Women’s Rights in Oman
Before 1994, women in Oman did not have permission to vote. Before 2008, women did not have equal ownership of property compared to men. These are a small glimpse of many such fundamental rights that some countries deny women. Preconceived notions about the roles of women in society are difficult to alter after generations of their observance; however, Oman is starting to make significant strides towards progress in women’s rights.

Women’s Suffrage in Oman

In the 2003 elections in Oman, both men and women received an equal chance to vote for the first time. Women obtained permission to vote for members of the Majlis al-Shura, the elected governing body of Oman, and could even run as candidates in 2012. Commentator Muhammad Al Hinai observed that “society is becoming more aware of how important the woman’s role is, in pushing the wheels of development in the country along with men,” in a Gulf News interview. In the recent elections of Majlis al-Shura that took place in October 2019, 47.3% of voters were women, and government bodies have represented more than twice the number of women since the 2012 elections.

Omani Women’s Right to Equal Pay

Women in Oman face many day-to-day challenges, including their right to equal pay. Under the Basic Law of Oman’s government, women are entitled to the same wages and treatment as men. In practice, however, the law overlooks workplace discrimination and prejudices employers have against women. Women continue to face difficulty in gaining equal independence when they have to financially rely on their husbands to be the breadwinners of the family. Due to the lower pay, women in Oman are more likely to face greater financial struggles than men and are frequently unable to escape the cycle of poverty. Despite this issue, recent laws and articles have brought the gender wage gap to the forefront of Omani citizens’ attention.

The national daily Times of Oman reported that between 2010 and 2016, the wage for women increased more than 160%. The Omani Women’s Association, a non-governmental organization that emerged in 1972, is a prominent supporter of women’s rights in Oman. Its work promotes social justice and equal opportunities by encouraging women to apply for jobs and gain a source of income, eliminating dependence on family members. Opportunities that the organization offers include providing literacy classes, as well as setting up family programs to allow women to explore areas of interest outside of caretaking. The Omani Women’s Association currently has 58 associations across Oman.

Laws Regarding Marriage

Although Oman has made several breakthroughs regarding the ability of women to choose their spouses and divorce their husbands, the patriarchal system effectuates that women remain dependent on men. According to Article 17 in Oman’s Basic Law, women can marry freely. However, the Personal Status Law retains higher authority in matters of guardianship, child custody and inheritance. In exchange for protection, Omani women must bind themselves to their husbands and may not receive financial compensation if they divorce. As a result, women are unable to fully exercise their rights.

Nevertheless, the Government of Oman stipulated in a 2016 report that it was attempting to “[address] shortcomings in the application of the Personal Status Law by amending to ensure women’s optimal obtainment of their right.” In addition to granting women more fundamental freedom, the Government of Oman is building schools in order to provide women with education and improve the issue of women’s rights in Oman.

The Importance of Awareness About Women’s Rights in Oman

 The first step in creating a progressive mindset in society is to inform and educate civilians. Without knowledge, countries like Oman cannot obtain change simply through legislation, and oftentimes, women in countries such as Oman are not even aware of their basic rights.

Awareness of rights and the necessity to challenge traditional thinking has led to the passing of many successful laws in Oman. In Oman’s capital of Muscat, Omani women held a three-day protest in front of the General Police Headquarters to advocate for women to gain better access to healthcare. While two of the women underwent unfair detainment without a proper hearing, authorities eventually released them imposing any charges on them.

Following the numerous demonstrations in the capital, the government of Oman attempted to pass laws to improve the state of women’s rights in Oman. For example, in 2008, Omani legislation passed a law that declared that courts would regard testimonies from both men and women as equal. In addition, a 2010 law stated that married Omani women no longer needed the consent of their husbands in order to acquire a passport, a law that established a great amount of freedom for women. Advocating for women’s rights is an essential component to empowering and supporting women in developing countries.

– Esha Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

The Journey Towards Hmong Gender Equality
Hmong people are a part of an ethnic group from Southeast Asia. They have achieved relative economic and political stability in the United States and other countries of Hmong migration after the Vietnam War. However, Hmong women continue to face inequality and repression within their own communities. The Hmong culture highly values education. As such, Hmong families often encourage their children to pursue higher education. However, Hmong’s people still need to achieve Hmong gender equality. As a result, families have not equally supported young girls in recent years.

Hmong society firmly implants gender roles. Established gender conventions continue to affect Hmong families’ opportunities. However, women have been triumphant in breaking barriers. In a survey of several Hmong women, author Gokia Vang found that a number of respondents felt pressure to transform into perfect housewives and conform to the idea of the woman as the homemaker.

Who Are the Hmong People?

It is crucial to understand the socio-economic conditions affecting the contemporary Hmong population. According to a leader at The Center for Hmong Studies, the Hmong are an ethnic group within the country of Laos. People in Laos primarily refer to the Hmong as Hmong. Although a majority of Hmong people migrated to the United States from countries such as Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, the Hmong are a unique ethnic group of their own. Furthermore, they have their own distinctive culture and lineage.

