Tag Archives: afghanistan

If you ignore women in Afghanistan, development efforts there will fail

I just read yet another list of the absolutely MOST important, key things that MUST be addressed for Afghanistan to become stable and peaceful. And, once again, negotiating with the Taliban is there, but improving the condition of women in Afghanistan, improving their access to education, healthcare and revenue-generation, is not.

Let’s be real: if a peace process or development strategy in Afghanistan does not make addressing women’s issues CENTRAL to its plan, does not make such a TOP priority, it will fail.

It. Will. Fail.

Addressing the condition of women in Afghanistan is not an afterthought, it’s not a supplement, it’s not just something nice to do after the “more critical” things have been addressed. Rather, it is imperative, it is fundamental, for any success in the country, and it must be baked into strategies. Equal rights for women is enshrined in the Afghan constitution. The Internet is rife with examples of how to leverage Islamic theology to promote the full participation of women in society. Humanitarian agencies hold the purse strings. In short: there is NO excuse for ignoring the condition of 50% of the population of Afghanistan.

I’m not alone in feeling this way:

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: The risk of denying women a voice in determining Afghanistan‟s future, a report from OxFam

Afghanistan women: Give us a seat at the peace table

United Nations Calls for Women’s Role in Peace Process

I’ve said all this before:

When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children (United Nations Population Fund, State of World Population 1990). When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man (Phil Borges, with a foreword by Madeleine Albright, Women Empowered: Inspiring Change in the Emerging World [New York: Rizzoli, 2007], 13.). Empowering women in places in Afghanistan — giving them safe, easy access to primary and secondary education, to vocational training and to basic health services — improves the lives of everyone in the country. And, in addition, giving women a voice in defining and evaluating development goals is the ONLY way to ensure development activities meet the needs of women and children.

I rarely see Afghan women on TV news reports – and don’t tell me the reporters can’t find them. I rarely hear women mentioned in news analysis on network TV, in newspapers, in political debates about Afghanistan, in US Government briefings… That’s like not mentioning black Africans or apartheid when discussing South Africa in the 1980s. If the 50% of the population in Afghanistan being oppressed, tortured, killed, denied even basic human rights, were an ethnic group or a religious group, the outrage would be oh-so-loud and constant. But women? Suddenly oppression is a cultural thing we have to respect and not interfere with and just stand back and hope things evolve “organically” and “naturally.”

Balderdash. Bunkum. Nonsense.

Whether you are an aid worker or a policy maker, you have to be committed to women’s involvement in Afghanistan, no matter what the focus of your work is, whether it’s engineering or conflict resolution or arms agreements or WHATEVER. If you don’t, your work will FAIL. Your policies will FAIL. I’ve made many a male aid worker colleague angry for kicking back a field report that never mentioned women… Whether it’s a water and sanitation project, an infrastructure project, a weapons return program, an agricultural project, a governance project, whatever, it must talk about women. If your talk is going to be about how they aren’t involved at all, so be it. But you can’t pretend their non-involvement is normal, appropriate, and something your work cannot address.

Harumph.

Also see:

Empower women, empower a nation

The Wrong Way to Celebrate International Women’s Day

How to be active & anonymous online – a guide for women in religiously-conservative countries

UNDP and Religious Leaders Promote Women in Sport and Education in Afghanistan

papers on cyberactivism by women in Iran & Azerbaijan

women-only hours at community Internet centers? why?

Reaching women in socially-conservative areas

Enhancing Inclusion of Women & Girls In Information Society

women-only hours at community Internet centers? why?

This is a blog post I made on 31 August 2009, on my first, now long-gone blog host. Just finally managed to find it at archive.org

women-only hours at community Internet centers? why?

Back in August 2003, I had the pleasure of co-hosting an online discussion at TechSoup regarding Gender and the Digital Divide. It was a discussion regarding the barriers that keep women and girls away from computer and Internet-related classes and community technology centers (telecenters, Internet cafes, etc.). One of the things that came up in this discussion back then was that the barriers for women and girls to tech access are even more pronounced in developing countries, where family-obligations and cultural practices keep large numbers of women from ever stepping foot into a community technology center, telecenter, Internet cafe, etc., whether nonprofit or privately-run.

