Half the Sky Lecture Was Awesome!
I must confess. I have not finished Half the Sky yet but I could not pass up an opportunity to hear from Sheryl WuDunn, the wife of the NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof. One of the organizations I have been volunteering for since 2008, CARE USA, has been increasingly focusing on women and girls.
A good crowd of several hundred people came. There were a couple of men there too!
The great thing about the lecture was that it was not really a lecture. Sheryl WuDunn spoke in a very engaging, conversational manner and did not use notes. She used clear, compelling examples of women who had suffered unimaginable abuse but managed to change their lives around through the support of people and organizations. And she showed a slide show of pictures-some shocking, some beautiful. It included a Chinese girl who went to school and became an accountant, an ex-prostitute from Cambodia, and a recent college graduate from Uganda.
She spoke of gender inequity and how millions of women are aborted or neglected. She spoke of appalling sexual slavery and high rates of maternal mortality.
We all know that girls are the solution. We know they are more likely to have fewer children and spend money wisely when they are educated. We all know that microfinance loans provide much needed income for families.
Sherly WuDunn mentioned that there has been a lot of criticism of aid and its failures. But there were so many positive examples of small ways of helping and empowering women in their countries to make change in their communities. We all know there is not only one solution but many and that helping people can be complicated because of ingrained cultural attitudes. Changing laws is one thing but changing cultural attitudes is another. And that goes for the United States as well!
What is clear is that a sustainable global movement is needed. Sheryl WuDunn laughingly but seriously used the example of the tea party in terms of motivation. Girls’ education needs to come to the top of the foreign policy priority list.
And she made the salient point that it is not us telling them what to do. We can have knowledge transfer going both ways and that it is not an either or situation. Just because we concentrate on global activism does not mean we are neglecting or do not care about local issues as well.
Each year, I feel a little bit more educated and a little bit more confident of my abilities to make change. It was an inspiring night and I am looking forward to having more of them soon.