Morocco's EconomyPreviously, a myriad of tourists had visited Morocco to explore its diverse culture, food, landscapes, history and people. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation has faced a devastating economic crisis. Without its regular influx of tourists or traveling diaspora, Morocco is in the depths of a recession for the first time since 1995. The government is working to ensure that Morocco’s economy can recover from the pandemic.

5 Ways Morocco’s Economy is Recovering

  1. The Mohammed VI Investment Fund: In November 2020, King Mohammed VI established a $1.6 billion economic plan to revive Morocco’s economy due to the economic crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic brought on. Shortly afterward, the International Finance Corporation, as part of the World Bank Group, officially announced its support for the Moroccan Ministry of Economy and Finance’s efforts to boost the country’s economy.
  2. Moroccan Transportation Companies Decrease Prices: In June 2021, King Mohammed VI announced that all transportation companies must make tickets more affordable for Moroccans living abroad. The announcement targeted airlines such as Royal Air Maroc, which dropped flight ticket prices by more than 50% globally. Within a few days of the announcement, flights were being booked much faster than before. During the first week of discounted airline ticket prices, 195,547 people traveled to Morocco.
  3. Other Discounts for Tourists: Airline discounts are not the only thing Morocco’s economy is relying on to attract travelers. All forms of transportation in Morocco, from car rentals to train and bus tickets, have decreased in price. Additionally, 30% of hotel prices have decreased.
  4. More Visitors: International travel restrictions drastically affected tourism, causing a 78% deficit in the sector’s revenue in the first quarter of 2021. In response, the Moroccan government established a new economic plan that specifically targeted revenue from tourism. Now, tourism is surging more than it ever has since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, 12 million tourists visited Morocco, half of whom were Moroccans living abroad. From June to September 2021, Morocco will see 72% of the visitors it saw in the same period in 2019, or around 3.5 million travelers.
  5. Rapid Tourism Sector Rebound: Morocco’s tourism sector suffered a loss of $7.2 billion in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic hit small businesses and tourism hotspots hard, especially during national lockdowns. However, these businesses are benefiting from the country’s new economic plan. Travel reopenings are also catalyzing Morocco’s economic recovery.

Laudable Economic Growth

Despite the effects of COVID-19 on Morocco’s economy, the World Bank ranked it 53rd out of 190 countries for ease of doing business in 2020, reflecting its laudable economic achievements within merely a decade. With King Mohammed VI’s plan in place, the country’s setbacks hardly seem significant. The restoration of Morocco’s economy is underway and the country’s effervescent tourism sector is back on the rise.

– Nora Zaim-Sassi
Photo: Flickr

The North-South Expressway
Vietnam has experienced incredible economic growth since its reforms in 1986. Over three decades, these new economic policies have resulted in an explosion of economic activity and a slash in the rate of poverty. However, Vietnam’s transportation infrastructure is woefully behind many other developed economies. The government responded to this need by creating a nationwide connectivity project, the North-South Expressway.

The Infrastructure Issue

Vietnam has inadequate transportation networks and requires development and investment. Empirically, Vietnam’s 2020 target goal of $27 billion for public investment, mainly dedicated to transportation infrastructure, shows this. The country’s transportation needs have steadily risen since the economic reforms. Road usage in Vietnam has been on an incline with congested streets and car accidents constituting Vietnam’s hidden epidemic. However, transportation investments have lagged behind. An increase in funding is necessary for the country to reap the benefits of efficient transportation.

The North-South Expressway

The North-South Expressway is the solution to this transportation problem. The $17.9 billion project looks to connect all of Vietnam from Lang Son to Ca Mau. The road system will be an expanse of 1,811 kilometers with a toll collection system and a smart traffic system. Travel to important tourism sites, economic zones and other transportation areas will now be feasible with the new expressway. This high-speed travel throughout diverse geographical regions will revitalize the country’s transportation infrastructure. For the first time in Vietnam’s history, the country will be well connected.

