updated 09/30/2012 AT 2:00 PM ET
•originally published 10/01/2012 AT 9:50 AM ET
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, where she meets with activist Amie Kandeh, a survivor of gender-based violence working with the International Rescue Committee to help other survivors toward safe, productive futures.