Information and news about woman issues

The International Women's Coffee Alliance
The International Women’s Coffee Alliance aims to empower women to achieve sustainable, meaningful lives through international coffee communities. IWCA recognizes the integral part women play in both a business and an economic aspect. As such, IWCA believes women need to be involved in both family sustainability and economic choices. When this happens, multiple aspects typically leading to poverty in a community decrease.

“When women are fully involved, the benefits can be seen immediately: families are healthier; they are better fed; their income, savings and reinvestment go up. And what is true of families is true of communities and, eventually, whole countries,” states Kofi Annan, as quoted on IWCA’s homepage.

Strong Women = Strong Coffee

IWCA’s motto is “Strong Women = Strong Coffee: Connect. Empower. Advance.”

According to IWCA chapter manager Blanca Castro, “The chapters have very localized issues that they centralize their work around to be a collective force. The common denominator for the groups is that they are all mothers, daughters and workers and share many of the same challenges around the world, not just specific to coffee, such as the price of coffee but the also laws and customs that make women earning a dignified living that much more of a challenge.”

Now how is the IWCA taking action to implement and empower women?

IWCA Ethiopia

Strong Partners Build Economic Empowerment

IWCA is involved in multiple parts of the world, including Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Women in Coffee (EWiC) partnered with the International Trade Center, which brings platforms for corporations to empower companies to connect with women-owned supply companies. As a result, the EWiC and ITC are working together to build a foundation for the same goal.

The EWiC is one branch under IWCA. It moves to improve the economy and the importance of women within a community. Through the incorporation of women in international trade, IWCA believes that poverty within Ethiopia will soon be alleviated.

IWCA Burundi

Working Together Grows Quality and Premiums

The IWCA also has a chapter in Burundi, specifically in the regions of Ngozi and Kayanza where they have seen a growing impact of empowering the women of this region. Since their start in Burundi in 2012, there has been an increase in job opportunities for the community. Moreover, this has led to improved livelihoods based on coffee bonuses and pay raises.

In Burundi alone, there has been an increase in green coffee bags. In 2012, 94 green coffee bags were produced, as compared to 2,065 green coffee bags in 2017.

WCA-India

Building Awareness, Strengthening Communities

Coffee Santhe (Coffee Market) is held annually in India’s coffee capital, Bangalore. Santhe is a program that helps raise funds for communities. It also unites different states within India’s massive demographic to come together and learn how they can impact and improve their communities.

Santhe generates funds and provisions for children who are in government-run schools in coffee regions. These funds and provisions support their education. It also teaches them how they can impact their own lives and those around them.

The IWCA has a presence in 22 different countries. And it promotes economic sustainability by empowering women to enter the workforce of international trade, specifically through the coffee industry. Ultimately, the International Women’s Coffee Alliance believes by uniting different nations and closing the gender gap in the workforce, the issues of global poverty will disperse.

Hannah Vaughn
Photo: Google Images

Social Entrepreneurship in Developing CountriesToday, social entrepreneurship is growing rapidly in size, scope and support. An unprecedented number of organizations are using entrepreneurship as a strategy to address social problems like poverty, at-risk youth and hunger. Social entrepreneurs are developing creative and innovative organizations that give people the tools, education and resources to become an entrepreneur. As entrepreneurs, they can serve their own communities, improving health, decreasing hunger, creating safer environments and accessing clean water. Here are five organizations using social entrepreneurship to help create jobs in developing countries.

