Violence in ColombiaThe Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) formally ended their armed conflict with a peace agreement in 2016. This was after more than 50 years of conflict between the government and the guerilla group. Despite the agreement’s plans for peace and a hopeful future, there were still illegal militant groups and members of FARC who refused to obey the government. They continued to perpetrate violence in the country as they fight for political and economic control over different Colombian regions. As a result of continued conflict, violence in Colombia remains a public threat and results in mass displacement, deaths and disappearances.

Links Between Violence and Poverty

Violence in Colombia sustains the country’s extreme poverty. A study conducted in rural Colombia found that those who experience violence are more likely to remain in a cycle of poverty as a result of economic loss, trauma and fear. The country’s unparalleled amount of internally displaced people also contributes to poverty. 139,000 people were displaced within Colombia due to violence in 2019 alone. Most of the people displaced come from rural areas where 70% of the population lives in poverty. This makes them particularly susceptible to violence. Violence prevails in the nation and continues to keep people in poverty. However, nonprofits are committed to reducing violence by promoting a culture of peace. These 3 organizations are working to reduce violence in Colombia.

Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC)

GPPAC aims to motivate Colombian youth as changemakers by promoting dialogue between different generations. The organization addresses the lack of youth community and political engagement in Colombia. GPPAC recognizes that young people’s faith in their country’s social fabric is essential to promoting peace over violence. By inspiring a new generation of peacemakers that learn from the past and are excited about the future, GPPAC quells violence in Colombia.

The organization’s Intergenerational Project in Colombia in 2017 and 2018 resulted in dialogues in 15 regions most affected by violence. GPPAC organized conversations that took place in schools and included the participation of teachers, parents, students and members of several social organizations. The diversity of people participating built trust between different generations and social groups. This empowers young people to continue fostering a culture of peace in their communities.

Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps aims to address violence in Colombia through prevention and intervention. The organization strengthens networks between teachers and parents to keep children in school since parents often take their children out of school to work. However, children who do not attend school are more likely to experience violence. Mercy Corps tends to students’ individual needs and equipping schools with the tools to address students subjected to violence. By doing this, it puts an end to the cycle of violence that is correlated to a lack of education. The organization also tends to former child soldiers by teaching them how to generate income. It also empowers them with leadership skills. Since its founding, Mercy Corps has served more than 62,000 children in areas most affected by violence in Colombia.

Interpeace

Interpeace builds a culture of peace in Colombia through the Peacebuilding Model of National Police, a program that began in 2017. In partnership with nonprofit Alianza para la Paz, Interpeace works with the Colombian National Police to promote peacebuilding responses to violence and conflict.

One Interpeace program focuses on violence prevention and management in 5 regions that are particularly prone to violence. Police are encouraged to resolve conflict in socially violent situations rather than exacerbating the situation with an aggressive response. Another program aims to improve police response to gender-based violence in areas most affected by armed conflict in Colombia. Interpeace strives to improve the government’s preparation and response to these types of violence. Ultimately, these programs will improve the local trust of police and other government figures. At the same time, they will reduce violence in Colombia’s most vulnerable communities.

 

Overall, the 2016 peace agreement provided a foundation for a hopeful future. However, the Colombian government needs to address violence in the country’s most vulnerable rural areas more effectively. The Colombian government could reduce poverty in Colombia’s rural areas to bridge the urban-rural gap. By doing so, it could more successfully quell violence in the nation. This renewed government response is integral to strengthening Colombia by reducing violence. By following the lead of GPPAC, Mercy Corps and Interpeace, the government can successfully move Colombia forward. These 3 organizations are instrumental in fostering a culture of nonviolence in Colombia.

Melina Stavropoulos
Photo: Flickr

In the past few years, Kyrgyzstan youth have stepped up to address poverty reduction and promote the well-being of women and children in Kyrgyzstan. The U.N. has worked with Kyrgyzstan youth representatives to promote the Sustainable Development Goals and has partnered with youth who are passionate about using IT solutions to fight domestic violence. In addition, youth are raising awareness about human trafficking and investing in their own wellbeing in conjunction with local governments.

Youth Promoting SDGs

Between 2019 and 2020, the U.N. began an initiative allowing Kyrgyzstan youth to step up and spread awareness amongst their generation about implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs include things like “no poverty” and “zero hunger.” Through this program, 34 Kyrgyzstan youth have partnered with U.N. campaigns to advance the SDGs and show others what steps can be taken to achieve them. Each SDG is assigned to two youth representatives. Participants are passionate about the chosen SDG, as it often relates to the representative’s area of study in school or experiences growing up.

