information and Stories about woman and female empowerment.

Women’s Health Care in Syria
Syria, officially known as the Syrian Arab Republic, is a war-torn country in Western Asia. These war efforts have caused a series of attacks against women’s health care in Syria and made female health care more difficult to come by. In Syria’s civil war, violent attacks continue to target health care workers and clinics, and particularly female health clinics.

Fear of Attack

Fear of attack also plays a role in keeping women from what health resources they do have. Many of the childbirth centers that remain are located in rural areas, making them difficult for many women to reach. Fear of attack in the vicinity of health clinics inhibits patients and health professionals alike. The regime’s campaign of gender-based sexual violence is a large contributor to this fear. The vulnerability that comes with the travel necessary to reach the available health clinics put women at further risk of attack.

These attacks and the consequent shutdown of many maternal health facilities are seriously threatening maternal health. Between 2011 and 2017, more than 320 health clinics suffered attacks. These attacks have resulted in the deaths of at least 826 health workers, 85 of whom were women. By the end of 2015, only 16 of the 43 childbirth centers previously available in Syria remained. The lack of access to these facilities and health professionals leave many women with no safe conditions to deliver their children. Moreover, they have no opportunity for checkups or preventative shots once they deliver their children.

Overall Health Care

The conflict also threatens basic preventative care for women. Things like mammograms and regular checkups are no longer available and few female health professionals remain in Syria, making health care even more difficult for practicing Muslims to find. Gynecological services and even menstruation pads are incredibly difficult to come by. Women who do survive the hardships of the war suffer from malnutrition and struggle with even the basic necessities for survival.

The Molham Volunteering Team

In the midst of the conflict, however, there are efforts to preserve and improve female health care. Groups like the Molham Volunteering Team are working to fill in the gaps in women’s health care in Syria. A group of Syrian students brought this group together to provide necessities, such as food and medicine, to Syrians in need. When crises emerge, the Molham Volunteering Team assembles emergency campaigns to help, such as its campaign to raise money to support victims of the attacks targeting Maarat Al-Numan. The campaign has nearly reached its goal of $250,000.

Another focus of the Molham Volunteering Team is to raise the funds necessary to cover hospital fees for women and other costs of childbirth. It has even begun a campaign to raise money in support of health workers and clinics against the attacks. To date, the campaign has raised about a quarter of its $10,000 goal.

The Violet Organization

The Violet Organization, a nonprofit organization in Turkey, has opened a health center in rural Idlib where women have access to maternal and reproductive health care. A group of young volunteers, with the goal of helping secure the basic needs of families through food and cash donations, founded The Violet Organization. Today, The Violet Organization focuses not only on immediate aid but also on long-term projects like the Idlib health center, which offers treatment for ovarian and breast cancer, as well as basic checkups and consultations.

The Mazaya Center

The Mazaya Center attempts to educate women about their health issues. The Mazaya Center, which volunteers started to empower women, is another nonprofit organization that focuses on women’s issues in northern Syria. It provides paramedic training and first aid classes. These two-month training sessions, which female nurses lead, aim to educate women about reproductive and maternal health as well as family issues.

In the face of the Syrian civil war, civilians are struggling to find the basic necessities for survival, and safe access to women’s health care in Syria has become yet another casualty. Despite the looming threat to women and health professionals, it is evident that there are people continuing their work to ensure that health care and education are available to the women who need it most.

