Infertility in Developing CountriesAn estimated 49 million to 180 million couples  suffer from infertility, globally. Moreover, the majority of those affected live in developing countries. The most common cause of infertility in developing countries are STDs and pregnancy-related infections. With the focus of most poverty reduction efforts aimed at lowering overpopulation the health concern of infertility is often overlooked. Women who suffer from infertility in developing countries often face ostracization and struggle to get the healthcare they need. Thankfully, there has been an emergence of programs to help these women.

Causes of Infertility in Developing Countries

The most common cause of infertility in developing countries is untreated STDs since treatment is often unavailable or costly. In Africa, more than 85% of women’s infertility resulted from an untreated infection compared with 33% of women, worldwide. The most common STDs involved are chlamydia and gonorrhea. Other risk factors increasing the chance of infertility are poor education, poverty, negative cultural attitudes towards women. Finally, a lack of access to contraception is a huge risk factor.

The Sexist Effects of Infertility

The burden of infertility in developing countries falls on women although male infertility is the cause in 50% of cases. When a woman is unable to conceive, her husband will often divorce her or take another wife if permitted in the country. Women who are deemed infertile also suffer discrimination from the community.  In some cultures, society views these women as having a “bad eye”, which can pass on infertility from person to person. This results in infertile women missing important events such as weddings and other social gatherings since they receive no invitations.

Combating Infertility in Developing Countries

A campaign initiated by the Merck Foundation, “Merck More than a Mother,” seeks to heighten access to education and change the stigma for infertile women in developing countries. The program has provided training for fertility specialists and endocrinologists with more than 109 specialists trained since 2016.

Also, the foundation has created music videos, songs and fashion shows in African countries to send the message that women should not be blamed if they cannot have a child. More than 14 songs have featured singers from Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

Women Deliver

In 2016, women’s infertility was a topic of discussion at Women Deliver — the world’s largest women’s health and rights conference held in Copenhagen. There were more than 5,500 conference participants, including government ministers, policymakers, business leaders, NGOs and activists. The WHO brought the topic to the conference, with the Director of Reproductive Health and Research giving a speech about the detrimental effects of infertility.

The WHO and Women Deliver, along with the International Committee Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics have partnered to increase global advocacy for infertility in developing countries. The partnership aims to achieve this through advancing education and research in the field.

Hopefully, with these increased advocacy efforts, the world will start to recognize the health concern of infertility in developing countries.

Rae Brozovich
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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

Young creatives
Without a doubt, the surge of the internet has created many waves in the way that people live their everyday lives. From ride-sharing apps to Instagram stories to trendy Tiktok dances, it seems like social media has overwhelmed every aspect of modern life, working particularly hard to keep people connected through an unprecedented time of social distancing. However, it is not just the mundane that has changed with the dawn of the online age; young creatives have used the internet to completely reimagine modern activism.

The Age of Digital Activism

Digital activism, defined as the use of digital tools (i.e. the internet, mobile phones, social media, etc.) for bringing about social and/or political change, is hardly a new phenomenon. As of 2018, the Pew Research Center found that around half of all Americans had engaged in some form of political or social activism via social media over the past year. They also found the majority of Americans believed that social media was a good tool for bringing important global issues to the attention of lawmakers. It is more than likely that these statistics have grown over the past several years, particularly in the culmination of movements such as the March for our Lives, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. It does not take very long to come up with countless examples of online activism.

More recently, however, a new trend has grown popular among young creatives on Instagram: zines. Zines are self-published, non-commercial print works that are typically produced and distributed in small batches by artists looking to share their work. While they have been a part of youth pop culture for many years now, a group of young women have taken it into their own hands to shift that paradigm.

The Birth of More Color Media

In early June of 2020, Aissata Sall, a recent high school graduate, single-handedly launched her independent publication, More Color Media. From the very beginning, Sall wanted this project to be different from what had been done already; she wanted to tell the stories that were not already being told. Within just 10 short weeks, the small project gained nearly 5,000 followers across multiple platforms and exploded into a team of nearly 100 creatives, all using their talents from photography to poetry to bring global issues of poverty, education and inequality to light in a new, innovative way.

