Target: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
Goal: Increase funding for family planning and women’s education efforts in Northern Africa
Northern Africa is in the middle of a population explosion. The 9/11 Commission investigating Al Qaeda called a rapidly increasing population of young men without any reasonable expectation of employment “a sure prescription for social turbulence.” For example, in 1992 there were 6 million people in Mali – the population today is 16 million. Some estimates predict the population growing over 35 million by 2050. It is impossible, even with very efficient governance, to provide education and employment for populations growing at this rate. Family planning is an extremely powerful way to empower women, strengthen families, and stretch resources – and right now only 8% of women in Mali use contraception. The United States must spearhead the movement to increase access to education and family planning for women in Africa to aid and strengthen this troubled region.
Despite some efforts to stop this, many women are receiving terrible treatment in Northern Africa. Female genital mutilation is widespread, and young women are often married off to older, polygamous men. In Niger, only one girl in 1,000 completes secondary school. The Bixby Center for Population, Health and Sustainability at UC Berkeley has been working with Nigerian villages near the northern border with Niger. They found that the average girl there was married at 14 and had given birth to two children by 18. In a small but successful project, this group worked closely with communities to keep 205 out of 230 girls in secondary school. Only three of those in school married before graduating, and only one had a child. The program cost less than $40 per girl annually.
Clearly, educating women is a fantastic method of population control, and one that has a seriously low cost in these low income regions. The U.S. military has spend $620 million training local armies in counter-terrorism in the region. The executive director of the UNFPA – the United Nations Population Fund – said recently that more than 220 million women in developing countries want access to family planning and do not receive them.
By signing this petition you will be helping convince the United States to allocate some of our resources towards increasing access to education and family planning in Northern Africa. This is a matter of human rights as well as national security. It will be a long, hard journey, but empowering women with the autonomy to decide when to marry and when to have children is paramount to a successful and thriving Africa.
Dear John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State,
Northern Africa is experiencing a population explosion, and these volatile populations are being increasingly influenced by terrorist groups, especially al Qaeda. Family planning and women’s education is a proven and effective way to strengthen families, empower women, and stretch resources. Without a stronger family unit, Northern African populations will continue to be swept up and involved with terrorist organizations.
The Bixby Center for Population, Health and Suatainability at UC Berkeley has been working with Nigerian villages in a small project to keep women in school. Before the program, they found that on average a woman was married at 14 and had two kids by 18. In their program, 205 out of 230 girls stayed in secondary school. The project cost $40 per girl annually, and of the women who stayed in school only three married before graduating, and only one had any children.
In addition, the UNFPA recently said that 220 million women in developing countries want access to family planning and do not have it. We as a country have spent $620 million training local forces in counter-terrorism in the region which, given recent events, has clearly been less than successful. I am writing you this letter today to urge you to reallocate some of these resources towards family planning and women’s education in the region. It won’t be easy, but empowering women to decide when to marry and when to have children will have an amazing effect on the future prospects of this volatile region.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: David Rumsey via davidrumsey.com