Kristof on the “Girl Effect”

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s talk last night with local World Affairs Council head Jane Wales about the state of women’s work and well-being globally was one of the more insightful 90 minute presentations I’ve heard (read: it had me engaged in the far back of the Fairmont main ballroom around the dinner hour). And with good reason: the co-author of the newly published Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide with his reporter wife Sheryl WuDunn has been one of the main advocates and researchers of the “girl effect,” the theory that investing in women has exponential benefits on a country’s birth rate, workforce output, and poverty rate.

Kristof said that he became interested in the topic of gender inequity in the early 1990s after he and WuDunn were the first couple to win the Pulitzer Prize for their Tienanmen Square coverage. Shortly thereafter they learned that nearly 40 million baby girls were dying annually from not getting the same medical and food resources as baby boys. He’s since seen the number of “missing women” only increase, largely because of sex selective abortions and honor killings.

I haven’t yet read his recounting of the individuals he’s met around the world who are looking to provide education and job opportunities to women and girls to change these trends, but Kristof’s storytelling skills have a wakening effect. I was glad to hear that he’s given the Half the Sky game rights to Games for Change, a company that creates digital games to raise social consciousness, after they launched Climate Challenge and Darfur is Dying. Off the page, into the world?