“We have team members from Estonia, France, North Africa — everywhere!” Sall said in an interview with The Borgen Project on August 14th of 2020. “It’s just been amazing to see how many people we’ve reached and how many people have reached out to us to tell us how happy they are with the space and the platform we’ve created. That’s the biggest accomplishment in our eyes.”

This new platform has created a unique way for young creatives to share information, with eye-catching graphics and stunning photography all utilized to draw attention to global issues from Venezuela to Lebanon to Serbia. Many of these posts include thorough factsheets and sources, allowing viewers to digest news from around the world and quickly find resources to help. By just sharing informational posts, fund pages and petitions to lawmakers regarding specific issues, More Color Media has reportedly reached over 30,000 individual audience members across all of their platforms.

“We want to provide more platforms for us to be able to support people in our communities and in the global community,” explained Diana Sinclair, the co-Editor-in-Chief of More Color Media. “We’ve already been using our platform to highlight individual funds to help reach people’s needs. We’ve also talked a lot about opening up other platforms like a podcast to help give a greater voice to the communities we want to support.”

A New Generation of Activists

While they continue to grow, More Color Media may very well represent the future of digital activism, serving to show that there is no limit on who can make a difference. According to RESET, an organization working to help advance the next generation into the digital age, one of the biggest benefits of digital activism is the ability to connect with a large community and globalize a campaign’s goals. More Color Media is doing just that. More Color Media’s first print issue is fast approaching, with a release date tentatively in late September, and both Sall and Sinclair are waiting eagerly with bated breath.

To learn more about More Color Media, visit their website, www.morecolormedia.com, or check them out on Instagram at @MoreColorMedia.

– Angie Bittar
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

SDG 10 in China
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 targets intended to combat poverty on a global level and create a more sustainable future. All United Nations Member States adopted them in 2015. Major challenges still remain to reach SDG 10 in China, which targets the reduction of inequalities across the world.

The Gini coefficient, which is an indicator used to measure wealth and income inequality within a nation, typically measures inequality levels. The United Nations has set the warning value of this indicator as any value over 40. China’s Gini index peaked in 2008 at 49, and has since experienced a slight decline to 46.8 in 2018, and then to 46.5 in 2019.

Causes of Inequality

One of the primary hindrances to progress in SDG 10 in China is its rural-urban gap. There are major differences in lifestyle, education level, income and access to financial services between urban and rural areas in China, which exacerbates the increase in inequalities across the country.

High levels of inequality in China began to surge in the 1980s when the country experienced one of the most rapid periods of macroeconomic growth and urbanization. While poverty levels overall lowered substantially in China over this time period, and income levels increased among poorer groups, inequality increased drastically. This is largely due to the income of the most wealthy upper two deciles (most of whom live in urban areas) nearly doubling between 2002 and 2007. This, coupled with the creation of private property, all led to a severe widening of the wealth gap. Private ownership of property led to a growth of asset income in urban areas. In 2002, experts found that assets contributed to 8% to 10% of national income inequality in China, and in 2007, this figure grew from 13% to 19%.

China’s Urbanization Plan

Since 2008, there has been some slight advancement in SDG 10 in China but continued levels of rapidly increasing urbanization will cause China to largely depend on policy reform to continue to moderate and lower its high levels of inequality. These initiatives should include a focus on targeting the rural-urban gap.

As a way to target the rural-urban gap, which experts see as a main cause of inequality, China announced an urbanization plan in 2014, which targets moving about 100 million more current rural residents into cities by 2020. The urban population in China has since increased from a proportion of 54.77% of the population in 2014 to a proportion of 59.58% of the population in 2018. A criticism of this plan notes that as this does not address the underlying issues causing inequalities between rural and urban areas, it could simply lead to a shift to an urban-urban wealth gap.

