Information and stories on education.

children with disabitiesThere are approximately 1.5 billion people around the world living with a disability. These individuals face significant barriers to receiving an education, particularly in developing countries. Children with disabilities in Bangladesh, for example, are often misunderstood by their parents, community members and educators, making it difficult for them to attend school. Showing links between poverty and disabilities helps make this issue a priority of the Bangladesh government and other organizations working in the nation.

Poverty and Disabilities

In developing countries, poverty and disabilities often reinforce each other. According to the World Bank, 15 to 20 percent of the poor in developing countries are disabled. Many disabilities are created by conditions caused by poverty, including lack of healthcare access, poor hygiene and sanitation, dangerous living conditions, war and violence, insufficient nutrition and natural disasters. These conditions improve the likelihood of people developing disabilities in the first place, of which 50 percent are preventable.

Being disabled is an additional disadvantage for the impoverished, one that makes it even less likely for an individual or their family to rise out of poverty. When access to education for children with disabilities is low, these children are not able to learn the skills needed to work and earn money for themselves or their families. As a result, they tend to be dependents their entire lives, creating an additional economic burden for those who care for them.

In Bangladesh, husbands and wives in impoverished families often both need to work. With a disabled child, however, mothers are often prevented from working, eliminating that source of income. Additionally, medical care for the child is expensive and generally inaccessible to impoverished families in Bangladesh. While it is not the child’s fault that they are disabled, their disability can be difficult for impoverished families to bear and may make it impossible for them to break the poverty cycle.

Barriers to Education

As of 2010, there were approximately 1.6 million children with disabilities in Bangladesh, and fewer than 5,000 of them were enrolled in education programs designed for the disabled. Special education programs are not present in many Bangladesh schools. As a result, most educators are not trained to effectively work with children with disabilities.

Many schools deny admittance to children with disabilities, and those who do go to school often drop out within a short period of time. In addition to lack of adequate programming, the school buildings themselves are often inaccessible to those with disabilities. They lack elevators, automatic doors, handicapped toilet facilities and more.

Furthermore, the impoverished parents of children with disabilities in Bangladesh are often illiterate and do not have access to information about the rights of their child. They may not know that their child has a constitutional right to an education. Furthermore, even if they do know, they lack the funds needed to fight for their child.

Families and communities sometimes also lack information about what it means to be disabled, particularly if they are poor and illiterate. Children with disabilities are sometimes neglected and ignored and are often kept inside the home to prevent ridicule from the community. Abuse is also common, particularly for girls. Females are at an increased risk of physical and sexual abuse.

Improving Access to Education

The government is working to implement reforms that will increase education access to children with disabilities in Bangladesh. Many of these reforms include ensuring knowledge about the disabled is more widely disseminated. Community awareness programs are needed to teach people about disabilities, reduce stigma and generate more support for improving education for children with disabilities.

Additionally, knowledge of disabilities must be included in the basic training of teachers, and it can be reinforced or introduced to current teachers through in-service training. While it is also beneficial to have some teachers who can specialize in working with children with disabilities, all teachers need to be trained so that disabled children have a better chance of succeeding in any classroom.

Programs for Children with Disabilities

As of 2011, the government opened 13 primary schools specifically for people with disabilities. They are also implementing 64 integrated programs within high schools for the disabled. These efforts are undoubtedly making an impact, but many children with disabilities may not have access to these locations. There is a definite need to significantly expand these programs, creating more schools focused on disabilities around the country and ensuring all schools have programs for children with disabilities.

In the absence of widespread disability programming at public schools, BRAC has been working to expand education for children with disabilities in Bangladesh. More than 30,000 non-formal education centers have been established across the nation over the past two decades, and currently, 43,000 children are using these education centers. BRAC is committed to ensuring that the impoverished children and those in remote areas have access to schools.

Overall, efforts by the government and outside agencies, including BRAC, are an important step forward, but further growth and expansion are needed to ensure that all children with disabilities in the nation are able to access high-quality education. This will reduce the economic burden on their families and, hopefully, allow them to find work once they reach adulthood, helping them and their families escape poverty.

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Schools for Sierra LeoneSierra Leone is a country with an abundant amount of natural resources located on the West Coast of Africa. From 1991 to 2002, Sierra Leone endured a civil war that had detrimental effects on the country’s physical, social and economic infrastructure. After the civil war, Sierra Leone made significant progress in almost all sectors. Unfortunately, its education sector is still facing challenges. Organizations such as SOS Children’s’ Villages International and Schools for Salone, with the support of the Government of Sierra Leone, have stepped in to help better Sierra Leone’s education sector.