As Aibek Asanov, a youth representative for Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6) said, “I believe that youth can change the future. This is why I became the SDG Delegate.”

Youth Against Human Trafficking

Kyrgyzstan youth have also taken a stand against human trafficking. Through Kyrgyzstan’s 2017-2020 State Program against Trafficking in Persons, 80 youth ambassadors have represented 30 youth groups across Kyrgyzstan. These youth ambassadors work with local government and media groups, and gather for a yearly conference to discuss the goals and developments of the program. The program focuses on eliminating child marriage and forced marriage. It also provides access to resources for victims of human trafficking. In 2018, the program had positively influenced more than 600,000 people and utilized the work of 5,000 youth activists.

Youth Spearhead IT Campaign to Fight Domestic Violence

In 2020, the UNDP partnered with youth coders and designers to develop IT solutions that fight domestic violence against women and children. These solutions are especially needed for those trapped in quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In cooperation with the Spotlight Initiative, UNDP organized a two-day hackathon that addressed solutions in 4 areas:

  • Violence against women
  • Violence against children
  • Migrant children in difficult situations
  • Those with disabilities in difficult situations

Within two days, over 50 developers came up with 18 IT solutions to aid people in these four areas. Of these projects, the three winners created very different but useful solutions. One addressed recognizing domestic violence and connecting people to the necessary resources. Another focused on victims’ access to online psychologists. The third winner used fairy tales to track children’s mental health.

Youth Partnership with Local Governance

Since 2017, UNICEF has encouraged Kyrgyzstan youth to take initiative in advancing their own wellbeing by partnering with local governments. So far, the Youth and Child Friendly Local Governance (YCHFLG) program has reached 24 rural and 18 urban precincts to place importance on services for young people and ensure that local governments prioritize the needs of Kyrgyzstan youth. The program encourages the involvement of youth in decision-making and politics. Youth can share their insight and preferences, which are then taken into account by local governments when plans are put into place.

In just a few years, Kyrgyzstan youth have taken initiative. They have impacted poverty reduction by addressing the SDGs, raising awareness about human trafficking, using creativity and innovation to end domestic violence and becoming involved in the political process. Passionate, poverty-aware youth will continue to be instrumental to future progress in Kyrgyzstan.

– Anita Durairaj
Photo: Wikimedia

Poverty in GrenadaGrenada, an island country in the Caribbean Sea, is known for its beautiful tourist attractions and flourishing spice trade. Unfortunately, poverty in Grenada affects almost one-third of its 107,000 residents.

The World Bank estimates that 32% of Grenada’s residents live below the poverty line. In addition, 13% of the population is considered “extremely poor.”

Dr. Elinor Garely of eTN notes that Grenada’s poorest residents are located in the rural regions of the country. She explains that this is due to inadequate access to the mainstream economy.

The mainstream economy is based on tourism and spice exportation, among other products. Grenada also depends on foreign aid. Without suitable access to the main cities and these economic opportunities, the rural communities suffer.

Youth in Grenada

Grenada’s demographic is quite young, with one-fourth of the population under the age of 14. The poverty in Grenada impacts youth most of all. In fact, Garely explains that 66.4% of the poor are under 24 years of age.

Due to a lack of birth control resources, there are high numbers of teen pregnancy, which often correlates to violence against children.

Physical and sexual abuse have emerged as the main issues facing the children of Grenada. More than one-third of children in Grenada have suffered from sexual violence. Women and children experience significant abuse due to the lack of laws against physical punishment.

Causes of Poverty in Grenada

Poverty in Grenada is linked to a number of different factors. With inadequate defenses against natural disasters, ineffective education and unprepared workers, poverty is “entrenched in the very fiber of the country.”

Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, frequently threaten the small island. The last two hurricanes occurred in 2004 and 2005. Hurricane Ivan hit first and devastated the majority of Grenadian homes. A year later, Hurricane Emily swept through the area, furthering the damage not yet repaired from Hurricane Ivan. However, significantly fewer lives were lost, as the Grenadian people took important precautions that had been neglected during Hurricane Ivan.

Education and unprepared workers are two other causes of poverty in Grenada, and they go hand in hand. Without proper education, the youth do not have the necessary skills to get jobs that offer livable pay. The jobs that are available, mainly agricultural, do not appeal to the youth because of “perceived instability, [the youths’] lack of interest in physical labor and very low wages,” according to Garely.

