Information and stories on development news.

Role of STEM in Developing CountriesScience, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are important for building and maintaining the development of any successful country. From the medical scientists, who develop treatments for diseases, to the civil engineers, who design and build a nation’s infrastructure, every aspect of human life is based on the discoveries and developments of scientists and engineers. The importance of STEM today should not be underestimated as its role is becoming increasingly significant in the future. The technology produced today is altering people’s lives at a rate faster than ever before. Consequently, it is vital for countries seeking to reduce their poverty levels to adopt new scientific research and technology. In doing so, these countries can improve their economy, health care system and infrastructure. As this impacts all aspects of society, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance.

STEM and Economic Progress

STEM education fosters a skill set that stresses critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. This type of skill set encourages innovation among those who possess it. Similarly, a country’s economic development and stability are dependent on its ability to invent and develop new products. Technological innovation in the modern age is only obtainable through the expertise of specialists with knowledge of recent STEM research. Therefore, the role of STEM in developing countries is important because a country’s economy is completely dependent on new developments from technology and science.

Overall, the economic performance of metropolises with higher STEM-oriented economies is superior to those with lower STEM-oriented economies. Within these metropolises, there is lower unemployment, higher incomes, higher patents per worker (a sign of innovation), and higher imports and exports of gross domestic products. According to many experts, this holds true at a national level as well. The world’s most successful countries tend to efficiently utilize the most recent scientific developments and technologies.

In recent years, there is a major increase in the number of science and engineering degrees earned in India. India now has the largest number of STEM graduates in the world, putting the country on the right track for economic development. This has led to widespread innovation in India and a consistent increase in its gross domestic product. The role of STEM in developing countries can thus improve its economy. As of early 2019, India has seen an increase of 7.7 percent in its total GDP.

STEM and Health Care

Over the past 50 years, the Western world has made remarkable progress in medical science. With new breakthroughs developed through vaccinations and treatment, many serious diseases in developing countries are now curable. Common causes of death for children in developing countries are diseases such as malaria, measles, diarrhea and pneumonia. These diseases cause a large death toll in developing countries, but they have been largely eradicated from developed countries through proper vaccinations. As a result, these diseases take a large toll on the children of developing countries. In developing countries, a high percentage of the population is under 15 years of age. As such, it is important to prevent diseases that affect children under 15.

Lately, Brazil has seen an epidemic level of yellow fever which has resulted in numerous deaths. Brazil has addressed this by implementing a mass immunization campaign. In particular, this program will deliver vaccines to around 23.8 million Brazilian citizens in 69 different municipalities. The role of STEM in developing countries with preventable diseases will be vital to improving health and life expectancy rates.

Engineering and Infrastructure

Engineers build, create and design machines and public works to address needs and improve quality of life. Engineers construct and maintain a nation’s infrastructure, such as its fundamental facilities and systems. This includes roads, waterways, electrical grids, bridges, tunnels and sewers. Infrastructure is vital to a country, as it enables, maintains and enhances societal living conditions.

Subsequently, poor infrastructure can seriously hinder a nation’s economic development. This is the case in many African countries. Africa controls only 1 percent of the global manufacturing market despite accounting for 15 percent of the world’s total population. Ultimately, poor infrastructure, such as transportation, communications and energy, stunts a country’s ability to control a larger share of the national market.

Afghanistan has improved its energy infrastructure, using a large portion of the assistance received from the U.S. Through this effort, they have been able to reduce electricity loss from 60 percent to 35 percent. Consequently, they have improved long term sustainability and created a reliable energy system for their citizens. The role of STEM in developing countries is important on a large scale, improving infrastructure to impact their citizens’ daily lives.

STEM and the Future of the World

Societies seeking new scientific knowledge and encouraging creative and technological innovations will be able to properly utilize new technologies, increase productivity, and experience long term sustained economic growth. The developing societies that succeed will be able to improve the living standards of its population. As our world becomes more interconnected, countries prioritizing STEM education and research will make significant advances in alleviating poverty and sustaining economic, cultural and societal growth. Undoubtedly, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance, just as it is in our modern world.

Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Finland
Finland is a Northern European nation bordering Sweden, Norway and Russia. Since joining the EU in 1995, the country has overcome an economic downturn and its universal healthcare system has been cited by prominent political leaders as a positive example. The unemployment rate is at 7.6 percent, slightly higher than the EU average of 6.8 percent.

