One of the most under-reported factors behind the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt was the rise in food prices in the Middle East over the last year. It’s simple, really: hungry people become desperate very quickly, yet governments and markets forget this simple lesson all too frequently. A new report from Oxfam details the looming crisis, predicting even greater unrest for the future. They estimate that worldwide water demand will increase 30% by 2030, and by 2050, “there will be 9 billion people on the planet and demand for food will have increased by 70 per cent.”
In February, the President of the World Bank Robert Zoellick said on Bloomberg television, that “there’s no doubt that we’re seeing rising food prices just as we saw a couple of years ago and it puts stress on the most vulnerable. People often in developing countries spend half or three quarters of their income in food, so they’ve got little margin.” For people in wealthy countries, the rise in food prices may be more easily absorbed. Yet even in those, there may be significant food insecurity–the United States reported a record 14.6% of households experienced some form of food insecurity in 2008.
In recent years there has been growing awareness of the ways in which early marriage can be detrimental to the lives of women. Feminists are continually derided for describing patriarchy as a system that acts in real and systemic ways, but there can be no greater proof of its catastrophic effects than underage marriage. Despite the sure knowledge that child marriage leads to early pregnancy, which often results in fistula, early death and poverty, the practice continues to occur across the globe. On the continent of Africa, for example, child marriage continues to be an issue.
In Niger, three quarters of young girls will be married before the age of eighteen. A girl is raised to understand that her destiny is to marry and produce children. Education is seen as a waste because whatever girls do in life will only profit the household of her husband’s family. Ninety percent of Niger’s women are illiterate and without education, and they have no chance to end the vicious cycle of poverty. This legacy is then passed to their children, who are married before their time, thus maintaining a continual cycle of ignorance.
The birthrate is extremely high, with the national average being eight children per woman. According to the United Nations Population Fund: