Updated: Thursday Nov. 12, 4:01 p.m.
New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, appeared on the Queens campus Nov. 9 to talk about his new book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. The Torch caught up with Kristof for an exclusive interview after the event.
Torch: Can you describe the significance of the title of your book, Half the Sky?
Kristof: It’s from the Chinese expression, “women hold up half the sky.” The truth is, we had a lot of trouble coming up with a title for the book, and that seemed both lyrical and it suggested the role that women should play in societies.
Torch: What exactly is your book about?
Kristof: The argument is that the big challenge in the 21st century will be to educate girls and bring women into the society and economy. We can’t fight poverty or terrorism or civil conflict unless we do bring women into the picture.
One theme is that the greatest moral challenge of the 21st century is gender inequality. Secondly, as a purely practical measure, the best way to address so many of the world’s problems is to focus on women and girls.
Torch: Why did you choose to write about women’s inequality?
Kristof: I spent a lot of time worrying about global poverty and it became increasingly apparent that the most cost-effective approaches did involve focusing on women and girls. You know you can’t address population growth unless you focus on women. In most poor countries, the greatest unexploited economic resource they have is the female half of the population.
Torch: Is there any certain moment or event that inspired you?
Kristof: There wasn’t one, moment but there were a few.
There was one moment in Cambodia where I was interviewing girls who were imprisoned in a brothel, a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old, and I just realized at some point that this isn’t prostitution. This is slavery.
It felt exactly like the early 19th century except that these girls would be dead of AIDS by their early 20s.
And that was one awakening. Another awakening was the realization that China’s economic boom was largely attributable to young women.
11/12 Correction: The article originally identified the title of Kristof’s book as Half in the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity. The book is actually called Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.