Attractions include the views of the Northern Lights, which can be seen best between September and April. and Finland is the EU’s third most expensive country. The nation administers universal healthcare and utilizes income, property and sales tax to cover the cost. Here are 10 facts about living conditions in Finland.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Finland

  1. In Finland, about 83 percent percent of people say that they feel safe walking alone at night. In fact, Finland’s homicide rate is 1.4 percent.
  2. The life expectancy for women is 83.5 years and 77.5 years for men. Twenty-one percent of Finland’s population is over the age of 65, and the lower life expectancy for men is attributed to men declining medical help for conditions, and for lifestyle choices that lead to cardiovascular disease. There is also a high death rate due to alcohol-related deaths among men.
  3. The child mortality rate in Finland is 4 percent, one of the lowest in the world. It was not always this way; in the 1930s, one in ten children died in their first year of life. This caused the government to provide maternity packages in 1949. These resource bundles contained baby supplies such as clothes, toys and blankets. Today, maternity clinics are available to all people, regardless of income.
  4. One in 10 young families with small children reported being food insecure. While they have access to stores, this family demographic reports being unable to afford groceries. The income level is statistically lower in families whose parents have completed less education. In 2015 and 2017, the country decreased its allotment for child allowances, which is a stipend that goes toward every legal resident in Finland until age 17.
  5. Sixty-nine percent of people aged 15 to 64 are employed. Around four percent of employees work very long hours. Finland has high completion rates: 88 percent of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education. In this regard, Finland’s possesses one of the most accomplished education systems in the world, as its standardized test scores are among the highest of the European nations.
  6. Finland spends less than 7 percent of its gross national product on healthcare. This expenditure is one of the lowest rates among EU members. The public sector finances 76 percent of total healthcare costs through tax dollars. With this resource, every resident citizen of Finland receives free healthcare.
  7. In 2017, the country began a two-year-long basic income experiment. The government provided unemployed participants with 560 euros per month for the duration of the experiment. Initial results suggested the experiment left people happier, but still unemployed, and their impetus for finding a job may have been removed. The full report of results will be available within the next year.
  8. In 2017, the country allotted 10 million euros to help train 2,500 immigrants to find skilled labor jobs within three years. Despite this success, local residents argue that Finland can improve the integration of migrant women and children into its workforce and society to boost the economy and social standards.
  9. Finland’s average monthly salary is 3,300 euros. Meanwhile half of working people in Finland earn less than the median of 2,900 euros per month.
  10. On March 8, 2019, Finland’s entire government resigned due to an inability to achieve welfare and healthcare reform. With its aging population, it is difficult for the nation to maintain the current policies — a decision that “hugely disappointed” Prime Minister Juha Sipila. However, Antti Kaikkonen, a senior member of the Center Party, showed support of the decision, saying it is an example of “political responsibility.” The current government will remain in office in a low capacity until the general elections in April.

Promoting a High Quality of Life

Finland has been a leader among the EU in experimental policies — such as the basic income experiment — maternity packages and child allowance. The recent resignation of their government is another example of their willingness to deviate from the norm in support of ensuring the best living conditions for Finnish people.

Ava Gambero
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in South Africa
Known today as the “rainbow nation,” South Africa has a fast-paced economy with a pluralistic and diverse culture and history. However, the ramifications of the apartheid regime still continue to be an impediment to social and economic development and alleviating poverty in South Africa due to its impacts on the social structure, security nets and family life.

Poverty Statistics

Due to the apartheid legacy, income inequality remains prevalent with 1 percent of the population owning nearly 70.9 percent of the nation’s wealth. The unemployment rate currently stands at nearly 28 percent due to the recessionary conditions in the country.

According to a report by the Children’s Institute (CI) at the University of Cape Town, six million children still continue to live below the food poverty line. Despite the efforts of the organizations like Child Support grant, the administration in South Africa struggles to deal with the implementation of care arrangements for these children especially those who live in more remote and rural communities.

Failed Economic Reforms

Since the collapse of apartheid in the country, the African National Congress (ANC) party has embarked on a variety of neo-liberal and market reforms to liberalize the trade and commerce of the economy to avoid a potential poverty trap. Yet, these policies exacerbated disparities and inequalities in the economy and cast a great degree of skepticism about mainstream economics and neo-liberal policies centered around deregulation and privatization. Unregulated market approaches financial flows and capital were a breeding ground for corruption and bribery among top levels of state and private institutions in the country particularly during the era of President Jacob Zuma.

