Mint Homes president raises awareness of abused women
By combining a love of books with her passion to promote women's causes, Houston businesswoman and northwest-Houston resident Rufi Natarajan has challenged her book club and others to raise money for Mercy Corps and read Half the Sky, a book by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl Wudunn.
According to www.halftheskymovement.org, the book lays out an agenda for the world's women and three major abuses: sex trafficking and forced prostitution; gender-based violence including honor killings and mass rape; and maternal mortality."
Mercy Corps is a nonprofit organization which helps the kind of women who Nick is writing about," Natarajan said. When he wrote his book, Mercy Corps wanted to promote it to make sure people became more aware of the situation of oppressed women."
The challenge, which has been taken up around the country, is to see which book club, after reading Half the Sky, can raise the most money for Mercy Corps. Natarajan and her club Prime Time Literature have collected about $1,400 so far, an amount she said is sure to rise. To donate to Mercy Corps in the name of her book club, call 281-587-0077.
If you read the book, there is no way you are not going to want to do something to help the people that they write about," she said.
A native of Pakistan who came to the United States as a teenager, Natarajan said she could easily have been one of those women. But with supportive parents who valued education, she was able to excel and create a successful life for herself and her family.
Women's causes are very near and dear to my heart, and that's why I got involved," she said. In the 21st century the push should be to provide equality to women. If you're able to provide education, a lot of the problems you have in society would be taken care of. You would have children that would grow up with values and they wouldn't have to go off and become a terrorist, there would be less infant mortality and more opportunities."
Ann Sullivan, a fellow Prime Time Literature member, is also very passionate about Natarajan's efforts to garner as much support as possible for Mercy Corps by recruiting other book clubs to read Half the Sky and make a donation.
Because of Nicholas Kristof's columns and the book that he and his wife have written, I can't claim ignorance about the oppression of women and children in Asia and Africa," she said. The women of the book club and I are united behind Rufi as our leader."
Sullivan said she is taking steps to make others aware as well, attending a Kristoff lecture in Houston with her daughter, lending the book to office mates and speaking to young girls at Wunderlich Intermediate School about her club's project.
None of these is spectacular, but each has made a bit of difference," she said.
Each of us is spreading the word about the book, Mercy Corps and the contest in our circles of influence."
The contest states that the book club that raises the most money for Mercy Corps will win a visit from Kristof and Wudunn. However, both Natarajan and Sullivan said the importance of what they're doing is not just about the money.
It's not how much money you collect but how much awareness you raise," said Natarajan.
What is really important is that women in northwest Harris County have looked beyond themselves and their local community to say that they can make a difference for oppressed women halfway around the world," she said.
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