Welcome to the new version of European Tribune. It's just a new layout, so everything should work as before - please report bugs here.

VLQD: Saving the World's Women

by Melanchthon Fri Aug 21st, 2009 at 06:50:23 AM EST

The Women's Crusade - NYTimes.com

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.

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.


This study found that 39,000 baby girls died annually in China because parents didn't give them the same medical care and attention that boys received -- and that was just in the first year of life. A result is that as many infant girls died unnecessarily every week in China as protesters died at Tiananmen Square. Those Chinese girls never received a column inch of news coverage, and we began to wonder if our journalistic priorities were skewed.

A similar pattern emerged in other countries. In India, a "bride burning" takes place approximately once every two hours, to punish a woman for an inadequate dowry or to eliminate her so a man can remarry -- but these rarely constitute news. When a prominent dissident was arrested in China, we would write a front-page article; when 100,000 girls were kidnapped and trafficked into brothels, we didn't even consider it news.

Amartya Sen, the ebullient Nobel Prize-winning economist, developed a gauge of gender inequality that is a striking reminder of the stakes involved. "More than 100 million women are missing," Sen wrote in a classic essay in 1990 in The New York Review of Books, spurring a new field of research. Sen noted that in normal circumstances, women live longer than men, and so there are more females than males in much of the world. Yet in places where girls have a deeply unequal status, they vanish. China has 107 males for every 100 females in its overall population (and an even greater disproportion among newborns), and India has 108. The implication of the sex ratios, Sen later found, is that about 107 million females are missing from the globe today.
...
The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls and women are now missing from the planet, precisely because they are female, than men were killed on the battlefield in all the wars of the 20th century. The number of victims of this routine "gendercide" far exceeds the number of people who were slaughtered in all the genocides of the 20th century.

In Ivory Coast, one research project examined the different crops that men and women grow for their private kitties: men grow coffee, cocoa and pineapple, and women grow plantains, bananas, coconuts and vegetables. Some years the "men's crops" have good harvests and the men are flush with cash, and other years it is the women who prosper. Money is to some extent shared. But even so, the economist Esther Duflo of M.I.T. found that when the men's crops flourish, the household spends more money on alcohol and tobacco. When the women have a good crop, the households spend more money on food. "When women command greater power, child health and nutrition improves," Duflo says.

Such research has concrete implications: for example, donor countries should nudge poor countries to adjust their laws so that when a man dies, his property is passed on to his widow rather than to his brothers. Governments should make it easy for women to hold property and bank accounts -- 1 percent of the world's landowners are women -- and they should make it much easier for microfinance institutions to start banks so that women can save money.

In general, aid appears to work best when it is focused on health, education and microfinance (although microfinance has been somewhat less successful in Africa than in Asia). And in each case, crucially, aid has often been most effective when aimed at women and girls; when policy wonks do the math, they often find that these investments have a net economic return. Only a small proportion of aid specifically targets women or girls, but increasingly donors are recognizing that that is where they often get the most bang for the buck.

In the early 1990s, the United Nations and the World Bank began to proclaim the potential resource that women and girls represent. "Investment in girls' education may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world," Larry Summers wrote when he was chief economist of the World Bank. Private aid groups and foundations shifted gears as well. "Women are the key to ending hunger in Africa," declared the Hunger Project. The Center for Global Development issued a major report explaining "why and how to put girls at the center of development." CARE took women and girls as the centerpiece of its anti-poverty efforts.

Display:
Sorry for a very lazy quote diary. I plan to develop it later, but I thought it was worth posting it now. Go read the whole article.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Aug 21st, 2009 at 07:35:37 AM EST
And thank you to Nicholas Kristof.

The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence.
by marco on Fri Aug 21st, 2009 at 10:39:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and Sheryl WuDunn!

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Fri Aug 21st, 2009 at 12:31:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're right.  This is must-read material.  Kudos to WuDunn.

