1 October 2012 6:50 AM, PDT | PEOPLE.com | See recent PEOPLE.com news »

With a visit to Sierra Leone, Eva Mendes is helping raise awareness about serious issues affecting girls and women around the world. Based on the best-selling book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the new series Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide introduces Mendes and other stars, including America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union and Olivia Wilde to women and girls living under difficult circumstances, ranging from maternal death to prostitution. Mendes, 38, kicks off the four-hour series - airing Oct. 1 and 2 at 9 p.m. Et on PBS - with her visit to Sierra Leone, »

- Maggie Coughlan

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