Nicholas Kristof Speaks from A Path Appears Dallas and Fort Worth, 9-15-2015
The Gendercide Awareness Project served as a community partner with the World Affairs Council DFW to bring two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and veteran New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof to the metroplex. For years, Kristof has educated readers on matters ranging from human rights abuse, to atrocities in Darfur and Syria, to the oppression of women, to inequality in America. His columns don't make for bedtime reading, but they exemplify his commitment to reporting what matters, not what people like to read. Kristof's two recent books, co-authored with wife Sheryl WuDunn, alert us to the grim realities faced by so many in the world but also radiate hope.
Kristof began his talk with the unlikely story of a small girl who asked that all her birthday presents be directed toward clean water wells in Ethiopia. Tragically, this seven-year-old was killed in a car crash shortly afterward, but efforts to honor and commemorate her resulted in a gift of 1.2 million dollars -- far beyond the $300 she had hoped to collect. Kristof cited this story as an extraordinary example of the "ripple effect" -- how one person's generosity can inspire another's.
In discussing how we all can be be global citizens, Kristof notes two new trends in the philanthropic sector:
the growth of grass roots philanthropy made possible by the Internet
the emergence of for-profit social entrepreneurs and the use of business methods and metrics in traditional philanthropy
As a result of the new emphasis on metrics and bang for the buck, we have identified inexpensive ways to make an out-sized impact. Examples include:
De-worming children with intestinal worms, which greatly improves school attendance and ability to learn
Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs), which reduce teen pregnancy and keep girls in school
Training Giant Gambian Pouch Rats to de-mine mine fields -- no kidding!
(The rats can sniff the mines but are too light to set them off.)
Turning to global politics, Kristof recommends that the US make better use of its philanthropic strength. We resort too often to the military toolkit, he says, and too infrequently to the education toolkit or the women's empowerment toolkit. While acknowledging that there is a role for military intervention (he recommends a no-fly zone in southern Syria, for example), Kristof points out that education of girls tends to mollify extremism. Similarly, educating boys, so that they have job skills and opportunities, makes extremism less appealing.
Kristof also discussed inequality, both globally and at home. Again, some statistics:
The richest 85 individuals on earth have more wealth than the bottom half of the world population.
The richest 1% in the US have more wealth than the bottom 90%.
The yearly Wall Street bonus pool is equal to twice the collective annual earnings of all minimum wage earners in the US
How to address the problem in America? Kristof realistically believes that vested interests will block most meaningful reforms. However, he sees a window of opportunity in the fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that all children should have the opportunity to thrive. Early childhood intervention draws support from both sides of the aisle. Americans understand that if we don't pay for it now, we'll pay for prison later, so perhaps this is a good place to begin in dealing with inequality.
As someone who has visited nearly every conflict zone and under-developed region of the world, Kristof is not naive to the problems we confront. They are overwhelming in scale, but he truly believes that when we help just one time, the drop in the bucket ripples outward. Kristof concluded with the story of his own father, a Romanian refugee in World War II who survived thanks to a chance encounter with a young American woman who reached out to help him.
Kristof and WuDunn address the status of women worldwide.
"The oppression of women is the human rights cause of our time. And their liberation could help solve many of the world's problems, from poverty to child mortality to terrorism." Kristof and WuDunn, New York Times, 8-23-2009
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, 2010, takes its name from the Chinese proverb, "Women hold up half the sky." Kristof and WuDunn catalog stories of Asian and African women, often poor, brutalized, or sold into prostitution, who defied their oppressors and rebuilt their lives. Well run aid programs, both indigenous and western, catalyzed these turnarounds by offering education, micro-loans, or women's healthcare at critical moments. The women learned new trades, earned money, improved the lives of their families, and became engines of change for other women and families in their communities. "Women aren't the problem; they're the solution," say Kristof and WuDunn.
A Path Appears continues the focus on marginalized women, this time enlarging the picture to consider women in the United States as well. The book emphasizes the role of poverty and childhood abuse in making women vulnerable to exploitation later in life. Kristof and WuDunn also tell heartening, inspiring stories of individuals who stepped up to help, proving that an individual truly can make a difference.
Bill and Melinda Gates write, “Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn have done us all a great service by shining a light on the problems faced by the poor. These stories of real people struggling for survival and opportunity serve as a powerful reminder that poverty is complex and painful, but the call to action doesn’t need to be. With insight, compassion and optimism, Kristof and WuDunn show us that we can all play a role in making the world a better place. A Path Appears is a compelling read that can’t help but to educate and energize.”
Gendap Vice-President June Chow with Nicholas Kristof
Gendap President Beverly Hill with Nicholas Kristof