The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence.
by marco on Fri Aug 21st, 2009 at 02:18:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just finished reading, really interesting.  I know it keeps being said but gender equality is still a far off concept for so many countries.  

The more that people become mobile the more opportunity there is for cultures to mix and influence each other.  I very much hope that cultures where women are more equal continue to influence how women are valued and treated in other countries.

Some of the stories in the article seem too shocking to be true and there is clearly a great deal more work to do to change attitudes and cultures.

But even in our modern, 'enlightened' Western cultures, gender inequality is still rife even if not so overt.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sat Aug 22nd, 2009 at 11:39:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, is it the point that economic improvements/empowerment will eventually off-set culturally derived discrimination?

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Fri Aug 21st, 2009 at 12:34:13 PM EST
Gringo: So, is it the point that economic improvements/empowerment will eventually off-set culturally derived discrimination?

Good question.  What is striking about this piece is how vividly it demonstrates the power of Money to overthrow (undermine?) age-old cultural norms in the matter of a few short years.  In this case, Money trumped misogyny, seemingly with ease:

A Pakistani woman is often forbidden to leave the house without her husband's permission, but husbands tolerate these meetings because the women return with cash and investment ideas. <...>

Saima took her elder daughter back from the aunt and began paying off her husband's debt. <...>

She doesn't even pretend to be subordinate to her husband. ... He has become more impressed with females in general: Saima had a third child, also a girl, but now that's not a problem. "Girls are just as good as boys," he explained. <...>

Sharifa Bibi, the mother-in-law, looked shocked when we asked whether she wanted her son to take a second wife to bear a son. "No, no," she said. "Saima is bringing so much to this house. . . . She puts a roof over our heads and food on the table." ...

Well, then again:

"A woman should know her limits, and if not, then it's her husband's right to beat her," Sharifa said. "But if a woman earns more than her husband, it's difficult for him to discipline her."


The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence.
by marco on Fri Aug 21st, 2009 at 02:27:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gringo: So, is it the point that economic improvements/empowerment will eventually off-set culturally derived discrimination?

marco: Good question.  What is striking about this piece is how vividly it demonstrates the power of Money to overthrow (undermine?) age-old cultural norms in the matter of a few short years.  In this case, Money trumped misogyny, seemingly with ease:


It does not strike it as so odd for me. Whenever factor prices are distorted in the market then it is bound to be caused by cultural or political constraints on markets to allocate resources to their most productive uses. Even Marx understood to destroy feudalism the rise of "capitalism" {sic} was the tool to do it.

Whenever I see when resources are not allocated efficiently, I immediately consider what is distorting the markets either through laws or customs.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford

by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Sat Aug 22nd, 2009 at 06:13:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think another point is that women are generally far better at looking after the welfare of families then men are:

Our interviews and perusal of the data available suggest that the poorest families in the world spend approximately 10 times as much (20 percent of their incomes on average) on a combination of alcohol, prostitution, candy, sugary drinks and lavish feasts as they do on educating their children (2 percent).

<...>

"When women command greater power, child health and nutrition improves," Duflo says.

So, if you give women more economic power, children's -- in particular, daughters' -- well-being will improve, and over time the entire community' well-being will improve (in no small part because those daughters will grow up with more economic power and in a better position to contribute to society.)

The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence.

by marco on Fri Aug 21st, 2009 at 02:54:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
marco, you have made a lot of interesting comments here but have you considered making a comment or two at another diary {Male bias in macro-economics???} of similar concepts discussed?

