information and Stories about woman and female empowerment.

Rodrigo Supports Collaboration Among Young Girls through t-shirt designThe 18-year-old new pop sensation and Disney+ star, Olivia Rodrigo, made a name for herself in the pop music industry. Her song “drivers license” debuted at number one for nine straight weeks. Rodrigo is the first Asian American woman to reach #1 on Apple Music. With over 13.4 million followers on Instagram, Rodrigo used her platform to advertise her personally designed T-shirt, “Spicy Pisces”, last March and has donated all of the proceeds to a program called Plus1 which, in turn, benefits another program called She’s the First (STF). STF supports grassroots organizations that encourage collaboration among young girls and supports girls’ rights.

Plus1, Olivia Rodrigo and She’s the First Collaborate

Plus1 collects money through live concert ticket sales and initiates partnerships with another organization of an artist’s choice. They donate a fraction of money collected from each purchased ticket to the partner organization. Then, the two organizations create a campaign for social media. The artist’s music tour spotlights the impact of the partnership. Plus1 executes the social media campaign, coordinates volunteers and reports the partnership’s impact on communities. Through this process, fans can continue to contribute to the artist’s selected cause.

In March, Plus1 continued to support its partners despite the challenges of the pandemic and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 guidelines. After creating the T-shirt, Rodrigo donated all of the proceeds to Plus1 and supported STF despite the restrictions on live events.

Rodrigo’s Donations Actionized at She’s the First

STF operates on the basis that too many girls are discounted from holding leadership positions, denied the right to an education and forced into marriage. Their goal is to strengthen collaboration among young girls and support girls’ rights. The STF coalition offers funding and training to grassroots organizations that work to educate young girls living in poverty in Africa, Latin America and South Asia. Additionally, the STF annual conference, otherwise known as Girl’s First Summit, assists adults in gaining knowledge about child protection, designing programs centered around girls and being successful in a “feminist mentorship.” Moreover, the girl-led incubator program trains and sponsors young female leaders who have created projects that aim to serve young girls. They learn about how to develop an organization and strengthen their leadership from a feminist standpoint.

STF has also launched social media challenges #GirlsGetLoud and She’s a Girl First which helped to overturn a law that prohibited pregnant girls from going to school in Sierra Leone. The organization reaches approximately 138,000 girls in 26 different countries yearly through campus communities, toolkits, training, and partner programs. In the past decade, STF has reached 167,000 girls, over 100 organizations, and 240 practitioners.

Women Empowerment

Olivia Rodrigo created a personal T-shirt design and used her newly acquired fame to support young girls’ education through Plus1. Many of these girls live in poverty in Africa, Latin America and South Asia. The organization assists music artists in donating financially to an organization of their choice. Rodrigo chose STF which works toward strengthening collaboration among young girls and lends support to their right to an education. STF supports grassroots organizations that work to educate young girls in over 11 different countries. They assist adults who work with girls daily in designing programs that benefit girls and sponsor young leaders who created projects that aim to serve young girls in communities.

– Lauren Spiers
Photo: Flickr

female labor in PakistanThe Karachi branch of Caritas Pakistan works to provide technical assistance and job training to the women of small Pakistani farms in several villages as part of its Acre for Women campaign. The campaign’s goal is to leverage the untapped potential of female labor in Pakistan. Providing training and opportunities to women will expand food security among the country’s vast population of subsistence farmers by encouraging self-sufficient practices with the resources on hand, ranging from basic water efficiency to crop rotation.

A Nascent Workforce

Amir Robin, an Acre for Women regional coordinator, explained both the long- and short-term benefits of training the women of several independent farms that range as small as a single acre. In an interview with UCA News, he states that aside from increasing food security, such training helps household farms minimize the cost of adapting to changing environmental conditions.

Female participation in the Pakistani labor force runs as low as 25%, according to World Bank estimates. The government aims to increase the amount to 45% by 2025. Accelerating Pakistan’s economic growth by boosting female labor involves eliminating the reasons for female labor’s systemic underuse.

