Women’s Rights in Djibouti and What the US is Doing to HelpGenerally speaking, many inequalities exist between men and women in Djibouti. Men make up the vast majority of the national workforce. Women have a very low proportion of representation in government compared to men. Historically, the state permitted many forms of unjust treatment for women. In recent years, the Djiboutian government has made many strides in improving the lives of women through legislation, the ratification of international treaties and the cooperation with foreign governmental agencies. In spite of these improvements, quite a bit of work remains in order to assure women’s rights in Djibouti.

Women in the Workforce

Djibouti’s constitution, ratified in 1992, states that all people are equal under the law regardless of sex, language, origin, race or religion. Nevertheless, large gaps exist between men and women which is particularly evident within the workforce. Only 19% of women are employed, compared to 81% of men. According to the Labor Code and Penal Code, all people are protected from discrimination when seeking employment. It is illegal for employers to take into account one’s gender when hiring and is punishable by imprisonment and fines. Furthermore, employers are required to pay men and women equally for equal work.  In spite of these legal protections, labor restrictions still exist for women. For example, women are restricted from working a job that is considered above their strength. This frequently excludes women from jobs that include any manual labor. Thereby, it contributes to 19% employment rate.

Domestic Issues

When it comes to domestic issues, obstacles stand in the way of women having equality within the family. For example, men can request a divorce without the burden of evidence. However, for a woman, she must surrender any financial rights and sometimes even pay her spouse damages. Furthermore, the high illiteracy rate of women in Djibouti (61%) causes women to have minimal access to justice, information regarding their rights and legal assistance. In terms of domestic violence, the penal code only criminalizes violence generally. However, it does not provide specific legal protections from domestic violence. Rape is a violent act and punishable under the law. In spite of this, marital rape remains taboo and is rarely prosecuted.

Gender-based Violence

Gender-based violence (GBV) is another women’s rights issue in Djibouti. The Djibouti federal government has taken many administrative and legal actions to outlaw gender-based violence and reduce its occurrence. The Ministry of Women and Family collaborates with the National Union of Djiboutian Women (UNFD) to combat gender-based violence. This collaboration advocates for better legal protections for women and also provides counseling services to victims of GBV.

One of the greatest obstacles for women in terms of GBV is female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C). Many legal instruments are in place that aims at eliminating FGM/C such as Article 333 of the Penal Code and the establishment of the National Committee for the Abandonment of FGM/C. However, FGM/C is still a common practice. As of 2015, an estimated 71% of women and girls were victims of FGM/C. In order to respond to the continued practice of FGM/C, the Ministry of Women and Family released the National Strategy for the Total Abandonment of FGM/C 2018-2022. This plan aims to use radio, television, door-to-door campaigns, school curriculum and high-profile publicity strategies to effectively and quickly eliminate the practice.

How the U.S. Is Helping Djiboutian Women

USAID, through a grant to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), began a two and a half year program entitled “Women’s Empowerment and Community Strengthening.” This plan aims at empowering impoverished women in suburban and rural areas through skills-strengthening strategies.

This program has three primary goals: to improve the capacities of the Ministry of Women and Family, to bolster women’s income-generating skills and to promote new women’s cooperatives. A relatively small-scale operation, the program plans to provide about 850 women with the skills to engage in small-scale economic activities. Some of the program’s successes include the donation of raw materials and equipment to women creating handicrafts. It also includes providing literacy courses to women in national languages and supporting artisan fairs where women can showcase their crafts.

This program through USAID is certainly a step in the right direction in improving women’s rights in Djibouti and the ability to earn income. However, a larger-scale program would do even more to help. In light of the efforts of the Ministry of Women and Family and the more recent structural and legal protections, the future looks hopeful for Djiboutian women.

Alanna Jaffee

Photo: Flickr

Economic Gender Parity in EgyptIn July 2020, the IFC launched a new program called “Closing The Gender Gap Accelerator” to help boost women’s employment in Egypt. In 2019, only 24% of women who were of age to work participated in Egypt’s labor economy, versus 75% of working-age men. It is critical that women are included in the workforce, as the inclusion of women in a country’s workforce greatly boosts a country’s GDP. Private sector companies must realize the potential of women to spur economic growth, especially in the time of recession caused by the ongoing pandemic.

