Gender Equality in MoroccoNGO Santé Sud launched the 3inaya project with the aim of promoting sexual health care and gender equality in Morocco, as well as changing attitudes in the country. Santé Sud is a French organization working in France and internationally, promoting access for all to quality health care. It assists local organizations to improve long-lasting health care systems and restructuring. The 3inaya project is currently projected to run from 2022 to 2024 and has already begun to make strides in improving training and support for victims of gender-based violence.

Gender Equality in Morocco

Regarding the current situation of gender equality in Morocco, Franceline Toe Bouda, Committee Expert and Reporteur commended the country for making progress in accord with their Family Code. However, it was also “noted that the maternal mortality rate in rural areas (over 100 deaths per 100,000 births) was far higher than in urban areas (around 11 per 100,000).” This signifies that there are still areas of improvement in women’s health care and that whilst making strides in urban and more metropolitan areas, more emphasis is necessary in rural areas.

Gender-based violence is sadly prevalent in Morocco, with a report that the High Planning Commission published stating that “the number of victims who experienced at least one act of violence fell from 63% to 57% between 2009 and 2019,” despite being a drop is still a very high statistic. The survey looked at women aged 18 to 64 years, however, didn’t review cyber-harassment or violence.

In 2018, the Moroccan Ministry of Education focused on promoting gender equality by supporting the implementation of a Medium-term Strategic Action Plan. The plan aimed to normalize gender equality in the Moroccan education system through “the dissemination of a positive and objective image of women through the diffusion of knowledge” and “the adoption of a quota for female representation greater than or equal to 30% (aiming for parity) in the statutes and laws governing both education and trade unions” among other goals.

How Will the 3inaya Project Help?

The 3inaya project aims “to promote gender equality and sexual health through educating and raising awareness among individuals.” This strategy extends not only to women but also men and young people to change social norms.

President of LDDF-Injad Network, Najia Tazrout has expressed her desire for widespread education, “arguing that violence against women remains persistent” and “that there is a sense of “normalization and justification” of violence in the country,” Morocco World News reports.

The main action points of the 3inaya project are to train teachers to be able to identify violence toward victims by creating training modules on “sexual health, rights and gender” in higher education such as universities. They have also decided to train health professionals such as nurses and doctors to be able to identify, screen, and care for women victims of violence. Additionally, they intend of training health professionals and social workers in psychological support for sexual assault survivors.

So far, the program has supported “4,500 women and child survivors” of gender-based violence. The project has also trained “12 CSOs from the Réseau Femmes Solidaires, 60 teachers, 90 health professionals, six social workers and the media,” according to Santé Sud.

Improvements and changes that Santé Sud has been making through the 3inaya project promise to show results and make a significant difference in gender equality in Morocco and how the country approaches reducing gender-based violence and stigmatization of victims.

– Priya Maiti
Photo: Flickr

Women's Education in Uganda
Gender inequality remains a significant issue in Uganda. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these inequalities, significantly affecting women’s education in Uganda. Even before the pandemic, Uganda saw disparities in male and female literacy rates. According to the World Bank, in 2018, the adult male literacy rate stood at 83% in comparison to 71% among adult females.

Gender Inequality in Uganda

There are about 45.7 million people living in Uganda and 51.71% are female. For the past 20 years, Uganda has committed to a more gender-equal society by promoting women’s empowerment. A series of factors contribute to the marginalization of Ugandan women, including gender norms and lack of skills development and education among females. By improving women’s education in Uganda, organizations can reduce gender inequalities while empowering women and helping them to rise out of poverty.

Education in Uganda

World Bank data indicates that only 54% of primary school-aged girls in Uganda completed primary education in 2017. In 2016, only 57% of females who completed primary school moved on to secondary education. Furthermore, only 25% of females completed lower secondary school in 2017.

Rampant gender inequality in Ugandan society limits the education of girls. Families prioritize the education of boys and girls shoulder the burden of household chores and caretaking, leaving little time for education. Although this issue has lingered for many years, organizations are committed to promoting women’s education in Uganda and advancing women’s rights.

Spreading Sunshine

The Borgen Project spoke with Patricia Stivala, co-founder of an organization called Spreading Sunshine. Patricia and her husband Steve Stivala founded the small organization as a means of bringing light into the lives of disadvantaged people. Part of the organization’s efforts includes supporting the Street Business School in Nakigalala, Uganda. The Street Business School empowers impoverished women by allowing women opportunities to develop their business skills and education so that they can establish small businesses.

