It is difficult to fathom the atrocities that are carried out against women in various parts of the world. And it is all too easy for those of us living in wealthy countries to go about our lives and remain blissfully ignorant of the fact that in less privileged parts of the world, gender discrimination in the form of honour killings, sexual slavery and genital cuttings (to name but a few), is responsible for the death or disappearance of millions of women.
These are the issues tackled in Half the Sky: How to Change the World by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn – an absolute must-read for all. The book is confronting and presents real life stories of women who are victims of unimaginable horrors and have lived to tell the tale.
Shedding light on gendercide and putting human faces to the statistics
Half the Sky presents the following horrifying statistics – statistics which are largely ignored or unreported by the media:
• In 2005, over half a million women died in childbirth, and 99% of those lived in poor countries; the risk of maternal death in a poor country is one thousand times higher than in the West, and maternal morbidity (injury in childbirth) is more common still.
• Thirty-nine thousand baby girls die annually in China because parents don’t give them the same medical care and attention that boys receive.
• In India, a ‘bride-burning’ – to punish a woman for an inadequate dowry or to eliminate her so a man can remarry – takes place approximately once every two hours.
• In Pakistan, five thousand women and girls have been doused in kerosene and set alight, or been seared with acid by family members or in-laws for perceived disobedience – in the last nine years alone.
• Every year at least two million women go missing as a result of gender discrimination.
There is more, each statistic as shocking and heart-wrenching as the last, but it isn’t all doom and gloom; the book has a strong pragmatic element and describes ways in which gender inequality can be conquered. Amongst these ideas, Kristof and Wudunn list the following four things that you can do right now to help:
The book also outlines mounting evidence that women are actually the key to ending world poverty. Gender equality, and the education and empowerment of women, leads to improved economic performance and productivity; enhanced health outcomes; a reduction in infant mortality; and the chance of an education for future generations – all of which help create positive self-perpetuating changes.
The bottom line is, if these type of violations against women were occurring in Australia they would never be tolerated, so why should we care any less about women in further reaches of the globe? As women, it is up to us to stand for all women in the world - together we can make a difference. You can take action today, right now, and join the movement to emancipate females around the world.