School Attendance Rates

Since the civil war, Sierra Leone has made great efforts in rebuilding destroyed, abandoned and damaged schools, but most schools are still in need of repairs. Furthermore, many schools lack sufficient learning materials or qualified teachers. However, Sierra Leone has seen an impressive percentage increase in primary school enrollment. Nearly 100 percent of both boys and girls attend primary school. There is only a 2 percent difference between boys and girls completing their education, boys at 69 percent, and girls at 67.

Although primary school attendance rates have continued to increase, school dropout rates for both boys and girls is an alarming concern. When it comes to secondary school, the numbers drop to 57 percent of both boys and girls attend lower secondary school. Unfortunately, that number drops even further to 29 percent for boys and 26 percent for girls when it comes to enrolling in upper secondary school. There is a 53 percent drop out rate of both boys and girls. There is even a bigger disparity in attendance rates and completion rates for both girls and boys in rural areas of Sierra Leone because of the lack of access to schooling.

Since 60 percent of people in Sierra Leone live under the poverty line, it makes it difficult for many households to afford school for their children. It was reported, in the 2015 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis, that 35 percent of households don’t enroll their children in school due to lack of funds and about 28 percent don’t have a functioning school in their village or community. Building more schools for Sierra Leone, especially in rural areas, is important and vital for the future of the people and the country.

Organizations Making a Change

SOS Children’s Villages provides various programs to make sure that children have access to quality education and training to prepare them to become independent adults. Some of the things the programs have created and supported are improving child-centered quality education, creating inclusive learning environments, working with communities and authorities to build schools as well as providing speech therapy and after-school tutoring, mentoring and coaching for the youth. SOS Children’s Villages also runs the schools that it has established and built in order to ensure quality education. About 3,000 students have benefited from the organizations’ schools and programs in Sierra Leone.

In 2005, Schools for Salone began its mission to provide quality education to the people of Sierra Leone. Since 2005, the organization has built 22 primary school buildings and three school libraries. These facilities serve more than 6,500 children across Sierra Leone. Schools for Salone has also provided training opportunities for more than 150 teachers. Its main missions are to build schools, keep boys and girls in school and provide scholarship opportunities for the children of Sierra Leone.

The civil war in Sierra Leone had many repercussions and has affected all of the country’s sectors; however, it is most apparent in its education sector. Organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages and Schools for Salone have decided to help improve the education sector of the country. More schools for Sierra Leone could mean a brighter future for the country’s education sector, but more importantly, a brighter future for the children of Sierra Leone.

Jocelyn Aguilar
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous PopulationThere are 370 million indigenous people in the world today. The majority live in China, where 36 percent of the population is indigenous. This is followed by South Asia at 32 percent, Southeast Asia at 10 percent and Latin America at 8 percent. The United States is 1.5 percent indigenous. Indigenous populations account for about 5 percent of the world’s population but more than 15 percent of the world’s poor. What is the connection between indigenous people and poverty, and how can it be broken?

Who Is Indigenous?

There is such a wide variety of indigenous cultures that it makes creating a common definition challenging. The United Nations refers to them as the descendants of the inhabitants of a country or geographic regions prior to the immigration of a second ethnic group. The second ethnic group then became dominant through conquest and settlement, marginalizing the original inhabitants. Examples include Native Americans, the Saami of Northern Europe, the Maori of New Zealand and the Maasai of Eastern Africa.

Many people prefer to be called by the name of their individual group or tribe, such as “Navaho” or “Inuit.” However, the blanket term, “indigenous,” is gaining popularity since it links together different peoples and provides a legitimate status for special rights in many countries.

What Problems Do They Face?

It is difficult to find data for countries in Asia because most governments deny the existence of indigenous populations. For example, China has officially stated that there are no indigenous people within their borders despite having the highest concentration in the world. In areas like the Philippines and Vietnam, there are indigenous populations as well as “ethnic minorities,” who are indigenous but do not come from the country in which they are currently living. Often these “ethnic minorities” were forced to leave their native lands.

The best data came from Latin America in 2010 where indigenous people made up 8 percent of the population, but 14 percent of the poor and 17 percent of the extreme poor. Part of the reason for the disparity is the fact that indigenous populations are more likely to live in rural or remote areas. In cities, there is better access to electricity, clean water and education. This is also evident if they are living in an urban slum where indigenous people can outnumber nonindigenous two-to-one.

There is also a significant pay gap for indigenous populations. In Mexico, native people earn 12 to 14 percent less than non-native people. In Bolivia, the gap is 9 to 13 percent and in Peru and Guatemala, it is about 6 percent. In Australia, aboriginals have 30 percent less disposable income than their non-aboriginal counterparts, and in Canada, the wage gap can be as high as 25 percent. This is a large part of the connection between indigenous people and poverty.

