Saving Mothers, Giving Life in ZambiaSaving Mothers, Giving Life in Zambia is working to improve maternal and newborn health in 16 districts. When a mother dies, her newborn is 10 times more likely to die. In Zambia, the rate of maternal mortality is among the highest in the world with an estimated 1,400 maternal deaths and 13,000 newborn deaths per year. The initiative aims to create safe and high-quality childbirth services for women and their newborns.

The Initiative

Saving Mothers, Giving Life is a $280,000, five-year public-private partnership extending from 2012 to 2017. The initiative was launched in 2012 by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as part of the Global Health Initiative and to support achievement of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

The objective of the initiative is to quickly reduce the maternal and newborn mortality rates in Uganda, Zambia, and Nigeria. Saving Mothers, Giving Life brings together national governments, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and professional associations to aid in reaching the common objective. Key partners include:

  • the governments of Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, Norway, and the United States;
  • Merck for Mothers;
  • Every Mother Counts;
  • Project C.U.R.E.; and
  • the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

To reach its goal, Saving Mothers, Giving Life focuses on increasing demand for services, facilitating access to lifesaving care, and strengthening health systems at the district level.

The three primary delays of the initiatives that contribute to maternal and newborn mortality are:

Seeking Care

Local community members have focused on the importance of facility-based maternal and newborn health services in support of women, their male partners, and their family members. Activities have included conducting follow-up visits with pregnant women, educating them, their male partners and family members about budgeting and healthy pregnancies and distributing care planners.

Reaching Care

Saving Mothers, Giving Life in Zambia has appointed local community members to ensure that women receive proper and fair facility-based maternal services. The organization sold vouchers to women to cover transportation costs and developed waiting home models, places where women can stay during the late stages of their pregnancy to ensure they have immediate care.

Receiving Care

The local communities of Saving Mothers, Giving Life in Zambia work to persuade health providers to move to rural areas to practice. To accomplish this, they mobilize and contribute funding and labor for the construction of staff housing.

Results and Impact

Saving Mothers, Giving Life in Zambia quickly saw a positive impact due to the structure of the organization and support of the initiative. Five years into the initiative, Zambia had a 55 percent decrease in the institutional maternal mortality ratio and a 44 percent decrease of stillbirths and newborn deaths in facilities. Nearly 90 percent of women now give birth in a facility, compared to 63 percent at the outset of the initiative. In addition, the number of women who have received treatment to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS to their infants has increased by 81 percent.

Although it was only a five-year initiative, due to its success and potential, Saving Mothers, Giving Life has the ability to extend beyond the borders of Uganda, Zambia and Nigeria. It’s organizing principles can serve as a model for other countries to use in similar communities.

– Anne-Marie Maher

Photo: Flickr

Improving Women’s Rights in Tunisia
While Tunisia has the most progressive laws on women’s rights in relation to other parts of the Arab world, patriarchal values still persist. In 2010, a study from the Tunisian government revealed that many of the country’s women are sexually, verbally and physically abused. However, improving women’s rights in Tunisia has become an initiative for many organizations.

The U.N.’s Work to Represent Women in Politics

In June 2016, Tunisia’s parliament approved an amendment to ensure a greater representation of women in local politics. Applying to regional and municipal elections, the amendment included a proposal for “horizontal and vertical” gender parity in Article 49 of Tunisia’s electoral law. This also marked the first time that 73 Tunisian female parliamentarians (from different backgrounds, parties and political ideologies) conducted their own lobbying in favor of the horizontal and vertical parity.

“Besides being a first in our region, the adoption of horizontal and vertical parity in electoral law is a timely achievement because it will guarantee effective participation of women in the upcoming decentralization process in Tunisia,” said Leila Rhiwi, the U.N. Women Representative from Maghreb. In March 2016, U.N. Women also began a project with Tunisia’s parliamentarians that would support the implementation of the women’s caucus. This will work toward improving women’s rights in Tunisia by increasing their representation in local and national politics.

Aswat Nissa Training Tunisia’s Women For Political Lives

Many Tunisian women find ways to exercise the power given to them by the country’s progressive laws. Some of these ways include Tunisian women attending political academies that began after the country’s Arab Spring revolution in 2011. In October 2016, the political academy Aswat Nissa was revealed to hold monthly training sessions for Tunisian women who enter political roles.

