Guest Blogger: Drew Petrushka

Today we have a post from incoming freshman, Drew Petrushka.  Drew is from Johnstown, OH (close to Columbus) and intends to major in International Affairs with a plan to concentrate in Asian Studies at the Elliot School.  If you would like to be our next guest blogger just send an email to or leave a comment.

Half The Sky is an excellent read for many reasons. Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn have constructed a work that is inspirational on many levels, focusing on the successes of individuals and organizations alike in the face of poverty and sexual inequality abroad. It examines the problem of sexual inequality in the context of the cultures in which it is most apparent, showing that it often stems from ancient tradition which remains largely unquestioned by the men or women which inhabit these societies. Finally, it advocates grassroots education for women, education that enables them to contribute to their societies and, ultimately, elevate these societies. Such education is also one of the best channels through which to end the unjust traditions of sexual inequality which pervade these cultures. Young women and men who are educated in schools similar to the ones described in Half The Sky can interact as equals and mature without acquiring the traditional beliefs that only men are the leaders of society and are allowed to abuse their wives and other women. In addition, members of both sexes can be educated on the dangers of unprotected sexual activity, as noted on page 141. Such education leads to greater condom use, and in turn to fewer pregnancies and lower rates of HIV and AIDS transmission. Establishing educational opportunities for women in these societies is far more effective than changing the laws of these societies–sexist sentiments become ingrained in the members of these societies as they mature, and therefore a personal approach is needed if such a patten is to be avoided in the future.

While Half The Sky nobly aims to rectify gender inequality and is an inspirational read, it was also quite refreshing for me, a male Catholic. Rather than assign all of the blame for gender inequality on men and harp on the counterproductive effects of conservative and religious opposition to birth control with regards to sexually transmitted infections which afflict women, Half The Sky shows that both men and women (though more often men) are to blame for forced prostitution, honor rapes and killings, genital cutting, and social inequality. It also highlights many successful religious efforts in societies where gender inequality is most atrocious, along with secular movements to empower women in these societies. It concludes by encouraging all members of its audience–male, female, religious or not–to join the cause of empowering women worldwide, for the betterment of these women, their families, communities, and societies–and ultimately our world.

Needless to say, I highly recommend that each of my classmates, as well as anyone privileged enough to live in a society where men and women enjoy the same opportunity, to read Half The Sky and to become part of the movement to end gender inequality.

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3 Responses to Guest Blogger: Drew Petrushka

  1. Kristen Saldarini says:

    I would like to expand on Kristof and WuDunn crediting various conservative, liberal, religious, and secular movements throughout Half the Sky. The many aid projects discussed led me to one conclusion: we, as a people, are not unified against gender inequality and it’s crippling consequences.

    It seems political and religious partiality stunt progress, as volunteers are more concerned with remaining loyal to a specific group than focusing all efforts on the most proven aid methods. It is true that gender inequality, honor killings, rape, maternal health, genital cutting, sex trafficking, and other problems are humanitarian issues, as Kristof and WuDunn stress. These issues do not invite political or religious statements; they demand immediate, meaningful assistance. They demand a system under which humans help humans, expanding the most well-known and successful aid measures, working beyond affiliations. These international atrocities are larger than personal beliefs, and the reality is that the combined efforts of conservative, liberal, religious, and secular parties could tremendously improve the conditions described in Half the Sky. Smart, effective solutions require cooperation- like in preschool, when each toddler cleaned up the room, whether he or she preferred playing in the kitchen, reading on the bean bags, or finger painting at the tables. A corny and grossly simple comparison, but an applicable metaphor none-the-less. We are a dynamic world that loves to brainstorm; we just need to bring everyone to the same meeting, clean up the same classroom. Right?

  2. Drew Petrushka says:

    I agree, the tendency of Americans and others to show political and religious partiality is counterproductive and frustrating. Fortunately, the primary solution that Kristof and WuDunn advocate, education, is one that draws little criticism–a sort of common ground, if you will, that these groups can agree on. Religious groups may not be too keen on promoting birth control in the schools they help to build, but that’s only a small component of the educational solution Kristof and WuDunn support. Schools, by themselves, help women and girls elevate their status, delay marriage, and avoid pregnancy. Once they complete their education, they can contribute to their society and overthrow the traditions in place that hold them down.

  3. Kristen Saldarini says:

    Inarguably, education equals empowerment, a point WuDunn and Kristoff continually stress. I’m not sure it can be called “common ground” yet, only because not every aid group has made education a top priority. That said, there are so many problems to address, it would be difficult, and detrimental, for every group to focus on only one solution. In my opinion, education needs to be the underlying goal, an effort that ultimately increases the number of strong, outspoken women (and increasingly tolerant men) in third world countries. But it must be supplemented with immediate assistance, like distributing birth control and offering medical care and micro-loans. Those three items- birth control, medical care, and micro-loans- are vital. They allow women to succeed and earn respect in their own communities, even without formal education. And, more often than not, a healthy, working woman benefits her community in immeasurable ways. It’s all about accountability- make your own way, and all of a sudden things start going your way.

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