Facts About Education in TongaThe Kingdom of Tonga is located in the Pacific Ocean and has a population of approximately 109,008. Despite its small size, the country has made continuous improvements to its educational system. Keep reading to learn the top eight facts about education in Tonga.

8 Facts About Education in Tonga

  1. A Colonial Past – The school system that currently exists in Tonga was first established by Wesleyan missionaries in 1826. The primary language of the country is Tongan, a dialect of Polynesian, but English is also spoken as a secondary language and is taught as such in schools.
  2. Compulsory Education – Since 1876, the first eight years of education in Tonga has been compulsory for all Tongan children beginning at age 6. Tonga has divided its education system to include six years at the primary level, three at the junior and three at the senior secondary level.
  3. Free Education – Primary and secondary schools for students from ages 6 to 14 attend government-sponsored schools for free.  In 2004, 3.91 percent of Tonga’s GDP was allotted to spending on education in Tonga. This is a decrease from 5.59 percent in 1998.
  4. High Literacy Rates – The efforts of the Tongan government to create a strong base of literacy within the country has been widely successful. In 1996, the adult literacy rate of Tonga was 98.5 percent. That number has now risen to 99.0 percent in 2018, making Tonga one of the leaders of adult literacy of the nations in the Pacific.
  5. Girls’ Education – In 2015, girls were enrolled at higher rates than boys at all three levels of education. Enrollment in primary school was at 94 percent for girls and 92 percent for boys in 2015. This number dropped roughly 10 percentage points for each gender going into lower secondary schools.
  6. Ministry of Education – The Ministry of Education works to create and maintain a system of strong education in Tonga. The Ministry manages all of the government schools in the country at all education levels and ensures that the private schools within the country adhere to the national standards of education. There are two main exams that the Ministry of Education administers to all students. The first is the Tonga School Certificate. This exam is taken by students at the end of their fifth year while they are in secondary school. The second major state exam is the Pacific Senior Secondary Certificate, which is taken by students at the end of secondary schooling. Both exams serve as a measure of the thoroughness of a student’s education. The exams are administered in English, though they do emphasize knowledge of Tongan culture.
  7. Brain Drain – Following the conclusion of their secondary school education, many young scholars from Tonga seek their tertiary education abroad at universities in Australia or New Zealand. Upon completion of their degrees at university, most Tongan scholars remain in Australia or New Zealand to live and work and do not return to their homes in Tonga. In 2018, approximately 25 percent of those who furthered their education within Tonga now exist below the poverty line.
  8. Plan for Educational Improvement – Beginning in 2003, Tonga began a project for educational reform that focuses on providing access to a strong education for all Tongans. The Tonga Education Support Program (TESP) has two tiers. TESP I aims to improve equitable access to education up to Year 8, to improve education past primary school and to improve the administration of Tongan schools. TESP II aims to maximize the amount of learning that students can find within Tongan schools, to increase the teaching abilities of teachers and to improve educational facilities. The Tongan government has received financial contributions from Australia and New Zealand to do so.

Anne Pietrow
Photo: Flickr

Ethical FashionOperating under a set of core ethics, sustainable fashion brands eliminate harsh impacts on the environment while also providing safe workplaces and fair wages for the individuals making the products, the majority of whom are women. U.N. Women says increasing female employment “boosts productivity, increases economic diversification and income equality.” This is a major step forward to the alleviation of global poverty in developing nations. Keep reading to learn more about these five top ethical fashion brands.

