A Book That Changed My Life

half the skyHalf the Sky is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read. I think everyone should read it. It would help people in Western Civilizations understand how terrible atrocities, such as the 300 Nigerian girls kidnapped by a terrorist group to be sold into marriages and sex slavery, can still happen in 2014. But the best thing about Half the Sky is that the authors, Nicholas D. Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn, don’t just reveal the problems of sex trafficking, maternal mortality, extreme poverty and discrimination. The book also gives practical ideas to help women, teenagers, and tweens around the world and highlights programs that are working today. You cannot read this book without doing something whether giving money, telling other people, or well. . .doing something on your blog.

A couple stories I shared on my blog a couple years ago from the book I would like to share again. Today is Srey Rath. THIS IS NOT AN EASY STORY TO READ. WHAT HAPPENED TO SREY RATH IS HORRIBLE AND TRAGIC! I am not graphic, but I do tell you what happened to her.

When Rath, a Cambodian, was 15 years old, her family had no money. She decided to go to Thailand and get a job as a dishwasher for two months to help her family. Rath arranged to travel with four of her friends, who had also been promised jobs in the same Thai restaurant, so her family thought she would be safe and allowed her to go.

Rath was NOT going to work in a restaurant, and she quickly realized she was in terrible trouble. Gangsters took her and her friends to a karoke lounge that was also a brothel. The boss told the girls that they must find money to pay off their debt (the boss had paid money for them), and then he would send them back home. Next, the boss locked Rath up with a customer who tried to force her to have sex, but she fought back.

This enraged the boss who beat her up. Then he and his gangsters repeatedly raped her. He threatened her and said if she didn’t serve the customers, he would kill her. He gave her a pill that made her head shake and induced lethargy, happiness, and compliance for an hour. When she wasn’t drugged, Rath cried, which wasn’t appropriate for the customers. She and her friends worked in the brothel 7 days a week, fifteen hours a day. Many customers did not use condoms.

Four girls, including Rath, escaped their apartment by placing a board between their balcony and the next building and inching across it. The man in the next apartment building let them in, and then they ran out his front door. They went to a police station where they were ARRESTED for illegal immigration. Next, she served a year in jail. When she was released, a police officer sold her to another Thai brothel.

At this brothel, she was not beaten or guarded and escaped. When she returned to Cambodia, she met a social worker who put her in touch with an organization, American Assistance for Cambodia, that helped girls who had been sold into sex trafficking. Rath used $400 in donated funds to buy a small cart and a starter selection of goods, and she became a street peddler. Eventually, she grew this cart into two stalls and had a big enough business that she could support her parents and siblings. She also married and had a son.

The authors of Half the Sky state, “Rath’s eventual triumph is a reminder that if girls get a chance, in the form of an education or a microloan, they can be more than baubles or slaves; many of them can run businesses. Talk to Rath today—after you’ve purchased that cap [from her stalls]—and you find that she exudes confidence as she earns a solid income that will provide a better future for her sisters and for her young son. Many of the stories in this book are wrenching, but keep in mind this central truth: Women aren’t the problem but the solution.The plight of girls is no more a tragedy than an opportunity.”

To check out an organization that helps girls like Srey Rath, please see The International Justice Mission, which takes online donations if you feel moved.

I hope you’ll check out Half the Sky at your library or bookstore today. According to an old Chinese saying, women hold up half the sky. SO, let’s help each other hold it up.


  • Oh my gosh, I saw the miniseries on PBS (also called Half the Sky). The stories of these girls and women are absolutely heart-wrenching. It’s giving me goosebumps as I write this. One of the experts who was interviewed for the PBS special said something really profound. She said the reason that women and girls are still treated this way is because the men that do these things “don’t view [women] as fully human.” WOW! A woman gave birth to you…allows you to be alive and exist…and you don’t believe she is a human being??!! Makes me furious.

    • Right–their own mothers are these humans. Part of this has to start with education of the young boys in these cultures!

  • I keep hearing very good things about this book– that you can’t read it and be unchanged. Thanks for your insights about it too. I obviously need to get this on my to-read list.

    • Julie:
      I actually listened to it on audio from the library and then I bought it because I loved it so much. In the audio version, the authors read it to you, so it’s always interesting to hear their voices, in my opinion.

  • That is a powerful story. It’s sad to be reminded that not everyone lives in a safe place and that these horrible things can happen. But. It’s also inspiring to hear about the resilience of Rath and how she didn’t let what happen to her rule her spirit. Her story makes me grateful for my problems and encourages me to reach out and help. $400 isn’t really that much when you consider the difference it made in her life.

    • Right–and she took something that we consider small potatoes (I mean can we even rent a studio apartment for that?) and turned her life around and the life of her family members. IT shows what HOPE can do.

  • […] keeping with what I wrote about last week, the book Half the Sky, I’d like to spend one more week talking about human trafficking and how people around the […]

So, what do you think?