Human Trafficking in the Dominican Republic
Human trafficking is a crime that involves unfair labor practices and sexual misuse of adults and children. Human trafficking in the Dominican Republic is a big problem because of the popularity of the country as a tourist attraction. Some locals and foreign visitors look for the service of young women and children working in the area. A good number of women engaging in the activities are underage.

Female Victims of Human Trafficking

According to the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, the Dominican Republic is a Tier 2 country which means that the country does not fully comply with the requirements to end trafficking. For the Dominican Republic to go above and meet the standards that the U.S. Department of State has set, the country must be more aggressive in its efforts to convict more traffickers. Police need more training regarding how to deal with trafficking and work with children on the street.

In the illegal trafficking business, women make up more than half of the slave population globally. Human trafficking in the Dominican Republic involves women who are the victims of abuse and neglect while engaging in sexual exploitation. Women and young girls are the victims of corrupt traffickers and corrupt authority figures in the Dominican Republic who side with the illegal trade and business.

Human Trafficking in the Dominican Republic

Victims of trafficking frequently look for opportunities to become financially independent and make money for themselves or to support their families. Depending on the situation, some victims do not come from the best living environments and want to escape their families.

To combat this, the Dominican Republic has implemented a national anti-trafficking plan. The first one emerged in 2003 followed by a nationwide plan in 2006. The country has seen some success in its efforts to bring justice ever since. For example, the Dominican Republic’s first maximum sentence sent a trafficker to prison for 25 years.

The International Justice Mission

The International Justice Mission (IJM) is an organization that focuses on human rights and law. The mission of the organization is to eradicate forced labor. IJM has worked successfully with the Dominican authorities by bringing justice to the country. A sense of normalcy and stability has returned by removing the criminals in the communities where they were working. IJM provides lawyers to build a case against traffickers that uses testimonies from survivors.

IJM saves victims of trafficking by cracking down on crimes and reporting them to the Dominican police. Additionally, it offers to help survivors find safe living spaces. The victims of these crimes suffer physically and psychologically. The psychological effects of such harm manifest in the long term in the form of mental health issues. IJM has treatment plans in place for government agencies and local organizations that address health, counseling and personal development measures.

Looking Forward

The Dominican Republic has implemented solutions to combat human trafficking in the Dominican Republic. Organizations like IJM are necessary to improve life for survivors of trafficking while making the communities that the crime of trafficking most affects better. Victories are emerging and the good news is that some progress is better than none at all.

– Amanda Ortiz
Photo: Flickr

Rohingya refugee campsLow-income areas with a high population density are at the highest risk of contracting the coronavirus. This threat is very prevalent in the Rohingya refugee camps, especially for women and girls.

The Issue

Currently in Bangladesh, there are over 860,000 Rohingya refugees living in camps. The Rohingya people, a minority ethnic group from Myanmar, are fleeing from genocidal violence, persecution, discrimination and human rights violations. The Rohingya face violence because they mainly practice Islam while the majority of Myanmar is Buddhist. The large mass of people fleeing into Bangladesh has caused the refugee camps to become immensely populated. The result is overcrowding, only temporary shelter, communal bathrooms and water facilities and limited food space.

Overcrowding and limited space in refugee camps result in the Rohingya having an especially high risk of contracting COVID-19. Currently, the best way to prevent the spread of this disease is to social distance, wear masks and increase testing. However, the Rohingya refugees do not have the space or resources to do this. As of June 2020, there were four deaths and 45 confirmed cases within the Rohingya refugee population. However, because there is a huge lack of testing, these numbers are most likely not accurate. The hospitals in city centers no longer have resources themselves to treat any more people. As such, many infected Rohingya aren’t being accepted.

How Women are Fighting Back

Oxfam, an NGO fighting poverty, traveled to the Rohingya refugee camps to help build better water, sanitation and hygiene stations. This includes systems like water taps and hand washing stations, which could be potential risk areas for disease spreading. When designing the new water and sanitation facilities, Oxfam interviewed many girls and women to hear their thoughts. The women and girls contributed to design aspects like how the stations should stand, where hooks should go, and even suggested a mirror. All of the expertise given by those Rohingya women and girls has spread to other camps. Now 300 hand-washing and water stations are implemented in three different refugee camps.

