Women’s rights in FranceWith the rise of women’s rights movements in recent years, French citizens have mobilized to address gender issues, especially the prevalence of femicide and domestic violence. France has made much progress in the realm of gender equality, including the establishment of policies and programs promoting women’s rights in France under the Macron administration. However, there is still much to be done to reach true equality and to end gender-based violence.

Violence Against Women

In France, femicides —  the killing of women by a relative or significant other — have been a significant reason for protest in recent years. La Fondation des Femmes, or the Women’s Foundation, is one protest group that has formed around the issue as it believes government efforts to curb the violence are not enough to keep citizens safe. In a recent article from the BBC, the Women’s Foundation criticized the lack of adequate gun policy as firearms are one of the most common weapons used in femicides.

Additionally, pandemic-induced lockdowns have forced many women to be confined in the same space as abusers, resulting in a 30% increase in domestic violence reports, according to France24. Due to its continued prevalence, gender violence is a central concern for activists advocating for women’s rights in France.

The #MeToo movement also gained traction in France in 2017 under the French name #BalanceTonPorc. Though there were no significant convictions or resignations of perpetrators of sexual violence at first, the rise in protests and social media movements greatly increased the visibility of victims in 2020.

Efforts to Combat Gender-Based Violence

President Emmanuel Macron’s emphasis on gender equality provided much hope for feminist voters during his 2017 presidential campaign. As part of his pledge to support women’s rights in France, Macron implemented protective policies for women and has established the position of Secretariat of Equality between Women and Men, a role currently held by Marlène Schiappa. Under Macron’s administration, France scored 75.1% in 2020 in terms of the Gender Equality Index, ranking third-best among all members of the EU.

In response to protests and the advocacy of groups such as the Women’s Foundation, the French government implemented several pieces of legislation addressing gender violence. According to the BBC, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe held a domestic violence conference in 2019, during which he pledged to increase the number of temporary shelters for victims, improve the procedures of domestic violence cases and contribute more than $6 million to the cause. French parliament added to these measures by approving a law permitting doctors to reveal the identity of a patient if domestic violence is putting the patient’s life at risk.

Women’s Rights Progress

There has been some improvement as between 2019 and 2020 the number of domestic murders of women decreased from 146 to 90, a historically low number that the government believes to be a result of the work of its policies and law enforcement.

Despite government efforts to decrease gender violence, many individuals are still concerned by the alarming numbers of femicides. Protest groups in France are creating street collages highlighting femicide and sexual harassment. Caroline De Haas, the founder of the feminist movement NousToutes, told the Guardian that “nearly 100 deaths is no reason to celebrate.”

There are several hopeful developments for gender equality in France. However, despite an explicit government commitment to equality, the government must take additional steps to conquer disparities in female employment and leadership, gender violence, harassment and wage gaps. The continued protests asserting an end to violence against women demonstrate the need for more policy and execution of legislation for women’s rights in France.

Sarah Stolar
Photo: pixabay

Books From the Front Lines
On March 4, 2021, outrage flooded the streets of India after the news of a new honor killing. Honor killings happen when a girl or a woman becomes a victim of murder for shaming her family. Often these women are victims of physical abuse, verbal abuse or sexual assault. Bringing attention to the topic of honor-based killings and violence against women and girls are authors that have either experienced these inhumane acts first hand or reported them. Authors from across the globe are giving women a voice against the violence, honor killings and crimes they may suffer at the hands of family members. Below are four books from the front lines that exemplify the courage it takes to speak against honor-based killings.

“Murder in the Name of Honor” by Rara Husseini

In this book, author Rara Husseini provides real-life accounts of honor killings. One focus of the book is the tragic story of Kifaya. Her brother took her life after he sexually assaulted her. Husseini detailed the family’s indifference to her investigation to garner justice for the girl. In an interview with Kifaya’s uncles, Husseini dove deeper into the mistreatment of the young woman even after her death. “They spoke of her as if they were speaking about a sheep, these men were part of the conspiracy, her body not yet cold yet they were here smoking and drinking like nothing happened.”

As a journalist who commits to the truth at every turn, Husseini does not turn away from a confrontation. She has been fighting the articles and laws that protect murderers like Kifaya’s brother and has turned the story of Kifaya into one of recognition in face of adversity.

