Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist Nicholas Kristof Advocates for Women’s Education

| Sep. 30, 2010

Gender equity will be the biggest moral challenge the international community will face in the next century, according to Nicholas D. Kristof, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, who visited the Harvard Kennedy School on September 27.

“In the nineteenth century, the central moral challenge for the world was slavery and in the twentieth century the paramount moral challenge was totalitarianism,” Kristof said. “In this century the central moral challenge—and really the cause of our times—is going to be gender equity around the globe.”

The seminar was moderated by Nicholas Burns, professor of the practice of diplomacy and international politics, and was co-sponsored by the Future of Diplomacy Project, the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy and the Women and Public Policy Program.

Citing examples of gender inequality around the world, Kristof drew from his extensive experience abroad. One story featured 14-year old Mahabouba Muhammad from Sudan who suffered from an obstetric fistula, a complication from obstructed labor, which resulted in nerve damage in both of her legs and the loss of her child.

She was ostracized from the community as the result of these medical complications, because villagers feared she had been cursed, Kristof said. Left unprotected against the seemingly inevitable attack of hyenas, she managed to not only muster the courage to fight off the animals but literally crawl — over a number of days — to the nearest American missionary to receive proper medical care. Upon arrival she was taken to Ethiopia to receive the kind of treatment that is all but routine in developed countries and costs no more than $300. It was during recovery from this surgery that staff recognized Muhammad’s intellectual potential and encouraged her to become a nurse.

“To me it’s a wonderful reminder that what we are dealing with here aren’t just tragedies but opportunities,” Kristof said. “They key is to take these people who are squandered assets and make them truly productive, for their own sake and for the sake of their communities and countries.”

Kristof has been a columnist for The New York Times since 2001. His bi-weekly op-ed column focuses on human rights issues, poverty and international politics. In 2009, he and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn published Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a national bestseller that advocates for increasing female education, access to healthcare and autonomy across the developing world, by highlighting individual stories.

“What has distinguished Nick Kristof is that he reports from the perspective of average people and the poor and serves as an advocate for victims around the world,” said moderator Nicholas Burns.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kneezle, Sarah. “Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist Nicholas Kristof Advocates for Women’s Education.” News, , September 30, 2010.

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