Women’s Political Participation in Egypt
Although the advancement of women’s rights in Egypt has faced barriers in the past, change is on the horizon. The World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report notes progress in terms of gender equality. In particular, Egypt has made advancements for women in politics. A closer look at the country’s policies and culture around women’s political participation in Egypt will show how Egypt has garnered such success and point to the areas still in need of improvement.

Electoral Quota System in Egypt

Women in Egypt gained suffrage and the right to run for election with the 1956 Constitution. Before the 1979 elections, Egypt implemented a quota of 30 seats (9% of total seats in the People’s Assembly) reserved for women. In 1984, 36 women held seats. Eventually, arguments arose against the quota and Egypt repealed it in 1987, leading to the decline of female representation down to just nine women out of the 454 members of the People’s Assembly (2%) from 2005 to 2010. Over the next few years, Egypt reinstated the quota system and repealed it again. In 2014, Egypt implemented a new quota system, which includes non-gender-related quotas.

In 2019, Egypt amended the constitution to reserve at least 25% of seats in parliament for women, leading to a dramatic rise in women’s political participation in Egypt. Women hold 162 seats in the new parliamentary term (2016-2021), making up 27% of parliament, marking the first time this percentage surpassed 15%. As a consequence, “Egypt now ranks 67th in the world for women’s representation.”

According to the Global Gender Gap Report of 2021, Egypt is one of three MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) countries that closed its Political Empowerment Gap between 20% and 22.7%, with all other countries at 15.1% or lower.

Voting Registration

Egypt now automatically registers voters once they turn 18, which has increased women’s voting turnout. Although voter registration is about even now, there remain certain barriers that women voters face before turning in their ballots. Egypt requires “a valid digital passport, a valid ID card, or an invalid ID card that bears a valid identification number.”

Although this seems protocol for most countries, women in Egypt face cultural challenges when presented with such requirements. Women are more unlikely to possess a valid ID card, and if they do have one, their husbands often hold onto the cards, which may prevent a woman from voting without her husband’s permission. In order to ensure women’s political participation in Egypt, Egypt must address these barriers.

UN Empowers Egyptian Women

Clearly, women are making great advances in the political realm in Egypt. Now, the challenge is to ensure women’s representation goes beyond tokenism. The quota system Egypt implemented will increase numbers, but ensuring women’s voices receive support goes beyond the election.

U.N. Women Egypt works to address all areas that impact women’s lives in Egypt. Past initiatives have dealt with educational opportunities, economic empowerment, violence against women and political participation. One example of U.N. Women Egypt’s advocacy for women’s political participation in Egypt is its work with the National Council for Women (NCW) and partners to issue ID cards for women. The cards have stamps with the slogan “Your ID, Your Right.”

Again, alongside the NCW, U.N. Women Egypt helped encourage women in 27 governorates to “vote and/or run for candidacy at the municipal level,” reaching 35,000 women. As time passes, the number of women in political representation continues to increase.

Despite cultural difficulties, Egypt is making obvious efforts to include women in its policymaking. As the nation’s efforts continue and women also rise up in the government, Egypt will move toward gender equality in its politics.

– Rachael So
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in Tanzania
USAID is working jointly with the Tanzanian government to reduce poverty and improve nutrition, especially in the agricultural sector. The Feed the Future initiative and the Tanzanian government provide targeted investments focused on developing the private sector. In turn, these investments will contribute to the long-term sustainability of programs that reduce poverty and improve nutrition. In practice, these investments assist small-holder farmers employed in agriculture in Tanzania to increase their production and be more competitive in the production and marketing of their products. These efforts have consequently increased farmers’ access to markets because of a greater ability to construct rural feeder roads.

Although problems remain, there are sure signs of progress for this U.S. and Tanzania partnership. Among these returns on investment, participating farmers have seen their productivity of rice per acre close to doubling and now “at least 450,000 people have benefited from the Feed the Future value chain interventions,” according to USAID. Another promising partnership addressing the sustainability of agriculture in the country is Tanzania’s own, Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT).

