Book of the Week: ‘Half the Sky’

Half the Sky

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

2009, 294 pages



I consider myself privileged, compared to many. I’ve received a splendid education. So why is it that I had no idea of the worst horror of our times, discussed in Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide?

Did you know that:

More of the world’s women have died in the last 50 years, simply because they were women, than all of the soldiers in all of the battles of the 20th century.

“Far more women are shipped into brothels each year in the early 21st century than African slaves were shipped into plantations each year in the 18th or 19th centuries – although the overall population was of course far smaller then.”

One woman in the world dies every minute due to a lack of care during pregnancy and childbirth.

I have no statistics on rape – the numbers are so immeasurable. In much of the world it is a time-honored way of life. In some countries, the police gang-rape victims who report attacks! (The book gives many examples of this.). Most of the brutal facts in Half the Sky are presented through real-life, heart-wrenching stories. Mahabouba Muhammad’s is one of the most moving.

Married off and impregnated at the age of 13, she developed a fistula in delivery, as often happens to young girls after long, obstructed labor. It left her leaking excrement, so the villagers abandoned her in an open hut so hyenas would eat her at night. This incredible woman took a stick, and – at the edge of death’s door – beat the hyenas away. She then proceeded to drag herself for miles to the nearest hospital. Eventually, she even became a nurse, helping other girls in the same predicament.

This story illustrates a central premise of Half the Sky: Women are not the world’s problem, but the solution. Read it and your gut will seize, your fists will clench, your blood will boil. These problems are unpalatable, incomprehensible to most of us. But the book nonetheless thrusts them at us and says: “Do something!” I hope you will – even if it’s no more than picking up this book and informing yourself. Please, please, hop on the ship of reality with me. You can begin by watching the TED Talk about the revolutionary Half the Sky movement on YouTube.

Ingrid CullenConcord Public Library

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Author: Insider Staff

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