Girls' Education in ZambiaDue to extreme poverty, girls’ education in Zambia suffers. Many Zambian girls and young women miss out on the opportunity to receive an education. With 64 percent of the population living on less than $1.25 a day, Zambia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Unfortunately, this leads to serious repercussions for the Zambian youth.

Background

In fact, the Southern African Consortium for Measuring Education Quality found Zambia comes in at No. 13 out of 15 countries for literacy and numeracy. In rural areas, 27 percent of females receive no education. This is primarily due to poverty, pregnancy and early marriages.

The United Nations’ Girls’ Education Initiative found female literacy measures at 67 percent while male literacy is measured as 82 percent. This disparity holds females back in terms of economic advancement and independence from their male counterparts. The legal age for marriage in Zambia is 16. Subsequently, 46.3 percent of girls get married before the age of 18. Early marriages contribute to female dropout rates. Therefore, initiatives encouraging women to delay marriage or continue education while married can decrease dropout rates.

Calling for Change

In October 2018, Permanent Representative of Zambia Christine Kalamwina recognized girls’ education in Zambia is imperative in ensuring gender equality and economic advancement of females. In response to this, the Zambian government enacted a law mandating an equal male-female enrollment rate. This law aims to close the education gender gap. Additionally, many girls drop out of school due to menstruation. As a result, the Zambian government began distributing free sanitary towels in rural areas.

Fortunately, there are many organizations working to improve the girls’ education in Zambia. The Campaign for Female Education works with the local government to promote gender equality and child protection. They have already provided secondary scholarships for 38,168 girls in Zambia alone.

The World Bank’s International Development Association also does important work to improve girls’ education in Zambia. The Girl’s Education and Women’s Empowerment and Livelihood Project (GEWEL) helps the Zambian government decrease the rate of child marriage. To do so, they increase access to secondary school for young girls from poor families. One method include the Keep Girls in School bursary. Financial issues often force girls to drop out of school. Therefore, the KGS bursary provides the funds necessary to continue girls’ education. Similarly, the Support Women’s Livelihood program supports working-age women. It offers training, startup funds, additional savings and mentorship programs. Ultimately, GEWEL helped 20,000 in 2017 and projected they would help over 50,000 women in 2018.

Jessica Haidet
Photo: Flickr

Gender Equality in RwandaThis year marks the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. In 1994, from April 7 to July 24, approximately 800,000 Rwandans were massacred and up to 500,000 women were raped. However, 24 years later, Rwanda ranks sixth in the world for gender equality, the top non-European country besides Nicaragua.

Women and Politics

Representation of women in politics significantly helped improve gender equality in Rwanda. Since 2003, women have had a constitutionally protected place in the Rwandan government. The Rwandan constitution mandates 30 percent of representatives be female. As a result, the number of women in parliament increased from 18 percent in the 1990s to 64 percent as of 2013. In terms of a male-female ratio in parliament, Rwanda tops international rankings. Furthermore, President Paul Kagame’s current cabinet is the second in Africa to contain an equal ratio of men to women.

While better representation does not end all gender inequality, it improves women’s status in society. With female representation, society sees women as leaders. And more importantly, female representation helps create better legislation for women and encourages gender equality in Rwanda.

Women and Development

Rwanda is a largely rural country and depends on agriculture for economic growth. Rwanda’s Gross Domestic Product per capita ranks 206th in the world. However, Rwanda possesses a remarkable current GDP per capita given its recent history. Rwanda lost much of its traditional workforce to genocide, also resulting in 500,000 orphaned children. Since then, women have pioneered Rwanda’s development. The country possesses the highest rate of female labor force participation in the workforce compared to the rest of the African continent. Additionally, over 70 percent of women are engaged in a sector of the primary economy, and they make up 79 percent of the agricultural workforce, though not all are paid.

Consequently, women in development programs bolster gender equality in Rwanda, as they spearhead the country’s fast growth. Rwanda is currently hosting a wide range of development projects. These projects aim to both modernize the business of agriculture and ensure women are prepared for this modernization. Launched in 2015, the Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation Systems program is being piloted in eight countries worldwide. This program aims to equip communities with the technological and soft skills necessary to navigate modern markets.