SAT – Solutions for Tanzania’s Agriculture

According to USAID Feed the Future report from November 2019, the United Republic of Tanzania is one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa. Success in economic growth aside, over 49% of the population suffers from extreme poverty, living on less than $1.90 per day. Furthermore, over 34% of children under age 5 suffer from stunting and about 45% of women of reproductive age are anemic. Much of Tanzania’s public health and economic woes are in part attributable to the agricultural sector, a sector that employs 75% of the population and provides about a third of GDP.

Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT), a member of the umbrella organization International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM Organics International), is a solutions-based organization that combines education, marketing, research and networking to improve agriculture in the country. SAT alleviates food insecurity, poverty and malnutrition by addressing unsustainable farming practices through educating, marketing, researching and networking in Tanzania.

This combination of tactics has resulted in small-holder farmers all over Tanzania seeing significant benefits. The benefits these expertise programs have brought to Tanzania include an average 38% increase in participating farmers’ income and an increase in production reported by 66% of facilitated farmers, according to SAT. The health benefits for Tanzanians entail a near-zero exposure to environmental toxins because farmers avoid the use of chemicals and 76% of facilitated farmers reported a more balanced diet. Both of these developments have had a positive impact on public health in the country. As for gains in sustainability, after SAT programs assist farmers, such as the organization’s soil management programs, facilitated farmers saw their agricultural water consumption reduced by 59%, SAT reports. In total, SAT programs have promoted progress in attaining a more profitable, healthier and sustainable Tanzanian agriculture.

SAT has been a monumental partner in Tanzanian agriculture, hence the organization’s acceptance of the “One World Award” in February 2022, an award given to those organizations and people who make the world a better place. SAT has made leaps in progress in Tanzania getting closer to reaching the U.N. ‘s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but the ambitions of IFOAM extend to the rest of the world.

Exporting SAT’s Success

IFOAM, a coalition of successful organizations such as SAT, operates on the international level promoting organic agriculture in pursuit of the U.N. SDGs that aim for zero-hunger (SDG 2), good health and well-being (SDG 3) and responsible production and consumption (SDG 12). Organic agriculture can aid in achieving SDG 2 for zero hunger because it increases and stabilizes yields. This in turn saves money that would otherwise have gone towards chemical treatment. SDG 3 for good health and well-being is on its way to success since farmers, after learning from said programs, are ceasing to use polluting synthetic chemicals on crops, which in turn reduces the harmful effects of chemical exposure on people. Furthermore, SDG 12 for responsible production and consumption is closer to success because these programs consolidate value chains, easing the ability of local economies to procure food.

Organizations such as SAT have proven instrumental for Tanzania, creating long-term sustainable development in the country’s agriculture. To export such success is a task for far larger organizations such as IFOAM. The path towards attaining the U.N. SDGs will require the continued commitment of governments, private sector and local partners and NGOs just like SAT and IFOAM. Going forward, the combined efforts of organizations such as SAT and IFOAM are promising signs of progress toward reducing global poverty and a more sustainable world.

– Chester Lankford
Photo: Flickr

Japan’s Foster Care System
In Japan, about 45,000 children cannot be raised by their biological parents because of varying reasons including abuse, illness and economic hardship. According to the U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, children “should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.” In many ways, Japan falls behind other countries in their efforts to support its children that are removed from their birth parents. Here are five facts about Japan’s foster care system.

