Half the Sky, at the recommendation of a fellow volunteer at Action for AIDS (you know who you are if you're reading this).
I don't think I have EVER read such a sit-up-and-pay-attention introduction in a book. And that was a sign of things to come throughout.
For those of you who don't know, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is a book about some of the incredible challenges and oppression that women face world wide.
Some of the facts I read in the introduction, totally blew me away. Facts such as:
- In India a "bride burning" - which punishes women with an inadequate dowry or elimates her so a man can remarry - takes place every 2 HOURS.
- In Islambad and Rawalpindi in Pakistan, five thousand women and girls have been doused in kerosene and set alight by family members or seared with acid for perceived disobedience in the last nine years
- In America more than one in six women undergoes rape or attempted rape at some point during their life
- More girls have been killed in the last fifty years just because they were girls, than men in all the wars of the 20th century
And it didn't stop there. Throughout the book I was stunned and shocked about just how far much of the world has to go to uplift the rights of the woman....
- In the Ethipoian countryside, if a young man takes a shine to a girl but can't meet the "bride price" or fears her family will reject him, then he and his friends will rape her, leaving the women with no prospects and no alternative but to marry him. Moreover the law until recently stated that a man could not be prosecuted for violating a woman or girl he later married. But laws there don't mean much anyway.
- In Darfur, if you are a woman going to the police to report being raped, you will actually get punished, usually with the same act you are going there to report.
And the examples go on...
But this is not a book that points the finger at men. And god forbid I would never do that. Moreover it points the finger at the lack of education and therefore lack of empowerment fuelled by archaic thinking and customs engrained into those who simply don't know any better.
For example, 62 per cent of Indian village women actually show support for wife beating.
I know everyone has problems, but all you women out there, the next time you bemoan the trials and tribulations of being a woman, take a moment to remember that many of us have come a long way, but many more of us have still got a long way to come.