CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere) is an organization that fights against poverty on a global scale. This organization along with the USAID and the government of Bangladesh initiated a program in 2004 called SHOUHARDO to reduce malnutrition in the poorest communities. The results shocked the world. In four years the level of stunting of children due to malnutrition was reduced by 28%, which is double the rate achieved by a typical USAID program. Why was this program so successful even during a time that the economy in Bangladesh deteriorated? In a nutshell the program was successful because it empowered women.
In these poor conservative communities women’s freedom was greatly restricted. If they went out to the streets without a male escort they would experience harassment. They were subjected to early marriage, violence, and abuse. The women did not have a voice in the community and lacked education. The CARE program encouraged women to band together in groups where they would safely discuss their problems and figure out strategies to solve them. When women acted together they were able to change their status in these communities and increase their decision-making power. This had a transforming effect on the finances of the family and the well-being of their children.
But the crucial fact here is that these changes were not anecdotes. They were all measured scientifically an analyzed statistically. Here for the first time is a very clear demonstration for the entire world to see that empowering women benefits the family and the society. This is not an “opinion” or a “belief” upon which reasonable people from different cultures may disagree. The cold hard data makes it clear that those social systems that do not empower women cause severe economical and health hardships for their people.
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