5 Facts About Japan’s Foster Care System

  1. Foster Families Adopt Only 12% of Children: An overwhelming amount of Japanese children not living with their biological parents are in orphanages. The U.N.’s Convention states that if biological parents cannot raise their child, then the most desirable placement would be with a blood relative or very close individual to the family. After that, the next best would be with a family through adoption. Foster care is a temporary solution for children to live in a family home while a permanent solution is unavailable. Through adoption, Japan only places approximately 500 children with families per year. For comparison, the United States places more than 50,000 children and the U.K. places more than 4,500 children. Alongside low adoption rates, the number of foster families is also too low. At 12% of children in Japan’s foster care system, according to Japan Children Support Association, it trails far behind other countries.
  2. Orphanages are Too Large: Ideally, orphanages can remain small to reproduce a similar environment that would be in a home. Japan, on the other hand, has orphanages so large that the U.N. has released warnings. Even with enough staff on rotating shifts to provide one-to-one interaction, the care would not allow the children to develop attachments. Furthermore, Japan ranks the lowest among developed countries for their staff to child ratio in orphanages, which is about 1 to 1.3, according to Japan Children Support Association. Japan hopes to solve this problem with its foster care system.
  3. Reports of Child Abuse Have Increased: Child abuse reports have been on an upward trend in Japan. According to Japan Children Support Association, reports exceeded 130,000 in 2017. Additionally, in fiscal 2019, this number grew to 205,029. In fiscal 2020, the number of psychological abuse cases was 121,325 and the number of physical abuse cases was 50,033. Some experts may say that the effects of COVID-19 may have increased this number, but there is no doubt that the number continues to rise.
  4. There is Abuse Within Foster Families: A 2014 Human Rights Watch report about Japan’s alternative care for children points out the abuse that lies within Japan’s foster care system and other places within Japan’s alternative care. In 2011, there were 193 cases of child abuse in alternative care institutions. Of the ones that the government found valid, 13% were in foster care or foster families.
  5. There are People Trying to Help: The Nippon Foundation is a private, nonprofit that Ryoichi Sasakawa established in 1962 to increase social innovation and reduce the number of social burdens that Japan faces. One of their projects is the Happy Yurikago Project. It aims to promote awareness of the programs and institutions that surround children in alternative care and to promote such programs as far as they help children grow up in healthy environments. To do so, the project declared April 4 as Adopted Children’s Day. It holds programs to train foster parents to better connect with their foster children.

Concluding Thoughts

All children deserve to grow up in families that love and support them. Japan clearly has ways to go to provide such environments for children that cannot live with their biological parents. Despite a lack of ability to care for such children, there are solutions that Japan is working toward. Continuing to support Japan’s foster care system will ease the burden on orphanages and provide better care for the children.

Rachael So
Photo: Unsplash

Hospitals Empower Women Amid ConflictAmid ongoing crises around the world, hospitals help women deliver babies and maintain good reproductive and sexual health. Supporting hospitals in conflict-ridden countries empowers women and can drastically reduce maternal mortality rates. In Afghanistan, maternal mortality rates have reduced by more than 50% in the past 20 years due to advancements in public health infrastructure. Hospitals empower women amid conflict by providing lifesaving support to new mothers and women of all ages.

Conflict-Ridden Areas

Hospitals and clinics in conflict zones save lives every day, in areas ranging from maternal care to helping the sick and wounded. When conflict strikes, though, medical care facilities experience difficulties procuring medicine, equipment and supplies. The hospitals and clinics may also struggle to maintain a steady supply of fuel and heating. NGOs often help hospitals and clinics in conflict-ridden areas obtain supplies.

In 2021, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) provided two hospitals in Afghanistan with emergency kits containing medicine and equipment to support the “reproductive, maternal and newborn health needs” of more than 300,000 people. In combination with NGO efforts, governmental investments in hospitals and other public health infrastructure are necessary to ensure adequate medical care in conflict zones, especially for women. Well-funded hospitals empower women amid conflict by safeguarding their reproductive health and ensuring safe deliveries.

Health Care for Women

Conflict zones make it difficult for women, children and newborns to access health care. For example, the war in Yemen has prevented many women and children with health emergencies from accessing medical facilities. Limited access to medical care for the Yemeni people has led to an increase in deaths, leaving pregnant women, newborns and children the most vulnerable.

Developing countries are unlikely to have enough fully functioning hospitals to support everyone’s medical needs, especially in times of conflict. Many patients in conflict zones must travel through dangerous sites to receive medical attention from a hospital. Such endeavors are particularly dangerous for pregnant women and women traveling with young children. High-functioning, accessible hospitals are highly beneficial to public health and safety in times of conflict, especially for women and newborns.

Improving Health Care in Conflict Zones

Improvements to health care in conflict zones may involve public and private coordination, addressing context-specific needs and developing sustainable responses to medical emergencies. Public and private coordination efforts may include governmental bodies, humanitarian organizations and other global public health actors including the World Health Organization.

