information and Stories about woman and female empowerment.

Susan Rice's Approach to Foreign Aid
Susan Rice’s approach to foreign aid has formed by her listening to her colleagues’ advice. Her approach is to negotiate and implement policies to help textile workers, small farmers and other people in need.

Susan Rice’s Background

According to her latest 2019 book, “Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For,” Susan Rice grew up in Washington, D.C. Her first job in 1979 at age 14 was as a Democratic page in the U.S. House of Representatives. She graduated high school and took home many awards from the National Cathedral School NCS in D.C. After this, she was a fellow at the Brookings Institute and an undergraduate at Stanford University.

She studied at Oxford in the U.K., where she earned her M.Phil. (masters) degree in international relations. Afterward, she went on to earn her Ph.D. During that time, her thesis “The Commonwealth Initiative in Zimbabwe, 1979–1980: Implications for International Peacekeeping” won the 1991 Chatham House–British International Studies Association Award for the most distinguished doctoral dissertation in international relations in The U.K. She went on to be the youngest black woman to serve in a presidential administration.

Susan Rice’s approach to foreign aid has involved her putting her colleague’s advice into practice. When she first started as assistant secretary of state for African affairs, her colleague Ambassador Prudence’s advice was to pay attention to policy outcomes, not the bureaucracy.

African Growth Opportunity Act and Other Programs

During her years in the Clinton Administration, Susan Rice worked hard toward the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), which passed Congress in 2000. In 2015, Congress updated and extended the program through 2025. The AGOA requires countries to remove obstacles to U.S. trade, implement poverty reduction procedures, fight corruption and bolster human rights.

Poverty is reducing among women through the creation of jobs and through new businesses that women own. The African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), which supports women who own businesses in sub-Saharan Africa, came to be because of the AGOA.

The Department of State also created an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). This program sponsors a small group of African women business owners to come to the U.S. for a three-week intensive networking event to meet with leaders in bipartisan policy, industry and nonprofits. The support these women entrepreneurs receive helps create jobs and influence society. It lifts their communities out of poverty one job at a time.

Work as the US Ambassador to the United Nations

Susan Rice’s approach to foreign aid widened when the Obama Administration made her the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP), which began with the George W. Bush Administration, continued in the Obama Administration.

It had the intent of lowering or eliminating tariffs on imports and exports of participating countries, thus making it more affordable for them to produce, import and export. The affordability attracts businessmen and women and lifts people out of poverty by creating jobs in both the import and export country. This symbiotic relationship helps lift people out of poverty by the creation of these jobs. In 2014, according to Susan Rice’s speech, one-third of TPP participants were from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Cambodia all benefit from TPP.

How TTP and AGOA Impact People

Susan Rice’s approach to foreign aid is to negotiate and implement policies like TTP and the AGOA. According to The World Bank, TTP will increase the wages of poor under-skilled textile workers in Vietnam by over 14% by 2030. African countries could also benefit from TTP and especially African women.

According to The World Bank, women make up most of the small farmers in Africa. These women carry goods across borders where they sometimes meet with opposition in documents, regulatory requirements and tariffs.

As Brookings reported, Africa is benefiting from the AGOA. In 2014, African countries exported nearly $1 billion worth of textiles to the U.S. creating jobs for poor under-skilled workers, especially women.

– Kathleen Shepherd-Segura
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Samoa Samoa has had a long history of being considered a place where women’s rights have been hindered. Women’s voices in Samoa are often brushed aside when it comes to major issues such as domestic violence and politics. That being said, improvements on the basis of women’s rights in Samoa have occurred. U.N. Women has also worked to set up programs to support women’s equality in Samoa, which provides hope for the creation of more inclusive Samoan communities in the future.

The Samoan Woman’s Voice

Within the islands of the Pacific, where Samoa is located, the lowest rates of women’s participation in politics are found. Women within the Samoan culture are not encouraged to discover a sense of independent thought that they are willing to express. Because of this, women’s representation in governmental positions is a mere 10%. This minimum of 10%, however, will remain consistent due to an amendment of the Samoan constitution that was passed in 2013. The amendment states that women’s seats will be added into parliament if women are not elected, in order to ensure that at least 10% of parliamentary representation is women.

