Female Genital Mutilation in Sudan
In Sudan, authorities have declared that they will ban female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, a monumental push forward for girls and women’s rights. Sudan will adopt the eradication of child marriage into all articles of the African charter on the rights and welfare of a child, reported The Guardian. Sudan’s authorities hope that these new additions allow for more protection for Sudan children. Here is some information about FGM in Sudan.

FGM in Sudan

Female genital mutilation involves the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia for non-medical reasons. Different types of FGM procedures exist, however, the core purpose is that it is a rite of passage into adulthood and a pre-requisite for marriage.

As of July 2020, laws in Sudan are making the practice of FGM punishable by up to three years in jail. By enforcing stricter laws against FGM, Sudanese government officials project a decline in FGM rituals. According to an in-depth analysis conducted by UNICEF in 2016, nearly two-thirds of circumcised women experienced FGM as early as ages 5 and 9 years and more than one-tenth of women married before 15 years of age.

Child Marriage in Sudan

People in Sudan commonly practice child marriage and about a third of Sudanese girls marry before the age of 18. Child brides are prevalent in Sudan due to several factors such as poverty, level of education and harmful traditional beliefs that younger girls are easier to socialize into obedience. Some Sudanese families believe they must marry off their daughters when they reach puberty to “protect” their chastity.

The Psychological Effects of Child Marriage and FGM

Child marriage and FGM can be detrimental to girls in Sudan as they can experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Sudanese girls are 23% more at risk of suffering from cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Child marriage can also often lead to domestic abuse due to a potential imbalance in the power dynamic. The inequality in power threatens young girls’ ability to negotiate contraception, risking frequent early pregnancies. As the Sudan government and world leaders fight to put an end to child marriage and FGM in Sudan, this could, in turn, decrease potential long-term damaging psychological and physical effects on vulnerable Sudanese girls and women.

Plan International

Plan International is one of the many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) helping to end gender-based violence amongst vulnerable children and young people in Sudan. Since 1977, Plan International has been working towards inspiring girls and young women of Sudan to reach their full potential instead of entering into a cycle of violence and poverty. Through advocacy, academic opportunity, leadership outreach and mentorship programs that address child marriage and gender-based violence, Plan International has been inspiring girls and young women to obtain new opportunities. Helping advance children’s rights and equality for girls through its programs and projects is how Plan International aims to aid in the fight to eliminate child marriage and female genital mutilation.

As a new era in girls’ and women’s rights is present in Sudan, the road is still full of challenges. The process of complete abolishment of these crimes against humanity might be extensive but world leaders have pledged that these crimes will no longer exist by 2030. Fortunately, the future looks promising as Sudan’s government officials begin to consider how to improve female’s living conditions.

 – Jessica Barile
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a major tourist destination, reeling in an estimated 6.5 million visitors in 2018. However, it also hosts a largely divided society with 40% of its population falling under the poverty line. Due to this poverty, Dominican children struggle considerably, dealing with several issues that do not allow them to succeed and confine them to a life of poverty. Here is some information about child poverty in the Dominican Republic.

Limited Access to Proper Education

One of the hardest struggles Dominican children must deal with is a lack of proper public education. These children in poverty attend public schools which often provide low-quality education with a lack of resources and poorly trained professionals. Due to a lack of financial resources, these schools also suffer from ill-suited scholastic programs and buildings in need of repair. Consequently, “more than 40% of Dominican children are uneducated,” and just 60% of enrolled children complete their primary education. Another problem worth addressing is the Dominican Republic’s high rate of repetition, especially in rural areas, with 44% of students in grades one to five, being three or more years older than the appropriate age and 60% of students in grades six to eight, again being older than the age they should be. 

Child Labor

 These children are then must work in order to support their struggling families. In fact, 2.1% of Dominican children from ages 10-14 are obliged to join the workforce. In fact, 28.1% of working children work in agriculture, 8.6% work in industries such as construction and producing baked goods and 63.4% have employment in public services. Many of these jobs are unsafe for children and some even suffer sexual trafficking and exploitation, especially Haitian children who traffickers frequently send to the Dominican Republic. 