Spreading Sunshine donated money to the Street Business School to allow more than 100 women to go through a six-month training program to start their own businesses. Patricia attended the graduation ceremony of these women. From spending time in a large group to enjoying lunch together, she was able to celebrate these women’s successes. She went on to mention the pride and joy these women felt after rising above the societal limitations placed on females.

Other Efforts

Many other efforts are underway to promote girls’ education. The U.N. explains that “Education Plus is an advocacy drive to accelerate actions to prevent HIV and [gender-based violence] with access to secondary school education for girls as a strategic entry point.” Five U.N. agencies are co-leading the Education Plus initiative, working with the leaders of nations across sub-Saharan Africa. The Ugandan government launched the initiative in Uganda in June 2022, showing its commitment to advancing women’s education in Uganda.

In August 2022, the Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS) organization launched the #everygirlinschool campaign. Through this campaign, female mentors work to tackle the limitations preventing women’s education in Uganda. By working with the Ugandan government, the organization hopes to strengthen the roles of senior women teachers in the country. An external assessment proves the positive impact senior women teachers have had on the education of young girls. According to statistics, “engaging with senior women teachers increased a girl’s chance of developing reading and writing skills by 264%,” UKFIET says.

The Ugandan Government’s Efforts

Not only is the Ugandan government working with other organizations that strive to promote women’s education and rights but it also launched a new policy of its own in February 2022. The policy encourages previously pregnant girls to return to school to complete their education. As a result, Margaret Babirye (a 17-year-old Ugandan citizen) is able to tend to her baby during her school lunch break. This is an opportunity Babirye never thought she would have prior to the release of this new policy.

In February 2022, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recognized Uganda’s considerable improvements in both women’s education and human rights. Improvements such as “gender-sensitive educational infrastructure” and strategic laws have led to significant progress.

In August 2022, U.N. Women collaborated with Sweden to launch the Promoting Second Chance Education Program for marginalized young women in Uganda. This initiative provides young women with a six-month course in electrical installation. Atemi Salami, a participant in this program, tells the U.N. that the program has allowed her to obtain a job at an electrical store where she earns a living to support her family.

Looking Ahead

Many efforts are underway to promote women’s education in Uganda. With ongoing commitments, organizations and the government can make strides in reducing gender inequality and empowering women.

– Madison Stivala
Photo: Flickr

Global Gender Equality Progress
World Vision reports that 689 million people endured extreme poverty in 2021 and research shows that women make up a majority of the world’s impoverished. One trend that is common among countries with high poverty rates is a lack of gender equality. In some of these countries, women make less money than men, have limited access to education, or have fewer rights than men. Fortunately, in recent years, the world is noting global gender equality progress.

New Female Leaders Worldwide

In recent years, gender equality movements have reached government offices as countries around the world have made the progressive change of appointing women to leadership positions. In 2021, Albania appointed 12 out of its 17 total cabinet seats to women, a 70% majority. By giving the prime minister a new, primarily female cabinet, Albania could begin to go in a new direction that could further empower women in the nation. Albania ranks 25th out of 156 countries on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report of 2021.

Honduras also made a significant change to its government in January 2022 when Xiomara Castro became the first female president in the country’s history. Castro has already voiced her intentions to tackle social injustice and help women. This should be encouraging to the citizens of Honduras, particularly its women who have faced numerous challenges such as femicide and reproductive rights restrictions.

Like Castro, in December 2020, Maia Sandu became the first woman to hold the presidency in her country, Moldova. In Moldova, almost 27% of people lived in poverty in 2020 and gender inequality is prominent as women face high rates of gender-based violence and less than half of Moldovan women participate in the workforce. Despite the challenges that Sandu has faced due to gender biases, there is hope for the women of Moldova to reach equality through Sandu’s efforts.

New Female Leader of the World Trade Organization (WTO)

In 2021, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the first woman to lead the World Trade Organization (WTO) as director-general. She is also the first African to lead the organization. The WTO is focused on the “global rules of trade between nations.” Its goal is to help nations efficiently conduct trade with each other. Having Okonjo-Iweala as the WTO new leader could be promising in terms of reducing global poverty as Okonjo-Iweala is a “firm believer” in using trade to help raise countries out of poverty. Furthermore, being an African woman, Okonjo-Iweala has experienced the struggles of the African continent first-hand. Africa holds a large majority of the world’s poor, most of whom are women.

