Book Review: Half the Sky

Recently my sister lent me Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The book is a compelling combination of commentary on global human rights issues such as sex trafficking and forced prostitution, gender-based violence and maternal mortality, and the personal stories of some remarkable women.

Half The Sky

This is one of the most confronting and challenging books that I’ve read in a long time (possibly ever). The statistics and the stories are gut-wrenching. In the 21st century, in my comfortable, middle-class home, it seems almost impossible to comprehend the poverty, discrimination, oppression and violence that so many women and girls are still experiencing around the world. This book opened my eyes to a reality about which I’d been blissfully and conveniently ignorant. It’s easier to believe that you don’t need to do anything, if you don’t know what the issues are.

But this isn’t just a book condemning the oppression of women, it’s also a book filled with hope. Srey Rath in Cambodia escaped from the brothel she had been sold into and now runs a retail business to support her family. With some fundraising help from two women in America, Edna Adan built a maternity hospital on an abandoned dump site in Somaliland. These are just two examples of women who refused to give up, despite incredibly difficult circumstances. There are possibilities for change and transformation, and opportunities for anyone who wants to become part of a solution. As George Clooney is quoted, “It’s impossible to stand by and do nothing after reading Half the Sky.”

Will this book make you feel uncomfortable? Probably. Is this book worth reading? Absolutely. Can you help to change the world? Yes. That’s the message and the invitation. As the authors write in their Introduction, “This is a story of transformation. It is change that is already taking place, and change that can accelerate if you’ll just open your heart and join in.”

As for me? I’ve already started investigating some of the suggested options for getting involved. If you’ve read the book, I’d be interested in hearing how it’s impacted you.