gender-based poverty in the DRC
Poverty levels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are incredibly high, and women tend to suffer deeper economic violence and injustices. Limited access to education, reproductive and care responsibilities, gender-based violence, unequal laws and the lack of representation of women in decision-making contribute to gender-based poverty in the DRC

Women’s Limited Access to Education 

Limited access to education and economic opportunities poses significant challenges for girls in the DRC. Although girls’ enrolment in school has increased from 50% to 78% between 2000 and 2017, women still face challenges to higher education and economic access. The main reason for Congolese girls’ struggle to pursue an education is social norms and expectations — marriage and motherhood. 

Addressing this issue is crucial to guarantee girls’ access to education and therefore reduce gender-based poverty in the DRC. Indeed, providing Congolese women with the opportunity and means to obtain an education increases their chances of obtaining better-paying jobs and allowing women to participate more fully in the political sphere. 

Increasing women’s access to education requires advocacy, improving school infrastructure, providing financial support and combating gender-based discrimination and violence. For instance, the United Kingdom’s new Women and Girls Strategy helps 36,000 girls in the DRC access education in the Kauai province. 

Empowering girls will contribute to social and economic development, fostering a more equitable and prosperous society in the DRC.

Reproductive and Care Responsibilities 

Reproductive and care responsibilities burden Congolese women, hindering their economic empowerment. Women’s value in Congolese society is often reduced to the roles of wife and mother. According to the 2017–18 MICS, nearly 30% of women are married under the age of 18 years old

This phenomenon deeply impacts women’s economic agency and thus gender-based poverty in the DRC. Indeed, women’s caregiving roles limit educational and workforce opportunities. 

Actively fighting gender stereotypes and expectations could not only allow women to pursue education but also encourage the equitable sharing of caregiving responsibilities in marriage and provide comprehensive support to women in managing their work and family commitments. 

Gender-based Violence

Gender-based violence (GBV) is prevalent in the DRC, particularly in conflict-affected regions, impacting women’s physical and mental well-being, as well as partially causing gender-based poverty in the DRC. Indeed, one in two women in the DRC report having experienced physical or sexual abuse at least once in their lives. 

Firstly, fear of violence discourages girls’ education and limits economic opportunities. In fact, girls face increased risks of violence, sexual exploitation and harassment by teachers and harmed forces in school settings. 

Secondly, the economic consequences of gender-based violence are closely linked with harmful conceptions of gender roles. Because the value of women is based on their capacity to marry and bear children, people often view survivors of sexual abuse as “unfit” for such roles, and their socioeconomic status suffers as a result. 

In order to fully address gender-based violence in the DRC, national and international institutions need to implement legal reforms, provide secure learning environments and encourage community engagement to combat harmful norms. 

Unequal Laws and Discriminatory Practices Towards Women 

Unequal laws and discriminatory practices reinforce gender-based poverty in the DRC. Inheritance laws favor male heirs, denying women their rightful property share. Limited access to land ownership and financial services further hampers economic opportunities. Despite their critical role in agriculture, rural development and food security, women own just 25% of land in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). 

In response to unequal laws and discriminatory practices towards women in the DRC, a range of active solutions have emerged. Advocacy for legal reforms is driving the transformation of discriminatory legislation, ensuring women’s equal rights to property ownership and inheritance. 

The Lack of Representation in Decision-Making 

The lack of representation of women in decision-making perpetuates gender-based poverty in the DRC. Women’s voices are often overlooked in political and community leadership, hindering gender-sensitive policy development. Despite the fact that articles 5, 14 and 15 of the DRC constitution provide a legal foundation for equality and equity policies, women currently hold only 7.2% of positions at the highest level of decision-making at the national level in the parliament and administration. 

Promoting gender equality is a critical objective in the DRC to increase women’s participation in decision-making processes. Gender equality creates a way for women to participate in decision-making arenas by removing deeply ingrained gender inequities and discriminatory standards. 

Trócaire and partners — with funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) — have implemented programs to enhance Congolese women’s participation in decision-making processes in more than 27 communities. Following this program encouraging gender equality, 65% of women now participate in and are represented in decision-making organizations in the communities concerned by the project. 

Despite progress, significant challenges persist in ensuring women’s economic empowerment, requiring sustained dedication to create lasting change and put an end to gender-based poverty in the DRC. Addressing gender-based poverty in the DRC demands comprehensive solutions: education access, ending discrimination, combating violence, elevating voices and fostering an equitable future. 