I was reminded yet again of this recently while corresponding with an Afghan female colleague: her employer has blocks on hundreds of web sites, including several she needs for her own career and skills development. But using an Internet cafe is not an option for her, and thousands of other women in Kabul like her, because:

    • her family would never allow her to go to such a place without a mahram (a male relative she could not marry, such as a brother, uncle, or father, acting as a safety and social escort), and most men aren’t willing to devote a few hours a week to accompany a female relative to an Internet cafe.
  • given the atmosphere of many public Internet sites — the posters in the wall, what’s being looked at on some of the computer screens by male patrons, men coming and going — it’s not an option for her to use a public Internet site even with a mahram.

My friend — and thousands of other women in Kabul — need a place that’s either devoted only to women Internet users, or, a public site that has women-only hours. I have yet to find either using Web searches and posts to various online communities.

But it’s not just in Kabul. Cultural practices keep women out of public Internet sites in communities all over the world.

I appreciate so much that I have the freedom where I live to walk into any public place with Internet access, and not have to worry about any social or legal ramifications as a result. But I also have to acknowledge that not every woman on Earth does have this freedom and, until they do, community technology centers run by nonprofits and Internet cafes run for-profit need to think about their accommodations for women and girls.

Public Internet access points in Kabul, elsewhere in Afghanistan, or in other developing countries, can encourage more women to use their services by:

    • creating women-only hours at a time that is appealing to women, or creating a women-only space with its own supervised entrance/exit and its own bathroom
    • providing women-only classes
    • staffing women-only hours, women-only spaces or women-only classes by women volunteers or women paid staff members, and with just one or two male staff members (if any) closely supervised and never, ever alone with any woman (staff or customer)
    • providing childcare for women using the site (it’s okay to charge a nominal fee for this)
  • a computer user space free of any images that might be deemed offensive to a conservative culture

How else can community technology centers, telecenters, Internet cafes, etc. in conservative areas be more accommodating of women and girls? Let’s hear from you.

— end of original blog —

This blog lead to the creation of this web page, Women’s Access to Public Internet Centers in Transitional and Developing Countries, which I’ve just updated.

Also see

Enhancing Inclusion of Women & Girls In Information Society

Virtue & reputation in the developing world

Judgment & reputation online – and off

Virtue & reputation in the developing world

womantargetMy Facebook newsfeed is filled with posts from my male Afghan colleagues, talking about their travels, their work, their children, sharing photos, etc. But rare is the post from Afghan women I’ve worked with. And recently, I was reminded yet again of why that is.

In some countries, a woman’s reputation regarding her virtue is every bit as important as food and health care, in terms of prosperity, let alone survival. When you are a girl or a woman in Afghanistan, or many other countries, you can’t just shrug at insults regarding your morals or honor. You do not have that privilege. You have to care deeply about what neighbors and co-workers and, really, what anyone might say about your virtue. Damage to your reputation regarding your virginity, your marriage, your care for your children, your sexuality, how you dress, how you behave in social settings, and everything else that makes up one’s moral character can cost a woman a job, her family, her marriage – even her life.

I was gobsmacked to find out just how true this was when I lived in Afghanistan for six months back in 2007 – my Afghan female co-workers were immobilized at times by fear of gossip about their honor. But it’s not just in that country: I heard a few comments when I lived in Ukraine that made me realize that, to a degree, it can be true there as well.

I was reminded of all this per an article in the Washington Post regarding women in Afghanistan who are being virtually assaulted, their Facebook profiles duped to create a second, fake profile, their friends invited to “friend” that profile, and then come the fake posts boasting of drug use and illicit behavior, attributed to the person being targeted. The identity thieves steal the women’s photos and steal and repost personal information publicly. Or, the woman’s actual account is hacked, the password changed so that she can no longer control the account – and the same tactic used: fake posts boasting of illicit behavior, altered photos of the woman drinking alcohol, etc. “Respectable reputations are demolished with a few keystrokes.” In addition, a woman on Facebook in Afghanistan may end up with an inbox deluged with pornography and violent threats from aggressive suitors and alleged militants. It leaves the women terrified of even their own family members, as the article details.

In the article, an Internet cafe owner talks about his attempts to help the many young women who are devastated to find out their profile has been duped or hacked with such reputation-destroying information and frantic to get the information removed. Sadly, his reports to Facebook aren’t taken seriously. The article says, “He suspects that the threats are so culturally specific — a profile photo showing a woman’s face or a beer Photoshopped into a photo of a female gathering, for example — that they often go unnoticed by Facebook administrators reviewing flagged accounts. What may look like an innocent account in the United States can be full of menacing innuendo to Afghan eyes.”

