Friday, November 6, 2009

A Little Hope, A Little Zeal

Photo 139: It's absolutely freezing here today, but the Yankees are enjoying their much-earned parade, and I'm stuck at my desk, with twitchy photo fingers, wishing I could be outside clicking away with Pedro. Poor me... At least this image brings me some happy thoughts.

I've also been reading a great book called "Half the Sky," and it's stunning.

Half the Sky is 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 travel 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. 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.

Women facing poverty, oppression, and violence are usually viewed as victims. But this book 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. It's an inspiration to me and for anyone who reads this book, and a model for those fighting for justice around the world.

The book is titled after an old Chinese proverb that says, "Women hold up half the sky." We need to embrace that proverb and work together to ensure that women everywhere are able to rise to their fullest potential.

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