Information and stories about United Nations.

Flooding in AfghanistanAfter suffering through an extreme drought for months, Afghanistan now faces a new crisis: severe flash floods. As many as 112,000 people have been affected by the flooding in Afghanistan and entire homes or villages have been swept away. In light of both droughts and conflict, the U.N. has estimated that 6.3 million people will need humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan in 2019. The country has faced extreme adversity and is in desperate need of crucial and life-saving aid.

Drought and Flooding

The extreme drought the country has been facing has made it more difficult for the soil to absorb water, which makes flooding more likely. The El Niño weather phenomenon is also largely responsible for the extreme amounts of rainfall experienced by Afghanistan. Some forecasters have predicted that due to this chaotic weather pattern, rainfall could increase by 40 to 50 percent through May. These chaotic changes in weather have had disastrous effects on Afghanistan and its neighbors. Although the rain has stopped, many in Afghanistan fear that even worse flooding is yet to come. The region is often hit by flash floods due to its rocky terrain, but many claim this is the worst flooding the country has seen in years.

Humanitarian Aid

The International Federation of the Red Cross requested an emergency appeal of 7 million Swiss francs, which they mean to use to support up to 650,000 people affected by the flooding in Afghanistan who need immediate relief. The IFRC wants to use this money to support the Afghan Red Crescent Society, in providing shelter, health care, water and sanitation to those affected by both extreme drought and flooding. Recently, USAID with support of the Department of Defense airlifted over 200 metric tons of relief items regions in Afghanistan. The U.S. also announced that they would be providing an additional $61 million in aid relief funds to provide food assistance, hygiene and safe water.

World Disaster Report

Every year the IFRC conducts a World Disaster Report in order to provide more insight into the causes and effects of disaster situations. The IFRC, in partnership with ARC, launched a campaign last year to research natural disasters in Afghanistan. The report’s findings found that not enough money was being invested in risk prevention and a majority of financial aid was being spent after disasters rather than before. It concluded that building resilience and preparedness within communities before disaster strikes is one of the most important factors in reducing the effects of natural disasters.

Extreme drought and severe flooding in Afghanistan have left its people in a state of emergency. The flooding has also begun to hit Afghanistan’s neighbors, Iran and Pakistan, and is causing the same kind of destruction and displacement. Thousands have been displaced and even more are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. Both U.N. organizations and IFRC are providing crucial aid to combat the aftermath of the flooding in Afghanistan.

– Olivia Halliburton
Photo: Flickr

Facts About DesertificationDesertification has become a growing problem that the world faces today. It occurs on almost every continents. Millions of people are affected by this issue. The following will discuss facts about desertification, including the issues and the impact on people and their health.

What is desertification?

Desertification can be defined as the degradation of land in areas that experience arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid climates. It is when fertile land becomes dry and unusable. Desertification is caused by a variety of human factors. These factors include unsustainable farming, clearing of forestation and trees, overgrazing and mining.

