Sweden’s Feminist Foreign PolicySweden, one of the Nordic countries known for its economic stability, high education rates and social mobility, has also been serving as a prime example of humanitarian-focused foreign policy. The Scandinavian nation has not participated in a single war since 1814 and is currently running one of the world’s most revolutionary foreign policies. Sweden’s feminist foreign policy is the first of its kind.

Sweden’s Feminist Foreign Policy

With regard to foreign policy, minority groups and underrepresented populations are often unintentionally overlooked. Sweden’s foreign policy, on the other hand, takes a modern approach, becoming the first country in the world to launch a feminist foreign policy in 2014. Sweden has a feminist government and the approach was inspired by years of efforts to promote gender equality and focuses and take heed of the voices rarely heard in the distant wars and conflicts.

Sweden’s feminist foreign policy is based on the justification that lasting peace, security and development cannot be achieved if half the world’s population is excluded. The policy is a response to the discrimination and systematic subordination that endless women and girls face daily, all over the world. By taking this approach, the Swedish government hopes to change the way the world perceives the structure of international relations in today’s globalized world.

Sweden’s International Aid

Sweden is one of the only nations that has surpassed the goal of giving 0.7% of its GNI to foreign aid and has been providing around 1% consistently since 2008. Prior to COVID-19, the developmental aid from Sweden had been mainly directed to Afghanistan, Somalia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda.

What is Sida?

Sweden’s foreign policy is dedicated to helping nations worldwide accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The aid provided and how it is utilized depends on the needs of each nation and the nation’s SDG standing. Sida is a Swedish government agency that works globally to fight for the improvement of SDGs in every nation and creates long-term projects that aim to do so. Strategies and policies for each country that Sweden aids are selected in accordance with each country’s needs, ensuring that foreign aid is personalized and effective.

A leader in Foreign Policy

For more than a decade, Sweden has been acting as a leader of humanitarian international relations and is now one of three nations running a feminist foreign policy. The country ensures in its every step that its actions on foreign grounds and the aid provided have positive long-term influences, rather than acting as a momentary band-aid. This type of foreign policy is an inspiring example of what is needed to achieve the SDGs by 2030 and fight global poverty, hunger and inequality worldwide.

– Anna Synakh
Photo: Flickr

Period poverty in ChinaThe monthly cost of purchasing menstrual sanitary products is not a small amount for females worldwide. “Period Poverty” refers to the inability to afford access to pads, tampons, or liners to manage menstrual bleeding. A campaign in China, is working on addressing period poverty for its girls and women. However, it still remains a women’s rights issue globally.

The General Problem

The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) reports that around 10% of young women around the world are now unable to afford period protection. FIGO also found that 12% of women have to improvise with devices that are potentially ineffective and unsafe. According to UNICEF, there are more than 500 million females that lack a proper place to change their sanitary protection during their period. Period poverty causes long-term impacts of health and hygiene for girls and women. Time management, the chance of receiving education and employment are also affected by period poverty. All of these factors influence a woman’s lifelong development and wellbeing.

Period Poverty in China

The situation of period poverty in China is not much different. Many women and young girls, especially in rural areas, cannot afford feminine hygiene products. Instead of sanitary pads, impoverished women have to use toilet paper or old cloth. Any available yet unsafe materials on hand — even bark for some women in extreme poverty — are substituted to get through the period. Unfortunately, the lack of basic menstrual knowledge and the common menstruation taboo in China only worsen the situation. It is difficult and embarrassing to practice optimal hygiene with dignity in China. As a result, many girls in rural China skip classes or even leave school once they start menstruating.

Campaign for a lower tampon tax

In recent years, the Chinese public is growing more aware of period poverty in China. They are calling for more affordable sanitary products. Additionally, the public advocates for more humanitarian public health policies that take women’s biological needs into accounts. As of 2020, the Chinese government regulates a 13% sales tax on feminine sanitary products. That is 4% higher than the 9% tax for essential daily necessities such as grain, water and contraceptives.

Many other countries, including India and Malaysia, have either exempted or reduced the tax on sanitary products. They have done so for the sake of gender equality. In response, a couple of online campaigns emerged in China in the past few years. The campaigns appeal for a lower tampon tax in the country.

The “Stand by Her” Project

Before the national public health policy can ameliorate, some philanthropists and social organizations have jumped to the cause. They have stood up first to help the low-income women in underdeveloped regions. So far, the “Stand by Her” is one of the most well-known and large-scale projects that deal with period poverty in China.

Liang Yu Stacey, a 24-year-old Chinese feminist activist, initiated the “Reassurance for Sisters Fighting the Virus” online campaign in early 2020. She aimed to raise money to provide feminine sanitary products for the health care workers fighting against COVID-19. The project then extended to a broader scale and evolved into “Stand by Her.”

“Stand by Her” is a voluntary foundation that coordinates donation, procurement and distribution of hygiene products to under-age girls in impoverished provinces. The foundation regularly sends sanitary pads to women around China. In addition, the project also hands out brochures and holds lectures in middle schools to popularize menstruation and sex education. In the first phase of 2020-2021, the team continues to plan to help more than 6,000 girls from 33 schools across China. Within 3 days of opening the donation portals, “Stand by Her” raised 368,700 RMB (54,500 USD).

The online conversations, campaigns and donations display some positive signals in the area of menstruation. Feminine hygiene is gradually breaking away from the conventional social taboo. Reducing tax on women’s menstrual products would be a win for women’s rights in China.

– Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

female empowerment through U.N.
When Gaby Aghion founded the French fashion brand Chloé in 1952, she desired to give young women control of their destinies. While Aghion attached destiny to elegant clothing, Chloé’s recent partnership with UNICEF will expand her company’s mission. Chloé seeks to mobilize young women beyond the runway by endorsing UNICEF’s #GirlsForward campaign. All this, to increase female empowerment through U.N. partnership.

What is #GirlsForward?

The #GirlsForward campaign will optimize educational opportunities for 6.5 million girls. Chloé’s partnership with UNICEF will equip young women “with [the] digital and technology skills, entrepreneurial capacity, spirit and confidence” they need to succeed in the workforce. In March, UNICEF began implementing the #GirlsForward program in Bolivia, Jordan, Morocco, Senegal and Tajikistan.

Both UNICEF and Chloé recognize global gender disparities and will attempt to correct them through quality education. UNICEF claims that “one in three girls are not enrolled in secondary school” as “girls aged 10–14 tend to spend 50% of their time doing chores.” Their families do not prioritize their education but confine them to domestic spaces.

As girls mature and grow, they remain outside the educational system and do not receive equal employment opportunities. If they dare venture into the workforce, Chloé contends that women remain segregated from networks and capital, receiving only 77% of what men earn. Chloé’s efforts to remedy this disparity center in female empowerment through U.N. partnership (specifically, with UNICEF) — and seeking to amend these systemic barriers by making girls’ education a worldwide priority.

Voices of Youth Pushes for Girls’ Education

Chloé hints that “supporting girls education could help us all;” however, the organization Voices of Youth specifically outlines the potential benefits. Like Chloé and UNICEF, Voices of Youth believes girls’ education is a lifeline to their development. An affiliate of UNICEF, Voices of Youth argues that supporting girls’ education will:

  1. Decrease Both Infant and Maternal Mortality Rates: Educated women often seek proper medical care throughout their pregnancies and give birth to healthy babies.
  2. Decrease the Prevalence of Domestic Violence and Child Marriages: Voices of Youth claims, “On average, for every year a girl stays in school past fifth grade, her marriage is delayed a year.” Education enables women to marry later, giving them time to mature as they learn to care for themselves and their families.
  3. Improve Socioeconomic Growth: Educated women can escape poverty and live healthier, more productive lives. In turn, they can raise the standard of living for their families and communities. Patty Alleman, UNICEF’s Senior Gender and Development Advisor adds that girls’ education boosts economic growth by offering women resources to enhance or start businesses.

A Promising Future for All

The #GirlsForward campaign understands these benefits and yearns to educate every adolescent girl in the developing world. As Voices of Youth suggested, education will ultimately improve the lives of young girls and their communities. Chloé’s initiative to support young girls in the developing world pushes forward the agenda of female empowerment, through U.N. partnership. With UNICEF as a partner, Chloé’s mission stretches beyond fashion and will help transform young women into successful entrepreneurs, scientists and coders.

