Women Hold Up Half the Sky
by Jen Hatmaker on July 18th, 2014

It was just a few short years ago that I dipped my pinkie toe into the waters of international community development. (I didn’t know a hill of beans about it at the time…that was back when I was still giving a conference talk entitled, “How To Be A Woman of Confidence,” God bless us each and every one.) But Jesus had sufficiently interrupted my life and there was no going back.
 
It was then I ripped through a giant mountain of books to help educate my sweet little dumb-dumb mind about issues of systemic oppression, economic empowerment, justice structures, and a whole bunch of other stuff I was happily in the dark about, including Countries Other Than America. Bless my heart.
 
Among my reading material was “Half the Sky.” For you who’ve read it, you just inhaled a big breath. This was a Pulitzer prize winning book written by journalists Nicholas D. Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn. The title comes from the Chinese proverb:
 
Women hold up half the sky.
 

I remember exactly where I was sitting in my upstairs, reading about the plight of women globally, specifically the practice of female genital mutilation in certain African regions (having already endured the descriptions of throwaway daughters in China, forced prostitution in India, and sex trafficking in Eastern Europe), and I threw the book against the wall, laid face down on my carpet, and cried my eyes out for twenty minutes.
 
Women have suffered for so long.
 
They suffer still, sisters. Let’s funnel into one issue: economic empowerment. (Stay with me, because if you have ever earned one dollar for one ounce of work or expertise, you are on the winning side of a very important equation.)
 
This is important to start from: women comprise 70 percent of the world’s poorest people. They suffer not only from unequal access to education and training, but discrimination by their employers. The majority of women earn on average three-fourths of the pay men receive for doing the same work.
 
BUT LISTEN TO THIS: Studies have shown that when women hold assets or earn income, the money is more likely to be spent on nutrition, medicine, and housing, and thus, their children are healthier. For every dollar a woman earns, she invests 80 cents into her family. Men, on the other hand, invest around 30 cents and are more likely to squander money on alcohol and other vices. (Half the Sky)
 
If greater income equality is achieved, this could decrease poverty generationally.
 
This correlation cannot be overstated. When women have access to income, their children are more likely to go to school, stay healthy, and eventually become earners themselves…which affects other global development advances: lower birth rate, less victimization, land ownership, and marriage stability. The effects are drastic.
 
Do you hear what I’m saying? Much international data suggests that when you support a vulnerable woman, and it pays forward generation to generation, lifting families out of poverty, empowering children, increasing health and life longevity, and turning victims into champions.
 
Surely you know where I am going with this: NOONDAY.
 

If ever there was an easier way for women to raise up women, I haven’t seen one. What do we rally around? Jewelry and accessories, the universal language of women. Don’t imagine for one minute that Americans love the pretty and the international artisans make our goodies with rolled eyes toward our vanity. These Rwandan women are dressed to the nines, stylistic and gorgeous, coifed and manicured. If these women don’t love beauty, then no one does.
 
And, um, they had some “opinions” about our designs for the Style For Justice Collection. (As she was personally designing 38 EXTRA FAB FEATURES for our product, our team leader Charlotte said quietly, with head bent over her sewing machine: “I want to win first place.” Well then. American competitiveness need not show up. We have Charlotte, for the love.)
 
In Rwanda, only 300 companies in the entire country can employ over 30 people. So even with education on the rise for girls, jobs are still scarce. Noonday offers long-term trade and sustainable income for life. I can hardly think of anything more valuable.
 

The Rwandan artisans now have:
 
Children in school.
 
Marriages restored.
 
Homes purchased.
 
Debts paid.
 
Medical bills covered.
 
Dignity restored.
 
I’m not sure western women understand the power of restored dignity through work. We often disparage work; a luxury of the already empowered. But in a context like Rwanda, work is honorable and coveted, strong and transformative. It literally changes lives.
 
And you have such a role to play. In the Noonday context, every Trunk Show, every order, every new Ambassador, every time you tell someone about your beautiful Annie’s Feathered Earrings (I will not even attempt to conceal my obsession), YOU PROVIDE WORK to women who were once disempowered, devalued, abused, invisible. Then, bag by bag, necklace by necklace, they become new mothers to their children: empowered, valuable, redeemed, seen. You also provide work for nearly 700 Ambassadors in America who now have meaningful careers too, contributing to their families, rising up strong.
 