Hannah Klifa
Photo: Flickr

Gender-Based Violence in Politics
According to the World Bank, nearly one in three women has endured gender-based violence (GBV). While intimate partner violence is one of the more common forms of GBV, sometimes GBV can occur in the public sphere because of a woman’s level of political involvement. Here are some things to know about gender-based violence in politics.

What is Gender-Based Violence?

Gender-based violence or GBV is sexual, physical, mental [or] economic harm inflicted [upon women and girls] in public or in private.” For a long time, violence against women was accepted and normalized in society. It wasn’t until 1992 that gender-based violence was legally considered by the U.N. to be a violation of women’s human rights.

GBV in Politics

The right to vote and the right to hold office are civic duties that everyone should have the opportunity to utilize. Yet, in many countries, women are receiving backlash for being heavily involved in democratic processes. Whether it be running for office or voting, the number of women who are politically engaged has recently increased. Due to the very public nature of politics, however, many women who live in places that aim to suppress women’s rights have been in danger of being harmed and sometimes even killed for their political engagement. 

In What Countries Do Women in Politics Experience the Highest Rates of Gbv?

Women in politics are said to experience violence at higher rates in the countries of Mexico, China, India and Afghanistan. There have been several instances reported in these countries of gender-based violence being inflicted upon women who are politically engaged. For example, in May 2021, a Mexican woman who was running for local deputy was shot at while holding a rally. A similar scenario took place in Afghanistan in January 2021 when two Afghan women who were judges in Afghanistan’s Supreme Court were shot and killed. 

Looking Ahead

Many organizations are working to eliminate the violence that not only women working in politics but all women must endure. For example, CARE has been working towards its mission of “sav[ing] lives, defeat[ing] poverty, achiev[ing] social justice, and fight[ing] for women and girls” since 1945. CARE is specifically addressing the issue of GBV by aiding survivors mentally, emotionally, physically, financially and legally. Additionally, CARE integrates ways to combat GBV across all of its initiatives. By recognizing GBV as a complex and widespread issue, CARE aims to fight it in all of the many places in which it appears. Thus far, their initiatives have reached millions of people, with 2.4 million survivors of GBV receiving help and 92 GBV initiatives being implemented in 34 countries.

CARE is not the only organization working towards fighting back against gender-based violence. The Foundation for Civic Education and Social Empowerment (FOCESE) has similar goals. FOCESE is an organization based in Malawi whose mission is to help vulnerable communities, specifically young women and girls, and advocate for “gender-equitable social norms, attitudes, and behavioral change at both community and individual levels.” Additionally, FOCESE claims to “work tirelessly to prevent violence against women and girls.” In addition to their desire to combat GBV, FOCESE is also encouraging young girls to become more politically engaged. 

The Youth for Inclusion, Participation, and Empowerment (YIPE) in Local Governance is a project aimed at increasing the amount of women’s representation and involvement in local government. This project, coupled with the organization’s constant desire to combat GBV, is a step in the right direction. Hopefully between organizations such as CARE and FOCESE, gender-based violence in politics — and elsewhere — will not only decrease but, eventually, come to an end.

– Nicole Alexander
Photo: Flickr

Gender-based Violence in Balochistan
Studies by the government of Pakistan and donor agencies estimate poverty incidence in Pakistan using survey data. Over the past decade, these studies consistently show Balochistan as the poorest province, with its poor accounting for 10-11% of the country’s total poor population. Unfortunately, Balochistan is experiencing a challenge with gender-based violence and poverty. Here is information about the correlation between poverty and gender-based violence in Balochistan.

Harmful Customary Practices

Balochistan is full of harmful customs that adversely affect women and violate their rights. These include killings for honor, forced marriages, exchange marriages (where women are traded between tribes to settle disputes) and depriving girls of education. Poverty makes these abuses more likely to happen because it gives women less power and fewer choices.

