Feminization of Poverty
The “feminization of poverty” is the concept of social and economic factors that keep women disproportionately poor globally. It touches on how women experience poverty in more severe forms than men. It also looks into how poverty is on the rise among women.

Gender inequality is the most common form of inequality in the world, and as a result, it is one of the biggest barriers to alleviating poverty. The following are some important facts to know about the feminization of poverty in the world.

5 Facts About the Feminization of Poverty

  1. Millions of Women Live Below the Poverty Line: Estimates from U.N. Women reported that 388 million women and girls around the world would be living in poverty in 2022. For comparison, the study reported the number of men and boys in the same category as 372 million. It also stated the potential for the number to reach 446 million in a “high-damage” scenario.
  2. Women of Color are the Most Affected: Of the number of women living in poverty, 345 million are from Asia and Africa. This means the feminization of poverty spans across the axes of intersectionality such as race and ethnicity. But this does not stop at the global south, as women of nearly all races and ethnicities are more likely to face poverty than their white counterparts. In the U.S., 91.9% of women living in poverty are black, Asian, Hispanic, Alaska native or other races, while only 9% are white.
  3. Violence Keeps Women and Girls Poor: Women who have abusive partners or family members may be less likely to find work due to potential control issues. If they are able to find work, they may miss days and opportunities as a result of injury. For instance, in the MENA region, 35% of women experience domestic violence, resulting in Gender-Based Violence (GBV) accounting for a loss of 3.7% in the GDP, as women are also prevented from participating in labor. Women that are unable to work and earn a living have a harder time escaping their situation. Consequently, they continue to live below the poverty line.
  4. Women are More Likely to Get Low-Income Jobs: In the U.K. alone, a fifth of women are working jobs that are below the real living wage. This means that 2.9 million women are living below the living wage. In comparison, only 1.9 million men work low-paying jobs that place them below the living wage. Most recent estimates show that globally, women earn 16% less on average than their male counterparts. In Australia and New Zealand, the gender pay gap stands at 19.3%, and in India, it is 14.4%.
  5. Childbirth Impacts Career Progress: Less than one in five women in the U.K. return to full-time work within the first three years after childbirth, and 17% of women leave work completely after having children, compared to only 4% of men. This disparity in gender responsibilities results from various factors, such as poor maternal leave policies and the disproportionate burden of caretaking duties on mothers. This situation highlights how gender inequality affects a woman’s earning potential and ability to lift herself out of poverty.

Ongoing Efforts and Potential Solutions

Fighting gender inequality plays a significant role in ending poverty. U.N. Women, which emerged in July 2010, has a project dedicated to supporting women worldwide, training them to become entrepreneurs and start small businesses. UN Women has four strategic priorities that include helping women to participate in and benefit from governance systems, secure income and exercise economic autonomy. Its aim is to free women and girls from all forms of violence and enable them to contribute to building a sustainable world.

Other organizations like ActionAid and Forgotten Women are committed to delivering safe aid to help women out of poverty and crisis situations through training and awareness initiatives. In 2021, ActionAid spent £31.9 million on humanitarian and development programs globally.

There is still much work to do in the fight against female poverty. Nonetheless, several organizations are already working to provide women with the support and opportunities that they need to succeed. Supporting the ongoing efforts of active organizations, through awareness and community work, can potentially play a vital role in putting an end to the feminization of poverty.

– Safa Ali
Photo: Flickr

  Gender-Based Violence in South Africa
Scattered across the country of South Africa, amongst a landscape of rich and vivid beauty, outside of diverse busy cities, are smaller, poorer cities, known as townships. Townships began as a means of racial segregation during Apartheid; these were places for black people and people of color to live and they remain racially segregated settlements, where people often live in extreme poverty. It is here that the intersections of poverty and gender collide. Gender-based violence is so prevalent that Diepsloot, one of the biggest townships in the country, witnesses murders of women in the streets. This happens within a country where femicide is five times higher than the global average. Within the lush landscape of South Africa, an ugly side lurks.

How Does Poverty in Townships Influence Gender-Based Violence?

Many studies conclude that poverty and gender-based violence are in a close relationship: a lack of economic stability means there are fewer opportunities to escape a dangerous situation and fewer resources to seek help. Similarly, the violence women and girls experience can feed into their poverty: traumas or even physical injuries endured can lead to a lack of work prospects. Yet, because of the history of townships as spaces of racial segregation, the gender-based violence within them is not just a matter of class or gender. It is also a matter of race. Naledi Joyi, writing for the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), argues that violence in townships against Black women’s bodies is unyielding and multifaceted. Social indicators of class, gender and race intertwine to make it harder for Black women living in poverty to have access to appropriate resources for help.