Government Actions

However, along with the continued efforts from the Child Support grant and similar outreach programs, a deeper collaboration between families and the state is being recommended as a solution to the problem. Under the policy, more than 12 million children benefit every month. Access to more information about relevant childcare arrangements and health care programs will also be effective in improving awareness among families.

Moreover, state income support is being recommended to decrease inequalities measured in Gini values from 0.69 to 0.6 and to decrease the number of people who live on a monthly income lower than $30 from 39 percent to zero. The implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP) is a government agenda that aims to address poverty in South Africa by allocating budgets and improving public services and infrastructure by 2030.

Chances for Growth

Under the administration of new President Cyril Ramaphosa, the country is stepping investments on more ambitious infrastructure projects. Foreign investment from countries like China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is expected to be worth a collective $100 billion.

Furthermore, education reform is vital to not only address poverty in South Africa but also to help townships progress from the apartheid-era Bantu education system, which was an aspect of the law that enforced racial segregation in schools. Yet, efforts to change the current situation is underway, with an increase in pre-school enrollment and the number of university graduates.

In 2011, the multidimensional poverty index was introduced to better analyze poverty in South Africa and recommend sustainable solutions toward remediating some of its associated issues. A combination of social indicators like education, health care and quality of life is now assessed. Fortunately, under this poverty index, there was a decline in poverty by over 13 percent between the years 2001 and 2011. The sample can be improved further by combining a series of other factors like financial, transport and other assets as well.

To conclude, even though South Africa continues to be a modern economically developing country grappling with problems from a complicated history, a strong foundation will yield good progress in the long run and help the country overcome its many economic and social challenges.

– Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure in Lebanon
According to the 2018 Lebanon Economic Vision report, Lebanon’s economy has been stuck in a vicious cycle. Despite periods of prosperity, the economy has been highly unpredictable. Any substantial monetary influx is mostly channeled into less productive sectors and into financing a fiscally irresponsible administration. Combined with high levels of corruption and minimal legislative productivity, the resulting unhealthy business environment, second-rate infrastructure and poor development of Lebanon come as no surprise. Job creation and productivity are limited, hurting employment rates and continuing an economic cycle where no incremental wealth is generated. But can things change? 

Power and Electricity

Lebanon has consistently ranked in the top four worst world nations in terms of quality of electricity supply. The country even ranked as the last in the world in this segment from 2012 to 2014. The main electricity producer, Electricité du Liban, is so inconsistent that citizens are forced to purchase a private generator or subscribe to a different network. This means paying the double cost for electricity, and those who cannot afford this are sometimes forced to go without it for hours. However, the Ministry of Economy has presented a plan called the National Economic Vision 2025 to reform this sector and other sectors once and for all. The country aims to shrink non-technical losses by 2025 and to become more reliant on sustainable and renewable resources which would seriously impact the development of Lebanon.

Health Care

The Lebanese health care system is considered to be the best in the region and on-par with European quality standards, a good indicator of the development of Lebanon. Citizens boast a high average life expectancy and low neonatal mortality rates, as around 7.5 percent of GDP is allocated to health care expenditures. Nonetheless, a significant portion of the Lebanese population remains uninsured because of low wages and high insurance rates.

This commonly forces citizens to pay out-of-pocket fees for medical services. Despite these factors, Lebanon is on track to improve coverage and performance under new governance by the Ministry of Public Health. Under this new leadership, the sector will be driven by evidence-based decisions for monetary compensation, meaning more fiscal support goes to hospitals and patients who need it.

Education in Lebanon

Lebanon continues to invest 7.6 percent of GDP on education, a sector that is growing faster than the base economy itself. The country has one of the highest literacy rates in the Arab world. Academia is the sixth largest employer in the country, with about 161,000 employees. Nonetheless, while Lebanese universities continue to hold a strong reputation, the performance of the primary and secondary education system is declining. To combat this, the National Economic Vision plan proposes updates and enforcement of curriculum standards at the primary and tertiary level. Promoting Lebanese universities to attract international students, and increasing technological investments into this sector are also key factors for this plan.

