Leading Article: Give Women Their Rights and - Raise a Continent ; AFRICA : This Article Is from the (RED) Edition of the Independent of 21 September 2006, Guest-Designed by Giorgio Armani. Half the Revenue from the Edition Will Be Donated to the Global Fund to Fight Aids

Article excerpt

What's black and white and (RED) all over? We live in a world of increasing sophistication and interconnectedness in which the issues of international politics can seem dauntingly complex. It is as well then sometimes to remind ourselves as we do today with this second (RED) edition of The Independent where half of the revenue the newspaper makes today will be donated to the Global Fund to fight Aids that there are some stark simplicities too. And that when it comes to Africa some things are, all too literally, black and white as the scale of global inequality dramatically reveals.

The statistics we set out on our other pages today tell a simple enough story. Had the white woman on our front page really been a black African she would work at least three hours longer every day' she would most likely be illiterate, be 200 times more likely to die in childbirth and be a million times more likely to be HIV positive. Based on average expectancy, her life would be almost over rather than not yet halfway through.

The (RED) project is one response to this shocking disparity. Through it a number of multinational companies commit to giving a cut of their profits on certain tailored products to fighting Africa's top killer disease. All the consumer has to do is buy. It is a great idea allowing ordinary people to do their bit to help, via a daily part of their everyday lives shopping for a better world.

But we all know it will take more than a bit of enlightened shopping to right some of the wrongs of the people of Africa. Consider the continent's women who produce 70 per cent of Africa's food and yet own less than 1 per cent of its property. Addressing their plight is not just a question of natural justice. It is what will drive the process of development in Africa.

Women are the backbone of Africa's economy. They do most of the farming, herding and selling. …