Mukamusoni Alexia, a cassava farmer, is one of 106 members in the newly formed ‘Ubumwe Mbuye’ Cooperative. According to Alexia, the cooperative facilitates a dialogue addressing local challenges and enabled her processing plant to acquire loans. Now, Alexia’s cooperative generates over 800 tons of cassava a month and provides 30 tons per week to a processing plant.

Many of these farming cooperatives are female-led or reserved for women, a long-term project to redefine gender roles and allow women to bring home family income.

Women and Education

Educating women is the key to gender equality. However, Rwanda’s education system struggles from a lack of resources. As a result, fewer students continue to secondary education. Moreover, Rwanda ranks low on the United Nations’ Development Programme’s Life Course Gender-Gap index.

Several of the most successful education projects focus on reducing gender-based violence. In doing so, empowered women can succeed at home and will, therefore, stay in school. A troubling statistic reflects 34.4 percent of Rwandan women experience violence from an intimate partner.

CARE International supports a program called Safe School For Girls. This program mentors girls as they transition from lower to upper secondary school. Plus, it provides sexual health education to more than 47,000 students across the Southern Province of Rwanda. Furthermore, this program hopes to engage boys in the dialogue through “round table talks.” These talks discuss the barriers women and girls face and how boys can help end gender-based violence. So far, Safe School For Girls has engaged over 19,000 boys in these talks. Improving the climate around education and identifying where women face barriers is critical for gender equality in Rwanda.

A Model for Gender Equality

While women still face a variety of obstacles, Rwanda acts as a model for gender equality worldwide. Rwanda’s Human Development Rank is still low. Subsequently, many argue gender equality in parliament is a smokescreen for President Kagame’s authoritarian regime, now entering its 19th successive year.

However, in spite of these developmental barriers, Rwanda has demonstrated gender equality is a realistic and attainable goal. The country’s real GDP growth stands at 8.6 percent, the second highest globally, showing full integration of women in society is critical for economic development. Rwandan women helped the country’s remarkable rebirth after a devastating genocide, and they are the main drivers behind its emerging prosperity today.

Holly Barsham
Photo: Flickr

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

Five Ways to Fight Gender Inequality

    1. Give girls access to education.
      There are 130 million girls in the world who are not in school. Although there has been a significant boost in girls’ enrollment in schools, there is still much progress to be made. Girls are more likely than boys to never receive an education. There are 15 million girls in the world of primary-school age who will never enter a classroom, compared to about 10 million boys. Although there are countless boys and girls worldwide who face barriers when trying to receive an education, there are several specific forms of discrimination that only affect girls. These include forced marriages at a young age, gender-based violence in school settings and certain cultural or religious norms that restrict girls’ access to education.

      Education is an extremely valuable resource for girls. According to the World Bank, better-educated women tend to be healthier, participate in formal labor markets, earn higher incomes and marry at a later age. By receiving an education, girls can develop fundamental skills and gain invaluable knowledge that allows them to thrive in their careers and simply make decisions that will improve their lives.

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

    2. Give women platforms to be in power and achieve economic success.
      Globally, women have less political representation than men. Around the world, 62 percent of countries have never had a female head of government or state for at least one year in the past half-century, including the United States. The number of women in political positions compared to men is alarmingly disproportionate. In global legislatures, women are outnumbered four to one. Gender equality in political positions is a rarity as only three countries have 50 percent or more women in parliament in single or lower houses. By having an equal presence of women in politics or leadership positions, the interests and values of females will be better represented on the political level.

      For many women, it is hard to achieve economic success and move up the socioeconomic scale. Throughout the world, women work for long hours of unpaid domestic jobs. In some places, females do not have the right to own land, earn an income and progress their careers due to job discrimination.

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

    3. End violence and sexual assault against women.
      An unprecedented number of countries have laws against domestic violence and sexual assault. However, these laws often go ignored, jeopardizing women and girls’ rights to their safety and justice. Every day, 137 women across the world are killed by a family member or intimate partner. This statistic is a disturbing example of the severity of violence toward women.Females are more likely to experience sexual violence than men.

