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Is Celebrating Women the Wrong Approach?

More than half of the members of the Rwandan Parliament are women.

It’s time to move beyond “celebrating” the progress we have made in women’s rights and start doing something about consolidating women’s rights.  Nowhere is that more important than in Africa where women do 90 percent of the farming, 100 percent of the child care,  and most of the water and firewood hauling (with their children, usually girls).  It’s time to empower and reward women by acknowledging their importance and by focusing on and supporting what women do. Start with education.

Give a woman an education and she earns more and spends 90 percent of it on her family.  Give a woman an education and she waits to marry and has fewer children.  The children she has are healthier and less likely to die before the age of five. Give a woman an education and she educates her own children.  Give a woman an education and she reduces the chances of contracting HIV and AIDS.

Give a woman a loan to start a small business and she will make it a success and pay it back.  She will then go on to expand her business and help other women start them.  Elect a woman to office and she is more likely to ensure that governments create programs to help children and families. Elect a majority of women to a legislature and they may stabilize a nation.  

To end poverty in Africa, focus on women. That doesn’t mean leaving out men and boys.  It takes everyone understanding the possibilities of a world where women are at least treated as equals for their contribution to families and culture.

Students at Ashesi University, Ghana.

We are making progress—there are more girls enrolled in school in Africa and worldwide than ever before. But it will take more than that.  It will take providing schools for girls who are too poor or have been abandoned by society like Nurturing Minds Sega School in Tanzania.  It will take encouraging girls who have an interest in science by providing special support as is done by African Childrens Haven in East Africa. It will take supporting more girls from cultures that do not value their education through groups like Maasai Girls Education Fund. It will take ramping up the number of loans and financial training that the Women’s Microfinance Initiative can support. It will take expanding the number of women Ashesi University in Ghana can put through college. It will take supporting more female African doctors in the Republic of Congo through Doctors on Call for Service Foundation.  It will take empowering more women  through Carolina for Kibera‘s Daughters United Program that creates Safe Spaces for Girls in the slums of Kibera.

Let’s remember that every day is International Women’s Day in Africa and ratchet up our attention and support for programs that support the women of Africa.  There are no downsides.  That’s something worth celebrating.