The Local: Green Door

Authorities need to tackle gender-based violence in South Africa in its poorest communities and they are making progress. According to CSVR, police response and medical assistance to violence against women and girls in townships are inadequate. However, local programs developed within township communities can offer help to women in vulnerable situations.Diepsloot, located on the peripheries of Johannesburg, is one of the densest townships in South Africa and is the home of Green Door, a local shelter for women and children. Originally beginning as a response to the high levels of violence against women and girls in the township, Green Door is a small building that offers victims temporary shelter, support, resources and legal advice. It is the only place of its kind in Diepsloot and a “lifeline” to many.

The National: Women for Change

Women for Change is a national nonprofit grassroots organization that aims to eradicate gender-based violence in South Africa. Since 2016, it has been advocating for women’s rights in the face of a government that fails to acknowledge the severity of the problem. Women for Change aims to eradicate gender-based violence and femicide within a country that reports 146 sexual offenses daily, with an estimated 95% of assaults unreported, according to its website. The organization utilizes its large social media presence to globalize the information and raise awareness in the world of the plight of many South African women and girls. Though Women for Change does not work strictly with women in townships, its dedication to ending the country’s epidemic of gender-based violence by raising voices means that others will hear the voices of all women and girls in South Africa.

Making the Fight Global

The work that is occurring to tackle gender-based violence in South Africa at large and give voice to the women living in townships is imperative. Organizations, such as Green Door and Women for Change, are paving a path toward a better future for all women. These organizations can ensure that these forgotten cities, where women and girls’ needs are often overlooked, do not hold forgotten women. They too have a voice.

– Eloïse Jones
Photo: Flickr

Violence in Haiti
In February 2023, UNICEF reported a ninefold increase in acts of violence against schools in Haiti over the period of 12 months. Schools have been the locus of attacks and violence by armed groups and this has a direct impact on one of the most fundamental human rights of children: education. Education is not only the pillar of a welfare state but is also fundamental for the development of social capital in the country. Violence in Haiti stands as a barrier to the progression of children’s education.

Violence in Numbers

According to reports by UNICEF partners, armed gangs targeted 72 educational institutions in Haiti in the first four months of the scholastic year (October to February) compared to eight during the same time the year prior. In particular, armed groups attacked a minimum of 13 school facilities, set a school on fire, murdered one pupil and kidnapped a minimum of two school staff workers.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that armed factions rule 60% of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. Gangs targeting schools also steal critical educational supplies, such as desks, blackboards and computers. Along with cafeteria equipment, gangs steal vital supplies of “rice, dough and maize” used to provide school lunches, which are sometimes the only meals Haitian children eat in a day.

Impacts of Escalating Violence in Haiti

Due to the rising violence in metropolitan areas, 30 schools closed their doors in just the first six days of February 2023 and more than 25% of schools have stayed closed since October 2022, a decision that principals took to protect staff and students. Students missed an average of one and a half school days per week in January 2023 due to the risk of violence. By the end of June 2023, according to UNICEF, pupils could miss out on 36 days of education if no one took action to safeguard schools from violence. Despite the risk, the Haitian Ministry of Education has pushed for schools to reopen. As a result, three out of four schools reopened by December 2022, up from fewer than one in 10 reopenings in October.

Taking Action

A UNICEF report for the period July to November 2022 highlights the organization’s efforts to safeguard children’s rights to education. In Haiti, during the summer vacation, UNICEF funded a summer children’s camp in Lycee National de la Saline, providing 803 Haitian children with “a safe space for children to express themselves through plays and other activities.” UNICEF also gave cash transfers to 1,200 impoverished families with school-age children in Port-au-Prince and areas that the most recent earthquake affected. UNICEF is also providing support for the renovation of three educational facilities in Cité Soleil along with the supply of school furniture and learning materials.

UNICEF urges the Haitian government to make sure that schools are secure and to prosecute organizations and people who endanger or hurt children while attending school. The U.N. praises education for not only imparting knowledge and skills but also for transforming lives and propelling growth for individuals, groups and nations, saying that schools “must be places of learning, safety and harmony.”

Overall, the U.N. urges all nations to sign the Safe Schools Declaration, “an inter-governmental political commitment to protect students, teachers, schools and universities, from the worst effects of armed conflict.” This declaration has received support from 111 nations so far and lays out specific actions that governments can take to safeguard educational institutions. In line with this, U.N. head António Guterres said at a virtual event in September 2021, “We urge Member States to go beyond their obligations under international law and implement national policies and laws that safeguard schools and learners.” The loss stemming from education disruptions is significant. By upholding children’s rights to education, the international community safeguards the future.

– Carmen Corrales Alonso
Photo: Flickr

Organizations in India
In India, 52% of women and 42% of men consider it acceptable for a husband to physically abuse his wife. Additionally, according to U.N. Women, one in three women globally encounter physical or sexual assault, in most cases from their partner. However, there are many nonprofit organizations in India that help women and girls who faced violence. Here are five of the organizations in India.

