Mitigate Poverty in South Asia
More than 33% of people living in extreme poverty globally reside in South Asia. The poorest countries in the region, Afghanistan, Nepal and Pakistan presented GDP per capita rates of $544, $972 and $1,555. Respectively, this is a result of issues across these countries such as poor infrastructure, poor economic practices, political uncertainty and poverty. For many countries in South Asia, like India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, the COVID-19 caused millions of people to fall back into poverty. Policymakers must now reverse the increased food and commodity prices that result in economic insecurities in order to mitigate poverty in South Asia.

Pre-Pandemic Progress

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, South Asia countries made “significant progress” to help communities move out of poverty. Between 1990 and 2015, its poverty rate declined from 52% to 17%. The Asian Development Bank has projected that the trade-dependent economies of Southeast Asia will recover from the effects of the pandemic, growing to 5.1% in 2022 from 4.4% in 2021, therefore, helping to mitigate poverty in South Asia.

There are multiple reasons why South Asian countries have high levels of poverty and low GDP rates. According to The Conversation, governments do not allocate enough state resources on social development, such as education and health. In addition, “limited effectiveness” goes into delivering public services to the communities, such as health and education, or implementing policies to reduce poverty.

Further, government investment to improve public services, such as making tax systems more efficient and increasing vaccine availability in local health services, would improve the nation’s economy and help mitigate poverty levels. Countries with higher levels of state capacity have done relatively better to control the spread of COVID-19 and reduce mortality rates.

The World Bank Strategy

Now, the “impressive” reduction in poverty can connect to South Asia’s growing economy, as it is the world’s second-fastest-growing economy. According to the U.N. Chronicle, “India, Bangladesh and Nepal lowered their poverty rates by 7%, 9% and 11%” in the 1990s. India is South Asia’s largest economy and could grow by 8.3% in the 2021-2022 fiscal year with aid from public investment and incentives to boost manufacturing.

International organizations aided South Asia nations during the pandemic. They ensured the nations were able to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and limit the number of people vulnerable to poverty. For example, the World Bank focused on promoting inclusive and sustainable growth, investing in people and strengthening resilience in South Asia.

The World Bank also provided $922 million to purchase and deploy COVID-19 vaccines in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In Pakistan, the World Bank supported efforts to implement nutrition-sensitive cash transfers for the most vulnerable populations and policy actions to help put children back in school. Meanwhile, a COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Project is working on multiple projects, including equipping hospitals as pandemic response centers in Sri Lanka.

Additionally, in Nepal, the World Bank focused on the agriculture sector by allocating $80 million to strengthen rural market linkages and promote entrepreneurship. International efforts are a vital resource to help mitigate poverty in South Asia.

If policymakers allocate resources toward programs that help sustain their growing economy and mitigate the negative results of COVID-19, South Asia communities could have a better chance of avoiding poverty.

– Makena Roberts
Photo: Flickr

Gender Wage Gap in Pakistan
The gender wage gap exists across a multitude of nations, sectors and professions, disproportionality affecting low-income women. Pakistan is the epicenter of this inequity. According to the Global Wage Report 2018/19 (ILO), women in Pakistan earn 34% less than men on average. The same report also found women in Pakistan constitute 90% of the bottom 1% of wage earners in the country. Below are ways to bridge the gender wage gap in Pakistan.

Increased Access to Education

Half of the women in Pakistan have not attended primary school with only 90% of women not having a post-secondary education. This education gap is detrimental to the gender wage gap in Pakistan as a woman with a post-secondary education’s pay increases threefold in comparison to women with primary education.

The Zindagi Trust has been working to improve girls’ education in Pakistan on the grassroots level through improving the infrastructure, academic innovation and quality of government schools. It has transformed two schools and thus changed the lives of more than 2,500 young girls who otherwise would have dropped out of primary school.

Decreasing Unpaid Care Work

Unpaid care work and domestic work are non-market, unpaid activities carried out in households, such as care of persons, cooking, cleaning or fetching water. These time commitments are often not quantitative and therefore overlooked. According to McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, unpaid care work globally is worth around $10 trillion a year.

Not only does unpaid care work not compensate women for their work, but is so time-consuming that they do not have the time to focus on gaining skills and pursuing economic opportunities. Social expectations further this structure due to the expectation that women take care of the home.