How Can This Be Solved?

Approximately half the poverty gap can be accounted for by differences in employment type, education level, living in a rural area and family size. The other half is the “unexplained” gap, which is a result of direct discrimination or racism. This creates a unique challenge for bringing indigenous people out of poverty. Reducing the gap in education rates is widely regarded as the first step and has been steadily improving in the past few years.

In Ecuador, Mexico and Nicaragua, indigenous children attend primary school at the same rate as non-indigenous children. However, in many communities, primary education is still strongly associated with assimilation to the majority culture. The best way to fight this belief is to offer bilingual language and a curriculum sensitive to cultural differences, which is slowly gaining popularity in many countries.

Indigenous peoples often have their own ideas of what improvement should look like; therefore it is important to increase their power to advocate for their own needs. The United Nations Declaration of Indigenous People’s Rights in 2007 brought together groups from all over the world. This put them in a better place to negotiate for further rights and land privileges on their terms.  Worldwide, native peoples are asserting their political power to bring long-needed changes to their communities. If governments are willing to listen, indigenous people will have a better chance of breaking the connection between indigenous people and poverty.

Jackie Mead

Photo: Flickr

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

top 10 facts of living conditions in New Zealand
Nestled in the Pacific, just off the coast of Australia, New Zealand is a two-island country made up of the North and South Island. The two islands combined have a population of 3.7 million people. New Zealand is a country with booming tourism and many sites to see. In many ways, the country is doing well in providing for its citizens, but there are some areas that still need improvement. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in New Zealand.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in New Zealand

  1. One hundred percent of the New Zealand population is registered on “community drinking water supplies.” New Zealand’s water access is tested for protozoal and bacteriological compliance, which means that the water meets E. coli standards and is treated for protozoa. However, there are differences to access between the North and South Island. Both islands have 96 percent of water access meeting the bacteriological standards. However, when testing for protozoal compliance, the North Island drops down to 86 percent, and the South Island is as low as 66 percent of water access.
  2. About 41,000 people are homeless in New Zealand, which is almost one percent of the population. Research has broken homelessness into three categories in New Zealand: chronically, episodically and transitionally. The homeless problem in New Zealand is mostly transitional at 80 percent, meaning that people generally are displaced during a transition period in their lives. People who are chronically homeless make up the lowest numbers at 5 percent of homeless individuals.
  3. Housing First focuses on placing homeless people in the greater Auckland region into houses and providing support when needed. The organization prioritizes providing housing first, then the next steps are providing support services for mental health and substance use when needed. Its aim is for individuals to keep their tenancy and pursue their goals in a community. From May 2017 until December 2018, Housing First provided housing for 376 children and 461 households overall, with 57 percent of these households being Māori, the indigenous peoples of New Zealand.
  4. The poverty rate for children living in New Zealand is 27 percent. Child poverty can be defined as a child lacking emotional and material support in order for them to develop and survive. It is estimated that 14 percent of children do not have access to basic necessities like clean clothing, housing and healthy foods. The New Zealand government has now committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and will be working to cut child poverty in half by 2030.
  5. About 11 percent of children are food insecure in New Zealand. Fortunately, companies and food businesses are concerned about hunger. SkyCity has donated more than 600 kilograms of food to rescue groups and food banks over the last two years. That is equivalent to 1,900 meals. Another large corporation, Countdown, donated $3.7 million worth of food supplies to local food banks in New Zealand. A small restaurant owner, Asher Boote, donates all of his excess food from his three restaurants back into the community through Kaibosh, a food rescue group. Both large and small businesses can help make a difference regarding hunger in New Zealand.
  6. Opening in 1994, the Child Poverty Action Group is a registered charity in New Zealand. The charity strives to end child poverty with research, education and advocacy. The organization researches the causes and effects of poverty in New Zealand and publishes its findings in order to educate the public and alert politicians and policymakers to enact change.
  7. In November 2018, New Zealand’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.9 percent, the lowest it has been in 10 years. There was no change in the annual wage growth of 1.9 percent. If economist’s predictions are correct, New Zealand may see another .5 percent in employment growth within the next fiscal quarter.
  8. New Zealand’s access to health care is free or relatively low cost compared to other countries. There is great access with more than 3,500 general practitioners in both large and small cities throughout New Zealand as well as 40 public hospitals. However, there is a lack of access to transportation problem for some. In 2016/17, it was calculated that about 7.5 percent of Māori adults and 4.8 percent of Māori children were unable to get to the general practitioner or a hospital because of the lack of transportation or lack of access to transportation.
  9. Talk Teeth is one of many programs that focuses on the health of children. This program allows any child under the age of 18 to have free basic dental care annually. Standard treatments provided are a routine check for tooth decay and gum health, fluoride treatments to protect your teeth against decay, plaque cleaning, X-rays for tooth decay and teeth extractions. Children can be enrolled as early as one year of age for the Talk Teeth program by calling or filling out forms through public schools.
  10. New Zealand’s school system is compulsory for ages six through 16. There are currently 13 years of school in the system, including both primary and secondary schooling. Most children attend state schools or public schools; only five percent of children attend private school in New Zealand. Schools focus on balancing practical and theoretical learning as well as encouraging students to get involved in extracurricular activities such as sports, or clubs. Ninety-nine percent of children were enrolled in primary school in 2016 with almost no gender disparity.
These top 10 facts about living conditions in New Zealand show that the country is trying to better the lives of all its citizens. Through large corporations, nonprofit organizations and government initiatives, New Zealand will continue to flourish in areas where it is already strong and create solutions to issues affecting its people.
– Logan Derbes
Photo: Flickr

