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

Women’s Rights in Kosovo
Since its independence, Kosovo has made efforts to progress gender equality. Its written laws and Constitution declare women as equal to men and one can see such equality at the highest levels with the recent promotion of a woman as acting president and the multiple females operating in high-level cabinet positions, including deputy prime minister. Kosovo law obliges all public institutions to ensure equal gender representation, including in leadership positions, as well. From the outside looking in, the laws in place and the fact that women are in leadership roles in government appear to showcase the promotion of women’s rights in Kosovo. However, the country requires more work to ensure full equality between men and women.

The Reality

Despite what looks like outstanding progress towards gender equality and the strengthening of women’s rights in Kosovo, the reality is that women face insurmountable struggles compared to their male counterparts in everyday life. Women experience discrimination regarding access to property and social resources, and problems of personal security and cultural equality. What many see from the outside is not representative of the traditional patriarchal society that exists in Kosovo, in which men have primary access to economic and social resources. It seems that not even law can uproot cultural traditions, which continue to dominate people’s perceptions of female rights and roles in society.

Property Rights

The situation regarding property rights illustrates the mirage of gender equality and the deeply ingrained cultural traditions that limit women’s rights in Kosovo. Despite inheritance law, which grants equal inheritance rights to men and women, women own only 17% of property in Kosovo; far below other Balkan states. Much of the reason for this roots in the power of traditional societal norms and roles that originated from the Albanian code of ethics, the Kanun. This ancient code subverts women to second-class citizenship. It suggests that a woman must move into her husband’s ancestral home. Meanwhile, it dictates that if her husband dies, the property rights should go to her brother or a male cousin.

What does this mean for poverty? The idea that women cannot own property can trickle into other areas that dictate women’s rights in Kosovo and female access to opportunities and resources. The norms perpetuate the stereotyping of gendered roles, with female associated roles as domestic and males as the breadwinners. Such stereotyping reduces the ability of women to be an equal member of the family and society in terms of economics. It also results in significant dependency on male family members as well as the government for women to financially survive.

Even where women want to pursue their dreams and break the glass ceiling, property rights disrupt their progress. Without property, women cannot gain access to loans, and without loans, many women have no means of becoming entrepreneurs or training in new occupations. This is evident in the business sector where females own only 6% of businesses. Clearly, cultural norms are significant and greatly limit female chances of economic and social progression.

Looking Forward

Despite deeply embedded cultural and social norms, women’s rights in Kosovo are improving. In January 2014, UN Women in Kosovo financed the production of a report to look into property rights and the legal structures that govern them. Other organizations and human rights NGOs have followed suit and undertaken and supported campaigns aimed at researching, spreading awareness and pressuring the domestic government to enforce equal property rights.

Aside from advocacy and government pressure to act to better implement policies to protect women’s rights regarding owning property, the Kosovo Cadastre Agency (KCA), which the World Bank co-created with the Agency for Gender Equality, has created a program to register joint ownership of marital property between spouses. Such schemes are helping women gain the rights they deserve and that Kosovo’s Constitution gives them. The creation of new programs and the pressuring of the Kosovar government are going towards ensuring equal access to property rights, and as a result, equal access to financial and social resources and opportunities to allow women to flourish.

– Elizabeth Alexander
Photo: Flickr

Mobile Gender Gap
Mobile phone usage directly correlates to social welfare, women’s empowerment and gender equality in households and society. Many sub-Saharan African and West Asian countries failed to meet the quota for gender equality in 2015. Additionally, South Asia has the most prevalent mobile gender gap.

There is a 28% difference in cell phone usage between men and women. On average, women earn less salary than men and are less likely to receive an education. As a result, many women are illiterate. This severely limits a woman’s sense of independence and financial liberty. Cell phone usage is one large indicator of gender inequality. According to GSMA Connected Women, women are 10% less likely to own a cell phone than men in low-to-middle-income countries.

Women’s Empowerment

Mobile phone usage directly links to a sense of empowerment and freedom. According to the Mobile Gender Gap’s 2019 report, women with access to mobile phones in developing nations are more involved in decision-making within the household and community. Furthermore, cell phones allow women to make decisions regarding contraception and easily find information on HIV testing. Many women living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are unaware of the opportunities that come with mobile phone usage.

