Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn
American, husband and wife reporters, Nicholas and Sheryl wrote this ground breaking book in 2009; highlighting the unimaginable hurdles many women around the world (although this book focuses mostly on Africa and Asia) deal with day to day.
It discusses how charities and the Western world have tried to help over the years, many times creating bigger problems than they were trying to “fix” with their “we know best” attitudes.
We discussed how things have changed in the last eight years since the book was written. Charities are less likely now to fly into a region with their solution to the problem and more likely to work at a grass roots level; which is having a great impact on the lives of people where it is needed. Microfinancing was in its infancy when the book was written, but has now ballooned and websites like kiva.org are common knowledge now.
We debated the ethics of sweatshops. Good or bad??? I don’t think we came to a conclusion. Bad that people (mostly women and children) have to work in such appalling conditions. Good that these people have paid employment, employment that they didn’t have before – but does that make it justifiable? With the recession still biting, many people in the West can only afford items that are produced in sweat shops; and then there are the big brands and stores that promise they don’t use sweat shops, but scratch the surface and you discover that their contractors have sub-contracted, and the sub-contractor uses sweat shops! What’s the answer???
Overall, it made for an interesting discussion.