The overall message I got from the book Half the Sky is that cultural differences, norms and traditions, and occasionally pure evil are the cause of many violations of human rights worldwide. How to deal with these violations is unique to every case. A stat at the beginning of the book was staggering. “1% of US foreign aid is specifically targeted to women and girls.” As I read on past this initial stat, I ended up being less and less perplexed. Foreign aid has to focus on the outcomes of their “assistance”. Raising standards for working conditions in manufacturing nations like Bangladesh would hypothetically be a victory. Yet if raising these standards causes layoffs in the thousands and women to fall into poverty and potentially prostitution, either willingly or unwillingly, then this is a failure of foreign aid. There are many ways to address and combat each unique situation affecting women from China, to India, to Africa. Everyone was brought into this world by a woman, and it is inconsolable to read about the crimes committed primarily by men to the creatures that bore them.
The story of Mukhtar Mai was incredibly optimistic and can be learned from. She caused a complete paradigm shift of rape culture in her home nation of Pakistan. The fact that this paradigm shift was not just in cities, but in the villages across the mountainous country of Pakistan is staggering. Mukhtar is undoubtedly a special person who was able to accomplish so much good that will transcend generations. She did this by being rebellious, going against the grain, and attracting all-important media attention.
The first step that Mukhtar took after her gang-rape, as ordered by tribe officials, was both revolutionary and rebellious. She went to the police to report that she had been raped, whereas the traditional action in her country was that of suicide out of shame. Mukhtar recognized that following this action would be to follow a sickening trend that has surely existed in her country for centuries. Her shame turned into rage, which caused action. “Rapes used to be widespread in rural Pakistan, because there was no disincentive. But Mukhtar changed the paradigm, and women and girls began to fight back and go to the police.” (Kristoff 75) It was noted that Mukhtar did have help from her parents to prevent the typical tragedy after rape in Pakistan. However, showing her strength and going to the police was extremely bold, along with Mukhtar’s use of a compensation payment she received from the government. She used the payment to fund a school and turn herself from a victim to an activist. Half the Sky showcased many cases of severe negligence of human rights and how there is no universal solution.
I believe that it takes individual leaders like Mukhtar to truly put a stop to cultural issues like sex trafficking and slavery. Money cannot just be thrown at these issues to make them go away. Society has to change and view happenings such as virgin trafficking and gang-rape as violations of the rights of any human, regardless of their class or education level in society. This change will typically and hopefully happen at least slowly, but we have seen from history that individuals can spur this change rapidly. Leaders like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. Mukhtar Mai, and even Hitler have changed the course of history due to their leadership ability, effective methods of rebelliousness, and media participation. Individuals such as these do not come around every day. When bent on the greater good these leaders must be supported where and how necessary by the UN and any nations that supposedly support the greater good of our planet. When keen on destruction, these influential leaders must be swiftly dealt with.
My major, Computer Information Systems, has to do with utilizing technology and specifically information to its maximum benefit in order to improve business practices. We live in the age of information where gathering, storing, and moving data is faster than ever before. An example of information gathering came early in the novel. In 2000, the US Congress passed legislation that required the State department to put out a Trafficking in Persons report which put the issue on the map. Countries were forced to add human trafficking onto their list of national concerns next to terrorism, etc. This was a good usage of the increased availability of technology at the time that allowed for this gathering of data. Social media is the current platform where, once information is properly gathered and presentable, the most individuals can be reached in a call for action. Micro lending is key for economic growth in underdeveloped and developing countries and a strong social media campaign should promote this.
It was often stomach-turning to learn about the countless problems facing women in present day society. As properly noted in the “What Can you Do” section of the book, these are not “women’s issues”, but instead humanitarian concerns. For citizens of the US, these problems are not close to home. Therefore, there is little interest from individuals and media. I think it’s vital that people realize there is something they can do. The authors explain how $20 a month could drastically improve the life of someone in a nation where $2 a day is an average salary. The authors also strongly believe that foreign support can be vital when Individuals have to be aware of how they are getting the news they are. I have been suggesting VICE news to friends recently, a site that hits the people on the ground in the area of interest that matter, with the pure facts of the matter and no bias. They are the type of news source that informs the public on issues that the TV seemingly never will would run a story about. A major issue will actually be sex trafficking rather than the Title IX debate in women’s college sports in the US, a very marginal issue in comparison. While the US focuses on unequal pay, there are many greater problems facing our women in 2015 and beyond, individuals must become aware of these issues and take action as they can. The authors give quite a few ideas at the end of the novel and I especially want to look deeper into the grassroots approach to aid in the form of micro lending.