Tuesday, 13 September 2011

How to End Poverty and Make Democracy: Educate and Empower Women

This is book review week, when I lead discussions in four Montreal area libraries. In two of them, the book is Shlipi Somaya Gowda's Secret Daughter, a novel about adoption and motherhood in India and North America that has surprised the publishing world. It's sold 250,000 copies in Canada, an absolutely astonishing number in a country where a book is considered doing well to sell 6-8,000.

For a book that is very hopeful, the discussion last night at the Pierrefonds library took a very serious turn--how to change the world, get rid of poverty, and end the "disappearance" of millions of girl babies in societies where a huge premium is put on having sons. No one had the answer--does anyone?--but one of the things mentioned was educating women and giving them more power over their lives.

And then this morning The New York Times had a fascinating story about the role of women in the six month-long uprising against Ghadafi in Libya. It seems that before the rebellion, women there could do more than they could in some extremely Muslim country: they could drive, for example, unlike women in Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, they were under great pressure to stay in the shadows. Yet came the revolution, they were helpers in the rebellion, and now do not want to recede into the background.

The story notes that in Egypt, women who also were instrumental in the Jasmine Revolution there are now having a hard time in carrying their gains to the next step. But it's clear that getting women involved changes a society in ways that are difficult to undo.

Thank goodness,

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