Closing the Gap in Global Education
Debates about education often center on the quality of public schools, diminishing budgets, scarce resources and technological provisions in the United States. While a focus on domestic educational issues is commendable and necessary, there is a grimmer picture across the world. According to the World Inequality Database on Education, fewer than 50 percent of the poorest children have completed primary school in 39 out of 88 countries. The economic productivity and social quality of life of any country depends on its educated population, and closing the gap in global education is the key to global prosperity, safety and stability.

Indeed, education can eliminate bigger problems such as poverty, inequality, insecurity and disease. Equal access to a quality education, including access to content and means of delivering instruction and following a set curriculum, remains an unrealized dream and a struggle for many.

The last two centuries have seen an exponential increase in the number of children attending primary school globally, from 2.3 million to 700 million today. What is troubling is that children in the poorest households of developing nations, those arguably most in need of educational opportunities, are four times as likely to be out of school as those in the wealthiest households.

It is going to take another 100 years for children in developing countries to reach the education level of their counterparts in developed countries.

Access to a quality education remains a basic building block to success. Current approaches to educational equity necessitate a fundamental rethinking in that they must take into account that many children are unable to go to school because schools simply do not exist in parts of developing countries.

If schools do exist, teachers may lack proper training and simply be incapable of handling the demands of a classroom setting. Furthermore, barriers inherent in certain areas, such as societal demands and expectations, can hamper learning outside the classroom.

Technological tools and resources ignite curiosity and promote more efficient, up-to-date learning. A huge growth in social media platforms can certainly be aligned with classroom activity and curriculum, establishing more innovative ways for students and teachers to learn about global issues.

Though technology makes learning opportunities more widely accessible by decreasing the significance of geographical boundaries, a lack of technological infrastructure means that many children are deprived of the digital educational resources taken for granted in developed nations. For these students, the difficulty of closing the gap in global education comes with an additional cost: loss of productivity.

In 2015, the United Nations heavily promoted the Millennium Development Goals to achieve free universal primary education for all children by the year’s end.

Although it was unfortunate that the pace of improvement by countries could not keep up with the desire to have universal primary education, the primary school net enrollment rate did reach over 90 percent, and the number of out-of-school children fell from 100 million in 2000 to 57 million in 2015 . Movement toward closing the gap in global education is signified by the fact that not a single country in the world today is completely without a schooling system.

Today’s economy is knowledge-based and highly competitive. Schools in developed nations are entrusted with students who lack neither skills nor talents, but educational opportunities.

Some factors are beyond students’ control, such as where they were born and what their financial means are. But with the recent advancements in educational models, global education disparity can meaningfully be addressed and mitigated.

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Flickr

Gender Discrimination Examples
The inception of the United Nations (U.N.) Millennium Goals spearheaded the push towards achieving more social progress by promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. Despite the fact that two-thirds of the developing world have achieved a level of parity, the problem still persists in the Middle East and North African countries. The lack of access to education, the right to marriage, ownership and custody rights are some very common and debilitating issues that contribute to gender discrimination. However, some of the following examples of gender discrimination shed light on the more uncommon and often overlooked examples of gender inequality.

 

8 Powerful Examples of Gender Discrimination

 

1. The Gender Gap
Developing and developed countries have faced this social issue, although to varying degrees. Women in developed countries still face social hindrances owing to the gender – wage gap – a phenomenon that will still take 188 years to even up according to the World Economic Forum. Women also have fewer responsibilities and are given fewer rewards for their work.

 

2. Being Forbidden to Drive
Across many conservative communities in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, women still face this major social bulwark. Despite it not being a law, women are still not allowed licenses and can only exercise the right to go out in public if accompanied by a chaperon. The Arab Spring in 2011 resulted in a deluge of rallies and protests among women. Even though society is becoming more progressive, especially with regards to allowing women to contribute to the labor force, it will take further social reform to overcome this hindrance.