When public and private actors collaborate, the efforts can provide optimized health care to those in need. Context-specific health care initiatives tailor medical care and responses to the most common or urgent needs of a community. Such initiatives involve speaking with local actors and communities to gauge their medical needs. States can improve health care sustainability in conflict zones by improving existing health systems, securing funding and prioritizing the treatment of chronic illnesses.

Robust medical systems are necessary to promote health, safety and peace in conflict-ridden areas. Access to health care is particularly important for pregnant women and newborns as these are highly vulnerable groups in conflict zones. Hospitals empower women amid conflict by providing access to maternal and reproductive health care, which saves lives and ensures safe pregnancies.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr

Workers' Rights In Southeast Asia
Labor laws exist to empower and protect workers’ rights. The rights of employees hold their employers accountable for their well-being in the workplace. Commonly, large corporations take advantage of the world’s poor, knowing they can subject these people to dire working conditions and insufficient wages that threaten the health and safety of workers. Not to mention, these insufficient wages keep individuals in the control of poverty, indefinitely. The U.N. has stated that in Southeast Asia specifically, promising developments have occurred in the area of workers’ rights since March 2021. However, social divides, COVID-19, long-lasting systemic customs and the exploitation of the poor, still hinder the development of workers’ rights in the region. In the hopes of raising awareness, here are five facts about workers’ rights in Southeast Asia.

5 Facts About Workers’ Rights in Southeast Asia

  1. Labor Laws Enforcement in Southeast Asia Needs Improvement: The Second U.N. South Asia Forum on Business and Human Rights took place in March 2021 and it involved 89 countries and 1,500 participants, according to OHCHR. Its purpose was to evaluate the problems and prosperities of workers’ rights in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. This forum resulted in the conclusion that the enforcement of labor laws in Southeast Asia needs improvement. There are plans to discuss country-specific issues and progress for the 2022 forum.
  2. The COVID-19 Pandemic Expedited the Regression of Secure Jobs in Southeast Asia: While a lack of workers’ rights is prominent, the pandemic has caused the existence of work itself to dwindle. The pandemic pushed 4.7 million people in Southeast Asia into poverty due to the disappearance of 9.3 million jobs. This has caused a sense of desperation and willingness for Southeast Asian workers to subject themselves to substandard working conditions, as work has become a scarcity in the aftermath of the pandemic.
  3. Workers Frequently Experience Unequal and Discriminatory Treatment: In the “Access to justice for migrant workers in Southeast Asia” report, findings concluded that while 20.2 million workers in Southeast Asia have access to labor rights, “they frequently experience unequal and discriminatory treatment in practice.” The report explains this problem occurs primarily due to unsuccessful procedures in resolving worker complaints in Southeast Asia, which allows for these workplace abuses to happen.
  4. Modern Slavery: According to a Global Slavery Index report in 2016, Cambodia, Myanmar, Brunei and Thailand are a part of the top 10 Asian countries with the highest number of people in working conditions of extreme exploitation. The numbers equated to about 2.5 million Southeast Asians “being caught up in the grip of modern slavery,” according to a PLoS Med article.
  5. Workers’ Complaints Need Fair and Responsive Solutions: The “Access to justice for migrant workers in Southeast Asia” report has analyzed Southeast Asian workers’ complaints from Migrant Worker Resource Centers from 2011 to 2015. The analysis of more than 1,000 cases across five countries revealed the most extensive compilation of Southeast Asian worker complaint data. The substantial analysis has revealed that progress in justice has increased, but prominent challenges in fair and responsive solutions persist.

Looking Ahead

Worker’s rights are essential to the eradication of poverty. It is substandard working conditions and wages that keep individuals in an ongoing loop of poverty. When people are provided with the necessary working accommodations, they are more likely to afford more, in turn, becoming customers of places they usually wouldn’t like niche small businesses that are especially healthy for the economy. Drawing attention to issues surrounding workers’ rights in places such as Southeast Asia is especially important to show all the efforts they are making.

