digital identification and the fight against global poverty
As the world continues to populate and technology becomes more widely available, the need for digital identification has become vital in the fight against global poverty. Currently, the World Bank has calculated that nearly one billion people worldwide do not have any formal identification, half of whom are in Africa. Thus, many people are without access to a range of essential services like banking, healthcare and general education.

In response, the World Bank Group began an initiative in 2014 to directly tackle this issue. The Identification for Development (ID4D) organization comprises experts, investors and technologies working to bring every person into the digital world.

What is Digital Identification?

Simply put, digital identification is a process in which an individual’s identity is confirmed through digital channels. A digital ID can range from a government-issued ID to a PIN to biometric data. Digital identification provides multiple important opportunities, such as opening bank accounts, establishing credentials for jobs and gaining access to education. Though these forms of identification seem common, many people struggle daily to prove their identity through these methods.

To understand the importance of identity management, one must understand the value and advantages it brings. In low-income countries, over 45% of women and 30% of men have no ID at all. In addition to the gender gap, a World Bank Group survey cited that the most impoverished 20% are the most likely to lack an ID. This places a veil over these communities, making them virtually “invisible.” It bars them from the opportunities and services that they most need to break out of the cycle of poverty.

However, digital identification can and is changing this. Identification for Development (ID4D) is doing pivotal work in building digital bridges, keeping transparency and empowering communities.

How ID4D Works

The ID4D initiative works in conjunction with 10 World Bank Group sectors that work toward digital expansion, economic inclusion, social safeguards and more for those in need of these services. The program primarily focuses on educating communities on the need and benefit of digital identification. Additionally, the group works alongside governments to implement effective and inclusive digital identification systems. The process of building up communities takes time and research. ID4D, therefore, performs assessments and creates a dialogue to understand the communities it serves.

Who ID4D Serves

Identification for Development serves the global community. For instance, the World Group Bank has supported the Moroccon government by designing and implementing a digital ID system. This project reformed the Moroccan social safety net system into a secure and functional digital society and economy.

Likewise, in West Africa, ID4D is in the beginning stages of implementing a new national ID system. This system will allow for easier access to mutual recognition and authentication processes throughout the area. A part of this project involves setting legal standards, industry standards and overall help promote and establish reliable ID systems between borders.

The Benefits of Digital Identification

There are numerous benefits to bringing underdeveloped regions into the digital atmosphere. First and foremost being the generation and broadening of new markets and customer indexes. Giving untapped markets the ability to tap into the digital realm financially gives poor communities a way to build savings, establish a digital trail, build credit and pay for what they need in micro-payments. Furthermore, digital identification helps to prevent fraud in various aspects. For example, with the help of digital identification, Nigeria and other countries have successfully used biometric records to reduce federal beneficiaries.

Not only does digital identification help communities at large, but it paves the way for women to provide for their families. Women account for around 70% of the world’s working population but receive only 10% of the income. As a result, women cannot afford to help raise their families out of poverty. Therefore, increasing women’s ability to verify their identities allows them to claim their income without issue, creating a highly effective method to combat global poverty.

– Sallie Blackmon
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Morocco
A 60-year-old royal decree largely dictates mental health in Morocco, but the government and outside institutions have been working to address this outdated decree in the last decades. A Dahir, or King’s decree, emerged in 1959, which determines Morocco’s mental health program, rights of patients and other aspects. Due to the inadequacy of the law, the Ministry of Health has and still is working on a new law to address treatment for mental health in Morocco.

The Current Situation for Mental Health in Morocco

In 2009, the government published a mental health profile of the country’s general population. The government’s report on mental health in the country used a random sample that it took of the population. Researchers interviewed nearly 5,500 people and over 40% of those interviewed had an active mental disorder.

Mental health disorders were more frequent among women, the divorced, unemployed and those in urban areas. More recent data on Moroccan mental health add credence to these older findings.

A 2019 study in the Annals of General Psychiatry outlined that one in five children in Morocco suffered from insomnia, depression or anxiety. Half of the mental health issues in Morocco’s children started at the age of 14. The Moroccan Ministry of Health published that nearly half of all adolescents it studied suffer from a mental health disorder. Morocco’s adolescents make up nearly 9% of the country’s total population. Outside institutions like the World Bank state that women and those who are young require special attention. The World Bank described the important relationship between education, work productivity, family care and mental health.

