Journalist discusses plight of women
By Patty Machelor
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 12.11.2009
Think of it as a local approach to an international problem.
Tucson’s new Partnership for Women and Girls formed not only to help women and their daughters escape poverty and domestic abuse, but also to enable them to become successful community members.
On Thursday, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sheryl WuDunn spoke as a Partnership guest about her most recent book, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.” WuDunn co-authored the book with her husband, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.
While slavery and totalitarianism were the biggest moral challenges of the last two centuries, WuDunn said, the current century’s great task is overcoming the oppression of women and girls. WuDunn has traveled extensively with her husband to report on the plight of women and girls worldwide.
“The challenge of our time is to address the brutality that so many people around the world face because of their gender,” WuDunn wrote in response to e-mail questions from the Arizona Daily Star.
“Equally important is that, aside from the right or wrong of it, one of the best ways to fight poverty and terrorism is to educate girls and empower women, bringing them into the formal labor force.”
WuDunn said the challenges for women and girls in the United States and abroad are similar, varying only by degree.
“Throughout the world, health care delivery, even maternal mortality in the U.S., should be a much higher priority,” she said.
The Tucson partnership, which formed last January, includes the Sahuaro Girl Scout Council, YWCA Tucson and Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse. The collaboration provides 99 percent of all services for women and girls in Southern Arizona, said Janet Marcotte, executive director for YWCA Tucson. Emerge is a result of a 2008 merger between the Tucson Centers for Women and Children and the Brewster Center. The program serves about 2,000 women a year in support groups, and also provides 120 beds at two crisis shelters.
“We don’t have bride burnings here and it may not look the same, but we have women being abused every day here and we have women being attacked every day here,” said Sarah Jones, Emerge’s CEO.
The partnership helps each agency provide more for the women and girls, she said. Those who seek help with Emerge then go on to receive job training and financial education through the YWCA of Tucson.
More than 86 percent of the women in Emerge’s shelters are unemployed, Jones said, and about 60 percent have children.
Inviting the girls and teen-age girls to participate in Brownies and Girl Scouts is another critical part of the new partnership, Jones said. “A lot of the girls have grown up in abusive households so they don’t have a model for what a healthy relationship looks like,” she said. “We want the girls to know that there’s a whole other life out there and you aren’t only a person who has lived in an abusive home.”
WuDunn praised the agencies for their efforts, and said more communities should form similar collaborations. “Often, women aren’t given the training or the chance to work productively, so programs that help address violence against women should also be coupled with programs that help empower them economically,” she said.