Private Sector Partnership

Therefore, one of the main goals of this program is to bridge the gap between the private and public sectors. The diversity of businesses brought in will provide the necessary local insight and planning to make this project successful. The IFC will be partnering with an Egyptian business association to create this platform for working women and their peers that raises awareness and shares knowledge, as well as improves women’s access to jobs.

From the private sector, four CEOs that have influence over a large spectrum of businesses will lead the Accelerator. Representatives from the private sector include the Commercial International Bank (CIB), Qala’a Holdings, Travco Group International and Delta Investment Holdings. From the public sphere, the program will be led by the Ministry of International Cooperation and the National Commission for Women (NCW).

Egypt is the first country in the African and Middle Eastern region to launch a program that collaborates between the public and private sectors to take action on economic gender parity. As the title “Closing The Gender Gap Accelerator” suggests, the program focuses on four objectives to accelerate gender parity in the workforce in Egypt.

Targeting Obstacles

These objectives are: preparing women for the working world post-COVID-19 pandemic, closing gender gaps in salary, getting more women to participate in Egypt’s workforce and advancing women in the workforce to take part in more leadership and management positions. This program is a three-year initiative that came about as a solution to the serious threats posed to women’s engagement in Egypt’s economy during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The program plans to help make businesses more resilient and inclusive, especially during a crisis.

According to the Ministry of International Cooperation, “The Accelerator is designed to identify key economic gender gaps, develop public and private-sector interventions for narrowing these gaps and commit relevant stakeholders from both sectors to a three-year action plan.”

A recent study showed that Egypt’s gross domestic product (GDP) could jump 32% if the gender gap in the labor market narrowed. Currently, the gender wage gap stands at 22% with women being paid less for the same work as men. With this commitment from both sectors of the country’s economy, it is hopeful that not only will Egypt’s GDP be raised, but there will be great strides taken towards economic gender parity in African and Middle Eastern regions.

– Giulia Silver
Photo: Flickr

covid-19 in africa

On a world map of the distribution of COVID-19 cases, the situation looks pretty optimistic for Africa. While parts of Europe, Asia and the United States have a dark color, indicating relatively high infection rates, most African countries are light in comparison. This has created uncertainty over whether the impact of COVID-19 in Africa is as severe as other continents.

Lack of Testing

A closer look at the areas boasting lighter colors reveals that the situation in Africa is just as obscure as the faded shades that color its countries. In Africa, dark colors indicating high infection rates only mark cities and urban locationsoften the only places where testing is available.

Although insufficient testing has been a problem for countries all over the world, testing numbers are strikingly low in Africa. The U.S. completes 249 tests per 100,000 people per day. In contrast, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, only executes one test per 100,000 people daily. While 6.92% of tests come back positive in the United States, 15.85% are positive in Nigeria. Importantly, Nigeria is one of the best African countries for testing: it carried out 80% of the total number of tests in Africa.

As a continent housing 1.2 billion individuals of the world’s population, Africa is struggling to quantify the impact of COVID-19 without additional testing. To improve these circumstances, the African CDC has set a goal of increasing testing by 1% per month. Realizing the impossibility of reliable testing, countries like Uganda have managed to slow the virus’ spread by imposing strict lockdown measures. As a result, the percentage of positive cases in Uganda was only 0.78% as of Sept. 1, 2020.

A Young Population

COVID-19 in Africa has had a lower fatality rate than any other continent. In fact, many speculate that fatality rates may even be lower than reported. Immunologists in Malawi found that 12% of asymptomatic healthcare workers had the virus at some point. The researchers compared their data with other countries and estimated that death rates were eight times lower than expected.

The most likely reason for the low fatality rate in Africa is its young population. Only 3% of Africans are above 65, compared with 6% in South Asia and 17% in Europe. Researchers are investigating other explanations such as possible immunity to certain variations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and higher vitamin D levels due to greater sunlight exposure.

Weak Healthcare Systems

Despite these factors, the impact of COVID-19 in Africa is likely high. Under-reporting and under-equipped hospitals unprepared to handle surges in cases may contribute to unreliable figures. In South Sudan, there were only four ventilators and 24 ICU beds for a population of 12 million. Accounting for 23% of the world’s diseases and only 1% of global public health expenditure, Africa’s healthcare system was already strained.

