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Sep/Oct - Half the Sky (2016) > Notes, Ideas, Questions

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message 1: by Martin (last edited Oct 30, 2016 05:21PM) (new)

Martin Felando Half The Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

This book was an inspiration and I hope you find these notes helpful.

I must have written “unbelievable” or words to that effect over a hundred times after reading about what a girl or woman has endured or stats on what is currently happening.

At the end of the book is a list of charities, please take a look even if you can’t give time or money at this point in time, because maybe you could give some time in the future.

What to do and why: “If we educate and feed those girls and give them employment opportunities, then the world as a whole will gain a new infusion of human intelligence – and poor countries will garner citizens and leaders who are better equipped to address those countries challenges.”

The authors offered many solutions to the current crisis, including: fund girls’ education, iodize salt to prevent mental retardation, construct medical centers to end maternal mortality and eradicate fistula. Fund family planning and micro-finance, and end the current discrimination.

I liked the idea of being flexible when it comes to delivering solutions: “Be empirical and open to different strategies in different places.”

Educating girls is key to creating change, and it seems wise to establish which courses of study and/or teaching methods offer the girls the best chance to become change agents. Improving the girls’ diet will help them perform better in school. Which crops/new crops should be grown and distributed, which foods are most beneficial?

I wonder what would cause certain charities or organizations to move their activities out of the city and into the country where more real progress can happen. I think accountability to everyone in the field would cause some change, but this seems to be an issue that starts at the top, and I think change begins with transparency, a review of goals, and making adjustments where needed.

Seeing the progress in Brazil because of soap operas, using television to create social progress seems like a good idea. I wonder if offering tuition to promising writers in various countries would make a difference.

Read the story about Suad in the Acknowledgments section. If you ever wonder how you can put more meaning into your life, remember Suad and take action. Her story is about courage and dedication to a cause larger than herself. Self-improvement is important, improve yourself and the world and you make your life even more important.

The authors list 4 steps you can do right now to improve the world: Go to globalgiving.org, sponsor a girl or woman through Plan International, Women for Women, or American Jewish World Service, Sign up for email updates on womensenews.org, Join the CARE Action Network.

Some and certainly not all key women’s rights issues: gender inequality, lack of education and healthcare, sex slavery, honor killings, acid attacks, genital cutting, teen prostitution. Note the difference in Bangladesh compared to neighboring countries to see how education for girls can make a difference.

The authors mentioned how wealthy individuals could make a difference if they gave more donations to help girls and women abroad. Here are several ideas to turn that around:

1) Involve art auctions like Sotherby’s. What if at the middle or end of every major art auction there was a charity-themed auction? The auction would involve a plot of land and hospital/school construction costs in Africa or India and the highest bidder would receive recognition for funding the construction on that plot of land. The highest bidder would have the honor of having their name or names somewhere connected to the building or a section of the building.

2) Use online classes. To promote girl’s education, couldn’t Quizlet or online universities in the US and abroad donate/make teachers, students and school administrators aware of their courses?

3) When robots become more advanced, use them. Fifty years ago, we weren’t using smartphones and computers. Fifty years from now, we’ll be using robots in a variety of ways. What roles could robots fill to change the current gender inequality? What if robots were used to build housing, schools, and hospitals? Robots could administer medical care, teach classes, plant seeds and work fields, and replace prostitutes.

4) Set up a website or partner with affiliate sites that offers live performances, clothing, beauty, other home products owned by popular celebrities.

5) Storytellers can create characters involved in the women’s movement. Authors could mention Half The Sky, HeForShe or create characters donating money to women like Suad. Creative writing teachers in universities, book publishers, editors can be sent emails that showcase Half The Sky and express the idea that creating characters involved in helping gender equality can make a difference in the world. One way to get their attention when spreading the word is to mention that the sex slave trade in the 21st century is bigger than the transatlantic slave trade in the 19th century.

6) Regarding how to end honor killings and taunting. I think the answer is in shifting and redirecting demeanor and attitudes to end men taunting and injuring. Punish, educate, and turn instigators into spokesmen. This can be done in fictional stories to create a dialogue and build awareness that honor killing can be a thing of the past.

7) Journalism schools could offer grants to allow students to travel to those cities that have ineffective orgs, misdirected aid workers and dysfunctional charities and ask them tough questions.

8) Pop stars can write songs, and writers can tell stories warning teen girls about the dangers of sugar daddies and being infected with HIV. Same thing with men using condoms – make it cool to wear them. Could governments manufacture condoms to make them more affordable/free?

9) The authors made a good point in that people often gloss over the statistics, but become more involved when they read about a personal story. Would Apple arrange for certain revenue percentage go to a particular person in need? Example, a pop star could release an acoustic version of a once popular song from an old album: ‘Revenue from this song will go to Clara’s village in Rwanda.’

10) I wonder if there’s a movement on distributing discarded clothing to provide uniforms to keep girls in school. Instagram has massive, global meet ups, have they done something that involves helping charities?