Aswat Nissa teaches Tunisian women many necessary political skills, including how to debate effectively and draft gender-sensitive budgets. Aswat Nissa enrolled forty Tunisian women in 2016.

“I have visited parliament before, but when you’re an assembly member, it’s something else. You are part of this world,” said Aswat Nissa graduate Karima Tagaz.

Tunisia’s New Law Against Gender-Based Violence

In October 2016, Tunisia’s parliament debated a bill to strengthen legislation on violence against women. The bill would be incorporated into Tunisia’s legislative and government policies, defining gender-based violence, outlawing marital rape and increasing penalties for sexual harassment in the workplace. The bill was approved on July 26, 2017, and served as a landmark step toward improving women’s rights in Tunisia.

“By enacting this new law, the Tunisian authorities have shown a commitment to the rights of women and are setting a standard that many others would do well to follow,” said Amna Guellali, Tunisia’s office director at Human Rights Watch. The new law included requirements to assist Tunisia’s victims of domestic violence, providing them with legal and medical support. Tunisia’s authorities intend to ensure adequate funding and political will to fully place the new law into effect.

A Proposal For Tunisian Women to Share in Inheritance

In January 2018, the Committee on Individual Freedoms and Equality (CIFE) planned a proposal for Tunisia’s women to share in men’s inheritance and pass their family name onto their children.

“Tunisia is once again pioneering and irreversibly moving toward advancement,” Bochra Bel Haj Hmida, CIFE’s chairwoman, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “All discriminatory laws in the family space and public space are included in the commission’s tasks.”

CIFE’s proposed bill will also ban dowries, allowing Tunisia’s men and women to share their roles as head of the household. CIFE planned to present its recommendations to Tunisia’s president on Feb. 20, 2018, but requested a postponement until after municipal elections on May 6. The news site ANSAmed said that CIFE did not want its proposal to become an issue of electoral tension.

Tunisia’s parliament, the U.N. and CIFE have made much progress in strengthening the representation of Tunisia’s women in politics and protecting their freedom. Many groups will continue working toward improving women’s rights in Tunisia.

– Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

most effective drug for preventing maternal death
Each year, more than 300,000 women die in childbirth. The top three causes of global maternal deaths are severe bleeding, infections and high blood pressure at the time of birth. Often, pregnant women in developing countries are faced with an impossible decision: seek affordable care from untrained/unlicensed midwives or enter hospitals without being able to pay for modern treatment. It is extremely unlikely that women in this situation will receive the most effective drug for preventing maternal death.

Deaths from infections can easily be prevented through good hygiene practices by the patient and the medical staff attending to her. As for high blood pressure, the most fundamental precautionary measure is to educate the public on adolescent pregnancies, as this is often associated with maternal mortality from high blood pressure. Severe bleeding in childbirth can kill a healthy woman within several hours if proper attention and care are not given to her by her caretakers.

Often there are complications, such as bleeding, that require costly surgical operations or blood transfusions. If the mother is unable to afford the operation, she may not survive the excessive bleeding. In Sierra Leone, many people know at least one woman who has either died in childbirth or lost a fetus due to complications. Maternal care is the comprehensive indicator of the overall development of a country; the healthcare system for maternal health reflects the level of education, infrastructure and transparency of a nation.

Well educated nations with high literacy rates can still experience a shortage of qualified medical workers. Why? They are not properly paid or paid at all. The few qualified or highly educated emigrate for better opportunities and salaries. This resulting brain drain further exacerbates the crisis of maternal mortality. Prior to childbirth, there is also a delay in pregnant women seeking proper treatment. This delay can be attributed to a lack of confidence in the competence of the local healthcare facilities.

Thanks to U.N. funding, clinics in every nation are sponsored to employ local medical staff, which not only provides them with a salary, but with training as well. In addition to improved services, many patients benefit the from donation and careful administration of drugs. Among the most notable is tranexamic acid. Also known as TXA, this drug helps to control bleeding for trauma patients. It helps to stabilize a clot at the site of bleeding by preventing it from dissolving during formation. It has proven to be the most effective drug for preventing maternal death.

