Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Pulitzer Prize winning journalists Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, is one of the most compelling books I’ve ever read and should, in my opinion, be compulsory reading for every citizen of the developed world.
It was Chinese dictator Mao Zedong who coined the phrase “women hold up half the sky” but in many parts of the world today women and girls face unspeakable violence, exploitation and oppression. Half the Sky focuses on three major areas of abuse: sex trafficking and forced prostitution; gender-based violence including honor killings and mass rape; and maternal mortality. Though disturbing, the book is difficult to put down. Kristof and WuDunn share moving stories of women who have risen above despair to find healing and hope.
If you haven’t read Half the Sky yet, I urge you to do so but I also caution you. This is a book that will change you. Kristof and WuDunn are upfront and clear; they hope to recruit their readers to get involved, to become a part of a movement to emancipate and empower women by helping provide the economic resources that can help transform brothel slaves into businesswomen. All too often, money in the hands of men goes to alcohol and prostitution but in the hands of women, it nurtures children, feeds families and promotes education. Half the Sky not only inspires the reader to get involved, it gives many suggestions how.
After reading the book, Richard and I were moved to do something. We were already sponsoring a teenage girl in Haiti, helping provide her with education, health care and a hot meal each day, but we felt inspired to do more. I explored the websites listed in the back of Half the Sky, bookmarked a few and pondered for awhile. Today, I read some startling statistics in our latest newsletter from Samaritan’s Purse, the non-denominational Christian international relief agency that is best known for its Christmas Shoebox program. “70 percent of the world’s poorest people are female, and while women work 2/3 of all the world’s labor hours, they receive just 10 percent of the world’s income.” Once again, I was compelled to do something and so it is that I am now a micro-financier.
Kiva (www.kiva.org), the world’s first online micro-lending platform, is a non-profit organization that allows a person to lend as little as $25 to a specific low-income entrepreneur across the globe. Since it was incorporated in November 2005, 683,479 Kiva users have funded loans totaling $124,742,985 USD. Those stats rose slightly today when I registered and helped fund my first loans. My portfolio includes a Cambodian villager who is borrowing money to purchase two cows to begin a breeding program and a Bolivian woman who plans to buy a bigger stove to use in preparing the meals that she sells at her food stall. Though Kiva provides loans to both men and women, I specifically chose women who are helping support their families and educate their children. When their loans are repaid, I will lend the money again and again…
One of the truths that has impacted me most from my second Beth Moore Bible study which I began recently is the fact that we are blessed to bless. Whatever it is that we have been blessed with, we should be using to bless others. There is no doubt that I am amongst the most blessed women in the world. After reading Half the Sky, how could I not reach out and bless a few of my less fortunate sisters from the abundance which I have been given?