TaRL Africa
Considerable progress has been made to increase the rate of educational enrollment for children living in developing countries. Between 1950 and 2010, the average years of schooling completed by adults living in developing countries more than tripled; between 2000 and 2010, secondary school enrollment in Zambia increased by 75 percent. Morocco is experiencing a similar rate of growth in enrollment, indicating that the gap in enrollment between poor and wealthy countries is dwindling.

Educational System Improvement

Globally, trillions of dollars are being dedicated to improving educational systems. Government expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP is higher than ever before at a rate of almost 5 percent. In emerging markets, households are spending a greater percentage of their GDP per capita on education than households in developed nations. Governments and their people are fully convinced of the promise that education holds for reshaping the future, especially in developing countries.

Education has been shown to have enormous benefits in all facets of life. For individuals, education increases lifetime earnings, reduces the chance of living in poverty and leads to better health. For communities, education can increase long-term development, lead to more rapid economic growth, cause greater social cohesion and increase social mobility.

A New Challenge

With overall enrollment numbers climbing year after year, it may seem as though a crisis in educational attainment is a thing of the past. Unfortunately, school enrollment alone does not guarantee the presence of learning. Some alarming statistics underscore upbeat reports of increases in school enrollment.

In fact, 125 million children in the world are not attaining functional levels of literacy or numeracy after four years of education. In Malawi and Zambia, only 10 percent of the students were able to read a single word by the second grade; in Pakistan, 40 percent of 3rd-grade children could not perform simple subtraction.

An analysis of the current learning crisis by The World Bank attributes this lack of learning milestones in developing communities to four key factors. The four immediate determinants are learner preparation, teacher skills and motivation, the availability of relevant inputs and school management and governance. The current state of learning outcomes is not necessarily a setback, but an inevitable hurdle in the way of unlocking the full potential of education.

Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL)

MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and Indian NGO Pratham sought to address the issue of sub-par learning outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa, a region desperately in need of educational reform. In association with African governments, they developed the Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) Africa initiative. TaRL Africa attempts to take an evidence-based, yet novel approach to structuring education for young children in order to increase in long term retention and overall learning outcomes.

When students first join the program, they take assessment tests to gauge their current level of knowledge on relevant academic concepts. The students are then placed into groups based on their needs rather than age alone and regularly evaluated throughout the year to ensure that they are reaching key milestones on an individual basis. Evaluations by J-Pal and Pratham of TaRL initiatives have shown that the cost-effective approach gives instructors the opportunity to make a greater impact on the learning outcomes of children.

Innovative and Scalable

In October 2018, J-Pal and Pratham launched a dedicated website for TaRL Africa as part of an initiative to improve the reach of their program throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and around the world. One of the key components of TaRL is its scalability. The program is built to be able to be easily replicated and adaptable for any classroom’s needs. Although the website doesn’t give you access to the entire program itself, they are hoping to introduce teachers, administrators and potential donors to the benefits of the program.

Co-Impact, a global philanthropic collaborative for systems change, was recently tasked with narrowing down a pool of over 250 education, health and economic opportunity initiatives to just five that would be awarded $80 million and technical support. On January 15, TaRL Africa became one of the five recipients of the Co-Impact grant, increasing the reach of the program to over three million students over the next five years.

Regarding the grant, the Executive director of J-PAL said “This grant represents the critical importance of using evidence from rigorous impact evaluations to drive decision making. [W]e can disrupt the status quo and transform lives.” This potential to increase educational levels is inspiring and should encourage other organizations to become a part of a quickly growing, knowledge-giving solution.

