neki_mohan.jpgMIAMI – Almost 300 people gathered at the Little Haiti Cultural Center recently for a special advance screening of clips from Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

Guests enjoyed a reception with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres prior to the Sept. 27 screening, and received information from organizations and authors working to empower women.

The film — inspired by a book of the same name by Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn — sheds light on different forms of female oppression around the world, including gender-based violence, female genital cutting, sex trafficking, unequal education, maternal mortality, forced prostitution and economic exploitation.

Filmed in 10 countries using in-the-moment invest-igations and emotionally explosive storytelling, the film spotlights strong women and girls who have survived these issues and fight daily to defy the odds stacked against them. The Half the Sky DVD will be released on Oct. 30. For more information, to get involved or to pre-order the DVD, visit halftheskymovement.org

Six talented actress-advocates — Gabrielle Union, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Diane Lane, America Ferrera, and Olivia Wilde — join Kristof as he travels to Asia and Africa to meet face-to-face with inspiring individuals working to bring about change, and the women and girls who confront extreme gender inequality in their daily lives.

Union – who is often in town due to her romance with Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade – stepped away from a Wade’s World Foundation fundraiser to sit down for a candid conversation with the audience after the screening.

Having traveled to Vietnam with Kristof to highlight the educational disparities between boys and girls, she discussed her role in the film and why she uses her fame to serve as an ambassador of change both here and abroad.

“I’m committed to the empowerment of women and getting as many people to value education as possible,” Union said. “I come from a family where we believe you are your brother or sister’s keeper.”

“The thing we like to think as Americans is we’re so above it and this doesn’t happen here. The issues are not unique to a third world country, nor are the solutions. We just need to apply them, which we haven’t been doing consistently.”
Union lambasted the celebrities and people in general who are selfish, saying one should focus on helping others simply because it’s the right thing to do. “It’s not always about writing a check. Sometimes they just want you to listen. Half of it is just showing up.”

After her experience in Vietnam, Union said she couldn’t leave one of the young ladies, 14-year-old Nhi in such a destitute situation. After Union completed filming, she and Wade raised the necessary resources to help Nhi leave her abusive father’s home and attend school for the next four years.

Half the Sky producers are currently shooting the follow-up with Nhi at her new school.

Some say Half the Sky is more than a book and a documentary, but an entire movement, and women across the globe are signing on.

Kristina Gutierrez of WPBT2, Miami’s local PBS station, said they decided to hold the screening event after learning of Half the Sky at the annual PBS Conference last year and how close to home the issues actually are.

“There is actually a whole Half the Sky Movement going on. It’s amazing because of what’s going on in our local community. After finding out about local brothels that dealt in forced prostitution, we really wanted to raise the awareness in the community. The issue sits so close to home and people don’t even realize it,” Gutierrez said.

Neki Mohan, a reporter/anchor for Local 10 who is also a mentor and member of Women of Tomorrow, said attending the screening and advocating on behalf of women was a “no-brainer.”

“I read the book and found it just fascinating what women around the world go through. As a big advocate for empowering women, it’s always been interesting to me what goes on in other parts of the world,” Mohan said.

“It puts things into perspective regarding the opportunities we have here (in America) and how we are able to help women around the world. To actually see it made into documentary form was a no-brainer and I’m excited to be here."

*Pictured above is reporter Neki Mohan.