The Importance of Secondary Education
Secondary education is an important segment in every person’s life. It also serves as a means to potentially empower girls, raise a person’s economic status and reduce infant mortality rates as these listed facts will show. Here are the 10 facts about the importance of secondary education.

10 Facts About the Importance of Secondary Education

  1. Child marriage would reduce by 64 percent if all girls received a secondary education. Moreover, early pregnancies would lower by 59 percent.
  2. There are more than 226 million children around the world who do not attend secondary school. If these children were all to go onto secondary education, then the under-five mortality rate would fall by 49 percent. According to Ann M. Veneman, the Executive Director of UNICEF, evidence shows that girls who receive an education are more likely to take better care of their families, and in turn, reduce infant mortality rates.
  3. A person’s earnings should increase by 10 percent on average for each year of school they attend. As a result, education may help boost economies and bring populations out of poverty.
  4. In 29 countries around the world, children must complete secondary school. Some developed and developing countries will even pay for children to attend secondary school.
  5. In just 40 years, a country could raise its Growth Domestic Product (GDP) per capita by 23 percent through equal access to education.
  6. The attendance of all children to school would require $39 billion in funding every year.
  7. Children often start to drop out of school after primary school. The decrease in enrollment is as much as 10 percent worldwide and 34 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  8. In the year 2012, reports stated that there were 168 million child labor workers between the ages of five and 17. This is one of the reasons a child might be unable to attend school.
  9. In most developing countries, public school is not free for children to attend, as they must purchase books, uniforms and other school supplies. Even factoring out the costs of going to school, 67 million children still do not receive the right to attend. As a result, millions of children do not obtain a proper education, making it difficult to find substantial forms of employment. One solution to this has been Child Empowerment International, an organization that works to provide education to children across the world by setting up day schools for children without access to education, such as in refugee camps.
  10. While girls are less likely to be able to attend school in the first place, boys are more likely to repeat grades or drop out of school altogether. This is due to various issues within their countries, such as restrictions on education for women or early marriage.

There are many issues regarding education and while there are many projects working to decrease these issues, the issue is still at large. There is a need for an international presence regarding the importance of secondary education, and education itself.

– Alex Cahill
Photo: Flickr

Keeping Girls in School ActFor hundreds of years, people have robbing women and young girls of their right to an education. Of the 774 million illiterate people around the globe, two-thirds are female. Without an education, women die at higher rates, have an increased number of child deaths, are more likely to marry young, are less likely to find work and are more likely to receive lower pay. The Keeping Girls in School Act is designed to address the worldwide barriers that currently exclude 130 million school-aged girls from their right to an education. The legislation has the power to cut child deaths by 50 percent and will raise girls’ future wages by $15 to $30 trillion. Here are 10 facts about the Keeping Girls in School Act.

10 Facts About the Keeping Girls in School Act

  1. The bill has bi-partisan Congressional support. On April 9, 2019, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Keeping Girls in School Act into the Senate. On that same date, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), Rep. Susan Brooks (R-PA) and Rep.Nita Lowey (D-NY) introduced the bill into the House. More recently, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-IN), Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) have also decided to cosponsor the bill, totaling a number of 25 co-sponsors in the House and three in the Senate. With advocates in both the House and the Senate, the Keeping Girls in School Act has garnered the support of not only both legislative bodies but both political parties.

  2. The bill will cut child deaths by 50 percent. Education is one of the most valuable resources when it comes to saving children’s lives. Malnutrition is one of the leading causes of death for children under five largely due to many mothers’ lack of education on proper hygiene, health and nutrition. According to UNESCO, if all women received secondary education, it would cut in half the number of child deaths and save three million lives. When provided with an education, mothers are able to raise their children in a healthier way because they have the knowledge necessary to provide them with a higher quality of life.

  3. The bill focuses on secondary education. The Keeping Girls in School Act focuses on education at the secondary level rather than the primary because girls are at higher risk of dropping out as adolescents. Between the ages of 14 to 18, girls are at the greatest risk of pregnancy, child marriage and genital mutilation. By focusing on girls in this age range, the Keeping Girls in School Act has the power to not only educate young women but to prevent inhumane practices from infiltrating their lives.

  4. The bill will reduce child marriage by 66 percent. Without proper education, people force many young girls into marriage because the girls do not understand that they have the right to refuse it. Education informs young women about their rights and provides them with the tools necessary to challenge the cultural expectations. According to UNESCO, one in seven sub-Saharan African women are married under the age of 18 due to their lack of education. Education is one of the leading factors when it comes to reducing child marriage. If the Keeping Girls in School Act passes, it will play a vital role in eradicating child marriage because it will grant young women the awareness that they have autonomy over their own lives.