Educational Disparities

First, women face limited access to formal education or vocational training. Girls make up about 53% of children that do not attend school in Pakistan, therefore, girls benefit the most from development programs. Such programs include those sponsored by the Engro Foundation, the “social investment arm” of Engro Corporation, a conglomerate company headquartered in Karachi, Pakistan. By sponsoring new government schools and refurbishing old ones with computer labs, Engro aims to increase the literacy rate among girls.

In light of COVID-19’s effect on unemployment rates, expanding educational opportunities remains the primary short-term focus of increasing female participation in the labor force. Engro’s programs are demonstrating fast results. More than 19,000 self-employed women are improving their livelihoods through vocational training in “animal husbandry practices, entrepreneurship in milk collection and livestock extension services in the dairy value chain.” Additionally, a surge of technologically literate women helps overcome difficulties in the job market due to greater access to advanced occupations.

Farm Income Depends on Women

Pakistan’s largest source of potential growth lies in its agricultural sector. Around 64% of Pakistanis live in rural areas and mostly work in agriculture. A large portion of the national economy depends on the output of family farms. There are two significant reasons why discounting women as a source of skilled labor in farm management is becoming an increasingly untenable prospect.

  1. Subsisting on relatively small parcels of land leaves farmers vulnerable to fluctuations in output. Because population growth and regular divisions of hereditary ownership make land parcels ever smaller, families that make do with smaller farms do not have the luxury of maintaining inefficient practices when handling their crops or their labor pool. A report by Victoria University says Pakistan’s high concentration of household farms means greater efficiency can be achieved, in this case, by including female labor. This translates into direct income boosts for families along with greater business activity thanks to new surpluses.
  2. Running a successful farm with little land is already dependent on women. Despite lacking gainful employment, women are informal participants in the Pakistani economy through unpaid domestic work. Victoria University’s study correlates a lack of job training and reduced output from inefficient practices, meaning that a lack of trained women is a bottleneck stifling household income growth.

Individual Growth for Women

Households stand to benefit from elevating women in the agricultural labor pool. Furthermore, developing female labor in Pakistan by addressing women’s exclusion in skilled practice will reverse the economic misfortune that prior restrictions have inflicted on women.

Because most women tie their fortunes as self-employed laborers to those of their families, increasing farm income is an effective way to enrich farming women’s income. Growth for Rural Enhancement and Sustainable Progress (GRASP) is yet another initiative operating in Pakistan working to achieve this goal. Its primary objective, according to coverage by Intracen (International Trade Centre), is training women to care for livestock and teaching them how to trade their produce. Rather than simply teaching women how to produce more, job training affords them additional autonomy by empowering them to take on a managerial role in the distribution process.

Economic Empowerment for Women

Sharmeela Rassool, a Pakistani country representative to the United Nations, emphasizes the importance of individual autonomy when it comes to increasing the participation rate of female labor in Pakistan. “For many women, entrepreneurship offers a path to economic empowerment,” she wrote in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. More and more women are using their educational attainment to run businesses outside the agricultural sector.

While COVID-19 has slowed economic growth across Pakistan, it has also exposed systemic inequality, raising an opportunity to put women in a starring role for economic recovery. The gradually decreasing gender wage gap indicates that the current trend of a diversifying workforce has yet to reach its ceiling. Overall, women’s inclusivity in Pakistan has the potential to create widespread benefits for Pakistan, helping the nation to rise out of poverty.

Samuel Katz
Photo: Flickr

Women's rights in New ZealandOn September 19, 1893, New Zealand Governor Lord Glasgow signed off on a new Electoral Act, granting women the right to vote. New Zealand ushered in a new phase of the women’s suffrage movement by becoming the first self-governed nation to allow women the right to vote. Women’s rights in New Zealand have always mattered to New Zealanders, a notion that has become more apparent in recent years. Following the 2017 election, women made up 38% of parliament. Women have held positions in high-ranking offices such as prime minister, governor-general and chief justice. A brief overview of New Zealand’s history reveals that the country has progressed at an accelerated pace over the last decade and is continuing in the right direction.