The three-year partnership began on International Women’s Day during the Paris Fashion Week — a fitting time for Chloé to expand its mission statement. Although its goals might be shifting from clothing to education, Chloé will hold fast to the teachings of its founder, helping young women around the world gain control of their destinies.

– Kyler Juarez
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ghanaian women in poverty
It is undeniable that, right now, the makeup, skincare and haircare industries are flourishing globally and are predicted to continue their economic rise well into the future. According to Euromonitor International, in 2020, the beauty industry’s net profit reached $500.5 billion — a more than 5% increase from 2019. Broken down by category: general cosmetic care earned $307 billion, skincare acquired $145.2 billion, haircare collected $79.2 billion and premium beauty earned $139 billion. The industry’s forecast predicts an annual net profit of $756.63 billion by 2026

Right now in Ghana, the beauty industry is experiencing a cultural role shift and growth in profit. The increasing population of young people is beginning to explore skin, beauty and hair care — and they’re looking locally. As this industry grows, Ghana-based brands are looking to do more than just provide beauty products. Through outreach programs and innovative business plans and programs, personal care companies are working to provide financial aid, job opportunities, equitable support and empower Ghanaian women. Here are three Ghana-based beauty brands empowering Ghanaian women in poverty.

3 Beauty Brands Empowering Ghanaian Women in Poverty

  1. FC Beauty Group Limited: Established more than 30 years ago in Ghana, FC Beauty Group Limited (FCBGL), not only provides and distributes high-quality hair and beauty products at a wholesale price to local salons but also hosts extensive outreach programs for impoverished women. FCBGL launched the Grace Amey-Obeng Foundation International in the summer of 2007. This foundation has made it a priority to aid Ghanaian women in poverty, with the purpose of providing young women an education, training and a sense of self. Through this program, FCBGL has focused its outreach to young homeless women, some of whom must engage in prostitution to financially support themselves. For women who engage in transactional sex consensually, the foundation provides them with skills to prevent difficulties in their profession. These skills include preventing pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and exploitation. For women who do not wish to continue this work, the brand offers job prospects and training that allow them to change their economic direction. The brand continues its outreach work by partnering with the Osu Girls’ correctional facility to provide inmates with hirable skills for future economic success. FC Beauty Group Limited hosts another program titled the “Tutsi Project.” The Tutsi Project’s agenda is to act as insurance for the women who have completed FCBGL’s training programs and are now pursuing a career. Since its conception, the FC Beauty College has trained more than 6,000 economically successful students. Seed money is provided to women looking to start their own businesses. Many trainees are full-time mothers as well as entrepreneurs and FCBGL’s investment at the beginning of their career allows them to feel financially supported.
  2. Nokware Skincare: With old-school natural products and innovative ideas, the brand Nokware, meaning “truth,” creates all products from recipes and raw materials passed down through Ghanaian women’s lineage. Remaining local is an important piece of Nokware’s business plan and the brand solely uses materials that can be found and farmed by local African women. By practicing fair trade and pricing deals, Nokware can work towards its overall mission: economic inclusion. Recognizing the financial disparity many Ghanaian women face, this brand works to exclusively buy locally to put money back into the community and create a space for those who have been neglected in the workforce. By situating “community commerce” at the forefront of its company, Nokware works to stimulate the Ghanaian economy from the inside out. Empowerment of Ghanaian women in poverty is very important to Nokware Skincare. The brand works to accomplish that goal by primarily hiring women who face a substantial wage gap. Recognizing them as powerful resources, Nokware also staffs its executive boards and factory floors with Ghanaian women in an effort to minimize the prevalent wage gap in the country. The company’s “Nokware for Women” fund is an educational scholarship program available to the daughters of Nokware employees to diminish gender inequalities in education.
  3. True Moringa: Named after the extensive benefits of the plant found in northern Ghana, True Moringa is a brand that creates a diverse selection of products that all contain the oil of the True Moringa tree. On a trip with MIT’s D-Lab to Ghana, Kwai Williams and Emily Cunningham learned about the aforementioned tree, known as the “miracle tree,” from local farmers. The plant contains high levels of Vitamin A, calcium and protein. It also has the ability to grow and strengthen other crops in any climate. After learning this, Williams and Cunningham realized that the plant could minimize poverty and malnutrition in the country, and bring economic opportunities to farmers while providing consumers with high-quality skin and hair care products. The founders were aware of the lack of training, reliable commerce and income insecurity Ghanaian farmers face. As a result, they created a business plan that could compete with more established beauty brands and source locally to raise the monetary value of the brand’s contributing farmers. The company’s website states that the creation and application of the True Moringa brand has served more than 5,000 farming families, planted more than 2 million trees and increased local Ghanian farming revenue tenfold. In addition to the economic growth created through local sourcing, True Moringa allows customers to make an impact. With every purchase made, True Moringa will plant a tree which, in turn, combats deforestation and malnutrition in the small farming communities the brand works with. The True Moringa skin and hair care brand not only works to contribute to the beauty industry and empower Ghanaians by providing high-quality products, but also looks outside to create sustainable incomes and resources to empower Ghanaian women in poverty and their families.

