Half the Sky: Facebook Game Raises Money For Women's Charities

BlogHer Original Post

If you had a dollar for every time you avoided work by playing Farmville, you could solve all the world’s problems, right? That’s basically the idea behind the new Facebook game based on Nick Kristof and Sheryl Wu Dunn’s book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. I’m not one for video games (don’t send me any requests on Farmville or Candy Crush) but I am a big fan of social justice – especially for women in developing nations in Africa, Asia and South America. So when I heard about the new "Half the Sky Movement" Facebook app, I was intrigued.

The game debuted today, in conjunction with International Women’s Day on March 8, and anybody with a Facebook account can play for free.

It’s got cute graphics. After all, one of the major sponsors is Zynga, and features five characters, women from India, Kenya, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and the US. When you log on, you’ll first play a storyline with the main character Radhika, an Indian woman who needs to make decisions for herself and her daughter. The game starts with Radhika’s husband saying they don’t have enough money to take their little girl to the doctor.

When you’re playing the game, you need to make decisions for your character. Remember Choose Your Own Adventure books? It’s like that, only in multimedia form for grownups—with situations that are unfortunately realistic for many women around the world.

Feminism? Fistula? Fun game, you might think, but it’s actually pretty entertaining. As I moved through the steps, Radhika and I decided that we could sell mangoes from the garden to raise some extra cash.

That led to a simple game in which I earned points by matching mangoes and cherries. It’s the kind of no-brainer thing you can do late at night when you’re puttering around on Facebook putting off writing articles (hi there!). And the better you are at the game, the more “coins” you earn, which can be used to pay for things your character needs – food, medical care, books. From the "Half the Sky Movement" press release:

“For example, players can collect books for young girls in the virtual world which activates a real-life donation to Room to Read supported by the Pearson Foundation (total of $250,000). Collectively, players also trigger funding from Johnson & Johnson for life-transforming surgeries through The Fistula Foundation (total of $250,000).”

In one session of playing Half the Sky Movement, I’ve helped Rhadika sell mangoes to take her daughter to the doctor and negotiated a trade with the medical clinic. And while it sounds quite ambitious, the game’s premise is that if lots of people played for a few minutes a day, all those points add up into major donations to charities that benefit women.

According to the developer, Games for Change Co-Presidents Asi Burak and Michelle Byrd:

“Around 300 million people play games on Facebook across the globe on a monthly basis. If we’re able to inspire a portion of this group of players to spend 15 or 30 minutes of their time with this game, the ripple effect of players’ actions will result in significant and much-needed funding for this critical cause.”

Do you play Facebook games? Would you play Half the Sky Movement? Try it out and tell us what you think!

News and Politics Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs at HapaMama and A Year (Almost) Without Shopping.

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