Women also have taken on the important role of spreading information and discounting myths surrounding COVID-19 in the refugee camps. One woman, Ashmida Begum, walks around the camp dispelling myths. Begum explained that she uses the Quran to help explain the virus and disease prevention. She mainly helps other women and children who are a large majority of Rohingya refugee camps. Misinformation has led Bangladesh to lift internet restrictions on the Rohingya refugees. The barriers were originally in place to quell panic and stop rumors. Instead, rumors and myths spread and local women like Begum worked to stop them.

Why Women

Women have been so effective in helping the refugee camps because the local people trust them. They have special access in reaching other women, who normally do not leave their homes often and do not have internet.

Women are traditionally the primary caregiver of the family, so they especially need to be healthy and informed to keep the rest of the family safe. This is also why women’s input is needed in the sanitation and water stations; women will be using them the most.

Impacts of this Work

The work that the women and girls of Rohingya refugee camps have impacts beyond fighting COVID-19. Oxfam reports that the design process helped girls take a more active role in their own lives. They were able to think and speak for themselves.

The rise in panic and social tensions in the camps resulted in a rise in domestic violence and violence against women. Rohingya women stepped into leadership roles and formed networks to help combat that panic around the virus to counter the gender-based attacks.

The work done by the women in Rohingya refugee camps to fight COVID-19 is helping to increase cleanliness and knowledge about the virus. They are slowing the spread of the virus and giving women and girls a way to be leaders in their communities.

Claire Brady
Photo: Flickr

healthcare worker emigrationThe emigration of skilled healthcare workers from developing countries to higher-income nations has significantly impacted the healthcare systems of the countries these workers leave behind. The quantity and quality of healthcare services have declined as a result of healthcare worker shortages. While there is still incredible room for growth, recent governmental strategies have incentivized healthcare workers to work in their home countries.

Why Is Healthcare Worker Emigration a Problem?

When healthcare workers emigrate, they leave hospitals in developing countries without enough skilled workers. Lower-income countries are likely to carry a greater amount of the global disease burden while having an extremely low healthcare staff to patient ratio. For example, sub-Saharan Africa only has 3% of all healthcare workers worldwide, while it carries 25% of the global disease burden. In many African countries with severe healthcare worker emigration, like Lesotho and Uganda, hospitals become overcrowded. Furthermore, hospitals cannot provide proper treatment for everyone due to the lack of skilled workers.

This directly affects the quality of care patients receive in countries with high healthcare worker emigration. Newborn, child and maternal health outcomes are worse when there are worker shortages. When fewer workers are available, fewer people receive healthcare services and the quality of care worsens for populations in need.

Why Do Healthcare Workers Emigrate?

The emigration of doctors, nurses, and other skilled healthcare workers from developing countries occurs for a number of reasons. The opportunity for higher wages elsewhere is often the most important factor in the decision to emigrate. Additionally, healthcare workers may migrate to higher-income nations to find political stability and achieve a better quality of life. The rate of highly skilled worker emigration, which has been on the rise since it was declared a major public health issue in the 1940s, has left fragile healthcare systems with a diminished workforce.

Moreover, the United States and the United Kingdom, two of the countries receiving the greatest numbers of healthcare worker immigrants, actively recruit healthcare workers from developing countries. These recruitment programs aim to combat the U.S. and U.K.’s own shortages of healthcare workers. Whether or not these programs factor into workers’ migration, both the U.S. and the U.K. are among the top five countries to which 90% of migrating physicians relocate.

Mitigating Healthcare Worker Emigration

The World Health Organization suggests that offering financial incentives, training and team-based opportunities can contribute to job satisfaction. This may motivate healthcare workers to remain in the healthcare system of their home country. Some developing countries have implemented these strategies to incentivize healthcare professionals to remain in their home countries.

For example, Malawi faced an extreme shortage of healthcare workers in the early 2000s. Following policy implementation addressing healthcare worker emigration, the nation has seen a decrease in the emigration rate. Malawi’s government launched the Emergency Human Resources Program (EHRP) in 2004. This program promoted worker retention through a 52% salary increase, additional training and the recruitment of volunteer nursing tutors and doctors. 

In only five years after the EHRP began, the proportion of healthcare workers to patients grew by 66% while emigration declined. Malawi expanded upon this program in 2011 with the Health Sector Strategic Plan. Following this plan, the number of nurses in Malawi grew from 4,500 in 2010 to 10,000 in 2015. Though the nation still faces some worker shortages, it hopes to continue to address this with further policy changes.

