A crash course in changing the world.
In too many places, women are relegated to the dingy corners of existence. The majority of the world’s poor are women. Women endure poverty in all aspects of their lives: education, health, food, property, mobility, hope.
In too many places, women are denied the opportunity to pursue their own rights and aspirations. Women are denied the freedom to choose when or whom to marry; when they bear children; when, where, or if they are able to work.
A few days ago, in Yemen, a 13-year-old girl, married to the friend of her brother in an agreement to avoid paying high bride-prices, died of severe trauma and bleeding, 4 days after the marriage.
In too many places, women are treated not as full and equal human beings, but as lesser creatures, undeserving of respect, underserved and undervalued by men—husbands, fathers, sons. Although many nations have written laws meant to deter violence against women, the global pandemic of violence, rape, slave markets, women and girls bought and sold to settle debts, resolve local conflicts, to work in servitude in sweatshops, in degradation in brothels, continues. Female circ**cision (FGC) is still practiced in many parts of the world, with its own high cost of infection and death. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_genital_cutting
Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl Wudunn have written a book about women around the world: Half the Sky. http://www.halftheskymovement.org/ ). To quote from their jointly-written New York Times article The Women’s Crusade (August 17, 2009):
“Women hold up half the sky,” in the words of a Chinese saying, yet that’s mostly an aspiration: in a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized, and it’s not an accident that those same countries are disproportionately mired in poverty and riven by fundamentalism and chaos. There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism. That’s why foreign aid is increasingly directed to women. The world is awakening to a powerful truth: Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rX_MxMDJQBk (CARE President and CEO Dr. Helene Gayle talks to NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof "Half the Sky")
Last month, on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2010, UNIDO Director-General Kandeh K. Yumkella said that “In order for developing countries to position themselves in a globalized world and achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals there need to be increased efforts to ensure equal rights and opportunities for women. If women are able to access credit to invest in business ventures, markets to sell their products, knowledge to expand their businesses, they will be in a better position to contribute to economic growth and development… Unfortunately, women as a group suffer from discrimination of all types particularly with regard to access to decent work, resources, skills and capacity development. This is perpetuating poverty and creating a multiplier effect in poor households and communities.”
This month, on April 8, 2010, the U.N. mission in Sudan called Akobo the “hungriest place on earth.” Two years of drought and regional tribal conflicts are setting the stage for Africa’s newest humanitarian crisis. Although the World Food Program (http://www.wfp.org/ ) quadrupled its assistance levels from January to March this year, and now feeds 80,000 area residents, skeletal children and elderly people too weak to walk augur looming disaster. Aid groups Save the Children (http://www.savethechildren.org/) and Medair (http://www.medair.org/ ) search the area for the hungriest children. With worried mothers sitting nearby hospitalized children, doctors fear this is only the front line of an impending famine. http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/A/AF_SUDAN_HUNGER?SITE=AP&...
Even without the tragedies of drought, conflict, disease and famine, women are caught in a nearly perpetual struggle merely to subsist, to barely survive. There is a direct link between a woman’s ability to plan and space her pregnancies, obtain prenatal and maternal health care, and that woman’s ability to obtain an education, obtain a job, support her family, and participate in the activities and decisions of the community where she lives. Girls who bear children before they are literate, mothers who endure untold struggles to feed, clothe, carry wood and water for their families, while remaining unable to obtain or use contraception, never fulfill the potential, never reach the sustainable levels of life that could be theirs. And their children are swept into the morass of ignorance and poverty with them. Babies cry because they are hungry. Women weep because they are unable to produce enough milk and food for the children who depend upon them.
Providing microloans and training to women, providing essential skills and mentoring to women, returns improvements not only to the lives of those women, their families and communities, but also to many hundreds and thousands more women, in their homes, with their families and communities.
Vital Voices (http://vitalvoices.org) and their international staff and partners (NGO, government, corporate) have "trained and mentored over
8,000 emerging women leaders from over 127 countries in Asia, Africa, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East since 1997.
These women have returned home to train and mentor more than 500,000 additional women and girls in their communities. And when women can work together, earn the means for security of food, water, their communities together, and become educated, and educate their children, instead of scratching out a subsistence in subjugation and separation—then women can work together, and with the “other half of the sky”.
When women advocate for peace, as well as men, when women reach across the chasms of conflict and corruption to find common ground, willing to reach across to the warring opponents, the peace that they can achieve is far more lasting, and far more likely to deliver real benefits.
The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 was passed unanimously on 31 October, 2000. Resolution (S/RES/1325) is the first resolution ever passed by the Security Council that specifically addresses the impact of war on women, and women’s contributions to conflict resolution and sustainable peace. (http://www.peacewomen.org/un/sc/1325.html )