Half the Sky


Nicholas Kristof

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Nicholas D. Kristof

Kristof is a columnist for The New York Times and one of the authors of Half the Sky. For the book, he does on-the-ground reporting on specific stories related to gender inequity in Asia… read analysis of Nicholas D. Kristof

Sheryl WuDunn

WuDunn is one of the authors of Half the Sky and a champion for women entrepreneurs. Like Kristof, she conducts on-the-ground reporting on global humanitarian issues. She appears in the narrative of Half theread analysis of Sheryl WuDunn

Srey Rath

Srey Rath is a Cambodian teenager and former forced prostitute whom the authors meet in Cambodia. She was trafficked into Malaysia and, after a long and brutal saga, managed to return home. With help from… read analysis of Srey Rath

Srey Neth

Srey Neth is one of two Cambodian women whom Kristof bought as slaves in order to free. Once freed, she first opened a shop that failed due to a raid by resentful male family members… read analysis of Srey Neth

Meena Hasina

Meena Hasina is a former forced prostitute in Forbesgunge, India. She had two children, Naina and Vivek, while held captive in a brothel. She eventually escaped and married a man named Kuduz, had… read analysis of Meena Hasina
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Usha Narayane

Usha Narayane is a woman from the Indian slum Kasturba Nagar. Usha combatted the mobster Akku Yadav, whose gang used rape and sexual humiliation as a way to control people in the slum. Incredibly… read analysis of Usha Narayane

Akku Yadav

Akku Yadav was a mobster in the Indian slum Kasturba Nagar. He and his gang members used rape and sexual humiliation as a way to silence the people he exploited, since rape is so stigmatized… read analysis of Akku Yadav

Mukhtar Mai

Mukhtar Mai is a Punjabi woman who founded the Mukhtar Mai School for Girls in order to empower girls and prevent the use of rape as a weapon. Mukhtar herself was the survivor of retaliatory… read analysis of Mukhtar Mai

Harper McConnell

Harper McConnell is a young white American woman whom Kristof met in war-torn Congo. She lives full time in Congo, speaks Swahili, and dedicates her time to projects with HEAL Africa, a hospital that gives… read analysis of Harper McConnell

Mahabouba Muhammad

Mahabouba Muhammad is an Ethiopian woman who was sold by a neighbor to another man, to be his second wife. At fourteen, her pregnancy by rape led to a fistula. Utterly abandoned otherwise, her life… read analysis of Mahabouba Muhammad

Prudence Lemokouno

Prudence Lemokouno was a woman in Cameroon whose baby died in the womb, and who died shortly after from a ruptured uterus. Prudence could have been treated and saved, but she was neglected in the… read analysis of Prudence Lemokouno

Rose Wanjera

Rose Wanjera is a young Kenyan woman who, when pregnant and suffering from an infection, benefited from a maternal health program established by a consortium of aid organizations, including one founded by Allan Rosenfieldread analysis of Rose Wanjera

Jane Roberts

Jane Roberts is an American woman and retired teacher who responded to George W. Bush’s defunding of the United Nation’s Population Fund (UNFPA) by co-founding with Lois Abraham a nationwide fundraising campaign. The campaign, called… read analysis of Jane Roberts


Ellaha is an inmate at the prison Rana oversees. She refused an arranged marriage with her cousin, and instead pursued a career and planned to move to Canada for a university scholarship. When Ellaha’s sister… read analysis of Ellaha

Dai Manju

Dai Manju is a woman from Central China whom Kristof and WuDunn knew as a young teenager. Dai Manju desperately wanted to finish grade school despite obstacles. A generous donation from an American on Dai… read analysis of Dai Manju

Zainab Salbi

Zainab Salbi is an Iraqi woman who grew up as close friends with the family of Iraq’s despot, Saddam Hussein. Zainab was pushed into a marriage in America because her mother feared Saddam Hussein’s lust… read analysis of Zainab Salbi

Thomas Clarkson

Thomas Clarkson was a British abolitionist in the 1790s. He collected torture instruments as evidence of injustice, and started a visual campaign distributing posters of slave ships. With the help of testimony from a former… read analysis of Thomas Clarkson