One way to decrease unpaid care work is by reducing hazardous tasks, such as cooking with unsafe fuel sources. Jaan Pakistan is working to reduce open flame cooking in rural Pakistan. It has sold nearly 1,500 units to date and hopes to sell 1 million cookstoves across off-grid Pakistan by 2025.

Increased Representation in STEM Fields

Women currently make up less than 18% of STEM professionals in Pakistan. One can attribute this gap to the literacy rate in women and the societal pressure for women to pursue a more female-dominated field. The literacy rate for women is 47% in comparison to 71% for men which further exacerbates the gender wage gap in Pakistan. The rate of workplace harassment only adds to the inability of employers to meet the needs of educated and qualified women and deters them from contributing to STEM fields.

According to a report of Pakistan’s National Commissioner of Children and Women, around 93% of Pakistani women had experienced sexual violence and harassment in public or workplaces in their life. Private sector organizations such as Women Engineer’s Pakistan have been working to increase the representation of women in STEM fields through connecting college girls to a network of 1,988 women engineers. These mentorship resources build a community of women in STEM in Pakistan and provide support and encouragement. It has helped more than 4,000 college students.

In order to combat workplace harassment, U.N. Women and the Office of the Ombudsperson KP in Pakistan joined together to effectively implement and monitor current laws to address harassment at the workplace. It has developed a Toolkit on “Understanding Sexual Harassment, Legal Provisions, Roles of Duty Bearers and Rights Holders.” Officially launched on June 25, 2020, the Toolkit “provides a comprehensive resource to train and build the capacity of inquiry committee members and other stakeholders on the law and redressal mechanisms for dispensation of justice to the complainants.”

The gender wage gap in Pakistan exists due to the traditional structures in place but with the support of local and international nonprofits, there are new solutions and resources to successfully implement them.

– Imaan Chaudhry
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

nba-star-provides-clean-water-in-pakistan
Kyrie Irving has gained much attention in the media for his basketball career, but his greatest accomplishment so far is off the court. In July 2021, the NBA All-Star funded and built a solar water well in Pakistan. The philanthropic effort by Irving intends to bring clean water to a town called Tharparkar in a lower socioeconomic area of Pakistan. Clean water and healthcare stand at the forefront of some of the issues in many areas with poverty. Many of the issues that plague small villages within Tharparkar are preventable and addressable. The poverty rate in Tharparkar stands at a staggering 87%. Not only is Irving providing clean water to Tharparkar but he is also bringing much-needed attention to other issues that afflict impoverished communities.

Bringing Clean Water to Tharparkar

The Brooklyn Nets Point Guard’s KAI Family Foundation funds the solar water project in Pakistan in partnership with the Paani Project. Irving built the solar water plant in the small village of Rohal in Tharpakar within the Sindh Province. Though the Sindh Province in Pakistan is experiencing an economic upturn in most urban areas, people often overlook the rural outskirts.

Tharparkar is one of the most impoverished areas of Pakistan, and thus, the people endure several issues of poverty. A lack of safe drinking water, high unemployment rates, food insecurity, poor health facilities, low educational attainment rates and malnutrition are among the issues plaguing Tharparkar. There are existing manual wells in Tharparkar, “but a lack of rainfall and inadequate maintenance” means existing wells “have either dried up or their contents are unsafe for human consumption.” Where a clean water supply does exist, villagers, mostly women, walk for more than an hour in conditions of extreme heat to access this water.

The Benefits of a Solar Well

Irving’s solar well will bring clean water to more than 1,000 villagers. Solar wells negate the need for ropes and pulleys commonly used in manual wells. Additionally, these solar wells can last up to 25 years. Current wells in Tharparkar almost exclusively necessitate the use of manual labor to pull the water up and livestock and agriculture pollute them. With only the turn of a lever, countless families will enjoy the benefits of clean drinking and bathing water.

Irving is not only bringing clean water to one of Pakistan’s most impoverished areas but is also bringing widespread attention to the other issues the area endures. Bringing attention to some of the issues sometimes forgotten in rural areas is important in order to improve overall living conditions in Tharparkar. These marginalized communities need aid to escape the cyclic effects of poverty. This philanthropic act by Irving is one that is garnering worldwide attention off the court rather than on it. Irving’s humanitarianism assists the many Pakistani families in poverty.