I agree with your sentiment, but I have to point out that when you state:

I think another point is that women are generally far better at looking after the welfare of families then men are:

The message supports the sexual divisions of labor in the household and then by default divisions of labor in the market. While it is empirically as well as anecdotaly correct, it still supports the "reproductive role of women" in the household under the auspices of New Household Economics. This in turn leaves women in the triple role in the family that may not always be the best for the family/household unit or for women themselves of the "reproductive role", "productive role" and "community managing role" {as described by Moser, 1993}.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford
by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Sat Aug 22nd, 2009 at 05:18:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One hundred years ago, many women in China were still having their feet bound. Today, while discrimination and inequality and harassment persist, the culture has been transformed. In the major cities, we've found that Chinese men often do more domestic chores than American men typically do. And urban parents are often not only happy with an only daughter; they may even prefer one, under the belief that daughters are better than sons at looking after aging parents.

It is very difficult to ascertain the relative "statuses" and "roles" of men and women in a society, especially so in a society where one has little experience and can barely speak the language.  However, my short time in China has convinced me that one of the few but very important good things for the Chinese people that Mao did was raise the level of women's position in society significantly.  I believe that this trend started even before the Communist take-over, but he was a major force in institutionalizing it.  Several Chinese women I have spoken to have credited Mao with "liberating" women from the traditional subservient position they had in feudal China.  One well-known Chinese woman commentator even joked that Mao was the "sugar daddy" of all Chinese women.  And because of him, she went on, Chinese women did not have to fight for their equal status with men, as women in Western society did, leaving them with a peculiar paradoxical confidence/insecurity complex regarding how to integrate their sense of femininity, sexuality, economic power, social roles, and so on, in an extremely rapidly globalizing and modernizing China that nevertheless retains traditional conservative views of sexuality and gender roles in some ways.

Having said this, the countryside remains far more traditional than the city, and no doubt the modern economic trends that Kristof and WuDunn decribe must be having enormous impact on the relative status of women there.

The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence.

by marco on Fri Aug 21st, 2009 at 02:47:51 PM EST
Bill Gates recalls once being invited to speak in Saudi Arabia and finding himself facing a segregated audience. Four-fifths of the listeners were men, on the left. The remaining one-fifth were women, all covered in black cloaks and veils, on the right. A partition separated the two groups. Toward the end, in the question-and-answer session, a member of the audience noted that Saudi Arabia aimed to be one of the Top 10 countries in the world in technology by 2010 and asked if that was realistic. "Well, if you're not fully utilizing half the talent in the country," Gates said, "you're not going to get too close to the Top 10." The small group on the right erupted in wild cheering.


The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence.
by marco on Fri Aug 21st, 2009 at 02:57:31 PM EST
It has long been known that a risk factor for turbulence and violence is the share of a country's population made up of young people. Now it is emerging that male domination of society is also a risk factor; the reasons aren't fully understood, but it may be that when women are marginalized the nation takes on the testosterone-laden culture of a military camp or a high-school boys' locker room.

<...>

Indeed, some scholars say they believe the reason Muslim countries have been disproportionately afflicted by terrorism is not Islamic teachings about infidels or violence but rather the low levels of female education and participation in the labor force.



The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence.
by marco on Fri Aug 21st, 2009 at 03:01:11 PM EST
Incent girls with scholarships:

A study in Kenya by Michael Kremer, a Harvard economist, examined six different approaches to improving educational performance, from providing free textbooks to child-sponsorship programs. The approach that raised student test scores the most was to offer girls who had scored in the top 15 percent of their class on sixth-grade tests a $19 scholarship for seventh and eighth grade (and the glory of recognition at an assembly). Boys also performed better, apparently because they were pushed by the girls or didn't want to endure the embarrassment of being left behind.


The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence.
by marco on Fri Aug 21st, 2009 at 03:05:44 PM EST
Another Kenyan study found that giving girls a new $6 school uniform every 18 months significantly reduced dropout rates and pregnancy rates. Likewise, there's growing evidence that a cheap way to help keep high-school girls in school is to help them manage menstruation. For fear of embarrassing leaks and stains, girls sometimes stay home during their periods, and the absenteeism puts them behind and eventually leads them to drop out. Aid workers are experimenting with giving African teenage girls sanitary pads, along with access to a toilet where they can change them. The Campaign for Female Education, an organization devoted to getting more girls into school in Africa, helps girls with their periods, and a new group, Sustainable Health Enterprises, is trying to do the same.


