Women's Rights in Greece
There have been significant, recent developments in the status of women’s rights in Greece. Some Greeks excitedly look toward a future of gender equality. Others are reluctant to certain changes and are holding steadfast to tradition.

The primary debates in the fight for women’s rights are mainly between rural and urban citizens. Women in urban areas are more likely to dismiss traditional notions of domesticity and instead seek opportunities in the workforce. However, women in more rural areas still hold fast to the status quo. They are much more likely to take care of the home and children while a male partner seeks out work to provide for the family.

A Brief History of Women’s Rights in Greece

  1. 1952: Women in Greece receive the right to vote. This was significantly more recent than in other European countries, such as England, which awarded women the right to vote in 1918.
  2. 1975: Article 22 declared a requirement for “equal pay for work of equal value.” Although, some sources report Greek women making only 75% of what the average Greek man will make, in the same line of work. This gap is most often observable among higher-paying careers and/or those requiring higher education.
  3. 1983: The Greek Parliament ruled Divorce by consent, legal. Further, the long-standing tradition of dowry, which requires a bride’s family to present her future husband with a sum of money, ended as a requirement for a legal marriage.
  4. 2000-2006: The government passed major laws, such as Law 3488/2006, to protect women from workplace harassment and improve equal opportunity employment measures.

The Current Situation

Although all of these strides forward have occurred, Greek women still seem to be at a disadvantage. In terms of E.U. countries, Greece is the lowest ranking in the Gender Equality Index, with a score of 0.122. Likewise, the country’s female labor force population, as of 2019, is 44.17%. Additionally, domestic violence rates seem to be on the rise, having increased by more than 30% in the last six years.

Furthermore, migrant and Roma women are, on average, at an even worse economical and educational disadvantage. For example, the typical Romani woman in Greece will spend less than six years in school.

Recent data reports that men make up around 70% of Greece’s total workforce and 80% of the country’s Parliament. Many women in the workforce remain in low-income, service and part-time positions — with only about 33% of part-time positions belonging to men.

In contrast, Greek women have made great strides in academia. More than 50% of Greece’s citizens obtaining university degrees are female. There is hope that these well-educated women will advance in career paths and assume leadership roles. In this same vein, leadership roles are one of the primary areas in which women are currently underrepresented.

Proponents for Women’s Rights in Greece

Many people around the country are in an active fight for gender equality and women’s rights in Greece. There is an ongoing discussion to address gender stereotypes and challenge norms established within the country, in nongovernmental organizations.

The Greek League for Women’s Rights has been fighting for women’s rights since 1920. Notably, it was a strong leader in the fight for a women’s right to vote in 1952. It has also founded the Centre for Documentation and Study of Women’s Problems and is still active today, fighting discriminatory laws and practices.

The National Council of Greek Women, founded in 2008, is a nonprofit fighting for the equality of men and women. The nonprofit recently released a statement from its president who maintains that although legislatively, men and women are equals — the country still has to reach true gender equality in practice.

Katerina Sakellaropoulou became the first female president of the country in January 2020. Many saw the vote for the new president as an optimistic mark of change and growth in Greece.

With an adjustment to public opinion and the presence of female leaders such as President Sakellaropoulou, experts believe that the country is capable of combatting historical barriers to women’s rights in Greece that still affect its culture, today.

Aradia Webb
Photo: Unsplash

Women’s Rights in Russia
Russia is somewhat infamous for its history of oppression and human rights abuses. Often in the news for things like unfair elections or police brutality, gender equality is a less-reported topic, but nonetheless a pervasive and damaging systemic issue. Here are five facts about women’s rights in Russia.