International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC)

International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC) began its journey in 2001 in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. It develops services to help female victims of assault. The organization offers emergency and long-term rehabilitation assistance. Additionally, it offers housing services for women and children, as well as counseling, financial assistance and opportunities for skill development and employment.

The organization has a Dhwani Crisis Hotline that works around the clock and provides instant help as well as follow-up and referral services that offer guidance at different phases of the healing and rehabilitation process. The number of calls to the Dhwani Hotline during the lockdown in March 2020 grew by three times. In 2020, the hotline got 1,275 crisis calls and 4,141 follow-up calls.

My Choices Foundation

Elca Grobler established the My Choices Foundation in Hyderabad, India, in 2012. The foundation strives to eliminate domestic abuse and stop sex trafficking in India. In the same year, it opened its first Operation PeaceMaker counseling center where local women offer support to domestic abuse victims. Now it operates in 10 states in more than 6,500 locations around India.

According to its 2021 report, in 2014, the foundation introduced its anti-sex trafficking wing – Operation Red Alert. Next year it created an anti-trafficking interference initiative – Safe Village Program which helps prevent trafficking from happening in villages and communities. Also, it opened India’s first national toll-free hotline to combat human trafficking. Other than that in 2018, it created Lotus Safe Home which offers protection to women and children who manage to flee from abuse. The following year it established a domestic violence helpline for women.

During the lockdown in 2020, the foundation delivered necessary supplies to more than 13,000 people which helped 5,169 families that the pandemic affected. By the end of 2022, the foundation trained 290 peacemakers, provided counseling to 14,971 families, educated 3,270,844 people on domestic abuse and 32,530,534 people on sex trafficking and got 71,548 calls through the sex trafficking helpline.

Sayodhya Home

A group of women activists who worked with at-risk children founded the nonprofit organization Sayodhya in Hyderabad in 2010. After seeing a rise in the number of incidents of abuse against women and children, activists decided to create this home. Sayodhya Home became a short-stay home (from one day to a month) for women and children who have faced physical abuse.

Since 2010 Sayodhya has given emergency shelter to more than 3,000 women and young girls. The organization also opened free family counseling centers in 10 urban slums in Hyderabad. Besides that Sayodhya enabled training in tailoring to 500 women, helped 600 students find jobs, provided legal and psychological counseling to 1,500 women and supported the education of 600 girls.

ActionAid Association India

Among other organizations in India that help women is ActionAid Association India which is a part of ActionAid International that operates in more than 40 countries worldwide. It focuses on issues like “Women’s and girls’ rights, Child Rights, Natural resources, Democracy and governance.” In India, it provides services across 25 states. Because of the organization’s work more than 1,180,500 families from underprivileged neighborhoods in 317 districts lead better lives.

According to its 2017-18 report, ActionAid Association India is running 22 one-stop crisis centers (OSCC) in cooperation with the government to address the abuse that women experience. These centers are working in four states: Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh. In Madhya Pradesh, OSCC got 39,000 calls and 11,000 of those were from women. The organization linked 214 women with the police, provided 94 women and children with support, gave a short-stay shelter to 108 women and linked 13 minor girls with education and 33 women with skill development training. In Uttar Pradesh, the organization rescued 171 women and 18 children, gave 100 women shelter and helped 249 women with legal support.

Majlis Law

The original members of Majlis were active in the early women’s movement in Mumbai. One of the founders is Flavia Agnes, a legal scholar on women’s rights. The organization got its registration as a Society and Public Trust in 1991.

It is an all-female team of attorneys and activists that offers legal and social help to victims (women and children) of domestic and sexual violence from underprivileged social groups. The team assists victims during investigation and trial and provides social support from counseling to shelter. Bombay High Crout approved the Maharashtra State Handbook on Domestic Violence that Majlis Law created. Its achievements include providing legal support to more than 80,000 victims, providing social support to more than 100,000 victims, conducting more than 150,000 training sessions and reaching more than 1,500 collaborations.

These five organizations in India are helping women survive and start their lives over. With more recognition and support, more women and girls should be able to lead better and happier lives in India.

– Elizaveta Medvedkina
Photo: Flickr

Violence and Psychological Well-Being
According to a working paper by Nik Stoop, Murray Leibbrandt and Rocco Zizzamia of the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, “The ‘social causation’ hypothesis posits that circumstances associated with living in poverty — e.g. high levels of stress, malnutrition, social exclusion, lowered capital, exposure to violence — increase the risk of mental illnesses.” Therefore, links exist between poverty, violence and psychological well-being.