 

3. Restrictions on Clothing
Upon the pretext that women should not ‘flaunt their beauty,’ women in many conservative communities have to wear the complete body burqa, coupled with loose-fitting clothes when they are out in public as an interpretative exegesis of the Sharia Law. Many world leaders like U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May have spoken against the issue which is very pervasive in Saudi Arabia, Gambia, Sudan and North Korea.

 

4. Not being Allowed to Travel
In some extreme cases, women are not allowed to leave the country without the consent of their husbands. Up until the age of 40, single women are required to ask their father for permission. For example, Niloufar Ardalan, the Captain of the Iranian Women’s Soccer team was banned from taking part in the Women’s Futsal Championship of Malaysia in 2015 by her husband as it was in violation of Islamic Law.

 

5. Honor Killing
This is a deplorable practice that revolves around the hidebound idea that girls have to uphold the supposed ‘cachet’ of their families and abide by the patriarchal demands of the society. Honor killing is largely attributed to the poor education system and ineffective government legislation among rural communities. Consequently, Qandeel Balcoh was killed by her brother Waseem Ali in 2016 because she had supposedly brought dishonor upon her family because of how she expressed herself on social media.

 

6. Female Genital Mutilation
This problem is prevalent in Sub-Saharan African countries, Egypt and other countries in South Asia due to lack of sex education and awareness. The practice stems from rather a fundamentalist cultural ideology still held by many traditional communities and based on ensuring a girl’s fidelity before marriage. It is one of the very dire examples of gender discrimination and is a human rights violation. It results in severe pain, difficulties in urination and spread of infection.

 

7. Female Infanticide
Unfortunately, this practice is rather prevalent among rural communities in India, Pakistan and China. For example, China’s one-child policy has contributed to this issue. Boys are thought to galvanize the financial security of the family, while women are treated as burdens and often seen only as child bearers and caretakers of the household. In some regions, there are as low as 300 girls for every 1,000 boys. Moreover, Beti Bacchao, Beti Padhao (Save Girls, Teach Girls) in India, is a social reform initiative that is cracking down on related issues like child marriage.

 

8. Lack of Legal Rights
This form of gender discrimination is ubiquitous in many countries. From child custody and rape laws, this broad term encompasses many aspects where women are not given enough legal counsel. Spousal rape is not criminalized in many countries and complaints lodged with the police never materialize. In many countries in the Middle East, divorce laws are very weak. The evidence is often not admissible in court and eyewitnesses are always required for cases to be considered.

The progress made over the decade to combat gender discrimination is truly remarkable. Historically pivotal revolutions like the Suffrage movement have been the foundation for women’s rights activism today. Both modern and classical feminism are becoming widespread concepts that many in the international community are adopting. The steady momentum of human rights organizations like Amnesty International, the International Alliance for women, U.N. Women and other local non-governmental organizations has already made a big difference.

Achieving women’s rights are an effective way to crumble ramparts made by society. Female participation greatly helps bolster the economy and catalyze social development in the long run.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Techno Girls: Guiding and Empowering Young South Africans
South Africa has made huge strides for fostering a more gender equal society through addressing gender-based violence and combating gender stereotypes. An initiative called Techno Girls has offered up its hand in minimizing gender gaps, addressing the gender disparities head on in the educational and career sector.

Techno Girls is an initiative started in 2005 by UNICEF in partnership with South Africa’s Department of Education, the Ministry in the Presidency: Women, the Department of Education, the State Information Technology Agency and Uweso Consulting.

The program provides opportunities for girls who prove academic merit between the ages of 15 and 18, and who come from disadvantaged communities to begin exploring career avenues in traditionally under-represented sectors — math, science, technology and engineering.

According to Statistics South Africa, in 2012, the percentage of women in non-agricultural employment increased slightly from 43 percent in 1996 to 45 percent.

Moreover, in the results for the National Senior Certificate Examinations in 2010, it was reported that 52 percent of boys passed in comparison to 44 percent of girls. For Physical Science, 50 percent of boys passed while 46 percent of girls did the same.