Trinidad is another a country that has mitigated the challenges faced by the emigration of healthcare workers. Trinidadian doctors who train in another country now get government scholarships to pay for their training. However, these scholarships rest on the condition that they return home to practice medicine for at least five years. Such a financial incentive creates a stronger foundation for healthcare professionals to practice in their home country.

A Turn Toward Collaboration

A recent study determined that the collaboration of nurses, doctors and midwives significantly decreased mortality for mothers and children in low-income countries. As developing countries work toward generating strategies to manage the emigration of healthcare workers, a team-based approach can improve the quality of healthcare. When there are shortages of certain kinds of health professionals in remote areas, family health teams composed of workers in varying health disciplines can collaborate to provide care. 

Improving working conditions and providing both financial and non-financial incentives to healthcare professionals in developing countries not only benefits workers and the patients, but the nation’s healthcare infrastructure as a whole. An increase in the number of skilled healthcare workers in developing countries gives people there the opportunity for a better life.

– Ilana Issula
Photo: Flickr

Japanese Children in PovertyThe children of Japan face a unique and difficult kind of poverty. Around 3.5 million children age six through 17 live below the poverty line in one of Asia’s wealthiest countries. Struggles arising from the 2008 financial crisis and rising inequality have put many parents in precarious situations where they struggle to feed their families. Only around 200,000 of the 3.5 million Japanese children in poverty receive necessary government assistance to help them get by. These issues have created a pressing issue in Japan that demands a greater government response and more opportunities for mothers.

Children’s Cafeterias

Japanese kids can get free or reduced-cost warm meals at children’s cafeterias. The cafeterias have become increasingly popular as childhood poverty continues to drastically increase in the country. While there were originally around 21 operating cafeterias in 2013, over 300 opened in the following four years.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many of these cafeterias have been temporarily closed, leaving many children hungry. As both COVID-19 and child poverty have continued to worsen, even the Japanese Imperial Couple has been briefed on the issue, serving as a testament to its significance in modern Japanese culture. The Imperial Couple was told around 40% of programs that support providing meals to these children have been adjourned due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Traditional Family Structure Hinders Single Mothers

Many of these children’s parents are single mothers. In general, Japan is unsupportive of single mothers and offers very little additional support to this demographic. Japan’s traditional family structure usually designates a father, or man of the house, as the breadwinner. Meanwhile, mothers stay at home to care for the children. As divorce rates have risen in recent years, many mothers are forced to return to a workforce that has changed a great deal since they had been in it. Others, never having been part of the Japanese workplace, have struggled further.

Traditional Japanese societal norms typically encourage single-income houses. For instance, the Japanese tax system favors single-income houses. Many Japanese businesses will provide bonuses to men whose wives stay at home. On top of that, a significant wage gap exists, with Japanese women earning roughly 30% less than men. There is also the practice of lifetime employment, by which many Japanese men are pulled straight out of college or university and brought into a company where they are expected to work until retirement. These factors hinder the opportunities available to single mothers and limit the progress that can be made in addressing child poverty.

A Slow Response from National and Local Government

Japan’s government has made slow strides towards helping its children in poverty. In 2019, the government amended a 2013 law focused on child poverty. The amendment was made to encourage local governments, not just the national government, to develop safety nets for children living in low-income situations. Local governments have a deeper an understanding of their citizens’ needs, so they can develop more targeted solutions in tackling poverty.

The deck is stacked against Japanese children in poverty. Many have struggling mothers who are busy trying to earn a living wage in a society where women are expected to stay home. Government support for Japanese children in poverty has been lackluster. Charity cafeterias are some of the only places these kids can get stable meals. The COVID-19 crisis seems to only be aggravating the desperate situation. In such a wealthy country, children in poverty face deeply entrenched struggles and their government is barely helping them.

– Tara Suter
Photo: Pixabay

Ways to Improve Intergenerational Poverty
Intergenerational poverty is the relentless cycle in which poverty is passed down from one generation to the next, indicating that impoverished parents have impoverished children. This cycle occurs because of the lack of resources that poor citizens receive, such as inadequate healthcare and education. The most salient way to prevent the progression of intergenerational poverty is to invest in helping impoverished children around the world. Children who grow up in poverty are significantly more likely to have low incomes later in life compared to children who do not fall below the poverty line. However, providing support for impoverished children is not enough to improve intergenerational poverty. It is imperative to also invest in women’s rights as their parental contributions have a major impact on children and their future societal status. By providing resources and support to impoverished women and children, we can help stop the vicious cycle of intergenerational poverty and promote a more just, sustainable world.