5 Ethical Fashion Brands Focused on Poverty Reduction

  1. ABLE
    This brand focuses on providing ethical fashion by supporting economic opportunities for women in an effort to eradicate poverty. After seeing firsthand the effects of generational poverty in Ethiopia, Barrett Ward, ABLES’s founder, created the company to give “women an opportunity to earn a living, empowering them to end the cycle of poverty.” With 45 million women employed in the fashion industry, ABLE sees the investment in women as a necessary business strategy to bolster communities and economies worldwide. The company is proud that 98 percent of its employees are women and challenges the culture of the fashion industry by publishing wages, an act of transparency directly attributed to the protection and empowerment of the women it invests in.
  2. Parker Clay
    Parker Clay is a company that values timeless craftsmanship in order to provide quality leather goods to its consumers and economic opportunities for its artisans. But at its core, the founders saw an “opportunity to empower vulnerable women through enterprise” after learning that many women and girls are targets for prostitution and human trafficking in Ethiopia. In fact, in the country’s capital, around 150,000 work in the commercial sex industry.

    Parker Clay partners with Ellilta – Women At Risk, a nonprofit based in Ethiopia that helps women from being lured into prostitution or trafficking. Many of the women supported by this organization work at Ellilta Products where Parker Clay sources its blankets. Providing women with an opportunity to work is more than just a job, Parker Clay believes it is the start to social and economic stability.

  3. KNOWN SUPPLY
    By reimagining the process of apparel production, KNOWN SUPPLY works “with underserved populations … to show the powerful impact clothing purchases can have” by supporting the women who make the clothes in more than one way. KNOWN SUPPLY chooses to celebrate each maker by “humanizing” each product with signatures.

    The company also provides consumers with clear information about the country where each ethical fashion good is made, accompanied by a gallery of the women who make them. This feature gives consumers a look into the lives and communities being directly impacted by their purchases.

  4. Carry117
    At Carry117, providing economic empowerment to at-risk women is a necessary foundation for sustainable development. This brand, based in Korah, Ethiopia — a place where disease and poverty run rampant — believes that when women are empowered, families are strengthened. Their goal is to give these individuals “a hand up out of poverty, with a unified desire to bring change to the community.”
  5. Anchal Project
    In 2010, Colleen Clines, Co-Founder and CEO of Anchal, was inspired to start the company after a trip to India where she learned about “the extreme oppression women faced as commercial sex workers.” Today, the nonprofit not only sells fair-trade goods made of artwork and textiles significant to the artisans’ journey to empowerment but also provides holistic opportunities for the artisans to stay empowered in their communities.

Danyella Wilder
Photo: Flickr

Menstrual Cups in Africa

Today, about 10 percent of African girls miss school because of menstruation-related issues and complications. As many individuals cannot afford feminine hygiene products from the store, they often have to resort to using rags, socks and even paper. To make matters worse, many of these adolescent girls also lack access to private toilets at school. However, things are looking up as multiple nonprofit organizations are collectively working to provide all female students with free menstrual cups in South Africa.

What is the Menstrual Cup?

Menstrual cups are a little known, but effective, feminine hygiene products made out of medical-grade silicone. Their shape resembles a small beaker. As the product can be washed, reused and can last up to a decade, it is a far more sustainable alternative, both financially and economically speaking, to its more conventional counterparts (sanitary napkins and tampons). The cups generally cost between $15 to $40. The price depends on factors such as brand, material and size.

Menstrual Cups in South Africa

Currently, there are multiple initiatives and partnerships in South Africa related to providing school girls with free menstrual cups. Perhaps most notable is the MINA Foundation.

Launched in 2015 by three women in Johannesburg, South Africa, the foundation has now partnered with over a hundred schools and distributed over 30,000 menstrual cups. By working with girls’ clubs at schools, the organization has also succeeded in delivering comprehensive menstrual and sexual health education to adolescent girls. A lively purple cartoon girl presents the information in educational videos and books.

Other Places

Menstrual cup campaigns have also sprung up in many other developing countries. Some countries, for example, are the Philippines, Nepal and India. Much of this progress has been led by a similar organization called Freedom Cups.  A team of three sisters founded the organization in 2015. It operates on a buy-one-give-one model and has since distributed over 3,000 cups in seven countries.

