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Rockford College joins worldwide movement

Monday, November 15, 2010  
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Rockford College joins worldwide movement to transform oppression into opportunity for Third World women

For immediate release – 11/8/10
Contact: Jim and Pam Keeling, 815-877-6703

A group of Rockford College students, faculty and staff is working with community members to do their part in eliminating brutality inflicted on Third World women while promoting education and financial empowerment to produce a more prosperous and peaceful world.

The project, called "Half the Sky,” is based on the New York Times best-selling book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, a husband-wife team.

The book follows the stories of extraordinary women around the world as they struggle to overcome oppression. Kristof and WuDunn focus on five major problems facing women – lack of access to education, sex trafficking, maternal mortality, violence and lack of access to business capital and employment opportunity. They argue that empowering women is the key to alleviating poverty and uplifting communities in developing countries.

Led by Rockford College board member Jim Keeling and his wife Pam, the group hopes to engage as many local people as possible by getting them to read the book prior to a March 15, 2011 lecture by WuDunn at Rockford College.

The group plans to reach out to book clubs, schools, non-profit groups, businesses and anyone else they can get involved in the movement. Other related activities include lectures and symposia with speakers on Third World issues and solutions. These topics are also being studied in Rockford College courses throughout the year.

In order to promote self-sufficiency, the group plans to raise money for what are called "microfinance funds,” loans directed to specific women in Third World countries with identified goals for self-sufficiency.

If a woman had a skill like sewing, for instance, and could make a living at it, she would receive a start-up loan which would be repaid over time. Rockford College, under the leadership of Associate Professor J.J. Asongu, has formed a Microfinance Club with 50 Rockford College students as its founding members to study microfinance; launch microfinance projects; and raise funds for such loans and then disbursing them to individuals who can benefit.
The college, through its Jane Addams Center for Civic Engagement led by Lindsay Kent, has already become involved in the "Half the Sky” effort, selling "Beads for Life,” arranging book discussions, and observing the International Day of Peace held September 21. A film festival on relevant topics is also in the works.
In their book, Kristof and WuDunn provide some sobering numbers about the challenges and opportunities for women in Third World countries:
  • More girls have been killed in the last 50 years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the 20th century.
  • It is impossible for countries to climb out of poverty if only a fraction of women (9 percent in Pakistan, for example) participate in the labor force. China’s meteoric rise was due to women’s economic empowerment: 80 percent of the factory workers in the Guangdong province alone are female and six of the 10 richest self-made women in the world are Chinese.
For more information about the local "Half the Sky” initiative, call Jim Keeling at 815-490-4900.

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