3 Advancements in Women’s Rights in New Zealand

  1. Paid Leave for Miscarriages and Stillbirths. Women’s rights in New Zealand still play a central role in political affairs. In March 2021, New Zealand’s Parliament approved a bill that provides paid leave for women and their partners after miscarriage or stillbirth. A miscarriage is defined as a loss of pregnancy “earlier than 20 weeks of gestation,” whereas stillbirths can occur after such a point. The only other country to provide paid leave for women following a miscarriage is India.
  2. Women in Parliament. The rich diversity within New Zealand’s culture is displayed within its parliament. New Zealand is ranked number five in the world for its representation of women in parliament. The growing number of women in cabinet has further advanced women’s rights in New Zealand. The country also prioritizes women’s rights in legislation. It has also delivered an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially focusing on vulnerable groups such as women. New Zealand’s parliament is making great strides in supporting women.
  3. Equal Pay. New Zealand’s commitment to the advancement of women’s rights continues to serve as an example to other nations. In 2018, New Zealand’s parliament unanimously passed the Equal Pay Amendment Bill that guarantees equal pay for workers, regardless of gender. A similar bill was passed in 1972. However, the most recent bill focuses on pay equity. It guarantees that women in “historically underpaid female-dominated industries” will have the same compensation as men in “different but equal-value work.” The bill also makes it simpler for workers to lodge pay equity claims. It also establishes guidelines for pay comparisons, ensuring any possible gender pay gaps are fair and justified.

The Road Ahead

The country continues enacting policies to advance women’s rights in New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is also offering relief to those hit hardest by COVID-19. Due to Ardern’s exceptional response to the COVID-19 crisis, she was victorious in her re-election campaign. As the country pushes ahead in hopes of eliminating COVID-19 altogether, New Zealand’s government proposed a $2.8 billion income support initiative. The initiative will serve as financial assistance to the country’s most vulnerable group: women.

As history and current policies reveal, New Zealand is making great strides in terms of women’s rights. The country’s commitment to gender equality is reflected in its legislation and its parliamentary representation.

– Jordyn Gilliard
Photo: Flickr

W.T.O Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala On Ending Poverty
On March 1, 2021, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala took office as the director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO). She is the first woman and the first African to hold this office. After experiencing the Nigerian Civil War, she came to the U.S. and studied development economics at Harvard University. She also received her doctorate in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2003, she served as Nigeria’s finance minister. After a second appointment ending in 2015, she also served as a foreign minister and worked for the World Bank for 25 years, overseeing an $81 billion portfolio. In her newly appointed role, Okonjo-Iweala promises to influence and implement policy in order to restore the global economy.

What is the World Trade Organization?

The World Trade Organization is an international organization that deals with the “rules of trade between nations.” Member governments negotiate trade agreements that are then ratified in their own parliaments. All major decisions are made by the membership as a whole, either by ministers, their ambassadors or delegates.

The WTO plays an important role in reducing global poverty. Studies show that free trade helps impoverished countries “catch up with” developed nations. More than three-quarters of WTO members are developing countries. Every WTO agreement holds particular provisions for these countries, including longer time spans to carry out agreed-upon policies, “measures to increase their trading opportunities” and assistance to support these countries in building the necessary infrastructure to improve their economies. Least-developed countries are often exempt from many provisions.

The WTO also aims to reduce living costs and improve living standards by mitigating the effect of protectionism on consumer costs. This means that products are more affordable for those with a lower income. In addition, lowering such trade barriers stimulates economic growth and employment, creating opportunities for the impoverished to increase their incomes.

Okonjo-Iweala and Poverty

Okonjo-Iweala’s long list of achievements includes many in the realm of poverty reduction. As the minister of finance in Nigeria, she helped Africa’s largest economy “grow an average of 6% a year over three years.” She also helped create “reform programs that improved governmental transparency and stabilizing the economy.”