Mistreatment and Abuse

Due to a lack of enforcement and prohibition, Dominican children frequently suffer from abuse. As of 2014, reports determined that 62.9% of children experienced physical or psychological mistreatment by their caregivers. This treatment of children in the Dominican Republic is concerning and leads to adults who deem it right to use violence to solve conflict and gain power. In fact, 8% of Dominican men from ages 15 to 49 consider it justified to physically abuse their wives for at least one reason, while 2% of Dominican women in the same age range agree with this justification of abuse. 

Child Marriage

Another significant issue young Dominican women struggle with is the regularity of child marriage. In fact, 36% of Dominican girls must marry before they turn 18 and 12% marry before they turn 15. Furthermore, as of 2014, 21% of girls from ages 20-24 reported having given birth before the age of 18. These marriages are harmful to these young women, who must place their own education and goals to the side to become wives and mothers against their will. 

Lack of Identity

Another huge problem for Dominican children is the number of births that are not on the official record. “More than a quarter of births in the Dominican Republic are not officially reported,” concluding in a large number of children with no identity or nationality. This leads to huge difficulties for these children who will never be able to fully enjoy their rights as citizens. For example, the Ministry of Education requires students to have a birth certificate to graduate high school, forcing all unidentified children to be unable to get a degree, leaving them with the least amount of opportunities to succeed. 

Solutions

Several organizations have emerged and the Dominican Republic is passing legislation to aid and raise awareness on these critical issues regarding child poverty in the Dominican Republic. Some of these organizations include Save the Children and UNICEF, which raise money to support poor communities by providing potable water and promoting health and hygiene.

Save the Children also focuses on improving education for Dominican children, using its platform to refurbish school buildings, build gardens, enhance teacher’s knowledge and improve sanitary infrastructure. It has protected 1,665 children from harm and provided 27,318 children a healthy start to their lives. Furthermore, The Ministry of Labor has increased the number of hired inspectors from 148 to 205 in 2019, demonstrating moderate improvement in decreasing child labor. More than anything, the Dominican Republic has made considerable improvements in healthcare, providing healthcare to 366,236 poor citizens who had previously lacked it through the Health Sector Reform APL2 (PARSS2). These improvements target the Dominican Republic’s most critical issues, including education, child labor and sanitation, helping alleviate the prominent issue that is child poverty in the Dominican Republic.

– Juan Vargas
Photo: Flickr

Equal Rights for Women
Throughout history, women have not always had access to the same rights as men. More recently, women are increasingly demanding and fighting for equal rights, especially by women who witness the oppression or have lived subject to the inequalities. Here are five women who are taking leadership in advancing equal rights for women.

