Half the Sky is Falling
“Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” is a groundbreaking book by the Pulitzer Prize winning husband-wife team of Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn. Readers will appreciate that in the Appendix are listed 45 organizations that specialize in supporting women in developing countries. On can also visit the book’s web site: http://www.halftheskymovement.org.
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Women hold up half the sky is a Chinese proverb. With population, water, energy, environmental and climate crises coming to the fore, one could easily say that half the sky is falling. To restore half the sky to its proper position in the heavens, Kristof and Wudunn plead for a worldwide grassroots movement in support of the women of the world, their education, health (with a strong emphasis on reproductive health), economic and political empowerment, and human rights.
Awe-inspiring stories of women overcoming terrible circumstances to change their world and ours constitute the core of this book. The first chapters deal with triumphing over the violence and degradation of sex trafficking, sexual enslavement, and rape. Blow by blow accounts.
Maternal mortality and obstetric fistula are highlighted in chapter six. It includes a marvelous tribute to Dr. Allan Rosenfield, worldwide icon in the field of reproductive health, who considered that maternal mortality was not only a health issue but one of human rights. The authors conclude that maternal health lacks a global constituency.
Chapter seven recounts the death of Prudence of Cameroon, mother of three, for whom a fourth pregnancy proved fatal. A birth attendant sat on Prudence’s stomach and broke her uterus. Dr. Pipi went home for a good night’s sleep instead of operating in a timely fashion. Prudence even died with a pint of Nicholas Kristof’s blood coursing through her veins. Author becoming actor in one of his own stories.
Chapter eight, part one, is bravely named “Family Planning and the God Gulf” which recounts the anti-woman, religious right policies of the Bush Administration, particularly its refusal to fund the United Nations Population Fund. Shamelessly I am elated to say that part two of chapter eight is “Jane Roberts and Her 34 Million Friends” our grassroots movement for the women of the world through UNFPA. Please see www.34millionfriends.org.
The concluding chapters tell wonderful stories of economic empowerment. There are several stories of women who, given a small micro-credit loan, turn nothing into something.
Every person who has ever lived has come out of the womb of a woman. When the world takes care of women, women take care of the world. Education, health, and gender equality are the cornerstones of women’s empowerment, of a livable planet, and of a more hopeful world. This book puts it all together like no other.