Friday, August 21, 2009

'Half the Sky': New York Times Magazine special on how to help empower the world's women and girls

Cover: The New York Times Magazine
Sunday August 23, 2009

Saving the World’s Women: How changing the lives of women and girls in the developing world can change everything

This week’s edition of the New York Times Magazine (Aug. 23, 2009) is a special issue dedicated to women’s issues and gender equality for the world’s women. Featured on the cover of the magazine (print edition) is a photo of a woman from Burundi, a woman who could not read or write, who was able to get away from literal enslavement in her hut, escaping the grinding poverty of life in her village, with the help of a US $2 dollar micro-loan. Now she is the main breadwinner for her family and a shining example for her whole community. She is living proof of what women can achieve with even the smallest amount of help from people who care.

This special issue of the New York Times Magazine is an excellent tie-in to the series I am working on at present about US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Africa and her tour of the hospitals and clinics for violent rape victims and brutal attacks against women and girls (and now men and boys as well) in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

So I will not waste a lot of your time with my opinions on how we all can do more, much more, to support women and girls in developing countries around the globe. The New York Times Magazine writers and contributors have done such a lovely job of bringing these important issues and needs to the forefront. Here are recommended ‘must reads’ in this special issue of the magazine:

The Women’s Crusade by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn 08/17/09
Nicholas D. Kristof is a New York Times Op-Ed columnist and Sheryl WuDunn is a former Times correspondent who works in finance and philanthropy. This essay is adapted from their book “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” which will be published next month by Alfred A. Knopf. You can learn more about “Half the Sky” at Nicholas Kristof’s blog ‘On the Ground’.

Related multimedia and photo slideshows:
A Powerful Truth (audio/photo slideshow: Nicholas Kristof narrates, photography by Katy Grannan, produced by Zahra Sethna)
Must See: Holding Up Half the Sky - Lens Blog – official website for the book and the network

Questions for Ellen Johnson Sirleaf - Madame President - Interview 08/18/09
Deborah Soloman interviews Liberia’s president in the wake of Secretary Clinton’s visit, photography by photojournalist and blogger Glenna Gordon (Scarlett Lion). I shall be writing more about Glenna Gordon’s wonderful photography of the people of Uganda, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in my continuing series on Hillary Clinton in Africa.

Related posts at Glenna Gordon’s blog (Scarlett Lion)
Scarlett Lion - NTYM: Interview with Madame President 08/20/09
Scarlett Lion - “Ma Ellen n Hilary Clinton r Sisters” 08/14/09
Scarlett Lion - Context Africa: village life makes it to the mainstream media 08/11/09

New York Times Magazine (continued)
A New Gender Agenda interview by Mark Landler 08/18/09
Excerpts from an interview with Secretary Clinton shortly before here Africa trip re: the Obama administration’s strategies to help empower womaen and about the violence against women and girls in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo__

Q: I’m curious about what priorities you’re setting. Will the Obama administration have a signature issue — sex trafficking or gender-based violence or maternal mortality or education for girls — in the way that H.I.V./AIDS came to symbolize the Bush-administration strategy?

Clinton: We are having as a signature issue the fact that women and girls are a core factor in our foreign policy. If you look at what has to be done, in some societies, it is a different problem than in others. In some of the societies where women are deprived of political and economic rights, they have access to education and health care. In other societies, they may have been given the vote, but girl babies are still being put out to die.

So it’s not one specific program, so much as a policy. When it comes to our global health agenda, maternal health is now part of the Obama administration’s outreach. We’re very proud of the work this country has done, through Pepfar, on H.I.V./AIDS [the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief was begun by George W. Bush in 2003]. We’ve moved from an understanding of how to deal with global AIDS to recognizing it’s now a woman’s disease, because women are the most vulnerable and often have no power to protect themselves. And it’s increasingly younger women or even girls.

But women die every minute from poor maternal health care. You know, H.I.V./AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria — those are all, unfortunately, equal-opportunity killers. Maternal health is a woman’s issue; it’s a family issue; it’s a child issue. And for the United States to say to countries that have very high maternal mortality rates, “We care about the future of your children, and in order to do that, we care about the present of your women,” is a powerful statement.

Q: Gender-based violence is an enormous issue in much of Africa, and in places like Congo, rape, as you know, is an instrument of war. How can you, or anybody else, hope to combat that?

Clinton: President Obama and I and the United States will not tolerate this continuation of wanton, senseless, brutal violence perpetrated against girls and women. We don’t know exactly what we can do, but we are going to be delivering some aid and some ideas about how to better organize the communities to deal with it. We’re going to sound the alarm that this is not all just unexpected and irrational.

These militias, which perpetrate a lot of these rapes and other horrific assaults on girls and women, are paid well, or realize the spoils of guarding the mines. Those mines, which are one of the great natural resources of the Congo, produce a lot of the materials that go into our cellphones and other electronics. There are tens of millions of dollars that go into these militias that, in effect, get translated into a sense of impunity that is then exercised against the weakest members of society.

The ambassador for war crimes, Steve Rapp, has the distinction of being among the first international prosecutors to win a case on gender violence, and I specifically wanted him to take on this role, because I want to highlight this issue.

End excerpts___

Related article at the New York Times:
Clinton Presses Congo on Minerals by Jeffrey Gettleman 08/10/09

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