This week the New York Times Magazine focuses on “Saving the World’s Women.” An essay by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, titled “The Women’s Crusade,” is at the center of an issue that explores women’s causes around the world.
Kristof and WuDunn make a strong case for the need to focus international efforts on helping women:
Yet if the injustices that women in poor countries suffer are of paramount importance, in an economic and geopolitical sense the opportunity they represent is even greater. “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.
Reinforcing this message, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf have co-authored an article for the Huffington Post, “Taking Women’s Rights Seriously.” Both leaders put forth concrete goals and promises, including Brown’s renewed commitment to addressing women’s issues through the United Nations:
The UN has a leading role, yet its response has been too fragmented and has lacked coherence. In 2006 a High Level Panel recommended a new, powerful agency that could empower women throughout the world.
…It must be urgently established with strong, high-level leadership to support national efforts and strengthen co-ordination of the UN’s collective resolve to improve the lives of girls and women.
As evidence of Britain’s commitment we will at least double the UK’s core funding for the UN’s work on women’s equality through this new body, once established. We will also work tirelessly over the next three weeks to help make the agency a reality by the end of this current session of the General Assembly.
Both the New York Times Magazine and the article by Brown and Sirleaf reference an upcoming book by Kristof and WuDunn, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.”
We may be about to see a dramatic change in the level of attention paid to vital women’s issues around the world. As girls and women around the world struggle to get the medical care, education, political rights, protection, and respect that they deserve, let us hope that we do see this change. It would not come a moment too soon.