books

A Hole in My Heart

Half the SkyI have never given a lot of thought to having been born female. In fact, I have probably taken the very fact of being alive for granted, a thought which has occurred to me on occasion when I think about the circumstances of my birth, but which I am now considering in a new light after reading Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book Half the Sky. In truth, were I born anywhere other than the Western world, I would not be here today.

I was born in the late 70s, two months premature to a teenage mother. That alone would have sealed my fate in many of the countries that are discussed in this book. Add to that a congenital heart defect that required the health services available only to the industrialized world and it becomes abundantly clear that I am one of the lucky ones.

The girls and women described in Half the Sky are not as fortunate. Born to poverty, slavery, disease, malnutrition and corruption, they struggle to survive in a world where they have no value other than that assigned to them by the men who decide their fate.

The famous anthropologist Margaret Mead once said:  “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

This is a book about a small group of thoughtful people.

People who come up with creative, simple solutions to problems that aren’t normally “sexy” enough for philanthropists and government aid agencies or corporate sponsors; problems such as fistulas and deworming, sanitary supplies to keep menstruating girls in school, lack of access to loans for small businesses, lack of opportunity and access to education for girls, and how to deal with centuries old beliefs about female genital mutilation.

These are not solutions that are dreamed up by governments or corporations; instead, they are instituted at a grass-roots level by concerned friends around the world, and most importantly, by the women who have lived these lives first-hand, who were given a chance to succeed and who are returning to their communities with open hearts and minds.

This is a wonderful, enlightening book. It sheds light on the often ignored subject of female oppression and gender imbalance and offers suggestions about how individuals can make a difference.

After all, as Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

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