Guest Blogger: Hannah Penfield

Today we have a post from incoming freshman, Hannah Penfield.  Hannah is from Beaverton, Oregon and intends to major in Journalism, with a minor in Sociology.  If you would like to be our next guest blogger just send an email to rdelaloy@gwu.edu or leave a comment.

Half the Sky is my new favorite book. It may seem strange that an 18-year-old girl’s favorite book is about the oppression of women and not dreamy, sparkly vampires. But I believe it is my duty in life to acquire as much knowledge as I can about the indignities and injustices people face today and share that knowledge with the world. I hope to be able to use my writing to help women in the same way that Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn have in this book.

However, even though I had a significant amount of knowledge on the subject of gender inequality before reading this book, I was still shocked to read the horrific accounts of girls, younger than I am, living in cages like animals, dying from the inevitable scourge of HIV/AIDS, and living with the humiliation of having urine and feces run down their legs uncontrollably. In the Western world, it seems so foreign that it’s hard to comprehend. But, in places like India where a few rupees will buy time with a prostitute, a few extra give the right to have sex with a young girl without a condom, and fistulas are not the worst thing that can happen in childbirth — horrors like these happen every day.

I was also shocked to see the prices of the two girls, Srey Neth and Srey Momm. Kristof purchased them for $150 and $203, respectively. Together, they were worth less than the computer I am typing this on. How is it possible that in 2010 the worth of two people is less than a laptop computer? Why are women, the vessels of future generations, treated as though they are of no use or importance?

Yet each of us are responsible. We may be shocked and appalled by the horrors these women face, but none of us can avoid blame. Fifteen dollars to buy the book about dreamy, sparkly vampires could instead be used as a microloan to help a woman start a business. Any of us who study abroad could forgo the obvious choices of London or Paris and spend time in the Congo, Pakistan, or Cambodia instead.

Reading this book and being appalled at the horrific treatment of women is not enough. It is not enough to be outraged but ultimately do nothing. Each of us, the members of the George Washington University Class of 2014, has more power, money, and resources to do something today than many of the women we read about will have in an entire lifetime. Isn’t it our responsibility to help?

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