Healthcare workers are at the highest risk of infection in every country. In Africa, the shortage of masks and other equipment increases the infection rate among healthcare workers even further. Africa also has the lowest physician-to-patient ratio in the world. As it can take weeks to recover from COVID-19, the infection and subsequent recovery times for healthcare workers imply that fewer are available to work. Thus, COVID-19 in Africa further exacerbates its healthcare shortage.

Additionally, individuals who are at-risk or uninsured can rarely afford life-saving treatment in Africa. For example, a drug called remdesivir showed promising results in treating COVID-19. However, the cost of treatment with remdesivir is $3120. While this is a manageable price for insurance-covered Americans, it is not affordable for the majority of Africans. Poverty therefore has the potential to increase the severity of COVID-19 in Africa.

Economic and Psychological Factors

Strict lockdowns have helped some nations control the spread of COVID-19 in Africa, but at a heavy price. A general lack of technology means that, following widespread school shutdowns, students have stopped learning. Many adults have also lost their jobs. More than 3 million South Africans have become unemployed due to the lockdown.

Furthermore, the lockdowns have also resulted in much higher rates of domestic violence, abuse and child marriage. Many such cases are unreported, meaning that the real scope of the problem is probably larger. Mental health services for victims or those struggling through the pandemic are also often unavailable. In Kenya, the United Nations has appealed for $4 million to support those affected by gender-based violence.

The slow spread of COVID-19 in Africa has allowed the continent and its leaders to prepare. Importantly, its young population will lessen the severity of the virus’ impact. Although these circumstances provide reasons to be hopeful, there is no doubt that Africa’s economy and future will suffer from the virus. This potential highlights the need for foreign assistance not only in controlling COVID-19 in Africa but in the continent’s recovery for years to come.

– Beti Sharew
Photo: Flickr

healthcare worker emigrationThe emigration of skilled healthcare workers from developing countries to higher-income nations has significantly impacted the healthcare systems of the countries these workers leave behind. The quantity and quality of healthcare services have declined as a result of healthcare worker shortages. While there is still incredible room for growth, recent governmental strategies have incentivized healthcare workers to work in their home countries.

Why Is Healthcare Worker Emigration a Problem?

When healthcare workers emigrate, they leave hospitals in developing countries without enough skilled workers. Lower-income countries are likely to carry a greater amount of the global disease burden while having an extremely low healthcare staff to patient ratio. For example, sub-Saharan Africa only has 3% of all healthcare workers worldwide, while it carries 25% of the global disease burden. In many African countries with severe healthcare worker emigration, like Lesotho and Uganda, hospitals become overcrowded. Furthermore, hospitals cannot provide proper treatment for everyone due to the lack of skilled workers.

This directly affects the quality of care patients receive in countries with high healthcare worker emigration. Newborn, child and maternal health outcomes are worse when there are worker shortages. When fewer workers are available, fewer people receive healthcare services and the quality of care worsens for populations in need.

Why Do Healthcare Workers Emigrate?

The emigration of doctors, nurses, and other skilled healthcare workers from developing countries occurs for a number of reasons. The opportunity for higher wages elsewhere is often the most important factor in the decision to emigrate. Additionally, healthcare workers may migrate to higher-income nations to find political stability and achieve a better quality of life. The rate of highly skilled worker emigration, which has been on the rise since it was declared a major public health issue in the 1940s, has left fragile healthcare systems with a diminished workforce.

Moreover, the United States and the United Kingdom, two of the countries receiving the greatest numbers of healthcare worker immigrants, actively recruit healthcare workers from developing countries. These recruitment programs aim to combat the U.S. and U.K.’s own shortages of healthcare workers. Whether or not these programs factor into workers’ migration, both the U.S. and the U.K. are among the top five countries to which 90% of migrating physicians relocate.

Mitigating Healthcare Worker Emigration

The World Health Organization suggests that offering financial incentives, training and team-based opportunities can contribute to job satisfaction. This may motivate healthcare workers to remain in the healthcare system of their home country. Some developing countries have implemented these strategies to incentivize healthcare professionals to remain in their home countries.

For example, Malawi faced an extreme shortage of healthcare workers in the early 2000s. Following policy implementation addressing healthcare worker emigration, the nation has seen a decrease in the emigration rate. Malawi’s government launched the Emergency Human Resources Program (EHRP) in 2004. This program promoted worker retention through a 52% salary increase, additional training and the recruitment of volunteer nursing tutors and doctors. 

