A few weeks ago, Anchal had the opportunity to screen a pre-release of Half the Sky. This small sampling of the film was, in itself, so moving that it inspired myself, along with family members, friends, coworkers, and numerous strangers, to watch the 2 day, 4 hour film when it premiered on PBS. As the last credit rolled off of the screen, I was left in awe. I always knew that women faced discrimination across the globe, but what I hadn’t realized was the extent to which this discrimination affected their lives. Rape. Slavery. Abuse. These women have endured horrors that are hard for most of us to even imagine. Fortunately, some of them are able to overcome these horrors in the midst of ongoing oppression thanks to organizations like Anchal and the other NGO’s featured in Half the Sky, such as New Light. Unfortunately, not all of them are lucky enough to have that opportunity.
For those women who are unable to get out, they often live a life of exploitation, cruelty, and pain. Many are impregnated leading to their death. Others are attacked during long commutes by bike. Then there are the women who face direct physical abuse, leading to their demise. Several of these atrocities could be prevented if it weren’t for two major factors: a lack of education and a lack of healthcare. As a designer, I often look at these types of issues as something I don’t have much control over. But I also realize that many of the decisions that I make in my career will have the ability to effect positive social change; social change such as that being created by MASS Design Group, a Boston-based architecture group that is building schools and hospitals in remote parts of third world countries.
The firm’s first endeavor was a hospital in Rwanda that was completed by three architecture students, one of which was Michael Murphy, the co-founder of MASS. This hospital not only provided much-needed healthcare for locals, it was also built using local materials (minimizing its environmental impact) and employed over 270 people (providing job opportunities). With the success of one project behind them, Michael and his team moved forward creating more hospitals and some schools as well. They now have three offices and multiple buildings under their belt, which has resulted in improved healthcare, better education, and more job opportunities in numerous countries. Plus, all of their buildings have a focus on sustainable design, using local materials and utilizing the surrounding landscapes for heat, sunlight, and water. With every facility they create, these architects are allowing fewer women to die from pregnancy complications that can be easily fixed. They are allowing more women the opportunity to get an education for a career other than prostitution. They are effecting positive social change in areas where it is most needed, and they are doing it through design.
To learn more about the amazing work done by MASS Design Group, you can visit their website at http://www.massdesigngroup.org/