  5. The bill is divided into 14 barriers. The Keeping Girls in School Act is divided into 14 sections in an attempt to address all the barriers that prevent women from receiving an education. These include: harmful social norms, lack of safety at or traveling to school, child and forced marriages, distance from and cost of school, the priority of education given to young men, poor nutrition, early pregnancy, HIV, disabilities and racial or religious discrimination. The Keeping Girls in School Act not only outlines these 14 barriers but sets out to challenge them. By individually working to overcome these educational confines, the Keeping Girls in School Act will not only make education more accessible for young women but it will also improve the quality of their lives.

  6. The bill will decrease violent conflict by 37 percent. Lack of education is one of the biggest contributors to violent conflict. Likewise, conflict-affected areas inhibit girls’ access to education greatly. Girls in conflict-affected areas are 90 percent more likely to be uneducated due to the violent reality of their communities. By providing young women with access to education, the violence that keeps thousands of girls from being educated will decrease and the fear that leads their lives will consequently lessen.

  7. The bill will save worldwide governments 5 percent or more on education budgets. With more girls attending school, there will be fewer child marriages, so more women will be able to enter the workforce later on. As a result, they will earn more money and will be able to contribute to their country’s economy in a way they were formerly unable to. An investment in female education is more than a social rights investment because it also houses an economic return. With more economically stable women, more people will be able to purchase products and their countries’ economies will rise as a result. By prioritizing girls’ education, U.S. foreign assistance is not only investing in young women but also investing in themselves.

  8. The bill will promote gender equality. By advancing girls’ education, the U.S. is taking a global stand against inequality. Worldwide, four million more boys receive education than girls. The Keeping Girls in School Act has the power to bridge the gap. Providing education for young women is not only the acknowledgment that they are equally valuable but it is the recognition that they are undeniably capable. In Pakistan, women with secondary education earn 70 percent of the country’s average male income while their primary school counterparts earn only 51 percent. By advocating for the Keeping Girls in School Act, the U.S. is challenging social norms that have oppressed young women for decades. As a result, the Act also possesses the power to change the way people value women around the globe.

  9. Fifty international nonprofit organizations endorse the bill. The largest global poverty organizations around the world support the Keeping Girls in School Act. Organizations such as UNICEF U.S.A, CARE U.S.A and ADRA International are currently backing the legislation. By supporting this bill, these organizations are not only spreading awareness for the global issue but they are exemplifying the mass of its importance.

  10. The bill will receive updates every five years. Keeping in line with global progression, if enacted into law, the Keeping Girls in School Act promises to keep up. If passed, the Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues and the Senior Coordinator for International Basic Education Assistance will oversee the bill. This makes sure that the diversity of issues addressed are in line with the reality of the world’s social climate, ensuring that women’s education progresses at the fastest possible rate.

These 10 facts about the Keeping Girls in School Act can spread awareness of a bill that has the power to change the lives of young women around the world. Programs such as CARE’s Keeping Girls at School and funds like UNESCO’s Malala Fund For Girls’ Right to Education are making great progress towards improving the issue. However, with 76 million illiterate female youths worldwide, the Keeping Girls in School Act will help to increase education for women even further.

– Candace Fernandez
Photo: Unsplash

Child Marriage in IndiaChild marriage is any formal or informal marriage of one or both individuals under the age of 18. Not only a human rights violation, child marriage also negatively affects a child’s health, physical growth, mental and emotional development and education opportunities. Some reasons for child marriage are poverty, lack of education, political and financial reasons, gender inequalities and improper implementation of the law. Both girls and boys are affected by child marriages; however, girls are affected at a much higher rate. Of 223 million child brides, 102 million are married before they turn 15. One in three of the world’s child marriages are located in India. Fortunately, these four nonprofit organizations fighting child marriage in India are dedicated to making a change.

4 Nonprofit Organizations Fighting Child Marriage in India

  1. Saarthi Trust: Rehabilitation psychologist Kriti Bhartihe founded Saarthi Trust in 2011. This organization’s main focus is working on the establishment of rights for women and children, child marriage annulment and protection for women and children. Saarthi Trust is the first organization to annul a child marriage in India. Since then, they have successfully annulled 30 marriages and prevented 900. In addition, this organization has rehabilitated 6,000 children and 5,500 women. The Saarthi Trust also offers programs for mental support and education for women and children.  
  2. Aangan Trust: Suparna Gupta founded Aangan Trust in 2002. It works to ensure protection from trafficking, hazardous work, child marriages and violence. This organization trains women to work with child survivors to guarantee that there is no further harm. The women are trained in active listening skills, building empathy and linking children and families to existing services to help reduce risks. This will allow the children to heal, restore their dignity and get back into the community. In addition, these women also build connections with key government agencies, the police and Child Welfare Protection to go through with care plans and to monitor the children’s progress. 
  3. Girls Not Brides: Dedicated to ending child marriages, a group of independent global leaders called The Elders founded the global partnership of Girls Not Brides in 2011. There are members of this organization India, Kenya, Mexico and Senegal. The organization’s main goals are to raise awareness of the negative impact child marriages have through an open, informed and inclusive conversation with communities, facilitate learning with organizations ending child marriages and mobilize policy to end child marriages. The organization works directly with girls by helping them build skills, empowering them and developing support networks. 
  4. Institute of Health Management Pachod (IHMP): Two doctors started IHMP, a nonprofit organization that addresses public health concerns of marginalized groups in India, in 1986. Their main focus is to help vulnerable young girls in rural communities. The IHMP provides life skills and education to these girls in order to make positive life decisions and prevent child marriages. There are several programs offered that support and empower young girls. The institute’s community-based teachers conduct classes that help young girls learn how to negotiate to delay marriage so they can continue their education.

