Global gender equalityIn the fight for global gender equality, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is leading the way. According to the Peace Corps, gender equality means that “men and women have equal power and equal opportunities for financial independence, education and personal development” and is a crucial issue worldwide. Recently, the Gates Foundation made a significant donation to help support global gender equality efforts. This is not the only action the organization has taken to express its passion for establishing gender equality. The Gates Foundation’s efforts, with support from other organizations, will make great strides in the fight for global gender equality.

A Generous Donation

At the 2021 Generation Equality Forum, the Gates Foundation announced it would donate more than $2 billion to help improve gender equality worldwide. Over the next five years, the foundation plans to use the money to advance gender equality in three main areas: economic support, family planning and placing women in leadership roles. The Gates Foundation’s goal behind this decision is to specifically focus on gender-related issues that have worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the International Labor Organization found that unemployment for women increased by nine million from 2019 to 2020. Since the foundation has dedicated itself to supporting gender equality for many years, this monetary commitment will accelerate its progress.

Actions From the Foundation

Besides its billion-dollar donation, the Gates Foundation has been dedicating its work to create solutions for the lack of women’s equality for many years. In addition to several other million-dollar donations, in 2020, the foundation formally established the Gender Equality Division to prioritize its commitment to improving the lives of women and girls. From family health to economic empowerment, the foundation is working on expanding access to a variety of social, medical and educational services. This includes analyzing factors that help or hinder women and advising international governments on how to better support gender equality.

Solutions From Other Organizations

Aside from the Gates Foundation’s various efforts, other projects can improve circumstances relevant to global gender equality. One vital step to this process is looking at data from around the world. Data2X created a campaign that draws attention to issues associated with gender and proposes possible improvements. Similarly, another organization, Equality Now, uses legal and systemic advocacy to help improve global gender equality. Furthermore, after donating more than $400 million, the Ford Foundation has also committed to helping fix various gender-related issues. These issues include inequality in the economy and workforce.

The Gates Foundation’s donation of more than $2 billion is one significant step in eliminating global gender inequality. With initiatives worldwide, women and girls are gaining the equality and respect they should have always had. In addition, the Gates Foundation is supported by Data2X, Equality Now and the Ford Foundation. Together, people everywhere are working to understand and improve global gender equality.

– Chloe Moody
Photo: Wikimedia

Period Poverty in Costa RicaIn the 1980s, Costa Rica faced one of its worst economic downturns to date. Record high inflation and rising unemployment rates swiftly became a reality for the small country. In the years since, Costa Rica has pulled off an impressive recovery, but a recent trend of slowing growth rates may point to underlying socio-economic issues, particularly impacting women. In order to effectively close the gender gap, efforts must focus on alleviating period poverty in Costa Rica.

Poverty Response in Costa Rica

After its economic collapse, Costa Rica’s resilience shone through in the country’s determination to revive its economy. However, Costa Rica’s success as one of the wealthiest countries in Latin America comes along with a noticeable decline in its poverty rate over the last 20 years. In 2010, 2.2% of GDP was spent on almost 45 poverty programs, according to the CATO Institute. Although Costa Rica’s expenditure was one of the highest in comparison to other countries, the policies have stagnated in providing results. National poverty rates rose more than 1% between 2017 and 2018, with nearly 12,371 new households falling into extreme poverty.

Many economists point to income and labor inequality as the main factors behind this trend. The falling high school enrollment rates during the 1980s, as a result of families sending their children into the workforce, account for the generation of laborers in unskilled positions. In recent years, the increased demand for skilled workers has left this population struggling to make ends meet. Most notably, this labor inequality is directly linked to low labor force participation, particularly concentrated among impoverished groups.

The Presence of Gender Inequality

Costa Rica ranks fourth among Latin American countries with the lowest labor participation rate among women. The female population, who already make up a smaller percentage of the workforce overall, still experience entry barriers amid a period of job growth. Gender inequality remains rampant in Costa Rica as women find themselves not only distanced from receiving a proper education but also more likely to spend time on unpaid work. Forced into taking responsibility for the majority of household tasks involving cleaning, cooking and child-rearing prevent women from contributing to the labor market and carving out a stable financial situation for themselves.