In only five years after the EHRP began, the proportion of healthcare workers to patients grew by 66% while emigration declined. Malawi expanded upon this program in 2011 with the Health Sector Strategic Plan. Following this plan, the number of nurses in Malawi grew from 4,500 in 2010 to 10,000 in 2015. Though the nation still faces some worker shortages, it hopes to continue to address this with further policy changes.

Trinidad is another a country that has mitigated the challenges faced by the emigration of healthcare workers. Trinidadian doctors who train in another country now get government scholarships to pay for their training. However, these scholarships rest on the condition that they return home to practice medicine for at least five years. Such a financial incentive creates a stronger foundation for healthcare professionals to practice in their home country.

A Turn Toward Collaboration

A recent study determined that the collaboration of nurses, doctors and midwives significantly decreased mortality for mothers and children in low-income countries. As developing countries work toward generating strategies to manage the emigration of healthcare workers, a team-based approach can improve the quality of healthcare. When there are shortages of certain kinds of health professionals in remote areas, family health teams composed of workers in varying health disciplines can collaborate to provide care. 

Improving working conditions and providing both financial and non-financial incentives to healthcare professionals in developing countries not only benefits workers and the patients, but the nation’s healthcare infrastructure as a whole. An increase in the number of skilled healthcare workers in developing countries gives people there the opportunity for a better life.

– Ilana Issula
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Lebanon
Three recent events in Lebanon have crucially impacted its ability to feed its people. Conversely, there are three organizations or political actors working to combat the devastating hunger and guide Lebanon toward food security. Here are three recent crises and three organizations that are working to provide aid and reduce hunger in Lebanon.

The Beirut Explosion

On August 4, 2020, an explosion devastated the port of Beirut, Lebanon. Without a functioning port, the country is missing 65% to 80% of its food imports. The explosion destroyed 15,000 metric tons of wheat and the main grain silos. The disaster at the port has exacerbated hunger in Lebanon by preventing and delaying access to food, while also increasing the cost of imported food.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

As of early August 2020, the World Food Programme (WFP) agreed to distribute 5,000 food parcels to families currently suffering from hunger in Lebanon in light of the explosion. Each package includes necessities such as rice, sugar and oil and contains enough ingredients to feed five people for one month. Moreover, the World Food Programme has partnered with the government’s National Poverty Targeting Programme to provide over 100,000 Lebanese people with prepaid debit cards so they can purchase groceries. Lastly, the organization, in partnership with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered 8.5 metric tons of surgical and trauma equipment to Beirut two days after the explosion. Not only will this equipment help those the disaster affected, but it will also allow the country to focus on repairing the port, which is crucial to its survival.

The Challenges of COVID-19

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has made it significantly more difficult for families to put food on the table, and Lebanon is no exception. Relieving the devastating effects of the virus has become more important than addressing food insecurity. In a recent study that the World Food Programme conducted, due to the virus, one in three workers have found themselves unemployed and one in five workers have seen a pay cut. Moreover, there has been a country-wide halt in channeling resources toward hunger, as they have all gone toward the containment of COVID-19.

The United Nations

The United Nations has involved itself in providing aid to Lebanon during the COVID-19 pandemic. UNICEF, an organization that provides aid to children across the globe, has created an eight-point plan for countries in the Middle East and North Africa dealing with the combined effects of COVID-19 and food insecurity. There are three points in particular that are closely related to the inability to afford food due to COVID-19. These points include establishing job and income security for those who perform agricultural or casual labor and instigating social protection schemes and community programs for the benefit of vulnerable groups and those who are unemployed due to lockdowns. The aforementioned will ensure access to sufficient, safe and nutritious foods. Another point involves creating a food security and nutrition surveillance system that will collect and update necessary information to identify populations at risk and address factors that will negatively affect said populations.

Furthermore, the UNHCR, a refugee agency, has allocated $43 million as of late August 2020 in response to the coronavirus and its effects. This aid will allow Lebanon to purchase proper medical equipment and create isolation units, both of which will help treat those suffering from the virus and slow its spread. As a result, Lebanon can renew its feverous efforts on solving hunger.