All of these brands have created a positive impact on Ghanaian women in poverty. They have done so by looking beyond the cosmetic aspects of their products and focus on empowering women through their incomes, access to food and financial well-being. These brands have given hope to women and families for a better future, and have continued to walk alongside them as they move into a more financially secure future.

– Alexa Tironi
Photo: Flickr

poverty in BangladeshLocated next to India and Myanmar, the South Asian country of Bangladesh has the eighth-highest population in the world. In Bangladesh, more than 20% of the population lives below the poverty line, surviving on less than $5 a day. Japanese clothing company UNIQLO, founded in 1949 and owned by the holding company Fast Retailing, is working to fight poverty in Bangladesh. UNIQLO is committed to the idea that creating and selling high-quality clothes can help create a sustainable society.

Social Business of Grameen UNIQLO in Bangladesh

In 2010, along with a microfinance organization called the Grameen Bank, Fast Retailing founded Grameen UNIQLO to solve health issues, unemployment and poverty in Bangladesh. Local factories that produce all goods for Grameen UNIQLO provide a safe and secure workplace that is not common in Bangladesh. The company educates partner companies on safe workplaces as well. The entire process of Grameen UNIQLO’s business, from producing and marketing to selling, takes place in the country. Moreover, all of Grameen UNIQLO’s revenue goes toward investing in local businesses, and the company distributes clothes for people in need due to poverty or natural disasters. Through creating jobs and reinvesting money for local business, Grameen UNIQLO has fought against poverty in Bangladesh.

Empowering Women to Be Independent

Grameen UNIQLO also focuses on empowering women and helping them be financially independent. Women traditionally tend to be financially dependent because of their limited opportunities in Bangladesh. The company provides job opportunities for women, who are referred to as the “Grameen Ladies.” These women get a low-interest loan from Grameen Bank to become financially independent, and they also work with UNIQLO to design clothes.

U.N. Educational Program for Women

The company also offers an educational program in collaboration with U.N. Women. In the program, female workers get training regarding workers’ rights, health and gender equality. The advanced training program for selected workers provides the class with the necessary skills for higher positions. The companies participating in this program believe that empowerment for women increases the competition and the overall quality of the community, helping to reduce poverty in Bangladesh. Importantly, Fast Retailing tries to gain a better understanding of the situation and the difficulties women face, so that it can address these issues more effectively.

$1 Million Scholarship Program

Fast Retailing launched a scholarship program at the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh to help students who struggle to afford higher education. In addition to the scholarship program, the company also provides an internship opportunity for students to work at Grameen UNIQLO and visit the company in Tokyo. These students can gain experience in marketing, market research and management during the internship program.

Grameen UNIQLO and Fast Retailing have made efforts to fight against poverty in Bangladesh through retail business. They have created job opportunities, a scholarship program, investments in local businesses and programs to help women to be financially independent. Grameen UNIQLO has developed a great model for other businesses to support local communities, fight poverty and help people develop self-sufficiency.