There are many cultural structures that greatly impact women’s rights when it comes to the expression of political opinions. One of these structures is the Matai councils that are in charge of local decision-making. Although women are allowed to join the Matai council, it is mainly considered a male council because of the low level of female members. The cultural family structures in Samoa also discourage women from reaching for political positions like becoming a Matai. Women mainly answer to their husbands within households so they feel a disconnect between having a desire for political power and their familial positions.

Violence Against Samoan Women

Only 22% of women that live in Samoa have not been a victim of some kind of domestic violence within their lifetime. Within the 78% of women who have experienced abuse, 38% said that the abuse was physical. Overlooked violence is one of the largest setbacks to obtaining more holistic women’s rights in Samoa. Women believe that the violence they face is not of importance. This can be justified by the fact that domestic violence was only reported to the police by 3% of women who experienced it.

3 Programs Improving Women’s Rights in Samoa

As many setbacks as there have been in gaining women’s equality in Samoa, U.N. Women has set up programs in order to empower women in Samoa.

  • The Women’s Economic Empowerment Programs: These programs work to ensure that women in Samoa can secure proper employment and are getting paid for the work they are doing. It also makes sure that women have access to assets and increased economic security.
  • The REACH Project: This program has worked to educate the general rural public of Samoa about general rights, including those of women. Although the goals of this program were extensive, one of them was to create equality of gender and to empower young girls for a better future. REACH accomplished its goals through the creation of sessions meant to increase awareness of rights and gender equality that citizens in rural areas could attend.
  • The Ending Violence Against Women Program: This program has created a fund in order to support women victims of violence within Samoa. It also works to change government policies that could support violence against women in any way. The information and support that this program gives to women who may not be aware of their right to speak up against violence against them is invaluable.

Overall, women’s rights in Samoa are progressing with the help of organizations like U.N Women fighting for the well-being and empowerment of women. Samoa has come a long way with regards to gender equality and the future looks hopeful for women in the country.

– Olivia Bay
Photo: Flickr

Native American WomenThe 2017 film, Wind River, based on actual events, riveted the public with its reported death rate of Native American women on American reservations. Writer-producer Taylor Sheridan aimed to raise awareness of the overlooked death rate and has succesfully done so since.

Violence Against Indigenous Women

Where poverty is the greatest, indigenous women experience domestic violence rates 10 times higher than the national average for all races. In addition, 84% of Native American women experience violence in their lifetimes or one in three each year. The perpetrators are most often non-Native men outside the jurisdiction of tribal law enforcement.

Murdered indigenous women numbers rose to 500 in 2018, which is a low figure compared to the actual number of missing persons on reservations. Women have silently died and gone missing, underreported, for years. This is due to the discordance that exists between tribal, federal and local law enforcement. However, changes are being made ever since the 1978 ruling of Oliphant v. Suquamish, where it was ruled that Indian courts have no criminal jurisdiction over non-natives. In November of 2019, President Trump signed an executive order to investigate the matter of unsolved cases of missing or murdered Native Americans.

Legislatively Addressing the Issue

Several major changes have since been underway. For example, the Not Invisible Act of 2020 will increase national focus on violent crime against indigenous people and intergovernmental coordination on the high death rate of Native American women. This bill began in 2019 as the Not Invisible Act of 2019; the first bipartisan bill in history to be introduced by four tribal representatives: Deb Haaland, Tom Cole, Sharice Davids and Markwayne Mullin.

To complement the Not Invisible Act, Savanna’s Act became public law in October 2020. Named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a murdered young indigenous woman whose fetus was cut from her womb, Savanna’s Act will ensure the Justice Department reports statistics on all missing/murdered native women and reform law enforcement. In addition, the National Institute of Justice has created the National Baseline Study which is a study on the health, wellbeing and safety of Native American women, to also provide more accurate data on femicide.

Safe Women, Strong Nations

In addition, the Safe Women, Strong Nations project partners with native nations to combat abductions and murder. The project provides legal advice to the tribes in restoring authority and holding perpetrators responsible. The project works to raise awareness to gain federal action to eliminate the violence against native women.