The New Rural Cooperative Medical Scheme

China has also expanded the New Rural Cooperative Medical Scheme since 2005, which is a health insurance program that emerged in the late 1990s. It also created the New Rural Pension Scheme in about 2010. These two programs expanded the rural social protection system, which previously did not cover all people in rural areas. Access to health insurance for rural populations has indirect effects on rural incomes. The rapidly aging population of China has also been a contributor to inequality levels, which the pension program helps to address.

Other Initiatives

Several other policy initiatives that aid the progress of SDG 10 in China include personal tax income reform, labor market policies, pro-farmer policies, social security, regional development strategy and fiscal transfer policies, poverty alleviation policies and financial inclusion. The country also added an exemption from agricultural fees and taxes for rural households in 2006. These had historically been a financial burden for rural citizens. China has also established the Dibao program, which is a cash transfer program that guarantees a minimum income for low-income households. It started in urban areas in the mid-1990s and expanded to include rural areas after 1999. In 2016, more than 60 million people were beneficiaries of the Dibao program.

Further fiscal policy reforms are crucial to improve the status of SDG 10 in China. Without these, projected structural trends predict rising inequality levels. These policies will likely have to focus on tax reforms, an increase in public spending on education, health and social assistance and on targeting the provincial and regional inequalities that contribute to the rural-urban gap.

– Katherine Musgrave
Photo: Flickr

Hurricanes amplify poverty in the Bahamas
On September 1, 2019, a massive Category 5 hurricane hit the Bahamas, bringing mass destruction and devastation to the people living there. The storm, named Dorian, took the lives of 70 people and left thousands homeless. A storm of this magnitude impacts all people in its path, yet those hit hardest are the ones living in poverty. During the hurricane season between June and November, hurricanes amplify poverty in the Bahamas by increasing the unemployment rate, exacerbating socioeconomic inequalities and leaving many without access to food, water and shelter.

Unemployment Rates Rise

The Bahamas relies heavily on tourism from resorts, casinos and cruise lines to support its economy. Bahamians living in poverty-stricken conditions depend upon employment from these resorts to support their families. A large storm like Dorian often reduces these resorts and casinos to rubble, leaving thousands unemployed.

Before the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian, the unemployment rate stood at 10.9%; however, after the storm, the unemployment rate rose to a staggering 50%. With a fractured economy, an abundance of destroyed homes and limited food and water, survivors of these massive storms are forced to leave their homes and families to seek employment elsewhere.

Poverty-Stricken Neighborhoods Are Left Helpless

Of those missing and pronounced dead following Dorian, many were Bahamians living in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. The Mudd, a neighborhood well-known for its high levels of poverty, is just one of many that have been leveled by major hurricanes. Thousands of Haitian immigrants seek refuge in unstable wooden homes, which are no match for hurricane-force winds. 185 mph winds blown these neighborhoods to pieces.

In an interview conducted with Dorval Darlier, the chargé d’affaires of the Haitian Embassy in the Bahamas, Darlier described the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in The Mudd. He stated, “It looked like a bomb just exploded. It is completely destroyed. Not even a piece of wood stands up in The Mudd. If someone was not evacuated, they have to be dead.” Approximately 3,500 Haitian immigrants live in The Mudd and other poverty-stricken neighborhoods.

The devastation left by a hurricane increases public health risks, particularly for the poor. Bahamians living in poverty tend to take refuge in the most vulnerable areas. When a storm threatens the island, they are the least able to afford to evacuate and are often forced to stay in life-threatening conditions. Bahamian officials are required to visit these neighborhoods and urge residents to evacuate; however, many refuse to leave because they either have no place to go or are living in the Bahamas illegally.

Hurricanes Expose Inequality

In the past, hurricanes like Dorian have been known to expose the severity of inequality in the Bahamas. People living in poverty-stricken conditions, primarily Haitian immigrants, are left without homes. Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis vowed not to rebuild immigrant neighborhoods like The Mudd: he mandated that those left without homes after a storm are to be deported.