5 Women Advancing Equal Rights for Women

  1. Malala Yousafzai, alongside her father, established the Malala Fund. In 2012, the Taliban targeted Malala, a vocal advocate for a girl’s right to education, and shot her on the left side of her head on her way home from school. When Malala recovered, she decided that she wanted to continue fighting for education for girls around the world. With the allyship of her father, she established the Malala Fund. It supports educators in eight different countries with $22 million invested in Malala Fund campaigns. Malala Yousafzai is a woman advancing equal rights for women by advocating for every girl’s right to an education as well as financially supporting schools for women in various countries.
  2. Gabby Edlin is the founder of The Bloody Good Period Campaign. While volunteering at a refugee center, she noticed that women did not receive menstrual products with their kit of essentials. Gabby started a small campaign on Facebook, and the interest in helping women grew. This led to her creating The Bloody Good Period Campaign, overcoming resistance from men who did not believe that the resource was a necessity. Bloody Good Period focuses its efforts on asylum-seeking women who are unable to purchase food or other necessities because of their need to purchase menstrual products; it seeks to educate women and destigmatize menstruation. Gabby Edlin is a woman advancing equal rights for women by educating and garnering the support of the public. She also uses the funds to provide menstrual product needs to refugees.
  3. Forgotten Women is an organization that women run for women. They founded the organization after witnessing the abuse of vulnerable women around the world. Forgotten Women developed the LIFT Model which stands for “Leveraging Investment for Transformation.” Through this model, it provides the means for women to be permanently self-sufficient and provides emergency aid to women in vulnerable positions. Forgotten Women has a sexual trauma clinic that currently reaches an average of 105,000 women per year; it continues to advocate for equality, defending women who stand for this value. Forgotten Women is a group of women advancing equal rights for women by imparting unconditional aid to vulnerable women and supplying them with the means to be self-sustained providers.
  4. Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin founded Pearls Africa. Abisoye lost her mom when she was 4 years old, and at a young age, she learned about computers through a family friend’s support. Her tech skillset enabled her to intern with EDP Audit & Security Associates, an IT auditing firm in Lagos, Nigeria. She noticed the underrepresentation of women within the industry of tech and determined to change this disparity. In an interview with Unearth Women, she said, “In Nigeria, there are very few girls in STEM fields, as they have been made to believe that tech is not something that they can pursue due to their sex or gender. This is a lie, and it’s something we’re trying to change systematically through the GirlsCoding initiative.” One of the successes of GirlsCoding took place in the impoverished Makoko slum in Lagos. After the young women left GirlsCoding, they became leaders in their communities. Then, they started Makoko Fresh, an e-commerce platform that supports and improves the livelihoods of local fishermen. GirlsCoding is just a part of the work that occurs through the organization Pearls Africa. Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin is a woman whose intellectual leadership advances equal rights for women by expelling doubts and stigmas about female capabilities and equipping girls with the resources to pursue a meaningful career.
  5. Sonita Alizadeh is a champion and advocates on the behalf of Girls Not Brides. At the age of 16, Sonita found out that her parents were going to sell her into marriage. Despite her family’s disapproval, she recorded music about her experiences as a woman and a refugee. Sonita released her song­, “Daughters for Sale” on YouTube. The video went viral, and her parents decided not to sell her into marriage. Sonita Alizadeh now lives in the United States and continues to fight on behalf of child brides. She works as an advocate with Girls Not Brides and speaks with global authorities on the issue. The organization urges countries to develop laws, policies and programs that end child marriage; Sonita Alizadeh is a woman whose creative leadership advances equal rights for women, specifically young girls, who would otherwise be sold into marriage before maturity.

The leadership of these women advances equal rights for women across the world. Their personal experiences and courage, often in the face of insurmountable odds, led them to activism on behalf of vulnerable or oppressed women. The example that they set serves as an inspiration to all people that each person’s voice has value, meaning and power. The impact of each organization demonstrates the importance of advocacy and activism.

Hannah Brock
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in Zimbabwe
According to UNICEF, child marriage is “any formal marriage or informal union between a child under the age of 18 and an adult or another child.” Although rates of child marriage have declined, the practice remains widespread. Unfortunately, child marriage impacts approximately one in five girls today. According to UNICEF, about 12 million child marriages occur each year. Consequently, more than 120 million girls may marry before they turn 18 years old by 2030. Child marriage in Zimbabwe is especially prevalent.

How it Impacts Children

Child marriage is a human rights violation. Additionally, it restricts girls from achieving their potential in education, social bonding, friendship, simple maturation and the right to choose a life partner.

Moreover, girls who marry young face great health risks. Dr. Nawal M. Nour, an Obstetrician/Gynecologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital explains “child marriage is driven by poverty and has many effects on girls’ health: increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer, malaria, death during childbirth and obstetric fistulas.” Many nations such as Zimbabwe are working to implement policies and programs to educate and ban the practice of child marriage.

Solutions

Zimbabwe banned marriage for children under 16 years old in 2016. As a result, the practice is on a steady decrease. However, child marriage continues to persist in most impoverished areas in the country.

Many low-income families choose to marry off their child due to a lack of income to support their basic necessities such as food and clothes. According to Girls Not Brides, many marriages result in some type of transactional agreement. Oftentimes, the husband gives the family money in exchange for their daughter. Unfortunately, many families use this money to survive.

Many organizations exist that are trying to prevent child marriage by creating safety nets that protect vulnerable families from the economic factors that predicate child marriage. Furthermore, young women are fighting against child marriage in Zimbabwe. In particular, one 17-year-old martial arts fan is showing girls that they have a fighting chance.