While several initiatives promote gender equality, there remains an “apparent feminization of income poverty,” as explained by Professor Sylvia Chant. In a 2008 research paper, Chant explains that while Costa Rica has made considerable strides in overcoming poverty inequalities, women are much more likely to remain impoverished. Period poverty, though more of a consequence than a direct correlation, impacts impoverished women who also generally lack access to schooling, job opportunities and financial security.

Empowerment movements often fail to address how women in male-dominated households face negligence or violence in the case of failing to meet expectations. Not having an outlet in which they can make money of their own leaves them without assistance or the knowledge of how to tackle period poverty. This ultimately keeps women trapped in a cycle of helplessness. Single mother households, which have been on the rise in recent years, witness such inequality firsthand. Due to gender inequality, many single mothers are unable to find jobs and provide a stable household for their children, often feeding into the cycle of prioritizing survival over education.

A Brighter Future for Costa Rican Women

Community leader Ana López Ramírez hopes to empower Costa Rican women and address period poverty in Costa Rica. After noticing the disparities in her community, she began an organization focusing on empowering imprisoned women — a highly vulnerable group in Costa Rica. Along with other social justice organizations, she helps to provide reusable sanitation pads that women can use freely while incarcerated. Her organization now works on distributing products to women who have since been released, raising awareness on period poverty and menstrual health in Costa Rica.

These efforts have also made headway legislatively with the introduction of a bill in March 2021 surrounding the Menstruation and Justice project, which hopes to reduce the value-added tax on menstrual products. The bill aims to classify all menstrual products as part of the “Basic Priority Goods Basket.” This law will make sanitary products more accessible, reducing period poverty in Costa Rica. The initiative also pushes for increased menstrual education, urging the Ministry of Justice, the Costa Rican Social Security Fund and the Ministry of Health to include menstrual health education in public policies.

With continued commitment, individuals, organizations and the Costa Rican government can drastically reduce period poverty in Costa Rica while simultaneously empowering impoverished Costa Rican women.

– Nicole Yaroslavsky
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Kenya
For many young girls in Kenya, properly managing a menstrual cycle with adequate sanitary products is a luxury. Roughly one million Kenyan girls miss out on education each month because they are unable to afford menstrual products. Girls and women are unable to work or participate in education for days at a time, placing them at a disadvantage in comparison to their male peers. Some girls even resort to sharing menstrual products in a desperate attempt to find a solution to period poverty in Kenya. Though access to menstrual products is a multi-faceted issue in Kenya, activists are making it possible for girls to properly manage their periods and continue with life as usual.

Period Poverty in Kenya

Research shows that 65% of Kenyan women and girls are unable to afford basic sanitary pads. As a consequence, girls often rely on the men in their lives for period products and some girls engage in transactional sex in order to secure sanitary products, perpetuating a patriarchal cycle of reliance and exploitation.

Milcah Hadida

Menstrual hygiene ambassador Milcah Hadida is combating period poverty in an innovative way. Hadida collects sanitary products from donors and delivers the products to vulnerable girls in Kenya via bicycle. Through her efforts, she has reached 2,300 girls in just five months.

For her mobilization against period poverty in Kenya’s Tana River County, Hadida recently received the prestigious Florence Nightingale Medal. This award “recognizes exemplary service in the areas of public health and nursing education.” In addition to delivering period products to girls in rural Kenya, she has also called on the health administration of the county to develop policies to address period poverty.

Megan White Mukuria

Megan White Mukuria is the founder of ZanaAfrica, a social enterprise founded in 2007 with its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. ZanaAfrica combats period poverty through a hybrid model of feminine products and education. ZanaAfrica manufactures and distributes high-quality, low-cost menstrual products through the Kenyan marketplace. The enterprise couples the distribution of sanitary products with sexual and reproductive health education.