Shella Monestime, a Haitian evacuee and resident of one of these neighborhoods, spoke out following the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian and the Prime Minister’s response. She stated, “We just lost everything. We have no clothes, no home, no money. We have to start all over again. People died, and all they are talking about is people getting deported.”

Relief workers in the country have emphasized the drastic nature of this social inequality. A lack of legal papers and uncertain statuses prevent immigrants from receiving assistance after a hurricane. Fear of arrest and deportation has forced the Haitian community into hiding. The Bahamian government has instructed relief workers not to provide assistance to Haitians without proper documentation.As a result, they are often left homeless and helpless after massive storms ravage the area.

Hurricane Aid Provides Hope

The American Red Cross is just one organization that helps rebuild and aid people impacted by hurricanes. In response to Hurricane Dorian, the American Red Cross provided food, shelter, clean water and emergency supplies to thousands of families displaced by the storm. As of June 30, 2020, the Red Cross had distributed over $11 million in cash to over 3,000 Bahamian families. This funding has helped families recover financially and overcome many challenges brought on by Dorian.

In partnerships with Mercy Corps, World Central Kitchen and CORE, the American Red Cross is able to continue providing thousands of gallons of clean drinking water, cash grants to business owners, fresh meals, rent payment assistance and physical aid in rebuilding homes. More than 50 disaster respondents have been deployed to the Bahamas, each with specializations in varying categories including IT/Telecommunications, relief distributions, cash-as-aid, information management, communications, shelter and finance.

 

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has already been extremely active, with 11 storms as of August 6 and a prediction of 10 more named storms to be added to the list by the end of the year. Although hurricanes amplify poverty in the Bahamas, aid from organizations like the American Red Cross provides hope to those affected. Despite past destruction, the island continually recovers and proves its resilience as a country.

– Jacey Reece
Photo: Pixabay

The Work of Global Pearls
Global Pearls, a nonprofit organization that emerged in 2016, aims to tackle the root causes of poverty in some of the world’s most marginalized communities. With projects spanning across Latin America, Africa and Asia, Global Pearls addresses issues such as inaccessibility to education, income inequality and violence prevention in developing countries. With 100% of every dollar donated going directly to programs, each project maximizes the positive impact it makes toward helping the world’s poor. Keep reading to learn more about the work of Global Pearls.

The Mission

Global Pearls seeks to reduce “suffering among marginalized populations in developing countries by empowering changemakers from within.” To empower such changemakers, Global Pearls supports and funds leaders in developing communities ready to tackle issues and bring about positive change.

Lack of Access to Education in Guatemala

In a country like Guatemala, where the poor are unable to access essential healthcare services, many children are abandoned or left on the streets. With more than 58% of Guatemalan children aged 7-14 working in the agriculture industry, many do not have access to funds for schooling, books and uniforms.

As a result, 18.5% of the population aged over 15 are unable to read or write. Children living on the street in Guatemala are also at a higher risk of engaging in physical violence to survive due to poverty, abuse and social exclusion.

Global Pearls Creates Change

Recognizing that over 10% of children ages 7-14 are unable to receive an education, the work of Global Pearls has extended to helping Sandra Alonzo Pac establish an educational scholarship program for children in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala called Estudia Con Amor. The program supports children who need additional funding from middle school through university. Street children involved in the program are also receiving help with clothing, food and medical costs. Because families living below the poverty line are more likely to keep their children out of school, children without education have a higher chance of living in poverty. Programs like Estudia Con Amor are essential in ending the cycle of poverty for struggling individuals.

Maria, a participant in the Estudia Con Amor scholarship program, discussed how she was unable to attend school with her mom working multiple jobs daily to support the family. She described her sadness when she saw the other children in the village walking to school with their backpacks, wishing that she could be one of them. With the help of the Estudia Con Amor Scholarship through Global Pearls, she began her studies, hoping to one day become a doctor.