– John Chapman
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Djibouti
Djibouti’s location in the Horn of Africa makes it a prime port for trade. The diverse population has taken an increased interest in this country’s urban areas bordering the coast. The country’s GDP is rising, but 16 percent of the population was still living under $1.90 per day in 2017. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Djibouti reveal the status of the country as well as the effects of welcomed foreign interactions.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Djibouti

  1. Although one-third of the population’s main income is livestock, it contributes only 3 percent to Djibouti’s GDP. On average, the country only gets 130 millimeters of rain each year. Because of this, only a small portion of the land, about 1,000 square kilometers, can be used for agriculture. This leaves Djibouti with no choice but to rely on affordable international market prices to import 90 percent of its food commodities. The World Food Program (WFP) is supporting the government with a school feeding program and food security for the families affected by drought.
  2. Currently, the poverty rate in Djibouti is at 21 percent. However, in the last 15 years, the country’s GDP has been growing by more than 3 percent per year. There is work to be done to bring a living wage to the people.
  3. Djibouti provides a gateway to the Suez Canal. Acting as a stable bridge between African and Middle Eastern areas draws trade, foreign military bases and foreign assistance. Djibouti is the host to NATO and other foreign forces, proving it to be a neutral country even in the midst of surrounding conflict.
  4. In 2019, Djibouti may be responsible for an estimated 42,100 displaced people under the National Refugee Law. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is helping to ease this burden through socio-economic integration. Their efforts aim to include refugees in the education and health systems and to assist with voluntary resettlement.
  5. Although many people moved to urban areas in search of economic opportunity, droughts over the last 30 years and conflict in the region forced many out into extension slums. The International Development Association’s (IDA) Slum Upgrading Project has gained support in the amount of $20 million. The development will mitigate the overpopulated areas by establishing a system of transportation for the public, their goods and emergency assistance.
  6. The enrollment rate of Djiboutian students in 2017 was less than 50 percent across the board. Fortunately, the completion rate of children in primary school has improved from 22 percent in 2000 to 55 percent in 2018 for females and from 31 percent in 2000 to 60 percent in 2018 for males. These percentages in enrollment and completion rates are projected to rise.
  7. The cost of electricity in Djibouti is double that of the African average. Currently, electricity is available to half the population, and the percentage of consumers is expected to double in the near future. As a result, USAID is launching two projects, the Power Africa Transaction and Reform Program (PATRP) and the East Africa Geothermal Partnership (EAGP), which will develop Djibouti’s natural resource potential into sustainable energy in order to power the country.
  8. Cybercafes offer online access to counter the high cost of the internet. More than 105,000 Djiboutians, who cannot afford internet, utilize these cybercafes, although access does not guarantee the availability of all sites and information, especially in regards to media. Authorities will block access to websites they find unfavorable to the government.
  9. Djiboutian male family members do not curb their women away from work opportunities, and there are no laws forbidding female entrepreneurship. However, the difficulty of accessing the market is in part due to social norms, family duties, education or skill barriers and transportation issues. The World Bank understands the vital role female empowerment plays in improving their society. For this reason, they have launched the 3.82 million dollar project, “E-commerce for Women-led SMEs.” Their contributions will provide Djiboutian women with the tools to access e-commerce platforms. The project’s connections to financial institutions, such as IFC’s Banking on Women network, lending specifically to women, will alleviate the struggle women have had trying to finance their small firms through disinterested creditors.
  10. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is practiced on more than 90 percent of women and girls in Djibouti. Some have endured this under qualified medical practitioners. But, medicalizing the act does not mean there are health benefits to removing the tissue. The tradition is practiced for different reasons, such as to represent a transition to womanhood or to discourage sexuality in women. Some communities associate it with religion, believing it fosters virtuous women, although there is no support for that belief in religious scriptures. FGM leads to severe pain, prolonged bleeding, higher risk of infection or HIV transmission and death. Women can also experience infertility or multiple complications in childbirth. UNICEF and the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) have spearheaded a program to advocate for legislation banning FGM, provide victims with access to health care professionals and open the discussion to voice declarations against FGM in communities, like Djibouti, being affected.

Djibouti’s cosmopolitan port keeps it a central location for foreign affairs; however, an overpopulation of displaced people and drought have put a strain on food security. Equality is a work in progress. Though FGM still poses a threat to Djiboutian girls, there are organizations working to end the barbaric practice. Furthermore, women are on the rise towards entrepreneurship. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Djibouti show the continued external support that contributes to the country’s infrastructure in order to create a stronger country.

