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Half The Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide


By Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn

Nicholas Kristoff and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, are the first married couple to win the
Pulitzer Prize for the writing they did on China as New York Times correspondents.  They
additionally won the 2009 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Lifetime Achievement, and many additional prizes collectively and individually.  With credentials like these, it’s no
surprise that Half the Sky (Vintage Books, a division of Random House), is a stunning
book that addresses the painfully difficult lives that women in much of the developing
world face on a daily basis.

Half the Sky delves into the horrors of female slavery, forced prostitution, maternal
mortality, and rape as a weapon of warfare, clearly not light reading.  That said, this book
is remarkable in that it examines these issues through stories of real people they met and
worked with while visiting the regions where these disturbing conditions are rampant.

The stories aren’t just about defining what is occurring.  Rather, they examine what has
been effective in resolving these complex issues as well as what hasn’t worked. They then
discuss alternative solutions that can and have made a difference.

This is a book about hope and possibility.  Through their clear and powerful writing, you
will be drawn into the lives of women caught in the cycle of poverty and oppression who
break free and are empowered through programs started and run by other women and
men.  Women and men like ourselves, who decide something must be done, that there are
solutions, whether it’s running safe houses for women freed from forced slavery and
prostitution or raising funds for women’s health care in the developing world after it was
cut by the Bush administration.

I was especially interested by how the authors examine the problems inherent with our
concept of what will help, concepts based upon our own cultural biases or lack of
understanding of the deeper issues that are far from the realm of our own experiences.
And sometimes there are solutions that should work but don’t.  Understanding this reality
can expand our consciousness and ideally trigger new ways to affect change

Half the Sky ends with Four Steps You Can Take in the Next 10 Minutes and an
appendix listing organizations supporting women.  You can also learn more about the
stories of the women, how you can get involved and learn more about Nicholas Kristoff
and his coverage of current issues at their website.

I really encourage readers of this review to read this very important book.  Being
informed empowers us to be the difference we wish to see.

Patricia Rain
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