Although child marriages continue to exist, these four nonprofit organizations fighting child marriage in India not only have a positive impact but generate hope for many young boys and girls. 

Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Ending Child MarriagesEven in 2019, child marriage remains a global problem. Every year, 12 million girls from all around the world will get married before the age of 18. Child marriage is rooted in gender inequality and poverty because in many communities’ girls are still seen as a burden on the family. Marriage is often considered the best way to assure their future. However, there are many organizations and individuals tackling the problem of gender inequality and child marriage. Below are

Five activists whose work is ending child marriages

  1. Nada Al-Ahdal defends children’s rights.
    Nada Al-Ahdal is a Yemeni activist with a personal connection to escaping child marriage. In 2013, at the age of 11, Nada Al-Ahdal ran away from her family’s home in order to prevent a forced marriage to a 26-year-old man. During her escape, Nada Al-Ahdal made a video explaining how, if the marriage had gone through, she would have lost her chance at an education and ruined her life. Furthermore, she would have lost her childhood.
    In the first month of the video being posted, it received more than 8 million views. Nada Al-Ahdal has appeared on Lebanese and Yemeni television, spreading her message for ending child marriages. In 2018, at just 15 years old, Nada founded the Nada Foundation to protect and defend children’s rights. The foundation offers to safe havens. Additionally, it has a number of awareness programs focused on protecting children.
  2. Nice Nailantei Leng’ete speaks out against child marriage.
    At eight years old, Nice Nailantei Leng’ete ran away from her home village in Kenya. She did this in order to avoid undergoing female genital mutilation. As an adult, Nice Nailantei Leng’ete has become an activist that negotiates with village elders in Kenya to convince them to adopt alternative rites of passage for girls. She is an officer with Amref Health Africa. Additionally, it is estimated that her work has saved more than 15,000 girls in Kenya for genital mutilation and child marriage. Nice Nailantei Leng’ete now speaks out on a global stage against mutilation and child marriage in Africa. In 2018, she even was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine.
  3. Fatoumata Sabaly enacts change as an activist.
    Fatoumata Sabaly is from Senegal, where child marriage and female genital mutilation is still fairly common. She is a respected member of her community as a grandmother and mother. She leverages this position as an activist through the Grandmother Project. The Grandmother Project is an NGO that uses the status of elders in communities to enact change and improve the well-being of women and children.
    Fatoumata Sabaly has explained the important work she does in the project: “Sometimes, girls come to tell me their parents are marrying them off, even though they want to stay in school. When this happens, I go to their parents. Out of respect for me, the parents listen to my advice and let their daughters stay in school.” Her activism and authority are helping girls stay in school and out of unwanted marriages.
  4. Arvind Ojha leads an organization fighting child marriage and violence against females.
    Arvind Ojha is the head of URMUL Trust, an organization active in the Indian state of Rajasthan for more than 25 years. Rajasthan has one of the worst child marriage rates in all of India. URMUL Trust works hard in ending child marriage, female genital mutilation and female foeticide. Arvind Ojha has said that “[URMUL Trust doesn’t] just focus on engaging women and children in programs but also older people and even religious leaders. Change is happening. The average age of marriage for girls is increasing.”
    In 2005, URMUL Trust launched a program in the districts of Sri Ganganagar, Hanumangarh and Jaisalmer called “Dignity of the Girl Child”. The program was aimed at ending child marriages, domestic violence and female infanticide. In 2011, URMUL Trust became partners with Girls Not Brides in order to strengthen their work to ending child marriage.
  5. Isatou Jeng defends women through advocacy.
    At 15 years old, Isatou Jeng found herself pregnant and with enormous pressure to get married. What she did next broke many societal norms in her home country of Gambia. She demonstrated her passion in ending child marriages by saying, “I stood my ground, refused to marry, and saw education as the best chance for a better life for me and my child.”
    Presently, she leads The Girls Agenda, a nonprofit she founded. The purpose of the organization is to fight for other girls facing gender-based violence and child marriage. Throughout her career as an activist, she has also worked as the advocacy and campaign officer for the Network against Gender-Based Violence. This is a group of organizations that works to defend women and girls in Gambia.
    In 2018, at a conference for women who transform the world, Isatou Jeng said about her involvement with The Girls Agenda, “I did not become a feminist, I was born a feminist.”