In addition, many for-profit companies also have their own projects and partnerships that work to support feminine hygiene. For instance, both Saalt Co. and the Diva Cup are currently partnering with various organizations. Their partnerships allow them to donate a portion of their profits to feminine hygiene advocacy organizations.

Challenges and Future Directions

The majority of data collected regarding the usage of menstrual cups has been anecdotal. However, various studies have made it quite apparent that many girls remain hesitant about the usage of the product. According to a survey conducted by the University of Chicago, 74 percent of South African school girls interviewed “were hesitant to use any product that had to be inserted into their vagina.” This is likely because many cultures consider topics surrounding menstruation and the female reproductive system to be taboo. Additionally, 79 percent of participants in the same study reported that they could not fully focus on their schoolwork when menstruating. This lack of concentration was due to the shame they felt about their condition.

Henceforth, an increase in the usage of menstrual cups among school girls would likely prove to be effective in providing an open discussion regarding the usage of the product. Furthermore, it could provoke increased dialogue about menstruation in general.

Conclusively, menstrual cups in South Africa have proven to be a force for good among adolescent girls. However, there is still work to be done to address the taboo surrounding these products for their potential to be fully exercised.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

Always Helps Girls
In March 2018, Always — a major feminine hygiene product maker — launched a campaign aimed at ending period poverty. Since then, Always and The Red Box Project, a community-driven initiative that ensures girls can access sanitary products, have donated over 14 million sanitary pads to school girls in the U.K. This is not the first time Always has helped girls around the world. Always has partnered with over 60 organizations that help girls in need. Below are a few of the programs that Always helps girls with around the world.

How Always Focuses on Girls’ Education Around the World

  1. #EndPeriodPoverty
    Always believes that every girl should be able to access sanitary hygiene products, and as of March of 2019, it has donated more than 15 million pads to school girls in the United Kingdom. By partnering with The Red Box Project, Always helps girls become empowered all across the United Kingdom. This initiative has also reached the United States.
  2. In Kind Direct Partnership
    Before launching #EndPeriodPoverty, Always worked with In Kind Direct, a nonprofit organization in the United Kingdom that “inspires product giving for social good and works to alleviate hygiene poverty.”  This organization receives donated items from over 1,125 different companies, like Always, and distributes them to charities across the United Kingdom. For over 14 years, Always has partnered with In Kind Direct and donated over two million hygiene products to the more than 137,700 school girls in the United Kingdom that miss school due to period poverty.
  3. UNESCO and Save the Children Partnership and the Syrian Refugee Crisis
    The Syrian refugee crisis represents one of the worst humanitarian crises of this time. The majority of the more than 11 million Syrians that have fled their homes during the Syrian Civil War are girls and young women who are unable to attend school or find employment. The main reason for this is that these young girls face gender-based barriers. Always and P&G have partnered with UNESCO and Save the Children to implement an empowerment program that ensures that girls and young women living in Jordan have access to educational opportunities, learn life skills and have access to work readiness training. This program is an expansion of the Always and Save the Children partnership, which has concentrated on helping young girls in Mexico, Nepal, South Africa, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa stay in school. It is also an extension of Always’ previous work with UNESCO, which gives girls in Senegal and Nigeria basic literacy and information technology education. By creating educational programs such as this, Always empowers girls to build confidence and strive to reach their fullest potential.
  4. Always and UNESCO: Girl’s Literacy Programme
    In 2011, Always and UNESCO partnered to give young African girls access to literacy education. According to Always, 497 million girls and young women are illiterate and in Senegal, more than four out of 10 girls have dropped out of school. With the Girls’ Literacy Program, 60,000 girls in Nigeria and Senegal have gained information and communication technologies which will help them achieve access to the education they need. Through the Revitalizing Adults and Youth Literacy program, also created by Always and UNESCO, young girls use e-Learning to learn how to read and write, gain basic numeracy and learn life and vocational skills as well. Always has committed to reaching 110,000 girls in Nigeria and Senegal before 2020.
  5. Puberty, Health and Hygiene Education with Save the Children
    According to UNICEF, one in 10 African school girls does not attend school during menstruation or drops out of school altogether because they lack sufficient sanitation facilities. Another reason that these young girls drop out of school is that their families and cultures do not have the correct facts about menstruation. In a video produced by Save the Children, one girl from Ethiopia said that her parents told her that a girl gets her period when she has sex outside of marriage. Save the Children and P&G, the producers of Always, have partnered to ensure that young girls gain the knowledge and confidence to stay in school. Together, Always and Save the Children have helped over 10,000 girls in Nepal, Ethiopia and Mexico escape embarrassment from menstruation and allow them to remain in school. By providing the tools to succeed, Always empowers girls to say in school.
  6. Always’ Keeping Girls in School Programme
    While many girls around the world miss school during menstruation, providing basic hygiene products as well as education about puberty and menstruation can help keep girls in school. By working with local governments and charities, Always helps girls stay in school by making sure they have clean and safe sanitary facilities and provide education about feminine hygiene and puberty. Always’ Keeping Girls in School programme has helped over 170,000 girls in addition to donating 11 million pads to schools.

