By Debbie Brown
La Chureca, Nicaragua, is a grim place,my teenaged daughter was telling us, a shanty town where women and children scavenge for usable items at the city dump. Her description of the place—the sweltering heat, stinking trash, and bone-thin feral dogs—poured from fresh memories of the mission trip she had just finished.
In the cool of our air-conditioned car, on the way to our middle-class home, the contrast could not be clearer: my daughter lived in the land of opportunity while the children of La Chureca were trapped in the fetid confines of life on a landfill. Sarah would leave soon for her first year at college with dreams of education, career, and family in store for her life ahead. The girls she met in La Chureca could only dream of the next meal.
Travel is an eye-opener. Compared to so many places around the world, young women in America have enormous opportunity and can determine the course of their lives. Living in a free-market society means that those who work hard can better their lives in ways unimaginable to women in other countries.
Women in this country can go to college and, in fact, they attain more degrees than men. Women can choose any profession and start their own businesses. They can work inside the home, outside the home, or do both. Free enterprise in America is the great equalizer between men and women.
In contrast, where governments make it difficult to start or grow a business because of corruption, overregulation, high taxes, or cronyism, women have significantly less opportunity to find a good job or to start a business themselves. They have less disposable income to pursue their dreams of education,starting a family, or making a better life. In many parts of the world, women are victims of corrupt and overbearing governments. Their lives are not their own. However, to hearthe politicians or special interests talk about women in America,you would think the opposite were true.
The narrative suggests that American women are victims, whereas women in socialist countries are free and prosperous. The “war on women” mantra still echoes from the last election cycle.Remember the “Life of Julia” cartoon on President Obama’s website? It depicted an ideal woman’s life as dependent on government programs from birth to old age. There was nomention of a helpful family, spouse, neighbor, church, or community—and worse, no sense of self-determination,strength, or ability on the woman’s part. The message was: We will take care of you, because you need it.
The depiction of women as victims is demeaning and disempowering. Insultingly, it makes America appear to be the worst place in the world to raise our daughters. No attention is given to places like La Chureca, where women work in the dump; rural Pakistan, where 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for advocating girls’ education; or Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive.
Moreover, “war on women” propagandists never talk about the trade-offs of the growing welfare state, which range from the rise in dependency to the $16 trillion debt to the drag of taxationon the economy.
Nor do they talk about how the big-government policies they advocate have made life tough for women in southern Europe. It’s better there than in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, to be sure. But things are grim for the average Greek or Italian woman trying to put food on the table. It’s no place to have a thriving female-owned business. The bottom line: poor government decisions do not help women.
I am grateful that my daughter had a chance to experience life in La Chureca, Nicaragua, to volunteer among its struggling families, and to see with her own eyes how fortunate she is to live in America. Sarah isn’t going to fall for the “war on women” myth while in college. She knows that as long as America is free, she can choose her own path.