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Fantastic females

Fantastic females

The key to driving down the rates of poverty and population growth lies with women, says Jonathan Power in Arab News.

May 14, 2009 2:55 by

Over the last twenty years, according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, investment and aid allocated to rural areas has gone down by 20 percent. And most crop and livestock projects are aimed at men. Project designers, bankers and aid officials assume that women cannot afford to buy improved seed, fertilizer and irrigation equipment. Nor can they repay loans. These attitudes are based more on prejudice than fact. The repayment records of poor women are often much superior to those of better-off borrowers.

Lack of education also postpones reform. Close to a billion people across the world are illiterate, and two thirds of them are women. Investment in women’s education is probably the single most cost-effective activity for any government at any level of development. Education and economic opportunity for women can produce a triple multiplier effect – in the home, in society, and in nurturing the next generation.

Also, economic opportunities such as access to land will indirectly encourage women to have smaller families. If a woman can work for herself, she will need fewer sons to support her in the event of something happening to her husband.

The answers to successful economic and social development are multi-faceted and complicated. But one thing is very clear: take care of women’s poverty and education, and then population growth and small-scale rural economic growth will largely take care of themselves.

First seen in Arab News.

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