Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Burkina Faso
Located in Western Africa, Burkina Faso is the country with a lot of problems that are affecting over 20 million of its people.

The unemployment rate has increased constantly in the previous years, and a lot of work needs to be done regarding this issue.

Developments have been made in efforts to reduce poverty, one of them being the work of active labor market program, or ALMPs.

In addition, the National Housing Program is helping in the endeavor to meet the need for affordable housing. There have also been efforts to commit to providing education for all citizens by 2015.

With continued effort, more developments can be seen in aiding people’s lives in Burkina Faso.

In the article below, top 10 facts about living conditions in Burkina Faso are presented.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Burkina Faso

  1. The unemployment rate of the total labor force increased from 2.6 percent to 6.4 percent from 1991 to 2016. From 2000 to 2016, the unemployment rate for women has increased from 2.8 percent to 9.3 percent, and the youth unemployment rate has risen from 3.8 percent to 8.6 percent in the same period.
  2. The country is still struggling to reduce its poverty rate in order to improve living conditions. With population and labor force growth, the country has not yet lifted its people out of poverty by a high number. According to a World Bank report on employment and skills development in Burkina Faso, the country must create more than 400,000 new jobs by 2030, given the population dynamics.
  3. In the same report of the World Bank, a number of solutions to combat and reduce poverty are presented. One way to help all people achieve growth is to create an investment environment that aids people. Another way is to enhance the infrastructure and financial system and bolster economic governance, health and education.
  4. Another strategy to generate jobs and reduce poverty is to find and support the most effective policies. One initiative to combat poverty is the Active Labor Market Programs (ALMPs). The purpose of these programs is to increase the chance of being employed and to increase jobs in the country. ALMPs are comprised of training people in order to get them employment and increasing demand for jobs through initiatives such as public works.
  5. Burkina Faso has a growing housing finance sector. There is a strong correlation between urbanization and housing. As more people are moving to cities, there is also a higher demand for affordable housing. Currently, the urbanization rate in the country is 5.73 percent. One successful way to increase the amount of housing is through microfinance.
  6. Estimates from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development show that the urban population in Burkina Faso will double by 2030. The National Housing Program started by the government is one initiative that is part of the solution to address the need for affordable housing. The initiative endeavors to provide 40,000 houses by 2020 to low-income families. The initiative also aims to provide sustainable solutions for the need for affordable housing.
  7. With the help from some community health initiatives, some progress has been made in bolstering the national health system. The national health system in Burkina Faso is made up of the public and private medical sector. One positive development in this area has been hospital reform, that aimed to deliver emergency care without prepayment.
  8. While the budget of the Ministry of Health has increased, it is still far away from a satisfactory level. The budget increased from $132,6 million in 2007 to $162,3 million in 2009. The percentage of the state budget aimed towards the health sector has risen from 15.21 percent in 2008 to 15.46 percent in 2009.
  9. Burkina Faso has some of the lowest literacy and school enrollment rates in the world. The literacy rate has risen by 30 percent in 2001 to 32.5 percent in 2005. Primary school net enrolment ratio in 2011 was 63.2 percent.
  10. Out of the total children in schools, 65.7 percent of boys are enrolled in school, compared to 54.5 percent of girls. The country has committed to the 10-year Plan on the Development of Basic Education and the National Policy of Integrated Development of Children.

While unemployment has increased and there is still more work to be done in closing the gender gap in education, living conditions in Burkina Faso have improved, as seen in poverty reduction efforts through ALMPs and providing affordable housing.

With more sustained effort, Burkina Faso can achieve more positive developments in helping to enhance the quality of life for all.

– Daniel McAndrew-Greiner
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Kosovo
Kosovo, once a part of Serbia, has a long history of working towards gaining independence. In 1996, a Kosovo rebel group created the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which led to repression by Serbia and an ethnic cleansing campaign against Kosovar Albanians. A peace agreement in the late 1990s ended the conflict and gave control of Kosovo to a United Nations administration. In 2008, Kosovo officially declared its independence from Serbia with support from the U.N.

However, due to this conflict, Kosovo struggled in the early 2000s to rebuild its education system. This article will discuss the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Kosovo.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Kosovo

  1. Education in Kosovo is split into pre-primary, primary, lower secondary, upper secondary and tertiary levels. Within upper secondary, students can either attend a vocational or general education school.
  2. In 2005, 10 percent of rural girls dropped out of school before finishing Grade 5. Due to this, female students only comprised 43 percent of students in rural secondary schools.
  3. In 2009 and 2010, although elementary and secondary schools were comprised of 52 percent boys and 48 percent girls, slightly more women attended university than men, with university enrollment consisting of 49 percent males and 51 percent females.
  4. Based on data from 2010, 7.2 percent of women aged 15 and older in Kosovo are illiterate, in comparison to 2.2 percent of men. In rural areas where literacy rates are lower, 8.7 percent of women and 2.8 percent of men are illiterate. This represents a significant improvement from 2005, however, when 14 percent of rural women were illiterate.
  5. Approximately 71 percent of all Kosovo children attended pre-primary education (for ages 5 through 6) in 2010, but by 2015 this percentage had risen to 81.3. However, poorer households and Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian families are less likely to send their children to pre-primary school.
  6. Grade 5 testing done in 2010 indicated that girls and urban students significantly outperformed boys and rural students. While the urban-rural divide in education access and quality is well-documented, reasons for girls attaining on average higher test scores is yet unknown.
  7. As of 2012, 62 percent of women and 37 percent of men had nine or fewer years of schooling and only 6 percent of women and 12 percent of men had a university degree.
  8. Overall, 99.6 percent of girls in Kosovo complete primary education and 99.3 percent of girls begin lower secondary school according to 2013-2014 UNICEF reports. However, only 85.5 percent of girls continue on to upper secondary school, as opposed to 89.6 percent of boys. These percentages have increased significantly since 2002, however, when 91.2 percent of girls attended primary school but only 54 percent received secondary education.
  9. Kosovo’s Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian populations, both men and women, are educated at lower rates than the Albanian and Serbian populations. While 91.6 percent of girls and 94 percent of boys from these communities enter primary school, only 72.2 percent of girls and 80.3 percent of boys finish. These percentages continue to decrease as the educational level increases, with 28.7 percent of girls and 37.3 percent of boys beginning upper secondary school.
  10. Poverty and safety concerns are the two primary factors that inhibit rural girls from obtaining an education. A survey from the early 2000s found that economic hardship, particularly in the aftermath of the conflict, was the most common reason for girls to not attend school. There was also little economic incentive for girls to attend school as female unemployment in rural areas was ninety-nine percent. Additionally, students often lived far away from the schools, making it potentially unsafe for them to walk miles by themselves, especially during the winter.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Kosovo help illuminate the progress the country has made, but also the work that still needs to be done, namely decreasing urban and rural disparities, as well as ethnic inequalities in education. Keeping girls in school through upper secondary education is also a concern that needs to be addressed, although the higher rate at which women are attending universities suggests that education for girls and women in Kosovo is becoming more accessible overall.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Malaysian Women
In the country of Malaysia where 30 million people are affected by widespread poverty, human trafficking, crime, a growing Islamic movement, as well as numerous other misfortunes, women are the most affected by these problems. In some Islamic cultures, there is an outlook that Muslim women should be subservient, submissive and should not have equal rights. However, compared to other Islamic countries, women’s aid in Malaysia has been a much greater success.

In this Southeast Asian country, there have been significant developments in the fight to protects women’s rights. One such organization that has joined this fight is the Women’s Aid Organization. This organization is challenging the antiquated views of women as well as helping to end violence against women and work towards equality between men and women.

The Women’s Aid Organization

The Women’s Aid Organization (WAO) was started, courtesy of Tan Siew Sin, the first Minister of Commerce and Industry in Malaysia, who donated a cash reward of RM 30 thousand to establish a shelter for battered women and their children in 1979. This shelter was eventually made into what is today the Women’s Aid Organization.

The vision of this organization is for violence against women to be eliminated. Its mission statement is “to promote and create respect, protection and fulfillment of equal rights for women. To work towards the elimination of discrimination against women, and to bring about equality between women and men.” Women’s aid in Malaysia has been largely influenced by this organization.

The objective of the Women’s Aid Organization is to provide protection, shelter and counseling to women and their children in the case of mental, physical or sexual abuse at any given time. The WAO also takes on research into the factors that play a part in the inequality of women.

Additionally, the organization advocates with government organizations and NGO’s to abolish factors contributing to the subordination of women through law, policy and organized reforms. It strives to provide a better understanding of the issues of violence against women and the underlying inequalities that they face on a daily basis.

Programs in the Women’s Aid Organization

The Women’s Aid Organization has three main services available to help women and their children in times of need.

  1. The first service is the Refuge, which operates as a shelter for abused women and their children. The Refuge is the center for WAO activities to educate women about domestic violence and women and family concerns, which are inevitably associated with this issue.
  2. The second service is the Child Care Centre, which is a place for children of former WAO’s residents who are going back to work and starting their lives over. The children of these women are cared for, either full-time or during the mother’s work hours, and provided an education at local schools along with recreational activities.
  3. The third service is social work, which is the center for advocacy on behalf of the women and children needing help. This section provides services to help women through legal, medical and welfare departments and ensure they are being treated fairly.

These services give women and their children the support and protection they need. Through the combination of these programs and several other services offered through the WAO, an extremely supportive system is created for maltreated women to use whenever it is needed.

Women’s aid in Malaysia has come a long way because of the WAO. Compared to other Islamic countries, this country is more progressive in its approach to the issue of women’s inequalities. Through more organizations like this one, women’s rights will become more of a priority for the authority figures of Malaysia. Aid is very much so needed in this Southeast Asian country, but much more so for women, whose odds are stacked up against them because of the way they have been seen in society for so long.

– Megan Maxwell
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in The Gambia
In the most densely populated country in West Africa, girls face significant barriers to education. But despite obstacles like traditional gender norms and the vicious poverty cycle that followed British colonialism, The Gambia has made impressive strides in making education more accessible for girls.

Here are the top 10 facts about girls’ education in The Gambia.

Top Ten Facts About Girls’ Education in The Gambia

  1. Primary schools have achieved gender parity. Hopes for girls’ education in The Gambia are high, especially for the youngest girls. Since 2007, there has been an equal number of Gambian boys and girls enrolled in primary school. A significant portion of this success can be attributed to the Education for All initiative, which was implemented by UNESCO in 2004.
  2. Primary school completion remains a hurdle. While the primary school enrollment gap has disappeared, primary school completion is a different picture. For every 100 boys that complete their basic education, only 74 girls do the same. From 2009 to 2012, the girls’ primary school completion rate dropped from 82 percent to 70 percent. Additionally, out of the girls that do complete basic education, few will go on to secondary school.
  3. Secondary school enrollment is unequal across genders. In The Gambia, the net secondary school enrollment rate is low to begin with, and girls only constitute approximately 30 percent of all students enrolled in secondary or vocational schools.
  4. Social expectations place pressure on girls. The traditional family structure values a girl’s role in domestic labor, from cooking and cleaning to caring for younger siblings. Especially as girls get older, there is an added opportunity cost to attending school: girls are unable to complete the plethora of tasks thrown at them––and they are unable to earn immediate income for their families.
  5. Girls in rural areas face unique obstacles. The Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) for girls living in urban areas was 73 percent, while the GER for girls in rural areas was 63 percent, as of 1999. But in one region farthest from the capital, girls’ GER was only 44 percent.
  6. School fees have been eliminated. In September 2013, the Global Partnership for Education partnered with the World Bank and The Gambian government to eliminate school fees for primary school. For families who could previously not afford to send their daughters to school, primary school became accessible. In September 2014, this was extended to upper basic and secondary schools as well.
  7. Scholarships for girls are available. Before school fees were abolished, Gambian government scholarships specifically for girls were available to encourage poor families to send their daughters to school. This government scholarship program increased girls’ school enrollment by nine percent. Still, many indirect costs, such as textbooks and uniforms, still place a disproportionate burden on poor families. But these top 10 facts about girls’ education in The Gambia reflect that the Gambian government is making girls’ education a priority: they now provide merit-based scholarships to alleviate these indirect costs.
  8. Mothers’ Clubs encourage girls. Across The Gambia, 90 Mothers’ Clubs are raising money and awareness for girls’ education. UNICEF provides labor-saving machines: less time working means more time for school. UNICEF also provides seed money for the women to embark on income-generating projects to support their local schools and alleviate the aforementioned indirect costs of girls’ education.
  9. Menstrual hygiene at school is improving. Historically, menstruation has forced girls to take time off from school, making it difficult to keep up with coursework. To address this, the Education for All initiative began providing free sanitary pads at schools. Studies showed that this initiative significantly increased girls’ self-confidence and school attendance rates. After sanitary pads were supplied, girls’ attendance increased from 68 percent up to nearly 90 percent.
  10. Take Our Daughters to Work inspires young girls. An initiative called “Take Our Daughters to Work” pairs young Gambian girls with female mentors. For one week, girls shadow their mentors at work, build important professional connections, and get a glimpse of what their futures can look like.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in The Gambia show that despite social barriers, focused government initiatives and a dedicated community have the potential to change the status quo.

– Ivana Bozic
Photo: Flickr

Gender Equality and Female Empowerment in Rwanda
Although Rwanda is considered an impoverished nation, it ranks number four in gender equality. On the same scale, The United States ranks number 49. Interestingly, this shift towards gender equality in Rwanda came as a result of the 1994 genocide.

Before that tragic event, women were usually caretakers and were rarely financially independent or in a position of power. During the genocide, more than 800,000 people died in just 100 days, and most of these individuals were men. This shifted the population to be 60 – 70 percent female and as a result, women were forced into formerly male-dominated jobs.

Government Support of Women

President Kagame led this movement, realizing women were necessary for the country’s recovery because there simply were not enough men to rebuild. The government rewrote the constitution in 2003, encouraging female education and requiring at least 30 percent of positions in parliament to be held by women.

In the first election following this change, the requirement was exceeded with 48 percent of seats going to women. The following election saw an even greater increase with 64 percent of parliamentary seats being held by females. This makes Rwanda number one in a global ranking of countries with the most women in legislature. For comparison, The United States ranks 96 with only 19 percent of seats going to women.

Social Inequality as a Mindset

Despite these great strides towards gender equality in Rwanda, women’s perception at home does not seem to line up with that of their public lives. Girls are still raised to be submissive both in school at home, believing that something as simple as becoming president of a club is reserved only for men.

While they are holding positions of power and becoming economically independent, women still fear speaking out against their husbands and are expected to continue to be the only one to take care of housework and childcare. Many Rwandan women see the term “feminism” as a negative, Western concept.

Unlike most social movements, this change in gender equality did not come from the oppressed group, but from President Paul Kagame. Rwandan women were ushered into positions of power before they truly believed in the movement, and now, they must play catch up with their mindset.

Working to Change Preconceived Ideas

Many organizations are helping to change that perception, starting with female education. Women to Women International has a one-year foundation training program, enabling women to become financially self-sufficient and, subsequently, build the confidence to fight for their rights and equality at home. This organization has helped 76,000 women in the ten years it has been operating.

The Akilah Institute for Women is an all-female college that fosters a more positive learning environment for women, enhancing the skills needed to launch careers in many different fields. The Institute has an 88 percent success rate for graduates. Fawe’s Girls’ School encourages young girls to take STEM courses to overcome the stigma that these classes are generally for men. They work to empower girls to understand their importance and to defend their rights. They also work to train teachers to be more gender inclusive.

Gender equality in Rwanda is far ahead of most of the world, but women must truly believe in their rights for this to be effective. With the next generation being raised in a world where gender does not restrict women from a job and schools encourage female participation and confidence; hopefully, Rwandan women will embrace their newfound power and continue to lead the world in gender equality.

Georgia Orenstein
Photo: Flickr

Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea is a small, Spanish-speaking country located off the coast of Central Africa. Similar to many developing nations, Equatorial Guinea continues to work to reduce poverty rates and enhance the quality of life for its citizens.

As part of the effort to meet the targets set by The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG), there was a strong focus placed on improving women’s health in Equatorial Guinea. A great emphasis was placed on reducing maternal mortality by strengthening the healthcare infrastructure and expanding the health workforce.

Maternal mortality

Maternal mortality refers to the number of women who die each year due to causes related to pregnancy, childbirth, and/or the period after delivery or termination of pregnancy. The MDG 5 target for maternal health was to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters between 1990 and 2015 and to achieve universal access to reproductive health.

This translates to a maternal mortality ratio below 75 deaths per 100,000 live births. In order to meet the MGD goal and improve women’s health in Equatorial Guinea, the country needed to improve access to family planning services, encourage consistent prenatal care and quality health facilities with trained workers needed to be established.

Healthcare Infrastructure

In 1992, the country’s Ministry of Health created The National Plan of Action for Women and Children to increase access to family planning services, prenatal care and skilled delivery. A key component of this plan included strengthening the health care infrastructure by establishing a system of polyclinics, regional, provincial and district hospitals. This introduced accessible care throughout the country, especially in vulnerable regions.

The Ministry of Health also instituted a set of guidelines and regulations for these new facilities to improve the quality of care that patients received. Public health education campaigns were then utilized to increase awareness of the healthcare services and to encourage women to access these services. These efforts were successful in increasing the number of women who were aware of the importance and benefits of prenatal care. In fact, women were much more likely to show up for appointments and go earlier in their pregnancies when they had received antenatal education early on.

Healthcare Workforce

In 2008, to ensure that women received quality care, the Foundation for the Development of Nursing (FUDEN) was formed by The Ministry of Health to recruit and train nurses and midwives. Within its first 5 years, FUDEN successfully trained 153 new nurses and midwives. With this strong emphasis placed on expanding the health workforce, part of The Ministry of Health’s goals is to ensure that each village in the country had at least one trained midwife.

The introduction of trained health workers resulted in a direct improvement to women’s health in Equatorial Guinea. The percent of births attended by a skilled health worker increased from 5 percent in 1994 to 65 percent in 2000. The number of women who received prenatal care also increased from 37 percent to 91 percent from 1994 to 2011.

Setting the Goals for 2020

Through improved access to facilities and trained health workers, there was a great improvement in women’s health in Equatorial Guinea. The country successfully achieved MDG 5 with an 81 percent reduction to maternal deaths. As Equatorial Guinea looks to meet the Horizon 2020 goals, there will be a continued focus on improving maternal mortality and women’s health.

The Ministry of Health has developed plans to implement a nationwide reproductive health policy and to use a “Reach Every District” strategy to ensure that all regions are provided with the same resources to improve the health of all citizens. Hopefully, these plans will capitalize on the success of the MDG and continue to improve women’s health in Equatorial Guinea.

– Chinanu Chi-Ukpai
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls' Education in Kenya 
Kenya is a country located on the eastern coast of the African continent with ongoing reforms for tremendous political, social and economic development. The first steps of these reforms began with the passage of a new constitution in 2010 that introduced a bicameral legislative house and devolved county government. Whilst these developments are taking place, the country faces challenges fighting poverty, inequality, climate change and the vulnerability of the economy to internal and external fluctuations.

A huge subset of these challenges facing Kenya is girls education. Similar to the countries across the continent, Kenya portrays a reality where girls are denied their right to education due to social and cultural norms, such as child marriage and female genital cutting aside from economic barriers. These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Kenya reveal some of the historical contexts for these hurdles, the challenges for better access and steps being taken toward future goals. 

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Kenya

  1. In 2003, Kenya enacted a law that made primary education free. As a result of this legislation, enrollment rates increased to 84 percent. 
  2. This legislation by the government had a positive outcome at large; however, it was found that in some regions where poverty and gender inequality are particularly high, only 19 percent of girls were in school. 
  3. From the student population that enrolls in the first year of school, one in five (or less) make it to their eighth year. This high rate of dropouts is a result of early marriage, female genital cutting, poverty and other factors. 
  4. Female genital cutting is a historically and culturally rooted social tradition that has reached as high as 89 percent of the female population in marginalized areas such as the Maasailand in Kenya. 
  5. While the practice of genital cutting is illegal in Kenya, lots of parents in marginalized areas still subject their girls to female genital cutting with the aim of eliminating teenage pregnancies and increasing girls’ chances for marriage. 
  6. Although primary education is free, a family still holds the responsibility of paying for textbooks, uniforms and teachers’ salaries. Moreover, if a child is going to school, it also means that they are not spending time contributing to the family’s income. Such an occurrence adds a perceived loss in addition to the cost of going to school. This is particularly worse for girls who are expected to marry early and join their husband’s family. 
  7. In 2016, the U.N. reported that an estimated one in 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa miss school during their menstrual cycle due to an inability to access affordable sanitary products. 
  8. Despite its many obstacles, Kenya has met some Millennium Development Goals with targets — including reduced child mortality, near universal primary school enrolment and narrowed gender gaps in education. 
  9. A step for progress, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Basic Education Amendment Act requiring the government to provide free sanitary towels to schoolgirls in 2017 and allocated $4.6 million to the gender department ministry for the projects. 
  10. One year of secondary education for a girl in Kenya corresponds to over 25 percent increase in wages; if girls were to finish their secondary education, child marriage would be reduced by at least 50 percent. 

Investing in Girls’ Education in Kenya

Long-standing traditions and beliefs along with high levels of poverty are seemingly huge hurdles to overcome; however, the pursuit of providing more than half of the Kenyan population with access to education is a challenge worth taking — especially when it has the potential for great social and economic returns. 

– Bilen Kassie
Photo: Flickr

Informal Sector in India
The socio-economic landscape in India is largely informal. According to the International Labor Organization, close to an estimated 81 percent of all employed people in India are engaged in the informal economy, most of which is in the agricultural sector.

The Informal Sector in India

Contrary to popular belief, the informal sector in India has seen improvements in productivity and employment and, to some extent, wages. The informal sector contributes to the economy and also helps the formal economy; however, informal economy workers continue to earn lower wages, lack social security and have less protection than their peers in the organized sector. The informal sector attracts the workforce because it offers easy access; the formal sector, on the other hand, hosts barriers to entry that are often costly and tedious to get through.

The informal sector in India is socially regulated rather than state-regulated; however, the government is attempting to gather data and regularize the informal sector through the process of digitization. This will allow for effective regulation of cash transfers and provide the government with the tools to better understand the informal sector. By mapping the vast informal sector, the government will have more information about the real growth in India’s economy.

Women Workers in India

Around 94 percent of total women workers are employed in the informal sector, most of whom work as agricultural workers, construction labor and domestic help. Many women are able to gain entry and jobs in this sector, as there are no barriers with regards to skill. This then acts as a way for women to provide for their families. Women find it difficult to enter the organized sector, and their gender exposes them to political, economic and social discrimination, which is why they enter the informal sector.

There is hope that women’s participation in the workforce will reduce gender inequality and that integrating women into the labor force will allow for social and economic empowerment. However, there is a  lack of recognition of the role of women in both their homes and at work.

Equality, Gender and Children

It might appear that there is little gender discrimination in the informal sector, as it is commonplace to see women working alongside men, carrying heavy loads on construction sites or in brick kilns. However, closer examination reveals that amongst the more skilled and higher-paid jobs — such as that of masons, plumbers or carpenters — the workforce is predominantly male.

There are also concerns about the welfare of children —  women are often left with no option but to bring infants to the workplace, where they exist largely unattended. Non-governmental organizations are now setting up mobile creches so that the children of migrant workers receive some care; but this option is limited in its current status as an urban phenomenon, confined to the metropolises.

Goal for Growth

Women’s collectives are agencies which provide women with the space to grow and demand rights. This provides women with legal training to seek social services and adequate work conditions. In recent years we see greater activity here, especially in the field of legal aid, and women-only police stations make it easier for women to seek justice.

Some areas, however, remain untouched; domestic workers, for instance, have no written contracts, they enjoy no mandatory weekly off days nor any regulated working hours. Thus. one can see that there is a need to create regulations in the informal sector in India to measure growth, empower women and improve working conditions.

– Isha Kakar
Photo: Flickr

e-Commerce Industry in India
The e-commerce industry in India is growing at an unprecedented rate and is estimated to be worth $150 billion by 2022. This industry is expected to generate employment throughout the country; it includes e-travel, e-tail and e-financial services. Fashion retail is around 30 percent of the online retail searches and may reach as much as $35 billion by 2020. This will be a significant source of employment for women and minorities.

Supporting Digital Commerce

The Government of India has supported this sector through initiatives such as Digital India and Startup India. Digital India is a campaign to increase access to digital technology throughout the country by improving infrastructure, spreading awareness about digital technology and digitizing government services. This campaign has been endorsed by several high profile companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft. Other major initiatives, such as the GST (Goods and Services Tax), have coaxed the economy away from cash transactions towards the digital economy.

The Government of India has involved various stakeholders from the private and public sector to create an updated e-commerce policy that recommends improving the regulatory mechanism and enforcing certain protectionist barriers. The draft version of this policy includes providing data protection for users, giving more control to the founders of e-commerce and encouraging domestic production.

Helping Women Become Successful Entrepreneurs

The e-commerce industry in India is expected to generate more than a million jobs by 2023; this will not only increase jobs in the corporate sector but also in industries such as logistics, warehousing, customer care, human resources and technology. This will benefit many Indians in both urban and rural areas.

Studies show that more than 70 percent of online sellers come from smaller towns, and more than 20 percent of them are women. Thus, e-commerce encourages women entrepreneurship and adds to the growth of the economy. Creating opportunities for women to be economically independent helps fight gender norms and make progress towards economic equality of the sexes.

Many women are selling products within the fashion, health and wellness as well as handicraft industries. The ability to work from home is a convenient and effective way to earn a living, and it also supplements family incomes. Studies show that empowering women has a huge impact on the health and well being of the family.

An online portal named Mahila-e-Haat is an organization that facilitates a direct interaction between vendors and buyers. It provides support to women who wish to gain financial independence; this group is expected to help 125,000 women nationwide.

Craftsmanship on the Rise

Global as well as local companies are contributing to the market by expanding the workforce. Many traditional craftsman and artisans have been able to use this platform to sell their products. Now, they can continue the age-old traditions of craftsmanship while at the same time break free from the traditional costs of the middleman.

Plus, the e-commerce industry in India is empowering small manufacturers since many e-commerce companies are employing experienced craftsman, many of whom were not formally employed before, but rather, worked with their families unofficially.

– Isha Kakar

Photo: Flickr

Identification closes the gender gap
Empowering women has long been acknowledged as a key ingredient in reducing poverty and improving economic development. The United Nations (U.N.) has set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and gender equality underlies almost all of them. More specifically, the fifth SDG is set to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. As the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes, these goals are interdependent, meaning gender equality is essential not only to the economic prosperity of the communities but for other important issues like health and sustainability as well.

Even today, gender inequality persists worldwide, depriving women of basic human rights and equal opportunities. In poverty-stricken communities around the world, an estimated 90 percent sustain long-standing social practices that devalue women.

Need for Identification

Breaking these modes will require great efforts. Both legal and cultural strides need to change in order to counter deeply ingrained discrimination throughout societies. Studies by the U.N. and UNHCR found that women in conflict and poverty affected regions do not have adequate identification documents. These documents are necessary for achieving the benefits of civic and public life.

Access to identification closes the gender gap in the developing world, but a lack of awareness around the documents prevents women from obtaining them in some cases. Many believe that identification cards are only necessary for exceptional circumstances when in reality they are needed to make the most of social programs and civil rights.

Having personal identification cards in the developing world acts as an important stepping stone. In having the ability to access decisive services and claim entitlements as citizens, women are able to increase their voice and agency through civic participation, access to finances and voting. In assisting women’s social engagement, identification closes the gender gap.

Example of Myanmar

All factors of the country development are intertwined. Women’s documentation is often essential to the peace process in some countries. Resolving the issue of land rights, for example, is crucial to the current conflict in Myanmar, and gender inclusion in the peace process is fundamental to reaching a genuine peace accord. The laws in this country allow women to register and co-register for the property even if they are not head of the household.

While progressive laws have been enacted, there lies a major gap between the law and the reality that women face. Cultural conventions exclude women from participating in land governing let alone a peace accord, making it essential that their names are registered to partake in community meetings. The decisions affect both women and men, making identification an important transition step in transforming cultural norms in poverty and conflict-stricken regions.

Problems with Women Identification

In 2012, four out of every 10 infants born worldwide were not registered with civil governments or authorities. Globally, 750 million children lack identification. A 2013 UNICEF survey found that there is no major disparity between the birth registration of boys and girls.

Evidence suggests that adult women, however, face gender-specific barriers to getting identification documents. Women must provide proof of marriage, additional family signatures and conduct many other steps in the process to obtain identification that men simply do not have to deal with. Unmarried women especially face discrimination as, without a male counterpart or marriage certificate, obtaining identification documents (IDs) is often impossible. IDs are also optional for women, although essential to accessing civic opportunities and required for men.

Increasing access to identification closes the gender gap by helping international organizations better plan and target gender inequality in poverty. The incompleteness of civil registration for women has generated holes in statistics and data for organizations like the World Bank to measure the progress of women in the developing world.

Changing Cultural Barriers

Equality is fundamental to building strong societies. Having active members at every level of a community makes the plight of poverty that much easier to conquer. Gender equality is no different. Ensuring that more than half of the population can do its part must remain at the foremost of poverty reduction endeavors.

While the legal framework with these notions in mind has changed for the better, an uphill battle in the mindset of the communities is much needed. Obtaining identification is the first step in employing available programs and in realizing the agency needed to transform the cultural barriers that devalue women.

– Joseph Ventura
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