5 Facts About Women’s Rights in Russia

  1. Russian women are equal in theory, but not in practice. The Constitution of Russia, adopted in 1993, guarantees equal rights for women and men. Even before that, the Bolshevik Revolution granted women’s rights in Russia– including suffrage– in 1917. However, women are still fighting inequality in many sectors, including the professional realm. People in Russia expect women to prioritize motherhood over professional development because of Russia’s low fertility rate. Citing a belief that strenuous jobs pose a threat to women’s safety and reproductive health, the government has barred women from occupations like aircraft repair, construction and firefighting. While the country passed reforms in 2019 to reduce the number of restricted jobs from 456 to 100, they will not come into effect until 2021. However, some of the largest industries, like mining and electric engineering, remain in the barred category.
  2. More women are in poverty than men. In addition to legal barriers to job opportunities, traditional gender roles box women out of professions like politics. Women earn on average 30% less than a man, one of the largest wage gaps among high-income countries. Even in professions where the wage gap is the smallest, like in the education sector, there is a 20% difference in average salary. Women also do a significant amount of unpaid work– estimates have determined that the loss to the annual budget due to gender segregation is 40-50% in Russia. Were Russia to offer equal resources in agriculture to all genders, it could raise food production by 30%. Higher poverty rates for women affect not only women but the children they raise. Impoverished women often cannot afford higher education for their children, which limits the children’s upwards economic mobility. Therefore, the cycle of poverty is perpetuated because of systemic gender discrimination putting mothers in positions where they cannot give their children better lives.
  3. Russian women face threats to their physical safety– and the police stand by. Domestic violence as a whole– which disproportionately victimizes women– is a serious threat to women’s rights in Russia. In January 2017, Russia decriminalized domestic violence that does not cause serious injury– meaning broken bones or a concussion– for first-time offenders. Since most victims do not report their abuse, most “first-time offenders” are actually long-time abusers. In addition, police officers routinely ignore domestic disturbance calls. When officers do respond, they often refuse to criminally prosecute instead of telling victims to prosecute privately. This is economically unfeasible for many women and effectively places the onus of an entire subgroup of law enforcement on the victim rather than the state. Decriminalization of domestic violence has rendered the statistics on it unreliable, but statistics have shown that most cases do not end up in court. If women cannot receive the assurance of their physical safety under Russian law and society, their overall rights are under severe threat.
  4. Learned attitudes reinforce gender inequality. Every Russian man that the Levada Center polled, regardless of age group, responded that the most desirable quality in a woman was that she had to be a good homemaker. This attitude pervades across gender lines: younger Russian women answered that attractiveness was the best quality, but by age 30, the women agreed that their most desirable quality was to be a good homemaker for a man. When pollsters asked the equivalent question about desirable qualities in a man, both men and women ranked intelligence as the most important trait in a man. Men, however, ranked intelligence in a woman as sixth or seventh on their list of 15 traits. But before one can solely cast the blame for gender inequality on men, women ranked independence as least important for themselves. Older women’s answers matched that of the men– the mothers and grandmothers teaching the sons their societal values. No one gender is at fault for the perpetuation of gender inequality; instead, it is a product of Russian culture and society that each generation has passed on to the next.
  5. The feminism movement in Russia is growing every year. Hundreds instead of dozens of women attend marches and protests now, especially against the controversial decriminalization of domestic violence. The work of leaders like Leda Garina and Zalina Marshenkulov has fostered the growth of feminism in the public consciousness. Despite facing arrests and threats, activists and organizations are persisting in getting the message of gender equality out to the public. Innovations in technology and social media make information more accessible to the Russian people and change the perception of feminism from a dirty, Western word to something necessary to Russian society. New venues are cropping up in big cities to aid women. For example, Cafe Simona in Saint Petersburg is a woman-only workspace and event space that allows women to go about their days without experiencing harassment. NGOs like Human Rights Watch also strive to inform both the domestic and international communities of the issues facing Russian women. Reporting by HRW and other media outlets on Yulia Tsvetkova, a feminist blogger who underwent and is a political prisoner, led to protests around the country. Despite crackdowns on NGOs under Putin’s “foreign agents” law, organizations are doing their best to get the word out about the situation in Russia.

People still need to do more to improve women’s rights in Russia. Nothing less than significant legal reforms are necessary to change the culture of misogyny in the country. Gender equality might be a long way off for Russian women, but because of activists and NGOs fighting for their rights under the law, hope is on the horizon.

– Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in IndonesiaWomen in Indonesia are working hard and fighting for their rights. Recently, Indonesia ranked second in the most dangerous countries for women in the Asia-Pacific. Violence against women can happen anywhere from the slums to the richest neighborhoods. However, this has not stopped the women of Indonesia, as they continue to march — closing the inequality gap. Importantly, women’s rights in Indonesia have fierce advocates.

Child Marriage

Concerning Indonesian girls, 14% marry before their 18th birthday. This is in part, due to their society’s view of women and discriminating legislation. The Marriage Law, established in 1974, states that parents can marry their daughter off as young as 16 years old. In April of 2018, Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, came forth and said that he was drafting a presidential decree that would ban child marriage. However, there has been no timeline set for the decree to be passed. Child marriage indirectly takes away a girl’s future and exposes them to a greater chance of being a victim of sexual violence. This can be directly related to the percentage of women in the workforce (51%) and the percentage of women experiencing sexual violence in their lifetime (33%).