Always helps girls and women all around the world and empowers them to live their lives without any barriers. Millions of girls worldwide miss school and drop out due to period poverty. Girls from Africa to the United States suffer this issue but Always is dedicated to empowering girls and young women by educating them about puberty and providing them with proper feminine hygiene products.

– Andrea Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

period poverty in India

Period poverty is often described as a lack of access to menstrual education and sanitary products. With 800 million women and girls menstruating daily, this is a subject that concerns half the population around the world. However, the issue is particularly prevalent in India where only 42 percent of women have access to sanitary pads. What is being done to alleviate this common problem? Here are the top five facts about period poverty in India.

Top Five Facts About Period Poverty in India

  1. Increased risk of disease: In India, an estimated 70 percent of all reproductive diseases are caused by poor menstrual hygiene. Women often use dirty rags as a replacement for sanitary pads. Even rags that are cleaned can still develop bacteria if not dried properly. Furthermore, 63 million adolescent girls in India, do not have access to a toilet in their homes. Without a clean and private space to change menstrual products, girls are less likely to properly manage their own hygiene
  2. Cultural stereotypes have a huge impact: Menstruation in India is often seen as a shameful conversation. Studies estimate that 71 percent of girls have no knowledge about menstrual health until after their first period. Women are often described as “dirty” while menstruating and are commonly separated in the home when dining, praying or participating in other activities. Some studies suggest that this is due to gender norms that become more prevalent at puberty. In addition, there is no required curriculum surrounding menstrual health in school.
  3. The high cost of sanitation facilities: Third on the list for the top five facts about period poverty in India is the expense of menstrual products. Approximately 70.62 million people in India live in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 dollars per day. The average Indian woman needs 300 rupees ($4.20) per month for menstrual products. For low-income households, the cost of sanitary pads is often unattainable. Furthermore, Since most adolescents do not have access to toilets at home, girls are more likely to pay for restrooms in public, which is another unaffordable expense.
  4. Period poverty in India affects education: On average, girls miss six days of class each month due to shame surrounding their periods or a lack of sanitary products. This contributes to the number of girls in India who drop out of school each year, around 23 percent. Girls that leave school are stunted in their careers and are more likely to become child brides. India has the highest number of child brides in the world, with 15.5 million children being married by the age of 18.
  5. Removal of taxes: While some parts of period poverty seem daunting, other parts seem hopeful. In 2017, the Indian government labeled menstrual products as luxury goods. Quickly after the announcement of the new tax, the public gathered to campaign against it. In July of 2018, the government removed the tax, thus making sanitary products more accessible to low-income households.

Working to Improve Conditions

The good news doesn’t end with the removal of taxes. Many positive strides have been taken to address the issues of period poverty. Binti is one organization in India (as well as 11 other countries) aiming to minimize the issue. The nonprofit is fighting for menstrual equality through education, distribution of sanitary products and government advocacy. The World Bank and WASH partnered together to create Menstrual Hygiene Day to spread awareness about the importance of sanitary products for women and girls around the world.