Solutions

The Moroccan government and the World Health Organization (WHO) are addressing mental health shortcomings with three major goals; drafting new legislation on mental health, building more hospitals and increasing the psychiatric workforce. The WHO’s “Country Cooperation Strategy for 2017-2021″ focuses on the entirety of the health care system in Morocco. However, legislative scrutiny is addressing mental health in Morocco, specifically.

Addressing the 1959 Dahir

The government adopted draft legislation in 2015 that addressed the outdated nature of the 1959 Dahir. The law emerged to protect the rights of those with mental health disorders. After scrutiny from health care professionals in Morocco, the government announced that the law would go under review in consultation with the Moroccan Society of Psychiatry or other leaders in the mental health field. The draft law is currently still under review.

Building More Psychiatric Hospitals

Morocco’s mental health infrastructure is currently getting a boost. The government is building psychiatric hospitals, one of which has already started construction. These hospitals are part of a greater initiative to increase regional access to health care. In fact, a psychiatric clinic finished construction in late 2020. All of these health infrastructure creations are part of a cooperative between the WHO and Morocco.

Increasing the Mental Health Workforce

The WHO reported that the ratio of psychiatrists was at 0.4 per 100,000 in 2005. However, in 2017, that ratio was at 0.84 which means it has doubled in 12 years. The WHO’s numbers show a steady increase in this workforce. A case study of under-resourced areas in Morocco has proposed peer-therapy as a solution to the lack of available mental health physicians.

A 2017 case study in Morocco gives hope to under-resourced areas. Sixty people ages 18-33 engaged in a rehabilitation program. The researchers found that the sessions were successful. They believe peer-therapy can make up for the lack of an available workforce.

While treatment for mental health in Morocco has presented some challenges, the country is working to improve the situation. Through the implementation of new hospitals and clinics as well as peer-therapy, access to mental health care should improve for Morocco’s residents.

– Jacob Richard Bergeron
Photo: Flickr

How Promoting Gender Equality Can Help Fight TerrorismA 2020 brief by the U.N. Office of Counter-Terrorism denotes a reciprocal relationship between gender inequality and terrorism, whereby terrorism underpins gender inequality by inspiring violence against women. In the same manner, gender inequalities fuel terrorism and gender equality fights terrorism, as most terrorist groups exploit gender norms to violate women’s rights. Research by The Brookings Institution revealed that societies that prioritize gender equality are less likely to engage in internal and external violence. Consequently, gender equality and female empowerment are two of the most critical strategies to put in place to fight terrorism.

The Correlation between Gender Inequality and Terrorism

A study examining the in-depth link between gender, terrorism and foreign fighters hypothesized that countries that tolerate domestic violence against women are more likely to experience political violence and extremism. The same study found that the majority of radicalized individuals have a past history of domestic violence and crimes against women.

A strong correlation coefficient of 0.6 exists between lower levels of violence against women and higher democratic quality. As a higher level of democracy implies a lower prevalence of terrorism, this implicitly indicates that promoting gender equality strengthens efficient and effective democracy, which weakens terrorism. Democratic efforts further support the societal benefits of efforts where gender equality fights terrorism.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all explanation for why both men and women engage in terrorism, compounding factors that primarily affect women may be one of the answers. In a cruelly cyclical manner, such factors include a lack of decision-making power over household finances and a desire for greater independence.

Furthermore, a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) lists rape and coercive familial relationships as among the factors that push women into terrorism.

Case study: Bangladesh & Morocco’s Success Stories

The strong correlation that exists between gender inequality and terrorism leaves no doubt that promoting gender equality and female empowerment is one of the best strategies to put into place to deter terrorism. This strategy has successfully worked in countries like Bangladesh and Morocco.

Since 2005, Bangladesh has not experienced any significant non-political terrorist attacks. Since 2011, Morocco has not either. A similarity between the two countries, apart from success in suppressing terrorism, is an emphasis on women’s empowerment and integration of counter-terrorism efforts.

As a Bangladeshi representative at the country’s Washington Embassy disclosed, the country substantially owes its success in countering terrorism to the inclusion of female empowerment in its local Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) efforts.

Measures that the Bangladeshi Government has taken to empower women include employment efforts. The Ready-Made Garment (RMG) Industry is the largest employer of women in Bangladesh. For self-employment measures, the government established micro-credit and micro-lending programs for women, which have significantly improved the standards of living of Bangladeshi women. These lending programs have helped women start and successfully run small businesses.

The newfound sense of independence, self-esteem and self-worth among Bangladeshi women has increased their economic participation, furthered their education and boosted their social empowerment. Bangladesh has also worked to inspire girls through education by ensuring that 60% of remote primary school teachers are women.

