Half the Sky: turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide

The following is a review requested by a priest and written for a church newsletter....I have a lot more thoughts, which will be addressed in future posts, but this ought to be a decent introduction, at least.
“[S]ex trafficking and mass rape should no more be seen as women’s issues than slavery was a black issue or the Holocaust was a Jewish issue. These are all humanitarian concerns, transcending any one race, gender, or creed.” This assertion is the driving force behind Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s latest book, Half the Sky: turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide.

While most couples start their marriages discussing what color to paint the living room or how to divide chores, Mr. Kristof and Ms. WuDunn moved to China as New York Times correspondents. They witnessed the Tiananmen Square massacre and were horrified. That initial shock was soon dwarfed by the discovery that each year 39,000 infant girls die in China because parents do not consider them worthy of the same medical attention infant boys receive. They began investigating the problem and discovered that at least two million girls worldwide disappear because of gender discrimination. Based on birth rates, it is estimated that there should be between 60 million and 101 million more women present in the world. Kristof and WuDunn claim that this unnoticed “gendercide” is the great moral issue of our century-comparable to slavery and totalitarianism in previous generations.

The authors have logged many hours both in the library and in on ground interviews, and the result is a thoroughly documented account of the state of women’s lives in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. It’s a difficult book to read, as they address human trafficking, infanticide, neglect of maternal health, and the use of rape as a war tactic. However, the darkness is penetrated by inspiring accounts of the transformation of devastated women into leaders for their communities and providers for their families. Half the Sky is filled with the promise that large scale change is possible and the hope that it will begin to occur soon. Mr. Kristof and Ms. WuDunn provide an honest assessment of what aid groups are presently doing and how it can be improved. They also provide a lengthy list of organizations and projects where readers can connect. Half the Sky is both a call to action, and a tool to achieve change. As children of Christ who are called to “shine as lights in the in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation,” (Phil 2:15) this is a book we should take seriously.


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