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Half The Sky Essay

With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn are great authors who give us true stories of girls and woman from Africa and Asia and their extraordinary struggles. We view the 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 view our world with anger, sadness, clarity, and, ultimately, hope. 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. In much of the world, the greatest unemployed 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.

Realistic, and inspirational, this book is essential reading for everyone. They tell of an attempt to help a woman dying in childbirth in an African hospital, and the institutional, social, and financial problems that block efforts. They discuss how their support for legalization of prostitution was undercut by the more sordid reality they discovered behind the apparent success of just such a legal zone in India (in Kolkata), and examine how legalization of prostitution in the Netherlands compares as an anti-trafficking technique with the criminalization of sex-service purchases in Sweden.

They point out how the campaign against female circumcision has been set back by the campaigners’ use of terminology (“female genital mutilation”) that turned the people they wanted to help against them. Kristof and WuDunn emphasis how important it is for individuals speaking up and resisting—but it’s here that their proposals (or, at least, their exhortations) seem questionable. (Mukhtar Mai) name we have heard before, Usha Narayane, and Sunitha Krishnan are clearly remarkable women, and deserve every support, but it is also true that they are very brave, and driven individuals—and lucky, because of their risk.


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