These are stories of the women who survived (not always) and triumphed (sometimes) in a world that too often undervalues them. In writing about one woman, Kristof and WuDunn wrote, “Rath’s saga offers a glimpse of the brutality inflicted routinely on women and girls in much of the world, a malignancy that is slowly gaining recognition as one of the paramount human rights problems of this century,” (p viii).
30,000 to 130,000 fistula cases occur in one part of Africa each year, according to the authors. Most could be repaired for about $300, but they won’t be fixed, because the women are poor peasants. They’ll be left to die alone, because people cannot bear the smell of them. More than 3 million women are enslaved in the sex trade, and over 536,000 women die from childbirth each year. Kristof and WuDunn cite World Health Organization estimates (p99) that the rates of maternal mortality are 1000 times higher in the developing world than in the West.
The authors conclude that maternal mortality is an injustice that is allowed only because the women are poor, rural and uneducated.
They argue that three steps would make the greatest difference for women in the developing world — campaigns to fund girls’ education; iodize salt to prevent mental retardation and eradicate fistulas. Improving the lives of women is crucial to economic development.
Reading the book took me back to a recent discussion with Harvard Senior Lecturer, Daniel Halperin, PhD, who questions whether aid dollars are being overspent on AIDS compared to other potentially life saving investments.
Kudos to Kristof and WuDunn, and thanks to Kristof for consistently important columns. Read Half the Sky…you may be shocked…and transformed.
Have a good day! Barbara