Nussbaum Reviews New Book on Link Between Economic Development and Women's Rights

Seeing Women’s Rights as a Key to Countries’ Progress
Martha C. Nussbaum
The New York Times
September 7, 2009

Prudence Lemokouno lived in a village in Cameroon, 75 miles from a hospital. She received no prenatal care. After she had been in labor for three days, a well-meaning birth attendant jumped up and down on her belly, rupturing her uterus. Her family paid a man to take her to the hospital. There, after an openly contemptuous doctor held out for more money, an operation was finally performed, but several days too late. Neither mother nor baby survived the ordeal.

Women and girls die every day in large numbers all over the world, some from violence, some from what Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, in “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” call the “diffuse cruelty of indifference”: inadequate medical care and other practices that betray a widespread undervaluation of the worth of female life. In this passionate yet practical book, the authors argue that the struggle for gender equality is “the paramount moral challenge” of our era.

It is also a development challenge: unleashing women’s energy, they argue, is a key to economic success. The authors’ stated aim is to “recruit” the reader to join a worldwide movement to end these abuses.