The CIA began leading covert efforts to recruit Hmong soldiers to defend against the influence of communism in the 1960s. Additionally, most Hmong soldiers fought alongside the United States during the Vietnam War and the Secret War in Laos. The two wars devastated the Hmong population. Furthermore, it drove hundreds of families to abandon Laos and flee to more stable surrounding countries. Eventually, many migrated to the United States.

Gender Dynamics in the Hmong Household

Economic pressures as a result of mass migration vastly influence gender roles in the Hmong community. Sara R. Curran and Abigail C. Saguy’s research on the effect of migration in gender roles reaffirms this phenomenon. The heads of households often feel compelled to assert a sense of legacy and encourage male members of the family to become resourceful, well-educated individuals when migrating to a new country. This is so men can send money back to relatives in their home country.

Researchers have observed a behavior called relative deprivation, where male members of a migrant community compensate for the upturning of tradition by purchasing material goods to assert social dominance. However, the head of households is hesitant to challenge tradition and instead push women towards homemaking and marriage to better integrate into American society. According to Identity Within Cultures, Hmong women began embracing more liberal forms of gender expression after arriving in the United States. Furthermore, new insecurities emerged in regard to Hmong gender equality. Thus, more rigid gender roles emerged as a method of holding onto their own culture.

The Challenges of Hmong Gender Norms

Many often perceive gender equality in a white-centric context for Hmong women. Studies acknowledge Hmong culture as fluid and changing and that Hmong American women are active participants of cultural change. However, more discussion of discourse and ideologies that impact Hmong American girls’ self-perceptions and choices is necessary. Hmong women have succeeded in the educational sphere despite the racial and cultural implications. Furthermore, they have demonstrated their motivation to secure college degrees and seek out challenging careers.

Women within these communities have explored various paths to achieve Hmong gender equality and belonging. Their ambitious and motivated efforts have flipped the dynamics within the cultural sphere. Jennifer Yang, a writer for Diverse Education reported that Hmong women seeking higher education outnumber Hmong men. There have been significant improvements in Hmong gender equality. It is important to acknowledge how Hmong women have rapidly shifted economic roles and redistributed opportunities in a more egalitarian manner amidst the complexities of acculturation and cultural preservation. Women within micro-cultures can successfully shape and mold their own roles in a new social climate.

– Luna Khalil
Photo: Flickr

7 Organizations that Fight for Gender Equality
In order to alleviate global poverty, it is imperative to fight for gender equality. The President of the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development said, “When you invest in a man, you invest in an individual. When you invest in a woman, you invest in a community.” Women all over the world continue to struggle for equality in the workplace. Additionally, women often bear the burden of completing domestic responsibilities and unpaid labor.

Poverty Among Women

Poverty affects women especially. Women do not have the same opportunities as men in receiving a quality education, work and owning property. Thus, their ability to be productive citizens often has severe limits. Many young girls learn to prioritize domestic responsibilities over education. Consequently, women are often illiterate and unable to find employment. This hinders the fight for gender equality and the economic development of a country as well. Moreover, global poverty will prevail until the world achieves gender equality.

Fortunately, many organizations fight for gender equality within their respective countries. Here are seven organizations that strive to empower women and alleviate poverty.

7 Organizations that Fight for Gender Equality

  1. The Korea Women’s Associations United: This is an umbrella organization that aims to achieve gender equality, democracy and peaceful reunification in the Korean peninsula by facilitating solidarity and collectivism. It played an important role in establishing the “basic framework for government policies on women, including the creation of the Ministry of Gender Equality and the adoption of a [gender-responsive] budget.”
  2. The Akshara Foundation: This Foundation works to improve access to education and enhance social consciousness in India by providing scholarships and capacity-building workshops to disadvantaged young women. Its main objective is to break the cycle of gender equality and poverty. Additionally, its Youth for Change program teaches young men and women the importance of gender equality for all.
  3. The Women for Peace & Gender Equality Initiative: This organization fights for gender equality by empowering young women in Nigeria via a uniform platform of advocacy. The platform resolves social issues and eradicates inequalities at grass root levels for policy-level changes. Furthermore, it provides skill and leadership training for adolescent boys and girls. Additionally, the Women for Peace & Gender Equality Initiative conducts research on gender-based violence.
  4. The Foundation for Studies and Research on Women: This Argentina-based Foundation has developed programs, projects and other activities concerning political participation, leadership, teenage pregnancy, violence against women and comprehensive sex education. The Foundation for Studies and Research on Women partners with local municipalities, universities and other NGOs to promote and teach its research through its extensive programs.
  5. The Pratthanadee Foundation: This Foundation provides mentoring and career guidance in Thailand. It successfully reaches over 3,000 undereducated and economically underprivileged women and girls in central Bangkok and rural Ubon Ratchathani each year. The Pratthanadee Foundation aims to build confidence in young women from low-income regions across Thailand. Additionally, the organization recently launched a new program to teach young women how to create and act upon their future aspirations.
  6. The Network of Young People for Gender Equality: This Portuguese nonprofit fights for gender equality and promotes women’s rights through informational activities, education, lobbying and research. Furthermore, this organization falls under the Support, Advanced Learning and Training Opportunities for Youth (SALTO-YOUTH). It is also a part of the European Commission’s Training Strategy.
  7. Voices Against Violence: This organization is an informal learning program for boys and girls in Australia. The United Nations and the World Association of Girls Guides and Girl Scouts developed this program. Additionally, the initiative works to help young people understand violence, abuse and relationships. Voices Against Violence works in Australia under Girl Guides Australia to empower young women to be confident and responsible community members.