      Approximately 15 million girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide have been raped at some point in their lives. Beyond sexual harassment, women and girls are vulnerable to human trafficking as they account for 71 percent of all human trafficking victims. In many cases, females are trafficked as child brides and/or sold as sex slaves. The extent of sexual violence toward women and young girls is an extreme violation of human rights.

    4. Assure girls and women have access to menstrual health facilities.
      Menstrual hygiene management is necessary for girls and young women to attend school and participate in their daily lives, however, this necessity is not always guaranteed. The women most affected by ineffective menstrual care live in poverty. Often, girls will stay home from school when on their periods because they do not have access to sanitary products and/or their schools lack the necessary facilities.

      Dangerous ignorance and societal judgments about menstruation exist worldwide. Some cultures believe a menstruating girl causes harm to everything she touches. For instance, in rural Nepal, girls on their periods are sometimes forced out of their homes, forbidden from being in contact with people, animals and even plants. These girls are forced to stay in “menstrual huts” which can be harmful and potentially fatal. These misleading cultural taboos lead to ostracism, early marriage and the endangerment of girls’ futures. Young women in refugee camps also have a difficult time accessing safe and security sanitary products.

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

    5. End child marriage.
      In some cultures, it is acceptable if not expected for girls to marry at a young age. Every year, 12 million girls marry before the age of 18 worldwide. Child marriage most affects girls and is mainly fueled by gender inequality and poverty. This practice is a violation of human rights as it prohibits women from making decisions about their own lives. It deprives young girls of a childhood and an education, but it also has other disturbing effects.

      Girls who are forced into marriage may be sexually harassed by their partner and have an increased risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer, malaria and death from childbirth. Girls Not Brides is one of the most prominent organizations working to raise awareness on these issues by partnering with more than 1,000 civil societies across the globe.

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

– Marissa Pekular
Photo: Flickr

Top Five Facts About Girls Education in North Korea

North Korea is known for limiting its citizens’ access to government information and news around the globe. One topic in North Korea that may not be as well known is their education system, more specifically, girls’ access to education. These five facts on girls’ education in North Korea highlight both the positives as well as what needs to be improved.

Top Five Facts About Girls’ Education in North Korea

  1. Primary education in North Korea is free and mandatory. This is especially great for families who are suffering in poverty and cannot afford an education for their children. Young girls around the world are more likely to be denied access to an education due to monetary restrictions, so this is a great achievement for the country of North Korea.

  1. Gender discrimination makes it difficult for women in North Korea to attend universities. In 2017, 26 North Koreans spoke with Human Rights Watch and explained how life in their country is challenging, especially for young girls and women. Due to their patriarchal culture, young girls and women are excluded from opportunities ranging from improving their education, joining the military and being involved in politics. They are instead encouraged to stay at home and take care of children and household chores.

  2. In North Korea, social status affects where children go to school. Based on the father’s wealth, education and social status, this determines where the child can go to university, where they can live and where they can work. The five social statuses of these children include the special, nucleus, basic, complex and hostile. If a young girl has a father with poor social status, this not only limits their educational opportunities but virtually every other major decision in their lifetime.

  3. North Korea’s only private university, Pyongyang University for Science and Technology, previously only allowed men to attend. However, it has been reported in recent years that women are now allowed to attend. This is a great victory for young women in North Korea. Careers in science and technology are notoriously lacking women. Women taking these courses and potentially working in a science or technological field would be quite progressive for this country.

  4. Education in North Korea focuses on nationalist propaganda. Information that includes propaganda for the country starts in nursery school, children are exposed to current and previous political leaders in North Korea who are only shown in a positive light, even if it’s false information. Many children’s first words are political leaders names. Several political courses about the Kim dynasty are required, and if students do not perform well in their courses, physical punishment is sometimes enforced. When young girls are not receiving a well-rounded education, especially when it starts at such a young age, it prevents them from being aware of what’s actually occurring in their own country and around the world.

It is very difficult to know exactly what conditions are like for young girls getting an education in North Korea. There is limited information on most topics concerning North Korea and their human rights violations. What is known to the general public is that the country needs to improve its patriarchy culture that affects women and their general education standards.

Although young girls in North Korea have access to basic and free education, many other factors that they cannot control affect what kind of education they receive. The education that young girls do receive is not always historically accurate and aims to influence students in the country to approve of their political leaders. These five facts about girls’ education in North Korea proves that the country’s education system is far from perfect.