UN Women

U.N. Women give girls and women in Indonesia the voice they deserve. This organization advocates for an end to the violence wrought against women while actively pursuing partners to respond to it. U.N. Women do so much for the women of Indonesia, from giving them access to entrepreneurship classes to directly fighting the government. This, in an attempt to hold authorities accountable for women’s rights in Indonesia. In the mix of their many programs, there is WeLearn and WeEmpower Asia, which both give women resources to integrate into the workforce. WeLearn’s goal is to improve equal learning opportunities and empower women to start their businesses. Where WeLearn encourages women into the workplace, WeEmpower Asia aims to achieve a business environment that empowers women and urges companies to adopt the Women’s Empowerment Principles.

Women Making Progress

Women’s rights in Indonesia have come a long way. Women in Indonesia now march freely in their opposition to the rights they have (or lack, rather). As backstory, the reason that this big (yet slowly closing gender gap) exists is because of the country’s second dictator, Suharto. He ruled for 32 years and widened the gap exorbitantly. However, most notably, he put the mindset in place that women and men garner different treatments. Now, the gap is closing and for the better. In political parties, 30% of the cabinet must be comprised of women. Further, as mentioned above, President Joko Widodo has the highest number of women in his cabinet in the country’s history. Now, those women in the cabinet are pushing for bills like the Sexual Violence Bill, to be passed.

Thanks to Suharto, the women in Indonesia have a lot of work to do. Fighting for women’s rights is not an easy battle. As for the support of men, Gitika Bhardwaj says that “I do think there are a large number of men who are supporting gender equality in the country but unfortunately there have not been enough high-level public awareness campaigns.” In the next few years, these women leaders hope to see the inequality gap as not a tangible thing, but a thing of the past.

Bailey Sparks
Photo: Flickr

ngos in lebanonBordered by Syria, Israel and the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon is a Middle Eastern nation of almost 7 million citizens. Its history has only grown in complexity since it gained independence from France in 1944. Lebanese people have faced civil war, political and economic instability, border disputes and human rights violations into the present day. Thankfully, many NGOs in Lebanon work to address these issues. NGOs have supported the Lebanese people in suppressing terror, promoting gender equality, ending militarization, advocating for human rights and recovering from the Beirut explosion. Paramount to Lebanon’s security and future are not just improved government and policies, but also these NGOs on the ground.

Terrorism

In 2019 alone, four major terrorist groups posed an ongoing threat to Lebanon’s national security. Three acts of terrorism that year sparked an unprecedented governmental and legislative response. Lebanon is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and recently launched a national Preventing Violent Extremism Coordination Unit. However, the Lebanese people’s long-standing lack of trust in government remains. This is where NGOs in Lebanon come in.

Since 1985, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an American NGO, has promoted peace in Lebanon. The NGO identifies Lebanese entities actively promoting terror from within the government, such as Green Without Borders. The institute proposes counteracting these entities from abroad by publishing research and pushing policies for financial transparency. Its work is therefore vital to an effective government free from ties to terrorism.

Gender Inequality

Even though Lebanese women got the right to vote in 1952, gender inequities and violence remain among Lebanon’s most critical issues. In 2020, Lebanon ranked 145th among 153 countries in closing the gender gap. This ranking represents variables such as economic participation, educational attainment, health, survival and political empowerment. With women holding just 4.7% of parliamentary seats, NGOs in Lebanon are working to pave the way for female representation in government to empower marginalized citizens.

While global humanitarian groups have funded many gender equity campaigns in Lebanon, NGOs in Lebanon, like the feminist collective Nasawiya, spearhead much of the cultural change. Nasawiya advocates not just for the humane treatment and representation of women, but also for all genders and identities within Lebanon. With 11 projects underway, Nasawiya lobbies the Lebanese government and provides resources for women affected victimized by gender violence.

Militarized Justice Systems

Although Lebanon is officially a unitary multiparty republic with a parliamentary system of government, its justice systems are increasingly militarizing. Lebanon’s controversial pattern of suppressing peaceful civilian protests has garnered international attention as its use of military courts grows. In Lebanon, trials in military courts lack qualified judges, permit torture-induced confessions as evidence, issue inconsistent and lengthy sentences and fail to deliver due process. This affects more than just adults. Indeed, the Union for Protection of Juveniles in Lebanon identified 355 children tried before the military courts in 2016 alone.