– Madeline Ehlert
Photo: Piqsels

Child Marriage in Mauritania
Two horizontal stripes of red sandwich a large swath of green. Over the green is a five-pointed yellow star, centered above an upward-pointing yellow crescent moon. Mauritania’s flag is not just beautiful, it is also symbolic. The green, in particular, symbolizes hope. However, not all Mauritanians have hope. Child marriage in Mauritania diminishes hope for around 37% of Mauritanian girls. The country’s legal age for marriage is 18, but lax enforcement undermines the law, according to the U.S. Department of State.

Troubling Correlates to Child Marriage in Mauritania

International human rights groups, such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Human Rights Watch (HRW), have advocated for measures to prohibit child marriage. The practice correlates with some adverse outcomes and creates a cycle of effects that often mirror those outcomes. Some of these are:

  • Lack of Education – Child marriage consistently correlates to a lack of education. Getting an education becomes even more difficult after marriage. When girls must manage a household and raise children, they have little time for school. The opportunities that an education provides, including the chance for financial independence, dwindle. Beyond that, the problem is cyclical: Research shows that interrupting a child’s education may have a negative educational impact on the next generation.
  • Poverty – The poorest Mauritanian girls are almost twice as likely to marry before age 18 than their wealthier peers. Because married children are also likely to have financial prospects hindered by incomplete education, child marriage perpetuates the cycle of poverty.
  • Less Autonomy and Agency – According to an article published in J Women Polit Policy, in Mauritania, more than 50% of married girls have spouses that are a decade older. Research shows that this age gap, along with the educational disparities, results in less autonomy for the girls. This power imbalance typically persists throughout the union.
  • Psychological Distress and Isolation – These married girls leave familiar surroundings to live many miles away from friends and family. Alone and away from the familiar, they find themselves without a support system when they most need it.

Efforts to Address Child Marriage in Mauritania

Change takes time, but Mauritania has taken some steps to address the issue. Mauritania’s 2001 law making marriage under 18 illegal is not a solution on its own, but it is a first step that acknowledges the inherent problems with the practice. But guardians can circumvent the law by granting permission for a child under 18 to marry. The child must also agree, but his or her silence is considered consent. By eliminating this exception, the government would show an even greater commitment to ending child marriage in Mauritania.

Mauritania is one of several countries that has committed to ending child marriage by 2030, which aligns with target 5.3 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal. According to Girls Not Brides, the country demonstrated this commitment by addressing its progress in the 2019 Voluntary National Review, a government report delivered during a political forum. Mauritania has implemented the Sahel Women Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD). SWEDD aims to keep girls in school, recognizing that lack of education is a key correlate to child marriage. It also aspires to stigmatize child marriage through education.

Some may question the impact of these seemingly symbolic steps, but a research study submitted to the Ford Foundation found that “the failure to view early marriage as a problem is chiefly what accounts for the persistence of this harmful traditional practice.” As Mauritanians like to say, “A hen cannot lay eggs and hatch them on the same day.” With each signed agreement, each law and each international commitment, Mauritania is that much closer to stigmatizing and ending child marriage.

– Vickie Melograno
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Water Crisis in Spain
The water crisis in Spain has come about due to recurring droughts as a result of the effects of extreme weather conditions that contribute to increasing temperatures in the peninsula. In 2019, the Spanish association La Unión de Uniones de Agricultores y Ganaderos faced losses of  €1.5 billion as a consequence of droughts. In the same year, the Spanish Health Ministry discovered that 67,050 samples from different water sources around the peninsula were not safe for drinking.

Uncovering the Water Crisis in Spain

According to an article by The Water Project, in general, a lack of clean water reduces the likelihood of low-income families escaping the cycle of poverty. Illnesses due to the consumption of unsafe water reduce a person’s energy and productivity, which means children cannot attend school and adults cannot work to earn an income.

Within the Castilla y León region of Spain, villagers struggle to access drinking water as agricultural pollution has affected water supplies, deepening the water crisis in Spain. Villagers have to walk to the main city centers to obtain bottled water to complete essential daily activities, such as brushing their teeth and cooking. In Castilla y León, in March 2021, about 63 municipalities did not have “running water.”

