Review–Half the Sky

Reading the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide transformed my perception of the issues that women and girls face around the world. It moved me outside my comfort zone into the reality of the 21st century.

Half the Sky is a well written and researched book by a husband and wife team about the oppression of women and girls in the 21st century.  Nicholas Kristof is a writer for the New York Times and has been writing about women’s issues for many years. Sheryl WuDunn, who was also a correspondent for the Times, is now a business executive and lecturer. Kristof and WuDunn won a Pulitzer Prize together for their coverage of China and the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. They’ve co-authored two other books before this, both non-fiction studies on Asia, and both have several journalism awards between them. Kristoff won a second Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for his commentary on Darfur and other global situations.  WuDunn was named by Newsweek in 2011 as one of “150 Women Who Shake the World.”

Half the Sky deals with a variety of issues including: human trafficking, maternal health, education of girls, violence against women and girls, economic empowerment and more. However, the book deals with these dark issues in a compassionate way, always leaving you with a story of hope and simple ways for you to make a difference. This book made me realize that I am a woman empowered, and that I need to use my voice to assist women and girls who are in oppressed situations. You can’t just read this book and not do anything.

I recommend this book to all women and young adult women. I have given this book to family members and friends and have participated in numerous book discussions (it’s a great book for a women’s book discussion). I highly recommend reading this book: Don’t be surprised if you become a voice for women and girls around the world.

(Contributed by Barbara Anderson, national president of American Baptist Women’s Ministries 2009-2012. You may visit Barbara’s blog at A Woman Destined for God’s Purpose.)

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COTAAN–Collaborations and Partnerships

This post continues to follow the evolution of a new ministry being born: COTAAN, a prison re-entry and aftercare outreach.

Building Collaborations and Partnerships

Depending upon the size of your congregation, it is important to assess what your capabilities are.  In other words, how many volunteers you have that are willing and able to assist with the program, be on a board, and help with practical things like answering the phone, assisting with office needs, just “being there” during the hours of operation so that the staff of the program does not have to be by themselves as they meet individuals.

It is also important to identify what is offered by other agencies in your area so that you are not re-inventing the wheel.  Understand that you can’t do everything.  Pick a few things that through prayer and experience appear to be your congregation’s strong suits.  Individuals re-entering society need support in the following ways:

  • The basics of food, clothes and shelter: They may need assistance with getting into a “half-way” house, food vouchers, a few changes of clothes, personal hygiene items, etc.
  • Emotional/psychological counseling
  • Spiritual guidance and support
  • Encouragement and acceptance
  • Depending upon the length of time they’ve been away, perhaps a re-introduction to society today (technological changes, new laws in place, the job application process)
  • Clothes for job interviews (connecting with programs like “Dress for Success”)
  • Bus passes for transportation

Google is a wonderful thing!  In addition to speaking with local pastors and missions in your area, you can put in key words like, “prison after care programs,” or “support for ex-felons” or similar phrases to identify local agencies.

As I mentioned in a previous post, our congregation determined that we would provide referrals to other organizations and agencies providing many of the needed services, thereby focusing our energies on those things we were uniquely equipped to do.  Start by building bridges first. Then see where your ministry is most needed, and what tools and gifts for service God has given you in particular.

The COTAAN blog posts are contributed by Rev. Christine A. Smith, pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in Wickliffe, OH, www.covenantbaptistwickliffe.com. Stay tuned for more on this story!

COTAAN is a grant project of AB Women’s Ministries. For more information about COTAAN , including how you could help support this ministry, click here.