But there’s another reason that keeps so many women in Afghanistan and other countries off of social media as well: the Tall Poppy Syndrome. People talking about an accomplishment can be seen as bragging, and many feel that tall flower has to be cut down to the same size as all the others. The phrase is particularly popular in Australia, though some people say it isn’t success that offends Australians but, rather, someone that acts superior. But in many places, a woman saying anything on social media, except for praising the deity of her religion, is seen as bragging – and she becomes a target for her “tall” reputation being cut down. If you don’t believe that, search for malala yousafzai criticized on Google.

For all these reasons, many women in Afghanistan and other countries have given up on having a virtual identity at all – I personally know of two such women. This greatly hinders their ability to connect with potential colleagues abroad that could help them in their work, to build up a professional reputation beyond the walls of their office or beyond the staff of the organization, and build a career.

Of course, it hasn’t always been so easy in the Western world for a woman to shrug off gossip. In Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, the heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, warns her father that the consequences of her sister Lydia’s reputation as a flirt affects “our importance, our respectability in the world”, noting that when a girl is perceived as being a flirt, it is the girl’s family members that pay the price: “Oh! my dear father, can you suppose it possible that they will not be censured and despised wherever they are known, and that their sisters will not be often involved in the disgrace?” 200 years later, no girl in the USA has to have that scene explained to her, even in our world of celebrity sex tapes and leaked nude photos and wardrobe malfunctions. Many women worldwide, even in “the West,” still fear loss of reputation through gossip, even if the consequences aren’t nearly as dire as in other countries.

By contrast, I now live in a privileged world where I can choose to shrug at personal insults thrown my way regarding my virtue, my moral behavior, etc. I know who I am, that I strive for integrity in my professional world and in personal matters, I know that the people I love and respect in my life know my true character and morals, and for me, that’s all that matters. If someone calls me a whore, I can simply roll my eyes and say, “Please call me Her Royal Highness and Whore, as it is my correct title,” and then I can go on about my day.

I’m from the Bible belt, and I’ve lived all over the USA, and I find that “but what will people think?!” is a mentality that still very much exists back home. I’m not sure when exactly I shed that mentality, but I do remember the first time I heard a story that says there was a man who constantly harassed and insulted the Buddha, but the Buddha never seemed fazed by it. When someone asked why he didn’t take offense to the insults, he replied, “If someone gives you a gift and you refuse to accept it, the gift stays with the giver.” I remember thinking: that’s what I want to strive for. Though, full disclosure: insults about my looks, my age, my weight, etc., still feel like punches in my gut, anc criticism of my work, and my approach to work, can sting. But insults about my virtue? Have at it – I don’t care.

So we, in the West, do understand, to a degree, the perils of gossip regarding moral behavior for our sisters in other countries. But what’s to be done? We certainly need to pressure social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to better respond to complaints of duping and hacking. But should we also encourage a new way of thinking: “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me”? I’m not sure it’s possible to become unoffendable – but could an entire culture be taught, deliberately, to become less so? Would that be a part of women’s empowerment, of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly #5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls?

Regardless, it should serve as a caution to humanitarian and development workers wanting NGOs and government agencies to engage more on social media; you need to provide guidance for the women who would be expected to manage online activities on how to stay safe and protect their personal reputations.

January 4, 2016 update: See this post on TechSoup that summarizes an article about the risks taken by women in Pakistan, particularly female students, who use social media, and highlights the work of Nighat Dad, a lawyer in Pakistan who works to help women stay safe online.

Also see:

Oregon global initiatives

When you think of USA-based initiatives focused on development and humanitarian work in other countries, you think of New York or Washington, D.C. You will find a fair number in San Francisco and Los Angeles as well.

But there are organizations and initiatives all over the USA, in every state, with a primary mission of undertaking development and humanitarian work in at least one country overseas. Even in Oregon.

I come from a state – Kentucky – that most people I mean outside the USA could not locate on a map, and many have no idea its a real place. And I now live in a state that, likewise, most people I meet outside the USA could not locate on a map – in fact, many have never heard of Oregon. Yet, in both states, there are for-profit, nonprofit and university-based initiatives that are focused on other countries.

I decided to make a list of nonprofit and university-based organizations and initiatives in Oregon that were undertaking aid, humanitarian and/or development work overseas. I also added organizations focused on educating people regarding other countries/global affairs. The first draft was 10 organizations. It’s now a list of 21 organizations.