Vulnerable Underaged People’s Auditorium Initiative

Natsiraishe Maritsa started a taekwondo program called the Vulnerable Underaged People’s Auditorium Initiative to fight child marriage in Zimbabwe. Despite her limited resources, Maritsa was able to carve out a community of young fighters in the face of an oppressive system.

Young children gather at Maritsa’s home to practice taekwondo. She leads her people in drills and teaches them how to stretch kick and punch. After each class, they discuss the dangers of child marriage in Zimbabwe. Many cases of child marriage result in marital rape. However, Maritsa’s group sessions provide girls with a safe place to heal and reach catharsis. According to the Associated Press, she hopes to “increase the confidence of both the married and single girls through the martial arts lessons and the discussions that follow.”

Child marriage in Zimbabwe is a problem that continues to hurt communities in impoverished areas. Fortunately, many people are working to prevent these circumstances. The future for children in low-income households is steadily improving in Zimbabwe.

– Matthew Hayden
Photo: Flickr

Sexual Violence in India
Sexual violence is hard to quantify as it comes in many forms. Addressing sexual violence in India is difficult due to stigmas around gender and sexuality. Furthermore, victims of sexual violence are primarily children. Educating youth and providing resources for victims is crucial to reducing sexual violence in India.

Prevalence of Sexual Violence

India has a much lower rate of sexual assault cases than the United States. However, it is likely that most sexual assault incidents go unreported. This is due to social stigma, cultural expectations of marriage and the prevalence of sexual violence against children.

Less than 10% of sexual assault victims seek assistance from law enforcement. Due to limited law enforcement in rural areas, the police neglect around 100,000 reported rape cases per year. Additionally, only one-third of these cases lead to a conviction.

Sexual violence against children is rampant in India. A Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment study estimated that 53% of boys and 47% of girls experience sexual abuse during childhood. Girls are at high risk of suffering from sexual violence between the ages of 15 and 17. As a result, it is much less likely that victims will report the abuse they experience.

Child Marriage and Violence

It is common in India for girls to enter into arranged marriages at a young age. Around 45% of girls marry before reaching 18 years of age. Additionally, 22% have their first child before the age of 18. Victims of sexual violence often know their perpetrators. Furthermore, most husbands consider their wives property. As such, police frequently overlook cases of domestic violence.

Information Barriers

Schools often neglect to teach students about sexual violence due to its taboo nature. A 2017 survey found that 15% of adolescents felt comfortable discussing sexuality with their parents. However, over half of the sample could not define what sex was.

Sexual education programs are becoming more common throughout India. Yet, these programs often do not discuss the nuances of sexual relationships and power dynamics between genders. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends implementing comprehensive sex education into curriculums. This curriculum helps delay the age at which young people enter into sexual relationships and reduces the number of sexual partners. This aids in preventing unplanned pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

The YP Foundation – Empowering Youth

The YP Foundation emerged in 2002 and works to educate young people in “feminist and rights-based leadership.” Know Your Body Know Your Rights (KYBKYR) is a program that provides a series of workshops for young students. This program is led primarily by young women who educate students about gender issues and safe sexual behavior. Every year, around 1,500 young people attend KYBKYR workshops that cover gender expression, relationships, violence, anatomy, body image, puberty, HIV, sexual orientation and discrimination.

SNEHA – Resources For Domestic Violence Victims

SNEHA is a nonprofit that emerged in 1999 with outreach programs that prevent, address and monitor abuse against women and children across India. One program includes five crisis centers and four women’s hospitals in Mumbai that provide counseling, medical attention and legal assistance. About 16,328 women have received counseling from this program.

Furthermore, SHENA uses mobile phone technology to collect data before, during and after treatments at these counseling programs. Thus, data points allow statisticians to assess the programs’ effectiveness.

Additionally, SNEHA has trained 7,915 law enforcement officers, 10,722 hospital staff and various other professionals on how to handle cases of sexual assault appropriately. SHENA has also helped pass the Women Against Domestic Violence Act in 2005 and the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offenses in 2012.

Combatting sexual violence in India requires refined education and adequate access to counseling for adolescents. Breaking down the communication barriers about sexuality and domestic violence is important in addressing this issue. An open discussion about cultural norms and the pervasiveness of sexual assault against children is necessary to create a safer place for everyone.