As the line between the Lebanese justice system and the military blurs, prosecutors have even brought charges against human rights lawyers and activists who oppose them. NGOs like Helem, which advocates for LGBT rights, are working to hold courts accountable to their victims. The International Center for Not-For-Profit Law and other NGOs in Lebanon have launched further investigations into Lebanon’s militarized courts. By publicizing records and providing credible research, they promote justice in Lebanon.

Migrant and Refugee Rights

An estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees and over 250,000 migrant workers from neighboring countries reside in Lebanon. Unfortunately, exclusionary immigration and refugee policies have created a human rights crisis. Migrant workers and refugees in Lebanon work in unregulated conditions, lack permanent residency and are victims of mass evictions. In 2017, 76% of refugee and migrant households lived below the poverty line. Additionally, 77% experienced food insecurity and 36% lacked an employed family member.

NGOs in Lebanon like International Alert advocate both for reforming the justice system and improving refugee and migrant rights. International Alert promotes policies targeted at improving legal conditions for these marginalized populations in Lebanon. Care, another NGO, also works on the ground to provide interim resources and housing for refugees and migrants in Lebanon.

The Beirut Explosion

When 3,030 tons of ammonium nitrate stored near a port in Beirut caught on fire and exploded in early August 2020, at least 200 people died, over 6,000 were injured and several hundred remain missing. The severe damage inflicted on some 70,000 homes left an estimated 300,000 Lebanese homeless. The Lebanese Red Cross met a large part of the urgent need for humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese people affected by the explosion. This NGO has provided free medical care to over 23,700 people  through 36 health centers and nine mobile medical units.

The Lebanese Red Cross is also providing shelter for 1,000 displaced families and is expanding to help a projected 10,000 families. Additionally, the organization provides families with food, water, masks, gloves and other supplies. Another facet of this NGO, the Red Cross Restoring Family Links program, reconnects separated families. It also provides mental health and counseling resources for victims.

NGOs in Lebanon Continue the Fight

While the Lebanese people continue to suffer from a legacy of conflict, instability, inequality and oppression, NGOs are working hard to help mitigate these critical issues. NGOs in Lebanon strive to improve human rights to help bring peace and prosperity to this Middle Eastern nation.

– Caledonia Strelow
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Hunger in BelizeGovernment efforts have begun to reduce extreme poverty and hunger in Belize. However, a lack of focus on the wellbeing of the nation’s poor has rendered this aid ineffective. Thus, widespread poverty and poor nutrition remain pressing issues in a country whose GDP has grown steadily for nearly two decades. Since the year 2000, the government of Belize has participated in working toward eight Millennium Development Goals concerned with improving the quality of life and bolstering economic stability throughout the world. While Belize is making headway in numerous other categories, such as in providing universal education and promoting gender equality, a lack of attention given to the needs of vulnerable groups hurts this progress. In particular, hunger in Belize continues to be an issue for many marginalized groups.

The Impact of Gender Inequality on Hunger in Belize

Gendered differences in economic opportunity contribute directly to poor nutrition and hunger in Belize. Though the country has made efforts to improve equal participation of men and women in the economy, the women of Belize continue to suffer from employment discrimination. This makes many statistics concerning the nation’s economic condition somewhat inaccurate.

While Belize’s economy may seem to be flourishing based on statistics like GDP, the nation suffers from a high national unemployment rate of about 8%. Gender inequality exacerbates this for the women of Belize, whose unemployment rate is nearly three times higher than the national average.

Women in Belize participate in the labor force at a rate of only 62.5% to that of their male counterparts. As a result, gender inequality has deprived mothers of the resources necessary for raising healthy children. On top of the disproportionate difficulty of finding work as a woman in Belize, women also lack education about proper diet and exercise. Perhaps more importantly, they lack access to healthy food options, which tend to be more expensive than foods high in sugar and salt. Thus, women’s inequality exacerbates hunger in Belize.

Children’s Hunger in Belize

Belize’s economy depends directly on seasonal agricultural exports, such as rum, to support the economy. This means that fruits, vegetables and other natural products are among the most expensive in the nation’s domestic marketplace. The result of this limited access to healthy food has been a high rate of stunted growth and poor nutrition among children. This is particularly important as this demographic has grown the last two decades.

