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Correspondence: We could change the world if given the chance
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Correspondence: We could change the world if given the chance

Investing in the education, health and talents of the world’s female population reaps economic as well as social and political benefits. However success relies on breaking down traditional ideologies and conventions, writes Samantha Khan, an 18-year-old from Trinidad & Tobago.

Famed French social critic and writer, François Marie Charles Fourier, once wrote: “The extension of women’s privileges is the basic principle of all social progress.”

Unfortunately, for many centuries, throughout countless societies a view such as this was, and perhaps still is, seen as foolish or even scandalous. In the past, women have been ruled under a patriarchal system, continually oppressed by the domination of men, never allowed access to priceless opportunities for social mobility and success.

While this mistaken notion of the inferiority of women occurred in older, traditional societies, it still plagues modern life. The world is, however, furiously attempting to shatter this misguided judgement through many efforts to encourage the development of the female population. Indeed, the investment in the health, education, skills building and rights of women and girls will greatly propel social, economic and political progress.

A crucial aspect of the success and happiness of society depends upon the education of girls. Educating girls for just one year beyond the average school age increases their eventual wages by up to twenty per cent. This is extremely significant since studies show that women invest up to ninety per cent of their income in their families and communities, contributing to things such as medicine and education. Thus, arming women with the ability to earn higher salaries through education and the shattering of the proverbial glass ceiling helps eliminate various societal ills, for example, poverty, disease, illiteracy and hunger.

In addition, investing in women greatly fuels economic growth. In developing countries, women operate the majority of small businesses and farms. In fact, there are over two hundred million female entrepreneurs worldwide, earning more than ten trillion US dollars per annum. Hence, encouraging the education of women and the provision of opportunities in the field of business, will serve to immeasurably strengthen economic development.

Furthermore, the unpaid work that women do at home and on farms accounts for more than one third of global GDP. However, the rights of women in the world of commerce are still pitifully ignored, with the bevy of them being underpaid and underrepresented.

As a result of this, many nations and companies worldwide are introducing forceful initiatives to open the doors for women in the business world. For example, Coca-Cola has launched a program called “5 by 20” which seeks to empower and train five million female entrepreneurs by the year 2020. Also, Morocco has, at long last, allowed women to start businesses and obtain employment without the approval of their husbands. As Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank, states, “Gender equality is smart economics.”

Moreover, when exposed to family planning and various skills building workshops, women are better able to take care of their families. Research reveals that educated women are better equipped to make crucial decisions with regard to their children since they are more aware of the world and better acquainted with the needs of the child, for example vaccinations and proper nutrition. Additionally, women who are exposed to proper family planning, often have smaller, healthier families, therefore reducing the risks of child abuse, neglect and malnourishment.

This can be linked to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal 5, which involves the protection of women’s health. Safeguarding the health of a woman, not only ensures that she thrives, but, by extension, secures the flourishing of her family. A woman who is mentally, physically and emotionally healthy is able to build a more stable home and allows for the healthy upbringing of her children.

It has been said time and time again that “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”, and this rings true in all parts of the world, at all levels of society. A happy, healthy childhood, results in competent, functional adults who are able to work productively and lead society to blossom both economically and politically.

In the political arena, women have historically created ripples in the societies that they rule. Most notably, Indira Gandhi was elected as the first female Prime Minister of India in 1966, a revolutionary accomplishment in a nation that is notorious for its oppression of women. Not only did Indira Gandhi motivate the vast development of India’s agricultural sector, she sparked hope and amazement in the hearts of girls worldwide.

Also, right here in the Caribbean, Prime Minister Kamla Perasd-Bissessar, has commenced several significant changes in areas such as the justice system, education system and police force of Trinidad and Tobago. The phenomenal female leaders of the century were only able to rise up and spread their wings as a direct result of the importance placed upon the investment of women by their respective families and governments.

In light of these groundbreaking women, one is tempted to consider the myriad of young girls who are starved of opportunities for progress. For example, Harriet Tubman, a young slave who led countless others to freedom through her undying, selfless bravery and her ingenious concoction of an escape plan. Deprived of education, proper healthcare and, most importantly, love; she was still able to impact society in an entirely unfathomable manner, saving thousands of lives. What if this young woman had received an education, how much more could she have done?

Indeed, Harriet Tubman lived in a time when women were exploited and treated as possessions, to be used by men, or else ignored entirely. It begs the question of how many exploited, oppressed, deprived young women today could go on to change the world if given the opportunity?

Certainly, the exclusion and persecution of women due to religious and political principles notoriously erupts in economic catastrophe and social unrest. In areas such as the Middle East and rural India where women are relegated to inferior positions and forced into underage marriages and prostitution due to the lack of rights and investment in their health and education, poverty, war and social instability abound.

In striking contrast, nations such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom, where women and girls are afforded the same opportunities and privileges as their male counterparts, there is notable economic success and relative social stability.

All things considered, investing in the education, health and talents of the world’s female population is a critical part of social, economic and political progress. It is not enough, however, to simply concentrate on the financial contribution to the development of girls and women.

Traditional ideologies and conventions must first be broken in order to truly establish the equality of men and women.

References:

1) Author Unknown. Invest in Women- It Pay Retrieved Wednesday 9, 2011, from http://www.womendeliver.org/knowledge-center/facts-figures/invest-in-women-it-pays/

2) Dennis Whittle. Why invest in women and girls Retrieved Wednesday 9, 2011, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dennis-whittle/why-invest-in-women-and-g_b_134846.html

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Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. All articles are published in a spirit of improving dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

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