Women hold up half the sky - A Chinese Proverb.
Nomi and I realized from a very early point in our friendship that we share a common text other than the Hebrew scriptures. In our lives, we have both been deeply moved by Half the Sky, written by Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. This book argues that the best way to fight global poverty and extremism is to educate and empower women and girls. The argument is bolstered by heart wrenching stories of the systematic and sexual violence that women around the world face on a constant basis. We are honored to be working with our friends at First Presbyterian Church in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City to start an Interfaith Social Justice Book Group that is thoughtfully working its way through this challenging text.
As a group of 10 women from four faith traditions, we had much to discuss in our first gathering. However, we didn’t get too far without someone asking the question: Where are the men? They were invited, yes, but not one male had decided to read the book with us. We wondered why. Is the crisis of violence against women something that only women should care about? We--and the book-- say it is not. Practically, men are certainly impacted by the way that limitations placed on women create limitations for economic development. And beyond that, men and women alike are implicated when we stand idly by any atrocious human rights abuse. The lack of women’s empowerment around the world has great economic, social, moral and developmental ripples, affecting all sectors of society.
Just as far reaching are the effects of malaria throughout the world. In terms of both human and economic loss, malaria has consequences on a global scale. Every year, 781,000 people die from malaria.1 Think of that number in terms of individuals, in terms of imaginations and peace-builders lost. Malaria also costs Africa $12 billion in lost productivity each year, trapping many of our global partners in a cycle of systemic poverty.2 America eradicated malaria by 1951, but that does not mean we are not still affected. Just as we in the book group and women around the world call for men to work as allies in the movement to empower women, countries still working for the eradication of malaria need the support of global partners who acknowledge the interconnectedness of us all.
1 Malaria No More. www.malarianomore.com. Malaria Primer.