Half the Sky Chapters 4–7 Summary
by Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn

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Chapters 4–7 Summary

Chapter 4

In Woineshet Zebene’s rural Ethiopian village, when a man is unable to earn approval to marry the girl he desires, he kidnaps and rapes her in order to “[improve] his bargaining position.” A girl has little value once she loses her virginity, so her family usually agrees to the union. Once they are married, the rapist can no longer be prosecuted.

Woineshet was thirteen when she was kidnapped and raped by at least four men, including the man who wished to marry her. Woineshet’s father was a migrant worker, and he had seen women in Addis Ababa “holding meaningful jobs, enjoying rights and a measure of equality.” He wanted more for his daughter than to be the wife of a rapist. He encouraged Woineshet to get medical confirmation, then helped her file charges in a village court.

Fearing prosecution, Woineshet’s rapist “devised a solution.” First he kidnapped, raped, and beat the girl again. Then he took her to court, where he and village “officials” explained that it was futile to resist any longer: the attacks would continue until she gave in. Unable to find justice within rural tradition, Woineshet fled to Addis Ababa with her father. There, her case inspired an international campaign that “shamed [Ethiopia] into changing its laws.” Now, if a victim marries her rapist, he can still be prosecuted for the crime.

In section two, subtitled “Mukhtar’s School,” Kristof and WuDunn explore Mukhtar Mai’s efforts to change Pakistani culture from within. Her story begins “in the village of Meerwala,” where rape is used as a way to convey collective guilt upon a dishonored family.

In 2002, Mukhtar’s young brother was raped by heterosexual men from a “higher-status clan,” who then accused him of sexual deviance to “[cover] up their crime.” As punishment for her brother’s “illicit sex,” Mukhtar was sentenced to gang-rape by the village council. She then went home to die by suicide, “the expected way for a woman to cleanse herself and her family of shame.” But Mukhtar’s parents and cleric persuaded her that what had happened was “an outrage against Islam.” Instead of punishing herself, she told police that she wanted to press charges against her rapists.

Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf “sympathized” with Mukhtar and awarded her $8,300 in damages. She used the money to start a school, believing education to be the impetus for equality. When her advocacy attracted international attention and donations, her portrayal of a wayward Pakistan became “embarrassing” for President Musharraf, who ordered the young activist to be subdued like a radical dissident. Nevertheless, Mukhtar has gone on to expand her campus to include a secondary school, “a free legal clinic, a public library, and a shelter for victims of violence.”

Chapter 5

Nowhere is rape more rampant than in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In this war-torn nation, women are viewed as easier targets than oppositional forces, and “Congolese militias” often use knives, guns, and bayonets to cause devastating internal damage during sexual assaults.

Kristof interviews a seventeen-year-old survivor, Dina, who was raped by five militia members. Before leaving, her attackers “shoved [a] stick inside her,” creating fistulas (abnormal connections) between her bladder, rectum, and vagina. She was homebound, incontinent, and unable to move when her family learned about a medical aid organization, HEAL Africa, that specializes in injuries like Dina’s. HEAL Africa sent a plane to transport Dina to their hospital, where her surgery was a success.

Harper McConnell, an American missionary, lives on the HEAL Africa campus in Goma, where she coordinates her Minnesota church’s charitable contributions. She is the principal of a school she founded for children receiving medical treatments, and she directs the vocational skills training program for women awaiting or recovering from...

(The entire section is 1,371 words.)