Gender Equality in Ethiopia

Ethiopia faces many struggles, but the land where coffee originated has many accomplishments as well. The continuous progression made for gender equality in Ethiopia is one of them. Gender-based roles constitute a significant part of the Ethiopian culture. It is also the primary reason for many families’ extreme poverty. However, through policy reform and promoting women’s political participation, there has been a noteworthy change in bridging the gaps between women and men.

Policy Reforms Encourage Gender Equality in Ethiopia

Thanks to two reforms, research suggests that promoting gender equality in Ethiopia has become very feasible.

One reform is the Family Code, which was revised in 2000 with new developments. The re-evaluated version of the Family Code states that women receive equal rights throughout the marriage. This pertains to the entire term of their marriage, the duration of the divorce, and after the finalization of the divorce. The revisions also note that the individuals must equally split all assets. As a result, the report states that women were less likely to involve themselves in domestic work. Instead, women found more sustainable employment outside of the household, which encourages their independence.

The second reform is the community-based land registration, which was initiated in 2003. Ethiopia’s population has strong gender norms that tend to favor men and subordinate women in power roles. Research results have shown that as women migrate from the north of Ethiopia to the southern region, they tend to lose societal and household status. Women also have their “bargaining power” revoked from them, which can relate to property rights and ownership. However, this reform emphasizes the implementation of property rights for married women by creating “joint certification.”

A significant sign of independence in Ethiopia is property. However, men typically have land ownership in marriages. This reform opposes that gender-based norm in Ethiopia and allows women to access economic and political opportunities. When women own land, it increases their chances of earning money and controlling their own life. Rules set by their husband no longer have to confine them. They are also less likely to be victims of domestic violence. Ethiopian women who own property are significantly less likely to experience domestic violence within their marriage than women who do not own property.

Women’s Political Participation Rises

Women currently make up 37% of congress in Ethiopia. Considering only 22% of women represented congress in 2010, there has been significant progress ever since. However, the Ethiopian government’s accuracy and trustworthiness will remain in question until women account for at least 50% of the parliamentary seats.

The country also needs to make political careers more accessible to women. The “motherhood penalty” requires women to attend to constant family duties and responsibilities, such as breastfeeding and always being present for the children. Endless motherly duties can hinder their potential political career due to the amount of time it takes. This is especially true if a women’s marriage is based on strong religious beliefs. Certain religious beliefs in Ethiopia tend to prohibit women from having the independence they deserve and hinder their decision-making abilities.

DCA

In Ethiopia, women are perceived as those to be led, not to be the ones leading. However, recent years’ progression contradicts that idea. The organization DCA (Dan Church Aid) emphasizes the idea of women empowerment. They hold and spread the belief that every woman deserves fundamental human rights “economically, socially, and culturally.”

DCA was created in 1995 to promote gender equality in Ethiopia. Since then, the organization has helped over 3.2 million people in the world’s most impoverished countries deprived of everyday opportunities. Due to the continuous contribution of DCA and recognition from Ethiopia’s government regarding the encouragement of gender equality, the women of Ethiopia can seek more political positions and close those gender gaps within communities.

Montana Moore
Photo: Flickr

Women's Economic EmpowermentA whole two billion impoverished people worldwide, particularly women, are financially and economically excluded. Females are the poorest in the world and women earn on average only 60 to 75% of what men earn. Investing in women’s economic empowerment plays a crucial role in reducing poverty and establishing equality between men and women.

Gender Equality for Global Economic Advancement

The 2017 National Security Strategy states that societies that empower women in their civic and economic lives are more prosperous and peaceful. Studies show that gender equality contributes to advancing economies and sustainable development as well as overall poverty reduction.

CARE defines women’s economic empowerment as the process by which women increase their right to economic resources and power to make decisions that benefit themselves, their families and their communities. It is the transformative process that helps females move from limited economic power to possessing skills, resources and opportunities to compete equitably in markets and control economic gains. Women’s economic empowerment involves transforming the historically-limiting laws, policies, practices and norms through change and advocacy.

Women remain disproportionately affected by discrimination and exploitation. Women often end up in low-wage jobs and fill very few senior positions. Without secure employment, women lose access to economic assets such as land and loans, which limits opportunities to participate in economic and social policies.  Furthermore, many women are responsible for the majority of housework, which leaves little time to pursue employment or other economic opportunities. On average, women devote between one and three hours more a day to housework than men and two to 10 times the amount of time a day to child, elderly and sick care.

