Wordsanctuary Revisited

Musings of a writer-teacher-counselor.

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Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

I am inquisitive and have worked in writing, editing, and teaching. I am a citizen of the USA and also concerned about the world. This is an addendum to my original blog, Wordsanctuary. That's at www.wordsanctuary.blogspot.com Please check out my column at www.insidehighered.com, "A Kinder Campus." Click on Career Advice to find it. Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Half the Sky (guest blogger Nancy Dudwick)

It was my challenge to lead a community discussion of this gripping book at the Beachwood branch of Cuyahoga County Public Library on Monday, June 21. Nancy Dudwick, a member of Writers Circle (a Beachwood-based writers' group) offers a summary of her thoughts following that discussion. She calls her meditation, "Half the World."

This past Monday Maria reviewed one of the most interesting books I have ever read. Half the Sky, by husband-wife writing team Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, describes how women in Third World countries are mistreated. During wars, such as those in Darfur, women of all ages are the victims of rape, assault and even murders. In addition, they are subjected to horrendous torture by members of their own families. They are often forced into marriage at a very young age, and their husbands are free to beat them, force them to have sex, and in some instances have them killed when they refused to comply. In fact, they have no rights at all. Moreover, many families often sell their little girls into prostitution because they are desperately poor and need the money to feed their families.

However, today many individuals and organizations--like Women for Women International, Grameen Bank, and American Jewish World Service--have set up programs where they train women and provide loans to help them start their own businesses, thus enabling them to become independent. Moreover, many of those women have been quite successful--and when the woman is a breadwinner, her whole family benefits. According to one report, "'when women are given the opportunity to earn a livelihood, their children are fed, families are supported, and communities thrive.'" Consequently, when their husbands realize that their wives are making a major contribution to the family income, they begin to respect them and no longer beat them.

In addition, women who have their own businesses are now sending their daughters as well as their sons to school.

Yet, millions of people (including women) do not realize that even in the modern, non-Third World nations like the United States and Canada, women don't receive completely equal treatment. No! Mutilation of little girls is completely unheard of and women don't suffer from the horrendous and debilitating injuries caused due to lack of medical care and sanitary surroundings in childbirth; women and girls who go to the local store to purchase food aren't in danger of being raped and assaulted as they often are in Darfur. However, many women in the United States still don't receive equal pay for equal work and over 20% of all women are girls are still subjected to domestic violence. Moreover, poor women often don't have access to effective family-planning methods or adequate pre-natal care.

Yet, women are beginning to become more assertive and standing up for their rights. They have established shelters for victims of domestic violence and in many areas men are arrested for committing acts of domestic violence because it is being treated as a crime. More and more women are entering the professions previously open to men only--law, medicine, engineering, architecture, etc. In addition, they often own lucrative businesses.

Even in the religious arena women are making great strides. They are entering the clergy and becoming ministers, rabbis and cantors. In addition, they are participating in previously all-male ceremonies which, due to their gender, were once forbidden to them. A prime example of that was our own Ethel Adler, a lively senior citizen, who became a Bat Mitzvah one week ago at Montefiore--an example to both women and seniors.

So, while women of the world still have a long way to go before achieving equality, women have already made progress, even in the Third World countries, and some very close to home.


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