It would be more beneficial for the Grenadian youth to work in the tourism sector, but, unfortunately, it requires skills that many residents lack.

Efforts to Reduce Poverty in Grenada

The government is making strides to alleviate many of the issues that stem from or cause poverty in Grenada.

While it currently lacks enough funds to be effective, Grenada does have “a system to place orphans and children with domestic problems with other families.” In addition, laws are in place to protect girls from sexual assault. However, boys still remain vulnerable.

The country has taken important steps to defend against natural disasters. Creating a plan for natural disasters became a priority after the devastation of Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Emily. The change was seen immediately in how the people of Grenada reacted differently to Hurricane Emily after experiencing Hurricane Ivan; “the rush contrasted with the attitude before Ivan, when Grenadians took few precautions.”

While Grenada is still improving its ability to defend against natural disasters and internal issues such as violence, it has wonderful potential.

Abbey Lawrence
Photo: Flickr

gender equality in el salvadorIn a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, El Salvador is cited as having one of the top rates of violence in the region, with a disproportionate amount of violence aimed at women and girls. Since many girls begin working at a young age, they are vulnerable to abuse and are often forced to leave school to provide for their families. However, in recent years, organizations such as the Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos and the Salvadoran Institute for the Advancement of Women have established a presence in fighting for gender equality in El Salvador, particularly the freedom from violence and economic equality.

Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos

Established in 2008 in relation to the nonprofit organization Mary’s Pence, the Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos works within the Salvadoran community to fight for gender equality, support women in pursuing financial independence and teach about sexual and reproductive rights. Now with over 300 members and 576 loans given to women in the community to begin their own small businesses, the organization boasts many successful women-owned businesses in agriculture, food service and the clothing industry.

In 2016, the Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos held an assembly to share their growing knowledge of economic solidarity with other women. Along with members in El Salvador, women from Nicaragua and Honduras attended the event, creating a total of about 120 women. The event allowed attendees to discuss their business strategies with other women in similar business ventures and brainstorm ways to improve. By giving the women a space for discourse, the Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos further empowered El Salvadoran women to connect with each other.

However, the women in El Salvador are still struggling with violence and freedom. Gangs threatened women who owned businesses, demanding money in exchange for leaving the women and their businesses alone. Teen pregnancy continues to run high, something this organization hopes to combat through open discussions about sexual and reproductive health. Through economic independence and transparent education, the Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos is fighting for the rights of Salvadoran women.

Salvadoran Institute for the Advancement of Women

This agency was created to uphold the measures in the Domestic Violence Act and National Plan to Prevent and Deal with Domestic Violence, passed by the Salvadoran Secretariat of Social Inclusion in response to the high levels of domestic violence in the country. By recognizing domestic violence as a government issue, women suffering from violence in El Salvador were more likely to speak up and fight for their rights.

Like the Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos, the agency implements programs to encourage women’s education in business along with protecting those suffering from domestic violence. Although the government recognizes the gender disparity in business and economics, inherent sexism in communities challenges the progress of women in El Salvador. For example, the government can implement a program encouraging women into intellectual work, but the men working there have a preexisting bias of prioritizing and hiring men for such positions.

However, progress is being made. The Salvadoran Institute for the Advancement of Women recently provided over 100 hygiene kits of feminine products and clothes to women who were struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The mission of the agency is to support women in exercising their rights as citizens and bring the country closer to true gender equality; giving women the tools to be hygienic and safe is a start.

Seven in ten women in El Salvador are affected by some form of violence throughout their lives. The Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos and the Salvadoran Institute for the Advancement of Women are taking a stand against domestic violence, arguing Salvadoran women have a right to live a violence-free life. Although slow, these organizations are seeing progress through their programs and fight tirelessly for gender equality in El Salvador.

– Kiyomi Kishaba
Photo: Wikimedia

Dilaasa Centre Remains a Resource During COVID-19

People all over the world have been in lockdown amidst the outbreak of COVID-19, and because of this, many things have changed. However, one thing that has received less publicity and protest is the rise in domestic violence against women. It is a basic human right to live in today’s world without experiencing physical or mental harm by those of the opposite sex, yet it is prevalent in today’s societies across the world, increasing even more during the battle against COVID-19. Thankfully, there are resources that women and girls can reach out to when they are feeling threatened, even during times of social distancing, such as the Dilaasia Centre. One of the places that have seen an increase in violence against women is India, a country with a population of over 1.3 billion people. The Borgen Project spoke with the Dilaasa Centre, a crisis center for women and girls experiencing gender-based and domestic violence, to find out more about just how COVID-19 is affecting India’s female population.