“Unbroken Spirit” by Ferzanna Riley

Ferzanna Riley, the author of “Unbroken Spirit,” was born to Muslim parents in Pakistan. She experienced a hard upbringing. The deception and betrayal that she and her sister experienced from their parents led them to return to Pakistan from their new home in London. Trapped in a home that permitted violence, Ferzanna questioned her faith daily. In this astonishing true story about faith, loss and violence, readers can learn about Riley’s strength and her unbroken spirit, despite living in an abusive home.

“Daughters of Shame” by Jasvinder Sanghera

In a family where honor matters more than anything, freedom often means risking it all for a way out. This was the case for Jasvinder Sanghera, who was born in England to seven sisters and one brother. All of her sisters married before the age of 16. When she was 14, her family showed her a photograph of a man they told her she was to marry. This began a series of repeated attempts to get Jasvinder to marry. “Daughters of Shame” recounted Jasvinder’s estranged family relationship after she ran away from home at the age of 16.

“Beyond Honour” by Tahira S. Khan

These books from the front lines are a view into the injustices of honor-based killings. The author Tahira S. Khan takes these insights a step further to examine the causes, motives and political aspects of honor-based killings. Tahira S. Khan is a distinguished professor whose work receives inspiration from experience and academic study. She obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado in International studies. “Beyond Honour” goes in-depth to examine honor killings as crimes of historical importance.

Honor killings are crimes against humanity. The repercussions of such horrendous actions are something no family should bear witness to. The group Honour-Based Violence Network brings awareness and action to ending honor killings. Its library includes books from the front lines by authors like Rara Husseini, Ferzanna Riley, Jasvinder Sanghera and Tahira S. Khan. One can access these works of great achievement here to obtain awareness about honor-based killings.

– Nancy Taguiam
Photo: Flickr

LOVE MYSELF campaignIn 2017, the internationally known K-pop boy band, BTS, started its anti-violence LOVE MYSELF campaign in partnership with UNICEF. The goal was to help promote self-esteem and self-love while ending violence against children and young people around the world. The campaign was widely successful, raising $1.4 million in its first year and $2.98 million to date.

BTS: Background

From the start of its career, BTS broke the proverbial mold for K-pop groups. BTS uses its creative freedom to give voice to its struggles and fears. In doing so, the group was also representing the same struggles and fears of the youth. In September 2017, the group released the first album of a trilogy bearing the title “Love Yourself,” with the final two albums released in 2018. The three-album cycle follows a structure posed by psychologists Erich Fromm and Joseph Magno, presenting a journey to self-love.

UNICEF Partnership

UNICEF began the #ENDviolence campaign in 2013 with a focus on creating a safer world for the youth. When BTS joined four years later with the LOVE MYSELF campaign, the group brought fans and social media presence to the original campaign. BTS helped raise money at pop-up booths at every stop of the group’s global concerts. The group also donated a portion of album sales and 100% of all profits from the LOVE MYSELF campaign merchandise will go toward #ENDviolence. The funds raised through the LOVE MYSELF campaign are used to protect and support children and teens affected by domestic violence, school-related violence and sexual violence. The funds are also used to empower local communities to take a stand and prevent violence.

COVID-19 and a Renewal of Support

The COVID-19 pandemic caused hardships for many. With school closures, young people have been significantly affected. Furthermore, with decreased access to services during the COVID-19 pandemic, a renewed focus has fallen on the mental and psychological well-being of children or young adults enduring any kind of violence, neglect or bullying.

In response, BTS renewed a commitment to the LOVE MYSELF campaign in March 2021, signing on for two more years. This includes expanding the ongoing LOVE MYSELF campaign, supporting UNICEF with $500,000 per year and a separate $1 million donation to UNICEF by 2022. The renewal also raised the campaign to a global partnership, expanding from just UNICEF Korea to UNICEF at large to better help prevent violence against youth across the globe.

As UNICEF supporters, BTS spoke directly to heads of states and other world leaders at a United Nations General Assembly gathering in New York. The group released an exclusive music video to support the campaign and encourage love and kindness online and in real life.

Prioritizing Self-Love and Ending violence

The LOVE MYSELF campaign is close to the hearts of the members of BTS. The core of the campaign’s message is similar to that of the group’s music. BTS wants fans to prioritize self-love and anti-violence. The group’s renewal of support for the LOVE MYSELF campaign with UNICEF shows a continued commitment to protect and empower children and young people around the world.