– Amanda Gibson
Photo: Flickr

 

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Palestine
Despite Palestine’s constant immersion in conflict as a result of Israeli occupation, there are some positives in regards to girls’ education. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Palestine that showcase both the good and the bad of the country’s education system.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Palestine

  1. Literacy Rates: Palestine has one of the highest literacy rates in the world with 96.9 percent of its population being literate. In particular, there have been great strides in improving women’s literacy rates. The literacy rate went from 78.6 percent in 1995 to 97 percent in 2018. Female literacy rates are at their highest in the West Bank and their lowest in Salfit.
  2. School Infrastructure and Teachers: The education system is struggling due to insufficient school infrastructure and a lack of teachers with adequate training, as well as the existence of schools in marginalized areas. During the first 10 years of the Israeli occupation, the government built no new schools and classrooms of existing ones were overcrowded. The lack of schools led to an emergency-like situation in education, which resulted in some positive achievements, such as the regaining of the credibility of the Tawjihi, a secondary school matriculation exam. There has also been an improvement in extracurricular activities for students.
  3. The Effects of the Israeli Occupation: The Israeli occupation is mostly responsible for the struggles of the education system, given that it continually causes the exposure of schools to rockets and bombs. Building restrictions that Israeli rule implemented in places such as Area C and East Jerusalem are primarily responsible for the shortage of infrastructure. There are also movement restrictions, such as checkpoints and the Barrier, which can pose challenges to accessing services like education. The Barrier is an Israel-approved physical barrier in and around the West Bank in Palestine.
  4. Enrollment in Early, Primary, Secondary and Higher Education: There is a comparable amount of enrollment in primary education when it comes to boys and girls. Still, admissions are higher for female students to both secondary and higher education institutions. However, when it comes to Early Childhood programs, only 14.9 percent of girls are enrolled. Therefore, the U.N. has made it a priority to start investing in early childhood education, focusing on funding both teacher education and gender equality awareness.
  5. Raising Awareness About Female Education: Some of the U.N.’s planned interventions include raising awareness about the disadvantages of early marriage and the importance of female education. This effort is on-going, as women still struggle with early marriage, and gaining education and employment in Palestine. A female Palestinian student interviewed by the L.A. Review stated that “we have this thing in our society that is like, your house, your kids are [more] important than anything else. Your job is not so important because it’s like, your husband is working.”
  6. Education and Conflict: Education is critical in Palestine because it can be a non-violent form of protest against the on-going conflict. UNICEF enforces this ideology by using a behavioral change approach towards students. It encourages students, parents and teachers to challenge the acceptance of violence. It enforces this mindset by providing education and raising awareness.
  7. Women and Unemployment: Women in Palestine experience marginalization despite their education, suffering from a high rate of unemployment when compared to the rest of the world. The unemployment rate among women with 13 years of schooling or more was 50.6 percent in 2016, which was a significant increase from the 21.9 percent recorded in 2000.
  8. Women’s Participation in the Labor Market: Palestinian women have the lowest participation in the labor market within the MENA region. When it comes to labor force participation, women have a 19 percent participation rate compared to 71 percent of male participation. There is a joint effort to find and apply solutions to this problem. One solution is the U.N.’s policy to encourage girls to have Technical and Vocational Education Training, which the U.N. has partially implemented to date.
  9. Dangers on Route to School: Approximately half a million children in Palestine require humanitarian assistance to receive a quality education. The violence in the West Bank poses threats and challenges, which lead to children to experience distress and fear, even when going to and from school. This is because they might pass high-risk locations or checkpoints.
  10. Electricity Shortages: Electricity shortages that constant conflict causes are affecting access to education, both at school and at home, by striking study time and concentration. These shortages are a result of the sole electric company facing a lack of fuel, which is a consequence of the closure of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza. To reduce the reliance on fuel, organizations such as the World Bank and the International Committee of the Red Cross have been working on providing alternative energy sources.

Foreign aid and raising awareness about the importance of girls’ education in Palestine have enabled some progress. However, as a conflict-ridden area, there is more that the country requires to ensure long-lasting development and enforce quality education. By looking at these 10 facts about girls’ education in Palestine, one can begin to see some of these efforts and realize how it should be a priority to find additional solutions.

– Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act
Malala Yousafzai is a Noble Peace Prize laureate. After surviving a Taliban encounter, she wrote the memoir, “I Am Malala.” She advocates for education and against discrimination.

On September 26, 2019, Hakeem Jeffries introduced the Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act. Communities of Pakistan and the United States have aligned with Malala’s text, principles and initiatives while many support her opinions on terrorism and poverty. The Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act intends to ensure that young adults and Pakistani students live without fear of discrimination, and can successfully garner an education.

The Malala Yousafzai Act

There are government programs that guide access to education throughout the diaspora communities of Pakistan. The Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act is pushing for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support education initiatives for all in Pakistan, but in particular, for women and children. In Pakistan, approximately 22.8 million children under 16 are not enrolled in school. There is a significant gender disparity too as boys tend to outnumber girls.

This is the main reason for the Malala Yousafzai Act and Congress intends to uphold the very nature of equality. The purpose of the bill is to enhance opportunities for women to obtain a scholarship. If the bill passes, USAID will leverage the number of scholarships available to women in Pakistan.

Rurally, Pakistani women face many obstacles. The development of health, nutrition and the overall labor force is a determinant in the education of women. Issues such as early marriage, transportation and societal pressures as housewives prevent women from enrolling in higher education. The World Bank states, “The benefits of education go beyond higher productivity for 50 percent of the population. More educated women also tend to be healthier, participate more in the formal labor market, earn more income, have fewer children, and provide better health care and education to their children, all of which eventually improve the well-being of all individuals and lift households out of poverty.”

The Malala Yousafzai Act continues to mitigate discrimination and gender inequality. Malala Yousafzai frequently discusses the war on terrorism and how violence is a harsh reality for the vast majority of Pakistani women. These women continue to face seclusion and exclusion on the basis of patriarchy. Terrorists actively threaten girls and women to remove them from advancement opportunities in higher education and the public sphere.

Conclusion

For her 16th birthday, at the United General Assembly, Malala said, “So let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism. Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution.”

Currently, Malala is a student at the University of Oxford. She is studying politics, economics and philosophy. She continues to engage with women from across the globe, inspiring emerging adults to voice opinions. Anyone can make a direct impact by sending an email to Congress via The Borgen Project. For more information on how to advocate for the bill, visit here.

– Zach Erlanger
Photo: Flickr

Women in Africa
In recent years, people have made many efforts to help women in Africa complete their daily tasks faster and more efficiently by providing tools and technology. However, there is still a long way to go until these extraordinary women will have tools on par with what is available to women in western countries.

Water Collection

In 24 sub-Saharan African countries, adult females are usually responsible for water collection. About 14 million African women trek over 30 minutes, either barefoot or in rubber sandals, across rough terrain daily. Many of these women carry a bucket or Jerry Can, which is a container to carry fuel or water. These can hold around 40 pounds of water that they balance on top of their heads.

Recently, a project in Mozambique helped nearly 4,000 people by allocating an innovative technology called the Hippo Roller. The Hippo Roller is a South-African-made drum that helps users roll up to 20 liters of water on the ground instead of carrying it on their heads. This allows women in Africa to carry or roll up to five times more water than they usually would. This technology empowers women in Africa by allowing them more time to focus on other necessary tasks, like education, social development and local entrepreneurship. Hippo rollers go to the neediest in the communities first, but with a cost of $125 each, there are rarely enough to go around.

The Search for Firewood

African women walk for hours each day to collect branches and roots for firewood. Over 80 percent of Africa’s energy supply comes from wood and African women spend more than 20 hours per week collecting it. This wood is necessary for women in Africa to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for their families. African women may spend several hours searching for wood which prevents them from accomplishing other tasks that would benefit and empower them.

Green Energy BioFuels is a company that produces the KIKE Green Cookstove and an ethanol cooking gel that is safe for women in Africa to cook meals for their families without creating the health hazards that current traditional methods do. So far, Green Energy has sold over 200,000 cookstoves in West Africa. Cookstoves that do not rely on wood fuel can help save over 4 million lives annually. In addition to this, African women can worry less about their health and have a more positive outlook on the future.

