There is a great payback today. Everyone is saying, “We’ve got to make priorities, and we’ve got to fund what’s working.” You’ve got it. And it’s CARE and all the work that we do internationally.
I was able to see firsthand some of the work on my trip to Peru, and it was wonderful. I do talk about it so much. I was talking at my table, and I said I don’t know why it took so long for us to realize that to make nations healthy and strong, you have to make communities healthy and strong and to do that, make mom healthy and strong. If mom’s healthy, then she can make sure her children are healthy and hope that they are educated. It does strengthen communities and it comes back to us a million fold. Healthy communities guide people out of poverty. So we can say what we’re going to do from the outside, but to build from the inside is really the way to do it.
We are seeing today differences that are enormous differences in the lives of women. The U.S. investments in women are smart investments. There was a wonderful report that came out a few years ago, that I read and then I reread and it was the Commission on Smart Power. It talked about hard power, and that’s military power, and soft power, that’s diplomacy. But in between that is smart power. How do we use it together and make it smart? That had a huge influence on me and my work as the chairman of the State Foreign Operations Committee and certainly in my work with CARE.
We need to continue to support women, and we support them in all sorts of ways. Obstetric care is so important. Maternal and newborn deaths costs the world $15 billion a year in low productivity. Clean water—what an enormous impact—reduces disease. But it also gives woman back their lives, and I got to see that firsthand. If the woman, who’s the water carrier, has to go where the water is and it takes 8 hours for her to travel there, then she’s lost 8 hours of time where she could be teaching her children and helping. She often has to bring her children with her and so they’re under great danger just bringing clean water. Bringing clean water—something we all take for granted—makes an enormous, enormous difference in a woman’s life and the family life in the community.
Something I’ve been very involved with are microloans. Microloans, it took me a little while to understand what a microloan is. I’m in the government that’s now talking in terms of trillions with a “T,” where we used to talk billions with a “B” and I came from a city that talked millions with an “M.” So when we’re talking about trillions, I said, “What is a microloan?” Well, a microloan can be as little as a $100. A $100, and what does a woman get with a loan for a $100?
What she can get is the ability to start her own business. Often times its crafts, purses, necklaces, shawls. But it’s a lot of other things and what happens as we follow these women with microloans. First of all, they took them as loans, and they paid back the money. The ones who didn’t pay back the money, almost always it was a health reason. So they paid it back a little more slowly, but they paid the loan back. But they used it to build a business and help their families.
And of course probably the most important thing is education. When a girl in developing world receives seven more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children, which can save her life and the life of the child.
On the CARE trip, when I say I saw it firsthand, let me give you an instance. It was the one that I use so much because it made such a huge impression. A woman there got a $100 loan. She got a microloan. The microloan was to buy guinea pigs. Now when I first saw this, I thought there must be a lot of guinea pigs going through PetSmart. Well no, they eat guinea pigs. So she got five guinea pigs for this $100, and started her guinea pig farm. We went through her guinea pig farm that now has hundreds of guinea pigs. Hundreds of guinea pigs, very high tech and she’s sending her two children to college. It made and enormous difference. The other thing she did is share this with other women in her very rural village, so they could do the same thing. They’re now buying more equipment to process their own guinea pigs.
The other thing I saw in Peru that was the most astounding was the commitment to lower maternal deaths. It was a country-wide commitment. We’ve worked in my city of Fort Worth, Texas with infant mortality. Their problem was maternal mortality, and they said we’re going to fix this. So they made woman’s health the priority in their education and healthcare system. The system they had included building rural clinics and upgrading hospitals. But a woman in Peru, if she comes to the clinic to find out if she’s pregnant, when they say, “Yes, you’re pregnant,” they also say, “And here is your plan for your pregnancy. And we will see you every month during your pregnancy here. You will have an appointment, and this is where you’re going to deliver your child, at this hospital, and we will provide the transportation and this is who is going to take you to the hospital on the day you give birth.” Well, guess what happened? They reduced the maternal deaths by 50 percent in four years. 50 percent.
We’re all concerned about what’s happening in Afghanistan and in Pakistan. Everyone is concerned about it, but when we are working with that some of the stories you don’t hear have to do with improving women’s literacy. Two million girls are enrolled in school now in Afghanistan and it’s working. It makes an enormous difference in their lives.
Besides serving as chair of the State Foreign Operations, I’m also on the Defense Subcommittee. So I get to hear it both ways, and General David Petraeus, one of the most brilliant generals we have ever had in this country or in this world, said, “We’ve almost found it more helpful to teach Pakistanis to read up to the 8th grade level than doing anything else.” Helping. He admits and says readily, as does Secretary Gates, that empowering women could make the long-term peace a reality.
So as you visit the government offices, which you’re going to do today, tell them those stories. Tell them its good business for this United States to invest in this CARE. It’s good for us. It’s good for them. It’s good for the world. And thank you very much.
Speech from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ComObpBZrkk.