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04/02/2013

Helping women, one Facebook user at a time


Indian women 2
Indian women at a public water tap in Allahabad.   (The Associated Press/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Radhika’s daughter Viveka is sick but she cannot afford medical treatment, her husband says. So Radhika decides to take matters into her own hands and picks mangoes to sell at the market. It earns her enough cash to take a taxi to the clinic, where she can either pay for the medicine out of her own pocket or volunteer at the clinic to cover the costs. What does she do? 

This scenario drawn from real life is the kind of game the Facebook generation can play online to get an insight into the hardship and obstacles women in the developing world face.

It’s part of the ‘Half the Sky Movement’ a multimedia, multiplatform initiative which is about bringing “the change needed to put an end to the oppression of women and girls worldwide,” according to its website. It is raising awareness and money for causes such as sex trafficking, forced prostitution, and education.

The movement takes its inspiration from a book of the same name written by American media royalty, Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn both Pulitzer-winning journalists.

They’ve roped in celebrities to promote the cause.

Kristof tweets statements like, ‘Angelina Jolie opens girls school in Afghanistan financed by her jewelry. Kardashian, your turn.’

WuDunn is also a former executive at Goldman Sachs, the investment bank famously described in Rolling Stone magazine as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”  

That aside, Half The Sky has raised $40,630 for maternal health surgeries through Facebook and Kristof tweeted “game play has led to 46,000 books given out in real world.” On Facebook, he added, one third of its players are over the age of 35.

Hamida Ghafour is a foreign affairs reporter at the Star. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and Asia for more than 10 years and is the author of a book on Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter @HamidaGhafour

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