Maddison Hines

Photo: Unsplash

Addressing Gender Equality in IndiaIt’s clear that improvements are immensely needed in order to bridge the gap in gender equality in India. The country ranked 130 out of 168 for the Gender Development Index. Fortunately, the United Nations Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, attended the #WeSeeEqual summit in Mumbai on Feb. 18 to address issues of addressing gender equality in India, the Middle East and Africa as well as potential solutions.

Puberty and Hygiene

Many adolescent girls in India are not educated about how their body changes during puberty or the importance of having adequate hygienic methods. Discussing the topic of menstruation is taboo, which leads to many misconceptions. According to a report conducted by the Dasra Foundation, 71 percent of girls had no knowledge about menstruation until their first period. It was also discovered in this report that 70 percent of the mothers surveyed believed menstruation was “dirty,” which further perpetuates shame felt by young girls when puberty starts.

Young girls and women who menstruate are also treated differently, one cultural tradition that remained until recently was that women who have reached menstruation age were not allowed to visit temples. Poor sanitary facilities in schools and other public areas is also a pressing issue. However, at the #WeSeeEqual summit, U.N. Women and Procter & Gamble (P&G), an American multinational consumer goods corporation, teamed up and pledged to educate more than 23 million adolescent girls over the next three years on puberty and hygiene in India, the Middle East and Africa.

Women-Owned Businesses

Although the economy in India is impressive, it could improve even more if women were more involved in the workforce. Only about 26 percent of women in India work. There are many social and religious constraints preventing more women from working, including household chores and motherly duties, which are normally placed on women. More than 70 percent of home-makers in India stated that they would prefer at least part-time work if given the chance.

If the employment rate of women were raised to the same level of employment for men, about 240 million more women would be included in the workforce. This would also mean that the world’s biggest economy would be 27 percent richer. P&G revealed at the #WeSeeEqual summit that it would aim to spend $100 million on working with women-owned businesses and improving female education in India, Middle East and Africa over the next three years. At this summit, P&G and U.N. Women also committed to using their voices to spark conversation and motivate change.

Looking Ahead

It’s important for organizations to use their resources and power to encourage equality in areas of the world that need it the most. U.N. Women and P&G addressed gender equality in India in an impactful way by discussing important issues, such as women in the workforce and adolescent girls being educated about menstruation and proper hygienic methods. Summits like #WeSeeEqual encourage change and help address important issues and potential solutions that will hopefully improve the situation around the world.

– Maddison Hines
Photo: Flickr

The Impact of HIV on Women in GhanaIn Ghana, a nation in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, approximately 190,000 women and girls above the age of 15 are living with AIDS. This high number can be attributed to the lack of necessary resources and education. The social and gender norms for females in Ghana also put girls at a higher risk. In fact, women are two to four times more susceptible to HIV infection than men. Some organizations are working to educate and empower women in Ghana and reduce the transmission of HIV.

Gender Roles in Ghana

The expectation that women and girls stay apathetic and quiet about intercourse leads to their inability to speak up about safe sex. These stereotypes and expectations mean that women in Ghana have less access to education and information than men, which minimizes their ability to negotiate and argue the need for condoms and other forms of safe sex. Even if a woman has the necessary education, it is a stereotype that married women who want to use contraceptives are having an affair.

Symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are often asymptomatic for women even though they are not for men. The existence of an STD puts an individual at higher risk of HIV infection. So, when women go untreated they become more susceptible without being aware of it. Also, women have a higher surface area that is exposed to contact during unprotected sex than men, which leads to a greater risk of infection. These are just some of the reasons why education about safe sex is so important.

The impact of HIV/AIDS on women in Ghana also comes from their role as caretaker to those suffering from the illness. This is especially impactful when a family member becomes sick. When a woman has to spend much of her time caring for a family member with HIV/AIDS, this takes away from her work, household tasks, time for self-care and time that she could be spending with her children.

WomenStrong International in Ghana

A community of organizations, WomenStrong International, works with women and girls to end extreme poverty. Their goal is to “find, fund, nurture and share women-driven solutions that transform lives.” Women’s Health to Wealth, an organization within WomenStrong International, started a women’s clinic in Kumasi, Ghana. One of their goals is to deliver more information about reproductive and family health to women in Ghana. More information and education for women and girls would give them the ability to voice their wants, needs and opinions about their sexual health.