Investing in African Women

In sub-Saharan Africa, female entrepreneurs hold the highest rates of entrepreneurship globally at 25.9 percent. Many of these women have small businesses that can help them accrue enough income for survival. African women account for nearly 40 percent of the SSA workforce.

The Economic Commission for Africa and its partners started the African Women Leadership Fund which aims to aid the growth of African women-owned and operated businesses and provide services that will help these women be successful. Over the next 10 years, the fund will invest in over $500 million into African Women-led companies.

African women have extraordinary abilities that help them complete difficult daily tasks. However, they cannot achieve these tasks without great risks to their health and well-being. The support that many are implementing to innovatively assist African women will empower them and enrich their lives.

– Lisa Di Nuzzo
Photo: Flickr

VisionSpring Supports Women While Spreading SightFor every $5 donated to VisionSpring, a low-income adult gets their eye prescription, a pair of glasses expected to last two years, and an estimated 120 percent increase from their initial income directly due to the glasses. This organization’s strategy zeroes in on the local: optometrists; female vision entrepreneurs as saleswomen; wholesale partnerships with government agencies, local hospitals and NGOs; and corporate social responsibility projects with large businesses. VisionSpring supports women, local business and helps create sustainable supply chains in the countries it works in.

Jordan Kassalow is the founder and visionary behind this organization that has already generated over $1.2 billion of economic impact. In 2019, he published his book “Dare to Matter,” in which he describes his journey. Starting as a mediocre student due to a rare eye disease, he had a post-graduation epiphany that people’s lives have meaning through their work to make the world better. While on a volunteer medical mission in the Yucatán Peninsula, Jordan gave an extremely nearsighted child a pair of glasses – and his sight.

Seven years later, Dr. Kassalow founded what would become VisionSpring today, to return productivity and livelihoods to the 2.5 billion sight-impaired people in the world who lack glasses. From the beginning, the organization has sought to empower women in the communities where it works. The Borgen Project interviewed Dr. Kassalow about how VisionSpring supports women in its sight-focused mission.

When you first had people on the ground, how did you reach people – and specifically women – to let them know about the vision entrepreneur opportunity?

There are a few reasons why we select women. One was because there was a higher rate of unemployment or underemployment with women. So, they are a natural, existing workforce that was underutilized. That was the whole root of the idea, to create livelihoods for the women and sustain livelihoods for their customers. (Microcredit research) showed pretty clearly that when you gave women access to resources that a lot of virtuous things started happening in society: their fertility rates would go down, the health of their children would go up, their housing conditions would go up and so forth.

We partnered with microcredit organizations and eye hospitals (for more advanced cases and to) give some credibility to the women who worked for us. The microcredit organizations were already in the communities where we worked (and) had a whole list of good customers who had exhibited their capacity to pay back their loans. So, it was largely through local credit organizations that we started identifying women and continued to source people.

I read in your book about one vision entrepreneur, Rama Devi, who has her husband driving her on a motorcycle so she can reach more people. It seems to upset traditional gender roles and has vision entrepreneurs stepping out of their traditional jobs at home (and) making more money than their husbands. Did you ever see any conflict of interest or anything like that?

Particularly in that area of India where we were working which had a Muslim culture primarily. It was somewhat antithetical to the historical-cultural norms for women to take on these more entrepreneurial roles, so we lost some of our best salespeople. We found that women would come, educated, supported somewhat by their husbands and fathers-in-law. But there seemed to be almost an expectation that they wouldn’t succeed. So, they would let them (work) while the stakes were low. But for those who would start to succeed, and the money would start to flow in, we saw many cases where they had to withdraw from the program, not because of a lack of their interest, but because of pressure from their husbands or fathers or so forth. So, we definitely did experience that.

I wanted to ask how (the See to Learn) strategy of providing glasses to schoolkids differs from adults. What initially drew you to this sector of the population?