Effects of the Water Crisis in Spain

According to research by Kemira, a company dedicated to providing sustainable chemical solutions for water-intensive industries, water reuse is the best way to address the water crisis in Spain. Water reuse, “the use of purified water from municipal sewage treatment plants for different purposes,” can lower the current cost of desalination plants as Spain can recycle water for agricultural use. The OECD has said that around 67% of Spain’s water usage goes toward agriculture, and in Southeastern Spain, water use for agriculture “rises to as much as 85-90%.”

The dire water crisis is visible in the national park of Las Tablas de Daimiel, a wetland that has dried up in the last three years. As a result, many of the aquatic species living in the wetland have disappeared, marking the effects of the Spanish water crisis. In fact, in 2009, “subterranean peat fires broke out” due to the increasingly dry temperatures, decreasing the once 500 kilometers of wetland into 30 kilometers.

An article by The Guardian states the water crisis in Spain began in the 1970s when the Spanish government decided to turn the Spanish cities of Murcia and Almería in the Southeast of Spain — an area where water is minimal and none of the major rivers flow — “into Europe’s market garden.” As a solution to lacking water, the government chose to “transfer water from the headwaters of the Tagus through almost 300km of pipeline to irrigate” the area.

But, this only served to exacerbate “unsustainable intensive agriculture” leading to “the exploitation of groundwater, with disastrous environmental consequences.” In August 2021, in the Mar Menor saltwater lagoon in Murcia, “thousands of dead fish” showed the consequences of unsustainable agriculture and “fertilizer polluting the groundwater that drains into the sea.”

The Government’s Solution

The Spanish government recognized the situation as unsustainable for the country’s future, prompting it to begin a five-year water plan “to conform with the European standards on water quality” that will apply in 2027. Announced in June 2021, Spain’s five-year Hydrological Plan for the period 2022-2027 will “prioritize the uses of water, manage large floods and droughts and define ecological flows that ensure the protection of waters and their ecosystem.”

In addition, the plan includes “reducing the pressures that the water masses support, improving the purification systems, promoting water-saving and reuse and meeting the demands for water in a way that is compatible with its good condition.” The plan also involves cuts in the quantity of water transferred from the Tagus river to the Southeast region of Spain.

As Spain implements the five-year Hydrological Plan, there is hope that the water crisis in Spain will reach a resolution.

– Nuria Diaz
Photo: Max Pixel

Single Mothers in South Korea
In 2020, South Korea had 1.5 million single-parent households. Gender inequality is a pressing issue in many Asian countries, South Korea included. In 2017, women in South Korea earned 63% less than their male counterparts did, and, according to a 2018 OECD working paper, “16.5% of poor Korean households spend at least 30% of their income on children’s education.” With such inequality and heavy demands on childcare, single mothers in South Korea continue to struggle. This article will explore the difficulties that single mothers in South Korea face.

Education

South Korea’s widening educational inequality pressures families to spend more on their children’s education with private education becoming increasingly important. On average, Korean households pay for roughly 42% of their children’s primary and secondary education in comparison to the OECD average of 22%.

On top of that, Korean households also pay for “Hakwon” or “cramming schools,” which are private tutoring sessions that cost “18% of median household income per student.” As the educational system grows increasingly more competitive, these cramming school costs also increase in importance. For single mothers, particularly unwed mothers, supporting their children through the educational system is difficult as women cannot avoid the social stigma of having children outside of marriage because Korea’s birth registry, which is visible to schools and workplaces, labels their children as extra-marital.

Financial Support

Almost half of women in South Korea did not work in 2017 as many of them left the workforce to raise children. In Korea, more women than men have tertiary education qualifications. In fact, 76% of Korean women between the ages of 25 and 34 “had a tertiary qualification in 2020 compared to 64% of their male peers.” Yet, many women are not part of the labor force and those within the workforce earn significantly less than their male peers.

As one can imagine, single mothers may not have the option of leaving work due to the burden of financial responsibilities falling on them. Furthermore, South Korea’s workplace demands long hours. According to the OECD, in 2018, 71% of working women in South Korea worked at least 40 hours and 17% worked at least 60 hours; both of these averages are significantly higher than the OECD average.

The government also provides little financial support for single-parent families. If a single parent makes less than 1.55 million won ($1,400) per month, the government gives them 200,000 won ($180). Considering that the average monthly income of a Korean household is 4 million won ($3,640), an amount sufficient to cover most costs, the government payment to single mothers does not equate to much. Lastly, single motherhood, particularly for unwed mothers, carries a social stigma that prevents even families from providing support.

Progress

Although the pressing demands on single mothers in South Korea grow, statistics show wins for single-parent households. The educational attainment of impoverished single parents has risen, reducing from a low-level education rate of 40% in 2006 to 23% in 2012. This has led to a rise in these households’ standards of living and disposable income.

For single mothers, particularly those who face the social stigma of being unwed, the Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association (KUMFA) aims to create a society in which unwed mothers can raise their children without the social stigma of their situation impacting their lives.

A group of unwed mothers founded KUMFA in 2009 as a place for unwed mothers to meet monthly. Since that time, it has grown into an organization. According to its website, “KUMFA holds camps for each major holiday in Korea in order to provide family environments for moms and children during holiday seasons.” In addition, the organization “also provides educational, advocacy, and counseling support programs for unwed mothers.”

Single mothers in South Korea face the crunch between rising educational costs and low wages for women. On top of that, the social stigma around single motherhood follows them everywhere and embeds itself even in the registration of their children’s births. Despite this, women have shown resilience and KUMFA is a great example of solidarity between those facing the same circumstances.

– Rachael So
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Human Trafficking in Cambodia
Human trafficking in Cambodia is consistently on the rise. Therefore, the U.S. State Department has classified the nation as a Tier 2 Watch List country for the third year in a row due to its limited efforts to combat trafficking. This ranking means that “the Government of Cambodia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.” All of Cambodia’s 25 provinces are sources of human trafficking and exploitation of women, men and children. According to World Vision, “Cambodia is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children trafficked into sexual exploitation and forced labor.” In 2001, the coalition of 16 organizations, Cambodia against Child Trafficking (Cambodia ACTs), came into existence. Cambodia ACTs serves 22 provinces and municipalities to ensure all Cambodian children live a life free from trafficking, exploitation and abuse.

A Closer Look at Human Trafficking in Cambodia

The Global Slavery Index, a study of the prevalence of modern slavery, ranked Cambodia third out of 167 countries in 2016 in terms of the prevalence of modern slavery in the nation. This is a very poor ranking as the estimated number of people facing modern slavery in Cambodia in 2016 stood at 256,800, which equates to 1.65% of the population.

Why is this? According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, most human trafficking incidents in Cambodia materialize as forced marriages, trafficking for marriages, forced labor, commercial sexual exploitation forced begging and orphanage tourism. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated human trafficking in Cambodia due to the increasing vulnerability of populations as a consequence of rising poverty levels and widespread unemployment.

According to the Cambodia Socio-Economic Survey for 2019/20, at the newly defined national poverty line of $2.70 per person per day, 18% of the population faces poverty. Without enough money to provide for themselves and their families, Cambodians are at increased risk of trafficking lures and often look to child labor to make ends meet. Sometimes families unknowingly send their children to work in environments that are exploitative and unsafe to make extra money. In the Trafficking in Persons Report for 2018, the U.S. State Department deemed Cambodia one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of human trafficking.

How Cambodia ACTs Helps

Cambodia ACTs offer survivors a safe place to share their stories anonymously as it believes silence only aids in the problem of human trafficking. This is why Cambodia ACTs works tirelessly to raise awareness of human trafficking and educate and aid children who are at risk, all while strengthening Cambodian laws to stop human trafficking.

Cambodia ACTs uses a 4P strategy to combat the trafficking of children: prevention, prosecution, provision and promotion. Cambodia ACTs prevent trafficking through education, awareness-raising activities and workshops in the community. The coalition aids in the prosecution of perpetrators and seeks justice for victims. As for provision, Cambodia ACTs provides for survivors by offering essential care, social services and psychological assistance. Lastly, its promotion activities involve working with government agencies to enact policy change.