Although gender equality has improved over the years, more work needs to be done to balance out gender ratios within STEM subject matter and career sectors. Girls are often discouraged from pursuing a career in engineering or science and Techno Girls is working to change that.

For instance, Techno Girls provides mentorship, shadowing experiences and skills development initiatives where girls can gain insights and leadership skills in the public and private sectors.

Previous opportunities have included shadowing at the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), INVESTEC, and the Johannesburg Roads Agency.

As of 2016, over 5000 girls have benefited from the program and have moved on to receive university or college scholarships. The Techno Girls Alumni Program also provides support to ensure a higher completion rate at tertiary level schooling, and in securing job opportunities in their chosen fields of study.

Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, said that she wanted Techno Girls to run the economy to show that, “the struggle by women in 1956 was not in vain.”

“Whatever degree you take, it opens doors – it is a key. It gives you the ability to use logic, the ability to analyze any situation and the ability to think scientifically,” Xingwana explained.

With the program’s success and popularity, the Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities identified Techno Girls as a key government program in furthering goals for gender equity.

Moreover, Techno Girls has been expanded to all nine provinces of South Africa. Women empowerment and potential in STEM sectors is on its way in South Africa.

Priscilla Son

Photo: Flickr

10 Quotes To Inspire Activism Within All of Us
Throughout history, activists have played major roles in inspiring change and fighting injustice across the globe. From challenging dictatorships to opposing racism to promoting equality for women, nearly every social and political change has come about due in large part to advocacy and public engagement. With that in mind, here are 10 quotes to inspire activism within all of us.

 

10 Quotes to Inspire Activism

 

1. Malala Yousafzai

“One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen, can change the world,” Yousafzai said while giving a speech to the U.N. Youth Assembly.

Yousafzai has spent her life advocating for Pakistani women and children and fighting for access to education worldwide. The young activist recently collaborated with British journalist Christina Lamb to publish a book titled “I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.”

“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful,” the Nobel Peace Prize winner said during a speech at Harvard University in 2013.

2. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change,” King said in a speech near the Washington Monument in 1968, on the dangers of neglecting important social issues.

As a Baptist minister and social activist, King was a prominent leader of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. His speeches and legacy continue to inspire activists to pursue political and social change.

3. Anne Frank

“How wonderful it is that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world,” Frank wrote as a child while hiding with her Jewish family from the Nazis during World War II.

Frank’s writings were later published as a book titled “Anne Frank’s Tales from the Secret Annex” and have inspired activists for decades.

4. Sir Ian McKellen

“Try and understand what part you have to play in the world in which you live. There’s more to life than you know and it’s all happening out there. Discover what part you can play and then go for it,” McKellen said.

As an accomplished and well-known actor, McKellen has used his public stance to advocate for LGBT rights across the globe for many years. In 2014, McKellen published an open letter to President Vladimir Putin in an effort to address LGBT issues in Russia.

5. Nelson Mandela

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we lived. It is the difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead,” Mandela said in 2002, at the 90th birthday celebration of Walter Sisulu in Johannesburg.

Mandela dedicated his life to global peacemaking. In 2009, his birthday was declared Mandela Day, an international day to promote peace, celebrate his legacy and inspire activism across the globe.

6. Sue Monk Kidd

“There’s a gap somehow between empathy and activism. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of soul force, something that emanates from a deep truth inside of us and empowers us to act. Once you identify your inner genius, you will be able to take action, whether it’s writing a check or digging a well,” Kidd said to Marie Claire.

Kidd is an accomplished author, best known for her novel-turned-film “The Secret Life of Bees” and has spent her career writing narratives that inspire women in particular.

7. Gary Zukav

“Developing compassion for Congress and politicians is a good way to begin practicing the new social activism if you want to make effective changes in the world. Perhaps the most startling new insight of all is that there is no other way to effectively change the world,” Zukav told the Huffington Post.

Zukav is a New York Times bestselling author, who is well known for advocating for compassion in politics and society.

8. Melinda Gates

“Optimism for me isn’t a passive expectation that things will get better; it’s a conviction that if we can make things better — that whatever suffering we see, no matter how bad it is, we can help people if we don’t lose hope and we don’t look away,” Gates said in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 2014 commencement address.

Gates is a well-known philanthropist and businesswoman. She is the co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Sometimes it’s the people you can’t help who inspire you the most,” she said.

9. Bill Gates

“Don’t let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on the big inequities. It will be one of the great experiences of your lives,” Gates said in a Harvard University commencement speech.

While Gates is widely known as a co-founder of Microsoft, he has devoted much of his life to philanthropic work to promote global policy and advocacy and is also a co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

10. Kerry Washington

“Do it! What are you waiting on? Do it! Stand up for what you believe in. The world needs your voice. Whoever you are, you have something to say. Say it,” Washington told Women’s Health.

As a well-known actress, Washington has been a vocal proponent for women to stand up for causes they believe in.

“I’m really inspired by women who are unafraid to be of service around social issues,” she said.

Lauren Lewis

Sources: Anne Frank House, Bio. 1, Bio. 2, Gaiam Life, Good Reads, Huffington Post 1, Huffington Post 2, Huffington Post 3, Inc., Invisible Children, Marie Claire, Stanford News, The Washington Post, Women’s Health
Photo: Flickr

Coding for EqualityCode to Inspire gives female students in Afghanistan equal opportunity.

For three decades, conflict has stunted Afghanistan’s education systems. Just 13 years ago, women and girls in Afghanistan were excluded from educational opportunities, according to USAID. The country continues to suffer from low life expectancy, high under-five mortality rates, illegal drugs and gender-based violence.

At the same time, Afghanistan has managed to improve through the turmoil. With the help of the Afghan government, USAID and international donors, education reforms over the past few years have improved the country’s school systems.

“Today, more than 8 million students are enrolled in school, including more than 2.5 million girls,” reports USAID.

This is exactly what Code to Inspire, a nonprofit that teaches female students in Afghanistan how to code, is building upon. Code to Inspire provides Afghan women with the skills they need to attain technological jobs and start a career in coding.

Fereshteh Forough, the organization’s founder and CEO, champions digital literacy and communication without borders, along with the empowerment of women. Having received a bachelor’s degree from Herat University in Afghanistan and teaching as a professor in its Computer Science Faculty, she saw a gender gap in the computer science field and filled it.

The organization is currently in the fundraising phase, seeking funds to establish a programming center in Herat, Forough told Women in the World. According to the article, Code to Inspire has already met its goal to purchase hardware and equipment for the labs.

However, the coding initiative is not without obstacles. According to the organization, educating women in Afghanistan is still controversial, and many people are still trying to prevent these efforts.

That is why Code to Inspire prepares for local adversity. Their goals include giving their students the opportunity to market their skills to companies outside Afghanistan, where the local wages for such work are not as much as those found elsewhere.

Code to Inspire has already made great strides for women in Afghanistan and is providing high school girls with the tools they need to be successful, independent technological entrepreneurs.

Ashley Tressel

Sources: Code to Inspire, USAID, WarChild, NY Times
Photo: Wikimedia

International_Gender_Inequality
A new collaborative study published by the Great Initiative and Plan UK, two development organizations who work to promote female rights, has reported that the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID), has reached a great success in the implementation of a new legal statute that will measure the impact of the agency’s foreign aid operations in reducing the prevalence of international gender inequality.

The International Development (Gender Equality) Act, which was put into effect last May, places a responsibility on the United Kingdom to continually assess and implement strategies designed to strengthen international gender equality within countries receiving funding for development.

The report praised DfID for establishing a new international precedent for the integration of the issue of gender inequality into broader humanitarian efforts, and noted the U.K. should encourage other Western nations to take similar measures.

Many developed nations have become involved in the battle against gender equality in recent years, including the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs who launched the Millennium Development Goal 3 Fund in 2008. This investment of nearly $100 million proved to be the largest ever government gift to support development organizations working to support gender equality efforts. According to the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, the fund impacted the lives of 220 million people, including 65.5 million women and girls, and provided assistance to over 100,000 women’s rights organizations.

The study concluded, “We were delighted to find that the act has both driven, and joined forces with, other measures to promote gender equality. At the time of our analysis (May 2015) 64 percent of the business cases in our sample contained a clear statement addressing gender impact and only 18 percent of business cases lacked this statement,” referring to 44 development projects analyzed as part of the study.

A specific case-study included within the report analyzes the impact of a DfID-funded program to repair and resurface a road within Western Uganda on gender equality. Mariella Frostrup, a founding trustee of the Great Initiative familiar with the study, stated, “It surprised us, and indeed it turned out to be one of the most transformative projects we found in our evaluation. It identifies women’s land ownership, violence against women, women’s employment and social norms and stereotypes as issues to be addressed.”

She continued in explaining, “It mandates that 25 percent of jobs on the project are reserved for women, that women’s safety and security is guaranteed and that gender sensitization and awareness projects are run alongside the actual construction.”

Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary of the UK, explained in a June interview that DfID was determined to continue pursuing the issue of gender inequality, specifically working to reduce the occurrence of female genital mutilation and child marriage. Two of the largest issues associated with gender inequality, officials hope to reduce the persistence of such human rights violations by providing continual funding and assistance to developing and impoverished regions.

James Thornton

Sources: The Guardian, Devex
Photo: Flickr

education_struggles
There have been many successes for girl’s education in the developing world. Challenges remain, however, creating a puzzle for problem solvers around the world.

Girls face many more education struggles than boys do. This is especially the case during puberty. For one girl living in Uganda who wants to be a doctor, lack of proper toilets causes embarrassment and results in missed days at school. “Some toilets don’t have doors and so we fear to enter as people can see or enter the toilets at any time. At the toilets, they don’t have water to flush or wash, and so it’s complicated to attend school when I have my period.”

While some might think this is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or UNESCO has found differently. One in 10 girls across Africa miss school during their period. Half of girls attending school in Ethiopia miss between one and four days of school a month because of menstruation.

In India, the problem is even worse. Sixty-six percent of schools there do not have functioning toilets. Without private toilets, girls’ health is put at risk. Coupled with the stigma and taboos associated with menstruation and periods, and the result is often that girls drop out of school in the developing world.

Another issue that also affects girls’ education in Africa is child marriage. Every year, 15 million girls 18 or under marry. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 40 percent are married before 18, and 12 percent before they are even 15. In Chad, the number of girls married under age 15 jumps to 29 percent. Even with minimum age laws, marriages still go ahead with parental consent.

This has implications for young women’s education. Once they are married, they are expected to fulfill duties at home which leaves them with them no time to pursue their studies. This begins a vicious circle: without education girls are not informed of their rights and are able to act on them.

Despite these challenges, there have been huge gains in education for girls around the developing world. By 2012, most countries had reached the Millennium Development Goal target of girls primary education parity with boys. For many countries this meant that for every 100 boys, 97 girls also attended primary school.

However, even in this victory lies a caveat – not all countries have actually reached full parity. Sub-Saharan Africa enrollment rate for primary school-aged girls was still languishing at 75 percent in 2010. “Three-quarters of the countries that have not achieved parity at the primary level enroll more boys than girls at the start of the school cycle.” To equalize enrollment at the beginnings of school years would be to achieve parity.

Afghanistan stands out as a beacon of success when it comes to girls’ education, especially with the Taliban influence in the area that discourages girls in school. Girls enrollment in 2014 reached 3.75 million girls. In 2002, only 191,000 were enrolled.

While there are still big problems girls face around the developing world when it comes to attending school, it is important to acknowledge the victories. More work is needed but if progress continues, more successes will come.

– Gregory Baker

Sources: The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, The Guardian 3, The Guardian 4, The Guardian 5, UN Women
Photo: The Better India

Girl Rising
Breaking the cycle of poverty and creating the cycle of education, empowerment and uplifting out of poverty. “Girl Rising,” a feature-length documentary centers on these ideas, shining light on the importance of educating our girls around the world. Millions of girls across the globe are seen useful for one thing: reproduction. Girl Rising focuses on educating girls enabling them to use their voice that they were given to stand up for their rights, wait till they are stable to have their own family and educate their children, families and communities. By breaking those obstacles that girls face from the day that they are born.

Girl Rising focuses on removing those barriers that limit these girls such as young marriage, gender-based discrimination and violence, domestic slavery and sex trafficking. Removing these barriers will not only lead to stronger, healthier, safer and more vibrant girls, it will improve the outlook of the world as a whole.

Girl Rising, created in 2013, has since turned into a global movement and has been viewed by millions across the world in campuses, neighborhoods, communities and cities across the world in order to raise awareness and funds. You can bring Girl Rising to your classroom, campus, organization and community. There are so many opportunities to raise awareness. Join the community, host a screening, facilitate a fundraiser and invest in girls education. The options are limitless.

Girl Rising is also in partnership with USAID working on the Girl Rising’s Empowering Next Generations to Advance Girls Education (ENGAGE) project. Launched in 2014, the project focuses on teaching communities to value girls by understanding their worth and the benefits of educating and empowering them. Currently, the project works in India, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, with hopes to grow and give all girls a chance to go and stay in school, and become healthy, functioning members of their communities and society as a whole.

The Girl Rising ENGAGE campaign works to create a better world for girls by:

  • Increasing public awareness of and attention to the importance of a good education and the barriers girls often face to accessing it.
  • Mobilizing men, women and youth to take concrete actions that create paths for girls to attain quality primary and secondary education.
  • Engaging corporate and government leaders to build an enabling environment for girls, promoting policy change for, and financial investment in their education.
  • Bringing the message to the source in the classroom.

Girl Rising has a teaching opportunity for educators to utilize the free Girl Rising Educator’s Edition and the Girl Rising curriculum. This can lead to engaging students in meaningful discussion and lessons that encourage them to think critically about the importance of educating girls.

The Girl Rising movement is on its way of establishing a name from its beginnings as a documentary to a force that is changing the educational climate for girls across the world. CNN International was so enraptured by the Girl Rising phenomena that the network continues to celebrate the world of girls in the series new “A Girl’s World.” The series chronicles the story of seven girls in seven different countries all writing unique stories of their own. Following their ambitions, dreams, adversaries, the seven girls may all be different but they can come together with their newfound voices. “Girl Rising” and “A Girl’s World” are reminders to value and honor your grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters and the girls of the world.

To become an advocate and learn more about Girl Rising follow here.

Charisma Thapa

Sources: Girl Rising 1, Girl Rising 2, CNN
Photo: Scarlet Called Scout

Migrant Workers in Shanghai
Standing on a bustling street in Shanghai, it is hard to ignore the feeling of constant movement and intensity. The mantra seems to be: keep moving and keep progressing. And at both the individual and state level there is an insatiable desire to be the best.

But at what price? The pace of development in China is incredibly impressive and yet, despite the new and efficient subways, trains, and buildings, a contrast of wealth still exists.

As a whole, China has been on the forefront of poverty reduction in the last couple of decades, raising nearly 300 million people out of poverty. However, it is not hard to find the instances of impoverishment that still exist even in some of the most developed cities, like Shanghai.

The population of Shanghai in 2013 was 23.9 million, making it the largest and most populous city proper in the entire world.  Furthermore, it has experienced double digit growth nearly every year since 1992, falling below double digits only temporarily during the 2008-2009 recession.

According to the 2010 census, more than 39 percent of Shanghai’s residents are migrant workers who have flocked to the city from the nearby provinces of Anhui, Jiangsu, Sichuan, and Henan seeking better economic opportunities. These migrant workers in Shanghai, who have made up the largest percentage of the city’s growth in the past few years, often live in the poorest conditions.

As development has increased in China, upwards of 250 million people have left the countryside for the east coast in the hopes of finding more lucrative work. Migrant laborers often work in labor, construction, factories as well as the service sector. Their wages tend to be lower than those of Shanghai residents and their living conditions incredibly poor. Just down the street from the newest high apartments and office buildings, it is not unusual to see old neighborhoods crowded with huts full of migrant laborers.

It’s important to note that poverty for migrant laborers is relative. In China, poverty and inequality differ dramatically in different parts of the country. Many laborers, who migrate to Shanghai for work, come from even poorer rural villages. While their wages are low, the income is often still better than what could be made back home.

Despite this, without a Shanghai hukou, a registration card that is used to classify where individuals are from, migrants are unable to live in subsidized housing, access basic health care and unemployment benefits, or enroll their children in local schools.

Marginalized and discriminated against, the poorest of Shanghai struggle to find social acceptance as well as economic security in their new lives. Yet, these migrant workers are the drivers of China’s tremendous economic growth. If this growth continues, the people of Shanghai will have to find a way to better accommodate their ever-evolving workforce. One of the biggest obstacles Shanghai faces is housing. Real estate prices are extremely high, leaving many people with low wages unable to purchase or rent homes.

Addressing this issue, as well as reforming the hukou system to allow for migrant workers to access health, education and other public services, will help further reduce the poverty and inequality that persists in Shanghai and China as a whole. It is easy to let the gleaming towers and trendy streets distract from the reality that most of Shanghai’s current population is still very much struggling to move beyond impoverishment.

Andrea Blinkhorn

Sources: Poverties, China Perspectives, World Population Review, Nyuzai Shanghai, WSWS
Photo: The Globe and Mail

Female mechanics in the Congo
In a nation where rape is rampant and commonplace, women are taking matters into their own hands. Sporting blue jumpsuits and grease stained hands, women of the city of Goma are asserting their independence as female mechanics in the Congo.

A 2011 study from the American Journal of Public Health found that about 48 women are raped every hour in the DRC. The incidence of sexual abuse is pervasive in Congolese society, as it is implicitly condoned in the domestic sphere. Husbands have unyielding authority over their wives; women still need their husband’s permission to start a business or open a bank account. Matters are even more severe in the city of Goma, which has been given the title “ the rape capital of the world.”

However, this has not discouraged women in Goma. In fact, it has empowered them. Despite social censure and criticism, they are entering the workforce as mechanics, a position traditionally reserved for men. Natural disaster coupled with routine insurgent outbreaks has left the infrastructure of the city dilapidated and downtrodden. The demand for mechanics is therefore high.

The girls claim that as mechanics, prospects are more promising. When they arrive to the auto body yard they are simply expected to perform their tasks. They are not subject to discrimination or scrutiny; they are treated just like everybody else. This for them is a type of independence that they have never experienced. And it’s certainly uprooted traditional, patriarchal norms.

Two young female mechanics in the Congo, Kubuya Mushingano and Dorcas Lukonge, have been practicing at an auto body yard for about four months now, after a year of training at ETN, or Equipe d’Education et d’Encadrement des Traumatses de Nyiragongo. ETN in conjunction with CARE International, has been functioning as a vocational training program since 2013, pulling street kids, young mothers, sexual abuse survivors and former soldiers throughout Goma.

These apprentices are given the choice of seven different sectors of training. Though in the Congo females make up half of the labor force typically as seamstresses, cooks or farm laborers, trainers of ETN encourage females to pursue unconventional vocations. For Mushingano and Lukonge (and many others), this was mechanics. When their fellowships at the auto body yard ends, ETN will give them a mechanic’s kit to start their own business or join a current one and become self-sufficient.

Jeane, a female mechanic trainee at ETN, was a victim of sexual violence herself. She said that the skills she has learned and acquired as a mechanic have given her a new sense of autonomy. Like many acts of social defiance, female mechanics in the DRC are quiet, yet powerful. Their subtle defiance is in some ways making a loud statement.

– Samantha Scheetz

 

Sources: The Daily Beast, The Guardian, The New Africa
Photo: The Daily Beast