I’ve always looked at vision as an input to global development and human development. The two areas most impacted by poor vision are productivity in work and learning in school. When you start an organization that has basically no human and financial resources, it’s good to try to take the really big problem and break it down to its component parts and strategically start with the place (that) execution-wise is the simplest. So, we started with See to Earn because it only required four different prescriptions.

Now, in kids, there is no similar corollary to simple, ready-made non-prescription reading glasses. Each kid has their own unique kids’ glasses (and) unique prescription, so it gets more complicated and you need higher trained people.

What we do is training teachers to do the work of the vision entrepreneur. (They do) the vision acuity test and figure who can pass and fail. And kids who fail, which in India is usually about 10 percent, get seen by a team of (local) optometrists who come once all those kids are identified. We can make about 70 percent of those glasses on the spot and (the rest) we custom make in the lab.

You mention in a 2017 interview with Mary Magistad from PRI that you encountered the issue of girls thinking they are less marriageable if they wear glasses. How have you amended your practice to account for cultural differences in the different countries you’ve worked in?

The cultural context is very important in our local operations. Particularly with girls, we find that almost the parents look for an excuse to take them out of school. If they are nearsighted and not thriving in school, they’ll be pulled out of school more quickly than the boys will. That’s a huge injustice.

Studies have shown that girls in India believe that, if you wear glasses, you are less marriable. We recently did a film that tracks a girl through identifying that she can’t see all the way to getting glasses and using them in school. We are trying to normalize, if you will, glasses through this film. It’s meant to be used as part of the curriculum before the team of optometrists comes to the school.

Dr. Kassalow’s newest breakthrough was the founding of EYElliance, a multinational coalition working towards integrating innovations into public and private sectors of countries around the world. Currently, with more than 40 member organizations (including USAID), EYElliance is Dr. Kassalow’s next big step towards achieving his original goal: getting eyeglasses to everyone who needs them. Hopefully, Kassalow’s ongoing priority that VisionSpring supports women will demonstrate to other international aid organizations that women are the building blocks to international development.

Daria Locher
Photo: Wikimedia

Breast Cancer in Senegal
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide—it affects 2.1 million women each year. According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer caused 15 percent of cancer-related deaths among women in 2018. While developed countries have higher rates of breast cancer, the disease is on the rise globally. Here are six facts about breast cancer in Senegal.

6 Facts About Breast Cancer in Senegal

  1. Breast Cancer Cases: The prevalence of breast cancer in Senegal is on the rise. A study by the Global Cancer Observatory in 2018 shows that the incidences of breast cancer reached 1,758 cases per year. This is in comparison to 869 cases in 2012. The disease ranks second in terms of new cases. In terms of mortality rate, it falls only behind cervical cancer.
  2. Chemotherapy Training: There is only one medical oncology specialist in Senegal. Therefore, general practitioners, as well as oncology surgeons, carry out chemotherapy. The government is working to improve on this by trying to ensure 50 percent of doctors undergo chemotherapy training by attending seminars as well as doing practical internships. The government also offers fellowships for people to fully specialize in medical oncology.
  3. Cancer Treatment: There is only one center dedicated to cancer in Senegal—the Joliot Curie Institute which is the cancer department of the Le Dantec Hospital. Most breast cancer patients receive treatment at the Hospital Center University Aristide Le Dantec which sees 350 new patients every year. Others attend the Principal Hospital, which is the second-largest university hospital in Dakar, or to smaller private centers and public hospitals. There is low accessibility for those in rural areas as these facilities congregate in Dakar and other major cities.
  4. Challenges: A challenge that people face when it comes to the treatment of breast cancer in Senegal includes late consultation, with most patients only finding out they have breast cancer when it is in the advanced stages. People might also face a lack of human resources and adequate equipment. Additionally, both the public and health care providers require further education on available treatments.
  5. Funding for Free Chemotherapy: The government of Senegal announced that it have set aside an estimated $1.6 billion to provide free chemotherapy in public hospitals for those with breast and cervical cancer starting in October 2019. By doing this, it is following in the footsteps of other African countries such as Rwanda, Namibia and Seychelles. While this is a positive step in the right direction to see the mortality rate drop, a challenge remains as women often require both radiotherapy and chemotherapy to control the spread of breast cancer.
  6. Benefits of Free Chemotherapy: The introduction of free chemotherapy treatment for patients of breast cancer in Senegal will surely help reduce the mortality rate as the high cost of treatment refrained patients. The expenses of breast cancer treatment were wholly the responsibility of the patients. While a few covered the expenses themselves, the families foot most expenses for a vast majority of patients. The high cost of treatment and debt faced that patients and their families faced meant that they typically did not attend follow-up treatment after the initial sessions.

