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I was at my sister's house, 5am, no one else awake, playing a hundred rounds of bejeweled on my cell phone to pass the time, when I suddenly realize that this stupid game was not making me a better person. I looked at her bookshelf and saw "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide". I'd heard of it before, it's about how women are treated in poor, remote, oppressive parts of the world, everyone said it was such an important book but it was on my "I don't want to read this" list because I was afraid it would give me nightmares. Remember, I don't watch any movie or read any book with a rape scene in it because I just cannot deal?

But I started in anyway. And I realized something... I already know that unimaginably horrible things are happening to women in remote parts of the world, I know what trafficking is, I've heard the numbers on women who die in childbirth. Why not just read the book, and see if there's something I can do about it?

Honestly, it wasn't one nightmare after another, the stories are about victories, you read about women who escape from sexual slavery and all you can think is "wow... damn!" those sorts of things.

So I'm just gonna say that you have to read it, or at least watch the PBS documentary of the same name which is available on netflix instant by the way. The book absorbed me, I was through it in less than a week, and it's not random stories because the problems are not random, the authors tie everything together to prove how we can solve so many of the world's problems just by tackling these "women's issues"... stop thinking of women as disposable!

For example, one bit I highlighted pointed out how maternal mortality in the US used to be comparable to parts of Africa... there are still places on this earth where something like 1 in 12 women who survive to adulthood will die in childbirth. But childbirth in the US suddenly became much less risky shortly after women earned the right to vote. And in the UK, it dropped when laws were passed about educating girls. All the sudden, when we were thought of as people, society just decided we were worthy of healthcare and realized how easy it was to prevent obstructed labor.

Just like creation stories, so many cultures have mythology explaining why women are "supposed" to suffer and die in childbirth. Science has an explanation too, and it's easy to get around with modern medicine. We just have to decide women are worth saving, admit their intellect can be an asset to society.

And that's all these other parts of the world need... yes, the problem is complex, and we can't just throw money at it, but these societies will benefit if they stop dehumanizing half their population. Women help their families and children so much if they're educated and allowed a voice in family decisions, not just tossed aside. When these families provide healthcare only to their sons, only educate boys, sell their daughters to brothels, pay no attention as mothers die from pregnancy complications like eclampsia, the whole country is losing out.

And that's the argument at the end, that these aren't "women's issues", these are environmental issues, poverty issues, and counter-terrorism issues that can be improved vastly just by purchasing a few school uniforms for girls, repairing a woman's childbirth injuries. The costs are not astronomical, we just need to stop looking away, marginalizing the issues, or seeing the problem as "too big".

There are amazing organizations that will raid brothels to find underage girls being held and raped against their will. Help a girl get off the drugs she was forced to take, heal from the beatings. Tell her she's a person, not a waste or a shame to her family, the kidnapping was not her fault. Teach her a trade. Then she is a woman who can send money back to her family, prove to them that she's not just a liability. She will educate her own daughters. The cycle is broken and generations come out ahead. That's the story told by this beautiful book, and I hope no one else makes the same mistake I did and puts off reading it because they're afraid.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
browngirl
Jul. 18th, 2013 10:29 pm (UTC)
I so hear you (and that is an excellent book, which I read part of some years ago).
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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