Looking Ahead

These seven organizations strive to empower women, fight for gender equality and improve the economic development of countries. Providing girls and women with tools to succeed will improve work productivity and decrease education gaps and gender-based violence.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in China
For many years, gender equality and women’s rights in China have been a problem, mainly for women. Various restrictions still take place, even today. Income discrepancies and traditional gender roles in the country aimed at placing and keeping women inferior as compared with their male counterparts.

For example, women who have children do not always receive support from their supervisors and often lose their pay when on maternity leave. From occupational rights to issues such as property rights, men in China have always (and unfairly) been the more supported gender for years. Unfortunately, this continues to this day.

Discrimination in the Workplace

Women of the past and present in China, have dealt with unfair employment practices. They have had to jump over unnecessary hurdles just to keep up with their male counterparts. The Chinese government claims to better prioritize the promotion of gender equality, and therefore women’s rights in China. Particularly — in the workplace, however, recent research says otherwise. Of the job listings in the Chinese Government’s civil service job list, 11% stated preferences for men. The percentage was higher in jobs preferring men from 2018 to 2019, at 19%.

This information was identified by the Human Rights Watch, which also discovered that fewer than 1% of these job postings offered offered support to women. This has caused many women to surrender to traditional gender roles. For example, staying at home, not working and being dependent on the male of the house. Notably, only 63% of the female workforce worked in 2017.

Patriarchal Oppression

China’s history has seen a higher focus on men being the core of not just their families but the country’s overall success and growth. Post Confucius era, society labeled men as the yang and women as the yin. In this same vein, society views Yang as active, smart and the dominant half. This, compared with Yin, which is soft, passive and submissive. These ideologies are not as prominent today but persist enough that there is a problem.

The tradition begins at birth with boys being the preferred children compared to girls in China. A consensus opinion in the country is that if one has a male child versus a female child, they believe the son will grow into a more successful member of the family. The sons are more likely favored because the issue of pregnancy is a non-factor and they can choose almost any job they desire. Of course, this is something that does not support efforts for gender equality nor women’s rights in China.

A survey done just last year found that  80% of generation Z mothers did not have jobs outside of the home. Importantly, most of those surveyed were from poorer cities. The same survey found that 45% of these stay-at-home mothers had no intention of going back to work. They simply accepted their role of caring for the house. Gender equality and women’s rights in China have shifted toward cutting into the history of patriarchal dominance within the country.

Women’s Rights Movement in China

Since the Chinese government is not completely behind gender equality in China for women, the feminist movement is still active and stronger than ever. In 2015, the day before International Women’s Day, five feminist activists were arrested and jailed for 37 days. They were just five of an even larger movement of activists fighting against the traditional gender role ideology that has placed females below males. These movements have begun to make great progress towards gender inequality within the country. From 2011 to 2015, a “12th Five Year Plan” had goals of reducing gender inequality in education and healthcare.

The plan also was to increase the senior and management positions and make them accessible for women to apply for said positions. Xi Jinping, the current President of the People’s Republic of China, has proclaimed that the country will donate $10 million to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. During the next five years and beyond, this support will help the women of China and other countries build 100 health projects for women and children. March 1, 2016, the Anti-domestic Violence Law of the People’s Republic of China took effect. This law resulted in the improvement in legislation for gender equality in China. In June of that year,  ¥279.453 billion was put forth toward loans to help women, overall.

Dorian Ducre
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Finland
Finland has a long history with gender equality, being the world’s first country to offer full political rights to women in 1906. Here are five facts about women’s rights in Finland, including landmark developments and where it needs to improve.