Intimate Partner Violence

The links between poverty, violence and psychological well-being are apparent in the case of intimate partner violence.

In Kenya, intimate partner violence is prevalent and the rates of violence toward women are some of the highest globally, according to a 2016 World Bank article. According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey of 2014, “More than 41% of Kenyan women experience sexual and/or physical violence by intimate partners in their lifetime.” Women have experienced sexual and/or physical violence at the hands of men due to certain stressors.

A World Vision Kenya project initiated a study wherein males reported that stressors such as “unemployment, excessive alcohol and substance use and family difficulties as well as other psychosocial, cultural and gender issues” increase the inclination of violent behavior toward a female spouse. Financial stressors are likely considering that the poverty rate in Kenya stood at 53% in 2018.

The Work of World Vision Kenya

World Vision Kenya in collaboration with the Sexual Violence Research Initiative and World Bank Group Development Marketplace for Innovations to Prevent Gender-Based Violence began an initiative to decrease intimate partner violence in two peri-urban areas of Kenya.

The initiative targeted males with “common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, acknowledging the links between men with mental health problems, alcohol and substance use and high incidences of [intimate partner violence].” The project employed a psychological intervention called Group Problem Management Plus (GPM+) for men with common mental health issues.

Charles Barbuti, an attorney and former New York City Police Department captain, told The Borgen Project that when certain stresses occur, many males feel stuck and helpless and “don’t feel that they have an outlet.” As such, some men turn to violence. The frustrations of unemployment and financial issues and the cultural expectations of a man’s role as the provider contribute negatively to mental well-being. The initiative that World Vision Kenya launched looked to address the links between poverty, violence and psychological well-being.

Psychological Well-Being and Violence

Researchers have comprehensively researched the correlation between poverty, violence and psychological well-being as each factor can be a symptom of the other. One of the many consequences of intimate partner violence is the development of severe psychological issues.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “About two-thirds of women receiving mental health services have experienced intimate partner violence/domestic violence, a number higher than the general population.”

A study published in April 2022 by Claire Bahati and others used data from the 2018 Rwanda Mental Health Survey to identify correlations between intimate partner violence and mental health issues.

Findings from the cross-sectional study revealed that “the prevalence of all types of mental disorders was significantly higher in participants exposed to IPV than in non-exposed (p ≤ 0.001).” Furthermore, the subject group with exposure to intimate partner violence had higher rates of major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder as well as other disorders.

The Low-Income Link

When asked if intimate partner violence is higher in households that are suffering from poverty, Barbuti responded: “It may just be a correlation problem, but it does seem that it is more prevalent in lower-income environments.”

A cross-sectional study titled Income, Gender and Forms of Intimate Partner Violence published in July 2017 looked at the correlation between income and different forms of intimate partner violence among males and females. Data for this study came from the Mater-University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy in Brisbane, Australia.

The study found that “relative experiences of almost all forms of IPV (with the exception of physical abuse in males and harassment in females) are highest when both partners report receiving low income.” In addition, the study found that females in lower-income households are most susceptible to physical abuse, emotional abuse and severe combined abuse while males are more susceptible to experiencing harassment and severe combined abuse.

According to the Child Poverty Action Group, “Women in households with low incomes are 3.5 times more likely to experience domestic violence than women in slightly better-off households.” Child Poverty Action Group helps address the stressor of poverty in the U.K. by providing assistance and support to struggling families and children through payments, advice, free school meals and advocacy work.

Looking Ahead

By analyzing the links between poverty, violence and psychological disorders, organizations can address the root cause of the issues and develop more effective initiatives to combat poverty, violence and psychological disorders. Initiatives by organizations such as World Vision Kenya aim to reduce intimate partner violence by addressing stressors and the mental health illnesses associated with such violence.

– Yonina Anglin
Photo: Flickr

costs of military intervention
A closer look at the costs of military intervention versus the benefits of foreign aid provides insight into why humanitarian assistance trumps military intervention.

The Costs of Conflict, Violence and Military Intervention

In March 2011, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) led a multi-state coalition in response to conflict escalation in Libya. To curb violence and human rights violations in line with the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ norm, NATO created a no-fly zone followed by air strikes. According to a 2012 Reuters report, NATO coordinated “26,000 sorties including some 9,600 strike missions and destroyed about 5,900 targets before operations ended on October 31.”

To terminate the rule of Saddam Hussein and abolish weapons of mass destruction, U.S. forces began the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The U.S. saw success as troops captured Hussein and the last U.S. troops exited Iraq in December 2011. The nine-year conflict cost the U.S. Treasury $800 billion and led to more than “4,700 U.S. and allied troop deaths” along with the deaths of more than 100,000 Iraqi people, highlighting the human and material costs of military intervention and war.

Kosovo was once a province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which currently consists of today’s two states, Serbia and Montenegro. The Kosovo crisis escalated in early 1998 upon Kosovo’s desire for sovereign autonomy from Yugoslavia. With Kosovo’s mixed population of Albanians and Serbs, clashes between the ethnic Albanians and ethnic Serbs took place and the Yugoslav government took a firm stance against the Kosovo Liberation Army, a rebel Albanian group. The crisis led to displacement and death, prompting NATO’s intervention.

Libya (March 2011-October 2011)

While the total scope of collateral damage remains unacknowledged, Human Rights Watch reported 72 civilian casualties as a result of aerial strikes that NATO carried out in Libya in 2011. The number of internally displaced persons fluctuated throughout the intervention period, and by late 2011, the number stood at a minimum of 154,000 people, highlighting the profound implications of military intervention on human welfare.

A month after the intervention ended, The New York Times carried out investigations in Libya’s capital of Tripoli along with several other sites and findings show ramifications on civilian infrastructure. The airstrikes led to the destruction of residential and commercial buildings and many people suffered injuries, unable to access health care amid a chaotic political atmosphere.

However, the benefits of foreign aid outweighed military intervention as it helped restore social and economic order within Libya during and following the crisis. Since 2011, USAID has facilitated the delivery of social services, development and humanitarian support in Libya in an investment valued at more than $900 million.

For instance, in June 2011, to “build an inclusive and peaceful democratic future that reflects the will and needs of the Libyan people,” USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives allocated $12.2 million. The program goals included conversations to unite together Libya’s community leaders in creating “strategies to mitigate conflict and promote reconciliation” and public outreach initiatives to keep locals up-to-date on information about Libya’s transition process.

In 2012, USAID provided grants to build a computer center in the Mafqood Center for Missing Persons “where families from all sides of the conflict will receive training on advocacy using social networking and online media.” According to USAID, the center’s goal is to stand as “a sanctuary for families to seek solace and comfort” as well as “a platform from which the families can form a unified voice to tackle the legal and social issues they face.”

Iraq (2003-2011)

The U.S. military invasion led to several human rights violations as detailed in the accounts of abuse and torture in the Abu Ghraib prison, a U.S. army detention center that housed around 3,800 detainees from 2003 to 2006. Graphic photos of males and females show acts of torture, humiliation and assault. This led to charges against 11 U.S. military authorities, according to CNN.

Through the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund, U.S. Congress allocated $2.5 billion in 2003 to ease acute suffering in areas relevant to food security, water and health care. Later that year, an additional $18.4 billion went toward general reconstruction projects. By February 2006, Congress distributed $10.5 billion of the $18.4 billion for “security, economic and political” initiatives. The economic benefit of such foreign aid is visible in the nation’s gross domestic product, which rose from “$18.9 billion in 2002 to $33.1 billion in 2005,” signifying an improved standard of living.

Kosovo Crisis (1998-1999)

NATO nations endured a cost of £2.5 billion over 78 days while dispersing “more than 23,000 bombs and missiles” in Kosovo. On the first day of the conflict alone, NATO “launched more than £44.4 [million] worth of weapons” against Yugoslavia’s military bases. In total, the Kosovo war and reparation thereafter cost £31.67 billion, around two-thirds of which went toward rebuilding Serbia/Kosovo.

Already suffering from international sanctions, Yugoslavia endured economic shocks with the nation losing 44% of its industrial production. NATO bombings are reported to have set back Yugoslavia by as much as 20 years, with economic costs amounting to $100 billion, as Yugoslav officials reported in 1999.

However, foreign aid assisted in Kosovo’s recovery and economic development. For instance, since 1999, USAID committed itself to the reconstruction of Kosovo in investments totaling more than $1 billion.

Multilateral donors collected around $2 billion in a donors meeting held in 1999 to aid humanitarian support and reconstruction. The benefit of economic reconstruction in Kosovo is visible in its GDP, rising to $9.01 billion in 2021, according to World Bank data, from $1.85 billion in 2000.

Overall, the benefits of foreign aid outweighed the costs of military intervention in conflicts occurring in countries like Libya, Iraq and Kosovo, especially considering the heightened economic and human loss associated with military interventions.

– Noor Al-Zubi
Photo: Unsplash

Violence Against Women in Assam
Many women in India experience violence at home, at work and even in public areas. With the helping hands of U.N. Women, men and women in the rural areas of Assam State in India are working together to address and prevent cases of “violence against women, youth and children.” In January 2017, U.N. Women supported the formation of women’s empowerment groups, called Jugnu Clubs, across tea estates in Assam with the aim of preventing violence against women in Assam. The Jugnu Clubs form part of a broader U.N. Women prevention of violence initiative in rural Assam.

Violence on Assam’s Tea Estates

About 6 million people in Assam State work in Assam’s “65 tea estates and 100,000 small gardens.” Their work contributes to more than 50% of India’s tea and about 13% of the world’s tea. Women stand as 50% of the labor force at Assam’s tea estate and often work as tea pluckers. These women face violence in all areas of their lives — in the workplace, in the home environment and in public spaces. In fact, in 2015, Assam noted 11,225 cases of abuse against women by their spouses or family members. Alcohol abuse by males played a role in many of these cases of violence.

Creating Safe Work Environments

The Jugnu Clubs “help make agricultural work safe and equal for all women and girls” working as tea pluckers or factory workers on the tea estates. The Jugnu Clubs are especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic as cases of gender-based violence rose across the world due to lockdowns and stay-at-home orders.

In the broader U.N. Women prevention of violence initiative, “tea estate managers, welfare officers, workers and Jugnu Club members received training [on] India’s Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, women’s rights and the legal obligations around domestic violence and child labor.”

The training sessions utilized user-friendly and relatable education methods. U.N. Women found that 95% of participants did not have knowledge of the existing legislation that protects against gender-based violence and other violations against women. After the training sessions, about 80% of participants said the training gave them a better understanding of the legislation.

The members of the Jugnu Clubs who participated in this training are now aware of all their rights and are more vocal about their needs. As a result of this empowerment, “women have demanded streetlights be placed in dark public areas and safe transport to work, including two buses to ferry women from nearby villages to the tea gardens.” Now, Jugnu Club members even develop recommendations for safeguarding women who work on Assam’s tea plantations.

Educating Communities

Under the broader U.N. Women prevention of violence initiative, “raising awareness about how to prevent and respond to violence against women, youth, and children extended beyond the tea estate setting to the wider rural community,” including education facilities. Through mass gender equality campaigns “using community-led performing arts and crafts, such as interactive theatre shows, dance and music,” U.N. Women reached more than 6,000 people living in the community. Furthermore, 371 children took part in anti-violence early intervention initiatives.

Looking Ahead

In conclusion, the broader U.N. Women prevention of violence initiative and the Jugnu Clubs serve as beacons of hope for women in Assam. As of June 3, 2022, U.N. Women’s prevention of violence initiative in Assam has touched 15,000 lives. The ongoing work of U.N. Women brings hope that violence against women in Assam will reduce.

– Alexis King
Photo: Flickr

Domestic Violence and Poverty
There are many costs associated with inaction regarding the issue of domestic violence. One must highlight the intersection of domestic violence and poverty to begin successfully addressing these issues. Furthermore, one must note that poverty does not cause domestic violence. However, domestic violence can contribute to higher rates of poverty among survivors due to the fact that it exacerbates the economic instability of those experiencing abuse by reducing rates of employment and personal and national economic prosperity.

In addition, poverty can restrict the individual’s ability to leave their abuser due to a lack of available resources and financial independence. This intersection thus perpetuates a cycle of poverty for those experiencing violence. In Ghana, domestic violence led to a 4.5% reduction in the female workforce in 2019. Similarly, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Vietnam saw a 3% drop attributed to the “costs of accessing services, missed work and lowered productivity” of those experiencing abuse.

Economic Impact

Globally, about 27% of women aged 15-49, or more than one in four, experience domestic violence. Because of this, the impacts of domestic abuse on national economies are significant. These include:

  • Decreased size and stability of the female workforce.
  • Less investment in public services as more public resources go to health and judicial institutions.
  • About a 9% reduced “level of economic activity” with each 1% rise in violence against women.

Therefore, intervention methods that attempt to reduce the rates of global poverty must account for domestic violence as a significant contributor to the issue. As the United Nations stated, “This evidence enables an understanding of how domestic violence undermines households’ economic security and quality of life while limiting the effectiveness of programs to improve the well-being and capabilities of communities across low and middle-income countries.”


It is important to consider the nuances of poverty when addressing domestic violence. Legislation or policies that support survivors in their transition from abusive situations can aid in reducing the economic instability of these individuals, and thus, reduce levels of poverty among survivors. This includes housing and employment assistance.

The root causes of the issue must stand at the forefront of policies in order to provide more resources for individuals to leave their abusers.

Passing legislation that “holds assailants accountable” through policies and services that empower survivors to report abuse, along with improved “criminal justice and law enforcement training,” can decrease rates of global domestic violence, and thus, poverty.

Organizations Addressing Domestic Violence and Poverty

There are many organizations that are working to reduce the rates of global domestic violence and poverty. Alliance for HOPE International provides resources, training and trauma support to survivors of “domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse and human trafficking” to dismantle the cycle of abuse across the world.

The organization is active in 25 countries, establishing family justice and multi-agency centers that aggregate survivor resources in one place for easy access. The organization does advocacy work and provides mental health resources as well as medical and legal services.

The Global Network of Women’s Shelters (GNWS) is also working to reduce global domestic violence by acting as a voice for women and children of abuse on the international stage. This organization supports the establishment and accessibility of women’s shelters across the world while also promoting social change and policies that aim to reduce violence.

A significant aspect of its mission is networking. GNWS connects various shelters with one another to strengthen and improve their response to survivors, sharing new techniques and anticipating behaviors of abuse. The organization’s purpose is “to unite the women’s shelter movement globally to end violence against women and their children.”

Looking Ahead

Reducing rates of global domestic violence can help to reduce global poverty by empowering survivors in their ability to transition out of abusive situations. The intersection of domestic violence and poverty works as a barrier that entraps individuals in abuse and contributes to less positive outcomes for survivors when leaving their abusers. Therefore, by supporting policies and legislation that provides resources and direct support to survivors and holds assailants accountable, the world can address the cycle of poverty that survivors often experience.

– Kimberly Calugaru
Photo: Flickr

Violence Against Women in Cameroon
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make headlines, several other global challenges have come to light as a result. Like with many widespread concerns, crises often intensify the reality of serious issues. This is true regarding violence against women in Cameroon. While violence against women in Cameroon has attracted more attention since the beginning of the pandemic, its existence far precedes COVID-19. However, it is important to recognize that the implications of the current global pandemic worsen the intensity of gender-based violence.

Growing Violence Over Time

Data from 2012 reveals that 51% of women in Cameroon faced some sort of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. According to a 2019 research paper on gender equality in Cameroon, “56.4% of women in [a] union” face some form of violence. Furthermore, discrimination against women in Cameroon extends beyond gender-based violence. For example, 51.5% of women in Cameroon live below the poverty line in comparison to 39% of the general population. Moreover, 80% of women who live below the poverty line endure underemployment. Although COVID-19 is not a root cause of violence against women in Cameroon, it raises awareness regarding the severity of the matter. This growing global recognition draws attention to efforts addressing gender-based violence in the country and beyond.


Women in Action Against Gender Based Violence (WACameroon) began in 2005 as an organization centered around advancing human rights. WACameroon’s main focus is to advocate for a society in which everybody respects and upholds the rights of all. This includes improving the lives of impoverished women and other marginalized groups in Cameroon. WACameroon’s main objectives are:

  1. To encourage peacekeeping and the upholding of human rights.
  2. To create “action-oriented” initiatives to mitigate “gender-based violence and discrimination.”
  3. Improving the health of Cameroon’s population, specifically as it concerns HIV/AIDS.
  4. Ensuring the sustainability of both “natural and human resources.”
  5. Strengthening governance and democracy nationwide.

WACameroon’s efforts have seen success. The organization was able to improve girls’ access to education and female school completion rates while mobilizing “men as partners in the struggle for gender equality.” In addition, WACameroon helped facilitate “access to productive resources [for impoverished women].” With regard to gender-based violence, in particular, WACameroon “empowers perpetrators of [gender-based violence] to become advocates of gender equality.” The organization also empowers women with the confidence and assertiveness to enforce their rights. In 2010, the organization gained international recognition: International Service U.K. presented WACameroon with an International Human Rights award for its work in empowering people in Cameroon.

Opportunity Moving Forward

Violence against women in Cameroon brings more than just physical harm. The lasting effects of gendered violence bring along psychological challenges that can last a lifetime. While addressing these problems requires considerable time and effort, increased support from global organizations is an essential first step in demonstrating that individuals are not alone in their struggles. With the work of organizations like WACameroon, there is a growing awareness of the urgency for resources and aid in addressing violence against women in Cameroon.

– Chloé D’Hers
Photo: Flickr

Mega-Gangs of Venezuela 
Heavily armed with automatic weapons, hand grenades and military equipment, meta-gangs in Venezuela are unlike typical street gangs. Often, they have more weapons than the police, launching attacks against law enforcement and driving officers from gang territory. Numbering anywhere from 50 to more than 200 members each, the mega-gangs of Venezuela rule over the fearful civilians in their territory with impunity.

The gangs have lost some of their power in recent years, but the political and economic crises in the country are driving people to join them, increasing their influence. Some of the most notorious gangs are “El Koki’s” gang, Los 70 del Valle, Tren de Aragua and El Picure.

El Koki’s Gang

In the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, El Koki and his allies had full control of neighborhoods such as El Valle and Cota 905 until July 2021, the latter of which served as his gang’s stronghold. El Koki is distinct from other gang leaders. He never served jail time and is running his gang outside of prison. Additionally, he has already lived to the age of 43 when the average criminal in the country’s poorest areas does not live past 25. He has also had an outstanding arrest warrant since 2012.

In 2012, the Venezuelan government developed the “peace zones” policy. It began negotiations with hundreds of gangs from all over the country. The government offered a truce in which police would stay out of designated neighborhoods if the gangs ceased criminal activity in addition to providing financial incentives for gangsters to disarm. One such incentive was the use of money and other resources meant for starting legitimate businesses.

The policy backfired, however, when gangs like El Koki’s gang began using the money to discretely acquire heavier weaponry, as reported in El Pais. El Koki and other gang leaders also took advantage of Venezuela’s criminal organizations gathering for negotiations to bolster the size of their gangs. Merging with these other groups, they formed the numerous mega-gangs of Venezuela that followed the implementation of peace zones.

The “Peace Zones”

One of the established peace zones was Cota 905. El Koki seized the opportunity there due to the lack of a permanent police presence. He strengthened his control as he killed off rival gang leaders and made alliances with others. For four years prior to June 2021, the police did not cross into Cota 905 once to enforce the law, something El Koki’s connections to the military and government may have had a hand in. In June, however, the truce between El Koki’s gang and law enforcement fully broke down. The two sides entered a war when the gang invaded the La Vega neighborhood southwest of Cota 905.

Demonstrating how empowered the mega-gangs of Venezuela have become, El Koki’s gang launched an attack on central police headquarters. The government retaliated by sending roughly 800 troops into Cota 905, where they went door to door battling the gang. According to InSight Crime, El Koki’s whereabouts are unknown. However, some have said that he may be in Cúcuta, Columbia, a common sanctuary for Venezuelan gangsters where he can continue to run his gang.

Tren de Aragua

In the state of Aragua, the mega-gang Tren de Aragua operates out of Tocorón prison. With nearly 3,000 members in groups spread across the country and expanding into nations like Columbia and Peru, Tren de Aragua, once a railroad workers’ union, is the most powerful criminal organization in Venezuela. Last spring, the gang made headlines with the completion of a baseball stadium it constructed within the prison it occupies. Reportedly possessing other luxuries such as a swimming pool and a disco hall while brandishing greater firepower than the police, the gang has demonstrated its financial success to an impoverished nation enduring an economic crisis.

Using its large arsenal, vast numbers and extreme wealth, Tren de Aragua has been able to expand rapidly as it repeatedly clashes with police and the military. Like other mega-gangs, it is alluring to people in poverty who do not get enough help from the government, have limited opportunities and are lacking in police protection. According to Mirror, to entice youths and build rapport with communities, it offers food packages at a time when much of the population faces starvation due to poor economic conditions that the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened.

Police Brutality

It is not strictly poverty and recruitment efforts that motivate people to join and comply with the mega-gangs. Police brutality is another contributing factor and extrajudicial killings in retaliation for gang violence are all too common. As El Pais reported, in July 2021, more than 3,000 officers responded to gun violence between police and El Koki’s gang. There were reports of the police committing extrajudicial executions and robberies, and the circumstance resulted in 24 victims. When police assume the role of executioner and their responses to gang activity cause innocents to die, people end up in the mega-gangs for membership and protection.

The Work of NGOs

Currently, various NGOs and nonprofits are working to alleviate the situation in Venezuela. One such nonprofit is InSight Crime, which conducts investigative journalism, data analysis and makes policy suggestions for governments regarding organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean. InSight Crime speaks with police and officials when doing on-the-ground research. It also interacts with people involved in illegal activity to gain their perspective.

The International Crisis Group organization advises governments on preventing, managing and resolving deadly conflicts. Additionally, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society is an organization that operates in Ecuador and provides shelter and supplies to migrants who the ongoing turmoil and violence displaced. There are also local organizations such as Mi Convive, a nonprofit that feeds thousands of hungry children a week. Nonprofits providing food to children like Mi Convive are essential in preventing mega-gangs from bribing them with food.

Other Solutions

The Venezuelan government is addressing the high levels of gang violence with police reform and crackdowns to kill or drive gang leaders out of their territory. However, to put an end to organized crime and dismantle the mega-gangs of Venezuela, the government must take a complex, multifaceted approach. Corruption in politics and the military has led to impunity and the mega-gangs becoming better armed than the police. Eliminating financial incentives for organized crime is important. Otherwise, materially motivated criminals will continue to organize for profit. The police and other local public institutions should receive empowerment to rally their communities. They should act against the mega-gangs while scaling back military involvement.

The Venezuelan government, NGOs and foreign nations must work together. They have to ensure there is funding for robust social programs and that Venezuelans have economic opportunities where they live. They should be doing sufficient community outreach to sway people from the criminals and meta-gangs of Venezuela should be facing appropriate consequences.

– Nate Ritchie
Photo: Flickr