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For Good

Women Hold Up Half the Sky encourages gender equality

When people hear about crimes like sex trafficking, they rarely think of it as an issue occurring in their own backyards. But according to Tamika Odum, director of Xavier University’s Women’s Center, Cincinnati is one of “the largest areas where trafficking exists.”

“When students see that, they then can start understanding how talking about this issue and thinking through this issue then becomes important to them,” Odum says. 

Odum is currently teaching an internship class through XU’s sociology department where five of her students have the opportunity to start the conversation about women’s issues that are occurring around the world today.

Through a partnership with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Odum’s students merge theory with practice by serving as docents for “Women Hold Up Half the Sky”. It's an exhibit that aims to take the stories of women who have often been silenced and gives them a voice and a way to “turn oppression into empowerment.” 

The exhibit is based on Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book Half the Sky: Turning Oppresion into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, which addresses what Odum says is the “most urgent and basic human rights cause today—gender equality.” 

The book discusses everything from poverty and violence to infant mortality—all of which are issues with gender components that impact all people—not just women. 

“When you’re talking about women dying during childbirth, you’re talking about a group of people who are taking a part in creating our future—they’re bringing life into the world—but if we can’t save the child and we can’t save the women—it’s a travesty, so we have to work toward making sure that those women have that space,” Odum says. 

When the students first began the class, Odum says they didn’t know what to expect, but now they’ve learned about what it means to be a “change agent.” Instead of learning theory solely in the confines of the classroom, Odum’s students get to apply what they are learning to a real-world situation.

“Oftentimes, students are overwhelmed with the responsibility of ‘Now I have to go out and change the world,’ but I think from the class that they understand that maybe I don’t have to change the world today—I can change the world tomorrow," Odum says. "But changing the world is possible, and it’s possible for me to do it with the help of other people. I think it was a really good takeaway that they were able to receive—that the world can change and I can do my part, and it just takes one person. And then as a collective, we can start seeing change, and things can be different.” 

Do Good: 

• Interact with the XU students through their blog about Women Hold Up Half the Sky.

• View the exhibit at the Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

• Learn more about the Half the Sky movement and take action.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a teacher at the Regional Institute of Torah and Secular Studies. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.
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