WAVE is reading Half the Sky

The WAVE Women’s Service Mission reviews “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.”

One of the suggested books in the November WAVE Call to Action is “Half the Sky, “ subtitled “Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” or in Britain “How to Change the World.” The book was written by two journalists highlighting the most serious examples of inequality that oppress women in the world today. The topics covered are heavy and difficult which must have presented a challenge to the authors. Yet they found a balance between highlighting the awful and introducing of examples of what can and is being done around the world to address these issues. In this way, they make getting involved in the solutions accessible and encouraging.

In seeing gender inequality from a global perspective, it becomes clear that there is much work to be done. The authors proclaim:

“In the nineteenth century, the central 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 in the developing world.”

In this sense “Half the Sky” becomes an excellent introduction to gender inequality and the activism and humanitarian work that is needed that will serve and empower women around the world. As the stories are told of women who turn their lives to this work, we see that those who volunteer, donate, organize and advocate become empowered too. Often those who have escaped and survived the oppression are the ones who turn around and serve others. The authors themselves were motivated to action, in some cases buying women out of slavery which they found surprisingly easy and cost effective.

The authors address the question “Why should one become personally involved in these issues?” Their answer was the relative ease in which outsiders can make a difference and in reading, I was reminded by Peter Singer’s work reminding each inhabitant of the world of their responsibility to others and that it doesn’t take much when many are involved. Another way to answer the question is that “many hands make light work,” even some of the most disturbing and repugnant duties.

To give a brief rundown, the topics covered (from the Table of Contents) are:

Sex Trafficking and Slavery


Rape as a weapon of war

Honor Killings

Maternal Mortality and Complications of Childbirth

Female Genital Mutilation

Solutions offered:

Access to education for girls and women

Microfinance and lending to start sustainable livelihoods for women

Iodinating salt to correct prevalent iodine deficiencies

An impressive list of organizations that address the issues that are actively providing the solutions is compiled in the Appendix.

The authors challenge their readers and state explicitly in the introduction that the purpose of their book is “to recruit you to join an incipient movement to emancipate women and fight global poverty by unlocking women’s power as economic catalysts.”

“This is a story of transformation. It is change that is already taking place, and change that can accelerate if you’ll just open your heart and join us.”

They even provide a list of four steps you can take in the next ten minutes

1. Make a people to people donation using www.globalgiving.org, www.kiva.org (Feminist Mormon Housewives has a Kiva team you can join) or www.giveology.org. Browse the sites to get a sense of the needs and donate or lend money to those that appeal to you. This you can do as a gift to a family member or friend. Christmas is coming after all.

2. Sponsor a girl or woman through Plan International, Women for Women International, World Vision or American Jewish World Service.

3. Sign up for email updates on www.womensnews.org and www.worldpulse.com. Both distribute information about abuses of women and sometimes advise on actions that readers can take.

4. Join the CARE Action Network at www.can.care.org where you will become a citizen advocate by educating policy makers and underscoring what the public wants in action against poverty and injustice.

After that, see the organization list in the appendix of Half the Sky and find one that seems particularly meaningful to you and dive in. The authors of Half the Sky suggest joining forces with friends or form a giving club (like what FMH has done) to multiply the impact.

To our WAVE readers, have you read “Half the Sky” yet? What did you take away from reading it? Did you take the steps mentioned at the end of the book? What were your experiences? What do you intend to do?

To those who haven’t, consider checking it out from your local library and come back here and tell us your thoughts when you are done.

Are you interested in joining with other WAVErs to maximize impact? What would that effort look like?


  1. I’m about 80 pages in finally. This book is amazing! Now I know what to call one of my favorite bloggers. She’s a social entrepreneur in Nepal who has opened an orphanage/school and she seems to be making a bigger difference faster than any aid organization. I think her impact will be felt strongly by the girls she is teaching and caring for and it appears she has an impact on (as well as she is impacted by) local women that she works with. We supported her efforts last Christmas and intend to do the same this year. It’s great to show our girls what someone (not much older than one of their aunts) is doing to help girls their age, and she has a great blog with pictures of “her” children.

    The other thing I have taken away from the book is the impact that women could have on their children if they were able to prevent negative influences from coloring their worldview. Education is the key to changing what is taught from a young age, before any social conditioning occurs (such as men having the “right” to violate women).

    Everyone needs to read this!

  2. Finally, an issue that I am passionate about. I have looked for information of this caliber for the last several hours. Your site is greatly appreciated.

  3. I was just thinking, I would really like to see RS efforts go toward fundraising for some of the groups mentioned in the book. It would be incredible to use the talents and products of crafty RS sisters at farmers markets and such and use the funds to donate and connect with a group of women elsewhere so that there is a more personal investment of time and resource. And with many of the organizations we can actually see and know something of the women we are helping. In general I think we need to break outside of the service box.

  4. Courtney, I think that is a great idea. One of the bloggers I follow does just that: http://wearethatfamily.com/ I agree that I would like to see local Relief Societies do that. With the way Relief Society is structured how do you go about doing that?

  5. Courtney, here is a link to another group of women who have worked on these same issues that we are now considering because of Half the Sky. You might recognize some of the names: Doe Doughtery, Kay Gaisford. The website is called Tiny Peaces (www.tinypeaces.com). They started out beading and then traveling to Turkey to teach beading to women who were struggling economically there. Download the powerpoint presentation of their travels. Its truly inspiring.

    I can see that this is the type of project you have in mind and I’m so glad to see that you are moving forward with it. For other readers, please know that in the background things are moving forward and we’ll have more news to share soon about a new effort.

  6. You seem to know a lot about this. This is good blog. A great read. I’ll certainly be back.


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  2. […] am most excited to tell you about is gifting Kiva donations to your family members. The authors of Half the Sky are highly complementary of the Kiva effort to fund microloans with money loaned by people around […]

  3. […] be able to add themselves to this list? I hope so. Courtney is working on her idea to create a crafter’s guild of LDS women that will raise money to send to humanitarian efforts across the […]

  4. […] as I let the impact of the material sit with me a while, I started to get an idea. I shared it onWAVE, and was encouraged to follow up with it by Jenne of the Women’s Service […]

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