Edye, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by Edye)
Not only do Kristof and WuDan brilliantly expose issues that women face all over the world...but they leave the reader with the feeling that something can be done to change the future. I myself felt as if I could make a difference after each and every chapter!
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MarlaSmith, October 14, 2009 (view all comments by MarlaSmith)
I am a long time reader of Kristof's NY Times columns, and so I had high expectations for this book. I believe in book's main premise: by empowering women and girls, we can change the world and help end poverty. However, I found it disappointing and shocking to read this entire book and not find a single story about water and sanitation. You can’t even find the word “water” in the index.
No doubt, the stories they tell are horrific and inspiring, and women living in poverty face obstacles that I can't even imagine.
But, as I read it, I felt it was more of a collection of anecdotes from Nick and Sheryl’s international travels rather than as advertised: a "must-read” about how we can end global poverty.
Having spent 19 years working in international aid, I don’t see how you can seriously talk about helping women in poverty and not mention water or sanitation.
For millions of girls from poor households, there is a straight tradeoff between time spent in school and time spent collecting water. For their mothers, time spent collecting water means they have little time for more productive work or rest.
Poverty and water are inextricably linked.
So I’m in! Let’s invest in women. I believe it will pay off. But we have to be smart about it. It makes no sense to me to invest in education in a community with no toilets or accessible, safe water supplies. It makes no sense to me to build a health clinic of any kind in a community without toilets or water either, because 80% of the illnesses that will come into that clinic will be caused by the lack of water and toilets. I’m also a believer in micro-lending, but I’ve met a lot of people who have defaulted on their loans in order to pay medical bills for a family member suffering from diarrhea.
I’m excited that people are talking about women and development. But I’m disappointed at this missed opportunity to talk about the vital links between water and sanitation and poverty and empowerment. We need to act appropriately to ensure that the lack of attention to water and sanitation does not undermine all other development goals.
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johantgen9220, September 20, 2009 (view all comments by johantgen9220)
I agree this is an important book about a very important subject. An easy read, hopeful dispite the heavy subject matter...along the lines of "Mountains beyond Mountains" and "Three cups of Tea" it's informative and inspirational. Please read this!
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TomBoone, September 20, 2009 (view all comments by TomBoone)
I was able to read most of an advance copy of this book before Bill Drayton (founder of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public) snatched it away and ran off with it on his annual 2-week hiking trip to the mountains.
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, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (“UNODC”) hosted a panel discussion and book signing with Mr. Kristof and Ms. WuDunn in the UN Trusteeship Council Chamber at UN Headquarters. All 550 seats in the Trusteeship Council Chamber were filled. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon delivered opening remarks. Special recognition goes to Simone Monasebian and Anna Rosario Kennedy of the UNODC for putting together this behemoth of an event.
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.
-Tom Boone, Ashoka: Innovators for the Public
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vsilliman, September 11, 2009 (view all comments by vsilliman)
The sensation I had as a reader of Half the Sky was of gravity becoming stronger, while also being endowed with the super powers to jump over the ocean.
Over-the-top? Yes, I'm sorry, let me dial it back.
Kristof and Wudunn have written a terrific book. I finished it several days ago and have been slowly telling everyone I know about it. I ordered the book because of my faith in Kristof, and yet I was anxious because I worried the book would not engage me even if I wanted to be engaged, or would shatter me with its information.
Kristof and Wudunn are master writers, and their ability to weave stories with the facts of situations in an entire village, country, generation, gender is incredible. They are overt in their desire to shape your thoughts and actions, which frees them up to simply write well and clearly, without any sense they are skewing facts.
The subititle :Women Turning Oppression into Opportunity is truly what this book is about. The stories of how some women overcome (from organizing a violent mass murder in the court room hearing of a victimizer to the young woman who was trafficked and now runs a school, or the women who have their own hospitals after once being near death themselves) are inspiring. Women are empowered in these stories, and so while this book is an invitation to join in the movement the authors see women who have faced oppression as primary directors in making a world-wide change.
