Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Category: Political Science - Political Freedom & Security - Human Rights; Political Science - Political Process - Political Advocacy; Social Science - Women's Studies
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Publisher: Knopf
ISBN: 978-0-307-26714-6 (0-307-26714-8)

Pub Date: September 8, 2009
Price: $34.00

How you respond to husband-and-wife Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's book "Half the Sky" is likely to depend on two variables: what you think about activism in general and how you view activists from developed, western countries working to help the less fortunate in developing worlds. Some people see the latter as an unnecessary interference in third world matters, but I happen to think that wherever help can be obtained, that is where it must be sought!

In their book "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide" the authors argue that the key to economic progress in the world lies in unleashing women's potential. The book then goes on to provide scores of examples of women whose futures seemed bleak and yet, when they were given a helping hand, they rose to the occasion and pulled not only themselves out of dire poverty, but also their families and in some instances, the whole neighborhood! The authors titled their book after an old Chinese proverb that says "Women hold up half the sky." It's time that people around the world recognize the full implication of that wise proverb and work together to ensure that women everywhere are able to rise to their fullest potential so that we all can benefit from the contributions they will make to global society.

The book also provides helpful information on how to help oppressed women...

Here are some ways (borrowed from the Oprah.com)

Make girls smarter. Many pregnant women living in poverty don't get enough iodine, so their fetuses' brains do not develop properly. Their children routinely lose ten to 15 IQ points—particularly the girls, for reasons not fully understood. The solution: Iodize salt, at the cost of a couple of pennies per person per year. To contribute, go to Helen Keller International (HKI.org).

Support a woman's business. With a microloan of $50, a woman can start a business, producing income she can use to feed her children and send them to school. To make a loan, go to Mercy Corps (MercyCorps.org) or BRAC (BRACUSA.org), two groups helping women around the world.

Keep a girl in school. A girl who gets an education will have fewer children, earn more money, and be able to help her younger siblings. One excellent support program operates in Cambodia, where uneducated girls are at great risk of being trafficked into brothels. For $10 a month, you can keep a girl in school through American Assistance for Cambodia (CambodiaSchools.com), or for $13,000, you can build an entire school that will revolutionize life in a village forever.

If you don't have money to give, here are some ways yo can help them for free!
Join the Half the Sky movement.Spread the Word
The best way to fight poverty and injustice is to educate women and girls. All you have to do is log on to Facebook or your favorite social networking site!

GlobalGivingWatch This Video Watch
Never underestimate the power of a girl. Watch this video and e-mail it to everyone you know. Then, learn more about The Girl Effect.

Join the Half the Sky book clubStart a Half the Sky Book Club
At the heart of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's book is the belief that women hold up half the sky—and that the injustices of the world can be stopped when all women and children are educated and empowered. Get discussion questions from Nick and Sheryl and more with Mercy Corps' book club.

Kristof and Dunn have put together a remarkable book, one that will surely be remembered as one of the most important books of the decade. Kristof has said that if the great moral struggle of the 19th century was the abolition of slavery and that of the 20th century racial equality, then that of the 21st century would be gender equality. The riveting story-telling, sobering statistics and practical will leave you with no choice but to sit up and pay attention...it's time to pick up the gauntlet and do our part for women, start by buying a copy (or two) of this game-changing book, I know you won't regret it!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wrong About Japan (A Father's Journey With His Son) by Peter Carey

Category: Travel - Asia - Japan; Social Science - Popular Culture; History - Japan

Format: Trade Paperback, 176 pages

Publisher: Vintage Canada

Pub Date: January 3, 2006

Price: $17.00

My first Carey and I was excited not only because it was a book about father-son bonding (always an "aww.."with me) but a travelogue about a place I have fantasized so much about visiting...Japan!

Peter Carey and his manga-crazy 12-year old son decide to visit Japan and instead of doing the regular tourist dance, one that involves visiting temples in Kyoto and boring museums, they decide to explore the world of manga and anime and to see how these art forms have influenced Japanese culture. Ofcourse, his assumptions are just that- assumptions -we don't know for sure how many of Carey's deductions on Japanese culture are true or just something that he makes up as he goes along. I suspect the latter is true.

This is a tiny book with just about enough information to generate a longish article in some very mediocre travel magazine (I want to say, inflight magazine), so I have no idea why Carey decided to turn this into a travel nouvella, oh wait, I do believe he mentions something about this book helping to pay for his airfare to Japan!

Hmmm, well, now I feel exploited! For the reader this is a pretty pointless exercise in reading, although certain passages about "Manga" (its origins from "Kamishabais or storytellers selling candy on the streets of Japan) is quite interesting and he also has a great travel quote, probably one of the best I have come across in recent times:

"This is how it is with travelling - the simplest things take on an air of great inscrutability and so many questions arise, only to be half born and then lost as they are bumped aside by others. The most mundane events take on the character of deep secrets."

About the writing....I can tell Carey is uncomfortable with this particular genre, he repeats information, provides very few details of locales and conversations are almost non-existent unless it's Carey interviewing someone (there are a lot of those). In the end it's not hard to see that Carey is wrong about Japan and we were wrong to expect anything else! I will say, however, that this might serve as a good handbook to understand this generation's obsession with all things Japanese... also, you will come away wanting to pick up a copy of Isao Takahata's "Grave of the Fireflies" on DVD.