Political and Economic Turmoil

Since October 2019, an extensive list including corruption and civil unrest has led Lebanon’s economy to the tip of a very steep iceberg. The Lebanese pound has since lost over 80% of its value, thousands of businesses have gone under and candlelight is the new normal. Due to these extreme changes in the political and economic climates, hunger in Lebanon has reached an unprecedented level, affecting citizens and refugees alike. To bridge their income gap, citizens have reported spending less money on food, an intuitively counteractive response. As for the 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon due to civil war in their home country, nearly 200,000 have reported going 24 hours without eating, and 360,000 have reported skipping meals.

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity has been providing help to Lebanon. The branch of this organization based in Great Britain employs tradesmen and builders from the Lebanese and Syrian communities in order to complete its various infrastructure projects in Lebanon. For example, empty and distressed buildings that vulnerable families reside have undergone rehabilitation. Rehabilitation efforts included water and sanitation upgrades, heat and solar light installation and the addition of necessary furniture such as beds. During this process, the spaces were either free or had reduced rent. Not only does this benefit the community by providing jobs which in turn boosts the economy, but it also allows families to focus their resources on food as opposed to shelter, an issue specific to refugees.

Despite how daunting the aforementioned issues are, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Various global organizations are taking action to bring attention to and end hunger in Lebanon. As resources and support continue to pour into the country, the people of Lebanon will begin to see brighter days.

– Mary Qualls
Photo: Flickr

International Day of Peace
The International Day of Peace has been occurring every year in September since 1981 and celebrates the building of a peaceful and sustainable world. Countries across the globe gather within communities to both reflect on past achievements and come up with what further progress they can accomplish. Here are five important facts about this International Day.

 5 Facts About The International Day of Peace

  1. A Celebration of Peace. According to The UN General Assembly, International Peace Day is “a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24-hours of non-violence and cease-fire.” Established in 1981, The International Day of Peace celebrated its 29th anniversary on September 21, 2020. Peace-related issues were on the agenda to discuss and practice throughout the day, with education and public-awareness being top priorities. The United Nations designates International Days to educate, mobilize and celebrate humanity’s achievements throughout the years. Chosen by the General Assembly, International Days are to align with the main goals of the United Nations that focus on peace, sustainability and humanitarianism.
  2. The Effects of COVID-19. Alpena Peace Coalitions 30 Days of Peace, also known as International Peace Day, usually occurs in September and October of each year but did not happen in 2020 due to health and safety concerns regarding COVID-19. These implications make it just as, if not much more, important to strive towards and celebrate peace during challenging times. Global communities observe this day differently. Whether it is organizing peace workshops, engaging in food festivities, putting up ‘peace poles’ or engaging in peace activities, the overall goal is to bring people together despite the differences they may have.
  3. The Symbolism of the Dove. The First International Peace Conference occurred in Paris in 1949, and it used Pablo Picasso’s ‘Dove of Peace’ as its emblem. Since then, people have known the dove as the most recognizable symbol of peace. Greek mythology and Biblical renderings also use the symbol of the dove, usually with an olive branch, to signify renewal and tranquility.
  4. New Communities’ Interaction this Year. Save the Children Philippines joined 2020’s International Day of Peace with the goal to end discrimination against children. Armed conflicts, natural disasters and the continued COVID-19 pandemic have placed children in vulnerable conditions that people often overlook. Save the Children Philippines is launching the Restoring Lives and Learning in Marawi project, which “aims to provide livelihood and emergency employment to displaced families during the Marawi Siege in 2017 and ensure continued learning of their children.” It will also establish new community projects and provide short-term employment for working-age men and women.
  5. The Significance of 2020’s Theme. The year 2020’s theme of “Shaping Peace Together,” is especially significant in the face of a global pandemic. In a time of division and outbreak, it is so important to come together as a community to advocate for change and peace. The poorest parts of the world have experienced the worst outcomes of this pandemic, increasing violence and forced migration. A statement that the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, released highlighted the progress that the world has made as well as what still requires accomplishing. He also pointed out the need for the world to work together as a “global community” towards fighting extremities that this pandemic continues to cause. Tackling not one, but multiple inequalities that that world faces as a global community requires the help of all citizens.

It is important to keep in mind that the main components that led the world to establish the International Day of Peace are ones to hold on to. Especially during a global pandemic, the power of coming together is so much greater than simply just standing back and waiting for the good to arrive. People have the means to help out the underdogs and this day is a reminder to do just that.