Senegal is taking important steps to ensure that it improves the outcome and survival rates of those breast cancer affects. Beyond providing free treatment, there is an urgent need to ensure that the disease receives an early diagnosis. By providing education, free treatment and increasing the number of trained practitioners, the deaths that breast cancer causes in Senegal will hopefully decrease.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Pixabay

Nonprofits That Empower WomenToday, the fight for women’s rights continues to pick up steam. However, many women’s voices around the globe are still not being heard. Fortunately, more organizations are taking up the mantle to ensure that gender equality remains a top priority when it comes to global development. Here are five global nonprofits that empower women.

5 Global Nonprofits That Empower Women

  1. Women for Women International
    Women for Women International, or WfWI, is a nonprofit founded in 1993 working with women from impoverished and war-torn countries. It assisted more than 500,000 women since and is currently situated in Afghanistan, Northern Iraq, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, South Sudan, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This nonprofit works to give women an opportunity to build a support network for each other and share their experiences while also teaching them new skills and resources to safeguard their futures. WfWI believes in empowering women in four different ways—economic empowerment, social empowerment, sustaining peace and responding to conflict. Outside of programs that relate directly to helping women, WfWI also focuses on “complementary programs” that center around men’s engagement in women’s rights issues, graduate support and community advocacy.
  2. The Malala Fund
    Malala and her father Ziauddin Yousafzai founded the Malala Fund in 2013 to give girls around the world an opportunity to receive a safe and quality education. The fund mainly focused its attention on countries where girls are least likely to have access to this kind of education, specifically in Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey. This fund targets three specific areas when it comes to ensuring that girls have an opportunity to receive a quality education. These are (i) advocacy, specifically in holding leaders accountable, (ii) investing in educators and those who are also fighting for girls’ education and (iii) giving girls the opportunity to speak for themselves and allowing their voices to be heard.
  3. Global Fund for Women
    Founded in 1987, the Global Fund for Women strives for gender equality and advocates for the rights of women and girls across the globe. It mainly fights for reproductive rights for women, violence prevention and economic fairness. For the Global Fund, women and girls around the world should always feel “strong, safe, powerful and heard.” This group specifically partners with “women-led groups who are courageously fighting for justice in their own communities” which allows these organizations to tackle issues head on. Since its founding, it has worked in 175 countries and contributed to at least 5,000 organizations that have similar values as the Global Fund for Women.
  4. Pathfinder International
    Founded in 1957, Pathfinder International works to improve the sexual and reproductive health of people around the world. While it participates in all aspects of sexual and reproductive health, its main focus is pregnancies and making sure women are aware of all options available to them. Pathfinder International’s mission is to try to lower the rate of women dying from preventable complications with pregnancies, help those infected with HIV and promote proper sexual and reproductive health. It operates under the values of respect, courage, collaboration, innovation and integrity. Pathfinder International is located in 20 countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt and Mozambique.
  5. Madre
    Madre is a women’s rights organization that specifically works with smaller organizations fighting for women’s rights in war-torn nations. It focuses on three specific issues. These are gender violence, climate justice and “Just Peace,” which is meant to provide women with an opportunity to recover from the experiences they had and work toward a more peaceful world. In order to work with these three specific causes, Madre uses three strategies—grantmaking, capacity building and legal advocacy. These three strategies bring women into the conversation and allow them the opportunity to enact change, support one another and give them an opportunity to take part in policymaking. Some of the countries Madre reaches include Guatemala, Colombia, Haiti, Nicaragua, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Kenya.