– Carter Haskel
Photo: Flickr

Relocate Afghan Refugees
The Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan after the U.S. military withdrawal has left hundreds of thousands of Afghans either displaced or seeking refuge. The United Nations has estimated that
 up to 500,000 Afghans will flee Afghanistan by the end of 2021. As a result, as the Taliban’s power continues to grow, countries across the globe have opened their doors to help relocate Afghan refugees. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one global organization that is taking a lead in this relocation work. The IRC helps relocate Afghan refugees in Mexico, Uganda and Pakistan.

About the International Rescue Committee

Founded in 1933, the IRC responds to catastrophes and humanitarian crises across the globe. Since its inception, the IRC assists those who have had to relocate by providing them with lifesaving care and long-term stability. To date, the IRC operates in over 40 counties and 22 U.S. cities offering a range of support to people who have been uprooted and are struggling.

How the IRC Helps Relocate Afghan Refugees

For the past 30 years, the IRC has worked to provide aid to Afghanistan and continues to amid the ongoing crisis. On August 31, 2021, the IRC announced that the Mexican government will welcome 175 refugees arriving in Mexico City. Throughout its history and to date, Mexico has been a safe haven for those seeking refuge. Upon their arrival, the IRC provides urgent medical care, welcome kits, COVID-19 PPE and Psychological First Aid (PFA) to those who need it. The IRC has also announced plans to provide refugees in Mexico with cash cards to communicate with families still in Afghanistan.

Uganda is a second country that works with the IRC. Since 1998, Uganda and the IRC have supported over 1.5 million refugees and are currently working with the United States and United Kingdom embassies to provide asylum for Afghan refugees. Similar to Mexico’s approach, upon arriving in Uganda, refugees receive housing, medical assistance, COVID-19 PPE, sanitary products and temporary immigration cards. IRC staff onsite in Uganda have also provided refugees with a 24/7 medical clinic along with individual and group psychosocial services.

The IRC has also been working with Pakistan since 1980 and the partnership has helped more than 3 million Afghan refugees relocate. Despite the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has depleted much of Pakistan’s resources and ravaged its economy, Pakistani officials have assured temporary asylum for new refugees coming from Afghanistan. The IRC helps Afghan relocate refugees arriving in Pakistan by supporting them through cash assistance, health care, job training and “child-friendly spaces” where children can play and attend school in a safe environment. 

Types of Support the IRC Receives

  • Donations. The IRC website offers multiple avenues for people to donate. The Rescue Gifts page includes hundreds of gifts ranging from baby kits and survival kits to a year of school for two girls. People can also make a one-time or monthly donation that will go towards providing refugees with medical care and other emergency assistance. The IRC spends 87% of all donations on programming.
  • Volunteers. Volunteers help coordinate community outreach in various areas by hosting donation drives or working internships to get hands-on experience with refugee resettlement. They also help refugees adjust when they make it to the U.S. by hosting refugees in their homes with IRC’s partner Airbnb.
  • Community Support. Individuals can call their representatives and mobilize community members to contact their representatives. In addition, you can work alongside the IRC’s Policy and Advocacy team in the fight for policies and legislation. Text RESCUE to 40649 to start taking action

A Promising Future

The road ahead will be tough for Afghanistan and for the Afghan refugees. Nevertheless, the IRC’s support will change the course of the refugee crisis one donation at a time. 

– Sal Huizar
Photo: Flickr

PSRD: Dedicated to Fighting Poverty Among the Specially Abled
Anyone, at any time and anywhere, can fall victim to poverty. However, some factors exist that put some individuals more at risk than others, and disabilities increase the likelihood of families living in poverty. In 2019, 25.9% of disabled people in the United States lived in poverty, more than double the rate for those without disabilities. The specially-abled face higher barriers when trying to find success in their lives and become financially stable. The connection between unemployment and disability remains serious: “half of all working age adults who experience at least one year of poverty have a disability.” In Pakistan, a country where the poverty rate is 5.4%, poverty amongst the specially-abled is significantly higher.

