Nicholas Kristof on Empowering Women for Development

Topic: Half the Sky and Empowering Women for Development

Institution: The New York Times


Nicholas D. Kristof, a columnist for The New York Times since 2001, writes op-ed columns that appear twice a week. Mr. Kristof won the Pulitzer Prize two times, in 1990 and 2006. In 2012, he was a Pulitzer finalist in Commentary for his 2011 columns that often focused on the disenfranchised in many parts of the world.

Mr. Kristof grew up on a sheep and cherry farm near Yamhill, Oregon. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College and then read law at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship, graduating with first class honors. He later studied Arabic in Cairo and Chinese in Taipei.

While working in France after high school, he caught the travel bug and began backpacking around Africa and Asia during his student years, writing articles to cover his expenses.

Mr. Kristof has lived on four continents, reported on six and traveled to more than 150 countries, all 50 states, every Chinese province and every main Japanese island. He jokes that he’s one of the very few Americans to be at least a two-time visitor to every member of the so-called Axis of Evil. During his travels, he has had unpleasant experiences with malaria, mobs and an African airplane crash.

After joining The Times in 1984, where he had initially covered economics, Mr. Kristof served as a Times correspondent in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Beijing and Tokyo. He also reported on presidential politics and authored the chapter on President George W. Bush in the reference book The Presidents. He later became Associate Managing Editor of The Times, and was responsible for Sunday editions.


Episode Summary:

How do women’s rights relate to sustainable development? What are the economic arguments for the education of women? Is Islam mysoginistic?

These are some of the questions that Kristof discusses in this episode of S&S, which centers around his new book, Half the Sky, co-authored with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn.

Kristof begins by discussing Half the Sky and the reasons he devoted his career to exploring gender issues, then talks about why girls’ education may well be “the highest return investment in the developing world.” Kristof goes on to cover issues of human rights abuses against women, including sex trafficking, gender-based violence and maternal mortality, and addresses the controversial question addressed in one of the chapters of his book: Is Islam misogynistic? Finally, Kristof ends by addressing the difficult tradeoffs between amplifying individual voices and stories versus digging into larger structural issues which may have to appeal more to statistics than anecdotes and imagery.


Half the Sky

Esther Duflo

Harvard Kennedy School: Investing in Girls’ Education Report

Eric Hanushek: Education and Economic Growth


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Intro/Outtro Music: Bolling: Suite for Cello and Jazz Piano Trio – Baroque in Rhythm