 – Elise Brehob
Photo: Unsplash

women’s rights in UzbekistanA former Soviet Union territory, Uzbekistan has a population of 30 million. In recent years, there have been governmental and societal changes along with a new president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Women, who play a pivotal role in the Uzbek family structure, have experienced different issues related to their rights in the country. There are several key facts to know about women’s rights in Uzbekistan.

Societal Views Oppress Women

Women faced new setbacks after Uzbekistan obtained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The Soviets, who colonized the region in the latter half of the 19th century, promised women that they would be emancipated from the patriarchal customs of society, viewing them as oppressive against women. This movement encouraged female education, and in the 1980s, an estimated 41% of university students were women. However, after the independence of Uzbekistan in 1991, in a push to reestablish the Uzbek tradition, the progress of women’s rights in Uzbekistan took a hit when conservative social customs were reintroduced. Only six years later, in 1997, the number of women in higher education institutions dropped to 37% and it is estimated to have fallen even more drastically in recent years.

The Prevalence of Child Marriage

Child marriage is still prevalent. Most Uzbek families believe that the role of women is to marry and run the household. This social concept encourages child marriage throughout the country, particularly in rural regions. With girls marrying at younger ages than boys, female education is directly impacted by child marriage, as women are generally confined to the home after marriage. Furthermore, it is expected that women are to give birth within their first year of marriage, despite a lack of education about reproduction and childbearing. With young brides, female bodies are often not prepared or mature enough to give birth healthily. This has led to health complications such as infertility and chronic conditions. Women’s rights in Uzbekistan are hindered by child marriage, as it limits female educational opportunities and leaves women with little chance to escape a life of housework and childrearing.

Domestic Violence is Not a Crime

Domestic violence is deemed a family issue and not an actual crime. Since independence from the Soviet Union, the push to reaffirm traditional values has meant that women have a subservient role within the household, and to a further extent, within society. Outside of their homes, women face restrictions on how to live their lives, with limits on educational and work opportunities in favor of marriages and children. With women in rural areas at particular risk for domestic violence, Uzbekistan has largely ignored women’s rights within the home. Violence against women has reportedly increased in recent years.

Women’s Rights Reform at Governmental Level

President Mirziyoyev has taken promising action to address the lack of women’s rights in Uzbekistan. Elected in 2016, Mirziyoyev spoke about the importance of women within Uzbek society, noting their problem-solving skills and administrative capabilities. He urged for their involvement in government and industrial factions and even appointed Uzbekistan’s first female Head of Senate, Tanyila Narbaeva. With men dominating government positions for years, a female in an authoritative government position was a progressive shift and a promising result of political changes.

Legislation to Protect Women

The fight for women’s rights in Uzbekistan is becoming more of a priority. In 2019, two new laws were introduced to protect women’s rights. The first is to ensure equal opportunities and freedoms for men and women and the second is to safeguard women from domestic violence and assault. Also, almost 200 shelters have been set up across the country to provide for women escaping violence. Unfortunately, there is very little funding for the subsistence of these shelters. While this is undoubtedly progress from the country’s more traditional views on the role of women in society, more significant action needs to be taken to defend these newfound rights and sustain protective services.

The Future of Women’s Rights in Uzbekistan

The push for women’s rights in Uzbekistan has been made more difficult by the country’s history as a Soviet Union colony and their subsequent counterreaction to reestablish their traditional cultural values. In recent years, women have been restricted by societal pressures to marry young and spend their lives taking care of the household. With limited opportunity to decide their own futures, women in Uzbekistan have not truly attained their human rights. Fortunately, however, President Mirziyoyev has expressed his desire to transform women’s rights in Uzbekistan. Hopefully, with a new female government official and progressive laws, women’s rights in Uzbekistan will continue to improve.

– Eliza Cochran
Photo: Flickr

Children in Burkina FasoBurkina Faso, a small, landlocked country in Western Africa, is one of the least developed countries in the world. About 45% of the over 20 million who live in the nation face poverty. Nearly 2.2 million people live in dire need of aid, with children half of those in need. This crisis has only worsened due to the ongoing conflicts in the Sahel region of Western Africa, which have displaced millions of Burkinabé people and put them at a higher risk of poverty.