Tererai Trent

Tererai Trent is a Zimbabwean woman who desperately wanted to attend school, but was restricted by her family’s devaluation of women. Members of the aid group Heifer International encouraged Tererai nonetheless, and, inspired to pursue… read analysis of Tererai Trent
Minor Characters
Srey Momm
Srey Momm is one of two Cambodian women whom Kristof bought as slaves in order to free. She returned to her brothel after a week of freedom, due to a methamphetamine addiction. Momm eventually found final freedom after a crackdown on Cambodian brothels.
Ainul was one of the operators of the brothel that held Meena Hasina captive. A woman and former forced prostitute, Ainul was a main disciplinarian at the brothel, which shows that women, not just men, can perpetuate sex slavery.
Naina Hasina
Naina Hasina is the daughter of Meena Hasina. She was raised in an Indian brothel by abusive guardians and, at twelve, inherited her mother’s fate of forced prostitution. Naina was rescued, however, and, though burdened by morphine addiction and emotional trauma, achieved a stable life.
Vivek Hasina
Vivek Hasina is the son of Meena Hasina. Like his sister Naina, he was raised in a squalid Indian brothel. He objected to the abuse of his sister, but was powerless. Persistence and courage helped him escape and be reunited with his mother.
Kuduz, a pharmacist from India, is the husband of Meena Hasina. They met when Kuduz defended Meena while Ainul’s son physically attacked her.
Zach Hunter
Zach Hunter is an American social entrepreneur who, as a student, founded the group Loose Change to Loosen Chains. He belongs to the burgeoning modern slavery abolitionist movement.
Bill Drayton
Bill Drayton is a former American government official who founded Ashoka, an organization that supports social entrepreneurs worldwide.
Sunitha Krishnan
Sunitha Krishnan is a key player in the abolitionist movement fighting sex trafficking. A social entrepreneur from India, she founded the organization Prajwala to give support and teach skills to Indian girls and women rescued from brothels.
Abbas Be
Abbas Be is a former forced prostitute in Delhi, India. She counsels women at Sunitha Krishnan’s organization Prajawala, while training to be a bookbinder.
Sonette Elhers
Sonette Elhers is the South African inventor of Rapex. Designed to deter rape, Rapex is a device inserted into a woman’s vagina that slices the penis of a man who tries to violate her.
Woinshet Zebene
Woinshet Zebene is an Ethiopian woman who was the victim of multiple plotted rapes designed to force her to marry the rapist, Aberew Jemma. She bravely challenged the culture of normalized rape by trying to prosecute him, and was ultimately supported by the group Equality Now.
Aberew Jemma
Aberew Jemma is the man who kidnapped and raped Woinshet Zebene as a scheme to force her into marriage. He was ultimately released from his prison sentence after Woinshet tried to prosecute him.
Zoya Najabi
Zoya Najabi is a young woman from Kabul, Afghanistan. She married at twelve and was subject to beatings by everyone in her husband’s family, especially the matriarch. Zoya is one of innumerable victims of female violence against women.
Du’a Aswad
Du’a Aswad was a Kurdish girl in northern Iraq who died in an honor killing. After staying out one night with a Sunni Arab boy, members of her family and village decided she must die, and a thousand men participated in her drawn out, public, gruesome murder.
Dina is a teenager from Congo and a survivor of the war tactic of rape. While walking home in daylight, she was gang raped by militiamen, which led to a life-threatening fistula. Because of the aid group HEAL Africa, her fistula was treated.
Laurent Nkunda
Laurent Nkunda is a Congolese warlord whose troops see mass rape as their right, and also as an effective weapon in terrorizing villages.
Catherine Hamlin
Catherine Hamlin is an Australian who founded the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in 1975. In her tenure, she has conducted over twenty-five thousand fistula surgeries.
Simeesh Segaye
Simeesh Segaye is a young Ethiopian woman who endured days of obstructed labor without medical aid. Her baby died, and she developed a fistula that rendered her immobile and ostracized, condemned to an empty hut for years. Eventually, she was hospitalized and recovered fully.
Allan Rosenfield
Allan Rosenfield is an American doctor and trailblazing advocate for maternal health. In his work as a social entrepreneur, he combined pragmatic medicine with public health perspectives, which includes non-medical measures such as providing girls’ school uniforms.
Ramatou Issoufou
Ramatou Issoufou is a Nigerian woman who needed a caesarian section from a health clinic. If Kristof had not been present, her inability to pay $42 for materials would have led to her death.
Obende Kayode
Dr. Kayode is the sole medical doctor at a clinic in Nigeria. He would have allowed Ramatou Issoufou to die in childbirth due to her lack of funds had Kristof not been present, which shamed the doctor into treating her.
Pascal Pipi
Dr. Pipi is a medical doctor in Cameroon, where many women lack funds for maternal healthcare. Resentful of the needs of local villagers, Dr. Pipi’s indifference, among other factors, led to the death of Prudence Lemokouno.
Mamitu Gashe
Mamitu Gashe is a surgeon in Ethiopia who never attended elementary school. She gradually acquired surgical skills by observing a doctor in Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. Her contribution has expanded the hospital’s fistula treatment capacity.
Edna Adan
