Women hold up Half the Sky

Sisters from a Bella family in northern Mali, standing outside their family's small granary. Photo: Emilia Tjernström

Sisters from a Bella family in northern Mali, standing outside their family's small granary. Photo: Emilia Tjernström

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There's a Chinese proverb that says, "Women hold up half the sky." And there, it seems, the even distribution of things comes to an end. 

Women around the world make much less than half the money, but take much more than half the abuse. About a million girls are forced into prostitution annually, some three million women are sold into sexual slavery, and women are more likely to be injured or killed by men than by cancer, malaria, car accidents and warfare put together.

littlegirl200.jpgIn most of the world, by some counts, 30 to 60 percent of women have been victims of domestic and sexual violence. And that's not even including forced marriages and lack of education, economic opportunities and basic freedoms that define life for so many women around the world.

It's so commonplace that it barely registers as news ... except for the occasional story that is so beyond the pale of human decency that it ignites global outrage. For example, the shooting of Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai for defying the Taliban by attending school ... or the 23-year-old woman who died last year from the injuries suffered when she was gang-raped aboard a bus in the Indian capital of Delhi.

Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof are trying to change that global culture. They became the first married couple to win the Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Sheryl WuDunn is now an investment banker and author, and Nicholas Kristof is a columnist with the New York Times.

Together, they're the co-authors of the best-selling book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. They have turned that book into a PBS documentary series and a global movement to empower women and thereby improve quality of life for everyone, throughout the developing world. They came to Canada to deliver the Inaugural Bluma Lecture at the Toronto Public Library, and while they were here, they stopped by our studio to talk with Michael Enright.

 

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