A Global Increase in Violence

According to an article in The New York Times, hotlines worldwide have seen an increase in domestic violence calls. Meanwhile, in the past 12 months, 243 million girls between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced sexual or physical violence.

According to the United Nations Populations Fund (UNPFA), one of the reasons behind the increase in global domestic violence includes the higher likelihood of violent acts when people are locked down in their homes with their spouses and family members. Another contributor is the reduced access to resources during lockdown that most victims of domestic violence can usually turn to, such as centers, hotlines or possibly even other places of refuge. Other reasons for the increase in domestic violence reports include stress, economic anxiety, the loss of people’s jobs, increased alcohol consumption and the lack of police response. According to NDTV, some Indian women have reached out to groups such as the National Commission for Women (NCW) who help fight gender inequality in India by offering help in domestic violence incidents.

According to a U.N. study, places that have seen the largest increase in domestic violence due to COVID-19 lockdowns include France (30% increase in domestic violence reports), Cyprus (30% increase in domestic violence hotline calls), Singapore (33% increase in domestic violence hotline calls), Argentina (25% increase in emergency calls based on domestic violence), Germany, Canada, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S.

The same study found that the COVID-19 pandemic will most likely result in a 75% reduction in the global progress to end gender-based violence. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that globally, 35% of women have experienced gender-based violence in their lives. The UNPFA study suggests that if the COVID-19 lockdown continues globally for another 6 months, the number of gender-based acts of violence could increase by 31 million.

India’s Gender-Based Violence

The women and girls living in India have experienced mistreatment for a very long time, partly because it is a patriarchal society and many laws are discriminatory against women. For example, The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act of 1956 says that the fathers of the family are the natural guardians of the children of the family.

Women also experience marital rape and find themselves victims of violent crimes. Every day in India, there are around 20 dowry deaths or situations in which husbands’ and in-laws’ continuous harassment over the dowry causes married women to suffer murder or forces them to commit suicide. Honor killings are also quite common, wherein the husband murders his wife because she brings some type of “shame” upon him. Between 2015-2018, India saw reports of 300 cases of honor killings alone. Other practices include molestation, torture and bride burning, all of which occur when the woman or girl is going to be a bride, but her family declines to pay a dowry, resulting in her murder. Meanwhile, according to an article, “31 percent of married women in India have experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence by their spouses.”

Many consider males to be the preferred gender in India. Families often prefer having boys over girls because of the advantages they inherit from ideas that exist in society. This cycle continues the underrepresentation and lack of respect for women and girls in the country.

Since India’s lockdown on March 24, 2020, the number of domestic violence cases across India has increased. From March 23rd to April 16th alone, the NCW received 587 complaints of domestic violence or abuse. Thankfully, there are crisis centers that have remained open during the lockdown to help women and girls suffering from domestic violence.

India’s Dilaasa Centre

The Dilaasa Centre is a crisis-intervention center, established in 2000, located in the Municipal Secondary Hospitals in Mumbai, India. The first center emerged in the KB Bhabha Hospital in Bandra, Mumbai. The centers were a joint creation of the Public Health Department of Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and the Center for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT). In previous years, CEHAT worked towards four main goals to advocate for an end to violence against women and girls. The four goals are to help with women’s health and finances, health legislation and patient’s rights, women’s health and violence and health. Most focus on health because of the way violence impacts women’s health and well-being.

The Dilaasa Centre has two main objectives: to see that all women and children receive proper care during times of violence and to educate health professionals, such as doctors and nurses, to know the signs of domestic violence. The Centre told The Borgen Project that “The crisis center, in brief, provided psychological support, an emergency shelter in the hospital, police aide; legal intervention and of course medical and medicolegal support since 2000.” The other Municipal Secondary Hospitals with Dilaasa Centres are in Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Dehli, Kerala, Meghalaya and Gujarat.