Through this combination, Mukuria and her team build a safe ecosystem where girls can navigate their adolescence in a safe and healthy manner. They also frame the period products through an aspirational lens, “creating safe spaces to learn about health and reclaim dignity.” Since 2011, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has supported ZanaAfrica with several grants. Between 2013 and 2018, ZanaAfrica impacted almost 50,000 girls in Kenya.

Emmie Erondanga

Emmie Erondanga is the director of Miss Koch Kenya (MKK) women’s advocacy NGO, founded in 2001 with the aim of addressing the vulnerability of young girls in the Korogocho slum in Nairobi, Kenya. MKK intervenes against socio-economic issues that contribute to the disempowerment of young women in Kenya and provides free pads to girls in slums, when possible.

MKK’s work has been increasingly relevant with the impacts of COVID-19 as thousands of girls struggle to access sanitary products in lockdown. Because government pads are only accessible at school, Erondanga’s mobilization has helped fill gaps in the Kenyan government-funded sanitary towel program. Erondanga has been instrumental in advocating for reproductive health education in Kenya, aiming to reduce the stigma around periods and puberty.

When girls and women have adequate access to menstrual products, they are able to continue with their school and work endeavors. Overall, a world without period poverty means girls and women can contribute to economic growth in a more significant way, thus reducing global poverty.

– Alysha Mohamed
Photo: Flickr

Generation Equality Forum, Working Toward Gender Equality Around The WorldFrom June 30 to July 2, the United Nations Women held a global meeting in Paris consisting of representatives from around the world. This meeting was called the Generation Equality Forum and aimed to assess the progress the world has made in terms of gender equality.

What is the Generation Equality Forum?

The global meeting brought together the U.N. Women, the governments of Mexico and France and a total of 50,000 people in order to create an action plan for the immediate progress for global gender equality. The forum had some target areas that the representatives wanted to focus on discussing. These areas included gender violence, economic justice, autonomy, reproductive health, climate justice action taken by feminists and feminist leadership.

The Beijing Women’s Conference 1995

According to U.N. Women, the World Conference on Women in Beijing 25 years ago marked a “turning point for the global agenda for women’s equality,” as it resulted in the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This declaration set out goals for the advancement of women and gender equality and included a plan to meet again in 25 years to reassess. As a result, the main goal of the forum this year was to look at how far the world had come since 1995.

The 25-year review showed further global progress can be made to advance gender equality, especially amid COVID-19. In fact, studies found that countries will need to implement significant action to meet their gender equality goals by the target year of 2030. The main reason for this lack of progress: a corresponding lack of funding.

Why Decreasing the Gender Gap is Important

The COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting women. This has affected their education, employment and health. As a result, decreasing the gender gap is more important than ever today. By making women a focal point of economic recovery plans, the world can rebuild the economy equitably.

Additionally, women become affected by poverty at much higher rates than men. For example, women do almost three times the amount of unpaid work than men do, which usually involves childcare and housework. Moreover, 62% of women worldwide are active in the workforce compared to 93% of men. As a result, women from the age range 25-34 are 25% more likely to live in extreme poverty. If the world were to close this gap, the global GDP could increase by 35% on average. Helping women around the world and improving gender equality works to help all people around the world.

Looking to the Future

The Generation Equality Forum created a five-year action plan to stimulate change going forward at a quicker rate than before. This involved $40 billion of investments and commitments from various governments and organizations. Some of these commitments include:

  • U.S. government’s commitment of $175 million to prevent and address gender violence
  • Malala Fund’s commitment of $20 million for girls education activists
  • Open Society Foundation’s commitment of $100 million over five years for feminist political mobilization
  • Government of Bangladesh’s commitment to increase women participation in technology to 25% by 2026
  • Implementation of free care for pregnant women in Burkina Faso

The Generation Equality Forum helped countries, agencies and organizational renew global commitments to gender equality goals. While there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equality around the world, the forum has made progress in setting specific, concrete goals for countries to strive toward.

