Half the Sky

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Half the Sky is an intense and powerful book written by pulitzer prize winning journalists (and married couple) Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. They researched the plight of women all over the world, but specifically those in the countries that are especially oppressive to their women. Oppression towards women is found in many different manners -- human trafficking, sex slavery, maternal mortality, and all types of misogyny in general. Each chapter describes a different manner of oppression and outlines the life of a specific person in that situation. The second part of each chapter then describes some type of grassroots effort that has been made toward that effort and the results of it.

With equal parts sadness and inspiration, I read this book and felt proud to be a woman. But I also felt extremely lucky to be a woman who was born and raised in the United States; one who has never had to worry abut even a slight fraction of what these women deal with on a daily basis. The women profiled in this book possess unbelievable strength and resiliency. There were times all throughout the reading of this book that I realized the things I complain about on a regular basis are so trivial. These women are so courageous and ambitious. Even with everything they go through, when they are given an opportunity they take advantage of it to its full potential. A woman given the chance for an education doesn't just hope for a high school education (which is years more than the average woman in her area is educated) but aims, additionally, for a bachelor's, master's, AND a PhD. And here I am complaining about working 10 extra hours a week and then coming home to my nice, cozy home. I could learn a thing or two from these women.

Despite the sadness I found in these stories, and frustration in limited ability to help, I found myself gravitating toward the stories of these women and wanting to be more involved. The journalists who covered these stories are role models as well. Their passion in telling the truth of these women is admirable, especially considering all that they risked and put themselves through in finding these truths. In a video aired on Oprah, Nicholas Kristof showed an afternoon he spent with a warlord (in what country, I can't remember) talking about women's rights. What I found interesting in that video was how when the warlord asked Mr. Kristof to stay for dinner, there was fear and he tried to get out of it, saying it would be dark soon. This only exemplified to me that danger that he was in. I wouldn't be anywhere near as brave as he in searching out his information.

What I also found fascinating about this book was the look into how the women in these countries have been best helped. Rather than changing laws, getting the UN involved, etc., some of the most effective methods have been those at the grassroots level. The cultures of these countries are so different that it takes a bottom-up approach to teach and help the women. What the authors found regarding this was invaluable. The book ends with a chapter on what you can specifically do to help.

This is an important read for all women, but moreso for anyone who is interested in human rights. As the authors stated, an old Chinese proverb says that "women hold up half the sky"; more than being about women's rights, it is HUMAN rights that are at stake.

This book was given to me and my fellow therapist co-workers as a Christmas gift from our supervisor. It was definitely a wonderful gift and I highly recommend it!!


hcmurdoch said...

I got this for Christmas and am really looking forward to reading it. Thanks for the helpful review

Trisha said...

This sounds like a perfect book for the Women Unbound challenge. Ah, stupid book buying ban. Thanks for the review.

Jenny said...

hcmurdoch -- hope you enjoy it too!

Trisha -- I'm not in that challenge, but for those who are this would definitely be the PERFECT read!

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

I want to read this one!

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

I saw the episode of Oprah and was moved by the stories he told. I was imagining that it would be a great and powerful read.

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