Gender Poverty in Japan
Despite its economically advanced status, Japanese society continues to struggle with lessening the gender gap for women. Gender poverty in Japan has become a major concern. Experts predict poverty rates for elderly women will double or triple in the next 40 years. Governmental leadership is well aware of the need to enact policies to address issues of poverty. However, it has been slow to implement changes.

5 Facts About Gender Poverty in Japan

  1. High Employment Rates, Low Wages: Overall, female employment has risen to 71% in recent years. However, Japanese mothers work in part-time jobs that cap out at relatively low salaries compared to full-time careers. Japanese women in the workforce also earn nearly 30% less than men.
  2. Higher Expectations of Unpaid Work: On average, women in Japan participate in 224 minutes of unpaid work per day while their male counterparts only participate in 41 minutes. This amount of unpaid work time for men is the lowest among countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).
  3. Child Custody Falls on Women: In cases of divorce, many primarily expect women to take custody of their children. Taking a break from the workforce or maintaining long-term, low-paying part-time work makes it difficult for women in Japan to access higher-paying jobs in addition to providing childcare that Japanese people typically do not expect of men.
  4. High Rates of Poverty for Single-Parent Families: The rate of poverty for single-parent families is an alarming 56% which is the highest among OECD countries. COVID-19 has presented additional challenges as a majority of job cuts in the early stages of the pandemic were part-time jobs predominantly employing women, including single mothers.
  5. Lack of Access to Leadership Positions: Women hold only 15% of senior and leadership positions in Japan, of which their salaries are half of those of their male counterparts. Additionally, Japan has a mere 10% female representation in its parliament. The country also has not had a female head of state for 50 years.

Addressing Gender Poverty in Japan

The government under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attempted to address gender poverty in Japan under an economic plan called Womenomics. During his tenure, overall employment rates for women rose. Additionally, Abe enacted a plan to increase female leadership positions to 30% by 2020. Abe did not achieve this goal but it is still in place under new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Abe also enacted generous maternity and paternity leave reforms along with access to free early education and childcare for toddlers. Only 6% of Japanese men take advantage of paternity leave, citing workplace stigma for not doing so. Before leaving office due to health reasons, Abe enacted a wide-ranging five-year plan. He implemented this plan to address gender inequality and it has continued under his successor.

In recent years, there have been some important victories for women’s rights in Japan. In addition, there are new social movements related to the #MeToo movement. Journalist Ito Shiori won a landmark rape case against a television reporter with close ties to Abe, bringing more attention to gender-based violence and discrimination in the country.

The Japanese #MeToo movement gained more traction in 2019 when actress Yumi Ishikawa took to social media to question why her part-time job at a funeral home required her to wear high heels. This set off the #KuToo social movement which is a play on words for “shoes” and “pain” in Japanese. Although the movement has experienced some backlash from men and women in Japan, it raises important societal questions about rigid gender norms in the country and has broadened public debate about gender inequality.

Conclusion

Some are implementing efforts to address gender poverty in Japan. It is a positive sign that significantly higher numbers of women are now experiencing representation in the workforce. Moreover, a public discussion is occurring to challenge traditional gender roles and expectations.

– Matthew Brown
Photo: Flickr

Way to Support Albania
Since the beginning of COVID-19, the unemployment rate in Albania increased from 12.33% to 12.81%. As thousands of Albanian people have entered poverty, UNICEF Albania and other humanitarian organizations are leading the way to support Albania during these trying times.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Albania started its COVID-19 response on March 9, 2020, by helping the Regional Local Democracy Programme (ReLOaD). The ReLOaD program helps update projects that deliver hygiene packages to vulnerable households. It also supports Albanian farmers with seeds and Albanian children with online learning materials. Support has reached 11 areas from Tirana to Lezhë, Albania. The UNDP even created an International Romani Day campaign where approximately 1,150 Albanian households received food and hygiene packages in April 2020.

UNICEF Albania

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Albania works to protect child rights with government and organization partners. Through programs supporting social and child protection, education and early childhood development, UNICEF Albania has three priorities: respecting child rights while implementing social inclusion through maintaining family access to the Albanian justice system, reforming the social care system and keeping children in school with NGO support.

In April 2020 and amid the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF Albania supported a child protection organization statement about how thousands of children can receive protection from violence. This can occur through phone helplines, temporary shelters and professional workforces in Albania. In response to the call to action, child protection helplines underwent initiation in June 2020 through UNICEF and The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (CPIHA) support.

