A Canadian journalist and human rights activist chronicles the acts of empowerment undertaken by women and girls across the globe against inequities and acts of brutality, which have been perpetrated against them for decades.
After 25 years of reporting on the dehumanizing conditions confronting females around the world, Armstrong (Bitter Roots, Tender Shoots: The Uncertain Fate of Afghanistan's Women, 2008, etc.) sensed a shift in attitudes concerning their rights. “Until recently,” she writes, “the oppression and abuse and second-class citizenship that we endured were seen as women’s immutable lot in life, dictated by culture and religion. Now that treatment is seen as symptomatic of a failed economy, the consequences of sidelining half the world’s population.” The author highlights the attitudes and actions taken by leaders, policymakers, Nobel Prize winners and countless individual women and girls intent on creating change. She also confronts the crime of rape, noting that it “continues to be the ugly foundation of women’s story of change.” Citing brutal cases and staggering statistics from around the world—e.g., “in Kenya a girl child is raped every thirty minutes; some are as young as three months old”—Armstrong exposes horrid acts of violence coupled with little or no punishment for perpetrators. She also devotes a chapter to religion, exploring how, in nearly every religion, modern fundamentalists continue to cling to antiquated rules and practices. Armstrong exposes the truths surrounding the cultural contradictions that support honor killings and female genital mutilation, and she decries the cycle of poverty that keeps women underemployed, delaying a country’s economic and social advancement. “The changes I describe in this book are not about the triumph of women over men, Western values over Eastern, or one religion over another,” she writes. “They’re aimed at solving the world’s most intractable problems—poverty, conflict, and violence.”
Women of all persuasions will appreciate Armstrong’s in-depth, passionate exploration of this important topic.