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Half the Sky
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Half the Sky
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From two of our most fiercely moral voices, a passionate call to arms against our era's most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world.With Pulitzer...
From two of our most fiercely moral voices, a passionate call to arms against our era's most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world.With Pulitzer...
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  • From two of our most fiercely moral voices, a passionate call to arms against our era's most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world.

    With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as our guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there, among them a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth. Drawing on the breadth of their combined reporting experience, Kristof and WuDunn depict our world with anger, sadness, clarity, and, ultimately, hope.

    They show how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad. That Cambodian girl eventually escaped from her brothel and, with assistance from an aid group, built a thriving retail business that supports her family. The Ethiopian woman had her injuries repaired and in time became a surgeon. A Zimbabwean mother of five, counseled to return to school, earned her doctorate and became an expert on AIDS.

    Through these stories, Kristof and WuDunn help us see that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women's potential. They make clear how so many people have helped to do just that, and how we can each do our part. Throughout much of the world, the greatest unexploited economic resource is the female half of the population. Countries such as China have prospered precisely because they emancipated women and brought them into the formal economy. Unleashing that process globally is not only the right thing to do; it's also the best strategy for fighting poverty.

    Deeply felt, pragmatic, and inspirational, Half the Sky is essential reading for every global citizen.

    From the Trade Paperback edition.

Excerpts-

  • INTRODUCTION INTRODUCTION

    The Girl Effect

    What would men be without women? Scarce, sir, mighty scarce.

    — MARK TWAIN



    Srey Rath is a self-confident Cambodian teenager whose black hair tumbles over a round, light brown face. She is in a crowded street market, standing beside a pushcart and telling her story calmly, with detachment. The only hint of anxiety or trauma is the way she often pushes her hair from in front of her black eyes, perhaps a nervous tic. Then she lowers her hand and her long fingers gesticulate and flutter in the air with incongruous grace as she recounts her odyssey.

    Rath is short and small-boned, pretty, vibrant, and bubbly, a wisp of a girl whose negligible stature contrasts with an outsized and outgoing personality.When the skies abruptly release a tropical rain shower that drenches us, she simply laughs and rushes us to cover under a tin roof, and then cheerfully continues her story as the rain drums overhead. But Rath's attractiveness and winning personality are perilous bounties for a rural Cambodian girl, and her trusting nature and optimistic self-assuredness compound the hazard.

    When Rath was fifteen, her family ran out of money, so she decided to go work as a dishwasher in Thailand for two months to help pay the bills. Her parents fretted about her safety, but they were reassured when Rath arranged to travel with four friends who had been promised jobs in the same Thai restaurant.The job agent took the girls deep into Thailand and then handed them to gangsters who took them to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Rath was dazzled by her first glimpses of the city's clean avenues and gleaming high-rises, including at the time the world's tallest twin buildings; it seemed safe and welcoming. But then thugs sequestered Rath and two other girls inside a karaoke lounge that operated as a brothel. One gangster in his late thirties, a man known as "the boss," took charge of the girls and explained that he had paid money for them and that they would now be obliged to repay him."You must find money to pay off the debt, and then I will send you back home," he said, repeatedly reassuring them that if they cooperated they would eventually be released.

    Rath was shattered when what was happening dawned on her. The boss locked her up with a customer, who tried to force her to have sex with him. She fought back, enraging the customer. "So the boss got angry and hit me in the face, first with one hand and then with the other," she remembers, telling her story with simple resignation. "The mark stayed on my face for two weeks." Then the boss and the other gangsters raped her and beat her with their fists.

    "You have to serve the customers," the boss told her as he punched her. "If not, we will beat you to death. Do you want that?" Rath stopped protesting, but she sobbed and refused to cooperate actively. The boss forced her to take a pill; the gangsters called it "the happy drug" or "the shake drug." She doesn't know exactly what it was, but it made her head shake and induced lethargy, happiness, and compliance for about an hour.When she wasn't drugged, Rath was teary and insufficiently compliant—she was required to beam happily at all customers—so the boss said he would waste no more time on her: She would agree to do as he ordered or he would kill her. Rath then gave in.The girls were forced to work in the brothel seven days a week, fifteen hours a day. They were kept naked to make it more difficult for them to run away or to keep tips or other money, and they were forbidden to ask customers to use condoms. They were battered until they smiled constantly and simulated joy at the sight of...

About the Author-

  • Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, are the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism for their coverage of China as New York Times correspondents. They received the 2009 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Lifetime Achievement and many other prizes including the George Polk and Overseas Press Club awards.

    Mr. Kristof won a second Pulitzer in 2006, for "his graphic, deeply reported columns that, at personal risk, focused attention on genocide in Darfur." He has also served as bureau chief in Hong Kong, Beijing, and Tokyo, and as associate managing editor.
    Ms. WuDunn, now a business executive, worked at The New York Times, on both the business and news sides. She has been a foreign correspondent in Asia, a business editor and a television anchor. She is the first Asian-American to receive a Pulitzer Prize.

    They live near New York City.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 17, 2009
    New York Times
    columnist Kristof and his wife, WuDunn, a former Times
    reporter, make a brilliantly argued case for investing in the health and autonomy of women worldwide. “More girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century,” they write, detailing the rampant “gendercide” in the developing world, particularly in India and Pakistan. Far from merely making moral appeals, the authors posit that it is impossible for countries to climb out of poverty if only a fraction of women (9% in Pakistan, for example) participate in the labor force. China's meteoric rise was due to women's economic empowerment: 80% of the factory workers in the Guangdong province are female; six of the 10 richest self-made women in the world are Chinese. The authors reveal local women to be the most effective change agents: “The best role for Americans... isn't holding the microphone at the front of the rally but writing the checks,” an assertion they contradict in their unnecessary profiles of American volunteers finding “compensations for the lack of shopping malls and Netflix movies” in making a difference abroad.

