Vast seam of human gold can hold up half the sky

I hope you all had a great Australia Day… and those on the North Coast are not too soaked with all this rain.

I thought I’d share an article I wrote for our monthly Beyond the Kitchen Table Agtoday column

From the December 2011 edition of Agriculture Today.

As Mark Twain cleverly proposed “what would men be without women? Scarce, sir, mighty scarce”.

At a Rural Women’s Network Shaping Our Futures Together (SOFT) course at Bethungra, I was told a book was a “must read”.

Half the Sky is more than a book of engaging stories; it is an urgent plea to actively strengthen women’s programs across the globe.

Written by two Pulitzer Prize journalists Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof in 2009, it is moving, inspirational, well researched and informative.

Supporting women is not only an equity issue but an economic imperative.

Not using all available untapped resources and keeping women “cloistered in huts, uneducated, unemployed, and unable to contribute significantly to the world represents a vast seam of human gold that is never mined.”

The consequence of failing to educate girls is creating a capacity gap of potentially billions of dollars in national revenues.

Half the Sky shows educating females is a major strategy to overcoming poverty and terrorism.

Women globally have little access to financial power to change their lives and yet they are a key to economic progress.

Small amounts of funding can unleash women’s potential and transform communities.

The evidence is clear – if you help women you create sustainable communities which thrive.

The abolition of colonial slavery more than 200 years ago demonstrates how strong community support can change government policies and make the world a better place.

“But the moral issues of the subjugation of women isn’t frivolous today any more than slavery was in the 1790s.” (p237)

The book abounds in moving and often incredible stories of women who have overcome horrendous obstacles to bounce back and make something of their lives.

There are also stories of selfless individuals who have devoted their lives to supporting women such as Australia’s own Catherine and Reg Hamlin, who set up a fistula hospital in Ethiopia decades ago.

The hospital now trains past patients to run many aspects of the facility, which is transforming women’s lives.

Against a backdrop of sex trafficking, rape and abuse, so many of these courageous women’s stories end with triumph and are a tribute to female resilience that nurture hope.

It is a must read for anyone interested in supporting women and girls, so get to a library and reserve a copy.

If women are truly going to hold up half the sky, as the Chinese proverb proclaims, then they need our help.

There are numerous websites for information on how you can help, so why not this year at Christmas give a gift of compassion.

You can choose from a range of grassroots projects in areas such as education, health or more immediate disaster relief.

At www.kiva.org and www.globalgiving.org both organisations facilitate people-to-people giving, directly linking you with a person in need.

– Sonia Muir

About nswrwn

NSW Rural Women’s Network is a government program working in innovative ways to promote leadership and action on rural women’s issues. The RWN team is dedicated to connecting and exchanging information with women and stakeholders in rural, regional and remote communities.
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