“Women hold up half the sky”. This Chinese proverb is the perfect name for this book by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, which focuses on several issues that affect women around the world. The girls all had very different views before reading the book. Some were hesitant, because it was going to be a painful realization of what women are going through on a daily basis in third world countries. Others were hopeful that they would learn of ways that we can help prevent these same things from happening in the future. But after reading, everyone came to a consensus that, as Stephanie put it, “it revolutionized our worlds.”
The authors of “Half the Sky” offer a unique perspective on the issues of sex trafficking and forced prostitution, gender-based violence, and maternal mortality. Not only do they discuss the statistics of these harsh realities around the world, but they bring it to life with a story of a woman they met and spent time with, and then present a glimpse of hope by discussing what steps have been effective, and how we can continue to help in the future. As it was stated at the end of the book, “…challenges are insurmountable only until the moment that they’re surmounted.” (pg. 228)
When going through the stories that impacted us most, it was difficult for many of us to isolate just one. Right from the first chapter, we were captivated by the story of Meena Hasina, an Indian Muslim who was captured and forced into prostitution. After bearing two children during her captivity, she fled from the brothel where she was held for so much of her childhood. After establishing a life for herself, marrying, and having more children, she risked her life again, but saved her first two children from the life she once suffered. Meena’s courage inspired us, just as much as Woinshet’s did. Woinshet was kidnapped and raped by a man who wanted to marry her. In Ethiopia, this was often used as a bargaining chip in getting a bride – no one else wanted a woman who had been raped. Rather than accepting her life as her rapist’s wife, she fought hard for justice, and has established a safer life for herself.
Another story that moved us was that of Srey Neth. One of the authors met Neth at a brothel where she was being held against her will. After negotiating with her owner, Nick purchased her from captivity for the price of $150. He took her back to her village, where she set up a grocery shop. As competition increased and her father fell ill, she sought out employment in the city. She studied hairdressing, and eventually married and had a healthy son.
While talking about these stories, we reflected on how lucky we are for the opportunities we have had, namely the opportunity to spend our lives in a place where we do not constantly fear rape or other bodily harm. Shifting our focus towards our futures, another thing we all have the opportunity for is giving birth to a child in an environment that will be safe for both us and our babies. Some of the stories that stuck with us the most were those of women who suffered obstetric fistulas. Since women are often giving birth without proper medical care, they often suffer from this condition, which is preventable, and uncommon, in our country.
Overall, this book gave us a lot to think about, reflect on, and be thankful for. We will continue to appreciate what we have in our lives, and explore opportunities to help those less fortunate than us.
Some of the quotes we liked are below:
“One study after another has shown that educating girls is one of the most effective ways to fight poverty. Schooling is also often a precondition for girls and women to stand up against injustice, and for women to be integrated into the economy.” – pg. 169
“Suppose that the estimate of $9 billion per year is correct. It pales beside the $40 billion that the world spends annually on pet food, but it’s still a great deal of money. If that $9 billion managed to save three quarters of the mothers who are now dying, that would mean that 402,000 women would be saved annually, in addition to many newborns (and many maternal injuries would be averted as well).” – pg. 122
“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” – Derek Bok, pg. 167
Our next book is “Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich” by Lois P. Frankel, PhD. As we head into the new year, we thought it was a good time to become smarter about managing our money, and learn from the book, and each other, about how to do it. According to Amazon, “Without your awareness, behaviors learned as a girl are preventing you from becoming a woman who is financially independent and free to follow her dreams. Now, with the same frank advice and empowering information that made Nice Girls Don’t Get the Comer Office a bestseller, Lois Frankel tackles the 75 financial mistakes that keep women from having the wealth they deserve. She isolates the messages about money given to little girls that little boys never hear. Then she helps you discover the financial thinking that is keeping you stuck in old patterns, dependent relationships, and jobs where you earn less than you deserve. Once you get to the root of the problem, Frankel helps you solve it-with fabulous results. Her coaching tips help you take control of your finances and make more money than you ever thought possible. Do you make these “nice girl” mistakes? * Mistake #4: Not playing to win. Being polite, quiet, and fair to a fault is playing the financial game “like a girl.” * Mistake #10: Choosing to remain financially illiterate. Knowledge is power. Learn to manage your major purchases, investments, and banking. * Mistake #20: Spending as an emotional crutch. Understand your emotions; don’t make purchases just to lift your spirits. * Mistake #45: Saving instead of investing. Fear can keep your funds in low-interest accounts. Get educated about investing. Get wealthy. Frankel gives you the financial savvy to change negative behaviors, make smart money choices, and embrace the life you want sooner than you think.”