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Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide Paperback – June 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. New York Times columnist Kristof and his wife, WuDunn, a former Times reporter, make a brilliantly argued case for investing in the health and autonomy of women worldwide. More girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century, they write, detailing the rampant gendercide in the developing world, particularly in India and Pakistan. Far from merely making moral appeals, the authors posit that it is impossible for countries to climb out of poverty if only a fraction of women (9% in Pakistan, for example) participate in the labor force. China's meteoric rise was due to women's economic empowerment: 80% of the factory workers in the Guangdong province are female; six of the 10 richest self-made women in the world are Chinese. The authors reveal local women to be the most effective change agents: The best role for Americans... isn't holding the microphone at the front of the rally but writing the checks, an assertion they contradict in their unnecessary profiles of American volunteers finding compensations for the lack of shopping malls and Netflix movies in making a difference abroad. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Critics, universally inspired by Half the Sky, used their reviews as an opportunity to take up its message. They praised not only Kristof and WuDunn's clear moral stance and explanation of the issues but also the way they combined individual women's stories and practical advice to give the book an optimistic tone. Reviewers pointed out some flaws, particularly the authors' focus on individual action (such as providing a list of hospitals and schools to direct charity to) while neglecting to criticize the policies of Western governments. As more than one reviewer pointed out, Saudi Arabia, a country with one of the worst records of oppressing women, is a U.S. ally. Nevertheless, critics encouraged readers to pick up Half the Sky, which, according to the Seattle Times, "will ignite a grass-roots revolution like the one that eliminated slavery." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I think this has to be the most important book - not just for women's rights globally but for human rights - published in my memory.
Kristof and WuDunn weave together a most compelling story of how culture and customs historically suppress women. They tackle many tough, taboo topics - for example honor killing. But more importantly, they champion the stories of heroic women worldwide wholly committed to changing the many evils of the status quo.
What is more, they posit a kind of general framework theory that the really important advances in human rights that are going to be made in the near future are going to be brought about by these entrepreneurial pioneering women. In essence, that the backbone of the human rights movement and of real change across all societies is going to be a direct function of brave women who give themselves permission to say "NO" to thousands of years of (to most Westerners) unimaginable oppressive cultural customs and who take it upon themselves to lead to a new way. Once you have read the book, it is very hard, if not impossible, to disagree with Kristof and WuDunn's general theme. To wit, the brave women of Iran who took to the streets to protest the results of the recent election.
Among many other "super" women, HALF THE SKY spotlights the following inspirational Ashoka Fellows:
· Sunitha Krishnan (India), founder of Prajwala, a citizen sector organization in Hyderabad, India, fighting forced prostitution and sex trafficking, rescuing women and children from sexual exploitation, incestual rape, sexual torture, and abuse in prostitution. Her organization helps former prostitutes learn vocational skills so they can move into new careers. "Prajwala" means "an eternal flame".
· Sakena Yacoobi (Afghanistan), founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning, a citizen sector organization providing teacher training to Afghan women, educating and fostering education for girls and boys, and providing health education to women and children. Her organization also runs fixed and mobile health clinics that provide family planning services. Sakena holds the distinction of having been Ashoka's first Afghan Fellow. Educating women and girls was banned under the Taliban and is controversial under Islamic law.
· Roshaneh Zafar (Pakistan), founder of Pakistani microfinance lender, Kashf. A former World Bank employee, she was inspired after a chance meeting with Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank. "Kashf" means "miracle" and Kashf is indeed fostering a miracle by leveraging microfinance to women to transform the role of women in Pakistani society and bringing about a poverty-free world. To date, Kashf supports 305,038 families in Pakistan, has disbursed $202 million, and has 52 branches nationwide.
I am not alone in my enthusiasm for this book! Last Tuesday, September 15, 2009 from 1:15 pm to 2:45 pm, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ("UNODC") will be hosting a panel discussion and booksigning with Mr. Kristof and Ms. WuDunn in the UN Trusteeship Council Chamber at UN Headquarters. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will deliver opening remarks. Every seat (550) in the Trusteeship Council Chamber was filled.
The buzz out there is that many people are coming and that everyone is very excited about the publication and significance of this extraordinary milestone work.
Five out of five stars. An absolute must read for anyone who cares about women's rights or human rights. A genuine eye popper that moves so fast, tackles so much that has hitherto been taboo and unmovable, and interweaves the unbelievably positive stories of the very heroic women already leading and creating change in a tapestry that is glimpse of a brave and very different, humanitarian new world.
Once you pick this book up, you will not be able to put it down. And once you have read it, you will be moved to help bring about tomorrow. Absolute proof that the glass (or the sky) is half full. We just have to give ourselves permission to make change. Or as Gandhi said, "we must be the change we wish to see."
BUY IT. READ IT. PASS IT AROUND.
Each HTS chapter focuses on a particular “issue” (sexual slavery, “honor” killings, femicide, acid attacks, rape as a warfare tactic, etc.), with the authors providing background, specific examples of some of the women and girls, and then a program (or more than one) that has helped. However, I do agree with some of the reviewers who were more critical of the authors’ journalistic rigor, faulting them for leaving out topics such as lack of sanitation as it especially affects women, or for not “honestly” portraying the realities of sexual slavery (saying that some of the prostitutes were in the business “willingly”; clearly, a 15 year old who was sold into slavery at age 6 cannot be called “willing” simply because she goes back into it when she can see no other option).
For my own criticisms, I wished that the authors had more vividly described the atrocity of genital mutilation, primarily because I don’t think they portrayed the subject in a way that adequately covered the long-term (life-long) suffering of the women.
I would also like to have seen them focus on America’s oppression of women, and for them to illustrate how the U.S. is moving two steps backward for every step forward in women’s reproductive rights. Perhaps that’s a topic all in itself, thus deserving its own book.
That said, the book was an excellent “Oppression of Women Around the World 101” primer, and I would hate for HTS’s detractors’ criticisms to dissuade others from reading HTS. Those of us who’ve taken this first “course” can now dig deeper through other books and more direct research.