Customer Reviews for

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

Half the Sky - Essential reading

An engaging, absorbing book with powerful recommendations. Not as depressing as one might imagine given the subject matter.

posted by Lynn20NJ on November 11, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

44 out of 58 people found this review helpful.

I'm very surprised that I don't like this book

I believe in book's main premise: by empowering women and girls, we can change the world and help end poverty. However, I found it disappointing and shocking to read this entire book and not find a single story about water and sanitation. You can't even find the word "w...
I believe in book's main premise: by empowering women and girls, we can change the world and help end poverty. However, I found it disappointing and shocking to read this entire book and not find a single story about water and sanitation. You can't even find the word "water" in the index.

No doubt, the stories Nick and Sheryl tell are horrific and inspiring, and women living in poverty face obstacles that I can't even imagine. But, as I read it, I felt it was more of a collection of anecdotes from Nick and Sheryl's international travels rather than as advertised: a "must-read" and "call to arms" about how we can end global poverty.

Having spent 19 years working in international aid, I don't see how you can seriously talk about helping women in poverty and not mention water or sanitation. For millions of girls from poor households, there is a straight tradeoff between time spent in school and time spent collecting water. For their mothers, time spent collecting water means they have little time for more productive work or rest.

Being without access to water means that to obtain the water they need to survive, people resort to ditches, rivers and lakes polluted with human or animal excrement, and they carry that water home on their heads or backs, causing chronic back pains and sores, wearing flip flops if they are wearing shoes at all, walking uphill on steep, rocky or muddy paths. This daily walk for water saps their energy, diminishes their health status, and prevents them from participating in economic and social activities that are vital to the development of communities.

Each day,
* Women spend the equivalent of 340 million work days on water collection
* Poor families spend $137 million is spent on treatment of water-related diseases
* 5 million girls are collecting water instead of attending school
* 7,000 children worldwide die from the lack of safe water and a toilet
Poverty and water are inextricably linked.

What began as a hopeful read has unfortunately left me jaded and wondering if providing PVC piping and septic tanks just don't have the emotional appeal and book-selling potential of sex slavery and genital mutilation.

So I'm in! Let's invest in women. I believe it will pay off. But we have to be smart about it. I've met too many girls who dropped out of school at the age of 6 to help their mothers carry water, so it makes no sense to me to invest in education in a community with no toilets or accessible, safe water supplies. It makes no sense to me to build a health clinic of any kind in a community without toilets or water either, because 80% of the illnesses that will come into that clinic will be caused by the lack of water and toilets. I'm also a believer in micro-lending, but I've met a lot of people who have defaulted on their loans in order to pay medical bills for a family member suffering from diarrhea.

I'm excited that people are talking about women and development. But I'm disappointed at this missed opportunity to talk about the vital links between water and sanitation and poverty and empowerment. We need to act appropriately to ensure that the lack of attention to water and sanitation does not undermine all other development goals.

posted by Water1st-Marla on October 14, 2009

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  • Posted January 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Grey Areas, but definitely the truth.

    I was very interested in reading this book just from the reviews I read about it, but there was a little disappointment in it. The authors talk about gray areas in the problems they encountered and I encountered my own in reading this book. I have read both authors' previous work, but some of the recommendations in this book are realistic and some are hopeful. I don't believe foreign countries should not allow doctors to get degrees, just to make sure they don't emigrate. I doubt the authors would be saying this if a doctor in rural Iran was being persecuted and wanted to leave. Granted their work is very valuable to the country, but life decisions should be their own. You can't force people to work in certain conditions and expect them to be above human needs or to not become desensitized to things they see everyday. I do think the situation at the hospital with Dr. Pipi and the nurses was disturbing and disgusting, but like the authors I can understand that it is human circumstances and behaviors that contribute to these problems. I do agree that maybe training midwives and others to do the same duties a doctor would perform would be more practical. I doubt any real physician who cares for their patient would be threatened by their patient receiving accurate care before they are taken to a hospital, its better than having a woman lay in labor for days only for it to end in the death of both mother and child. Also, the idea that female travelers may have an easier time connecting with people is true, but I don't think the authors should gloss over real dangers female travelers face. Any female traveler to India is very familiar with Eve teasing and the rapes that go on there. Believe me when I say the local men are not intimidated by foreign women of any race. While there were some instances when I was reading where I just didn't agree with some of the authors' recommendations, I do think the wider message of this book should not be lost. It is a call to help volunteer at the many organizations talked about in the book. I am definitely interested in the fistula surgeries and hospitals dedicated to this cause. I even remember seeing a NOVA special on the hospital in Ethiopia and the care taken to give these women their dignity back and to overcome not only the physical, but emotional wounds inflected upon them by society. Cultural and societal attitudes must be changed in order for things to progress around the world and better the lives of women and girls. It was also great to see that there were grassroots efforts in combination with government agencies that came together to help better the lives of women and girls around the world. I do think there is more to be done and I will try to do my part.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2014