Income Inequality in Honduras

Like Guatemala, attending traditional schools in Honduras is very difficult for children who travel long distances on foot to school. With Honduras holding the third-highest illiteracy rate in Central America due to income inequality, youth struggles to afford school and find job opportunities.

How Community Leaders in Honduras are Helping

Due to the cost of $100 a year to supply students with the textbooks and supplies they need for schooling, many poor students are unable to attend. With the help of Global Pearls, Sor Marta established a high school scholarship program for children who want to continue their education but cannot afford the cost.

Global Pearls Founder, Lisa Spader, embraces the idea that “you are capable of making your community better; you don’t need other people to make your community better.” Because of this, Spader urges the program participants to dream about what they want their future to look like and how that dream can become a reality with hard work and the right resources.

John, a 14-year old boy in the Honduras program, talked about how the Caja rural project has impacted his life: “I will not forget the day you arrived […] It was a rainy evening, and I was trembling with cold, but you hugged me, and I felt warmer. In that conversation, the idea of the Caja rural project became real […] Soon, I began leading my colleagues. This project has made a mark on my life in ways I could never have imagined […] You helped me find my life purpose. […] I know that starting a project changes the lives of those who start them. I know because I’m a living example.”

As a result of the program, John began the Caja rural project, which lends money to people to invest in microenterprises. He is now an active supporter in assisting others in finding their ways to better their community.

Prevalence of Violence in Honduras

People know gangs such as the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 in Honduras for utilizing violence and threats to establish authority. As a result, Honduras is one of the world’s most violent places, with an average of 13 people murdered each day. With limited opportunity for youth, many young Hondurans resort to gang participation to protect welfare and identity.

Giving Resources to Youth

Recognizing the prevalence of this issue, community leader, Jeremias Vobada, who grew up in an orphanage on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula, founded a soccer program for over 100 youth with Global Pearls. The program helps to give them a safe space to grow and develop. He has also partnered with a local contractor to provide children interested in the electrical field the experience and skills necessary to construct solar panels. This necessary resource allows electricity to run in remote communities.

Looking Forward

In a continually evolving world, it is more important than ever to address pressing issues that face marginalized communities. Global Pearls recognizes empowered leaders who have a passion for changing their community but do not receive marketing worldwide. By funding and engaging in projects with these leaders, more children can attend school and make their future dreams a reality.

To learn more about the impactful work of Global Pearls and its projects, click here: https://globalpearls.org/.

– Erica Fealtman
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in South Africa
South Africa is a culturally and historically rich nation located at the tip of the African continent, bordering the Indian and South Atlantic Oceans. Home to 56.5 million people, the country represents a unique case of national development with several new advances, some even more relevant than one might expect. South Africa has seen undeniable progress since the end of apartheid in the 1980s. Even so, poverty in South Africa continues to be a prevalent issue. Here are five facts about poverty in South Africa.

