehumanizing violence and discrimination. But these are also stories of struggle and victories, large and small, in the face of the longest odds.

A women whose husband abused her now helps those suffering at the hands of their spouses. With a book, a teenage girl in Vietnam takes the first steps towards breaking the cycle of grinding poverty that plagues her family. Dozens of former impoverished individuals, seeking economic independence, band together to establish what will become Kenya's fastest-growing microfinance organization.

Each of these stories puts a human face to an otherwise abstract idea or string of statistics that could never convey the true human cost of the discrimination and abuse suffered by hundreds of millions. These stories also illuminate the spirit of perseverance that is embodied by the women and girls who face these violations each day, and those who have made it their life's mission to help them.

Change Agents

They represent every spectrum of society from North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa; a former prostitute, a child sex slave, a Microsoft executive, doctors, wives and mothers. Read the stories of these change agents who are working to improve the lives of women and girls in their own countries and across the world.

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Maternal Mortality

Oppressive attitudes towards women are reflected in high maternal mortality rates in the developing world; medical experts say most pregnancy-related deaths are preventable but treatment for impoverished women is extremely limited.

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Sex Trafficking

Forced prostitution preys on the voiceless and marginalized, constituting a global crime that goes largely unnoticed. At any given moment, an estimated 2.4 million people are victims of human trafficking. Nearly half are being used for commercial sex.

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Gender-Based Violence

The victimization of women and girls is one of the most common, yet least visible forms of oppression. Its effects go beyond the bruises and the fear to tear at the very fabric that holds families and communities together.

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Forced Prostitution

Families in Kolkata’s Kalighat red light district struggle to break a tradition of prostitution passed down from mothers to daughters.

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Economic Empowerment

Women have historically borne the burden of poverty worldwide, falling far behind men in access to land, credit and employment.

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Education

Educating the world’s girls and women is one of the best social development investments to be made. But despite gains in access to education, keeping girls in school remains a struggle in the developing world.

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Progress

Violence and discrimination against women and girls will never entirely disappear, but any success, no matter how small, is another step towards equality.

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Presented by ITVS, funded by Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional program funding provided by the Ikea Foundation, US Agency for International Development (USAID) (in partnership with FHI-360 and C-Change), Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women, the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Coca-Cola Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Seedling Foundation, the Nike Foundation, the United Nations Foundation. 

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is not in any way affiliated with or in partnership with the Half the Sky Foundation, a nonprofit organization created in 1998 to enrich the lives and enhance the prospects for orphaned children in China. For more information about the Half the Sky Foundation, visit halfthesky.org.