New Constitution in Chile Strengthens Equality

In 2021, Chile voted to elect an assembly made up of 155 citizens to construct the country’s newest constitution. This is the first constitution in the world that men and women wrote equally. Many believe that this will help women in Chile make significant progress toward equality.

The previous constitution had a number of flaws as it was drafted, primarily, by one person during a time when Augusto Pinochet ruled Chile with an iron fist. One of the main issues is that men had more rights than women. The new constitution heavily prioritizes gender parity in the country. With more people having input on their country’s laws, Chile can better address the issue of inequality.

Chile’s new constitution could create a new standard for gender equality movements around the world. Because the world’s impoverished mostly consist of women, improving gender equality could reduce that poverty. If more countries adapted governments to promote gender equality, more women worldwide would have the same rights as men. This could be a driving force behind eliminating inequality between men and women as well as eliminating poverty for both.

Continued global gender equality progress will ensure that more women rise out of poverty across the world.

– Tyshon Johnson
Photo: Unsplash

New Prime Minister
Britain has experienced major changes in recent days, with entirely new faces of leadership in the monarchy and government. In the same week, Queen Elizabeth II peacefully passed away in Balmoral Castle and the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson stepped down, allowing for Liz Truss to take his place as the leader of the Conservative Party and head of the government. This will have implications on the U.K’.s foreign policy, poverty and general political affairs. Understanding the new Prime Minister’s political experience is necessary to predict her policies regarding poverty and the rising costs of living in recent years under former Prime Minister Johnson.

About Mary Elizabeth Truss

As a college student, Truss openly opposed then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s policies and the institution of the British monarchy. During college, she served as “an activist for the centrist Liberal Democrat Party,” according to NBC News. Upon her graduation from Oxford University in 1996, she switched to the Conservative Party and ran as a Tory candidate in 2001 and 2005. She then became a Member of Parliament for South West Norfolk in 2010.

In addition to her position in the Parliament, Truss has held many offices and titles in U.K. politics that show her dedication and passion for issues in economic and environmental stability, women’s rights and food industries.

Despite the new Prime Minister’s shifting opinions and positions over the years that led people to question her loyalty and authenticity, her campaign to return to fundamental Conservative values, such as lower taxes and shrinking the state, appealed to her party members. The nation hopes she can restore Britain’s reputation and allow for a fresh start following former Prime Minister Johnson’s time in office when the British government was riddled with scandals and tumult.

Britain’s Energy Crisis

Since the Ukraine-Russia war, Britain has struggled with an energy crisis and economic challenges, which partially contributed to Johnson’s resignment in the first place. The inflation rates are the highest Britain has seen in the past 40 years, with costs of gas and electricity hitting record-breaking numbers.

Since the 1980s, U.K. inflation remained below 10% but increasing prices of energy, food and basic essentials have sent the rate to 10.1% as of July 2022. The Bank of England expects the rate to rise up to 13% in October 2022 after the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) implements an energy price cap increase. Energy bills are rapidly increasing as experts expect the energy price cap to increase by 80% from October following Ofgem’s actions, bringing the annual energy bill to a total of £3,549 for an average household.

The price of wholesale gas also poses a problem for Britain with uncertainty and instability looming. The Russia-Ukraine war has put pressure on most of Europe’s gas market and Britain is no exception. President Vladimir Putin has reacted negatively to the EU price cap and threatened to cut off Russia’s energy supply to Europe if the EU imposes the price cap on his supply.

Limited fuel and energy have exacerbated living conditions among vulnerable lower-income households, leaving 30% of households in the West Midlands living in fuel poverty. The End Fuel Poverty Coalition predicts that by this winter, 6.9 million households in the United Kingdom will face fuel poverty. Such a drastic drop in living standards with plummeting disposable incomes has threatened the overall health, economy and stability of Britain.

Truss’ Intended Policies

Despite issues pertaining to energy, gender equality, international aid and foreign relations, the public is clinging to hope for the new Prime Minister to improve conditions in the country. Her determination and dedication to the U.K. are clear, considering her heavy involvement in politics since her youth. She has demonstrated a clear commitment to NATO and the Group of Seven, ensuring the U.K. remains “an effective leader” on a global scale, which bodes well for the future of the U.K.’s international affairs.

