I’m biased. I prefer my heroes to be women. Maybe it’s because when I grew up history books celebrated Betsy Ross as a female hero. Hello, she sewed! I’m sorry, but big deal. Now Nikolas Kristof is simply an amazing human being, so I grudgingly bestow upon him hero status. He can’t help that he’s male. He travels to the places in the world where people suffer and shares their stories with us. He shines light in the dark places, and I, for one, am grateful for this. He also keeps a blog, which I’ve recently subscribed to. And if you watch his videos and read his columns, you will find that many of his heroes are women.
For instance, Mukhtar Mai, a Pakastani who “survived a gang rape to become a fervent campaigner for voiceless women in Pakistan.” Mai runs schools, an ambulance service and a women’s aid group.
And this Pakistani woman whose husband was kidnapped in Pakistan and who bravely stood up to the government.
And the amazing Edna Adan Ismail, who founded Edna Adan Maternity Hospital—the first maternity hospital in Somaliland.
Kristof is a tireless voice for the downtrodden, especially women and children, because, in much of the world, they are most often the victims of horrendous human rights violations.
He also spotlights health crises that could be solved if the world would step up.
In his latest column, he wrote about the American Presidency and saving lives in Africa:
Saving children’s lives in rural Africa or Asia, where millions die of ailments as simple as diarrhea, pneumonia or measles, is achingly simple and inexpensive. The starting point is vaccinations and basic sanitation.
. . .
For years, the rationale for opposing foreign assistance has been that it doesn’t work. It’s true that humanitarian aid is devilishly difficult to get right, money is squandered and the impact of aid is often oversold.
But President Bush’s record underscores that other policies are difficult to get right as well: Iraq is a mess, and social security reform and immigration reform both failed. Mr. Bush’s greatest single accomplishment is that his AIDS program in Africa is saving millions of lives.
That makes it all the more stunning that Mr. Bush’s proposed budget for 2009 cuts U.S. funding for child and maternal health programs around the world by nearly 18 percent.
Fortunately, all the candidates are saying the right things about malaria, AIDS and support for education in Africa (although John McCain is fuzzier about commitments). You can compare the candidates’ positions on global humanitarian issues at www.onevote08.org.
Voters should remember this: A president may or may not be able to improve schools or protect manufacturing jobs in Ohio, but a president probably could help wipe out malaria. Compared with other challenges a president faces, saving a million children’s lives a year is the low-hanging fruit.
See Nicholas Kristof’s page at the New York Times.
OneVote08 is a project of One—the Campaign to Make Poverty History.
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And historical women heroes?