    The book Half The Sky is written by Nicholas D. Kristof and She

    The book Half The Sky is written by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Half The Sky gives you an insight on what women truly go through in other countries from poverty, rape and success. In this novel it tells many heartbreaking stories of women and young children trying to survive in their small villages. Some of these women have completely changed their lives by utilizing the help that has been given to them. The statistics in this novel are mind blowing such as this one, “ 12.3 million people engaged in forced labor of all kinds, not just sexual servitude”(Kristof and WuDunn 9). Their writing style is very researched based and gives you a lot of sad true stories but give you happy uplifting stories also.
    If you are planning on reading this book be prepared for intense descriptions and an emotional journey. The reader needs to be mature and prepared to face the harsh reality of what happens to women in different countries throughout the entire world. I really enjoyed the way the authors give true stories in positive ways that could help encourage people to acknowledge the worlds need for help in different opportunities whether it be donating money or volunteering your time. Overall I believe it was a very good book with great detail on the lives of women around the world. To read this book I would suggest being out of high school, It is very intense and you must be very mature to understand the severity of the situations. I strongly suggest this book to anyone mature looking to read very inspiring stories. The novel has such an impact that will make you want to give everything you possibly can to those in need.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2014

    Highly Recommend

    This book brings out the many ways that women are still considered second class citizens in this world, and it shows ways we can help to change that.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2013

    Very inspiring

    This book is phenomenal and leaves readers wanting to help, wanting to change this international problem. The authors are up front and honest, showing the reader the truths of the situation through stories of victims. Read this book - it will change the way you view several women's issues.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2013

    tough reading

    I am reading this one a few pages at a time. I know it is true; I am just having a hard time digesting so much misery and have to take it slowly. I have been told that in the end it has positive outcomes; I hope so.

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  • Posted February 13, 2013

    I read this book for a college class called Global Poverty. We r

    I read this book for a college class called Global Poverty. We read a few chapters at a time and discussed it in class. The people in class were from different majors so the discussions were very fun. A perspective of an Economics major versus someone in Social Work is completely different on many issues. 
    The book was an easy read overall. The stories were very engaging, but some quite heartbreaking. I thought the authors did a great job of covering the "ugly truth" of women in the third world countries. I know that the book received a lot of criticism for not covering environmental issues or how women are abused in the Western world as well, and a variety of other things people expected from the book.
    In my opinion, a book can only cover so much. It wasn't a book to describe every single woman in the world that has been mistreated. It was a book to raise awareness and show how little sometimes one needs to get back on their feet and how hard it is for the women in the third world countries to fight for freedom and rights, when women in more developed parts of the world just take those right for granted.
    I was also honored to attend a Peace & Justice Series  lecture where Sheryl WuDunn presented the book. Her speech wasn’t impressive; however, I still give this book a solid 4 and recommend it to anyone who would like to learn more about impoverished and abused women in the developing countries.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2012

    Every woman and man should reas

    Not fun to read but a must. Everyone should read this book. An eyeopener.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2011

    Very Good

    If you have an interest in social justice and improving the plight of the poor--this is a very good and practical book. Easy to read, down to earth, and practical.

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  • Posted April 11, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Should be required reading for high school or college..

    I had not previously been exposed to the magnitude of the many problems women face. This was recommended to me by my college age daughter which I am thankful for since I generally do not pick non-fiction for a relaxing read. While I can see how it could be preachy for some, I found it to be a roller coaster of heartbreak and inspiration. I was very pleasantly surprised that I felt compelled to keep reading until I was finished.

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  • Posted March 20, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Half the Sky is humbling and thought provoking

    The stories that Kristof and his wife relay made me sad to think that these types of atrocities occur in our modern age. It is inspirational and humbling that the women that they write about are resilient and strong. Their problems make our everyday complaints seem petty and unimportant.

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  • Posted February 6, 2010

    amazing!

    love the book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2010

    a must read for all women and men who love them

    this book provided insight into the lives of most women around the world. it was eyeopening and absorbing....i couldn't put it down. the most engaging aspects revolved around specific stories of young girls and young women. it was startling to bear witness to the forces shaping the health and well-being of women, who, but for the grace of God go I. but half the sky is not simply a window into another world, but also an opportunity for those of us fortunate enough to be born under different, more privileged circumstances to step up and volunteer, donate, share the stories of women to work toward a better world for all of our children.

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    Posted May 15, 2011

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