Despite previously being outspoken on “lowering the tax burden, not giving out handouts,” Truss has made considerable efforts to support the struggling British population with their energy bills. She has plans to freeze the cost of gas and electricity and cap the average bill at around £2,500 annually, but it is predicted that high-income households with larger bills would benefit most.

Questions also remain about the funding for such a project, with estimates ranging around £180 billion, which will also become a burden for taxpayers in the long run. Still, the plan is expected to decrease the severity of a recession and provide support for those struggling in the cold winter.

The UK as a Global Powerhouse

The U.K. budget once stood as the most influential and resourceful in supporting education for women, battling polio, providing food rations and restoring living conditions in many underdeveloped countries. However, following the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the U.K. cut the budget for the Department for International Development from 0.7% to 0.5% of the gross national income.

During her time as foreign secretary, Truss launched the International Development Strategy to focus on humanitarian commitments and investments in foreign economies. The British are hopeful that Truss will continue her advocacy to ease the burden on impoverished households and increase funding commitments for foreign development aid.

– Nethya Samarakkodige
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

World Bicycle Relief
In 2018, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for two-thirds of the global population living in extreme poverty. Although the poverty rate across the region decreased by 1.6% from 2015 to 2018, the benefits of improved infrastructure, education and health care have not reached those living in rural areas without safe and easy transport systems to access essential services and opportunities. World Bicycle Relief works to lessen this disadvantage by providing bicycles to members of rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa. Founded in 2005 by F.K. Day and Leah Missbach Day, the organization empowers millions to pull themselves out of poverty.

Gender Equality

World Bicycle Relief places priority on women and girls, with the organization striving for females to account for 70% of bicycle beneficiaries. Girls in sub-Saharan Africa often find that traditional gender expectations for them to take long walks for water and firewood daily, journeys that are sometimes unsafe and increase the risk of assault and harassment, stunt their personal agency. Riding bicycles not only cuts down on time taken for domestic chores but also allows girls to travel to school safely and quickly.

Over the last 10 years, World Bicycle Relief has worked in partnership with the Ministry of Education in Zambia to provide almost 37,000 rural girls with bicycles. A controlled trial found that the bicycles reduced the likelihood of girls dropping out of school by 19%, decreased school absenteeism rates by 28% and reduced school commute times by 33%. Furthermore, experiences of sexual harassment while journeying to school decreased by 22%.

In Kenya, health care workers using World Bicycle Relief-provided bicycles served “88% more patients,” highlighting the importance of effective transport in health and well-being in rural communities.

In a USAID-funded project from 2006-2009, World Bicycle Relief partnered with RAPIDS (Reaching HIV/AIDS Affected People with Integrated Development and Support) to tackle the AIDS crisis in Zambia. The organization gave more than 18,000 bicycles to RAPIDS caregivers, allowing RAPIDS to reach more people and deliver higher quality care due to more frequent visits. Since World Bicycle Relief’s participation in RAPIDS, caregiver retention has risen to 66%, a marked increase from earlier stages.

Rural Economic Development

To ensure that users utilize the bicycles to their best potential, World Bicycle Relief gives each community the responsibility to design and adapt its own bicycle program. The organization’s “field team also helps local leaders establish a Bicycle Supervisory Committee,” which selects each individual bicycle recipient based on factors such as commute time and potential for improved service with a bicycle. Each bicycle recipient “enters into a time-bound term agreement” with the Committee and officially owns the bike upon attainment of specific requirements, such as completing their education, helping to further community development or supplying health or financial services.

In October 2021, USAID announced an allocation of funding of $3.5 million to the Bicycles for Growth Initiative, helping J.E Austin Associates and World Bicycle Relief expand mobility in rural sub-Saharan Africa by facilitating transport through bicycles.

The initiative will support research on “access to bicycles in Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia,” giving more people the chance to access education, health care services and opportunities for income generation.