10 Facts About Desertification

  1. There are a variety of factors that cause the issue of desertification. Causes of desertification range from the removal of trees and plants to intensive farming that depletes the fertile soil. Other causes can be as simple as animals eating away all of the grass in the arid or drylands. Besides human activity, extreme weather such as droughts and excessive heat can attribute to the cause of desertification.
  2. United Nations predicts that within the next 10 years, 50 million people in the drylands will be displaced due to desertification. Drylands are areas that have a scarcity of water due to climate. Specifically, thousands of Sub-Saharan and South Asian peoples will be forced to migrate due to the impacts of desertification.
  3. Approximately 2 billion people rely on and live in dryland area climates. Ninety percent of those people are from developing countries. A developing country is a country that is not as industrialized as other developed countries. The FLEUVE Project aims to increase investments in local communities throughout areas impacted by drought and land degradation caused by desertification. The organization is financed by the European Commission and implemented under the Great Green Wall Initiative. The FLEUVE Project plans to create green jobs (jobs regarding the restoration of land). Since the launch of The Great Green Wall Initiative, twenty thousand jobs have been created in Nigeria.
  4. Overpopulation in drylands can also impact the soil of the area. For instance, the pressure of overpopulation can deplete the fertile soil and cause desertification. When soil becomes depleted and unusable for farming, mass migration to urban areas increase. Therefore, this results in overpopulating urban areas.
  5. According to the United Nations (another resource for facts about desertification), the rate of dryland desertification is approximately 30 to 35 percent higher than the historical rates. In 1991, land degradation was approximately 15 percent. This increased again in 2008 to 24 percent. Today, the rate of degradation is equivalent to the loss of 12 million hectares of land per year.
  6. Due to the depleted soil that is an impact of desertification, those living in affected areas are susceptible to malnutrition. Since the soil is no longer fertile, food insecurity subsequently rises. Those who relied on farming as a source of food can no longer continue to farm in those areas.
  7. Poor nutrition and a lack of clean water are one of the many issues of desertification. Moreover, these particular issues can lead to other health problems. The risk of water- and food-borne diseases, as well as respiratory diseases, increase in areas affected by desertification. Again, as people migrate to urban areas, diseases will spread rapidly throughout the population as they travel.
  8. Desertification does not just affect drylands. Areas that are several miles away from these arid areas can also be impacted by the issues of desertification. Impacts can range, from flooding to dust storms, in several non-dryland areas.
  9. Land and water management are methods used to prevent or lessen the impact of desertification. Water management can include saving water, harvesting water from rainfall, reusing water and the desalination of water. Desalination of water removes any saline from the water that is collected. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification has been a sole international leader in the implementation of initiatives to aid those impacted by desertification. Additionally, it leads restoration projects for degraded land.
  10. The final of these ten facts about desertification is about The Great Green Wall Initiative. The Initiative was launched by the African Union in 2007. The goal of The Great Green Wall Initiative is to restore degraded land and transform the lives of those that are living in the conditions caused by desertification. The Initiative plans to revitalize 100 million hectares of degraded land. By doing so, 10 million jobs will be created, and 250 million tons of carbon will be created. Since the launch Nigeria has restored five million hectares of land, Sudan restored 2,000 hectares and Senegal planted 11.4 million trees. The organization has five main objectives:
    • grow fertile land,
    • increase economic opportunities (particularly for the youngest population),
    • support the growth of food security,
    • grow climate resilience and
    • “grow a wonder of the world spanning 8000 km across Africa”.

The Impact of Desertification

Overall, as the rate of desertification increases, thousands of people are impacted every day. These facts about desertification clearly show how desertification has become a global issue. They are certainly driven by multiple forces. The United Nations has deemed it one of the greatest challenges for our environment.

– Logan Derbes
Photo: Flickr

Refugee Food AssistanceFor more than 60 years, the U.S. Agency for International Development has upheld its commitment to end global poverty, providing desperately needed refugee food assistance today. USAID works in more than 100 countries. It primarily provides humanitarian assistance, promotes global health and supports global stability. All around the world, more than 25 million people face refugee crises. And among these 25 million people, more than half are young children.

Food Assistance

USAID assists refugees by providing emergency refugee food assistance to 25 countries. In particular, USAID’s food assistance reaches Lebanon, Jordan, Ethiopia, Chad, Uganda and Bangladesh. One of the world’s biggest refugee camps lies in the southeastern corner of Bangladesh, in Cox’s Bazar. There, an estimated 868,000 Rohingya refugees seek safe haven. In order to escape western Myanmar, refugees must travel on foot through forests and turbulent waters. Often times, refugees do not have enough food for the trip and witness the deaths of loved ones. By the end of this journey, many refugees have nowhere to live and no source of living. Fortunately, USAID’s programs offer assistance.

Furthermore, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace and the United Nations’ World Food Programme partnered to assist those seeking peace, who lack a home and food. USAID and WFP provide packs of high-energy biscuits as meal replacements for arriving refugees. Moreover, USAID gives WFP resources to buy rice from Bangladesh’s national rice reserve. However, it takes time to distribute food to refugee camps. USAID even supports CARE International, which provides U.S. imported food to Cox’s Bazar.

