Visiting the exhibition, “Women Hold Up Half the Sky” at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, I found the contrast between the beauty that was almost ethereal and the topic that was very difficult, stunning. The traveling exhibition Women Hold Up Half the Sky was inspired by the critically acclaimed book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center and YWCA Evanston/North Shore are partnering to present the Midwest premiere of this special exhibition, which identifies one of the central moral challenges of the 21st century— full equality for the world’s women.
“We’re honored to present this exhibition and programming, not only because it shines a spotlight on gender inequality, but also because it provides opportunities for our community to come together to enact change – here at home and in developing nations,” said Karen Singer, president and CEO of YWCA Evanston/North Shore. “Promoting fairness and equity, challenging injustice and racism, and improving the lives of women and girls is the core of our mission at YWCA.”
Walking through the exhibition, I felt enveloped in a cloudlike atmosphere that felt positive and hopeful. And, in fact the exhibition is positive and hopeful and it is terrifying and difficult. I was shocked to learn that problems dealing with the oppression of women and trafficking are present not only in distant places, but are present here, in Chicagoland.
“Women Hold Up Half the Sky is moving and uplifting, both in design and content. It beautifully tells the stories of ordinary women who are accomplishing extraordinary things,” said Museum CEO Susan Abrams. “This exhibition seeks to educate and inspire our visitors and allows them the opportunity to take immediate action”
The stories are amazing and incorporate video, audio, art and photographs throughout the cloudlike exhibition space. Visitors are offered a personal glimpse of current women’s issues taking place both locally and around the world: maternal health, overcoming violence, and human trafficking. Before leaving the exhibition, be sure to look over the table where visitors can take action by connecting with legislators, sharing their experiences on social media, or learn about giving to an organization.
• Every 9 seconds in the U.S., a woman is assaulted or beaten.
• Every day, approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
• Out of the 21 million victims of human trafficking globally, 55% are female, and 26% are girls under the age of 18.
The exhibition, runs through January 22, 2017, and offers an array of public programming that include gallery talks, a film series, and expert panel discussions that focus on improving understanding of the issues and discussing ways we can all help women “hold up the sky.” Most events are free to the public and all events require reservations atthe Illinois Holocaust Museum website
This is an important exhibition that is inspirational, while dealing with a topic that is frightening and terrible. It should be widely attended.
Photos: B. Keer