A Review – Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Cover based on design by Chip Kidd
Cover Images (sky): Wes Thompson
Flirt Photography/Veer
 (faces) Nicholas Kristof

Statistics do not reach people, stories do. Award-winning journalists Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the first married couple to win the Pulitzer Prize, learned this truth long ago. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, is not merely a book, it’s a movement with a mission: educate people about the impact of gender discrimination, and encourage them to act.

The authors deftly link the struggles of women and girls in both the developing and developed world to an insidious hatred that contributes to the continuation of sexual slavery, genital mutilation, high rates of maternal mortality and other ills. There are often few support systems for victims in developing countries, and so the cycle often continues. Yet there are pockets of change in every country. Women and girls are empowering themselves, working towards solutions.

Still, if we are ever to end the nefarious practices which gender discrimination breeds, it will require a collective effort. Throughout the book, thorough research and analysis are combined with features of countless women and girls, who once silenced, now seem to leap off the pages. Their determination to create a more just world is palpable. As I continue reading, the words of the great poet Lucille Clifton linger: “Come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed.”

            Readers soon meet the incomparable Mukhtar Mai of southern Punjab in Pakistan, victimized by not only the trauma of her brother’s gang rape, but later her own. Courageously defying tradition, Mai reported her attackers to the police, some were jailed; she later received compensation from the government. Mai used the money to begin a school, and although her passion to educate the children of Pakistan has not been without its challenges, she has continued to fight. Supported by additional funding from donors, Mai has founded several organizations, and inspired others including her father and brother.

Edna Adan, also deeply committed, built a hospital in Somaliland using her life savings and pension, along with donations from The Friends of Edna’s Maternity Hospital. Today, amid the struggle there, the hospital stands, a testament to Adan’s unwavering faith. Its mission, as stated plainly on the website is “to improve maternal and infant health care, and fight the practice of female genital mutilation.” Adan takes no salary, lives in a small apartment within the hospital, all the while striving to save lives, and end the country’s high maternal mortality rate.

There are countless other women highlighted, who like Mai and Adan, speak to the universal generosity and resilience of the human spirit. As the book concludes, readers, now armed with facts, but more importantly a deeper understanding of the issues facing women, will likely feel compelled to act.

Kristof and WuDunn have outlined “Four Steps You Can Take In Ten Minutes,” along with an appendix which lists organizations working on a variety of issues impacting women and girls. The challenges confront us all, but they are not insurmountable. If we choose to ignore them, we do so at our own peril.

For additional information:
Visit the Half the Sky Movement website at http://www.halftheskymovement.org/.

Emelda De Coteau
Follow Me:

Leave a Reply