Civil Rights Songs
Music has an undeniable connection to civil rights movements. As Gregory Harper, a former museum director and archaeologist turned musician says, music has often been used in the service of civil rights and political awareness. Songs were chosen based on the influence in specific civil rights movements, as well as their popularity and legacies. In the text below, the top 10 civil rights songs are presented, but due to their importance and quality, they can be deemed as the top 10 of the best songs ever recorded. They are listed in alphabetical order and there is no importance in their specific ranking.

Top 10 Civil Rights Songs

  1. “Glad to Be Gay”- Tom Robinson Band. Written for a London gay pride parade, “Glad to Be Gay” was banned by the BBC upon its release. It became an anthem for the LGBTQ community in London. Tom Robinson has said that “Glad to Be Gay” was about the non-conforming, from lesbians to transgenders. With this proud song, Tom Robinson gave a voice to the people that might have never had a voice before.
  2. “Free Nelson Mandela”- The Specials. “Free Nelson Mandela” was a Top 10 hit in the United Kingdom in 1984. The song became an anthem for the anti-apartheid movement for people outside of South Africa and forced the privileged, white populations of the West to become aware of the issues in South Africa. Undoubtedly, this song influenced the citizens of powerful nations to beg their leaders to aid the fight against apartheid in South Africa.
  3. “From Little Things, Big Things Grow”- Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody. Written by two Australian artists in the early 1990s, this song tells of the inspiring story of the Gurindji people and their struggle for land rights. The lyrics tell of the 1966 Wave Hill walk-off that was originally focused on poor working conditions and low wages. The walk-off turned into much more since eight years later, Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam gave these people their land back, igniting the Aboriginal land rights movement. Today, this song continues to symbolize the struggle for recognition of natives all over the world.
  4. “Mannenberg”- Abdullah Ibrahim. Released in 1974, “Mannenberg” combined South African-jazz with African-American jazz-rock fusion. The outcome was a song that South African blacks clung to as their own. The influence of this song in South Africa’s fight against apartheid, along with its mixture of cultures, solidifies it as one of the best civil rights songs.
  5. “People Get Ready”- Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions. Released in 1965 during the American Civil Rights Movement after Curtis Mayfield watched the March on Washington, this gospel song turned mainstream hit has been covered countless times by many artists.
  6. “Redemption Song”- Bob Marley. To pick Marley’s best civil rights song is difficult, but “Redemption Song”, that was released on Marley’s last studio album appropriately named “Uprising”, seems fitting. Using words from a 1937 speech of Marcus Garvey’s, Marley tells of physical and mental freedom, the hallmarks of all civil rights movements.
  7. “Strange Fruit”- Billie Holiday. The most popular version of the song is Billie Holiday’s version, a symbolic mosaic of the pain that black people have endured in the United States, selling one million copies in its first year. Originally written by Abel Meeropol in reaction to the infamous photograph of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, 1999 Time Magazine named “Strange Fruit” the best song of the century.
  8. “Sunday Bloody Sunday”- U2. As Irish rock band U2 was gaining momentum, soon to become the biggest rock bands of their time, they used their platform to share a perspective on the Bloody Sunday massacre, incident that occured in 1972 in the area of Derry, Northern Ireland. In 2010, United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron apologized on behalf of his country for the incident. The progress that was made by the Northern Irish in order to receive such an apology could not have been done without U2’s true-life tale that told those all over the world about the violence that was done to the people of Northern Ireland.
  9. “We Shall Overcome”- Pete Seeger. In 2018, the song’s lyrics became part of the public domain which is appropriate as the lyrics have traced back to the 18th century as slaves would sing similar verses while working. Pete Seeger brought it to mainstream consciousness, after hearing a group of mostly black tobacco workers sing the song during a strike. Joan Baez sang the song during the March on Washington. President Johnson uttered the words “we shall overcome” in his defense of the Voting Rights Act. The song continues to be sung at countless global, civil rights protests.
  10. “Zombie”- Fela Kuti. In a rebuke of the Nigerian military’s violent tactics, Kuti wrote “Zombie”. The Nigerian army acted swiftly, noting the song’s message as well as Kuti’s influence on the poorer populations of Africa. They pillaged Kuti’s commune and threw his elderly mother out of a window, resulting in her death. Kuti did not stop making music, symbolizing the resilience of those he gave a voice to. The legacy of “Zombie”, as well as the direct influence Kuti had in promoting civil rights, make this one of the best civil rights songs.