According to the Dilaasa Centre, each of its facilities serves 250 to 300 women and children or girls between the ages of 6 and 80 every year, with some survivors of sexual violence being as young as 3-years-old. Most of the Dilaasa Centre’s patients are of low-or-middle income status. Some survivors who visit the Dilaasa Centre are married, separated or divorced. “Women approach Dilaasa with varied expectations,” the Dilaasa Centre said. “While most want the ‘violence to stop,’ the ‘husband to improve his behavior’ and to ‘live with husband peacefully,’ a significant number come to explore if they have any legal avenues to stop [the] violence.” Dilaasa said that when it comes to actual interventions, a very small number seek that kind of help, as well as only a few looking for shelter. The center also sees a large number of rape survivors since it connects to the hospital.

“As a hospital-based crisis intervention center, we play a crucial role in providing services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence,” the center said. In fact, statistics have proven that survivors of violence use health services more than those who do not experience domestic violence. According to WHO, women who experience domestic violence end up having more health issues than those who do not experience it.

Since COVID-19 began, there have been surges in domestic violence cases across the globe and in India. The workers and counselors the Dilaasa Centre are “essential,” just like the doctors and nurses in the hospital, and the counselors have begun doing virtual or audio calls to those suffering from domestic violence and are trapped at home. According to the center, many women no longer have access to phones or cell phones and are stuck in their homes with their abusers on a daily basis.

The center told The Borgen Project that “CEHAT strives to generate evidence on the role of [the] health sector and establishing services in a health setting for women.” The Dilaasa Centre hopes that in the future it can oversee the opening of more centers in hospitals when there is a need for educating others on gender-based violence in India.

The Good News

While women and girls in India are suffering from domestic violence during COVID-19 because of the country’s national lockdown, there are ways that Indian women and girls can still find help during these trying times. U.N. Women has written a domestic violence COVID-19 response, in which it outlines ways to reduce the impact the lockdown has had on women. It recommends that governments provide additional resources for women and girls in their response plans, governments make pre-existing resources even stronger for women and girls during the lockdown, police and government workers receive education about the facts regarding the rise in domestic violence cases during COVID-19, women and girls be the focus when looking at solutions to the pandemic and that government collect the correct types of data to ensure safer and better outcomes for females in future pandemics. The NCW has also developed its own domestic abuse/violence hotline number for WhatsApp, an app that allows people to make calls and text internationally. There are also crisis centers, like the Dilaasa Centre, that remain open during the lockdowns.

Gender-based violence has been occurring in many countries for generations, and unfortunately, patriarchal societies remain the same today. COVID-19 has presented a special set of circumstances where all families must remain at home together, which also presents a rare opportunity for people around the world to become more educated and aware of the prevalence of gender-based violence in our cultures. While the world waits for the day when women and men receive equal treatment and for women to no longer be in harm’s way, there are resources like the Dilaasa Centre that create a safe place of confidentiality, hope and refuge for women and girls suffering from domestic violence.

Marlee Septak
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Afghanistan
Human rights have long been a concern in the country of Afghanistan. The country suffers from extreme poverty that terrorist forces bringing destruction and violence intensify. As a result of these dire conditions, many Afghan citizens do not receive basic rights. While these conditions are extremely bleak, there are a few endeavors working on improving human rights in Afghanistan.

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan

In 2019, Afghanistan saw an excessive amount of violence. From the beginning of January through September, there were over 8,000 civilian casualties. The Taliban specifically targeted some of these attacks on women and health care providers.

One organization, The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), has devoted itself to eliminating the harsh conditions of typical Afghan life. UNAMA is using its research, reporting, advocacy and engagement to tackle this endeavor.

Specifically, UNAMA aims to protect civilians from armed conflict, defend against the violation of child rights, eliminate violence against women, halt arbitrary detention and prevent torture during detention. So many civilians, women and children, in particular, experience great suffrage as a result of the violence in Afghanistan.

Despite the bleakness of 2019, UNAMA has made progress. Large-scale suicide attacks decreased by 79 percent in 2019 when compared to 2018. Torture in conflict-related detainees decreased by 7 percent as well. Maintaining the mission and engaging in strategic partnerships are key aspects to improving the living conditions of the public and at-risk Afghans. By continuing the impactful research, reporting, advocacy and strategic relationships, UNAMA is improving human rights in Afghanistan.

Human Rights Defenders

For a long while, human rights defenders have been victims of violence and intimidation within Afghanistan. Specifically, in 2019, escalated tensions surrounded human rights workers where there were specific activities of attacks and/or kidnapping. During that escalation in violence, the Taliban announced that there would be an attack on all media outlets responsible for criticizing Taliban fighters. These defenders are vital to aiding the protection of people’s human rights in Afghanistan. In turn, these defenders must also receive protection. 