A Selective Humanitarian Response

The government of Belize has helped some of its more vulnerable demographics. The Belize Social Security Board, for example, has helped many elderly people avoid poverty. Additionally, programs like the Conditional Cash Transfer Program provide vulnerable communities in Belize with monetary security.

A reduction in the poverty rate amongst elderly Belizeans indicates that these programs have achieved some success. However, the government of Belize issues this aid on a selective basis. It therefore leaves women, children and members of the LGBT population without relief. This makes hunger in Belize a serious issue among these populations, lacking the financial means to secure access to nutritious food.

Though the Belizean government has helped some groups overcome hunger, discrimination has left some of the most vulnerable groups of Belizeans poor and hungry. Marginalized groups in Belize continue to suffer from the weakness of their nation’s economy. However, they are often those most excluded from relief. If hunger in Belize is to be eradicated, the government must first address social inequality in the population.

Anthony Lyon
Photo: Pixabay

Women’s Rights in SerbiaSerbia is a country located in southeastern Europe that has a population of close to seven million people. Additionally, around half of the population consists of women. They often receive unequal rights and treatment. However, women’s rights in Serbia are improving. Acknowledgment and representation of women are increasing significantly.

Gender-Based Violence

Gender-based violence is one of the main issues that women in Serbia face. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) find that violence against women is not uncommon. Research reveals the 76% of Serbian women in secondary school are victims of gender-based violence. Additionally, a survey reveals that about 20% of Serbian men believe that women “sometimes deserve to be hit.” In particular, domestic violence often occurs in the privacy of homes. Furthermore, women often do not report this violence.

Domestic Violence in Serbia

Serbia also has a history of overlooking incidents of domestic violence incidents. Domestic violence goes unaddressed due to an inadequate police response, minimal prosecutions and judges who are reluctant to issue protective orders against abusive partners. Feminist movements in Serbia started in the late 1970s, fighting for the protection and rights of Serbian women. The first domestic violence hotline came about as early as 1990. This hotline improved the data on domestic violence and supported abused and at-risk women. Several similar hotlines have since been developed in Serbia.

The UNFPA Serbia and the Government of Serbia are working to improve domestic violence information channels for rural women. In addition, healthcare professionals are receiving training to improve their ability to recognize and address incidents of domestic violence.

Women With Disabilities

In a report, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) states that women with disabilities in institutions are insufficiently protected from violence and abuse. The Committee further states that Serbian legislation infringes the rights of women with disabilities. These violations occur concerning legal capacity, the right to make decisions and the right to access justice.

In 2015, Human Rights Watch reported “that when women with disabilities are deprived of legal capacity and held in closed institutions in Serbia, violations of their right not to receive treatment without consent and to be free from violence occur.” The  Committee recommends that Serbia repeal all laws infringing upon the rights of women with disabilities.

Progress and Improvements

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) emphasizes that focusing on ending domestic violence and discrimination is crucial in fighting for women’s rights in Serbia. Thus, additional legislation for the prevention of domestic violence has been implemented. As a result, Serbia’s Council of Suppression of Domestic Violence received a report of around 76,000 cases of domestic violence in 2018. In response, Serbia implemented 18,000 plans for the protection and support of domestic violence victims. Serbia hopes to see an increase in acknowledgment and access to services for women who suffer from gender-based violence.

The political representation of women in Serbia is also significantly improving. There is an increasing amount of female representation in parliament. Currently, around 40% of the National Assembly are women. Women’s rights in Serbia continue to improve and gain traction within the nation. With the help of organizations and the government, the future looks bright for Serbian women.

Jennifer Long
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in South Korea
Historically, women’s rights in South Korea have had limitations and have handicapped the country’s progression. In all realms of society – socially, politically, economically and culturally – women have ranked lower and had fewer rights than their male counterparts. However, there are significant advancements in improving the status of women in South Korea. Specifically, efforts in closing the country’s gender gap could allow for the economy to flourish, and in return, lower overall poverty rates.

Gender Inequality in South Korea

Traditionally, South Korea previously used Confucianism to rule its moral codes and societal structure. For women, these codes determined that they should be obedient to the men in their lives – fathers, husbands and sons. Until the 21st century, men had the title of the head of the household for their families, which reinforced the deep inequality between South Korean men and women. For women, the continuation of familial lines was the primary societal expectation. These historical-cultural expectations set precedence regarding women’s rights in South Korea in modern times.