Unfortunately, the central government has run into issues with financing the project. Originally, the government split the project into 11 sub-projects, with five being a public-private partnership (PPP). However, only three of the five received financial backing; the remaining two had no investor bids. The government then changed the two unfunded projects to public projects. However, the government’s ability to finance the project on its own is uncertain. The much-needed outside investments have proven hard to obtain. The project itself is attractive but legal ambiguity within the country causes caution and concern in investors. As such, Vietnam’s government has been spurred into implementing new legislation.

Public-Private Partnership Law

The Public-Private Partnership Law (PPPL) aims to fix the legal barriers preventing the execution of The North-South Expressway. The PPPL will be in effect as of January 2021. The law will clarify the process of investing in Vietnam by creating standard form contracts and government guarantees of project fulfillment. The law will also enforce proper foreign currency payment from foreign investors and the use of a risk-sharing mechanism. Essentially, the PPPL elevates and integrates the previously passed laws, decrees and circulars that regulated PPPs into one authoritative law. It will make private and foreign investment in government-sponsored infrastructure projects simpler, less risky and more appealing.

The Light at the End of the Road

Improving transportation networks will have a profound impact on Vietnam. It will increase economic activity through improved connections between consumers and producers and decrease transportation costs. The World Economic Forum estimates a 5% to 25% economic return on every dollar that goes toward infrastructure, such as transportation. More succinctly, developed roads lubricate the flow of goods and people across regions, which increases economic activity.

Additionally, developing transportation networks directly affects society’s most impoverished members. Areas with little economic opportunity would become connected to vital economic centers. As a result, connectivity to social services, such as health care and education, would increase along with economic and social mobility. The economic rewards are well worth the financial investment into transportation infrastructure. The North-South Expressway — with the help of the PPPL — indicates significant poverty reduction for Vietnam in the near future.

Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Flickr

Women-Only Ride Service
In South Africa, many stories have emerged from women experiencing sexual assault while being in a taxi. Reports determined that there were more than 53,000 sexual assaults in March 2020, though the number might be far higher according to women’s rights groups. Luckily, Bolt has launched a women-only ride service to provide women safe transit in South Africa.

Women-Only Ride Service

With technology constantly progressing, safer transportation for women has become very vital. As recently as January 2021, Bolt has launched a women-only ride service. This service allows women passengers to request female drivers only; this also prohibits male drivers from viewing this request. This is possible through the registration process for drivers with Bolt; verifying if they are female or male, and their identity, makes it possible that only female drivers can access the Bolt Women Only category.

In November 2020, Bolt’s women-only ride service entered a pilot phase in East London and Rustenburg. Made possible through Bolt’s partnership with national safety platform Namola, an app-integrated SOS emergency button protects drivers and passengers. The functions this button offers enables the passengers and drivers to private armed response teams, private emergency medical services and roadside assistance if they are involved in any medical or security emergency while on a Bolt ride.

Bolt App

Bolt is a transportation app that women can use to request affordable and fast conveyance. Reviews for the app are mostly positive, and the new service is now available in various locations, such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth, Mthatha, Polokwane, Thohoyandou, Mbombela and Emalahleni.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Bolt had taken into consideration the dwindling economic activity and rising poverty. To benefit those with low income, bolt introduced a new low-cost category called “Bolt Go” for its South African customers. The new affordable service trialed successfully in the Eastern Cape cities of East London and Port Elizabeth. In South Africa, the 35 cities and towns where Bolt is active started utilizing the service.

Increased Safety for Women

The woman-only ride service was a long time coming, but highly necessary. Just like anywhere else, women are in danger of being targets for assault or harassment, including in transit environments. This new service emerged out of a series of complaints and petitions from users who have experienced sexual harassment from male drivers. Both women and e-hailing drivers have the right to feel safe and protected while driving around and working. In sub-Saharan Africa, unsuitable transportation—”transport poverty”—inordinately impacts women and young girls due to abuse and sexual assault.

