Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
Nicholas D. Kristof
320 pp., $15.95
Half the Church: Recapturing God's Global Vision for Women
Carolyn Custis James
208 pp., $18.99
Amy E. Black
A woman dies in childbirth or from complications of pregnancy every minute; 99 percent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries. Such complications are the leading cause of death for African women. Around one million children each year lose their mothers to maternal death.
An estimated 2 million women suffer from obstetric fistula, a complication from obstructed labor that leaves women unable to control their urine or feces and places them at risk of disease, banishment, and even death. Although a relatively simple procedure can repair most fistulas, very few women have access to the surgery. Many in the developed world are unaware of the problem, as access to modern health care has effectively eliminated fistula in developed countries.
In many societies, male children are valued so much more than females that scarce resources to pay for education and health care are often reserved for boys. Sex-selective abortion is common. Sex ratios in countries like China and India are extremely skewed; by one estimate, sex selective practices in recent decades in Asia have left the continent missing 163 million girls.
In Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn capture their readers' attention with the recitation of disturbing statistics like these. Calling attention to the oppression of women across the globe, they borrow their title from the Chinese proverb that "women hold up half the sky."
Half the Sky is not a straightforward journalistic account; the authors intend to jolt us into action by making strong moral claims. Consider, for example, their statement of purpose: "In the nineteenth century, the greatest moral challenge was slavery. In the twentieth century, it was the battle against totalitarianism. We believe that in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality around the world."
Kristof and WuDunn focus on three particular abuses: ...