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Women enrolled in Women for Women International’s programs in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Photograph by Les Stone, courtesy Gates Foundation.)

Edna Adan Ismail wanted to prevent women from dying during childbirth in her home country of Somaliland. It’s not easy for women in her region to get a higher education, but as one of the first women to get a scholarship to study in Britain, she was able to do that plus much more.

She returned as a midwife and set up a school to teach other young women her skills, and even opened the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital.

This is just one of the stories the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is featuring in a new exhibit called Women Hold Up Half the Sky, which opened to the public for the first time Thursday at the Gates Foundation Visitor Center at the Gates Foundation headquarters across from Seattle Center. Get a sneak preview of the exhibit in our video below.

The exhibit, on display until Jan. 27, is the first in a series of traveling exhibits temporarily hosted at the Visitor Center, complementing the permanent exhibitions at the  across from Seattle Center. It addresses the issue of gender inequality and oppression among women in an effort to show the spectators that there are solutions.

The inspiration came from a book called Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Pulitzer prize-winning journalists Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The book asserts that when women have equal access to health care and education, they invest it back into their communities.

According to the Half the Sky Movement website, women invest 80 cents of every dollar earned back into her family, while a man invests just 30 cents.

In addition to being a very global problem, the problems these women face are also going on in Seattle every day, says Aleen Adams, Curator of Exhibits for the Gates Foundation. “While a lot of the stories in this exhibition feature extreme examples of women in other countries, all of the themes of this exhibition exist in our local community, whether that’s domestic violence or child trafficking,” she said.

Adams also cited the census and said that every single day, there are up to 1,400 victims of domestic violence seeking shelter in King County and 800 calls to crisis support lines.

Rather than just showing the public the inequality gap, the Gates Foundation wants to use the exhibit to not only bring awareness to the problem, but to offer solutions to local neighborhoods as well.

“It is a unique hybrid of an exhibition and community engagement project, offering our visitors multiple opportunities to learn, share and connect around issues impacting women and girls locally and globally,” said Charlotte Beall, Deputy Director of the Visitor Center at the Gates Foundation.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is hosting a number of activities throughout the exhibit’s time in the Visitor Center. Partner Wednesdays connects people to local organizations like REST (Real Escape from the Sex Trade), and on the second Saturday of the month, visitors can take part in some more hands-on activities.

On June 28, the Foundation will host In Her Voice: Stories of Hope and Resilience to tell stories of Somali women like Edna Adan Ismail, as well as personal narratives from women who lived in Mexico and Burma.

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