Promoting gender equality is crucial to combating global poverty, a point Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn make in their new book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Millions of women and girls in developing countries die, are killed, or suffer brutality—because they are female. The authors, who share a marriage and a Pulitzer for their reporting for The New York Times, relate stories of horrific abuse—sex trafficking, honor killings, mass rape, maternal mortality—but also of terrific courage and resilience. Sojourners associate editor Molly Marsh spoke with them about their work.
Molly Marsh: You write about Nicholas being at the India-Nepal border, where guards were assigned to stop the smuggling of goods such as pirated DVDs, yet no one stopped the stream of Nepali girls being trafficked into India. That story captured what underlies all of the issues you write about—that women are considered less important in many parts of the world.
Nicholas Kristof: Many of these issues could be resolved if women were simply considered important. The issue isn’t that we don’t know how to address the problems; it’s that they don’t have any priority. The official at the border thought it was perfectly fine that illiterate, poor village girls end up paying the price by being kidnapped and locked up in brothels. If this were happening to middle-class Indian girls, there would be outrage and sentiment for doing something about it. Almost all the things we talk about happen to poor, rural, uneducated women. They’re the most voiceless people in any of these societies, and that’s why these things keep happening.