Relief Tactics

Altogether, USAID programs lay out plans for permanent and stable recoveries using four types of relief tactics. Firstly, USAID provides locally and regionally purchased food, which is more quickly accessible than imported food. Secondly, if local food is unavailable, USAID provides U.S.-grown food. Thirdly, if imported food distorts local prices, USAID offers paper or electronic food vouchers. These vouchers allow refugees to purchase local food and support local communities. Fourthly, if more flexible solutions are required, USAID supplies cash, mobile or debit card transfers.

Beyond relief tactics, USAID helps improve global stability. Every year, USAID assists more than 40 to 50 million people worldwide with emergency food assistance. In 2018 alone, USAID gave more than $690 million to help refugees around the world. Overall, numerous countries benefit from USAID. By providing refugee food assistance, USAID plays a huge role in helping millions living in extreme poverty.

Fita Mesui
Photo: Flickr

United NationsThe United Nations is an international organization that was founded in 1945. At the end of the Second World War, many countries came together to focus on global peace, climate change, humanitarian emergencies and country development. The organization has become a forum for countries to negotiate and solve problems together in a regulated environment. Below are 10 cool facts about the United Nations.

10 Cool Facts About the United Nations

    1. The U.N. Has Almost 200 Member States
      There are currently 196 member states in the United Nations. These individual states are all recognized by the United Nations as members of the international organization. There are only four countries that are non-members of the U.N. They are Kosovo, Palestine, Taiwan and Vatican City. These countries have received invitations to join the U.N., but have yet to accept.
    2. Branches and Programs of the U.N. Received the Nobel Peace Prize 11 Times
      Over the last 70 years, the United Nations has been given 11 Nobel Peace prizes awarded to various agencies, specialized programs and initiatives. This prize was inspired by the last will of Alfred Nobel in 1895. Upon his death, he left most of his fortune to those who made advancements for the betterment of humanity in the areas of physics, chemistry, physiology, medicine, literature and peace.
    3. The United Nations Was Proposed in 1942
      United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt coined the term the “United Nations” on January 1, 1942. Representatives of 26 nations came together at that time in order to fight the Axis Powers during World War II. However, the U.N. did not officially create a charter until 1945. The organization was officially formed in October 1945 when 51 member states ratified its charter. This day is now celebrated as United Nations Day.
    4. The U.N. Has Six Official Languages
      In 1946, the U.N. established six official languages for its meetings and distributed documentation. The languages are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. During meetings delegates and representatives must utilize one of these languages or provide a written interpretation in one of them. Each language is recognized on a specific day of the year to celebrate cultural diversity and multilingualism.
    5. The U.N. Has Its Own News Site
      In order to keep the world updated on pertinent international issues and achievements, the United Nations has a news site. The site separates stories by world regions, topics and timeliness. The site is available in the official languages of the U.N. and has both a written and audio option.
    6. It Prioritizes Specific Global Issues
      Conflict resolution and peacekeeping are the main efforts of the United Nations, but the organization has many other branches of foreign assistance. Through specialized programs, the U.N. also addresses global issues such as decolonization, climate change, ending world poverty, children’s rights and international law. The website also outlines fast facts to engage readers about various topics.
    7. The U.N. Hosts International Court Hearings
      The main body of the United Nations judicial system is the International Court of Justice. It is composed of 15 judges who each serve nine-year terms and are elected by the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council. This court provides legal advising and settles disputes between member states. It also regulates global commons, such as environmental conservation, international waters, outer space and global trade, and ensures that human rights violations are prosecuted.
    8. The U.N. Has 36 Specialized Agencies, Programs and Partnerships
      There are 36 agencies and programs known as the “U.N. Family.” The programs are funded through voluntary contributions and are considered independent international organizations. The agencies and programs specialize on different issues. For example, UNICEF is the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and focuses on ensuring the proper treatment of children worldwide and the protection of children’s rights.
    9. The Official Emblem Hasn’t Changed Since 1946
      The United Nations flag and symbol are blue and white. The design team created the logo in 1945, and it was officially adopted by the organization in 1946. The emblem is “a map of the world representing an azimuthal equidistant projection centered on the North Pole, inscribed in a wreath consisting of crossed conventionalized branches of the olive tree, in gold on a field of smoke-blue with all water areas in white,” according to the original description.
    10. The U.N. Has the First Recorded Definition of Human Rights
      In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly drafted the first Universal Definition of Human Rights (General Assembly resolution 217 A). It was drafted by representatives from different legal and cultural backgrounds to make it more comprehensive. It sets out fundamental human rights that should be protected; condemning slavery, torture, imprisonment without trial and prejudice. It has been translated into more than 500 languages.
The United Nations has worked for decades to protect human rights around the world. These 10 cool facts about the United Nations shed some light on the history of the organization as well as some of its policies.