– Crystal Tabares
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in the Kyrgyz Republic
Education breeds confidence and encourages young girls to pursue opportunities otherwise not available to them, which is one reason why it is so integral to learn about the top 10 facts about girls’ education in the Kyrgyz Republic and foster international and local policies that support equality in education. Working towards complete gender equality in education in the Kyrgyz Republic will not only improve the lives of millions of girls and women, but it will also benefit everyone in the country.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in the Kyrgyz Republic

  1. There is virtually no gender disparity in children attending primary and secondary school. In 2017, primary school enrollment rates for girls were at 89.18 percent compared to 90.6 percent for boys; 97.79 percent of girls completed primary school compared to 97.45 percent of boys. Furthermore, 87.06 percent of girls attend secondary school compared to 87.32 percent of boys. Thus, boys in the Kyrgyz Republic are less than two percent more likely to attend primary school than girls and less than half a percent more likely to attend secondary school.
  2. Women and girls in the Kyrgyz Republic have very similar literacy rates to men and boys. In 2009, 98.98 percent of women ages 15 years and older were literate compared to 99.52 percent of men. However, older women who are ages 65 and older have a 5.41 percent lower literacy rate than men in that same age group. Although these numbers are promising, further reading of the top 10 facts about girls’ education in the Kyrgyz Republic gives insight into why more needs to be done to improve girls’ education.
  3. Parents and teachers seldom discuss menstruation or explain the process of puberty to their daughters or students. Aigerim, a 17-year-old from Vasilevka, a village in the northern Kyrgyz Republic, said: “In most families, the mothers never talk with their daughters about menstruation.” This issue is exacerbated by the lack of suitable bathrooms for privacy and the disposal of menstrual products in Kyrgyz schools. A 2011 study found that 85 percent of bathrooms in Kyrgyz schools were pit latrines, only 11.5 percent of rural schools had sewage systems that worked and bathrooms built during the Soviet era did not have individual stalls for privacy. This shame and lack of suitable bathrooms create a block of access for girls in the Kyrgyz Republic and impact the quality of education.
  4. To encourage girls to continue to attend school while on their periods, UNICEF and Save the Children have created training programs about menstruation education as part of the Wins4Girls’s WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) project. The program trained 100 teachers from 100 schools on how to approach the subject in school settings and make education more welcoming to female students. Although there are no statistical results of the training program thus far, Wins4Girls teamed up with the NGO “Our Voice” to spread the WASH program to local youth centers. As a result of these efforts, a total of 403 additional girls received training on menstrual hygiene and awareness.
  5. Sexual education in Kyrgyz schools is extremely lacking. In schools throughout the Kyrgyz Republic, and especially in rural areas, any topics to do with sexual health “are to all intents and purposes not discussed.” As a result, when women marry they know very little about STIs, HIV, AIDS or birth control. In fact, the National Statistical Committee found in 2010 that only 30.3 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 were using any form of contraceptives. Some politicians such as the former leader of the conservative political party, Tursunbay Bakir Uulu, have advocated for the introduction of a religious style of education which would include the elimination of all sexual education courses or information in public schools.
  6. Child marriage in the Kyrgyz Republic robs many young girls of education prospects or any opportunities for future independence. In the Kyrgyz Republic, 19.1 percent of girls are married between the ages of 15 to 19. According to the U.N., child marriage causes girls to leave school early and almost all child brides do not return to school after marriage. In fact, 28.4 percent of girls married before the age of 18 did not complete secondary school. Child marriage is more common in poorer, more rural areas and amongst girls who have lower levels of access to education.
  7. Non-profit organizations are pursuing policy initiatives to decrease the rates of child marriage in the Kyrgyz Republic. The Osh Resource Center of the Interbilim International Center worked to raise awareness of child marriage and trained 20 girls on how to convince their parents not to allow child marriage. This grassroots program focused on such a small group because it was started by a Kyrgyz child bride to help girls in her own community.
  8. Although there is access to education for girls in the Kyrgyz Republic, opportunities to apply that education in the workforce are very limited, both legally and culturally. In 2015, women in the Kyrgyz Republic made up 40 percent of the workforce compared to 44 percent in 1990. The Kyrgyz government actively classifies 400 jobs that women are forbidden from applying to. Furthermore, Kyrgyz laws discriminate against women workers by enforcing shorter work weeks for women in certain areas and designating specific jobs as too dangerous for women such as work that involves heavy lifting or any jobs which take place underground. The lack of female workers costs the Kyrgyz Republic 0.4 percent of its GDP annually.
  9. The Kyrgyz Republic has a very high gender pay gap, which has steadily worsened. In 2010, women made 63.6 percent of what Kyrgyz men earned compared to 67.6 percent in 2000. Although women are slightly more likely to complete primary and secondary education than men, the sectors women enter in the Kyrgyz workforce are generally lower paying. For example, women make up 77 percent of teachers and 71 percent of hotel and restaurant workers in the Kyrgyz Republic. The gap in wages is discouraging and many young girls in the Kyrgyz Republic will have little incentive to seek higher education if their job prospects and earnings continue to be so limited.
  10. Although female presence in the Kyrgyz workforce is modest, there are policy initiatives to rectify this discrepancy which would also encourage more young girls in the Kyrgyz Republic to seek education. The USAID initiative Agro Horizon has helped more than 20,000 women working in agriculture learn to access markets and grow their farming businesses. In addition, the USAID Business Growth Initiative provides training in business and management skills for over 2,000 Kyrgyz women working in the apparel and tourism industries, allowing these women to access new technologies and spread their businesses to new markets. The presence of successful, independent female role models is imperative in order for young girls to stay in school and seek higher education.