Agriculture

Lebanon has approximately 658,000 hectares of biodiverse agricultural land that ensures the production of more than 60 types of crops and over 10 livestock products. In 2016, the agricultural sector contributed about 3 percent to GDP, or about $1.5 billion. However, over the past decade, growth has been particularly stagnant. The use of land for low-value crops, competition from imports, poor infrastructure and development of Lebanon and limited support for good farming practices are all contributing factors. Nonetheless, a plan to prioritize crops with high export growth potential and to finance technology to modernize farming would offer this sector the stability it is lacking. A focus on sustainable water practices is also a key concern.

Industry

Industry is a top contributor to the Lebanese economy, accounting for 10 percent of GDP and employing around 194,000 people. However, between 2010 and 2016, the sector had a steep decline in productivity, reducing its contribution to GDP by about 2 percent every year. This devastating decline can be attributed mainly to the poor quality and consistency of power supply and an unhealthy business climate.

To combat this decline, plans to expand the international market by adopting and enforcing compliance with industry quality standards has been detailed by the National Economic Vision plan. In addition, investing in specific subsectors that play on the country’s strengths, like jewelry or pharmaceuticals, would help grow the sector as a whole and ensure redevelopment.

Lebanon has distinct economic and social characteristics that could successfully be harnessed for positive change. The National Economic Vision 2025 proposes not only tools for rectification, but also hope for a better future. Investing in infrastructure in Lebanon, enforcing new fiscal rules and increasing revenue would generate job opportunities and stabilize a once volatile economy. A proposed strategy and plan would offer Lebanon a chance to become the prosperous nation it once was and improve quality of life for all of its citizens.

Natalie Abdou
Photo: Flickr

World Heritage Sites
Chew Jetty is a small town in Malaysia’s George Town that achieved Unesco World Heritage status in 2008. On Penang Island, the town contains wooden piers that used to belong to a bustling seafront hub and represents the vitality and dynamic nature of one of the last intact bastions of Malaysia’s old Chinese settlements. After World War II and Japanese occupation, the piers decayed immensely until the settlement’s economy was hardly able to sustain itself. In a final attempt to preserve the economy and the once-vivacious settlement, the town made a bid to Unesco for protection.

Chew Jetty Tourism

When Chew Jetty was awarded World Heritage status, the change was not at all what the residents had expected. Two of the clan enclaves had been demolished to create new housing complexes. Additionally, flocks of tourists infiltrated historical homes, vendors installed flashy commercial stalls and encroaching developers urged locals to alter important structures to make room for new developments. Suddenly, Chew Jetty’s status as a Unesco World Heritage site attracted thousands of tourists by the boatload, effectively uprooting the culture and traditions once held sacred to the old Chinese settlement.

And yet, receiving its status as a World Heritage site seemed to be the only measure of action that prompted Chew Jetty out of its declining economic state. Therein lies the dichotomy in in Unesco’s attempt to benefit economies and its detrimental effect on the local population.

Anti-Tourism Conundrum

This anti-tourism sentiment can be seen worldwide. In 2017, local communities in Venice and Barcelona gathered together in an outburst of anti-tourism marches, complaining about rising rents, overcrowding, and the increase in pollution due to cruise ships. Local residents and activists are demanding authorities to alter the management of tourism, as it has significantly altered their normal daily lives and actually increased the cost of living for them.

At first glance, the influx of tourists is interpreted as an increase in the tourist economy and consequently an increase in the state economy. However, upon a further breakdown of this effect on the locals of any given city, the influx of tourists increase costs and overcrowding, making living conditions more difficult and less affordable for local residents. This could, in turn, actually increase poverty rates among the citizens who once inhabited these locations.

World Heritage Sites

There are 1,052 World Heritage sites across the world, and most of these locations struggle with the same conflict of striking a balance between tourism and the preservation of culture. Several organizations, including Unesco itself, have been working towards a solution to this problem. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has stated that the goal should not be to limit the number of tourists visiting these cities, but rather to better manage the flow of tourism by perhaps redirecting them away from main city centers and city attractions and formulating a more sustainable form of tourism.

Additionally, the Unesco World Heritage Tourism Program has identified the adverse effects of tourism on World Heritage sites and is making active efforts to thwart the increasingly adverse effects of tourism on the local population. For instance, the Program is implementing appropriate tourism management workshops for its annual conventions and adopting a new set of standards and principles relating to sustainable tourism at World Heritage sites.

While there are negative socio-cultural and economic effects on World Heritage sites, there are several movements that are working together to bring a more sustainable form of tourism and enhancement of a city’s economy without sacrificing the well-being of the locals.

– Shefali Kumar
Photo: Flickr

Education in Tanzania
Tanzania faces many challenges, including environmental pollution and poverty. The country has seen development in recent years, and poverty rates have declined by around one percent every year since 2007, according to a World Bank report. However, poverty remains high compared to neighboring countries, as 22.8 percent of Tanzania’s population lives below the poverty line. Furthermore, 48 percent of children in Tanzania are deprived, even if they do not live in households that are monetarily poor.

Approximately 26 percent of youth in Tanzania have not completed primary education, as poverty is a barrier that keeps many children from going to school. The disparity between the richest and poorest children is stark — with the average primary school attendance rate being 68 percent for the poorest quantile of children and 90.5 percent attendance for the wealthiest quintile. Education in Tanzania still has room for improvement, and many regions and public schools lack qualified teachers and materials.

The White Rose: Hope for the Future of Education in Tanzania

The White Rose is a nongovernmental organization that believes fostering education in Tanzania is the key to tackling the nation’s problems and creating lasting social and economic change. The organization’s focus is on primary education, where children learn how to behave and form the mindset that will guide them throughout their lives. The organization works in several small villages in the Arusha region (Sanawari, Ilboru and Olturoto) located in the northern region of Tanzania.

The White Rose relies on volunteers to help fill in some gaps and bring a new and international perspective to local pupils. Nikolay Nedyalkov, a volunteer who completed a program with the White Rose organization, told The Borgen Project:

“There were a few differences between the children from the public school and the private school. Whenever I walked into my classroom at the private school, the students would already be seated and waiting for the teacher. What surprised me the most was how eager they were to learn… The students at the public school were a little more distracted, but their later class sessions were held after a regular class load … Besides these time-of-day attention span differences, both public and private school pupils were extremely curious and asked me questions in geography, sports, history and always wanted to play football.”

Nedyalkov’s experience illuminates another challenge in Tanzania’s education system. The government declared primary education free in 2001, and by 2016, 1.3 million students had enrolled. This high enrollment caused the student-to-classroom ratio to soar to  77:1. Private primary schools, on the other hand, are unattainable for a large portion of the population, with annual fees ranging from $1000 to $17,000. Therefore, while the White Rose provides the opportunity for its volunteers to teach in both public and private schools, the organization suggests that those volunteering for more than three weeks do so in a public school.

The White Rose volunteers teach a variety of subjects (ranging from English to geography) to primary school students. The organization currently operates in four private schools, two public schools, and a public library. Additionally, the Global Partnership for Education, UNICEF, and USAID have made strides to improve access to education for Tanzanian students. Tusome Pamoja, which translates to “let’s read together,” is USAID’s flagship program in coordination with Tanzania’s government. The program’s scope ranges from assisting with policy issues to coordinating teacher training and student materials; it seeks to benefit nearly 1.4 million children over the course of five years.

While the education system in Tanzania faces obstacles, the involvement of organizations like the White Rose and its team of volunteers are making a significant positive impact. With contributions of a multitude of aid organizations and the international community, the state of education in Tanzania is likely to improve.

– Aleksandra Sirakova
Photo: Flickr

Special Education in refugee camps
Lack of education is a contributing factor to the cycle of poverty. The 1989 ‘Convention on the Rights of the Child’ and the 1951 ‘Refugee Convention’ emphasizes the fact that access to education is a basic human right. However, approximately half of the world’s refugee children are out of schools. Access to schooling becomes increasingly difficult when countries enter conflicts and develop refugee camps.

The United Nations passed the ‘Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ in 2006. The declaration clearly stated disabled peoples’ right to an education. This right is only accessible in 28 percent out of 193 states, and although there are many initiatives to support special education in refugee camps, further support is needed to help refugees with disabilities obtain and maintain the education they need.

Classification of Disabilities

Disability can be categorized into two branches: mental disability and physical disability. A mental disability is any mental disorder that affects the everyday life of an individual, and examples include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, intellectual disabilities and schizophrenia. A physical disability is an impairment of the body and/or a person’s motor abilities. These are either acquired at birth or as a result of a traumatic experience and include cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy and amputations.