The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence.
by marco on Fri Aug 21st, 2009 at 03:07:28 PM EST
In addition to underscoring the highlights brought by marco, can you believe that we're in an age where studies show the positive performance effect of  $19 individual stimulus on African girls, when that is the going rate for 3.3 seconds of a Wall Street bonus of $3M?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Aug 21st, 2009 at 03:57:27 PM EST
Money was tight in her family, so when she was about 14 she arranged to take a job as a maid in the capital, New Delhi. Instead, she was locked up in a brothel, beaten with a cricket bat, gang-raped and told that she would have to cater to customers. Three days after she arrived, Abbas and all 70 girls in the brothel were made to gather round and watch as the pimps made an example of one teenage girl who had fought customers. The troublesome girl was stripped naked, hogtied, humiliated and mocked, beaten savagely and then stabbed in the stomach until she bled to death in front of Abbas and the others.
If there was ever a better case for the death penalty, I certainly could not think of one.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford
by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Sat Aug 22nd, 2009 at 06:42:38 PM EST
Death penalty exists in India. This shows its efficiency. What was your point?

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sun Aug 23rd, 2009 at 10:18:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Death penalty exists in India. This shows its efficiency. What was your point?
It seemed pretty obvious, some people maybe should just leave this earth through the actions of the state.

Do you think any law is "efficient"? I believe that tax cheats, drug smugglers, rapist, murderers, speeders, etc still break the laws. Capital punishment in Singapore does not seem "efficient" also but in this case it was not two adults make a trade.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford

by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Sun Aug 23rd, 2009 at 01:19:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ronald Rutherford:
It seemed pretty obvious, some people maybe should just leave this earth through the actions of the state.

Except the state decides which actions are punishable by death and in a society that is horrifically unequal and condemns women to death for stepping outside without a man's permission...

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Mon Aug 24th, 2009 at 02:54:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you are not aware of Chris Blattman's blog then this should be an interesting post to start off with: Women@War

Wish I had more time to explore all his work and links but suffice it to say he has broad knowledge of many of the problems facing women in developing countries.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford

by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Sun Aug 23rd, 2009 at 05:34:25 PM EST
What I find ironic about this set of articles in the New York Times is that just last Sunday they had a "fashion" magazine in which EVERY SINGLE MODEL was a size zero skeleton with black eyes. It was disturbing to find so many photographs of truly distressed women in one place. Seriously, there was not even one out of the hundreds that had a shape remotely like a regular human female.

http://www.nytimes.com/indexes/2009/08/16/style/t/

by asdf on Sun Aug 23rd, 2009 at 11:49:32 PM EST
Can't see the link, but I find the fashion shows morbid from many points of view.  

I was wondering if Melanchton was posting tongue-in-cheek because the nyt's sudden concern for 'third world' women is almost insulting.  Of course, it is assumed that US women are 'exceptionally' fine, as it is and need not be included, but also

  1.  It's promoted/paid/marketing for "Care", a multi-prong NGO that had questionable policies and strange funding connections years ago.

  2.  It promotes the authors' new book.

  3.  Gives the nyt a do-gooder image for all the sunday-only readers.


Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Mon Aug 24th, 2009 at 05:11:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe this link will help: Women's Fashion Fall 2009-5th Anniversary Issue

Not sure the reason for attacking the messenger, but I have seen lots of good reporting from the New York Times concerning issues in Africa. For example the article: In Niger, Trees and Crops Turn Back the Desert

Inspired me to write a couple of blog entries as well as some in my papers for school including: In Niger, Trees and Crops Turn Back the Desert, which was also posted here.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford

by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Mon Aug 24th, 2009 at 05:46:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]