Speaking to a capacity crowd at the Fairmont Hotel, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof said, “We’ve all won the lottery of birth, and with that comes some real responsibility.” Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, are the authors of a new book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide. He joined the Council and the International Museum of Women last Wednesday for a discussion with Council CEO Jane Wales. The book project began as a way for the authors to look through the “prism of gender” at issues that are rarely reported by the international media. As they traveled and met with women in many countries, they learned that there are 60-100 million “missing girls” across the globe, girls who have died as a result of gender discrimination. Kristof spoke on numerous topics, including methods of ending coerced prostitution, the need for more foreign aid to be directed at local grassroots efforts, and the economic advantages associated with educating and employing women and girls. He noted the Western tendency to condemn low wage labor, but remarked that “the only thing worse than being exploited in a sweatshop is not being exploited in a sweatshop,” as girls whose jobs are taken away often end up in prostitution to replace their lost income. Kristof ended the program by discussing the decision to take his three teenage children to Southeast Asia and show them the brothels he had visited while writing the book. He said that he and his wife feel strongly that “the way you come to think about the world is when you…see these things and they make an impact on you” and that it is important, as parents, to try to teach their children “empathy, compassion, a notion of involvement, a sense that they can make a difference, [and] the joys of social entrepreneurship.”
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