Educational Support in Albania

World Vision Albania and Kosovo Education and Youth Technical Advisor Brisida Jahaj told The Borgen Project that, “There was a huge challenge with families in poorer households.” This is because the families do not have the IT equipment or the internet for children to continue their education in Albania. The Ministry of Education in Albania found that 10,000 children lost educational resources over COVID-19.

Regarding education, UNICEF Albania has partnered and supported the Akademi.al online learning platform since 2019. Plans intend to implement it online and on television for all students by 2021. Funding from UNICEF and support from the Ministry of Education in Albania gave Akademi.al the opportunity to put approximately 1,100 lessons online for students taking Matura exams in Albania. Jahaj describes the platform as a “backup plan that if we go into the third level scenario,” wherein Albanian schools shut down in 2021.

In August 2020, UNICEF Albania worked to combat poverty due to COVID-19 by initiating its first Albanian cash transfer program to approximately 1,700 vulnerable families in Shkodër, Korçë and Durrës, Albania.

UNICEF Albania and the World Health Organization (WHO) also established an online training program to teach professionals about Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) and how to implement support to vulnerable populations during emergencies from May to July 2020. The eight module training course helps professionals master how to support mental health and psychosocial issues during emergencies. Approximately 230 frontline professionals obtained certification by September 2020.

Red Cross and World Vision

Albania experienced a series of earthquakes on November 26, 2019, which impacted approximately 200,000 Albanians. The Albania Red Cross responded to the earthquakes by sending 160 volunteers and providing 4,500 shelter relief packages to families who lost homes. The Albanian Red Cross received a 2020 Coca-Cola Company $100,000 grant in the wake of the pandemic to give community food aid and medical equipment to Albanian hospitals.

The Qatar Red Crescent Society partnered with the Albanian Red Cross to provide food package relief to 700 vulnerable families as a way to support Albania. Following the initial response, the Albanian Red Cross collaborated with Better Shelter. A total of 52 Better Shelters underwent construction in Durrës, Krujë, Laç, Shijak and Tirana, Albania, while home reconstruction continues through 2021.

World Vision Albania also helped with the earthquake response in Durrës, Lezhë, Kamëz and Kurbin, Albania by giving food and hygiene aid to 1,019 families and materials to help 27 families with home reconstruction. Jahaj told The Borgen Project that food and hygiene aid will continue in 2021 as World Vision and other humanitarian organizations including Save the Children and UNICEF provide “a lot of the masks and hand sanitizers for the schools” in Albania.

Where is Albania Now?

As of 2021, several humanitarian organizations are working to protect children and vulnerable individuals from the impact of the Albanian earthquakes and COVID-19 on the ground and online. Jahaj explained how World Vision Albania utilizes the Building Secure Livelihoods economic development program to help alleviate poverty while helping parents provide for their children from 2019 until 2023.

On all fronts, UNICEF, World Vision, Save the Children and the Albanian Red Cross responded to Albanian communities. By providing everything from medical care, earthquake shelter, child protection and online learning directly to families, these organizations have found a way to support Albania. As of January 2021, humanitarian organizations continue to work on home reconstruction, mental health support and flood response. Furthermore, Albania acquired 500,000 COVID-19 vaccines to distribute in 2021.

– Evan Winslow
Photo: Flickr

 Poverty in Scotland
At only 19% or roughly 1 million people, Scotland has the second-lowest rate of poverty in the U.K. with only Northern Ireland beating it. What has kept poverty in Scotland lower than in other parts of the U.K.? Moreover, how can the rest of the U.K. learn from it?

Scotland Compared to the Rest of the UK

Scotland’s poverty rate has decreased from 23% in the 1980s to 18% in the mid to early 2000s. The entire United Kingdom sits at a 22% poverty rate and Wales has a 23% rate, while London has the highest rate of poverty of any area in the U.K. In comparison, Scotland has a poverty rate that is 3% lower. Poverty amongst youth is 6% lower in Scotland in comparison to the rest of the U.K., though poverty in Scotland has increased in youth by 3% in the past five years.

Scotland is lower in poverty in comparison to the rest of the U.K. but it is something that could change rather quickly. In February 2020, Scotland pushed for a new budget plan in order to increase the quality of life. The budget included £1.8 billion to help reduce emissions and push for better eco-friendly travel. The budget also set aside £15 billion for health care services, £117 million for mental health support and £180 million to close the attainment gap in schools.