Additionally, laws in many countries determine what jobs women can do or give men the right to prevent their wives from accepting jobs.

Call to Action on Women’s Economic Empowerment

In October 2020, U.S. officials and 31 U.N. Member States virtually signed the Call to Action on Women’s Economic Empowerment, which encourages countries to address legal restrictions regarding women’s economic participation. Predictions are that if an equal number of men and women participate in the global economy, the gross domestic product (GDP) could increase by $12 trillion by 2025.

Improved financial security means women can afford healthcare, purchase essentials for their children and play a leadership role in their communities. Typically, women who decide where, when and how to spend their money see improvements in their social and economic status. Financially independent women also increase the level of resources devoted to their children.

Girl Power and the Future

There is strong evidence showing positive links between women’s economic empowerment and health outcomes for women and their families. This includes benefits in nutrition, better family planning and decreased maternal and child mortality. Other studies have found that increasing the share of income for women may provide greater investment in children’s education and result in reductions in gender-based violence. Overall, women’s economic empowerment benefits not just women but the entire world.

– Rachel Durling
Photo: Flickr

EMPOWERING WOMEN IN AGRICULTUREThe agricultural sector is a critical facet of Sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) economy. As of 2015, women make up around 40% of the SSA’s agricultural labor force. Although their contribution is critical, due to discriminatory laws and social norms, a large gender gap within this sector continues to persist. However, many have come to realize the potential that lies behind empowering and educating female agriculture workers in Africa. By decreasing the gender gap and expanding females’ access to land and resources, these women have the potential to increase agricultural output in developing countries by between 2.5 and 4%. Organizations are prioritizing empowering women in agriculture in order to reduce poverty.

The Gender Gap

Regardless of their active role in agriculture, women own fewer assets, have less access to necessary agricultural yields and receive less education and training in these areas compared to men in Sub-Saharan Africa. The main cause of this persistent gap is established traditional gender roles. Gender roles continue to negatively impact women across Africa. Women often face more difficulties in owning land, establishing credit and gaining access to proper resources. When given the proper tools, these women could have a substantial positive effect on both the economy and SSA’s agricultural output.

The Benefits of Gender Parity in Sub-Saharan Africa

Closing the gender gap is imperative to making progress in SSA’s economy and increasing agricultural output. By empowering female agricultural workers and increasing their access to finances, land rights, resources and training, there could be a significant positive effect for the whole of Africa. Ruth Meinzen-Dick explains that in Sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture is two to four times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in other sectors. She explains further that because women are more likely than men to invest resources into meeting their children’s educational and nutritional needs, investing in women is crucial.

Making Women a Priority

Although the benefits of female empowerment are clear to see, in order to make these benefits a reality, it is imperative that programs and policies target three main factors: land rights, equal access to agricultural resources and finances and equal power in decision-making. Furthermore, as more women become educated and empowered, these investments and knowledge will not only be passed on to their children but throughout the community. As explained by Slyvia Tetteh, “When mothers are educated, they keep their education in their home and use it to educate their children. If you educate a woman, you educate her home and to some extent, the community.”

Women Who Farm Africa

Across the world, efforts are being made to educate and empower female agricultural workers in Africa. Policies and programs are all pushing to further female agricultural workers’ rights and power. A clear example of this is Women Who Farm Africa. This alliance was created in order to provide resources for women farmers to learn about agriculture through empowerment. By involving them in decision-making and access to finances, women farmers can increase their income, develop a stable rural livelihood and contribute to ensuring food security.

The Promise of Female Farmers

It is clear to see why female empowerment and closing the gender gap should take priority across Africa. Doing so would not only increase the lives and quality of living for these women but would also positively impact the agricultural output and the general state of Africa’s economy. Furthermore, this could also create more stability for the children growing up in rural communities. With the knowledge that mothers gain, this knowledge can then be passed down to their children and the rise in income can be invested in the children’s future. If properly prioritized and applied, empowering women in agriculture could break intergenerational cycles of poverty, reduce hunger and malnutrition rates and improve Africa’s economy as a whole.

– Caroline Dunn
Photo: Flickr

Education in Guinea-BissauWith a population of 1.8 million, about 69% of people in Guinea-Bissau live below the poverty line and 25% experience chronic malnutrition. In addition to working toward reducing poverty, there is a focus to improve education in Guinea-Bissau, which faces many struggles, including low enrollment rates, limited financial support and gender inequality.

