Top 10 Facts about Girls' Education in Gabon
The top 10 facts about girls’ education in Gabon presented in the text below are interesting to consider because of the intersection they suggest between the country’s strengths and weaknesses. Women in Gabon suffer at the hands of domestic abuse and a deficiency of certain instrumental rights. At the same time, literacy rates in the country are relatively high compared to other countries in the region.

The 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Gabon

  1. Compulsory education in Gabon lasts for 10 years. Students begin at age 6 and finish at age 15. This can be considered as a relatively short period, particularly when compared with a typical education in a country like the United States where students usually begin their education at age 6 and finish at age 18.
  2. In 2012, about 82 percent of people over age 15 in Gabon were considered literate. Out of this number, 85 percent were male and 80 percent were female. This is one indicator of gender inequity in education in Gabon.
  3. Compared to other countries in the region, Gabon has a relatively high overall education enrollment rate. In 2005, this rate was at the 92.4 percent. This may, in part, have to do with the fact that education is compulsory through certain ages.
  4. There is overcrowding in primary level schools and a high drop out rate in secondary schools. This suggests that when the compulsory years are finished, students neglect the idea of continuing their education.
  5. Gender equality in schools increases with age and education level. Still, only 54 percent of female students in Gabon continue into the latter parts of secondary education.
  6. UNICEF is making efforts to help keep girls in school. The Ministry of Family has set up in-school daycare to help ensure that young mothers are able to attend school. Many women in the country marry and start families young so solutions like these are essential to ensure woman’s continuing education.
  7. Poverty is most rampant in villages in Gabon. Because of this, villages also lack proper education systems. This often means that children have to attend schools far away from their homes. Families in rural areas often discourage their children from pursuing education, particularly females who are expected to help in the household.
  8. Education itself is free in Gabon but students are subject to fees that amount to about $50. Poor families cannot afford these fees and their children are, as a consequence, unable to receive an education. This education barrier affects both girls and boys in the country.
  9. In 2011, a study revealed that 77 percent of children in Gabon were victims of violence. Children are not likely to want to continue education past compulsory stages if it is associated with trauma and abuse.
  10. Constitution of Gabon affirms gender equality and the country has ratified documents affirming women’s rights but problems still persist. Women are frequently victims of domestic abuse and are often forced to marry at very young ages. These young marriages often prevent them from continuing to pursue their education.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Gabon indicate that though the system is providing decent literacy rates, education in Gabon is far from perfect. Women still face lower literacy rates than men and early marriages prevent them from having sufficient educational opportunities.

Efforts like those of UNICEF mentioned above will help to ameliorate such problems but the most promising prospects for the future will have to come from the country itself.

– Julia Bloechl
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education
A history of conflict has negatively reflected on girls’ educational future in Iraq. Education levels have never returned to their pre-Gulf War levels. Furthermore, conflict with ISIS has erased much of the progress for girls’ education seen through higher enrollment rates in times of relative peace. Therefore, a rough chronology of conflicts is useful when reading the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Iraq, as these events drastically change the quality of education.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Iraq