Likewise, Morocco has implemented various measures which have successfully helped the country to curb extremism and terrorism. These include raising the minimum marriage age to 18 for women; allotting shared property rights through marriage; introducing restrictions on polygamy, which significantly lowered its incidence; allowing women to initiate divorce by law; and making it possible for women to retain custody of children after divorce.

Looking Ahead

Former Secretary to the U.N. Kofi Annan declared, “There is no development strategy more beneficial to society as a whole — women and men alike — than the one which involves women as central players.”

Promoting gender equality and female empowerment has proven to be a crucial measure to fight terrorism. The level of success at which this strategy has helped control terrorism in countries clearly signals its efficacy. Ultimately, gender equality fights terrorism, weakening it across the board and limiting those who engage in it in a variety of ways. Based on national examples, promoting and developing gender equality promises the same — or even better — results if enacted at a global level.

– Divine Mbabazi
Photo: Flickr

Solar Energy in MoroccoIn 2018 and 2019, Morocco became a powerhouse in renewable energy, exporting an increased 670% of energy and decreasing imports by 93.5%. This can be attributed to the nation constructing the largest concentrated solar farm in the world. The solar plant, known as the Noor Complex, has the capability to power one million homes and greatly reduce the use of fossil fuel.

Solar Energy in Morocco

Prior to this renewable attitude, 97% of Morocco’s energy was produced by fossil fuels. The construction of solar farms is able to offset the nation’s energy usage, lessening the demand for energy imports and creating opportunities for more exports, ensuring a self-sufficient nation.

The decrease in energy consumption in the country has saved funds on energy costs. In 2018, the Moroccan Government decided to move to the GMT+1 timezone resulting in less electricity consumption by citizens. This shift toward sunnier days allows Morocco to overproduce energy and afford to export energy.

The advantages of solar energy in Morocco extend into multiple areas, creating a positive impact for not only Morocco but the African continent as a whole.

Poverty Eradication Benefits

In past years, poverty in Morocco has seen a significant decrease. While an optimistic stride for the nation, the decline in poverty was disproportionate between rural and urban areas.

This disparity between the living areas is often attributed to the difficulty in distributing energy to the rural regions. The hope is that the efficiency of solar energy in Morocco will allow for energy distribution to residents living outside the city to be feasible.

In 2016, poverty in Morocco was reduced to 23% from 45% in 2014. As solar energy in Morocco becomes more efficient, the living conditions of the average resident should improve as solar power makes electricity more affordable and easier to access. The solar farms popping up across the country also create jobs for the population to earn a living wage.

Economic Benefits

Solar energy in Morocco helps the nation be less reliant on energy imports and capable of exporting more energy, boosting the economy and relationships with other nations.

As Morocco’s economy strengthens with its excess of energy, it looks to make connections with European countries. In 2016, the construction of the Morocco-Nigeria gas pipeline project was announced. This pipeline perfectly positions Morocco to become an energy hub for the Mediterranean, African and European nations.

These connections to other nations allow Morocco access to flourishing markets and new business opportunities. As Morocco forms these foreign connections, it is becoming a greater political power in Africa.

Political Benefits

The continent of Africa currently has a leadership vacuum that Morocco is preparing to fill. As it produces more energy and builds stronger relationships with European nations, it is seen as a serious economic and political figure for the continent.

In 1984, Morocco left the African Union (AU) because of a disagreement over the recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). After many years, Morocco now seeks to rejoin the AU and strives to make the continent of Africa a robust, independent continent.

Now, the country is setting an example for the other nations of Africa to become self-sufficient and gain economic ground with foreign countries. Morocco has invested 85% of its foreign funds to other countries in Africa in an attempt to boost its leadership role as well as improve the struggling African economies.

The current Moroccan King, King Mohammed VI, has confidence in the continent’s abilities and wishes to lead Africa to success. He has made Morocco the second largest investor in African affairs.

Environmental Benefits

The positive environmental impact is often considered when looking at renewable energy. Morocco is heavily invested in combatting climate change and the environmental crisis the world is facing. Along with many green policies, Morocco is implementing the Green Generation 2020-2030 plan to help farmers conserve water and energy and grow crops more efficiently.

In addition to its pivot toward solar energy, Morocco is developing an environmental code to reduce pollution and work toward a greener society.

A Brighter Future

Morocco’s turn to solar energy is improving the living standards of its residents and empowering the country in the political arena all while reducing the harmful effects fossil fuels have on the planet. While Morocco has seen hard times, it is propelling forward and bringing the continent of Africa along with it. As Morocco constructs more solar resources and spreads its influence to other African nations, it plays a significant role in poverty reduction.