Poverty Levels and Housing

The U.K. has a private renting sector, a larger sector of housing that is a primary source of housing for lower-income households. This housing is under private ownership and has seen a steady increase in cost since 2002. Private renting allows for the owners of said properties to continuously raise prices, putting a strain on lower-income households.

Scotland has not fallen into this trend, providing more social housing instead. Social housing is a form of housing that the government, state or nonprofits regulate to make sure rates stay at an affordable level and to help keep people off the streets.

Social housing allows lower-income households to maintain their homes, without fearing the strain of rent increases. It also allows people to keep themselves out of poverty while they receive support from the government.

In comparison to the rest of the U.K., more lower-income households in Scotland live in social housing than other parts of the U.K. Unfortunately, 45% of households in Scotland live in unfit dwellings, which could be due to household budget restraints.

Scotland has just passed a plan to ensure that all houses provide safe, warm and accessible places to live. The plan will ensure that all houses, whether rented or not, fit a national standard by 2040. This standard will ensure that regardless of how much the place costs, it will offer the same level of comfort and accessibility as other types of housing.

Unemployment and Wages in Scotland

Unemployment has steadily decreased across Scotland in the past 20 years. Additionally, Scotland has seen fewer layoffs while better work compensation has helped people stayed employed.

The U.K. increased wages by 20p in 2020 to £9.50 across the U.K. Scotland, in partnership with Real Living, is working with Scotland’s top employers, Brewdog, SSE and Standard Life Aberdeen to ensure living wages and benefits are in order and to keep those at risk out of poverty above the poverty line. The year 2020 saw an additional £240 million thanks to the partnership with Living Wages to ensure that those in need continue to get benefits as the COVID-19 outbreak continues.

Scotland, while not perfect, is a good example of ways that one’s government can help people get out and stay out of poverty. This kind of support from the government is not necessarily going to erase poverty, but it is pushing in the right direction.

– Claire Olmstead
Photo: Flickr

human trafficking during COVID-19The United Nations has warned of a recent increase in human trafficking taking place through social media. According to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) perpetrators are approaching victims on social media and messaging platforms. Experts correlate this surge of online human trafficking with the lockdowns governments have implemented to combat COVID-19 that has left millions of people jobless and struggling to survive.

The Human Trafficking Crisis

Human trafficking has long posed a threat to the safety and well-being of the world’s most vulnerable populations. The U.N. has stated that between 2017 and 2018, approximately 75,000 trafficking victims were identified in 110 countries. During this period, 70% of victims were female, 77% of whom were then trafficked for sexual exploitation and 14% for forced labor.

There are several factors that make a person more vulnerable to human trafficking. The most pressing factor, however, is financial struggles or poverty.

Online Human Trafficking and COVID-19

Human trafficking is on the rise as millions are made desperate by the economic consequences of COVID-19. People employed in informal sectors have been particularly impacted by layoffs, while earlier this year migrant workers were left stranded far from home when borders closed and travel bans were implemented. According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic will result in global extreme poverty increasing for the first time in two decades, pushing as many as 150 million people into poverty by 2021.

The impact, however, will be felt the hardest by females. As a result of the pandemic, 47 million more women and girls will be pushed into extreme poverty. Estimates even predict that globally, for every 100 men living in poverty in 2030, there could be as many as 121 women.

Besides  COVID-19’s economic consequences, traffickers have also benefited from the fact that people are spending more time online during lockdowns. While traffickers have usually operated with a great deal of impunity, the internet allows for easier access to vulnerable populations as well as the benefits of anonymity and false identities.

Addressing Human Trafficking During COVID-19

Human trafficking is a global problem but despite the scale of the threat and the advantages that perpetrators have during COVID-19, governments can take action to protect vulnerable groups, especially women and girls.

In an appeal to social media and messaging companies, CEDAW recommended that safety controls be set up to reduce the risk of exposing women and girls to trafficking and sexual exploitation. CEDAW has called upon online platforms to use data, artificial intelligence and analytics to identify possible patterns that could lead to trafficking. It also urges platforms to “put in place the appropriate governance structure and procedures which will allow them to be reactive in their response and provide the relevant level of information to the concerned authorities.”