5 Tangible Ways to Improve Intergenerational Poverty

  1. Provide more educational opportunities for poor women and children. Education is a major factor in improving intergenerational poverty as it enables greater social mobility. For instance, each year of college equals a 10% annual income increase compared to individuals who did not attend college, according to the American Enterprise Institute. Additionally, education and schooling teaches children to be independent but also encourages children to form important social connections. These connections would help provide impoverished individuals with more opportunities and resources to improve their social standing. Some educational interventions that would improve intergenerational poverty include investing in free and accessible preschool programs, providing free childhood interventions for low-income homes, and designing scholarships specifically for impoverished students.
  2. Encourage women to own assets. Another trigger for upward social mobility is owning assets. Asset ownership helps improve intergenerational poverty as it is an important investment that will provide future generations with an inheritance, automatically improving their social ranking and economic worth. The most valuable asset in low-income countries is land. However, “women hold only 1-2% of individually titled land,” which limits their agency and well-being. Therefore, it is important to support public policy interventions that enable poor populations to accumulate and preserve assets, as the transfer of assets to future generations will help to improve intergenerational poverty. Some specific policy interventions to promote female asset ownership include supporting the co-registration of land by both spouses, improving access to legal services, and reforming marriage laws so women receive a share of assets and inheritance.
  3. Support social protection for impoverished women and children. When an unexpected shock or crisis occurs, poor women and children are the most vulnerable in society as they do not have adequate resources to respond to the shock. For instance, when spouses get divorced, women often lose housing and other productive assets, and they are unable to provide for their children. As a result, it is very common for women who are experiencing downward mobility to withdraw their child from school which has lasting impacts on their career and societal status. Some examples of social protection measures for women and children include disability grants, access to healthcare, social pensions and child support grants.
  4. End discrimination and empower women. Many countries and cultures still consist of largely gendered and discriminatory societal norms. Fighting back against discrimination and promoting women’s empowerment has significant consequences for intergenerational poverty as it increases the number of resources and supports a mother provides for her child, and it improves the child’s well-being. Sexism is a deep-rooted societal issue that requires intense and drastic collaborative interventions to be resolved. Although they do not fix the issue, the following short-term solutions would empower women and improve intergenerational poverty by promoting equality. The solutions include organizing initiatives with men to promote equal parenting practices, providing more income-earning opportunities for women, and granting women access to financial services without having to receive permission from their husbands.
  5. Support programs and policies that promote good health, nutrition and sanitation practices. The health status of mothers has huge implications on the societal and health status of their children. This correlation needs to be addressed as children’s health is directly related to their social and cognitive development. For example, many impoverished children perform poorly in school due to their delayed development, which prevents them from receiving high-paying jobs, and as a result, continues the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Some specific policies that address global health issues and would improve intergenerational poverty include providing free healthcare for children under 5 years old, fee exemptions for low-income homes, supplementary nutrition for pregnant mothers, and providing free contraceptives and advice to women around the world. By promoting beneficial health practices, women are more likely to teach those practices to their children which will help to prevent illnesses, promote healthy development, and hopefully improve economic standing.

In order to address the intergenerational transmission of poverty, we must first acknowledge the societal norms that are contributing to the vicious cycle. By counteracting the suppressive standards with progressive policies, children are better able to escape poverty and contribute to the world economy.

– Ashley Bond
Photo: Pixabay

The Pangea NetworkAround the world, women are disproportionately affected by poverty. Kenya is one place where gender issues and poverty go hand in hand. Over 35% of the Kenyan population lives below the poverty line, and women, children and the elderly are most at risk. However, as poverty and inequality increase, so does the movement to help change the tides in Kenya. Nicole Minor learned of Kenya’s struggles and set out to change the lives of women throughout the country. The Pangea Network, a non-profit organization focused on empowering women in Kenya, was born.

Poverty in Kenya

Kenya has a population of more than 50 million, with over 17 million currently living in poverty or extreme poverty — on less than $1.90 a day. However, poverty in the country is steadily decreasing, falling from 43% in 2003 to 36% in 2016. And although poverty in Kenya remains a significant problem, the country has a lower overall poverty rate than most sub-Saharan countries. Kenya’s GDP continues to rise by approximately 5% annually, which is an impressive feat. Despite these facts, however, Kenya is unlikely to reach the goal of eradicating poverty by 2030 without new poverty reduction policies and faster growth rates.