5 Facts About Poverty in South Africa.

  1. Nearly half the adult population of South Africa lives in poverty. The South African government measures poverty by three threshold points. The upper-bound poverty line (UBPL) indicates an income of 1,183 Rand ($70.90) per month. On the other hand, the lower-bound and food poverty lines indicate incomes of 785 Rand ($47.04) and 547 Rand ($32.78) respectively. According to the Department of Statistics in South Africa, 49.2% of the population over the age of 18 falls below the upper-bound poverty line. The government has worked to address poverty levels mainly through a program called the New Growth Path (NGP). This policy works to support small businesses through financing and enhancing multiple sectors of the economy. NGP also aims to expand public work projects to ensure that more individuals will have access to consistent income.
  2. Women are generally more vulnerable to poverty. According to South Africa’s Living Conditions Survey (LCS), 52.2% of women fall below the UBPL, compared to 46.1% of men. Additionally, the research shows that 74.8% of women-led households follow below the UBPL, whereas only 59.3% of men-led households do. A similar gender gap exists at each line of poverty, with women consistently experiencing poverty more frequently than men. Data suggests that this difference has remained relatively stable over the past decade. Women-led families are also more likely to lack access to water and sanitation. The South African government’s Programme of Action has worked to address these issues. The program focuses on developing infrastructure, dispersing resources in rural areas and providing subsidies for housing enhancements. The program has grown in support and funding over the past five years.
  3. COVID-19 has made poverty worse in South Africa. With over 500,000 cumulative cases as of August 13, 2020, and close to 4,000 new cases on the same day, there is no doubt that the pandemic has exacerbated many of the underlying issues surrounding poverty in the country. Hunger and food insecurity have, in particular, become much more pressing issues. Lockdowns, for example, have halted employment and left many South Africans with the impossible choice of working to provide food or staying home to stay safe. Forecasts are currently estimating that the pandemic may push up to 1 million people into poverty.
  4. Inequality of all sorts characterizes access to income in South Africa. Whether in terms of wages, wealth or consumption, South Africa always places among the most unequal countries. In 2015, the country scored 0,65 in the Gini coefficient, one of the world’s highest. While inequality seems to have improved over the past 20 years when measured per capita, consumption inequality has actually increased since the end of apartheid. Similarly, even though black South Africans are reporting the largest increase in the average number of assets owned, within-group asset inequality among black  South Africans has continued to grow. This puzzling trend seems to indicate that many of the problems from decades of apartheid have not disappeared, but rather have become a normal part of South African society. Additionally, a study that the World Bank published proves that South Africa’s inequality of opportunity, a type of inequality measured by the access to quality basic services such as education and healthcare, is higher than any other country. Government efforts to reduce inequality have included higher social spendings, affirmative action programs and targeted government transfers. The government has also seen promising success in its progressive tax system that has the potential to act as a redistributive tool in the coming years.
  5. Poverty headcounts in rural areas are significantly higher than that of urban areas. As of 2015, 25.2% of the population of urban areas lived below the UBPL, whereas 65.4% fell below the UBPL in rural areas. While grim at first, these findings do suggest that some policies are creating significant improvements in poverty levels. Over the past decade, the South African government has implemented a National Development Plan (NDP) with the intention of it acting as a blueprint for eradicating poverty below the lower-bound poverty line and reducing income inequality across the board. While still only in the middle phase of its execution, and the present pandemic certainly hindering it to some extent, this plan shows the government’s commitment to reduce poverty.

South Africa is continuing to grapple with its inherited history riddled with inequality and financial oppression. However, the more recent policies and conversations around the conditions of poverty are indicative of positive changes. The responsibility now falls both on the South African government and on the global community to continue fostering policies of poverty reduction and closing the gaps of inequality.

Angie Bittar
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Namibia
Even as one of the eight countries in Africa classified as an upper-middle-income country, Namibia is still striving overall to eliminate extreme poverty and inequality. The implementation of new socioeconomic structures from the Namibian government and partnering initiatives will soon make the vision of no poverty in Namibia a reality.

Living Below the Poverty Line

Of the nation’s population of 2.5 million people, 17.4% were living below the poverty line in 2015 and 2016. This is a drastic decrease of over 11% between 2009 and 2010 when 28.7% of the population lived below the poverty line. This progress aside, environmental conditions and employment rates have inhibited the growth of economic status and societal wealth in Namibia.

Although the poverty line decreased in 2016, unemployment remained at a steady rate of 34%. Women were more likely to be affected by unemployment at 38.3%, and youth counterparts suffered at a rate of 43.4%. The rates of poverty and unemployment are dependent on people’s surroundings. Youth living in rural areas are likely to experience more difficulty finding a job than those living in an urban setting.

Education in Namibia

Education in Namibia, similar to in the U.S., is a primary skill to have when looking for work. Therefore, poverty in Namibia significantly affects people who may not have access to education. This includes those living in rural areas, those affected by disabilities and women. People living in rural areas are more likely to be affected by inadequate access to education due to a lack of resources. Rural communities often have limited access to management, funding, technology and information. In many cases, these resources directly affect employment opportunities.

