This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Celebrating International Women's Day

Women's rights have been taking a hit from Republication candidates for President in the US, so it is a good time for International Women's Day to be celebrated. In recognition of this, David Bornstein has an article in The New York Times that focuses on activities of an organization called CAMFED (Campaign for Female Education), that works to energize "Africa's girl power."
Camfed (the Campaign for Female Education) was founded in 1993 by a Welsh social entrepreneur named Ann Cotton, who began by raising money at her kitchen table to send 32 girls from poor families in Zimbabwe to school. Today, the organization works with 3,667 schools in rural parts of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Ghana and Malawi, and has provided direct support for more than half a million children to attend primary school. Camfed has also provided grants to enable 60,000 girls to complete secondary school, supported 15,000 more who attend university or receive business training, and provided financing for 8,000 of their enterprises.In recent years, leaders in the field of international development have come to agree that the most powerful way to bring lasting social benefits to a country is to expand educational and economic opportunities for girls. What has become known as the Girl Effect is dramatic: A girl who doesn’t attend school or marries young, for example, is at far greater risk of dying in childbirth, contracting H.I.V., being beaten by her husband, bearing more children than she would like, and remaining in poverty, along with her family. By contrast, an educated girl is more likely to earn higher wages, delay childbirth, and have fewer, healthier children who are themselves more likely to attend school, prosper, and participate in democratic processes. 
As I read this, I was taken back in my mind to Harare many years ago when I was there working with the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council. I met one day with Dr. Marvellous Mhloyi, a Professor of Sociology with a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. She mentioned that she had only one child, and preferred to keep it that way, but despite her genuinely amazing academic accomplishments, she was under tremendous pressure from her family to have more children. At the time, her country was poised to take off to much higher economic levels, precisely because of the accomplishments of people like her. But that was subsequently beaten back by HIV and corruption. Africa needs more girl power, to be sure.

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