As the board chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, she contributed to ensuring vaccine equity. During her 25-year career at the World Bank, she rose to the second-most prominent position of managing director. Okonjo-Iweala ran for the office of director-general of the WTO with the strong belief that trade has the power to lift people out of poverty.

Okonjo-Iweala is also a supporter of COVAX, aiming to resolve vaccine nationalism. During the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine nationalism is a problem that disproportionately affects impoverished countries. COVAX is a global vaccination effort launched by Gavi and leading partners to ensure vaccine equity.

In a January 2021 article, Okonjo-Iweala writes that “All manufacturers must step up and make their vaccines available and affordable to COVAX,” in order to ensure equitable and timely vaccine distribution to low-income countries. She also warned against repeating history.

In 2009, a small number of high-income countries bought up most of the global supply of the H1N1 flu vaccine, which left the rest of the world lacking. If history were to repeat itself during the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on impoverished countries, and the world at large, would be devastating.

Okonjo-Iweala’s Plan

As director-general of the WTO, Okonjo-Iweala’s immediate plans focus on ending the COVID-19 pandemic with vaccines for all. In a statement outlining her vision for the future of the WTO, she says “the WTO can and must play a more forceful role in exercising its monitoring function and encouraging Members to minimize or remove export restrictions and prohibition that hinder supply chains for medical goods and equipment.”

She also says that member nations of the WTO need to adopt a stronger stance in preventing vaccine nationalism and protectionism. International cooperation, in her opinion, is the only way to come up with the vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics needed to put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Okonjo-Iweala has promised to face the economic and health challenges presented by the novel coronavirus head-on. Importantly, she notes that “a strong WTO is vital if we are to recover fully and rapidly from the devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.” Okonjo-Iweala promises to work in a collaborative effort to “shape and implement the policy responses” necessary to restore the global economy.

Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

Chamas in Kenya
A chama is a micro-saving society that groups of Kenyans use to pool savings. Beginning in the 1960s, chamas in Kenya have become impressive tools of economic empowerment that follow the spirit of harambee, the Kiswahili word for ‘all pull together.’ Their community approach helps alleviate poverty by providing a means to pay tuition for children, make small-scale investments in community development, buy household items and more. More than 40% of Kenyans are chama members.

A Communal Economic Model

To form a chama, a group of around 15-35 people come together through mutual trust and pay a certain amount of money every week or month. The group then uses the money to offer very low-interest loans to members. Additionally, the group may decide to invest in an asset that members can own collectively, such as a piece of land, or in an industry, such as horticulture.

Chama members understand that fighting poverty must go hand-in-hand with psychosocial well-being. They provide each other with access to employment, help when a member gets sick, support at funerals and are joyful at weddings.

Chamas Help Avoid Economic Crisis

Chamas have been vital in helping Kenyans avoid economic crises. In the 1990s, many of Kenya’s informal retailers had to close down their businesses as their suppliers became too expensive due to the liberalization of the economy. Chamas proved tremendously helpful in dealing with rising prices. For example, a group of garment traders created a chama that enabled them to switch to Chinese suppliers and keep their businesses afloat.

Chamas Empower Women

In Kenya, women often have to be financially dependent on men. However, Kenyan women, who make up half the informal sector, have been able to achieve some financial independence thanks to chamas. According to the World Bank, 55% of Kenya’s urban women aged 15-25 are unemployed. Chamas can help them to avoid or escape poverty by securing financial help from their community to become self-employed. All-women chamas like Wikwatyo Wanoliwa (Hope for the Widows) have proven that women are a key demographic in the fight against poverty.

Chamas are also good avenues for community outreach. For instance, in 2017, around 80 women from chamas received training on the Kenyan electoral process and in turn, encouraged thousands of women in their communities to register to vote. Civic education is important in poverty eradication because it empowers women to match their economic decisions in chamas with democratic decisions on the ballot.

Chamas are a creative and resilient way to fight poverty in Kenya. Their intuitive approach to financial security has become so important to the Kenyan financial sector that banks have even started using it as an economic model to lure more clients.

