All of these moments were wrenching reminders that we — the whole world — still have much work to do.
But, because I’m an optimist, I also get impatient any time the world’s poorest places are portrayed as communities where the weight of disease and poverty is so heavy that it crushes all human potential and crowds out any chance of progress. That is simply not true.
When we look at the data, we see that, across a whole host of metrics, India is moving in the right direction. More children than ever before are surviving to their fifth birthday. More women are surviving childbirth, and more infants are surviving their first, riskiest days. Last year, India was certified polio-free, a stunning feat made possible by healthcare workers who are bringing modern medicine to even India’s poorest, most remote areas.
None of this has happened by accident. India is moving in the right direction in large part because women and girls — and the men who support them — are pushing it that way.
Decades of research makes clear that women and girls are a crucial part of the development equation. When women and girls are empowered and can act in their own best interests, they are drivers of development who can fast-track progress for everyone. They are the ones who prioritize education, healthcare, and nutrition — all the building blocks of healthy societies. And they are the ones working on the front lines to lift themselves and their families out of extreme poverty, improve the health of their communities, and create a more prosperous future. We’ve seen again and again that when you invest in women and girls, you invest in the people who invest in everyone else.
So here, in three stories, is a case for why I left India even more convinced that investing in women and girls is the key to accelerating progress — and why I left India more optimistic than ever.