Gender Wage Gap In Namibia
Namibia ranks sixth in the Global Gender Gap Report of 2021, the highest-ranked African country for bridging the gap between women and men economic opportunity, educational attainment, health and political empowerment measure. In just nine years, Namibia has climbed 35 spots, excelling past Canada and the United States in the Global Gender Gap Report. A closer look at Namibia’s history provides insight into actions taken to bridge this gap and how the gender wage gap in Namibia still plays a role in society today.

Post-Independence Namibia Focuses on Gender Equality

Prior to Namibia gaining independence, many considered women the property of men. When Namibia gained full independence from South Africa in 1990, it implemented numerous changes aimed at improving gender equality, as well as equality for all, in the new constitution. Article 10 states that “[n]o persons shall be discriminated against on the grounds of sex, race, color, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status,” emphasizing Namibia’s commitment to equality.

Also, the Married Persons Equality Act became law in 1996. The act allows women to sign contracts, register a property in their name and act as directors of companies. Women in Namibia hold about 44% of the managerial professions.

In the year 2013, “Namibia’s ruling party, the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO),” implemented a 50/50 gender policy that requires “equal representation of men and women” in parliament. At the time of the policy creation, women filled only 25% of the positions in parliament. Currently, women occupy 44% of the seats in parliament, proving that the gender policy has been effective in adding more women to work in government roles. The government’s adoption of these policies aid in creating a more inclusive environment for women in Namibia, particularly in political and urban settings.

More Women Seek an Education

Women in Namibia are leading their male counterparts in post-secondary education with a tertiary education enrollment rate of 30% for women and 15% for men. At the largest university in Namibia, the University of Namibia (UNAM), 64% of the students are women while only 36% are men. Many women continue on to obtain their master’s degrees or doctoral degrees. Once out of school, the labor force participation rate for women drops below men at 57% and 64% respectively. Even though more women seek secondary education than men, women earn less than men in several industries.

While the gender wage gap in Namibia is less prominent than that of many other countries, the distribution of wealth is immensely unequal. According to the Gini index, which measures the degree of inequality in the distribution of family income, Namibia ranks second-highest in comparison to all other countries in the world. Namibia has one of the highest Gini index ratings because of its high unemployment rate, with women more likely to experience unemployment. About 64% of Namibians survive on less than $5.55 per person per day, which equates to slightly more than $2,000 a year. The average amount U.S. citizens spend on a summer vacation is roughly the same.

Namibians Continue to Reach for Gender Equality

Much like other patriarchal societies, when women and men reach for equality, there are often roadblocks along the way. While women in Namibia now occupy 44% of the positions in parliament, they are still shy of the 50% goal of the 50/50 gender policy. The gender wage gap in Namibia has narrowed significantly, but there is still massive inequality concerning family income distribution. There is also an underlying dialogue in Namibia that women are inferior to men. Sexual and gender-based violence is prevalent due to societal and cultural norms. In fact, among the age group of 15 to 49, 28% of women and 22% of men in Namibia believe a husband beating his wife as a form of discipline constitutes a justifiable act. These beliefs contribute to a culture of gender inequality, which often proliferates inequalities in the workplace and perpetuates traditional gender roles.

Fortunately, the government is continuing to implement policies beneficial to gender equality. Additionally, women are pursuing secondary education at astounding rates, which is crucial in combating gender-based disparities as well as decreasing the gender wage gap in Namibia.

– Amy Helmendach
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, with a population of 6.6 million inhabitants. Women in Nicaragua face many challenges such as increased poverty and violence. The following will present several areas where women’s rights in Nicaragua require improvement.

Violence Against Women

In Nicaragua, violence against women in the form of abuse is one of the most serious social issues that the country faces. Among married women in Nicaragua, 52% have reported cases of spousal abuse, with a median duration of five years. Additionally, 21% of these women reported an overlap between both emotional and sexual violence, with 31% of these women being sexually and/or violently abused during their pregnancy.

Needless to say, these statistics are disheartening and scary. With such high rates of abuse around the country, there seems to be little or no hope for Nicaraguan women to escape this abusive cycle. However, there are several organizations that have contributed to the decrease of sexual abuse in southern countries, such as Self-Help International. It is the largest global organization that works to prevent torture and abuse of all sorts by educating and empowering women in developing countries. Misinformation about abusive relationships is very common among Nicaraguan women. Organizations like this allow women to escape this kind of relationship.