– Veronica Booth
Photo: Flickr

AlNourWomen’s agency and equal rights can help to significantly reduce poverty. When evaluating the development of a country, the role of women should not be overlooked. When women are empowered through literacy and education, they become more productive members of society that contribute to global poverty reduction. AlNour is a Moroccan business that allows women in Morocco to be part of the labor force, especially disabled women.

Cultural Norms Limit Women

Oftentimes women do not have the same opportunities as their male counterparts to receive education, engage in the labor force or own property. This is partly because of cultural norms that limit women to domestic responsibilities. By reducing unpaid domestic work, women become empowered and capable of obtaining income security and sustainable livelihoods, which significantly diminishes poverty levels.

Gender Inequality in Morocco

Gender inequality and the lack of women in the labor force in Morocco are related and ongoing issues. The nation, which is located in northwestern Africa, ranked 137 out of 149 countries according to the 2018 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report and ranked 141 out of 149 countries for women’s economic participation and opportunity. Although there were reforms in 2011 to increase the participation of women in the labor force in Morocco, and specifically within the government, women largely remain underrepresented in elected positions.

The economy would benefit from an increase in women’s participation. The IMF examined the relationship between gender inequality and growth and found that policies that better integrate women into the economy would greatly improve growth. As of 2019, if as many women worked as men worked, “income per capita could be almost 50% higher than it is now.”

The participation of women in the labor force in Morocco increases economic development and therefore reduces global poverty. But, how can women become more active citizens in society? The answer can be found by examining an organization called AlNour, which serves as an important example of how to best empower women.

AlNour: A Women’s Empowerment Organization

AlNour is a textile and embroidery business that provides an outlet for women to participate in the labor force in Morocco, thereby contributing to the economic development of the country as a whole. AlNour, which means “the light” in Arabic, began in 2013 after Patricia Kahane, originally from Austria, began the enterprise as a means of offering disabled Moroccan women sources of income through textile production and embroidery. The business employs disabled female workers who face a double disadvantage in Morocco due to their disabilities and gender.

The organization not only provides women with work but also offers training programs for languages, professional and artisan skills. The company has a van that allows women to easily and safely travel to and from work and also has a child care center for working mothers. Furthermore, the company offers free breakfast and lunch daily. The business has partnered with local shops to distribute its products and it also has a website, which features a range of items from home accessories to clothing.

AlNour serves as a rich example of how an organization can alter the lives of many and even impact an entire country. By developing sustainable solutions that not only invest in education but also emotional and financial support, women can break free from traditional roles and gender stereotypes, while simultaneously promoting financial inclusivity and bettering the nation entirely.

Gender Equality Progress in Morocco

There is light and hope for women in Morocco, as significant progress has been made. For example, the revision of the family code to expand the rights of women in marriage, guardianship, child custody and access to divorce is a monumental stride. The creation of a 14-week paid maternity leave clause was also introduced. Additionally, “the first and most advanced gender budgeting initiative in the Middle East and Central Asia region was launched in Morocco in 2002.”

While policies and laws that support gender equality such as the gender budget initiative are undoubtedly important, creating sustainable organizations like AlNour is an equally essential step in order to create a system that allows women to personally and professionally prosper from the ground level upward, consequently helping the economic development of Morocco as a whole.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr

Solar Energy is Transforming Africa
Photovoltaics panels, more commonly referred to as solar panels, are often cited as the best way to decarbonize the world’s energy grids and reduce emissions. According to MIT, the price per solar cell has decreased by 99% since 1980. These incredibly low costs have now unlocked the use of solar panels for the world’s poorest continent, Africa, with incredibly positive ramifications for the local environments of its citizens and the international effort to reduce emissions. Beyond emissions, however, cheap solar energy also improves the prospects for poor and rural Africans to access electricity, opening new opportunities to enhance standards of living and reduce poverty rates. With the majority of the world’s poor now located in sub-Saharan Africa, these cheap panels, along with the innovative thinking of African communities across the continent, have created new use cases for solar energy that are increasing water security, improving rural access to electricity and increasing economic resilience for Africa’s developing economies. Here are three ways solar energy is transforming Africa.