Every minute, 23 girls under the age of 18 are married around the world. Consequently, this is the reason that the work these activists and their organizations do is so important and urgent. Even in an era where child brides seem to be a relic of the past, ending child marriages is still a critical issue.

– Isabel Fernandez
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in MyanmarChild labor in Myanmar continues to be a concern for one of the poorest nations in Asia. It is estimated that 1.13 million children, ages 5 through 17 work as laborers in Myanmar. This amounts to 9.3 percent of the child population. Said conditions are a violation of human rights and deprivation of well being.

Impact of Poverty

The prime factor of involvement of children in the workforce is poverty. With more than 32 percent of the nation living below the national poverty line, children work to supplement low household incomes.

However, employers exploit children and pay extremely low rates. In some cases, children as young as 14, working in garment-producing factories, make as little as 17  cents per hour; Yet, the nation’s minimum wage is $3.60.

Government Involvement in Child Trafficking

In August 2017, it was estimated 690,000 people fled from Myanmar due to acts of violence caused by the Myanmar government. Of those, nearly 400,000 were children.

In Myanmar, there is an abundance of trafficking, with little to no intervention. Frequently, the displacement of young girls to China is due to trafficking, for work, or marriage to Chinese men as child brides.

Additionally, Myanmar also has the highest number of child soldiers globally. In these cases, young boys against their will have to comply with captor commands. These commands are in sync with militarization goals and tactics.

Impact of Child Labor

One prominent consequence of child labor in Myanmar is the lack of education among children. One in five children drops out of school in order to work. In Myanmar culture, it is socially acceptable and common to see children working, rather than in school. Also, children who are in the workforce usually have little awareness, nor education about their safety and health rights in the workplace, leading to a high risk of fatal injuries.

The agricultural industry employs 60.5 percent of children in the workforce. Construction and fellow small-scale industries also have a significant role in employing child laborers. Just over half of these children perform potentially hazardous work that is likely to harm their physical or psychological health. Children as young as 15 to 17 make up 74.6 percent of the child workforce exposed to hazardous jobs.

The Intervention of Child Trafficking in Myanmar

Although child labor in Myanmar is widespread, the government of Myanmar is addressing this issue with the support of the International Labor Organization (ILO). The Myanmar Program on the Elimination of Child Labor Project was a four-year program (2013-2017) funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, overseen by the ILO. The goals of this project were to increase awareness of children in the workforce while improving the legal and institutional laws concerning child labor.

The Myanmar government ratified the ILO Convention No.182 which prohibits the worst forms of childhood labor and is in the process of finalizing the country’s first National Action Plan. This proposal outlines ways to reduce child labor in Myanmar while improving the lives of the children all together.

Child labor in Myanmar is a prominent issue as it affects millions of lives. There is, however, a reason to be optimistic, as the Myanmar government and fellow organizations have begun prevention protocols, ensuring a better future for the children of Myanmar.

– Marissa Pekular

 

Photo: Flickr

Women Activists in Developing CountriesThere are many reasons for people around the world to use their voices and advocate for social equality. Here is a list of five women activists in developing countries.

Top 5 Women Activists in Developing Countries

  1. Kriti Bharti
    The founder of the Girls Not Brides movement in Rajasthan, northern India, Kriti Bharti prevented over 900 child marriages. Kriti established the Saarthi Trust in 2011 to pull girls from forced child marriages and to educate them on their societal rights. Bharti is both a social activist and a rehabilitation psychologist. She set up rehabilitation programs for the girls released from child marriage.The Girls Not Brides movement has forums that provide food, shelter and water for girls banished from their families. The forums also include educating girls on their societal rights and providing them with life skills such as sowing. Twenty-seven percent of girls in India marry before the age of 18 resulting in India being the highest country with child brides. The Saarthi Trust was the first organization in India to annul a marriage and annulled 31 other child marriages since 2012.

    Poverty is a leading cause that resolves itself in child marriage. Usually, families marry off their young daughter to help alleviate finances; the younger the bride, the lower the dowry (a form of payment). Gender norms also play a key factor in child marriages. A girl is of lower value in general. Typically, females are not able to contribute to society because of this, leading their value to be held in household chores and motherhood. Moreover, a woman’s value is upheld in her benefitting her marital family more than her blood family. Thus, the family will usually educate their sons rather than their daughters.

    The South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC) takes local action against abuse towards children by providing shelter with food and water and by educating girls in jobs. The Sustainable Development Goals stated that India is striving to end child marriages and forced labor by the year 2030.

