I read Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s moving book Half the Sky in 2009. I began it before bed one night and had it finished by the next day. It’s a compelling, moving read about what grassroots efforts for women and by women in the developing world can do to promote democracy and economic stability, both of which help society as a whole. It turns out that helping women succeed helps everyone succeed. I often teach the chapter on the sex trade in Thailand in my 1213 class; students respond to Kristof and WuDunn’s accessible writing style and the gripping account of them buying two women in an attempt to free them for modern slavery. I’d love for us to do it as our Read This! book one year, although I’m not sure if our campus is ready to talk about poverty and women. At any rate, there’s a whole movement behind the book now, as well as a PBS documentary series.
I mention all of the above because of the case of Malala Yousafazi, a 14 year old activist in Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban over the weekend. While she survived, doctors had to remove a bullet from her brain and her prognosis is unknown. This child has been speaking out for the rights of women for a long time, and she was shot because, as Andrew Sullivan says, the Taliban is afraid of a teenage girl. Because teenage girls who speak their minds, who want the right to be educated, want the right to be heard are dangerous to fundamentalist regimes and fundamentalist ideology, no matter the religion. Will Dobson argues that “Studies suggest that educating girls is about the closest thing we have to a silver-bullet solution for countries suffering from poverty, instability, and general inequity.” Educating women matters, and it’s a challenge to any regime that depends on poverty and inequity to survive.