Jamie Traverse's Reviews > Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof
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's review
Jun 14, 2012

it was amazing

Book Review
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's new book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity Worldwide has layed out a case for why empowering women in the developing world is both morally right and strategically imperative. Their essential message is that "Lifting Women, lifts the world." I couldn't agree more.
The book—a series of essays and anecdotes that work together—forms an argument in two parts. The first part argues that the oppression of women in (mostly) developing countries is a devastating and under-recognized injustice that’s the equivalent of slavery, and that demands a moral and political movement as focused and principled as the campaign against slavery to bring it to an end. The second discusses practical ways to create this movement and effect the change that’s needed.

Kristof, a New York Times columnist, and WuDunn, a former Times foreign correspondent who now works independently on multimedia projects involving women’s issues, make their first case effectively, drawing on their years of research (and it’s clear they know the subject and its complexities very well). They tell how women are promised work, then sold into sexual slavery and imprisonment, while authorities turn a blind eye. They tell how these women are beaten, and raped, and drugged if they try to resist the men who have bought them; how many contract AIDS from forced sex work without protection, and die in their twenties; and how returning them to families and normal life is complicated by shame and addiction. They tell how in some cultures it’s accepted practice for a man to rape the woman he wants to marry to force her to submit to him, and how in others it’s common for rape to be used as a weapon by criminals, or in family feuds—the perpetrators secure in the knowledge that shame will prevent the victim from reporting the attack to the authorities (and will often result in the victim’s suicide).

They describe how families and states fail to invest in education and healthcare for women, so that girls who could be an economic asset to their families and country instead end up controlled by and dependent on male relatives, undernourished and often dead at a young age from preventable diseases, or African women who suffer fistulas in childbirth (a painful, embarrassing condition, but curable by a simple operation) are abandoned to die on the edges of villages. They describe how some traditions that may be seen as oppressive, and are at least very dangerous to women’s health, like genital cutting, can become so ingrained in a culture that women themselves support them.

This book demonstrates the power to overcome and is an uplifting read. I would suggest this one to any of my peers and loved ones.

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08/21 marked as: read

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