developing world

Justice Starts With Empowering Women in Developing Countries

Author Sheryl WuDunn speaks at the TED Global conference in Oxford, England. Photo courtesy CNN.

“They took the door off so the hyenas would get her.” 

Sitting in the darkened room with thousands of others, I listened intently as the woman on stage continued. The speaker was no other than Sheryl WuDunn, the Pulitzer Prize-winning co-author of Half the Sky, and the setting was this year’s Justice Conference

Having previously read Half the Sky, I was reminded again of the countless numbers of women who looked beyond their circumstances to overcome challenges, and change their families and communities for the better. I remembered the underlying causes of global gender inequality, and WuDunn’s urgent call in her book to empower girls and women. The solution to ending poverty lies in educating females and bringing them into the formal workforce. In that, women’s empowerment isn’t simply a good issue to promote, but part of creating a just world. 

Activists Say Religion Key to Combating Female Genital Mutilation

Demonstration against young marriage and female circumcision in Africa.

Demonstration against young marriage and female circumcision in Africa.

BOSTON -- The one thing that Afrah Farah will tell you about her genital cutting experience is that it happened. She doesn’t want to say how old she was, where it happened, or who was or wasn't with her.

Yet, despite the painful memories that the experience evokes and her concerns about people's reactions, Farah, said she knows she has to speak out.

“It’s basically a traumatizing experience. It’s traumatizing for every young girl that goes through that. It’s something that sticks in your memory, and physically,” said Farah, a Somali immigrant who came to the Boston area by way of Kuwait and Germany in 2007, and now works as a drug developer in a Massachusetts laboratory.

“There are millions of people who are affiliated with this procedure -- parents, grandparents, people in the community -- and to label them all as bad people or barbaric, that’s wrong. You will push them away. To solve a problem like this, you need to approach people with respect.”

Because of its severity and prevalence, female genital mutilation (FGM, or "cutting") is arguably one of the most important human rights issues in the world. It’s also become increasingly important in the U.S. as the number of immigrants from countries where it is practiced grows.

Melinda Gates: 'I'm a Catholic, But Women Need Access to Contraceptives'

EDITOR'S NOTE: Melinda Gates talks to the Guardian (UK) newspaper about reconciling her Catholic faith  — the wife of Microsoft chairman Bill Gates says she attends mass regularly — with her work promoting family planning. Gates was in London this week to discuss promoting contraception in the developing world with UK government representatives. The Gates Foundation hopes to encourage donor pledges that will enable 120 million women to have access to contraceptives by 2020.

40-Hour Famine: Eyes Wide Open (VIDEO)

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

A starving 2-year-old girl is comforted by her mother at a refugee camp in in Mogadishu, Somalia. Photo by John Moore/Getty.

Every day, millions of children go hungry. But it doesn't have to be that way.

  • Hunger is the world's No. 1 health risk, causing more deaths annually worldwide than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
    (Source: World Food Program)
  • One in seven people in the world will go to bed hungry tonite.
    (Source: World Food Program)
  • There are more hungry people in the world (925 million) than the combined population of the United States, Canada and the European Union (841 million)
    (Source: World Food Program)

Find out about the causes of hunger — and the solutions — in a new video from World Vision Australia (with music by Gotye) inside the blog...

Maternal Mortality, Birth Control, and What God Desires

Crib image by photomak / Shutterstock.

Crib image by photomak / Shutterstock.

I find myself thinking a lot about maternal mortality (and the issues that surround it, like access to contraception) lately, partly because I’ll soon be moving to a country with one of the world’s most dismal maternal mortality rates, and partly because my husband and I aren’t planning to have more biological children, which means that we’re contracepting for the duration.

Also, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky movement is gaining even more visibility — PBS’s Independent Lens is creating a series of short films and some longer features on issues raised in their bestselling, well-worth-reading book even as birth control reemerges again and again as a point of contention between Catholic bishops and nuns, between government policy and religious conviction, and even, as Amy Frykholm as suggested, among evangelicals.

Recently I’ve become aware that unwanted pregnancies are nothing new — certainly not the product of a culture that’s “anti-life” or anti-children, as the new-ish evangelical suspicion of birth control has it. In the 1850s, Mathilde Shillock, a German immigrant settled on the Minnesota frontier wrote,

“God has entrusted us with a son...it seems that his father is happy over it, I myself do not wish for any more children, as I look upon life as a heavy burden. [...] pity is all I can offer [this child]. Pity and a feeling of duty towards him to lighten his blameless fate.”

The Gift of Goat

Kiko goats in Yazoo City, Miss. Photo by Cathleen Falsani.

Kiko goats in Yazoo City, Miss. Photo by Cathleen Falsani.

Some 15 years ago, my aunt and uncle gave me the gift of goat for Christmas.

Let me rephrase: They didn’t give me an actual goat, but they donated a goat — in my honor — to a village in the developing world.

At age 15, I was less than pleased. The plight of starving children and the needs of my indigent brothers and sisters around the globe were far too serious and far too abstract for my selfish teenage brain to wrap itself around.

Today, though, I find myself in the ironic position of wanting to buy goats, mosquito nets, and other items as Christmas gifts in honor of my own family members. This causes me to look back on my selfishness as a teen and see how blind I was to the idea of grace — to the beauty and significance of my aunt and uncle’s gift.

Post G20, Let's Not Forget the "Other" 99 Percent in the Developing World

Children in the Kenyan village of Asembo Bay are the 99 percent!

Children in the Kenyan village of Asembo Bay are the 99 percent!

Right now, in cities around the world, there is a growing protest movement putting the issue of economic inequality squarely on the public agenda. Regardless how you feel about this movement, I believe there is another "99 percent" we need the G20 – and urgently Congressional leaders – to remember and prioritize.

Nearly 8 million children under the age of five die every year due to preventable malnutrition and disease. But they are not dying in the United States, Germany or here in France.  

According to research by World Vision’s Child Health Now campaign, 99 percent of those entirely preventable deaths take place in developing countries. The 99 percent of the children that die under the age of 5 are too often invisible and don't have a voice at major global summits such as the G20 or in the corridors of Congress. These children constitute the real and too often forgotten 99 percent.

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