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Book Club Series — The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World

“If you want to lift up humanity, empower women. It is the most comprehensive, pervasive, high-leverage investment you can make in human beings.”
― Melinda Gates, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World

Welcome to the Women for Women International Book Club! This month, we’re reading The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by humanitarian and philanthropist, Melinda Gates. 

Part memoir, part feminist manifesto, The Moment of Lift is an eye-opening look into gender inequality around the world and the profound positive impact of investing in women.

Don’t forget to join the #WFWIBookClub Facebook Group…

We’ve launched a space for passionate readers like you to dive deeper and connect with each other while exploring women’s power. We hope you’ll join the discussion online!

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Why The Moment of Lift is important...

The Moment of Lift explores the complex factors that contribute to gender inequality around the world, including child marriage, unpaid labor, family planning, restricted access to education, and advocacy. These core issues are at the heart of our Women for Women International programs around the world, and The Moment of Lift outlines exactly why they are so important.

The stories highlighted by Gates in her debut book show the power that women have to create global change. Gates writes, “When women hear our own voices in another woman’s story, our courage grows, and one voice can become a chorus.” This is the founding principal of the Women for Women International Book Club. The experiences shared by the author are complex, oftentimes heartbreaking, and always insightful. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of the challenges faced by women around the world and be inspired to become a change agent within your daily life.

The Moment of Lift makes it abundantly clear that investing in women has the power to change the world for the better. Gates shares example after inspiring example of marginalized women who are making a big impact, like sex workers in India who banded together to advocate for their rights and, in turn, slowed the spread of HIV throughout the country. And how rural women in West Africa challenged generations of tradition and leveraged male allies to advocate for their daughters and put an end to female genital cutting in their communities.

Gates proposes that being outraged about gender inequality is not good enough. We must instead see ourselves in each other, tear down the systems that create outsiders and share our power. Only then can we create sustainable and equitable cultures. As Gates’ puts it, “Outrage can save one girl, or two. Only empathy can change the system.”


Discussion Questions

Check out the discussion questions below and connect with readers on Instagram to share your reactions, thoughts and questions by using the hashtag #WFWIBookClub, and tagging us with @womenforwomen. We want to hear what you think—share your take on the book with us! 

1. Melinda explains that she has shared these women’s (and men’s) stories as a way to inspire us to lift each other up. In your experience, how does lift happen? Are there individuals in your life whom you feel you’ve helped to lift, in a big or small way? Who has helped lift you?

2. Each chapter of the book focuses on a central issue of gender equality, and yet taken as a whole they form a matrix of issues that support that idea that “there are no isolated problems” (16). Did you feel strongly that one issue or another was a “root” cause from which the others proliferated, or that you identified with one or two more than others? Which issue in the book is most relevant to your own life?

3. What are some of the taboos around women’s education cited in the book (e.g., Vicki Phillips in rural Kentucky) and from your own experience?

4. Melinda writes that “the most transforming force of education for women and girls is challenging the self-image of the girl who goes to school.” Did you have a teacher who helped change your self-image? How did he or she do it? What effect did it have on you?

5. Did you grow up with certain expectations of what was “women’s” work, and how it was valued compared to work done at an outside job? How does your current workplace and/or home value the tasks of taking care of a home and family, and where might you use your voice to make the two more compatible as Melinda describes?

6. Melinda writes: “As soon as we began to spend more time understanding how people live their lives, we saw that so many of the barriers to advancement. . . can be traced to the limits put on the lives of women.” (50) Can you think of a barrier that women face in your community that keeps women or their children from education, income or economic opportunities?

7. A low self-image and oppressive social customs are inner and outer versions of the same force,” writes Melinda, as a way to illustrate why personal and cultural change are equally important in fighting inequality (112). Has reading this book given you new insights on how to improve your own and others’ self-image, and the culture around you? Which seems more difficult to achieve in your opinion?

8. After finishing the book, has your understanding of what it means to empower women changed, in terms of concept and execution? What are some of the ways Melinda suggested we can all—women and men—move out of this state of fear and into one of love and acceptance?

The questions above are selected from the author’s website. For a full list of discussion questions, please visit The Moment of Lift Discussion Guide.