Two Pulitzer Prize winners expose the most pervasive human rights violation of our era - the oppression of women in the developing world—and tell us what we can do about it.
An old Chinese proverb says “Women hold up half the sky.” Then why do the women of Africa and Asia persistently suffer human rights abuses? Continuing their focus on humanitarian issues, journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn take us to Africa and Asia, where many women live in profoundly dire circumstances—and some succeed against all odds.
A Cambodian teenager is sold into sex slavery; a formerly illiterate woman becomes a surgeon in Addis Ababa. An Ethiopian woman is left for dead after a difficult birth; a gang rape victim galvanizes the international community and creates schools in Pakistan. An Afghan wife is beaten by her husband and mother-in-law; a former Peace Corps volunteer founds an organization that educates and campaigns for women’s rights in Senegal.
Through their powerful true stories, the authors show that the key to progress lies in unleashing women’s potential, that change is possible, and that each of us can play a role in making it happen.
About the Author
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF and SHERYL WUDUNN were the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize for journalism, and WuDunn the first Asian-American to win a Pulitzer. They were foreign correspondents and editors for The New York Times, winning their Pulitzer for coverage of China’s Tiananmen Square democracy protests. At The Times, WuDunn also worked as a television newscaster and a business executive. She now is an investment advisor in New York. Kristof, a Rhodes Scholar, is now an op-ed columnist for The New York Times and earned a second Pulitzer for his columns about genocide in Darfur. The authors live near New York City with their three children.
The Washington Post - Carolyn See
Half the Sky is a call to arms, a call for help, a call for contributions, but also a call for volunteers. It asks us to open our eyes to this enormous humanitarian issue. It does so with exquisitely crafted prose and sensationally interesting material. It provides us with a list of individual hospitals, schools and small charities so that we can contribute to, or at least inform ourselves about, this largely unknown world. I really do think this is one of the most important books I have ever reviewed. I may be wrong, but I don't think so.
The New York Times - Irshad Manji
…this gripping call to conscience…tackles atrocities and indignities from sex trafficking to maternal mortality, from obstetric fistulas to acid attacks, and absorbing the fusillade of horrors can feel like an assault of its own. But the poignant portraits of survivors humanize the issues, divulging facts that moral outrage might otherwise eclipse.
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.)
“I really do think this is one of the most important books I have ever reviewed.”
Kristof and WuDunn, the first married couple ever both to win Pulitzer Prizes for journalism, here expose the brutal horrors endured by millions of women throughout Asia and Africa, putting names and faces to these individuals and their suffering. They argue that the key to change is social entrepreneurs who can empower at the grassroots level through such means as education and microloans. With her soothing delivery, actress/narrator Cassandra Campbell (The School of Essential Ingredients) avoids sensationalizing this already dramatic material, whose accounts of gang rape, forced prostitution, and childbirth injuries make for painful but essential adult listening. Strongly recommended. [The Knopf hc, which published in September 2009, was a New York Times best seller; the pb will release in May 2010.—Ed.]—Risa Getman, Hendrick Hudson Free Lib., Montrose, NY
A Pulitzer Prize-winning husband-and-wife reporter team track the growing movement to empower women in the developing world. Kristof and WuDunn (Thunder from the East: Portrait of a Rising Asia, 2000, etc.) traveled through Africa and Southeast Asia meeting with victims of sex trafficking, forced prostitution and various forms of gender-based neglect and violence, as well as interviewing those who are making a difference in the lives of impoverished and abused women. While they provide historical background and cite grim statistics to back their claims of oppression, the impact of their report comes from the personal stories of remarkable women, such as Mukhtar Mai, a Pakistani woman who was gang-raped. Instead of killing herself as was expected by her culture, she fought back, won compensation and is using the money to build a girls' high school. The authors argue that fighting back is key and that education that will empower women is crucial to changing culturally embedded attitudes. Along with the success stories, Kristof and WuDunn report on the failure of large-scale international aid, which often comes in the form of what they term "tree-top" projects as opposed to grassroots efforts. The authors are especially effective at getting women to speak openly about their lives, and they do not hesitate to write about unpleasant facts, bad outcomes and unintended consequences: Women are often the abusers of other women; women freed from brothels sometimes return for drugs or money; introduction of a cash crop to help women earn money for their families can end up polluting the environment. Also noteworthy is the authors' willingness to say what is politically incorrect: When microloans aremade to men, the money is likely to go toward instant gratification-alcohol, drugs and prostitutes-while women are more apt to spend it on family health and educating children. Pointing out that the emancipation of girls enabled China's economic surge and that the status of women is "the greatest handicap of Muslim Middle Eastern societies today," Kristof and WuDunn forcefully contend that improving the lot of girls and women benefits everyone. They conclude with specific steps that individuals can take to support the empowerment movement. Intelligent, revealing and important. First printing of 50,000
What People Are Saying
“Half the Sky is a passionate and persuasive plea to all of us to rise up and say ‘No more!’ to the 17th-century abuses to girls and women in the 21st-century world. This is a book that will pierce your heart and arouse your conscience.”
“I think it’s impossible to stand by and do nothing after reading Half the Sky. It does what we need most, it bears witness to the sheer cruelty that mankind can do to mankind.”
“These stories show us the power and resilience of women who would have every reason to give up but never do. They will be an inspiration for anyone who reads this book, and a model for those fighting for justice around the world. You will not want to put this book down.”
Number Of Pages: 296
Published: 1st June 2010
Dimensions (cm): 20.2 x 13.1 x 2.5
Weight (kg): 0.318