– Sydney Toy
Photo: Flickr

Programs Aiding Women in Vietnam

Too many Vietnamese women find themselves locked into a life of abuse and poverty, with no skills or access to education to become gainfully employed. One example lies in the story of Sung Thi Sy. Sy resides in the Sa Phin village in the Dong Van District of Vietnam. According to the Asia News Network, her family lived in severe poverty for much of her life and she constantly lived in fear of her husband who would regularly abuse her. She considered running away, but she was worried about providing for her two young children. However, thanks to the support of a locally-funded program, Sy and her children are now thriving. There are many other programs aiding women in Vietnam including the following.

3 Programs Aiding Women in Vietnam

  1. Education and Training: One of the most well-known organizations that work to solve this problem is the Vietnamese Women’s Union (VWU). Founded in 1930, the VWU originally found roles for women during the liberation of Vietnam from French colonialism. After the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the VWU focused on helping women rebuild their lives by pulling them out of poverty and introducing them to the workforce. Today, the VWU has more than 19 million members that constantly work towards gender equality for Vietnamese women. The VWU offers loans to help poor Vietnamese women afford a higher education and training programs to provide the skills needed to find higher-paying careers.
  2. Agriculture: Women in the Dong Van district of Vietnam face a high risk of human trafficking and domestic violence and an unpredictable climate with barren land which makes farming a challenge. One of the programs aiding women in Vietnam with these struggles is the Lanh Trang (White Flax) Agricultural and Forestry Services Cooperative. Launched in 2017, the program works to provide vocational skills for disadvantaged women and invests in the necessary equipment to grow and harvest flax for the women in the Dong Van area. Since its inception, the Lanh Trang Cooperative has created stable jobs for 95 women, including Sung Thi Sy, all of whom live on a budget of around $170 to $260 per month.
  3. Entrepreneurship: The United Nations Development Programme launched an initiative dubbed the Economic Empowerment of Ethnic Minority Women via Application of 14.0 to aid women in Vietnam through entrepreneurship. This initiative creates an online platform in which Vietnamese women can learn modern financial solutions, take online courses on creating a business, obtain new technology for production and many more services.

Today, Sung Thi Sy has a job in the production of flaxseed products and brings home a consistent paycheck to feed her children and preserve the roof above their heads. Women like Sy are living proof that with enough funding, programs like these can promote tangible improvements in the fight against poverty and inequality in Vietnam.

– Charles Nettles
Photo: Flickr

Rape Epidemic in India
The rape epidemic in India garnered international attention in 2012, when several men brutally raped and beat a woman, Nirbhaya, on a bus. The event immediately spread across the globe and sparked massive international outrage. This pushed the government to promise new laws. However, it did not make any tangible changes. A minor positive change was a social shift resulting in more women finding the strength to report cases of sexual assault. Perhaps the most gruesome fact from this brutal event is the regularity of gang-rape in India. Nirbhaya’s case, while one of the most horrifying stories of rape, is only one among thousands.

Solutions in Bangladesh

There is a precedent for solutions to these types of problems. One solution is for the law to change in a way that punishes those who physically or sexually abuse women. Bangladesh has effectively lowered its acids attacks on women to just 75 in 2014 whereas it was previously 492 cases in 2002. It accomplished this by mandating the death penalty as the crime for acid attacks. Since Bangladeshi men now fear the severe ramifications for an acid attack, they refrain from hurting women with this method. However, if Bangladesh and India enacted rigorous laws for all types of abuse on women, then at the very least, those particular men would not be able to abuse women at as drastic of a level as they are currently.