CEDAW also urged governments to resolve the underlying issues that allow human trafficking to flourish. These issues include sex-based discrimination, economic insecurity, conflict and unsafe conditions for migrants and displaced people.

In addition, the United Nations has urged national governments to ensure that services for trafficking victims and survivors stay open during lockdowns and that the rights of migrant and informal workers are protected by labor laws. Finally, investments in programs for women’s economic empowerment are encouraged as a means of mitigating the disproportionate economic impacts on females. With the appropriate measures in place, human trafficking during COVID-19 can be prevented.

– Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Combat Poverty in RomaniaIn an effort to combat the nation’s longstanding battle with poverty, the Romanian Government passed 47 measures in 2015/16 to combat poverty in Romania through to 2020.

Poverty in Romania

At the time these measures passed into law, 40.2% of Romanian people were at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Furthermore, absolute poverty in Romania increased from 23.4% in 2008 to 27.7% in 2012. Low educational attainment, intergenerational transmission of poverty and lack of inter-regional mobility all contribute to the integral causes of poverty in Romania.

However, the Romanian government set a substantial and significant new precedent on how the nation combats poverty by adopting The National Strategy and Strategic Action Plan on Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction for 2015-2020. These measures hope to reduce the many causes of poverty in Romania.

Key Measures:

  • Increasing employment rate through labor market activation programs
  • Increasing financial support for low-income individuals
  • Improving social inclusion of marginalized communities
  • Improving the functionality of social services
  • Reducing school drop-out rates
  • Scaling-up of national health programs
  • Integrating social assistance benefits with social services, employment services and other public services.

These measures were an encouraging shift in political focus that revolved around social benefits and a more community-based and integrated approach that generated widespread support. The World Bank supports these measures, commenting that these measures will strongly contribute to narrowing poverty gaps in the country.

Impact of Poverty Reduction Strategy

Since the adoption of these measures, monthly income per person increased by 10% between 2016 and 2017 and by 16% between 2017 and 2018, in part due to the increases in public-sector wages and improved minimum wages and tax cuts. As a result, poverty rates fell from 28.4% in 2014 to 15.8% in 2017.

Currently, the employment rate at 68.8% is approaching the EU 2020 target and is just below the EU average of 72.2%. Additionally, the unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the EU at 4.9%.

Implementation Delays Cause Concern

Although clear steps toward improving Romania’s struggle with poverty have emerged, these measures have received criticism as expectations have determined that many measures could have delayed or minimal results. These concerns were further exacerbated in 2017 when a change in government occurred. The political change delayed implementation and altered the original plan, putting full implementation in jeopardy.

In addition, more legislation is necessary to address the growing condition of the Roma minority group residing in Romania. A whole 78% of Roma are at risk of poverty compared to 35% for non-Roma citizens. Furthermore, 84% of Roma households do not have access to a water source, sewage or electricity. To successfully combat poverty in Romania, the Roma need to be prioritized.

Poverty Reduction Progress

While no single piece of legislation will be the end all be all to combat poverty in Romania, the anti-poverty measures passed in 2015/2016 have shown that a top-down, legislation-focused approach to fighting poverty can lead to progress, poverty reduction and improved social inclusion.

– Andrew Eckas
Photo: Flickr

Cuts Increase PovertyIn November of 2019, amid sanctions that resulted in extreme inflation, the three branches of Iran’s government announced a fuel subsidy cut. Officials raised the price of gasoline to 15,000 rials/liter (0.5 $/gallon) for the first 60 liters of gas purchased in a month.  The subsidy cut was intended to generate money for about 18 million low-income families. This increase, however, was unwelcome and resulted in protests and a rise in oil smuggling. Interestingly, Iran’s poorest citizens engaged in these protests. Although the goal of the cuts was to raise money for Iran’s poor, the reform disproportionately hurt Iran’s poorest citizens and statistics suggest the cuts have actually increased poverty.

Case Study: Subsidy Cuts in Tehran

When measuring how drastically the cut affected Iranians at an individual level, it can be useful to evaluate the importance of cars to Iranians. For this, consider Iran’s capital city, Tehran. Iran’s average household had 3.5 members and Tehran’s population was about 8.7 million at the cut’s announcement, indicating there should have been ~2.5 million households in the city of Tehran. Yet the city deals with four million vehicles and 17.4 million trips each day. At first, these numbers may seem unusually high. However, Tehran has many commuters.