Physical Barriers and Poverty

  1. Health care: One reason for the physically challenged to fall into a state of poverty in Pakistan is the lack of adequate health care. Persons with disabilities are more likely to need extra resources and different types of treatment that are not easily accessible. Health care disparities arise due to societal stigma and a lack of policy changes to provide care that appropriately meets the needs of the specially-abled. There are relatively few advocates in Pakistan who are actively trying to open up more health care options for persons with disabilities. Such environments make it more difficult for poverty-stricken and physically challenged individuals in Pakistan to seek health care.
  2. Employment: The most significant cause of poverty among people with disabilities is the lack of employment opportunities they have. Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2011. Pakistani law mandates 2% of hired employees in Pakistani institutions need to be specially-abled individuals, but this law is not always put into practice. For example, a study shows that government departments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province in Pakistan, are not meeting the 2% requirement.
  3. Education: Finally, a lack of education is a risk factor for poverty as it prohibits individuals from reaching a level of financial stability. It was found that, while education is accessible for many specially-abled children, rates of actual literacy remain low. More specifically, literacy rates for children with disabilities were much lower than those of their non-disabled peers. Regardless of socioeconomic status and family background, physically challenged students are not receiving the level of education necessary to reach the same standards of comprehension.

PSRD’s Solution

Evidently, many factors lead to the presence of poverty amongst the specially abled. The Pakistan Society for the Rehabilitation of the Differently Abled (PSRD) is a nonprofit organization working to bring specially-abled people out of poverty by focusing on health care, employment and education. Based in Lahore, Pakistan, the organization has worked with the population through the following programs:

  1. Vocational Rehabilitation Center: PSRD allows poverty-stricken and differently-abled individuals to maximize vocational skills. With an aim to eradicate the employment difficulties its students face, the center provides loans to jumpstart businesses. Those who receive help are better able to provide for themselves by becoming entrepreneurs and selling their own, handmade products. With their businesses, beneficiaries of the center are more capable of acquiring their own income and successfully support themselves.
  2. PSRD Hospital: In an effort to make health care more accessible for the specially abled, PSRD’s 100-bed orthopedic hospital is one of the largest in Pakistan. It provides specialized services for the needs of those facing physical barriers. The hospital does not refuse any patients and patients receive services at low or no cost depending on their situation.
  3. Orthotic and Prosthetic Center: With limited access to affordable resources, many physically challenged individuals are unable to obtain prosthetics and artificial limbs that ease their day-to-day lives and open up more employment options. PSRD creates customized prosthetics and approximately 3,900 patients have benefited from the center.
  4. PSRD High School: Education plays a large part in the road to employment and a successful future. By focusing on youth who are specially-abled, PSRD hopes to ignite the talent of all students so that they can lead better lives. The school also serves the needs of each of its students by providing therapy programs and making classes accessible for the most underprivileged children. The high school’s ultimate goal is to release the potential in each student and better “integrate” students into society.

People with physical disabilities are far more likely to face poverty than their non-physically disabled counterparts. With health care disabilities, limited employment options and lower high education rates, poverty may be inevitable for many specially-abled individuals. Organizations such as PSRD in Pakistan are working to empower differently-abled persons and provide them with the resources needed to persevere through their challenges and reach their goals. PSRD works to dismantle poverty amongst the specially-abled in Pakistan.

– Mariam Kazmi
Photo: Unsplash

primary microcephalyCouples and women commonly come to pray for fertility at the shrine of Shah Daula in Gujarat, Pakistan. According to certain beliefs, women who conceive after praying at the shrine donate their firstborn child to the shrine to prevent disabilities from appearing in the rest of their children. These children, dubbed the “rat children of Shah Daula,” largely suffer from primary microcephaly, a medical condition where the head’s circumference is smaller than average and the brain is smaller on average as well.

Many of these children beg around the shrine and surrounding cities. Theories in the past as to how these individuals came to be range from artificially-done microcephaly to genetics. Regardless, history and current issues of exploitation of the children and adults in the shrine of Shah Daula remain. Furthermore, addressing the cycle of poverty for these individuals stands as a critical priority.

Artificial or Genetic

One of the main conversations surrounding the “rat children” consists of the nature of primary microcephaly. The belief of artificially inflicting individuals with primary microcephaly has its roots in certain religious traditions connected to the Shah Daula shrine. The process involves putting an iron ring around a child’s head to restrict the growth of the head and brain, shaping their features to resemble rats. This typically forces these children to have to beg for a living.