Education Statistics in Guinea-Bissau

In Guinea-Bissau, the literacy rate is around 53%. Only 30% of children begin school at the specified age of six. According to a study conducted by UNICEF, as a result of late enrollment, a significant proportion of children in lower primary grades are overage. As of 2010, 62% of children finished their basic education. About 14% of those in grade one end up completing grade 12. Additionally, out of the 55% of children who attend secondary school, about 22% complete it. As of 2014, the net primary school attendance was 62.4%. Lack of accessibility to school, especially in terms of secondary education outside of urban areas, contributes to these statistics.

Schools also receive insufficient funds for quality education and have to rely on families for support. Adequate standards for physical school buildings and textbooks are also lacking. Teachers tend to lack a proper level of competency in regard to the subject they teach and have insufficient teaching materials. According to a text published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “At a level corresponding to the fifth year of primary education, teachers fail to answer a quarter of the questions on Portuguese and under a half of those in mathematics arising from the syllabus for their pupils.” Furthermore, many schools fail to offer a full curriculum and 46% of teaching days from 2016 to 2017 were lost because of teacher strikes. More than 20% of students aged 7 to 14 years old reside over half an hour from a school and distance decreases their likelihood of attending. Furthermore, many students, the majority being girls, drop out of school due to early marriage and child labor.

Gender Inequality

A gender gap is prevalent within Guinea-Bissau’s education system. Of children aged 10 to 11 years old, 17.5% of boys are not attending school as opposed to 25.7% of girls. Among impoverished families, boys are 1.8 more likely to reach grade six than girls. In general, boys are 1.5 times more likely than girls to take part in General Secondary Education. Moreover, boys obtain 59% of public resources for education, while girls get 41%.

The gender inequality in Guinea-Bissau’s education system leads to consequences, such as child marriage among girls. About 54% of women without an education experienced child marriage, as opposed to the 9% of women who achieved secondary education or higher. The average age of a woman without education for the first delivery of a child is 18.2 years old as opposed to 21.4 years old for a woman who studied for 14 years. Women who received an education of 14 years have an average of about 1.2 kids. On the other hand, women without education have an average of 3.3 children.

Decreasing the gender gap in Guinea-Bissau’s education system would lead to benefits for not only women but the entirety of the population. Women who achieve higher education are 50% likely to vaccinate their children under the age of 5, whereas the likelihood for women without an education is 26%. Furthermore, the likelihood of women who did not attend school using a net to prevent malaria for their children under the age of 5 is 71%, as opposed to 81% among women who studied for at least six years.

The Quality Education for All Project

In July 2018, the World Bank developed the Quality Education for All Project in Guinea-Bissau. The goal of the Project is to improve the overall environment of schools for students from grade one to grade four. Through the Project, the World Bank aims to reduce teacher strikes by providing training. The World Bank also plans to update the curriculum taught as well as educational supplies and materials. Furthermore, the Project encourages greater community involvement in the management of schools.

UNICEF’s Educational Efforts

UNICEF aims to improve the quality of education in Guinea-Bissau, especially with regard to early childhood, through partnership and the rehabilitation of classrooms. Alongside PLAN international, Handicap International and Fundação Fé e Cooperação (FEC), UNICEF monitors schools by training 180 inspectors who are responsible for over 1,700 schools. The monitors focus on teacher attendance as well as the process in the classroom. In order to establish standards, such as National Quality Standards and Early Learning Development Standards, UNICEF also partnered with the Ministry of Education. UNICEF launched Campaign “6/6” to encourage the enrollment of children in school beginning at age 6 and maintaining their attendance throughout primary education.

Response to COVID-19

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE), which coordinates with UNICEF, allocated $3.5 million to Guinea-Bissau for a COVID-19 response from 2020 to 2021. Through its grant, GPE plans to achieve greater health standards in schools and training among community members to increase awareness of COVID-19 prevention. GPE also supports a radio distance education program as well as a distance program that addresses gender-based violence and the inclusion of children with disabilities. UNICEF broadcasts programs three times a day for radio distance learning. Additionally, GPE aims to assess preschool and primary age students to gather further information about learning loss and to create a program for children out of school.

– Zoë Nichols
Photo: Flickr

Women’s rights in TunisiaFor neighboring countries, Tunisia is a model of women’s rights. Although women’s rights in Tunisia are lacking in some areas, activists and lawyers have consistently worked to dismantle patriarchal social structures.