  2. Malala Yousafzai
    Malala is now a household name across the world. The youngest person awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014; she now uses her voice and her story to speak for the women around the globe who could not. “I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls,” Yousafzai said.After she spoke out against education oppression towards girls in 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Malala in the head in 2012. Then, she began the Malala Fund. The Malala Fund now reaches six different countries; Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria. In each country, it recruits female teachers and tries to bridge the gap between gender disparity in education. It also educates teachers and students on gender discrimination, teaches girls how to speak about their rights, gives free secondary schooling and campaigns for new policies advocating for girls’ education. The goal of Malala’s Fund is to give girls “12 years of free, safe, quality education.”
  3. Holida, Suci and Ria
    The Yes I Do project of Indonesia began with three girls advocating against child marriage in their village and country. Holida, Suci, both 18, and Ria, 16, advocated that the abuse’s of child marriage is everyone’s responsibility to end. The Yes I Do project strives to prevent child abuse and forced sexual acts due to the selling of young girls into marriage. The project exposes the effects that sexual abuse has and the ways it affects reproductive health.Through village forums and discussions, the girls highlighted with their fellow neighbors that they have the same rights as boys do. Through their voices, child marriage cannot go unnoticed. Now, when a girl is forced or marries young, people talk about it. This gives fire to Holida, Suci and Ria’s campaign. The girls plan on making a movie to take to other villages around their own. “We want everyone to know why child marriage is wrong so that girls everywhere can achieve their dreams,” Suci said.
  4. Manal al-Sharif
    Manal al-Sharif, an Iraqi woman, co-founded the Women to Drive movement bringing awareness to the oppression of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia and bringing back the ability for women to drive. In 1957, Saudi Arabia decreed that women could no longer drive. In 1990, a large protest took place where 47 women drove around the country’s capital. Over 20 years later, in 2011, Manal al-Sharif started the Facebook campaign called Women to Drive to spread awareness of their oppression.Later that same year, al-Sharif and fellow co-founder, Wajeha al-Huwaider, recorded a video of themselves driving and speaking out against the difficulty of being a woman and commuting. In June 2018, King Salman issued a decree that Saudi women could obtain a driver’s license. Al-Sharif and the women advocating for years for freedom for their gender are making progress. Since the summer of 2018, women can take to the road, something they were not able to do for 62 years.
  5. Zahra’ Langhi
    The Lybian Women’s Platform for Peace (LWPP) is an organization that puts pressure on the government to give opportunities to women to uphold sociopolitical places within government and society. Zahra’ Langhi is a co-founder and feminist activist who started speaking out in 2011 when Muammar Gaddafi’s reign ended after decades of abusing his power over the country. The leading effects after the uprising resulted in 35 women joining together to form LWPP. The state of Libya is dangerous and unbalanced, especially for women advocating to eliminate corruption in politics. Langhi never gave up her voice and continues to speak for compassion and understanding to infiltrate her country. “We need to start acting as agents of compassion and mercy. We need to develop a feminine discourse that not only honors but also implements mercy instead of revenge, collaboration instead of competition, inclusion instead of exclusion,” Langhi said.

These five women activists in developing countries spread their knowledge to their fellow neighbors and friends. From halfway across the globe, people Western countries can stand next to these women activists in developing countries and let them know they have support.

Hannah Vaughn
Photo: Flickr

Five Ways to Fight Gender InequalityThe struggle to attain global gender equality has been a centuries-long battle. Although the world has significantly progressed in women’s advancement and its goal of gender equality, women and girls disproportionately suffer from discrimination and violence. These injustices do, however, have a chance to be corrected through these five ways to fight gender inequality.

Five Ways to Fight Gender Inequality

    1. Give girls access to education.
      There are 130 million girls in the world who are not in school. Although there has been a significant boost in girls’ enrollment in schools, there is still much progress to be made. Girls are more likely than boys to never receive an education. There are 15 million girls in the world of primary-school age who will never enter a classroom, compared to about 10 million boys. Although there are countless boys and girls worldwide who face barriers when trying to receive an education, there are several specific forms of discrimination that only affect girls. These include forced marriages at a young age, gender-based violence in school settings and certain cultural or religious norms that restrict girls’ access to education.Education is an extremely valuable resource for girls. According to the World Bank, better-educated women tend to be healthier, participate in formal labor markets, earn higher incomes and marry at a later age. By receiving an education, girls can develop fundamental skills and gain invaluable knowledge that allows them to thrive in their careers and simply make decisions that will improve their lives.

      The Borgen Project is currently building support for the Keeping Girls in School Act (H.R.2153/ S.1071) which requires the Department of State and USAID to review and update the U.S. global strategy to empower adolescent girls. Click here to ask your Member of Congress to cosponsor the Keeping Girls in School Act: Email Congress

    2. Give women platforms to be in power and achieve economic success.
      Globally, women have less political representation than men. Around the world, 62 percent of countries have never had a female head of government or state for at least one year in the past half-century, including the United States. The number of women in political positions compared to men is alarmingly disproportionate. In global legislatures, women are outnumbered four to one. Gender equality in political positions is a rarity as only three countries have 50 percent or more women in parliament in single or lower houses. By having an equal presence of women in politics or leadership positions, the interests and values of females will be better represented on the political level.For many women, it is hard to achieve economic success and move up the socioeconomic scale. Throughout the world, women work for long hours of unpaid domestic jobs. In some places, females do not have the right to own land, earn an income and progress their careers due to job discrimination.

