Three things you can do to empower women

Three things you can do to empower women

While I’ve been in California, I’ve picked up a copy of a few magazines which I don’t normally see at home, such as “More”, “Pink” and Oprah Winfrey’s “O” magazine.

I gather that Oprah in particular is lined up to be a huge supporter of Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn’s forthcoming book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide and that they’ll be appearing on her eponymous ABC show later this month to discuss their argument that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential.

September’s “O” magazine carries these three suggestions from the book as to how we can all help to empower women:

Make girls smarter. Many pregnant women living in poverty don’t get enough iodine, so their fetuses’ brains do not develop properly. Their children routinely lose 10-15 IQ points – particularly the girls, for reasons not fully understood. The solotion: iodize salt, at the cost of a few pennies per year. Contribute via Helen Keller International.

Support a women’s business. With a microloan of US$50, a woman can start a business, producing income she can use to feed her children and send them to school. To make a loan, go to Mercy Corps or BRAC – two groups helping women around the world.

Keep a girl in school. A girl who gets an education will have fewer children, earn more money and be able to help her younger siblings. One excellent support program operates in Cambodia, where uneducated girls are at great risk of being traffiked into brothels. For US$10 a month, you can keep a girl in school through American Assistance for Cambodia, or for US$13,000, you can build an entire school that will revolutionise life in a village forever.

On the flight over, I read in a British magazine (“Woman & Home”, I think) about an awareness and fundraising initiative called “Girls’ Night In” and I think I’ll organise one for when I get back to London – watch this space.

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