Mercy Corps launches book club contest

September 21, 2009

Aid agency challenges book clubs across the U.S. to read Half the Sky and raise awareness and funds to help women. Authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn will visit winning book club.

Portland, OR – The global relief and development agency Mercy Corps today announced a nationwide book club contest to help improve opportunities for women and girls in the developing world. Mercy Corps is encouraging book clubs to read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

More than 350 book clubs have already signed up to participate.

Using a discussion guide created by the authors exclusively for Mercy Corps, book clubs will read the book, and raise awareness and funds to support programs that empower women. The book club that compiles the most impressive record of activism by June 15 will receive a visit and discussion session with the authors. More information is available at

“Mercy Corps’ book club initiative is a great way for people to come together, examine the book’s issues in a deep, meaningful way, and take action to improve women’s lives. We expect this will help transform the book into a true movement for change,” said Half the Sky author Nicholas Kristof.

Half the Sky, published earlier this month, highlights the oppressive practices – including sex trafficking, and lack of access to education and healthcare – that plague women and girls in many parts of Africa and Asia. The authors argue that significant, lasting prosperity and stability can only become a reality when women realize their full potential.

"Half the Sky vividly tells the story of what we see everyday in developing countries. Families and whole communities flourish when women have the tools they need to succeed: a voice in key decisions, loans to start small businesses, medical care and education," explained Mercy Corps President Nancy Lindborg. "The book club contest will help people dig more deeply into this dynamic, and we are confident they will become part of the solution."

Through initial outreach to donors and supporters, Mercy Corps has already signed up more than 350 book clubs across the country, reaching several thousand people. The agency hopes to engage thousands more.

Book clubs have warmly embraced Half the Sky. “All of us, on one level or another, have a basic understanding of how some women are forced to live in other countries; however, the personal stories in his book have made it so much more real for me,” said Heather Gillisen, member of a book club in Beaverton, OR. “With the awareness that I have now and the anger that I feel, I will do my part, whether that’s raising awareness among my friends, donating money, or taking other actions.”

The book club initiative is part of Mercy Corps’ One Table campaign (, which advocates for policies and programs that recognize the critical role women play in feeding families.