Poverty in Tunisia

The national poverty rate consistently fell between 2005 and 2015. In 2005, the poverty rate in Tunisia was 23.1%, and in 2015, the poverty rate was 15.2%. Poverty tends to disproportionately affect inland regions in Tunisia.

Inland regions register higher rates of poverty than coastal regions. This difference is often stark. In Centre West, a landlocked region, the rate of poverty was 30.8%, whereas, in Centre Est, a coastal region, the poverty rate was 11.4%. The national poverty rate for men and women, however, was nearly identical.

Role of Women in the Economy

By 2005 the number of female entrepreneurs in Tunisia was nearly 5000 and had impressively doubled to 10,000 by 2008. Despite the expansion of women’s rights in Tunisia, which has played out through a legal process, deferral to traditional gender roles continues to hold women back from pursuing entrepreneurial roles in society. A 2010 study found that this may be explained by an “inadequate support system” for women in Tunisia who aspire to develop careers in the business world.

Mowgli Mentoring

The development of a strong support system for women entrepreneurs in Tunisia is the goal of Mowgli’s partnership with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The initiative partnered 12 Tunisian businesswomen with Mowgli mentors for a year. Its goal was to create a new culture of support and sustainability that will foster “economic and societal development throughout Tunisia.”

This approach is fundamental to shift the business culture in Tunisia. Institutional support for women entrepreneurs is tantamount to their success. Women entrepreneurs generally receive less institutional support than their male counterparts receive upon starting a new business. This includes a lack of financial support from financial institutions. Women entrepreneurs are also less likely to be offered opportunities to participate in business training, courses or schooling.

Women Entrepreneurs in Tunisia

Despite these obstacles, women entrepreneurs in Tunisia have developed innovative ways to improve support for women in business. Raja Hamdi is the director of the Sidi Bouzid Business Center. The center supports startups by providing mentors to evaluate business and market trends.

The Sidi Bouzid Business Center works closely with the Mashrou3i program, which is a partner of Go Market, a research and marketing firm located in the Kairouan region of Tunisia. Go Market was founded by female entrepreneur, Hayfa Ben Fraj. It works strategically in market analysis to support a “wide range of sectors and diverse fields such as technology, crafts and agriculture.”

Working Toward an Inclusive Economy

Although patriarchal structures of repression endure in Tunisia, the overall attitude is one of progress, equality and inclusion. Constituting one half of the population in Tunisia, women represent a latent workforce with the potential to reshape Tunisia’s economy through a series of innovative programs based on a culture of mutual support. Women’s rights in Tunisia will continue to increase as entrepreneurial opportunities for women flourish.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

5 Ways COVID-19 is Disproportionately Impacting Women WorldwideThe COVID-19 pandemic has socially, mentally and economically impacted billions of people across the world. However, COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting women worldwide, including factors such as mental health, income loss and inadequate food provisions. As the pandemic continues to affect populations, it is becoming more apparent that women are facing greater hardships and systemic inequalities. This article discusses how COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting women across the globe, and how governments can go about fixing these inequalities. Although women have persevered and have adapted in inspiring ways, this pandemic has exposed structural gender inequalities in health, economics, security and social protection.

5 Ways COVID-19 is Disproportionately Affecting Women

  1. According to a survey by the non-profit CARE, 55% of women reported that they lost their jobs and/or their primary source of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, women are more likely to be employed in service and informal sectors, such as vendors and traders, that COVID-19 is hitting the hardest. Even within the formal sectors of employment, women are facing the impact of unemployment at greater rates than men. For example, in Bangladesh, women are six times more likely to lose paid working hours than men. Women also have fewer unemployment benefits. In Zimbabwe and Cameroon, women make up 65% of the informal workforce—a workforce not entitled to unemployment benefits.

  2. A lack of access to online education is significantly affecting Indigenous, refugee and low-income household communities and greatly adding to education inequalities. Young women and girls are greatly impacted by gender-based violence due to movement restrictions, especially without access to schools and public services. This gender-based disparity is largely due to boys being prioritized in many poverty-stricken countries. Because of this, girls are likely to be pulled out of school before boys in order to compensate for increased domestic work and care and to alleviate the economic burden of schooling.

