Activists for Women: A Review of Half the Sky

I have long been interested in learning more about the plight of women (and human beings in general) throughout the world. It is so easy to be desensitized by the comforts of America, and thus be ignorant of the horrors that so many people, created in God’s image, face on a daily basis.

In light of all this, I was anxious to read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. This book, written by Pulitzer Prize winning journalists and highly secular in its approach, chronicles the various atrocities that happen to women throughout the world. It is not a book for the faint of heart. The material is heavy and the topics discussed are heartbreaking. But, it is a necessary book, one that informs and ignites passion. The stories are real. The people are truly suffering. And the need is great. That being said, a believer would need to read this book with a biblical worldview in mind, as it will not be provided by the authors. But if you care about the women across the world, read this book. It would be hard to read it and not be changed.

Because it is not a Christian book, there are some things I noticed that need to be deconstructed. But there are also helpful assessments too. For a comprehensive take on it, read Carolyn McCulley’s review on Christianity Today’s website. She faithfully deals with the issues presented in the book, while bringing Christ to bear on their situations.

The prevailing thought in my head (and heart) as I read this book is that we cannot be ignorant of the horrific things happening to women and children in this world. It is so easy to live our relatively easy lives and never know what happens across the ocean, or in our own backyards. Reading this book will not allow you to stay ignorant. Even as you read this, women in Africa are languishing alone due to treatable deformities called fistulas. Little girls and young women in India are trafficked, sold like property for sex. And the eastern Congo is the world capital for rape. As women who follow Christ, we should care about those who are destitute, despised, and distraught. We cannot live silently, acting as though these things are not our problem. They are our problem. But our care for them should not merely be activism, because activism without Christ does not truly bring good and healing to anyone.

And that was noticeably absent in this book. It is good and right to be educated about fistulas, trafficking, and rape. And it is good and right to be outraged and ready to take action. But education and passion are not enough. Women need Christ, like we all do. The only hope for the despised woman suffering from obstetric fistula in Africa is that Jesus is the great Physician who can heal her body and her soul.

So, if your heart is stirred to be aware about the plight of women worldwide, read this book. I hope you do. It will open your eyes. But read it with a Bible in hand, asking God to make you not merely an activist for external change, but an activist for Christ’s eternally transforming work for the weary and despised.