Those coming from outside the city rely on cheap gasoline to hold their city-based jobs. It is cheaper to live outside the city, so the average commuter is relatively poor compared to those living within the city. Consequently, the poor are often the most affected by the fuel subsidy cut.

Cuts Increase Poverty

The Iranian government claimed the increased price of gasoline would generate an extra 300 trillion rials per year for around 18 million families— or $395 per family. However, the extra rials that each low-income family receives per year was overshadowed by the high levels of inflation and the increased cost of living. In short, the extra rials received under the cut have not supplemented the more expensive gas.

However, only highlighting the cut’s effect on those living near large cities would ignore one of the subsidy cut’s greatest consequences— cuts increase poverty near Iran’s borders. Higher gas prices had immense implications for provinces that border other countries such as Sistan and Baluchistan. Oil smuggling serves as a reliable source of income for citizens living in border regions; this occupation is especially popular today due to high unemployment rates. Experts have even estimated that oil smuggling in Iran is a multi-billion dollar business. Iranian citizens living in these areas travel to Pakistan to sell their subsidized fuel for a profit. Therefore, these Iranians saw lower profit margins with the arrival of the subsidy cut.

Alternative Strategies to Combat Poverty

Some experts believe that tax incentives or increasing law enforcement would decrease oil smuggling in Iran. Alternatively, a Brookings study on youth unemployment programs suggests that improving education systems could serve as a better long-run solution to poverty.

The success of an education-based initiative would depend on collaboration between education-focused NGOs and the government of Iran. Increasing investments in education are likely to strengthen the economic resilience of border communities. Additionally, it has the potential to generate employment opportunities and to eliminate oil smuggling by creating higher-paying jobs. Improving the quality of jobs will lead to higher wages. In turn, this could prevent people from falling into poverty and remove the financial justification for oil smuggling.

Looking Ahead

With an increasingly strained government budget due to sanctions and coronavirus, it may be a long time before Iran reintroduces the previous fuel subsidy. Partnerships between NGOs and Iran’s government will likely have a larger role in reducing poverty. It will be essential for stakeholders to implement future policies that better protect Iran’s poorest citizens.

Enacting policies where the benefits are not instantaneous is difficult but necessary for Iran. Legislators should aim to develop education and employment prospects despite today’s many economic pressures including sanctions and COVID-19. The development will bolster at-risk communities and provide alternatives to illegal, unsustainable jobs such as oil smuggling.

Eliminating poverty will not happen overnight. Iran’s efforts will require patience and trust. In order to absolve the world of poverty, legislators and NGOs alike must maintain an unwavering commitment.

Alex Berman
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Rwanda
Rwanda, the land of mille collines as the French would say, harbors countless picturesque hills. Unfortunately, the breath-taking landscapes of the Central African country are also witnesses of major crimes against humanity. Human trafficking in Rwanda consists of one of the most disquieting concerns for human dignity.

The Situation

Over the years, there has been substantial economic growth in the landlocked Sub-Saharan country. However, Rwanda has still not ceased to be a destination country for human traffickers taking advantage of high rates of unemployment, homelessness and gender inequalities.

Umutesi is one of the many girls who fell victim to human trafficking in Rwanda. In 2018, an elderly woman approached her and offered a job that seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity. Desperate for a job, she accepted the offer and traffickers sent her to Nairobi, Kenya under strict orders to hide her passport. Instead of the job at a supermarket she expected to find, she found herself in a slave market, called the office, where prospective buyers browsed.

“We were sold off like mere commodities,” is how she described what had happened to her at the office.

She ended up working in heavy labor, experiencing sexual and physical abuse and surviving in inhuman conditions. Additionally, she changed homes three times with each worse than the one before. When she succeeded in reaching a Rwandan diplomat via a phone she kept discretely, she made an escape plan that required patience and incredible endurance.

Finally, with the help of her government, she escaped and was able to fly back to Rwanda. Like many other victims, she also received free access to health care services and a little funding. Now, she manages a local grocery market and always expresses her gratitude for the second chance she got in life.

Unemployment in Rwanda

Umutesi’s story is very common in Rwanda. Men, women and children, especially those who are vulnerable due to unemployment and homelessness, frequently become targets of sexual exploitation and forced labor.

According to the 2020 data, the number of unemployed Rwandans surpassed 900,000 in May 2020. In fact, unemployment numbers were below 550,000 in February 2020. On top of the overall rates, 20.6% of the youth in Rwanda remain unemployed. Needless to say, this situation is likely to only exacerbate human trafficking in Rwanda.

