Circle of Sisterhood Foundation (read my post here) to read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.
It would be easy for a book focusing on women's oppression to be bleak and disheartening, but the message of the book is that everyone can make a difference. Even small changes can reap great rewards. The book is full of stories of women who are true heroes in their bravery and steadfastness. But still the statistics and the danger many women and girls face on a daily basis will curl your hair.
I've been marking passages as I go along. Here are some of the most striking:
"The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century."
"More girls are killed in this routine 'gendercide' in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century."
"In the nineteenth century, the central moral challenge was slavery. In the twentieth century, it was the battle against totalitarianism. We believe that in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality in the developing world."
"Studies suggest that about one third of all women worldwide face beatings in the home. Women aged fifteen through forty-four are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war combined. A major study by the World Health Organization found that in most countries, between 30 and 60 percent of women had experienced physical or sexual violence by a husband or boyfriend. 'Violence against women by an intimate partner is a major contributor to the ill health of women,' said the former director-general of WHO, Lee Jong-wook."
I learned a lot from this book and the best part is it gives you lots of concrete things you can do long-term and short-term to make a difference. For example, the book ends with "Four Steps You Can Take in the Next Ten Minutes" that I'll share below... but your first step should be to read the book! Check it at the library, uy it at your favorite retailer or from amazon by clicking here.
1. Set up an account on www.globalgiving.org or www.kiva.org (as you know, I'm a fan of Kiva).
2. Sponsor a girl or a woman through Plan International, Women for Women International, World Vision, or American Jewish World Service.
3. Sign up for email updates from www.womensenews.org or www.worldpulse.com
4. Join the CARE Action Network at www.can.care.org
I'll add one more - follow @NickKristof on Twitter (he is one of the authors; the other, Sheryl WuDunn isn't on Twitter).