Sunday, January 16, 2011

Book: Half the Sky


As far as current event / topic books go, this wasn't half bad!

The subtitle of the book (wordy and academic) is: Turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide.

It was challenging to read about the difficult lives and circumstances of many women around the world from sex trafficking, mutilation, under education, teenage brides and pregnancies, to maternal health standards. The vignettes are a colorful and painful reminder of the gender inequality that exists on the same planet you and I exist on. Throughout the book education came up as a key factor in changing traditions, fighting inequality, and allowing women to progress.

I found the portions discussing the lack of education available to girls around the world very interesting. We see in the United States not this type of gender inequality (that I know of) but an inequality between income brackets. The focus *gasp* wasn't on the girls test scores, progress toward national goals, or proficiencies. Their education on any level of any kind led to a better life.

"Education is the key issue for overcoming poverty, for overcoming war...If
people are educated, then women will not be abused or tortured. They will also
stand up and say, 'My child should not be married so young.' " (164)

In the chapter discussing family planning and the strongly held beliefs that almost anyone has on the subject, education comes up again!

"It appears that the most effective contraceptive is education for girls,
although birth control supplies are obviously needed as well." (135)

In preventing young girls from being married young, becoming early teenage mothers, suffering complications of difficult labor, and having a family that she or her husband may not be able to support their lives take drastic, positive, turns.

In AIDS education for girls, one successful method was:

"A third approach was to provide students with free uniforms to encourage them to stay in school longer; that cost about $12 per student and did reduce pregnancies."

Countries such as Mexico have resourcefully found ways to keep girls in school. Faced with high percentage of girls dropping out of high school, a study began essentially bribing families to keep their child in school as opposed to the traditional food subsidy programs. $10 per month for a third grader, and $66 per month for a girl in high school would be paid to the child's mother for food, supplies, immunizations, check ups etc.

"After only 3 years, poor Mexican children living in the rural areas where
Oportunidades operates have increased their school enrollment, have more
balanced diets, are receiving more medical attention, and are learning that the
future can be very different from the past...The program raised high school
attendance by 10 percent for boys and 20 percent for girls. Children in
the program grow one centimeter taller per year than those in the control
group. In essence, Oportunidades encourages poor families to invest in
their children, the way rich families already do, thus breaking the typical
transmission path of poverty from generation to generation." (174)

One centimeter per year!! If nothing else, this program shows how disadvantaged students below poverty are. Literally limiting their physical growth!

Oh~ US education system. We try to close the gap but seem to only use traditional aka out of date avenues.