– Imogen Scott
Photo: Flickr

Droupadi MurmuDroupadi Murmu is the first-ever tribal woman to become president in India. Murmu belongs to the Santhal tribe of Odisha, which is India’s third-largest scheduled tribe (socio-economically disadvantaged group). Murmu started as a teacher before beginning her political career as a legislator in 2000 and again in 2009. The candidate then elevated her political career to become the first-ever female governor of the state, Jharkhand, in 2015 and held that position until 2021. Making history, Murmu’s political astuteness helped her spear through the 2022 presidential elections with approximately 68% of the votes. Her rise to the presidency highlighted the struggles of many marginalized communities in India.

In a 2020 interview on the show ‘Ek Mulakat’, Murmu stated, “I come from the poorest of poor families and never expected I will take up politics.” Murmu also stated that “I come from a society that is very rigid when it comes to perceptions about women and they would raise questions about any woman stepping outside the confines of their homes.”

Poverty In Tribal India

In India, five out of six impoverished people are from lower tribes or castes. For many tribes, ownership and access to forests and land are critical to their way of life. On the other hand, the rapid urbanization in India is proving difficult for tribal communities to do so as amendments to legislation including the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, which protected the rights of tribal land, weakened their claims to their lands. As such, development projects in the past decade have displaced millions of Indians and 40% of the displaced were indigenous people as their poverty makes them easy prey for moneylenders, exploiters and traders.

Displaced indigenous people in urban areas often live in slums. In particular, women are disproportionately more affected. They are faced with domestic violence as men in households become alcoholics. Women also face health conditions that take a toll due to a lack of family planning and child spacing capabilities, many women do not have autonomy over their reproductive healthcare. The women have little opportunity to gain employment, forcing them to seek work in unorganized sectors, which are not regulated by the government, as wage laborers or even prostitutes.

Additionally, the lack of infrastructure and sanitation negatively impacts the livelihoods of tribal India. In Jharkhand, tribal populations do not have access to piped water because of the lack of proper infrastructure and the process of getting piped connections is too complex for poor communities to follow. Tribal women in Kashmir also can’t afford sanitary pads during their periods, highlighting the case of period poverty in tribal India.

India’s Future With Droupadi Murmu

Murmu’s ascension to the presidency is a trailblazer for tribal communities across India. In the districts of Alluri Sitaramaraju and Anakapalli, representatives of tribes assembled under the leadership of Professor Murru Mutyala Naidu in June to support the victory of Murmu.

Years before her political career kick-started, Murmu fought for her rights as an indigenous woman by convincing a local lawmaker to sponsor her education since higher education provisions were not available in her native village. Murmu then worked as an assistant in the State Irrigation and Power Department from 1979 to 1983.

During her political career in 2017, Governor Murmu made the bold decision to stand her ground against the controversial amendments to the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, both of which restricted the rights of indigenous people. She asked how these amendments would benefit her state’s tribal population and forwarded 192 petitions against the amendments to the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, highlighting her ardent advocacy of tribal welfare.

A Look Ahead

With Droupadi Murmu earning her spot as the 15th president of India, she can be a catalyst for change for many tribal communities, which have long been neglected in India. While it may be challenging to reverse the government policies that restrict the rights of indigenous people, Droupadi Murmu’s rise from her poverty-stricken past to one of the highest government posts in India can empower and signify the inclusion of many tribal members.

– Samyukta Gaddam
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Empowering Women in STEM
The Society of Women Engineers details a GenderInSITE (Gender in Science, Innovation, Technology and Engineering) study in collaboration with the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) and the International Science Council (ISC), which was published in September 2021. The study explains that “women comprise the majority of the governing body of the Royal Society of Canada. However, women still represent less than half of the governing in most other countries, including Australia, Brazil, Malaysia, Mexico and the United Kingdom.” While improvements are visible in terms of efforts to ensure equal access to education and careers in STEM, women still struggle to represent themselves in the STEM field. A  World Economic Forum article, which published in 2020, even states that women in STEM publish less and are paid less. This article will discuss the reason for the international gender divide in STEM and how organizations are empowering women in STEM.

Global Statistics for Women in STEM

According to UNESCO data from 2015, women made up almost 50% of the global population but only 30% of female researchers in science, technology and innovation. Furthermore, in the region of Asia, just three out of 18 nations “had an equal or above proportion” of female STEM researchers. The Philippines noted  52% while Thailand recorded 51% and Kazakhstan noted 50%.

