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Nicholas Kristof: What We Learned

On Feb. 16, the Center for Women and Gender held a forum discussion with Nicholas Kristof, a Pulitzer Prize-Winning New York Times columnist. Kristof is a fierce advocate for human rights and social justice for women. His forum, entitled, "Sex, Gender and Politics," was both enlightening and inspiring. The following are a few of the things that Kristof spoke about at the event.

1) How Women and Girls Are Treated

Kristof discussed a few examples of the challenges that have been the main moral dilemmas over the centuries. He said, “The central moral challenge of the nineteenth century was slavery. And the central moral challenge of the twentieth century was totalitarianism. In this century, the central moral challenge will be gender inequity around the globe.”

He asked the audience whether they believed there were more males or females on the planet. The majority of the audience guessed that there were more females. He informed them they were wrong, and there were more males alive than females. However, he pointed out that if women were given equal access to food and healthcare, there would in fact be more women in the world. But the reality is, it’s not equal.

While the U.S. has its fair share of inequality, Kristof emphasized that in many other countries, the inequalities are life-threatening.  He explained that in any ten-year period, more girls are killed because of social discrimination than every victim of genocide in the twentieth century. These types of discrimination include:

1) Sex-selective abortions

2) Girls being less likely to be vaccinated than boys

3) When food is in shortage, sons are fed, but not daughters

2) Reproductive Health is a Real Issue

Kristof asserted, “Reproductive health needs to be higher in [U.S.] priorities.” He pointed out that every dollar invested in contraception for at-risk teenager saves six dollars in public funds.

He gave the following statistics about teenage pregnancy:

-30% of American girls become pregnant by age 19

-American and European girls have sex at the same rate, but American girls get pregnant three times as often

He also discussed how important it is for women’s health screenings to be readily available. He said, “No woman should die from cervical cancer in 2017.”

3) Human Sex Trafficking is Another Profound Problem

Kristof told the story of his visit to Cambodia, during which he bought two young girls from the brothel they were working in. They had been kidnapped from their families, and were forced to become active members of that brothel. Kristof paid $150 for one of the girls, and $200 for the other. He returned them to their families, and showed pictures of them after they had returned to their normal lives.

“When you get a written receipt for buying a human being in the twenty-first century, something is truly, profoundly wrong.”

4) A Drop in the Bucket

Kristof explained that problems often appear large and unobtainable. Sure, we might be able to send one girl to school, but there are still 60 million girls across the world that need to be in school, but aren’t.

However, he asserted that we must make the effort to put those drops in the bucket. He told his father’s own immigration story, and said, “Take it from me, drops in the bucket are truly how you fill a bucket.”

“When empowered, women and girls can contribute in significant ways in society. We shouldn’t think of them as victims, but as opportunities.” - Kristof

We are so grateful that we had the opportunity to hear from such a brilliant, accomplished speaker. Thank you to all of those who joined us at the event, or followed along on Twitter.

If you missed the event, and want to see more, head to our Facebook page to watch the live stream of Kristof’s presentation.

To read more of Kristof’s work, click here.