period poverty in IndiaPeriod 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

girls' educationGirls’ 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

Photo: Flickr