Less than 5% of female drivers using Bolt are women. In fact, around 64% of women have mentioned “security” as the reason that they are not lining up to be e-hailing drivers. The woman-only ride service will exclusively be available during 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., though the small number of female drivers might impact the waiting time for potential passengers. Even though the lack of female drivers might bring a setback, the woman-only ride service is much more beneficial if it comes out sooner rather than later.

Thomas Williams
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

How Investing in Transportation Can Aid India’s Poor India is home to several incredibly populous cities. It has the second-largest population in the world, and roughly 34% live in urban areas. Furthermore, about 17% of its population lives in the slums surrounding major urban areas. These cities rely on the labor from the working poor living on the outskirts, and for many of the workers commuting into the city, transportation can be a challenge. In fact, many impoverished workers’ only option is to commute on foot.

There is a lack of reliable transportation in India. This causes a variety of problems such as health risks, time consumption and is not viable for many who are disabled.

Commuting to India’s Populous Cities

India’s large cities are filled with clustered streets and congested traffic. Still, about 37% of the urban population commutes by foot every day. For those who cannot afford a car, or another form of transportation, finding work can be a challenge. In this sense, the city is not inclusive to disadvantaged groups as they cannot feasibly get around for work or any other reason. This type of system makes it increasingly difficult for the poor to make their way out of poverty as constantly commuting by foot limits opportunities as well as causes problems.

Additionally, in most areas throughout the cities, there are no clear lanes for those not using motor vehicles. For transportation in India, all modes of travel share lanes which causes great disorder and danger for commuters on foot.

Poverty and Transportation

Roughly one-quarter of India’s urban population lives below the poverty line. These are the people who are in need of new ways to commute around the city. Several Indian cities have tried to implement a metro or rail system to alleviate traffic issues in their main corridors. However, this solution still does not reach those in need because oftentimes the route does not include the more impoverished areas, and further, the rates are too expensive for most to afford.

However, this is not always the case. The Delhi Metro is the country’s largest metro system and has also been the most successful, carrying around 2.8 million people every day. The Indian government has also been working to revamp the bus system, looking to add up to 504km of new lines for the new Rapid Bus Transit System between 2009 and the now. This process has been greatly aided by allowing private companies to have access to these routes in exchange for providing the resources necessary for this huge project. It is estimated that this initiative will increase ridership from 120 million to 150 million per day.

These changes to transportation in India will be crucial in reaching lower-income areas so that they may commute more easily to work. Transporting people from the outskirts of the city into the center gives them better access to sanitation, healthcare, food and work. There is much potential in a project like this to integrate as many people as possible into the flourishing of a city. Currently, those without reliable transportation are excluded from many of the necessities for rising out of poverty. Hopefully, with these new projects, that can change.

Jackson Bramhall
Photo: Flickr

Disability and Poverty in Argentina. Little girl with long brown hair and wearing an orange sweater.
Argentina has taken steps to address employment discrimination, access to transportation and access to quality education for people with disabilities, factors that have historically contributed to a correlation between disability and poverty in Argentina.

According to estimates based on census data from 2010, around 5 million Argentines have a disability and the unemployment rate for people with disabilities in Argentina stood at 91% in 2004. Additionally, the United Nations has reported that youth with disabilities are far more likely to fall at or below the poverty line in comparison to those who do not have disabilities. However, recent action from the government is beginning to address the link between disability and poverty in Argentina.

Addressing Employment Discrimination 

In Argentina, people have often seen those with disabilities as “objects of charity” rather than productive members of society entitled to the same opportunities and responsibilities as anyone else. These views have inhibited disabled people’s ability to acquire employment and earn living wages for their work. A shift away from this perception of people with disabilities began during the 1970s and in 1981, the Argentine government agreed to approve an employment quota requiring that disabled people hold 4% of federal government jobs. Additionally, in 1988, the legislature passed an anti-discrimination law to help protect disabled Argentines from discriminatory practices. However, due to a lack of enforcement and regulation of such laws, the correlation between disability and poverty in Argentina has persisted for decades.

A significant step toward helping disabled Argentines obtain equal employment has come with Argentina’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2008. The convention has since received constitutional status in the country.

