Saturday, April 20, 2013
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Barnes & Noble
Two Pulitzer Prize winners expose the most pervasive human rights violation of our era—the oppression of women in the developing world—and tell us what we can do about it.
An old Chinese proverb says “Women hold up half the sky.” Then why do the women of Africa and Asia persistently suffer human rights abuses? Continuing their focus on humanitarian issues, journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn take us to Africa and Asia, where many women live in profoundly dire circumstances—and some succeed against all odds.
A Cambodian teenager is sold into sex slavery; a formerly illiterate woman becomes a surgeon in Addis Ababa. An Ethiopian woman is left for dead after a difficult birth; a gang rape victim galvanizes the international community and creates schools in Pakistan. An Afghan wife is beaten by her husband and mother-in-law; a former Peace Corps volunteer founds an organization that educates and campaigns for women’s rights in Senegal.
Through their powerful true stories, the authors show that the key to progress lies in unleashing women’s potential, that change is possible, and that each of us can play a role in making it happen.
***Trigger warning: this review contains information about sexual assault that may be upsetting to survivors***
I finished this book a few days ago, and it's taking me longer than expected to gather all of my thoughts and feelings.
First and foremost: Holy. Smokes.
I thought I'd dealt with some pretty crappy events in my life, but nothing compares to what hundreds of millions of women endure: sex trafficking; forced prostitution; government-sanctioned gang rape; female genital mutilation; maternal health and mortality; and brutal attacks. All based on gender. All because they are women.
As horrifying as the stories and statistics show, there also some incredible sources of inspiration: Mukhtar Mai, the young Pakistani woman who was gang raped as a form of "honor revenge" on the orders of a tribal council. Rather than commit suicide, as was expected of her, she pressed charges. Though her life was in jeopardy and the courts were less than helpful, she carried on. Even when then-President Pervez Musharraf threatened her, took away her passport, and put her under house arrest, she continued to fight.
The book is filled with such stories. And my sensitive self cried during most of them.
The book also lists different ways that individuals can help! The first thing I did when I finished listening to the audiobook? I set up a Kiva account. I am now the proud lender of four differing projects in four areas of the developing world. I can't change the whole world, but I can help individuals improve their own lives.