Genetics also cause the deformities. Medline states that in Northern Pakistan, which has one of the highest rates recorded, primary microcephaly affects one in 10,000 newborns.  The high prevalence correlates to higher rates of intrafamilial marriages, which results in higher rates of genetic disorders.

However, despite debates on the causes, individuals born with primary microcephaly suffer a neurodevelopmental disorder. They bear the medical symptoms for the rest of their lives. Individuals with primary microcephaly typically experience the following in varying degrees: delayed speech and language skills along with delayed motor skills. It is these qualities that make the children and adults suffering from this neurological disorder vulnerable to exploitation. Many of the children and adults of the shrine of Shah Daula do not have anyone to depend upon and are largely left to beg on the streets for money.

Struggling with Exploitation

Origins of the condition aside, many people with primary microcephaly remain in poverty due to exploitation. In an academic study from the Quaid-e-Azam University of Pakistan, one interviewee describes how villagers in certain areas took advantage of disabled individuals for financial gain. “Villagers take these kids from their parents by giving them money and make them bareheaded.” The money the children receive from begging would then go into the villagers’ hands.

Many aspects of the mistreatment surrounding microcephalic children and adults remain illegal under the Pakistan Penal Code. Section 328 in the Pakistan Penal Code relates to the “[e]xposure and abandonment of a child under 12 years by a parent or person having care of it.” This means that mothers, fathers or guardians cannot leave a child anywhere with the intention to abandon the child.

Sections 332 and 335 make disfigurement, whether temporary or permanent, punishable by law. Section 374 separately states, “Whoever unlawfully compels any person to labor against the will of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment [or fines or both].” Nearly every aspect surrounding the treatment of microcephalic individuals in Pakistan can be considered illegal.

Offering Solutions

While there has not been major change concerning the treatment of microcephalic children and adults in Pakistan, new laws supporting the exploited and abandoned are a step in the right direction. In 2016, the parliament of Pakistan passed the Unattended Orphans (Rehabilitation and Welfare) Act, with the aim of “protecting the rights of unattended orphan and abandoned children” as well as “ensuring provision of facilities to them, including housing, education and healthcare.”

The Act also necessitates that the government “take other measures as may be necessary for their rehabilitation and welfare.” Importantly, the Act declares that anyone “who forces any unattended orphan to beg and commit petty crime or pick rags or any act which is injurious to health and dignity of an orphan will be punished with imprisonment of not less than four years, which may be extended to seven years and a fine of up to Rs200,000.”

Medical care for these individuals and providing for their basic needs so that they are not left vulnerable could improve fundamental conditions. The Technology Times suggests an increase in genetic counseling to address the role that genetics and “consanguineous” marriages play in the high rates of primary microcephaly in Pakistan.

An increased focus on helping those afflicted would benefit many in Pakistan. To lead to a point of positive change, the Pakistani government can evaluate from joint medical and policy standpoints to better help some of those most in need.

Grace Ingles
Photo: Unsplash

Impact of Poverty on Coping with Jacobabad’s Heatwave
The city of Jacobabad in Pakistan is currently experiencing a heatwave that is “hotter than the human body can handle,” per Ben Farmer in The Telegraph on June 28, 2021. The temperatures can reach up to 52 degrees Celsius, or nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit. When measured using “wet bulb” techniques, which measure not just heat but humidity, Jacobabad is one of only two places in the world that has crossed a point where humans cannot sweat enough to cool themselves down. Put another way, Jacobabad’s heatwave is something that the human body literally cannot withstand.

Many residents of the city cannot afford air conditioning, and some must venture outside, despite the dangers, because their jobs demand it. Even those who can afford air conditioning are in danger due to frequent power cuts. This means that the impact of poverty on coping with Jacobabad’s heatwave can be life-threatening; the hospitals in the city can fill up with heat-stroke victims during the summer. “People are aware that the heat is getting up and up, but they are poor people. They can’t go anywhere, they can’t leave their places,” Zahid Hussain, a market trader, stated.

New Ways of Keeping Cool

Because of how expensive energy is for many residents, people are finding new ways of keeping cool. For example, roadside stalls sell ice in “10p chunks.” The chunks have been mass-produced in factories across Pakistan; for years as the heat in Jacobabad has continued to rise, so too does the need to escape it. Many markets also sell hand fans, which are far cheaper to produce and buy compared to electric fans.

Hospitals and Energy Access – Solutions

USAID has been active in the city for years, building the Jacobabad Institute of Medical Sciences (JIMS) to provide better medical care. Due to a large number of heatstroke victims, new hospital beds serve as essential assets to the city. The USAID effort also seeks to update infrastructure, building and repairing many health care facilities.

Many organizations are working to combat energy poverty. For example, Sustainable Energy for All (SEForAll) is an organization that works with the United Nations, as well as private companies, to spread energy access to poorer countries. Initiatives address the impact of increasing heat and its possible deadly effects, with SEForAll publishing a story on the Pakistani city of Karachi, which faced similar problems to Jacobabad earlier in 2021. Jacobabad’s heatwave was not a specific focus of the organization; however, by campaigning and advocating for causes similar to it, and trying to bring energy access to cities like it, SEForAll is improving the possibility that Jacobabad’s problems may receive attention.

A New Focus

At the same time, Ben Farmer, when contacted, said there was, to his knowledge, no NGO activity in the city specifically to combat the impact of poverty on coping with Jacobabad’s heatwave. Despite the ingenuity shown by the city’s residents in keeping cool, the problem would still be able to greatly reduce due to foreign aid.

The lack of meaningful aid suggests an unnecessary vacuum in Jacobabad that organizations can fill. While NGO efforts are meaningful, it is key to note that the city’s efforts prioritize citizens and their health. As Jacobabad faces its heat-related challenges head-on, efforts to help must prioritize the people to build on current work toward a safer future.

– Augustus Bambridge-Sutton
Photo: Flickr

crowdfunding is reducing povertyIn 1997, modern-day crowdfunding gained global traction as British rock band Marillion funded their U.S. tour entirely through fan donations. Since then, crowdfunding has transformed into a global market. It is capable of financing aid projects, resource distribution and business ventures. Thus, crowdfunding is reducing poverty in developing countries, as proven around the world.

What is Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is a fundraising method performed on the internet. Investors contribute small amounts of capital to finance an idea or aid individuals. Using social media networks, crowdfunding works to draw people’s attention to situations of need. Moreover, it creates an opportunity within which anyone with money can invest.

Crowdfunding is typically performed through loans and donations. The loan system helps businesses that are developing a product or resolving a conflict. In this regard, crowdfunding is reducing poverty by giving investors an incentive to have a stake in a business’s success. Additionally, donations are a way for individuals to raise money after being impacted by natural disasters or medical expenses. In both ways, crowdfunding improves fundraising accessibility on a global scale.

Crowdfunding’s Growing Popularity

Crowdfunding became a popular option for entrepreneurs at the turn of the 21st century. Sites such as Kickstarter and GoFundMe have expanded globally. Revenue increased “from $530 million in 2009 to $1.5 billion in 2011,” contributing to economic growth. Not only does crowdfunding allow individuals to invest in campaigns directly but it also brings attention to causes around the world as a catalyst for poverty reduction.

Market Potential

According to the World Bank, crowdfunding’s popularity is spreading from developed to developing countries. In order to boost profitability, global poverty reduction legislation has created an opportunity for crowdfunding to thrive. Due to advancements in income equality and job growth, there are up to 344 million households that can contribute small investments to crowdfunding platforms. This means that by 2025, nearly $96 billion can be raised just through crowdfunding alone.

Thus, crowdfunding is reducing poverty through its ability to connect people around the world. When observing diaspora remittances, education and housing funding, crowdfunding has the potential to increase capital by 25% more in developing countries. As such, in emerging economies that struggle to provide adequate healthcare, crowdfunding can alleviate some of that pressure.

Crowdfunding and Health

A 2018 study by the British Medical Journal studied poverty in India. The Journal found that 38 million people went into poverty as a result of self-financing healthcare bills. The second wave of COVID-19 hit India hard, and as such, many citizens relied on crowdfunding instead of insurance coverage. Through crowdfunding, nearly $1.6 billion was raised from more than 2.7 million donors. Thus, while developed countries have adopted crowdfunding as a method to support innovative business ideas, the developing world is seeing money channeled into small projects or helping others afford medical bills.

Leading by Example

As crowdfunding has gained popularity, several platforms are working to help those in need. Kiva is a loan-based platform that started in 2005. This website allows people to crowdfund loans that support more than 1.7 billion people who are unable to access essential financial services. Kiva’s work spans 77 countries, funding female-led businesses, youth education and medical expenses. In total, Kiva has supported $1.63 billion worth of loans.

A forerunner for crowdfunding sites in India, Milaap, offers investors the opportunity to contribute donations for causes they are passionate about without incurring any fees. Started in 2010, Milaap’s team has been a pioneer in providing funding to rural areas and small businesses. Now, crowdfunding is reducing poverty in healthcare, making Milaap the go-to platform to raise money for treatments and operations.

Similarly, Transparent Hands is the largest crowdfunding platform in Pakistan, which also assists the health sector. Those who are in extreme poverty can rely on donations made by people around the world to help cover the costs of surgery.

Overall, crowdfunding is an emerging resource that is positively affecting the scope of global poverty. Its potential to provide funding to low-income groups is an important step toward solving inequality.

– Nicole Yaroslavsky
Photo: Flickr

Pakistan’s vaccination campaignOn July 17, 2021, COVAX gave 1.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Islamabad, Pakistan. These doses are an addition to five million COVID-19 vaccines already delivered to Pakistan by COVAX. By July 17, 2021, Pakistan had fully vaccinated 4.5 million people and partially vaccinated 18 million people. The new batch of vaccines will assist the government of Pakistan’s vaccination campaign, which started in February 2021.

The COVAX Initiative

COVAX, an international coalition led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO, CEPI and UNICEF, aims to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. These organizations have teamed up with manufacturers to secure COVID-19 vaccine doses as well as manage the “freight, logistics and storage” of the vaccines.

Through COVAX, vaccines will be delivered to “92 low- and lower-middle-income countries” as well as “more than 97 upper-middle-income and high-income nations.” With these vaccine equity efforts, COVAX aids more than 80% of the global population. So far, COVAX has assisted Pakistan’s vaccination campaign by supplying 2.4 million doses of AstraZeneca, roughly 100,000 doses of Pfizer and 2.5 million Moderna vaccines to Pakistan.

COVID-19 in Pakistan

Pakistan was seeing slow economic improvement prior to the pandemic with yearly per capita growth averaging just 2%. Since the onset of COVID-19, Pakistan has now surpassed one million COVID-19 cases with more than 24,000 deaths. Furthermore, COVID-19’s impacts have left about 50% of the working class jobless and many of those who retained employment saw their income decrease. Informal and lower-skilled employees were the most impacted by unemployment. Like many countries, poverty has risen in Pakistan, with more than two million people pushed under the international poverty line in 2020. According to the World Bank, poverty incidence increased from 4.4% to 5.4% in the 2020 fiscal year.

Pakistan’s Vaccination Campaign

In the months following the lift of lockdowns in May 2020, Pakistan’s economy had been slowly recovering as the industry and service sectors became more active and production increased. Pakistan’s vaccination campaign is essential to stop the spread of COVID-19 and continue economic progress.

The World Health Organization’s Pakistan representative, Dr. Palitha Mahipala, praised the country’s vaccination campaign. She described the reach of the vaccination effort as a “remarkable achievement.” According to Dr. Mahipala, Pakistan distributes COVID-19 vaccines equitably, reaching citizens in even the most remote areas of Pakistan. Another UNICEF Pakistan representative, Aida Girma, says that the latest delivery of 1.2 million doses comes at a “critical time” as the Pakistani government aims to significantly boost its vaccination campaign to reach a greater portion of the population.

Looking to the Future

According to the World Bank, “the global economy is expected to expand 4% in 2021, assuming an initial COVID-19 vaccine rollout becomes widespread throughout the year.” Furthermore, according to the World Economic Forum, equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines means “10 major economies could be $466 billion better off by 2025.” These projections show that COVID-19 vaccination campaigns support economic recovery, nationally and internationally. With further support, there is hope for the full vaccination of Pakistan’s population in the near future, which will help boost the country’s recovering economy, contributing to overall global economic recovery.

Gene Kang
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

female labor in PakistanThe Karachi branch of Caritas Pakistan works to provide technical assistance and job training to the women of small Pakistani farms in several villages as part of its Acre for Women campaign. The campaign’s goal is to leverage the untapped potential of female labor in Pakistan. Providing training and opportunities to women will expand food security among the country’s vast population of subsistence farmers by encouraging self-sufficient practices with the resources on hand, ranging from basic water efficiency to crop rotation.

A Nascent Workforce

Amir Robin, an Acre for Women regional coordinator, explained both the long- and short-term benefits of training the women of several independent farms that range as small as a single acre. In an interview with UCA News, he states that aside from increasing food security, such training helps household farms minimize the cost of adapting to changing environmental conditions.

Female participation in the Pakistani labor force runs as low as 25%, according to World Bank estimates. The government aims to increase the amount to 45% by 2025. Accelerating Pakistan’s economic growth by boosting female labor involves eliminating the reasons for female labor’s systemic underuse.

Educational Disparities

First, women face limited access to formal education or vocational training. Girls make up about 53% of children that do not attend school in Pakistan, therefore, girls benefit the most from development programs. Such programs include those sponsored by the Engro Foundation, the “social investment arm” of Engro Corporation, a conglomerate company headquartered in Karachi, Pakistan. By sponsoring new government schools and refurbishing old ones with computer labs, Engro aims to increase the literacy rate among girls.

In light of COVID-19’s effect on unemployment rates, expanding educational opportunities remains the primary short-term focus of increasing female participation in the labor force. Engro’s programs are demonstrating fast results. More than 19,000 self-employed women are improving their livelihoods through vocational training in “animal husbandry practices, entrepreneurship in milk collection and livestock extension services in the dairy value chain.” Additionally, a surge of technologically literate women helps overcome difficulties in the job market due to greater access to advanced occupations.

Farm Income Depends on Women

Pakistan’s largest source of potential growth lies in its agricultural sector. Around 64% of Pakistanis live in rural areas and mostly work in agriculture. A large portion of the national economy depends on the output of family farms. There are two significant reasons why discounting women as a source of skilled labor in farm management is becoming an increasingly untenable prospect.

  1. Subsisting on relatively small parcels of land leaves farmers vulnerable to fluctuations in output. Because population growth and regular divisions of hereditary ownership make land parcels ever smaller, families that make do with smaller farms do not have the luxury of maintaining inefficient practices when handling their crops or their labor pool. A report by Victoria University says Pakistan’s high concentration of household farms means greater efficiency can be achieved, in this case, by including female labor. This translates into direct income boosts for families along with greater business activity thanks to new surpluses.
  2. Running a successful farm with little land is already dependent on women. Despite lacking gainful employment, women are informal participants in the Pakistani economy through unpaid domestic work. Victoria University’s study correlates a lack of job training and reduced output from inefficient practices, meaning that a lack of trained women is a bottleneck stifling household income growth.

Individual Growth for Women

Households stand to benefit from elevating women in the agricultural labor pool. Furthermore, developing female labor in Pakistan by addressing women’s exclusion in skilled practice will reverse the economic misfortune that prior restrictions have inflicted on women.

Because most women tie their fortunes as self-employed laborers to those of their families, increasing farm income is an effective way to enrich farming women’s income. Growth for Rural Enhancement and Sustainable Progress (GRASP) is yet another initiative operating in Pakistan working to achieve this goal. Its primary objective, according to coverage by Intracen (International Trade Centre), is training women to care for livestock and teaching them how to trade their produce. Rather than simply teaching women how to produce more, job training affords them additional autonomy by empowering them to take on a managerial role in the distribution process.

Economic Empowerment for Women

Sharmeela Rassool, a Pakistani country representative to the United Nations, emphasizes the importance of individual autonomy when it comes to increasing the participation rate of female labor in Pakistan. “For many women, entrepreneurship offers a path to economic empowerment,” she wrote in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. More and more women are using their educational attainment to run businesses outside the agricultural sector.

While COVID-19 has slowed economic growth across Pakistan, it has also exposed systemic inequality, raising an opportunity to put women in a starring role for economic recovery. The gradually decreasing gender wage gap indicates that the current trend of a diversifying workforce has yet to reach its ceiling. Overall, women’s inclusivity in Pakistan has the potential to create widespread benefits for Pakistan, helping the nation to rise out of poverty.

Samuel Katz
Photo: Flickr