Obstacles Faced by Refugee Children

Special education in refugee camps is not an easy task to accomplish, and there are many obstacles that refugee children with disabilities must face in order to receive an education. The first obstacle is very simple to notice — the challenge of getting to school. In many large refugee camps, there are typically no more than a few schools that children can go to and children usually walk to school. For people with physical disabilities, transportation can pose a great problem, especially as most infrastructure is not built to accommodate disabilities. For example, an 8-year-old girl named Hayam lives in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan and suffers from muscular dystrophy. Hayam had to take a quarter-mile walk to her school every day, and her illness made this very difficult.

Another obstacle for people with disabilities is the misunderstanding of physical and mental disabilities in many communities. In many cases, people are taught to fear and look down on people who have disabilities. There are situations in which parents of able-bodied children do not want to have students with disabilities in the same classroom as their child for fear that their child’s education will be harmed.

Furthermore, integration into schools for refugee students can be a difficult task due to political, cultural, religious or linguistic differences. It can be extremely hard for schools to deal with these differences and misconceptions if they lack necessary resources, and such status is incredibly harmful to refugee children with disabilities as it can make it very difficult for them to receive schooling. Refugees are also likely to have PTSD and other related mental disorders due to witnessed trauma, and such effects can harshly affect education if there are no treatments for mental disorders that make it difficult for children to pay attention in class or attend school at all.

Organizational Support

UNICEF and Mercy Corps helped 100 students in the Za’atari refugee camps in Jordan. The two organizations have given wheelchairs to students who have physical disabilities and cannot walk. In another part of the world, the Karen Women Organization (KWO) works in Burma to support special education in refugee camps and rights for the disabled. Not only does KWO aim to ensure increased levels of education, but the organization also aims to support and expand care to children who have disabilities and educate the community.

In 2003, the KWO started the Special Education (SE) Project that runs in every Karen refugee camp. SE Project gives instruction to teachers in the schools and families at home to fully maximize the disabled child’s well-being and reach their goal of integration into society. KWO also helps to combat the misconceptions by creating various activities and workshops for those who are able-bodied and those who are not.

A nongovernmental organization helping refugees receive mental healthcare is the International Medical Corps (IMC). The IMC knows that mental illness is a huge limiting factor for education and they work to make sure there are ways that refugee children can acquire treatment. The group works with local partners in refugee camps to create spaces to talk and provide activities for children and adolescents to develop healthy habits and create relationships. IMC connects children to local youth support and sets up sustainable mental healthcare.

An Unalienable Right

Education is an unalienable right of every person, and special education in refugee camps is crucial for enabling the most endangered people to achieve this right. It is critically important that various organizations and governments continue to build systems that support the abilities of all, especially those most vulnerable.

– Isabella Niemeyer

Photo: Flickr

Success in Educating Girls
Currently, there are 31 million young girls, starting at age five that are not in a school setting. In fact, there is a whole host of startling statistics about the condition of girls across the globe:

  • One in 9 girls are married before the age of 15
  • Internationally, 65 million girls are not attending school
  • 774 million people are illiterate across the globe, with two-thirds of that number being females

These numbers are not pleasant to acknowledge but their content is a reality. Thankfully, there are many movements and organizations today who are trying to empower woman and having success in educating girls.

Developments in Literacy

Developments in Literacy (DIL) is an organization managing 124 child-friendly schools across three Pakistani provinces. Currently, 24 percent of Pakistan’s population lives below the poverty line. With that sobering state of being in mind, DIL’s goal is simple: the organization strives to offer safe spaces for students to learn and teachers to train. DIL is providing education for students from nursery age all the way until grade 10.

Developments in Literacy is also steadfast in providing girl-friendly education. In DIL schools, the enrollment rate of girl students is at 67 percent and almost 90 percent of the staff is female. These centers offer a “child-centered approach with an emphasis on gender sensitivity and inclusiveness for all.” The main goal of this organization is to ensure that no child, male or female, be left behind or uneducated due to life circumstances in Pakistan.

Girl Effect

Girl Effect works in Asia and Africa and mostly focuses on a girl’s holistic journey into adulthood. Originally founded by the Nike Foundation in 2004, Girl Effect is now its own non-profit organization consisting of media, mobile and brand experts as well as developers. Girl Effect aims to create brands that can chart a course for a young girl from day one.