5 Facts About Women’s Rights in Finland

  1. Finland offers one of the most generous parental leave policies in all of Europe. A February 2020 policy granted seven months of paid leave for new mothers as well as one month of pregnancy allowance prior to their official leave. Non-biological parents have access to the same parental leave privileges while single parents receive a full 14 months of paid leave. This updated policy also extends the seven months of parental leave to fathers and allows parents to transfer up to 69 days from their seven-month allotment to the other parent. Gender-neutral parental leave policies are a crucial step toward gender equality by leveling the gap between conventionally male and female roles in society and relieving women of the tradition of them solely raising their children.
  2. Women in Finland enjoy high-quality education. In fact, Finland ranked first in the world in leveling the gender gap in educational attainment in 2018. The consistently high levels of education among women show this. Among those obtaining a university-level or post-graduate in 2012, the proportion of women was 60% and 50%, respectively. Moreover, the rate of female educational attainment is increasing rapidly and significantly outpacing that of men, as the share of women earning post-graduate degrees jumped from 15% in 1975 to 54% in 2012.
  3. Political institutions provide equal representation. Finland’s government has a history of pioneering gender equality, being the first parliament in the world to include female members of parliament. Finland elected its first female prime minister in 2003, and its third female prime minister, Sanna Marin, assumed office in December 2019. Marin leads a coalition government consisting of five parties, all of which have women under the age of 35 at the helm. Female representation in the nation’s 2019 election was especially notable, with a record number of women winning parliamentary seats, amounting to 47% of the parliament. As a result, Finland ranked sixth globally in political empowerment for women in 2018.
  4. Women dominate the labor market. Finland enjoys the highest labor participation rate of women worldwide and ranks among the best nations for working women. Moreover, the employment rate for Finnish women is higher than the European Union average. However, Finland needs to still make improvements, as women in the public and private sectors receive only 80% to 85% of their male counterparts’ earnings. Nonetheless, the gender pay gap has been steadily decreasing over the last two decades and expectations have determined that it should continue to decrease as a result of social welfare policies that allow women to reconcile family and work life.
  5. Finland is a victim of the “Nordic Paradox,” the trend where Scandinavian nations experience high rates of domestic violence despite promoting gender equality in economic and political life. The 2013 rate of intimate partner violence in Finland was nearly double the European average. Domestic violence rose 7% in 2019 with over 10,000 reported victims, more than half of which were between married couples. Finland has taken steps at the national level to address this trend, having adopted a National Gender Action Plan and trained about 200 federal judges in prosecuting cases involving violence against women. Moreover, crisis shelters and a free 24/7 helpline are available, with specialized investigators and law enforcement officials to address reports of violence. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare oversees these shelters, which also provide professional counseling and health services to customers.
  6. Migrant women are a major part of Finland’s equal rights agenda. Immigrant women with children experience an employment rate that is nearly 50% lower than that of their native-born counterparts, and social integration has posed a challenge for these communities. To address this issue, the Social Impact Bond emerged through institutional and private investment to assist immigrant women in finding employment within four months. Moreover, the national government finances public language programs to offer support to recent migrants learning the Finnish language.

Despite being a pioneer for women’s rights in Finland, the country still experiences its fair share of women’s issues. However, with a female-led government and strong social welfare policies, Finland’s progress is effectively ongoing and still serves as a model for the rest of the developed world.

– Neval Mulaomerovic
Photo: Pixabay

Women’s Rights in Sudan
For decades, the subject of women’s rights has been at the forefront of media and politics. While the world has made progress, women in countries such as Sudan are still fighting for equal rights. The fight for women’s rights in Sudan is in motion by opposing laws such as the Personal Status Law of 1991. This law allows child marriages and states that women can only marry if they have consent from a father or male guardian. Here are five things to know about the women’s rights movement in Sudan.

Women’s Rights in Sudan

  1. Women Make up 70% of Protesters. As women band together to protest in Sudan against laws and government officials who are in favor of limiting women’s rights, globalfundforwomen.org estimates have determined that in the Sudan protests, women account for nearly 70% of protesters. The women taking part in these protests labeled their movement as “the women’s revolution.” Due to the protests, many women have undergone beating or flogging, yet they still stand strong and continue to protest.
  2. Many Laws Women are Protesting Stem from Long Lasting Traditions. As tradition is a large part of Sudan’s culture, many of the laws women are protesting come from years of tradition. Nevertheless, women advocate for themselves despite these laws. The laws restrict women from things such as wearing pants, equality and representation in government, child marriage, amongst other regulations. Though some of these have roots in tradition, modern women are demanding they have equal rights. However, this is difficult as women are limited within government and law.
  3. Women in Sudan have been fighting for their rights for over 30 years. Due to the oppressive rule of dictator Al-Bashir, women in Sudan have had to fight for equal rights since 1989, adding up to over 30 years of subjugation. While inequality did not start with Al-Bashir, he did support and enforce laws to limit women’s rights in Sudan. He did this with military and government forces, beating, raping and murdering women speaking out against years of abuse and inequality.
  4. The Women’s Revolution Movement was a large part of overthrowing Al-Bashir. In 2019, women refused to stay silent as Sudan began to rise up against Al-Bashir. Even though they had to deal with persecution from the military, women continued to rise up against their oppressors. According to Harvard International Review, protesters such as Salah and Lina Marwan stood strong. They told their stories and experiences with inequality. They also continued to protest even after Sudanese military officials harassed them.
  5. As of January 2020, West Kordofan started its first No to Women Oppression Initiative. Though this is the only initiative started in Sudan currently, there is hope to open more across the country with a push to coordinate more organizations fighting for women’s rights in Sudan. These organizations are also continuing to discuss violence against women with Sudan’s government in hopes of gaining equal rights for them.

Though there is a long way to go to achieve equal rights in Sudan, as protests continue and women persist in fighting for their rights, there is hope for the future.

– Olivia Eaker
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Belgium
Women’s rights have come a long way since the beginning of the century. In countries around the world, women have fought tirelessly for many of the freedoms that their male counterparts already enjoy, from the right to vote to the right against discrimination. The women of Belgium are no exception from these movements. Here are five facts about women’s rights in Belgium.

5 Facts About Women’s Rights in Belgium

  1. Belgium was one of the last European countries to introduce women’s suffrage. Despite some Belgian women earning their right to vote in 1919, Belgium was one of the last European countries to acknowledge women’s suffrage and women’s demands for voting rights. The only country to allow it after Belgium was Greece. The lag in women’s suffrage was mainly due to early women’s rights advocates such as Marie Popelin and Isala Van Diest, who chose to focus first on improving women’s education and legal equality in Belgium before advocating for equal voting rights. Additionally, during this time, many members of the socialist and liberal parties did not trust women with the right to vote, fearing that women would vote too conservatively and would give their overwhelming support to the Catholic parties under the influence of the priest. However, this proved untrue when women officially received the same voting rights as their male counterparts.
  2. Women did not fully gain voting rights until 1948. Women in Belgium, as in many other countries in the world, did not enjoy the same freedoms as men when it came to engaging in politics for a long time. They first received the right to vote in 1919; however, these rights had heavy restrictions in that only specific women could vote. Only mothers and widows of servicemen who died in World War I, mothers and widows of citizens “shot or killed by the enemy” and female prisoners who “had been held by the enemy” initially obtained the right to vote. In 1920, all Belgian women, with the exception of prostitutes and sex workers, received the right to vote in municipal elections. It was not until 1948 that Belgian men and women enjoyed the same voting rights in parliamentary elections. The first parliamentary election in which women participated took place on June 26, 1949.
  3. The number of women in Belgian politics has been steadily rising. In the past, the Belgian Parliament had been heavily male-dominated. However, thanks to policies like the Quota Act, this has been changing, a major win for women’s rights in Belgium. Belgium first introduced the Quota Act in 1994 but updated acts have since emerged. The most recent Quota Act imposed a 50–50 quota for every election list and required that the two candidates at the top of the list not be of the same gender. Election lists that do not comply with the Quota Act are automatically nullified. This helps prevent political parties from participating in elections if they are unwilling or unable to abide by the quota rules. By 2019, women held 42% of positions in parliament. Sophie Wilmès is the current prime minister of Belgium and is also the first woman to hold this post in the country. Increasing the number of women in Belgian politics helps to expand women’s rights in Belgium.
  4. Belgium is closing its workforce gender gap. In 2020, Belgium ranked 27th out of 153 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report, which “benchmarks countries on their progress towards gender parity across four thematic dimensions: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment.” The workforce gender gap has also been closing over the years. The overall labor force participation rate for women 20-64 years old in Belgium is 63% (2.34 million women) compared to 72.3% for men (2.66 million men). Despite the increasing number of women entering the workforce over the years, there are still disparities between men and women in the workforce. When examining board members in Belgian companies, women only hold 30.7% of the seats while 69.3% of men hold the rest. There is also a discrepancy between men and women when it comes to wage earnings in Belgium. The pay gap in Belgium was 21% in 2017 and the pension gap was 28%. Despite the wage gap closing, women in Belgium are still more vulnerable than men to living in poverty. In 2018, women were two percentage points higher than men in reports on the poverty level in the country.
  5. Belgium implemented the accelerated Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The Beijing Declaration was a resolution that the United Nations adopted in September 1995 at the end of the Fourth World Conference on Women. The resolution established a set of principles aimed at addressing the inequality between men and women. In 2015, Belgium partnered with UN Women to introduce the full, effective and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The accelerated commitment outlined six main tactics for addressing gender inequality: (1) investing in gender equality at the national and international levels, (2) updating or establishing new action plans, strategies and policies on gender equality, (3) enhancing women’s leadership and participation at all levels of decision-making, (4) introducing new laws or reviewing and implementing existing ones to promote gender equality, (5) preventing and addressing social norms and stereotypes that condone gender inequality, discrimination and violence and (6) launching public mobilization and national campaigns to promote gender equality. One area that has seen improvement from the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is women’s participation in politics throughout Belgium.

While women’s rights in Belgium have dramatically improved over the years, these five facts show that there is still room for improvement within the country. On International Women’s Day in 2019, over 5,000 female demonstrators went on strike in Brussels to campaign for women’s rights and gender equality. Despite Belgium’s best efforts, there is still more the country must do to ensure total equality between the rights of men and women.

Sara Holm
Photo: Pixabay

In the past decade, Cambodia has made progress in reducing the inequality gap between men and women. In partnership with the UN and USAID, gender barriers and negative social norms surrounding women’s place in society are being broken.

Women have taken the lead in various areas of poverty reduction, such as participating in the democratic process and spearheading efforts against water insecurity and climate disaster.

Here are some ways in which gender equality in Cambodia is improving.

Changing Societal Norms

During the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, violence against women escalated, including rape. The UN has worked to support victims and correct assumptions and inattention surrounding violence against women in Cambodia. Through the UN Joint Global Programme on Essential Services for Women and Girls Subject to Violence that began in 2017, survivors of rape and violence are receiving help and support. They focus on various needs of victims.

Through such programs, the UN has made efforts toward openly discussing and reducing violence against women, promoting gender equality in Cambodia.

A UN survey found that 82% of men and 92% of women accept that a woman’s main role lies only in overseeing the home. By using media, the UN is educating the public about negative social norms surrounding the role of women. For example, UNDP Cambodia and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs of Cambodia (MoWA) developed an initiative that focuses on improving gender equality in Cambodia. Between 2017 and 2020, this initiative focused on three areas:

  • Refining various institutions in the health, legal, and economic sectors to implement policies that empower women.
  • Using media to educate and engage the public to break societal norms and gender barriers.
  • Advance efforts to place women in positions of leadership and decision-making.

Women Lead Efforts Toward Water Security

Not only is the conversation surrounding gender equality in Cambodia changing, but women have stepped into positions of leadership in poverty reduction. For example, women are instrumental in efforts to achieve water security. In Cambodia, women are the main members of the household to fetch and handle water.

In addition to daily water needs, women also depend on water for its use in farming. Almost two-thirds of Cambodians are farmers, many of whom are women. The USAID Sustainable Water Partnership (SWP) recognizes the leadership skills of women and trains them to aid efforts toward water security. For example, in 2018, this program trained 17 women in the Stung Chinit Watershed and placed them in positions of leadership. These women gained knowledge in various areas, including conflict resolutionteamwork, communication and overseeing finances. In future years, the SWP plans to continue to include women in the fight for water security.

Women in the Democratic Process

The USAID has also worked toward including women in the democratic process. Through grassroots organizations, women are now becoming part of various civil rights causes. The USAID has promoted the participation of women in lobbying for workers’ rights and human rights.

Cambodia’s National Assembly is still composed of 80% men, but efforts to place women in political leadership positions are being undertaken. For example, a Cambodian NGO SILAKA is focused on partnering with political parties to engage women in politics. In 2017, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) focused on including qualified women candidates on candidate lists during council elections.

Women and Climate Disaster

In 2019, UNDP Cambodia increased efforts to prevent climate disasters and protect communities from these disasters. The UNDP has emphasized the role of women in disaster management. They are equipping local women with leadership and decision-making skills as a part of the Charter of Demands for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation.

Looking Forward

With the aid of the UN and USAID, Cambodia has made crucial efforts toward reforming negative societal norms. This has come through media campaigns and through involving women in poverty reduction efforts. To achieve greater gender equality in Cambodia, further efforts are needed to empower women politically, economically and socially.

– Anita Durairaj
Photo: Needpix

Girls’ Education in Albania
Albania is a small country located in southeastern Europe neighboring Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece. The country has endured many socioeconomic hardships since the fall of communism in 1991 but is now on the rise from one of the poorest countries in Europe to a middle-income country. As in most countries, education is an integral part of social, cultural and economic development. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Albania.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Albania

  1. Most girls attend primary and secondary schools. Albania considers the first nine years of school mandatory, which it calls primary education, although most students complete three additional years of school which are part of secondary education. According to the World Bank, the female net enrollment ratio for girls of primary school age (ages 6-15) was 94 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, 89 percent of females ages 15-18 enrolled in secondary schooling in 2018. However, these percentages of girls in the Albanian school system are still very good, as nearly the entire population of eligible girls attended some type of schooling.
  2. A little over half of the population of young adult women attend tertiary schools. Tertiary schooling is typically at universities and students aged 18 and older can study to obtain a bachelor’s, master’s or a Ph.D. The gross enrollment rate in 2018 was 68 percent for women in tertiary education, up from 39 percent in 2009. Even though the gross enrollment rate in 2018 for tertiary schooling is not as high as the net enrollment rates for additional schooling, these numbers show that girls’ education in Albania is rising.
  3. There are more girls receiving an education than boys. In the same study that the World Bank conducted, only 90 percent of boys of primary school age enrolled in school, compared to 94 percent of females in 2013. As for secondary schools, the male net enrollment rate stood at 84 percent compared to 89 percent for females in 2018. Thankfully, boys’ education and girls’ education in Albania have a very small gap between them. However, since 2009, there has been a significant gap between the gross enrollment rates in tertiary schools by gender. The most recent data has the male enrollment rate in tertiary education at 43 percent, a 25 percent difference between genders.
  4. Unemployment for women could impact tertiary education enrollment. Women’s participation in the labor force has dropped drastically from 78 percent in 1989 to 46 percent in 2005, likely due to the collapse of communism and social upheaval in 1991. This number did not reach 50 percent until 2013 and has been gradually rising since then. For decades, Albania has held onto strong patriarchal values that place women outside of the labor market. Because of these values, “women of reproductive age are discriminated against in the market because they may start a family, and thus have fewer opportunities for retraining and qualification.” If women experience exclusion from employment and have to operate in the domestic sphere, they may not see the value of an education, thereby contributing to lower rates of enrollment beyond compulsory schooling.
  5. Women earn less than men on average. In addition to hiring difficulties, women also earn 10.5 percent less than their male counterparts. The good news is that Albania has a lower gender wage gap than most of the European Union. The E.U.’s gender wage gap average was 16.2 percent in 2016. However, the gender wage gap could exist due to women’s lack of participation in the labor market, or vice versa. This could also be related to the rising net enrollment rate for girls’ education in Albania, specifically in tertiary schooling.
  6. Similarly, there is a low representation of Albanian women in decision making. In 2007, women occupied only 7 percent of seats in Albania’s parliament, with only nine women total in senior-level positions and 2 percent of local government leaders women. In 2017, the number of seats that women occupied in parliament rose to 21.4 percent. Having years of low representation of women in the Albanian government has allowed for the gender-based discrimination in education and employment to run rampant throughout the country. With fewer women involved in decision making, girls have fewer protections, making something as necessary as education difficult to obtain.
  7. There are low government expenditures on education. Unfortunately, Albania spent only 3.95 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education in 2016, according to UNESCO. A government undermines the value of an education when it invests so little in it.
  8. However, the Albanian government is helping girls in other ways. The Albanian government has spent this past decade focusing on undoing the decades of gender inequality through the law, specifically the Law on Reproductive Health, Measures on Domestic Violence and laws on Prevention and Elimination of Organized Crime and Trafficking Through Preemptive Measures on Personal Assets. In 2015, the Prime Minister of Albania publicly announced to the United Nations the national government’s commitment to gender equality. Following this, the national government adopted the Gender Equality and Action Plan 2016–2020 with the aim to consolidate efforts by all institutions to advance gender equality. The government used funds to benefit women’s enterprises and support services for survivors of domestic violence.
  9. Other organizations have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of women in Albania. The Mary Ward Loreto Foundation is an organization creating programs to empower adolescent girls and protect them from domestic violence and trafficking on the ground in rural communities in Albania. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has partnered with the Albanian national government and civil society to create programs to end gender-based discrimination, like the Gender Equality and Gender-Based Violence Programme in 2015. UNICEF has partnered with Albania’s Ministry of Education to implement new systems to improve access to education for children throughout the country. In November 2019, the World Bank loaned Albania $10 million to improve women’s access to economic opportunity.
  10. Female education is on the rise in Albania. Female enrollment has been rising since 2009 by roughly 1 to 2 percent every year. The total net enrollment rate is at 96 percent, so, fortunately, the majority of Albania’s children have access to public education. Despite having a lower percentage of girls attending primary and secondary school, over half of the women aged 18-22 enrolled in tertiary education at 67.58 percent in 2018. The girls who enrolled in education continue on to undergraduate and graduate studies.

Albania is a country rich in history. Unfortunately, much of that history has allowed gender-based discrimination to take root, even affecting girls’ education in Albania. Because of its changing political and social climate, patriarchal beliefs and a lack of protection for women have allowed the country to leave them behind. The good news is that women are catching up. Albania has worked tirelessly this past decade to undo gender inequality through laws, civil society and partnerships with global organizations to provide women the resources they need to succeed, starting with a promise of an education.

– Emily Young
Photo: Unsplash

Girls Education in Bolivia
Since the early 1970s, education from ages 6 to 13 has been mandatory in Bolivia. However, nationwide education rates after primary school have decreased drastically, with less than a quarter of young adults attending. The infrastructure of Bolivia’s education system, particularly in rural areas, is very underdeveloped, making girls’ access to education bleaker. However, the country is making strides to improve the quality of its education system. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Bolivia and the implemented laws and programs in place to enhance it.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Bolivia

  1. Urban vs Rural: A big part in determining the quality and endurance of each child’s education depends a lot on their socioeconomic status, region and gender. According to a UNICEF report, a girl living in the Amazon may only receive two years of schooling, while the son of an affluent family in the city could receive up to a 14-year education. Even within the city, there is gender disparity among ethnicity. For example, a city girl of indigenous background is only half as likely to complete her education as an urban boy of non-indigenous background.
  2. Indigenous People: Ethnicity has played a role in the suffering Bolivian education system, particularly in terms of income and class. While there have been slow improvements, the gender and ethnicity gap still remains. Indigenous women are five times less likely to complete secondary school education in comparison to non-indigenous males, mostly due to a limitation of proper resources to succeed in school and a lack of easy access to schools. UNICEF Bolivia initiated a four-year-long program from 2018 that works to improve “gender trends across different socio-economic structures.”
  3. Avelino Siñani-Elizardo Pérez: Bolivia passed the Avelino Siñani-Elizardo Pérez law in 2010 with the goal of making education a plurinational system in Bolivia. Alternative and special education are on the rise as a result of the passing of this law. Alternative education offers schooling for those 15 years or older, also known as continuing education outside of the classroom and through a department in the Ministry of Education. Special education focuses on helping people with disabilities learn. A translation of Article 10 reads that the law will “complement and articulate humanistic education with…gender equity.”
  4. Sanitation and Hygiene: Research shows that most rural schools do not have the resources for sanitation products for juvenile girls which affects girls’ education in Bolivia. These young women do not receive the help and equipment they need to transition into this new stage of life. In fact, the report concluded that this lack of support stems from the stigma and misconceptions about menstruation. The government has reported that many girls feel embarrassed or confused due to a lack of skills to manage menstruation and their companions often tease them. This leads to distraction from schoolwork, which can cause them to fail their classes.
  5. Gender-based Approach: UNICEF is stepping in to help bridge the disparity among gender and ethnicity in the education system. In a report, it says it has taken a gender-based approach in order to reach the most impoverished areas of the country and provide girls there with a better education. It plans to do this through a three-part system of “multilingual education, right-age enrollment, and child-centered pedagogy.” With an emphasis on educating and providing girls with resources from adolescent ages, UNICEF hopes to address many roadblocks for children in Bolivia.
  6. Discrimination: Among the small population of girls who pursue secondary and tertiary levels of education, they find themselves facing other hurdles, such as discrimination. According to a report by the World Bank, 20 percent of these women, particularly those who are indigenous or Afro-descendants, face discrimination when they pursue higher education. Much of the discrimination they face is based on their skin color, language, economic circumstances, gender, clothing and age. Programs like UNICEF develop new strategies to help tackle the marginalized indigenous groups of Bolivia and ensure they receive equal educational opportunities throughout their whole life.
  7. Secondary School Statistics: As of 2018, statistics show that the gender gap among secondary school students increases as social class lowers. In high-income families, the gender gap is almost nonexistent with both genders at about 95 percent completion rate. In middle-class families, there is only a marginal difference of about 3 to 4 percent. However, low-income families have the biggest gap, with almost a 10 percent difference.
  8. Future Employment: In 2009, the authoritarian form of government in Bolivia fell and democracy took its place. Bolivia has provided more educational, political and economic opportunities for women to involve themselves in their country due to these changes in the political structure. The workforce has seen a 7 percent increase from women, female representation has increased by 37 percent since 2002 and 46 percent of women feel free to participate in their political system, in comparison to the male statistic of 50 percent.
  9. The Programme: The mass migration of families to urban areas has left a large amount of poverty and single mothers in its wake. In an effort to increase the employment rate of these rural women, an initiative called The Programme helps these impoverished families by teaching them about property ownership and sustainable practices. The Programme does not provide them with traditional education but instead takes on a two-part plan to teach women tools to be able to provide for their families. The first part of this plan is transferring a monetary portion for “seed capital, startup grants, joint venture and risk capital.” The second part involves training and services that teach women about civic education and “full use of citizenship.” The Programme has successfully helped over 4,000 women find employment.
  10. Child Labor: Reports have found some of the worst forms of child labor in Bolivia, such as agriculture and sexual exploitation. A practice known as padrinazgo sends rural children to urban areas for better educational opportunities but leads to forced child labor. People have launched many programs over the past decade to end child labor, such as the Safe Terminal Program, which increases awareness and provides training to transportation officials about forced labor. However, despite the quantity of implemented programs, inclusivity of all regions and funding remain two issues that keep them from effectively reducing child labor.

There are definitely ways to go in improving the quality of education for the marginalized population of Bolivia, particularly for its young girls. However, with Bolivia taking on different initiatives and its government prioritizing poverty reduction, there is a promise that Bolivia’s education system will develop a strong infrastructure and be inclusive of all ethnicities and genders.

– Shreya Chari
Photo: Flickr