Path to Independence

Education is the path to independence and a future of opportunities for young girls in the Kyrgyz Republic. Although these top 10 facts about girls’ education in the Kyrgyz Republic show that there is still gender inequality in the Kyrgyz economy, improving education standards for girls will benefit all of its citizens and lead to a fuller and more equal life for women in the Kyrgyz Republic.

– Alina Patrick
Photo: Flickr

opportunity in African slums
Kenya is known as a contrasting country where there is a large gap between the economic and social classes. About half of the 44 million people who live in the African country live well below the poverty line. This makes necessities like clean water and health care seem like luxuries.

With limited opportunity in African slums, many fall ill from lack of sanitation and clean water, as well as food shortages. Others are unable to attend school and are either pushed into violence or become victims of it.

Kennedy Odede – A Ray of Hope

Kennedy Odede was born in Kibera, Kenya, one of the largest slums in Africa. Here, Odede and many of his friends and neighbors were subjected to violence, severe gender inequality and a constant feeling of hopelessness stemming from a lack of opportunity. Despite his extreme impoverished conditions, Odede remained hopeful for not only a better future for himself and his birthplace of Kibera but for all the slums of Africa.

As he continued his education and eventually migrated to the U.S., Odede became inspired by visionaries of change, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. Like these influential men, Odede wanted to better the world for the vulnerable population.

In Kenya in 2004, Odede bought a soccer ball for 20 cents and taught people in his area the sport. Upon bringing people together to play, the Kenyan native was able to create open discussions about the pressing issues within the community of Kibera. Those included issues such as food security and gender-based violence. They started discussing ways to create opportunity in African slums.

Shining Hope for Communities

After meeting his wife, Jessica Posner, Odede’s initiatives branched out into a grassroots organization called Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO).  It was founded in 2009. This nonprofit organization devised a plan to integrate programs for girls’ education and community forums to raise awareness about gender-based violence. SHOFCO’s mission statement pays homage to the mindset of Odede’s visionary inspirations. It reads “Empower communities to transform urban poverty to urban promise.”

SHOFCO set up an aerial network of pipes that brought access to clean water. It was an effort to help decrease Kenya’s alarming child mortality rate. SHOFCO has also set up several health clinics, including 6 in Odede’s home neighborhood of Kibera, where over 165,000 patients were served in 2017. Clinical services were desperately needed in Kibera with HIV and other diseases being endemically prominent.

According to SHOFCO’s annual report, in 2017 the organization helped provide free education and health services to nearly 220,000 people across Kenyan slums. Thus, along with health reform in Africa, the organization continues its initiatives to better education and transform the lives of people.

Educational Programs to Create Better Opportunity in African Slums

The Los Angeles based couple’s organization continued to transform urban poverty and create better opportunity in African slums through their educational programs. SHOFCO’s School-2-School program partners with schools across the United States to support efforts and raise awareness for SHOFCO’s free schooling for girls in Kenya.

This partnership has helped 45 percent of Kenyan girls enrolled in the free schooling program achieve A’s in Kenya’s primary education certification exam. Schools enrolled in the program received a B+ average on the same exam. Both Odede and his wife believe that providing young girls with education is important to fighting poverty as it creates female leaders and speaks for the need to fight for women’s rights.

SHOFCO now runs two schools, one in Kibera the other in Mathare. The schools teach 519 girls from pre-kindergarten up to eighth grade. Aside from traditional academic subjects, students focus on leadership skills and learn about Kenya’s government. This was Odede’s idea to make people realize the need to create more opportunities in African slums.

SHOFCO’s annual budget of $7 million is currently made up of donations and grants from both the U.S. and Kenya. Odede and his wife hope this budget will go well beyond $10 million by 2021. That would allow the organization to create more schools and also continue its efforts in addressing Kenya’s health and water security issues. SHOFCO’s model for lifting urban slums like Kibera out of poverty serves as a guide to how industrialized countries can help create opportunity in African slums.