The organization also gives girls outlets to express themselves openly and research anything they may question. One of Girl Effect’s brands is Ni Nyampinga, the name meaning ‘beautiful girl inside and out who makes wise decisions’ in Rwanda’s native language. It is a multi-platform consisting of a magazine, radio show and a talk show all made by girls, for girls. Ni Nyampinga is a country-wide movement making an impact — 8 in 10 of the citizens of Rwanda have heard of it and half of the citizens over age 10 have listened to the program.

Wiser

Wiser imagines a world where young women and girls are healthy, educated and in control of their own decisions. In Kenya today, there are 3,000 secondary schools educating 620,000 students but only 40 percent of these students are girls. The basis of the Wiser organization is to work with girls who may be poverty-stricken, affected by HIV/AIDS or impacted by gender-based violence.

The Wiser Girls Secondary School in Kenya provides clothing, learning materials, housing and essential medicine to their borders. Kenya has a population of 43.5 million and 1.6 million are living with HIV. All the Wiser girls receive extensive sexual reproductive education, sanitary napkins and cleanliness training. The school has done so well that it has been ranked in the top 1 percent of secondary schools in Migori County.

Commit 2 Change

In India, Commit 2 Change (C2C) works with orphan girls who are 13-18 years old. The girls in these homes are more often than not abounded by their families. The reasons for desertion can range from having HIV, the family being too poor or simply being born a girl. Due to these reasons, many girls in India are now at risk for sex trafficking and early marriage. Commit 2 Change has seen that the best way to make an impact is by focusing on girls in secondary education.

Secondary education starts at the age of 14 and is where the highest drop-out rates occur; by catching the girls at this crucial point of development, C2C believes that they can help teach girls ways to tackle problems in the outside world. Commit 2 Change helps with tuition fees, school supplies and even training programs. Just by studying an extra year in secondary school, C2C has found that it boosts wages by 15 percent and 95 percent of the girls helped by Commit 2 Change believe their education is the pathway to success.

Success in Educating Girls

Successfully educating girls can increase their economic standing, decrease HIV risk and encourage later-in-life marriages. While there is still room for global improvement, these four organizations are going above and beyond in advocating for girls and serve as role models for organizations across the world.

– Jennifer O’Brien
Photo: Flickr

Solar Energy in Bangladesh
Solar energy in Bangladesh is becoming more and more mainstream. In a country reliant on fossil fuels to produce most of its energy, solar grids and solar-powered water pumps are helping farmers save money and economy to develop in the right way.

Bangladesh Energy Sector

Bangladesh primarily uses fossil fuels to constitute their energy sector. Natural gas accounts for 75 percent of primary commercial energy supply. The country has become increasingly more dependent on natural gas. Natural gas consumption has increased by 300 percent between 1992 and 2012.

Bangladesh also relies heavily on oil, using primarily refined and unrefined petroleum fuels. About 45 percent of the country’s total oil consumption is consumed in the transportation sector and 21 percent is used for irrigation.

The total yearly production of power in the country is 423 megawatts. Out of this number, renewable energy sources only make up 3.5 percent of total energy production.

The country’s renewable energy policy aimed to achieve the situation in which 5 percent of the energy produced yearly would come from renewable energy sources by 2015. Only 3.5 percent of the energy produced in 2015 came from renewables. The country set up a new goal and plans to generate at least 10 percent of renewable electricity in 2020.

Solar Energy in Bangladesh

As of 2017, Bangladesh has the world’s largest Solar Home System (SHS), with about 5 million SHS in the country. The organization leading the charge in developing this technology is Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), which has been developing SHS technology for Bangladesh since 2003.

The organization has been producing an estimated 65,000 SHSs per month. Since Bangladesh adopted SHS in 1996, over 30 million people have directly benefited from solar energy, resulting in 100,000 new jobs being created. Bangladesh has over 300 days of sunlight a year, making it a prime destination for solar technology.

Bangladesh has also been investing in solar irrigation pumps. The country plans on replacing the 1.3 million irrigation pumps currently running on diesel with solar, with 617 already been installed as of 2017. It is estimated that replacing all of the diesel water pumps will generate 10,000 megawatts of solar energy.

