Guest blogger Center for Women member and SC Women’s Business Center Advisory Council Member, Holly Fisher, recaps columnists talk on women’s rights.
Women hold up half the sky.
– Chinese saying
Among the grim stories of how women and girls around the world face abuse, discrimination and a life as second-class citizens, there are stories of hope. I left with that message after hearing Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Nicholas Kristof speak at a luncheon yesterday put on by the Center for Women here in Charleston.
Kristof is the author of “Half The Sky,” a book about how to turn oppression into opportunity for women worldwide. His talk fell in line with Women’s History Month and this year’s theme of education and empowerment for women.
A long-time reporter for The New York Times, Kristof has spent years reporting on foreign countries and many of the atrocities against women. It’s no secret females in China face an uphill battle. Kristof recounted a story from 1990 in which a young girl had to drop out of school in sixth grade, despite being at the top of her class. The $13 in school fees just weren’t a priority for her parents.
Kristof reported on this girl, and NYT readers responded with donations that were used to subsidize school fees for girls in this small Chinese village – provided the girls maintained good grades.
That sixth grade girl went to get an accounting degree and eventually start her own accounting firm. She was able to share the money she made with family members who went on to start businesses as well. The entire village prospered — all because girls were afforded an education.
Those are stories of hope. But for each story like that, there are countless stories, statistics and sadness that represent what Kristof calls “the central moral challenge of the 21st century: the inequitable treatment of women and girls around the world.”
So what is the answer? Education and empowerment. As Kristof said, “We have to educate girls and bring those women in the work force. Women and girls aren’t the problem but the solution.”
One significant issue facing women around the world — and even here in the United States is sex trafficking. Girls are often kidnapped and forced to work in brothels. In 2004, Kristof “purchased” two girls from brothels and returned them to their villages. The cost for both girls was about $350. But the price wasn’t even most disturbing to Kristof, it was that he received a receipt.
“When you get a receipt in the 21st century for buying another human being that should be a disgrace on the entire world,” he said.
It’s hard to even imagine living your life as a piece of property. I’ve certainly never been sold. I’ve never been denied proper medical treatment or an education because I’m a woman. All of us in that room yesterday are fortunate and because of that, we need to do our part to ensure women here at home and around the globe have the same rights, opportunities and chance to fulfill their dreams as we do.
Check out Kristof’s book “Half the Sky” and his website at www.halftheskymovement.org for resources and ways to get involved.
The website backpage.com regularly has advertisements for young girls who are part of this sex trafficking problem. The site is owned by Village Voice Media and you can put pressure on the company to stop running these ads. Encourage their legitimate advertisers to drop their ads, which hits the company where it hurts most – the bottom line. Also, visit www.Change.org to sign the petition against the Village Voice.