As one of the top diseases in Ghana, HIV/AIDS education and prevention is extremely important regardless of gender, but in the current climate, especially for women. Although leaps and bounds still need to be taken towards progression, there has been movement in the right direction through organizations such as Women’s Health to Wealth. With organizations fighting for equality and raising awareness, there is hope for improved health for women in Ghana.

Malena Larsen 
Photo: Unsplash

Four Top Speeches on Girls' EducationOver the decades, feminist literature has played a pivotal role in addressing feminism, women’s rights and other related social issues concerning women and girls. Speeches, in particular, have proved to be a powerful vehicle for social justice and mobilization and are helping to promote gender equality and freedom for women globally. There are four top speeches that exemplify the ideals that women’s rights and the importance of girls’ education stand for.

Despite major headway, particularly in global poverty alleviation, there are still significant social and cultural barriers to education for girls around the world. Modern third-wave feminism and contemporary feminist jurisprudence itself continue to prioritize the elimination of gender-based discrimination in all facets along with its focus on intersectionality.

As girls’ education remains one of the most prevalent social issues of today, the following are some of the top speeches on girls’ education that prove to be inspiring and revolutionary not only in their content and scope but also their context and timelessness.

Four Top Speeches on Girls’ Education

  1. ‘What Educated Women Do’ by Indira Gandhi: This particular speech was rendered by former Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi before her death and it remains one of the most influential speeches on girls’ education, especially as it draws attention to the issues faced in South Asia. Not only does she use anecdotes and experiences from her own life to describe India’s tough social landscape but she also outlines the hardships and conditions for women and children in the country and the continued presence of outdated and oppressing social constructs in society. According to Gandhi, education is paramount to ensuring India’s continued growth and development in the future. Furthermore, she believed that educated women in India can boost the country’s image on the world stage as well.
  2. “Islam Forbids Injustice Against People, Nations and Women,” by Benazir Bhutto: The speech given by Pakistan’s former Prime Minister before her death is especially noteworthy for its radical opposition to politics and society in the country. Bhutto’s position in Pakistan’s political arena was largely dominated by her political activism to end discrimination and inequality. She singled out conservatism and patriarchy in society as being some of the primary causes of discrimination. Moreover, Bhutto’s unraveling of society was especially historic at that juncture as she called into question the religious misinterpretation of Islamic teachings and the propagation of obscurantism that contributes to it. She distinguished between social taboos and Islamic religious teachings to highlight the social injustices adversely impacting women in her country.
  3. ‘Let Girls Learn’ by Michelle Obama in London: Of all the empowering speeches Michelle Obama has given through her tenure as the former First Lady of the United States, a rather remarkable one remains her address on the occasion of her campaign for ‘Let Girls Learn,’ which is an organization that revitalizes the importance of girl’s education across the world. Established in 2015 by the Obamas in collaboration with USAID, Let Girls Learn aims to reach more than 62 million girls globally by increasing existing education programs and securing private-sector commitments. These initiatives will help increase access to education and crumble existing barriers. In her speech, she struck a chord as she passionately advocated for girls’ education as she addressed girls in a school in Mulberry, a borough that is known to be among London’s poorest. On this visit, Michelle Obama collaborated with the U.K. government and secured $200 million in funding to support girls’ education in conflict-ridden zones in countries like Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone.
  4. UN Address by Malala Yousafzai: Not only did this speech cement Malala Yousafzai’s influence globally but it also alerted the world to the deficiencies and lack of girl’s education in many countries. She drew from the context in Pakistan and her horrific experiences as a child. In her poignant speech, she spoke about practices like child labor, exploitation and other social injustices befalling women. She also emphasized the strong potential that female education could have on the world, particularly in crises like war, conflict and poverty. One of the most striking aspects of her speech is her direct address to world leaders as she urged international discourse on peace and security to center around the protection of women and girls and securing their rights. The last words of her speech, ‘Education first,’ still remain the key pillar for all her initiatives, particularly the work being undertaken by the Malala Foundation.