Closing the gender gap will help to raise women around the world above the poverty line and stimulate economies around the globe. It is pertinent that the world continues to fight for equality and make progress as they have with this forum.

Alessandra Heitmann
Photo: Flickr

Women in AngolaAccording to the World Bank, Angola has a ranking of 0.36 on the Human Capital Index, which is below the sub-Saharan average. This means that the earning potential of a child born in Angola today is 36% of what it “could have been with complete education and full health.” Research indicates that girls and women are often disproportionately affected by poverty. In April 2021, the World Bank agreed to a $250 million Investment Project Financing in order to support Angola. This project aims to empower girls and women in Angola and address educational poverty in order to increase Angola’s human capital.

Women and Poverty in Angola

Data indicates that more than 30% of Angolan women were married or in a union before the age of 18. Furthermore, in 2016, for women 15-49 years old, almost 26% reported violence by a current or previous intimate partner within the last year. In addition, less than half of impoverished women older than 15 are employed. Moreover, 4.8% more adult women than men are severely food insecure. While women have made some strides in politics, making up nearly 30% of the seats in national parliament, less than 30% of women hold managerial positions. The contribution made by the World Bank will assist Angola to rectify the gender disparities between male and female citizens and empower girls and women to rise out of poverty.

Action From Angola

The National Development Plan that Angola implemented in 2015 set out to ensure equality between men and women in economic, social, cultural and political aspects. Further, the primary goals of the plan focused on addressing occupational segregation and rectifying the lack of representation of women in positions of power. So far, several national campaigns have been launched to promote gender equality and women’s rights. These campaigns include violence prevention and breaking down misogynistic traditions like child marriages.

Angola also implemented several policies to achieve gender equality and empower women. The National Development Plan 2018-2022 continues these commitments, with a significant focus on raising awareness of the importance of gender equality and preventing gender-based violence. The support of the World Bank will help to further the work that has already begun.

The World Bank strongly believes in keeping young girls in school. The organization supports the empowerment of young women to improve health conditions and end cycles of poverty. By ensuring the education of girls, the likelihood of child marriages and adolescent pregnancies reduces. This is a critical goal during the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many schools to shut down and accelerated the dropout rates of young girls.

Components of the Project

The project consists of three components. The first aspect centers on improving sexual and reproductive health services and increasing community knowledge in this regard in order to encourage the use of these services. The second component will finance 3,000 new classrooms and offer support “to improve teaching and learning outcomes.” Finally, the last component relates to “efficient monitoring and management of the project and supports research to inform education policy development.”

One of the keys to the success of any major project is proper financing and the World Bank has just helped Angola take a critical step in the right direction. The $250 million worth of financing will improve the lives of many women in Angola by focusing on education and empowerment.

Samantha Fazio
Photo: Flickr

Nari Bikash SanghPatriarchal values have long dominated Nepali culture. Prevailing attitudes have led to the belief that women in Nepal are inferior to men. As a result, Nepal has long suffered from high gender inequality, which has hampered the country’s overall development. Deeply entrenched views regarding the role of women in society have held back government initiatives, causing progress to be slow. Nari Bikash Sangh, a Nepali NGO, hopes to address gender inequality by directly aiding women in Nepal.

The Status of Women in Nepal

While women’s rights in Nepal have improved over the years, women still face many obstacles in their daily lives. Social values dictate a woman’s every move and women’s needs are often subservient to men’s needs. As a result, most social indicators for women lag behind those of men. The most striking example is Nepal’s literacy rate. As of 2011, the literacy rate for women was 44.5% compared to 71.6% for men, showing the vast disparity between the two genders. This disparity in literacy rates displays the challenges that Nepali women face in achieving upward social mobility as illiteracy inhibits one’s ability to acquire an education and eventually obtain gainful employment.

The patriarchal values that dominate Nepal can explain the disparities in social indicators between men and women in the country. These values mean a woman’s actions and wishes are often subject to the whims of the men in her life. For example, women are often discouraged from pursuing higher education or traveling abroad because of the idea that a woman’s role is to be a homemaker and caregiver.