Frank Odhiambo
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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

Her Drive
The term “period poverty” describes the inability of girls and women to afford menstrual products such as pads and tampons. Though these items are essential to women, many areas of the world still tax menstrual products and the products are not eligible for coverage under food stamps. Her Drive is an organization with the aim of addressing period poverty in order to empower and uplift girls and women across the world.

The Impacts of Period Poverty

Low-income women often cannot afford the costs of menstrual products and turn to less sanitary alternatives such as rags or paper towels. These alternatives pose health risks and increase the chance of infections and irritation. The inability to afford menstrual products also takes a mental toll on women, leading to depression and anxiety. Furthermore, period poverty can impede women’s professional lives, keeping them trapped in poverty. Improperly managed periods can stop girls and women from attending school or going to work, which keeps them in cycles of poverty. Period poverty is a pressing issue that hurts women’s physical and mental health and perpetuates the poverty cycle.

Menstrual Stigma

People often avoid addressing the problem of period poverty because of the stigma around periods. Many people think of periods as a shameful process that they should not speak of rather than a normal biological process. Menstrual stigma means women suffer in silence. Fortunately, with the rise of social media, organizations and movements aim to end menstrual stigma and educate people on menstruation in order to address period poverty. Through these advocacy efforts, campaigns and relief initiatives garner support to provide menstrual products to girls and women who cannot afford them.

Her Drive Addresses Period Poverty

Best friends Alexa Mohsenzadeh and Jenica Baron founded Her Drive in 2020. Her Drive got its start from a viral video posted on TikTok, a popular social media platform that allows users to post short videos. The pair’s first TikTok video simply intended to promote a tampon and bra drive, but after it went viral, the girls decided to transform their project into a Chicago-based organization.

Her Drive collects menstrual products to donate to “women’s shelters, indigenous reservations, Black-owned businesses and refugee support programs” as well as other vulnerable groups. The organization has held menstrual drives in more than 40 U.S. states and extended its reach to Canada as well. Her Drive has also provided guidance to organizations looking to create similar drives in countries such as the United Kingdom and Puerto Rico. In support of vulnerable indigenous groups, Her Drive donated menstrual products to the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund and the poverty-stricken Oglala Sioux Tribe.

Her Drive’s goal is also to “empower and educate the next generation of youth leaders to work to eliminate period poverty in their local communities.” Her Drive has collected more than 165,000 period products in addition to thousands of bras and general hygiene items. What began as a simple TikTok video grew into an international organization that is combating period poverty and helping vulnerable girls and women.

Impact of Social Media

Period poverty is still a prevalent issue, but social media is helping to create awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding menstruation. By leveraging social media, organizations are amassing volunteers and donors to help combat period poverty across the world.

– Alison Ding
Photo: Unsplash

Women's International Work
U.N. Women, an entity of the United Nations, strives to improve gender equality and the empowerment of women around the world. Specifically, U.N. Women’s international work involves collaboration with governments and societies to create real change. The organization creates change by working to reform, implement and secure policies, programs, resources and legislation to ensure the rights of women and girls are upheld globally.

UN Women’s International Work

U.N. Women not only works on gender equality in the world but also inside its organization. For example, U.N. Women employs more than 3,000 people of 150 different nationalities in 90 geographical locations, working together on global challenges and initiatives. About 74% of employees are female and employees are supported by staff resource groups such as the Youth Council and the LGBTQI Network. U.N. Women believes that diversity and inclusion create the best workforce and a safe space. This allows room for respect, professionalism and integrity.

U.N. Women began its work in January 2011. The entity brings together four United Nations offices prioritizing gender equality. This includes The U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) and the U.N. International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW). U.N. Women supports the development of gender equality policies and provides technical and monetary support to help countries with their gender equality goals. The entity holds the United Nations as a whole “accountable for its own commitments on gender equality” through ongoing monitoring and assessment.

Issues Impacting Women

U.N. Women’s gender equality work contributed to landmark agreements such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The organization emphasizes that gender inequality is a problem in every society due to its deeply rooted history. Globally, women do not always receive equal opportunities to men.

