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HarmonyWishes Blog

Reflections on design, architecture, fashion, art, music and organizations that make the world a better place.

Good Works: Half the Sky


"Women hold up half the sky" ~ Chinese Proverb

With that introduction, you get a sense of what Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn share as a perspective on the economic and moral resource that women around the world provide.What their book "Half The Sky" delivers, however, goes so far beyond that simple statement.Through their reporting for the New York Times, they have traveled through Africa and Asia and have witnessed much of the most heinous oppression towards women in the developing world.

While painful to read at times, it is simultaneously uplifting as they recount stories of women who have fought back against human trafficking, honor killings, mass rape, maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS and have emerged as victorious in varying degrees.

Rather than just throw a bunch of statistics at you, each chapter takes you to a different part of the world and tells a story. I don’t think anyone can read this book and come away not wanting to do something to help.

The subject of help is what I find most fascinating about these stories – how well-intended foreign aid often can have unforeseen consequences when applied in settings that don’t fully contemplate entrenched customs and attitudes.The stories often illustrate how an NGO can go into a region with a specific solution only to find it produced a totally unexpected result (and often not a good one).The overwhelming message is that flexibility and persistence are what ultimately makes the difference.  And that the education of women is the most reliable way out of poverty and toward a more peaceful society.

As we enter 2010 I hope we do so with a renewed sense of optimism, an unflagging belief in the inherent kindness of people and a passion to make a difference.

Below you will find links to some of the NGOs mentioned in the book.I encourage you to check them out, find one that speaks to your heart and act.  And please...read the book.

"Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." ~ Margaret Mead

Afghan Institute of Learning; www.afghaninstituteoflearning.org~ works to improve the health and education of women and children in a country ravaged by three decades of war

American Assistance for Cambodia; www.cambodiaschools.com ~ fights trafficking and has a program to subsidize poor girls so they can remain in school

Apne Aap; www.apneaap.org; battles sex slavery in India

Campaign for Female Education; www.camfed.org ~ supports schooling for girls in Africa

Central Asia Institute (Greg Mortenson’s organization written about in Three Cups of Tea); www.ikat.org ~ provides education in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Edna Adan Maternity Hospital; www.ednahospital.org ~ the only teaching hospital in Somaliland, a country with one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world

Girls Helping Girls; www.empoweragirl.org ~founded in 2007 by a 15 year old girl, it builds relationships between girls across continents and supports education and health initiatives

Hunger Project; www.thp.org ~ focuses on empowerment of women to end hunger

New Light; www.newlightindia.org ~provides education and shelter to high risk children and women in Kolkata, India

Pro Mujer; www.promujer.org ~ supports women in Latin America through microcredit and business training

Tostan; www.tostan.org ~ one of the most successful organizations in overcoming female genital cutting in Africa

Whether you support through monetary donations, time volunteering (many of these organizations accept interns on the ground in country) or simply spreading the word, everything helps.

More information on Half the Sky can be found here:  http://www.halftheskymovement.org/  

Peace and blessings,