Snehalaya Provides Aid to Abused Women and Children

Women who suffer abuse can still have hope since many NGOs are actively working to support the victims and help them get back their dignity and return to a normal life. One example is Snehalaya, which provides a safe space for women and children who are suffering abuse, and helps over 15,000 people per year. Snehalaya strives to use “grassroots outreach and education” to lower the amount of domestic abuse and violence that occurs in India. Women who are victims of sexual abuse can count on Snehalaya to provide the proper support group to push them towards a normal life, which is even more important because sometimes a woman’s parents may not accept her after she has become a victim due to social stigma.

Another solution for the rape epidemic in India is women’s empowerment through properly educating women, which is what Sayfty strives to do. It strives to provide women the tools to be safe from acts of sexual violence and to teach women how to defend themselves. While the first solution provides a legal means for female empowerment and the second provides a way to help them after they become victims, Sayfty is essential because it empowers women to stand up for themselves while suffering abuse or at least provides them with knowledge of how to get away from predators and get help.

The efforts of millions of women who are finding the bravery to call out abusers are defeating the rape epidemic in India. The laws in India are slowly changing to match modern social attitudes. NGOs are empowering women to lead their own fight. Though change is slow, it is inevitable, and more women are getting the justice they deserve every day.

Anish Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

 

women's digital financial inclusionAcross the globe, digital finance services are empowering vulnerable communities to make responsible investments, save for the future and gain access to credit. Between 2011 and 2014, seven hundred million people in the developing world gained access to these services, allowing them to participate in formal economic decisions for the first time. Although there is a long journey ahead for women’s digital financial inclusion in the developing world, much is being done to help close the gap.

Barriers and Challenges

Despite rapid growth, there is still a significant deficit in women’s digital financial inclusion. According to the World Bank, there is a 9 percent disparity in financial inclusion between men and women in the developing world. This number has remained the same since 2011. The disparity is in large part born out of several social, economic and cultural barriers that hinder women in the developing world from gaining access to these kinds of services. Lower rates of mobile phone ownership and low rates of digital literacy among women are arguably the two most prominent barriers for women in the developing world.

A 2018 report recorded that women in low to middle-income countries are 10 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than their male counterparts. That 10 percent translates to around 184 million women without access to a mobile device and, therefore, digital financing services. Without this crucial link to a formal economy, women are excluded from credit approval and economic and political decision-making. They have little to no control over how their personal funds are spent.

In addition, an overall lack of digital literacy causes an assortment of issues for women’s inclusion in financial matters. According to the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI), 75 percent of survey respondents classified a lack of digital literacy as a major barrier in women’s digital financial inclusion. Without knowledge of these innovative services, women in rural and impoverished regions are forced to resort to less trustworthy forms of investment and informal savings. These often yield large negative returns for participants. This method of financing makes the identification of these women extremely difficult. This leads to low loan approval and higher interest rates for those women who are lucky enough to get approved.

Nonprofits Commit to Closing the Gender Gap

Despite various challenges, much is being done to assist women in developing countries on their path to financial stability and independence. In 2014, AFI signed the Denarau Action Plan, which lays out a commitment to halve the financial gender gap by 2021. AFI isn’t alone in their pursuits either. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently launched an institutional gender strategy that will commit $170 million to the economic empowerment of women. Consultive Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) also recently joined forces with 200 different organizations in similar pursuits.

The issue of women’s digital financial inclusion is gaining momentum globally. The world is starting to recognize just how much of a positive impact financial gender-equality will have on the global economy. AFI found that global gender-equality could unlock $12 trillion in incremental GDP by 2025 with a specific focus on digital finance services. Although progress is slow, women in developing nations are beginning to reap the benefits of financial inclusion on a more personal scale.

Digital financial services give these women the opportunity to gain financial independence, create and expand their businesses, plan for their families’ futures and make empowered decisions about how their funds will be spent. The world is recognizing women’s digital financial inclusion as a top priority and it is bursting into action to provide these women with financial independence, stability and empowerment.

Ashlyn Jensen
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