Emily Triolet
Photo: Flickr

World Water Day 2019While water might seem like a basic necessity, more than 650 million people worldwide lack easy access to clean water. Every year, the United Nations sponsors World Water Day. World Water Day raises awareness about global water crises, demonstrating the need for water in developing nations. Take a look at these interesting facts about how the U.N. celebrated World Water Day 2019.

5 Interesting Facts About World Water Day 2019

  1. “Leaving No One Behind”
    The theme for World Water Day 2019 was “Leaving No One Behind.” Technology is providing new methods to increase access to clean water. Additionally, it mobilizes programs combating water scarcity. Above all, technology connects individuals interested in making a difference, no matter where they are. However, these advances can’t only benefit privileged populations. Improvements must be available to marginalized groups, as well. World Water Day 2019 emphasized access to clean water is a human right, as recognized by the U.N. in 2010. Everyone deserves water, regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, religion or age.
  2. USAID’s Strategy
    The U.S. government is working to implement a strategy to improve global water access through the U.S. Agency for International Development. While the fight to bring access to clean water is global, USAID renewed its commitment to providing clean drinking water this World Water Day. As such, USAID supports the core objectives outlined in the U.S. Government Global Water Strategy. These objectives include promoting better stewardship of freshwater resources and expanding the availability of sanitation services. Additionally, USAID is enacting policy and programs aimed at providing 15 million people access to clean water by 2022.
  3. “Water Action Decade”
    This World Water Day marked the first completed year of the U.N.’s “Water Action Decade.” Three years ago, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously decided to make the global water crisis a top priority for 10 years straight. The “Water Action Decade” kicked off in 2018. Therefore, efforts to increase sustainable water management and access to safe water will last through World Water Day 2028. And nations around the world execute large-scale programs, addressing water scarcity stemming from pollution, drought and urbanization.
  4. Women and Water
    Women played a key role in the message of World Water Day 2019. While many suffer due to water scarcity, women disproportionately carry the burden. According to U.N. research, women and girls make up the majority of people responsible for obtaining water in areas where clean water isn’t accessible. Collectively, women devote around 200 million hours to finding and gathering clean water. Subsequently, a major goal for World Water Day 2019 was improving women’s access to water, which can lead to awesome opportunities that promote independence for women. Therefore, the U.N. sponsors women-led projects in rural areas to include women in community decisions about water as just one part of its commitment to improving universal access to clean water worldwide.
  5. U.N. Sustainable Development Goals
    In fact, World Water Day is just one example of U.N. efforts to meet Sustainable Development Goal 6. Overall, the U.N. has agreed on 17 different goals to promote sustainable development worldwide, specifically in growing and impoverished nations. These Sustainable Development Goals must meet their goals by 2030. Particularly, the primary task of Sustainable Development Goal 6 is to make water safe, affordable and accessible universally. And World Water Day marks just one of many U.N. efforts to reach this crucial goal on target. Ultimately, the first step in achieving universal access to clean water is raising awareness.

Nevertheless, on World Water Day 2019, nations joined hands to strengthen efforts toward making clean water accessible worldwide. The celebration honored organizations that provide aid, unite communities and save lives. And they celebrate innovations that revolutionize water management, along with the people dedicated to campaigning for water access without leaving anyone behind.