These songs listed above are masterpieces, but it is the people’s emotional connection to them what makes them even more valuable. They are directly connected to fight for human rights and will be surely used in the future as well.

– Kurt Thiele

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Human Trafficking in China
Human trafficking encompasses any exploitation or forced trade of humans against their will. This includes sex trafficking, child labor, forced labor and even forced adoptions and marriages. Human trafficking has risen to extremely high rates in China and the country has been identified as having one of the world’s highest rates of human trafficking in the world.

Human Trafficking in China in Numbers

It is reported that human trafficking impacts 236 million people in China and Chinese trafficking victims have been transported and found on every single continent around the world. Approximately 600,000 workers willingly migrate into China on the basis of false promises regarding work opportunities, including escapees from North Korea. Instead of finding work, many are set up and sold into human trafficking organizations. They are usually forced into hard labor, prostitution, or entertainment industries. There are numerous causes of human trafficking in China. Supply chain companies, many of which sell their products to the United States, utilize human trafficking to obtain cheap or free labor to mass produce their products.

Causes of Human Trafficking in China

The one-child policy has contributed to human trafficking in China and can be considered as one of the main reasons for this negative trend in the country. In an effort to control the growing population, the country limited each family to the maximum of one child. As male children are prioritized over female, an uneven gender distribution ratio exists.

This results in less marriageable women and, therefore, the purchasing of wives through human trafficking. Children are also kidnapped from poverty-stricken rural areas and sold to parents that are unable to have children themselves. Overall, the largest causes of human trafficking in China are the high unemployment rates in rural areas, mass production increase in urban areas and lack of enforced punishment by government and law.

Tackling the Issue

China does not meet the minimum requirement of standards necessary to combat the rise of human trafficking. However, as this issue has been brought to the light internationally, the country has begun to make efforts to fight against human trafficking. The Central Committee, the State Council and local governments and institutions are designated to tackle this issue.

Many organization, predominately those that are organized by women, have been prominent in providing knowledge about sex trafficking to uneducated women. Paired with the Ministry of Justice, the All China’s Women’s Federation has produced many anti-trafficking printouts and propaganda. China has increased cooperation with other countries attempting to investigate cases of Chinese trafficking overseas, as well as provided shelters for trafficking victims and funded awareness campaigns to increase knowledge surrounding the issue.

These efforts, however small, go along way in helping prevent the rise of human trafficking in China. Providing awareness to uneducated and poverty-stricken rural areas is a large first step, as many people fall into trafficking simply by being unaware of what it is, what it looks like and how it occurs. There is a long way to go, but with the help and encouragement of international countries, the causes of human trafficking in China will begin to lessen. The first big step, the recognition of the problem, is already done.

– Mary Spindler

Photo: Flickr

Top Civil Rights LeadersDuring the earlier years of U.S. history, slavery and oppression created some of America’s oldest top civil rights leaders. Susan B. Anthony, Chief Joseph, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. are only a few of the many people who fought back in the face of adversity.

Paving the Way

1851: Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are two big names in women’s civil rights. Together, they worked toward social and political advances for women. They established the American Equal Rights Association, which aimed to earn women and African American men voting rights. Other accomplishments were forming the Women’s Loyal National League, which gave women a political platform, and writing an amendment that was proposed to the Senate every year for 40 years. These two women are responsible for some of the rights American women have today.

1853: Harriet Tubman is one of the most well known civil rights leaders associated with U.S. slavery. Tubman helped more than 300 slaves reach freedom with the well-known Underground Railroad. Tubman saved her own money, and supporters donated funds to help her continue her mission to free enslaved African Americans. While Tubman is most famous for her work with the Underground Railroad, she also provided invaluable services during the Civil War.

1877: In an effort to avoid the slaughter and oppression of his tribe, Chief Joseph led the Nez Perce people on a 1,400-mile journey from the Wallowa Valley (now Oregon) toward Canada. This four-month long venture was treacherous for the Nez people. Many of the original 700 had lost their lives and the remaining could not continue, which forced Chief Joseph to surrender just 40 miles from the Canadian border. Although he admitted defeat in the end, Chief Joseph is one of the top civil rights leaders because he stood up to fight for what he believed in while facing an oppressive government.

These inspirational people carved the road for the next civil rights leaders to come a century later.