  3. Women are nearly three times more likely to report mental health impacts from COVID-19. This statistic is backed by multiple reasons, including how women are facing the burden of unpaid care work, increasing mobility restrictions and increased threats of violence. In fact, the CARE survey showed that 27% of women are experiencing an increase in mental health issues, anxiety and stress due to COVID-19, compared to 10% of men. In Lebanon, 14% of men spend their time on housework and care, as opposed to 83% of women. Gender roles and expectations of women have increased during this pandemic, thus causing a greater gap in mental health issues between men and women.

  4. Female refugees are at greater risk of violence, income loss and mental health impacts. Refugees are already living in precarious situations with a lack of food, income, health security and home safety. When considering various countries, especially those with a large migrant population, it is clear that vulnerable populations are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, in Afghanistan, 300,000 refugees have returned because they have lost their jobs and income. In Thailand, migrants report losing 50% of their income. Both of these statistics also offer an idea of why mental health issues have increased during this pandemic. COVID-19 has led to a loss of income and jobs for the 8.5 million domestic migrant workers, as well as the dismissal of their health and safety.

  5. As compared to 30% of men, 41% of women reported having an inadequate supply of food as a result of COVID-19. This difference reflects the gender inequalities in local and global food systems, as well as the expectation of women to buy and prepare the food for their families. Additionally, this pandemic is causing many disadvantaged households to make less nutritious food choices. In Venezuela, 61% of people have access to protein-filled foods and vegetables, while 74% only have access to cereal.

Although it is clear that women and girls typically endure a greater burden from the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, there are ways governments and individuals can help alleviate COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on women. These include investing in women leaders, funding non-profit organizations that work to promote women’s rights and committing to organizations that work to close the gender gap.

– Naomi Schmeck

Photo: Flickr 

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia’s Former President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, made history in 2006 as the first female head of state in Africa and the first black woman head of state. Since then, the world has witnessed a tremendous increase in female political leadership in Africa. This article examines the extraordinary progress in expanding women’s leadership in Africa, the importance of such leadership and the challenges that remain before full equality can be achieved. 

Increased Representation in Women’s Leadership

Rwanda now has the highest percentage of women in parliamentary positions in the world, along with South Africa, Senegal, Namibia and Mozambique in top 20, according to 2020 data from the IPU-UN Women Map of Women in Politics. Despite this relative success, Africa still needs to double representation rates to achieve gender equality. Contemporary scholarship regarding women’s leadership also underscores that increased representation does not necessarily mean increased influence: the types of role women undertake, such as the portfolios they oversee as ministers or the nature of their work in a company, often reveal more about their real influence.

African Women in Political Office

Recent successes of women-led nations in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic have prompted further investigation into the benefits of women’s leadership and political representation. A NYTimes article proposes that women leaders tend to value varied information sources and diverse perspectives, while The Guardian cites evidence suggesting that female leaders are more likely to employ risk averse strategies to protect their citizens. Regarding the success of African women leaders in handling the COVID-19 health crisis, Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf remarks: “Women leaders are better placed to draw on informal networks to mobilize rapid responses and community support. They are used to finding alternative resources and building ingenious partnerships to solve problems.” Indeed, given the outstanding challenges Africa faces––population density, limited health infrastructure and inadequate sanitation, to name a few––the containment of the virus in Africa is proof of talented, thoughtful, and compassionate leadership.

Rising female leadership in Africa reflects an encouraging global trend. The proportion of women ministers worldwide is at an all-time high at 21.3 percent, which is up 7.1 percentage points from 2005. However, only 14 countries in the world have 50 percent or more women in their cabinet, and Rwanda is one of them at 53.6 percent. Rwanda also has the highest percentage of women in parliament in the world with 61.3 percent. Other African countries with high percentages of women are South Africa (46.3), Senegal (43.0), Namibia (42.7) and Mozambique (41.2). The regional average for Sub-Saharan Africa is 24.4 percent, which closely follows the world average of 24.9 percent. However, this number masks wide disparities: some African countries rank at the bottom of the list, for instance Nigeria (3.4 percent), Benin (7.2 percent) and Gambia (8.6 percent). Further progress is necessary in expanding the range of portfolios held by women. Fifty percent of African female cabinet members hold social welfare portfolios while only 30 percent are in charge of finance, infrastructure, defense and foreign affairs – departments that have more political influence and more often lead to higher senior positions, such as head of state. Expanding women’s presence in these areas would ensure that women voices are heard at the highest level of decision-making and governance.