The latest estimates of world poverty by U.N. Women, UNDP and the Pardee Center for International Futures project that, “globally, 388 million women and girls will be living in extreme poverty in 2022 (compared to 372 million men and boys).” For this reason, empowering women in STEM is crucial as global poverty disproportionately impacts females.

Bias and Gender Stereotypes in STEM

Deeply rooted bias and gender stereotypes run rampant in the STEM field, causing many women to shy away from their careers. Empowering women in STEM by giving girls an opportunity to participate in STEM-related fields allows the gender gap and gender pay gap to decrease, leveling the playing field for all people. Empowering women in STEM to participate in STEM-related activities also increases women’s economic stability, ensuring a diverse STEM workplace and preventing future biases from forming based on the new prevalence of female role models in STEM. Some factors that affect the gender STEM gaps are gender stereotypes, a male-dominated STEM culture, few female role models in STEM and academic pressure on girls.

Self Confidence Begins in Early Childhood

If one presumes that female disengagement in STEM begins in their early years, encouragement of the eradication of bias and gender stereotypes in STEM needs to occur as early as possible. In fact, “a study by Archer et al. (2010) suggested that although young children do not have profound knowledge about science subjects, they attribute masculine traits to science early.” Research has consistently proven that students mostly perceive science subjects (math, physics and chemistry) as a male domain. Later in life, as confidence develops in these young women, this self-assurance will play a crucial role in entering the STEM field as a woman. Yet again, research suggests that empowering women in STEM plays a vital role in early childhood confidence.

AAUW: Closing the STEM Gap and Empowering Women

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has put forth active solutions to empowering women in STEM since 1888. The AAUW funds graduate education and invests in women who will save the world through STEM. AAUW offers fellowships and grants to fit one’s academic and professional goals. For the year 2021-2022, the AAUW awarded more than 260 fellowships and grants to women and community projects, equating to more than $5 million.

A Look at AAUW International Opportunities

The AAUW offers International Fellowships and International Project Grants. Women who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents can apply for an International Fellowship, which awards full-time study or research in the United States. U.S. institutions support graduate and postgraduate studies. AAUW’s dedication to empowering females in their native countries goes beyond an International Fellowship. In order to generate enduring support globally, AAUW awards alumnae who return to their home countries after their AAUW-funded studies an opportunity to apply for a grant allowing alumnae to further their academic achievements and execute community-based plans, enhancing the lives of all females.

Organizations like AAUW do life-changing work in terms of helping to advance gender equality. By empowering women in STEM through opportunities and funding, the AAUW helps to improve women’s economic and career prospects, which contributes to reducing global poverty overall.

– Kaley Anderson
Photo: Flickr

Gender Equity and Equality
On International Women’s Day in March 2022, U.S. government officials revealed that the President’s Budget for 2023 will seek $2.6 billion for foreign assistance initiatives promoting global gender equity and equality. This is more than twice the requested amount for gender equality initiatives in the previous year’s budget. This increase coincides with the broader objectives outlined in the Biden administration’s National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality. The strategy highlights the importance of advancing the economic security, health and rights of women and girls around the world. In 2019, “women were 35% more likely to live in poverty than men.” Should Congress grant this budget request, the United States federal agencies will have more resources to address the issues that lead to this disparity.

Global Gender Inequality in Numbers

Globally, in 2016, “700 million fewer women than men” participated in the workforce. Additionally, women who do participate in the labor force are likely to make less money due to gender wage gaps. This economic disparity produces a significant gender poverty gap. For every 100 men aged between 25 and 34 that live in impoverished households, 122 women live in the same conditions.

This $2.6 billion funding request will go far in addressing this issue through U.S. federal agencies and programs. USAID will take the majority of the budget increase with the purpose of promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women worldwide. Among USAID’s plans, supported by this funding, is the expansion of education among women and girls. Educational attainment can have a profound impact on poverty. It offers an opportunity to develop valuable skills that prepare people to enter the job market.

In fact, according to a study sponsored by the World Bank, every additional year of education has the power to increase a woman’s pay by more than 11%. Despite this, as of 2020, 130 million school-aged girls are not receiving a regular education. The good news is that global enrollment rates are reaching parity. In 2019, UNESCO found that “more than two-thirds of countries have reached gender parity” in primary education enrollment. USAID is already undertaking multiple efforts to promote these positive educational outcomes.

