August 24, 2009

Half the Sky

How do we work to empower, rather than oppress, women and girls worldwide? The answer to that question, and its impact on addressing global poverty, is the basis of a new book, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide”.

Did you know …

girls between 1-5 years old in India are twice as likely to die than boys?

… women account for only 1% percent of the world’s landowners?

… that approximately 1 million children are currently in the sex trade in Asia?

Access to and emphasis on education and health care can work to change these conditions.

The Women’s Crusade” essay by the book’s authors in the Sunday New York Times Magazine told a powerful story about a Zimbabwean woman named Tererai Trent who was drawn to education at an early age. Her father would send her “indifferent” brother to school, but would not send her, the child with a thirst for knowledge. Married off at a young age, her husband also thwarted her efforts to practice her self-taught reading. But Tererai was inspired to hope by an American economic activist who brought cattle to her village. Her hope was to get an education.

Specifically, Tererai wanted a college degree, a master’s degree and a PhD. Tererai has succeeded in getting her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and bring her 5 children to the United States. She returns to her village after each achievement. She is currently working on her PhD dissertation on AID programs for the poor in Africa. This is what education can provide – impact on health and the economy for successive generations.

Why is this issue, some which might say is “only” a women’s issue, so important? Actually, it is a universal issue that affects national and global economies. Bill Gates made a brilliant point when responding to an audience member in Saudi Arabia who mentioned that the country’s goal was to be a Top 10 tech country by 2010. His response to the gender segregated audience, “Well, if you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country you’re not going to get too close to the Top 10.”

Do you want to get involved and make social change a reality? Check out these links to learn more about the issue and how you can work to address it.

For more resources:
CARE: Defending Dignity. Fighting Poverty.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” (2009), by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

KIVA: Loans that Change Lives

White House Council on Women and Girls (source: “The Women’s Crusade” New York Times Magazine, August 17, 2009)

This post was written by Leslie Marie, a volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. Leslie lives in New York City and has done outreach and research for the Ad Council. For the past year she directed the marketing and recruiting efforts for an alternative teaching certification program run by a national education consulting organization. Please leave your comments or send us an email with your questions.

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