Women in Kenya

In Kenya, women and girls are most vulnerable to poverty. One notable gap between men and women is in education. Of those in Kenya that earn higher education, approximately 30% are women — despite government policies that ensure gender equality in education. One reason for this is that women in Kenya have traditionally been relegated to the domestic sphere and lack opportunities for attending university, which can limit job prospects.

Despite the hardships they face, women are fighting back against gender inequality and poverty through enterprise and entrepreneurship. That’s where the Pangea Network comes in.

What is the Pangea Network?

The Pangea Network is a nonprofit organization focused on “empowering motivated individuals” with “knowledge, skills and an ongoing network of support in order to achieve their dreams and make positive, life-changing contributions in the communities where they live.” The organization’s founder, Nicole Minor, began creating the framework for the Pangea Network in 2005 in an effort to dedicate herself to social service. Today, the Pangea Network is an international organization that operates in Kenya and the United States.

How it Works: The Kenyan Women’s Network

The Pangea Network operates a four-year course called the Kenyan Women’s Network, which teaches participants a variety of skills intended to guarantee their future success. Some practical skills that participating women may learn include bookkeeping, financial literacy and micro-financing; women can also learn about issues like human rights, wellness and personal development.

The ultimate goal of the Kenyan Women’s Network is to enable participants to develop and grow their own businesses, which will generate profit and allow them to become financial providers for their households. Women who participate receive loans from the Pangea Network, allowing them to fully develop and expand their enterprises.

Impact

The Pangea Network has had a huge impact throughout its years in action. For those participating in the Kenyan Women’s Network, the average weekly income rose by almost 40% between 2015 and 2018. Over 560 different businesses founded by participants have grown in size and revenue, 45 of which began only with help from the Pangea Network. Furthermore, almost 200 women have received animal husbandry and livestock training; nearly 400 women have received first aid training; and more than 60% of Kenyan women who participate in the program report that they are their family’s primary source of income.

Beyond the Women’s Network, the Pangea Network provides scholarships for school-aged children in Kenya. It also sponsors boys’ and girls’ retreats focused on empowering children and providing them with both skills and a love of learning.

The Pangea Network is an inspiring organization dedicated to empowering Kenyan women and equipping them to succeed. Participants in the Women’s Network are hardworking, driven and well-deserving of the tools they are given to start or grow their own businesses. The Pangea Network is not only providing these women with hope, but it is also helping to close the gender gap and fight poverty in Kenya.

– Paige Musgrave
Photo: Pixabay

Pregnant Women and Children
The Yemeni Civil War began in 2015 and has become a humanitarian crisis, devastating families and communities. The conflict between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels continues with no end in sight. More than 80 percent of the population, about 24 million people, lack food, health care and safe living conditions. Those who need assistance most are pregnant women, newborns and children.

Childcare and the Civil War

The civil war in Yemen prevents the most defenseless people in Yemeni society — pregnant women, newborns and children — from receiving life-saving medical treatment on time. At MSF’s Taiz Houban Mother and Child Hospital, the number of children and newborns dead on arrival at the location has doubled from 52 in 2016 to 103 in 2018. The most prevalent causes of death in newborns were prematurity, deprivation of oxygen known as birth asphyxia and severe infection.

Families struggle to find access to limited medical facilities and must navigate frontlines and checkpoints to receive care. Additionally, the Yemenis’ ability to access healthcare of any kind has dramatically diminished. Due to the declining economy that has devalued people’s savings, the vast majority depend on insufficient public healthcare.

Despite the conditions pregnant women and children during the Yemen Crisis are facing, several organizations aim to help these disadvantaged Yemenis receive the care they need.

Stay Safe Mama Project

The United Nations Population Fund, with help from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has launched the Stay Safe Mama project so that pregnant women in Yemen can safely deliver their babies. As a result, 300 health facilities have been enhanced with reproductive health kits, medicine and supplies for maternity units. The project also supports midwives in local communities so that pregnant women and children during the Yemen Crisis who don’t have access to a hospital can still obtain the care they deserve. Aisha, a 27-year-old, who fled the violence from her village in Hodeida and now lives in a small shack with multiple relatives and children, received healthcare through a center organized under the ‘Stay Safe Mama’ project.

