March 8th is International Women's Day! An official holiday in many countries, this celebration began in the early 1900s. The U.N. began celebrating the day in 1975, and in the 1990s began designating a special theme for each year. This year, their theme is "Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality". Women across the world face serious issues because of their gender and it's up to each individual to stand up for the rights of others. If you are a woman or know a woman, you should read (at least one of) the following books!
Half the Sky: turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn: Kristof and WuDunn are renowned journalists who've won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. In their 2009 book, they take on the issues of sexual violence and trafficking, maternal deaths, lack of education, and other issues that affect the lives of billions of women. Despite the dark topics, the authors present inspirational stories of women in various cultures that have fought their own unique battles and won control over their own lives. The book was turned into a documentary of the same name in 2012 (also available from the library!), following the authors and several celebrity advocates across the world as they meet women and girls fighting against these issues in numerous countries.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Prizewinning author Adichie grew up in Nigeria and is known for her short stories and novels. In 2013, she gave a TEDx talk called "We Should All Be Feminists", speaking about her experiences and views on feminism, gender, and sexuality. If you listen to Beyonce's track "Flawless" you'll hear some of it! The talk was turned into a book of the same name where Adichie expounds on her personal experiences living in Nigeria and the United States, and why feminism is needed in the 21st century. A short but important read.
A Call to Action: women, religion, violence, and power by Jimmy Carter: Anyone who follows current politics or religious movements, regardless of location, knows that many people hold questionable views on women, from how their bodies "shut things down" to whether or not they should be "allowed" to speak, or even be seen. In 2000, President Carter left his church over his disagreement of its treatment of women, and 14 years later he wrote this book. In it, he explores discrimination and abuse of women and girls across the world, in many cases justified by religious leaders through their interpretations of sacred texts. President Carter calls on everyone to help change this reality for women and offers specific ideas to do so.