  1. Girls are under-represented in both primary and secondary schools and tend to drop out at a higher rate than boys. In the 2015/2016 school year, five million boys were enrolled in school compared to 4.2 million girls. In addition, at the lower secondary level, 4.7 percent of girls dropped out compared to 3.6 percent of boys.
  2. Rural girls are one of the groups with the lowest access to education in Iraq. For example, the lowest rate of primary school enrollment is among rural girls. The enrollment rate in 2009 was only 68 percent. Furthermore, this enrollment rate drops even further to 15 percent when analyzing the secondary school enrollment among rural girls. A contributing factor to this situation is the decline in the capabilities of teachers.
  3. The illiteracy rate among girls that are 12 and older is more than double the male rate. The illiteracy rate for girls is 28.2 percent, compared to the male rate of 13 percent. According to the U.N., traditional cultural and social factors remain main obstacles in improving the access to education for girls. The discrepancy between literacy rates illustrates how gender-based discrimination in the education system is both a cause and an effect of poverty.
  4. The rate of girls’ education and their access to adequate teaching was slightly better in Northern Iraq than the other regions in 2007. In the southern provinces, there was a decline in female attendance from two girls for every three boys to one girl for every four boys in this same time period.
  5. While this was true in 2007, a 2016 report by a UNICEF consultant found that in Kurdistan, the northern region of Iraq, education environments were a momentous challenge to girls’ education. Mistreatment, beatings and poor quality of teaching was reported, giving parents more reasons to remove their girls from school.
  6. While girls do suffer from underrepresentation in the school system, total girls’ enrollment in Iraq was 4.2 million in 2015-2016, up from 3.8 million in 2013-2014. Although this statistic is initially promising, two problems remain. First, girls still remain at a disadvantage in educational access. Contributing factors to the issue of educational access include a family’s wealth, the child’s age and the choice to work instead of attending school. Second, if the trend toward increased enrollment continues, a strain will be placed on existing educational resources and further funding for public education are needed.
  7. About 355,000 internally displaced children in Iraq don’t attend school, the majority of them being girls. The two main sources of internally displaced persons (IDP) originate from the upheaval caused by the Syrian civil war and the brutality of the Islamic State in neighboring countries. In IDP camps, the most common reason cited for children not attending school was a lack of interest in the classes. Other reasons included the cost of education and the time period for their arrival at the camp.
  8. Cities occupied by the Islamic State struggle to provide education to girls. In 2014, the Islamic State detained up to 7,000 Yazidi women and girls in Northern Iraq, removing them from access to education. Given the testimony of survivors who managed to escape, a report released by Human Rights Watch stated that the crimes against the Yazidis in Northern Iraq might amount to crimes against humanity.
  9. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) first access to an education project in Iraq is in collaboration with teachers from the Al-Rajaa school for girls in Ramadi. When the ICRC team first visited the school it there was danger and destruction around every corner, so the ICRC team began to rebuild it. This school is the only one in Ramadi to offer a science curriculum to girls’ and has been reopened in 2017 after conflict forced it to shut down. The school currently educates approximately 600 children.
  10. The issue of girls’ education in Iraq has received the attention of humanitarian celebrities like Malala Yousafazai who spent her 20th birthday in Iraq meeting with young women who were, and continue to be, victims of ISIS. The meeting was part of the Malala Fund’s Girl Power Trip, an initiative meant to tell the stories of the more than 130 million girls around the world who are out of school.

As it can be seen through these top 10 facts about girls’ education in Iraq, the education system continues to be plagued by conflicts in the country, and girls are disproportionately at higher risk of dropping out or repeating grades if remained in school.

While this is certainly a cause for concern, the risks for girls’ education in Iraq have not gone unnoticed and many strive to change this. The Iraqi education system was once hailed as the best in the Middle East and many nongovernmental organizations, domestic policymakers, politicians, celebrities, and the local populous desire to return it to this position of dominance.

Georgie Giannopoulos

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls' Education in NepalNepal is one of nine Asian countries carrying the status of “least developed.” Any instability the country faced was intensified by the 2015 earthquake that killed over 6,000 people. One of the sectors tied to country’s much-needed development is, of course, education. To get a sense of the status of the education system in the country, in the text below the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Nepal are presented.

Top 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Nepal

  1. In 2015, 48.05 percent of women older than 15 did not have any form of education. Of the total population aged 15 and older, 36.15 percent did not have any education. This rate increases with age as 91.61 percent of women in the age group from 60 to 64 did not have any form of education.
  2. Gender-separate bathrooms are only available in one-third of schools in Nepal. This deters some from attending school over concerns of modesty or, sometimes, inability to follow religious guidelines that require separation of toilets.
  3. A project conducted in recent years found that 72 percent of students in Nepal saw their peers involved in gender-related violent situations though only 55 percent took action against it. Thus, schools cannot be considered a safe space for female students.
  4. Forty-one percent of Nepali women between ages 20 and 24 are married before the age of 18. Child marriage is most prevalent among less educated, poor women. Improving female education may improve the childhood marriage rate.
  5. The practice of chhaupadi often prevents women from attending school. Chhaupadi involves the banishing of girls who are menstruating to sheds where they are forced to suffer alone and risk catching illnesses. This dangerous practice, which was legally banned in 2005, still persists.
  6. Only about 11.8 percent of Dalit (lowest caste in Nepal) women are in secondary school. This indicates that education is both an issue of gender and class division.
  7. In Nepal, 44 percent of primary school teachers are female. This is the most encouraging fact about girls’ education in the country since this suggests that there is something near gender equality in teaching professions. This fact may be encouraging to young school girls.
  8. Only about 25 percent of women in Nepal enroll in higher education and their presence is particularly weak in technical and vocational education programs. Instead, there are large numbers of women in, for example, health-related professions such as nursing. In other words, professions are somewhat gender-segregated in the country.
  9. Though the quality of education in Nepal is not high, school enrollment rates are increasing across genders. Since 1990, the primary school enrollment rate has increased from 64 to 96 percent. Nepal is working to improve its education system by providing wider access to education.
  10. The Government of Nepal has developed the School Sector Development Plan (SSDP) that will last from 2016 to 2023. This plan is part of the country’s goal of graduating from the status of a least developed country by the year 2022. The plan will look to instigate growth in the Nepali education program and ensure quality education for all citizens.

