A ‘Tale of Two Cities’ for the World’s Women: Emperiled and Empowered

We womenablers already realize that empowering women is one of the surest paths to peace and prosperity, but that message was elevated to a wider audience over the weekend – with extensive coverage in the New York Times Sunday magazine and with commentary by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in the Huffington Post. (Click links above to read them – they are definitely worth your while.)
In their article, “Why Women’s Rights are the Cause of Our Time,” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and wife Sheryl WuDunn – drawing from a soon-to-be-published book – state that “the world is awakening to a powerful truth: women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution.”

This article is joined by a number of other worthy and thoughtful contributions from others in the Times’ special Sunday magazine “Saving the World’s Women.”

Even though there is a growing recognition that empowering women has both economic and social benefits – and a markedly stronger ROI than “gender blind” aid – we still have a long way to go until we reach gender equality. That point is made quite clearly by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who point out – in a recent op-ed piece in the Huffington Post – the stark facts that that the majority of the 2.5 million people globally who are victims of trafficking are women or girls, and that an even larger number of females – up to 100 million – are “missing” from the planet because of increased mortality from inequality and neglect.

This term of reference, “missing women,” certainly deserves more attention. Coined by Nobel laureate Dr. Amartya Sen about a decade ago, it refers to the fact that – because of pre-natal gender selection, infanticide of girl children, and increased mortality of girls and women because of discriminatory health and nutrition practices – there are about 100 million fewer females alive in the world today than there would be otherwise. Read more about this concept in this New York Review of Books article, “More Than 100 Million Women are Missing.”

Importantly, Sen concludes that one way forward for reducing the number of “missing” women is economic empowerment. He states that “gainful employment (i.e., working outside the home for a wage, or in such ‘productive’ occupations as farming), as opposed to unpaid and unhonored housework—no matter how demanding—can substantially enhance the deal that women get.”

Thank goodness that news is “slower” in August, so that this vital issue and the thoughtful commentary noted above can get a wider audience. Read them … and then pass them along!

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