Innovative Advocacy: Half the Sky

Firesteel Director Erin Murphy interviews Sheryl WuDunn co-author of “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide”

Written by Kelsie Reidy, Firesteel marketing Intern

Hello, my name is Kelsie Reidy and I am the Firesteel marketing Intern working with Director Erin Murphy in the early launch stages of Firesteel!  It has been exciting seeing the growth of this program over the past two months of my involvement.  I have had the privilege of attending all three YWCA Inspire Luncheons and heard inspiring speeches from the special guests at these events.

In Seattle, Sheryl WuDunn shared her incredible experiences with women facing oppression around the world.  She recounted how these experiences became the foundation of her book, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide”.  Erin was able to sit down with Sheryl and hear her ideas about how to use social media and different innovative platforms to reach our audience.

Sheryl and her husband Nicholas Kristof’s travels took them to diverse countries, including Somaliland, Cambodia, and Afghanistan.  Throughout their travels, they encountered women who faced appalling oppression such as: sex trafficking and forced prostitution, gender-based violence, and maternal mortality.  While they came face to face with women suffering under such cruelty, they also found women who were confronting and overcoming their oppression.  Both Sheryl and Nicholas were consumed with not only the immense oppression that these women faced but also with the instances where women seized the opportunity to put an end to it.  In 2009, the two journalists published the bestselling book “Half the Sky.”  Although the book has had great success, the work of Sheryl and Nicholas has really just begun. Half the Sky is now an ongoing transmedia project.  That is, content from the book will be applied to multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies.  The goal is to amplify the impact of the book and to reach people in many different forms on a deeper level.

Here is a glimpse at the different platforms of this transmedia project:

Television Series

A 4-hour television series for PBS and international broadcast, shot in 10 different countries.  The series introduces women and girls who are living under extremely difficult circumstances and fighting to change them.

The Games

Mobile: Mobile phone networks have expanded globally and millions of people who cannot gain access to computers are able to use mobile devices for communication and data transfer.  The mobile games project will contain three games for India, Kenya, and Tanzania.  The games include “9 minutes” (healthy birthing practices), “Worm Attack!” (deworming awareness), and “Family Value” (highlighting the place and value of girls in their family).

Facebook: Games for Change, Facebook developers, and social media experts are developing a game that will turn game-play into real-world activism.  This will have a global reach and will transform digital engagement into real-world actions and micro-donations.

Monitoring & Evaluation: Both game projects will have an analytics system to evaluate the game involvement and progress.  They will develop how participants make progress in the games, where they get stuck, etc.  They will also track incoming donations and non-monetary actions.

Web Content

There will be two websites with Half the Sky content, and  These sites will have original and updated content about the movement and about Nick and Sheryl’s continuing efforts.  These sites will be engaging and enable user interaction.

Educational Tools

Through a partnership of Half the Sky and several NGOs, there will be a production of more than 20 short advocacy and educational videos on a variety of issues.  Each video will cover a specific critical issue.

Learn more about these transmedia platforms on the Half the Sky movement website! 

Here at Firesteel we are all about taking advantage of the innovative technology that exists today to advocate for issues such as putting an end to homelessness.  We are impressed with Sheryl and her extensive efforts related to innovative advocacy.  Social Media began as a fun pastime and has now become so powerful that it can be used in bigger ways to change global issues and impact our communities.  I look forward to seeing the development of the Half the Sky transmedia project and the vast impact that it will have.

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