Staying Alive, Relapsing The Third World

As feminists in industrialized societies mobilize against gender inequality, Third World women struggle daily just to survive. To help in this struggle, the American Jewish World Service has launched its Women’s Empowerment Fund specifically to aid these women, most of whom are not Jewish.

Statistics from the United Nations and the World Bank tell bleak stories. Of the world’s 1.3 billion poor, 70 percent are women. Nearly 900 million women live on less than $1 a day. Half a million women die annually from pregnancy and childbirth. More than 100 million girls and women have undergone genital mutilation. More women die or become ill from gender-based violence than from cancer, traffic injuries and malaria combined. Of the world’s HIV-positive victims, nearly half are women.

AJWS funding goes to such grassroots groups working to improve the condition of women’s lives as Tostan, a women’s health and education movement in Senegal, working to end female genital mutilation; Creating Hope International, based in Afghanistan, training teachers and conducting workshops on human rights; Pro Mujer, in the Peruvian Amazon, producing radio programs about women’s health issues with the help of health care workers and traditional healers.

“We launched the Women’s Empowerment Fund to highlight women’s struggles and achievements in developing countries,” said Ruth Messinger, AJWS president. “If given the opportunity to move and reshape their communities, these women can do so with passion and power.”