Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Nicholas Kristof will speak at a luncheon Thursday in North Charleston about the 2009 book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, which Kristof co-wrote with his wife and fellow Pulitzer winner, Sheryl WuDunn.
The feminism of Kristof and WuDunn is international in its scope and precise in its focus; their book delves into the ugliest and most shameful injustices being carried out against women in all parts of the globe. Readers of Kristof's New York Times column are well acquainted with his on-the-ground stories of child sex trafficking in Southeast Asia, honor killings in the Middle East, and female genital mutilation in West Africa. An important premise of the book is that the struggle for women's rights is the defining movement of our era, and that an improved outlook for women is an improved outlook for all mankind. As the old Chinese saying goes, "Women hold up half the sky."
Kristof, reached by phone in New York, says he plans to talk about the book, show a few slides on a projector, and answer people's questions. In the time since the book was published in September 2009, he and his wife have given extensive talks about the big ideas behind the book and the little ways people can get involved. "People are, I think, really excited to get practical advice on what they can do to make a difference," he says. "I think there's a lot of empathy and compassion, but people often don't really know how they can translate that into making a difference."
In the case of prostitution, Kristof says people often hold a flawed understanding of the relationship between pimp and prostitute, as evidenced by the tendency among police forces — in the U.S. and abroad — to arrest prostitutes but let pimps slide by.
Kristof recently returned from a reporting trip to Sudan, and he has written extensively about African issues including the Darfur genocide. As for the much-discussed reign of terror of Ugandan guerrilla warlord Joseph Kony, Kristof says he thinks the United States should intervene. "There are no easy solutions, but he is truly a monster, and he continues to have a pretty terrible impact, not in Uganda but in CAR [Central African Republic] and Congo, and we absolutely should work with other countries in trying to get him," he says. When it comes to the nonprofit group Invisible Children's viral video that made Kony a household name in the U.S. in recent weeks, Kristof is less critical than many people involved with development and aid, who he says can be the harshest critics of each other's work.
"I think it's a constructive thing, and more power to them," he says. "I come up with videos in Africa that my mother watches, and that's about it. They come up with a video that 100 million people have watched. I'm impressed by that. More attention doesn't guarantee a solution, but it sure doesn't hurt."
The luncheon will take place Thursday at noon in Montague Terrace at the North Charleston Coliseum. Admission is $60 and includes a copy of the book. Tickets are available through the Center for Women here.
Disclaimer: The author of this story traveled and reported with Kristof in the summer of 2009 as a winner of the columnist's annual Win-a-Trip contest. They still e-mail each other every now and then.