Children in Burkina Faso, who make up 45% of the population, face more challenges than nearly any other group of children on Earth — many of them have low access to nutrition, education, and healthcare, and are often subjected to child labor and marriage.

Hunger and Malnutrition

While Burkina Faso has always struggled with hunger, with 25% of children stunted from malnutrition, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem. The number of people in need of food aid has tripled to 3.2 million, and many of those suffering from malnutrition are children. Doctors and nurses in Burkina Faso are reporting extremely high numbers of malnourished children entering their healthcare facilities each day. Prior to the pandemic, Burkinabé children experienced hunger as a result of displacement from the conflicts in Africa’s Sahel region.

Education

While attending primary school is compulsory for children in Burkina Faso between the ages of seven and fourteen, this rule is not enforced, and about 36% of children do not attend. Additionally, 67% of girls over the age of fifteen do not know how to read or write. The high levels of poverty in the country lead to low levels of education. Furthermore, the conflicts in the area have only made it harder for children to access and attend their schools. Attackers have raided the schools, injuring teachers and putting Burkinabé children at risk.

Healthcare

Burkina Faso has the tenth-highest under-five mortality rate in the world, with 87.5 out of every 1,000 children in 2019 dying before their fifth birthday. About 54 infants die for every 1,000 live births . That majority of these deaths are from communicable diseases and malaria, which the nation has struggled to prevent and control. While the number of healthcare workers in the area has increased in the past few decades, particularly between 2006 and 2010, it has not been quite enough to combat the need of the ever-growing population, and many children in the area are left without healthcare access.

Child Marriage

Over half of Burkinabé children are married before their eighteenth birthday, and the country has the fifth highest rate of child marriage in the world. One in ten girls under nineteen have already given birth to at least one child. Girls with limited access to education have a higher chance of marrying as children. The same holds true for girls who live in impoverished households. Both of these trends remain common in Burkina Faso. The apparent social value ascribed to girls in the region is considered lower than their male counterparts. As a result, young girls who enter child marriages often do not have a choice in their future husbands.

Child Labor

42% of children in Burkina Faso are engaged in child labor rather than attending school. Though the government adopted a “National Strategy to End the Worst Forms of Child Labor” and raised the legal minimum working age to sixteen, these high rates of child labor have not decreased significantly over the past few years. These children work as cotton harvesters, miners of gold and granite, domestic workers, and in some rare cases, sex workers. Child labor puts children at risk of serious injury, and, in some extreme cases, even death.

While children in Burkina Faso face all of these challenges, work is being done to help them live safe, healthy and educated lives. Save the Children, UNICEF, Action Against Hunger and Girls Not Brides are just a handful of the organizations working in Burkina Faso to ensure that these children receive the care they need and deserve. Childhood in this region is, in fact, difficult. Yet, all is not lost as these groups work to improve the lives of children across Burkina Faso.

Daryn Lenahan
Photo: Flickr

Combatting Child Marriage in NigerBoarding in between the African countries Algeria and Chad, Niger is ranked the world’s poorest country. Considering the country is home to a 16.3% urban population and 83.7% rural population, the lack of resources for those living on rural land is a primary reason for the severely high child marriage rate. This article will list why combatting child marriage in Niger continues to be a prevalent topic today.

High Birth Rate and A Young Population

Niger has the second-highest birth rate globally, which is caused by a high infant mortality rate. According to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the current infant mortality rate is 80.4 per 1,000 live births. Malnutritionment plays a vital role in children’s health and the lack of proper food and clean water contributes to the mortality rate.

According to the United Nations Human Development Index, Niger is ranked the lowest at 189 out of 189 countries. More than 50% of the Niger population are under the age of 15, and approximately 89% of young girls marry prior to reaching the age of 18. Less than 30% of those children receive an education, which is an even more prevalent issue among girls. One of the main reasons children aren’t attending school is the extreme poverty within the country.

When a child is sick or suffering from starvation, they become malnourished, which makes them incapable of attending school, and the more often it happens, the less likely they are of going back to school. Combatting child marriage in Niger is seemingly difficult due to the extreme poverty and it makes human development, especially for children and women, extremely challenging to achieve.

