Thursday, October 06, 2005

Put a Woman in Charge, End World Hunger

One of the new programs on the ABC lineup is called Commander in Chief, where MacKenzie Allen (a character played by Geena Davis) becomes president of the U.S. While the program is no West Wing, it brings up an interesting question: Is it possible for a woman to become the U.S. president? The program does not speculate whether a woman can be elected president. It gives you a circumstance where the sitting vice president is a woman, who is elevated to the top position when the president dies of a brain aneurysm.

It's fun to speculate whether the circumstances that led MacKenzie Allen to assume the presidency could actually take place. Would a woman president at the helm of one of the powerful members of the Group of Eight (G-8) nations put a higher priority on ending global poverty, hunger and disease?

Another influential woman, Sheila Sisulu (pictured above), addressed this question during the 13th annual summit of first ladies from Latin America in
Asunción, Paraguay, on Sept. 29. Sisulu, a South African native, is deputy executive director of The U.N.'s World Food Program (WFD). "If anyone can end hunger, we women can do it," Sisulu told participants at the summit. (In case you're wondering, the summit was not covered very widely, although thankfully, the Spain-based news agency EFE was there).

Sisulu's comments were directed primarily at Latin American governments, which she said are not devoting sufficient funds to improve the health and nutrition of their populations. She said an average of 37,000 children under age 5 die in Latin America and the Caribbean each year because of malnutrition.
"What level of malnutrition are we willing to accept?" said Sisulu. "How many more children are we going to lose simply because they lack necessary vitamins and minerals?

Malnutrition, said Sisulu, promotes disease, inhibits the learning abilities of children, and creates a weaker, less-productive workforce. She cited statistics from The World Bank, which indicted that malnutrition was resulting in the loss of 3 percent of GDP in Latin America. "By simply reducing the incidence of newborns with low birth weights, we could increase the earnings of the region by $1 billion (annually)," said Sisulu. She said we have the means to solve the problem, but are not doing enough. "Malnutrition is unacceptable in a world that has sufficient resources," said the WFD director.

Sisulu's fellow South African, the Most Rev. Njongonkulu W. H. Ndungane, Archbishop of Cape Town, asked a similar question at the Interfaith Convocation in Washington during the summer of 2005. "How can hunger be so widespread when there is such growth in the global economy?"

Archbishop Ndungane goes on to say: "Of this we can be sure, that poverty that brings hunger is evil. In all its ramifications and consequences, it mars the image of God within humanity; it mars the image of God in the poor, as it deprives them of opportunities for abundant life. It mars the image of God within those of us who have more than enough, but who through greed, complacency or even ignorance fail to do the justice to embrace the loving kindness that our God asks of us."
Read full article from Radical Grace newspaper.

All countries should do what they can to alleviate hunger and poverty within their borders. And many promised to do so by accepting the Millenium Development Goals in 2000. The poorer countries cannot do it alone, and they need help from the wealthier countries, especially the members of the G-8. To its credit, the G-8 made some important positive commitments in this regard after the summit in Scotland in July. But much more can be done, especially if the U.S. takes a leadership role. Perhaps if we had a President MacKenzie Allen...


Holly said...

carlos -
great post! it's an interesting idea to think about the differences between male and female leadership. I do think women tend to make food security a priority. In fact, many women go without food in order for their children to eat every single day. It's a sad reality that women bear the burden of poverty. Thanks for these thoughts.

Bread for the World-New Mexico Blog said...

Thanks for your comments! And thanks for linking this post to your blog.
I wonder what kind of strides India made in poverty allevationunder the leadership of Indira Ghandi or Israel under Golda Meier. And was there much of a difference between the current government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and that of the Tory government of Margaret Thatcher.
I suspect we'd have a mixed record. I think a clearer picture emerges from the legislative branches in the various countries, where women are most often the ones involved in the fight against poverty, hunger and injustice.

Bread for the World-New Mexico Blog said...

I found this quote in the Harvard University Gazette, quoting the late Dame Eugenia Charles:

Asked if she thought women's leadership style was different from that of men, Charles said that women were more detail-oriented.

"Men tend to make decisions and leave it to others to carry them out. Women follow up on their actions to see what is happening to their plan. But I think if you are efficient yourself, you will find efficient men who will get along with you," she said.