Documentaries have also aided in global education surrounding period poverty. For example, “Period. End of Sentence.” partnered with Action India (a nonprofit aiming to create gender equality) to create a documentary about the situation. The Netflix original was successful in fundraising enough money to install a vending machine of menstrual products in Hapur, India. It was also awarded an Oscar for “best documentary short film, gaining public recognition for its efforts.

Ultimately, when looking at the top five facts about period poverty in India, one can see it is a very prevalent issue. Menstrual inequality is often caused by shame around the conversation as well as the high cost of feminine products. This creates challenges in education and an increased risk of disease. However, many positive strides are being made, and governments are starting to see that this is a cause worth advocating for.

Anna Melnik

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls Education in South Sudan
South Sudan has experienced widespread political conflict and insecurity in recent years. Working towards a more peaceful and inclusive future, the South Sudanese government has set out to completely restructure its education sector. Despite some growth in this area, education remains inaccessible for women and girls due to the nation’s dedication to maintaining traditional gender roles. This has grossly affected girls’ livelihood, quality of life and educational opportunities. Below are the top 10 facts about girls’ education in South Sudan.

Closing the Gender and Socio-Economic Gap in Education

  1. South Sudanese women and girls are less likely to complete primary and secondary education than boys. According to the World Bank, it is estimated that seven girls per ten boys attend primary school. Meanwhile, only five girls per ten boys enroll in secondary education.
  2. Although some girls do manage to make it to secondary school, not many of them are able to
    finish. In 2013, only 500 girls in the entire country were in their graduating year of
    secondary school.
  3. Gender inequity in the South Sudanese education remains an issue. Females make up only 12 percent of the country’s teaching population.
  4. According to Fiona Mavhinga of Zimbabwe, “extreme poverty and gender inequity drive the injustice” preventing girls’ education in countries like South Sudan. Fiona was one of the first girls supported by Camfed, an international educational charity.
  5. Cultural notions that women are child-bearers and homemakers drive inequity. Meanwhile, men dominate the educational, business, and political sectors of society. In fact, South Sudanese women and girls are more likely to die during childbirth than complete primary education.
  6. South Sudan partnered with UNICEF in 2007 to help more children get to school. The initiative also created alternate forms of education for women and girls unable to travel to school every day.
  7. In the northern states, almost five percent of students travel more than one and a half miles to and from school each day. In southern states, educational sites average from one for every five communities to one for every 15 communities.
  8. The student to teacher ratio in South Sudanese schools is overwhelming. Urban classes often exceed 100 students under the direction of just one teacher.
  9. While education is technically free for South Sudanese students, there are many expenses that the system does not cover. Families are expected to pay additional fees if they want their children to have an education. This includes charges for textbooks, uniforms, school fees and more. Thus, socio-economic status plays a major factor in access to education.
  10. South Sudan is working with global partners such as UNICEF and Plan International to restructure the education system and expand girls’ access to education. Organizations based within South Sudan like Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS), work to remove those barriers that block women and girls from study.

While organizations such as UNICEF, Plan International, and GESS are working to open access to education for girls, South Sudan is still struggling to close the gender gap in education. Regardless, the top 10 facts about girls’ education in South Sudan show that the movement to support girls’ education is more prosperous than ever.

– Morgan Everman
Photo: Flickr

Period PovertyWhen discussing poverty and the effects it can have on people, basic hygiene supplies that come to mind are items such as toothpaste, toilet paper and soap. Rarely does anyone think feminine hygiene supplies. Period poverty is the term used to describe a lack of access to feminine sanitary products. All around the world women and girls face the same dilemma regardless of country or culture, with a reported 500 million girls living in period poverty, a number that is beginning to take its toll on women in society.