I started this page because, as a consultant myself for organizations working in development and humanitarian activities overseas, I would like to know who my colleagues in my own “neighborhood” are, and because I would like for people in the USA to be much better educated about other countries – so I’d like to know who is doing that. Also, Washington State has a formal umbrella organization, Global Washington, for groups in that state that work overseas, though it’s not focused only on humanitarian issues. Oregon doesn’t have such, that I can find.

If you would like to add an organization to my last, please contact me. But note: your initiative has to be officially registered in some way, or already part of an officially-registered organization, and there needs to be names of real people on your web site (one web site I found for a 501 (c)(3) organization claiming to work overseas had NO names of people on it – no names of staff, no names of board members – so they aren’t on my list).

 

Extreme poverty is not beautiful

(a version of this blog first appeared in March 2009)

I was in a convoy heading to the Pansjir Valley in Afghanistan once upon a time, when a non-Afghan man in the back seat, a fellow aid/development worker, started talking to a colleague about how beautiful and simply the people lived in Afghanistan, how idillic it was, how it was a shame to bring them aid and development if it meant they would have to give up their beautiful, simple life.

I wanted to stop the SUV, throw him out of it, and let him see how he liked living “simply” for a few weeks.

Being poor is NOT the same as living in extreme poverty.

Dolly Parton and my grandmother grew up poor in Tennessee and Kentucky, respectively: there was no money to buy new clothes when they were children and, often, their mothers made clothes from whatever they could find (such as used potato sacks), their families had to grow most of their food, their families didn’t have a car, etc. But they were resource rich: they could grow and raise their own food, they had access to free, clean drinking water, they had access to doctors for emergency medical care (though a long walk to such), the fathers lived at home most of the time rather than having to live far away for most of the year to send money home, the families never went hungry or suffered from extreme cold, and they had access to wood for the stoves in winter. They never had to sell any of their children in order to feed the rest of the family. There was no danger of a rival tribe or religious zealots or a mafia looking for money or revenge breaking down the door and killing everyone or taking all their animals. Yes, there were hardships: many babies died in infancy, many women died in childbirth, diseases and injuries that are curable/treatable now were deadly back then, many children had to work rather than go to school, people died young compared to today, etc. But often, there was freedom and time for children to play safely around their homes. The whole family could read by the time they were teens. Talk to people who grew up like this, and they will tell you stories of hardship, but also of laughter and family and dreams.

By contrast, there’s nothing at all beautiful about extreme poverty, especially in Afghanistan. Extreme poverty means a family that has no means to grow its own food and, therefore, starves without the means to purchase food or attain food aid. It means women who die in childbirth, and babies that die in infancy, at rates that far exceed most other places on Earth. It means children sold as child brides or slaves in order to raise money to feed the rest of the family for a few weeks. It means a life expectancy of around 40. It means having no resources to build a fire or cook food — if there was food to cook. It means few people, if anyone, in the family being able to read, which means less of a chance of accessing health care and food assistance that MAY be available. It means people dying by the thousands regularly from preventable diseases. It means being a repeated victim of criminals and having no protection or justice because there’s no money for the bribes the police or the militias require. It means absolutely no way, on one’s own, to ever improve life for the family. It means no freedom, no time and no safety to play or dream or plan. It means no control over your life at all.

I’ve never forgotten that guy’s comments. And what’s sad is that I heard it again just recently in a video by someone I consider a dear friend . That there can be any confusion between living off-the-grid and living in extreme poverty is astounding to me.

Want to help combat poverty? There no better organizations than these, IMO, to donate to, and to spend your time reading their field updates:

Also see:
*Another* Afghanistan Handicraft program? Really?

An Afghan strategy shows my conversion to Twitter

When Twitter got started several years ago, it was a tool meant to be used via text messaging on your cell phone. That meant that, every time you got a message via Twitter, your phone vibrated or made a sound.

And that’s why I stayed away from it. That’s way, way more information I want via cell phone text messaging. And I wasn’t the only one that felt that way: I talked to nonprofits who told me they were abandoning their Twitter feeds in those early days because their volunteers and other supporters were complaining: we do NOT want this many text messages from you.

But just as Facebook went from being primarily an online dating tool for university students to an online social networking tool for everyone, Twitter has become a way for people to send and receive very targeted information – because it’s accessed primarily via a web browser or cell phone app rather than cell phone text messaging. Now, unlike its early days, Twitter reminds me so much of USENET newsgroups, the online communities that preceded the web and launched me into cyberspace (back in the 1990s, I checked my newsgroups before email!).