Civil Rights Movement

1955: Rosa Parks faced discrimination on a bus ride, where she was asked to give up her seat to a white man. She refused, which led to her arrest and her rise to civil rights leadership. Her wrongful arrest led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a protest by 17,000 African American citizens. This caused a substantial drop in revenue and a Supreme Court ruling to desegregate the Montgomery buses, because the law was deemed unconstitutional. Parks received severe backlash after the boycott and even lost her job as a tailor, but she still persevered. Parks is one of America’s top civil rights leaders because she continued the fight for African Americans and created change.

1963: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is maybe the most famous champion of human rights. He led peaceful marches and demonstrations protesting the discrimination African Americans faced in the U.S. His movement inspired the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and his words are often the inspiration of equality speeches today. Dr. King was faced with arrest, hate and violence from the people of Birmingham, Alabama. Yet he stood tall in the face of controversy and remained peaceful throughout his civil rights leadership. He preached of a world in which people were no longer divided by race, a message which still resonates with many today.

1965: Malcolm X faced racism all his life and channeled it through anger for a significant portion of his activism. He was known for a radicalized activism during the Civil Rights Movement and was viewed as a black nationalist who had an alternative approach to change. It was widely known that his delivery of the message of change contrasted Dr. King’s peaceful message. However, toward the end of his civil rights leadership, he had an apparent ideological change. Unfortunately, like many other civil rights trailblazers, he was assassinated before he could see a significant change in America.

The Fight Continues

The effortless work of past civil rights leaders has not ended; they merely passed the torch on to activists fighting today. Some of the current top civil rights leaders are:

Tarana Burke: Burke fights for the rights of victims of sexual assault and abuse. She is also the creator of the Me Too movement.

Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi: Creators of the Black Lives Matter group, which protests police brutality and institutional racism.

Chad Griffin: President of Human Rights Campaign, which is one of America’s largest gender and sexual minorities civil rights organization.

Nihad Awad: The leader of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an Islamic advocacy organization that monitors hate crimes, profiling and discrimination against Muslim Americans.

Benjamin Crump: A civil rights attorney who speaks and represents cases for minorities who have experienced police brutality.

Michelle Alexander: Alexander is a civil rights lawyer who works against the systematic racial oppression of the African American men that disproportionately fill the nation’s prisons.

Throughout history, people have fought for their own civil rights around the world. Whether it was Nelson Mandela creating a national strike against the South African government, Malala Yousafzai journaling girl’s right to education, or Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi refusing to get out of his first-class seat on a train—activism is everywhere and has a ripple effect. Through protesting and standing up for their own rights, these former and current activists have made the top civil rights leaders list.

– Courtney Hambrecht

 

Top Nine Nelson Mandela Quotes About Education

Nelson Mandela was a man who carried varied and numerous titles throughout his life. He was, among other things, a revolutionary, nonviolence anti-apartheid activist, philanthropist, human rights activist, the first black president of South Africa and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He even went through 27 years in prison for his efforts to bring harmony and equality to South Africa. One of his great legacies was his contributions to education.

Nelson Mandala Quotes about Education

Mandela recognized education as a great vehicle to bring equality of opportunity to the world. Here are nine Nelson Mandela quotes about education:

  • “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.”
  • “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
  • “The power of education extends beyond the development of skills we need for economic success. It can contribute to nation-building and reconciliation.”
  • “A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”
  • “Young people must take it upon themselves to ensure that they receive the highest education possible so that they can represent us well in future as future leaders.”
  • “Without language, one cannot talk to people and understand them; one cannot share their hopes and aspirations, grasp their history, appreciate their poetry, or savour their songs.”
  • “No country can really develop unless its citizens are educated.”
  • “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”
  • “It is not beyond our power to create a world in which all children have access to a good education. Those who do not believe this have small imaginations.”

The man’s inspiring life story has touched even more people’s lives than his quotes about education. The many funds and foundations he established during his lifetime continue to help and advocate for the causes he cared about; such causes include the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, The Nelson Mandela Foundation and The Mandela Rhodes Foundation.

Institute for Education and Rural Development

As for the education sector, in particular, The Nelson Mandela Institute for Education and Rural Development provides education for rural children in South Africa that encounter educational barriers such as collapsing classrooms, leaking roofs, shortages of desks and shortages of teachers.

The institute creates tools and methods to develop teacher training systems, works with the community, refurbishes classrooms and helps students develop their language skills as well as their confidence.

The Gift of Education

The gift of education is indeed something to be celebrated. To work towards Mandela’s honorable vision of a free and equal society, the world will require the knowledge, resources and insight that education brings. The Nelson Mandela quotes about education featured above express why education is so important.

Education is an investment essential to empowering individuals to reach their full potential and to make their own positive impact on the world.

– Connie Loo

Photo: Flickr


To most, the word “lobbyist” usually inspires images of big corporations influencing politicians. However, this image is not entirely accurate. Lobbying is actually a useful tool that average people can and should use. It is a form of advocacy that focuses on educating or influencing representatives in our government. You do not need money or power to lobby.  You need only a voice, and by following these three steps, you can learn how to be a citizen lobbyist.

Step 1: Know who you are and the power you have.
American citizens ages 18 and older have the power to vote and are essential pieces of the country’s democratic system. However, few know that they are also constituents. Essentially, a constituent is a member of a community or a part of a whole.

Every citizen is a constituent to three individuals in Congress, and it’s paramount to know whose constituent you are. These three individuals are the two senators representing your state and the congressman or congresswoman representing your district. These representatives represent you and your interests in the legislation they vote for, and it’s important to know you have the power to influence their vote.

Members of Congress will listen to their constituents over other citizens because those are the people they are elected by and represent. For example, senators are not too interested in listening to citizens of another state. They would rather like to know what their constituents are thinking and worrying about. You can find out who your three representatives in Congress are on the Borgen Project’s Who Are My Leaders? page.

Step 2: Know what you can do as a constituent.
Members of Congress are voted in by their constituents, and it would be foolish of them not to listen to their constituents. Now that you know you have this power over them, it is helpful to know how to use it. Using this power is easy.

Simply put, it’s all about getting your word out. Representatives are not mind-readers; they are politicians. The best way to get politicians to vote on something you may be passionate about is to talk to them about it. You don’t have to walk into their office and proclaim your dream of a poverty-free world. An email, call or written letter all get the job done, and you can always do all three. You can even write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper discussing a certain bill or use social media to contact your representatives.

If you are the outgoing, adventurous type, try attending events where your representatives will be speaking or schedule a meeting with them. The more you meet with your representatives or attend their town hall meetings, the more they and their staff will get to know you and your cause.

Step 3: Practice.
Now that you know how to be a citizen lobbyist, it is your job to practice being an active citizen.

If you are shy, start out with phone calls or emails. They can be as simple as mentioning you are a constituent, your name and the bill you would like them to support. For the more outgoing, show up at the next town hall meeting.

Once you get a representative to support a piece of legislation, ask them to co-sponsor it as well. Co-sponsoring is like getting your representative to represent the issue to other members of Congress and asking them to support the bill as well.

By following these three easy steps, you too can learn how to be a citizen lobbyist.

James Hardison

Photo: Flickr

facts about MLK
As the single most influential individual associated with the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. lived life under a spotlight. His legacy continues to be praised to this day for his courage, passion for justice and his devotion to civil equality. An advocate for nonviolence, Martin Luther King Jr. brought masses together in his time to fight against oppression with words and peaceful demonstration rather than brutality, violence and war.

His birthday, now a national holiday, celebrates and teaches many of the major highlights in his life, and resulted in a nation well-versed in his incredible life, justice goals and untimely, his martyred death.

For a man so inspiring, every day words that he spoke became inspirations to the public. Speeches and statements he gave lit a flame in the hearts of people who craved social justice and equality. In honor of Black History Month, here are 10 interesting facts about MLK, one of the most profound and inspiring American heroes:

    1. Originally, Martin was not his first name—it was actually Michael. His father, Martin Luther King Sr.’s, name was also originally Michael but after a trip to Germany, he changed both Michaels to Martin in homage to the historic German, Martin Luther.
    2. He and his wife, Coretta Scott, had four children named Yolanda Denise, Martin, Dexter and Bernice Albertine.
    3. He graduated with a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology in 1955.
    4. He was arrested on Jan. 26, 1956, for driving 30 mph in a 25 mph zone.
    5. Just four days later on Jan. 30, his house was bombed.
    6. In 1957, it is estimated that MLK traveled more than 780,000 miles and made 208 speeches.
    7. MLK had a lifelong admiration for Gandhi and visited India in 1959—crediting Gandhi’s passive resistance techniques for his civil rights successes.
    8. The first national celebration of MLK’s birthday was not until 1986.
    9. It is estimated that more than 700 streets in the U.S. are named after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
    10. At 35, King was the youngest man to have won the Nobel Peace Prize. All of his monetary winnings from the award were put toward furthering the issue of civil rights and towards civil rights movements.