– Haley Newlin
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Mali
Mali is a West African nation that is abundantly rich with culture and history; however, it is ranked at 16 out of the world’s 20 poorest countries. As a result of a vulnerable economy, the citizens of this vibrant nation have endured continuous economic hardships. Listed below are details regarding the top 10 facts about living conditions in Mali.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Mali

  1. A large number of people in Mali have epilepsy. In Mali, It is estimated that fifteen out of 1,000 people are afflicted with epilepsy, including young children. Unfortunately, in developing countries, only 6 percent of those with epilepsy receive sufficient medical treatment. The poor living conditions in Mali for these individuals is caused by social stigmas and supernatural ideologies that have remained prevalent in Africa despite advances in clinical treatment. The Ministries of Health and Education are collaborating with traditional healers to create educational campaigns that oppose the spreading of misinformation about epilepsy.
  2. Rural women have a harder time accessing health care services. Approximately 90 percent of Mali’s destitute population lives in rural areas. A majority of women living in rural areas are unable to afford modern preventive and maternal health care. Alternatively, they resort to using traditional medicines. During illness or pregnancy, women in these communities depend on social support from their daughters and mothers-in-law. Furthermore, the husband is responsible for gathering financial assistance from his family to support his ailing wife.
  3. Malnutrition causes significant health risks for children. Predicted increases in hunger could have disastrous impacts on the well-being of Mali’s youngest citizens. Children between the ages of six and 59 months are more at risk for anemia, with a prevalence of 82 percent. Out of the 16,391 children surveyed for malnutrition, 376 were suffering from severe to acute malnutrition and another 1,646 with moderate acute malnutrition in 2013-13.
    Policymakers may concentrate on implementing adaptive measures that focus on projected areas of climate change and food vulnerability that could reduce the financial and health repercussions of climate change in Mali.
  4. Hazardous conditions are affecting adolescents. Adolescents in Mali are at risk for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) associated diseases. Approximately 2.8 billion cases of diarrhea affect children annually. Furthermore, infections associated with WASH often lead to a decline in academic achievements. The Ministry of Primary Education has reported that only 44 percent of primary schools in Mali have access to a water point, and a bathroom was only installed in 58 percent of the schools. The WASH program was implemented to provide hygiene improvements such as establishing water points, toilets and providing hygiene products to schools.
  5. There are significantly low educational completion rates. In 2006 through 2007, the completion rate for primary education in Mali was only 54 percent. Educational obstacles are especially severe for children living in rural areas. It is estimated that more than 890,000 children in Mali from ages seven to 12 are not enrolled in school; that is four out of 10 children who are not receiving a basic elementary education. Educational improvements and increased education funding are important factors in improving the living conditions in Mali. However, in 2006, only 8.5 percent of all international aid was allocated to Mali’s education sector.
  6. Household income doesn’t translate to child well-being. The living conditions in Mali are generally assessed by the poverty level of each individual household. However, the unique needs of children are not always addressed by household level incomes. For example, regions such as Tombouctou have poverty rates below the average at 33 percent, but a child deprivation level of 72 percent. Whereas, in Sikasso, where the poverty rates are at 86 percent, 37 percent of the children are not deprived. Prospective analyses of Mali’s child poverty levels can serve as potential intervention guides.
  7. Extreme poverty is on the decline. An individual living on less than $1.90 a day is considered to be in extreme poverty. Between 2011 and 2013, the extreme poverty rate in Mali increased from 47.8 percent to 50.4 percent. However, as a result of successful agricultural production, the rate fell to 42.7 percent in 2017. Industrialized agriculture is imperative to improving the living conditions in Mali.
  8. Mali’s agricultural outlook is positive. Nearly two-thirds of Mali is covered by the Saharan desert. However, despite the geographical barriers, Mali has the highest agricultural potential of the Sahel Region where 80 percent of Malians rely on rain-fed agriculture to make a living.
  9. The economy is improving. The living conditions in Mali have been significantly influenced by economic and monetary changes. Mali’s economic climate is improving; since 2014, Mali has had a 5 percent increase in economic growth every year. Furthermore, Local banks are starting to expand their lending portfolios, and the investment climate is profiting from the monetary and economic improvements due to an increase in foreign investment.
  10. Rural citizens adapt to climate variability. Mali has undergone significant environmental, cultural and economic changes. Citizens in rural areas often depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. Therefore, to cope with the climate changes that affect their resources, citizens along with development planners are adapting strategies to support sustainable local investments.

The living conditions in Mali are based on an intricate junction of resource scarcity and economic mobility. With the support of global investors and the contributions of scientific researchers, improvements in industrial, educational and agricultural disparities are being made and better living conditions are being improved. However, further legislative conversations must occur in order to ensure the preservation of intervention programs and foreign investment continues.

– Sabia Combrie
Photo: Flickr