The Gender Gap

The Human Development Report has ranked Nicaragua 124 out of 189 countries based on Gender Equality Index in 2017. Additionally, women are more likely to face poverty in Nicaragua than men. With facts like these, it is evident that there is a disparity between men and women in Nicaragua.

Family members are often the ones who push women in Nicaragua to the sex trafficking industry. Additionally, 28% of Nicaraguan women give birth before they are 18, which is mostly due to sexual violence. This is the issue of society not discouraging violence against women.

Women’s Rights and Poverty

The 2016 poverty rate in Nicaragua was 24.9% with an average salary being $265. A large number of women in Nicaragua experience pregnancy at a young age. They usually stay at home and care for their children rather than working and garnering an income. However, the income that their male counterparts provide for their families is frequently insufficient. In fact, about 78% of households in Nicaragua live in ‘substandard’ conditions, the highest rate in all of Latin America.

This problem returns to the roots of the gender gap and women’s treatment in Nicaragua. It means that the cycle of women having children at a young age and caring for them with a low household income will only continue across the years, even affecting future generations. This means that one of the most important places to start with solving this problem is encouraging education about abuse.

Solutions

Though there are certain difficult cases that prevent the maximum execution of women’s rights in Nicaragua, hope still exists for the country. With a declining number of abuse cases due to the exposure of organizations like Self-Help International, women’s rights in Nicaragua are beginning to solidify. Self-Help has been working to solve global issues like hunger and poverty since 1999, and it provides education and opportunities for women in these countries. In 2019, Self-Help was able to offer clean drinking water to 3,600 Nicaraguan residents in nine communities. With this preceding success, it is likely that Self-Help’s initiative to alleviate the women’s rights issues in Nicaragua will quickly gain traction.

Self-Help is currently working on a project to educate and empower 200 Nicaraguan women through workshops and microloans. This could lead to a reduction in young women entering and staying in abusive relationships. It is the success of the organizations like this one that can bring hope to women and influence the policymakers when spreading awareness about women’s rights.

Though Nicaragua’s statistics regarding women’s rights and abuse are not yet within positive measures, the work of NGOs should result in the improvement of conditions for women in Nicaragua over the next decades.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Flickr

Maiti Nepal
Nepal, landlocked between the global superpowers of China and India, is one of the most impoverished countries in South Asia, due in part to poor infrastructure, corruption and natural disasters. Staggering poverty rates and unemployment have created a crisis at the India-Nepal border, a hotspot for human trafficking. Women and girls are especially at risk of sex trafficking, especially girls in rural communities far from the capital city of Kathmandu. Maiti Nepal aims to address the growing issue of human trafficking in Nepal.

Women and Girls at Risk

Women and girls make up about “71% of modern slavery victims” worldwide. Illiteracy, poverty, unemployment and geography all contribute to the human trafficking crisis. Faced with few prospects, many girls are lured into the hands of traffickers with the promise of work and prosperity abroad.

Traffickers transport these girls to urban centers, either to Kathmandu or various cities in India. These girls must work in brothels, massage parlors, dance clubs, circuses and private homes. If the girls are lucky enough to make it back home, they then face additional discrimination and struggle to reintegrate into society.

COVID-19 Worsens the Trafficking Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the risks of human trafficking for girls. As unemployment rises, desperate families are more likely to believe traffickers can provide a better life for their children. In a society that views girls’ education as less important than boys’, extended school closures leave girls at heightened risk of falling victim to trafficking. It is imperative that global actors and the government of Nepal take immediate action to protect girls and women during the pandemic.

Neither India nor Nepal requires documentation for citizens to cross their shared border, allowing traffickers to move people across without detection. Dealing with the COVID-19 crisis has further depleted the resources and ability of anti-trafficking officials to adequately monitor border crossings. Estimates indicate that traffickers move 54 women and girls into India every day.

Maiti Nepal Spearheads Anti-Trafficking Efforts

Anuradha Koirala founded Maiti Nepal in 1993 with the goal of addressing the trafficking of women and children. Named a CNN Hero in 2010, Koirala has devoted the majority of her life to rehabilitating survivors of trafficking and implementing prevention efforts. Maiti Nepal recognizes that without improving conditions in Nepal, trafficking will continue to persist.