There are numerous benefits to closing the mobile gender gap. Women become more empowered, connected, safe and are able to access information and services with ease. Additionally, closing the gender gap allows for considerable commercial and economic progress. Including women in technological advancements aids in building the society and economy substantially.

According to a Food Policy study conducted in Uganda, mobile phone usage directly connects to an increase in household income, women’s empowerment, food security and improved dietary quality. Small farm households that use mobile phones improve social welfare as well. Furthermore, the study found that eliminating the mobile gender gap increases economic and social development in developing countries. The GSMA reported that if the gender gap is closed by 2023, an additional $140 billion would be generated in revenue for the mobile industry.

What’s Being Done

Since 2014, 250 million women have obtained cell phones. While the gender gap is certainly shrinking, there is still a significant disparity. However, the GSMA Connected Women Program is working with mobile operators to combat this inequality. It aims to break down the barriers women face when accessing and using mobile internet services. The organization’s goal is to significantly reduce the mobile gender gap and provide commercial opportunities for the mobile industry. The Connected Women has reached more than 19 million women in the past three years.

Similarly, the Mobile Phone Literacy Project aims to sustain and spread mobile literacy interventions for women and girls. For example, female participants in the mobile-based post-literacy program in Pakistan have exhibited notable literacy improvements.

The benefits of mobile phones and internet services are momentous. Women experience a sense of safety, empowerment, financial independence and have increased access to learning services. Projects such as the Mobile Phone Literacy Project are helping to eradicate gender inequality. While the mobile gender gap is steadily closing, there is still much more to be done to maintain gender equality.

– Nina Eddinger
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in BrazilPeriod poverty is defined as a lack of access to menstrual hygiene resources and education. This includes access to sanitary products, washing facilities and waste management services. Financial barriers exacerbate period poverty in Brazil. Menstrual products in Brazil are taxed because they are not categorized as essential. In fact, in São Paulo, taxes form 34% of the price of menstrual products. Individuals and organizations are dedicating efforts to addressing period poverty globally.

Period Poverty in Brazil

In Brazil, not only is access to period products an issue but females also have no or limited access to hygiene facilities. Roughly 39% of schools lack handwashing facilities. This inadequacy directly impacts girls’ school attendance because, during menstruation, girls need a bathroom facility to change their tampons or pads and wash their hands. Outside of school, roughly five million Brazilians live in places that do not have adequate bathroom facilities.

Menstrual Stigma

There are about 5,000 known euphemisms for the words “menstruation” or “period.” This simple fact illustrates the shame associated with menstruation. Cultural taboos, discrimination, lack of education and period poverty perpetuate menstrual stigma. The consequences are that girls miss school while menstruating due to stigmas and taboos as well as a lack of access to menstrual hygiene products. Missing school means falling behind on education and increases the likelihood of girls dropping out of school altogether. Without education, girls are at higher risk of child marriage, early pregnancy and violence. Lack of education continues the cycle of poverty, limiting the futures of girls. This clearly illustrates how period poverty affects overall poverty.

Helena Branco

Ordinary young Brazilians are taking action to address period poverty in Brazil. Helena Branco is an 18-year-old Brazilian inspiring change and finding solutions to period poverty. After learning that the Brazilian government did not view period products as an essential resource, she took action. Branco and her teammates are part of Girl Up, a global movement for gender equality created by the United Nations Foundation.

After extensive research, the team’s first step was to focus efforts on supplying menstrual products to people suffering from the financial impact of COVID-19. The team developed the campaign #AbsorventeUrgente (#UrgentPads) to encourage local communities to donate menstrual products to organizations supporting vulnerable people during COVID-19. A total of 16 girl-led gender equality clubs from seven different Brazilian states took part in this effort. Through the campaign, the team successfully distributed more than 60,000 period products, raised $3,200 and directly impacted more than 3,000 people.

Eliminating Global Period Poverty

Branco and her team are bringing attention to the issue of period poverty in Brazil, highlighting barriers such as menstrual product taxes that discriminate against women. It is vital to address issues of period poverty in order to eliminate stigma and normalize the idea of menstruation in all nations. Efforts to address period poverty are essentially efforts to address global poverty overall.

Rachel Wolf
Photo: Flickr