Including more women as leaders in government will impact how well the world solves the major issues of the day. What can be done to accelerate this? My thoughts go to the assassinations of Pakistan’s former PM Benazir Bhutto, Afghan woman’s affairs official Najia Siddiqi and her predecessor Hanifa Safi in 2012, and other assassinations. I wish it wasn’t so, but there has to be a security component in this movement, and that includes targeting men who target women.

Interesting: Fortune 500 companies with more female executives outperformed companies with the fewest female execs.

Interesting: A movement needs awareness, emotions, and the gathering of evidence to show the world.

Interesting: I knew about William Wilberforce from the very good movie. I never heard of Thomas Clarkson.

Interesting: There are moments in life when you have to place your values above your interests. Praise to the people of Great Britain for ending the transatlantic slave trade.

Question: What’s the best way to form intellectual traditions in Pakistan and Afghanistan that model Bangladesh?

Question: Girls Learn is a successful charity. How can more US teens learn about charities like this?

Question: Is there a growing consensus that holding conferences, changing laws, and issuing reports aren’t effective as modeling successful campaigns like Tostan Kashf, and funding local leaders?

Question: Is there a new priority among charities and orgs that are underperforming to change their activities and focus on fieldwork where the needs/problems are greatest? What new rules/benchmarks could be initiated?

Question: Is Molly Melching being consulted by other charities to share best practices?

Question: Soap operas in Brazil helped improve conditions for women. Are there movies and TV shows in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India that have characters focusing on moderate passages in Koran that call for respect for women?

Question: What progress could be made if new interpretations of the Koran were widely distributed in fiction and non-fiction platforms?

Sad: In Africa, over 3 million girls are cut/mutilated in the genital area each year.

Bill Gates being applauded by women in Saudi Arabia: This story about Gates being well-received brings to mind the earlier passage involving a woman who said that Americans and others outside the Middle East should not involve themselves (“…these are our problems not yours. We don’t want anybody fighting for us”). Words and opinions can make a difference and well-known experts in various fields appear to be an acceptable authority on gender equality.

I agree with the authors, the US should model Britain and have a separate cabinet that oversees all foreign aid and development.

One approach that seems to work is empowering local leaders who change attitudes and beliefs resulting in less slavery, violence, cutting, and child marriages.

“We are neurologically constructed so that we gain huge personal dividends from altruism.” So true. Be part of something larger than yourself – after the work you’ll know you made a difference and you’ll be happier for it.


message 2: by Heather (new)

Heather | 0 comments You have some great ideas for building awareness! Thank you for sharing. This book was life-changing for me. High-School students in my children's high school are required to read this if they take AP Human Geography, so my two oldest boys read it before I did. I do not think that the typical American knows many/any of the facts reported in Half The Sky. Your ideas for pop-culture songwriters, story-tellers and businesses to read and share stories around these issues could help change that!


message 3: by Martin (new)

Martin Felando Thank you Heather and Emma!


message 4: by Ann (new)

Ann Girdharry (anngirdharry) | 89 comments Martin said, 'There are moments in life when you have to place your values above your interests...'

When I read that line in your post it made me shiver. So true.


message 5: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Watts | 21 comments Thanks for sharing your notes :-) Really enjoyed reading them, there is so much going on in Half the Sky that I had forgotten some really interesting points.


message 6: by Martin (new)

Martin Felando Thanks Ann and Ellen. If you could remedy one situation that you read about in the book, which would it be? Adding hospitals? Or?


message 7: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Watts | 21 comments I don't know about which one I would remedy if I had the absolute power to, but the chapter about maternal mortality and the discussion about it here has me thinking that this is the area where I can make some small contribution (through a charity like the fistula foundation or MSF). I didn't know how many women suffer terrible injury during childbirth which can be fixed with surgery that most don't have access to.

But then I don't want to focus just on healthcare when education is so important too. How about you Martin?


message 8: by Martin (new)

Martin Felando I first thought about hospitals, too. I think I would want to get as much current data on what is wrong, what is working, and who is making things better or worse. In essence first diagnose, then prescribe. Then get the local leaders and national politicians involved to bring together realistic people and people who can fund them. I would start with education, then healthcare, farming, and job training. I think my first priority would be finding out what schools and courses are working and model them.


message 9: by Anita (new)

Anita | 87 comments Martin, thank you for sharing this. Great comments and ideas!


message 10: by MeerderWörter (last edited Dec 03, 2016 02:37PM) (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments Martin wrote: "Half The Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

This book was an inspiration and I hope you find these notes helpful.

I must have written “unbelievable” or words to that effect over a hundred ..."


Martin, thank you for that lengthy comment. I am shocked about how many people face genital mutilation (because let's face it, that's what it is) in Africa in a year. That's horrible.

I'd go with you: education, health service, and then many issues would become better as a consequence, on which one can further work.

Now, MSF work in emergency situations, they don't do development aid, but I'm fine with that - we need people in the first row, fighting for better conditions where they are the worst.

Martin, you do have unusual ideas for solution, but often they are the best. Awareness is such a huge and important issue, we need more of it!


message 11: by Martin (new)

Martin Felando Thanks Meerder.


message 12: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments Martin wrote: "Thanks Meerder."

Don't worry, we will be able to tackle that problem.


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