It is such good work! Don’t imagine for a minute it is only about your gorgeous Angelica scarf (hand-woven, four hours of labor per scarf): this is about women for women, connecting through the bonds of motherhood, family, dignity, strength, beauty.


So sister, go ahead. Book that Trunk Show. Sign up to become an Ambassador. Purchase that Bethe Rope necklace. If your husband balks, tell him THIS IS FOR THE WOMEN OF THE WORLD. I AM SUPPORTING MY SISTERS. TAKE IT UP WITH JESUS, MAN.
 
These girls thank you. And we thank them.
 


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36 Comments

Kim - July 18th, 2014 at 9:55 AM
"Half the Sky" quite literally changed my life. I love this post and I love that it was posted today; it's my 22nd birthday. It was definitely a God thing that I ended up on your website for the first time on today of all days to read about one of the most impactful books I have ever read. And I'm already obsessed with noonday! I remember, though, you mentioning a similar organization in "7" where you pinned all of the tags onto handmade scarves. I cannot for the life of me remember what the name was, and of course I already returned your book to the library (I guess that's me admitting to the author I didn't buy your book; college budget you know!). Don't feel like you have to respond to my ultra-sappy post; could I just get the name of that website???
Sara - July 18th, 2014 at 12:13 PM
Kim, is it Open Arms you're thinking of? Just did a search on my e-book and that's the name I'm finding.
Sarah - July 18th, 2014 at 11:24 AM
I'll be hosting a trunk show as soon as my daughter is born (due August 3rd), and I'm sort of, kind of settled. The truth of this post is why.
Thank you so much for sharing stories and encouraging your followers to be a part of what is valuable and redemptive and necessary.
shari - July 18th, 2014 at 2:24 PM
jen, i thank you for having such a beautiful gift of expression! you are able to beautifully, factually, and persuasively tell these stories & needs about women in need of our support and love. thank you for not only being the messenger, but for also being one of the fine women who is right in the middle of all of this creativity and girl power, clearly showing the love of Christ.
Melanie - July 18th, 2014 at 2:46 PM
Half the Sky and A Hole in Our Gospel changed my
Life. Thanks for your work!
Melissa Richeson - July 18th, 2014 at 2:49 PM
Hosting a show on aug 7th, thanks to your encouragements. Can't wait! Thanks for the stories. :)
Fran - July 18th, 2014 at 2:49 PM
This is so beautiful to me, Jen. Thank you. I have a small non-profit with 2 other women and we are all about raising money and awareness for local and global missions, supporting our own trips, and supporting women globally to be strong and love Jesus with their gifts and talents. We are signing up to be ambassadors next week! We are so excited!!! Thank you for encouraging us all. You know we love you. And...picking up "Interrupted" for the first time. Mercy. :)
Anna - July 18th, 2014 at 3:19 PM
"Take it up with Jesus, man." Haha! LOVE IT! My sister mentioned becoming an ambassador and I'm hoping to host her first trunk show!!! Thanks for opening my eyes even more!
Mary-Beth - July 18th, 2014 at 5:20 PM
I am stealing half these lines for my next presentation on Noonday. Take it up with Jesus, man. Amen!
Jenise Johnston - July 18th, 2014 at 8:30 PM
Every time I read your blog I laugh, and then I cry, and then I laugh some more. I am so thankful for you Jen Hatmaker. Quite simply, you inspire me. :)
Ann Marie - July 18th, 2014 at 10:40 PM
I'm interested in becoming an ambassador, but I can't find information about how much of the $ goes to the artisans. Is there a way I can get that information? The website just states that 20% goes to the ambassador.
Noonday Collection - July 19th, 2014 at 7:22 AM
Ann Marie - Check out our FAQs section here and there is more information. Our business model works a little differently as we do not "give back" in the traditional sense to our artisans. Instead we are creating jobs and long term economic self sufficiency by partnering with artisan groups who set mutually agreed upon prices, we only work with artisan groups who are consistent with our mission and commit to providing fair wages and safe working environments for their workers. Hope that helps! You can read more here: http://www.noondaycollection.com/our-story-faq.htm
Anna Claire - July 21st, 2014 at 2:14 PM
Interesting! So is there any information available about the wages that the artisans are paid? Or about how the profits are spent by Noonday? I'm really interested in becoming an ambassador also, but want to make sure I understand how the company works before I commit to representing it. Thanks!
Gypsy Mama - July 19th, 2014 at 8:06 AM
Noonday doesn't ship to Canada! :(
Kim - July 19th, 2014 at 8:36 AM
The "Women hold up half the sky." quote is actually not a Chinese proverb, but a quote from Chairman Mao of China. It's interesting to me that the same man responsible for the one-child policy in China, which has led to the abandonment (and worse) of millions of girls and now sick babies in China really never meant for girls to bear the brunt of his policy.