“The care I received at the center was beyond what I expected,” Aisha told representatives from UNFPA. Aisha also said that she “had regular check-ups, and when it was time to give birth, [she] was not worried anymore. [She] gave birth to a healthy baby girl.”

Responsive Governance Project

The Responsive Governance Project (RGP), with the assistance of the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID), provides instruction to improve the skills and knowledge of midwives. Additionally, RGP’s main priority is to provide pregnant women and children during the Yemen Crisis access to emergency obstetrical and natal care. Dr. Jamila Alraabi, the Deputy Health and Population Minister, states that the RGP has supported her agency and local health councils to improve maternal health policies.

In speaking with Jeff Baron from Counterpart International, Dr. Alraabi said that “no one can work alone, and no one can achieve success alone. It should be a partnership, and this is our hope in Yemen, that we will not have a woman die from preventable causes.”

UNICEF and Yemen

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) provides Yemenis access to health treatment and access to safe water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene. As of August 2019, UNICEF maintained over 3,700 health centers and aided around 730,000 pregnant and lactating women by providing basic health care services. Additionally, 11.8 million children were vaccinated for measles and rubella, and 200,000 children were treated for severe acute malnutrition. Going forward, UNICEF’s efforts will focus on “strengthening systems, improving access to primary health care, as well as malnutrition management and disease outbreak response, including maintaining vaccination coverage.”

These three organizations are just examples of the efforts raising awareness and providing aid toward the Yemen Crisis. Children continue to be killed and injured during the conflict. Before COVID-19, 2 million children under the age of five were dying from acute malnutrition and in need of treatment. In addition to this, around 70 percent of the arriving pregnant women experience “obstructed labor, prolonged labor, eclampsia, uterine rupture or post-partum bleeding” and other life-threatening conditions. While the conflict continues, these organizations are making efforts that have helped many women and children in Yemen. 

– Mia Mendez
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Japan

On the surface, Japan seems to successfully avoid the hardships and setbacks that can plague powerful economies. However, Japan actually employs costly efforts to hide its growing economic struggles. Here’s what you should know about poverty in Japan.

10 Facts About Poverty in Japan

  1. Less than one percent of Japan is homeless. As of 2018, Japan has a population of 126.5 million people. According to the latest Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare statistics, Japan’s current homelessness figure stands below 5,000. This is a steady decline from nearly 26,000 people without homes in 2003. While this appears to be a remarkable feat of social reform, the truth is that the Japanese government commits millions of dollars every year to ensure homelessness remains low. The goal is to ensure that the Japanese economy appears strong. In reality, poverty in Japan is increasing. The dozens of government reforms Japan enacts each year are extremely costly and are approaching unsustainability.
  2. Japan is “the most equal major society” in terms of wealth distribution. According to the Statista Research Department, a total of 92% of the Japanese population has anywhere from $10,000 to $1 million in either assets or wealth. On paper, these figures appear to demonstrate an extremely healthy economy; however, they hide the fact that poverty in Japan is well over 16%. The notion that 92% of Japanese citizens fall into some category of “wealthy” may be misleading, serving as a straw-man statistic booster.
  3. A rising percentage of individuals in Japan are poverty-stricken. Japan has seen a huge and sudden rise in poverty and poor economic conditions, especially since 2012. According to The Guardian, 3.5 million Japanese children live in poverty-stricken homes. Since 1991, poverty has increased as a systemic problem for Japan, reaching 16.3% this past year. This figure is expected to continue to rise dramatically as the working population decreases.
  4. Japan is caught in an economic game of “cat and mouse.” Ever since Japan experienced a major increase in retired citizens, poverty in Japan has become a greater issue. As a result, Japan has had to increase the retirement age to 70, shift focus to labor force participation (which breeds unequal disbursement of employment opportunity), and implement expensive government reforms to cope with the declining workforce population and the increasing retired population.
  5. Japan pours a ton of resources into battling unemployment. Poverty in Japan entered an unprecedented era of severity after a major drop in workforce members in 1991. Before 1991, unemployment hovered just below 2% for decades, then rose drastically to nearly 6% by 2002. In fact, this singular event nearly toppled Japan as a world economic leader. Today, Japan has returned to a nearly 2% unemployment rate, although the country has had to pour a huge amount of financial resources in order to accomplish this stabilization. The country still has not fully recovered.
  6. One-third of Japan is retired, and the government doesn’t know what to do. Currently, around a third of Japan’s population is 65 or over. Japan actually has the oldest population in the world. This is partly why Japan has become one of the slowest growing major economies. Aggressive government spending is needed to care for a huge portion of Japan’s population, and the problem is only getting worse as the population continues to age.
  7. Japan suffers from an imbalanced ratio of employed citizens and recipients of social benefits. Much like the United States, Japan’s social benefits system is increasingly problematic. Japan’s “Baby Boom” generation nearly all receive social security. Meanwhile, the section of the economy that pays for social security benefits is not keeping up with financial demands. Japan’s birth rate is likewise falling behind the number of new social benefit recipients. In fact, Japan is expecting to see an unsustainable ratio of ‘recipient to payer’ in social benefit programs by 2025.
  8. Japanese single mothers carry disproportionately heavy financial burdens. In Japanese culture, if a divorce occurs, the mother receives full child custody in nearly 80% of divorce cases. Right now, there is no enforcement of child support programs — meaning that single mothers in Japan may take on 100% of the financial burden of raising children. As a result, thousands of single mothers are left in poor economic standing and are forced to seek government assistance. Because the subject of single motherhood due to divorce is taboo, thousands of women live without assistance. This leaves many of them in extreme poverty.
  9. Abandoned houses have become a common phenomenon. “Akiya” is a term to define a house that has been vacated or abandoned and remains empty. According to World Habitat, there are currently around 9 million abandoned homes in Japan, with an expected increase of up to 21 million abandoned homes by 2033. This adversely affects poverty in Japan because the government is forced to repurpose and upkeep vacant houses; this is an enormous financial burden.
  10. Japanese poverty affects women differently than men. Japan has made some remarkable advancements towards equality in the workforce in recent years. 71% of women are employed, versus the 58% female employment rate a decade ago. Women in Japan also enjoy long and generous parental leaves. However, despite these progressive advances, the female workforce is facing an uncertain future, with prospective poverty rates for older women expected to reach 25% by 2040. With rapidly declining birthrates and increasing retirement rates, current female employment levels won’t be able to combat another wave of retirement recipients and the social benefit impacts.

Why This Knowledge is Important

The Japanese economy is the third-largest in the world, and Japan is regarded a global example of economic strength and prosperity. However, the hard reality is that Japan is a struggling country that is finding it harder to support its citizens every year. Without aid, Japan may find itself unable to provide and maintain its population without making drastic sacrifices — which would not only decrease the strength of Japan but also impact the wider global economy.

Donovan McDonald

Photo: Flickr

Witch camps in Ghana
A modern-day witch hunt is taking place in Northern Ghana, where witch camps are still prevalent. Neighbors continue to turn on women in their communities, accusing them of practicing witchcraft. Due to discrimination, threats and fear for their own lives, these women have to flee from their own homes. Once exiled from their homes, hundreds of these accused women end up in “witch camps.” As of 2018, up to 1,000 women lived in the witch camps, which act as a place of refuge for these women. Below are the top five things to know about witch camps in Ghana.

5 Things to Know About Witch Camps in Ghana

  1. There are six witch camps in Ghana. Spread out across the Northern Region, the six confirmed witch camps reside in Bonyasi, Gambaga, Gnani, Kpatinga, Kukuo and Nabuli. Some sources state the possibility of more camps, but these camps are more remote and there are not many records about them. Several of these camps date back to well over a century ago. In 2014, the government created a plan to shut down the camps in an effort to stop the stigma and mistreatment of these women and reunite them with their communities. The Ghanaian government began the shutdowns with the Bonyasi camp. However, activists feared that communities would refuse to reaccept these “witches” and the women would no longer have a home. The government has since halted its plans to shut down the camps, as many of the accused witches fear returning to the communities that sent them away.
  2. The population of the witch camps is mostly women. It is almost undeniable that the communities’ accusations that these women are witches have a lot to do with sexism and misogyny. These women are often vulnerable, such as older women, single mothers, widows and unmarried women who do not fit the stereotype that their society sees as desirable. Furthermore, these women do not have a male authority figure to protect them, so it is easy for their communities to cast them out.
  3. Communities often accuse these women of things out of their control. Communities often accuse women of witchcraft because they believe they are guilty of circumstances like bad weather, disease and livestock death. Some communities exile women simply for appearing in someone’s dream. Showing signs of dementia or mental illness also leads to witch accusations. Often, communities’ accusations are based on superstition. In 2014, a woman received an accusation of witchcraft and her community compared her to Maame Water, a sea goddess that lures men to their deaths, because a man drowned beside her. The method that communities use to determine if a woman practices witchcraft involves slaughtering a chicken and taking note of its posture as it dies.
  4. Women are not the only ones who reside in the witch camps in Ghana. Children occasionally accompany women to the camps. A child may go with the accused witch in order to protect them. Often, a woman’s own children accompany her. These children suffer greatly from the discrimination of their previous communities. The camps have no access to education, little access to water and insufficient food. Most of these children go their whole lives with no formal education and spend their time completing chores. While the camps may not have the best living conditions, the inhabitants believe it is better than facing discrimination and possible violence.
  5. ActionAid is pushing to improve the conditions for women and children in these camps. ActionAid, an organization that fights for and protects women’s rights, strives to provide aid for the accused witches. ActionAid works to dissolve the camps and reintegrate the accused with their past communities. However, the organization understands that that cannot happen without ending the superstition and stigmas surrounding witchcraft. Until that day arrives, ActionAid is prioritizing the current needs of the women and children of the camps. Its work includes increasing the accused witches’ self-confidence, teaching the women their rights and finding ways they can support themselves. ActionAid promoted the creation of a network of alleged witches, Ti-gbubtaba, that works to register the camp’s inhabitants on the National Health Insurance Scheme and gain food aid. In 2011, ActionAid brought the inhabitants of all six camps together in a two-day forum. This forum was space for the accused women, children, priests, local government and organizations to come together to discuss future solutions for the camps.

These five facts about witch camps in Ghana give a look into the accused women’s lives, as well as the organizations trying to help. While organizations are making great strides to better the lives of these women and hopefully reintegrate them into their communities, much more is necessary for the future.

– Lilith Turman
Photo: Wikimedia

Facts About Women’s Health in EthiopiaWhile gender equality has been a significant issue in the sub-Saharan African country, recent steps have been taken to ensure the health and safety of Ethiopian women and girls. Below are seven facts about women’s health in Ethiopia.

7 Facts About Women’s Health in Ethiopia

  1. The maternal mortality rate has been cut in half between 1990 and 2010. One reason for this is the implementation of the Health Extension Program (HEP) in 2005, which aims to provide all families with clean and safe spaces to deliver their babies both at home and in medical facilities.
  2. In 2015, the Center for International Reproductive Health Training (CIRHT) was founded in order to increase the number of medical professionals that could provide reproductive care to rural areas of Ethiopia. Students are completing the program in three years, compared to 12 years of similar advanced programs in other African countries. The program also works to destigmatize reproductive health and merge it into mainstream health care. Partly as a result of this program, the number of Ethiopian women making four or more doctors’ visits during their pregnancies has tripled between 2000 and 2014.
  3. Ethiopia has a long history of gender-based discrimination which impacts the wellbeing of women and girls in the country. In February of 2019, the Ethiopian government held a meeting with civil society organizations (CSOs) as a part of African Health Week to prioritize gender-sensitive policymaking objectives in the health care sector.
  4. The use of contraceptives has increased by almost six times from 2000 to 2016. The introduction to modern contraceptive methods had helped prevent unwanted pregnancies and disease among married women in Ethiopia.
  5. Twice as many women in Ethiopia have HIV than men, but in 2016, 49 percent of women had knowledge of HIV prevention methods, compared to 32 percent in 2000. This has contributed to a 45 percent decrease in AIDS-related deaths in the country between 2010 and 2018, as well as a decrease of 6,000 new cases in the same timeframe.
  6. In both rural and urban communities, the percentage of female genital mutilation has decreased by at least 10 percent. Though progress still needs to be made, both settings have seen a significant decrease in the act between 2000 and 2016.
  7. In 2018, the first two urogynecology fellows in Ethiopia graduated from Mekelle University. Oregon Health and Science University partnered with Mekelle to launch the first urogynecology fellowship program in the country. Urogynecologists treat pelvic floor disorders in women, many who suffer in silence in Ethiopia, as this group of disorders is not well known.

While Ethiopia has severely struggled with gender inequality throughout its history, it is encouraging to see that the Ethiopian government is making concrete changes. Between the creations of programs and institutions, as well as improved education, women’s health in Ethiopia will continue to make great strides.

– Alyson Kaufman
Photo: Pixabay