African Women in Business

Research has found a correlation between women’s representation and profitability. The Women Matter Africa report by McKinsey&Company found that the earning margin from companies with at least a quarter share of women on their boards was, on average, 20 percent higher than the industry average. Findings from a Peterson Institute for International Economics report, “Is Gender Diversity Profitable?”, show that moving from a no-women board to 30 percent representation corresponds with a 15 percent increase in profitability. Research has found that executive boards with more women tend to manage risks better, which directly improves finances. Experts agree that women’s participation in decision-making processes fosters openness to new perspectives, collaboration and inclusiveness, and strength in ethics and fairness.

In the private sector, Africa performs well globally with a higher-than-average proportion of women CEOs, executive committee and board members. However, statistics vary widely by region. At board level, African women held 14 percent of seats compared to the world average of 13 in 2016. However, this number was 20 percent in Southern Africa and 9 percent in North Africa. Women are most poorly represented at the highest level: A 2017 South Africa Census found that while 20.7 percent of Directors and 29.4 percent of Executive Managers were women, women accounted for only 11.8 percent of CEOs or Chairpersons.

Challenges & Outlook

Contemporary literature about women’s leadership in Africa underscores persistent barriers and systemic challenges such as early socialization, gender stereotyping, limited educational attainment, and discriminatory policies and procedures. Gender norms in Africa emphasize the primary role of women as mothers and wives, which discourages them from joining the workplace and ascending to higher positions. At work, recruitment and promotion procedures often work against women’s success, and normative perceptions of women as incompetent subject them to more rigorous standards of performance. Going forward, women’s leadership in Africa would benefit from continued theoretical research, advocacy and discussion that embrace the complexity and diversity of African women leaders. The African Women Leaders Network, the premiere advocacy group with the mission of elevating the status of women’s leadership in Africa, outlines key priorities in their fight: eradicate violence against women an girls; increase access to education; promote a women-driven care economy; and encourage young female leadership. In the words of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: “Now is the time to recognize that developmental transformation and true peace cannot come without fundamental change in who is leading and the ways of leading.”

—Alice Nguyen
Photo: Flickr

The Czech Republic is a Parliamentary Republic bordering Germany, Poland, Austria and Slovakia. The country was founded on January 1, 1993, following a political revolution, and peacefully splitting from the former Czechoslovakia. In 2020, the Czech Republic ranked as the eighth safest country in the world. The country also reports a 2.4% unemployment rate and healthy GDP growth over the past five years. The latest Eurostat data also shows that the Czech Poverty rate is 3.4%, the second-lowest rate in the EU. However, the well-being of the Czech Republic’s citizens may decline as a threatening drought continues to plague the country and coincide with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poverty & Hunger in the Czech Republic

In a 2017 study, the Czech Republic Hunger Statistic was 2.5%. This means that 2.5% of the population’s food intake was insufficient to meet basic dietary requirements. Meanwhile, the World Hunger Statistic is around 11%.

Despite the Czech Republic’s success in the fight against poverty, the country has some areas of weakness. For example, the Czech Republic’s wage gap is larger than other European countries. Women tend to earn about 22% less than men. As a result, a disproportionate number of women, especially single mothers, fall below the poverty line.

Additionally, the Czech Republic’s relatively low poverty rate of 3.4% is somewhat misleading. The poverty rate considers the standard of living within the Czech Republic. Sociologist Daniel Prokop uses Luxembourg to exemplify why this can be misleading: “the median [income] in Luxembourg is twice as high as in the Czech Republic. Therefore, the poverty line is twice as high, making it easier for low-income workers to fall below it.” So, countries with higher median incomes have a higher standard of living. Since the Czech Republic has a lower relative poverty threshold, an impoverished citizen in Luxembourg may not be considered impoverished in the Czech Republic.

Working Through a Long-term Drought

The Czech Republic is experiencing the most threatening drought in 500 years. The drought began in 2018, and it escalated to a climate crisis in April 2020- right in the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a fear that the continuation of the drought in the Czech Republic will cause mass famine.

Scientists are using an ESA satellite to monitor the drought and soil conditions, keeping the country’s agribusiness sector stable. Well-organized agricultural systems are preventing major catastrophe in the present. Yet, crop yields are expected to continue shrinking in the upcoming months. The biggest concern, however, is the impending water shortage. The Ministry of Environment in the Czech Republic has implemented over 15,000 projects across the country to build pipelines for drinking water, preserving dams and reservoirs and much more.

COVID-19 Impacts

Thankfully, the Czech Republic has handled COVID-19 wisely from the start. They were the first country in Europe to issue a mask mandate, sending the notice on March 19, 2020. So far, there are no significant deviations from normal malnutrition and poverty rates due to the pandemic. Despite a couple of recent clusters in the eastern parts of the country, heavily populated cities such as Prague (population: 1.3 million) are seeing consistently low infection rates as of late July. Many citizens’ lives have returned to normalcy, with schools and buildings re-opening and commerce flourishing.

Tomorrow’s Outlook

Organizations ranging from small local projects to large NGOs are working to combat poverty and hunger in the Czech Republic as the drought and COVID-19 continue. For example, the Prague Changemakers organizes volunteering projects by recruiting local citizens. Together, they cook and distribute food to the local homeless population.  Additionally, Naděje is an example of a larger NGO. Naděje was founded in the 1990s following the revolution and their organization’s goal is to serve the homeless. Naděje began by serving food in railway stations. Soon, the NGO expanded to building homes and shelters across the country. For their first major project, Naděje established day centers for the homeless to get food, creating two hostels for men and one for women.

Ultimately, responsible governmental action and the work of NGOs like Naděje have provided stability to the Czech Republic in an uncertain time. Hopefully, their work in the Czech Republic will continue to keep COVID-19 and the drought under control. It seems other countries should take notes as unemployment, hunger, and poverty rates remain relatively low in the Czech Republic.

Ruhi Mukherjee
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan civil war ended over a decade ago, but the nation still feels the effects today. The Sri Lankan government tightened and expanded its authority, among other aftershocks of this multi-decade war. These decades of instability coupled with a history of colonial rule created an uphill battle for women’s rights in Sri Lanka. Though women are making tantamount strides, women are up against a long history of instability and patriarchal rule. According to the UN Gender Inequality Index, Sri Lanka ranks 74th among 187 countries. While there is hope for a future of gender equality, women in Sri Lanka still lack representation in government and access to employment opportunities while suffering from cultural preconceptions of female roles. Here are five facts about women’s rights in Sri Lanka.

5 Facts About Women’s Rights in Sri Lanka

  1. World’s First Prime Minister: Sri Lanka elected the world’s first female Prime Minister. The people elected Sirima Bandaranaike as head of government in 1960. Sirima Bandaranaike entered into politics after the assassination of her husband Soloman Bandaranaike due to pressure from his party and the people. Critics who held the belief that a woman was incapable of running a political party described her as “unruffled.”
  2. Government Representation: Women have little representation in government. Sri Lanka ranks lowest for women’s participation in politics among South Asian Countries. Women have never exceeded 6% representation in parliament, with less than 5.8% elected in the 2015 election. Representation is even slimmer on the local level, with around 2% of women holding political office. Due to these numbers, UN Women has made strides to increase female political participation in government. Through financing from the Norwegian government, UN Women implemented a two-year program entitled “Promoting Women’s Political Participation in Sri Lanka.” The program supports gender-responsive budgeting, which requires the inclusion of women in political campaign budgeting and ensures that political party nominations are more inclusive of women.
  3. Universal Free Education: The initiation of universal free education in Sri Lanka in 1945 created educational opportunities for women, leading to huge increases in educational gender equality. In 1946, only 43.8% of women were literate as opposed to 70.1% of the male population. By 2001, 90% of the female population was literate in comparison to 93% of the male population. One can attribute this massive improvement to the requirement that teachers had to teach universal free schooling in the “mother tongue” of the student. Free education benefited females in particular because as long as school was not free, parents with limited resources would choose to educate the men in their family over the women. The statewide implementation of universal free education did away with the economic reasons for parents to keep their daughters at home.
  4. The Workforce Gender Gap: The workforce gender gap remains high. Despite rising levels of education, the majority of women in the workforce exist in the agricultural and domestic spheres. Many employment opportunities are reserved for male candidates due to a history of gender ideologies. Due to this culture, many women have experienced relegation as “supplementary earners” despite their education or others have consigned them to focus on household work because of views that it is “women’s work.”
  5. Maternal and Infant Mortality Rates: Maternal and infant mortality rates have significantly dropped since Sri Lanka gained independence. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Sri Lankan government established health units that provided community-based maternal and child care services for free throughout the country. The government also expanded the nationwide ambulance fleet and invested in training midwives in the 1960s. These sweeping efforts to mitigate maternal and infant mortality rates led to Sri Lanka reducing maternal deaths from nearly 2000 per 100,000 live births to only 33 per 100,000 live births in 2015. The Sri Lankan government has proposed that the country will reach a single-digit maternal mortality ratio in the next 10 years.