– Eastin Shipman

Sources: Nobel Prize, The Seattle Times
Photo: Biography

worst dictators current
The world’s most repressed countries live in a dictatorship. Citizens suffering under the rule of harsh dictatorships are often stripped of political rights and civil liberties. Those who express views differing from the state suffer consequences of physical and psychological abuse. Though the number of dictatorships has been on a decline, there is still much progress to be made. Listed below are some of the worst current dictators.

 

Worst Current Dictators

 

1. Kim Jong-un is arguably the most well-known current dictator in the world with the antics of his late father being publicized in world news all too often. As Supreme Leader of Korea, Kim Jong-un runs his government with a totalitarian rule ranging from his pursuit of nuclear weapons to unapologetic and even public execution of his citizens. Hope for more lenient domestic and foreign policies following his father’s death has since changed as Kim Jong-un continues the ruthless administration his father started years prior.

2. Bashar al-Assad, leader of Syria came to power in 2000 and was seen by many as a potential reformer by domestic and foreign observers alike. There were high hopes that with Assad in power, the drastic changes that Syria needed would come about sooner rather than later. Instead, Assad has tightened his political reigns and enforced harsh consequences for political opponents and potential challengers which heavily contributed to the civil war that broke out in 2011. It is believed that Assad has tens of thousands of political prisoners being held and tortured in prison.

3. Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe since 1980, came to power following the end of a civil war which ended white minority rule. Mugabe gained much attention from pursuing land reform policies that focused on reclaiming property and land owned by non-black Zimbabweans. Though some deemed his actions as racist to say the least, Mugabe seemed to gain quite a bit of support from those who felt his actions were making amends to the people of Zimbabwe from the previous abuses by European colonists. However, Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party turned the heads of many in 2008 when presidential elections came about versus Morgan Tsvangirai, a pro-democracy supporter. Tsvangirai received much support resulting in Mugabe only receiving 43 percent of the vote in the first round of the election. However, after allegations of fraud, voter intimidation, beatings and rape conducted by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, Mugabe swept the election with 90 percent of the vote.

4. Vladimir Putin of Russia is known most for the staggering amount of control he has over his country through his political actions regularly linked with corruption. After serving two terms from 2000-2008, Putin decided to create a loophole in the constitution by deeming himself Prime Minister when Dmitry Medvedev became the next president of Russia following the end of Putin’s final term. Medvedev consequently made an amendment to the constitution allowing presidents to serve six terms and giving Putin the opportunity to serve as president for a third term. To no one’s surprise, Putin won the presidential election in 2012.

– Janelle Mills

Sources: Forbes, Kizaz, Freedom House
Photo: Toon Pool 

platform for action
In an effort to increase gender equality in China, at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was created. The platform sought, and still seeks to enact serious change to 12 areas of daily life. According to U.N. Women, the commitment to change spans the following 12 categories:

1. Women and the Environment
2. Women in Power and Decision-Making
3. The Girl Child
4. Women and the Economy
5. Women and Poverty
6. Violence Against Women
7. Human Rights of Women
8. Education and Training of Women
9. Institutional Mechanisms of the Advancement of Women
10. Women and Health
11. Women and the Media
12. Media and Armed Conflict”

Since the conference and the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, there have been major steps toward the advancement of women’s rights. Laws protecting gender-based violence, in general, have become stricter and more women are now serving as political officials.

As the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is coming up on its 20th anniversary, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women is taking a closer look at how some of these changes are being implemented and working to enhance efforts where commitment appears to be lacking.

U.N. Women has discovered that “while today, equal number of boys and girls are receiving primary education in most of the world, few countries have achieved that target at all levels of education.” Moreover, the Millennium Development Goals Report found that worldwide, 126 million children and 781 million adults do not have basic reading and writing skills. Women make up over 60 percent of each statistic, indicating a problem in education distribution between the sexes and the need for greater dedication to the problems surrounding “the girl child.”

At this 20 year mark, in order to promote women’s rights in Beijing, it is crucial to reexamine the declaration and reignite the fire that sparked the dedication to enhancing women’s rights.

Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: United Nations, UN Women, WNC
Photo: Reuters

over_under_sideways_down
Hear “Over Under Sideways Down” and you may think of the experimental, blues-rock single released by the English Yardbirds in the 1960s. On the off chance that experimental 1960s English music is unfamiliar, the song is sung by someone lost to the high life. “Over, under, sideways, down, backwards, forwards, square and ‘round…when will it end?” asks the chorus.

Though for completely different reasons, the feelings of confusion and displacement professed in the song are echoed in a recently released comic of the same name. Commissioned by Amnesty International in honor of Refugee week, it tells the story of Iranian Ebrahim Esmail.

Esmail is Kurdish Iranian, one in a group of people marginalized and often very poor. In addition to the trials he faced as an ethnic Kurd, he has long been a victim of political persecution. At 6 years old, he was shot in leg, an event from which he still bears a scar. His father, a reformer and activist, was murdered. At 9, he was passing out political flyers for his stepfather. At 15 it was revealed that he was in danger, and he was forced to leave his mother and his home.

The smugglers who led Esmail and others to the United Kingdom took complete advantage of the vulnerability of their charges. They were brutal and inhumane in their treatment of the men and women with whom they had been entrusted. They abandoned Esmail as soon as he reached the U.K. Left with no money and no connections, he found police authorities, then spent four years in examination after interview after court case. He was finally given “leave to remain” in the country.

This was, briefly, the story given to comic creator Karrie Fransman. Having written for The Guardian, The Times and Random House, she was hardly short on experience. But the task was daunting. “I listened to everything Ebrahim was telling me and thought, how on Earth am I going to draw this?” she said in a recent interview.

To some, comics are for children. But it is immediately apparent that Fransman’s work is not. Muted in tone and understated in narrative, it simply and sympathetically presents Esmail’s story, without overpowering it.

Fransman expresses her honor in speaking with Esmail and committing some of his life to the page. Esmail seems satisfied with the result. “The experiences I’ve had are not always easy for me to talk about, but I wanted people to be able to understand what it means to be forced from your home and made to start all over again,” he says. The comic does just that.

Olivia Kostreva

Sources: Broken Frontier, The Red Cross, Refugee Week
Photo: The Guardian

Gender Based Inequality in Nepal
As more Nepalese men leave their homeland in search of employment, the women—especially in rural areas—have begun to take a larger role in society. Even with these new-found responsibilities, the women of Nepal remain trapped in the cycle of poverty and gender-based inequality that has plagued the country for generations. In Nepal, a woman can run a farm yet have no access to the profits the land yields.

Nepal’s economy relies largely on foreign aid, and despite the tremendous progress since the 1990s, 40 percent of the population continues to live below the poverty line. That number declined by 11 percent overall since the mid-90’s, but this still leaves one third of all Nepalese children living under such conditions.

Unemployment leads thousands of Nepalese to migrate to neighboring India in search of a way to provide for their families. Unfortunately, the open border allowing this migration also renders human trafficking, for both sexual and hard-labor purposes, much easier. The trafficking of an estimated 200,000 Nepalese women has filled brothels across India. Someone known to the family often tricks the victims with the promise of a well-paying job. In other cases, women are simply kidnapped and smuggled across the Nepalese border into India. Low-paid border police are easily bribed—an issue activist groups currently target with practical training for the police regarding how to spot a victim of trafficking.

Abuse also follows women who migrate willingly to countries like Lebanon. Under the Kafala system, one employer receives the work permits, meaning women who dare leave an abusive employer risk deportation. Because legal employment pays little, if any, wages, many Nepalese migrants turn to the illegal informal sector. The Nepalese government has reacted with heavy restrictions on women’s travel and migration to the country.

Evidence suggests that the expansion of women’s rights can relieve a country from poverty sooner. Yet, historically, gender inequality has been ingrained in Nepalese society. Chhaupadi, the practice of forcing a women in menstruation or having recently given birth to live apart from the family until the bleeding ends, is still practiced throughout the western and central regions of Nepal. Within the Nepalese family unit, women cannot live individually, which incapacitates victims of domestic abuse who might otherwise leave. Few women report abuse or trafficking to police.

The future of the Nepalese women requires addressing the two main factors of her suffering: economic and gender-based inequality. Microloans offered to rural women proves to be one method to fight the temptation of falsely-alluring jobs abroad. Survivors of trafficking have also received such loans. In 2007, the Nepalese government enacted the Human Trafficking and Transportation Act, but without proper implementation, the Act fails to serve its purpose. The issue demands further international attention, and increased financial independence for women in Nepal.

– Erica Lignell

Sources: The Economist, Unicef, BBC News, FORBES, The Guardian, AlJazeera, The New York Times, The New York Times(2)
Photo: Google Images