This morning I received an email from my friend Almaz Negash, CEO of Entwine Global, announcing that her colleague Dr. Laura Stachel, an obstetrician and founder of the volunteer organization WE CARE Solar, was one of the winners of Nicholas Kristof’s Half the Sky Contest. WE CARE “promotes safe motherhood and reduces maternal mortality in developing regions by providing health workers with reliable lighting, blood bank refrigeration and mobile communication using solar electricity.” Work has started in Nigeria and is now moving into Rwanda. Dr. Stachel may not have invented the emergency room power system or the solar suitcase, but she had the idea, conviction and drive to make sure the problem was solved. Another winner was from Barefoot College. I’ll be writing about that amazing group in a later blog.
I truly believe that if women had more economic power in the Middle East and Africa, they could radically change things in a positive direction. Economic power can lead to political power and political power in the hands of women can lead to peace. In their latest book, HALF THE SKY, Pulitzer Prize winning authors and journalists Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDun document the importance of liberating, educating, and empowering women as central to solving many of the world’s problems from poverty to terrorism.
You’ve probably heard of microfinance. In 2006, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, a pioneer in microfinance. As of August, 2009, Grameen had 7.94 million borrowers, 97% of whom are women. That percent is pretty standard in the field. Why such a high percentage of women? First, because they have proven to be better credit risks than men, successfully repaying 97% of all loans. Second, women who receive microloans almost always use their success to improve the standard of living of others around them by providing jobs, helping others start businesses, making sure the children receive better education than they did. Talk about a significant return on investment. Now, if you want to become a microlender, you can logon to Kiva.org or MicroPlace.com to do good while helping yourself. Relieving poverty will not solve all the world’s problems but it certainly will be a big step in the right direction.