3 Ways Solar Energy is Transforming Africa

  1. Kenya’s Solar Desalination Plant: Kenya, a former British colony located in eastern Africa, is home to a population of approximately 50 million people. With an annual population growth rate of 2.2%, Kenya has one of the fastest-growing populations in the world and is set to see a population of 85 million by 2050, according to the World Bank. While a significant amount of Kenya’s population growth will be in urban developments, only 28% of Kenya’s population is urban today, meaning that Kenya’s government will need to find ways to provide water and energy infrastructure for its rural communities for decades to come. One small Kenyan fishing village known as Kiunga, home to about 3,500 individuals, has found a solution. Partnering with an American NGO known as GivePower, this village uses solar panels to desalinate ocean water, with the capacity to deliver water to 35,000 residents, 10 times the village’s current population. Today, over 300 million sub-Saharan Africans struggle with water insecurity, often leading to conflict and instability that causes poverty, according to global NGO The Water Project. Developments that can reduce such insecurities can go a long way in improving the future for Africa’s poor. While much more progress needs to occur on this front, this village of Kiunga is providing a template for villages across Africa to harness the power of the sun for water security.
  2. Tanzania’s Rural Mini-Grids: Tanzania, a neighbor of Kenya and a former British and German colony, is home to about 58 million people. Tanzania is East Africa’s largest nation and is home to its largest population and its lowest population density. With its urban population constituting only 35.2% of the country, Tanzania faces the challenge of providing electricity to rural communities far from its city centers. Solar power is uniquely capable of delivering power to these rural communities, and Tanzania has embraced new economic models called “mini-grids” in order to deliver this power. While traditional fossil fuel power plants rely on extensive supply chains and infrastructure in order to deliver electricity, in part due to the weight of the fuels, solar panels generate power on-site, directly from the sun. These “mini-grids” allow small Tanzanian villages to afford electricity for the first time, creating opportunities for rural education and improving security, ultimately contributing to the reduction of rural poverty in Tanzania. Although the current situation is poor, with more than 70% of Tanzanians lacking access to electricity, by 2040, 140 million Africans – including many in Tanzania – will get electricity from these mini-grids, according to the World Resources Institute.
  3. Morocco’s Mega Solar Plant: The North African nation of Morocco is becoming an increasingly important economic power in Africa, with a growth rate of nearly 4.1%. Despite this progress, however, Morocco’s rural poverty rate remains high at 19%. Though one cannot fault Morocco for prioritizing its economy over its environment, given its current poverty rate, Morocco has committed to ramping up its solar energy production, seeking a 50% renewable energy capacity by 2030. The benefits of this development, however, are more than environmental, as Morocco is now a net energy exporter to Europe, decreasing its domestic electricity costs and enhancing its economic resilience, all while improving its economic and political relationships with Europe. Thus, Morocco has used solar energy to not only maintain its commitments to emissions reductions but also as a tool to diversify its economy, allowing the nation to not only lift its citizens from poverty but to sustain its citizen’s incomes in good times and bad.

Poverty remains a significant problem in Africa, with more than half of the world’s deeply impoverished peoples living in sub-Saharan Africa. However, through remarkably low costs and a variety of unique use cases across Africa, solar panels are now increasingly capable of delivering energy, water security and economic growth. From LED-powered lights in rural African schools to increasingly reliable electricity for African small businesses, solar energy is transforming Africa by contributing to its economic rise and modernizing its rural life. And, with solar-powered desalination moving from fiction to reality, water security is increasingly possible across the continent, leading to greater community stability and resilience. All of these factors play an essential role in decreasing poverty rates and improving the quality of life on Earth’s poorest continent. Sunlight, it seems, will brighten Africa’s nights in the future.

– Saarthak Madan
Photo: UN Multimedia

Women’s Rights in Morocco
Since Morocco gained its independence from France in 1956, there have been many changes to women’s rights. Across the nation, women continue to fight for their rights in legal, social, political and economic contexts. Although work remains, local organizations have made great strides in improving the status of women’s rights in Morocco.

Women’s Rights On Paper

Morocco’s Constitution addresses the issue of women’s rights. Article 19 of the 2011 Constitution states, “The man and the woman enjoy, in equality, the rights and freedoms of civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental character.” This is a general guarantee of gender and matrimonial equality. Moreover, there have been numerous other ratifications in the Moroccan legislature that correlate to this statement.

Moroccan women now have protections against male guardian requirements, rape-marriage allowances and sexual harassment. The government passed all of these laws after 2004, with one as recent as 2018. Yet, there are still a few loopholes in the legal system. For example, the Family Law allows forced marriage if a judicial waiver is provided. Many believe that there is still progress to be made.

Status of Women’s Rights in Morocco (Social Contexts)

While the Moroccan Constitution is promising and shows progression, conservative ideals remain common in social institutions. This includes the hierarchy of power held by males and gender-based discrimination. Socially, the need is the greatest for reform and change, which law or legislation do not often achieve.