According to police reports, in February 2022, over two days, three women and two men died in the name of ‘honor’ in the Jaffarabad, Mastung and Hub districts of Balochistan. In Jaffarabad, a man shot his wife and nephew dead. Meanwhile, in Mastung, unknown persons brutally slaughtered a married couple. In Hub, the second husband allegedly murdered his wife, Mah Jan. These honor killings show how common these kinds of crimes are in Balochistan. These unjustified killings are due to poverty, the lack of legal protections for women and traditional harmful beliefs that allow gender-based violence against women in Balochistan. The cases in February 2022 have brought calls for reform and justice to stop such tragic loss in the name of family honor.

Crisis of Missing Persons

The issue of missing persons in Balochistan also disproportionately affects women. Thousands of Baloch men have gone missing, allegedly abducted by security forces. Their grieving wives and mothers have been left in limbo, not knowing if their loved ones are dead or alive. These women, considered ‘half widows,’ face social stigma, economic deprivation, legal problems and severe psychological trauma. The unsolved missing person crisis further terrorizes and disempowers the province’s women. 

Sammi Deen Baloch has been protesting for 13 years since her father disappeared in Balochistan, one of more than 5,000 reported missing persons in the province. After the abduction of Dr. Deen Mohammed Baloch in 2009, 15-year-old Sammi began raising awareness about these enforced disappearances by Pakistan’s security forces. Despite abusive crackdowns on protests, Sammi continues to demand answers and justice for families like hers suffering from indefinite loss. Her brave activism symbolizes the plight of Balochistan’s ‘half widows’ and mothers whose loved ones have vanished, as well as the importance of accountability for the decades-old human rights crisis that has left thousands missing amid the region’s separatist conflict.

The Vital Work of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons

Organizations like the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons provide affected families with legal aid, counseling and advocacy support. However, endemic poverty makes it difficult for women to pursue justice and healing. Economic dependence and lack of opportunity trap them in anguish and uncertainty.

Affected families formed The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) in 2009 to pursue justice for Balochistan’s disappearance. Headquartered in Quetta, VBMP provides free legal assistance to help families file petitions and cases seeking information on missing loved ones. It also offers counseling and mental health support to traumatized families, particularly women and children. VBMP organizes protests, sit-ins and campaigns to highlight enforced disappearances and pressurize authorities. It has district committees across Balochistan to document cases and mobilize families. 

VBMP publishes reports to increase awareness of the crisis locally and internationally. It also assists impoverished families with resources for legal procedures and accessing VBMP hubs. Operating on donations and aid funding, the organization employs legal advocacy, activism, counseling and reporting to support families of the missing in Balochistan in their struggle for truth and justice.

Recommendations for Empowerment

Increasing economic empowerment among women is crucial. Income generation through vocational training, microfinance schemes, handicrafts cooperatives and cash-for-work programs can provide women with financial security. These enable women to avoid forced marriages, escape abuse and sustain themselves while searching for missing family members.

Communities and justice systems should engage to stop seeing women’s rights abuses as acceptable. Protecting women from harm, ensuring their safety through shelters and prosecuting abusers will create an environment where women can exercise their rights and seek justice.

Tackling endemic poverty and socioeconomic empowerment of women has to accompany legal-social reform to alleviate gender-based violence in Balochistan in all its forms. Holistic efforts addressing economic and cultural factors are needed to promote women’s rights, safety and development in Balochistan. 

– Asia Jamil
Photo: Flickr

According to U.N. Women, one in three women around the globe experience gender-based violence. Gender-based violence is an especially serious issue in Afghanistan — a country that ranked 157th out of 162 countries on the U.N.’s Gender Inequality Index. Here are five things to know about gender-based violence in Afghanistan. 

5 Facts About Gender-based Violence in Afghanistan

  1. One of the Highest Rates of Gender-Based Violence in the World. Ranking 170th out of 170 countries on the Women, Peace and Security Index, Afghanistan has a long way to go when it comes to improving women’s safety. According to Concern Worldwide US, 35% of women are victims of domestic violence. Women also face violence at the hands of their government as many women have experienced sexual assault, abduction and arranged marriage under the rule of the Taliban. 
  2. Women Face Violence from the Taliban Regime. When the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021, it began to strip women of their rights. The Taliban forced women to quit their jobs, restricted their access to health care and education, implemented a strict dress code and inhibited them from moving around freely while outdoors. 
  3. Survivors of Gender-Based Violence “have essentially been abandoned.” According to Amnesty International, the Taliban regime closed down shelters and released prisoners, many of which had committed crimes of gender-based violence in December 2021. This left many women who had survived gender-based violence with little protection. 
  4. Young Girls Are the Primary Victims. Many young Afghan girls’ families arrange marriages for them at early ages as they believe it will provide their children with more protection and financial security. 
  5. Poverty Increases the Threat of Gender-Based Violence. Afghanistan is currently undergoing both a humanitarian and an economic crisis. Due to these crises, this year, 11.6 million Afghan women and girls are in need of humanitarian assistance and 97% of the total population risk falling below the poverty line. Research has shown that there is a connection between poverty and gender-based violence as many women living in poverty lack the income and resources to leave violent relationships they may be involved in. 

