gender inequality in IndonesiaAs the fourth most populous country in the world, Indonesia continues to battle poverty and conditions of inequality for women. However, Indonesia has made strides in improving access to education for girls. The nation also has one of the highest literacy rates in Asia. Various U.N. programs are promoting women’s access to learning while advancing the benefits of women in Indonesia’s marketplace. Here are many ways in which gender equality in Indonesia is improving.

Women in Politics

Indonesia implemented a democratic system in 1998. Since then they have implemented laws that decrease the inequality gap between men and women. For example, one law requires that political parties be composed of at least 30% of women. 2018 even saw Indonesia’s female finance minister voted Best Minister in the World by the World Government Summit. Women in Indonesia have also been influential in promoting certain bills that grant women more rights. The 2019 sexual violence bill, for example, identifies nine different forms of sexual harassment all of which would be made illegal. Discussion of this topic is taboo in some social settings in Indonesia, which makes support for this bill by women crucial.

Grassroots Movements

Women activists and Indonesian civil society organizations (CSOs) have played a role in breaking away social norms regarding inequality. With international support, these CSOs have impacted 900 villages over 27 provinces. This has positively affected more than 32,000 women from more than 1,000 groups in 2018. At the village level, these organizations promote women’s involvement in decision-making and focus on reducing violence against women.

Economic Empowerment

In 2019, U.N. Women launched an online learning platform that aims to empower women business owners called WeLearn. The platform offers free curricula to women entrepreneurs. WeLearn also provides access to lessons from industry experts and fellow women entrepreneurs.

A 2018 study of Women Empowerment Principles in the top 50 companies in Indonesia found that there was a minimum of one woman on every board of at least 84% of the companies that participated in the survey. These companies have also implemented initiatives to empower women in the workplace.

Access to Education

Access to education in Indonesia is also improving for girls. Indonesia has one of the highest literacy rates for women among Asian countries, with 99.7% of women ages 15–24 literate in 2018. By 2019, almost every child in Indonesia attended school at the elementary level. In fact, there were slightly more female students enrolled than male students. Furthermore, females were shown to do better than males.

Looking Forward

Intergovernmental organizations are also promoting gender equality in Indonesia. For example, the UNDP Indonesia Gender Equality Strategy and Action Plan 2017-2020 is committed to addressing four aspects of gender equality in Indonesia:

  • Empower women to achieve a better standard of living and sustainable employment
  • Work with local groups to grant women better healthcare access
  • Support the involvement of women in the sustainable use of natural resources
  • Improve access to responsible and fair public institutions, especially for women who are in more vulnerable situations

Overall, conditions of gender equality in Indonesia are improving through the involvement of women in politics and grassroots organizations. This is especially possible with the support of international organizations like the United Nations. Continued efforts to empower women entrepreneurs and communicate the benefits of women in the marketplace are essential to realizing greater economic benefits and achieving greater gender equality in Indonesia.

– Anita Durairaj

Photo: Wikimedia

Literacy Rates in Afghanistan
Afghanistan, a landlocked country in south-central Asia, houses many different ethnic groups and extremely important trade routes. The country also has a longstanding history in literature, with poets such as Reza Mohammadi and Khaled Hosseini. Unfortunately, due to the spread of the Taliban regime and devastating wars, literacy rates in Afghanistan are among the lowest in the world at about 45 percent for men and 17 percent for women. In 2018, Idress Siyawash had the vision to raise literacy rates in Afghanistan with the implementation of his mobile bicycle libraries.

Mobile Bicycle Libraries

Read Books, or Ketab Lwast, is a program that Idress Siyawash started to provide books and learning experiences for children in Afghanistan, especially in rural areas. Siyawash is a student at Jahan University in Kabul, Afghanistan. Each week, he and his team travel to rural areas in Afghanistan to deliver books to children. They ride around town on bright blue bicycles with baskets full of books in order to excite the children and motivate them to learn. Then, they gather all the kids and teach them to read, write, speak and understand the importance of learning. Female volunteers travel from home to home working to encourage mothers and fathers to send their daughters to school. The female volunteers serve as models for parents who want a better, more equal life for their daughters.

Motives and Inspiration

Education rates in Afghanistan are significantly lower than those of other countries. For example, Afghanistan has an average literacy rate of 38 percent, while the international average is 84 percent. Education in rural areas is especially low. Gender inequality also affects education in Afghanistan, as many women do not have permission to attend schools, and in most provinces, the amount of female teachers is below 10 percent.

Siyawash had the determination to raise literacy rates in Afghanistan and also change Afghani attitudes regarding gender equality in terms of education. In an interview, Siyawash said, “Our idea is to show that reading is fun and explain why education is so important. If we give the children books, it might help end the way of thinking that is holding this country back.”

Obstacles and Solutions

One of the main obstacles to education in Afghanistan is distance. Some children, especially in rural areas, must walk for hours to reach their schools. For example, children in the Badakhshan province walk four hours each day to go and come back from the closest government-supported school. Siyawash’s bicycle idea tackles this obstacle effectively, bringing education straight to the children.

Another obstacle is the fear of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, especially among females. Unfortunately, Taliban members have confronted and threatened Siyawash and his team twice, but they continue to travel and provide services to children because they believe in a “different future for Afghanistan.”

Read Books has had success in its goal to raise literacy rates in Afghanistan. Over the span of just a few years, the literacy rate in Afghanistan grew from 38 percent in 2015 to 43 percent in 2018. Overall, the future of education in Afghanistan is looking brighter.

– Shveta Shah
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Issues in West AfricaMany different factors undermine women’s public health issues and political power in West Africa. Many of these factors, such as gender inequality, weak economic capacity and gender-based violence disproportionately affect women in the region more than men. Gender-based social stratifications have resulted in a disparity in the benefits women receive when compared to their male counterparts, and this undermines their social status and power as well. Here is more information concerning women’s issues in West Africa.

Women’s Issues in West Africa

While certain factors do continue to impede upon the growth of women’s social status in the region, the region has made some small steps regarding women’s roles in society. The West African countries of Sierra Leone, Cabo Verde, Mauritania, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso and Senegal have recently been able to close the gender gap in primary school enrollment, making early childhood education more accessible to young girls within the region. Senegal has made even more progress in terms of women’s rights with increased representation in its parliament. The number of female parliament members has almost doubled in the past few years, which is a particularly good start in giving more political power to women in the West African region. Women’s equal political participation still remains a challenge in the majority of these countries, but following in the steps of Senegal could make for increased inclusion of women in politics throughout the region. Even though such changes will take time, the progress that Senegal has made has provided women with more representation for the time being.

Women’s Issues in the Workplace

Women in West Africa face issues in the workforce within the region as well. Struggles with infrastructure and fully-functional public services in the region push women into more domestic and care work. In the West African region, women spend approximately six times more than men on unpaid care work, which typically involves household tasks and caring for children and the elderly. This disparity leads to economic and social issues for women in West Africa. Since their work is unpaid, they often have little to no economic mobility and are instead reliant on members of the family that work for pay, and this lack of economic status pushes them further down in societal ranks. These two combined make for even more difficulties in addressing the issues that specifically affect women in West Africa.

With economic inequality disproportionately affecting women in West Africa, it is important to emphasize not only the issues at hand but also the ways in which people can change them for the better. The economy does not always legitimately count the household and family-centered work that women in West Africa typically perform because people deem it to be an informal sector of work where workers do not earn wages. In some cases, women will contribute substantial amounts of labor in the agricultural sector but lack access to credit and markets, making attaining a profit and higher economic status difficult once again.

Moving forward, people must put development policies into place and carry them out properly in order to engage women in the workforce in a way that will count in the formal economic sector. It may be in the best interest of women in West Africa for their countries to adopt the same sorts of policies that countries like Tanzania and Uganda have already proved successful. These countries along with several others have adopted a tool called gender budgeting which analyzes government spending and its impacts on gender and age subgroups. The goal of using this tool is to better understand where economic disparities arise and adjusting the government’s spending choices to alleviate adverse effects.

Child Marriages in West Africa

Aside from economic disparities affecting women in West Africa, another problem has arisen concerning the younger population. Previously, arranged marriages adversely affected young girls because little to no policies were in place protecting their rights. This practice is particularly salient in the West African region, where the rates of child marriage are more than double the world average.

Now, all West African countries are signatories of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human Rights and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, the African Youth Charter and finally the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. These show commitment to national campaigns looking to end child marriage and protect the rights of young girls, creating a great step in the direction of progress. Now that some legal loopholes have closed, new cultural customs must also put the rights of young girls and women first, therefore elevating their status and importance in greater society.

The Future for Women’s Issues in West Africa

Women in West Africa are not simply accepting these issues as unchangeable but are instead taking stances to improve their lives. The development of women’s organizations in West Africa has helped spark attention and change in certain areas thanks to the collective efforts of these women. From grassroots campaigns to highly professional and organized non-governmental organizations, these organizations have focuses ranging from specific women’s rights to even broader agendas. For many, the idea of gender equality in the region is at the forefront of its mission.

While all of these organizations tackle different issues and call for a response from the public in varying ways, each organization gives refuge for women to join together and learn about their rights. These organizations act as a support structure for women in West Africa and help to provide them with the resources to better themselves socially, economically and politically. By joining together, these women are creating unstoppable numbers that are currently pressuring political and structural change to rectify the issues women in West Africa face every day. With their perseverance and dedication, they will continue empowering women for generations to come and bring resolve to the issues that have adversely affected women in the region for decades.

Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Women’s Health in EthiopiaWhile gender equality has been a significant issue in the sub-Saharan African country, recent steps have been taken to ensure the health and safety of Ethiopian women and girls. Below are seven facts about women’s health in Ethiopia.

7 Facts About Women’s Health in Ethiopia

  1. The maternal mortality rate has been cut in half between 1990 and 2010. One reason for this is the implementation of the Health Extension Program (HEP) in 2005, which aims to provide all families with clean and safe spaces to deliver their babies both at home and in medical facilities.
  2. In 2015, the Center for International Reproductive Health Training (CIRHT) was founded in order to increase the number of medical professionals that could provide reproductive care to rural areas of Ethiopia. Students are completing the program in three years, compared to 12 years of similar advanced programs in other African countries. The program also works to destigmatize reproductive health and merge it into mainstream health care. Partly as a result of this program, the number of Ethiopian women making four or more doctors’ visits during their pregnancies has tripled between 2000 and 2014.
  3. Ethiopia has a long history of gender-based discrimination which impacts the wellbeing of women and girls in the country. In February of 2019, the Ethiopian government held a meeting with civil society organizations (CSOs) as a part of African Health Week to prioritize gender-sensitive policymaking objectives in the health care sector.
  4. The use of contraceptives has increased by almost six times from 2000 to 2016. The introduction to modern contraceptive methods had helped prevent unwanted pregnancies and disease among married women in Ethiopia.
  5. Twice as many women in Ethiopia have HIV than men, but in 2016, 49 percent of women had knowledge of HIV prevention methods, compared to 32 percent in 2000. This has contributed to a 45 percent decrease in AIDS-related deaths in the country between 2010 and 2018, as well as a decrease of 6,000 new cases in the same timeframe.
  6. In both rural and urban communities, the percentage of female genital mutilation has decreased by at least 10 percent. Though progress still needs to be made, both settings have seen a significant decrease in the act between 2000 and 2016.
  7. In 2018, the first two urogynecology fellows in Ethiopia graduated from Mekelle University. Oregon Health and Science University partnered with Mekelle to launch the first urogynecology fellowship program in the country. Urogynecologists treat pelvic floor disorders in women, many who suffer in silence in Ethiopia, as this group of disorders is not well known.

While Ethiopia has severely struggled with gender inequality throughout its history, it is encouraging to see that the Ethiopian government is making concrete changes. Between the creations of programs and institutions, as well as improved education, women’s health in Ethiopia will continue to make great strides.

– Alyson Kaufman
Photo: Pixabay

Keeping Girls in School ActThe House of Representatives passed the Keeping Girls in School Act in January 2020. The main focus of the Keeping Girls in School Act is to make sure that girls around the world are supported in staying in school despite the numerous hurdles they face. There are young girls around the world who are still being forced to leave school due to early marriages and pregnancies. This bill guarantees that the U.S. will ensure foreign assistance to break the barriers that are keeping almost 130 million girls worldwide from getting an education. 

The Keeping Girls in School Act

By focusing on their education, girls are not only gaining academic knowledge but they are also growing up with the right resources and knowledge to lead prosperous and successful lives. If countries could definitively end child marriages, they could save 5 percent or more on their budgets for education by the year 2030. The following four facts describe how the Keeping Girls in School Act will help girls stay in the classroom instead of having to stop their education to go take care of a household:

  1. Result-based financing– The Act authorizes USAID to create grant-based programs that are designed to reduce the obstacles that interfere with young girls and inhibit them from completing school. Programs like Cash on Delivery Aid and Development Impact Bonds directly link the funds obtained to deliver the specified outcomes.
  2. Ending gender-bias stigma– Sexism still exists and it is still a major factor affecting young girls. In some cultures, girls are expected to be housewives while the men go out and work. In India, students are becoming aware of gender equality and by discussing it in classrooms. These discussions are improving girls’ attitudes and behaviors on education and gender equality. 
  3. Ensuring safety for all children– At least 25 percent of students in Liberia have reported sexual abuse by teachers. In India, 21 percent of students have experienced abuse in an academic setting. One of the top priorities of this bill is to ensure that all children feel safe and comfortable while learning. 
  4. Making education affordable– In many countries, higher education is a privilege for the rich. The Keeping Girls in School Act highlights the role of USAID in supporting an education system that is affordably financed by governments domestically. The key is to focus on improving the affordability of primary and secondary schooling to promote higher learning.

Supporting Girls’ Education and Rights

More importantly, the purpose of this bill is to ensure that girls are allowed to be children and not become mothers and wives at young ages. According to recent data by UNICEF, 12 million girls are becoming wives at a young age. By marrying young, their childhoods come to a screeching halt and they are forced to grow up. In sub-Saharan Africa, 66 percent of girls who have not received an education become wives at an early age. However, for girls who have a secondary or higher education, that number drops to 13 percent.

The Keeping Girls in School Act supports the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls. Its main purpose is to focus on girls’ rights, education, health and safety. The House passed the Act. Senator Jeanne Shaheen introduced a version in the Senate in April of 2019. With enough support, the Act will pass in the Senate.

Paola Quezada
Photo: Flickr

How Women are Pushing for Gender Equality in Sudan
Gender equality in Sudan has experienced wide debate, especially in the last two decades. Many women across the country saw Omar al-Bashir’s removal from office as a victory for women’s rights. For years, women have been protesting to have the right to a fair trial, to play sports, to have freedom of speech and to have a position in politics. Here is more information about how women are pushing for gender equality in Sudan.

Sudan’s First Female Football League

Women in Sudan started branching out into new activities after Omar al-Bashir’s removal from office. Women across the nation started branching out into new territory: professional sports. Somewhere that women have been thriving is on the football field. Sudan’s first-ever all-women football league began near the end of 2019. Since the league’s arrival, protests across the country have called for more women to involve themselves in sports both professionally and as a hobby. The new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has vowed to make female participation throughout the country a priority in the government. Many across the nation believe that the numbers and volume of women protesting was one of the reasons for Omar al-Bashir’s removal from office. Allowing women to compete in sports helps break down some of the barriers that have been preventing gender equality in Sudan.

Women’s Rights

Conversations about gender equality in Sudan and women’s rights first made headlines in the early 2000s. Sexual abuse and violence were at the forefront of the demonstrations. The International Criminal Court indicted former President Omar al-Bashir and several of his staff for systematic sexual abuse in Darfur, between 2003 and 2008.

Women all across Sudan became increasingly angry with the government not reacting to alleged sexual abuse crimes that the police force committed as well. One report shows that government security allegedly killed 118 people and raped dozens of female demonstrators. Gender equality in Sudan also brings up arguments over the legal system in the country. Women across Sudan have also been protesting the legal system, which can allow women to face imprisonment for crimes such as wearing trousers or leaving the house without a man who is not their husband. One report shows that up to 40 women are in courts each day because of these laws. It is common for the women to have a trial without a lawyer, go to jail or receive punishment by public lashings.

Sudanese Women in Politics

The Sudanese Women’s Union began in 1952. Since its creation, it has been advocating for women to go to school, combating underage marriages, fighting for the right for equal pay between men and women and obtaining women’s right to vote. The Sudanese Women’s Union is not the only group striving for gender equality in Sudan. Another group called MANSAM, also known as Women of Sudanese Civic and Political Groups, is a large collective of non-government organizations involved in aiding women throughout Sudan. In total, the collective includes eight political women’s groups, 18 civil society organizations and two youth groups. Currently, one of MANSAM’s main goals is for women to represent half of the political officials in Sudan.

Women in Sudan are pushing for gender equality. They have been fighting for gender equality for decades, both in the form of NGOs and grassroots organizing. They are fighting to have an equal say in politics, in the law and even in sports. The changes that the country has made over the last two decades have been drastic and will likely continue as women’s voices grow stronger.

Asha Swann
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Southern Russia
Women’s rights are an international concern. The state of women’s rights in Russia is challenging, particularly in Southern Russia, where the police and government treat feminists as extremists. Southern Russia includes Adygeya, Astrakhan, Kalmykia, Krasnodar, Rostov and VolgogradThis article will mainly inform on the gender pay gap in Russia as well as violence in the form of domestic violence and harassment. Additionally, it will shed light on some solutions and progress that women and the government have made. The solutions that have been working highlight that it is possible to outline new ones and effectively fight for women’s rights. 

Gender Pay Gap

A significant topic when discussing women’s rights in Southern Russia is the gender pay gap, which is significant. Back in 2015, men earned $670, while women earned $452. The pay gap percentage is smallest in the educational sector, while it rises in the IT sector with a 33 percent difference. Still, Olga Golodest, a Russian politician and economist, says that the gap has narrowed in the past decade, when women’s salaries were 40 percent lower than those of men, compared to a current 26 percent.

Violence

In 2018, Russian journalists accused influential lawmaker Leonid Slutsky of sexual harassment through the #MeToo movement. The parliament’s ethics committee held a hearing, but later on dismissed the complaints, calling them a conspiracy that sought to smear Slutsky’s image. He never admitted any wrongdoing. A year before, in 2017, the parliament also decriminalized domestic violence as long as it does not cause any serious bodily harm that requires hospitalization. Many saw this move as a step in the wrong direction because domestic violence is rampant in Russia, and so much so that around 12,000 women suffer killing as a result of it every year.

Taking Action

 In St. Petersburg, two women opened Russia’s first exclusively female co-working space called Simona. One of the co-founders, Svetlana Natarkhoba, explained that she “got tired of sexism and mansplaining at work, especially when [she] found out that [her] male colleague, who worked just as much as [she did], had a salary up to 15,000 rubles ($230) higher than [hers].” Simona allows any female customer to stay and work there for only $2.2 per day. Another positive development has been the spread of feminism. Women have been demanding new legislation to restrain abusers and innovative ways to tackle outdated gender attitudes.
There is also a significant representative in politics for feminism named Oksana PushkinaPushkina became an elected member of United Russia in 2016 and is campaigning to get the law that decriminalizes domestic violence overturned. She is also seeking to get Russia to pass its first-ever domestic violence law.

The pay gap between men and women, as well as violence against women and how the population perceives it, are vast indicators of how women’s rights are doing in a particular place. By looking at Simona and the efforts of Oksana Pushkina, it is clear that some in Russia are fighting these injustices and obtaining results. Learning about the solutions that have been working shows that it is possible to outline new ones and effectively fight for women’s rights in Southern Russia and around the world.

– Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Gender Inequality in HaitiHaiti is one part of the isle of Hispaniola and located in the Caribbean Sea. It was born out of imperialism and enslavement by European powers. Haiti won its independence from foreign powers in 1804 although it wouldn’t be officially recognized until several years later. Today, the women of Haiti make up the pillars of the Haitian economy, yet still, there is an undoubted disparity between men and women. Women in Haiti face gender-based discrimination and violence. Here are 10 facts about gender inequality in Haiti.