A Lack of Independence With a Lack of Education

Niger has the second-highest birth rate globally, which is caused by a high infant mortality rate. According to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the current infant mortality rate is 80.4 per 1,000 live births. Malnutritionment plays a vital role in children’s health and the lack of proper food and clean water contributes to the mortality rate.

According to UNICEF, married women become dependent on their husbands because their sense of independence is taken away. However, women are, more often than not, engaging in marriage during their teenage years before they are even fully mature, which would explain why their sense of independence is stricken away so early on.

Education plays an important role in child marriages in the country of Niger because the lack of knowledge makes a woman more vulnerable to risky decisions. According to UNICEF, “The link between education and the prevalence of child marriage is particularly evident in Niger: 81% of women aged 20-24 with no education and 63% with only primary education were married or in union at age 18.” The lack of children attending school is a primary reason for combatting child marriage in Niger.

Unstable Government

Niger lacks the ability to properly control and patrol its borders, making it more unprotected and defenseless to possible terrorism and criminals. The government lacks accountability in this area, making it the perfect hideaway for terrorists and drug traffickers. The more unstable the government is, the more vulnerable, yet welcoming it is to child marriages.

Although child marriage became illegal by law in 1999, it is still prevalent today and is plummeting young girls’ social and economic standing. However, with the continuous help from the organization Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), child marriages in Niger and all African countries will soon come to an end. Five female ministers in the education field created the organization in 1992 and are working toward combatting child marriage in Niger. According to FAWE, the goal is to strengthen young girls’ minds in multiple countries in Africa by increasing access to education and ensuring the caliber is up to par for them to benefit from its resources.

FAWE has expanded over the years by remaining in close contact with 34 national chapters to ensure female education grows substantially and it “relates to long-term economic development and its centrality and urgency in education sector planning.” With FAWE’s progression, among other organizations, and the government of Niger taking accountability for flawed areas within the system, young girls in Niger and in other African countries will become more educated and free of potential threats to their personal growth.

– Montana Moore
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in PanamaPanama — the narrow bridge of land that connects North and South America. The tropical country is renowned for its natural beauty and diverse plant, animal and bird life. Yet, all that sparkles, is not glitter. Panama’s economy is highly unequal and there’s a wide gap between the rich and the poor. Poverty in Panama is as much of a prominent feature of the country as its landscape.

Rural Poverty

Ethnicity and geographic location determine one’s poverty in Panama. Panamanians who live in rural areas do not have adequate access to resources, such as hospitals and schools. This is a result of the lack of professional doctors and teachers or mentors in rural areas.

Panama is the second worst in income distribution in Latin America, which leads to sector-specific poverty. Unpaved roads in the country make it are especially difficult for farmers. Accordingly, they do not end up selling their crops in big cities where they can earn a large income. Thus, begins a chain of poverty in Panama that devolves into poor hygiene, sanitation, child labor, malnutrition and eventually yet another generation submerged in loans.

Child Poverty

About 27.7% of Panamanian children live in poverty and 12% experience malnutrition. Failure to register children at birth causes many to go without citizenship. Thus, the government is ignorant on its exact child population and cannot justly allocate money to the “nonexistent.”

Around 15% of children are victims to early marriages. The legal age to marry in Panama is 16 for boys and 14 for girls. However, most of these children are not registered with the government, so kids are married off at ages as young as 10.

The minimum age for working in Panama is 15. Even with this being the case, 5-year-old children can be seen carrying bricks in construction sites. Severally underage workers — child laborers — even appear in big cities like Panama City and Tocumen. To earn a few dollars more, families force their children to work. However, it’s at the cost of children being mentally and physically exploited.

The Rays of Light

Panama has done much to fight poverty. From 2015-2017, poverty in Panama declined from 15.4%  to 14.1%. In the same time span, extreme poverty decreased from 6.7% to 6.6%. Additionally, there are currently multiple NGOs working to help poverty and other problems in Panama. One is to Educate Women in Panama. The organization’s goal is to help lower poverty in the future through more women and girls getting their education. Education will help these women find jobs easier, lowering the poverty rate.

The country, with aid of NGOs and the government, has the potential to bridge the income inequality gap and make itself an equitable society for all, regardless of class, region or ethnicity. Panama can be as bright and colorful as its beaches for not only the urbanites but also the rurals.