Nari Bikash Sangh

Several initiatives have been developed with the aim of promoting women’s rights in Nepal. Nari Bikash Sangh (NBS) was founded in 1980 as an NGO whose goal is to help rural, disadvantaged women in Nepal become empowered and aware of their civil rights. With 89 paid staff and more than 2,200 volunteers, NBS reaches more than 100,000 women in Nepal.

Partnering with World Literacy of Canada, NBS started the Women Empowerment Project in 1999. The objective of the program is to encourage the social and economic empowerment of women from certain disadvantaged communities who have been unable to access formal education and employment opportunities. The project raises awareness about violence against women and also provides information on tools and services for victims of violence. Furthermore, this project includes a program to teach marginalized women vocational skills and how to generate income.

NBS also runs developmental programs seeking to promote self-sufficiency among impoverished, rural communities. The Participatory Integrated Poverty Alleviation Program involves developing rural infrastructure as well as improving agricultural standards. The program also consists of initiatives to mobilize disadvantaged people to create self-sufficiency through skills development and income generation programs.

The Road to Gender Equality

Nepal’s deeply entrenched patriarchal values have necessitated a response from ordinary Nepali citizens to ensure gender equality. Nari Bikash Sangh is an example of an organization that seeks to do just that. By raising awareness of women’s rights and initiating self-sufficiency programs, NBS is aiding women in Nepal in a crucial way.

Nikhil Khanal
Photo: Flickr

Tibetan WomenAs part of a marginalized sovereign state in East Asia, the people of Tibet have endured immense social, economic and religious challenges within their cultural community due to the external pressures of neighboring countries. Hailing from the mountain territories that skirt the peaks of Everest, the inhabitants of Tibet have long-held traditions of national pride and spiritual independence. Within Tibet, gender equality and health play a crucial role in the development of Tibetan women in society.

Economic Progress in Tibet

Despite the territorial and governmental tensions that mark contemporary Tibetan life, the small yet mighty community has progressed immensely in terms of overall socioeconomic well-being and universal rights for local citizens. Chief among the recent improvements in Tibet is the notable reduction of the poverty rate. In just four years, the poverty rate descended to one-fifth of its initial percentage, currently stabilized at almost 6%. International aid projects and development efforts have all helped to strengthen the Tibetan economy and improve the quality of life.

The Place of Tibetan Women in Exiled Society

Although the plight of Tibetan countrymen against Chinese occupation has received wide recognition, Tibetan women frequently experience neglect in public discourse. The women of Tibet have had to navigate a gender system that is fairly fluid yet rigid in its intricate pattern of sexuality, duty and societal standing. All of these factors tie into the physical and emotional well-being of women.

Tibetan women are free to attend school if they have the material means to do so and Buddhist nuns have permission to pursue the same level of higher education as monks, thanks to the advocacy of the Dalai Lama for Tibetan gender equality. However, Tibetan society still views women as part of the less favorable gender.

According to an interview by international journalist Cornelius Lundsgaard, parliamentary leader Tenzin Dhardon Sharling is one of the few women that holds a leadership position within the Tibetan government, serving both the Tibetan Parliament in Exile and the Tibetan Women’s Association. During her interview with Lundsgaard, Sharling comments on the manner in which gender roles affect the structure of household responsibilities. Sharling stresses that “there is more of a need for basic, sustainable projects.” Essential needs such as healthcare, access to food and education are all crucial for gender equality.

Tibetan Women’s Health

Maternal and public health are the most immediate priorities for equalized health among Tibetan women. Unfortunately, the maternal mortality rate is exceedingly high in comparison to the rate in other nations. In comparison to the national average, Tibetan mothers are five times more likely to die during childbirth. Given how dire the situation is, it is clear that Tibet’s healthcare system has several gender-related deficiencies that require addressing.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of obstetric clinics in Tibet meets the minimum amount to serve the population. However, based on the occurrence of maternal mortality, it is evident that a larger number of centers would be beneficial. Part of the discrepancy in women’s healthcare lies in the perceived cultural differences between men and women. Although women are active participants in movements for political change and have access to higher education, most Tibetan households still divide domestic practices along gender lines.