Unfortunately, one-third of students drop out of school before the tenth grade. This issue correlates to the lack of teaching qualifications, as more than 20% of teachers in Namibia have no formal qualifications. The number of students that continue to higher education also remains at a low estimate of 19%.

To combat these challenges, there is a need for mobilization of employment policies to rural areas in Namibia.

The High-Level Panel on the Namibian Economy (HLPNE)

The HLPNE was appointed by the Namibian government in March 2019 to respond to issues regarding “the path toward recovery and growth.” The seminar discussed economic inequalities, examining the investments and policies for the creation of jobs. According to the ILO, “The HLPNE has four pillars of work that include building a $1 billion investment portfolio, removing policy impediments, promoting Namibia for tourism and investment and creating employment opportunities.”

Honourable Erkki Nghimtina, Namibia’s labour minister, and Chair of the HLPNE Johannes Gawaxab both spoke during the seminar. They believe that the economy needs funding to gradually allow for job creation. In turn, this would balance the socioeconomic disproportion in Namibia. Tax incentives and government funding from private sectors and organizations would provide the ability to implement this, allowing the country’s economy to respond properly.

Vision 2030

Along with this, the Namibian government has created a developmental agenda to combat poverty in Namibia: Vision 2030. Vision 2030 enacts targets to create new and improved policies to form a more unified government between all sectors, both rural and urban. This agenda focuses on healthcare, education, housing and more in order to provide equal opportunity for those living in poverty in Namibia. Modernizing the economy within rural sectors will provide more funding and resources between schools. This will allow students to receive appropriate education, specifically developing skills needed for work in Namibia.

With help from new initiatives and improved policies and targets, awareness is being brought to poverty in Namibia. This awareness will allow for improvement upon the inequalities that still affect rural and urban sectors. These contributions will enable Namibia to continue making positive strides to eliminate poverty by 2030.

– Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

Citizenship Amendment Act Protests in IndiaBlood, tears and the echoes of piercing cries have filled India’s capital New Delhi for weeks now. People participating in peaceful anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in India have face the wrath of violent police officers. India’s youth has taken to the streets to fight against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The CAA allows for the marginalization of the Muslim community by restricting their ability to gain citizenship in India. This has created great discomfort for many of the 138 million Muslims currently living in India, who make up around 13.4% of the total population.

The bill appears to be most beneficial to Hindus, who account for 80.5% of India’s population. Its introduction has caused a national uproar as it highlights century-old religious intolerance in India. Many argue that the bill is in violation of Article 15 of the Indian constitution, which prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. The public has drawn similarities between the current situation and the problematic partition of Pakistan and India.

How does the CAA actually affect citizenship?

The CAA specifies that illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh can receive Indian citizenship if they have proof of residence for six years under the condition that they affiliate with Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian religious communities. However, Muslim immigrants from the same countries must have proof of residence for at least 12 years; it is argued this component contravenes Article 14 (equality for all people) and Article 15 of the Indian Constitution. The bill reduces the Muslim community to “second-class citizens” based on their religion alone.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his dissatisfaction with the Citizenship Amendment Act protests in India. He defended the bill, claiming there was no harm in trying to uplift the religious majorities in India, especially because they were discriminated against in other countries, like Pakistan. His party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has previously promoted policies and ideologies that favor Hindus and disfavor Muslims.

Further, members of the party have openly labeled Muslims as “terrorists” and have asserted that Hinduism is the dominant religion. Recently, BJP representative Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath claimed that the protests are stopping India from becoming a global power. However, he offered no explicit elaboration as to how they are doing so. It is evident that influential parts of the Indian government support and promote anti-Muslim sentiments.

