Magazine | 9:22 am | November 2, 2011 | By Diana Li

Famed journalist speaks to Jackson Institute

Sheryl WuDunn delivers a TED talk in 2010.
Sheryl WuDunn delivers a TED talk in 2010. Photo by Diana Li.

Sheryl WuDunn, the first Asian-American recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, brought her experiences documenting the Tiananmen Square protests to a Tuesday afternoon talk at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.

WuDunn, along with her husband, the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, published Half the Sky in 2009; it’s a book that details the widespread oppression of women across the world, and claims that this oppression is the primary moral dilemma of our era. Calling this sexism “the 21st-century equivalent of 19th-century slavery” in her Tuesday talk, WuDunn emphasized the necessity of education and economic opportunity to combat gender inequality and poverty.

The event was an informal discussion among WuDunn, members of Yale’s international affairs magazine, The Globalist, and other interested students. Tailored to students’ questions, the conversation touched on topics from “gendercide” to modern journalism. Below are some words of wisdom from the business executive, reporter and Pulitzer-Prize winning author:

“In Niger, one out of seven women can expect to die in childbirth… In one instance, a woman was going through obstructed labor. Her traditional birth attendant didn’t know what to do, so she sat on the woman’s stomach. There just isn’t education or health care.”

“If we had just taken a little money from the war effort to instead build schools in Afghanistan starting in 2000, that would’ve been at least one skilled generation that could’ve gone into factories or built a manufacturing industry.”

“As a journalist, you’ll be thrown into topics that you have no idea of. You might be assigned a science article, and they’ll tell you the study is the best thing since sliced bread. How are you supposed to evaluate that?”

Her comments prompted questions about her ability to combine her business acumen with her philanthropic work, and one student asked her to talk about her training in journalism and finance. But WuDunn wanted most to hear about the Yalies’ travels and asked about their personal experiences, ranging from gap years in Argentina and China to internships in the British Parliament.

WuDunn is a senior lecturer at Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and was named as one of 150 Women who Shake the World by Newsweek magazine in 2011.

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