Edna Adan is a woman from Somaliland who founded a successful maternity hospital there, called Edna’s Hospital. With her sometimes fierce attitude and unsinkable work ethic, she gave high-quality healthcare access to women who would otherwise have gone without.
Anne Gilhuly
Anne Gilhuly is a retired teacher in Connecticut who started a major funding campaign in the U.S. for Edna Adan’s maternity hospital in Somaliland.
Thabang is a teenage girl in northeastern South Africa. Her mother, Gertrue Tobela, had AIDS, and their relationship grew discordant and abusive because of Gertrude’s fear that Thabang, who sought a social life beyond her family, would also contract AIDS.
Gertrude Tobela
Gertrue Tobela is a South African woman and mother of Thabang. She was dying from AIDS and, fearing that Thabang was promiscuous and would inherit Gertrude’s same fate, frequently beat her.
Lois Abraham
Lois Abraham is an American woman who co-founded, with Jane Roberts, the campaign 34 Million Friends of UNFPA after U.S. defunding of the humanitarian program.
Soraya Salti
Soraya Salti is a Jordanian woman who founded the program Injaz to teach children entrepreneurial skills. Injaz teaches 100,000 students yearly across twelve Arab countries.
Rana is a woman in Afghanistan and the director at a Kabul women’s detention center. The prison’s inmates include unmarried women and girls whose hymens, after a “virginity test,” are shown to no longer be intact.
Sakena Yacoobi
Sakena Yacoobi is an Afghan woman who runs the bold, successful aid organization Afghan Institute of Learning. Her success supports the idea that respecting the power of local women while providing financial support is typically the ideal model for Western aid in developing countries.
Angeline Mugwendere
Angeline Mugwendere is a woman from Zimbabwe who, as a girl, was a brilliant and determined student, but too poor to afford high school without aid. She benefited from Ann Cotton’s aid program Camfed, and now works as Camfed’s executive director.
Ann Cotton
Ann Cotton is a Welsh woman who, after losing her baby daughter, channeled her grief into founding an organization for girls in Zimbabwe called Campaign for Female Education (Camfed). Her grassroots work has expanded with great success into several African countries.
Saima Muhammad
Saima Muhammad is a Pakistani woman who endured poverty and violent treatment by her misogynistic husband. She joined a women’s group affiliated with the microfinance organization, the Kashf Foundation. Modest loans allowed her to gain autonomy, respect, self-confidence, and financial security.
Roshaneh Zafar
Roshaneh Zafar is a Pakistani woman who founded the Kashf Foundation, a major microfinance operation. She grew up wealthy and focused her privilege on supporting women in need.
Sadaffe Abid
Sadaffe Abid is a Pakistani woman who collaborated with Roshaneh Zafar to design and execute the Kashf Foundation’s system of lending and repayment.
Goretti Nyabenda
Goretti Nyabenda is a woman from Burundi. She had no decision-making power in her family, forced to defer always to an abusive, irresponsible husband, Bernard. She started a women’s association through the organization CARE, which led to a small business, financial success, and finally respect from her husband.
Bernard Nyabenda
Bernard Nyabenda is the husband of Goretti Nyabenda. He physically abused Goretti and forbid her to leave the house without him, until she industriously gained financial independence and demanded his respect.
Zhang Yin
Zhang Yin is a Chinese woman who began earning $6 a month in a factory, and worked her way to founding a recycled paper company, eventually becoming a multi-billionaire. She embodies the potential achievable only through equal opportunity for women.
Murvelene Clarke
Murvelene Clarke is an American who decided to give ten percent of her earnings to charity. She sponsored Claudine Mukukarisa for $27 a month through the organization Women for Women International, which allowed Claudine to thrive with education and various resources.
Claudine Mukakarisa
Claudine Mukukarisa is a Rwandan woman who was locked in a rape house at thirteen by Hutu militia, and became pregnant. She was supported by monthly contributions from Murvelene Clarke, gaining trade skills, financial tools, and stability for her young daughter.
Molly Melching
Molly Melching is an American social entrepreneur who founded Tostan, a very successful initiative to combat female genital cutting in West Africa. Her group’s approach respects the codes of villages rather than imposing Western cultural values.
Jordana Confino
Jordana Confino is an American social entrepreneur who, as a teenager, started the group Girls Learn International. Based in New York, its chapters around the U.S. raise funds for girls’ education in developing countries.
Lisa Alter
Lisa Alter is the mother of Jordan Confino. She exposed her daughter to realities of global gender inequity, then supported Jordan’s resolve to address it through Girls Learn International.
Jo Luck
Jo Luck is a former Arkansas state cabinet official and president of the aid group Heifer International, which gives livestock to farmers in developing countries.
Sydnee Woods
Sydnee Woods is an American attorney who moved temporarily to Kolkata, India to volunteer at the women’s organization New Light. She met tremendous challenges in acclimating to Kolkata, but never regretted the decision, insisting that what she gained in relationships and purpose eclipsed all difficulties.
Beatrice Biira
A woman from Uganda who received a single goat from Heifer International. The goat enabled her to raise money to attend school, where she excelled enough to earn scholarships and attend university in the U.S.