      The Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act (S.2347) — signed into law in January 2019 — is one initiative that is aimed at removing several of these barriers through a number of policy objectives. One such policy change has to do with expanding support for small and medium-sized enterprises that are owned, managed and controlled by women.

    3. End violence and sexual assault against women.
      An unprecedented number of countries have laws against domestic violence and sexual assault. However, these laws often go ignored, jeopardizing women and girls’ rights to their safety and justice. Every day, 137 women across the world are killed by a family member or intimate partner. This statistic is a disturbing example of the severity of violence toward women.Females are more likely to experience sexual violence than men.Approximately 15 million girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide have been raped at some point in their lives. Beyond sexual harassment, women and girls are vulnerable to human trafficking as they account for 71 percent of all human trafficking victims. In many cases, females are trafficked as child brides and/or sold as sex slaves. The extent of sexual violence toward women and young girls is an extreme violation of human rights.
    4. Assure girls and women have access to menstrual health facilities.
      Menstrual hygiene management is necessary for girls and young women to attend school and participate in their daily lives, however, this necessity is not always guaranteed. The women most affected by ineffective menstrual care live in poverty. Often, girls will stay home from school when on their periods because they do not have access to sanitary products and/or their schools lack the necessary facilities.Dangerous ignorance and societal judgments about menstruation exist worldwide. Some cultures believe a menstruating girl causes harm to everything she touches. For instance, in rural Nepal, girls on their periods are sometimes forced out of their homes, forbidden from being in contact with people, animals and even plants. These girls are forced to stay in “menstrual huts” which can be harmful and potentially fatal. These misleading cultural taboos lead to ostracism, early marriage and the endangerment of girls’ futures. Young women in refugee camps also have a difficult time accessing safe and security sanitary products.

      Fortunately, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act (H.R.615) which “amends current standards of care for refugee women and children to include providing safe and secure access to sanitation facilities, especially for women, girls and vulnerable populations.”

    5. End child marriage.
      In some cultures, it is acceptable if not expected for girls to marry at a young age. Every year, 12 million girls marry before the age of 18 worldwide. Child marriage most affects girls and is mainly fueled by gender inequality and poverty. This practice is a violation of human rights as it prohibits women from making decisions about their own lives. It deprives young girls of a childhood and an education, but it also has other disturbing effects.Girls who are forced into marriage may be sexually harassed by their partner and have an increased risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer, malaria and death from childbirth. Girls Not Brides is one of the most prominent organizations working to raise awareness on these issues by partnering with more than 1,000 civil societies across the globe.

These five ways to fight gender inequality are crucial to help women and girls around the world reach their full potential and ultimately attain gender equality.

– Marissa Pekular
Photo: Flickr

maternal mortality mozambique

Maternal health in Mozambique is a constant concern as the nation’s maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the world. While some progress has been made, there is still much that needs to be done to ensure that mothers in Mozambique have to access high-quality healthcare. Recently, two initiatives have been created, the Mozambique-Canada Maternal Health Project and a project by the Maternal and Child Survival Program. They are working to improve maternal health in Mozambique.

The Current State of Maternal Health

In 2015, the maternal mortality rate was 489 deaths per 100,000 live births. Approximately one-fifth of these deaths are women under the age of 20. Maternal mortality has declined since 1990 when there were approximately 1390 deaths per 100,000 live births; however, maternal deaths remain high. It is clear that continued efforts are needed to improve the quality of maternal health in Mozambique. Each day, approximately 800 pregnant women die from preventable causes.

One of the primary factors determining maternal mortality rates is the availability of antenatal care. In regions where more women receive four or more antenatal visits, the maternal mortality rate is generally lower. Globally, 62 percent of pregnant women have at least four antenatal visits with a skilled health professional, while 86 percent of women have at least one. In Mozambique, only 51 percent of expectant mothers have at least four antenatal visits.

Additionally, only 54 percent of births are attended by skilled health personnel. Age is also a factor, with 40 percent of women 20-24 years old reporting that they gave birth before the age of 18. Younger mothers have an increased risk of death during childbirth, particularly if there is not someone with medical training present.

Early marriage logically leads to childbirth at a younger age and improving maternal mortality rates in the nation relies on protecting young women. In response to this, the government of Mozambique created the National Strategy to Prevent and Combat Early Marriage in 2016. This program includes better education about sexual and reproductive rights with the goal of empowering women to seek out appropriate care and understand their legal rights. For poorer women, this knowledge is often not enough, however, as they may not have the autonomy to make a legal case or have a healthcare facility readily available to them.

Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP)

The Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP) has launched a project in Mozambique’s Zambézia Province focused on treating pregnant women with malaria. Malaria currently accounts for 9.6 percent of deaths in the nation, and the rate in the Zambézia Province higher than the average. This project seeks to improve maternal health in Mozambique by tackling maternal and newborn deaths due to malaria.

