Seven years ago, this retired French teacher and tennis coach from Redlands was so angry that the Bush administration had refused to release $34 million to the United Nations Population Fund, she started asking 34 million of her fellow citizens for one dollar. Seven years later, 34 Million Friends has become a worldwide grassroots movement for women and girls. I will be interviewed on the Dave Congalton show between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 17, and will be in the San Luis Obispo area to talk about my favorite subject: the price the world is paying for gender inequality and what gender equality could mean for people, the planet, and peace.
In much of the world, when a girl is born, there is commiseration not celebration. There are between 60 and 100 million “missing” women because of sex-selective abortion, female infanticide, and neglect of the female children. Many families choose to educate their sons while keeping their daughters at home. Two-thirds of the illiterate people on the planet are women and girls. When food is in short supply, it goes to boys. Women are also two-thirds of the “extremely poor” as defined by the United Nations.
Girls are married off at young ages, cutting off many choices. If they become pregnant, their very lives are at risk. More than 500,000 women and girls die every year as a complication of pregnancy or childbirth. The promises made for universal access to family planning at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development and in the Millennium Development Goals have not been kept.
I urge everyone to become acquainted with the Millennium Development Goals, which are a blueprint for world priorities. Goal 3 is: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women.