USAID Programs to Promote Education

  • Girls Leadership and Empowerment through Education (GLEE). This Malian project ran from 2018 to 2021 and provided education to almost 14,000 girls who were not attending school. GLEE plays an important role in boosting literacy skills in a country where only 38% of young Malian women aged 15-24 can read and write as of 2020.
  • Girl Rising: Empower New Generations to Advance Girls’ Education (ENGAGE). This project is an ongoing collaboration between USAID and various private sector partners that seeks to increase awareness and action on gender disparities in education around the world through a variety of activities. In 2018, Girls Rising began in Guatemala, promoting community-based programming involving 900 participants exploring the harmful effects of “rigid gender norms.” In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the program worked with youth groups to address “sexual violence in schools” through leadership camps and storytelling workshops.
  • Quality Instruction Towards Access and Basic Education Improvement (QITABI) 2. A Lebanese program aimed at improving literacy as well as “social and emotional learning skills” for more than 300,000 public school students. Planned to run from 2019 to 2024, QITABI 2 supported at-home learning for more than 174,000 students through the distribution of learning materials during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Other Focal Areas

With the additional funding, USAID also plans to strengthen its impact in other areas such as the inclusion of women in civic and political leadership, promoting the participation of women and girls in solutions that address the climate crisis and increasing access to health care for young people.

The budget request increase also sets aside $200 million for the Gender Equity and Equality Action (GEEA) fund. Established in 2021 by the Biden administration, the GEEA fund addresses gender-based violence and promotes economic security for women around the world.

The Biden administration’s support of the GEEA fund, USAID and other agencies through this historic funding increase signals its commitment to gender equity. With the wider participation of government in reaching this objective, a greater impact on reducing poverty is forthcoming.

– Gonzalo Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

Empowering Women in India
India has become “the fastest-growing major economy in the world” with growth expected to continue upward over the next decade. However, despite India’s recent economic development, women and girls find themselves at the tail end of this progress. With a population of more than a billion, a National Family and Health Survey between 2019 and 2021 points out that there are more women in India than men — “1,020 women for every 1,000 men.” Despite women constituting a majority of the population, women in India face challenges that largely stem from societal perceptions of gender roles. The impacts of this discrimination and gender inequality are far-reaching. To address this issue, organizations are dedicating efforts to empowering women in India.

The Current State of Gender Equality

On the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index of 2021, India ranks 140th among 153 nations, “becoming the third-worst performer in South Asia.” India fell 28 places from its 2020 rank of 112th. The report cites several reasons for this fall. In terms of political empowerment, the number of female ministers declined from about 23% in 2019 to just 9% in 2021. The female workforce participation rate also decreased “from 24.8% to 22.3%.”

Additionally, the “share of women in senior and managerial positions also remains low.” The report also indicates that women in India earn just one-fifth of what men earn. Furthermore, “one in four women” endure “intimate violence” at least once in their lifetime. Although India has achieved gender parity with regard to educational attainment, illiteracy rates among women remain high. The report indicates that just 65.8% of women in India are literate in 2021 in comparison to 82.4% of men.

Women also endure inequality with regard to land and property rights. A 2016 UNICEF report noted that only 12.7% of properties in India “are in the names of women” despite 77% of women in India depending on agricultural work as a core source of income.

Benefits of Empowering Women in India

As the majority of India’s population, women represent a significant portion of the nation’s untapped economic potential. As such, empowering women in India through equal opportunities would allow them to contribute to the economy as productive citizens. With higher literacy rates and equal pay for equal work, women are able to thrive economically and rise out of poverty.

Protecting women and girls from violence and abuse while challenging the stigmas against reporting crimes would overall create a much safer society. Improving the female political representation rate would enable more women to serve as role models for young girls and allow a platform to bring awareness to the issues affecting women in India. Overall, gender equality allows for women to live a better quality of life, allowing them to determine their futures beyond traditional expectations.