Period Poverty Is Everywhere

In developed countries, the greatest challenge is fighting the stigma and taxes that accompany what should be a basic healthcare product. The European Union’s five percent tax on sanitary products, known as the ‘tampon tax’, is one of the biggest indicators that something has to change, with 1 in every 10 girls currently unable to afford sanitary products. A nationwide study done in the U.K. showed that over 137,000 girls skipped school regularly due to period poverty. Until 2018, U.S. federal prisons were charging for feminine products. New laws are being passed mandating that menstrual products be provided in public settings, showing change on the horizon but there is still a long way to go.

While women in the U.S. and Europe are fighting stigma, unfair taxes and unequal treatment in regard to period poverty, in underdeveloped countries the situation is even worse. Women and girls in poor countries struggle to gain access to sanitary products on a regular basis.

A study conducted in Uganda showed that close to two-thirds of girls missed at least one day of school each year due to period poverty. In addition to supplies being a commodity, the stigma women face in certain countries borders on taboo. Some cultures believe that those who are menstruating are considered ‘unclean’ or ‘bad luck’, leading to ostracizing and ridiculing these women and girls. In certain regions of Nepal, girls are banished to ‘menstrual huts’ where they must remain shunned until their cycle has ended.

Negative Effects of Living in Period Poverty

Women and girls living in period poverty suffer from more than just embarrassment and societal stigma. In addition to girls missing school, there are physical repercussions to not having sanitary supplies as well. According to the U.N. International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), poor menstrual hygiene can lead to reproductive disorders, urinary tract infections and urogenital diseases, and the risk for infections in those living in period poverty is much higher than those who aren’t.

Fighting Period Poverty

Organizations such as PERIOD, Freedom4Girls and HappyPeriod are working to address the stigma behind menstrual products and to end period poverty through advocating, educating and serving girls across the U.S. Founded by women who understand what it’s like to live in period poverty, these companies are committed to fighting for girls around the world. By providing sanitary products and supplies, they are allowing young girls and women to continue education and lead their lives unaltered by this natural biological occurrence.

Despite being a natural biological occurrence shrouded by stigma for hundreds of years, period poverty is finally coming to the forefront of the public’s concern. It is demonstrating itself to be a worldwide issue that does not discriminate amongst class or culture. PERIOD founder Nadya Okamoto describes the importance of this issue perfectly, “If we invest in women’s empowerment as a key to global development, we need to unite around a universal menstrual movement to ensure that all women and girls are able to discover and reach their full potential.”

– Olivia Bendle
Photo: Flickr

girls' education
Girls’ education is proving to be an important factor in improving a developing nation’s quality of life. Educational equality is not only a lucrative asset to a nation’s economy, but also reduces rates of child malnutrition, and decreases the wage gap found between men and women in many developing countries. These facts about girls’ education will help to illustrate the global situation regarding women in the classroom.

Knowledge is a lifelong skill that brings empowerment, and education is a gift that keeps on giving. Improvements to girls’ education will provide a country with a more knowledgeable workforce, healthier families, less early-life pregnancies and lower wage gaps between men and women.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Developing Countries 