That's not what this blog post is about but I just thought it was an interesting factoid.
Dayna - July 22nd, 2014 at 9:12 AM
Just to clarify your comment - Chairman Mao isn't responsible for the one-child policy in China. He actually recommended people have lots of kids to strengthen China, and as a result, families averaged 5.6 kids. It was the leader after him, Deng Xiao Ping, who supported a plan to reverse this after fearing China wouldn't have the resources to sustain such a large population. The one-child policy began in 1979. Mao died in 1976.
Michelle Yeager - July 19th, 2014 at 12:43 PM
THANK YOU for choosing Rwanda!! I cohost the morning show at a Christian station in Boise, Idaho and work closely with Africa New Life Ministries in Rwanda. I have been there twice in the last year and can totally vouch for every word you said. Thank you for speaking up and being their voice. God is restoring Rwanda after so much was taken from them. My heart is torn between America and Rwanda. Awesome testimony Jen!!! I asked for a trunk show last week. Waiting for a call from a rep. If there isn't one in Idaho, I will become one. :)
Jessie Weaver - July 19th, 2014 at 2:10 PM
Noonday is great! But I love how you mentioned in the 7 study videos that Kiva is a great way to go, too. You spend less ($25), empower women through microloans, and you get your money back to re-loan. I really think microloans could change poverty!! Loan to some women, people! :)
Wendy - July 19th, 2014 at 5:04 PM
LOVE this! Women empowering women, what could be better. We are sisters and need to support one another. I especially love it when you said to buy that necklace and if your husband balks tell him to take it up with Jesus! Amen. Thank you for sharing this amazing work. I can't wait to host a trunk show!
Wendy - July 19th, 2014 at 5:09 PM
LOVE this! Women empowering women, what could be better. We are sisters and need to support one another. I especially love it when you said to buy that necklace and if your husband balks tell him to take it up with Jesus! Amen. Thank you for sharing this amazing work. I can't wait to host a trunk show!
Kate - July 20th, 2014 at 3:26 PM
This is beautiful and encouraging! A friend of mine sells Noonday, and I have loved watching the Style for Justice campaign (is that the right word to use?) - can't wait to see the new line!
Laura - July 21st, 2014 at 8:46 PM
Jen, or anyone, really - what book(s) did you turn to in order to learn about poverty and all of the stuff you mentioned? Thanks!
Hannah - July 22nd, 2014 at 12:43 PM
Hello beautiful women! I'm wondering about which books to read and what each of you recommend? Half the sky was wonderful. Please send more book suggestions my way.
Sandy W - September 1st, 2014 at 9:32 AM
Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns
Small Things with Great Love by Margot Starbuck
Tracy - July 23rd, 2014 at 4:56 AM
I am still in that 'sweet little dumb dumb mind' place, so thank you for explaining this stuff! I had started to wonder why the focus on women and pushing for them to find stable, viable incomes when their cultures are not set up to respect women. NOW, I understand why. Thank you!!

I have sobbed my way through the past couple of weeks and reading the Noonday IJM stories from each of you while in Rwanda. Such important stories and so beautifully told. I had just a few weeks before prayed one of those dumb prayers...."break my heart for what breaks yours"...so, so not smart. My heart was broken as I read. I have cried and ocean! And now I don't know what to do with that.

