Friday, November 6, 2009

(Don't just) Read On! Women's world

(Read On! ... occasional posts on writing we're reading)

Sue Halpern's review of Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's new book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression in Opportunity for Women Worldwide (2009), reads in part:

While working as journalists, the pair took up the fate of girls in China, and once they did so, a Pandora's box of gender-based cruelty and brutality was cracked open, and not just there. Sexual trafficking and slavery in Asia and Eastern Europe, honor killings in India, rape as a tactic of war, and female genital mutilation are now part of the international conversation, in no small part due to their reporting for the Times, and to the editorial platform afforded Kristof by the paper.

And just as Kristof is unabashed in his use of that platform to spread a message, he and WuDunn are very clear that they have not written Half the Sky simply to document the condition of child brides in Ethiopia and girls forced into prostitution in Cambodia, but to inspire readers to change the dynamic and shift the paradigm. "Let us be clear about this up front," they say in their introduction. "We hope to recruit you to join an incipient movement to emancipate women and fight global poverty by unlocking women's power as economic catalysts." It is a testament to their skills as writers and reporters that they've managed to write this call to action without having to raise their voices. The facts, as they learned long ago in China, speak loudly enough.

And what are some of those facts? A girl in India dies every four minutes because her parents don't believe she's worthy of medical care; a third of all women worldwide are beaten at home; women between the ages of fifteen and forty-four are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war combined; according to the United Nations, 90 percent of females over the age of three were sexually abused in parts of Liberia during the civil war there; there are, very conservatively, according to the British medical journal The Lancet, ten million child sex slaves.

The "incipient" movement has a name and a webpage, Half the Sky Movement, with a rubric for getting involved.

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