10 Facts about Gender Inequality in Haiti

  1. While women and girls stand at the heart of the Haitian economy and society, they still face much gender-based violence. Organizations like the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are committed to creating gender equality in developing nations such as Haiti. One in three Haitian women ages between the ages of 15 to 49 has experienced some form of gender-based violence.
  2. For many Haitian girls ages 13 to 17, school was the second most common location where they reported some kind of sexual abuse.
  3. Due to a feeble judicial system in Haiti, there were no laws in place declaring rape and domestic violence a punishable offense until 2005. Furthermore, women and girls in Haiti are given far less legal protection than men. This results in no penalties for criminals who commit these atrocious acts.
  4. USAID supports the introduction of a gender-specific legal strategy that would grant women better access to quality legal protection. USAID’s Projustice Program has provided legal services and justice to at least 50,000 people between 2009 and 2016. Projects like the Projustice Project are crucial to the improvement of the lives of many Haitian women.
  5. Beyond Borders is an NGO with the goal of preventing violence against women in Haiti. It launched a project in June of 2010 called “Rethinking Power.” Rethinking Power is a project that works closely with five Haitian communities to reeducate the participants about violence against women. Rethinking Power uses mediums like theater and comic strips to convey the message that a man should not commit violence against women. As a result of this project, 94 percent of participants agreed that a man has no right to strike a woman when he is angry. Additionally, one in three community members has reported someone from his or her community who discusses Rethinking Power regularly.
  6. Women have a 20 percent higher chance to be unemployed than men, according to a 2015 World Bank report. Unfortunately, many employers in Haiti discriminate when it comes to sex. It favors men over women for employment, furthering gender inequality in Haiti.
  7. Women in Haiti often live in poor, low-quality housing. Many single mothers and women live on low wages with little means of social and economic advancement. Some women are forced to live with their parents to make ends meet.
  8. Only 22 percent of women are married in Haiti. In Haiti, a woman’s social standing is higher if there is a man in her life, especially for low-income women. Single women and single mothers are often frowned upon in society.
  9. Non-governmental organizations like the Pan American Development Foundation have helped fund 11 women-owned businesses through its LEAD program. This created 9,000 jobs. This is a crucial step in the rebuilding of Haiti, allowing women to attain better jobs in a male-dominated workforce.
  10. Most women in Haiti work in the informal sector. The informal sector often includes makeshift marketplaces and low-income jobs. An article in the 2010 MIT journal about the rebuilding of Haiti after the earthquake suggests that Haiti should be rebuilt with women at the forefront of the rebuilding process. Focusing and raising the power of the informal sector and the work the women of Haiti do should be an integral part of the rebuilding of the Haitian economy.

Despite the fact that the country that has been ravaged by gender inequality, it is arguably on a road to a better future for Haitian women. Many advocacy groups work to lessen the burden women face in Haiti. Groups like Rethinking Power and USAID have helped to change the violent, victim-blaming attitude men harbor toward women in Haiti. Organizations like these are working to change these 10 facts about gender inequality in Haiti.

William Mendez
Photo: Flickr

10 Improvements in Women’s Rights in Bangladesh
Bangladeshi women are no strangers to fighting for what they believe in. In 1952, the women of Bangladesh fought against the patriarchal regime alongside their husbands for the recognition of the Bengali language. Below are 10 improvements in women’s rights in Bangladesh.

10 Improvements in Women’s Rights in Bangladesh

  1. Health. The USAID assisted in joint communication between husbands and wives regarding women’s health. Therefore, decision-making is mutual and focuses on the future of the family, including healthier pregnancies for both mother and child. Bangladeshi women formed NGOs to mobilize and provide door to door health services, family planning and income-earning opportunities.
  2. Agriculture. Bangladeshi women are not only homemakers, but they are also income earners. Female farmers utilize a new technology, known as the fertilizer deep treatment method. This method uses less fertilizer and produces a higher return on investment. Additionally, Bangladesh also encourages women to sell in markets and pursue other areas of earned income, such as culturing fish and shrimp.
  3. Gender-Based Violence. The USAID works to implement the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act of 2010 in training 50 percent of Bangladeshi women. Further, Bangladesh also supports grassroots efforts of social protection groups as well. Groups act as the ears and eyes of the community, as well as enforcing current human rights laws and providing resources to legal channels. Groups include social workers, doctors, religious leaders, teachers and students.
  4. Voting Rights. The country has set an example of women’s equality in voting. In 1972, the Constitution of Bangladesh guaranteed women the same voting rights as their male counterparts. The constitution also guaranteed equal opportunities, such as serving in parliament. For example, in 1991, there was the election of the first female Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia. Today, Sheikh Hasina holds the seat as Prime Minister. Furthermore, Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury holds the seat as House Speaker.
  5. Women and Children Repression (Special Act). In 1995, Bangladesh passed the special act for severe punishment for anyone guilty of forcing women to marry against their will, as well as marrying for dowry. In 2018, the high court also banned and prohibited the two-finger test; it deemed this test irrational and belittling to rape victims. Instead, the government adopted a more appropriate form of health care protocol in line with the World Health Organization.
  6. Education. Research finds that access to education and employment plays a positive role in helping women avoid becoming victims of dowry-related transactions. Illiteracy stifles the opportunity for growth and empowerment for women. The Centre for Policy Dialogue completed a study and found that if homemakers received pay for what people believe is
    non-work, they would receive 2.5 to 2.9 times higher pay than paid services income.
  7. Mass Awareness. Bangladesh also encourages mass discussion, debates and programs to bring awareness to gender inequality. According to lawmakers, mass public initiatives must include legislations and policies; this includes awareness that people teach and model at home.
  8. Working Women. Bangladeshi working women increased from 16.2 million in 2010 to 18.6 million in 2016-17. In 2017, the Gender Gap Index reported Bangladesh in the first spot amongst South Asian countries.
  9. Education. In 1990, the implementation of stipends exclusively for female students in efforts to end gender disparity for secondary schools occurred. Also, 150,000 primary school girls improved their reading skills. Participation increased from 57 percent in 2008 to 94.4 percent in 2017. Moreover, 10 million rural and underprivileged women in 490 Upazilas of 64 districts gained technology access. Bangladesh tops the Gender Gap Index in education in the primary and secondary education category.
  10. More Achievements. Bangladesh initiatives thus far include a reduction in infant and child mortality, poverty alleviation, increased female entrepreneurs and increased education and health. Other initiatives include strengthening workplace treatment and security for women against violence. There have also been income-generating initiatives to train over 2 million women at a grassroots level. Finally, Prime Minister Hasina created the Reserve Quota aimed at increasing the number of women in government, judiciary and U.N. peacekeeping missions and roles.