Improvements in Solar Energy

In 2015, SkyPower announced they would be investing $4.3 billion in utility-scale solar energy over the next five years. Over those five years, the company will also be gifting 1.5 million SkyPower Home solar kits to people living in Bangladesh. The Chief Commercial Officer of Skypower said that the investment will create more than 42,000 total job years and 500 MW of fabrication and assembly facilities.

It was announced in July 2017 that the Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (BEZA) planned to develop a solar power zone in the Chandpur district, with the target of generating at least 1,000 megawatts of electricity. The plan will be implemented on approximately 4,000 acres of land that will be the country’s largest hub for solar power.

The BEZA chief said in an interview with the Dhaka Tribune that a major percentage of the electricity generated through this would be supplied to the national grid to help meet the growing demand for electricity.

Bangladesh currently produces 1,379 megawatts of electricity, and the government aims to generate 24,000 megawatts of power by 2021 and 60,000 megawatts by 2041.

Solar energy in Bangladesh is being developed at a rapid rate and will continue to constitute more of the country’s energy production. With year-round sunshine and cost-efficiency in mind, solar power is the answer to this country’s energy needs.

Casey Geier
Photo: Flickr

Identification closes the gender gap
Empowering women has long been acknowledged as a key ingredient in reducing poverty and improving economic development. The United Nations (U.N.) has set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and gender equality underlies almost all of them. More specifically, the fifth SDG is set to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. As the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes, these goals are interdependent, meaning gender equality is essential not only to the economic prosperity of the communities but for other important issues like health and sustainability as well.

Even today, gender inequality persists worldwide, depriving women of basic human rights and equal opportunities. In poverty-stricken communities around the world, an estimated 90 percent sustain long-standing social practices that devalue women.

Need for Identification

Breaking these modes will require great efforts. Both legal and cultural strides need to change in order to counter deeply ingrained discrimination throughout societies. Studies by the U.N. and UNHCR found that women in conflict and poverty affected regions do not have adequate identification documents. These documents are necessary for achieving the benefits of civic and public life.

Access to identification closes the gender gap in the developing world, but a lack of awareness around the documents prevents women from obtaining them in some cases. Many believe that identification cards are only necessary for exceptional circumstances when in reality they are needed to make the most of social programs and civil rights.

Having personal identification cards in the developing world acts as an important stepping stone. In having the ability to access decisive services and claim entitlements as citizens, women are able to increase their voice and agency through civic participation, access to finances and voting. In assisting women’s social engagement, identification closes the gender gap.

Example of Myanmar

All factors of the country development are intertwined. Women’s documentation is often essential to the peace process in some countries. Resolving the issue of land rights, for example, is crucial to the current conflict in Myanmar, and gender inclusion in the peace process is fundamental to reaching a genuine peace accord. The laws in this country allow women to register and co-register for the property even if they are not head of the household.

While progressive laws have been enacted, there lies a major gap between the law and the reality that women face. Cultural conventions exclude women from participating in land governing let alone a peace accord, making it essential that their names are registered to partake in community meetings. The decisions affect both women and men, making identification an important transition step in transforming cultural norms in poverty and conflict-stricken regions.

Problems with Women Identification

In 2012, four out of every 10 infants born worldwide were not registered with civil governments or authorities. Globally, 750 million children lack identification. A 2013 UNICEF survey found that there is no major disparity between the birth registration of boys and girls.

Evidence suggests that adult women, however, face gender-specific barriers to getting identification documents. Women must provide proof of marriage, additional family signatures and conduct many other steps in the process to obtain identification that men simply do not have to deal with. Unmarried women especially face discrimination as, without a male counterpart or marriage certificate, obtaining identification documents (IDs) is often impossible. IDs are also optional for women, although essential to accessing civic opportunities and required for men.

Increasing access to identification closes the gender gap by helping international organizations better plan and target gender inequality in poverty. The incompleteness of civil registration for women has generated holes in statistics and data for organizations like the World Bank to measure the progress of women in the developing world.

Changing Cultural Barriers

Equality is fundamental to building strong societies. Having active members at every level of a community makes the plight of poverty that much easier to conquer. Gender equality is no different. Ensuring that more than half of the population can do its part must remain at the foremost of poverty reduction endeavors.

While the legal framework with these notions in mind has changed for the better, an uphill battle in the mindset of the communities is much needed. Obtaining identification is the first step in employing available programs and in realizing the agency needed to transform the cultural barriers that devalue women.

– Joseph Ventura
Photo: Flickr