In recent years, Nepal has faced great hardship. After the 2015 earthquake, the country faced the unwieldy challenge of rebuilding much of its infrastructure, including education facilities. Organizations like USAID supported this effort by helping the government establish temporary learning centers across the country.

Though Nepal faces great challenges, many are encouraged by some of the country’s efforts toward bettering its education system and promoting gender equity.

These 10 facts about girls’ education in Nepal suggest that though the country has a long way to go before being considered as well-developed, progress is being made in the education sector.

– Julia Bloechl

Photo: Flickr

Impoverished Women in India
The impoverished women in India can receive a new lease of life through the CGAP-Ford Foundation Program — an opportunity that gives women with little means the chance to become self-sustainable. This program was conducted in 2009 to elevate impoverished women in India to a standard livelihood.

Graduating to Sustainable and Sustained Living

Ultra-poor women are identified by the village community and are often given an asset such as running a grocery store or being in charge of a tailoring machine to live a sustained life. The Graduation Program aims to graduate impoverished women out of poverty into a sustained living.

The program was called ‘Targeting the Hard Core Poor’ (THP) which was piloted by Bandhan-Konnagar for 300 women in the districts of West Bengal, India. The program provided sustainable entrepreneurship opportunities through a sequenced support — a productive asset such as livestock or supplies for trade, technical skills training, savings support, temporary cash or in-kind support to tide over immediate consumption needs, and regular mentoring and coaching over 18-24 months.

These resources helped elevate the impoverished women in India to be engaged in sustainable livelihoods and ultimately graduate out of extreme poverty.

This program was initially used by BRAC in Bangladesh. Ten pilots were implemented in eight countries from 2006 to 2009 to capture lessons of best practice in the fields of social protection and microfinance. The graduation program is designed to understand how livelihoods, microfinance and safety nets can be linked to elevating poor women out of poverty.

Models for Elevation Out of Poverty

In the standard model of elevating people from below poverty line, the state provides a poor woman with employment for 58 days a year, under the 100-day job guarantee scheme at a daily wage of Rs169. The cost of this model is about Rs 20,00o over two years.

The alternative model is when the state provides a woman with an asset and monitors her progress while simultaneously giving her a daily stipend for her consumption needs and ensuring basic health care for the family. Such alternative programs help women come out of poverty much more equipped than rural job schemes suggests.

The researchers assessed the effectiveness of the graduation program for 21,000 impoverished women in India, Pakistan, Ghana and Peru, and compared it to the impacts of standard livelihood schemes.

Standard vs. Alternative

“Unlike the standard approach of handing the benefits, credit or cash, the attempt to set up entrepreneurial abilities among impoverished women in India leads to welfare,” stated Chandra Shekhar Ghosh, chairman of Bandhan, to a publication. Beneficiaries of the standard program tend to get government assistance whereas the alternative approach’s beneficiaries are not required to repay the cost of the asset.

The program report suggested that after five and a half years from the program’s end in West Bengal, beneficiaries who participated in the program saw a 46 percent increase in consumption as compared with households that did not receive the program.

“Indicators like total savings, the perception of economic security, and time spent productively for program beneficiaries also increased relative to the households that did not receive the programme. They also had improved food security, accumulated more assets, and had better access to credit,” states the report.

