This week I read Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl Wudunn. The title of the book comes from a Chinese saying that women hold up half the sky. This book chronicles women's issues predominantly in the developing world. While the content of the book is difficult (topics include sex trafficking, child prostitution, slavery, honor killings, acid attacks, systematic rape as a weapon of war, female genital mutilation, maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS, female infanticide/selective abortions of female fetuses), this feels like one of the most important books I have ever read. The authors do an amazing job of speaking directly to the realities of these horrors women experience daily while telling personal stories of women who have survived them. They also talk about efforts that have been successful in combating the realities women face. Women's empowerment, they conclude, is found in educating women and helping them to become economically viable and independent.
As difficult as it was for me to read the stories of women who suffer savage atrocities, I also found myself hopeful for them. Without the stories of women who overcome, this book would be extremely dark. Yet, because of the amazing storytelling, I find myself inspired to do what I can to help empower my sisters in the world. The book includes many ways that we can make a difference for women, even with what we feel are limited resources.
I also found myself feeling grateful for what I have...that even in the midst of my grief and loss, I have a safe home, a loving husband, a reasonable hope that my two daughters will be respected and valued as people and that my son will grow up knowing that girls are of equal value. I have economic independence and have been privileged to an amazing education. I grew up with a family who told me that I could do anything I wanted, that I was smart, and who sacrificed so that I could capitalize on that. In the midst of a dark time, this book made me so grateful for my life.
I cannot recommend this book enough. Read it, no matter your gender. And then figure out what inspires your participation. Because we can take part in providing hope.
There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.