– Natalie Whitmeyer
Photo: Flickr

Video Advocacy in AfricaWITNESS Media Lab, a nonprofit based in the Brooklyn neighborhood of New York City, protects human rights. How? By providing victims of social injustice with technology resources, verification platforms and video curation methods. Global internet users have increased by approximately three billion between 2005 and 2019 due to increasing access to mobile technology. Video advocacy in Africa is now being used to expose gross injustices, across the continent.

Platforms like WITNESS extend human rights advocacy toward the field of technology. WITNESS uses film footage to publicize global crimes against humanity. Also, impoverished communities reach a large audience through film resources that help contextualize and disseminate eyewitness documentation.

The Borgen Project spoke with Adebayo Okeowo, WITNESS Africa Program Manager and human rights lawyer, to gain insight on WITNESS’s involvement in Africa. In 2017, internet access in sub-Saharan Africa increased to 25%, providing approximately 25% of the population with access to online, human rights resources.

A Digitized Form of Advocacy

Video advocacy is film footage used to publicize humanitarian issues that require international attention. WITNESS provides resources on video production and curation, allowing documented forms of injustice to reach a wider audience. Once issues of injustice receive global attention, influential policymakers and human rights lawyers are more likely to intervene.

According to The World Bank, “eight of the ten most unequal countries in the world, when looking at the Gini coefficient, are in sub-Saharan Africa.” Socioeconomic conditions such as income inequality, government corruption and inequitable tax systems lead to high levels of disparity in impoverished African nations. As inequality rises in Africa, remote villages face an increased likelihood of war and violence. Here, video advocacy in Africa holds great potential for change. WITNESS helps reduce inequality by assisting in the publication and preservation of videos that expose injustices.

Capturing Global Attention

Although internet access has risen in sub-Saharan Africa, remote communities face challenges in bringing global awareness to humanitarian issues. For instance, inadequate IT infrastructure and poor Wi-Fi connection can lead to a decline in internet access. This, in turn, decreases the number of users who document and publicize acts of injustice. This presents a challenge for video advocacy in Africa. Furthermore, rural African communities lack global attention, to begin with. This, in turn, makes it difficult for humanitarian crises to gain traction in the media.

Okeowo stated that when the 2015 Baga massacre occurred in the same week as the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, hashtags like #JeSuisCharlie trended on Twitter while the mass killing of approximately 2,000 Nigerians failed to reach global news. Okeowo told The Borgen Project that “we must double our efforts in prioritizing interventions in every corner where there is injustice, but more especially in the forgotten places.”

Justice for Child Soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

In 2012, WITNESS partnered with AJEDI-Ka, a local nonprofit in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The aim was to assist in the conviction of militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. WITNESS and AJEDI-Ka presented two films comprising video documentation of Lubanga recruiting child soldiers to the International Criminal Court (ICC). As a result, the ICC sentenced Lubanga to 14 years in prison for the war crime of enlisting child soldiers under the age of 15.

The video documentation, ranging back to 2003, initiated an ICC investigation by providing general information on Lubanga’s war crimes. WITNESS, AJEDI-Ka and the ICC protected the human rights of potential child soldiers by holding Lubanga accountable for breaking international law. The 2012 ICC verdict and the 2014 upheld conviction signaled a warning to future militia leaders planning to recruit children for military purposes.

Okeowo told The Borgen Project that film publication “is not so much about how many eyes see the video, but that the right set of eyes see the video.” WITNESS is one of the leading organizations using video documentation to bring justice to impoverished areas, representing approximately 135 countries globally.

– Madeline Zuzevich
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Microsoft's Global Skills InitiativeIn the wake of COVID-19, economies across the world have been hit hard. Countries alike have seen decreases across all economic sectors as quarantine and stay-at-home orders were mandated in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. People transitioned to working remotely, while millions of others lost their jobs entirely due to market crashes. In an effort to cushion the economic travesty that the pandemic has bought, Microsoft is launching a global initiative, partnering with LinkedIn and Github, to teach 25 million people across the world new digital skills. Microsoft’s global skills initiative aims to remedy the global economic impact that has come with COVID-19.

Digital Skills

Microsoft believes these newfound digital skills will give people the ability to take on jobs where digital skills are necessary in order to be successful. The initiative targets those who have lost jobs due to the pandemic, as well as minorities, women and others affected by poverty.

