Monday, August 5, 2013

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Title:  Half the Sky:  Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
Author:  Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Publication Information:  Vintage Books, Random House, Inc. 2009. 296 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book on the recommendation of a friend. She was nice enough to lend me her paperback copy.

Favorite Quote:  "So let us be clear about this up front:  We hope to recruit you to join an incipient movement to emancipate women and fight global poverty by unlocking women's power as economic catalysts. That is the process under way - not a drama of victimization but of empowerment, the kind that transforms bubbly teenage girls from brothel slaves into successful businesswomen. This is a story of transformation. It is change that is already taking place, and change that can accelerate if you'll just open your heart and join in ...  The question is how long that transformation will take and how many girls will be kidnapped into brothels before it is complete - and whether each of us will be part of the historical movement, or a bystander."

The title of this book, Half The Sky, is from a quote from Mao Tse-Tung. He said, "Women hold up half the sky." It is generally interpreted as a recognition of the power and place of women in our civilization. This book speaks about the oppression of women around the world. It does not address each and every issue of women's lives around the world. It focuses on three particular issues - prostitution and the sex trade; violence against women including rape and honor killings; and mortality in childbirth.

Turn by turn, the book addresses each issues with story upon story of the atrocities around the world. Meena who was kidnapped at age eight and sold in the sex trade. Kalma who was gang raped ten days after giving birth. Prudence who died in childbirth because of an untreated infection. And so many more.

The book also has stories of success - of women who helped themselves and those around them, of individuals who went in from the outside to help, and of organizations that work tirelessly to bring about change. Neth who was rescued from a brothel and found a life beyond. Usha Narayne who stepped forward as a leader in her home in the slums of India. Sakeena Yacoobi who runs the Afghan Institute of Learning. Ann Cotton, a Welsh woman, who founded Campaign for Female Education to help girls in Africa. And so many more.

Within the context of these stories, the book describes broader patterns and concepts. The role of religion to incorrectly justify violence. The change required in cultural paradigms. The impact of supporting grassroots movement versus outside aid.

Finally, the book issues a call of action with specific recommendations of how any person anywhere can be a part of the solution. To support the call to action, the book was made into a PBS movie and now finds its home at the following website:

A book full of information about a critical topic. It is not an easy book to read - with the number of stories, the amount of information, and the seriousness of the topic. I had to gradually make my way through it, but I am glad I did.

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