Gender wage gaps still exist and women frequently experience discrimination when attempting to garner employment and while working in the workplace. Women lack access to basic necessities such as essential healthcare and education. Women also severely lack representation in politics and economics even though they are significantly impacted by these decisions. However, U.N. Women works to give women and girls a voice at all levels on issues that affect them. In the greater scheme of global poverty, women are disproportionately affected by poverty.

Carol Cassidy

Carol Cassidy is a human rights journalist who has worked on and off with U.N. Women for seven years. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Cassidy explains that that U.N. Women’s focus is international. Cassidy states, “U.N. Women’s major focus is combating violence against women worldwide. Violence takes many forms, from selective abortion, lack of education for women and girls, lack of opportunities for women outside of housework” and more. Cassidy says further that the organization is interested in initiatives that address poverty and violence.

The organization’s main mission is not to overtake projects or programs women have created, but to provide funding and support to allow the programs to flourish. U.N. Women looks to enhance accountability and involve women in general decision-making and conversations within their communities. U.N. Women has worked with countries all around the world, from South Africa to Ukraine. Cassidy was drawn to the organization because she shares similar goals, morals and ethics.

Empowering Women Globally

Cassidy’s past work with U.N. Women includes supporting women’s economic rights in post-conflict zones such as Gaza, Uganda and Sri Lanka. Cassidy recalls a specific example of supporting women. In Gaza, unemployment rates skyrocketed during the war and women came together to build and run a bakery. Women were able to bake goods to sustain families in the community. U.N. Women supported these women by providing funding.

U.N. Women strives to create a world where women have the same opportunities and protections as men. U.N. Women’s international work has helped bridge gender barriers to close the gender inequality gap around the world.

– Lauren Peacock
Photo: Flickr

Ghana's Solar Taxi ProjectThe African country of Ghana is making significant gains in the realms of sustainability, female empowerment and poverty reduction. The Solar Taxi initiative is a project that focuses on producing solar-powered electric vehicles for use across the country. Started in September 2018, Ghana’s Solar Taxi project was launched by Kumasi Hive in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation. The initiative aims to alleviate poverty, create employment and protect the environment.

Solar Taxi’s 3 Main Benefits

  1. Environmental Benefits. Ghana’s Solar Taxi project is all about using clean, renewable energy to solve problems. Utilizing solar power is a perfect fit for Ghana because the country receives 1,800-3,000 hours of sun annually. In addition, electric vehicles produce fewer carbon emissions than standard vehicles. Solar Taxi assembles a variety of vehicle options, including motorcycles, tricycles, sedans, hatchbacks and SUVs. All of these vehicles would typically require an electrical charge in order to function. However, the existing national electricity grid in Ghana is extremely unreliable. Solar Taxi instead designs solar hubs to provide an alternative source of power independently. These charging hubs can be found in four key Ghanaian cities. The progress of Solar Taxi brings Ghana closer to its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2030.
  2. Social Benefits. Solar Taxi strives to uplift Ghanaian women through extensive training programs and employment opportunities. The project set up the Solar Taxi Female Engineering Academy that teaches young women to assemble solar vehicles. The Academy has instructed 60 women so far. Academy facilitator, Erica, says that it is “a place of mentorship” giving women “the exposure to be confident.” Ghana’s Solar Taxi project actively empowers women in a society that places limitations on what women can achieve. The training gives students valuable problem-solving skills and engineering experience. The Female Driver Training Academy teaches local women how to safely operate and maintain electric vehicles. The academy also provides women with the support and education to obtain a driving license and become drivers for Solar Taxi.
  3. Financial Benefits. The Ghanaian startup also proves to be financially viable. Fuel prices in Ghana are already high and recent price increases only put more strain on companies and vehicle owners. The solar-driven technology completely cuts out fuel expenses. The cars that Solar Taxi assembles are used in the driving services it provides and others are made for sale to the public. In doing this, Ghana’s Solar Taxi project is expanding the reach of electric cars and bikes to members of the community. Those without a vehicle can conveniently request a ride with the Solar Taxi app at an affordable price. By making transportation readily available, this service has the potential to reduce poverty rates in Ghana. Whether someone needs to get to a job interview or buy clothes for a new job, Solar Taxi is playing a key role in energizing Ghana’s economy.