Recent statistics predict that over 250 million people globally may be unemployed by the end of 2020 due to COVID-19. Microsoft found that in the U.S. alone, in May 2020, women had an unemployment rate of 14.4% compared to men who were at 12%. Additionally, Latinx populations had unemployment rates of 16.7%, which is much higher than other groups. These statistics indicate why the initiative particularly targets populations such as women and minorities.

By learning digital skills, those who are at an economic disadvantage will be able to take on jobs in the digital age and improve their economic status. Those who attain these newfound skills might even be able to teach others and distribute their knowledge to uplift an entire community.

Three-step Process

The three partnered companies have come up with a three-step process that they hope will encourage economic growth in communities across the globe. The first part relates to the Linkedin Economic Graph. The Economic Graph is a digital representation of the global economy based on more than 690 million professionals, 50 million companies, 11 million job listings, 36,000 defined skills and 90,000 schools. In short, it is data that shows available jobs and their required skills as well as global hiring rates. These insights will help create economic opportunities for the global workforce.

The second part consists of free tools, programs and content that people will be provided with, in order to learn the skills necessary for job applications. This initiative will give people free access to content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn and the GitHub Learning Lab.

Thirdly, low-cost certifications and other cost-free job-seeking tools will be available to help people pursue new jobs with their newly developed skills.

Along with this digital skills initiative, Microsoft will be backing $20 million worth of cash grants that will be distributed across the globe to different nonprofit organizations. These grants will help nonprofits to combat the effects of the pandemic and allow the nonprofits to further extend reach in order to help more people.

Microsoft believes that global shutdowns and social distancing have accelerated the path to digitalization in all fields and economies. The company knows that digital tools are now necessary regardless of the field of work and will continue to be relevant far after the pandemic has passed. Microsoft’s global skills initiative may help the world’s economic recovery and may possibly uplift the entire globe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

George Hashemi
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid Policies In 2019, the Overseas Development Institute came out with the principled aid index to assess the degree to which donor countries are contributing to a prosperous world. According to the report, the principled foreign aid policies not only benefit the country that receives the aid, but it also serves the interests of the donor country. Below is a list of how this report’s top five countries are using their foreign aid:

5 Countries Foreign Aid Policies

  1. Luxembourg is a small country in Western Europe that has pledged 0.96% of its gross national income (GNI) to go towards development and aid. It is one of the few countries that meet a goal set by the U.N. to dedicate 0.7% of a country’s GNI to foreign aid. Luxembourg starts by targeting some of its partner countries, which include Burkina Faso, Nicaragua, Mali and Senegal. With remaining funds, Luxembourg helps provide humanitarian assistance in Kosovo, the Palestinian territories and Vietnam. The country also focuses on private enterprises through microfinance and inclusive finance to help promote productivity. In 2020, Luxembourg joined the International Aid Transparency Initiative which motivates the government to share data about foreign aid spending with the public. Accountability is an important factor in creating sustainable aid.
  1. The United Kingdom is another country that has met the U.N. goal of 0.7% of GNI for foreign aid. The U.K. set the goal back in 1974 but recently achieved it in 2013. Additionally, the government inscribed the goal into law in 2015 so that the country now has a legal duty to achieve it. Around 64% of the U.K.’s foreign aid goes to countries for bilateral aid. The main recipients of bilateral aid include Pakistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Syria and Afghanistan. The remaining 36% of the U.K.’s foreign aid goes to multilateral institutions like the E.U. and the U.N. Additionally, the U.K. has also provided humanitarian aid for Liberia and Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak. Also, the country offered assistance to Nepal and Indonesia — following natural disasters and Somalia during the hunger crisis.
  1. Sweden has continuously met the U.N. goal since 1976. The country even made its own goal to dedicate 1% of its GNI to foreign aid in 2008. In 2019, Sweden allotted 0.98% of its GNI for foreign aid. Along with Norway, Sweden is considered to be a “humanitarian superpower.” The Swedish development cooperation, also known as Sida, is Sweden’s leading agency for providing foreign assistance. Sweden has 33 partner countries that it helps by creating income opportunities and strengthening democracy. Sweden is dedicated to helping achieve the U.N., 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The country’s primary goals include human rights, democracy and the rule of law, gender equality, the environment and climate change, health equity and education and research.
  1. Norway has met the U.N. goal for providing foreign aid since 1976. In 2019, Norway apportioned 1.02% of its GNI for foreign aid and development. Norway’s foreign aid policies use an approach that follows the 2005 Paris principles. These principles value ownership, alignment, harmonization, managing for results and accountability. Norway provides foreign aid funding for civil society organizations and budget support. The country also uses a large part of its budget to help people inside its borders. For example, Norway has used part of its budget to provide for its refugee population, which included more than 50,000 refugees in 2019.
  1. Ireland currently does not meet the U.N. goal, but the country is hoping to double its impact by 2025. In 2017, 0.36% of Ireland’s GNI went toward its foreign aid budget. Ireland’s foreign aid focuses on developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The country hopes to combat the issues of displacement and conflict, which Ireland’s main concern — climate change, tends to exacerbate. Additionally, developing countries are more likely to feel the effects of climate change disproportionately as compared with developed countries.