  1. Girls’ education affects a nation’s economy. According to the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), when girls receive an education, they increase their ability to gain access to higher-paying jobs. This benefits their family’s income, adds to a nation’s economy and increases a woman’s involvement in politics. Investing in girls’ education provides a boost to a developing country’s progress, and acts as a catalyst for gender equality on multiple levels.
  2. Provided with an education, girls are more likely to earn a higher income later in life, increasing their family’s overall quality of life. Globally, if all girls received a primary education, then 1.7 million children would be rescued from poverty-induced malnutrition. In addition, if all girls worldwide received a secondary education, 12.2 million children could avoid malnutrition and stunted growth.
  3. In 2013, UNESCO reported that nearly 25 percent of all girls in developing countries had not completed primary school; in addition,  women encompass two-thirds of the 774 million illiterate people in the world. 
  4. Education equality has been on the rise in many countries. Thanks to the Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) efforts, the total number of girls enrolled in school worldwide increased by 38 million from 2002 to 2015.  
  5. Many factors play into the educational inequalities in numerous developing countries. In India, for instance, for every 100 boys not enrolled in primary school there are 426 girls. Poverty is often the primary reason for this discrepancy. When families struggle to send multiple children to class, male children are often prioritized. Many girls in developing countries are oppressed by traditional gender roles that marginalize a female’s role in society.
  6. Each completed year of secondary school increases a woman’s income by twenty-five percent.
  7. Girl’s education can prevent childhood pregnancies. For each year that a girl in a developing nation is in school, her first child is delayed by 10 months. Pregnancy in childhood can prevent a girl from receiving an education, and decreases the chances of her child suffering from malnutrition and disease.
  8. All women worldwide receiving a secondary education would prevent 3 million child deaths.
  9. Girls’ education reduces the gender gap found in the workplace of many developing countries. In fact, UNESCO found that Pakistani women with a primary education made 51 percent of what their male counterparts made. This number increased to 70 percent when a woman completed secondary education.
  10. In Somalia, 95 percent of girls ages 7-16 have never been to school. This is the highest instance of educational inequality found worldwide. This statistic affects girls later in life, where Somali women ages 17-22 receive four months of schooling on average for their entire life.

Future of Progress 

By providing women with the chance to better themselves academically, our global community is made all the richer. With the number of girls enrolling in school increasing every year, gender equality in developing countries worldwide is becoming a reality.

Jason Crosby

Photo: Flickr

AfricaRural Africa is one of the most poverty-stricken regions of the world. Half of the global poor live in Sub-Saharan Africa and 389 million in this region live on less than $1.90. While other regions in the world have seen drastic reductions in poverty, progress in Sub-Saharan Africa has been slow. Even though the persistence of rural poverty in Africa is a multi-faceted problem, certain primary factors can be addressed. The extreme poor lack access to resources to achieve economic empowerment. Thankfully, organizations like Village Enterprise have stepped up to the plate to introduce new opportunities.

Village Enterprise provides a graduation program on entrepreneurship and innovation for those living in extreme poverty in Uganda and Kenya. The organization hopes that its simple and cost-effective model can help bring an end to extreme rural poverty in Africa. Village Enterprise stands out from other organizations by using a group-based approach. Each business is started by a group of three people and usually provides support for 20 people in the community. When individuals join the program, they can’t pay for their family’s needs and have no business experience. The program includes training, a $150 grant and mentorship for the aspiring entrepreneurs.

81 percent of the businesses started through Village Enterprise were founded by female entrepreneurs. This is especially important, since women reinvest 90 percent of their income on average to their families and communities, while men only reinvest 30 to 40 percent.

Lucy Wurtz, Development and Communications Director for Village Enterprise, told The Borgen Project that the employees on the ground have tools, including Grameen’s Progress Out of Poverty Index, to determine the level of poverty in a community and who could use their services. Then, every household in the community is invited to join the program. While only 30 entrepreneurs can be working and training in a group at a time, Village Enterprise can reach 90 to 100 households in a community a year.

“The idea is everyone who wants to has a chance to participate,” says Wurtz, “so you are lifting up the whole area.”

When the program is finished, Village Enterprise is able to move on. Once the entrepreneurs learn the skills, they are empowered and able to continue improving their economic standing. The business owners are also able to work together as a group, as each member can pick up different skills. Some become especially adept at finance and can help their fellow entrepreneurs with book-keeping. Others may specialize in marketing or leadership.

“Once you give a number of skills to a group of people,” says Wurtz, “that group starts acting as a support body to disperse the skills within the group members and take on the attributes of what you’re teaching.”

Village Enterprise measures the impact of the program by the increase in the standard of living. The organization recently conducted a randomized trial involving 6,000 households and 138 villages in Uganda. Researchers returned to the communities a year after the program was finished to see if there were still significant improvements. The study will soon be available to view on the Village Enterprise website.