Poverty makes it easier for native women to be overlooked. One in three Native Americans suffer from poverty, living off on average $23,000 a year. “Poverty is both the cause and the consequence of all the ills visited upon Native Americans.” It is common knowledge that poverty provides leeway for criminality, and with Native American reservations being economically disadvantaged, this is no exception. Addressing systemic poverty instead of turning a blind eye will help lower the death rate of native women. The reservations only need opportunity and U.S.  juridical attention. It is hopeful to see that the United States’ legislative representatives are addressing violence against minority groups but more work needs to be done to protect the well-being of Native American women.

– Shelby Gruber
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in SudanAlthough six African states issued legislation to prohibit female genital mutilation, the north African state of Sudan was lagging behind in these efforts. Female genital mutilation ( FGM) was illegal in some Sudanese states but the bans were widely ignored. Under the leadership of Omar al-Bashir, parliament rejected recommendations to ban the practice.

Female Genital Mutilation

FGM is defined as procedures that deliberately alter or cause injury to female genital organs. It is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and adolescence and occasionally performed on adult women. These procedures are nonmedical and provide no health benefits, only harm to the female. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, therefore, it interferes with the natural functions of the female body.

The reasons behind FGM vary between regions due to a mix of sociocultural factors. The procedure is routinely executed by a midwife without anesthesia. There are four types of FGM. Type one is the partial or total removal of the clitoris. Type two is the removal of the clitoris and inner labia. Type three is the removal of all the external genitalia or narrowing of the vaginal opening. Type four is any other type of damage to the female genitalia, such as burning, scraping or piercing.

Females experience either short-term or long-term effects. The short-term effects include severe pain, excessive bleeding (hemorrhage), genital tissue swelling, fever, infections, wound healing issues. The more dangerous and life-altering long-term effects include urinary problems, menstrual problems, increased risk of childbirth complications, the need for later surgeries or psychological problems.

According to UNICEF, 87% of Sudanese women aged between 14 and 49 have undergone a form of FGM. FGM is also more prevalent among the poorest women.

Actions to End Female Genital Mutilation

In 2008, the National Council of Child Welfare and UNICEF joined together to launch the Saleema Initiative, which focused on abandoning FGM at a community level.  The initiative educated women about the health risks and encouraged females to say no to the procedure.

Additionally, the United Nations General Assembly took action in 2012 by calling on the international community to enhance efforts to end FGM. In 2015, the global community agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include a target under Goal 5 to eliminate all harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation by 2030.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is addressing the issue by implementing guidelines, tools, training and policy to allow healthcare providers the opportunity to offer medical care and counseling to females suffering the effects of FGM.  The WHO also aims at generating knowledge to encourage the abandonment of the FGM procedures. One final measure by the WHO is increased advocacy through publications and tools for policymakers.

Criminalizing Female Genital Mutilation in Sudan

In May 2020, the Sudanese Government criminalized FGM and made it punishable by up to three years in prison. But, experts remain concerned that a law is not sufficient in ending the practice due to religious and cultural ties to the procedure.

The sociocultural and religious ties surrounding female genital mutilation in Sudan complicate attempts to end the practice. Criminalizing FGM in Sudan may not be enough to end the practice. The National Council of Child Welfare, UNICEF, the United Nations General Assembly and the WHO are taking major steps to eliminate FGM or assist those already affected by the practice.

– Rachel Durling
Photo: Flickr

ICTsIn recent years, studies have shown that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have proven to be helpful for vulnerable communities on many different fronts. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been observed that women have increasingly used ICTs, especially those in developing countries.

Hear Her Voice Project

Hear Her Voice is a research project that stemmed from the pandemic itself, allowing 25 girls from five different countries, Bangladesh, India, Malawi, Nigeria and the United States, to share their experiences during COVID-19. These firsthand narratives are insightful as they vlog their daily lives from various different technological platforms. These intimate conversations equip the women with the tools to better educate the public on the struggles they face with menstrual health, relationships, mental health, isolation and livelihoods during COVID-19.

The platform showcased the struggles women had when it came to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), especially in Jaipur and Munger. One of the Technology Enabled Girl Ambassadors (TEGA) is Carol, a 23-year-old woman from Munger, India, who shared her struggles with obtaining sanitary pads due to restricted mobility. When she first got her period during the lockdown, she was unable to obtain pads in time and was therefore left with no feminine hygiene products whatsoever.

