Gallery Visitor Jane Roberts Seeking 34 Million Friends

Women Hold up Half the Sky has been attracting a lot of amazing folks who are involved in organizations that work on behalf of women and girls. On any given day, we seem to bump into activists exploring the exhibition and sharing stories during their visits.

One day, a Skirball docent stopped me in the hallway to tell me that a woman “who was in the book”—that is, Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky—was in the gallery. The docent was referring to Jane Roberts, who is featured prominently in chapter 8 on family planning and maternal health. I went to the galleries to welcome Jane to the Skirball and to learn more about her remarkable life’s work.

Hear Jane Roberts talk about her impactful 34 Million Friends movement,
“I believe that when the world takes care of women, women take care of the world.”

Jane shared that she was upset to learn that during President George W. Bush’s first administration, the U.S. was withholding $34 million from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) because of false claims that the organization funded coercive abortions as part of its family planning program. UNFPA does much to help women by promoting reproductive health, prenatal care, and safe deliveries. Jane felt that something should be done to restore the withheld funds so that women needing maternity resources could receive them.

In 2002, Jane started a movement, working with another incensed American, Lois Abraham, to raise the missing $34 million. They are asking people to donate one dollar each. To date, 34 Million Friends of UNFPA has raised over $4 million that goes directly to UNFPA. In 2005, in recognition of their efforts and accomplishments, Jane and Lois were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize!

Jane Roberts—who has worked for years in Redlands as a college and high school French teacher—came to the Skirball with her friend Alassane Sy from Senegal. Jane met Alassane in 2011 at a conference on early forced marriage. Alassane was vitally interested in this subject because his parents had married off his sister at the age of fourteen despite his protestations that she was too young.

Jane’s story inspired me. It really shows how one person can make a difference in this complex struggle to improve the plight of women and girls. She’s a hero!

Hear Jane Roberts speak inside the Women Hold Up Half the Sky gallery on Sunday, March 18, at 2:30 p.m. Included with Museum admission.

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Posted in Around Campus, Exhibitions, Museum, Women Hold Up Half the Sky and tagged , , .

About Adele Lander Burke

Adele Lander Burke is Vice President, Learning for Life, at the Skirball. She creates and manages the Skirball’s adult continuing-education initiative, providing opportunities for adults to learn for learning’s sake, one of the greatest pleasures in life. Her portfolio also includes docent training for adult tours, an extension of the free-choice learning model that she enjoys developing. Originally from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Adele considers herself an honorary Los Angeles native after living here for thirty-six years. And yes, her favorite performer is Adele!

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