These four incredible women have been an inspiration to women and girls around the world. They have tirelessly fought for equality for women and an equal chance at education. These four women delivered the four top speeches on girls’ education.

– Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Pixabay

Ethical Fashion Brands
Ethical fashion refers to how clothing is made and takes into account the materials that are used but also the treatment of the workers, their salaries and their safety. The movement is growing and shedding light on the unsustainable practices of so-called “fast” fashion – miserable working conditions, unlivable wages, environmental degradation and pollution. Poor men and women must endure these conditions because they do not have a choice. Currently, more and more ethical brands aim to give back to local communities in developing countries. In this article, five ethical brands working to alleviate poverty by empowering women are presented.

Ethical Brands that Empower Women

  1. Krochet Kids puts a face behind the product. Everything they produce is hand-signed by the woman who made it and customers can learn about the stories of these women online. The company provides job opportunities to women in need to help them break the cycle of poverty. It all started as a hobby of high school friends who crocheted their own winter hats and other products. After attending college and spending some time in Uganda, the idea to pass on the skill of crocheting to people emerged. By teaching people the craft they gave them the autonomy to start working and providing for their families. Krochet Kids provides jobs which is a crucial step toward alleviating poverty. They also work with a nonprofit partner Capable, in order to go further and provide services to help their employees in all areas of life. The program includes mentorship, educational and financial services. Capable’s goal is to equip people with the skills, knowledge and resources they need to permanently get out of poverty and create their own business.
  2. ABLE is a lifestyle brand whose mission is to end generational poverty by giving women economic opportunity. The founder, Barrett Ward, had a firsthand experience witnessing how poor young women in Ethiopia had to prostitute to support themselves and he decided to change that. The brand has grown a lot over the years and currently works in countries like Ethiopia, Mexico, Peru and Nashville. All of the company’s products have something in common- they are made by women and help bring the end of generational poverty closer. To show the true impact of their work, ABLE is committed to radical transparency and publishes the wages of their employees. They also use a platform that measures social impact. By being radically transparent they want to empower consumers to demand change through their choices and invest in women.
  3. Initially starting out as a nonprofit organization in 2008, Raven + Lily now employs over 1,500 women in order to help them break free from the cycle of poverty. Their partners ensure that they pay their employees livable wages. Raven + Lily recognizes that production impacts people and the planet and does not only minimize the waste by using repurposed or recycled materials but aims to empower women on a bigger scale. Every purchase funds microloans given to women entrepreneurs in local communities. Raven + Lily provides women with a safe job, fair wages, health care and tools to empower them to thrive.
  4. Mayamiko is an ethical brand that produces clothes, accessories and homeware ethically made in Malawi. The brand uses and draws inspiration from African techniques and locally printed fabrics. Mayamiko works closely with Mayamiko Trust, a charity that aims to nurture the talents and creativity of those most disadvantaged. They lift people out of poverty by training them in activities that could transfer into a trade. The Mayamiko Trust and the brand work together through the Mayamiko Fashion Lab. The Lab provides education, nutrition and sanitation. Disadvantaged women, many of them being HIV patients or orphans, learn sewing and tailoring and develop business and financial skills. Upon completion of the training, they receive guidance, mentorship and recognized qualifications as well as access to microloans to help them start their own business. The Mayamiko Trust also crafts and provides reusable sanitary kits to women, giving them a safe and hygienic option for their period.
  5. HopeMade is child-labor-free certified brand and committed to high-quality ethically made products. The company started in September 2016 with the goal of producing conscious and ethical fashion and providing employees with dignifying wages and work. The brand uses 100 percent alpaca fiber that is knitted in Peru by local artisans. Their core values are sustainability, fair trade and ethics and they are on a mission to transform the way style is produced, perceived and consumed. The brand is managed from Colombia where indigenous tribes work and earn fair wages.

Empowering women impacts and lifts whole communities out of poverty. When women earn a sustainable income, they reinvest it back into food, health, education, children, their family and the community. Ethical brands help women create their own businesses, provide for their families and escape the cycle of poverty.

