Half the Sky


Nicholas Kristof

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Themes and Colors
The Oppression of Women  Theme Icon
Universal Benefits of Women’s Empowerment  Theme Icon
The Complexity of Aid Theme Icon
Solutions to Address the Oppression of Women Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Half the Sky, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Oppression of Women

Kristof and WuDunn wrote Half the Sky in response to one key reality: across the world, women and girls are valued less than men, and therefore experience far more violence, more neglect, worse healthcare, and fewer opportunities than men. Through reporting that focuses on women in developing countries, and which focuses particularly on the devastating impact of sex trafficking, gender-based violence, and maternal mortality in Africa and Asia, Kristof and Wudunn build an argument that…

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Universal Benefits of Women’s Empowerment

“Women’s issues” don’t hold international attention in the way that terrorism and other “serious issues” do. But, Kristof and WuDunn argue in Half the Sky, women’s issues are humanitarian issues—just as the Holocaust was not a Jewish crisis, but a human crisis—and shouldn’t be marginalized. The authors also show that when women and girls are held back, it doesn’t just affect women. Rather, whole societies suffer. Kristof and WuDunn argue, then, that women’s empowerment…

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The Complexity of Aid

Through Half the Sky, Kristof and WuDunn repeat that there is no “silver bullet,” no magic remedy that will fix gender inequity in the developing world. With nearly every potential solution they posit, they point out flaws, even major failures in that approach. Further, they make clear that the complications affecting aid stem in part from issues in developing nations receiving aid, but also from issues in the Western nations providing that aid. What’s…

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Solutions to Address the Oppression of Women

Half the Sky is, at its heart, an optimistic book. While the book makes clear that injustices toward women are widespread and comprise a global tragedy, the authors also show that solutions do abound, and that they may be less expensive and more creative than most think.

The authors stress that the primary, most promising solution, is girls’ education. Aside from the fact that education should be a basic human right, the authors detail a…

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