  • Kirkus

    June 15, 2009
    A Pulitzer Prize–winning husband-and-wife reporter team track the growing movement to empower women in the developing world.

    Kristof and WuDunn (Thunder from the East: Portrait of a Rising Asia, 2000, etc.) traveled through Africa and Southeast Asia meeting with victims of sex trafficking, forced prostitution and various forms of gender-based neglect and violence, as well as interviewing those who are making a difference in the lives of impoverished and abused women. While they provide historical background and cite grim statistics to back their claims of oppression, the impact of their report comes from the personal stories of remarkable women, such as Mukhtar Mai, a Pakistani woman who was gang-raped. Instead of killing herself as was expected by her culture, she fought back, won compensation and is using the money to build a girls' high school. The authors argue that fighting back is key and that education that will empower women is crucial to changing culturally embedded attitudes. Along with the success stories, Kristof and WuDunn report on the failure of large-scale international aid, which often comes in the form of what they term"tree-top" projects as opposed to grassroots efforts. The authors are especially effective at getting women to speak openly about their lives, and they do not hesitate to write about unpleasant facts, bad outcomes and unintended consequences: Women are often the abusers of other women; women freed from brothels sometimes return for drugs or money; introduction of a cash crop to help women earn money for their families can end up polluting the environment. Also noteworthy is the authors' willingness to say what is politically incorrect: When microloans are made to men, the money is likely to go toward instant gratification—alcohol, drugs and prostitutes—while women are more apt to spend it on family health and educating children. Pointing out that the emancipation of girls enabled China's economic surge and that the status of women is"the greatest handicap of Muslim Middle Eastern societies today," Kristof and WuDunn forcefully contend that improving the lot of girls and women benefits everyone. They conclude with specific steps that individuals can take to support the empowerment movement.

    Intelligent, revealing and important.

    (COPYRIGHT (2009) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Booklist

    July 1, 2009
    Despite an estimated 107 million women and girls missing in the world population due to every form of abuse, from infant neglect to honor killings, gendercide receives none of the coverage and outrage of other human-rights violations, lament these two Pulitzer Prizewinning journalists. The husband-and-wife team chronicles the horrific abuses suffered by girls and women: sold into sex slavery, abused and exploited as workers, beaten and killed to protect male honor, and generally denied education, medical attention, and food reserved for boys and men. The authors focus on sex trafficking, gender-based violence (including honor killings and mass rape), and maternal mortality. They also examine the economic forces at work that promise more opportunities, along with required education and resulting autonomy, for female workers and entrepreneurs as developing countries recognize how they waste this valuable resource. Kristof and WuDunn reinforce the truth behind the terrible statistics with passionately reported personal stories of girls and women (including photographs) and efforts to help them, including a final chapter suggesting how readers can help.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2009, American Library Association.)

  • Washington Post 10 Best Books of the Year

    "Opens our eyes to an enormous humanitarian issue."

  • Publishers Weekly Top 100 Books of 2009 "Vitally important. . . . Heartbreaking, galvanizing, and unforgettable."
  • Carolyn See, The Washington Post "This book isn't a sermon. . . . These stories are electrifying and have the effect of breaking down this enormous problem into segments the reader can focus on. Suddenly, these horrendous problems begin to seem solvable . . . Again, this book is not a sermon about victims. Its range is wide, and sometimes it's even funny . . . Half the Sky is a call to arms, a call for help, a call for contributions, but also a call for volunteers. It asks us to open our eyes to this enormous humanitarian issue. It does so with exquisitely crafted prose and sensationally interesting material . . . I really do think this is one of the most important books I have ever reviewed."
  • Martha Nussbaum, The New York Times "Passionate yet practical. . . . [Half the Sky] is both stirring and sensible . . . This wonderful book combines a denunciation of horrible abuses with clear-eyed hope and some compelling practical strategies. The courageous women described here, and millions more like them, deserve nothing less."
  • Angelina Jolie "Women facing poverty, oppression, and violence are usually viewed as victims. Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's Half the Sky shows that unimaginable challenges are often met with breathtaking bravery. These stories show us the power and resilience of women who would have every reason to give up but never do. They will be an inspiration for anyone who reads this book, and a model for those fighting for justice around the world. You will not want to put this book down."
  • Fareed Zakaria, author, The Post-American World "If you have always wondered whether you can change the world, read this book. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn have written a brilliant call to arms that describes one of the transcendent injustices in the world today--the brutal treatment of women. They take you to many countries, introduce you to extraordinary women, and tell you their moving tales. Throughout, the tone is practical not preachy and the book's suggestions as to how you can make a difference are simple, sensible, and yet powerful. The authors vividly describe a terrible reality about the world we live in but they also provide light and hope that we can, in fact, change it."
  • George Clooney "I think it's impossible to stand by and do nothing after reading Half the Sky. It does what we need most, it bears witness to the sheer cruelty that mankind can do to mankind."
  • Melinda Gates "The stories that Kristof and WuDunn share are as powerful as they are heartbreaking. Their insight into gender issues and the role of women in development inspires hope, optimism, and most importantly, the will to change. Both a brutal awakening and an unmistakable call to action, this book should be read by all."
  • Khaled Hosseini, author, The Kite Runner "An unblinking look at one of the seminal moral challenges of our time. This stirring book is at once a savage indictment of gender inequality in the developing world and an inspiring testament to these women's courage, resilience, and their struggle for hope and recovery. An unexpectedly uplifting read."
  • Johann Hari, Slate.com "While we ri

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