Potential Solutions

According to U.N. Women, there are potential solutions to combat gender-based violence. For starters, the organization suggests increasing women’s ability to access support resources that will ensure their safety and protection from gender-based violence. 

Multiple organizations are currently advocating for greater protections for Afghan women. For example, Women for Afghan Women is a nonprofit organization that provides humanitarian assistance to Afghan women and girls in need of support. It also helps Afghan refugees who reside in the United States (U.S.) as they currently have a shelter in Alexandria, Virginia called the Virginia Community Center (VACC) which provides important resources such as mental health and legal services. Another organization working to protect Afghan women and girls is the Women’s Peace & Humanitarian Fund whose mission is to not only protect Afghan women but support their empowerment by assisting female Afghan leaders in civil society. 

Looking Ahead

Several organizations, including Women for Afghan Women and Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, are actively engaged in safeguarding Afghan women from gender-based violence and the oppression of the Taliban regime. With a heightened emphasis on protecting and empowering Afghan women and girls, there is optimism that these efforts will contribute to ending gender-based violence in Afghanistan.

Nicole Alexander
Photo: Wikimedia

Gender Violence in IndiaSince the establishment of the first cricket club in 1792 in Kolkata — the world’s second-oldest cricket club — cricket has come to be a key pillar of Indian culture. Fans see the sport as a religion in India: victories have resulted in public holidays (following India’s World Cup triumph in 1983), defeats elicit mourning and fans of the game revere the players in an almost worship-like manner. In 2011, India became the first nation in the world to win the World Cup tournament on home soil. Yet the sport remains predominantly male-dominated, historically excluding females from participating and even spectating matches. So how is Parivartan, a Mumbai-based program that focuses on engaging boys through cricket, helping reduce gender violence in India?

Domestic Violence in India

Although many aspects of society seem to be taking notable leaps forward, there has been little progress in alleviating gender violence in India. In fact, according to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), India ranked 134th out of 145 countries for gender parity in 2018, down from 130th in 2017.

Although some structural changes have made a difference in politics and the business sector, with 83.3% of legal frameworks that enforce gender equality under the SDG indicator now in place in India, women still face a lot of discrimination in their day-to-day lives. At any hour, between 30 and 40 women are victims of domestic violence, and that is just the documented figure. Sexist views are part of Indian society, so much so that 50.6% of men and an astonishing 54.4% of women believe that there are situations in which justifications exist for a husband beating his wife.

One contributing factor to the elevated figures around gender violence in India is the custom of dowry. Beliefs and customs around dowries have resulted in the treatment of women as an economic burden. For this reason, a woman has to shell out a required sum of monetary compensation in return for bridal acceptance from the groom. Despite outlawing this practice of paying dowries more than 60 years ago, stories still emerge of marital property disputes that end in murder. India’s National Records Bureau reported that in 2020, on average, dowry-related conflicts led to the killing of 19 women, while 1,700 women committed suicide over “dowry-related issues.”


It is these behaviors that Parivartan, which translates to ‘transformation’ in English, is trying to highlight and erase from Indian society. A collaboration that began in 2008 between the Indian Office of the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) and Apnalaya, a small community-based NGO, adopts the model of the U.S. “Coaching Boys Into Men” program and receives funding from The Nike Foundation. Through sports, the program aims to build attitudes and behaviors that end gender violence in India. Young cricketers are encouraged to challenge their views on “eve teasing,” a term that serves to describe the popular and generally accepted ‘boys’ sport’ of sexually harassing women in the streets.

The coaches and mentors in the program act as role models to the younger boys, who in turn develop positive behaviors to take back and share with their community. The program focuses on the idea of empowering women through changing the behaviors of men – achieving gender equality is not possible without changes in men’s lives as well as women’s, as it is more often the men who are committing the violence.

The program runs in local communities and schools, thereby targeting boys from all social classes. The interventions in schools coached athletes from the middle to higher-middle level of economic strata, while the community-level projects takes place in the slums of Mumbai.

Research conducted through a questionnaire showed that the views of participating athletes changed over time. Despite the young age of many of the athletes, their views when starting the program tended to reflect that men are supposed to be “tough, unfaithful and unemotional.” By the end of the program, these perceptions had largely changed.

Looking Ahead

Apart from the ongoing efforts and trends in India, the idea that sport can serve to drive social change and encourage international development continues to gain popularity across the world, with projects such as Grassroot Soccer in South Africa and Fight for Peace in Brazil. This raises hope that one day, sports participation can play a major role is ridding society of gender inequalities and violence. 

– Almaz Nerurkar
Photo: Flickr

Gender-Based Violence in Puerto RicoGender-based violence (GBV) in Puerto Rico is endemic. In fact, in 2021, public officials responded to swelling rates of GBV during the pandemic by declaring a “state of emergency.” Governor Pedro Pierluisi condemned the long-standing machismo and discrimination behind this “social evil” and the “lack of action” in addressing it.

The declaration came after the Puerto Rico Gender Equality Observatory reported, in 2020, that the rate of femicide had increased 62% from the previous year. Alarmingly, more than 25% of those murders were classified as intimate partner violence.

While a nuanced issue, there is a clear correlation between domestic and gender-based violence and the experience of poverty. For example, the recent spike in femicides in Puerto Rico follows shocks like 2017’s Hurricane Maria and COVID-19, which have had a devastating impact on Puerto Ricans’ income and access to basic resources. As of 2018, 44% of the U.S. territory’s population was living in poverty — an inordinate percentage compared to the national poverty rate of about 12%. Poverty exacerbates domestic tensions as well as the circumstances that make it difficult for women to leave abusive homes, heightening financial insecurity and increasing the risk of continued exposure to violence.

Law 54

In 1989, Puerto Rico introduced the “Domestic Abuse Prevention and Intervention Act” to address intimate partner and gender-based violence. Commonly known as Law 54, the legislation designates domestic violence as a felony. Furthermore, it requires law enforcement to complete a comprehensive report on any domestic violence case, even when charges are not filed, in order to improve accuracy in recording domestic violence incident rates.

While Law 54 recognizes the seriousness of the problem, many cases of domestic and gender-based violence in Puerto Rico remain undocumented. For example, in most of the U.S., police departments report rape at “four times the rate of homicide,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Yet, in 2010, the Puerto Rico Police Department reported more than 1,000 homicides and just 39 rapes. The ACLU estimated that only about 1% of rape cases in Puerto Rico were reported that year, with the actual number being some 100 times higher.

The anomaly raised questions about the accuracy of reporting claims of domestic violence, adequacy of investigation and effectiveness in providing legal and social protection to survivors. In a 2012 investigation, the ACLU concluded that there was “dramatic under-enforcement of violations of protection orders” and “inadequate staffing of both specialized domestic violence PRPD units and specialized domestic violence prosecution units.” These and other challenges, such as a lack of coordination between investigators and prosecutors, have hindered progress in preventing domestic violence and protecting victims.

How GuardDV Empowers Survivors

Zayira Jordan developed GuardDV in 2018. A survivor of domestic violence, she wanted to use technology to serve other survivors and help ensure their physical and emotional security. The mobile application allows survivors to access “real-time information about the safety of their surroundings,” alerts them to potential protection order violations and provides a “panic button” for use in threatening situations. GuardDV uses three different kinds of technology. Active GPS and International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) together make it possible to accurately identify the locations of survivors and offenders. Facial recognition ensures that an offender is always carrying the phone linked to their court-registered IMEI code, requiring offenders to visually log in to the app for random check-ins throughout the day.

How the App Works

  1. After approval of a protection order, both the offender and survivor must install GuardDV on their phones.
  2. Three parameters are set to activate automatic notifications if an offender violates the protection order. Trusted friends and family can join the survivor’s “Guardian Angel” support network and receive simultaneous notifications.
  3. With GuardDV active, survivors can use the live map feature to avoid potential threats. If the offender violates the safety zone, the app immediately notifies both the survivor and their Guardian Angels.
  4. If the offender crosses the first two boundaries within the safety zone, GuardDV alerts 911 and provides real-time location information to the survivor, helping them to avoid a high-risk situation. If the offender persists and breaches the final boundary, the app notifies the authorities to apprehend them.

Implementing smart monitoring through apps like GuardDV has proved to be critical for empowering survivors of gender-based violence in Puerto Rico. The app demonstrates how technology can help bring comfort and security to survivors, and accountability to offenders. Additionally, it offers hope for how technology can help prevent instances of gender-based violence for victims and survivors who remain in abusive environments, increase reporting and ensure efficient physical, emotional and legal protection for those who most urgently need support.

– Lucy Gebbie
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Advance Gender EqualityGender equality is a fundamental human right that is crucial for sustainable development. USAID, the United States Agency for International Development, advances gender equality through its policies, programs, and partnerships. USAID has implemented a range of strategies to promote gender equality, including the following three:

The Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative

The Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative was launched in 2019 by the Trump administration to promote women’s economic empowerment globally. The initiative has reached over 12 million women in its first year and aims to reach 50 million women in developing countries before 2025 through various programs, partnerships, and initiatives. W-GDP focuses on three pillars:

  • Women Prospering in the Workforce: This pillar aims to support women’s entrepreneurship, increase their access to capital and improve their workforce development skills.
  • Women Succeeding as Entrepreneurs: This pillar focuses on supporting women-owned and women-led businesses, improving access to markets and promoting innovation and technology.
  • Women Enabled in the Economy: This pillar aims to increase women’s access to financial services and assets and remove legal, regulatory and cultural barriers that hinder women’s economic participation.

W-GDP has already made significant progress toward its goals to advance gender equality. The initiative has launched several innovative programs and initiatives that have helped thousands of women entrepreneurs and business owners in the developing world.

U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace and Security

The U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace and Security (2019) is a comprehensive plan that aims to advance gender equality by promoting women’s participation in peace processes and conflict prevention. The strategy recognizes the importance of women’s leadership and participation in decision-making processes. It seeks to address the unique needs and challenges faced by women and girls in conflict-affected areas. The strategy outlines four main objectives:

  • To increase women’s participation in peace negotiations, conflict prevention and resolution.
  • To promote women’s protection and access to relief and recovery services in conflict-affected areas.
  • To support women’s economic empowerment and access to education and training in conflict-affected areas.
  • To improve data collection and monitoring of women’s participation and protection in conflict-affected areas.

During the fiscal year 2021, USAID supported more than 77,000 women’s participation in leadership, legal, political, conflict mediation and peacebuilding processes. Additionally, over 5.3 million gender-based violence survivors received crucial health care, legal aid, economic services and psychosocial support. To support women and girls in countries affected by natural disasters, crisis, violent extremism and conflict, USAID invested more than $243 million in various programs.

Ending Child Marriage and Meeting the Needs of Married Children

This document outlines USAID’s strategy for addressing child marriage and supporting married children. The report recognizes child marriage as a harmful practice that can have devastating consequences for girls, including limited access to education, health care and economic opportunities as well as increased risk of gender-based violence. It is estimated that every year around 10 million girls are married before they turn 18. In developing nations, 1 in 7 girls is married before turning 15 and some child brides are as young as 8 or 9. Orphans and young girls without involved caregivers are especially at risk of early marriage. 1 in 9 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 were coerced into a marriage.

The report outlines several key strategies for ending child marriage and supporting married children:

  • Addressing the root causes of child marriage, such as poverty, focusing on approaches that advance gender equality and social norms that devalue girls.
  • Increasing access to education and economic opportunities for girls which can help delay marriage and provide alternatives to child marriage.
  • Promoting laws and policies that protect girls’ rights and prohibit child marriage.
  • Strengthening health systems to provide reproductive health services and support for married children.
  • Engaging with communities and religious leaders to shift social norms and attitudes towards child marriage.

Different stakeholders, including governments, civil society organizations and religious leaders must cooperate to address child marriage and support married children. There is a need for data and evidence-based programming to address the issue effectively. The report presents a comprehensive vision for ending child marriage and meeting the needs of married children and provides a roadmap for USAID’s efforts in this area.

USAID’s strategies that advance gender equality demonstrate its commitment to promoting women’s empowerment, reducing gender disparities and improving the lives of women and girls globally. Through its policies, programs and partnerships, USAID strives to create a more just and equitable world where everyone can thrive.

– Nino Basaria
Photo: Flickr

SDG1 and SDG5In 2015, the leaders of 191 United Nations (U.N.) member states came together to develop the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global objectives that aim to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure peace and prosperity for all by 2030. Among these goals, SDG1 and SDG5 are particularly interrelated and mutually reinforcing. SDG1 focuses on eradicating extreme poverty and reducing inequality, while SDG5 promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment. According to the U.N., by tackling these two goals simultaneously, the world can achieve a more inclusive and sustainable development that benefits everyone, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized groups.

Patterns of Progress 

According to the U.N., global poverty has vastly decreased since the 1990s, with 44% of the population living below the poverty line in 1991 compared to 15% in 2016. However, the pandemic significantly reversed this progress, increasing global poverty by 9% between 2019 and 2020.

The progress of SDG5 mirrors this pattern. The U.N. reports that since 2000, there has also been a vast improvement globally regarding gender equality. For instance, women’s role and representation in parliament have increased from 9.1 % in 2000 to 20.9% in 2020. However, much like with SDG1, the pandemic significantly pushed progress backward

To achieve SDG1, U.N. Women emphasizes the importance of working toward a future free of gender inequalities and inequities. Ending poverty “in all its forms everywhere”, requires countries to make efforts towards reaching SDG1 and SDG5 simultaneously.

Country Insight: Bangladesh

According to the World Bank, Bangladesh is a developing country. One of the fastest-growing economies in the world, Bangladesh aims to become an upper-middle-income country by 2031. Regarding SDG1 and SDG5, Bangladesh has “significant challenges” along the way. Whilst encouraging progress has been made to eradicate poverty in the country, progress on achieving gender equality is slower. To achieve SDG1, Bangladesh must improve its score for SDG5. There were 1627 rapes reported throughout the country in 2020 alone, though it is widely known that many instances of assault go unreported.

Links Between SDGs in Bangladesh

Reports suggest that one of the ways that SDG1 and SDG5 can work hand in hand is through the introduction of women into an equitable and inclusive workplace. However, in the context of employment in Bangladesh, there are many instances of gender-based violence in the workplace. For instance, a report detailing the experiences of women working in the Ready-Made Garments sector in Bangladesh reveals that it is an industry rife with “sexual harassment, pay inequity and improper benefits”. Links between poverty reduction and equal opportunities for women are widespread in the literature, and women in Bangladesh have the opportunity to work. This highlights a need for the country to focus on women’s equality of voice and equality under the law.

Looking Ahead

In striving to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the interlinkage between SDG1 and SDG5 is crucial, as emphasized by the United Nations. While progress has been made globally in reducing poverty and promoting gender equality, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed significant setbacks. Bangladesh, a developing country, faces challenges in achieving both goals, with the need to address issues of gender-based violence and empower women in the workplace. Overall, acknowledging how SDG1 and SDG5 synergize could open up the path to a more sustainable and inclusive future.

–        Eloïse Jones


Photo: flickr

Gender-Based Violence in Palestine
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) 2011 Violence Survey indicates that 37% of Palestinian women have experienced violence in some form. Within the Gaza Strip, gender-based violence rates rise to 51%. A 2005 U.N. Special Rapporteur’s report attributes the high rates of gender-based violence in Palestine to “traditional patriarchal norms and values” and the impacts of Israel’s occupation. The occupation has led to growing rates of poverty and diminished job prospects. The UNFPA explained that this has “contributed to a behavioral dynamic of men being more frustrated, unable to fulfill their expected role in this patriarchal society.” The struggle to “provide and protect” exacerbates domestic violence within households. However, three female Palestinian software developers set out to address both poverty and gender-based violence in Palestine through the creation of the Our Spaces app.

The Our Spaces App’s Origins

Local engineer Alaa Huthut spearheaded the creation of the Our Spaces (Masahatuna) app. The app aims to provide a discreet and confidential way for women to report domestic violence and seek assistance. The app leaves no trace of communication between the victim and social workers providing services through the Our Spaces app. Huthut recognized the importance of incorporating privacy into the app, acknowledging the dangers of exposing traceable interactions to abusive partners.

The Our Spaces app provides comprehensive assistance by linking victims and survivors of abuse to institutions that provide “psychological support, health services, legal services, economic empowerment services and shelter services,” Al-Monitor reports.

How Poverty and Abuse are Inextricably Linked

Providing access to services and resources for financial help is Our Spaces’ direct attempt to tackle the complicated intersectionality of poverty and abuse. Studies prove the existence of links between poverty and gender-based violence. Financial stress can contribute to the onset of domestic violence. Furthermore, impoverished women who are economically dependent on their abusive partners find it difficult to leave such situations.

In 2017, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reported that about 30% of Palestinians lived in poverty, however, the poverty rate in the Gaza Strip stood at about 53%. The link between poverty and abuse would suggest that these alarmingly high rates of poverty are in part responsible for the high level of domestic abuse within Palestine.

In order to tackle the issue of gender-based violence in Palestine from the ground up, the Our Spaces app seeks to address the root of the problem: poverty.

An Our Spaces Success Story

One woman’s story, which Al-Monitor originally covered, serves as a prime example of the ways Our Spaces’ services help mitigate the acuteness of abuse many women may experience. Reham, 23, told reporters at Al-Monitor that she had been affronting acute physical and verbal abuse by her spouse daily. She explained that her spouse had been taking his economic frustrations out on her through violence.

Reham reached out for assistance through the Our Spaces app to improve her family’s economic situation. The app connected her with a service that specializes in supporting families financially, and soon, Reham obtained a temporary job. She was able to ease her family’s economic difficulties and reduce the pressure driving her husband to unhealthy behavioral dynamics.

Addressing the Root Causes

Several global issues, ranging from gender-based violence to food insecurity and mortality, link back to the systemic issue of global poverty. The Our Spaces app provides a lesson about the importance of addressing not only the consequences of a systemic issue, in this case, gender-based violence, but also its root, poverty.

– Alisa Gulyansky
Photo: Flickr

Gender-Based AsylumGender-based violence plagues every country in the world. In some places, gender-based violence is a cultural norm. It is a deeply rooted way of life in which women, particularly, are subjected to physical and structural violence, with less access to economic opportunity and education. The dichotomy between gender-based violence as a private versus a public issue harms many refugees fleeing gender-based violence. Women are vulnerable to danger in their home country, along the migratory path and once they arrive in a destination country. Given that gender is not a standalone category for asylum in the U.S., women refugees are at great risk of being denied entry. The Movement for Gender-Based Asylum Justice is a collection of organizations and nonprofits whose goal is to solidify safety for refugees who are victims of gender-based violence.

Gender-Based Violence and Migration

In many countries, gender-based violence is so prevalent that it is the main cause of migration for women seeking asylum. The Northern Triangle made up of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador is a prime example of this. These three countries have some of the highest rates of feticide in the world and this violence is a primary cause for seeking asylum. The Weill Cornell Center for Human Rights evaluated over 200 women’s asylum claims and found that 91% reported fleeing unyielding abuse from individuals that their government was “unwilling or unable to control.” Those fleeing gender-based violence have more to face in the asylum-seeking process than other clear-cut asylum cases, such as religious minorities who are targeted directly and publicly. There are various ways for women to apply for asylum due to violence, but the U.S. asylum laws do not explicitly define these paths.

The Movement for Gender-Asylum Justice

The Movement for Gender-Asylum Justice believes that gender should be clearly defined as a category for asylum, similar to the protections offered based on race and religion. Made up of partnerships between Oxfam, the Tahirih Justice Center, the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project and more, the collective reaches across specializations to holistically defend women refugees and their rights to asylum. The Movement has many publications focusing on research and media outreach, such as its report from “survivors, pro bono attorneys, refugee health care providers, and a former immigration judge” as to why gender should be considered an asylum category.

Looking Ahead

While there is some hope for the future of gender-based asylum with organizations like the U.N. claiming that gender is a valid category for requesting asylum, on the whole, women refugees are not fully protected. The decision to grant asylum on the basis of gender is still contested and inconsistent in the U.S. For women to be empowered to seek safety outside of their home country, the threat of being sent back cannot be as unpredictable and devastating as it is presently. The Movement for Gender-Asylum Justice is pushing for what has long been recognized as a need for the protection of women and girls to become standard.

– Hannah Yonas

Photo: Flickr