My review of the Half the Sky documentary for MMW last month made little mention of any redeeming aspects of the film. On the whole, I felt that the film was sadly overshadowed by the American actresses—and George Clooney!—who accompanied and provided commentary for the Nicholas Kristof production. It became more about the celebrities than the actual women from around the world—a damning example of exactly how not to discuss the health and well-being of women from around the world.
While I still stand strongly behind the premise of my original review, I want to focus here on what I felt did work well in the film—when women were told their stories on their own terms without the visiual interference of a celebrity’s reaction. Granted, these moments were few and far between; Kristof and a celebrity were always close at hand to appear in a frame. But when those sweet, unencumbered moments occurred—where women and girls could speak on their own terms without the interference of anyone else—their stories of their challenges, overcomings, and empowerment were incredibly affecting.
As I was laid up with a cold this weekend, I rewatched the portion of the film that focused on the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital in Somaliland (the film is now available in the US on Netflix streaming). The documentary shared that Somaliland, an officially unrecognized state, faces some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world; Kristof states that there is a “one out of twelve lifetime risk of dying in childbirth” there. Women are overwhelmingly affected by their experience of female genital mutilation as girls, which lead to complications when they become pregnant and it comes time to give birth.
Edna Adan’s work in Somaliland—her dedication and passion for maternal health—is rightly declared as a “force of nature.” [Read more...]