Causes of Poverty in St. Vincent and the GrenadinesSaint Vincent and the Grenadines is a small island nation in the Caribbean that has faced a number of challenges in the past decade. The nation has a population growth rate of negative 0.31 percent and approximately 15 percent of the total population was unemployed in 2008. There are several causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, but most are related to its failing economy and poor education system.

The failure of the banana industry around 2008 pushed much of the population into unemployment or poverty, and the sudden rise of the construction industry has created an income gap. There were very low wages across the country and few job opportunities, leading to a poverty rate of 30.2 percent. The nation needs to focus on better integration into the global economy and on creating a more competitive national economy.

Low education levels has also been one of the larger causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. While there are programs in place, such as the School Meals and Textbooks program, to help low income families educate their children, many poor children still do not attend school everyday. Literacy rates were at 84 percent in 2008, but younger generations did have higher levels than older generations.

Gender inequality with relation to access to education is another of the causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In 2008, it was reported that nearly 50 percent of women had their first pregnancy between the ages of fifteen and nineteen. It was also noted that the labor market was inherently biased and women needed much higher levels of education to be able to compete with men. Households with a female head tended to be much poorer, and there was no formal legislation to deal with gender discrimination in the workplace.

Strides have been made, however, toward reducing poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In terms of the economy, tourism has become a larger sector and has created more jobs. With increased tourism has come increased construction, and that has also created the need for more labor. In terms of education, in 2000 the government set a number of goals that were to be achieved by 2015. These goals focused on providing good quality and compulsory primary education to all children, but particularly girls and ethnic minorities, and improving literacy rates and access to higher education for both boys and girls.

While there is not a lot of recent data about poverty in the nation, these goals are quite progressive and have shown solid attempts to reduce the causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. With continued effort from the government, the small island nation should be able to develop further and improve the quality of life for its citizens.

Liyanga De Silva

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesThe island nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, often known as just Saint Vincent, has made an active effort to alleviate human rights infringements. However, residents are still subject to infractions of their basic rights. Women and children often bear the brunt of these infractions, but the government is working toward passing legislation to help the nation sustain its “free” status given by the Freedom House.

2015 in particular was a year of major violations in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The country’s political election elicited many peaceful protests that were met with brute force by the police. Media outlets reported that adversaries of certain politicians were harassed and physically abused. Some were even subject to misdemeanor charges or property confiscation. Once the election was finished, these rough and unreasonable acts by the police diminished.

Human rights in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines have been upheld as far as laws against sexual assault. According to precedent, the government has followed through on reports of rape, with a starting punishment of at least 10 years. Furthermore, spousal rape has been condemned and is considered an illegal act.  Unfortunately, some victims are paid off by perpetrators for not reporting the violations, thus hindering justice.

Sexual harassment, domestic violence and human trafficking are three major issues in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Both sexual harassment and domestic violence have yet to be criminalized by the government, and prostitution of girls under the age of 18 is rampant. Many young girls are forced into pursuing sexual relationships with tourists or older men by their mothers in order to make a contribution to the family income. After government effort, the nation was able to go from tier three to tier two on the Watch List for Human Trafficking.

Lastly, child labor is also a primary concern for residents of Saint Vincent. Children under the age of 18 have no legal restriction on the number of hours that they can work while enrolled in school. Furthermore, there are no restrictions about workplace environment and safety.

While Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are clearly in need of major overhauls regarding human rights, the government is indeed taking action. However, quicker and more severe punishments for violations of rights are necessary in order to make living conditions better for the nation’s inhabitants.

Tanvi Wattal
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesSaint Vincent and the Grenadines is a nation in the Caribbean. Most are unaware that while the population teeters just over 100,000, the country includes 32 different islands. It is also home to an active volcano and some of the most fertile soil in the world. Interestingly, the hugely successful Pirates of the Caribbean films were filmed in Saint Vincent. While these facts are worth knowing, this article highlights some data to which there is a much greater reason to pay attention. Hunger in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a daunting issue.

Near the turn of the millenium, hunger in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines sat at 22 percent of the population. This means that nearly a quarter of the nation lacked sufficient nutrition.

However, as mentioned above, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines enjoys some of the most fertile soil on the planet. Livestock production also accounts for a significant percentage of the nation’s GDP. With such agricultural proficiency, the existence of dire levels of hunger becomes even more shocking and intolerable.

Due to the severity of hunger in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the problem could no longer go ignored. Under Prime Minister Sir James Fitz-Allen Mitchell, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines agreed to and adopted the goals of the World Food Summit in 1996. Other Caribbean countries, Barbados and Guyana, also embraced the proposed targets.

In addition to the goals and plan of action set out during the World Food Summit, as part of the Millennium Development Goals of 2000, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines incorporated further hunger-reduction goals.

In adopting both agreements, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines pledged to work to halve the percentage of its population suffering from hunger by 2015.

By 2012, undernourishment in the country was less than four percent. The targets of both the World Food Summit and the Millennium Development Goals were reached early.

Achievements such as these inspire efforts across the globe and demonstrate that whatever the magnitude of a hunger crisis may be, when tackled head-on, startling progress is possible.

In fact, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is not ending its mission to combat hunger just yet. In July of this year, it launched its bi-partisan Parliamentary Front Against Hunger and Undernourishment.

The Front comes as the country works alongside The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) toward achieving the goal of eliminating all hunger in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The United Nation’s FAO launched the Zero Hunger Challenge in 2012, laying the framework to meet the goal.

Cornell Holland

Photo: Flickr