I hadn’t realized how far my conversion to Twitter was until I was midway through creating a strategy last weekend regarding Twitter use for an Afghanistan government ministry initiative. I never would have written this strategy two years ago!

And my point is: you have to be ready to revisit online tools. What may not be right for you now may be right for you in a couple of years. And what you are using now may be replaced by something better.

It’s annoying, I know: right after I had fully invested in an online profile on MySpace, including a blog focused specifically on youth volunteer engagement, people started abandoning MySpace in droves for Facebook. All that time and effort, down the drain… but I’m sure organizations that fully invested in their America Online profiles and communities back in the 1990s felt the same way when the World Wide Web really took off.

In case you are wondering: why did I recommend that an Afghan government initiative adopt Twitter?

  • Afghan government ministries have trouble thinking of their web sites as something that needs to change daily, even hourly. Adding a Twitter feed on the home page and other key web pages of this initiative will automatically make its web site dynamic – updated with every Tweet.
  • This government initiative needs to communicate much more effectively with current donors and international donors – and many of those international agencies and foreign government offices are very active Twitter users. They will still send their reports and meeting invitations, but now, they will also give very short, regular updates – and that’s just what the donors want.
  • This initiative needs urgently to communicate better with the press. And the press in Afghanistan is really tired of press conferences and 10 page press releases.
  • This initiative needs to learn to say why it’s great (and it is) in 140 characters or less. Afghan government workers are some of the most verbose writers you will ever encounter. I attribute that to a combination of Persian poetic roots and United Nations training. I’m hoping Twitter use will contribute to them writing more effective messages in all of their communications.
  • The initiative staff needs to read what is being said about its work beyond local newspapers, if they want to know what international donors are thinking.

My goal with the strategy is to get the staff at this initiative up and using Twitter as soon as possible, and to keep their use as effective and worthwhile. So my strategy included:

  • What to write as the program’s Twitter user name – and why.
  • The wording for the program’s Twitter bio – and why those specific words were important (word choice is important, so that people looking for certain key words will find their profile).
  • The Twitter feeds for this initiative to follow, at least at first, and why (which I hope will guide the staff regarding future follow choices). It’s about 200 Twitter feeds – and, yes, I carefully chose each of them.
  • Exactly what to do during their first 48 hours on Twitter.
  • Tweets for the first five days.
  • What to tweet after those first five days.
  • Tags to use, and not to use – and why.
  • Best days to tweet (best days are NOT Thursday afternoons, Fridays or Saturdays, which are the Afghan weekend), as well as best times of day (late morning is best to reach Europe, late afternoon is best to reach North America).
  • Tips for avoiding bad PR on Twitter (how to be supportive of the nation and the government without getting political, the importance of keeping personal info off the Twitter feed like “here are photos from my vacation in India!”, choosing whom to follow, etc.).
  • Why it’s important to check to see who has mentioned the agency on Twitter, and how to find direct messages on Twitter.
  • What activity is public on Twitter (pretty much everything!).

I spent about an hour dreaming up example Tweets for almost each advice item above. That was fun. It involved poppies.

What about communicating with Afghan citizens? That certainly will happen too with this Twitter feed, with affluent Afghans, even if that’s not the primary purpose of the Tweets. While cell phone permeation is shockingly high in Afghanistan, even among farmers and ranchers (Bloomberg News, April 2010), I doubt many will follow via cell phone text messaging – and the numbers are still relatively small (because of literacy and remoteness). Should the ministry create a separate Twitter feed to reach those farmers and ranchers specifically via text messages? Maybe! But first, this ministry needs to use Twitter with donors and the press, IMO, so they can hone their messaging skills. And when they’re ready, I hope I get to help with other strategies as well.

Will this government ministry go for it and start using Twitter? If they do, I will announce it on my own Twitter feed. Stay tuned…

*Another* Afghanistan Handicraft program? Really?

Recently, I got an email from yet another organization that is teaching Afghan women how to make handicrafts and textiles to sell in the West.

And I sighed. Heavily.

I’m not saying that these are bad programs. In fact, I have supported many of them, as a consumer: My husband and I each have a lovely Shalwar Kameez from a shop run by Afghans for Civil Society in Kandahar (here’s him in his; I’m in the burqa), I have a custom-made jacket from AWWSOM Boutique in Kabul that I wore at my wedding reception, I have a custom-made purse from Gundara, and I have lots of items from Ganjini Showroom and various other stores in Kabul. These items are beautiful, they are well-made, and I love showing them off (for more info, see my guide to shopping in Kabul).

