Girls’ Education in AfghanistanPolitical and economic instability have been facts of life in Afghanistan for decades. However, one of the few institutions that has made a significant recovery is the education system. There are still twice as many boys in school as there are girls. However, since 2008, the overall number of girls in school has gone up significantly.

Changing attitudes about girls’ education in Afghanistan have bolstered female enrollment rates. This shift has, in turn, increased support for public education in general and foreign aid—particularly from the U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID statistics offer some encouraging numbers to support this:

  • Of 9 million children enrolled in schools, 3.5 million are girls,
  • USAID has distributed over 170 million textbooks, and
  • USAID has helped train 280,000 new teachers.

The Rustam School

One promising example of this shift forward is the Rustam School, located in the Yakawlang district. The Rustam School possesses a small student body of only a few hundred. Nevertheless, 92 percent of its graduating class moved onto Afghanistan’s public universities in 2017.

Inverting the country’s enrollment statistics, two-thirds of the Rustam School’s students are girls. To note, the Taliban outlawed girls’ education in Afghanistan and pushed many boys into Islamic studies, rather than popular STEM courses. However, students, particularly girls, apply themselves rigorously to their education. They go so far as to learn the Windows operating systems without the aid of a computer.

The Fight for Education

Unlike in the United States, where public K-12 education is universal, the fight for education in Afghanistan has a checkered past. As far back as the 1970s, mujaheddin resistance fighters (rebelling against the USSR’s attempted occupation of Afghanistan) were killing government-paid teachers and closing down their schools.

With over half of the country’s 36 million citizens under the age of 18, the investment and safeguarding of education are more critical than ever. In recognition of this fact, USAID, the Pentagon and the State Department have invested $759 million in primary and secondary education over the last 17 years. These investments have fostered the changing attitudes of both local politicians and regional power-brokers—with the constant exception of the Taliban.

Though the expansion and protection of girls’ education in Afghanistan have had much progress, there is still room for improvement. The majority of Afghan girls are not enrolled in public school. This is explained by two main factors. First, most Afghan girls still marry at a very young age (for a variety of sociocultural factors). Subsequently, this causes a lack of female teachers and all-girls’ schools. Second, Afghanistan faces logistical difficulty when it comes to extending education to rural areas. Long walks to school sometimes have significant geographical barriers along the way that physically prevent students from attending. Also, many rural families are subsistence farmers; it is difficult for students to go to school if they have animals or crops to look after. However, the Rustam School proves that though providing education to rural Afghan children may be difficult, it is not impossible.

The Future of Education

Despite the recent progress and development of education in Afghanistan since the early 2000s, significant hurdles exist for girls’ education. The country’s education system must still be further advanced. However, a local initiative can make do with minimal resources and reach out to rural areas—like the Rustam School. Most importantly, despite its shortcomings, Afghanistan’s primary and secondary education systems offer success stories of what foreign aid can accomplish, especially if maintained over long periods of time.

– Rob Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

Top Five Facts About Girls Education in North Korea

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

Top Five Facts About Girls’ Education in North Korea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maddison Hines

Photo: Unsplash

10 Facts About Gender Inequality
In our patriarchal society, many underserve and underappreciate women in several aspects of life. Gender inequality ranges from the gender-pay gap to genital mutilation, transcending geographical and cultural differences. These 10 facts about gender inequality display the overarching themes of inequalities that women face and cope with around the world.

10 Facts About Gender Inequality

  1. Lack of Basic Education: In 2014, 263 million children were not in school. At the primary level, 31 million girls did not attend school compared to 29 million boys. Poverty and family income are often driving factors in whether or not girls have the opportunity to attend school. Other factors such as violence, living in remote, inaccessible areas and child marriages can also heavily impact female retention in schools. Increasing female education level is imperative to the positive growth and development of an individual, a family and a country.
  2. The Prominence of Child Marriages: As of 2014, 700 million girls are coerced into marriage before the age of 18. If people force girls into marriage at an early age, they are more likely to drop out of school as well as get pregnant early, which can contribute to physical and mental health hazards. Girls Not Brides is an organization committed to resolving child marriages around the world by keeping governments accountable. It also implements new policies and programs and increases the visibility of the issue.
  3. Increased Pregnancy Complications: Pregnancy and childbirth complications increase as income decreases. Stressors such as financial instability or crowded, polluted living spaces make infant mortality two-thirds higher compared to a higher income area. In addition to infant mortality, half a million women and girls die from child deliveries and complications each year.
  4. Battling Menstruation Stigma: Menstruation is a hormone-based process that signals female fertility. However, in countries such as Venezuela and rural Ghana, communities ostracize girls and women during menstruation. In Venezuela, communities force menstruating women to sleep in huts and in Ghana, communities forbid women from making contact with men. Furthermore, in underprivileged areas, menstruating women often do not have access to sanitary napkins which can cause infections. However, Freedom4Girls, a charity dedicated to removing the stigma around menstruation, is taking action by providing environmentally-friendly, reusable hygiene products to women in poverty.
  5. Culture of Domestic Violence: Domestic violence occurs due to unequal power dynamics within a partnership with approximately 85 percent of domestic violence victims as women. The practice of a patriarchal culture empowers abuse and violence against women, leaving low-income women at a higher risk of staying in violent relationships.
  6. Underreporting of Sexual Assault and Rape: Rape is highly underreported and repeatedly under-prosecuted with one in five women experiencing unwanted sexual contact in their lives. The underreporting of these crimes is frequently the result of fear related to public shaming, officials doubting their situations and further harm from the perpetrator. Women who experienced rape may also experience short-term or long-term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, therefore, putting mental health at risk. Victims of rape or sexual assault may resort to RAINN, an organization committed to improving the criminal justice system for sexual assault cases, increasing visibility for sexual violence and providing victim-focused services.
  7. The Dominance of Females in Human Trafficking: Human trafficking encompasses the enslaving of humans into unwanted labor or sexual activity. In 2014, 80 percent of enslaved humans brought across international borders were women, funding a multi-billion dollar industry and remaining as one of the largest illicit crime operations. Because of the pervasiveness of human trafficking, a multitude of organizations around the world are working to end this issue including the Polaris Project in the United States, Prajwala in India and COSA in Thailand.
  8. Existence of Female Genital Mutilation: Cultures perform female genital mutilation due to a series of cultural ideals where the female body must remain pure and clean. For example, some cultures believe that female genital mutilation will ensure virginity and fidelity by removing the “unnecessary” areas that promote pleasure. As many as 200 million girls have undergone the practice in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. 28 Too Many works to terminate these practices in the countries of Africa through extensive global data research, policy changes and community engagement.
  9. Marginal Female Leadership Representation: In more privileged countries, the number of females in leadership roles is dramatically lower than male counterparts considering the same level of education. Women account for 52.5 percent of the college-educated workforce with 57 percent of undergraduate degrees and 59 percent of master degrees. For example, in the financial industry, 61 percent of accounts and auditors are women, however, only 12.5 percent of chief financial officers in Fortune 500 companies are women.
  10. Unequal Economic Participation: Society has historically ingrained the idea of unequal economic participation and the entire world demonstrates this. Multiple countries possess laws to make it difficult or impossible for women to own land. Even though females represent half of the world’s population, less than 20 percent of the land is owned by women. Owning land is important for female economic development such as improved access to loans as well as educational development. Landesa Center for Women’s Land Rights recognizes the benefits of land ownership and is devoted to reforming laws and policies and developing programs to include women’s land rights.

These 10 facts about gender inequality demonstrate how one aspect of female suppression could lead to another. For example, girls who do not have the privilege of receiving a basic education could become vulnerable to teenage pregnancies or child marriages, which could further lead to pregnancy complications and compromised wellbeing. Women constantly face unjust and unequal circumstances that suppress rights to their own bodies, property or financial stability. Although many organizations such as Girls Not Brides, Freedom4Girls and Polaris Project have successfully come together in an effort to counteract multiple harmful practices and beliefs, it is important to recognize inequalities in everyday life and break the cycle of female suppression.

– Angela Dong
Photo: Flickr

Girls Education in IndiaIn 2017, India was ranked 130 in human development out of the world’s countries, putting the country on the medium level in regards to human development. This placement is due to imminent barriers that prevent girls from equal access to India’s academic opportunities. By contributing more to girls’ education, India’s ranking would improve as it would help to alleviate some poverty. This article presents the top 10 facts about girls’ education in India.

Top 10 Facts About Girls Education in India

  1. The caste system, dating back to 1200 BCE, is a form of discrimination that had been officially outlawed in 1955; however, its influence thrives in India’s modern-day education system. On the top of the system is a group called the Brahmins, and at the very bottom are Dalits (“untouchables”). This method has kept many Dalit girls secluded from promising scholastic endeavors. These children are often from their peers segregated during lunchtime and ridiculed by them in class. This rhetoric causes 51 percent of Dalit children to drop out of elementary school. Another law passed in 1989 was supposed to protect the Dalit caste, but it is not being sufficiently enforced.
  2. Gender inequality has deterred education for girls in India for a long time. In 2017, 32 percent of girls were not enrolled in school in comparison to 28 percent of boys. A male’s education in India is more valued, therefore; it is often seen as unnecessary to financially support a girl’s education due to these binding gender roles.
  3. In impoverished villages where schools are inaccessible and not encouraged, gender roles lead to a third of girls in India marrying off their educational futures. As high as 47 percent of the girls in India are subject to marriage by 18 years of age. This leads to early pregnancies, which makes it impossible to attend school as they must shoulder the stigma and the additional workload. Some regions also don’t permit pregnant girls to attend school, which puts education even further from their grasp.
  4. In 2009, the Right to Education Act (RTE), mandated that it is the right of every child to obtain a minimum amount of education. The program was supposed to make it compulsory for children ages 6 to 14 to access educational opportunities as more provisions were enacted. This was a step in the right direction, but more must be done to actively close the gender gap and retrain society to value girls’ education.
  5. The Right to Education Act in India seems to have improved the country’s ranking when looking at the growth in literacy rates. In 2001, literacy rates were 64.8 percent; however, this had increased to 74.04 percent by 2011. As of 2001, around 54 percent of girls were literate; however, after the RTE, the percentage had increased to more than 65 by 2011.
  6. Every year, 23 million girls in India drop out of school after they begin menstruating due to lack of sanitary napkin dispensers and overall hygiene awareness in schools. Lack of reproductive education leaves 71 percent of girls unaware of what takes place in their bodies during menstruation. Many girls even believe that was is happening is “unclean” and shameful. Even with awareness, lack of sanitary pads in rural areas force girls to use cloths that sometimes cause infections; only two to three women use sanitary pads.
  7. At least 47 percent of schools lack toilets, forcing girls to rid their bodily waste onto the streets, which is morally degrading to them. This is another reason they drop out of school, to avoid this shame. RTE included adding toilets to schools to solve this problem, but it wasn’t enough. Therefore, the Department of School Education and Literacy under Ministry of HRD implemented a program named, Swachh Vidyalaya, which would add $4,582.91 worth of toilets to schools.
  8. In Bihar, where the literacy rate for girls is 20 points lower than for their male counterparts, the trek to school is far. For someone in the Rampur Singhara village, the trek is 4 miles, and the bus fare is too expensive to send the child to school. However, the state government has given free bikes to families to encourage a higher literacy rate in poorer regions like Bihar. The bicycle program instantly showed success as the number of girls registering for schools went from 175,000 to 600,000 in the span of four years.
  9. India is expanding its horizons with technology to combat illiteracy, and it seems that women are benefiting the most. Computer-Based Functional Literacy (CBFL) teaches the basics of reading. This program targets individuals ages 20 to 50, which branches out India’s education system in terms of age for both sexes. Women comprised 81 percent of those who signed up for this efficient program. Girls who are at home due to poverty, gender roles or a host of other reasons are able to engage in education, thereby increasing the literacy rate.
  10. The poverty rate in India has declined from roughly 54 percent in 1983 to 21.2 percent in 2011 ever since educational improvements began taking place. Knowing this, it can be found that if India provided more resources for girls’ education, its GDP would increase. By simply increasing girls’ enrollment in secondary school by 1 percent, the  GDP in India would increase by $5.5 billion.

India aims to grow from a medium developed country to one of higher rank. Considering its recent strides in education, it is possible for India to attain this goal. However, this can only be done by realizing there is still more work to be done in closing the gap between boys and girls as these top 10 facts about girls’ education in India show.

Gowri Abhinanda

Photo: Flickr

Meghan MarkleMeghan Markle, now known as the Duchess of Sussex, began humanitarian work long before she joined the royal family. When she was 11 years old, she was so struck by a clearly sexist ad for dish soap that was targeting women, she wrote a letter to elected officials, to which she received a written response from Hillary Clinton. She has famously cited this story in her speech at the U.N. Women gathering in 2015 as the starting point to her activism. She utilized the fame she garnered from starring on the popular USA Network TV show “Suits” to increase her humanitarian efforts.

Since becoming Duchess of Sussex, she has traveled throughout the Commonwealth discussing humanitarian issues that affect the countries the royals represent. Here are the 10 best humanitarian quotes by Meghan Markle, Dutchess of Sussex.

The 10 Best Humanitarian Quotes by Meghan Markle

  1. “One hundred and thirteen million adolescent girls between the ages of 12-14 in India alone are at risk of dropping out of school because of the stigma surrounding menstrual health […] these factors perpetuate the cycle of poverty and stunt a young girl’s dream for a more prolific future.” In her 2016 visit to Delhi and Mumbai, India, Markle was prompted to write an open letter, featured in Time magazine, calling for action against menstrual stigmas that keep Indian girls from school and from being equal participants in society.
  2. “I think there’s a misconception that access to clean water is just about clean drinking water. Access to clean water in a community keeps young girls in school because they aren’t walking hours each day to source water for their families. It allows women to invest in their own businesses and community. It promotes grassroots leadership, and, of course, it reinforces the health and wellness of children and adults. Every single piece of it is so interconnected, and clean water, this one life source, is the key to it all.” Also in 2016, Markle traveled to Rwanda as a global ambassador with World Vision, a humanitarian agency who seeks to impact the lives of young children by eliminating the root causes of poverty. It is one of the largest international charity organizations for children.
  3. “Women’s suffrage is about feminism, but feminism is about fairness.” In celebration of the 125 year anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand in late 2018, Markle gave a speech about feminism. New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women’s suffrage. In her speech she also quoted suffragette Kate Sheppard, reiterating that “All that separates, whether race, class, creed or sex, is inhuman and must be overcome.”
  4. “Women don’t need to find their voice, they need to be empowered to use it and people need to be urged to listen.” In February 2018, in her first public appearance alongside Prince Harry, Kate and Prince William, Markle voiced her support of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, which focus on eliminating sexual misconduct against all people and supporting victims of assault while promoting gender equality across all industries.
  5. “Don’t give it five minutes if you’re not going to give it five years.” When delivering the keynote speech at the Create & Cultivate Conference in 2016, Markle brought to light the importance of prioritizing and making commitments. She demonstrated the importance of utilizing skills for long-term solutions and goals and to focus attention and energy only on things that can be cultivated and maintained in the long run. She also emphasized pursuing passions and planning on working towards it for years to come.
  6. “We just need to be kinder to ourselves. If we treated ourselves the way we treated our best friend, can you imagine how much better off we would be? … Yes, you can have questions and self-doubt, that’s going to come up, that’s human.” Markle puts the “human” in humanitarian. She shows it is important not only to show up for others but to show up for yourself in order to make a lasting impact and to be able to maintain your best self in the process.
  7. “With fame comes opportunity, but it also includes responsibility – to advocate and share, to focus less on glass slippers and more on pushing through glass ceilings. And, if I’m lucky enough, to inspire.” In an interview with Elle Magazine, Markle talked about the things that inspired her when she was young and her experiences going from working on a TV series to helping in Rwanda.
  8. “Everyone should be afforded the opportunity to receive the education they want, but more importantly the education they have the right to receive.” In October 2018 in Fiji, Markle gave a speech on the importance of women’s education and cited the ways scholarships and financial aid funded her education and how worthwhile it was for her as an adult.
  9. “Because when girls are given the right tools to succeed, they can create incredible futures, not only for themselves but also for those around them.” The trip to Fiji and Markle’s speech were used to announce two grants that were awarded to Fiji National University and the University of the South Pacific to provide workshops for the women faculty at the universities to allow more women to be a part of decision-making at the schools.
  10. “I am proud to be a woman and a feminist.” Markle began her speech at the U.N. on International Women’s Day 2015 with this line. It was the same speech where she told the story of her 11-year-old self prompting advertisers to change their sexist dish soap advertisement.

Meghan Markle started her activism at the early age of 11 and didn’t look back. Her career as a successful actress gave her the platform to share her causes with the rest of the world. Clearly, the Duchess of Sussex has been a humanitarian long before being thrust into the global stage, and the top 10 best humanitarian quotes by Meghan Markle prove it.

Ava Gambero

Photo: Mark Tantrum

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

Three Companies that Are Creating Equal Opportunities
Entrepreneurship, the process of taking what seems like a simple idea and transforming it into a sustainable business model, may seem like a linear, almost formulaic path on the surface. 
Find a need, conduct market research, tailor a solution to that need, market your product, and just like that, a startup is underway.

And while there may seem to be a linear path for entrepreneurship, founders of startups often have to wear multiple hats, one of them being the investor hat. Startups need funding and need to raise capital in order to expand their business models. However, historically, funding and advice had only been given out to people who are already wealthy. Recently, there has been a global movement to fund startups from people of all different diverse backgrounds and ages.

In this article, three companies that are allowing everyone to have equal opportunities of succeeding, including people in developing countries, are presented.

Pioneer

Pioneer aims to bridge the talent opportunity gap. Pioneer is an experimental fund that aims to identify and nurture high-potential people. The group, comprised of three people, aims to use internet tools such as global communication and crowdsourcing to find talented candidates from a diverse range of fields.

Founder, Daniel Gross, was an 18-year-old student in a military school in Israel who sent in an idea to Y Combinator on a whim. After being accepted into the accelerator program, he was able to grow his company and eventually sell it to Apple. Now, Daniel Gross launched Pioneer, to identify talented people across the world who may not have equal opportunities.

Pioneer allows people to submit projects and have other candidates vote for each others’ projects in a leaderboard manner. The winners of these tournaments receive grants and flights to San Francisco, where they can meet with advisors, venture capitalists, and other idea makers.

Y Combinator

A slightly more established program is an American seed accelerator- Y Combinator. Y Combinator selects 120 companies every year and provides them with a seed funding amount of $120,000, along with access to an accelerator program that includes mentorship opportunities with successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

Y Combinator provides seed funding to startups and nonprofits and has a special mission for social entrepreneurship. Additionally, Y Combinator is extending its global outreach, meeting with founders in Nigeria, Mexico, Israel, India and many other countries. Deemed as one of the world’s most powerful startup incubators, Y Combinator allows people from all over the world to bring their ideas to fruition.

The Thiel Foundation

Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and early Facebook investor, founded the Thiel Foundation to fund breakthrough technologies and nonprofits that engage with human affairs, government and technology.

Within the Thiel Foundation, there are three projects that provide people with equal opportunities in capitalistic society. The Thiel Fellowship offers $100,000 to students under the age of 20 to drop out of school and pursue their work, whether that be a social movement, startup, or scientific research. The second project, Imitatio, funds research and education on philosophical theories. Finally, the third project is titled Breakout Labs. Breakout Labs distributes grants to early-stage scientific research.

The underlying theme in all three projects is that there are funding opportunities for just ideas, even if they are not fully formulated or show tangible proof of concepts. Programs like the Thiel Fellowship and Breakout Labs provide a platform for visionary people who may have a world-changing idea but do not have the means to pursue it.

Opportunities like the Thiel Foundation, Y Combinator and Pioneer are using their global network to bring together people with high talent, exceptional ideas, and daring visions. Regardless of their socioeconomic background, people from all over the world can apply for these equal opportunities, making an impact not just in their community, but around the world as well. These companies can be especially useful and beneficial for people in developing countries, allowing them to compete fairly easily in a global market.

– Shefali Kumar

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesThe island nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, often known as just Saint Vincent, has made an active effort to alleviate human rights infringements. However, residents are still subject to infractions of their basic rights. Women and children often bear the brunt of these infractions, but the government is working toward passing legislation to help the nation sustain its “free” status given by the Freedom House.

2015 in particular was a year of major violations in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The country’s political election elicited many peaceful protests that were met with brute force by the police. Media outlets reported that adversaries of certain politicians were harassed and physically abused. Some were even subject to misdemeanor charges or property confiscation. Once the election was finished, these rough and unreasonable acts by the police diminished.

Human rights in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines have been upheld as far as laws against sexual assault. According to precedent, the government has followed through on reports of rape, with a starting punishment of at least 10 years. Furthermore, spousal rape has been condemned and is considered an illegal act.  Unfortunately, some victims are paid off by perpetrators for not reporting the violations, thus hindering justice.

Sexual harassment, domestic violence and human trafficking are three major issues in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Both sexual harassment and domestic violence have yet to be criminalized by the government, and prostitution of girls under the age of 18 is rampant. Many young girls are forced into pursuing sexual relationships with tourists or older men by their mothers in order to make a contribution to the family income. After government effort, the nation was able to go from tier three to tier two on the Watch List for Human Trafficking.

Lastly, child labor is also a primary concern for residents of Saint Vincent. Children under the age of 18 have no legal restriction on the number of hours that they can work while enrolled in school. Furthermore, there are no restrictions about workplace environment and safety.

While Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are clearly in need of major overhauls regarding human rights, the government is indeed taking action. However, quicker and more severe punishments for violations of rights are necessary in order to make living conditions better for the nation’s inhabitants.

Tanvi Wattal
Photo: Flickr

A Look at Human Rights in St. Kitts and NevisSt. Kitts and Nevis is a state comprised of two islands located between the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea. Their system of government is a parliamentary democracy. For the most part, human rights in St. Kitts and Nevis are protected and not under threat, but the small island nation has faced several issues.

The national constitution prohibits torture and cruel and unusual punishment, but police in St. Kitts and Nevis can be aggressive. The police do not need a warrant to arrest someone. As a result, citizens will often not report crimes for fear of retribution. The lone prison in the country was built in 1840 and shows wear. It is overcrowded; a facility built for a capacity of 150 inmates currently holds around 270.

Despite this, conditions there are not necessarily inhumane. A U.S. State Departmentt report on human rights in St. Kitts and Nevis states that “prisoners and detainees had reasonable access to visitors, were permitted religious observances and had reasonable access to complaint mechanisms and the ability to request inquiry into conditions. The government investigated and monitored prison conditions, and the prison staff periodically received training in human rights.”

While arrest warrants are not necessary, the constitution does grant accused citizens the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair and public trial. There are no political prisoners in St. Kitts and Nevis.

The United Nations has identified rape and violence against women as an issue regarding human rights in St. Kitts and Nevis. Rape is a criminal offense, but spousal rape is not. Women can file rape claims, but may often be reluctant to do so. St. Kitts and Nevis passed the Domestic Violence Act of 2014 into law to address some of these issues.

Child abuse is a problem in St. Kitts and Nevis. Corporal punishment is legal here. Reports of sexual assault against children are not uncommon, despite such acts carrying a stiff criminal penalty.

The treatment of homosexuality is also a concern regarding human rights in St. Kitts and Nevis. Homosexual acts are still criminalized and carry a certain level of societal stigma. In its review of human rights in St. Kitts and Nevis, the United Nations called for the decriminalization of homosexuality on the islands.

The state of human rights in St. Kitts and Nevis is a mixed bag, but perhaps not an unoptimistic one, nor necessarily uncommon for developing democracies. Many of the human rights issues that do exist stem not from the law but from a failure to effectively implement and enforce it. The country has shown a desire to improve its ways, and time will tell whether or not it successfully follows the U.N.’s recommendations.

Andrew Revord

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Human Rights in FinlandFinland has a population of about 5.5 million, and is seated next to Sweden and Norway. Human rights in Finland are ultimately made a priority by the country’s government, and this country is considered more progressive than most, although there are still a few areas that could be improved.

According to a report from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, the Nordic country strives to dedicate time and attention to minorities in the country, including the Roma, linguistic or religious minorities and other ethnic minorities. On the other hand, the report also states that residents who belong to multiple of these minority groups are typically “the most vulnerable to human rights violations.” Finland promotes openness in respect to human rights policy and works toward “effective empowerment of the civil society,” according to the same report.

Human rights in Finland are also supported by nongovernment organizations in the region. In addition, human rights defenders work with minority groups. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs states that, “the key message is to encourage and urge the Ministry’s entire staff to collaborate actively with human rights defenders.”

Finland prioritizes areas including women’s rights, the rights of persons with disabilities, the rights of sexual and gender minorities, the rights of indigenous peoples and economic, social and cultural rights, according to the report. Regarding the rights of sexual minorities, in March of this year, Finland became the 13th country in Europe to allow same-sex marriage, according to the Human Rights Watch.

While human rights in Finland are heavily prioritized, there are still areas in need of improvement.

The U.S. Department of the State reports that human rights problems in Finland include the failure of police to provide detainees with timely access to legal council, “questionable” donations and contributions to political campaigns and violence against women and members of the LGBT community.

The report also included information on issues surrounding the treatment of survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence. It stated that survivors seeking justice have encountered many obstacles with respect to their interactions with police and judicial officials. However, it also stated that police and government officials strongly encourage victims to report rapes through “various public awareness campaigns.”

While human rights in Finland have a few shortcomings, they are one of the more progressive nations in Europe, meaning that further progress is certainly possible.

Leah Potter

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