The organization is expanding in several ways. It continues to grow in the countries in which it already works, Kenya and Uganda, and is also looking into expanding into other African countries, with the Democratic Republic of Congo being one potential target. One of the factors driving expansion is a new opportunity for donors. Village Enterprise is now participating in an innovative way to finance development: development impact bonds. These bonds get investors to pay up front for the costs of an intervention that can be measured by predetermined metrics. If the goals are met, then an outcome payor, usually a donor agency or foundation, will pay back the investor based on this performance.

Village Enterprise has started over 39,000 businesses and trained over 156,000 entrepreneurs. With hope, this approach can go on to empower and lift up the over 40 percent of Sub-Saharan Africans living in extreme poverty.

Brock Hall

Photo: Flickr

She's Successful: Creating Opportunities for Female Students in Guinea
Guinea has finally achieved a steady path to educational opportunity for all as the growth enrollment rate (GER) of the country has increased rather consistently over the past decade. According to an April 2002 report from The World Bank, successes toward eliminating the gender gap “provides guidance on how resource-poor countries can plan and follow a steady course toward Universal Primary Education through policy change and hard work, even where conditions, on the surface, are not particularly favorable.”

Young girls in Guinea have experienced persistent gender disparity in education. This disparity is apparent across both urban and rural areas. Specific strategies to help alleviate the issue include USAID support, the backing of the Federation of African Women Educationists (FAWE) and the Ministry of Education, which were implemented as a means for eliminating disadvantages for young female students in Guinea.

The impressive transformation of education in Guinea is so impressive that The World Bank reports it “achieved one of the world’s highest rates of GER growth over the decade.” Consistent donor support alongside adamant remedial gender-based policy vision attributes to the wide successes for female students in Guinea. At the end of 2001, the GER for boys was 59 percent while that of girls was a considerably near 41 percent as opposed to the gap in 1990 existing between 69 percent for boys and 31 percent for girls.

Guinea is credited for creating one of Africa’s first gender equity committees in the vital year of 1991 thanks to the involvement of the Ministry of Education. The Ministry advocated to highlight factors affecting girls’ education, like sanitary facilities available and teacher accommodation for girls, and thus use government funded programs to solve these issues and consequently increase attendance and participation for female students in Guinea.

At the end of the 2002 report, The World Bank stated that “despite the gains in gender equity…the degree of expenditure bias is much higher in rural areas where expenditure on boys is 1.9 times that of girls in primary and nearly four times in secondary education. Guinea’s future success will depend in large part on its ability to further build teaching and learning quality.” Luckily, Guinea joined the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in 2002. The GPE has been a key catalyst for the continued change in educational opportunity for female students in Guinea. This resulted in a recent General Education Strategic Plan (GESP) which covers the years 2015-2017 and “is focused on equal access, quality, relevance, and the strengthening the management of the education sector.”

Three GPE grants have been given to Guinea to support new education sector plans, and the results have been significant. Forty million dollars was granted for the years 2008-2014, $24 million for 2010-2014, and an expected $37.8 million grant will go to Guinea for the years 2015-2018.

GPE grants have resulted in success in the past. The first contributed to “increasing the girls’ examination success rate for 7th-grade entrance in 100 targeted schools from 49 percent in 2011 to 71 percent in 2014.” According to the Global Partnership for Education, another grant increased “the gross enrollment rate for nine targeted prefectures by 10 percentage points, from 47 percent in 2011 to 57 percent in 2014.”

In order to continue to encourage female students in Guinea to be successful, the new GESP strategy will focus on improving access to a basic education for all under-served groups in Guinea. Though the country still faces challenges in equity, the $37.8 million GEP grant for 2015-2018 along with adherence to the GESP will “encourage girls’ enrollment and retention through creating associations of mothers and mentors, providing training on the benefits of schooling.”

Hailey Visscher

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