– Aleksandra Sirakova
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls Education in Croatia
Croatia is a small country located in the Balkan region of Europe. It was formerly part of Yugoslavia and still adopts many of the conservative views of the former communist regime. The conservative viewpoints of the country place social restrictions on women, but they are encouraged to participate in the workforce and contribute to the economy. Croatian legislation provides incredibly specialized opportunities for both girls and boys as they move from their basic education to their career paths, but girls education is still highly influenced by traditional gender roles. In the article below, top 10 facts about girls education in Croatia are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Girls Education in Croatia

  1. The female literacy rate is lower than those of men. In general, the adult population in Croatia has a very high literacy rate of 97 percent.  The men literacy rate is at 99.7 percent while the literacy rate for women is at 98.9 percent.
  2. Primary education is compulsory. Girls and boys are required to attend eight years of elementary education and then can choose to move to a secondary school and later in college. Schools teach orally in Croatian, but all written work is done in Latin. Students learn a minimum of two languages in their elementary education system. Secondary schools are optional and focus on specific areas of education and trade. Students may choose vocational, art, or specialized high school programs. Almost 67 percent of students in secondary school attend a vocational school. Female students have a gross enrollment ratio (GER) of over 100 in secondary education compared to male students with a GER of 95.6. More female students are also enrolled in tertiary education programs.
  3. Roma girls face difficulties completing primary education and Roma culture is highly discriminated in Croatia. They have Indian origins and generally live in the Northeastern provinces of the country. Few Roma children speak Croatian fluently and these children usually end up struggling in primary schools. Less than 50 percent of these children finish primary school and move onto secondary school.
  4. Most of the Croatian citizens are Roman Catholic and sexually conservative. The sex education policies of the country focus on the Family Planning method and teach abstinence-only programs. Homosexuality and gender disparity are portrayed in a negative and often “sinful” light. Girls are encouraged to follow a traditional role in their relationships and learn little knowledge about birth control methods and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) prevention.
  5. Sex and gender discrimination is normal. Girls do not learn about all of their possibilities due to the social conservative approach of education in Croatia. The role they are taught to follow tends to lead them away from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) career paths and influences their secondary school choices. In addition, homosexuality and transgenderism are perceived as being abnormal.
  6. Girls are encouraged to focus on the arts and educational career paths. This practice affects the number of women enrolled in STEM classes. Men only make up 8.1 percent of those enrolled in education courses at universities and women are underrepresented in computer science, engineering, and architecture courses.
  7. Schools promote gender equality in theory. The Istanbul Convention was adopted in Croatia in May 2018. It addressed many civic and gender rights issues. The Croatian government implemented national legislation to create an institution of Gender Sensitive Education. The National Policy for Gender Equality focused on the elimination of gender stereotypes, teacher education on gender equality, and less influence of gender on occupational paths. However conservative gender roles are still imposed in spite of this legislation.
  8. Secondary schools have had more success adhering to the progressive gender legislation. The terminology of various occupational choices are being equalized and textbooks are being distributed with efforts to maintain gender neutrality. The Croatian Employment Service provides occupational guidance for students after primary schools regardless of gender through educational brochures and the computer program “My Choice”.
  9. Enrollment rates of women are currently growing in secondary and tertiary education programs. The proportion of women who complete their university or vocational studies is considerably higher than men at 59.5 percent. Around 55 percent of women attending tertiary schools receive a doctoral degree. At least 58.2 percent of university attendants also received a master’s degree.
  10. Most teachers in primary and secondary schools are women. The number of men with careers in education increases as the education level increases. However, even in higher-level universities and vocational schools, the gap between the percentage of female to male teachers is still 12.7 percent. Women dominate the education system, except in administrative and management capacities. Only 20.9 percent of deans in the 52 higher education system are women.

Girls are able to receive an incredibly comprehensive academic education through the Croatian public school system. With the adoption of the Istanbul Convention girls’ rights throughout the country should increase, including their rights in the school systems. The country has attempted to make strides in gender equality but still focuses on conservative viewpoints of sexuality. As the social structure of Croatia becomes more progressive, so will the dynamic of women in the academic sector.

– Emily Triolet
Photo: Flickr

Women Entrepreneurship Opportunities Many governments and companies around the world have come to realize that encouraging the advancement of women is essential to the development of communities as a whole.

Five organizations, in particular, are making huge strides to help women entrepreneurship through financing and training programs.

