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Opinions: Bachelet Appointment; Sanitation MDG; Women’s Education; Smallholder Farms

Bachelet Appointment To U.N. Women Lends ‘Star Power’ To Gender Equality Agenda

The appointment of former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to head U.N. Women is an “excellent choice” that “adds stature and star power to the agenda for gender equality,” according to a Los Angeles Times editorial.

The editorial cites recent mass rape of about 500 women and girls in the Congo, where “rape remains a weapon of choice.” The editorial continues, “Bachelet won’t be able to solve all of the world’s unfinished gender business, of course, but she is a leader with a strong record in fighting for women’s rights.” It calls on her to work with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to “make sure the donors pay up, and fulfill the agenda for gender equality launched in 1995” (9/17).

Leaders Must Address Neglected Sanitation MDG

“We will hear much in the coming days about maternal health and child mortality, about gender equality and combating disease. These are critically important issues and it is absolutely right that we focus on safe motherhood, redouble our efforts to fight H.I.V./AIDS and malaria, and improve the lives of women and children in all developing countries,” Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf writes in a New York Times opinion piece. “What we will almost certainly not hear much about, however, is the most off-track and possibly least fashionable Millennium Development Goal intervention — sanitation.”

“No one likes to talk about disposal of human waste. But the lack of adequate toilets is one of the greatest untold development challenges facing the international community,” according to Johnson-Sirleaf. She goes on to highlight some of the health benefits that would come from “investing in safe toilet facilities, clean drinking water supplies, and raising awareness of the need to improve hygiene practices.” She also notes some initiatives to improve sanitation in Liberia.

“If our heads of state meeting next week are serious about achieving the Millennium Development Goals — not only to halve the proportions of people without access to sanitation and water by 2015, but also to get more children into school and to reduce child mortality by two thirds — we must commit ourselves to ending water and sanitation poverty” (9/16).

Global Gains In Women’s Education Should Continue

“Every region of the world has shown improvement” in educating women, “especially in the developing world,” a Christian Science Monitor editorial writes, citing a study of 175 countries that “looked at the connection between women’s schooling and reduced child mortality.”

On average, women now have 7.1 years of schooling, up from 3.5 years four decades ago, which the Monitor writes, is “a sign that it’s time to concentrate on secondary schooling.”

“The world needs to continue these upward trends in education. But it’s more than years of schooling that count. What is taught, how it’s taught, and how learning is measured are also important. That’s not just a debate for the US, but for the world,” the editorial states. It also discusses the role of schooling in lifting economies and allowing women to earn more money, especially in countries “that resist equal rights for women” (9/16).

Investment In Smallholder Agricultural Innovations Is A Good Appraoch To Ensure Food Security

A Christian Science Monitor opinion piece — written by Danielle Nierenberg, a senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, and research intern Ronit Ridberg — examines the “controversial deals” involving wealthy countries’ purchase or lease of large amounts of agricultural land in developing countries.

According to Nierenberg and Ridberg, “smallholder agricultural innovations” tends to be the most successful approach. “In southern Ghana, for example, the Abooman Women’s Group raises dairy cows to make yogurt and pasteurized milk to sell to the community. These products help the women earn higher incomes, especially in the off-season. And studies show that supporting women’s access to training, credit, and inputs improves not only food security, but health indicators as well.”

The authors conclude: “Such smallholder agricultural innovations can increase yields, improve livelihoods, and protect natural resources all at the same time. There is too much at stake when governments give up land, water, and livestock to large-scale foreign investment. NGOs and funders have an important role to play: to listen and respond to the needs and accomplishments on the ground, and keep local food systems truly local” (9/14).