– Sayaka Ojima
Photo: Flickr

Sonita Alizadeh’s Feminist Advocacy
Sonita Alizadeh is a 22-year-old rapper from Herat, Afghanistan. She became an advocate for humanitarian issues such as child marriage in 2014 after winning $1,000 in a U.S. music competition where she wrote a song encouraging Afgan people to vote. Sonita’s music video “Brides for Sale” also premiered in 2014 on YouTube, kickstarting her career and garnering over one million views as of 2019. This article will focus on Afghanistan’s policies on child marriage, Sonita’s history and how Sonita’s advocacy is making an impact. All of these aspects highlight the importance of Sonita Alizadeh’s feminist advocacy.

Afganistan and Child Marriage

In 1997, the Republic of Afghanistan permitted girls under the age of 16 to marry with the consent of their father or a judge under a civil code. In 1994, the Afghanistan government set the minimum age of marriage to 18, and in 2009 passed the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law; yet people often do not implement protections. The advocacy organization against child marriage, Girls Not Brides, cites UNICEF’s statistics for child marriage in Afganistan as of 2017: 9 percent of girls marry by 15 and 35 percent marry by 18.

Child marriages that still happen in Afghanistan often occur for several reasons including a lack of female education, displacement, dispute settlements for rival families and traditional family values and practices.

Afghanistan has made progress such as making ending child marriage a sustainable development (SDG) goal by 2030. Afghan women, such as Sonita Alizadeh, are speaking out when the government is not helping them effectively. That is why Sonita Alizadeh’s feminist advocacy is vital; it gives the people that child marriage affects a chance to speak for themselves.

Sonita Alizadeh’s History

Sonita Alizadeh and members of her family escaped Taliban rule in Afghanistan and journeyed to Tehran, Iran. There, Sonita began creating music, although it is illegal for women to sing a solo in the country. Her music was about the hardships she had seen her friends endure in Afghanistan when their parents encouraged them to marry as young as 12.

Sonita had to advocate for herself at 16 when her mother visited her from Afghanistan. Sonita received the opportunity to return to her home country if agreed to marry. Her mother planned to have a dowry set with a man for $9,000 for Sonita as a bride. This prompted Sonita to make her first YouTube video in response to her predicament, the video “Brides for Sale.” The video got the attention of the Strongheart organization in the U.S. The group sponsored 17-year-old Sonita in 2014 with a student visa to attend Wasatch Academy in Utah on a full scholarship. Sonita’s first concert in America was in May 2015, and she began sending money home to her mother living in Afghanistan.

Sonita’s Activism

After moving to the U.S., Sonita Alizadeh used her platform to speak about child marriage. Her YouTube channel has 12 videos that range from her music to interviews to Sonita’s graduation speech from Wasatch Academy in 2018. Sonita uses her platform to educate the 11.1 thousand subscribers she had as of 2019. BBC listed Sonita as one of its 100 women people should recognize in 2015 and inspired a European documentary based on her life that premiered in 2016 and won a NETPAC Award.

Recently, Sonita debuted a new song at the 2018 Social Good Summit concert in New York City. As of 2019, Sonita attends Bard College in New York where she represented her school in the Women Warriors: The Voices of Change concert event at the Lincoln Center in September 2019. Organizations such as the Strongheart Group, Global Citizen and the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Organization support Sonita’s Alizadeh’s feminist advocacy.

Conclusion

The voices of Afghan women are vital in battling injustice. Sonita Alizadeh’s feminist advocacy highlights the determination of one woman to empower women forced into child marriages. The light Sonita sheds on the hardships Afghan women are also valuable as a form of advocacy, making those who did not grow up with her background understand the needs of women in dire situations.

Natalie Casaburi
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

Justice for Iraqi Women

The status and protection of women remain a heated topic of discussion in international and national committees, particularly concerning justice for Iraqi women. Iraq‘s government is aware of the violations committed by its previous regime against certain civil community groups. As a result, Iraq’s government has strived to drastically change how they aid and support victimized and often impoverished groups. However, Iraq‘s strategy to reconcile these issues is unique. For example, China encourages its impoverished population to move to urbanized cities, and the United Kingdom encourages participation in its labor market. But Iraq seeks to acknowledge the voices of the victims.

In 2003, Iraq‘s government and the International Center for Transitional Justice partnered with the Human Rights Center of the University of California, Berkeley to create Iraqi Voices. Iraqi Voices is a report based on data collected from in-depth interviews and focus groups. This data represents different perspectives of the Iraqi population regarding transitional justice. There are seven main topics of focus represented in this report: past human rights abuses, justice and accountability, truth-seeking and remembrance, amnesty, vetting, reparations, and social reconstruction and reconciliation.

