This book changed my life

December 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

Half the Sky: How to Change the World

I’ve never written a book review before – and I don’t intend to do one now. All I will say is simply that if you are interested in politics, international development and any issues relating to women’s rights should read the book Half The Sky: How to Change the World by two American journalists, Nicholas D. Kristoff and Sheryl Wudunn. I’ve just finished it, and I genuinely think it’s fair to say it changed the way I think about issues relating to women forever.

To quote from the opening chapter: “We hope to recruit you to join an incipient movement to emancipate women and fight global poverty by unlocking women’s power as economic catalysts. That is the process under way – not a drama of victimization but of empowerment, the kind that transforms bubbly teenage girls from brothel slaves into successful businesswomen.”

The phrase “half the sky” is from a quote from Mao Zedong, who for all his (massive) faults did mange to bring in some measures which benefitted women enormously. In fact the organisation Half the Sky  targets Chinese orphans in reference to this famous quote. This book looks at issues relating to the sex trade, war, maternal mortality, women’s involvement in politics, education – in short, all the things this blog writes about. It details real examples and individual cases, but counters it with how they fit into the worldwide scheme of poverty and development. The main thrust of the book is that if only half of the population of any country are being educated, working and contributing to the economy, then the country can only ever reach half of it’s potential. Some parts of this book are easier to swallow than others, inevitably, and some parts will make you cry and stay with you indefinitely. But what is so brilliant about it is the way that it takes a real hands-on, grass roots approach. The final chapter is entitled Four Steps you can take in the next ten minutes and the back is a full index of charities, NGOs and women’s groups worldwide that you can get involved with, and how to contact them. It is the bible of women’s rights and I know I will be referring to it again and again. Let me know what you think.

“Sensationally interesting – I think this is one of the most important books I have ever reviewed” – Washington Post
 
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Another domestic maid dies in the Middle East

November 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

Just a quick follow up to my post earlier in the week on the abuse of domestic maids in the Middle East. Sad news today that an Indonesian maid has reportedly been killed in Saudi Arabia – at the hands of a female employer, reports suggest.

Indonesia is understandably demanding an inquiry – and good luck to them. With another Indonesian maid also in hospital after allegedly suffering from torture in hospital, the country has sent a team to investigate.  I hope they manage to make enough noise to get this issue towards the top of the agenda. The more international pressure can be brought to this issue, the more likely Saudi Arabia will be forced to take action.

Afghan women’s football team is a sign of progress

November 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Nice optimistic piece from the BBC here on the Afghanistan’s national women’s football team  – don’t forget that in the very recent past women were kept away from education and public life, and frequently kept indoors. The existance of this video, and the team in Afghanistan, is a triumph.

The health of a woman’s national sport side can be a good indication of the state of women’s rights within the country. Football in Iran has a rocky history, for example, with various political leaders deciding that women should not even be allowed to watch men playing the sport. The Iranian youth women’s team was also at the centre of a controversy about how to compete in international competitions whilst still following Iran’s restrictive dress code for women (Interestingly, women’s football in Iran was thriving prior to the Islamic revolution there in 1979). In Saudi Arabia, the decision to allow women to drive almost prompted riots from hardline conservatives in the country. And, in keeping with that – women are allowed to take part in football games. 

As long as the referee, linesmen, all the players and all the spectators are female.

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