Tibetan households reaffirm the patriarchal principles that exist in certain Buddhist teachings. Thus, investing in Tibetan gender equality and women’s clinics may not appear as valuable to male members of the community. Leaders need to reevaluate the patriarchal attitude that is prevalent in society. This will help ensure that resources for women receive adequate funding.

The Future of Tibetan Women

In spite of the gender imbalances, the region has made considerable progress to improve equality. The Tibetan Women’s Association continues to strive for women’s empowerment. The Central Tibetan Administration has held workshops on how to address gender concerns and prevent discrimination. Furthermore, the rise of female leaders like Tenzin Dhardon Sharling will bring women’s rights and political representation to the forefront. As Tibetan women continue to advance in society and serve as health practitioners and doctors, equal representation is becoming a reality in the sphere of Tibetan public health. With the growth of the gender equality movement, the healthcare system will be one step closer to addressing the needs of Tibetan women.

Luna Khalil
Photo: Flickr

The Benefits of Investing in Women
Gender equality, or rather a lack of gender equality, is not simply a historical problem. To this day, women all around the world face inequality. One of the most notable issues pertaining to gender inequality is the gender wage gap. Its impacts affect not only women but society as a whole. To end the gender wage gap and other inequalities, society must start to recognize the benefits of investing in women.

The Gender Wage Gap Explained

There are two types of gender wage gaps. The controlled wage gap refers to when a man and a woman have the same exact job in the same exact industry with the same exact qualifications. In this situation, as of 2021, women earn 98 cents per $1 that men earn. This seemingly small upfront difference builds up over time, and the pay discrepancy leads to very dissimilar outcomes for these two genders.

An uncontrolled wage gap is the second type. The uncontrolled wage gap refers to the overall difference between men’s and women’s wages. It does not matter what job it is, what industry one works in or if one works full- or part-time. The measurement takes into account how much each worker makes on average per hour each year. This gap is much more prominent—a woman makes 82 cents to a man’s $1 as of 2021.

Companies provide several “justifications” for why women receive less pay than men within the organizations, but actual reasons include employers’ implicit biases, a wage penalty that accompanies motherhood and a higher likelihood of women working part-time. This is based on if women have the opportunity to obtain higher-wage jobs within such companies. Often, women are unable to attend school to receive the qualifications necessary for high-skilled work.

These inequalities in labor compensation become more glaringly obvious when it comes to unpaid labor. Women are more than twice as likely as men to participate in unpaid work. Notably, the most frequent unpaid jobs women take on are domestic work and child care. In impoverished communities, women must sacrifice their education to fulfill the expectation to manage the household and raise children.

The Importance of Investing in Women

Beyond equality, investing in women provides a multitude of economic benefits. The unpaid labor women often take on can actually hinder the economy. Economists estimate that unpaid domestic workers—if paid—could constitute approximately 40% of a nation’s GDP. A lack of education for women also plays a role in stunting economies. When women receive education, economies tap into a whole new sector of individuals that bring new, innovative ideas to the table, which help economies grow. Further, studies show that for every 10% of girls enrolled in school in a developing country, the GDP increases long-term by 3%.

In addition to paying women for labor and educating women, it is imperative to give women advancement opportunities. Women make up approximately half of the agricultural labor force but less than 13% of landholders globally. If women obtain the same amount of land, technology and capital as men, there could be an estimated 30% increase in food production. In this way, empowering women could help to substantially reduce world hunger. On the more industrial side, studies show that both efficiency and organization significantly increase when three or more women enter senior positions at companies.

A Better Society For All

Decreasing the wage gap begins in three main areas: women’s unpaid work, education and health. When women in developing countries receive aid and money, the aid does not stop at just the direct beneficiary. Women are likely to extend the benefits to those around them; women tend to invest their earned money into their children’s education and health as well as their own. Giving women financial tools has economic gain for all and promotes economic justice.

The best way to ensure a fair economy is to invest in women, particularly in developing countries. Women should have the opportunity to work the same jobs, receive the same qualifications and have the same economic opportunities as men. Society’s way forward is through taking advantage of the benefits of investing in women.

– Becca Blanke
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Dominican Republic
Over 10 million people reside in the Dominican Republic, which is located on the island of Hispaniola between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The country offers beautiful beaches and exquisite cuisine, however, beyond the resorts and tourist hot spots are many gender inequalities. Underlying machismo ideologies violate women’s rights in the Dominican Republic and marginalized groups especially face maltreatment. Gender-based violence limits women to be active participants in society.

Femicide in the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic had the third-highest rate of femicide in 2013. Although the Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women underwent ratification in the Dominican Republic over 20 years ago, violence against women has prevailed. In 2012, reports determined that one woman suffers murder every two days, revealing the economic dependence women have on men, as well as prevalent machismo ideologies.

The government approved a National Human Rights Plan for 2018-2022. It includes plans to initiate anti-discrimination legislation, it still had not fulfilled the commitment by the end of 2019. In fact, 58 women died because of their gender, including attorney Anibel Gonzalez, whose death initiated widespread protests that called for reforms in regard to femicide. By 2017, the country had one of the highest rates of femicide with more than 100 reported cases. Additionally, 5,417 reports of sexual offenses existed in 2019, including 1,106 reports of rape. According to Amnesty International, the Dominican Republic fails to properly collect data that would help determine the scope of ill-treatment toward women, especially inappropriate actions by police. As a result, police brutality has become normalized and authority figures regularly violence women’s rights in the Dominican Republic with no repercussions or justice.

Marginalized Groups

Women who are sex workers are even more prone to face ill-treatment and beatings. According to Amnesty International, “police in the Dominican Republic routinely rape, beat, humiliate and verbally abuse women sex workers to exert social control over them and to punish them for transgressing social norms of acceptable femininity and sexuality.” This routine criminalization of sex workers violates women’s rights in the Dominican Republic.

Gender-based violence remains a problem in Latin America and the Caribbean with marginalized groups. “By passing a law to prevent discrimination against some of the country’s most marginalized women, the Dominican Republic could set an example for the rest of the Caribbean to follow in the fight against stigma, machismo and other drivers of extreme violence against women,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas of Amnesty International. By doing so, they challenge deep-seated cultural gender ideologies and start new structural change and reform ensues.

Fighting Gender Inequality

Additionally, nonprofit organizations have the potential to greatly impact gender inequality and promote women’s rights in the Dominican Republic. For example, Mariposa DR works to “create sustainable solutions to end generational poverty by educating and empowering girls.” In 2012, the organization developed an institution that offers a space for young women to engage in sports, receive academic tutoring and other life skill training, connect with peers and develop meaningful relationships with mentors.

According to the Mariposa DR Foundation, “Girls who were once seen as only domestic laborers, caretakers of younger siblings and financial burdens on their families, are now reading, surfing, swimming, going to high school, graduating, earning income and following their passions. They are the untapped talent pool for economic reform and the mothers of our future.” In 2019, Mariposa DR raised over $1,443,954. Of this amount, 87% contributed to the development of programs and activities for the girls. During the same year, the organization sent three of their own off to college in the United States. Additionally, Mariposa DR provided an annual week-long health fair where 57 girls had wellness checkups with a 95% attendance rate.

Looking Forward

Through investment in educational training, young women have the potential to challenge machismo and misogynistic ideologies, as well as lower rates of femicide and other forms of abuse. Marginalized groups are especially susceptible to experience abuse, however, organizations like Mariposa DR, equip girls with the tools needed to empower themselves, along with their family members.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in the Central African Republic
The year 2020 was turbulent for the entire world. From high stake elections to a global pandemic, much change has occurred in a short amount of time. Yet, while many worry about COVID-19 and economic downfall, a shadow pandemic is raging across sub-Saharan Africa. Recent lockdowns and socioeconomic turmoil have resulted in a sharp uptick in sexual violence and femicide across several African states. Countries such as Liberia and Nigeria saw a 50% increase in rape and killings. Experts attributed a large number of said cases to mandatory curfews. However, limited women’s rights in the Central African Republic (CAR) is also a cause.

The Situation

The Central African Republic revealed a 27% increase in rape and a 69% increase in cases with violence dealt against women and children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Women’s rights and safety have always been a longstanding issue for the Central African Republic. Besides having the rank of one of the least healthy and developed nations, the CAR ranks second highest for gender inequality globally. According to the U.N. Development Programme, COVID-19 presents a particular issue because “school and business closures, have meanwhile increased the domestic burdens borne by women and girls and sharply reduced their earnings, increasingly the existing vulnerabilities, confining them to homes they often share with their abusers and limiting access to support and health services.”

Since 2017, the CAR has reached out to donors and international organizations such as the U.N. and The International Development Association (IDA) to make longstanding changes. In that period, one can see progress in the fight for women’s rights in the Central African Republic.

Overview of Progress

While the CAR still struggles with women’s rights, generally, nonprofit organizations and international actors have taken action to help change the tide. Take, for instance, the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, which, since 2008, has provided local women’s activist information regarding the Rome Statute for Human Rights, resources to protect vulnerable women better and help in communicating with other women’s rights organizations. The organization has also promoted the training of lawyers and victims’ trust funds.

Another example of progress toward attaining better women’s rights in the CAR is the partnership with the Human Rights Council to host a series of hearings. These hearings focused on recent abuses and acts of extreme violence, especially those targeting women. The attendees were a series of international organizations such as U.N. Women and representatives from over 15 countries.

With the upcoming electoral season, the CAR has an even greater chance of radically transforming women’s rights in the country. The Secretary-General of the U.N., António Guterres, emphasized how, “All segments of the population of the Central African Republic, in particular women, young people, internally displaced persons and refugees, must be at the center of efforts to consolidate democracy and, consequently, of this electoral process.” Currently, the U.N. manages dialogue channels for opposing parties and interest groups to ensure the election is fair and peaceful. In essence, with the prospect of a new leader and parties coming to power, this could be the perfect opportunity to reform women’s rights.

Persisting Challenges

Although the U.N. and the CAR recently signed an agreement promising to tackle sexual violence by armed groups, the country still has a long way to go. For instance, rape victims in the CAR have little to no legal avenues to seek out reparations or any form of justice. Furthermore, medical aid for assault victims and women’s care, in general, is mostly underfunded and incredibly difficult to access.

Moreover, as the military conflict continues to destabilize the country, more and more women and young girls become victims of sex slavery and weaponized rape. Women in rural villages are primarily targeted, as rape is a psychological tactic in violent conflict. Many experts have argued that a specialized court dealing with said sexual crimes against women would be extremely effective at delivering justice.

Future Policy Recommendations

Aside from creating a network of specialized courts dealing with women’s rights and sexual violence, the CAR can still implement many policies and initiatives to promote women’s rights better. For instance, whistleblowing procedures should be put in place to protect aid workers who report sexual assault cases and violence amongst vulnerable populations. SOFEPADI, a Congolese NGO, has argued that development agencies need to better coordinate with each other to assist women caught in conflict and appoint women to positions of power within their organizations.

By reforming the way aid workers conduct with women in the CAR and funding more women lead organizations, the CAR and international actors can significantly improve the fight for women’s rights. However, another reform that the Central African Republic should consider is creating more economic development zones for marginalized peoples, such as women.

At a recent U.N. general assembly meeting, several African leaders advocated creating fiscal spaces to invest in social needs, especially in regard to women. Reforms such as this can significantly improve women’s livelihood, educate young girls and grant women in the CAR significant socio-economic autonomy. The CAR may not rank the best in women’s rights, but as time passes and international actors continue their efforts, hope exists for change.

– Juliette Reyes
Photo: Flickr