Friday, March 5, 2010

Divorced Before Puberty -

This week Nicholas Kristof wrote an Op-Ed in the NY Times about Nujood Ali, the 10 year old Yemeni girl who won the right to divorce her husband. Her story and the publicity it has garnered has inspired many pre-pubescent girls to seek annulments and divorces. I look forward to reading her book, I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced.

Kristof makes an argument at the end of his column that deserves our attention. He describes Yemen as a "time bomb" and "a hothouse for Al Qaeda." ---dead last in the World Economic Forum's global gender gap index. He goes on to explain why countries that marginalize women often end up unstable.
Op-Ed Columnist - Divorced Before Puberty -

"First, those countries usually have very high birth rates, and that means a youth bulge in the population. One of the factors that most correlates to social conflict is the proportion of young men ages 15 to 24.

Second, those countries also tend to practice polygamy and have higher death rates for girls. That means fewer marriageable women — and more frustrated bachelors to be recruited by extremists.

So educating Nujood and giving her a chance to become a lawyer — her dream — isn’t just a matter of fairness. It’s also a way to help tame the entire country.

Consider Bangladesh. After it split off from Pakistan, Bangladesh began to educate girls in a way that Pakistan has never done. The educated women staffed an emerging garment industry and civil society, and those educated women are one reason Bangladesh is today far more stable than Pakistan.

The United States last month announced $150 million in military assistance for Yemen to fight extremists. In contrast, it costs just $50 to send a girl to public school for a year — and little girls like Nujood may prove more effective than missiles at defeating terrorists."
It doesn't take much, but what it takes is so powerful -- education and jobs. When women and minorities have equal opportunity for education and jobs a society stabilizes.
That's both here and abroad.

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