These 10 improvements in women’s rights in Bangladesh continue to set an example for other countries where inequality is extremely pervasive. While Bangladesh still requires significant work, these improvements bring more opportunities for Bangladeshi women to succeed in the future.

Michelle White
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Yemen

Yemen is located in the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula between Oman and Saudi Arabia. Getting access to education has been one of the major challenges children in Yemen face in recent years, especially girls. Here are eight facts about girls’ education in Yemen.

8 facts about girls’ education in Yemen

  1. In Yemen, about 32 percent of girls are married before the age of 18 with 9 percent being married before turning 15. Due to poverty, girls in Yemen are being married off as a source of income. Marriage will reduce the cost of looking after girls and is believed to offer girls the safety a husband can provide. However, Girls Not Brides is an organization dedicated to ending child marriage. This organization aims to raise awareness of the negative impact of child marriages through open discussions with communities. It mobilizes policy to bring child marriages to an end and works to empower girls and offer them a support network.
  2. According to UNICEF, there is a significant gender gap in education in Yemen’s youth with males enrolled in primary school at 79 percent and females at 66 percent. However, UNICEF is working with the government of Yemen on decreasing this gap and improving the quality of education. The goal is to increase the number of girls enrolled in school. It is also working with other organizations to improve conditions for teachers in Yemen, which will increase access to education overall.
  3. The goal of the Secondary Education Development and Girls Access Project is to improve gender equity and quality of secondary education with a specific focus on girls in rural areas. This project works on improving and furnishing school facilities, providing learning equipment and resources and offering schools community grants. The project also aims to improve teaching and learning practices in classrooms and increasing girls’ participation. The project helped increase enrollment from 0.43 to 0.63 and increased the retention rate of 10 to 12-year-old girls to 85 percent from 78 percent.
  4. In Yemen, public schools are co-ed until grade four though girls and boys are usually seated apart from each other. Due to cultural and traditional beliefs, co-ed classrooms are not acceptable. Some families decide not to enroll their daughters in school because of the lack of separate classrooms.
  5. In Yemen, about 70 percent of the population lives in rural areas. In rural areas, school accessibility is a challenge. Some students must walk for more than an hour to get to the nearest school. The distance becomes longer in higher grade levels because some schools do not offer both primary and secondary education. For girls, schools must be at a culturally acceptable distance and location in order to attend classes.
  6. Due to violence and closed schools that began in 2015, more than 350,000 children couldn’t go to school that first year. A total of about 2.2 million children have been left out of school. However, in 2016, UNICEF was able to provide about 575,000 children with educational resources and psychological encouragement.
  7. Save the Children is an organization that protects children’s rights. It has programs such as education, protection, health and more. Save the Children was the first worldwide aid group in Yemen. This organization has set up temporary learning spaces for children, trained teachers and provided equipment. It runs learning programs for children who did not attend school to help them catch up. In addition, the organization runs educational programs for displaced children in camps.
  8. USAID is working with the government of Yemen to improve school attendance by make schools cleaner and safer. USAID is working to rebuild schools, improve curriculum and provide “safe and equitable access to education” through Yemen’s Transition Education Plan. USAID is dedicating $36 million to education in Yemen.

Education for girls still remains an unsettled issue today. However, through the efforts and determination of the government of Yemen and organizations such as USAID and Save the children, there is hope that all girls may get an education in the near future.

Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr