Book Review: Half the Sky
Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
This is one of the most thought-provoking and interesting books I have ever read. Half the Sky looks at the most appalling human rights violation happening right now as you read this – the oppression of women in the developing world. According to husband and wife Pulitzer Prize-winning writing team 100 million women are currently ‘missing’. By ‘missing’ they are referring to baby girls in third world countries who are deliberately killed simply because they are female. They are referring to young girls who get sick but whose parents only choose to take their sons to the doctors, so they die of treatable illnesses. It refers to young women sold into sexual slavery who eventually die of AIDS after being forced to work in brothels. They refer to so-called ‘honour’ killings. The authors also look at shocking statistics of maternal mortality in poor nations. ‘Women are not dying because of untreatable disease. They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving.’
The statistics and abuse of this 21st century ‘gendercide’ in Half the Sky are shocking. The authors say that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years than all the men killed in the battles of the twentieth century. What sets this book apart, however, is the solutions that the authors promote and the courageous stories of women in poor countries who have survived rape and torture, neglect and scorn, to go on to find personal happiness and also contribute in a meaningful way to their communities.
The title Half the Sky refers to a proclamation by Chairman Mao when he said: ‘Women hold up half the sky.’ And there is ample evidence in the book that by helping women in poor countries people help the entire community – and it seems the most valuable results occur at the grassroots level. For example, micro-finance for women to take loans for small businesses so they hold the family purse and feed and educate their children has proven results. And in particular, educating girls in turn means they are less like to be married young and die in childbirth, or to be a target of sex traffickers who usually prey on uneducated ‘peasant’ girls.
Read this extraordinary book – this really is essential reading if you are concerned about what is going on in the world. Despite the difficult subject matter, this is a book of hope and optimism, with compelling strategies to help make a real difference.