Women are fighting for equality in Morocco today by seizing opportunities, including education, economic and financial freedom and leadership positions. By holding higher positions in society, these conservative assumptions may begin to dissipate in family and cultural contexts.

Status of Women’s Rights in Morocco (Political Contexts)

Women gained both the right to vote and the right to stand in an election on the same date in May 1963. The assumption of leadership by women is historical and considered to be a great gain for Moroccan women. Bassima Hakkaoui, a veiled political leader, is now in charge of the Ministry of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development. She is the first veiled woman to hold this position.

Unfortunately, most women struggle to gain access to political leadership positions today. As of 2018, only 81 out of 395 parliamentary members were held by women. This begs the question of whether Moroccan women can be accurately and meaningfully represented by their government voices. Many activists call for more female representation in parliament and other positions of power.

Status of Women’s Rights in Morocco (Economic Contexts)

According to USAID Morocco, ranks 141 out of 149 countries in women’s economic participation and opportunity. Women make up 50% of Morocco’s population but only 26% of the labor force. Also, the female labor force participation rate in Morocco decreased by 6% between 1999 and 2010. Moroccan women remain a largely untapped resource within the very borders of the country.

One of the results of the 2011 Constitution includes positive advancements in girls’ education. Increasing access and encouraging girls to finish school has led to more women contributing to the labor market and the economy. The accumulation of generational wealth is an example of this influence.

Fighting for Women’s Rights

To continue improving the status of women’s rights in Morocco, the strengthening of the justice system is crucial. Addressing social and cultural barriers is also important, as many gender limitations stem from conservative or patriarchal views.

Two notable organizations are fighting to raise the status of women’s rights in Morocco and both reside in Rabat. The Democratic Association for Moroccan Women and the Mobilizing for Rights Associates (MRA) work within the community and advocate for legal reforms. These reforms promote women’s social, economic and political equality, monitor international human rights compliance and assist women’s rights campaigns.

MRA also tracks the implementation of the newly signed Elimination of Violence Against Women law, which was recently enacted in September 2018. This law has shown the world that Morocco is willing to make progress in gender equality. Furthermore, it exemplifies the importance of these women’s rights organizations in making progress.

Moving Forward

Although Morocco has made improvements in women’s rights, work remains. Women across the country are continuing to fight for equality in all contexts. Moving forward, women’s rights organizations continue to advocate for the safety and liberty of all Moroccan women.

Savannah Gardner
Photo: Flickr

testing and povertyDoing away with certain high-stakes exams could help alleviate poverty. The pandemic has forced many to consider alternatives to what was the status quo, including high-stakes exams used in education systems around the world. These popular exams have roots as far back as the selection of civil servants in ancient China. During the past two centuries, the number of educational systems that make use of high-stakes testing has grown. Exams may be useful as a means of helping students, parents and educators understand how the student is doing. However, they become high-stakes when decisions regarding admissions and advancement rely on exam results. Eliminating high-stakes exams could reduce both testing and poverty.

The Positive and Negative Consequences of Testing

Research has shown that there are positive and negative impacts of high-stakes testing. The benefits of high-stakes examinations include concrete educational standards and assistance for students who perform poorly. On the other hand, disadvantages include a narrowed curriculum, cheating and policies that disproportionately impact minority students.

According to the World Bank’s Public “Examinations Examined,” “[It] is difficult to make the case that examinations, whatever the motivation in their introduction, played a major role in the promotion of equity.” With an emphasis on testing and poverty in contemporary education, understanding how high-stakes exams reflect inequity may help educators better assist disadvantaged students.

Testing and Poverty

High-stakes testing puts pressure not just on students, but also on parents, educators, schools and  governments. These pressures affect those with low socioeconomic status the most. Students from low-income families often face cognitive, emotional and social developmental deficits induced by poverty and stunting. The effects of poverty and stunting turn into a 19.8% deficit in adult annual income.

Low-income families also often lack the financial resources to pay for their student’s academic success with tutors, textbooks and materials. Moreover, educators and schools may focus their efforts on more advantaged students. Studies in Zambia, for example, reveal that advantaged students tend to do better than poor students.

Furthermore, public spending on education is higher in wealthier communities. One reason may be because the government rewards schools that perform better in high-stakes exams with additional funding. Many of these schools, comprised of students from high socioeconomic statuses, tend to have more resources than their low-income counterparts.