Hearing Women

Iraq is working to have women and girls meaningfully participate in all stages of decision making. Programs and organizations like the SEED Foundation have worked to ensure this justice for Iraqi women. In particular, the SEED Foundation works to empower and engage the voices of violence and trafficking victims in Iraq. As such, SEED Foundation leaders and activists encourage the meaningful participation of women in sustainable peace negotiations and conflict reconciliation. Through their efforts, the Iraqi Parliament now has a quota setting aside 25 percent of seats for women in provincial councils. By acknowledging these voices, the Iraqi government is helping seek justice for Iraqi women.

Moreover, Iraq has taken strides to bridge the gap between policymakers and victims when addressing the needs of local communities affected by ISIS. To do so, Iraq is considering partnering with or accepting assistance from other nations. While international policymakers seek justice for Iraqi victims, they fail to address the real concerns of affected communities. Instead, they often focus on prosecuting the perpetrators. But affected communities also have more immediate needs. Therefore, this partnership and assistance allow victims of affected communities to participate in prioritizing and creating appropriate policies. Efforts to ensure meaningful participation in Iraq‘s government thus bring about transitional justice. By addressing systemic failures, Iraq’s government brings justice to marginalized victims, including justice for Iraqi women.

Bringing Change

Ultimately, the changes implemented by the Iraqi government aid and empower impoverished and victimized groups, such as women. The inclusion of female voices in politics influences larger discussions affecting women and, as seen as Iraq, helps get justice for Iraqi women.

Jordan Melinda Washington
Photo: Pixabay

Gender Equality and Female Empowerment in Rwanda
Although Rwanda is considered an impoverished nation, it ranks number four in gender equality. On the same scale, The United States ranks number 49. Interestingly, this shift towards gender equality in Rwanda came as a result of the 1994 genocide.

Before that tragic event, women were usually caretakers and were rarely financially independent or in a position of power. During the genocide, more than 800,000 people died in just 100 days, and most of these individuals were men. This shifted the population to be 60 – 70 percent female and as a result, women were forced into formerly male-dominated jobs.

Government Support of Women

President Kagame led this movement, realizing women were necessary for the country’s recovery because there simply were not enough men to rebuild. The government rewrote the constitution in 2003, encouraging female education and requiring at least 30 percent of positions in parliament to be held by women.

In the first election following this change, the requirement was exceeded with 48 percent of seats going to women. The following election saw an even greater increase with 64 percent of parliamentary seats being held by females. This makes Rwanda number one in a global ranking of countries with the most women in legislature. For comparison, The United States ranks 96 with only 19 percent of seats going to women.

Social Inequality as a Mindset

Despite these great strides towards gender equality in Rwanda, women’s perception at home does not seem to line up with that of their public lives. Girls are still raised to be submissive both in school at home, believing that something as simple as becoming president of a club is reserved only for men.

While they are holding positions of power and becoming economically independent, women still fear speaking out against their husbands and are expected to continue to be the only one to take care of housework and childcare. Many Rwandan women see the term “feminism” as a negative, Western concept.

Unlike most social movements, this change in gender equality did not come from the oppressed group, but from President Paul Kagame. Rwandan women were ushered into positions of power before they truly believed in the movement, and now, they must play catch up with their mindset.

Working to Change Preconceived Ideas

Many organizations are helping to change that perception, starting with female education. Women to Women International has a one-year foundation training program, enabling women to become financially self-sufficient and, subsequently, build the confidence to fight for their rights and equality at home. This organization has helped 76,000 women in the ten years it has been operating.

The Akilah Institute for Women is an all-female college that fosters a more positive learning environment for women, enhancing the skills needed to launch careers in many different fields. The Institute has an 88 percent success rate for graduates. Fawe’s Girls’ School encourages young girls to take STEM courses to overcome the stigma that these classes are generally for men. They work to empower girls to understand their importance and to defend their rights. They also work to train teachers to be more gender inclusive.

Gender equality in Rwanda is far ahead of most of the world, but women must truly believe in their rights for this to be effective. With the next generation being raised in a world where gender does not restrict women from a job and schools encourage female participation and confidence; hopefully, Rwandan women will embrace their newfound power and continue to lead the world in gender equality.

Georgia Orenstein
Photo: Flickr

female entrepreneursIn countries like the United States, female entrepreneurs account for 46.8 percent of the total businesses. The majority of these businesses are classified as small businesses, having fewer than 500 employees, but they generate almost $500 billion in payroll annually. This situation is worse in developing countries since women’s rights are not fully achieved and the opportunities for women to develop their own businesses are much more difficult to come by.

The reasons for Fewer Female Entrepreneurs

Why are there still fewer amounts of businesswomen than men not just in developing but in developed countries as well? Although developing countries may advocate more for women’s economic development, little is actually being done to provide more opportunities to change it. Since women’s failure rates are not that significantly different from those of men, researchers believe that gender bias is at fault and, thus, inhibiting the growth of women in the economy.

There is evidence that suggests that there are many reasons for the differences in the attitude about gender in business. One reason is that women and men often have different socioeconomic characteristics. If economists were to reform education, wealth, family and work status, those differences would disappear.

The Obstacles for Female Entrepreneurs

Africa remains one of the most successful leaders for efforts regarding female entrepreneurs. But, even the most successful countries still lack leadership, capital and professionalism, not to mention the inability to find affordable solutions in regard to childcare.

Countries like Japan have taken these shortcomings and transformed them into positive aspects of the economy. Womenomics is the idea that the advancement of women and economic development are necessarily linked. This philosophy is becoming widespread among developing nations. In Japan, these sorts of reformations can be credited to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Since taking office, Abe has generated a larger female labor force rate than that of the United States.

Some other countries have also made several reformations propelling womenomics. Jordan has increased women’s enrollment in schools by 37 percent. Turning these rates into economic success, however, still remains a challenge. Many studies suggest that economic growth for women needs to be viewed as desirable and attainable for the majority of society.

Female entrepreneurs also struggle with the duality of a society that places more value on a familial lifestyle. For example, a woman may own a business, but her time at work is often limited by her duties at home. Data in developing countries assert that many women leave the business lifestyle to return to familial duties.

A study regarding the results of holding executive positions for women in Norway revealed that the majority of people believe there should be established quotas to include women in management in companies. The results of the pole were 74 percent in favor of those quotas. Later studies showed that as women in the workplace reach a certain age, the stigma associated with their work duties do too.

Curbing the Stigma

Shifting the thought process among thousands of different demographic structures isn’t easy, but it is clear that the majority of the world needs higher female entrepreneurial participation rates. Reforming education, wealth, family and work status are not projects that take only months to complete, rather they need a comprehensive and flexible government that is willing to take on the challenge for years to come.

There are several ways to start thinking about reforming the factors for female entrepreneurs. Creating workshops to propel female economic empowerment is a start. The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) is doing just that. They are working to find projects for investment as well as provide training to work under the Women’s Economic Empowerment Index (WEEI).

By ending the stigma associated duties deemed appropriate for females, both developing and thriving countries can further increase the chances of positive economic outcomes. Education and awareness programs are important components to overcoming these gender-related stigmas.

Financial Inclusion

Governmental structure and large economic aid can advance female economic empowerment too. We’ve known for a long time that access to financial services can be a powerful driver to help people lift themselves out of poverty. With a concerted push from governments, the private sector, and multilateral institutions including the World Bank Group, we believe we can close this gap,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in a meeting attempting to accelerate the growth of women’s empowerment.

The World Bank also states that simple financial education can greatly increase the chances of creating female entrepreneurs. There are so many aspects that can improve. For example, according to the World Bank, fewer than 10 percent of women in developing countries own a bank account. Access to financial institutions is an essential part of a successful business, which is why the organization started the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative. This initiative will provide financing opportunities for women who own businesses in developing countries.

Donations from the World Bank Group, education and female empowerment workshops to end stigmas are some of the best ways in which the women can become involved and empowered in the workforce. It won’t happen quickly, but when it does, the economic benefits will surpass previous stigmas surrounding women in business.

– Logan Moore

Photo: Flickr