Thursday, October 27, 2016

Holding Up Half the Sky at the Illinois Holocaust Museum

The exhibit “Half the Sky” now at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, Illinois is definitely worth a visit.  I went to see it and it didn’t disappoint. The Holocaust Museum and the Evanston YWCA collaborated on it to increase public awareness of the many critical and sometimes life threatening problems that women face in parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

Skokie, a suburb just north of Chicago, is home to the largest concentration of Holocaust Survivors in the United States. In the 1970’s, out of about 70,000 residents, 7,000 were Holocaust Survivors and their families. Prior to the attempted march by Neo-Nazis through Skokie in 1976, many of those survivors had never spoken of their experiences. After that event, many realized that they had to speak out before it was too late to prevent another Holocaust from ever happening again and thus, the idea of the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center was born. A small archive had been open since the 1970’s, but the current museum building opened to the public in 2009.

 This exhibit is a great example of the Holocaust Museum’s collaborating with other organizations to bring awareness about current issues of racism. “Half the Sky” will be there until January 22, 2017.

“Women hold up half the sky” is a Chinese saying and the idea for the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sherry DuWunn. They give heart rending examples of problems that women face in countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East and some creative solutions that innovative, dedicated people have found and implemented to improve women’s lives in various locales. One of the most well known of these is extending micro-loans to women so that they can start their own small home-based businesses. These loans have enabled many women to become self-sufficient and support their families. In some instances, it has enabled women to thrive and in turn help other women.

While I had read Half the Sky several years ago, I still found it worthwhile seeing the exhibit at the Holocaust Museum. Not only does it discuss various solutions, it also displays many pictures of these women and videos of the women talking about how they’ve participated in the program and how it has impacted their lives. Many of the women shown had to risk their safety to participate. Others have dedicated their lives to some life-saving programs. It is inspiring to hear them.

 The Holocaust Museum forbids picture taking in any of their exhibits so I have none to share with you.. You’ll have to go there and see for yourselves.     

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