This lack of spending directly connects testing and poverty, as using testing to measure success gives fewer resources to underprivileged students. A report by the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity reports that 330 million students are in school but are not learning the basics. This may be connected to poor quality teaching or poor resources, which can result from measuring success with tests. Ultimately, being poor has become closely connected to poorer exam performance. Indeed, “Large scale assessments in exam subjects and grades routinely show a steep ‘social gradient’ in performance,” according to the Center for Global Development.

Doing Away with High-Stakes Exams

Education is central to reducing poverty. For example, individual income increases by 8% for every year that one goes to school. More specifically, having a secondary education in Tanzania decreases by 60% the chance that a working adult will be poor.

Recognizing the benefits of education and the consequences of testing and poverty, schools could eliminate some high-stakes exams. Countries such as Kenya and Singapore, as well as most Caribbean countries, use tests to determine a student’s placement in secondary schools. Yet those who made it into secondary schools in Kenya obtained employment benefits, decreasing low-skill self-employment, compared to those who did not. According to the IMF,  “increasing [the] average years of schooling and [the] reducing [of] inequality of schooling” can significantly reduce economic inequality.

If primary and secondary education were universal, extreme poverty could lessen by half. To make this happen, developing countries dealing with the pandemic should consider doing away with certain high-stakes exams. This will allow poorer students to contribute to human capital.

The Good News

While it took 40 years for American girls’ enrollments in education to increase from 57% to 88%, it took Morocco 11 years. Yet, in 2013 there was a disparity in the net enrollment rate in lower secondary education. Though 79% for boys in urban areas were enrolled, the rate was only 26% for girls in rural areas.

Since 2007, Education for All (EFA) has provided girls in Morocco’s rural communities of the High Atlas mountains the opportunity of secondary education. The organization’s provision includes nutritious meals, hot showers, beds and access to computers. EFA has at least 50 girls who are enrolled at university.

While this work is laudable, governments may be able to provide similar results by doing away with high-stakes testing. When exams act as a gatekeeper to advanced education, they reproduce cycles of poverty. All students must have access to equal education in order to escape from poverty.

–  Kylar Cade
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in MoroccoMorocco, a country bordering both Algeria and Western Sahara, has faced increased conflicts with the rising issue of homelessness. In the country, there are thousands without proper shelter as the problem worsens. However, newly implemented organizations are seeing rapid improvements in homelessness in Morocco.

More than 700,000 Moroccan citizens are currently battling homelessness. In addition, it must be noted that the youth has been severely impacted as well. There are more than 30,000 children roaming the streets in search of basic resources, as many escape abusive home situations. Under a prevalent gap between the wealthy and poor, it is reported that more than 15% of the population lives on $3 a day. With the poverty rate increasing, many turn towards the streets. Approximately four million Moroccan citizens live below the poverty line.

Causes of Homelessness in Morocco

The main contributor to the rise of homelessness in Morocco is the Structural Adjustment Policy that was launched in 1963. Since then, the homeless rate has rapidly increased, leading to its large population in present day. The policy aimed to improve the finance and social sectors. However, due to underfunding and a misallocated budget, thousands of families lost funding. For this reason, many lost their homes to the government.

Another cause of homelessness in Morocco is the shift in values in Moroccan society. As mentioned earlier, the wealth gap between the ones in poverty and the wealthy have led to resentment against the homeless. With the focus on the upper class, the poor population of Morocco is not given any aid. In certain cases, the plight of the poor is simply ignored.

Consequences of Homelessness in Morocco

With the youth making up a large portion of the homeless population, various consequences have arisen. A major problem is the overall safety of the children on the streets. With tens of thousands of children without a home, many are subject to sexual assault and abuse. The streets of Morocco have been subject to numerous crimes against the youth.

Another consequence of the homelessness problem is the lack of education. In the rural parts of Morocco, only 36% of girls pursue an education. With the issue of homelessness, the youth prioritize survival over schooling. It is also reported that only one in seven children attend school in Morocco. Homelessness plays a primary role in these low statistics as children do not have the resources to pursue an education.

The Road to Change

Despite the rising numbers, there have been numerous efforts to combat homelessness in Morocco. For example, the Moroccan government has stepped up to help those in need. Jamila El Moussali, the Moroccan Minister of Solidarity, Social Development and Family, has recently called for the largest shelter operation in Moroccan history. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the ministry has helped accommodate more than 6,300 homeless people and assisted 2,000 others in reuniting with their families. The government is looking to increase its involvement with the homeless in the coming years and boost social work to aid those in need. After completing one of the largest shelter operations, Morocco has seen a massive decline in the homeless population.

