The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006, divided into two equal parts, to Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank for their efforts to create economic and social development from below. Lasting peace can not be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights. Over many thousand loans they've found that the most effective and wide-reaching in their successes have been those loaned to women.
Another example written up by Nicholas Kristof in today's NY Times is about an elementary school in rural Cambodia initiated with American funds raised from an elementary school in Redmond, Washington. In addition to the initial funding, they regularly carry on e-mail communication with the students at both schools. Without schooling, Cambodian girls are ripe to be kidnapped and placed into the sex trade. Kristof bought two such prostitutes out of their brothels only to follow up and find that one returned and the other was pregnant and a ward of her village.
Building schools doesn't solve the immediate problem of girls currently enslaved inside brothels - that requires more rigorous law enforcement, crackdowns on corruption and outspoken diplomacy. But in the long run no investment in poor countries gets more bang for the buck than educating girls. Literate girls not only are in less danger of being trafficked, but later they have fewer children, care for their children better and are much better able to earn a decent living.Every study shows that female literacy has a direct coorelation with fertility rates. Girls' educational achievements have a direct influence on the timing and number of their children: educated women have fewer children, and have them later. Today, some 400 million adolescent girls stand on the brink of adulthood. If many choose to delay childbearing, even for a few years, they will enhance their health, education and employment prospects.
Here comes the rant. There are so many areas in our lives where a bit of investment in strategic areas can have such a great impact on the future that it's almost criminal to NOT make those investments. For sure it's immoral! Instead we are wasting our resources in Iraq and through governmental inefficiencies and corruption. We have to change our priorities to focus on reducing poverty, fighting rampant diseases (like Altzheimer's and AIDS), educating females, attempting to curb environmental crises, providing fair and equal health care, and expanding communication everywhere. We're all in the same boat!