HOWEVER, teaching more and more Afghan women how to make purses, shawls, table cloths and other lovely items is not going to lift women out of poverty, nor move them into their proper place in society, because there is not enough of a market for all those products.

Capacity-building programs have to be focused on what is actually needed in a particular community, that are more guaranteed to provide income regularly, long-term. That means programs that teach Afghan women how to:

These are things that local people need, and/or that they want – they are not just that are nice to have.

If you know of a program – local or international, government-run or foreign run or civil society run, whatever – that is teaching Afghan women to engage in income-generation activities that are practical and sustainable, feel free to post names and links in the comments section of this blog.

Best volunteer thank you gift ever!

Jayne & her thank you gift from BPEACE Jayne & her thank you gift from BPEACE

I’m an online volunteer with BPEACE, and out of the blue, they sent me this soccer ball, hand-stitched by Afghan women. Afghan women have been renowned for centuries for deft needlework. Now the women of DOSTI, meaning “friendship” in Dari, have harnessed that heritage to handcraft club-quality soccer balls – with the help of BPEACE. Read the DOSTI soccer ball story for yourself (and learn how to get one for yourself!).

BEST VOLUNTEER THANK YOU GIFT EVER!

On a related note, see this page on how to thank online volunteers (also covers how to use the Internet to thank ALL volunteers)

The Wrong Way to Celebrate International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day. 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, which was first celebrated in Europe. In 1975, the United Nations began celebrating 8 March as International Women’s Day, and in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions. Most countries have gone with March 8.

This isn’t a day to give women flowers or take them to lunch. It’s a day to remember that women are denied access to education, health care, income generation and life choices at a staggering rate compared to men. It’s a day to remember that women and girls are undervalued all over the world. Millions of girls are not tracked at all by their governments – there are no systems to record their birth, their citizenship, or even their identity. The 2009 World Economic Forum devoted one of its plenary sessions to the impact of educating girls in developing countries for the first time ever, and noted that only half a cent of every international development dollar currently goes toward girls.

A few days ago, word leaked that USAID is removing or watering down specific women’s rights requirements in funding proposals from organizations in Afghanistan. A senior U.S. official said in the Washington Post article, “Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities… There’s no way we can be successful if we maintain every special interest and pet project. All those pet rocks in our rucksack were taking us down.”

Women are not pet projects. Women are not pet rocks. 50% of the Afghan population are not a “special interest.”

Let’s be clear: peace and prosperity in Afghanistan is NOT possible, in the short term nor in the long term, without ambitious targets to improve the lives women, and strict requirements by those organizations receiving USAID funding to meet those targets.

USAID’s watering down of women’s rights requirements in funding programs in Afghanistan further entrenches the practice of leaving 50 percent of the population living in deplorable conditions, depriving them of education and participation in even micro enterprises like raising a GOAT. I have worked with many Afghan women, and more than a few gender specialists based in Afghanistan. To a person, they all say the same thing: reforms for women will NOT happen in Afghanistan without sustained, clearly-stated pressure from donors.

    • When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children.
      (United Nations Population Fund, State of World Population 1990.)
    • An extra year of primary school boosts girl’s eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent.
      (George Psacharopoulos and Harry Anthony Patrinos, Returns to Investment in Education: A Further Update, Policy Research Working Paper 2881 [Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2002].)
    • Research in developing countries has shown a consistent relationship between better infant and child health and higher levels of schooling among mothers.
      (George T. Bicego and J. Ties Boerma, Maternal Education and Child Survival: A Comparative Study of Survey Data from 17 Countries, Social Science and Medicine 36 (9) [May 1993].)
  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man.
    (Phil Borges, with foreword by Madeleine Albright, Women Empowered: Inspiring Change in the Emerging World [New York: Rizzoli, 2007], 13.)

Give a man to fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Teach a WOMAN to fish, you feed her FAMILY for a lifetime. Teach a woman to fish, and everyone eats.

Empowering Women Everywhere – My Favorite Resources, a list of my favorite resources for information about the empowerment of women and girls. If you are looking to educate yourself on this issue, this is where to start.

Special added bonus: A video by Daniel Craig (007), narrated by Dame Judi Dench (who I met once!). The quotes are about women and men in the UK – but apply most anywhere. Something to think about, not just on today, International Women’s Day. You’ll smile at the image – but will you also think about the statistics you are hearing?