Looking Forward

There is a promise of a future of flourishment for women’s rights in Sri Lanka, given educational opportunities and the upward trend of female health outcomes. The Sri Lankan government invested in many programs in 2017 to promote gender equality such as the National Plan to Address Sexual and Gender-based Violence and the National Framework for Women-Headed Households. The government also implemented quotas for the percentage of women in the workplace and dedicated 25% of the positions in local public institutions for women to enhance political participation. Despite a long history of gender discrimination, the Sri Lankan government is making an important commitment to promoting women’s rights in Sri Lanka, providing hope for an equitable road forward.

– Tatiana Nelson
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Women’s Rights in Papua New GuineaAlthough Papua New Guinea is a resource-rich area, almost 40% of its population lives in poverty. For women, Papua New Guinea is a dangerous place to live as the country is plagued by gendered violence and inequality and women’s rights are unprotected.

Women’s Rights in Papua New Guinea

Although the Papua New Guinea Constitution technically renders men and women equal, the traditional customs of the country and the patriarchal values that come with the vastly rural community make it difficult for this to actually implement itself within the country. Women’s rights in Papua New Guinea are shunted on a legislative and social level. In fact, not a single woman in Papua New Guinea is a member of Parliament. Moreover, women are not given the opportunity to be in positions of power due to a lack of access to education. In Papua New Guinea, only 18% of girls are enrolled in secondary school.

Gender-Based Violence in Papua New Guinea

Women in Papua New Guinea are subject to male domination and violence. It is estimated that Papua New Guinea has one of the highest rates of gender violence in the world, for a country that is not a conflict zone. Moreover, the ruralness of Papua New Guinea leads to a lack of infrastructure and community programs to deter violence and provide sanctuary to women and girls who have experienced domestic violence. Women are often forced to return to their abusers due to the lack of these types of systems.

In 2015, Doctors Without Borders completed its Return to Abuser report in Papua New Guinea. Of the patients treated, 94% were female, with the most common form of violence being at the hands of domestic partners. From 2007 to 2015, Doctors Without Borders treated nearly 28,000 survivors of family and sexual violence in Papua New Guinea. Doctors Without Borders shared that this abuse cycle continues because women and children lack the proper resources to leave their abusers, as many of them are dependant on the abuser and the abuse happens at home.

Intimate Partner Violence

In a United Nations multi-country study about Asia and the Pacific, researchers discovered alarming statistics about the pervasiveness of intimate partner violence. In Papua New Guinea, 80% of male participants self-reported perpetrating physical and/or sexual violence against their partner in their lifetime. Additionally, 83% of male participants also reported having committed emotionally abusive acts against their female partners in their lifetime. Sexual violence in Papua New Guinea is an epidemic too. In the same study, 62% of males also reported that they had perpetrated some form of rape against a woman or girl in their lifetime.

Pro Bono Australia

Despite these statistics, women in Papua New Guinea are supported by female-focused programs, such as Pro Bono Australia. Pro Bono Australia is working to aid women in Papua New Guinea to learn more about business and communication. Up to 85% of women in Papua New Guinea make their livelihoods off of the informal economy, through selling goods and services at markets. Through Pro Bono Australia, more than 600 market and street traders in Papua New Guinea who are mostly women, are members of the provincial vendors association. Through this association, vendors educate themselves about the Papua New Guinea market and the Constitution. Moreover, they now can communicate with governmental leaders and local leaders about the status of the informal economy. From this communication, these women have also been able to communicate with their leaders about other issues within their communities. As a result of this program, the provincial vendors association has begun to petition the government for better sanitation, safe spaces, better shelter and reliable water.

The Future for Women in Papua New Guinea

The communication between a coalition of mostly females and the governmental structure of Papua New Guinea will give voices to those who have been voiceless, bring attention to the status of women within society and hopefully make strides towards resolving issues such as gender-based violence and women’s rights in general. As a result of this measure, there is hope that women’s rights in Papua New Guinea will continue to improve and that the resources for gender-based violence will expand.

– Caitlin Calfo
Photo: Flickr