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September 24, 2009

Save the World in 15 Minutes or Less

half the sky by nicholas kristof
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It’s a tall order—saving the world’s women in as little time as it takes to style your hair in the morning. But as little as 15 minutes is all it can take to make an impact. In their new book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalists and globe-trotting spouses Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, tell us why we should care about the world’s women. Get the facts and then use MarieClaire.com as a launch pad for fast, fashionable action to make a difference.

Would you believe:

• 107 million females are missing from the globe today. Women may live longer and outnumber in the Western world, but globally they don’t receive healthcare or status equal to men, so they perish. One woman dies in childbirth around the world every minute.

• The poorest families in the world spend approximately 10 times as much (20 percent of their incomes on average) on a combination of alcohol, prostitution, candy, sugary drinks and lavish feasts as they do on educating their children (2 percent). But when women control the purse strings, more money is spent on nutrition, medicine and housing.

• Each year, an estimated 800,000 women and children are trafficked across national borders. That’s 10 times the volume at the peak of the slave trade.

Kristof and WuDunn counter the tragic research with stories of individual women they’ve met who are fighting back and showing, if given an education or a loan to start a business, that they can successfully change the norms of their community. MarieClaire.com has reported news on women giving similar hope: Afghani women blazing trails, Bangladeshi women transforming their villages, and Indian women protesting against abusive husbands.

What can you do, right now, to reach that one woman who will catalyze the change for her entire family and village?

1. Kristof and WuDunn recommend going to kiva.org. Here, make a small loan to a woman whose business you admire. Get repaid over time, and choose to reinvest in another women if you wish.
2. Shop for charity. Find items here that donate a percentage of proceeds to support women’s foundations that invest in schools, maternity clinics, safe houses, and other resources for women worldwide.
3. Buy a copy of Half the Sky and organize a book club, Marie Claire style, with friends. Discussion brings awareness, awareness brings action.
4. Sponsor a girl’s education. On Marie Claire’s list of the 10 Best Charities, see #3. Through Save the Children, it only takes $28 a month to sponsor a girl’s education—that’s about a week of Starbucks Ventis.

Have more fast yet far-reaching tactics for doing good? Share them in the comments below.

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