In 2005, South Korea’s Constitutional Court made the decision to officially retire the tradition of “hoju,” which placed the man at the head of the household. The abolishment of this system had intentions of uplifting South Korean women by improving their daily lives and shows the country heading towards a more inclusive society. In modern-day South Korea, men and women now have equal rights, and furthermore, female employment rates have risen to over 52% since 2018. These significant improvements in women’s rights in South Korea have the potential to create a future with a flourishing economy.

Despite best efforts, South Korea still continues to rank towards the bottom for economic opportunities for women. South Korea ranks at 115 for the country’s economic gender gap, ranks at 124 for economic participation and female opportunity and has the largest pay gap among OECD countries. In addition, South Korean’s working population has started declining and expectations have determined that birthrates will begin to decrease by 2028. A simple, straightforward solution to these issues would be a higher integration of women in the workplace. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), an increase in female labor would also increase South Korea’s GDP by 7%, a substantial amount. So, the question is, what is South Korea doing to support female involvement in the workplace?

Solutions

In a 2015 interview, Kim Hee-Jung, the minister of gender equality and family, discussed the ways South Korea is attempting to close its gender gap. Kim Hee-Jung first corrected a common misconception that people have in regard to increasing women’s opportunities by stating an increase in opportunities for women does not decrease men’s opportunities. She proved her point by stating that “the statistics show that in OECD countries with high rates of female economic participation, birthrates and economic growth rates tend also to be higher.” Furthermore, there are policies to aid in creating a sustainable work-life balance for both South Korean men and women. For example, the government initiated the “two-track support for paternity leave,” where men will receive their entire month’s salary if they decide to take paternity leave after their wives have. Kim Hee-Jung ended the interview on a promising note for the future of female power in South Korea’s economy.

Overall, women’s rights in South Korea have greatly improved in this past century. Although South Korea began by placing social expectations and limitations on its women, it has made great efforts in changing these traditional roles. For the South Korean economy to truly thrive, others must continue to recognize and reduce inequality in the workplace. With this acknowledgment, South Korea has the ability to uplift its women in order to enhance its entire economy.

– Bolorzul Dorjsuren
Photo: Flickr

women in developing countriesInternational trade is arguably the most significant economic development of the last century. Its growth has been roughly exponential due to technological advancements and specialization, and exports today are more than 40 times the amount they were in 1913. Although this growth contributes to higher wealth and more stable economic systems for many countries, it simultaneously can exasperate already-existing inequalities, particularly those concerning women. International trade has contributed to the creation of new workforces containing more women. However, the employment opportunities in developing countries are typically low-paying positions with little prospects for skill development. Women in developing countries are limited to such positions due to social and cultural dynamics, policies and other country-specific contexts.

Employment of Women in Developing Countries

Women in developing countries oftent act as a cheap source of labor for firms. In manufacturing, women are mainly employed in jobs involving the production of goods, rather than higher-paying jobs involving management positions. If an economy is predominantly agricultural, women are often subsistence farmers or members of family businesses. In these situations, many women in developing countries do not get paid for their work. In service-based economies, women occupy low-skill positions such as street vendors. However, increasing the pay women receive for these jobs and successfully closing the gender gap could add about $28 trillion to global GDP.

The tendency of women to work in low-skilled jobs results from ingrained social norms designed to limit women’s economic mobility. Societies that expect women to assume the full responsibility of childcare often give them few opportunities to receive education or reduce the burden of their domestic labor. Consequently, these women are less likely to have the same access men do to land, credit and labor markets.

Little Access to Opportunities

Women in developing countries often also experience disproportionate rates of unemployment or remain in low-paying positions because they are unable to learn more about job opportunities in other locations. Robert Jensen, a former professor from the University of Texas at Austin, examined this phenomenon. He concluded that women living in rural areas in India who were contacted by recruitment campaigns providing information about job opportunities in urban areas ultimately participated more in the labor force. As a result, they experienced increased mobility.

Current Trade and Employment Policies

In 2016, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development released a report stating that gender-blind trading policies exacerbate the inequalities women experience in developing countries. These gender-blind trading policies do not create equal opportunities. Instead, they allow men in the workforce to further benefit from existing economic advantages they enjoy.

However, the U.N. proposed two new global development frameworks to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment through trade. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development focuses on combating gender issues. It links economic, social and environmental factors to address power structures and social dynamics that contribute to gender inequality. The Addis Ababa Agenda on Financing for Development requests equal gender inclusion into the formulation and implementation of financial, economic, environmental and social policies. It also aims to ensure women’s equal rights through access to economic activities that would combat gender-based violence and discrimination.

