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

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

Women’s Rights in EthiopiaEthiopia is a country that is on the rise in global influence, population and economic power. The country has a long and rich history with plenty of powerful female figures, including empresses and heads of state. Still, the state of women’s rights in Ethiopia is not ideal, with women facing a lot of discrimination and far fewer opportunities. While women remain in fewer positions of power and at the wrong end of unequal gender relations, it appears the country is making progress.

The Gender Equality Issues

Ethiopia struggles with massive inequality between the sexes. The Global Gender Gap report in 2010 ranked Ethiopia 121st out of 134 countries in gender disparities. Inequality persists in multiple facets. U.N. Women lists these areas as being of particular concern:

  • Literacy
  • Health
  • Livelihoods
  • Basic Human Rights
  • Social Support

Women suffer from several health inequalities like higher HIV prevalence, high maternal mortality and restricted access to healthcare. Women also participate far less in the workforce and suffer from the impacts of many traditional practices like child marriage and genital mutilation.

Further problems also plague Ethiopian women. In rural communities, women perform most agricultural labor but rarely receive pay or recognition for it. Gender-based violence is a significant problem yet community resources do not reach a lot of women. This is because 80% of Ethiopia’s population lives in rural areas with little infrastructure. Women also experience systemic discrimination regarding land ownership, education and the justice system.

Women’s rights in Ethiopia are not a lost cause. Global actors and Ethiopian organizations are doing plenty to strive for gender equality. These contributions are thus beginning to have a noticeable effect on the country and the fortunes of Ethiopian women.

Leave No Women Behind

U.N. Women’s Leave No Woman Behind program is an example of a concerted effort that had a positive effect on Ethiopian women, targeting Amhara and Tigray regions in 2009. The program focused on the many dimensions of women’s poverty. It aimed to increase women’s human rights at a grassroots level through increased government involvement. Furthermore, the program aimed to “address gender disparities in literacy and educational attainment, sexual and reproductive health services and gender-based violence (GBV).” In addition, it also aimed to provide women better access gender-sensitive reproductive care and help them achieve sustainable and resilient livelihoods.

From February 2009 until February 2012, the program reached more than 100,000 women. Its achievements include reduced child marriage, reduced female genital mutilation, increased access to maternal and HIV care, more equitable division of household labor and more.

Women’s Organizations and Movements

Several Ethiopian women’s organizations have been important in increasing awareness and fighting for women’s rights. The Ethiopian Women with Disability National Association (EWDNA) works toward equal rights and ending social discrimination against women with disabilities. EWDNA serves women with disabilities of all kinds. EWDNA’s work includes the “provision of services in rehabilitation, education and skills training; the promotion of mobility and accessibility, reproductive health and HIV/AIDS education/support” and the comprehensive participation of persons with disabilities on all levels.

Setaweet is a feminist movement based in Addis Ababa, formed in 2014. It is a grassroots movement that seeks to create and espouse a uniquely Ethiopian form of feminism. Setaweet runs gender workshops in secondary schools, provides a gender-based violence call center for women who have experienced abuse, runs a women’s scholar program and presents exhibitions to raise awareness about issues like sexual violence against women.

Gender Equality Progress

Efforts for greater women’s rights in Ethiopia are paying off. In the past two decades, the Ethiopian government has implemented many landmark acts and policies to protect women and afford them more opportunities. This includes legislation that criminalizes domestic violence and several harmful traditional practices that affect women. In 2018, Ethiopia’s parliament appointed Sahle-Work Zewde as the nation’s first female president, a landmark decision for Ethiopian women’s political participation. Women now form half of the cabinet members. Women’s rights in Ethiopia are therefore showing steady and strong signs of improvement, empowering women in the country.

Clay Hallee
Photo: Flickr

Women in ScienceGender equality is vital for alleviating global poverty. Women represent 70% of the world’s most poverty-stricken people. Consequently, women need more opportunities in the job market and increased access to health and education resources in order to truly thrive. Uplifting and empowering women all over the world will lead to greater progress with global poverty reduction efforts. In particular, women in science have the potential to ignite impactful breakthroughs.

Society, Culture and Bias

Women’s empowerment starts with the foundation of education. Research shows that, as it stands, only 30% of the world’s researchers are women. One can explain this by cultural beliefs and social norms inhibiting women from pursuing a scientific education and career.

The gender gap in science underscores a societal bias. Furthermore, because the majority of researchers are men, research is less likely to head in the direction of improving the struggles and concerns that women face. Providing more opportunities in science and technology for women would help promote technological breakthroughs and progress for the betterment of both genders.

Women in Science

Data shows that although the share of women in science differs according to specific countries, women have experienced global underrepresentation in scientific and technological fields. For instance, in 2016, women represented 55% of all researchers in Tunisia, the highest rate in Africa. Alternatively, women comprised only 5% of all researchers in Chad.

According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), the average share of women researchers in Africa was 24.8% in 2016. This is approximately 4% lower than the already low international average of 28%.

Gender Equality and Development

For decades, the U.N. has supported gender equality and women’s empowerment. For instance, it adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1979, a landmark agreement putting women at the center of human rights issues and global development.