TXA works by preventing the conversion of plasminogen to plasmin; this promotes the accumulation of fibrin to form a complex known as the fibrin degradation products. It should be noted that TXA is not an alternative for blood transfusion; it is merely an important addition to this treatment. In addition to trauma patients, TXA has also proven effective in treating combat casualties. It has also been proven to be safe for patients.

In April 2017, the WHO launched a clinical trial dubbed the World Maternal Antifibrinolytic Trial. It consisted of 20,000 women from 21 countries who were diagnosed with postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). It was a randomized, double-blind trial with placebos for some of the participants. The organization wanted to see if bleeding persisted 30 minutes after the first dosage, and if it restarted within 24 hours. If bleeding did persist, it determined if a second dose was necessary.

What they found was that TXA reduced deaths in the trial, and it was evident that early treatment maximized the benefit. It was the most effective drug for preventing maternal death. In their words, “safe, effective and affordable PPH treatments are critical to saving the lives of pregnant women globally, and the findings of this trial have important implications for the delivery of high-quality maternity care.”

– Awad Bin-Jawed

Photo: Flickr

10 Ways Poverty is SexistProminent figures in the world of advocacy, including Bono and Melinda Gates, claim that poverty is sexist in nature. This is also referred to as the feminization of poverty. Global poverty disproportionately affects women in several ways. Women and girls are more likely to be impoverished, less likely to have access to educational opportunities and more likely to struggle with health issues.

How Poverty is Sexist

  1. Girls have less access to education over their lifetime, one of the major ways poverty is sexist. Education helps girls defy traditional gender roles and encourages them to pursue job opportunities.
  2. Attacks on girls’ schools and education discourage parents from sending their daughters to school, fearing for their safety. In countries engrossed in domestic armed conflict, girls’ education often faces targeted attacks using threats, acid, explosives, gunfire, kidnappings or school closings.
  3. Women spend twice as much time as men doing unpaid work such as cooking, cleaning and caring for children. This kind of domestic labor restricts the time women can spend working for wages, finishing their education, learning new skills or opening new businesses. The traditional gender roles are more prominent in developing nations, so this gap is even larger.
  4. Child marriage, which is often driven by poverty, traps girls in a cycle of poverty. Child brides are less likely to finish their education, making them less likely to earn a safe and adequate income. In communities where child marriage is common, girls’ education is often not valued over their roles as wives and mothers.
  5. Women are more prone to poor nutrition over the course of their life, which makes them more susceptible to diseases. Poor maternal health and nutrition feed down from mother to child, resulting in a vicious cycle of lack of nutrition and provisions against diseases.
  6. Land is a crucially valuable asset in rural areas of the world, yet almost 70 percent of the world’s population does not have access to land registration systems. Women are disproportionally affected by land title ambiguity, making them more likely to suffer from poverty and economic insecurity.
  7. Women face significantly greater challenges in gaining access to financial services than men. In developing countries, women are 20 percent less likely to hold accounts at a formal financial institution than men and often face restrictions that require a male family member’s permission to open a bank account.
  8. A lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services and reproductive rights is a form of sexual discrimination that puts women and girls at a higher risk of poverty and limits their economic empowerment. Approximately 225 million women do not use safe and effective family planning methods, most of whom live in 69 of the world’s poorest countries.
  9. Data about global poverty in some of the poorest countries in the world is incomplete and lacking in gender-disaggregated data. There is a major need for gender-disaggregated data in order to understand how poverty is sexist, where and how women and girls are being left behind and how to fix it.

These are only a handful of the many ways in which poverty is sexist. The need for further study of the relationship between poverty and sexism is vital to level the playing field between men and women in the progression of economic and social opportunities.

– Sydney Lacey

Photo: Flickr

women’s healthcare in Afghanistan

The years of Taliban control have decimated Afghanistan’s healthcare system. Since the Taliban’s fall in 2001, civil wars and internal conflict have made it difficult for the Afghan system to rebound. Almost 800 medical care centers have closed in the past ten years due to strife, and surveys indicate that 40 percent of people living in Afghanistan are unable to access healthcare services. While the struggle for adequate healthcare affects everyone in Afghanistan, it hits women the hardest. In order to strengthen the country’s infrastructure, it is crucial to improve women’s healthcare in Afghanistan.