Though the Nepali government attempts to monitor the border, women and girls continue to slip through the cracks. Maiti Nepal supplements the government’s efforts to guard the busy border between India and Nepal. Volunteers directly intercept traffickers at the border and safely return the victims to their homes or a transit center. To date, Maiti Nepal has intercepted more than 42,000 girls at the border and convicted 1,620 human traffickers.

Maiti Nepal began as one rehabilitation home to house survivors. Now, its programs include prosecution and legal counseling, transit homes, education sponsorships, job training, advocacy efforts, rehabilitation and HIV/AIDS treatment programs, among others. Maiti has provided rehabilitation services to about 25,000 women and children. The nonprofit spearheads multiple efforts to provide direct aid as well as prevention and advocacy efforts throughout the country.

Looking Ahead

The continued efforts of Maiti Nepal and the Nepali government safeguard impoverished girls and women from the lures of human trafficking. Understanding the links between poverty and human trafficking, a broader focus on poverty reduction can accelerate efforts to combat human trafficking in Nepal.

– Elizabeth Long
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is a shining example for other nations in Central Asia. Despite a poverty rate of 38%, Kyrgyzstan has made tremendous progress over the years in reducing its poverty, and it continues to do so. On top of the progress, the country is trying to make economically, the nation is actively trying to make social improvements to its society. Specifically, Kyrgyzstan wants to make its society better for women. One example of Kyrgyzstan’s efforts to do this is the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Other forces actively pushing for equality in Kyrgyzstan include the Forum of Women’s NGOs of Kyrgyzstan (FWNGO). The work of FWNGO has been persistent, and it has helped many causes that promote women’s equality in Kyrgyzstan.

Goals of FWNGO

One of the goals of FWNGO is to engage women’s organizations on a local level in order to complete certain goals. For example, FWNGO wants local women’s organizations to help increase the number of women in governing bodies, and for these women to hold important decision-making roles. Decreasing violence against women is another important goal of FWNGO. To do this, FWNGO helps local women’s organizations monitor violence against women. The work of FWNGO also focuses on education. This includes educating women’s rights organizations about the field of gender equality and also teaching them important skills to further their goals.

FWNGO’s Programs

FWNGO runs numerous programs to promote women’s equality in Kyrgyzstan. One such program is its Participation of Women in Political Processes. This program started back in 2006, and since then, its purpose is to engage women to participate in all political levels within Kyrgyzstan. FWNGO believes that in order for women to have equality, they must fight for it by using the political processes that Kyrgyzstan affords them. FWNGO does not just want women themselves to participate in political processes in Kyrgyzstan; it wants other women’s rights organizations to help promote women as well. By having more women participate in elections, FWNGO can better guarantee that the interests of women will end up in government programs and decisions.

Another program that FWNGO runs is Combatting Discrimination and Violence against Women. The goal of this program is to reduce all forms of violence and discrimination that Kyrgyzstani women face. FWNGO actively works with other women’s rights organizations to prevent violence against women. To achieve these goals, FWNGO actively pursues aggressors against women and brings them to justice.

How it Helps

The work of FWNGO is important because it helps women living in poverty in Kyrgyzstan. Rural women in Kyrgyzstan are poorer than urban women, and their quality of life is much worse. Rural women are also less likely to actively participate in political processes in Kyrgyzstan. FWNGO seeks to help women living in these circumstances by encouraging them to participate in Kyrgyzstan’s political processes. While the focus of the FWNGO is on all women, rural women are in a tougher situation.

Kyrgyzstan has made great progress over the years. The work of FWNGO and organizations like it will ensure that progress will continue to occur.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Water scarcity in EthiopiaEthiopia’s water supply is scarce — only 42% of the population has access to clean water. For those that don’t have access to clean water, women bear the brunt of the work to get it for their families. Therefore, water scarcity in Ethiopia is, though some might not realize it, a women’s issue.

While men work and try to earn money, mothers, wives, and young girls carry the water burden, both physically and metaphorically. These women walk long distances, often three hours or more to get clean water for drinking, bathing, washing clothes and more. These long distances take away valuable time from these women’s lives. Mothers often have to bring their young children on these long journeys or risk leaving them by themselves. Instead of spending time taking care of their children or working, many take six to eight hours every day collecting water and returning home. As for young girls, many sacrifice their education to get water, causing their chances of escaping poverty to dwindle. Women also have to carry heavy jerry cans for long distances, which could lead to physical strain or other health issues.