Riddhi Bhattacharya
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in KyrgyzstanPatriarchal culture and deep-rooted traditions within the country have contributed to child marriage in Kyrgyzstan. Despite the legal age for marriage being 18, an estimated 19% of girls in Kyrgyzstan are married before this age. Due to the country’s history and various social factors, child marriage in Kyrgyzstan remains an issue. Organizations such as the National Federation of Women’s Communities of Kyrgyzstan, are fighting for girls’ rights in the country.

History of Child Marriage in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan was formerly a member of the Soviet Union. Under Soviet control, many of the traditions and values of the country were repressed. Following the 1989 collapse of the Soviet Union, the government of Kyrgyzstan attempted to maintain power by appealing to nationalism and reviving the traditions of the country. One of these traditions was the practice of child marriage, which has seen increases in many Central Asian countries following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Factors Associated with Child Marriage

Social issues, including poverty, lack of education, cultural emphasis on honor and practices of bride kidnapping, contribute to the practice of child marriage. In Kyrgyzstan’s poorest households, 16% of girls are married as children compared to 9% of girls from families with higher incomes. Girls with primary or no education are more likely to be married by the age of 18 than girls with a more substantial education – 4% compared to 33%, respectively.

Kyrgyzstan culture emphasizes family honor and child marriage is linked to the desire to ensure that girls do not engage in premarital sex. Child marriage is also linked to the practice of bride kidnapping, where the girl is taken by force to the house of a man who wants to marry her and is slowly convinced by him and his family to agree to the marriage. An estimated 12,000 bride kidnappings occur each year and it is believed that many girls agree to child marriages in an attempt to avoid being kidnapped.

Effects of Child Marriage in Kyrgyzstan

Child marriage causes many hardships for women and girls in Kyrgyzstan. Due to the unequal nature of child marriages, domestic violence is common for child brides. Child brides often face difficulties during pregnancy and childbirth due to their young age and immature physical development. These marriages often put an end to girls’ education as they have to drop out of school to raise children and undertake domestic tasks. This limits their future ability to find jobs and become financially independent, putting them at risk of being unable to leave abusive relationships.

In addition, because child marriages are illegal under Kyrgyzstan’s laws, many of these marriages are not officially registered with the state until both parties are over the age of 18, the legal age for marriage. Since women in unregistered marriages do not have access to resources such as property, alimony and child support, they are limited in their independence and ability to leave a marriage.

The National Federation of Women’s Communities of Kyrgyzstan

A key organization combatting child marriage in Kyrgyzstan is the National Federation of Women’s Communities of Kyrgyzstan (NFFCK). NFFCK is an organization created by teenage girls with the mission of giving girls throughout the country the tools and knowledge necessary to avoid child marriages and other forms of gender discrimination. The organization provides sex education and awareness programs regarding health issues, smoking and drugs, in addition to teaching leadership skills. NFFCK also is an advocacy organization, conducting awareness campaigns on social issues such as child marriage to create policy changes.

A grant provided to NFFCK by the U.N. Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women allowed the organization to create an educational program, Educating Girls Through Education, Art and Media, in three villages. The program had benefited 600 people as of 2016.

Over the course of just two years, NFFCK worked with 41 girls to avoid child marriage through its education and leadership-building programs. NFFCK provided nearly 500 girls with some form of “practical support” and more than 1,600 girls with “consultations on child marriage and bride kidnapping.” Overall, NFFCK has educated 12,000 girls on their rights.

Governmental Efforts to End Child Marriage

The government is also committing to do more to end child marriages. In 2016, President Almazbek Atambayev passed Article 155, which creates a legal basis for the punishment of adults who perform marriage ceremonies involving minors. The 2015-2017 National Action Plan on Gender Equality also included awareness programs for the public and the military on the harmful effects of child marriage. Still, an estimated 14% of girls under the age of 18 were married in 2019, indicating that child marriage in Kyrgyzstan remains a serious issue. With ongoing efforts and commitments from the government and organizations, child marriage in Kyrgyzstan can be successfully combated.

– Sydney Leiter
Photo: Flickr