Women Disproportionately Affected by COVID-19

A study done by the U.N. found that women’s economic resources in Asia and the Pacific are being hit the most. The pandemic has made gender inequalities more prevalent than ever, with the discrepancy highest in family businesses, remittances, property and savings. On top of this, it has been found that COVID-19 governmental aid is not as readily available to women as they are for men. The report stated 84% of women outside of formal employment lack social protections like unemployment support or government financial help. Women are suffering more than men all across the charts: 61% saw decreases in their income, savings and investments; 66% saw their mental health plummeting and  63% saw increased time spent doing unpaid domestic work.

Similar Scenarios During Ebola and Zika

During the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, women had consistently been the sole caretakers and health care providers, putting them at a higher risk of contracting these highly contagious viruses. The Zika virus in Latin America displayed how reproductive health services were limited and overlooked due to health care services allocating all of their resources into combating the epidemic. These unequal gendered patterns are yet again repeating themselves with COVID-19, the disadvantages being most pronounced for women.

The Impact of ICTs

Overall, information and communication technologies have been utilized by vulnerable minority groups ever since the rise of their prevalence in recent years. These innovative technological modes of communication are reshaping and expanding the uses of social media. The Hear Her Voice project is one of the many initiatives that have been using ICTs in the wake of a pandemic, to give a voice to women and the unique challenges they face and bring global awareness, support and assistance.

Additionally, ICTs provide helplines, applications, resource centers and more, so that women so can access the help and support they require. These platforms are transforming lives by amplifying and uplifting the voices of women during COVID-19.

– Mina Kim
Photo: Flickr

Little Light UgandaLittle Light Uganda is a nonprofit organization located in Namuwongo Slum, which is in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. Since its establishment in 2007, Little Light’s mission has been to provide aid to those in the community who are living in poverty.

Little Light Helps Uganda

Uganda’s economy has had a reduction in growth because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a locust invasion and heavy rains that led to flooding. With subsequent job loss along with the economic decline, programs like Little Light Uganda are essential for giving help to those in need. Little Light’s services include “giving access to proper education, economic empowerment and psycho-social support.”

Little Light Uganda has two groups in the organization, its youth group and its women’s group. The youth group, officially known as Spoon Youth, aims to provide the young people in Namuwongo a safe and reliable environment. The group also educates children on how to navigate life living in poverty, including matters of crime and violence. Children and youth make up more than 70% of Namuwongo’s population, half of them without parents, which is why Little Light works to provide them sanctuary and resources.

Women’s Empowerment Group

The mothers of children in the youth group are invited into Little Light’s women’s empowerment group, called “Umoja,” which is Swahili for “Unity.” The group’s mission is to give women living in the Namuwongo slum tools to better their economic and social situation. Members of the women’s group meet every afternoon at the organization to make authentic African jewelry from recycled newspapers and hand-rolled beads. The jewelry is marketed in Uganda and abroad to provide an income and livelihood for women.

Mama Pendo Jewelry

The name the group has coined for the jewelry brand is Mama Pendo, which translated from Kiswahili means “The Mother of Love.” The initiative aims to improve the quality of life for refugees and single mothers trying to provide their children with an education.

Little Light Uganda volunteers have worked with the women to support their hard work and create a website for their jewelry to be sold. The proceeds from sold jewelry go toward projects the women feel passionate about, all of which intend to benefit the conditions for struggling women and other vulnerable individuals.

Combating Malaria and COVID-19

One of the group’s projects is dedicated to fighting malaria in Uganda, which is one of the main causes of death in the country. According to the American Journal of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, between 70,000 to 100,000 children in Uganda die from the disease every year. The group uses money earned from sold bracelets to buy an organic mosquito-repellent soap, which is given to disadvantaged families that live in places that are more vulnerable to malaria.

The women have also created an initiative to combat COVID-19. Since hygiene is an essential tool for preventing the spread of the virus, the group has pledged one bar of soap for a family in Namuwango living in poverty for every website purchase.

Women’s Empowerment for Poverty Reduction in Uganda

Little Light Uganda does a lot for its community with initiatives like the Mama Pendo project. Not only is the organization helping those in need but it is also empowering women living in poverty. Women with more resources and liberation are more likely to pursue their own education and prioritize the health, nutritional and educational needs of their children.

