Sunday, August 23, 2009

Helping Women, Changing the Planet

The Sunday New York Times Magazine today stopped me in my tracks. Actually, I started getting an inkling of the enormous impact of today's series earlier in the week from the Tweets and Facebook entries and blog entries I came across-- a good kind of excited chatter. The theme of the issue is "Saving the World's Women," and the feature article by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, "Why Women's Rights are the Cause of Our Time," is stunning.

You may well know the tragic statistics that make you flinch-- about rape rooms, sex slaves, repression, genital mutilation--as the article points out, " In the 19TH century, the paramount moral challenge was slavery. In the 20th century, it was totalitarianism. In this century, it is the brutality inflicted on so many women and girls around the globe: sex trafficking, acid attacks, bride burnings and mass rape." But what distinguishes this series is the crack of light-- the hope we're seeing to change the world for the better through women, as the article points out:
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.
The stories and photos of women overcoming brutality and violence to raise their children, to urge their daughters to be educated in the most hostile environments, are amazing. And then there are the ways to help-- The Power of the Purse by Lisa Belkin is an empowering article about how much impact women in the U.S. and beyond are having since "women give differently than men. They are less likely to want their names on things and more likely to give as part of drives (large ones, like Women Moving Millions, and smaller ones, like living-room 'giving circles') that include other women." While men tend to describe their giving as "practical," women "tend to describe theirs as emotional, an obligation to help those with less." Clearly, it comes down to the what this series of articles points to: how changing the lives of women and girls in the developing world can change everything:
Behind all this giving lies the theory that helping women and children is the way to change the planet. “Seventy percent of people living in poverty around the world are women and children,” says Christine Grumm, president and C.E.O. of the Women’s Funding Network. “If women have a roof over their heads and a home free of violence, and good and affordable health care, then so do children. In the larger picture, it’s not just about women, but entire communities. Women are the conduits through which change is made.
In case you have your own story of reaching out--in a field hospital, orphanage, or right here in your living room, through a giving circle like Dining for Women, The NYT is looking for your story, and requesting you submit your "personal stories that show the work being done in this field around the world, and the possibilities of change." Here's the link.

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