Striding Forward

These five countries’ foreign aid policies are impressive examples of how developed nations can make valuable contributions to global well-being. Hopefully, more undeveloped countries continue to benefit from foreign aid policies of more developed nations. Likewise, it is important these developed countries continue their efforts to achieve the U.N. goals, for theirs and the world’s greater benefit.

Camryn Anthony
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger in maldivesThe Maldives, a series of islands bordering both India and Sri Lanka, has faced increased obstacles with food security and hunger. With a population of 515,696 citizens, it is estimated that over 10.3% are battling with hunger. However, increased efforts have been made to combat this rise in hunger in the Maldives.

Problem in Numbers

With various scattered islands in the Maldives, it must be noted that a majority of citizens live in urban areas. However, despite this setting, 17.3% of children in the Maldives are underweight while 10.6% are wasted — a condition where a child’s muscle and fat tissues dissolve away to the bone.

It is also estimated that 36% of babies are not exclusively breastfed in their first six months of life, leading many to not receive the necessary nutrients to develop. This heavily contributes to serious health problems in the future.

In addition to the youth being affected by malnutrition, it must be noted that the adult population is also facing a malnutrition burden, with 42.6% of women of reproductive age having anemia.

Causes of Hunger and Poverty

Food insecurity in the Maldives points towards a variety of factors. A recent cause is resultant poverty caused by a lack of tourists. It is estimated that tourism accounts for two-thirds of the nation’s GDP. However, recent border closures due to COVID-19 have severely impacted citizens on a national scale. With one-third of adult males and a quarter of females engaged in tourism-related occupations, thousands have lost their jobs, making it harder for people to provide food and other basic necessities for their families.

Climate change, environmental degradation and declining ocean health severely threaten food security in the Maldives. Rapid changes in temperatures, flooding and drought, impact agricultural yields, reducing the ability to locally produce food.

Another factor that contributes to hardships is the decline of exports in the fish sector. With fishery accounting for another large portion of the nation’s GDP, many families who depend on fisheries as their main source of income have experienced serious financial impacts.

Road to Change

Despite the increased rates of hunger among the Maldivian population, organizations have stepped up to aid the needy. A prominent organization is the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which has dedicated itself to developing both fisheries and agriculture in the Maldives.

The main course of action for the FAO was to reassess the situation in the Maldives and open opportunities to grow the fishery and agriculture sector. Through promoting a stable framework, the organization enabled thousands to enter new jobs in the agriculture industry while accelerating demand for certain goods.

Another course of action was teaching sustainable practices to hundreds of Maldivian farmers. By helping with smaller-scale farms, FAO was able to heavily accelerate growth, boosting production in underprivileged communities. The FAO also helped equip farmers to thrive during climate change. The organization provided farmers with knowledge and methods to increase the productivity of their crops, livestock and fisheries in the face of adverse climatic conditions.

Despite great aid from the FAO, the Maldives continues to face problems in feeding the entirety of its population. Organizations like the FAO can help in the short-term but the Maldives needs government assistance to see long-term change. For the Maldives to see a reduced hunger rate, the government must act alongside nonprofit organizations to increase food security in the country. With the help of NGOs and the Maldivian government, the overall hunger rate in the Maldives can be reduced.

Aditya Padmaraj
Photo: UNDP