And then you wake up in the morning and it all looks just the same
Via the Guardian this morning, some reporting relevant to my previous post.
Both Okonjo-Iweala and Salbi argue that the financial crisis is having a disproportionate effect on women in poor and war-scarred countries. “Women and girls are worse affected by all the horrible things in the world: the credit crisis, the food crisis, wars,” says Salbi.
The figures are sobering. Children’s charity Plan International says that as a result of the crisis, an estimated 50,000 more African babies will die before their first birthday, and most will be girls.
Girls, Okonjo-Iweala says, are the first to be pulled out of school to help with the family income, but the last to get food when supplies are short. “Girls get to eat last. Pregnant women already have weakened immune systems, so their babies suffer and die. This is a human crisis, not just a financial crisis.”
The flip side, as World Bank president Robert Zoellick has said, is that investing in women and girls is a powerful catalyst for poor countries to break entrenched cycles of poverty and to create a more even distribution of income.
Giving young women the same access to land, fertiliser, credit and agricultural training as men can increase yields of some crops by 22%, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute, meaning more food for hungry mouths.
One problem, however, is that the distribution of credit is not working well enough for these women. Although billions of dollars of capital was recycled between banks in the run-up to the collapse, benefiting only financiers, funding does not flow in sufficient quantity to women in developing countries.
Microloans are a successful branch of this, but the article speaks to a larger credit-granting problem.
At the core of the argument is the idea that empowering women economically is not just a matter of fairness, but of financial sense. Studies by Goldman Sachs’s economists have shown that women are more likely to plough back their earnings into the family, bringing benefits to society as a whole.
Increased female participation in the labour forces of developing countries can also bring a significant fillip to economic growth. Salbi says: “On financial markets you gamble, but if you invest in women you cannot lose. It will have a huge dividend now and in future generations. Women are the safest investment you can make.”
And I’m going to leave it at that for now.