Ashoka Acknowledged in Half the Sky

Half the Sky Book Cover

Ashoka, Bill Drayton, and three Ashoka Fellows are profiled in Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book “Half the Sky.”

From two of our most fiercely moral voices, a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world.

With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as our guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there, among them a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth. Drawing on the breadth of their combined reporting experience, Kristof and WuDunn depict our world with anger, sadness, clarity, and, ultimately, hope.

They show how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad. That Cambodian girl eventually escaped from her brothel and, with assistance from an aid group, built a thriving retail business that supports her family. The Ethiopian woman had her injuries repaired and in time became a surgeon. A Zimbabwean mother of five, counseled to return to school, earned her doctorate and became an expert on AIDS.

Through these stories, Kristof and WuDunn help us see that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential. They make clear how so many people have helped to do just that, and how we can each do our part. Throughout much of the world, the greatest unexploited economic resource is the female half of the population. Countries such as China have prospered precisely because they emancipated women and brought them into the formal economy. Unleashing that process globally is not only the right thing to do; it’s also the best strategy for fighting poverty.

Deeply felt, pragmatic, and inspirational, Half the Sky is essential reading for every global citizen.

Half the Sky book cover

Editorial Reviews

“Women facing poverty, oppression, and violence are usually viewed as victims. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky shows that unimaginable challenges are often met with breathtaking bravery. These stories show us the power and resilience of women who would have every reason to give up but never do. They will be an inspiration for anyone who reads this book, and a model for those fighting for justice around the world. You will not want to put this book down.”

- Angelina Jolie

“I read Half the Sky in one sitting, staying up until 3 a.m. to do so. It is brilliant and inspirational, and I want to shout about it from the rooftops and mountains. It vividly illustrates how women have turned despair into prosperity and bravely nurtured hope to cultivate a bright future. The book ends with an especially compelling ‘What you can do’ to exhort us all to action.”

- Greg Mortenson, author, Three Cups of Tea

“If you have always wondered whether you can change the world, read this book. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn have written a brilliant call to arms that describes one of the transcendent injustices in the world today–the brutal treatment of women. They take you to many countries, introduce you to extraordinary women, and tell you their moving tales. Throughout, the tone is practical not preachy and the book’s suggestions as to how you can make a difference are simple, sensible, and yet powerful. The authors vividly describe a terrible reality about the world we live in but they also provide light and hope that we can, in fact, change it.”

- Fareed Zakaria, author, The Post-American World

“I think it’s impossible to stand by and do nothing after reading Half the Sky. It does what we need most, it bears witness to the sheer cruelty that mankind can do to mankind.”

- George Clooney

“It’s impossible to exaggerate the importance of this book about one of the most serious problems of our time: the worldwide abuse and exploitation of women. In addition to describing the injustices, Kristof and WuDunn show how concerned individuals everywhere are working effectively to empower women and help them overcome adversity. Wonderfully written and vividly descriptive, Half the Sky can and should galvanize support for reform on all levels. Inspiring as it is shocking, this book demands to be read.”

- Anne Rice

“Half the Sky is a passionate and persuasive plea to all of us to rise up and say ‘No more!’ to the 17th-century abuses to girls and women in the 21st-century world. This is a book that will pierce your heart and arouse your conscience. It is a powerful piece of journalism by two masters of the craft who are tireless in their pursuit of one of the most shameful conditions of our time.”

- Tom Brokaw

“An unblinking look at one of the seminal moral challenges of our time. This stirring book is at once a savage indictment of gender inequality in the developing world and an inspiring testament to these women’s courage, resilience, and their struggle for hope and recovery. An unexpectedly uplifting read.”

- Khaled Hosseini, author, The Kite Runner

This article was originally published on May 12, 2016

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