Many women and children in developing countries have very limited opportunities to shape their futures. Their are countless tragic stories of abuse, intolerance, oppression, and suffering that because of their diminished voice go unnoticed by the rest of the world. Half the Sky Movement is a transmedia initiative that was created to shed light on the struggles of mothers, young girls and their families in countries like Cambodia, Kenya, India, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan. The project has received the support of celebrities like Diana Lane, America Ferrara and Olivia Wilde. What makes this initiative so appealing and powerful is how it combines different forms of media to share stories, raise awareness, and find solutions to a host of serious gender-based injustices.
Why the Half the Sky Movement Exists
Women in many parts of the world face specific abuse and crimes that continue to impact the daily lives of them and their children. In some of the countries mentioned previously, women often do not have equitable opportunities for real education nor security in a stable economic future- Women perform two thirds of the world’s total working hours but only earn 10% of wages. Statistics on school dropout rates are also dismal (according to Half the Sky, 1 out of every 5 primary school-age girls around the globe are not in school) This ultimately contributes to a cycle of illiteracy and poor career opportunities.
Without access to proper medical care, women often face a high risk of dying from complications related to pregnancy. Women are also victims to severe gender-based crimes such as rape and other forms of social, mental, and physical abuse. The exploitation of women as prostitutes by sex trafficking rings continues to be a growing global problem and in many cases, the laws in their countries fail to protect them from harm and often work against their interests.
Without resources and opportunities to change their own circumstances, the direct and indirect oppression of women continues to be a systematic and cyclical gross injustice.
To combat this and transform lives, The Half the Sky Movement aims to cut “… across platforms to ignite the change needed to put an end to the oppression of women and girls worldwide, the defining issue of our time (Half the Sky Movement).”
So how do they do this?
The Half the Sky Movement combines several media platforms that shape public discourse and action on these issues. They’ve published a book, a PBS television series, a website and blog, a film, and several Facebook and mobile games.
Their three mobile games educate children and young adults in developing nations about important health and social issues. These include specific lessons such as getting rid of intestinal worms, managing a successful and healthy pregnancy, and important information on larger social issues such as education, gender-equality, and marriage.
While the core elements of these games are focused on providing support to women and children, the Facebook game (supported by organizations such as the Ford Foundation, Zynga.org and Intel) is intended to raise money and resources to empower women.
How The Half the Sky Game Makes A Difference
The interactive story of the Half the Sky game on Facebook features a young married woman in India with two children named Radhika. Players help her make choices that will enable her to earn the money she needs to improve the quality of life for herself and her family across diverse areas such as health, education and economic opportunities.
In a number of progressive scenarios throughout the game, Radhika will need to choose between taking a proactive approach to solve a dilemma, or not speaking up and taking a more subtle route instead. Players are able to elevate their rankings and secure different titles for the character such as activist, advocate and leader.
Besides helping Radhika navigate different social situations, there are also fun mini-games that keep the player interested and involved in her life. These are simple games that require basic strategic thinking which ensures that users receive regular gratification.
The game also features currencies that allow players to obtain special boosts. These include more time to complete games, and mega-linking abilities, and score boosters which garner more points and therefore higher status (for Radhika and you).
As Radhika accomplishes different objectives and secures more opportunities for herself, she is able to expand the scope of her journey while meeting new people in Kenya, Afghanistan, Vietnam and the United States- which is the game’s final destination.
Most importantly, at any point in the game, players are able to make direct donations to support the movement. The gameplay reinforces this action by connecting fun objectives with parallels in the real lives of women and children across the world. Let’s explore this further.
What Makes the Half the Sky Facebook Game so Unique
While other non-profit causes have developed games to help raise funding, Half the Sky uniquely allows players to unlock and contribute actual donations (in the form of goods) that are related to the content of the story. This is much like the idea of buying a pair of Tom’s shoes where every purchase secures a new pair of shoes for a child in need.
The concept of contributing tangible goods has a stronger appeal for many people as opposed to monetary funds which can go towards more nebulous areas like administrative costs.
Books are one example within the Half the Sky game. As a player completes a mission, he or she is able to unlock a book as a prize that will actually be donated to a person in need. Through collaborative partnerships, the book is donated by the Pearson Foundation and is distributed by the organization, Room to Read.
Another example of this unique game-prize-to-real-donation can be seen with goats. Within the story, if you buy a goat to help start an income generating business, Heiffer International will actually donate a real goat to a real family. This organization is dedicated to providing livestock, trees and seeds to needy recipients around the world.
Games for Change
All of us distinctly know the feeling of helplessness when we are shown images of suffering from those we cannot reach. One of the great things about gamification is the ability to create systems that enable participants to engage in actions that lead to positive change more consistently and at larger scales.
Half the Sky is the first executive produced game by Games for Change. It’s co-founder, Asi Burak captures the possibilities of games in addressing real social problems: “We’re used to dealing with serious issues in movies and books, but there can be very little impact beyond awareness. For better or for worse, what we’ll experience with this new frontier will be very, very different.”
Since its launch, Half the Sky has attracted over 1.1 million players on Facebook; 250,000 books have been donated; $163,000 in fistula surgeries have been performed; and $450,000 was raised by players in the form of sponsored and direct donations.
Half the Sky is a powerful platform which connects people to people by raising awareness and making it easier to take action. It’s a unique model which connects in-game items with their real world counterparts through an innovative donation distribution system (think if Farmville employed this with it’s crops!) You can expect to see more of these mechanics employed as gamification continues to grow as a promising method for generating real world action.