A Four-Fold Improvement

THP also demonstrated that for every rupee spent on the program, impoverished households saw Rs 4.33 in benefits — a four-fold improvement. The program is in its tenth year of implementation in India, and has been scaled up by Bandhan-Konnagar to nine states in India. Now, the program reaches over 61,000 beneficiaries with funding support from state governments, multilateral and CSR foundations.

Tangible Results

Bandhan distributed livestock worth Rs 4500 to 300 families below the poverty line and paid a daily stipend of Rs 21 a day so that they did not sell off their capital asset. At the end of the program, 94 percent of families could generate enough income to be eligible for credit through the microfinance wing.

The impoverished women in India have benefitted from the “Graduation Program” where these women monitor their progress through their entrepreneurial capabilities. This program has helped the impoverished women of India move up the ladder and become more independent.

– Preethi Ravi
Photo: Flickr

 

Period Poverty in KenyaPeriod poverty is widespread through many parts of the world, where women miss school while menstruating, cannot afford sanitary products and are misinformed about their own biology. Kenya in particular experiences this problem, since 65 percent of Kenyan women cannot afford sanitary napkins. Period poverty affects women in Kenya in disproportional ways that prevent them from achieving economic and social equality with men.

5 Facts about Period Poverty in Kenya

  1. Some women have traded sex for sanitary products. Shockingly, two out of three feminine pad users in rural Kenya receive their products from sexual partners. Perhaps the saddest outcome of how period poverty affects women in Kenya is the fact that these women exchange sex in return for feminine products, sometimes at ages as young as 13. This can further complicate girls’ lives because of the culture of miseducation. One in four girls do not associate menstruation with pregnancy and therefore do not realize the risks of engaging in sexual relations.
  2. Ten percent of girls in sub-Saharan Africa, where Kenya is located, miss school when menstruating. Because of the culture of shame surrounding menstruation, girls often miss school while menstruating since they do not have the proper products to deal with their period. Very few girls receive education about their period before it begins and according to recent research many girls are misinformed. For example, there is a belief among these young girls that they can only get pregnant while menstruating. Only 50 percent of girls say that they openly discuss menstruation at home. Another reason girls miss school is that only 32 percent of rural schools have facilities where girls can change the products for the period during the day.
  3. Free sanitary products for girls in Kenya are appearing. In June 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed an amendment to the education law that states: free, sufficient, and quality sanitary towels must be provided to every school-registered girl, as well as a safe place to use and dispose of the products. Though only $5 million in the budget has been allocated for this purpose, it offers hope to continued changes that will keep girls in school.
  4. Some local charities have designed locally sourced, reusable, and affordable pads. On the coast of Kenya, one charity, Tunaweza, worked hard to provide period products to women. Using local materials like kitenge and flannel, Tunaweza brought sanitary products to many girls in rural schools. Additionally, when the charity connected with girls, it also used that opportunity to teach them about puberty, hygiene, and gender-based violence.
  5. Raise the Roof Kenya, started by British Holly Bantleman in U.K., works on the ground to fight against the effects of period poverty in Kenya. Started in 2012, the organization has supported 150 youths to employment and provided over 45,000 women with the management of menstrual hygiene. Now, they are seeking to expand and build a center that can employ women to make sustainable pads for the community.

Kenya has seen a great change in the position of women since their new constitution in 2010 that provided great gender equality. Attitudes have begun changing and women’s rights marches have seen greater prominence. In the future, hopefully, this improvement will lessen the shame surrounding menstruation so that the country can truly combat the adverse effects of period poverty in Kenya.

– Grace Gay
Photo: Flickr

Ending Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of the CongoDespite the Second Congo War officially ending in 2003, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remains a nexus of civil unrest. The country’s decades-long cycle of armed conflict has fuelled impunity, lawlessness, brutality and an epidemic of sexual violence against Congolese women. A study in the American Journal of Public Health found that 48 women in the DRC are raped every hour. In a 2013 nationwide survey of 18,000 households, more than 57 percent of women reported experiencing physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives.

Personal Testimonies

These numbers are alarming, especially when paired with personal testimonies of trauma. One young woman, Sandra, recounts being infected with HIV after her neighbor raped her at the age of 16. Jeanne, another survivor, was tied to a tree and gang-raped for several weeks. She had surgery to repair the damage, then returned home only to be raped again.

Their experiences are not unusual within the country’s current climate. Sexual violence against Congolese women is, in the words of activist Eve Ensler, “the cheapest and most effective way to instill fear in and humiliate a community. It doesn’t even cost a bullet.”

The Fight Against Sexual Violence

Individuals like Ensler are working to combat this systemic violation. Ensler is the founder of City of Joy, a leadership program for survivors of rape. Geared towards survivors that have healed physically, City of Joy supports 90 women aged 18 to 30 at a time, giving them an interim place to emotionally heal, gain valuable life skills and build a community of empowerment among themselves. Since opening its doors in 2011, City of Joy has served and celebrated more than one thousand women survivors in the DRC.

For those in need of physical treatment, pioneering gynecologist Denis Mukwege founded Panzi Hospital. The hospital specializes in complex gynecological injuries, with 60 percent of its collective 85,000 patients coming from a background of sexual violence. In addition to repairing physical trauma, Panzi Hospital offers counseling, reintegration and the accruement of legal evidence in the hope that, one day, the evidence can be presented to secure justice for its victims.

Organizations Stepping in to Help

There are many other beacons that exist to empower, mend and prevent further sexual violence against Congolese women. The World Bank recently committed $100 million to The Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response Project. The project’s intent is to promote social parity while directly aiding 400,000 women and girls over the next four years. In 2017, United Nations agencies provided medical assistance to approximately 5,200 survivors of sexual violence and referred hundreds more to MONUSCO-supported legal clinics. Hope and Health Vision strives to provide a safe environment for women and children traumatized by civil conflict. Women for Women International offers a year-long training program for women, as well as engagement programmes for male allies.

Something is slowly being dug to the root, reaffixed. Mukwege says, “Africa’s future begins when girls know that they are equal to boys. We share the same humanity and we cannot continue to allow economic wars to be fought on women’s bodies.”

Yumi Wilson

Photo: Flickr

Nonprofits that Empower Women
All over the world and throughout history women have not been given the same opportunities as men, whether in business, education or healthcare. 
These strict gender norms can be difficult to overcome anywhere, but it’s especially difficult to overcome in an impoverished country. There are nonprofits all over the world helping to empower women to be successful in their communities — here are five nonprofits that empower women. 

Share and Care Foundation

The Share and Care foundation is concentrated in rural India. The goal of the foundation is to create equality, specifically gender equality, healthcare and education. The organization helps to empower women in rural India through teaching different life skills and helping these women overcome gender norms present in their country.

Some of the opportunities available for women through this foundation are:

  • Vocational training
  • Financial management skills
  • Self-defense lessons
  • Confidence training
  • Safe space for women that have escaped red light districts.

The foundation also has a class on gender equality open to both young boys and girls to help re-educate the youth on a woman’s role in society.

This foundation has been very successful in helping to empower women throughout rural India. The Share and Care Foundation has taught women business skills in subjects like fashion design or computer training, shown women they can be self-employed and contribute to India’s economy and helped many women regain the confidence they need to succeed.

School Girls Unite

This goal of School Girls Unite is to overcome prejudice throughout the world and provide girls with an education and leadership skills. The organization believes no one should be denied the freedom of an education, especially based on their gender. This foundation works specifically in the country of Mali, where only 50 percent of girls completed elementary school.

School Girls Unite has provided many young girls an education in Mali that they otherwise would not have received. The group provides full scholarships to ten girls a year; the cost of attending school for one year is only $75. This cost is broken down into $35 for tuition, $20 for books and supplies and $20 for tutoring and mentoring.

The efforts of School Girls Unite have helped ten girls complete ninth grade, which is very rare in rural Mali; in addition, three students are continuing in their education without scholarships and two girls have received an associate’s degree. This nonprofit has been helping to empower women and changing lives for almost 15 years.    

Women for Women International

Women for Women International was started in 1993 and has provided aid to over 478,000 women since. These women harken from eight different countries that have been impacted by war or conflict. This foundation is helping to empower women by supplying them with support, tools and life skills to help them become economically self-sufficient.

In addition to such benefits, women also learn life, vocational, health and nutritional skills in this program. Once they are enrolled, this population is also provided with a monthly stipend to help be able to pay for things while they learn valuable life skills.

Women for Women International has changed and improved the lives of women in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovnia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Sudan.

Women’s Global Empowerment Fund

Women’s Global Empowerment was founded in 2007 and has since changed the lives of many women in Uganda. This fund has given numerous women access to microcredit loans, literacy, education in business, leadership development and health initiatives.

As of 2017, this organization provided over 10,000 microcredit loans, business training classes and other developmental programs. This program has improved the lives of many women in Uganda by empowering them through business education and skills that help women work in agriculture and markets, among other vocational sectors in Uganda.

Madre

Madre aims to help the world become a place where all individuals can enjoy human rights. They partner with local women’s groups stricken with war or disaster throughout the world.

One of the organization’s goals is to advance women’s rights by meeting the urgent needs of these communities and providing solutions. Madre combines meeting urgent needs and teaching women life and leadership skills to create long lasting change throughout the world.

Madre works with communities in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Haiti, Columbia, Kenya, Palestine, Syria and Iraq. For 35 years, this organization has improved the lives of many women by fighting to combat violence against women, building peace throughout the world, fighting to end rape as a weapon of war, battling for rights of the LGBTIQ community, and providing emergency relief to communities in need.

These nonprofits that empower women do so by providing resources and education needed to build sustainable communities. Hopefully, others will continue to follow in such inspirational footsteps. 

– Ronni Winter
Photo: Flickr

Singapore

According to the 2017 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, Singapore decreased 10 positions from last year in closing the gender gap. Singapore was ranked 65th out of 144 countries in economic participation and opportunity, political empowerment, educational attainment and health and survival. Such standings indicate a need to bridge the gap and address the gender equality in Singapore.

Symbolically, the ascension of Singapore’s first female president may indicate a sign of improved broader access to politics for women; but this individual success brings Singapore only a little closer towards bridging the gender gap. The Ministry of Social and Family Development in Singapore remains committed to the protection of women’s rights and is taking steps to promote gender equality in Singapore.

5 Organizations Working on Gender Equality in Singapore

In addition to government agencies, there are also several organizations working to promote gender equality in Singapore by providing livelihood, job opportunities and fighting for women’s issues. Here are five organizations currently working towards women’s rights and protection.

Aidha

Aidha is a Singapore-based NGO that helps women become financially independent. The mission of the charity is that “by helping one woman, it can help improve nine more lives.” Aidha also provides financial literacy programs, computer literacy programs and entrepreneurial skills for Singapore’s foreign domestic workers and low-income women.

The organization’s aim is to help women help themselves by launching their own businesses or helping them invest in items like livestock in their home countries to better protect them against the cycle of poverty.

Aidha’s workshops, clubs and courses help students become literate in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), manage income and boost their confidence and social capital.

Daughters Of Tomorrow (DOT) is a program which focuses on empowering underprivileged Singaporean women through confidence-building, skills development and employment channeling. Aidha is working with DOT to develop a 10-session financial literacy program for its clients and deliver the first program this year.

The Singapore Council of Women’s Organizations

The Singapore Council of Women’s Organizations (SCWO) was established in 1980 as the national coordinating body of women’s organizations in Singapore. SCWO has more than 50 member organizations, represents over 500,000 women and strives to unite women in Singapore to work toward ideals of ‘Equal Space, Equal Voice and Equal Worth.’

SCWO provides free legal clinics — with the support of volunteer lawyers from Singapore Association of Women Lawyers (SAWL) — for women residing in Singapore who face legal issues on personal matters, do not have legal advice or are unable to afford a lawyer.

One of their services includes providing shelter for women. SCWO’s Star Shelter opened in March 1999 and is a registered charity with IPC Status and the only secular crisis center in Singapore. Star Shelter provides a safe, temporary refuge for women and children who are victims of family violence, regardless of race, language, creed or religion. SCWO empowers victims to manage and take responsibility for their lives and assists them in rebuilding existences free of violence.

Apart from meals and lodging, Star Shelter also provides trauma/crisis counseling and case management. Through the “Rebuild” Program, SCWO provides a one-time financial aid to assist victims in paying for transport expenses while they look for employment; in addition, the program also offers a no-interest home loan.

Aware

Aware is an organization which works to remove all gender-based barriers and encourages gender equality in Singapore. Aware works in three ways:

  1. Research and advocacy
  2. Education and training
  3. Support services

AWARE believes in equal opportunity for both men and women in every field. AWARE is dedicated to removing gender-based barriers and providing a feminist perspective in the national dialogue.

The organization has effectively advocated against laws, public policies and mindsets that discriminate against women. AWARE’s support services provide crisis counseling, assistance in dealing with the authorities, and legal advice to women in need. We Can! is a popular campaign which works through Change Makers – individuals who commit to taking steps in their own lives to end violence.

The campaign aims to shake up social attitudes and beliefs that tolerate violence against women. They have conducted several workshops to this end, and forum theatre to reach out to people for support. The campaign has garnered 17,000 individuals and has worked with more than 96 organizations to fight for gender equality in Singapore.

 The Singapore Committee for UN Women

The Singapore Committee for UN Women is a self-funded, non-profit organization that works towards women’s empowerment and gender equality. The organization supports the general mission of UN Women by raising awareness and funding for Ending Violence Against Women, Economic Empowerment, and Governance and Leadership Programs in Singapore and the region. 

These campaigns include the SNOW (Say No to the Oppression of Women) Gala and Buy to Save fundraising events. In fact, 80 percent of the funds are dedicated towards local projects like Help Anna and Girls2Pioneers, while the remaining 20 percent is channeled towards supporting regional beneficiaries. The group’s HeForShe campaign works in favor of gender equality in Singapore and has around 10,000 commitments so far.

CRIB Society

The Singapore organization, CRIB Society (Creating Responsible and Innovative Businesses), combines social responsibility and innovative business practices to work more from the top down with female entrepreneurs and business owners. The organization uses this structure to then help create opportunities and jobs for other women.

CRIB has a group of mentors and emerging entrepreneurs who support, inspire and assist each other, and offers seminars, mentorships, a ‘matching’ program that puts together potential co-founders for new businesses and an incubator program.

These five organizations help encourage gender equality in Singapore and provide support for women in every field including education, employment, shelter and housing. The future is limitless for where these empowered women will go next.

– Preethi Ravi
Photo: Flickr

South AfricaWomen in South Africa are not treated in the way that they wish and need to be treated. This fact was stated throughout August, International Women’s Month when protests have been taking place in order to raise awareness of violence against women. There are several organizations facilitating female empowerment in South Africa to help South African women to be the best version of themselves. Despite the fact women are told to “know their place,” these organizations are fighting against this and ensuring female empowerment in South Africa by making their voice heard.

Women’s Empowerment Foundation for Southern Africa 

This is an information-based organization whose goal is to strengthen women’s voices, give means to women to speak out, empower women with information to change their lives and advocate for a gender-sensitive representation of women in the media. This organization also prioritizes empowering rural women in Zimbabwe with information in order to gain economic independence to meet their own basic needs. Through information about women empowerment, the question of how to give women their voices make them use them has been answered. The practice of eliminating challenges that women face, such as hunger and sanitary needs leads them to realize their economic and social rights and therefore causes them to eventually speak up about this injustice in their communities. Women’s Empowerment Foundation for Southern Africa work in a way that it firstly help women gain their voices, and then it facilitates their expression through communities and the government, as well as working to change society’s negative picture of women through the media.

Thuthuzela Care Centre

This network provides support for women across South Africa who have been victims of rape and sexual assault. It gives these women a support so that they do not experience tributary trauma while pursuing justice, counseling and medical treatment. By late 2014, 56 of these centers have been established. These centers provide emergency medical care, post-exposure prophylaxis, counseling, court preparation as well as many other services. Thuthuzela turns victims into survivors. USAID supports a public awareness campaign to inform the public of South Africa about these centers, the services that they provide and how to access them. Grants are also given to NGOs for after-hours care, HIV related care, as well as giving support to sexual offenses courts.

United Nations Development Programme

The purpose of this programme is to support the Government of South Africa in order to achieve gender equality and promote women’s empowerment in economic and social circles. This program currently has two areas in focus: women economic empowerment and closing the gap between policy and implementation. There is a study presently occurring that is striving to identify hindrances of women-owned enterprises from accessing loans and is determined to come up with recommendations for removing these barriers. The goal of this study is to expand women’s access to financial services and investing differently in women. The United Nations Development Programme has worked with numerous organizations in order to achieve the goal of women being able to be the main subject in their own lives.

Female empowerment in South Africa still has a long way to go, but these three organizations have pushed this effort past the starting gate, which will cause more and more people to get involved. The hope is that these organizations will slowly close the gender gap in South Africa and allow women to use their voices in positions of power, rather than succumb to the voices and the money of their husbands. This can happen with the help of the people who recognize that there needs to be something done in order to achieve women’s equality in South Africa.

Megan Maxwell
Photo: Flickr

Guyana
In April 2018, Global Partnership for Education (GPE), an international organization devoted to advancing childhood education, reaffirmed its commitment to improving education in Guyana with a $1.7 million grant. This grant intends to strengthen the Early Childhood Education Program, which strives to improve literacy and numeracy levels in several remote regions of the country. Backed by the GPE and The World Bank, this grant will also positively contribute to girls’ education in Guyana.

Literacy and Numeracy Results

The results of these efforts are notable in literacy and numeracy scores among nursery school students. The percentage of students attaining a level of “approaching mastery” or higher in emergent literacy assessments rose from 39.58 percent to 68.30 percent between 2016 and 2017. Similar gains occurred in emergent numeracy levels, in which the percentage of students achieving a level of “approaching mastery” or higher rose from 41.91 percent in 2016 to 77.03 percent in 2017. These gains indicate significant improvements in boys’ and girls’ education in Guyana.

A Gender Gap in Education

According to certain indicators, girls’ education in Guyana has grown stronger than boys’ education. In June, the University of Guyana hosted a symposium on the underperformance of boys in the Guyanese education system. During the symposium, Dr. Mairette Newman, representative of The Commonwealth of Learning, noted three key statistics, which indicate a widening gender gap in Guyanese education:

  1. Girls outperform boys in literacy tests, once they transition into higher grade levels.
  2. Boys are more likely to drop out of secondary school than their female counterparts. (In early education, the ratio of boys to girls is one to one. However, at the secondary school level, the ratio is two to one, in favor of girls).
  3. Boys are less likely to transition into tertiary education programs.

According to Dr. Newman, girls normally have an advantage, since teachers prefer “female” qualities in the classroom, such as the ability to work well in groups and be introspective. All of these factors contribute to girls outpacing boys in the Guyanese education system.

Gender Barriers

While the symposium touched on this gender inequality in education, it did not address how these inequalities and gendered expectations also affect girls’ education in Guyana or limit girls in society. Though growing numbers of Guyanese women succeed in school and participate actively in public life, significant gender-related barriers still exist.

The Guyana Empowered Peoples Action Network (GEPAN) explains that children take on specific gender roles early in life. While girls take on household tasks, society encourages boys to be independent, as future “providers.” These gender roles continue into adulthood and expose women to limitations and violence in Guyana. For example, in 2014, UNICEF reported that at least one-third of Guyanese women experience sexual violence. These barriers and violence make it difficult for women to reach their full social and economic potential.

Women’s Empowerment

Luckily, Guyana’s First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger, has already begun to address these gender-related issues. Last month, she held a Girls’ Empowerment Workshop, designed to inspire and empower girls (ages 10-15), encouraged girls to pursue non-traditional career paths and fight through prejudices to achieve their goals. As the First Lady emphasized, education is the first step to empowerment for women, which will strengthen economic development. For the First Lady, women’s empowerment and girls’ education in Guyana are crucial to the future success of Guyana. This movement for women’s empowerment also goes beyond the First Lady’s initiatives.

In April 2018, the Ministry of Public Telecommunications launched a program for girls and women in Information and Communications Technology, a field dominated by males in Guyana. The program, Guyanese Girls Code, is a free, three-month course which teaches beginning coding and programming to girls (ages 11-14). Over forty girls enrolled in the initial class. According to Cathy Hughes, the Minister of Public Telecommunications, the classes strive to bring women into the ICT sector and give them opportunities to gain the education they’ll need to succeed. Hughes hopes that bringing girls into the ICT sector will offer new perspectives and talent, which will be crucial for advancing Guyanese society.

Thus, education and women’s empowerment in Guyana are intimately linked. For women’s empowerment to advance in Guyana, education must remain a priority. With the support of organizations such as GPE and World Bank, Guyanese leaders strive to continue strengthening education and addressing gender inequalities in the classroom and society.

– Morgan Harden
Photo: Flickr