Monday, September 12, 2011

Book Review: Half the Sky by Kristof and WuDunn

This is a super intense book. As you might expect from a book about abuses against and desperately sad situations faced by women around the world. A friend of mine who works for International Justice Mission in the Philippines told me I HAD to read it, considering what I would like to do with my life, so I gave it a go. Wow. I don’t even quite know where to begin.

The first third of the book is particularly heavy because it looks at the modern-day slavery of sex trafficking from a variety of angles. Though I knew a bit about sex trafficking, I didn’t know a lot of what I read in this book. And I didn’t understand quite how much nuance there is even within the world of sex trafficking. As in, it’s not so black and white as one would imagine.

Other topics covered in the book include honor killings, maternal mortality, female genital mutilation, education for women, microfinance, and a discussion about whether a grassroots or “treetops” approach is better to tackle these problems. I appreciate that Kristof and WuDunn give both overarching issues and statistics but also zoom in to the individual. Each chapter starts with a broader idea or picture and ends with a “case study” of sorts of one person or one organization doing something related to the idea. They share “successes” and “failures” regarding each topic, so I didn’t feel like the book was overly optimistic or pessimistic.

I learned a lot from this book. And it spurred LOADS of thoughts, questions, ideas, and visions about my big dream of starting a maternity and children’s hospital in Africa. One of the case studies in one of the chapters about maternal mortality is called Edna’s Hospital. It is about a Somali woman who started a maternity hospital in Somaliland. It talks about why she wanted to start the hospital, the challenges she faced, and how she went about doing it. So. Fascinating. So. Inspiring.

I feel that I will look back to this book and that chapter often as I walk down (hopefully) a similar road! There is much to be done, and certainly many economic, cultural, and political obstacles in the way, but bit by bit we can work to improve health, life, and education for women around the world. If only we will try. 

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