When my book group picked Half the Sky, I thought it would be a depressing read. Wrong. Half the Sky is an unsentimental eye-opener about the oppression of women and girls, and it’s so inspiring that it moved us to take action. We realized that doing something small together could make a real difference in the lives of women on the other side of the world.
The book, by the Pulitzer-prize winning couple Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, profiles women around the world who are fighting sex trafficking, maternal mortality and “honor” killings and other violence against women.
Half the Sky chronicles the courage of women like Edna Adan, who transformed her own pain to start Somaliland’s first maternity hospital. It also tells the harrowing and hopeful stories of girls like Srey Neth, who escaped a Cambodian brothel and shows how the right kind of aid can help women change their lives—and their communities.
That’s what inspired us. After reading Half the Sky, we decided to make a group donation every time we meet to an organization that improves the lives of women and girls. Our book group now has $5 monthly dues and the hostess gets to choose an individual or organization to support.
Last month, we contributed to a microloan through kiva.org to help Rosenne Alwosi in Kenya buy a sewing machine and fabric to start her own business. This month, our donation went to Tostan, which is featured in Half the Sky. Tostan, which means “breakthrough” in the West African language of Wolof, is an education and community development organization that empowers communities in Africa to “bring about sustainable development and positive social transformation based on respect for human rights.”
I love the idea that pooling a few dollars with friends once a month can make a small but genuine difference. We just heard from Kiva that Rosenne’s loan has been fulfilled, thanks to the contribution from our book group and 30 other donors.
One of our book group members is giving Half the Sky to her nieces and friends—along with a small gift certificate to. I couldn’t think of a more wonderful present to give and receive!
What could be better than a chance to make a difference? Kristof, my hero, writes about this beautifully in his New York Times column about Valentino Deng. The main character in Dave Egger’s What is the What (which my book group also loved), Deng is one of the “lost boys” of Sudan. He and Eggers are devoting all proceeds from the sale of the book to an amazing gift: a foundation to build thefirst high school in Deng’s community in Sudan.
As Kristof notes, Deng could simply do nothing after all he has survived and already accomplished. Instead, he tells Kristof: “I’m the lucky one. I must be the one who will make a difference.”