Half The Sky

Half the Sky bookHalf the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide This is a book every woman should read (and then hand to the men in your life). Pulitzer-winning authors, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn succeed in the difficult task of informing us of some of the world’s worst ills against women and girls, without sending us into complete depression. A significant portion of the book describes hope in action.

Half the Sky calls us to pay attention…to notice and not turn away because the subjects are difficult. Too many of the daily trials women face, slip under the radar—even though, as the Chinese proverb says, “Women hold up half the sky.”

Kristof and WuDunn tell the stories of real people: the injustices as well as some successes.

An idea of some of the issues they cover in Half the Sky:

  • Human trafficking/forced prostitution (An issue that pulled at my heart; so I now write for A21 Carolinas, an affiliate of the A21 Campaign.)
  • Rape as a weapon for submission—whether for sexual slavery; to compromise and shame a girl/woman into marriage; or to intimidate those who challenge social customs of subservience
  • Practice of throwing acid in a woman’s face if she rejects a man, or a man wants to get rid of his wife
  • Gender discrimination: in poor families (particularly in certain developing countries) girls often aren’t vaccinated; don’t receive medical care or the same amounts of food as their brothers. Also there are many sex-selective abortions
  • How both men and women absorb cultural norms and accept customs harmful to women
  • Women’s health: how many die in childbirth or have horrific complications like fistulas, which often result in stigmatization by their communities.

Kristof and WuDunn state the best way to combat poverty is to empower women. Here are a few of their suggestions in how this can be done:

  • Promote teens and college students to see the world firsthand. To volunteer. It’s thought they will be more likely to stay abreast and involved in issues they have witnessed or can relate to in countries they’ve been, and later do something about it.
  • Support local women’s endeavors
    • Education
    • Micro-enterprise
    • Skills training
    • Women’s health
  • Promote awareness
    • Educate yourself
    • Facebook, Twitter, talk to your friends about whatever issues matter most to you. (Never know, even if you can’t become actively involved, they might).
    • Know the warning signs and pass them on
      • As many as 17,500 are trafficked in the States each year. So, it’s here..not just in other countries.

Sheryl WuDunn gives a great talk on TED about Half the Sky. This is an important book for our time!

If you’ve read this book, what did you think of it? How do you handle reading difficult subject matter? Which, if any, of these issues speak to you?


6 comments on “Half The Sky

  1. I can’t begin to understand the horrific acts women in oppression and human trafficking have endured. I am also a supporter of A21 and their efforts to bring awareness, while restoring hope. As I am in grad school to become a counselor, I am interested in methods that can bring healing to these women. I heard an interesting take on this recently…of most value is to help these women gain confidence and hope for a better future – understanding they are not defined by their past.

    On the same topic, Matt Damon narrates a powerful story on PBS that discusses how some very strong women came forth to testify against the systemic rapes that occured in the Balkans as a distorted means of “ethic cleansing.” http://www.pbs.org/wnet/women-war-and-peace/full-episodes/i-came-to-testify/

  2. I have so much respect for the women who come forward. Man, does that take guts. As you mentioned, so much has to do with a belief in themselves and a future that could be better. Undue guilt and shame keep down so many; it’s heartbreaking.

    I’ll have to check out the Matt Damon piece. Thanks!

  3. I think it’s generally udrenstood that the agencies, donors, and volunteers are filling in a gap left by men, and that is taking care of women and children.In many countries, women have limited rights and little control over funds, so they’re prevented from accessing healthcare (especially prenatal care), food, and other necessities. Because of warfare, economic problems, or cultural restrictions, they might be unable to support themselves because education and/or jobs are inaccessible. Even when things are bad for men, they’re going to be worse for women (who are the ones most burdened with worrying about children too).In addition, women generally hold to ideas of communal responsibility and reciprocal aid: they expect others to help them and to help others in return. (Think of colonial-era gossips. Think of the bridal or baby shower in our own culture.) Men, on the other hand, are expected to take care of themselves and not burden others so much.So, people naturally worry about women and children being oppressed and not having opportunities or getting access to aid. People understand that women are there helping each other care for children, the sick, and the elderly, while the men are out at guerrilla bootcamp. If organizations talked about men all the time, people would wonder if the aid was actually helping or just making things worse.Fair? Maybe not. But you’ll have a difficult time trying to convince the public that men need to be taken care of just as much as women and children.

    • So sorry! Just found your comment in the spam folder. Your statement, “Even when things are bad for men, they’re going to be worse for women…” is sadly true.

  4. Pingback: Sheryl WuDunn: Our Century’s Greatest Injustice « Healthy, Happy Living


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