Never Again Rwanda (NAR)

Never Again Rwanda (NAR) emerged in 2002 in Kigali in response to the 1994 Tutsi genocide. The NGO that initially aimed to establish a safe environment for youth expanded its scope to address its current core pillars: peacebuilding, governance & rights, research & advocacy, sustainable livelihood, education and youth engagement. The organization cooperates with USAID, the Global Fund for Children, the E.U. and other counterpart organizations. Recent research that the organization conducted showed that around 77.67% of human trafficking victims in Rwanda are female. Despite employment being higher among women than men in Rwanda, women are still more likely to become targets due to lower rates of education among them and the demand for sexual slavery.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, human trafficking in underdeveloped countries like Rwanda may experience an increase. While many countries are pushing for a digital transformation, human traffickers use aggravated unemployment as an opportunity to pick the most vulnerable. According to the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, the increasing rates of unemployment, malnourishment and school closures will result in increased human trafficking.

Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) conducted the RECOVR Survey in July 2020 to provide data and evidence to decision-makers to reduce the detrimental effects of COVID-19. The survey found that 74% of the households in Rwanda consider themselves at high risk during the pandemic, showing the highest rate among other surveyed Sub-Saharan countries. Additionally, 70% of the agriculture-workers reported suffering from altered harvests and sales.

Human Trafficking in Rwanda increased to 96 cases in 2019, whereas there were reports of only 33 cases in 2018. Considering the aggravated unemployment and declined social standards with the arrival of the pandemic, 2020 likely give way to increased human trafficking in Rwanda.

The Rwandan Government

Though there is light at the end of the tunnel for girls like Umutesi, the Rwandan government has assumed a plan called Vision 2020 to tackle poverty through strategies to boost sustainable economic growth. Additionally, Rwanda aims to boost its knowledge-based economy, investments in the private sector, agriculture and infrastructure development. The Government of Rwanda adopted policies to make labor recruitment companies register for a license from the Ministry of Labour and submit monthly reports. The anti-trafficking law that Rwanda introduced in 2018 penalizes sex and labor trafficking with up to 15 years of imprisonment, although the President of Rwanda is yet to sign the legislation for it to undergo full enactment.

There have been notable constructive developments to combat unemployment and human trafficking in Rwanda, yet scarce resources, lack of testimonies, capacity and cooperation continue to complicate the situation. As such, there are still several commitments that the Rwandan government ought to strengthen to reach the minimum standards in eliminating human trafficking. These include:

  • Participation and communication with international communities to increase awareness campaigns and information sharing.
  • The development of a more centralized systematic screening mechanism to identify victims.
  • The provision of training to anti-trafficking units and divisions.
  • Cooperation with the international community to boost education and employment opportunities.
  • Work to ensure gender equality in access to education.

Currently, Rwanda remains at Tier 2 status according to the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report for 2020. This shows that Rwanda has still not fully complied with the minimum standards to reduce trafficking, though it has implemented positive efforts. Through increased commitment and consistent assistance from the international community, the risks of Rwandan girls like Umutesi should reduce so that they do not become victims of human trafficking in Rwanda.

– Berrak Rasool
Photo: Flickr

The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to nations all over the world, but especially in the global south. India, for example, has an enormous population of 1.3 billion people, with labor forces large enough to create the world’s fifth largest economy. However, as of September 3rd, total confirmed cases across the country had reached 3.85 million, with 67,376 total deaths. As COVID-19 spreads throughout India, it leaves behind long-term effects on issues from medical resources to economic scarcity. 

Income and Unemployment

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic in India, economic disparity existed in many forms. In 2019, the average per capita monthly income was approximately 10,534 Indian Rupees. To put this in perspective, 10,534 Indian Rupees equals $143.42 USD, meaning the annual income of the average Indian citizen was just $1,721.04. Over the past 5 years, India’s unemployment rate has been increasing steadily, but in April 2020, skyrocketed to 23.5%. Factories and construction sites, known for housing and feeding temporary employees, threw their workers onto the streets. 95% percent of employed women worked in informal positions, many let go as households and businesses determined outside workers were too dangerous. As restrictions are slowly lifting across the country, frightened people return to work, since the fear of starvation holds more weight than fear of infection. 

Lack of Medical Resources

For those in need of COVID-19 medical care, options for help are slim. According to reports from the New York Times, public hospitals are so immensely overwhelmed that doctors have to treat patients in the hallways. For those with non-COVID related medical needs, options are almost nonexistent. On March 24th, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that to “save India”, a nationwide lockdown on all nonessential surgeries was necessary. For Ravindra Nath Singh, a 76-year-old man with Parkinson’s, this meant being discharged from the ICU in a hospital in Lucknow, just minutes after becoming stable on a catheter and feeding tube. For a young woman in New Delhi, this meant eight hospitals turning her away while in labor for 15 hours, only to die in the back of an ambulance.

Child Labor and Education

The spread of COVID-19 in India forced schools to shut down, proving unhelpful to their already existing struggle for attendance. According to a study in 2018 by DHL International GmBH, India hosts the highest population of uneducated children with an intimidating 56 million children not in school. As restrictions across the country lift, one of the biggest hurdles will be encouraging enrollment, especially with uncertain learning conditions. Enrollment hesitation enables another widespread issue in India: child labor. Experts claim the biggest spike in child labor is yet to come, as immense economic losses will compel large corporations to seek cheap labor.  

The lack of in-person education has also proven to have a significant impact on child mental health. 12-year-old Ashwini Pawar once dreamt of being a teacher, but now must reconsider her life’s ambition. In an interview with TIME magazine, she considers her family financial burdens, “even when [school] reopens I don’t think I will be able to go back…”. This mentality pushes concerns of economic inequality, as this pandemic might destroy great strides made over the past decade.         

Deaths and Infection Rates

In very little time, India has become the new epicenter of the Coronavirus. The daily number of confirmed cases shot from about 40,000 to 80,000 in just a few weeks. Unlike most of the world, this virus is heavily affecting the workforce demographic. More than 50% of COVID-19 deaths in India have occurred between the ages of 40 – 64, an interesting contrast to developed countries where 70% of deaths have occurred in age groups 70 and older. According to Sanjay Mohanty, a lead scientific author from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, this contrast is due to India’s age distribution. Mohanty states, “the median age in the country is 24 years and therefore more younger people are available for virus transmission…”. Unfortunately, the road to recovery is a long one, as millions of people are still susceptible to infection. 

The Good News

Despite the seemingly daunting situation, there are many reasons to have hope for India. Well-known charities such as Unicef and Give2Asia have focused aid on India, pushing their needs into the limelight. Newly-risen charities are also making impressive strides on the ground. Snehalaya ‘Home of Love’ is a charity based out of Ahmadnagar dedicated to feeding poor families during the pandemic. In Ahmadnagar’s 17 official slums, Snehalaya has fed over 17,000 families and raised over $80,000 of aid in just 6 months.

Hope also goes beyond organized help. As seen in various reports, neighbors are sharing all types of resources, from food to hygiene products. Global pandemic or not, India’s path to healing is futile without charity aid and attention.

—Amanda J Godfrey
Photo: Flickr

How Poverty Affects Everyday Life in MoldovaPoverty in Moldova is a common reality for those that live there. Many have had to leave their family, friends and homes to find a job because it is nearly impossible to find one in Moldova due to high unemployment rates. Now imagine being the ones left behind: the family members and life-long friends who are left in a politically torn country. Since Moldova gained its independence in 1991 it has struggled to fight poverty within its borders, affecting everyday life in Moldova. Moldova’s main causes of poverty are immigration due to high unemployment and governmental strife. These factors especially affect the children of Moldova.

Immigration and High Unemployment

Many of Moldova’s citizens are moving out of the country. There are simply not enough jobs for everyone. Doina Grecu, a woman born in Moldova who moved to the U.S. to further her education, said that her father had to find work abroad for several years when she lived in Moldova. Electricity was not stable and was expensive then, so people would only be able to talk to their loved ones every now and then and waited to hear that they were alright. Grecu also recounted that some people traveled from Moldova all the way across Europe to France. Poverty in Moldova has caused many people to leave their homes.

Governmental Strife

Even though Moldova has strengthened its relationship with the EU, it still struggles with poverty because of its conflicting interests in trade. Half of the country believes that they should exclusively trade with Russian because of their history together, and the other half have seen that Europe has prospered in trade and believe that Moldova should trade with them.

To further complicate things, Russia has been known to retaliate if Moldova trades with other countries. Doina Grecu stated that there were videos of Russians destroying apples from Moldova for this very reason. Moldova has uniquely rich soil that makes it an agricultural economy, so this kind of retribution is extremely harmful to these farmers. And while farming is Moldova’s main source of income, the rural areas have an almost five times higher poverty rate than Moldova’s urban areas.

Moldova’s Impoverished Children

Child poverty is significantly high. UNICEF states, “Children in Moldova remain disproportionately poor.” Some children were sent to orphanages, not because they had no parents, but because their parents were unable to care for them, as recounted by Grecu. Other children had to live with their grandparents, who may be unable to properly care for them, while one or both of their parents went abroad to find a job to send money home.

Poverty in Moldova has improved over the years. The non-governmental organization EcoVillage Farms has come up with a way to help Moldova capitalizes on what makes it special. As mentioned before, Moldova’s fertile soil is definitely an asset to Moldova. As such, the country is making the transition to the “quality over quantity” mindset when it comes to what they eat, states Grecu. Since Moldova is mainly an agricultural country, investing in farmers and small businesses will help boost Moldova’s economy and improve everyday life in Moldova. EcoVillage’s goal is to give these upcoming businesses a place to start. A furnished kitchen space will be available for rent for these business owners to practice their craft. Renters can also pay to use other renters’ equipment so as to build a sense of community and learn from each other. In addition, EcoVillage will provide counseling in finance and the logistics of how to start a business.

This NGO’s dream is still in the works, but they are more than halfway to their fundraising goal. When they are finished, this opportunity for small food businesses in the country with help reduce poverty in Moldova by building its economy on its biggest asset: a quality grounds for agriculture.

—Moriah Thomas
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous Poverty in Canada
Statistics dating back to 2011 indicate that Canada ranked 21st out of 27 Organisations for Economic Co-operation and Development in terms of the level of poverty. In fact, one in seven people or 4.9 million total live in poverty in Canada. Out of those estimated 5 million people, 1.34 million children are in poverty. The indigenous population of Canada has a prevalent poverty rate with one in four aboriginals, Métis and Inuit living in poverty. Of these, four in 10 of Canada’s indigenous children live in poverty making indigenous poverty in Canada a serious issue.

The Situation

Many Native Americans within Canada’s borders are trying to maintain their customs, traditions and lifestyle, but they frequently have limited access to resources. In total, around 1 million indigenous people, Inuit and Métis live in Canada.

In 2016, the chief for the Attawapiskat First Nation, on James Bay in Ontario, Canada, sounded the alarm about a spike in suicide attempts in the indigenous community. Over 116 people attempted suicide within 12 months and this does not account for unreported attempts. A report from Health Canada stated that suicide is the number one cause of death for indigenous young people and adults up to 44.

Indigenous groups in Canada frequently face poorer health, lower education levels, housing that lacks quality and crowded living conditions. Additionally, lower levels of income, high rates of unemployment, strong levels of incarceration and high death rates among the youth due to accidents and high rates of suicide are issues as well.

Reducing Unemployment Among Indigenous People in Canada

Currently, in 2020, the Canadian employment rate is at 59% and its unemployment rate is at 9%. Canada’s government grants the opportunity for indigenous people to find employment through one of its webpages. All they have to do is declare themselves an indigenous person when they apply to receive various public service-wide job opportunities and jobs from specific departments. The Indigenous Student Employment Opportunity program is open year-round to indigenous students and can help support and train them as they garner employment.

Providing Employment Through Natural Resources

Canada has a wide range of natural resources including lumber, uranium, lead, zinc, oil and diamonds. Luckily, Canada gives aboriginal people constitutional rights and all the agreements on their lands must be fair to them and provide jobs.

Diavik, Canada’s largest diamond mine, initiated mining endeavors northeast of Yellowknife in 1999. Diavik aims to aid local indigenous people by providing them with employment, scholarships, training and business opportunities. As of 2013, it provided employment to 171 aboriginal people in the area. Diavik also promised to return the mine areas back to the lake and improve the habitat for fish at the end of the contract.

If more companies include indigenous people in their businesses and policies, there will be a chance for Native Americans to increase their economic status and reduce indigenous poverty in Canada. There is still a long road to equity in Canada, but there are signs of improvement based on some economic successes for aboriginal peoples. Hopefully, with continued aid, indigenous poverty in Canada will become nonexistent.

– Elhadj Oumar Tall
Photo: Flickr