Response to Rising Tensions

In January 2020, at an Amnesty International event, the authorities publicly committed to protecting the defenders of human rights in Afghanistan. Other organizations that support human rights throughout the nation attended the event. All of these groups designed a strategy outlining the actions they should take to protect human rights defenders.

This support launches initiatives that will investigate attacks, respond to incidents and/or threats of attacks, offer relief to human rights defenders and enable human rights defenders to continue work without the fear of retaliation. Helping these human rights defenders is vital to changing the situation of human rights in Afghanistan. If these defenders are unable to safely complete the work, then the human rights of Afghans will never improve.

Currently, human rights in Afghanistan are in need of remarkable improvements. Organizations are aiming to develop response mechanisms and preventative strategies toward improving human rights in Afghanistan. UNAMA is aiming to utilize research, reporting, advocacy, strategic partnerships and the protection of human rights defenders to help the Afghan population.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Wikipedia

El Salvador Economic Crisis
El Salvador is a small country in Central America that has been experiencing an economic crisis for several years. The root of the El Salvador economic crisis is the persistent levels of gang violence and extreme levels of poverty. In the face of the country’s instability, some have made attempts to aid the fight against violence and poverty.

Perpetual Violence

During the 1980s, El Salvador was in the heart of a civil war; once the nation prevailed, the government and the people set out to become a democracy. The country received praise for its smooth transition into democracy, however, in recent years the levels of gang violence have begun to rise. The issue has persisted for about 15 years where there has been minimal acknowledgment, thus feeding political silence and a lack of reform.

The perpetual violence in El Salvador is a predominant problem. The nation currently holds the title for the highest rates of murder and violence against children under the age of 19. The National Crisis Group (NCG) believes that a proper response to this issue includes “specific police and justice reforms, as well as a legal framework for rehabilitating former gang members.” Many believe that such steps essential towards the pacification of violence, which will ultimately improve El Salvador’s economic crisis.

Gang Activity

The severe incline in gang violence has directly impacted the El Salvador economic crisis. Estimates determined that nearly 40 percent of the population lives in poverty because of various factors involved with gang violence. The nation’s government has spent a massive amount of money to relocate individuals to communities across the United States in an attempt to curb violence. However, extreme poverty initiated gang violence in El Salvador. Extreme poverty fuels high levels of violence because of the lack of a sustainable educational system, therefore resulting in students eventually ending up on the streets. Gang members’ recruitment of young individuals to support violent activities with a promise of financial stability preserves this cycle.

The 7 Fund

In the face of the El Salvador economic crisis, former professional soccer player David Beckham started a fund to diminish the El Salvador economic crisis. Beckham started the project, known as the 7 Fund, which aims to provide various support to those in need, specifically in Indonesia, Nepal, Uganda and El Salvador.

Launching the project with UNICEF, Beckham focuses on the prevalent violence throughout El Salvador. The former soccer star hopes the “children can grow up free from fear and realize their potential.” One way the 7 Fund tackles this goal is through a hotline for children who are in danger or experience violence. 7 Fund also provides resources for teachers in the form of training programs to develop the skills needed to support the at-risk children. Further, the project has implemented various committees to improve the El Salvador economic crisis by keeping schools safe. Specifically, students, teachers, parents and even authorities provide a space for children to play sports, which allows the students to feel comfortable and safe.

El Salvador has certainly seen better days, but it is likely the nation will see a positive culture again. With David Beckham and UNICEF’s work, the economy has already begun improving. While poverty rates and gang violence are still high, child violence rates have gone down. Through initiatives such as 7 Fund, the El Salvador economic crisis can improve with time.

Sarah Mobarak
Photo: Flickr

Ending Violence in Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso is a small African nation that lies between the more well-known countries Ghana and Mali. Like many other underprivileged nations, Burkina Faso experiences excessive rates of violence. Fortunately, humanitarian organizations noticed and began efforts to calm the violence. Keep reading to find out who and what organizations are ending violence in Burkina Faso.

The Statistics

In Burkina Faso, the United Nations’ report reveals the harsh reality that citizens live through. The homicide rate is 9.8 per 100,000 people. The homicide rate for men is 14.1 out of 100,000 people, while the homicide rate for females is 5.2. In addition, with a population of 20,321,378, the total number of homicides for 2019 was 1,991 deaths. For comparison, the homicide rate in the United States in 2018 was 5.0 people per 100,000 people, which is nearly 50 percent less Burkina Faso’s homicide rate. These astronomical homicide rates are why ending violence in Burkina Faso is a crucial issue.

How Violence Affects the Nation

The extreme homicide rate in Burkina Faso is detrimental to society, but in many more ways than just an increased death toll. Between January 26 and February 15, 2020, approximately 150,000 people fled their villages in the Sahel region. In addition, United Nations News reported that nearly 4,000 people flee their communities every day. The violence in Burkina Faso forces communities from their villages. Additionally, the violence forced over 2,000 schools to close due to threats toward education personnel, military usurping school facilities and assaults directed at the schools themselves in February 2019. As a result, about 133,333 children had their education interrupted, and 3,050 teachers became jobless.

Who is Ending Violence in Burkina Faso?

Fortunately, the violence in Burkina Faso is not going unnoticed. Many different humanitarian organizations are working toward ending violence in Burkina Faso. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is a branch of the United Nations that focuses on the well-being of refugees, people forcibly removed from their communities and stateless people. The UNHCR is working to provide safe zones for fleeing individuals. Its distinct focus is relocating the elderly, children and single women.


The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) works to decrease the impact of the closure of schools on the youth’s education. Additionally, UNICEF works toward this goal by implementing innovative learning methods. For example, radio learning is a way that UNICEF works toward ending violence in Burkina Faso. Radio learning is an inventive way to provide education to the many children who have to flee their homes because of violence. The radio lessons follow a basis of literacy and arithmetic.
 Moreover, UNICEF works with education and government officials to bring a resolution to the table. The organization works on the ground to assist teachers in resolving the threat of violence to their schools. Also, UNICEF provides psychological support to students and teachers who have become emotionally scarred from the harsh reality they witness daily.


– Cleveland Lewis
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Central AmericaCentral America, which includes Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, has a history of human rights violations. The three northern countries (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) are considered the most dangerous countries in the region for vulnerable communities. The United Nations defines human rights as rights thought to be inherent no matter any status. Violations of these rights include violence, discrimination and injustices.

Vulnerable Communities

Members and supporters of the LGBTQ community, women and children are the most prone to violence and discrimination in Central America. Violence against LGBTQ people is severe and spread far throughout the region. In northern Central America between 2014 to 2019, 243 LGBTQ people were murdered.

The northern region is also the most dangerous for women. This is because El Salvador has the highest rate of gender-motivated killing in the world. Guatemala follows closely behind at third-highest while Honduras is sixth. In 2017, 2,559 cases of gender-motivated murders were reported in Latin America and the Caribbean with Central American nations making up a majority of the countries with the highest risk for women. El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua are included within the top 10.

Another highly vulnerable group is children. Children suffer from gangs, sexual violence and poverty. Many are forced to flee from Central America to the United States in the hopes of living safer lives, but this journey is often dangerous due to the drug-trafficking gangs. In addition to violence, poverty is also a significant driving force for children and families fleeing Central America. More than two-thirds of children live in poverty throughout El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In El Salvador alone, 86.8 percent of children live under the poverty line. However, families who do make it to the U.S. border are detained and often separated.

Human Rights Defenders

There is constant work to expand existing organizations and encourage a public environment that allows human rights defenders, local civil society groups and individuals to carry out their vital work without fear of violence. The people on the ground doing research, providing aid and services and protesting injustice are the foundation of the cause.

OutRight Action International, founded in 1990, works to improve the lives and protect LGBTQ people in Central America. In Guatemala, OutRight hosted a security training for LGBTQ activists in 2016. They document abuse and work towards creating a more tolerant society.

Journalists and activists that carry out such work are often detained or arrested for speaking out against the violation of human rights. 87 human rights activists were murdered or died in detention in Central America in 2016. The Latin America Working Group (LAWG) recognizes the importance of activists in the fight for human rights and has launched many campaigns advocating for laws protecting human rights defenders. In many cases, the violence and crime against activists are ignored by law officials and in response, human rights organizations have implemented devices, such as contact buttons and emergency plans, to keep people from being punished for speaking out.

Furthermore, the Pan American Development Foundation, based in Washington D.C., is currently 4 years into a 5-year plan to strengthen human rights in Central America. The project began in 2016 and has provided help to at-risk communities and has established protection systems for civil society groups and human rights defenders.

Moving Forward

Human rights in Central America are challenged every day. These rights are often abused due to the ineffectiveness of government intervention efforts and gang-related violence. Central America has a long way to go in providing a safe and enriching society for its citizens, but with the continued efforts of activists and community groups, there is a possibility for improved safety and livelihoods.

Taylor Pittman

Photo: Flickr

Libyan Civil War
In the wake of the Arab Spring revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, protests broke out in Benghazi, Libya in February 2011. The protest was over the arrest of human rights lawyer Fethi Tarbell. When the government responded with greater and deadlier force to suppress the protests, demonstrators took up arms against the Qaddafi regime. NATO forces intervened in support of the rebels, who found and killed Qaddafi in October of that year. Libya has experienced a civil war between the Libyan National Army and the General National Congress. The ongoing conflict has had severe consequences for the Libyan people. Here are four humanitarian costs of the Libyan Civil War.

4 Humanitarian Costs of the Libyan Civil War

  1. Displacement: The Libyan Civil War has resulted in the displacement of tons of Libyans. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, the amount of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Libya was upwards of 217,000 people as of late 2017. By January 2020, the estimated number of IDPs rose to 343,180 Libyans. In addition to these IDPs, Libya is housing tens of thousands of refugees. Because of its proximity to Europe, Libya has remained a hub for migrants and asylum-seekers despite the civil war. Currently, Libya has 46,913 registered refugees and asylum-seekers. Refugees and migrants living in Libya face unsafe living conditions. This can lead to a litany of abuses at the hands of smugglers and members of militias and gangs including rapes, beatings and killings. This is due to weak law enforcement in Libya. Both internally displaced Libyans and refugees from other countries are often exposed to the violence of the civil war.
  2. Poor Living Conditions: The civil war has significantly worsened living conditions for Libyans. Three percent of Libya’s population, or 229,468 people, live in extreme poverty. Rural Libyans more commonly live in these conditions when measured proportionally. The incredibly high unemployment rate has worsened economic living conditions of young Libyans. At 48.7 percent, Libya now has the fourth-highest youth unemployment rate in the entire world. More young people in Libya are unemployed per capita than in the Gaza Strip or in Syria. More than 1.3 million are in need of humanitarian assistance in Libya. In addition, hundreds of thousands of them lack adequate access to health care and essential medicines, reliable food, drinking water sources, safe shelter and education.
  3. Violation of Human Rights: An important consequence of the civil war is the transgression of basic rights, such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech and expression. Since the civil war broke out in 2011, armed militias and ISIS fighters have threatened and attacked religious minorities. This includes Sufis, Ibadis and Christians. They destroyed religious sites in Libya with impunity. Unidentified groups have committed several attacks of violence against Sufi religious sites including a historic Sufi mosque in Tripoli and Sidi Abu Gharara. The violation of freedom of speech and expression occurs when groups have intimidated, threatened and physically attacked activists, journalists, bloggers and media professionals. Journalists and members of the media have experienced arrests and detainments without charge.
  4. Human Trafficking: Another problem that has intensified during the civil war is human trafficking. According to the CIA World Factbook, Libya is a destination and transit country for men and women from Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution. Migrants who seek employment in Libya as laborers and domestic workers or who transit Libya en route to Europe are vulnerable to forced labor. Traffickers often force migrants to work on farms and construction sites. Additionally, they frequently force women to work in brothels. Militias and armed groups have been forcibly enlisting children under 18 years old since 2013. The civil war exacerbates this problem. The violence and unrest of the conflict hinder the ability of international actors and of the Libyan government to gather information on human trafficking. Libya’s judicial system is dysfunctional. Thus, the government cannot investigate, prosecute or convict traffickers, complicit detention camp guards or government officials, or militias or armed groups that used child soldiers. The Libyan government cannot protect trafficking victims.

International Response

These four humanitarian costs of the Libyan Civil War have significant negative effects on local civilians. In response to the civil war and its effects, organizations like the U.N. sought to provide aid to the Libyan people. The UNHCR has instituted a Quick Impact Project (QIPs) in Libya. It is a small project that helps support those in need with health, education, shelter or water and sanitation sectors. UNHCR provides vital assistance to refugees and migrants at 12 disembarkation points in western Libya. Other activities include working to end the detention of refugees and asylum seekers, resettlement, family reunification and voluntary repatriation.

Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr