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Three small things for third-world women

The New York Times is previewing a fascinating story from its magazine called "The Women's Crusade," about the interaction between global poverty and the oppression of girls and women. It's no accident that countries with the worst gender inequality also have the worst child health, the most crushing poverty and the greatest extremism, the story says.

Although the whole piece is compelling, what really caught my eye were three simple and cheap targets for foreign aid directed at women's health. There's solid evidence to suggest that these three interventions, all aimed at health problems that have long since been solved in the rich world, would pay enormous dividends for the well-being of third-world girls and women and, by extension, the their families and their countries' economies.

The three ideas are:

  1. Help for managing menstruation. Teen girls in developing countries often miss school during their menstrual periods because they don't have sanitary napkins or access to a private toilet at school, the story's authors say. Regular absenteeism makes it hard for these girls to keep up with school work and causes many to drop out.
  2. Iodized salt. A low-iodine diet during a woman's pregnancy can cause mental retardation in her child. Adding iodine to salt is easy and ridiculously cheap, and kids born to women who get enough iodine during pregnancy are much more likely to be able to complete schooling and earn a living.
  3. Fistula repair. Women who suffer fistulas, childbirth injuries that cause them to leak urine or feces, are often shunned by their families and communities. Surgery to repair fistulas is fairly cheap, but has not been prioritized.

To read the whole story, click here.

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