You All And I: We Hold Up Half the Sky

By Nhi


I remember the first time feeling terrified of being a girl.

I was in fourth grade, naïve and never reading news.

It was during lunch when my friend told me about something that, well, haunts me until now – nine years later. The story was about a girl who agreed to meet a stranger after chatting through the Internet. She was then drugged, sold to a brothel, beaten and raped by many men. Afterwards, an old man bought her and turned her into his sex slave as well as house keeper. Luckily, the teenage girl managed to escape after two years and return to her family.

I remembered the chill that ran along my spine after she had finished talking. I couldn’t imagine that so many horrible things could happen to a person: being kidnapped, beaten, sold as if she had been something instead of someone. At the time, I was not quite aware of what rape exactly meant. However, I knew for sure, it was a form of violence.

When I became a little older, I watched a TV show that portrayed a young female journalist who risked being sold to a brothel to investigate how the whole process of sex trafficking worked. Intrepid, she pretended to be a girl coming from a poor village and sought a job in the city as a way to support her family at home. She ended up being sold, locked up with other girls, beaten and would have been raped if the police hadn’t had come on time. The show in all was terrible due to the poor acting, yet it was one out of not many TV shows that truthfully depicted a global issue that still, shamefully, happens at many countries during the 21st century.

About three weeks ago, I was at Barnes and Nobles, flipping through the pages of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide  by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, reading and crying. The book has many real heartbreaking stories about women and girls being oppressed and treated poorly by men and the societies. I had a hard time reading about genital cutting, gang rape, honor killing, fistula, a lack of care for maternal health and so on. I was aware that one of the reasons why I cried was the powerful writing by two amazing journalists. However, I also realized that I was only reading, I wasn’t witnessing. The stories written must be even more horrifying in real life, and I cannot believe that so many of us are still oblivious to this issue.

Half the Sky is the kind of book that will make us want to do something, since it not only shows the inconvenient truth, but also ignites in readers hope by giving names of organization and constructive advice about what we can do to make the change happen. The book mentions stories of extraordinary women who did the impossible as well as people who abandoned their comfortable lives to empower the lives of others. If you have never read this book, please plan to. I consider Half the Sky one of the most important books I have ever read.

I am reminded very often that the lottery of birth gives me many privileges. However, I allow myself even more often to forget about them and compare myself with people who are richer, more talented and luckier than me. This book, however, stops me from feeling bitter and jealous of other people. Ever again.

I discuss about social issues very little, since it is so easy to become a hypocrite by being well-spoken but doing nothing. However, I realize that the more people know about Half the Sky, the better. Therefore, I decide to write this blog post. If you are not a reader, there is also a to watch. As for me, I am sure that there are many things a girl can do to help other girls, and I don’t think I can stand being indifferent anymore.

” This is not a tidy world of tyrannical men and victimized women, but a messier realm of oppressive social customs adhered to by men and women alike.”

“Stealing is a very shameful act but kidnapping a girl is okay.”

“To deny women is to deprive a country of labor and talent, but even worse to undermine the drive to achievement of boys and men. Once can not rear young people in such wise that half of them think themselves superior by biology, without dulling ambition and devaluing accomplishment”

“Empowerment is a cliche in the aid community, but it is truly what is needed.”

“The brightest children are often born into families that lack the means to educate them.”

Half the Sky


6 thoughts on “You All And I: We Hold Up Half the Sky

  1. I will pick up this book for sure… i once read a life-changing book, The Natashas… similar… Thank you for sharing this today.. it inspires a song for me in studio tonight. We all are worthy and deserving of a good and healthy life. Each and every one. Everyone. RR


  2. Another excellent, thought provoking post. I am familiar with Nicholas Kristof through his columns in the NY Times but was not aware that Sheryl Wudunn was his wife or that they had written this book. So, thanks to you, I have just ordered it.


  3. Great post and bringing to light an important issue, just like Kristof does 🙂 But I disagree with one point, you are not just reading. By reading, you are also witnessing and sharing in their lives. That is one of the powerful things about writing. It bears witness to those who read it.


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