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

The Current State of Gender Equality

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

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

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

Benefits of Empowering Women in India

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

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

Women Of Worth (WOW)

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

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

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

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

– Owen Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr

Gender Wage Gap In Namibia
Namibia ranks sixth in the Global Gender Gap Report of 2021, the highest-ranked African country for bridging the gap between women and men economic opportunity, educational attainment, health and political empowerment measure. In just nine years, Namibia has climbed 35 spots, excelling past Canada and the United States in the Global Gender Gap Report. A closer look at Namibia’s history provides insight into actions taken to bridge this gap and how the gender wage gap in Namibia still plays a role in society today.

Post-Independence Namibia Focuses on Gender Equality

Prior to Namibia gaining independence, many considered women the property of men. When Namibia gained full independence from South Africa in 1990, it implemented numerous changes aimed at improving gender equality, as well as equality for all, in the new constitution. Article 10 states that “[n]o persons shall be discriminated against on the grounds of sex, race, color, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status,” emphasizing Namibia’s commitment to equality.

Also, the Married Persons Equality Act became law in 1996. The act allows women to sign contracts, register a property in their name and act as directors of companies. Women in Namibia hold about 44% of the managerial professions.

In the year 2013, “Namibia’s ruling party, the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO),” implemented a 50/50 gender policy that requires “equal representation of men and women” in parliament. At the time of the policy creation, women filled only 25% of the positions in parliament. Currently, women occupy 44% of the seats in parliament, proving that the gender policy has been effective in adding more women to work in government roles. The government’s adoption of these policies aid in creating a more inclusive environment for women in Namibia, particularly in political and urban settings.

More Women Seek an Education

Women in Namibia are leading their male counterparts in post-secondary education with a tertiary education enrollment rate of 30% for women and 15% for men. At the largest university in Namibia, the University of Namibia (UNAM), 64% of the students are women while only 36% are men. Many women continue on to obtain their master’s degrees or doctoral degrees. Once out of school, the labor force participation rate for women drops below men at 57% and 64% respectively. Even though more women seek secondary education than men, women earn less than men in several industries.

While the gender wage gap in Namibia is less prominent than that of many other countries, the distribution of wealth is immensely unequal. According to the Gini index, which measures the degree of inequality in the distribution of family income, Namibia ranks second-highest in comparison to all other countries in the world. Namibia has one of the highest Gini index ratings because of its high unemployment rate, with women more likely to experience unemployment. About 64% of Namibians survive on less than $5.55 per person per day, which equates to slightly more than $2,000 a year. The average amount U.S. citizens spend on a summer vacation is roughly the same.

Namibians Continue to Reach for Gender Equality

Much like other patriarchal societies, when women and men reach for equality, there are often roadblocks along the way. While women in Namibia now occupy 44% of the positions in parliament, they are still shy of the 50% goal of the 50/50 gender policy. The gender wage gap in Namibia has narrowed significantly, but there is still massive inequality concerning family income distribution. There is also an underlying dialogue in Namibia that women are inferior to men. Sexual and gender-based violence is prevalent due to societal and cultural norms. In fact, among the age group of 15 to 49, 28% of women and 22% of men in Namibia believe a husband beating his wife as a form of discipline constitutes a justifiable act. These beliefs contribute to a culture of gender inequality, which often proliferates inequalities in the workplace and perpetuates traditional gender roles.

Fortunately, the government is continuing to implement policies beneficial to gender equality. Additionally, women are pursuing secondary education at astounding rates, which is crucial in combating gender-based disparities as well as decreasing the gender wage gap in Namibia.

– Amy Helmendach
Photo: Flickr


The fight for women’s rights and gender equality in Mexico has come a long way but still needs improvement. Currently, the country still presents many challenges and obstacles for women to achieve equality. Mexican women face verbal and sexual abuse daily.

Recognizing the dire need for change, several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are working hard to empower Mexican women. They are advocating for more women’s participation in politics and government. Here are some NGOs leading the fight for gender equality in Mexico.   

Fondo Semillas 

Fondo Semillas (“Seeds Fund”) is a nonprofit feminist organization based in Mexico. It focuses on improving Mexican women’s lives. The organization’s overarching mission is to create an equitable country where women can make their own decisions.

Launched during the 1968 student movement in Mexico City that represented a breakthrough for young Mexican women, Fondo Semillas seeks to mobilize domestic and international resources. To do this, it seeks institutional, corporate and individual donors. The organization also collaborates with other feminist groups to advance women’s rights.

Rather than coming up with short-term solutions, Fondo Semillas targets the roots of the problems and builds structural policies to address the issues. Through this work, Fondo Semillas has four key gender equity goals. These are protecting women’s bodies, preserving the women’s relationships with nature, advocating for job opportunities for women and preserving women’s identities in the country.

Simone de Beauvoir Leadership Institute (ILSB)  

The Simone de Beauvoir Leadership Institute (ILSB) is a feminist Mexican non-governmental organization (NGO) that endeavors to strengthen social leadership and citizen participation for women. The organization’s goal is to enhance justice, equity and gender equality in Mexico by helping feminist leaders and activists influence policies. ILSB also focuses on empowering women to demand progress. To advance these goals, ILSB aims to build a culture of activism and knowledge for women. Further, it strives to establish alliances between leaders who value gender equality in Mexico.

Through its advocacy projects and digital campaigns, ILSB is notable as a gender equality trailblazer. In short, the NGO wants to create female leaders who have a commitment to social justice and gender equality. Through these activists, ILSB hopes to change of realities of discrimination and inequality in Mexico.   

Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa (“May Our Daughters Return Home”)  

Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa (“May Our Daughters Return Home”) is an organization that strives to fight against femicide in Mexico. Founded after the murders and disappearances of Mexican women in the State of Chihuahua, Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa hopes to demand justice for women by focusing on returning the bodies of victims to their families for a proper burial. It also strives to bring aggressors to justice.

The organization attempts to advance these goals by providing legal guidance and social justice support for families whose daughters disappeared. It addresses both physical and mental health issues of affected family members. Not only does Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa inform the state government about any human rights violations but it also demands more accountability from the government. It does this by asking the government to allocate resources for women who femicide affects. Through these works, Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa addresses the ongoing problem of femicide and fights for advancing gender equality in Mexico.   

Las Libres  

Las Libres is a feminist organization with the primary mission to promote women’s human rights and to demand respect for women’s rights across Mexico. The organization specifically aims to provide women with access to legal and medical services. It also focuses on empowering indigenous, uneducated or low-income women.

Las Libres conducts educational workshops for women in marginalized communities. These aim to build awareness of women’s rights and create a safe environment for women to exercise their rights. They also offer legal and medical support for women who are victims of gender-based violence. Through this work, the organization envisions a future for gender equality in Mexico. 

PSYDEH

PSYDEH is a feminist, grassroots Mexican nongovernmental organization (NGO) that empowers rural and indigenous people with training in human rights and citizen development.  Further, it helps them to become leaders of their own marginalized communities. The NGO believes that change needs to come from the bottom up.

PSYDEH views women as central to families and societies. That is why the NGO presents women-led workshops to educate women on creating solutions to local problems. Further, the workshops teach women to utilize resources for improving their decision-making and their understanding of the law. By partnering with like-minded organizations, PSYDEH also helps women develop local projects for improving their quality of life. Through this work, the organization hopes to improve the self-awareness of Mexican women and foster solidarity between marginalized communities. Finally, it also aims to empower women to take action to better their own lives.   

Moving Forward

Gender inequality continues to pose problems for Mexico. However, these five NGOs are working hard to provide services and competency so that Mexican women can promote gender equality in Mexico.

– Tri Truong
Photo: Flickr

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

A Generous Donation

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

Actions From the Foundation

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

Solutions From Other Organizations

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

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

– Chloe Moody
Photo: Wikimedia

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

Poverty Response in Costa Rica

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

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

The Presence of Gender Inequality

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

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

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

A Brighter Future for Costa Rican Women

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

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

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

– Nicole Yaroslavsky
Photo: Flickr

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

Period Poverty in Kenya

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

Milcah Hadida

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

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

Megan White Mukuria

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

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

Emmie Erondanga

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

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

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

– Alysha Mohamed
Photo: Flickr

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

What is the Generation Equality Forum?

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

The Beijing Women’s Conference 1995

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

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

Why Decreasing the Gender Gap is Important

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

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

Looking to the Future

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

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

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

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

Alessandra Heitmann
Photo: Flickr

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

Women and Poverty in Angola

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

Action From Angola

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

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

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

Components of the Project

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

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

Samantha Fazio
Photo: Flickr

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

The Status of Women in Nepal

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

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

Nari Bikash Sangh

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

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

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

The Road to Gender Equality

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

Nikhil Khanal
Photo: Flickr

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

Economic Progress in Tibet

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

The Place of Tibetan Women in Exiled Society

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

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

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

Tibetan Women’s Health

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

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

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

The Future of Tibetan Women

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

Luna Khalil
Photo: Flickr