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The Payoff From Women's Rights

Woman Suffrage Headquarters, Cleveland, 1913. Wikimedia Commons

THE COST OF INEQUALITY

Over the past decade, significant research has demonstrated what many have known for a long time: women are critical to economic development, active civil society, and good governance, especially in developing countries. Focusing on women is often the best way to reduce birth rates and child mortality; improve health, nutrition, and education; stem the spread of HIV/AIDS; build robust and self-sustaining community organizations; and encourage grassroots democracy.

Much like human rights a generation ago, women's rights were long considered too controversial for mainstream foreign policy. For decades, international development agencies skirted gender issues in highly patriarchal societies. Now, however, they increasingly see women's empowerment as critical to their mandate. The Asian Development Bank is promoting gender-sensitive judicial and police reforms in Pakistan, for example, and the World Bank supports training for female political candidates in Morocco. The United States, too, is increasingly embracing women's rights,

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