I'm adding 'Half the Sky' to my wish list next time I stop by The Book Depository. Apparently heartbreak requires educating.
Sarah Quezada - July 23rd, 2014 at 5:50 AM
Such a beautiful post about a crucial global topic. I couldn't agree more about jobs. Bob Lupton (author of Toxic Charity) often talks about how one way to offer dignity to the poor is to allow them to participate in the economic system. There's so much peace in allowing someone to make their own money and choose how they spend it to care for their own family. Thank you for telling these stories! (And now I want to read "Half the Sky"!)
Richard - July 23rd, 2014 at 8:10 PM
Hello, Jen! Mike Morrell asked me to contact you because he really appreciates your blog and thinks you'd be an excellent candidate for his Speakeasy Blogger Network. Do you like to review off-the-beaten path faith, spirituality, and culture books? Speakeasy puts interesting books in your hands at no charge to you. You only get books when you request them, and it's free to join. Sign up here, if you'd like: http://thespeakeasy.info
layla bb solms - July 24th, 2014 at 1:18 PM
i feel a bit better about the fancy lady thing
i'm not fancy, but i can tend toward greediness, ok not so much tend toward, but am. there. I AM GREEDY FOR THINGS. WEIRD THINGS. J CREW THINGS. cafe con miel drinks and dark chocolate and worrying that my converse all stars won't last, and i really shouldn't be spending more money on another skirt, and oops did my husband say that we have a budget to stick to and i make half what i made two years ago and no i don't need one more of anything... at all.
anywho - back to the fancy lady get dressed up, etc. i wondered what the ladies of noonday thought about the americans who spend money on they items they painstakingly and competitively create. i am glad to know that they like to be fancy too.
i'm hosting a noonday trunk show in october and i can't wait! hooray!
Jessica - July 25th, 2014 at 6:28 AM
Hi Jen!
I love your blog! I am so interested in Noonday, that I booked a show! Thanks for sharing these stories. Do you know what % these women actually get in hand from each sale?

Kat Cannon - July 25th, 2014 at 11:58 AM
Your title reminded me of the book and PBS Documentary "Half the Sky" which has been HUGELY impactful for me. May I also recommend the book that Carolyn Custis James wrote in response to this idea called "Half the Church" - powerful stuff. Thanks for highlighting the ways women in our world can be a part of our own solutions and how we can help!
ginny martyn - July 27th, 2014 at 9:13 AM
I recently went to Haiti and saw many things that troubled me about the women there and also gave me great joy. I wrote about it here www.ginnymartyn.com I'm going to read this now because I think it will help me further process the experience and help me understand what to do with the lessons I learned. Thanks for this.
deb - July 30th, 2014 at 9:05 AM
I just started reading that book on vacation!! I have certainly cried, been angry and mostly just sad. How women are viewed, used and abused it heartbreaking. I agree microfinance is the way to go for solving poverty at a global level. Great post
MJB - July 30th, 2014 at 4:08 PM
HI Jen, You put out a request for books that your readers loved.There were so many who requested the list of books be compiled. I put them all in an Excel File listed by author in one and listed by votes received in another. I will attach the file to this email. I hope you can find a way to share this list with your readers. Sent email on July 30.




(Since some of the responders did not list an author, and several books have identical titles I just selected the most popular one according to Amazon.)


MJB - July 31st, 2014 at 1:13 PM
Hi Jen!
You put out a request for books that your readers loved.
There were so many who requested the list of books be compiled.
I put them all in an Excel File listed by author in one and listed by votes received in another.
I will attach the file to this email.
I hope you can find a way to share this list with your readers.
Sincerely,
MB

(Since some of the responders did not list an author, and several books have identical titles I just selected the most popular one according to Amazon.)

Becky - August 5th, 2014 at 9:45 AM
Jen- Thank you so much for sharing this post! This is exactly what my husband and I are starting. Before we had ever even heard of Noonday Collections, my husband and I were praying about starting a similar company that we have called Trade for Freedom. We will be supporting Christian manufacturers that have rescued women from sex trafficking and other at risk positions in Nepal. These women are rescued, taught a skill such as sewing, and offered a fair wage job with dignity and respect. They are also offered discipleship if they so choose, but it is NOT a requirement. These women are paid a living and fair wage, with fair trade practices. The hope and JOY that they have is something that cannot be overestimated! The problem is, that it is nearly impossible to sell their beautifully crafted bags, scarves, and jewelry in Nepal. We are seeking to expand their selling horizons by buying the product from them, and selling it here! We are so excited to get this business off the ground, and be a part of the End It Movement. Keep the name Trade for Freedom in your mind! We are expectantly waiting for God to do an awesome work for the women of Nepal through like minded American consumers. :)
Trade for Freedom Advocate,
Becky Zellars
Kirby - February 11th, 2015 at 11:00 AM
I'd so love to know what other books Jen read, as well! let us know as you can - thanks SO much!!!
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