Sheryl WuDunn: Empowering Women Comes Down to Economics
Tierney Sneed – U.S. News – Tuesday, 02 October 2012 (originally published 28 Sept)
Nicholas Kristof fits the bill of swash-buckling journalist—pen and pad in hand, unbridled inquisition in speech—as he presses sex trafficker, negligent cop, and female genital “cutter” alike in the documentary film Half the Sky. But it is his wife and collaborator, Sheryl WuDunn, who provides the economic argument to the film’s mission, which asserts that oppressive and exploitative practices aimed at women in developing countries must be eliminated. With financial experience as a Goldman Sachs adviser, a New York Times business manager, and now a managing director of a boutique investment bank, WuDunn explains how the abuse of women hurts everyone’s bottom line.
Kristof and WuDunn wrote the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide in 2009, and it has now been adapted into a documentary, airing this Monday and Tuesday night on PBS. Kristof brings actresses Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union, Diane Lane, America Ferrera, and Olivia Wilde across the world—from a brothel exploiting young girls in India, to a female circumcision shop in Somaliland, to a village in Kenya where the women are in charge—in order to explore the challenges women face and to meet the people working to solve them. WuDunn spoke with U.S. News about why “culture” isn’t an excuse, and what Americans can do to help.
What everyone wants in the developing world is a higher standard of living. And that comes down to basic materials, getting food and water, and a roof on top of you—and that comes down to jobs. Putting aside the moral challenge, one of the most efficient ways of solving these problems is to look at it from the economic point of view, and that means economic empowerment for women. The basic needs that you need to fulfill in order to do that is that you need to give them a job and a livelihood. That’s what everybody wants, that’s what we want here in the West as well, and that’s what they want. They want just a better life . . .
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