Together, these development plans are a holistic, firm course of action in the fight against women’s economic inequality. The U.S. Council on Foreign Relations recently reported on the progress nations have made in adopting plans, allocating funds and formulating policies. It found higher numbers of trade agreements with gender-related provisions in the last three decades. Although the global economic impact of COVID-19 may disrupt this progress, comprehensive plans and agendas will ensure that the pursuit of gender equality in trade continues.

Isabel Serrano
Photo: Unsplash

Women's Rights in Bolivia
Bolivia has a rich history and emerged on the idea of respecting its ancient cultural traditions. As the country developed, it has been difficult to stray away from traditional values that place importance on strict gender roles. The patriarchal ideologies that Bolivia originated with have silenced women for centuries. One aspect of these ideologies has created the idea that women take up positions in politics solely to take away the jobs of men. Here is some information about the challenges regarding women’s rights in Bolivia as well as how the country is trying to improve.

Gender Inequality in Bolivia and Latin America

Gender inequality and violence against women have been pervasive issues across Latin America for centuries. In the modern-day, women in politics continually face harassment and assault due to their fight for parity and equality. As a result, Bolivia and many other Latin American countries have experienced diminished economic growth due to increased poverty rates and a lack of female participation in the labor markets. A 2009 study showed that 63% of women worked as apprentices without pay or were family workers and only 9% of Bolivian women had formal employment with access to social security benefits. However, the country of Bolivia, despite its deeply ingrained traditions and cultural history, is now setting the standard for gender parity across Latin America.

The Effects of Gender Disparity

The World Bank has explained that evidence has shown that gender disparities can hinder economic growth, facilitate an increase in poverty rates and undermine well-being outcomes for men and women alike. The educational enrollment gap is an example of the challenges regarding women’s rights in Bolivia. For example, a 2014 survey showed that one in five female students aged 15 to 24 reported having felt discriminated against in academic environments. Because of this and other factors (lack of economic resources, pregnancy, domestic and care work, etc.), the education gap has increased between men and women leaving more women uneducated and limiting them from joining the labor market. Regardless of these economic consequences due to gender disparity, many Bolivian men, including politicians, have continued to insite physical and psychological violence against women in order to prevent them from taking up political positions to improve such issues.

Gender Parity: A Movement

The Bolivian government originally began its mission toward gender parity in 1997. It began with the passing of a law that required 30% of political candidates to be women. Since then, the development and creation of laws have continued in order to increase female political representation and participation.

Beginning in 1997 into the present day, gender disparity within the Bolivian government has changed dramatically. Only a few decades ago, people thought of most women as second-class citizens with only a 4% rate of holding municipal assembly posts. Today, Bolivia now ranks second in the world for the most gender-equal government with a council which is 53% female.

Although these women continuously face backlash for this increase in representation, this has not stopped the mission towards true gender equality. With the increase in the number of laws fighting against the physical and psychological abuse that these women have faced, these changes have aided in creating awareness of the violence these women have experienced and implementing the plan to further address topics relating to women’s sexual health.

Aiding Women in Poverty

Furthermore, programs aimed toward aiding women in poverty have begun emerging. For example, the Joint Programme on Productive Patrimonial Assets Building and Citizenship Programme for Women in Extreme Poverty (the Programme) targets aid to indigenous rural women from the poorest areas of Bolivia. The Programme aims to assist these women in attaining sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families through a two-element strategy. The first element involves a non-reimbursable direct monetary transfer component that provides seed capital, startup grants, joint venture and risk capital. Meanwhile, the second element focusses on providing training and advisory services to these women. Furthermore, the Programme aims to strengthen Women’s abilities to fully exercise their citizenship and political rights. The results have led to a decrease in poverty rates by providing financial support and financing to women entrepreneurs. The Programme has aided over 4,000 Bolivian women by giving them access to services such as savings accounts and credit lines, among others.

It is clear that the mission to end gender disparities in the Bolivian government is a movement that will not end abruptly due to long-standing patriarchal ideologies. However, Bolivia’s mission to end gender discrimination and improve women’s rights in Bolivia has set forth a movement across Latin America. Addressing such issues will not only aid in the country in achieving gender equality but also help reduce poverty amongst women and improve female participation in the labor market.