Jamia Millia Islamia, a university in New Dehli with a significant population of Muslim students, is a center for Citizenship Amendment Act protests in India. Despite the peaceful nature of the protests, several videos of physical harassment at the hands of law enforcement have surfaced. This footage shows police charging students with lathis; many criticized this act for being unwarranted.

The Path to Equality: Pleas to the Supreme Court

Awareness about the CAA’s unjust components has spread across the country. Because of this, numerous petitions against the act have been filed at the Supreme Court of India. This same method was implemented previously against Section 377 of the Indian Constitution, which criminalized homosexuality. The Supreme Court later repealed the law thanks to the various protests and petitions filed across the country.

As the government continues to defend the bill, the public’s last hope is the Supreme Court, the only institution that can stop the implementation of CAA. On January 22, 2020, the Supreme Court did not issue a stay on the petitions filed against the bill and instead gave the central government four weeks to respond. This further angered the public and has continued to help the youth hold consistent protests all around the nation. However, as of March 5, the Supreme Court announced that it will consider petitions against the CAA after resolving matters pertaining to the Sabarimala issues.

The path taken by the protestors has proven to be effective in the past. The youth of India aim to strike down the CAA in court with the law on their side. Citizenship Amendment Act protests in India display the changing mindset of the country’s youth. These protests also promise hope to those ostracized by the government on the basis of religion. As religious tolerance is now a priority for the majority of India, unfair practices promoting inequality are bound to disappear in the near future. As for the present, the Supreme Court will decide whether CAA can be implemented in India within the next few months.

Mridula Divakar
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

How Developed Countries Can Help Reduce Inequality
Developed nations can contribute to a large percentage of world problems, such as pollution, and these issues tend to impact the developing world the most. Recently, issues that developing nations have been dealing with for a long time have begun to encroach on developed nations. The lack of poverty aid, climate policies and failure to protect the innocent have created a global hostile environment that has encouraged developed nations to divide from developing nations despite sharing the same world. However, developed countries can have an impact on inequality in the world. One way that developed countries can reduce inequality is by providing aid to impoverished nations. One of these areas is Haiti, which has experienced significant damage due to natural disasters in the past.

Demand to Raise Issues of Inequality

There has been an incredible demand to address issues that affect the world in an unequal way, such as climate change. One area that developed countries can reduce inequality is in the country of Haiti where there is a large percentage of the population living below the poverty line and the poorest of the population is the most vulnerable. Those in poverty often do not have a place to safely shelter during, or after, natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes. Launching a market to help and develop the developing world is a way to unify countries and respond to the issues of poverty and climate change.

Veerhouse Voda

One company dedicated to addressing the issue of shelter is Veerhouse Voda, which has developed a building method to efficiently strengthen inadequate infrastructures, like some of the ones in Haiti. Veerhouse Voda’s infrastructure development is just one of many ways that the expertise and experience of the developed world can go towards improving the infrastructure of the entire planet.

The existing infrastructure of Haiti is currently underdeveloped and is often a problem during natural disasters. For example, in 2016, Hurricane Matthew destroyed many shelters in Haiti and damaged others. Much of the population was not able to find shelter. Veerhouse Voda’s building method can create a much safer, more resistant infrastructure to withstand natural disasters. In addition, it can implement emergency buildings to mitigate the loss of life after disaster events.

Companies, such as Veerhouse Voda, have collaborated together to form the Unreasonable Group to invest in developing infrastructure. As a result, this can protect people and set a foundation for places like Haiti. Veerhouse Voda can create disaster-resilient shelters that are locally built. It uses local employment to construct its shelters and can later transition them to more permanent structures. The positive impact that Veerhouse Voda can have in Haiti and on the developing world is the motivation behind the Unreasonable Group and other companies.

Developed countries can reduce inequality globally in order to create more of a unified world. As the infrastructure of the world begins to equalize, there will be opportunities for each unique cultural perspective to contribute to the progress of civilization. The alternative to investing in developing countries now is to continue to combat the symptoms of inequality.

Brian King
Photo: Flickr