Malaria during pregnancy has many consequences, including higher rates of maternal anemia and low birthweight babies. These factors increase the likelihood of maternal death as well as stillbirth. A treatment known as IPTs-SP exists that can prevent malaria in expectant mothers, but fewer than 22 percent of women in Mozambique receive adequate dosages during their pregnancy.

The MCSP project is empowering healthcare providers in Mozambique to treat malaria cases in pregnant women regardless of their complexity. For example, a young pregnant woman who had malaria but was also HIV-positive could not receive IPTp-SP treatments because the drug is incompatible with her HIV treatment. However, a different medication was able to be prescribed by an MCSP-trained nurse who had been trained on how to handle a variety of malaria cases.

The project also implemented a Standards-Based Management and Recognition for Malaria program in 58 health facilities in the Zambézia Province. This program is working to collect better data about malaria cases and more effectively implement initiatives for prevention and treatment.

Mozambique-Canada Maternal Health Project

Improving maternal health in Mozambique is a priority for the University of Saskatchewan as well. Researchers from the university are working with Mozambique’s health ministry and the NGO Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) to empower women in 20 different communities through the Mozambique-Canada Maternal Health Project.

Education is a key piece to this project, providing information on maternal, reproductive and sexual health to community members in a way that is participatory and engaging for adolescents and adults. The project is also prioritizing the education of health practitioners to improve the quality of care for mothers in Mozambique.

Additionally, the project seeks to improve resources in the community that can improve maternal and newborn health. They intend to provide local ambulances, establish maternal waiting homes nearby to clinics and support local midwives. The latter is the most important, as having locals who are trained health personnel can greatly benefit rural women who may not have the time or financial resources (particularly in situations of poverty) to travel to a clinic.

These efforts indicate that maternal health in Mozambique is continuing to be a priority. The work that these organizations are doing is focused on empowering women to make their own decisions about their sexual and reproductive lives, ensuring health personnel are properly trained and accessible and meeting the needs of poorer women.

Sara Olk

Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in Africa
Child marriage, defined as a situation in which a person is married before the age of 18, is considered to be a violation of fundamental human rights. Child marriage generally affects more girls than boys and has been found to limit educational attainment and work opportunities, result in early pregnancy, lead to social isolation and increase the risk of domestic violence.

Globally, child marriage occurs at the highest rate in sub-Saharan Africa, where four in 10 young women are married before the age of 18. While some African countries have been able to make significant progress in reducing child marriage, overall progress throughout the continent has been slow, making child marriage in Africa a primary concern of UNICEF and other international humanitarian organizations.

Global and Regional Trends

The child marriage rate in sub-Saharan Africa is 10 percent higher than in any other region in the world. These figures vary in various regions, with 30 percent of young women married under the age of 18 in South Asia, 25 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, 17 percent in the Middle East and North Africa and 11 percent in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Within sub-Saharan Africa, child marriage occurs most frequently in West Africa, where 41 percent of young women are married before 18. This rate is 38 percent in Central Africa, 36 percent in Southern Africa and 34 percent in Eastern Africa.

Regionally, some progress has been made in reducing child marriage in Africa, as the rate in Western Africa was 44 percent in the early 2000s, the rates in Central and Eastern Africa were 42 percent. Only Southern Africa has shown no regional progress, remaining at 36 percent for the past 15 years. These reductions are not occurring quickly enough and UNICEF predicts that child marriage rates will remain above 30 percent in Western and Central Africa and above 20 percent in Eastern and Southern Africa even until 2030.

Age and Gender of Child Marriage in Africa

While a majority of child marriages occur between the ages of 15 and 18, there are many women who were married before the age of 15 as well. In sub-Saharan Africa, 12 percent of young women were either married or in a union prior to being 15 years old.

Data on boys affected by child marriage in Africa is limited, but it is still recognized to be a significant problem in some countries. The Central African Republic has one of the highest rates of child marriage for boys in the world, with 28 percent of young men married by the age of 18. This rate is 13 percent in Madagascar and 12 percent in Comoros.

Progress in African Countries

There are some African countries with low levels of child marriage, however, including Algeria, Djibouti, Eswatini, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia, that all have rates of child marriages under 10 percent. In the early 2000s, only Algeria, Djibouti, Namibia and Tunisia were under 10 percent. Notably, child marriage is the lowest in Tunisia, the country that has a rate of child marriage at 2 percent.

There have also been countries with high child marriage rates that have made significant progress over the last 15 years. Ethiopia had a child marriage rate of 60 percent in the early 2000s, that has since decreased to 40 percent. Zambia decreased their rate from 46 to 31 percent, and Guinea-Bissau decreased its rate from 44 to 24 percent.

Child Marriage in Ethiopia and Tanzania

Ethiopia provides an interesting case study for child marriage in Africa. Research conducted by the Forward UK, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of girls and women in Africa, reveals the cultural beliefs that cause child marriage to remain prevalent. Marrying girls young is a social norm in the nation, and families whose daughters are not married as children are often viewed in a negative light.

In part, this stems from the importance placed on virginity, and many believe that the earlier a girl is married the more likely she is to be a virgin. Girls may also be married to priests, as this is a way for religious leaders to gain respect. Priests must marry virgins, however, and therefore tend to have the youngest brides. Families also often perceive child marriage as a way out of poverty, as they receive a bride price and no longer carry the financial burden of caring for their married daughter. Some families also want to ensure they will have grandchildren before they die.

The organization conducted similar research in Tanzania, where girls may be married as young as 11 and where most marriages are arranged by the girl’s father without consideration of what she wants. Domestic violence is widespread in the nation, greatly impacting the health and wellbeing of child brides. Husbands generally do not have patience with child brides who may be too young to effectively complete the domestic tasks required of them, making them more likely to beat younger wives. Polygamy is also legal in Tanzania, which can negatively impact young brides.

Moving Forward

To effectively reduce child marriage, Forward UK recommends increasing community programs aimed at raising awareness about the negative impacts of child marriage, providing programs that will empower girls, improving girls’ access to education and establishing legal and medical services aimed towards girls and young women.

It remains to be seen whether progress in reducing child marriage in Africa will begin to occur at a faster rate. This progress would have a large impact and could help millions of girls across the continent.

– Sara Olk

Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in India
India is one of the countries with the highest rates of child marriage. Approximately 27 percent of women are married in the country by the time they turn 18. Out of the total of 29 states in India, the states of Bihar and Rajasthan lead the country with 69 percent and 65 percent of girls married under the legal age, respectively. The mean age when girls marry in these regions is only 16.6 years and more than 13 million girls in India remain child brides.

Causes of Child Marriage in India

The prevalence of child marriage in India is caused mainly by social traditions and poverty within many states. Young girls are often deemed an economic burden by their parents. The greatest expenses that families must bear are paying for education and housing and these expenses increase as a child gets older. To alleviate the economic pressure that female children create, they are transferred to a husband, that can be viewed as a guardian.

The rates of these unions have decreased in girls under 15 years of age, but have increased between in girls aged between 15 and 18. After the marriage, the male guardian becomes responsible for the female child. The child is often subjected to domestic violence and sexual abuse. Nearly 39 percent of husbands report either sexual or physical abuse toward their wives.

Health Risks and Education

The health of the child is put at greater risk because of sexual violence. Girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are two times more likely to die in childbirth. The lack of protection also exposes them to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS. Young women aged from 15 to 24 years are 44 percent more likely to contract HIV/AIDS than men from the same age group. This is due to many factors including lack of access to adequate health care services and inter-partner violence resulting in unsafe sex.

In addition, these child brides have less educational opportunities than girls who are not subjected to early marriages. They are directly correlated due to the fact that new brides are expected to be mothers and homemakers. This relationship goes both ways, as girls who have access to secondary and higher education are three times less likely to marry by the age of 18.

Preventing Child Marriage in India

India itself only reports that 27 percent of girls were married in the country by the time they are 18. This percentage has decreased from 50 percent in the last decade. India lowered child marriage rates drastically with new legislation. The country began improving the situation in 2006 with the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. This act outlawed marriage in girls below the age of 18 and boys under the age of 21.

However, this act has had negative effects on the regulation of child marriage. Marriages in states like Bihar and Rajasthan are more of a social construct rather than a matter of legal documentation. The rates of child marriage remain high in these regions due to cohabitation of an older male guardian and a female child. This cohabitation is usually accompanied by a ceremony declaring martial union without registering it with the state.

It is much more difficult to regulate cohabitation, but the country drafted legislation to prevent this type of union. In 2013, the National Action Plan to Prevent Child Marriage was introduced nationally. This strategy aims to effectively end child marriage in India and make it a child protection issue. While the act is not yet finalized, as of 2017, men can be held legally accountable if they are involved in child marriages. India’s Supreme Court ruled that sex with an underage wife is considered rape. This offers an opportunity to regulate child marriage, even when it is performed as a social exchange without official documentation.

Moreover, India has joined the South Asian Initiative to End Violence against Child Marriage and UNICEF’s Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage. The country is making great strides to prevent this violation of human rights.

Women Peer Groups

When the state fails to protect the children, the women of India rise up. An activist grassroots movement of boycotting underage marriages has been incredibly effective. Over 100 Women Peer Groups are set up across five rural Indian states. These independent groups and individuals work to stop marriages in person, lobby for legislation against child marriage and improve resources for children that find themselves in these situations. Malti Tudu is one of the members of these groups that now comprise of over 2,800 women dedicated to ending illegal unions.

Child marriage is a definitive issue that the Indian government is focusing on. Through new legislation and governmental strategies, along with the aid of grassroots movements, the country can effectively create a safe landscape for children, especially young girls, to grow in.

Emily Triolet
Photo: Pixabay