– Celia Brocker
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in the Philippines
The Philippines, located in Southeast Asia, is an archipelagic state that holds the third-largest Catholic population in the world. General statistics on period poverty in the Philippines are limited, but the religious influence has been blocking a broader question of whether the country should implement sex education or not. Reproductive health legislation poses a risk to bilateral relations between the government and Church, holding lawmakers at an impasse.

The Situation

In the Philippines, many young women endure menstruation as a major economic and social determinant of success. Students, in particular, are ill-equipped to navigate their menarches, and the period stigma impacts the quality of their education and future. Policies to address this issue have been mostly ungenerous, with some advancements happening under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. During the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations have been advocating to push period awareness campaigns to the forefront of the public health agenda.

According to a survey that G.M.A. News conducted, most voters support the idea of government-regulated sex education efforts. However, political progress has been slow at best; the Church holds enough public sway to delay any legislative initiatives. The Philippines did not enforce the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Act of 2012 until 2019, when Duterte signed an executive order to mandate free reproductive health services, albeit against the will of the Church.

Sex Education in the Philippines

Though the 2012 law includes mandating sex education in school curricula, people have mostly overlooked its application. Determining lessons on periods falls to the jurisdiction of the teachers, most of whom are male, and it is in this setting where many girls start to fall behind because of their menstrual cycles. Currently, the way most young people learn about menstruation is from their mothers who tell the girls to sit on a coconut shell to alleviate their cramps. They receive little help from their teachers and face standard forms of subtle embarrassment common to girls who get their menses for the first time.

The school setting also represents the larger-scale issues for people who menstruate in the Philippines. Toilets are limited in number and privacy, and windows are in poor positions allowing boys to peep at girls who are doing their business. Likewise, 14% of workplaces have inadequate toilets for women, and women must habitually carry their own toilet paper because restrooms have limited water for flushing and hand-washing.

Improving sex education could be a largely successful target to combatting period poverty in the Philippines. A U.N. WASH study identified four key recommendations to improving girls’ menstrual health in the Philippines including better education, improved facilities and greater access to menstrual products and support systems for girls who take an absence. Though period poverty remains largely unchecked, further observation would promote the general betterment necessary to combat women’s health inequities.

Initiatives to Help Fight the Period Stigma

At the social level, humanitarian organizations use community initiatives to provide support for people who menstruate. Save the Children Philippines assigns resident volunteers and teen advocates to dismantle menstrual health stigmas by reaching out to their peers with advice, support and educational tools. However, COVID-19 has intensified the crisis. Save the Children Philippines CEO Alberto Muyot told Business Mirror that now would be the key time to put menstrual health at the forefront of public health solutions. Currently, Save the Children Philippines is providing resources like hygienic kits and food offerings to combat the pandemic.

Addressing the period stigma is another initiative that comes in the form of an innovative strategy. Menstrual cups have had a profound impact on period poverty around the world; as a more economical and comfortable option than their disposable counterparts, they provide a solution that generally improves the standard of living. Sinaya Cup, a small business, retails menstrual cups catered to the specific needs and challenges girls face in the Philippines. For instance, besides promoting menstrual cups solely as an eco-friendly and comfortable solution, Sinaya Cup also promises a waterproof quality important to girls who wish to participate in recreational activities like biking, trekking and climbing.

The attitudes surrounding menstrual health is a global issue that chronically impacts the economic wellbeing of women. Addressing the stigma requires a multifaceted solution. The emergence of COVID-19 has amplified concerns regarding where women fit into the public health conversation, making now the opportune time to address the issue of period poverty. Dismantling period poverty in the Philippines might begin with government and community initiatives, but the state must consider adapting its sectarian views to accommodate the needs of women’s health.

– Danielle Han
Photo: Unsplash

women’s rights in UzbekistanA former Soviet Union territory, Uzbekistan has a population of 30 million. In recent years, there have been governmental and societal changes along with a new president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Women, who play a pivotal role in the Uzbek family structure, have experienced different issues related to their rights in the country. There are several key facts to know about women’s rights in Uzbekistan.