Emmitt Kussrow
Photo: Unsplash

Four Top Speeches on Girls' EducationOver the decades, feminist literature has played a pivotal role in addressing feminism, women’s rights and other related social issues concerning women and girls. Speeches, in particular, have proved to be a powerful vehicle for social justice and mobilization and are helping to promote gender equality and freedom for women globally. There are four top speeches that exemplify the ideals that women’s rights and the importance of girls’ education stand for.

Despite major headway, particularly in global poverty alleviation, there are still significant social and cultural barriers to education for girls around the world. Modern third-wave feminism and contemporary feminist jurisprudence itself continue to prioritize the elimination of gender-based discrimination in all facets along with its focus on intersectionality.

As girls’ education remains one of the most prevalent social issues of today, the following are some of the top speeches on girls’ education that prove to be inspiring and revolutionary not only in their content and scope but also their context and timelessness.

Four Top Speeches on Girls’ Education

  1. ‘What Educated Women Do’ by Indira Gandhi: This particular speech was rendered by former Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi before her death and it remains one of the most influential speeches on girls’ education, especially as it draws attention to the issues faced in South Asia. Not only does she use anecdotes and experiences from her own life to describe India’s tough social landscape but she also outlines the hardships and conditions for women and children in the country and the continued presence of outdated and oppressing social constructs in society. According to Gandhi, education is paramount to ensuring India’s continued growth and development in the future. Furthermore, she believed that educated women in India can boost the country’s image on the world stage as well.
  2. “Islam Forbids Injustice Against People, Nations and Women,” by Benazir Bhutto: The speech given by Pakistan’s former Prime Minister before her death is especially noteworthy for its radical opposition to politics and society in the country. Bhutto’s position in Pakistan’s political arena was largely dominated by her political activism to end discrimination and inequality. She singled out conservatism and patriarchy in society as being some of the primary causes of discrimination. Moreover, Bhutto’s unraveling of society was especially historic at that juncture as she called into question the religious misinterpretation of Islamic teachings and the propagation of obscurantism that contributes to it. She distinguished between social taboos and Islamic religious teachings to highlight the social injustices adversely impacting women in her country.
  3. ‘Let Girls Learn’ by Michelle Obama in London: Of all the empowering speeches Michelle Obama has given through her tenure as the former First Lady of the United States, a rather remarkable one remains her address on the occasion of her campaign for ‘Let Girls Learn,’ which is an organization that revitalizes the importance of girl’s education across the world. Established in 2015 by the Obamas in collaboration with USAID, Let Girls Learn aims to reach more than 62 million girls globally by increasing existing education programs and securing private-sector commitments. These initiatives will help increase access to education and crumble existing barriers. In her speech, she struck a chord as she passionately advocated for girls’ education as she addressed girls in a school in Mulberry, a borough that is known to be among London’s poorest. On this visit, Michelle Obama collaborated with the U.K. government and secured $200 million in funding to support girls’ education in conflict-ridden zones in countries like Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone.
  4. UN Address by Malala Yousafzai: Not only did this speech cement Malala Yousafzai’s influence globally but it also alerted the world to the deficiencies and lack of girl’s education in many countries. She drew from the context in Pakistan and her horrific experiences as a child. In her poignant speech, she spoke about practices like child labor, exploitation and other social injustices befalling women. She also emphasized the strong potential that female education could have on the world, particularly in crises like war, conflict and poverty. One of the most striking aspects of her speech is her direct address to world leaders as she urged international discourse on peace and security to center around the protection of women and girls and securing their rights. The last words of her speech, ‘Education first,’ still remain the key pillar for all her initiatives, particularly the work being undertaken by the Malala Foundation.

These four incredible women have been an inspiration to women and girls around the world. They have tirelessly fought for equality for women and an equal chance at education. These four women delivered the four top speeches on girls’ education.

– Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Pixabay

War in SyriaSyria’s civil war has been raging on for eight years now. The conflict has created a huge population of 5.7 million refugees in critical need of humanitarian assistance. The resulting humanitarian crisis is one of the worst the world has seen in recent years. Several organizations are on the ground trying to provide humanitarian solutions for the victims of war in Syria.