Courtney Roe
Photo: Flickr

Violence Against Women
The bill titled the Protection, Dignity and Security of Women Against Violence has been under review and edits since 2013. In September 2019, Iran’s legislation approved the bill and now, parliament and the Guardian Council will review it. The vice president for women and affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar is spearheading the bill. Masoumeh Ebtekar entered her position in 2017 and has pushed for reform to protect women from violence. This bill aims to address the issue of domestic violence against women in Iran. For the past 17 years, Iranian women have been campaigning and fighting for a bill that protects women from violence. Here is some information about violence against women in Iran.

Women in Iran

Iranian women frequently receive treatment as second-class citizens and devaluing due to gender-based discrimination. Iranian women also frequently face physical, sexual and psychological abuse. In Iran, domestic abuse is not illegal, leaving women venerable to violence. If a woman’s husband is abusive, the only legal action a woman can take is to have her husband financially support her for the first three months after separation.

The Iranian judicial system systemically discriminates against women in other ways as well. For example, women are legally responsible at 9 years old, whereas the system charges men as adults at 13 years old.

Violence Against Women During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In 2020, female-aimed violence in Iran skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. It caused public outrage and led to the birth of Iran’s own Me Too movement, sparking protests and demand for reform and equality.

Many public events charged the civil discourse. One of the most public events of violence in 2020 involved Romina Ashrafi, a 14-year-old girl. Her father beheaded her in what he called an honor killing. This act of terror sparked a demand for change, forcing Iran’s legislation to approve and pass the long-awaited bill regarding violence against women. As Iranian researcher Tara Sepehri Far said, “For decades, Iranian women have been waiting for comprehensive legislation to prevent violence against women and prosecute their abusers.”

The Protection, Dignity and Security of Women Against Violence Bill

The bill intends to address violence through education. In fact, it will implement educational courses for teachers, parents and students to help others recognize when a woman is at risk of violence and help bring awareness and knowledge to the subject of abuse against women. The bill will also implement legal support for women in abusive situations, including safe houses and medical and psychological aid for women. It will also initiate training for medical workers to equip them on how to help women seek help in abusive situations.

Another major reform of the bill requires law enforcement to redesign how it approaches violence against women. Before this bill, many lawyers and law enforcement were wary of taking on domestic abuse cases, often regarding violence cases against women as a family issue, not rather than a state issue. This bill now requires judiciaries and law enforcement to seriously address the topic and consider them a public safety issue.

Looking Ahead

This bill is a positive step toward ending violence against females; however, Iran must also address the bill’s shortcomings. The bill does not aim to end or address marital rape or child marriage, or even domestic abuse, thus leaving these essential topics in silence.

However, this bill is worthy of recognition for progressing protection for women in Iran. Women in Iran have been fighting for a voice and change and this bill is a powerful reminder that growth and change do happen. While it will not end women’s fight for safety and equality right away, it is a worthy beginning showing that the Iranian government now recognizes that domestic violence and discrimination are significant issues.

– Rachel Wolf
Photo: Flickr

Venezuela Temporary Protection StatusDue to the dangerous conditions in Venezuela, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) helped pass the S.50: H.R. 161: Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act of 2021. This act aims to protect eligible Venezuelan citizens residing in the U.S. who cannot safely return to their home country. In addition to other criteria, Venezuelan citizens applying for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) must demonstrate they have been continuous residents of the U.S. since March 8, 2021, and have been continuously present in the U.S. since March 9, the effective date of the TPS. Considering these prerequisites, USCIS estimates around 323,000 citizens are applicable for TPS.

The Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act allows beneficiaries to remain in the United States for an extended period of 18 months or until September 9, 2022, when the act is no longer active. They are also authorized to obtain Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) during this period as long as they follow the requirements of their TPS. An EAD allows non-citizens to work in the U.S. for a certain period of time. Beneficiaries can also apply for authorized travel outside of the U.S. but retain the same immigrant status after returning. It is important to note that TPS does not lead or result in permanent resident status. Whatever past status a beneficiary had remains intact after the act ends.

Current Conditions in Venezuela

This bill is highly necessary when considering the harsh conditions in Venezuela. Poverty in Venezuela increased from 48.4% in 2014 to 96% in 2019. In addition, 80% are currently living in extreme poverty. At least 2.3 million Venezuelans are facing food insecurity. From an economic perspective, in this same timespan, Venezuela’s economy declined by 66%. This has made Venezuela the country with the highest inflation rate in the world. Healthcare has diminished greatly as well, with pharmacies experiencing shortages of approximately 85% of necessary medicine. Also, about 70% of surveyed hospitals lack access to clean water. In terms of violence, Venezuela is among the world’s most violent countries with nearly 7,000 extrajudicial killings between January 2018 and May 2019. In addition, the Venezuelan Violence Observatory NGO calculated 46 murders for every 100,000 people during 2020.

Benefits of the TPS

TPS was created under the Immigration Act of 1990 and is currently serving 470,000 people from 10 different countries dealing with severely unsafe conditions. Under the current Biden-Harris administration and the newly written U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, citizens currently benefiting from TPS can access a path to citizenship that wasn’t available before. This act has not yet passed but has gathered attention and would be highly beneficial for both the U.S. economy and immigrants from countries facing violence and civic unrest. After all, current TPS holders have a labor force participation rate of over 80% and are expected to contribute $164 billion to the national gross domestic product over the next 10 years.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said, in accordance with the Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act of 2021, “It is in times of extraordinary and temporary circumstances like these that the United States steps forward to support eligible Venezuelan nationals already present here, while their home country seeks to right itself out of the current crises.”

– Juan Vargas
Photo: Flickr

Laxmi Agarwal
On April 22 of 2005, 15-year-old Laxmi Agarwal waited patiently at the Khan Market bus stop. Moments later, she found herself losing consciousness. India ranks number one on the global charts when it comes to acid attacks on women. Each week, an estimated three individuals fall victim to this crime. Acid attacks against women, like other forms of violence against women, have roots in a deep level of misogyny. This is evident in Laxmi Agarwal’s story.

Laxmi Agarwal

Laxmi recounted the events of her acid attack in an interview with Vogue, “… A 32-year-old man proposed marriage to me. I said no. On April 19, he sent me a text proclaiming that he loves me and wants to marry me, and I didn’t respond. He texted me again, demanding a response, but I never did… He, along with his brother’s girlfriend stopped me outside the bus stand in Khan Market. The girl pushed me and threw the acid she was holding on my face.”

After undergoing a series of reconstructive surgeries, Laxmi could barely recognize herself, but this did not infringe on her perseverant drive to bring awareness to what had happened to her.

Change in Policy

The survivor took her case to India’s Supreme Court. Her case resulted in the institution of new regulations and penalties. Now, both federal and state governments are required to monitor the sales and purchases of acid. Laxmi Agarwal’s bravery prompted new, long-overdue conversations regarding the violence against women in India. As a result, legislation passed that continues to give harsher repercussions to rapists and offenders.

Change in Society

Laxmi fought long and hard to reclaim her face and life after her attack. She addressed the difficulties and struggles of trying to find a job after having society ostracize her for the burns on her face. To further normalize the rehabilitation process for acid attack survivors, Laxmi Agarwal joined and established numerous rehabilitation groups. One such group is a cafe that acid attack survivors run entirely. She works passionately to provide a safe space in which the girls who experienced acid burns can make friends and regain confidence without fear of societal judgment. She offers additional assistance, and encourages others to do the same through offering support to groups such as “Make Love, Not Scars.” This group hosts events such as fashion shows specifically for victims of acid attacks.

Besides donating to such organizations and educating people on the causes and effects of acid attacks, Laxmi Agarwal has entirely dedicated herself to spreading awareness. She worked alongside Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone to turn her story into a movie, “Chhapaak,” released in Jan. 2020. Since then, Laxmi Agarwal has turned this seemingly negative experience into a learning opportunity. She has gone on to receive awards such as the International Women Empowerment Award. Her activism to better the treatment of women in her country has yielded tangible results, which have aided victims and raised awareness about the issue of acid attacks on women at large.

Meghana Nagendra
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Health Crisis in the Congo
The spread of a deadly disease is threatening The Democratic Republic of the Congo. This disease has led to a rise in unemployment, an uptake in crime, a decrease in the economic growth rate, as well as the illness and death of many Congolese people. Presently, the Congo is dealing with the aftermath of one of the most deadly outbreaks of Ebola yet, creating a certified health crisis in the Congo. Within the previous two years, records have determined that there have been over 3,000 Ebola cases and 2,000 resulting deaths. Additionally, the country’s deficit rating has been on a decline of over 2% in that time period.

Financial Troubles in the DRC

The Democratic Republic of the Congo also suffers from serious financial hardships. Over the years, things have improved somewhat for the region. The poverty rate has decreased slightly within the previous two decades. In addition, the overall economic growth rate had risen to 5.8% as of 2018. Despite these incremental increases, the Democratic Republic of the Congo ranks as one of the most impoverished countries, with its average citizens having to scrape by on as little as $1.90 per day.

Unfortunately, the positive economic factors occurred before the presence of this health crisis in the Congo. This caused the growth rate to drop back to 4.4% by 2019. The influx of disease within the region also stressed the economy, dropping it to the aforementioned deficit of 2%.

Violence in the DRC

Furthermore, the violence within the region has amplified the health crisis in the Congo. The Congo has a long history of violence with genocides occurring in both the 1800s and 1900s. Additionally, recent reports from the UN indicate that terrorist groups such as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and an estimation of 100 other armed groups are in the region.

This not only makes it difficult for the delivery of medical supplies to combat this crisis, but it also dissuades the assistance of foreign aid, with many countries believing that their assistance will only entangle them in conflict. The presence of these groups has continued to expand in the area, and other terrorist affiliates, including ISIS, are taking notice. In 2019, Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi speculated that ISIS may grab a significant foothold to invade the Nord Kivu within the Congo.

The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA)

The health crisis in the Congo forces responders to take action towards large-scale health care efforts. Not only has the Ministry of Health shown great awareness and urgency in addressing the needs of this crisis, but other non-governmental organizations have been making great strides to help as well.

The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA), in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners, has created a treatment center in Beni to care for those speculated and confirmed to have Ebola. Preventative measures have received assistance through the provision of CUBE units and PPE by these organizations respectively. Additionally, WHO has provided over 1,600 individual responders to help combat the crisis.

Challenges

The battle against the health crisis in the Congo still holds many challenges. This is the latest outbreak of the disease in the Congo overall, with the first signs of it occurring as early as the 1970s. It was only during the last outbreak that the country utilized the Erevbo vaccine in the disease’s prevention. Over 300,000 people received the vaccine with a 100% efficacy rate, which represents a huge milestone along with other treatment and preventative measures.

Looking Forward

In November 2020, The Ministry of Health declared this crisis over. The DRC itself expects to increase its economic growth rate by 4.5%, thereby nullifying the 2.2% drop that it has seen. Yet, this supposed end is not as substantial as it may seem.

The disease still exists within animal DNA spread across the region, and infectious strains are able to remain in recovering victims for months following infection. The Ministry’s own announcement of the 10th outbreak’s end was quickly rescheduled in June 2020, due to the reemergence of this latest Ebola outbreak.

When asked about the possibility of a resurgence, WHO responded that “a robust and coordinated surveillance system must be maintained to rapidly, detect, isolate, test and provide care for suspected cases.” More alarmingly, the organization expressed that without this effort, the spread of Ebola could have easily eclipsed the borders of the DRC and become a global pandemic.

How quickly a resurgence could occur is unknown. However, it is clear that without a continued and international effort geared toward Ebola’s prevention that the possibility of a health crisis in the Congo could become an all too tragic and preventable reality.

– Jacob Hurwitz
Photo: Flickr

Dalit Poverty
The Indian caste system is a hierarchical social system that Hindu Indians are born into. India adopted the caste system over 3,000 years ago. The system consists of four main categories including Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras. Meanwhile, each group possesses hundreds of castes and subcastes. The Brahmins are at the top of the caste system and consist of intellectuals and teachers. The warrior and ruler class, the Kshatriyas, are next in the hierarchy. Below the Kshatriyas are the Vaishyas who are traders. Lastly, the Shudras are at the bottom of the caste system. These people do unfavorable jobs. However, a group exists outside the caste system that is below the rank of Shudras. These people are known as Dalits or the untouchables. Here is some information about Dalit poverty in India.

The Dalits

While the government officially banned the caste system in India in 1950, its remnants still remain socially. To this day, the caste in which one is born determines their social status, job and marriage under unofficial social guidelines that Hindu Indians follow. Dalits still experience segregation from other castes in many aspects of society including education, healthcare and worship.

Dalits are severely disadvantaged when it comes to education. In fact, only 10-20% of Dalits can read or write and only 2-3% of Dalit women are literate. With over 50% of the general Indian population being illiterate, the education disparity between Dalits and other castes is apparent. Dalit children especially struggle with inequality when it comes to their education. Segregated from the rest of the classroom, other students often bully or ridicule Dalit students because of their caste. Female Dalit students must also perform certain tasks around the school that other students do not have to do like cleaning the bathroom for instance.

Poverty disproportionately affects the Dalits, or untouchables, in comparison to the other castes even though India has disbanded the caste system. About half of the Dalit caste are living in poverty and 60% of Dalit children are chronically malnourished. Most of the Dalit caste work in low-paying jobs that other castes do not look highly upon. Since their jobs do not receive respect, employers underpay the Dalits for the work they do, thus causing the high poverty rate.

Violence, Poverty and COVID-19

Hate crime and violence against Dalit women is very high in contrast to violence towards women of other castes. A woman suffers rape in India every 20 minutes and a large majority of these cases are against Dalit women. In India, people often see Dalit women as inferior and weak in comparison to women of other castes. As a result, men of other castes who see Dalit women as inferior specifically target these women for these violent crimes.

Recently, the women of the Dalit community have been the victims of a surge of rape and murder in India. Authorities make little to no arrests regarding crimes against the Dalit people and the government has not addressed or made any attempts to help end this crisis of violence.

The untouchables are struggling with poverty and inequality, especially in the wake of COVID-19. The untouchables must perform certain jobs that put them at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. Also, the untouchables have very little access to protective equipment while performing these high-risk jobs. The Dalits live on the outskirts of villages where they have limited access to healthcare resources, making the untouchables more likely to have complications or die from COVID-19.

The Dalit Foundation

Many NGOs are attempting to help the discrimination and poverty-stricken Dalit caste including the Dalit Foundation. Established in 2003, the Dalit Foundation’s main objective is to secure equality for the Dalit caste. The Dalit Foundation provides education, scholarships and empowerment to members of the Dalit caste. This foundation, among many others, strives to help end this discrimination against Dalits until the Indian government can provide equal rights for their Dalit community.

The enforcement and security of equal rights of all Indian citizens are crucial to helping the Dalits end their oppression and poverty. The Indian government has yet to enforce equal rights for the Dalits so they continue to experience violence and segregation. Once the Indian government protects the Dalit people, gives them equal rights and ends segregation, Dalit poverty should reduce and the Dalit people should be able to receive equal pay, work in jobs they desire, marry outside their caste and get a quality education.

– Hannah Drzewiecki
Photo: Flickr

Stopping Gang Violence Success Stories from Within HondurasHonduras is trapped in a cycle of violence and poverty that creates the perfect environment for gangs to thrive. Reports state that gangs and drug traffickers pay off members of the criminal justice system to get away with their crimes. However, despite these injustices, violent crime rates have dropped by half over the last decade as community outreach programs join humanitarian organizations’ efforts in stopping gang violence.

Poverty in Honduras

In 2018, Honduras had a poverty rate of 48.3%. Inequality in the country has led to an extremely small middle class and a large income gap. Gangs feed off of poverty and a lack of government services. Moreover, gangs become the only way young people could get an income and find a semblance of a supportive community.

Honduras has a Corruption Perception Index score of 26 out of 100, which is directly reflected in the fear citizens have of reporting crimes. Gang members can be killed for attempting to leave a gang and many businesses are forced to pay “war taxes” for protection. Luckily, nonprofits and community outreach programs have arisen to intervene in this cycle of violence. Here are a few anti-violence success stories from within Honduras.

The Association For a More Just Society

The Association For a More Just Society (AJS) is a nonprofit that works to create strong community bonds to dissuade violence in Honduras. In terms of working against corruption, AJS investigates and publishes reports about the health care and education sectors. Additionally, they hold youth services in small Honduran communities.

AJS has had remarkable success in terms of reporting cases of corruption by the government and wealthy elites in Honduras. In the public health sector, AJS found that the government purposely overpaid connected businesses for medical supplies and ignored cases of theft. Its reports led to the arrest of 13 officials and increased access to life-saving medication in public hospitals.

The organization also reported corruption in education as teachers who were not showing up to work were being paid and the average student only had 125 school days available to them. The Honduran government had the highest spending budget on education in the region, yet its test scores were still very low. AJS has reduced the percentage of non-working paid teachers from 26% to 1%. Additionally, many schools now hold an average of 200 days of school.

Skate Brothers

Skate Brothers is a community outreach program that was started by the Honduras local, Jessel Edgardo Recinos. He was shot at the age of 16 after being accused of stealing a cell phone from a prominent gang member. This near-death experience inspired Recinos to create a community youth program that taught kids about skateboarding instead of violence.

The group provides a place for Honduran youth to gather after school with friends while learning fun skills like skateboarding, BMX bike riding and rollerskating. Additionally, Slate Brothers provide counseling services to prevent youth from joining gangs. The group performs in parades and street fairs as well as volunteers for the community.

Recinos has convinced members of his youth group to leave gangs and join his community outreach group instead. His goal is to create a supportive community that serves as an alternative to gangs and does not mandate illegal activity. Skate Brothers is one of 64 outreach programs created by USAID’s Honduran Youth Alliance, which now serves 34,000 youth around the country.

Looking Ahead

While gangs in Honduras is still a major issue, nonprofits and community support programs like AJS and Skate Brothers have been instrumental in stopping gang violence. The cycle of violence, poverty and corruption is beginning to break because of the dedication of AJS and the Honduran Youth Alliance. Reciono’s creation of Skate Brothers shows how people in impoverished communities can inspire their peers to join them in stopping gang violence.

– Olivia Welsh
Photo: Flickr

CBT Eliminating Violence
Although humans’ basic needs must be met to set the foundation for healthy behavior and break the cycle of poverty, some have already been affected by various mental conditions. Due to the side effects and social stigmatization associated with many of these mental health issues, individuals can feel forced to engage in crime or violence to make ends meet. In the African country of Liberia, this is an issue facing thousands and it prompts many questions. How do these individuals gain access to care? What effect do these conditions have on future generations? How do we break the cycles of crime and violence already apparent in Liberia? To approach answers to these questions, it is essential to understand therapeutic options. Particularly, people can learn many lessons by observing CBT eliminating violence in Liberia.

What is CBT?

According to the American Psychological Association, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological treatment that aims to change behavioral and thinking patterns. CBT centers on the understanding that complications in psychological makeup can be a result of learned behavior — hindering the thought processes.

Recipients of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy work on improving self-confidence, adopt effective coping mechanisms and alter the thinking patterns that contributed to negative behavior. Clients also learn to modify their habits such as confronting, rather than avoiding difficult situations. Additionally, patients practice self-control and prepare for real-life scenarios they may find challenging.

One distinguishing factor of CBT is its focus on the current and future aspects of the patients’ life. While medical professionals take into account a person’s past, the main goal of this therapy is to create effective techniques to deal with the patients’ present issues.

Current Prevalence of Crime In Liberia

The Overseas Security Advisory Council’s (OSAC) 2020 Liberia Crime and Safety Report states that the country has seen increases in violent robberies and home invasions. The council also reports that “sexual assault and rape are the most commonly reported violent crimes.” In addition to this rise in crime, Liberia experiences greater social upheaval (than previously) due to escalating difficulties in the economy, healthcare and employment.

As urban poverty surges among Liberian cities, homelessness, pollution and deteriorating infrastructure have become increasingly concerning issues. Impoverished citizens face coinciding problems concerning lack of opportunity and inequality. Discrimination, poor education and epidemics such as Ebola all impact the poor most severely. Moreover, these unstable environments catalyze crime and violence rates in Liberia especially in young men.

CBT & Cash Impact Violence in Libera

One study in the nation’s capital of Monrovia revealed the benefits of CBT on eliminating violence in Liberia. More than 1,000 men participated in this experiment, all of whom researchers considered at-risk for crime and violence. Researchers placed the men in one of four groups. I.e., one that received only therapy, one that received only cash, one that received both, and one that received nothing. Notably, the cash incentive provided to designated participants was enough to start a small business.

Therapy alone improved behaviors significantly, decreasing many of the men’s objectionable behaviors. However, the most lasting effects were seen in the men receiving both therapy and cash. The men were able to practice what they learned in therapy while taking advantage of the opportunity to feel like a “normal” member of society. These men received means, motives and opportunities. However, this time, it was all in favor of improving their lives and their influence on the community.

CBT eliminating violence in Liberia is not the only approach necessary to ending poverty. Yet, it does offer promise for positive change and highlights the importance of the long-term measures needed for vulnerable communities.

Amy Schlagel
Photo: Flickr