This treaty makes Argentina accountable for upholding its commitment to fully including people with disabilities in all areas of society. As such, in 2011, a National Disability Observatory emerged to supervise the implementation of the convention. It involves various working groups consisting of people with disabilities and public officials to monitor different areas of public policy including access to employment.

Since the adoption of the CRPD, Argentina has allocated over 724 million Argentine pesos toward helping promote the employment of people with disabilities. These programs have ranged from vocational training to the implementation of supported employment programs across government agencies to help reach the 4% job quota in public employment in 2017.

Addressing Access to Transportation

Although access to public transportation remains a significant barrier to employment for many disabled Argentines, some have taken measures to make public transportation physically and economically accessible to those with disabilities. Reports have determined that almost all buses in the capital city of Buenos Aires have a manual ramp at the rear door.

The subway station that people know as the subte has automated ramps and street elevators that often lead directly to the boarding platform. Additionally, plans have emerged to increase the number of stations with braille signage and tactile markers. These features have enabled many Argentines to travel freely and independently from their homes to workplaces.

As disability and poverty in Argentina so often interweave, the government has allowed disabled Argentines to ride all public transportation free of charge with the use of disability certificates. In some cases travel may even be free for a traveling companion depending on the disability. These certificates are available following a certification process that is voluntary and of no cost to the disabled person or their family.

Addressing Access to Education 

The United Nations has stated that as countries work to reduce poverty, they must ensure that all youth receive the same opportunities to contribute to society, and that increasing access to inclusive education is instrumental in bridging this gap as inequities in education negatively impact employment options for individuals with disabilities. While Argentina guarantees access to education for children with disabilities, these children often meet with discriminatory practices in schools and are subject to a lower quality of education, further compounding the effects of disability and poverty in the country.

As of 2016, the Ministry of Education in Argentina organized 35 events and workshops focused on drafting inclusive education guidelines and providing training to teachers. These programs have reached an estimated 45,250 people consisting of teaching staff and the general public. The Ministry has also prepared materials to increase awareness of inclusive education practices, including guidelines for providing accommodations and support to students.

The Argentine government has begun overseeing the implementation of inclusive education policies in all the nation’s provinces with a toll-free national hotline to record and track instances of discrimination in educational settings. Furthermore, with the support of the World Bank, planning and development are underway for inclusive education projects for schools in rural areas of the country where a lack of basic resources and services exacerbates disability and poverty in Argentina.

– Emely Recinos
Photo: Flickr

Tourism, the advantages, disadvantages and how to improve the practice
Around the world, 44 countries rely on tourism for at least 15% of their workforce and national GDP. Many of these countries are island nations or countries that don’t have a highly developed economy or business sector. As the United Nation’s agency, the World Tourism Organization, states, increased tourism can boost developing countries’ local economies, cultural discussion and job opportunities. However, if developing nations solely depend on the tourism sector and dismiss infrastructure development and other essential services, the disadvantages of tourism can outweigh the advantages.

The Advantages

For developing countries, the advantages of tourism tend to be primarily monetary. A large scale tourism industry prevents larger, more harmful businesses from working off the land. Small tourist companies that reign on the land stops large capitalistic corporations from polluting the air or gentrifying people’s homes.

The tourism industry encompasses many different travel areas, which allows the majority of a country’s population to be employed. These employment places include hotels, car rental agencies, restaurants, tour companies, souvenir shops, and equipment shops, among others.

Profit earned from tourism can be reinvested into the country for better infrastructure, education, funding conservation efforts and creating more responsible ways of touring. Without tourism, many countries would not have the same level of access to education and infrastructure. Moreover, tourism allows hosts and visitors to share cultures and meet diverse groups of people. Through respectful interactions, a broader view of the world from both parties can be achieved. By reinvesting the money earned back into the country, tourism and its attractions can grow, creating a positive cycle for the country.

The Disadvantages

With the way the tourism industry is currently run, the disadvantages of tourism may greatly outweigh the advantages in a country. The first factor to take into consideration is environmental damage. When a country has a high tourist attraction, the number of people occupying a space increases immensely. As a result, the release of carbon monoxide gases can increase due to plane and car use affecting the country’s environment. Many countries with ancient ruins or natural attractions are also in danger of destruction or erosion with significant foot traffic and human interaction. Additionally, flora and fauna can decrease in areas or change their growth and migration patterns when there is an overflow of humans interact. Foot traffic and continuous touching can also slowly degrade the stability of ancient structures.

One of the advantages breached upon the sharing of cultures. While this is a great interaction of beliefs and customs, it can become destructive to a host country’s culture. One of the ways cultures can be disrespected is through the commercialization of countries’ cultures. When tourism booms, large industries swoop in and sell figures of the cultures’ icons or traditional wear, disrespecting the countries’ indigenous beliefs and can be harmful to the people living there. Moreover, poor behavior from tourists who don’t respect the spoken or unspoken codes of conduct held by indigenous peoples also undermines the sacred beliefs held within the country.

Also, for many countries, tourism is a seasonal occurrence. For people that work in the tourism industry, their jobs are only viable for a certain number of months, and after the season has ended, many are left without income. Many of these jobs also lack the benefits that other sector jobs supply. Tourism workers are often left without insurance or pension. Not to mention, foreign businesses tend to overtake the companies present in these countries, forcing small businesses to shut down. As a result, foreign businesses keep the majority of profits from tourism, while local businesses lose their income. This hurts small businesses and local economies.

As previously stated, the profit gained from tourism is often reinvested into the industry. However, with unequal infrastructure development, the tourism industry can inadvertently sustain itself without aiding a country’s other vital sectors. As such, many countries end up developing tourism hot spots while the rest of the country suffers. In these countries, there are visible socioeconomic gaps between the wealthy and the poor. Focusing mainly on the tourism industry and places of mass attraction leaves disadvantaged communities at risk of financial instability. Moreover, countries solely invested in tourism are vulnerable to quick economic falls as its working sectors are unevenly balanced. If a natural disaster, political unrest or unprecedented pandemic were to strike, the country would lose a massive income, causing an economic recession that some countries may significantly struggle to bounce back from.

Ways to Respectfully Travel

The most important step to being a respectful tourist is to be an educated tourist. Understanding and respecting the culture and the people of the country is vital. By not undermining tourism countries’ culture and beliefs, the people living there will be more welcoming to tourists, and cultures can flourish without fear of commercialization.

Being environmentally conscious is also important to the survival of these countries. Respecting a country’s land and structures preserve the countries’ beauty and keep the land clean and prepped for further development. Many countries are more environmentally strained, so reducing pollution or your carbon footprint in a foreign country can help ease the strain.

Supporting the small and local businesses found in these countries can help keep local communities employed and support the overall economy.  As local businesses grow, more people will have the opportunity to be employed outside of the tourism sector, and the economy will be able to grow within itself.

By learning the advantages and disadvantages of tourism, and how one can improve the practice of traveling, the tourism industry will be able to change for the better and support the countries that host people from all over the world.

– Marlee Ingram
Photo: Flickr

Ride-Sharing Apps
The inability to access or drive a car can be a critical reason why many individuals remain in poverty. The costs of gas, insurance, monthly installments and upkeep can be too high even for individuals who live in rural areas, where cars are a necessity. Lacking a reliable means of independent transportation can prove to be a barrier to potential employment. Many tout transit systems as a significant source of assistance for low-income individuals; however, this system is not accessible for those in rural areas. Ride-sharing apps provide considerable potential for resolving this issue and ultimately improving the lives of thousands.

Saving Gas Money

The costs of commuting can make specific job opportunities prohibitive for low-income people. However, with the global rise of carpool services like UberPOOL and LyftLine, individuals who usually would not be able to afford a long commute may be able to do so. A ride shared with four people can prove significantly cheaper than a tank of gas.

Reducing Pollution and Natural Disasters

Car emissions are not the most significant contributor to pollution. However, carbon dioxide and other noxious chemical emissions created by cars still produce a considerable dent. A study by MIT concluded that ride-sharing could reduce the number of vehicles on the road by at least 33%.

In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, ride-sharing apps could also help reduce the severity of impacts following weather-related disasters. Bangladesh and Pakistan, for instance, are currently dealing with unprecedented flooding. Many low-income individuals in these countries do not have the funds to relocate or repair their homes. Ride-sharing could have the ripple effect of mitigating natural disasters by aiding in this process, which could ultimately become pivotal for communities living in poverty.

Commuting Without Car Payments

Based on global averages, car payments cost the equivalent of $300-$500, except for in countries where luxury cars are standard. Additionally, factors like loan size and credit requirements can make car investments unattainable for many individuals. However, one ride using a ride-sharing app costs less than a gas tank. The amount of money saved by avoiding individual car payments can be incredibly beneficial by enabling individuals to allocate more funds to their family’s needs including food, housing and education.

Providing Opportunities for Employment

For car owners, providing shared rides can function as a source of income. While Uber and Lyft have several limiting requirements, many other popular ride-sharing apps worldwide have less restrictive rules. Such services include Gett, Bolt, Cabify and Didi. The ability to attain full-time work with only a small initial cost may be inaccessible for people living in severe poverty. Still, it could become a useful means of bridging the income gap for individuals who can afford a car payment.

A Work in Progress

Ride-sharing apps must apply to users requesting similar routes to function correctly. Apps are regularly updated to allow inquiries to reach specific vehicles, ultimately facilitating an efficient process. Continuous algorithm improvement means that there is potential for ride-sharing apps to extend their influence outside of major cities and into the rural areas where low-income individuals need them the most. Additionally, ride-sharing apps currently depend on driver input; with self-driving cars on the horizon, it may soon become possible for the impoverished in rural areas to have greater access to transportation through ride-sharing apps.

Ride-sharing apps are also struggling with a lack of regulations and safety measures for drivers and passengers. However, further rules and restrictions are gradually being implemented to handle these issues.

Ride-sharing has the fantastic potential to provide people across the globe with the myriad benefits of transportation. For low-income individuals struggling to reach their destinations through predetermined public transit routes, ride-sharing offers a feasible and relatively affordable alternative. Additionally, the implementation of vetting processes will mitigate many safety issues currently present in the industry. Ride-sharing has already proven to improve the convenience of life for many, but this system has the power to leave an incredibly positive impact on low-income individuals.

– Hannah Bratton
Photo: Flickr

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Akola_women_in_Uganda.jpgDiva Taxi, an all-female transportation company, recently launched in Uganda. As Uganda’s female-run rideshare, it is distinct because of its strict rule of hiring only female drivers. Diva Taxi hopes to alleviate the demand for taxis in the Ugandan capital city, Kampala while providing women with a safe method of transportation. While the company expects to thrive in the rapidly developing capital, Diva Taxi also hopes to expand to other regions in Uganda. Its emphasis on female entrepreneurship, strict screening and affordability will positively affect the transportation sector in the Ugandan economy. Moreover, it will employ women struggling financially. Here are 5 ways in which Diva Taxi will positively influence Ugandan women.

5 Benefits of Diva Taxi: Uganda’s Female-Run Rideshare

  1. Hiring Women. Diva Taxi focuses on hiring women, a demographic typically overlooked on other driving applications. Gillian Kobusingye, one of the managing partners of Diva Taxi, observes that other companies are male-dominated. She estimates that men make up 80% of transportation companies in Uganda. Because of this, companies are less likely to hire women drivers, favoring the status quo. This gender disparity is not restricted to the transportation sector alone: 14.4% of working-age Ugandan women are unemployed. This, compared with 6.2% of men. Diva Taxi eliminates this selection bias as Uganda’s female-run rideshare.
  2. Affordability. Becoming an employee of Diva Taxi is completely affordable. For women struggling financially, the need to purchase technology or equipment often restricts access to desperately-needed jobs. Like Uber and Bolt, Diva Taxi is an application, which means office registration and other bureaucratic red tape is avoidable when joining. Employees only need a functioning car to join the team. Diva Taxi drivers note how the company’s flexibility provided them the opportunity to quickly make money for their families. This is critical during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. Since the onset of the pandemic, jobs shrank in Uganda, enhancing the significance of jobs that remain open to female employees.
  3. Employee Safety. The application prioritizes safety for its employees. New hires are taught basic self-defense skills to guard themselves against potentially dangerous clients. One precautionary measure for drivers includes “Panic Alerts,” a protective in-app function that safeguards employees from potential thieves. Additionally, employees and customers receive a unique registration number when they create their profile. This enables their tracking if things go awry. Lastly, customers must book rides two hours in advance so no relative trip requests can occur that may endanger the driver.
  4. Client Safety. Diva Taxi offers a safe ride home for girls and women. Despite newly-passed laws and policies to protect victims and survivors of abuse, violence against women increased by 4% in Uganda. According to the Uganda Police Force’s annual report, as of 2016 — 22% of Ugandan women between the ages of 15–49 experienced some form of sexual violence. This percentage is equivalent to more than 1 million Ugandans. A safe, female-run company like Diva Taxi is an essential form of transportation for women. This group is among the vulnerable in the bustling streets of Kampala, especially at night.
  5. COVID-19 Precautions. Diva Taxi takes the necessary precautions against COVID-19. All drivers must clean their cars routinely, as well as wear a mask to maintain the safety of the customer and themselves. As of August 2020, Uganda has 2,362 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which means these precautions are still necessary.

By Women, For Women

Diva Taxi was created by women, is run by women and protects women. Although Diva Taxi was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic (an uncertain era for transportation companies) it is a positive influence on female Ugandans which will hopefully keep it afloat.

Faven Woldetatyos
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

female education In India
Around the world, school years often begin with back-to-school shopping. Students buy new notebooks and fresh pencils, but what about motor scooters? New scooters just might be on the shopping list in India. In Assam, a state in northeastern India, the government has started a new program to incentivize female education. This program provides scooters to school-age girls, promoting female education in India through safer transportation.

Female Education and Literacy in India

In recent years, rates of female education in India have increased. More than 10% of young women from 11-14 did not attend school in 2006. However, this number dropped to 4.1% by 2018. However, the dropout rate for women remains unusually high. Save the Children, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting for children’s needs, found that around 70% of girls in India will drop out of school. Higher dropout rates among young women cause disproportionate literacy rates. Approximately 65% of Indian women are literate in contrast to 82% of men. The gap in literacy rates is even higher in rural areas than in urban areas. As of 2011, around 50% of females in rural areas are educated compared to 74.1% of men. In urban areas, 88.3% of men are literate in comparison to 76.9% of females.

The Culprit: Unsafe Transportation

A former sarpanch (elected head of a village government in India), Savita Parmar, told the Times of India that the reason for this distinction might be a lack of access to secondary schools in rural areas. In particular, a lack of safe transportation might caution parents against sending their daughters to study far away from home. One of the most significant barriers to education that women face is hassle-free transport to school. The Thomson Reuters Foundation conducted a poll to determine the worst countries for women to use public transport in 2014. India ranked quite high as the fourth most unsafe country.

Scooters to Keep Girls in School

Assam’s new policy aims to mitigate this problem and increase rates of female education in India. Education Minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya explained to the Thomson Reuters Foundation that “this will help many girl students to have hassle-free transportation to their respective colleges.” For girls that score the highest on their final exams, the government will reward them with a brand new scooter. The top 22,000 female students that score 60% or higher will be rewarded sometime in mid-October 2020.

Everyone Benefits from Female Education

The lack of safe transport options for women in India highlights the importance of Assam’s new policy. By providing scooters, not only is the government incentivizing girls to stay in school and rewarding them for academic achievement, but it is also providing a way for girls to continue their secondary education. By fighting for female education in India, Assam is working towards creating a better society for girls and women in India. Better-educated women are able to make more informed choices and earn higher levels of income, and they are equipped with better family planning skills, all of which can elevate their respective households and communities. Higher literacy rates can also boost the economy. According to Bloomberg, higher rates of female literacy can “yield a growth premium in GDP.”

There are still barriers preventing universal female education in India. However, with innovative solutions like Assam’s, India has the potential to empower its young women and ensure their equal access to education. A new scooter today could mean better literacy rates tomorrow.

Anushka Somani
Photo: Flickr

SDG 11 in Luxembourg
Luxembourg is a small European country sandwiched between Belgium, France and Germany. Around 630,000 people live in the nation, which has a landmass smaller than the U.S. state of Rhode Island. As a member of the United Nations, Luxembourg is subject to an annual Sustainable Development Report. The report encompasses goals ranging from zero hunger to gender equality. Sustainable Cities and Communities is number 11 on the list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 11 is an attempt to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” Rent overburden in Luxembourg contributes to the significant challenges the nation faces, but progress toward achieving SDG 11 is moderately improving. Here are four updates on SDG 11 in Luxembourg.

4 Updates on SDG 11 in Luxembourg

  1. Air Quality: Luxembourg’s annual mean concentration of particulate matter is fewer than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5). This is a measurement of the level of air pollution that can afflict humans with “severe health damage” and respiratory issues. Luxembourg’s level of PM2.5 is declining at a much better rate than in previous years but is still a fair distance from the UN’s long-term goal. While Luxembourg has better air quality than Belgium, France and Germany, it is still behind other European nations like Ireland, Portugal, Spain and most of Scandinavia.
  2. Improved Water Source Access: Between 99-100% of the urban population of Luxembourg has access to improved drinking water in their homes. This is the standard for industrialized nations, although some E.U. members like Italy, Serbia and Ireland have lower SDG ratings than Luxembourg.
  3. Satisfaction with Public Transport: A remarkably high percentage of Luxembourgers have satisfaction with their local public transportation systems. The SDG goal is to have 82.6% of the population satisfied, and Luxembourg is extremely close with nearly 79% of the population reporting satisfaction. In Europe, only Switzerland eclipses Luxembourg in this category. As of March 1, 2020, Luxembourg offers entirely free public transportation across the country. The government can absorb costs related to free public transportation due to the exponential economic growth the country continues to enjoy (although COVID-19 may put a damper on this growth). No-cost public transport in Luxembourg is a major reason why its citizens have the seventh-highest level of satisfaction with public transportation in the world.
  4. Population with Rent Overburden: Significant challenges remain for alleviating rent overburden in Luxembourg. Almost 17% of the population lives “in households where the total housing costs represent more than 40% of disposable income.” The UN goal is 4.6% of the population. Luxembourg is not close to achieving this SDG and unfortunately, the percentage is rising. The Luxembourg Times attributes this to high demand for housing coupled with a low supply. The newspaper also cites “the astronomical price of land.” Another prominent newspaper laments that “buying a home is out of the question for many [Luxembourgers]” and says young people often must live abroad or with their parents if they want to avoid ridiculously high rent prices. Some residents even resort to scouring legal code in the hopes of finding obscure laws that will reduce their rent. Rent overburden in Luxembourg is the most significant challenge to creating sustainable cities and communities.

Looking Forward

While rent overburden in Luxembourg is a significant roadblock for achieving SDG 11 in Luxembourg, free public transportation is a critical building block for sustainable cities and communities. Workers commuting to Luxembourg from abroad (it is just a 30-minute drive from Luxembourg City to Germany, France or Belgium) contribute to air pollution, but air quality is improving, albeit slowly. One can partially link this to more Luxembourgers opting for public transportation as opposed to their personal vehicles.

NGOs like the Luxembourg Anti-Poverty Network are working to reduce rent overburden, although a more concerted effort in conjunction with the government is necessary. Though challenges remain for Luxembourg to develop sustainable cities and communities, steps like providing country-wide free public transportation are positive signs that Luxembourgers have committed themselves to the achievement of SDG 11.

– Spencer Jacobs
Photo: Wikipedia Commons