How to Aid Survivors

The work of Cambodia ACTs has continued to expand since its start in 2001. However, this is only possible due to the generosity of people who wish to see human trafficking come to an end. Through donations and grants, Cambodia ACTs can continue to fight human trafficking. In 2015, using its prevention strategy, Cambodia ACTs gave “awareness training” to 25,000 Cambodian adults and children. In addition to this, Cambodia ACTs created “6,000 posters, 5,000 leaflets, 4,000 stickers and [four] billboards” to help end human trafficking in Cambodia. To help Cambodia ACTs continue its great mission, even ordinary individuals can play a role by donating or using social media to raise awareness.

– Kaley Anderson
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in East Africa
Village Enterprise, an organization that aims to end extreme poverty in rural Africa, published the results of its Development Impact Bond for alleviating poverty in East Africa in November 2021. A development impact bond is a kind of financial security that is made of funds from private investors to finance development in low-income communities. Village Enterprise implemented the program in households across Uganda and Kenya from November 2017 to December 2020. IDinsight, the program evaluator, documented the success of the program.

Poverty in East Africa

Extreme poverty is prevalent in East African countries, with about 44.2% of citizens living on less than $1.90 per day in March 2021. About 41% of the population of Uganda in 2016 and 37% of Kenyans in 2015 lived below the international poverty line.

Countries in East Africa experience extreme poverty because of consistent droughts, conflicts and unstable economies. Data shows connections in these regions between poverty and a significant lack of clean water services, access to quality education, transportation, housing and energy.

Details of the Development Impact Bond

In Uganda and Kenya, the Development Impact Bond provided aid to 241 villages and gave no aid to 241 control villages in order to measure and compare the effects of the aid on household consumption and amount of assets. Consumption included purchases relating to food, transportation, social activities and other everyday spending and assets included household savings, livestock and business supplies.

Village Enterprise provided two phases of cash transfers and regular entrepreneurial training throughout the duration of the program. The program provided two grants to 13,839 households. The program focused on business skills and cash transfers as a combination of both has shown to be more effective at helping people raise enough money to lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

The results of the study considered various characteristics within each household. Some households started with more baseline wealth than others, about 30% of households had a woman head of household, about 47% of households reported at least one member with a disability and each household also reported their respective business types.

The study also aimed to provide results to aid and encourage similar organizations in designing and implementing future programs to alleviate extreme poverty.

Results of the Development Impact Bond

Results of the Development Impact Bond reported an increase in both the consumption and asset categories across households, with a 6.3% increase compared to the control group in consumption per household and a 5.8% increase in net assets per household. The program exceeded its goals, with a 140% benefit-cost ratio. The Impact Bond initially invested $5.32 million into the program and reports predict that the lasting effects of the program will generate quadruple this amount.

Although the program provided two different amounts of cash transfers to households, there was a similar increase in all household consumption regardless of the transfer amount. Households that received larger cash transfers reported more assets than households that received smaller cash transfers. Households headed by women started out with less baseline wealth than households headed by men but reported a similar percentage of improvement in both consumption and assets. There was no significant difference in the effects in households that had at least one member with a disability.

When comparing business types across households, households that ran crop businesses consumed less on average and households that had businesses that fell under multiple identifying categories consumed more. Households with livestock businesses and multiple-category businesses reported higher asset gains than other business types. Businesses that started with higher success levels reported an average higher in both consumption and asset wealth.

Overall, results from the Village Enterprise Development Impact Bond show significant improvements in the livelihoods of extremely impoverished households across Uganda and Kenya. Recipients all reported positive improvements in consumption and assets and provided data that organizations can use to build and improve similar programs in the future.

Success in Numbers (2017 to 2021):

  • About 4,766 businesses emerged.
  • About 14,100 beginner entrepreneurs received training with women accounting for 75%.
  • Exactly 481 business savings groups began.
  • There was a 6% average increase in household consumption and assets.
  • Estimates determined there was a $21 million “increase in lifelong household income.”
  • About 95,000 people benefited from the program.

It is clear that Village Enterprise has seen substantial success in alleviating poverty in East Africa. Through its efforts, people have been able to start businesses and improve their incomes, subsequently impacting their overall lives.

– Melissa Hood
Photo: Flickr