Societal Views Oppress Women

Women faced new setbacks after Uzbekistan obtained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The Soviets, who colonized the region in the latter half of the 19th century, promised women that they would be emancipated from the patriarchal customs of society, viewing them as oppressive against women. This movement encouraged female education, and in the 1980s, an estimated 41% of university students were women. However, after the independence of Uzbekistan in 1991, in a push to reestablish the Uzbek tradition, the progress of women’s rights in Uzbekistan took a hit when conservative social customs were reintroduced. Only six years later, in 1997, the number of women in higher education institutions dropped to 37% and it is estimated to have fallen even more drastically in recent years.

The Prevalence of Child Marriage

Child marriage is still prevalent. Most Uzbek families believe that the role of women is to marry and run the household. This social concept encourages child marriage throughout the country, particularly in rural regions. With girls marrying at younger ages than boys, female education is directly impacted by child marriage, as women are generally confined to the home after marriage. Furthermore, it is expected that women are to give birth within their first year of marriage, despite a lack of education about reproduction and childbearing. With young brides, female bodies are often not prepared or mature enough to give birth healthily. This has led to health complications such as infertility and chronic conditions. Women’s rights in Uzbekistan are hindered by child marriage, as it limits female educational opportunities and leaves women with little chance to escape a life of housework and childrearing.

Domestic Violence is Not a Crime

Domestic violence is deemed a family issue and not an actual crime. Since independence from the Soviet Union, the push to reaffirm traditional values has meant that women have a subservient role within the household, and to a further extent, within society. Outside of their homes, women face restrictions on how to live their lives, with limits on educational and work opportunities in favor of marriages and children. With women in rural areas at particular risk for domestic violence, Uzbekistan has largely ignored women’s rights within the home. Violence against women has reportedly increased in recent years.

Women’s Rights Reform at Governmental Level

President Mirziyoyev has taken promising action to address the lack of women’s rights in Uzbekistan. Elected in 2016, Mirziyoyev spoke about the importance of women within Uzbek society, noting their problem-solving skills and administrative capabilities. He urged for their involvement in government and industrial factions and even appointed Uzbekistan’s first female Head of Senate, Tanyila Narbaeva. With men dominating government positions for years, a female in an authoritative government position was a progressive shift and a promising result of political changes.

Legislation to Protect Women

The fight for women’s rights in Uzbekistan is becoming more of a priority. In 2019, two new laws were introduced to protect women’s rights. The first is to ensure equal opportunities and freedoms for men and women and the second is to safeguard women from domestic violence and assault. Also, almost 200 shelters have been set up across the country to provide for women escaping violence. Unfortunately, there is very little funding for the subsistence of these shelters. While this is undoubtedly progress from the country’s more traditional views on the role of women in society, more significant action needs to be taken to defend these newfound rights and sustain protective services.

The Future of Women’s Rights in Uzbekistan

The push for women’s rights in Uzbekistan has been made more difficult by the country’s history as a Soviet Union colony and their subsequent counterreaction to reestablish their traditional cultural values. In recent years, women have been restricted by societal pressures to marry young and spend their lives taking care of the household. With limited opportunity to decide their own futures, women in Uzbekistan have not truly attained their human rights. Fortunately, however, President Mirziyoyev has expressed his desire to transform women’s rights in Uzbekistan. Hopefully, with a new female government official and progressive laws, women’s rights in Uzbekistan will continue to improve.

– Eliza Cochran
Photo: Flickr

She’s the First Across the globe, women face harsh inequalities in education and the promotion of other crucial rights. Women make up more than two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population, receive lower wages, experience gender-based violence and are forced to adhere to strict societal gender norms that prevent their progression. This is especially the case in developing countries. She’s the First is an organization where the progression of women is a central focus.

She’s the First

She’s the First, a nonprofit organization, recognizes the benefits of prioritizing women and gender equality. When females are educated and empowered, they can earn up to 20% more as an adult for each additional year of schooling completed. They are also then more likely to be in healthy relationships, have fewer but healthier children, are less likely to marry early and are more likely to make an impact in the world. These reasons are why She’s the First puts girls first by promoting women’s equality and education.

Putting Girls First

She’s the First promotes girls’ education and equality. It provides funding to different community-based organizations that can implement culturally efficient ways for girls to attend school as well as afterschool programs where they can further their education while simultaneously learning about life skills and reproductive health. She’s the First also runs training and conferences around the globe. These conferences amplify girls’ voices around the world, inspiring them to become leaders in their own communities. As of the end of 2019, She’s the First reached 11,000 girls, had a presence in 21 countries and provided training for 52 community-based organizations.

Girls’ Bill Of Rights

She’s the First is a co-organizer of the Girls’ Bill of Rights, a declaration of the rights all girls are entitled to, written by girls, for girls. More than 1,000 girls from 34 countries contributed to the list, created on the 2019 International Day of Girl and presented to the United Nations. The Girls’ Bill of Rights advocates for the promotion of girls’ rights like quality education, equality, leadership, sexual education and reproductive rights, protection from harmful cultural practices, free decision-making and more. To support the Girls’ Bill of Rights, supporters can use the hashtag “#GirlsBillOfRights”, co-sign the bill or make a public pledge of support.

Women’s Empowerment and Poverty Reduction

She’s the First is an organization that works toward complete equality for women worldwide, especially in regards to education. Currently, women face a significant disadvantage, especially those who are uneducated. If women are given education and equality, they can lift themselves out of poverty since education is directly related to lowering poverty levels. She’s the First spreads this idea by creating culturally efficient ways for girls to go to school and further their education in developing countries. The organization also advocates for women’s rights through the Girls’ Bill of Rights. She’s the First plays a crucial part in empowering women and helping them to lift themselves out of poverty.

– Seona Maskara
Photo: Flickr

insulated WonderbagIn Africa, nearly 90% of women use open fire cooking methods. The same is common for women in developing countries throughout the world. This system can often take hours to cook a full meal. The insulated Wonderbag, a heat retention cooking device, aims to change lives and create a sustainable life for those living in poverty, especially women.

The Insulated Wonderbag

In developing countries, gendered roles like cooking and tending to the household take up a lot of time.  The amount of time spent cooking could be better used on activities that result in the progression of women, such as education and development. Often, women are disproportionately responsible for cooking meals and the labor that goes into the open fires that are required for such cooking. A South African entrepreneur decided to design an invention to help address these difficulties. The insulated Wonderbag is an eco-technology innovation that saves girls and women hours of time and labor and improves indoor air quality and overall health, among other benefits.

How the Wonderbag Began

The idea behind this invention comes from Sarah Collins, a local South African innovator with extensive knowledge of social development and a love for the environment. Collins grew up watching the women before her use cooking tricks to keep food warm when the power went out. One of these tricks, used by her grandmother, was letting hot pans of food sit in cushioned pads to remain warm. A life-changing yet straightforward concept that Collins took and made her own.

The Simple Magic of the Wonderbag

First and foremost, the Wonderbag is a product meant to alleviate women and girls’ daily struggles as caregivers and enable them to pursue education and employment. The Wonderbag works without electricity or gas and is made of upcycled materials such as poly-cotton and chipped-foam. Essentially, it functions similarly to a crockpot or a slow cooker. The insulated Wonderbag allows food, once brought to the boil by traditional cooking methods, to continue cooking for up to 12 hours inside the Wonderbag.

The Benefits of the Wonderbag

  • Females regain four to six hours of their day
  • Boosts household incomes up to $2 a day
  • Saves more than 1300 hours for girls and women each year, enabling them to go to school, learn skills and find employment
  • Raises incomes of women living in poverty
  • Decreases the use of fossil fuels for cooking by 70% and thus also the associated negative health impact
  • Allows women to re-invest their earnings into providing healthier meals for their families

The Impacts of the Wonderbag

Since 2008, the revolutionary Wonderbag has been distributed around the world. Thus far, it has had an impressive impact. The introduction of the Wonderbag into communities allows women the chance to build their own businesses and create jobs for others. These businesses range from serving warm meals to sewing new bags. Moreover, every time a Wonderbag is bought, another is donated to women in need in Africa, continuing the cycle of prosperity.

More than 130 NGOs in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, benefitted from reselling Wonderbags to generate an income, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Collectively, these NGOs generated almost two million South African rands to sustain their operations.

Overall, the global need for the insulated Wonderbag continues to grow. So far, there are more than one million Wonderbags worldwide. With every purchase, $1 goes toward subsidizing bags for people in vulnerable communities. The Wonderbag is an innovative solution to combat global poverty.

– Sallie Blackmon
Photo: Flickr