– Caroline Dunn
Photo: Flickr

pandemic-induced inequality in latin americaFrom 2002 to 2018, Colombia, “one of the most unequal countries in an extremely inequitable region,” cut its poverty rate in half. This reduction of poverty accompanied massive economic uplift throughout Latin America that saw wealth inequalities diminish rapidly. Before the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, economic and social inequality in Latin America had reached its “lowest point in recorded history.” Millions of families lifted themselves out of poverty, job opportunities soared and the quality of education increased. However, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to destroy this new progress toward equality. Although the situation is dire, there are simple steps that anyone around the globe can take to help reverse the trend of pandemic-induced inequality in Latin America.

Economic Inequality

The World Bank predicts that due to the pandemic, the economies of Latin American countries will contract by 9.4%. This will cause 53 million Latin Americans to fall below the poverty line of less than $5.50 earned per day. With further reduction of jobs, COVID-19 will undoubtedly continue to destroy opportunities vital to the incomes of Latin America’s poor. This “setback of two decades” will further inequality between the rich and poor in Latin America, because it eliminates many jobs that poor daily wage workers depend on while hardly touching the incomes of the rich.

Francisco Ferreira, Professor of Inequality Studies at the London School of Economics, stated in an interview that “the inequality of COVID doesn’t just take place between the states of nations, but rather in neighborhoods of the same city.” Francisco commented further that “when this type of disaster arrives, poverty necessarily rises because the rich are better equipped financially to deal with it, and this causes inequality.”

Manual laborers in Latin America constitute 53% of the overall employment force. However, these individuals face especially high unemployment risks because of COVID-19. If they do manage to keep their jobs, these workers also face a higher risk of getting infected with the virus. Infection could lead to medical bills that can plunge people further into poverty and thus increase pandemic-induced inequality in Latin America.

Unequal wages also lead to worsened living conditions, like a lack of piped water and sanitation. In Brazil, as much as 50% of the population has no access to improved sanitation. For Bolivia, 30% of the population has no access to piped water. A lack of adequate sanitation facilities has the potential to start a vicious cycle of poverty and poor health conditions. This is especially concerning during a pandemic.

Gender Inequality

The pandemic also has the potential to severely reduce gender equality in Latin America. Women hold 55% of the most vulnerable informal jobs in Latin America. This means that when economies crash, women may be among the first to lose their financial independence. Unemployed women may be forced into care roles in communities, which may lead women to permanently leave the labor market. In the long term, this will greatly damage the economic capabilities of Latin American countries.

Overall, the pandemic stands to cause catastrophic long-term damage to the progress of equality in Latin America. By eliminating jobs and reducing the number of financially independent women in Latin America, the COVID-19 crisis has begun to retrench economic gains and further steepen earnings gaps between the rich and poor. However, those outside of the region can quickly and easily contribute to the reversal of pandemic-induced inequality in Latin America.

How to Help

Even though the pandemic stands to undermine decades of progress towards social and economic equality in Latin America, there are simple steps that every person reading this article can take to help reduce the impact of pandemic-induced inequality in Latin America.

  • Raise Awareness: By spreading awareness of pandemic-induced inequality in Latin America, anyone with a phone or social media account can draw attention to how decades of economic progress are being reversed. Taking this step towards combatting inequality is as simple as posting a link to this article. Making more people aware of how the coronavirus stands to eliminate jobs in Latin America makes policy and aid attention toward this problem becomes more likely.
  • Contact Congress: By contacting Congressional representatives and telling them to support foreign aid initiatives, anyone reading this article can help direct funding toward reducing pandemic-induced inequality in Latin America. Only by contacting senators and representatives can individuals demand increased foreign aid spending. This money would go toward creating economic stimulus, expanded shelters and better healthcare.
  • Donate to The Borgen Project: By donating to The Borgen Project, one can contribute to a cause working to increase foreign aid spending and by extension working to reduce pandemic-induced inequality. Donating to The Borgen Project means contributing to an organization that will continue to fight for U.S. legislation that will increase foreign aid spending and funding. This is vital to eliminating social and economic inequality in Latin America.

Overall, COVID-19 threatens to reverse decades of progress toward equality in Latin America by eliminating jobs that create social mobility. Nevertheless, anyone can quickly and easily help reverse the trend of pandemic-induced inequality emerging in Latin America. It’s as easy as spreading awareness, contacting their congressional representatives and donating to The Borgen Project.

– Nolan McMahon
Photo: Flickr