Women Of Worth (WOW)

According to its website, “Women Of Worth exists for the growth, empowerment and safety of girls and women” standing “for justice, equality and change.” WOW began in 2008, created by a group of women who longed for change in a society rife with gender discriminatory practices. Its ultimate vision is “to see women and girls live up to their fullest potential.” With a mission of empowering women in India, the organization has three focal areas:

  • Advocacy Work: WOW utilizes social media platforms to raise awareness on gender inequality and “change attitudes and behavior.”
  • Training and Health Services: WOW provides training to both men and women in schools, tertiary institutions and companies on women’s safety and rights. It also presents lectures and “keynote addresses” on the topic. Furthermore, WOW provides counseling sessions to improve mental health.
  • Rehabilitation and Restoration: WOW offers “counseling, life skills training and therapy” to children and women who are victims of abuse, neglect and trafficking.

WOW’s efforts have seen success. The organization helped to rescue 200 girls from abusive backgrounds, providing them with rehabilitation services. WOW also gave 11 girls scholarships to continue their education. WOW provided training on gender equality to about 800 working people and “1500 students” along with “200 parents” and 300 educators.

Gender equality is a crucial cornerstone in the advancement of any society or nation as it affects all areas of society from economic growth to education, health and quality of life. Gender inequality in India is a deep-rooted, complex and multi-layered issue but it is also an essential battle to overcome to see the fullest potential of the nation.

– Owen Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr

Gender Wage Gap in Pakistan
The gender wage gap exists across a multitude of nations, sectors and professions, disproportionality affecting low-income women. Pakistan is the epicenter of this inequity. According to the Global Wage Report 2018/19 (ILO), women in Pakistan earn 34% less than men on average. The same report also found women in Pakistan constitute 90% of the bottom 1% of wage earners in the country. Below are ways to bridge the gender wage gap in Pakistan.

Increased Access to Education

Half of the women in Pakistan have not attended school and 90% of women do not have a post-secondary education. This education gap is detrimental to the gender wage gap in Pakistan as the pay of women with post-secondary education increases threefold in comparison to women with just primary education.

The Zindagi Trust is working to improve girls’ education in Pakistan on the grassroots level by improving the infrastructure, academic innovation and quality of government schools. It has transformed two schools and thus changed the lives of more than 2,500 young girls who otherwise would have dropped out of primary school.

Decreasing Unpaid Care Work

Unpaid care work and domestic work are non-market, unpaid activities carried out in households, such as care of persons, cooking, cleaning or fetching water. These time commitments are often not quantitative, and therefore, go overlooked. According to McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, unpaid care work globally is worth around $10 trillion a year.

Not only does unpaid care work not compensate women for their work but it is so time-consuming that women do not have the time to focus on gaining skills and pursuing economic opportunities. Gender norms further this structure due to the expectation that women must take care of the home.

One way to ease the impacts of unpaid care work is by reducing hazardous tasks, such as cooking with unsafe fuel sources. Jaan Pakistan is working to reduce open flame cooking in rural Pakistan. It has sold nearly 1,500 units to date and hopes to sell 1 million cookstoves across off-grid Pakistan by 2025.

Increased Representation in STEM Fields

Women currently make up less than 18% of STEM professionals in Pakistan. One can attribute this gap to the literacy rate of women and the societal pressure for women to pursue a more female-dominated field. The literacy rate for women is 47% in comparison to 71% for men, which further exacerbates the gender wage gap in Pakistan. The rate of workplace harassment only adds to the inability of employers to meet the needs of educated and qualified women and deters women from contributing to STEM fields.

According to a report of Pakistan’s National Commissioner of Children and Women, around 93% of Pakistani women had experienced sexual violence and harassment in public spaces or workplaces in their lifetimes. Private sector organizations such as Women Engineer’s Pakistan are working to increase the representation of women in STEM fields by connecting college girls to a network of 1,988 women engineers. These mentorship resources build a community of women in STEM in Pakistan and provide support and encouragement. It has helped more than 4,000 college students.

In order to combat workplace harassment, U.N. Women and the Office of the Ombudsperson KP in Pakistan joined together to effectively implement and monitor current laws to address harassment at the workplace. It has developed a Toolkit on “Understanding Sexual Harassment, Legal Provisions, Roles of Duty Bearers and Rights Holders.” Officially launched on June 25, 2020, the Toolkit “provides a comprehensive resource to train and build the capacity of inquiry committee members and other stakeholders on the law and redressal mechanisms for dispensation of justice to the complainants.”

The gender wage gap in Pakistan exists due to the traditional structures in place, but with the support of local and international nonprofits, there are new solutions and resources to successfully implement them.

– Imaan Chaudhry
Photo: Wikipedia Commons