Kiva

Kiva is a crowdfunded lending organization that gives loans to those who can’t access fair and affordable sources of credit.

As an international nonprofit organization operating in over 80 countries, it provides opportunities for people who are financially excluded from the capital to become farmers, pursue an education, or develop business ventures.

It operates by pooling money from lenders that each pay a small part of the loans to minimize the cost to individual lenders while maximizing its effectiveness by joining resources with others.

Since 2005, Kiva has funded $1.22 billion worth of loans to 3 million lenders. While loans are available to both men and women, 81 percent of Kiva borrowers are women.

In support of Kiva’s values and success, Bank of America and the U.S. Department of State partnered with Kiva in 2017 to support the “Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund” that hopes to support 1 million women entrepreneurs by 2021.

Kula Project

The Kula Project is an organization that works out of Rwanda. It is designed to develop entrepreneurs through vocational fellowship programs.

These programs provide business investment training, tips on creating or improving business plans and industry training in artisan goods, coffee farming and agribusiness.

Another important part of the Kula Project’s resources is its one-on-one mentorships that provide information on financial planning, family health and business leadership.

Both men and women can participate in the Kula Project’s fellowship program, but women are particularly benefitting through the organization’s Women’s Centers that focus on training them to create their own sewing, weaving and agriculture businesses to sell handmade products on the local market.

With a business model that focuses on listening to the needs of the community, Kula Project is working to plant the seeds for future success and allow the community to sustain its own development.

Women’s Global Empowerment Fund

The Women’s Global Empowerment Fund (WGEF) provides both microcredit loans and vocational training for business and leadership development for women in Uganda.

WGEF aims to create sustainable human development through the use of social capital building programs that aim to alleviate poverty, empower women, strengthen food security and health among families and generate an atmosphere of self-determination.

The Credit Plus program created by WGEF has assisted women in opening restaurants, bakeries, hotels, construction projects and small to medium scale agriculture projects that also increase local food production, giving women entrepreneurs the opportunity to be new leaders in society.

These successes are even more impressive due to the nature of the post-conflict region.

The clients of WGEF have been former abductees, child soldiers and victims of gender-based violence and they have the full support of the Women’s Global Empowerment Fund.

Friendship Bridge

According to the United Nations and Harvard Business Review, when women earn an income, they invest 90 percent of it into their families and communities. In comparison, men invest 35 percent for the same purpose.

With this understanding, Friendship Bridge works with a mission to empower impoverished communities in Guatemala by supporting women entrepreneurs.

Friendship Bridge uses their Microcredit Plus Program, small loans to impoverished women, as a sustainable business model to lift women out of poverty.

The organization relies on a group lending model that they call “Trust Banks” to instill accountability but also to create support through social capital. Today, the organization helps to support as many as 22,000 women.

Friendship Bridge’s Client Continuum strategy believes that the combination of financial capital (credit), human capital (skills) and social capital (networks) accelerate the services they provide to not only become entrepreneurs but leaders as well.

Clients are required to undergo non-formal education sessions to accompany their microloans, with options for further mentorship and advanced training in business practices or technical training.

These educational advancements have helped women open businesses in textiles, the food industry and has given people the opportunity to access education.

As an added bonus to this organization’s great work in alleviating poverty, it is addressing the largest group of immigrants coming to America, assist them in creating livelihoods and make them want to stay.

Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi)

The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, backed by the World Bank, works to address the financial and social constraints that small and medium women-owned enterprises face in developing countries.

This is a widespread collaborative initiative that includes 14 governments, 8 multilateral development banks and both public and private stakeholders.

Starting with $340 million for women entrepreneurs in the first year, the organization is expected to mobilize $1.6 billion in additional investment funds from the public and private sectors and development partners.

These funds will work to provide women with access to debt, equity, venture capital and insurance markets, link women-led small and medium enterprises to supply chains, connect women entrepreneurs with networks and mentorship and improve legal limitations that constrain women-led businesses.

These five organizations and initiatives have proven invaluable in changing the quality of women’s lives, and consequently, transforming the communities in which they live.

Advocacy remains an important part of this change in making sure that people are aware of these ideas and opportunities for change.

– Sara Andresen

Photo: Flickr