Gender issues have come to the forefront of the debate on sustainable development, reflecting a widening gap between men and women caught in the cycle of poverty. Strikingly, more than 70 percent of the 1.5 billion people living on less than $1 a day are women. These women living in poverty are often without access to key resources such as credit, land, inheritance and education. Insufficient access to modern energy also disproportionately affects women in many societies struggling with poverty, as women spend more time than men on basic subsistence activities such as gathering fuel-wood, carrying water and cooking. The opportunity cost of these activities frequently prevents women from undertaking income-generating activity, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty. More than half the world's households cook with wood, animal waste, crop residues and untreated coal - resulting in indoor air pollution which is responsible for the premature death of more than 2 million women and children worldwide each year.
In their new book, "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide," Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, make the case for investing in the health and autonomy of women worldwide. Far from making merely moral appeals, the authors posit that it is impossible for countries to climb out of poverty if only a fraction of women participate in the work force. China's meteoric rise, argue Kristof and WuDunn, is due to women's economic empowerment; they note that 80 percent of the factory workers in the Guangdong province are female. At this event, Kristof will make a presentation on sustainability and gender, as well as discuss the role of women as effective change agents.
Kristof's visit is part of the 2010 Global Health Technology Speaker Series and is sponsored by Rice 360: Institute for Global Health Technologies, Beyond Traditional Borders and the Baker Institute Energy Forum.