Women: Our Greatest Unexploited Resource

06 September 2009

“In many poor countries, the greatest unexploited resource isn’t oil fields or veins of gold; it is the women and girls who aren’t educated and never become a major presence in the formal economy.”

The New York Times devoted a recent issue of its magazine to women’s rights, calling them “the cause of our time”. The lead article, titled “The Women’s Crusade” and written by Nicholas D. Kristof and Cheryl WuDunn, explores some of the ways in which helping women benefits everyone, regardless of gender. The authors note that “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.” Furthermore numerous studies show that “women hold assets or gain incomes, family money is more likely to be spent on nutrition, medicine and housing, and consequently children are healthier.”

The article continues to say that “aid appears to work best when it is focused on health, education and microfinance”. At PPES we agree completely! Obviously, women’s education is at the heart of our mission, but through projects like Rags to Pads we also help promote women’s health. Even that project has an educational benefit, as Kristof and WuDunn note, menstruation is a major cause of absenteeism among girls in the developing world so by providing low-cost sanitary napkins Rags to Pads helps the girls make the most of their education.

And as if women’s rights needed any more of a boost, their promotion even makes sense economically. To find out why Bill Gates agrees, check out the article, “The Women’s Crusade”, here, and read the rest of the issue, here.