The authors are insightful on the attempts and successes of foreign aid groups in working for the aid of women. They are very fair in supporting the work of religious groups, and giving credit where credit is due. They are aware of how some issues become controversial due to faith preferences, and do a very good job of suggesting various ways of supporting lower birth rates--such as providing young girls with new uniforms. Girls are shown to stay in school longer if they are provided with the appropriate clothing, and when they stay in school longer they don't have children at such a young age, reducing numbers, as well as fatalities. Because of their awareness, and respect this is a book that could easily shared with your conservative parents or friends.
The book is shattering, even with a peripheral knowledge and understanding of the worldwide oppression of women these stories drew me in to the sometimes revolting realities of oppression that are beyond what I had imagined. I was astounded at the numbers and the statistics, but not uselessly. The stories that are told in this book are some of the greatest triumphs of our time, these women are heroes who can lead us closer to peace. The stories of these women made me listen. The authors reformatted how I think about the priorities of our world and day.
Read the book, read it now. And then do something.
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Knopf Publishing Group -
by Michal D.,
In this thought-provoking and profoundly inspiring book, Kristof and WuDunn reveal the cruel and maddening reality faced by women who experience violence and oppression. Half the Sky will stir feelings of admiration and discomfort, and hopefully sow the seeds of humanitarian activism.
by Michal D.
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"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.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by New York Times,
"[T]his gripping call to conscience...tackles atrocities and indignities.... But the poignant portraits of survivors humanize the issues, divulging facts that moral outrage might otherwise eclipse."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"Kristof and WuDunn forcefully contend that improving the lot of girls and women benefits everyone.... Intelligent, revealing and important."
"Kristof and WuDunn reinforce the truth behind the terrible statistics with passionately reported personal stories...including a final chapter suggesting how readers can help."
Two Pulitzer Prize winners issue a call to arms against our era's most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women in the developing world.
An exciting new voice offers a fresh portrait of Africans thriving in the face of adversity, showing the way forward for development on the continent and beyond.
A call to arms against our era's most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women in the developing world.
With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as our guides, we undertake a journey through Africa and Asia to meet an extraordinary array of women struggling under profoundly dire circumstances: a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery; an Ethiopian woman left for dead after a difficult birth; an Afghan wife beaten ruthlessly by her husband and mother-in-law. But we meet, as well, those who have triumphed — a formerly illiterate fistula patient who became a surgeon in Addis Ababa; an Indian woman who saved herself and her children from prostitution — and those who make it their work to provide hope and help to other women: the victim of gang rape who galvanized the international community and created schools in rural Pakistan; the former Peace Corps volunteer who founded an organization that educates and campaigns for women's rights in Senegal. Through their stories, Kristof and WuDunn help us see that the key to progress lies in unleashing women's potential — and they make clear how each of us can help make that happen.
Fiercely moral, pragmatic, and inspirational, Half the Sky is essential reading for every global citizen.
The path to progress in Africa lies in the surprising and innovative solutions Africans are finding for themselves
Africa is a continent on the move. Itandrsquo;s often hard to notice, thoughandmdash;the Western focus on governance and foreign aid obscures the individual dynamism and informal social adaptation driving the past decade of African development. Dayo Olopade set out across sub-Saharan Africa to find out how ordinary people are dealing with the challenges they face every day. She discovered an unexpected Africa: resilient, joyful, and innovative, a continent of DIY changemakers and impassioned community leaders.
Everywhere Olopade went, she witnessed the specific creativity born from African difficultyandmdash;a trait she began calling kanju. Itandrsquo;s embodied by bootstrapping innovators like Kenneth Nnebue, who turned his low-budget, straight-to-VHS movies into a multimillion-dollar film industry known as Nollywood. Or Soyapi Mumba, who helped transform cast-off American computers into touchscreen databases that allow hospitals across Malawi to process patients in seconds. Or Ushahidi, the Kenyan technology collective that crowdsources citizen activism and disaster relief.
The Bright Continent calls for a necessary shift in our thinking about Africa. Olopade shows us that the increasingly globalized challenges Africa faces can and must be addressed with the tools Africans are already using to solve these problems themselves. Africaandrsquo;s ability to do more with lessandmdash;to transform bad government and bad aid into an opportunity to innovateandmdash;is a clear ray of hope amidst the dire headlines and a powerful model for the rest of the world.
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.