Syrian Democratic Forces

Recently, the Islamic State (IS) made its last stand to desperately hold on to the last tiny piece of territory it has, a small town in Eastern Syria called Baghouz. In September 2018, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) initiated what they hope to be their final military push to reclaim IS turf. The operation has been excruciatingly slow and deadly.

Civilians are struggling to slip out of the militants’ grasp and into the global humanitarian community. The SDF is working to help extract the civilian families out of the last holdout of IS fighters. It is believed that several thousand people are still huddled together in the final IS enclave. The people pouring out of Baghouz to seek shelter from the war in Syria pose a huge humanitarian challenge.

Almost 40,000 civilians have already left the diminishing IS territory, but the flow was severely interrupted when IS fighters closed off all exit roads. IS extremists were obstructing civilians from escaping, using them as human shields from airstrikes. Now, small groups of refugees sneak out into humanitarian corridors with the help of smugglers. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a humanitarian organization working to help refugees escape the war in Syria and to monitor refugee movements.

Save the Children

Children escaping from the war in Syria are especially in need of humanitarian assistance. Beyond food, health services, education and other basic needs, child refugees require mental health services. Syrian refugee children consistently show signs of psychological trauma. Save the Children is striving to provide necessary services for Syrian child refugees. Among other things, they are working to establish recreational spaces and centers for unaccompanied children in the refugee camps. They provide mental health and socializing services in a safe environment for war-weary children.

According to Save the Children, the war in Syria has made it the most dangerous country in the world for children. In Syria, 5.3 million children need humanitarian assistance. Children are not only the victims of violence but also the targets of abduction and recruitment into armed groups. In three refugee camps in North-East Syria, there are more than 2,500 children from at least 30 different countries.

There is much work to be done, and Save the Children emphasizes that the organization is in dire need of more support. Extra funding is necessary to provide case management and protective services for more children. Foreign children need their countries of origin to facilitate repatriation. Save the Children urges the international community to help preserve family unity and aid those returning to their countries of origin from the war in Syria.

Other Humanitarian Organizations

Humanitarian organizations help 700,000 people each month in North Eastern Syria. In March, Brussels will host a pledging conference to raise more funds for humanitarian aid to Syria. In 2018, various nations collectively raised $5 billion for Syrian relief. In Syria, the United Nations aid feeds around 3 million people each month, and U.N. medical assistance has treated nearly 3 million patients.

The U.N. and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have been cooperating to transport and deliver large amounts of aid to refugee camps in Syria. On February 6, the largest of such shipments arrived in Rukban, a refugee settlement in the demilitarized zone established by the major warring parties. The majority of Rukban’s inhabitants are women and children. The convoy included 133 trucks loaded with food, health and nutritional supplies, hygiene materials, education items, children’s recreational kits and vaccines. The aid came at a critical time to help save the lives of at least 40,000 people who live in the settlement.

The Syrian Society for Social Development (SSSD) is another humanitarian organization working to enhance the lives of marginalized Syrians. They improve and provide schools, community centers, safe spaces, elder care facilities and other communal programs. Since the beginning of the conflict, they have been able to increase the scope of their assistance in both geographical range and by the number of people helped. Their programs have benefitted more than 1 million people.

There are organizations doing everything they can to help Syrian refugees survive and return to a peaceful life. Thanks to the efforts of thses humanitarian organizations, refugees, who have been surrounded by airstrikes and extremist violence, have shelter against the harsh Syrian winter.

Peter Mayer

Photo: Flickr

Women in Tajikistan
For a small country in Central Asia, Tajikistan makes U.S. news relatively frequently, often because the lives of women there differ from the U.S. norm. Those living in the area have suffered from political turmoil and poverty. While the news often focuses on the modern oppression of women, the mistreatment of women in Tajikistan stems from a larger injustice, centuries of poverty in the country that has affected women more than men.

Religious Oppression for Women in Tajikistan

Recently, the news has highlighted that Tajikistan’s Ministry of Culture published a “Book of Recommendations” for women’s attire. In the book, models display what the country deems appropriate attire for many occasions, setting standards for work and many social events.

What particularly incited opposition from many was the book’s overt advisement against Muslim and Islamic clothing, like the hijab, as well as Western clothing, which was deemed too scandalous. Furthermore, in 2017, the Tajikistan government instituted a policy of texting women reminders about wearing traditional clothing. This followed the government’s efforts in 2016 to close shops selling women’s religious clothing.

Additionally, the Tajikistan government created a law requiring traditional attire and culture at important events, such as weddings and funerals, officially banning “nontraditional dress and alien garments.” In August, the month it became law, 8,000 women wearing hijabs were stopped by government officials and told to remove their religious garments.

Maternal Mortality Rates for Women in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is one of the world’s poorest countries. Thirty-two percent of Tajiks live in poverty, but in rural areas, that number rises to 75 percent. Consequentially, women face staggering maternal mortality rates with 65 women out of every thousand dying from pregnancy or childbirth. In fact, mortality rates for both mother and infant are higher than any other country in Central Asia, a region already significantly behind Western standards.

This lag correlates with the upheaval faced by Tajiks since the responsibility for healthcare had changed hands so many times in the past. Tajikistan was part of the Soviet Union from 1929 to 1991. Then, shortly after gaining independence in 1991, Tajikistan suffered from a brutal civil war that not only claimed tens of thousands of Tajik lives but also crippled the healthcare system, contributing to such high maternal mortality rates.

Caring for the Home and Family

Political upheaval abruptly caused women to become household managers without any aid, leaving them to struggle with poverty. The civil war crippled industrial and agricultural production, the latter of which the country’s economy depended on almost entirely. Since then, nearly 1.5 million Tajik men have left the country to seek employment elsewhere, often leaving wives in charge of the home and children. But, unfortunately, households headed by women are significantly poorer than those headed by men.

Representation and Education for Women in Tajikistan

Female representation in government has remained below international standards because of the poverty caused by political upheaval. Only 12 of the 62 legislators in Tajikistan are women. Those who do make it into politics are often stuck in the lower ranks with little to no opportunity to rise to levels where they can create change.

Private Muslim schools educated the majority of the country’s population from early 1800 until the 1920s when The Soviet Union secularized education. However, with independence came a decreased government budget for education as the private funds disappeared. Moreover, women either have to marry young or are too busy working and, therefore, do not have an opportunity to receive an education.

Improvements Being Made For Women in Tajikistan

Due to The Soviet Union’s systemized education, literacy rates grew, and that shift in norms has continued to benefit men and women in Tajikistan. Additionally, in the two decades following independence, poverty rates have dropped, suggesting a growing stability. In fact, in 1999, 81 percent of the country lived in poverty, and in ten years that number has almost halved to 47 percent. Additionally, extreme poverty decreased from 73 percent in 1999 to 14 percent in 2013.

The U.N. has been working in Tajikistan to improve conditions for women since 1999 by empowering women and promoting gender equality. Furthermore, local and international stakeholders have been given a way to provide activities for women, such as the Rapid Emergency Assessment and Coordination Team (REACT), which helps train women to respond in disaster situations.

Hope for a Better Future

Therefore, beyond the uproar over women’s clothing being regulated by the government lies a deeper historical injustice due to poverty. Women have had little control over Tajikistan’s laws that have targeted them and a lack of access to education that prevents this fact from changing.

Despite concerning media coverage, possible improvements for the lives of women in Tajikistan exist. As stability grows, the potential exists to improve the budget for healthcare and education and, therefore, reduce poverty. Backed with proper healthcare and educational opportunities, women will have the ability to gain access and opportunities to dictate the laws of their country, such as those about their clothing, by becoming more active in the political sphere.

– Charlotte Preston
Photo: Flickr

 

Unrepresented nationsIn 1991, The Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization (UNPO) was founded in The Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands. The UNPO is an international body with a membership comprised of “indigenous peoples, minorities, citizens of unrecognized States and occupied territories” who use The UNPO as a collective means of participating in the major international community. Over forty unrepresented groups currently make up The UNPO’s General Assembly with a few notable members such as Tibet, Taiwan and Washington D.C.

UNPO’s Mission

The communities joined together in The Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization are united in a shared mission guided by the five major principles of nonviolence, human rights, democracy, self-determination, environmental protection, and tolerance stated in The UNPO Covenant. The Covenant draws off of language used in ubiquitous international documents like The United Nations Charter, The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and others to validate the need for a forum such as The UNPO to exist.

Through its mission, The UNPO is also an ally in the fight to alleviate global poverty. According to estimates from the World Bank, indigenous peoples make up about 5 percent of the population and about 10 percent of those living in poverty around the world. These statistics reveal how indigenous groups are disproportionately affected by poverty. By empowering indigenous and other marginalized people through international representation, The UNPO is taking important steps to combat poverty.

How The UNPO Works

The main decision-making body of The UNPO is the General Assembly, made up of delegations from each of the member communities. The General Assembly convenes every 12-18 months so that UNPO members can discuss the pressing issues in their communities. In addition, the Assembly elects members of the eight members of the Presidency, including the President, two Vice-Presidents, General Secretary, and Treasurer for three-year terms.  

The Presidency has the duty of implementing the policy put forth by the General Assembly during a term. The current President is Mr. Nasser Boladai of West Balochistan. Under the direction of the General Assembly and the Presidency, The Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization acts as a key intermediary between the unrepresented communities it represents and international institutions such as The U.N. and E.U.

The UNPO approaches international forums in the role of an advocate for their members as well as a consultant about international decisions on issues relevant to UNPO members. For example, thanks to the work of  The UNPO, marginalized groups and minorities have been able to actively participate in various U.N. sessions of The Human Rights Council, The U.N. Forum on Minority Issues, and The U.N. Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues.

In addition, the UNPO has successfully lobbied for their inclusion in The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process launched in 2008 to review the human rights records of all UN Member States. As a result of the advocacy and lobbying done by The UNPO, many of the marginalized and unheard voices that The UNPO represents now have the chance to be heard by those who wield power amongst the international community.

Who is the in the UNPO?

The Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization currently represents 43 Nations/ Peoples throughout the world. Each member community has its own set of specific aspirations and concerns that they hope The UNPO can help them verbalize. The UNPO compiles detailed profiles on each of its member communities and then uses this information to help advocate in their interest.

Tibet, or the Government of Tibet in Exile is a member of the UNPO and has a history that is familiar to many. In the 1950’s, Tibet became an occupied territory of The People’s Republic of China and lost its national autonomy and political rights. The Central Tibetan Administration or the Tibetan Government in Exile claims that the Chinese occupation is an illegitimate military campaign. Although the Chinese constitution grants political autonomy to the occupied areas of Tibet, the reality from the Tibetan point of view is that the Chinese preside over them with an authoritarian rule.

Through the influence of The UNPO, The Tibetan Delegation hopes to plead it’s case to the international community and address grievances (violations of political rights, environmental degradation, and suppression of freedom of expression and association) against the Chinese government.

Since 1991, The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization has helped promote the rights and freedoms of minority/marginalized groups throughout the world. As we strive towards shaping a world of equality and justice, The UNPO serves as a fine example of how we can give a voice to the voiceless.

Clarke Hallum

Photo: Flickr

Working Towards Gender Equality in RwandaFounded in 1945, the United Nations (U.N.) is an international organization made up of 193 member states. The U.N. takes on many issues, including food production and gender equality. Four of its branches, the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (U.N. Women), are working together to implement the Rural Women Economic Empowerment Project (Project). The Project works toward gender equality in Rwanda by empowering women through agriculture.

Rwanda has the highest population density in Africa, but the country is largely rural. Overall, about a quarter of Rwandans live in extreme poverty. However, in rural communities, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty rises to almost half. Because of Rwanda’s limited natural resources, its citizens depend on its agriculture economy. Read more