by Ruth Levine
This week The New York Times Magazine is dedicated to a single theme: women. The main attraction of this special issue is a stirring essay by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, who write passionately about the great moral, national security and economic development imperatives of investing in the world’s women and girls. The “women’s crusade” they call for seems already to have begun. A few pages beyond, an interview with Secretary Clinton heralds the start of a “new gender agenda” at the highest reaches of the U.S. foreign policy. Also noted is the growing philanthropic attention to the cause of women and girls – a trend that will be further evidenced next month, when the issue headlines at the annual (Bill) Clinton Global Initiative meetings in NYC.
The sudden momentum is a welcome change for what has until very recently been a woefully neglected issue. The call for greater attention and investments resonates with our work here at CGD, which similarly has sought to put women and girls at the heart of the development agenda. (We have often worked in collaboration with the International Center for Research on Women and the Kristof/WuDunn essay refers to the Girls Count action agenda, which I co-authored with an ICRW colleague and two other women.) I am confident that investments like the three priority actions that Kristof and WuDunn identify for U.S. action — educating girls, eliminating iodine deficiency, and improving maternal health –- can not only pave the way for a brighter future for the world’s girls and women, but will also yield important development benefits for entire societies — including positive spillovers from developing countries to U.S.