The Economics of Water Scarcity in Ethiopia

Water scarcity in Ethiopia affects 61 million people who do not have access to safe water. Although the water that they have access to may not be safe, many Ethiopians have no choice but to pay for their dangerous water supply. Water from sources like unprotected ponds and shallow wells can cost some Ethiopians around 20% of their total income.

Since this water is not safe, many people also get sick from water-borne illnesses like cholera and diarrhea, which takes time, money and energy away from working or finding a way to earn money, catapulting Ethiopians further into poverty.

Organizations Helping Supply Water

There are several organizations with a mission to supply water to people in countries that face water scarcity, including Ethiopia. WaterAid UK is one of these organizations. The organization supplies areas with a scarce water supply, like remote villages, with access to clean water. For example, WaterAid UK installed a 400-meter pipe from a spring which pipes water down to the center of the village of Ferenji in Ethiopia. The organization has supplied 26.4 million people with clean water since its establishment in 1981.

Another organization bringing clean water to Ethiopia is charity:water. Founded in 2006, charity:water uses different methods including piped systems, hand-dug wells, drilled wells, gravity-fed systems, spring protections and latrines to provide Ethiopians with clean water. Their efforts so far have helped 3,025,007 Ethiopians gain access to safe water.

A Progressive Future

Water scarcity in Ethiopia proves to be a burden for women, causing them to sacrifice work, education, money and providing for their families. Many do not have a choice but to make the long treks to retrieve clean water, but several organizations use their resources and funds to build water sources for Ethiopians. These efforts will help lessen the water burden for women across Ethiopia and allow them to focus on progress for themselves and their families.

– Sana Mamtaney
Photo: Flickr

help women in poverty Across the globe, poverty comes in different forms. Over the years, individuals and companies have developed products to help those in poverty. Since poverty disproportionately impacts women, several companies are inventing products that address the specific tribulations of women. Flo, Hemafuse, Embrace and fashionable iodine dots are inventions that aim to help impoverished women across the globe.

4 Empowering Inventions to Help Impoverished Women

  1. Flo: The Reusable Menstrual Kit. Flo is an inexpensive, reusable menstrual kit designed by Mariko Higaki Iwai. The discreet kit allows girls to “wash, dry and carry reusable sanitary pads.” In developing nations such as Kenya, female students miss about five days of education a month due to a lack of access to menstrual products to properly manage their periods. The Flo kit aims to reduce the risk of infections due to inadequate menstrual hygiene and address period poverty to keep girls in school. With girls able to consistently attend school, they are able to acquire the tools and knowledge to rise out of poverty.
  2. Hemafuse: The Blood Recycler. Hemafuse is an affordable syringe-like device that collects and filters blood that can then be used in a blood transfusion. Since developing nations lack a “reliable blood supply” for emergency blood transfusions, Hemafuse serves to reduce preventable deaths due to blood loss. Hemafuse is particularly valuable in “ruptured ectopic pregnancies,” a common occurrence in the developing world. During ectopic pregnancies, a woman “can lose half of her blood volume,” necessitating an emergency blood transfusion that Hemafuse can help facilitate in countries with limited resources. In this way, Hemafuse can save the lives of millions of impoverished women in lower-income countries.
  3. Embrace: The Portable Incubator. One of the leading causes of newborn death is unregulated body temperature, which can lead to a newborn death every 10 seconds. Incubators are designed to address this issue, however, high costs make incubators inaccessible to hospitals that cannot afford the technology. Embrace is an affordable, portable incubator that serves as an alternative to this necessity. The inexpensive incubator is reusable and “does not require stable electricity,” making it ideal for impoverished and remote hospitals with limited resources. The design also “allows for close mother-child interaction” as a mother can hold the newborn instead of placing the baby in a conventional incubator. Embrace has saved the lives of more than 350,000 babies and aims to continue this trend with the goal of saving “one million babies by 2026.” Overall, Embrace reduces mortality rates among children of impoverished women.
  4. Life-Saving Dots: Fashionable Iodine. In India, many women face iodine deficiencies due to a lack of trust in foreign medicine. As a result, “pregnancy complications and fibrocystic breast disease” are not uncommon. The life-saving dot functions not only as a source of iodine for women but also as a bindi. Without having to take medication, women can wear these iodine dots on their foreheads to supplement the nutrients they need to maintain good health.

Overall, these four innovations provide significant support for women in poverty. Through creative and innovative solutions, the world can see more progress in reducing global poverty.

– Maddie Rhodes
Photo: Flickr

Female genital mutilation in TanzaniaThe WHO estimates that more than 200 million women and girls across the world have experienced female genital mutilation (FGM). The culturally entrenched practice holds no benefits for girls and women. In fact, FGM puts girls and women at risk of severe health complications. Despite constituting an international human rights violation, in countries such as Tanzania, cases of FGM persist. The government of Tanzania, individuals and organizations aim to address incidents of female genital mutilation in Tanzania.

Female Genital Mutilation in Tanzania

In the year 1998, female genital mutilation became illegal in Tanzania through the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act. However, the legislation only criminalized the act for women younger than 18. Law enforcement officials intervened in rituals where young girls received their rite of passage through mutilation. The country hopes to end all harmful actions against women and children by 2030. This includes FGM practices.

A few issues surrounding the prosecution of FGM cases include victims refusing to testify against the perpetrators, especially if they are family members. Additionally, bribery by perpetrators is common to avoid prosecution. Inadequate evidence and “witnesses failing to appear in court” also contribute to low prosecution rates.

At times, “community leaders pretend to abandon the practice then organize alternative rite of passage festivals for girls only to continue with female genital mutilation in disguise.” Despite these barriers, Tanzania has seen a decrease in mutilations from 18% in 1996 to around 10% in 2021.

Recommendations From WHO

According to the World Health Organization, nine out of 10 Tanzanian women are against FGM practices. Because the practice is culturally entrenched, it is more difficult to completely abolish. The WHO recommends raising awareness about FGM in order to communicate the dangers the practice holds for girls and women. Furthermore, health professionals should be trained to “manage and prevent” cases on FGM. Furthermore, law enforcement needs to be better supported in order to ensure cases are investigated and prosecuted.

Solutions to FGM in Tanzania

Tanzania has developed a national strategy to address FGM in the country. The strategy launched on March 15, 2021, and will run for four years. The strategy involves “running campaigns on the health consequences of FGM for girls and women, recruitment of change agents from within the communities and the enforcement of legal mechanisms.” Though FGM rates in Tanzania have reduced to 10%, the fight to abolish the practice continues.

Men in the community have also joined the fight to end FGM. Chief Girihuida Gegasa Shulumbu is a traditional leader in the Mara village of Tanzania. As a father of three daughters, Shulumbu works with other male leaders to end the practice and find “alternative rites of passage.” Shulumbu recognizes that FGM impacts the most impoverished people and impacts education by keeping girls out of school due to recovery time and health complications that may ensue.

A lack of education keeps women in poverty, economically impacting Tanzania as a whole. Due to individual efforts and efforts from organizations, in the past three years, 96 ritual leaders have stopped FGM practices in Mara. Furthermore, more than 1,500 girls between 9 and 19 were protected from FGM practices through campaigns and programs.

Efforts to decrease female genital mutilation in Tanzania have proven successful. Although the fight continues, there is much promise that the practice may be eliminated by 2030.

– Selena Soto
Photo: Flickr

Problems and Solutions with Human Trafficking in India
With its current population of 1.3 billion people, India is the second-largest country in the world. However, with its size comes a myriad of human rights issues. With so many people in one country, many of them can easily fall under the radar. Human trafficking in India is one of the most prominent human rights issues within the country.

In India, kidnappings for labor and sexual needs have been constant. In 2020, a U.S. Department of State report identified India as a Tier 2 country. In spite of many genuine efforts, the country remains hindered by its inadequate solutions to alleviate the problem and the department feels that India did not sufficiently ensure the mitigation of the issue. Enslavement has also been a common issue. In 2016, the Global Slavery Index found that 18 million people out of 46 million people are enslaved in India.

Trafficking of Women

Within the system of human trafficking in India, most of those victimized are either women or minors. In 2016, The National Crime Records Bureau estimated that 33,855 people in India have been victims of kidnapping for the purpose of marriage. Half of this percentage consisted of individuals under 18 years of age. Kidnappers most commonly force women into commercial sex and indentured servitude.

Bride trafficking has also been a consistent commodity due to skewed sex ratios in certain areas. There has been a lack of women for the larger male population to marry, so many buy their partners. A UNODC report in 2013 found that of the 92 villages of the Indian state of Haryana, nine out of 10 households bought wives from poor villages in other parts of the country. The report also mentioned that most of the women experienced abuse and rape as well as working like slaves.

Child Kidnappings

Alongside the trade of women, many child kidnappings occur. Kidnappers force many of the victims into servitude within industries of agriculture and manufacturing. In 2016, the Central Bureau of Investigation estimated that 135,000 children become victims of human trafficking in India annually. Many of the Indian train stations, such as Sealdah in the city of Kolkata, have had reports of youth kidnapping. Due to the frantic environment of the station, most of these disappearances go unnoticed. A lot of these children either live near the station due to poverty and abuse at home or travel out to work despite the danger and illegality of child labor. Children have also experienced kidnapping during natural disasters. During an earthquake in Nepal, traffickers targeted children whose parents had lost their lives. Wherever traffickers send these children, they work in brutal conditions and receive little pay or nothing at all.

Action in Legislation

Despite the magnitude of the issue and the bleakness it presents, there are glimmers of hope. The government and the public have pushed to mitigate these problems. Prosecution and the tracking of victims are becoming a focus of legislation creation. The Ministry of Women and Child Development has worked to develop a new law to combat the issue. The draft law will include measures to make placement agencies compulsory and rules to monitor where workers are from and where they are going. The 2020 Department of Justice report recommended that increased prosecutions and legislation are necessary to combat the issues.

There are also Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that can give outside assistance in helping trapped women escape. One such group is Chetanalaya, which is the social action group of the Archdiocese of Delhi. Started in 1970, the organization focuses on mobilizing volunteer groups and state and union governments to assist in its efforts. The group has managed to liberate more than 800 enslaved domestic workers in the past two decades.

Helping Faceless

With the rise of technology in India, many have looked to use new innovations to assist in their cause. An example of this is the app Helping Faceless. Created in 2013, it helps fight child kidnapping and trafficking through the use of search engines that use facial recognition to help find wandering youth. To assist in helping women, the website is available for anonymous documentation of sexual assaults and other horrific experiences. By 2015, 5,000 downloads had occurred and the app continues to grow with attempts to improve the technology. Moreover, some are proposing to bring it to other countries that have similar human rights issues.

Going Forward

While the current issues regarding human trafficking in India are immense, the information and technology available can help alleviate the problem. Looking into a problem is one of the best steps in creating a good future and, while it may take a while, there is reason to hope. With the large population in the country, there are many individuals who have survived these experiences and are ready to fight to ensure that others will not endure them.

– John Dunkerley
Photo: Flickr

human trafficking during COVID-19The United Nations has warned of a recent increase in human trafficking taking place through social media. According to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) perpetrators are approaching victims on social media and messaging platforms. Experts correlate this surge of online human trafficking with the lockdowns governments have implemented to combat COVID-19 that has left millions of people jobless and struggling to survive.

The Human Trafficking Crisis

Human trafficking has long posed a threat to the safety and well-being of the world’s most vulnerable populations. The U.N. has stated that between 2017 and 2018, approximately 75,000 trafficking victims were identified in 110 countries. During this period, 70% of victims were female, 77% of whom were then trafficked for sexual exploitation and 14% for forced labor.

There are several factors that make a person more vulnerable to human trafficking. The most pressing factor, however, is financial struggles or poverty.

Online Human Trafficking and COVID-19

Human trafficking is on the rise as millions are made desperate by the economic consequences of COVID-19. People employed in informal sectors have been particularly impacted by layoffs, while earlier this year migrant workers were left stranded far from home when borders closed and travel bans were implemented. According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic will result in global extreme poverty increasing for the first time in two decades, pushing as many as 150 million people into poverty by 2021.

The impact, however, will be felt the hardest by females. As a result of the pandemic, 47 million more women and girls will be pushed into extreme poverty. Estimates even predict that globally, for every 100 men living in poverty in 2030, there could be as many as 121 women.

Besides  COVID-19’s economic consequences, traffickers have also benefited from the fact that people are spending more time online during lockdowns. While traffickers have usually operated with a great deal of impunity, the internet allows for easier access to vulnerable populations as well as the benefits of anonymity and false identities.

Addressing Human Trafficking During COVID-19

Human trafficking is a global problem but despite the scale of the threat and the advantages that perpetrators have during COVID-19, governments can take action to protect vulnerable groups, especially women and girls.

In an appeal to social media and messaging companies, CEDAW recommended that safety controls be set up to reduce the risk of exposing women and girls to trafficking and sexual exploitation. CEDAW has called upon online platforms to use data, artificial intelligence and analytics to identify possible patterns that could lead to trafficking. It also urges platforms to “put in place the appropriate governance structure and procedures which will allow them to be reactive in their response and provide the relevant level of information to the concerned authorities.”

CEDAW also urged governments to resolve the underlying issues that allow human trafficking to flourish. These issues include sex-based discrimination, economic insecurity, conflict and unsafe conditions for migrants and displaced people.

In addition, the United Nations has urged national governments to ensure that services for trafficking victims and survivors stay open during lockdowns and that the rights of migrant and informal workers are protected by labor laws. Finally, investments in programs for women’s economic empowerment are encouraged as a means of mitigating the disproportionate economic impacts on females. With the appropriate measures in place, human trafficking during COVID-19 can be prevented.

– Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

uyghur women
The Uyghur community in China is a suppressed Muslim Turkish minority centered in Xinjiang, a region in Central Asia. Since 2018, the Chinese government has placed up to two million Muslims and Uyghurs in concentration camps due to their cultural identity and religion. Uyghur women in particular face gendered abuses in addition to this mass incarceration.

Uyghur Women Speak Out on Harmful Practices in Xinjiang

Many courageous Uyghur women have come forward to expose the abuses they faced in the so-called re-education camps China has used since 2018. For example, a 38-year-old woman from Urumqi had to have her fallopian tubes tied because she had three children. Under Chinese rule, only two children are allowed per family.

Unfortunately, this is only one of the numerous cases in which Uyghur women have experienced sexual abuse or harassment in China. Experts believe that China has enforced its one-child policy by preventing 400 million births via forced abortions and mandated contraception. Because Uyghur families in Xinjiang are used to having up to 10 children, this rule is especially oppressive toward Uyghur women.

Since 2017, Uyghur families who violated this rule have experienced harsh punishments and violent attacks. In addition, there were 60,000 sterilizations in Xinjiang in 2018. This is about 57,000 more sterilizations than in 2014, when there were only about 3,000 in the region. As a result, Xinjiang’s population has dropped by more than 10% since 2014.

New Evidence

As a result of the stories women came forward with, new documentation has been released about the cruelties of China’s treatment of Uyghurs in concentration camps. Asiye Abdulaheb, an Uyghur woman residing in the Netherlands, joined forces with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to expose 24 pages of documents about the camps. This documentation followed 403 pages detailing the brutalities of Beijing’s concentration camps that were leaked in November 2019. Despite the resistance to China’s camps that followed the release of these documents, the government still denies these accusations. China continues to claim that the concentration camps are just job training centers and nothing more.

Actions to Combat the Oppression of Uyghur Communities

Despite the brutal violence that numerous Uyghur women have endured, many organizations have made strides toward aiding them. The Uyghur Human Rights Project is one such organization. Founded in 2004, the project is a research-based advocacy group dedicated to reporting the abuses faced by many Uyghur families in China.

The One Nation Project, a similar organization, aims to assist Uyghur victims currently living in concentration camps. With over 5 million beneficiaries, the One Nation Project uses donations to deliver food packages to Uyghur families. Other fundraising campaigns also exist to provide aid for Uyghur families. LaunchGood, a crowdfunding platform for Muslims, hosted a fundraiser that raised over $107,000 for Uyghur women and children. So far, the campaign has been able to help cover rent for 67 Uyghur families and has given over 343 monthly allocations to orphans.

Aside from projects and fundraising campaigns, however, there is much more the United States can do to stop the abuse in Xinjiang. One simple step would be ceasing to support forced labor from Uyghur communities. Popular brands such as H&M, Adidas, and Calvin Klein have been found to sell products made by forced Uyghur labor. More than 180 organizations are advocating for banning products made from forced Uyghur labor. Rep. Ro Khana, D-CA, goes further to ask the U.S. government to prohibit the importation of products made in Chinese camps.

Having stronger foreign policies can also allow the United States to obtain more support for Uyghur victims. As of now, the United States has lessened its involvement in the U.N. and has failed to hold China accountable for its abuses against Uyghur women and families. Because China is one of the five primary members of the U.N. Human Rights Council, it has the power to veto any proposal. With greater involvement in the U.N., the U.S. could work against the harmful practices that China conducts in Xinjiang. Foreign involvement in this issue is crucial. If the U.S. leveraged its power, alongside multiple projects and campaigns helping Uyghur victims, the abuses against Uyghur families could stop in the future.

Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Flickr