Under the Taliban, male doctors and nurses were only allowed to touch female patients above their clothing and women were not educated in any facet, especially regarding healthcare practices. While the Taliban has since fallen, these practices still remain ingrained in the culture of Afghanistan. Many people still consider women’s healthcare in Afghanistan the worst worldwide. The projected lifespan for an Afghan woman is about 52 years, which is decades lower than the projected lifespan for a female living in the United States.

The most pressing issue regarding women’s healthcare in Afghanistan consistently remains healthcare during pregnancy and childbirth. Living in one of the most dangerous countries to give birth, around half a million Afghan women die in childbirth every year. This is a result of poor healthcare, a lack of access to healthcare services and a large number of child mothers. Additionally, around 20 percent of women are malnourished, which often results in a premature delivery. The low quality of women’s healthcare in Afghanistan impacts Afghan children as well, and 396 out of 100,000 babies do not survive.

These statistics are incredibly discouraging, but a closer inspection of the numbers can provide much hope for women’s healthcare in Afghanistan. From 2000 to 2010, the death rate of mothers giving birth plummeted from 1,600 deaths per 100,000 births to 327 deaths per 100,000 births. The mortality rate of children under the age of five dropped from 257 deaths per 1,000 children born alive to 97 deaths per 1,000 children born alive. Life expectancy, access to vaccinations and access to clean drinking water has also improved. The statistics are still grim but show substantial progress and encouragement for the healthcare initiatives that have taken place in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban.

There are several reasons for the improvements to Afghanistan’s healthcare system. The government has worked with the European Union, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the World Bank to provide better healthcare to the Afghan people. Through their funding, women’s access to healthcare in Afghanistan has improved substantially from the zero percent that could access it a little over a decade ago.

The Ministry of Public Health in Afghanistan has also made significant strides through SEHAT, the System Enhancement for Health Action in Transition. This program trains women to be nurses and midwives, empowering them to serve their community and reducing the number of women who die because their husbands will not let them be treated by male healthcare workers.

Several other organizations have also funded projects to support health in Afghanistan. The Red Cross sponsors clean water and healthy food initiatives throughout rural provinces. UNICEF funds and supports healthcare teams that travel throughout the country in order to provide care for women, particularly those living in rural areas, who cannot travel to a hospital.

It is important to understand that the healthcare crisis in Afghanistan is incredibly real, and action needs to be taken to save the lives of the Afghan people who are dying because of inadequate access to healthcare, a large number of whom are women. However, the progress that has been made in Afghanistan over the last twenty years provides proof that things can and will get better through continued healthcare initiatives.

– Julia McCartney

Photo: Flickr

women's health in AfricaWomen’s health is of great importance to social and economic development in Africa. Representing over 50 percent of the country’s human resources, women’s health in Africa has major implications for the nation’s development. Overwhelming evidence shows that by supporting women’s health status and income levels, both households and communities are drastically improved. Therefore, women’s disempowerment must be regarded as a human rights issue. These are a few facts about women’s health in Africa today.

Maternal Deaths Are Still High

Although woman’s life expectancy at birth in more than 35 countries around the world is upwards of 80 years, in the African region, it is only 54 years, according to recent World Health Organization statistics. Sixty-six percent of maternal deaths happen in sub-Saharan Africa. One in 42 African women still dies during childbirth, as opposed to one in 2,900 in Europe.

Teenage Pregnancy Education

Due to the lack of education and healthcare, teenage mothers experience many complications and premature deaths since their young bodies are still developing and not ready for the physical and emotional trauma of childbirth. Because of this, according to the Center for Global Health and Diplomacy, teenage pregnancy needs to be at the top of the education agenda in Africa among young girls if they are going to be empowered to take control of their bodies, their futures and their health.

Improving Infrastructure Can Save Women’s Lives

Several of the major issues affecting women’s health in Africa are associated with poor living conditions. As the main gatherers of food for their households, women are exposed to particular health risks. There is ample evidence that improving infrastructure such as access to roads and providing safe and accessible water sources can considerably improve women’s health and economic well-being.

HIV Affects More Women than Men

In 2015, 20 percent of new HIV infections among adults were among women aged 15 to 24, despite this group only accounting for 11 percent of the global adult population, according to Avert.com. “In East and Southern Africa, young women will acquire HIV five to seven years earlier than their male peers. In 2015, there were on average 4,500 new HIV infections among young women every week, double the number of young men.”  In west and central Africa, 64 percent of new HIV infections among young people occurred among young women. Location has a lot to do with this, as adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 are five times more likely to be infected with HIV than boys of the same age in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea.

The Fight for Empowerment

U.N. Women, in partnership with the International Rescue Committee, puts great effort into the protection of women’s empowerment in Africa. This organization supports critical policies for social protection for women. Partnerships with national banks are expanding access to finance to make that happen, along with collaborations with regional and U.N. economic commissions. Although women’s health in Africa is in desperate need of reform, there are many organizations like this one fighting to make that possible.

Policy reform designed to improve women’s health in Africa must address the issue of women’s place in African society so that the health of women can be seen as a basic right.

– Kailey Brennan

Photo: Flickr

Maternal ImmunizationMaternal immunization is a necessary solution to reduce mortality rates for newborns as well as pregnant women. These vaccines must be monitored for safety and effectiveness. Systems must also be enforced to make the change, especially in low and middle-income countries, as the neonatal (first 28 days of life) period mortality rates are significantly higher in developing countries. 99 percent of all neonatal deaths occur in low and middle-income countries. Vaccinations in a pregnant woman protect herself, the fetus, and the newborn by transferring maternal antibodies across the placenta, guarding them both against life-threatening infections.

A system that identifies, evaluates and responds to the potential events after immunization is called the Pharmacovigilance system. This system is vital for pregnancies but unfortunately, it is still uncommon in developing countries. Fortunately, however, GAPPS (Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Still Birth) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have created a report that discusses the monitoring of existing systems for safety,  identifies the gaps, and outlines a plan to implement this program in low and middle-income countries.

The analysis brings in a range of organizations including the WHO (World Health Organization), UNICEF, and MNCH (Maternal, Newborn and Child Health) to develop the strategy further. The report also discusses key necessities such as the need for regulations, response to events including the health of pregnant women and their offspring, training in the Pharmacovigilance system, model creation of dates, and linkages between the systems and collaborators.

If a pregnant woman is at a high risk of being exposed to any diseases that would be a high risk to both her and the fetus, the benefits of maternal immunization would typically outweigh the risks. The two vaccinations for pregnant women that are most encouraged are whooping cough (Pertussis), and the flu (Influenza) vaccines. The whopping cough can be life-threatening for newborns, but with the vaccine, the body will produce protective antibodies for the mother and the baby which protects against whooping cough. The flu vaccination is a necessity for pregnant women because they are more susceptible to the virus with the changes in their immune system, heart and lungs. If a pregnant woman catches the flu it can potentially cause serious problems for the fetus including premature birth.

With these systems and an increase in maternal immunization, pregnant women can have confidence in their pregnancy and labor as well as lower the global maternal and newborn mortality rate.

Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

 Lithuania

Alcoholism in Lithuania and many of its eastern European neighbors is a major concern. The Lithuanian government and various organizations, including SOS Children Villages Lithuania, are stepping in to determine how to help people in Lithuania and how to protect those that are most vulnerable to the effects of alcohol abuse.

In June of this year, the Lithuanian government announced that it will implement new, highly prohibitive alcohol laws in 2018. This announcement was made after the World Health Organization published a report that named Lithuania as the heaviest drinking country in the world in 2016.

Though this is Lithuania’s first year to top the list, its severe drinking problems are hardly new, and the details of this decades-long problem are shocking:

  • In 2013, UNICEF’s Innocenti Report Card 11 found that 27 percent of children between the age of 11 and 15 had been drunk at least twice. This was the highest measured rate in Europe that year.
  • In 2014, nearly one-quarter of women in the country engaged in binge drinking, more than women in any other country.
  • In 2014, it was found that nearly 10 percent of Lithuania’s population suffered from an alcohol use disorder, among the highest out of all nations reviewed.

Why is alcohol abuse so rampant in Lithuania and other eastern European countries? Analysts offer myriad reasons that vary depending on the particular country in question, but some of the most frequently cited answers relate to high unemployment rates, the societal legacy of Soviet control, poor mental health care and a lack of information and public policy regarding alcohol.

One source reported that currently, eight of the nations with the highest levels of consumption do not have public policy initiatives that address the effects of alcohol consumption on the general public. This lack of public information exacerbates the danger of this situation to women and children. Alcohol use among women in Lithuania and other eastern European countries has been increasing steadily, and women in these countries may not be aware of the dangers of drinking during pregnancy. Experts therefore assert that an essential tenet of answering the question of how to help people in Lithuania is simply to make them more aware of the health effects of drinking.

The effects of alcoholism in Lithuania extend to children. Research shows that children whose parents have an alcohol problem suffer an increased likelihood of several violent and troubling scenarios, are six times more likely to suffer domestic violence and three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts. Furthermore, in June 2016, 20,000 Lithuanian children were found to be living in conditions of “social risk”, which the Lithuanian government defines as a household situation in which the parents have problems concerning alcohol abuse, poverty,or domestic violence. A significant number of these children were removed from their parents’ care and placed in institutional alternatives.

The question of how to help people in Lithuania is as complex and multivariable as its catalysts. The Lithuanian government’s upcoming prohibitive measures indicate policymakers’ dedication to engendering large-scale societal change, but it will take time for Lithuanians to wholly shift their attitudes and habits of alcohol dependency and abuse. In the meantime, there are tens of thousands of Lithuanian children and millions more across eastern Europe that currently live in endangered situations or institutional care due to parental abuse of alcohol.

Recognizing the need for increased child protection and better solutions, the organization SOS Children Villages Lithuania has developed an EEA grants funded project entitled “Sustained Transition from Institutional Care to Family-Based and Community-Based Alternatives”. The goal of this project is to determine the best environment and means of caring for children that have been removed from dangerous situations through comparative studies. SOS Children Villages Lithuania is dedicated to advocating for and stepping in to protect children in Lithuania as the country works to lessen its rates of alcoholism.

Savannah Bequeaith

Photo: Flickr

Why Is Trinidad and Tobago PoorThe island nation of Trinidad and Tobago lies in the Caribbean Ocean off the coast of Venezuela. Built primarily around the oil and gas industries, Trinidad and Tobago‘s economy is one of the strongest in the Caribbean. Despite this, several factors have led to economic stagnation as well as relatively prevalent poverty. So, why is Trinidad and Tobago poor?

A lack of economic diversification and overdependence on petroleum and natural gas are some of the most important factors holding back Trinidad and Tobago‘s economy. With oil and gas constituting 80 percent of exports and about 40 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), the island nation has clearly devoted much of its economy to the sale and manufacturing of these natural resources. This leads to several problems.

Oil and gas prices have been in an overall decline over the past several years, so Trinidad and Tobago’s economy has suffered from job loss, reduced tax revenue and reduced development in human capital. These natural resources are also nonrenewable, meaning that they will eventually run out. Trinidad and Tobago’s government has done little to ensure that the country is ready to expand its economy beyond oil and gas once the underground reserves run dry. The overall lack of a business environment to stimulate entrepreneurs is one of the main answers to the question of why Trinidad and Tobago is poor.

Furthermore, the non-energy areas of the economy remain severely underdeveloped and continue to heavily depend on government subsidies. This lack of economic success in non-energy areas discourages potential foreign investors from investing in Trinidad and Tobago, despite the oil and gas sector’s success. Direct foreign investment is undeniably crucial for a country seeking economic diversification, as the inflow of money can help build a strong foundation for new sectors in the economy.

According to a review conducted by the Commonwealth Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank focused on public policy, over 20 percent of Trinidad and Tobago’s citizens currently live below the poverty line. The report also states that 11 percent of the population is undernourished. These unexpectedly high rates of poverty and malnutrition may be partly due to the considerable gender-wage gap present in Trinidad and Tobago.

A study conducted by the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago shows that women, on average, earn a staggering 35.3 percent less than men. While this may be partially due to a large portion of women taking low-income jobs, there is certainly a serious amount of gender-based discrimination in wages. It is easy to fall into complacency after the increase in the average woman’s wage – from $9,000 in 2012 to $12,000 in 2014. Despite this rise in pay, however, the wage gap has only been increasing. The average male wage was $18,000 in 2012, but has disproportionately increased to $30,000 in 2014.

Another issue presented by the gender-wage gap affects families with single parents. In Trinidad and Tobago, the children of single parents are six times more likely to live under the poverty line. With about 75 percent of single families headed by the mother, the issue of the gender-wage gap becomes truly alarming. It is illogical to expect single mothers to not only care for her children but also provide for them if she is working for significantly reduced wages and has no supplemental income.

This economic disparity between men and women has led to efforts in increasing the resources dedicated to educating and training women. With the number of women in the workforce steadily increasing over the past few years, women in Trinidad and Tobago have definitely seen improvements in their social and economic standing. Nevertheless, there is still much progress to be made. Passing legislation to eliminate the wage gap would be a substantial step toward promoting economic success in Trinidad and Tobago, in addition to the inherent benefits of working toward gender equality.

Answering the question “Why is Trinidad and Tobago poor?” requires a more convoluted response than expected. The nation of Trinidad and Tobago is undoubtedly one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean despite its deeply embedded economic flaws. While the country has made impressive progress by developing social programs to help the vulnerable, nurturing new businesses to encourage private sector growth and eradicating the gender-wage gap must be near the top of Trinidad and Tobago’s priorities for there to be long-term economic improvement.

Akhil Reddy

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in TanzaniaOn June 22, 2017, Tanzanian President John Magufuli stated that pregnant adolescent girls will not be allowed to return to school because their pregnancies encourage other girls to have sex. This statement represents one of the several ways young women and other vulnerable Tanzanian populations are set up to fail, trapped in an endless cycle of poverty. There are numerous violations of human rights in Tanzania. This article will discuss three.

To understand the extensive violation of human rights in Tanzania, one must first understand what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says. This document was created on December 10, 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly because of the events of World War II. The document lists thirty articles or rights that belong to all people. The three articles of the document that are regularly transgressed in Tanzania are:

  1. Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
  2. Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  3. Article 26: Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

Mistreatment of Young Women

Tanzanian women lack the human rights guaranteed to all in articles 3 and 26: the rights to livelihood, freedom, safety and an education. In their 2016 report, “I Had a Dream to Finish School,” the Human Rights Watch reported that girls in Tanzania are sexually harassed by teachers, bus drivers and adults. The leaders in their lives who are supposed to guarantee their safety instead request sex in exchange for gifts, rides or money. Schools in the country do not report sexual abuse cases to police. In addition, there is no system for reporting these infractions confidentially. The result? Less than one-third of girls entering lower-secondary schools graduate.

In addition to being sexually harassed, girls also are forced to take pregnancy tests at school. If a girl is pregnant, the school then expels her. Tanzanian schools expel around 8,000 pregnant girls each year. This policy reinforces President Magufuli’s June comments and is intended to discourage an upsurge in teen pregnancies. In reality, the policy violates the human rights of these young women. It also targets the victims rather than the offenders.

Barring Education through Testing

Tanzanian school children lack the human rights guaranteed in articles 5 and 26: the rights to not be exposed to cruel punishments and to seek an education. According to the Human Rights Watch, the Tanzania government controls the number of students who can seek a secondary education by making it mandatory for all students to take the Primary School Leaving Exam (PSLE). The only students who can attend secondary school are students who pass the exam.

However, passing the exam is very difficult. This is because quality of education at the primary level is poor. At the primary level, students are taught by teachers who have not specialized in the subject they instruct and class sizes are enormous. The average class has 70 students enrolled. Many students fail the PSLE as a result and are not allowed to retake it. Since 2012, more than 1.6 million adolescents can’t pursue secondary education because of their exam results. This violation of human rights in Tanzania thus denies an opportunity for upward mobility.

Corporal Punishment in the Classroom

In addition to impeding children’s chances to continuing their education, adults utilize corporal punishment to discipline students when they do attend school. Students suffer from physical and psychological abuse in Tanzanian schools. Some teachers beat students with bamboo or wooden sticks, or with their hands or other objects. These actions make securing rights that much harder for this population.

While the state of human rights in Tanzania may seem grim for vulnerable populations, there is hope. Legislation currently in Congress can help to reverse these violations if passed. The Protecting Girls Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act seeks to work with international governments to ensure all women and children can peaceably seek an education. Help get this important piece of legislation passed by contacting your leaders today.

Jeanine Thomas

Photo: Flickr