Looking Ahead

Though the startup is only a few years old, it is creating significant benefits for citizens. Solar Taxi gives Ghanaian women the opportunity to break gender norms and enter the solar-powered vehicle industry. In addition, the cost-effective energy source is relieving financial burdens in an environmentally conscious manner. Solar Taxi is certainly contributing to a brighter future for Ghana.

– Lucy Gentry
Photo: Flickr

Women in African energy
Energy and utility companies can play a significant role in financial growth and social progress within lower-income countries. Through employment and expansion of electricity access, these companies provide infrastructure crucial to development, especially in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa with wide disparities in access. However, established gender inequalities have prevented women from obtaining the same opportunities as men within the energy sector. In partnership with African governments, USAID is sponsoring the Women in African Power Network, which promotes women in Africa’s energy industry and their equal opportunity to join the workforce.

Access to Power in Sub-Saharan Africa

Approximately two-thirds of individuals in sub-Saharan Africa are without reliable electricity, according to USAID’s Power Africa. Limited access to power in sub-Saharan Africa has led to gender disparities because it poses a challenge to women’s health, employment and education. Access to electricity ensures safer childbirth procedures and allows for greater numbers of women to be employed or attend school. Another challenge to limited access to electricity is that women in sub-Saharan Africa frequently experience ill-health effects due to fuel-based electricity as they generally remain in the home for longer periods of time. Thus, many governments have begun to recognize the importance of including women in the implementation and decision-making of energy expansion initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa.

Gender and the Energy Sector

Studies by the International Union for Conservation of Nature occurred jointly with USAID and Power Africa in 2019, which found that women held only 6% of executive and leading roles in the energy sector in sub-Saharan Africa. Women also comprised roughly 16% to 20% of the general power sector workforce.

USAID has stressed the importance of closing this gender gap. According to an article on its strategy to increase the number of women in Africa’s energy sector, the U.S. agency described the “strong correlation between gender diversity and a company’s financial performance.” When women enter leadership positions, this beneficial economic trend is even more pronounced: companies that ranked highest in gender diversity in administrative roles had 14% higher return on investment than other corporations. Due to gendered differences in energy usage, women have valuable perspectives as decision-makers and consumers that provide crucial insight into the design and execution of new energy technologies.

In response, governments are creating more inclusive frameworks to advance the recruitment of women in Africa’s energy sector. As of 2018, almost 75% of energy-planning frameworks address gender inequality and several recognize the capability of women to lead the energy sector in innovation, efficiency and problem-solving.

USAID and the Power Africa Campaign

As part of the Power Africa campaign devoted to bringing electricity to all in sub-Saharan Africa, USAID partnered with African governments and IUCN to launch the Women in African Power Network (WiAP) in 2015. WiAP empowers women in African energy companies through professional growth opportunities, skill development workshops and networking facilitation that encourages connections between women in the industry. These connections also facilitate important mentorship opportunities for those who wish to join the workforce or rise within its ranks. Regional networks such as Women in Rwandan Energy and Women in Renewable Energy Nigeria promote more focused conversations among women within specific nations or departments.

By fostering professional advancement opportunities, WiAP aims to increase the number of women employed in the energy sector and to empower women who already work within it. With the skill development and empowerment cultivated within the network, the USAID initiative is working to close the gender gap in the energy sector and stimulate the accompanying economic benefits.

Though there are considerable gender disparities in employment in the energy sector, governments and outside organizations have begun to implement policies and plans to promote the inclusion of women in Africa’s energy sector. The Women in African Power Network, a network that emerged under USAID’s Power Africa initiative, aims to establish women’s networking groups and to develop their professional skills. WiAP operates with the knowledge that women are critical to the energy industry as female leadership has historically correlated with economic and social development.

– Sarah Stolar
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