Reading Half the Sky was much more difficult for me than I expected it to be. Before starting the book, I thought of all the ways women in our society are degraded on a daily basis. Between the large wage gap and high incidence of sexual harassment, American women are often mistreated. After reading this book, I was upset to think that this is nothing in comparison to what millions of other women face around the world. This book depicts the raw truth of the oppression women all around the world face each and every day. This truth is depicted through the stories of numerous strong women, who have each endured more than anyone could possibly imagine. Each woman has endured something equally as horrible as the next, such as sex-trafficking and acid attacks. Fortunately, this is not a book of only misery and pain; instead a huge aspect of it is centered on hope. Between the strength of the women and help from worldwide organizations, many were fortunate enough to get a second chance at life. Although this book is painful to read, it is necessary for all to experience. Just because this book was published in 2009 doesn’t mean these horrors are a thing of the past. As the Washington Post said, this book is a “call to arms” for each and every one of us to open our eyes to this “humanitarian issue.” (Half the Sky, 2009).
The story that really hit me the most was that of Meena, a sex-trafficed girl whose story was one of the first to be told. Let me set the scene and explain to you why this story was so difficult for me to read. On the weekend of February 3rd my friends and I took a weekend trip to Amsterdam. I decided to carry this book on the flight with me because it was about a 3 hour flight and you all know that there is no such thing as TV’s on RyanAir flights. Unfortunately, I fell asleep on the flight there, which did not allow me to start the book. I really wish I hadn’t fallen asleep. My friends and I spent the whole weekend exploring all of the most popular sights in Amsterdam. As most would know, one of these popular attractions is the Red Light District. If I’m being completely honest, I laughed at the sight of it. It all seemed so bizarre and desperate to me. The women all stand in the windows and doorways, trying to lure us (really meaning my guy friends) in. I am very sorry to say that I was extremely judgmental, wondering why they would choose to do this with their lives. After a long weekend, we boarded our flight back home and I pulled out Half the Sky and began reading. I was in shock. Pure shock. Meena’s story is the first to be told and ties greatly into my travels because she was forced to work as a prostitute in Forbesgunge. She was kidnapped at the age of 8 and sold to a brothel where they began using her at the age of 12. Her story is heart wrenching, as she describes how they tried to break her spirit, how often they beat her, and eventually how she had to abandon her children. Meena is a very strong willed woman. Although horrified by what was going on around her, she constantly fought back. Even after escaping the brothel, she returned numerous times to try and retrieve her children who she was forced to leave behind. Her thoughts were always those of determination and strength. Meena’s motherly love and determination was ultimately successful, as her family was once again reunited after years of agony and torture. The story really hit me when Kristof and WuDunn began to explain the numerical facts of sex-trafficking. They explain how the majority of prostitutes around the world are not voluntarily working, instead they are actually being forced into the industry. “Once a girl is broken and terrified, all hope of escape squeezed out of her, force may no longer be necessary to control her. She may smile and laugh at passerby, and try to grab them and tug them into the brothel. Many a foreigner would assume that she is there voluntarily” (Half the Sky, 10). At this point I literally had to close the book. Earlier in the day I had been walking through the Red Light District of Amsterdam, laughing at the methods of the prostitutes to lure visitors in. At that point all I could think about were the women that we passed by. How many of them were forced to be there? What horrific things had they been through? What could I possibly do now? It was a very eye opening experience for me.
At Quinnipiac I am in the Entry Level Masters Physician Assistant Program. Something that really stuck out to me in the book was well was the lack of proper healthcare, especially when it comes to pregnant mothers. A goal of mine since I was a child is to work in a program like Doctors without boarders, but for Physician Assistants. I never knew where I wanted to go or what kind of medical aide I wanted to provide (vaccines, surgeries, etc), however this book gave me some inspiration. Maybe one day I will take my work to an impoverished women’s clinic.
Kristof, Nicholas D., and Sheryl WuDunn. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into
Opportunity for Women Worldwide. New York: