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

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

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

girls in Malawi
The United States Agency for International Development will spend between $4.5 million and $10.4 million to encourage girls in Malawi to use birth control.

This plan intends to prevent pregnancy and STDs, especially HIV.

Part of USAID’s “Girls’ Empowerment through Education and Health Activity” plan, this grant will endow sexual and reproductive health and family planning education for young girls in Malawi. It seeks to combat the lack of HIV and sexual and reproductive health education and services.

The grant explains that “sexual acts that resulted in a pregnancy also place girls at risk for leaving school and/or contracting HIV.” Females, especially young girls, are disproportionately affected by HIV compared to men. In 2010, the HIV occurrence rate for girls between the ages of 15 and 19 was 4.2 percent as opposed to 1.3 percent for males.

The grant calls for more resources to teach about sexual reproductive health, HIV and family planning. USAID has stated it is important for young women to know correct information about these topics.

However, the 2010 Malawi Demographic and Health Survey exposed that even though there has been an increase in the use of modern family planning in Malawi, the HIV rate has remained.

Access to birth control and other methods does not appear to be a problem for women in Malawi.  However, Malawi ranks tenth in the world for the number living with HIV/AIDS, and ninth worldwide for the number of fatalities from HIV/AIDS.

The grant also aims to improve literacy skills for girls and access to schooling. The grant states that this will lead to more achievement for girls in school.

This initiative in Malawi is one more step in encouraging Family Planning 2020’s aim to provide 120 million more women and girls with contraceptives by 2020.

Colleen Moore

Sources: CNS News, Life Site
Photo: USAID

Poverty has many causes. While some factors exacerbate poverty, there are five predominant causes of poverty: social inequality, conflict and political instabilities, education, debt and environmental conditions. Here is a closer examination of three of these causes.

Social Inequality

The United Nations Social Policy and Development Division reports that “inequalities in income distribution and access to productive resources, basic social services, opportunities, markets, and information have been on the rise worldwide, often causing and exacerbating poverty.” Countries where inequality is rampant display poor social indicators for human development, insecurity and anxiety. Inequality keeps the poor from moving out of their socioeconomic status.

Inequality limits access to opportunities that can provide the means to escape poverty. In a speech by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Kahn explains that Adam Smith, often considered the founder of modern economics, “recognized clearly that a poor distribution of wealth could undermine the free market system.” An example of this is the former apartheid government in South Africa.

Apartheid laws assign rights and space to individuals on the basis of race. In South Africa this meant that while one group was persecuted and forced into poverty, the other group was given access to opportunities that allowed them to advance economically. This increased the gap between economic classes and the amount of people in poverty.

Environmental Conditions

Environmental degradation is the decline in the quality of the natural environment through its atmosphere, land, oceans and lakes. Indigenous groups are among the worsetaffected by such degradation. These groups often depend on the environment to survive and easily fall into poverty when that environment is harmed. A major cause of environmental degradation is climate change.

One of the outcomes of climate change is hunger. The changing climate is responsible for the destruction of harvests and other resources critical to survival. Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University explains, “crop yields have detectably changed. As time goes on the poor countries that are in the warmer and drier parts of the planet will feel the crop yield decreases early.” In Oxfam’s report Suffering The Science: Climate Change, People, and Poverty, the organization warns that “Without immediate action 50 years of development gains in poor countries will be permanently lost.”

Recent U.N. reports on climate change noted that “for the first time” that climate change is a threat to human security. The UN notes that the increased migration and the decrease in food are conditions that lead to conflict. The reports warn also that unless the issue is addressed, “nobody would be immune to climate change.” The report reads, “Climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts in the form of civil war and inter-group violence.” Environmental degradation can not only result in poverty, but can also lead to war.

Lack of Education

Education has lifted people out of poverty and empowered communities to grow economically. A lack of education could maintain or create poverty. Senior Fellow of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Jared Bernstein explains, “economists may disagree a lot on policy, but we all agree on the ‘education premium’—the earnings boost associated with more education.”

According to the Network for international policies and cooperation in education and training, a main priority for poverty reduction is primary education. In developed countries almost all children have access to primary education, while in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa approximately 40 percent of children do not attend primary school due to poverty and a lack of access to education. Many people living in poverty in undeveloped countries must give up an education in order to make “a minimal living.” Furthermore, many families cannot afford school fees to send their children to school. This limits skill development and opportunities to escape poverty and create generational poverty.

There are many situations that lead to poverty. As we understand the causes of poverty, we can eradicate it more strategically. These are only three of many causes that must be understood to successfully meet the goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030. We created poverty, so we can eliminate it as well.

– Christopher Kolezynski

Sources: Poverty at Large, The Borgen Project, Oxfam, The American Prospect, The Guardian, NORRAG
Photo: The Daily Star

A recent study by the American Psychological Association found that girls have consistently achieved better grades in school than boys for decades. Despite this revolutionary finding, there is still a disproportionate amount of girls around the world who are not granted equal access to education.

What was thought to be a recent “boy crisis” of boys falling behind girls in school has proven to be false. Girls have consistently done better in school for decades without any significant change.

Data collected between 1914 and 2011 in over 30 countries has shown that girls have persistently achieved better grades in every subject across the board. The regions included range from North America, to Europe, to the Middle East and Africa, with the grades of 538,710 boys and 595,322 girls from 308 studies.

Grades given by teachers and official grade point averages were used from elementary, middle and high school, as well as undergraduate and graduate levels. The largest gap was found to be in languages and the smallest gap in math and science. Although boys tended to score higher in math and science in standardized tests, this is only the test of aptitude for a given moment, whereas school grades require hard work over longer periods of time.

Co-Author of the study, Susan Voyer, notes that this phenomenon of girls out-performing boys appears to be a well-kept secret considering how little global attention it has received.

In 2011, UNICEF found that there were 31 million primary-school-aged girls and 34 million lower-secondary-school-aged girls who were not enrolled in school. That the study took place in countries across the globe, and not exclusively in one country or even one region, proves that there is a great deal of untapped potential. Imagine how much more could be achieved globally if every girl had access to education.

The benefits of allowing girls equal access to education are endless. When girls attend school, they delay marriage and in turn delay the age of child bearing. This saves the lives of both women and their children, because there are fewer risks when girls wait until after adolescence to bear children. UNESCO found that in sub-Saharan Africa alone, maternal deaths could be reduced by 70 percent, and child deaths reduced by 15 percent if all girls completed primary school.

The benefits continue to the next generation, as girls that attended school are far more likely to send their children to school. Girls can also earn higher wages and therefore gain economic independence as a result of receiving an education. When girls complete one year of secondary education, their wages later in life increase by 25 percent.

According to UNESCO, women make up two-thirds of the world’s 774 million illiterate people. This is unfair given the existing research that shows that if given the opportunity, girls will continuously perform better in school than boys. Although girls should not have to prove themselves in order to receive equal access to education, this study is a testament to the mass amount of potential being lost by denying girls this human right.

– Kim Tierney 

Sources: UNICEF, PsyBlog, APA, UNESCO
Photo: She Knows

Despite having been proposed during the Carter administration, the Global Women’s Treaty (CEDAW) was never approved by the Senate. Under the current Obama administration, attention has been brought back to the United Nations treaty for ratification. Many human rights organizations have criticized the United States’ inaction with this treaty for decades.

The treaty hopes to attain full gender equality, specifically in areas of domestic violence, maternal health, economic opportunities and human trafficking. Although the U.S. prides itself on being at the forefront of human rights activism and campaigns, not ratifying the treaty seems contradictory. Only seven nations, including the U.S., have not ratified the treaty.

The Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee has supported the treaty twice, but there has not been substantial support in the Senate as a whole. CEDAW acts as a guideline for countries to follow in order to eliminate gender inequality. In past years, many advancements in women’s rights have been attributed to the CEDAW framework.

With barriers to economic and social equality, countries are functioning at a fraction of their potential. CEDAW helps to alleviate these barriers, tailoring guidelines for each country based on its current landscape. For these reasons, the U.S.’ ratification would not only help solidify domestic efforts to foster gender equality, but also promote gender equality in other nations.

With nations including China, Russia, the UK and many of our NATO allied nations participating, the U.S. is one of the few to not cooperate on this issue. With U.S.’ leadership and resources, the international alliance toward improving global living conditions for women can prosper. With the approval of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, hopefully CEDAW will pass through the Senate this year.

– Kristin Ronzi

Sources: Human Rights Watch, CEDAW 2014
Photo: Ratify CEDAW Facebook