Gender equality also plays a crucial role in global development. Women’s empowerment is part of the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals adopted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These goals represent a global partnership aiming to end poverty, promote education and health, reduce inequalities and more.

The U.N. gender equality goal (SDG 5) focuses on various targets such as ending discrimination against women, preventing the violent treatment and exploitation of women and ending child marriage and female genital mutilation. Target 5.5. entails ensuring “Women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.” This target definitely extends to the scientific arena where women’s participation would mean scientific breakthroughs geared toward improving the struggles of women.

What is the OWSD?

The Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) is a program unit of UNESCO. This program unit has been supporting women scientists in developing countries since 1987. Supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the “OWSD provides research training, career development and networking opportunities for women scientists throughout the developing world.” Since 1988, more than 470 women in developing countries have received fellowships and more than 270 have graduated. The OWSD grants fellowships in various fields such as biology, agriculture, medicine, engineering and physical sciences.

The main goal of the OWSD is to encourage and support women’s roles in technological and scientific fields as well as in leadership. In doing so, the organization underlines the importance of the representation of women in scientific and technological progress in developing countries. The OWSD also emphasizes the need for collaboration between women scientists to build a global network to continue assisting women in science.

The Role of Women

Women’s empowerment represents a key part of reducing global poverty and can also positively impact global peace. Women’s empowerment links to a country’s prosperity. Countries that offer women equal employment opportunities also have lower poverty rates and a higher GDP. Women also play a significant role in the success and development of children. Research shows that women are likely to invest 90% of their income into the household. Income would go toward securing the basic needs of the family, enrolling children in school and investing in healthcare.

Gender equality promotes social and economic developments. In turn, a strong and durable economy can help build peaceful societies. As Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. Women executive director, stated in 2013, “There can be no peace, no progress as long as there is discrimination and violence against women.”

Women’s Empowerment for Global Development

According to the OWSD, in many developing countries women make up the majority of caregivers and agricultural workers.”If women are included as both participants in scientific research and as the beneficiaries of scientific research” the results will be highly impactful. By giving women consideration, resources and agency, the OWSD contributes to significant progress in developing countries. The organization not only contributes to scientific and technological progress but also endorses gender equality and fundamental human rights all around the world.

Soizic Lecocq
Photo: Flickr

African Continental Free TradeGender inequality in the workforce is an issue that affects women globally. Women account for 60% of all jobs globally but earn only 10% of all income. In addition, 70% of women experience financial exclusion, which contributes to gender inequality in Africa. Barriers to educational opportunities are also factors of gender inequality with up to 4 million girls that have not enrolled in the educational system. Advancing women’s involvement and opportunity in the African economy will aid in closing the gender gap. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement aims to economically transform Africa and women are an important part of this process.

The African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement

The AfCFTA agreement came into effect on January 1, 2021, and created one of the largest free trade areas in the world. AfCFTA created a new market of 1.3 billion people across Africa. This accounts for a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $3.4 trillion. According to the World Bank, AfCFTA has the potential to take up to 30 million Africans out of extreme poverty and increase the incomes of 68 million Africans who live on less than $5.50 a day.

The provisions of the agreement include lowering trade tariffs between participating countries and other beneficial regulatory measures. Overall, AfCFTA aims to completely reshape African markets and boost the economy with the creation of new jobs, increased industrialization and increased trade within Africa. In addition, women will benefit from the agreement by improving their access to trade opportunities and stimulating wage gains by up about 10.5%.

Boosting Women-Owned Businesses

The AfCFTA can boost women’s roles in jobs across different sectors like the agricultural sector. In agricultural jobs, AfCFTA can expand markets for exports and widen opportunities available to women. With increased industrialization and diversification, the AfCFTA can benefit women’s manufacturing and wage employment in manufacturing industries. Higher-skilled jobs will also become more available and accessible to women. In addition, significant benefits are present for women entrepreneurs. Regional value chains support smaller women-owned businesses. The chains allow larger firms to use smaller women-owned businesses as suppliers.

The SheTrades Project

Empowering Women in the AfCFTA project also addresses the gender gap. The purpose of the SheTrades project is to support women-owned businesses so that they can experience the free trade benefits under AfCFtA. The project focuses on capacity building, networking and advocacy as a means to achieve this. The project works with more than 50 women’s business associations to raise awareness of prioritizing women in terms of AfCFTA and discuss recommendations for prioritizing women as well as policy advocacy strategies. It also works to provide a platform for women’s business associations to work with each other as well as policymakers.

Addressing Gender Inequality

Women are key stakeholders in the development of the African economy under AfCTA, consisting of 70% of informal traders.

AfCFTA also recognizes the importance of gender in trade relations in Africa by stating the importance of incorporating gender inequality in the context of trade and the economy. A method of fighting gender inequality in Africa is through gender mainstreaming. Gender mainstreaming is defined as, “a process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned actions, including legislation, policies or programs in all areas and at all levels.” Strategies like gender mainstreaming are addressed and applied in several countries’ AfCTA National Implementation Strategies.

Implementation of further gender gap-related policies can strengthen the impact that the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement has on Africans and help to eradicate gender inequality in Africa.

Simone Riggins
Photo: Flickr