Even with the government’s newfound aid to help combat homelessness in Morocco, additional intervention is the key to make dramatic and long-lasting progress. For Morocco’s government to see a bright future and a reduced homeless count, it must act in a consistent manner to aid those in need. If the government can further boost the number of shelter operations, hundreds of thousands of homeless Moroccans would benefit.

Aditya Padmaraj
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Morocco
Since the early 2000s, the North African kingdom of Morocco has been successful in enacting programs that assist in pulling its poor citizens out of poverty. One goal in particular has been to decrease the number of people who suffer from hunger in Morocco. Here, long-term goal-setting and assistance with neighboring countries have allowed for noticeable success.

Despite a decade in which East and North African nations have seen growing levels of hunger, Morocco is one of a short list that has been able to circumvent the trend. Since 2008, the number of those in the undernourished category has decreased. According to the Global Hunger Index, the proportion of citizens who would be categorized as undernourished has gone from 5.2 in 2010 to 3.4 in 2019.

Plan Maroc Vert (PMV)

One can attribute much of the success in Morocco to the Plan Maroc Vert (PMV), or Morocco Green Plan, launched in 2008. The plan laid out broad goals of bolstering the commercial side of agriculture, strengthening the kingdom’s economy and trade, as well as the subsistent side, and lowering the overall amount of hunger in Morocco. The strategies to reach these goals included irrigation and reappropriation of lands that people traditionally used to farm wheat and cereal crops, fruits and vegetables, along with pastureland, thus increasing the worth of the crop yield.

Since the implementation of the PMV, there has been a noticeable diversification in the purchasing patterns of citizens, who now have access to more nutritional food. This, as well as the increased annual consumption of 3.3%, signals a higher standard of living.

The PMV ensured the establishment of multiple new programs within Morocco, including the National Food Safety Authority and the Agency for Agricultural Development. These agencies have taken steps to diversify the crop yield, specifically by expanding the amount of farmland in use by 11% and moving away from weather-sensitive crops, such as cereals.  Particularly, one goal of the PMV was to have red meat production at 500,000 tons annually by 2020, and it was able to accomplish this a year in advance.

Trade Relationships and International Aid

One of the greatest signs of success from the PMV has been the economic growth visible in Morocco for the past decade. Smarter practices at home have played a part, but the PMV has also allowed the kingdom to break new ground in trade and dealings internationally.

Morocco’s government has attempted to become more competitive and consistent with its closest trading partner, the European Union. Entering into a free trade agreement in 2012, Morocco has relied on this relationship to both aid its economy and provide it with the ability to export, as well as have a steady amount to import for its people. With higher import and export value comes more plentiful and affordable food for the people of Morocco.

Additionally, one can see the faith that others put into the PMV through donations from different aid groups and banks. The E.U., as well as organizations such as the World Bank, have been willing to invest large sums into the agricultural developments that the PMV highlighted. One such organization, the African Development Bank, has pledged $132 million toward the PMV in faith that the development of Moroccan agriculture will assist both at home and as a player in global trade.

The End of One Plan and the Start of Another

The goals of the PMV were to reach completion by the end of 2020. The goals ranged from the creation of 1.5 million new jobs to tripling of agricultural exports to the establishment of projects intending to aid the already large number of working farmers. In 2015, Morocco achieved the Millennium Development Goal 1 which was to reduce the amount of hunger in Morocco in half. The kingdom has been on track since implementation, and going forward looks to continue these milestone victories in the battle against hunger.

It is still unclear whether Morocco will reach all of the goals of the PMV by the end of 2020. However, with progress in the shape of large-scale agricultural development as well as lowered food shares and higher consumption among a growing middle-class, there have certainly been some successes. The PMV has led to the creation of a more secure agricultural system, as well as the creation of a new agricultural middle class and formation of 350,000 jobs for the kingdom’s youth.

Moreover, it seems as though this trend of development will continue, as King Mohammed VI announced in February 2020 there would be a followup Green Plan. The Generation Green 2020-2030 plan will follow from lessons that Morocco learned from the PMV, putting more focus on the security of a rural, agricultural class, promoting social development and protecting against the threat of environmental challenges.

With an obvious focus on creating a strong agricultural center, hunger in Morocco could continue to decrease at the same rates as under the PMV. Through program and job creation, Morocco has already shown that the correctly-implemented plans can lead to success in relief. Now, the Generation Green plan aims to move forward in maintaining a secure source of food and income to the Moroccan people.

– Matthew McKee
Photo: Flickr