5 Examples of Social Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries

  1. The Adventure Project
    The Adventure Project works in developing countries seeking out partnerships with organizations creating jobs for their communities. Some organizations include KickStart, LifeLine, Living Goods, Water for People, and WaterAid. The organization chooses partners based on their measurable social impact, a proven track record of success, and readiness to scale. Since its inception, the Adventure Project has empowered 798 people to find a job. This has led to thriving local economies, improved environmental conditions and even reduced mortality rates. In Kenya, cooking over an open fire posed a huge health risk to both people and the environment. Now, stoves are made and sold locally. Masons create stoves and vendors earn commissions for their sales. And because they’re using 50 percent less charcoal, families are saving 20 percent of daily expenses. In other countries, villagers have been trained as health care agents, selling more than 60 products at affordable prices. These health care agents also care for more than 800 people in their communities.
  2. Indego Africa
    Indego Africa is a nonprofit social enterprise that supports women in Rwanda through economic empowerment and education. This enterprise aims to break intergenerational cycles of poverty. To do so, Indego Africa provides female artisans with the tools and support necessary to become independent businesswomen and drive local development.Partnering with 18 cooperatives of female artisans, Indego Africa sells handcrafted products through an e-commerce site, collaborations with designers and brands and at boutiques worldwide. To develop their entrepreneurial skills, Indego Africa provides artisans with training in quality control, design and product management. Indego currently employs over 600 women, 58 percent of whom make over $2 a day. According to the World Bank, $2 a day marks the entry point into Africa’s growing middle class.
  3. Mercardo Global
    Mercardo Global is a social enterprise organization that links indigenous artisans in rural Latin American communities to international sales opportunities. As a result, this organization helps provide sustainable income-earning opportunities, access to business training and community-based education programs. Mercado Global also increases access to microloans for technology, such as sewing machines and floor looms. Mercado Global believes income alone cannot solve long-term problems. Therefore, the organization focuses on both business education and leadership training. In doing so, Mercado Global enables artisans to address systemic problems within their communities. Artisans are given microloans, ideally to purchase equipment that allows them to work more efficiently. They then pay back their loans, allowing another artisan to attain one. Forty-four percent of Mercado Global entrepreneurs held a leadership position within their cooperatives in the last three years. Ninety-six percent participate in the finances of their households. And 77 percent of women voted in their last community election.
  4. Solar Sister
    Everyone should have access to clean energy. And the team behind Solar Sister believes women are a key part of the solution to the clean energy challenge. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 600 million people have no access to electricity. Moreover, more than 700 million must rely on harmful fuels. However, women bear the majority burden of this energy poverty and disproportionately shoulder the harmful effects. In order to address this issue and create more equity around clean energy and economic opportunities, Solar Sister invests in women’s enterprises in off-grid communities. By doing so, the Solar Sister team builds networks of women entrepreneurs. Women are first given access to clean, renewable energy. Then, they participate in a direct sales network to build sustainable businesses. Centering local women in a rapidly growing clean energy sector is essential to eradicating poverty. This allows helps achieve sustainable solutions to climate change and a host of development issues. Evidence shows the income of self-employed rural women with access to energy is more than double the income of those without access to energy. For rural female wage or salary workers, access to energy is correlated with 59 percent higher wages. Solar Sister is currently helping over 1,200 entrepreneurs. The team is also partnering with Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, Sustainable Energy for All, U.N. Women and Women in Solar Energy.
  5. United Prosperity
    United Prosperity is a nonprofit organization providing an online lending platform connecting lenders to poor entrepreneurs across the globe. A Kiva-like peer-to-peer loaning system allows anyone with spare cash to guarantee loans to entrepreneurs in need. Lenders select the entrepreneur they want to support and lend any amount they wish. United Prosperity then consolidates the loan amount and passes it on to the entrepreneur through a local bank. For every $1 given by the lender, the bank makes a nearly $2 loan to the entrepreneur through a partner Microfinance Institution (MFI). Once a loan or a loan guarantee has been made, the entrepreneur’s progress is tracked online. When loans are repaid, lenders get their money back. They then have the opportunity to recycle it by lending or guaranteeing the loan to another entrepreneur. These microloans aim to help entrepreneurs, mostly women, grow their small businesses. United Prosperity has transferred more than $280,000 in loans to 1,300 entrepreneurs. Moreover, MFI helps build entrepreneurs’ credit history with local banking systems, thus encouraging more banks to lend to them.

These organizations are wonderful examples of how social enterprises have effectively empowered locals in the social entrepreneurship space. Through innovation, investment in local resources and talent, and measurement practices, these organizations have helped social entrepreneurs around the world to scale and grow. In doing so, they also address social problems like poverty, at-risk youth and hunger in their community. The results have been improved health, increased economic opportunities, safer environments and increased access to clean water and energy.

Leroy Adams
Photo: Flickr

period poverty in IndiaPeriod poverty is often described as a lack of access to menstrual education and sanitary products. With 800 million women and girls menstruating daily, this is a subject that concerns half the population around the world. However, the issue is particularly prevalent in India where only 42 percent of women have access to sanitary pads. What is being done to alleviate this common problem? Here are the top five facts about period poverty in India.

Top Five Facts About Period Poverty in India

  1. Increased risk of disease: In India, an estimated 70 percent of all reproductive diseases are caused by poor menstrual hygiene. Women often use dirty rags as a replacement for sanitary pads. Even rags that are cleaned can still develop bacteria if not dried properly. Furthermore, 63 million adolescent girls in India, do not have access to a toilet in their homes. Without a clean and private space to change menstrual products, girls are less likely to properly manage their own hygiene
  2. Cultural stereotypes have a huge impact: Menstruation in India is often seen as a shameful conversation. Studies estimate that 71 percent of girls have no knowledge about menstrual health until after their first period. Women are often described as “dirty” while menstruating and are commonly separated in the home when dining, praying or participating in other activities. Some studies suggest that this is due to gender norms that become more prevalent at puberty. In addition, there is no required curriculum surrounding menstrual health in school.
  3. The high cost of sanitation facilities: Third on the list for the top five facts about period poverty in India is the expense of menstrual products. Approximately 70.62 million people in India live in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 dollars per day. The average Indian woman needs 300 rupees ($4.20) per month for menstrual products. For low-income households, the cost of sanitary pads is often unattainable. Furthermore, Since most adolescents do not have access to toilets at home, girls are more likely to pay for restrooms in public, which is another unaffordable expense.
  4. Period poverty in India affects education: On average, girls miss six days of class each month due to shame surrounding their periods or a lack of sanitary products. This contributes to the number of girls in India who drop out of school each year, around 23 percent. Girls that leave school are stunted in their careers and are more likely to become child brides. India has the highest number of child brides in the world, with 15.5 million children being married by the age of 18.
  5. Removal of taxes: While some parts of period poverty seem daunting, other parts seem hopeful. In 2017, the Indian government labeled menstrual products as luxury goods. Quickly after the announcement of the new tax, the public gathered to campaign against it. In July of 2018, the government removed the tax, thus making sanitary products more accessible to low-income households.

Working to Improve Conditions

The good news doesn’t end with the removal of taxes. Many positive strides have been taken to address the issues of period poverty. Binti is one organization in India (as well as 11 other countries) aiming to minimize the issue. The nonprofit is fighting for menstrual equality through education, distribution of sanitary products and government advocacy. The World Bank and WASH partnered together to create Menstrual Hygiene Day to spread awareness about the importance of sanitary products for women and girls around the world.

Documentaries have also aided in global education surrounding period poverty. For example, “Period. End of Sentence.” partnered with Action India (a nonprofit aiming to create gender equality) to create a documentary about the situation. The Netflix original was successful in fundraising enough money to install a vending machine of menstrual products in Hapur, India. It was also awarded an Oscar for “best documentary short film, gaining public recognition for its efforts.

Ultimately, when looking at the top five facts about period poverty in India, one can see it is a very prevalent issue. Menstrual inequality is often caused by shame around the conversation as well as the high cost of feminine products. This creates challenges in education and an increased risk of disease. However, many positive strides are being made, and governments are starting to see that this is a cause worth advocating for.

Anna Melnik

Photo: Flickr

Women in Tajikistan
For a small country in Central Asia, Tajikistan makes U.S. news relatively frequently, often because the lives of women there differ from the U.S. norm. Those living in the area have suffered from political turmoil and poverty. While the news often focuses on the modern oppression of women, the mistreatment of women in Tajikistan stems from a larger injustice, centuries of poverty in the country that has affected women more than men.

Religious Oppression for Women in Tajikistan

Recently, the news has highlighted that Tajikistan’s Ministry of Culture published a “Book of Recommendations” for women’s attire. In the book, models display what the country deems appropriate attire for many occasions, setting standards for work and many social events.

What particularly incited opposition from many was the book’s overt advisement against Muslim and Islamic clothing, like the hijab, as well as Western clothing, which was deemed too scandalous. Furthermore, in 2017, the Tajikistan government instituted a policy of texting women reminders about wearing traditional clothing. This followed the government’s efforts in 2016 to close shops selling women’s religious clothing.

Additionally, the Tajikistan government created a law requiring traditional attire and culture at important events, such as weddings and funerals, officially banning “nontraditional dress and alien garments.” In August, the month it became law, 8,000 women wearing hijabs were stopped by government officials and told to remove their religious garments.

Maternal Mortality Rates for Women in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is one of the world’s poorest countries. Thirty-two percent of Tajiks live in poverty, but in rural areas, that number rises to 75 percent. Consequentially, women face staggering maternal mortality rates with 65 women out of every thousand dying from pregnancy or childbirth. In fact, mortality rates for both mother and infant are higher than any other country in Central Asia, a region already significantly behind Western standards.

This lag correlates with the upheaval faced by Tajiks since the responsibility for healthcare had changed hands so many times in the past. Tajikistan was part of the Soviet Union from 1929 to 1991. Then, shortly after gaining independence in 1991, Tajikistan suffered from a brutal civil war that not only claimed tens of thousands of Tajik lives but also crippled the healthcare system, contributing to such high maternal mortality rates.

Caring for the Home and Family

Political upheaval abruptly caused women to become household managers without any aid, leaving them to struggle with poverty. The civil war crippled industrial and agricultural production, the latter of which the country’s economy depended on almost entirely. Since then, nearly 1.5 million Tajik men have left the country to seek employment elsewhere, often leaving wives in charge of the home and children. But, unfortunately, households headed by women are significantly poorer than those headed by men.

Representation and Education for Women in Tajikistan

Female representation in government has remained below international standards because of the poverty caused by political upheaval. Only 12 of the 62 legislators in Tajikistan are women. Those who do make it into politics are often stuck in the lower ranks with little to no opportunity to rise to levels where they can create change.

Private Muslim schools educated the majority of the country’s population from early 1800 until the 1920s when The Soviet Union secularized education. However, with independence came a decreased government budget for education as the private funds disappeared. Moreover, women either have to marry young or are too busy working and, therefore, do not have an opportunity to receive an education.

Improvements Being Made For Women in Tajikistan

Due to The Soviet Union’s systemized education, literacy rates grew, and that shift in norms has continued to benefit men and women in Tajikistan. Additionally, in the two decades following independence, poverty rates have dropped, suggesting a growing stability. In fact, in 1999, 81 percent of the country lived in poverty, and in ten years that number has almost halved to 47 percent. Additionally, extreme poverty decreased from 73 percent in 1999 to 14 percent in 2013.

The U.N. has been working in Tajikistan to improve conditions for women since 1999 by empowering women and promoting gender equality. Furthermore, local and international stakeholders have been given a way to provide activities for women, such as the Rapid Emergency Assessment and Coordination Team (REACT), which helps train women to respond in disaster situations.

Hope for a Better Future

Therefore, beyond the uproar over women’s clothing being regulated by the government lies a deeper historical injustice due to poverty. Women have had little control over Tajikistan’s laws that have targeted them and a lack of access to education that prevents this fact from changing.

Despite concerning media coverage, possible improvements for the lives of women in Tajikistan exist. As stability grows, the potential exists to improve the budget for healthcare and education and, therefore, reduce poverty. Backed with proper healthcare and educational opportunities, women will have the ability to gain access and opportunities to dictate the laws of their country, such as those about their clothing, by becoming more active in the political sphere.

– Charlotte Preston
Photo: Flickr

 

female entrepreneursIn countries like the United States, female entrepreneurs account for 46.8 percent of the total businesses. The majority of these businesses are classified as small businesses, having fewer than 500 employees, but they generate almost $500 billion in payroll annually. This situation is worse in developing countries since women’s rights are not fully achieved and the opportunities for women to develop their own businesses are much more difficult to come by.

The reasons for Fewer Female Entrepreneurs

Why are there still fewer amounts of businesswomen than men not just in developing but in developed countries as well? Although developing countries may advocate more for women’s economic development, little is actually being done to provide more opportunities to change it. Since women’s failure rates are not that significantly different from those of men, researchers believe that gender bias is at fault and, thus, inhibiting the growth of women in the economy.

There is evidence that suggests that there are many reasons for the differences in the attitude about gender in business. One reason is that women and men often have different socioeconomic characteristics. If economists were to reform education, wealth, family and work status, those differences would disappear.

The Obstacles for Female Entrepreneurs

Africa remains one of the most successful leaders for efforts regarding female entrepreneurs. But, even the most successful countries still lack leadership, capital and professionalism, not to mention the inability to find affordable solutions in regard to childcare.

Countries like Japan have taken these shortcomings and transformed them into positive aspects of the economy. Womenomics is the idea that the advancement of women and economic development are necessarily linked. This philosophy is becoming widespread among developing nations. In Japan, these sorts of reformations can be credited to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Since taking office, Abe has generated a larger female labor force rate than that of the United States.

Some other countries have also made several reformations propelling womenomics. Jordan has increased women’s enrollment in schools by 37 percent. Turning these rates into economic success, however, still remains a challenge. Many studies suggest that economic growth for women needs to be viewed as desirable and attainable for the majority of society.

Female entrepreneurs also struggle with the duality of a society that places more value on a familial lifestyle. For example, a woman may own a business, but her time at work is often limited by her duties at home. Data in developing countries assert that many women leave the business lifestyle to return to familial duties.

A study regarding the results of holding executive positions for women in Norway revealed that the majority of people believe there should be established quotas to include women in management in companies. The results of the pole were 74 percent in favor of those quotas. Later studies showed that as women in the workplace reach a certain age, the stigma associated with their work duties do too.

Curbing the Stigma

Shifting the thought process among thousands of different demographic structures isn’t easy, but it is clear that the majority of the world needs higher female entrepreneurial participation rates. Reforming education, wealth, family and work status are not projects that take only months to complete, rather they need a comprehensive and flexible government that is willing to take on the challenge for years to come.

There are several ways to start thinking about reforming the factors for female entrepreneurs. Creating workshops to propel female economic empowerment is a start. The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) is doing just that. They are working to find projects for investment as well as provide training to work under the Women’s Economic Empowerment Index (WEEI).

By ending the stigma associated duties deemed appropriate for females, both developing and thriving countries can further increase the chances of positive economic outcomes. Education and awareness programs are important components to overcoming these gender-related stigmas.

Financial Inclusion

Governmental structure and large economic aid can advance female economic empowerment too. We’ve known for a long time that access to financial services can be a powerful driver to help people lift themselves out of poverty. With a concerted push from governments, the private sector, and multilateral institutions including the World Bank Group, we believe we can close this gap,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in a meeting attempting to accelerate the growth of women’s empowerment.

The World Bank also states that simple financial education can greatly increase the chances of creating female entrepreneurs. There are so many aspects that can improve. For example, according to the World Bank, fewer than 10 percent of women in developing countries own a bank account. Access to financial institutions is an essential part of a successful business, which is why the organization started the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative. This initiative will provide financing opportunities for women who own businesses in developing countries.

Donations from the World Bank Group, education and female empowerment workshops to end stigmas are some of the best ways in which the women can become involved and empowered in the workforce. It won’t happen quickly, but when it does, the economic benefits will surpass previous stigmas surrounding women in business.

– Logan Moore

Photo: Flickr

Female Entrepreneurs in Latin AmericaThe entrepreneurial spirit is catching in South America. According to the World Bank, 63 percent of Latin Americans believe they have what it takes to start a successful business. Meanwhile, local governments are offering support to local entrepreneurs. In Chile, the environment is so strong for startups that it has been dubbed “Chilecon Valley.”

Despite this, there is still widespread poverty in the region. An estimated 25 percent of the population lives below the poverty line of $4 a day. The situation is even worse for women, as only 53 percent participate in the labor force. Fortunately, three women are aiming to change that by helping their local communities and being role models for prospective female entrepreneurs in Latin America.

Leila Velez

Leila Velez is a Brazilian entrepreneur who is aiming to bring the efficiency of waste management in the fast food industry to beauty salons. She started her business, Beleza Natural, at 19 years old with the hope of bringing the accessibility of places like McDonald’s to the beauty industry. Now, her company has locations all over Brazil and employs 3,000 people, many of whom Velez says are single mothers in their early 20s.

While Velez may have modeled aspects of her salons after fast food, she did not want them to become another low paying job people take on temporarily. She wanted to provide career opportunities that give her employees sustainability in life. She says working at her salon is the first job of 90 percent of her employees and she wants her company to offer the opportunity to build a career rather than be a temporary stop.

Jimena Flórez

When Jimena Flórez began her initiative to educate rural farmers about sustainability, she had no idea it would lead to an international snack food company. Chaak Healthy Snacks, originally called Crispy Fruits, works closely with local Colombian farmers to provide healthy snack foods like low sugar brownies to 90,000 kids per month.

Flórez’s company started out trying to help out local Colombian farmers by helping them use organic techniques she learned from relatives in Germany. When she visited her family’s German brewery after college, she knew she could bring the information back to help Columbians. This led to a dry fruit company that later rebranded to healthy snack foods to appeal to an international audience.

In 2015, former President Barack Obama invited Florez to attend a Global Entrepreneurship Event where he thanked her for “helping to lift up his community.” As one of six young entrepreneurs invited, Florez is primed to expand and continue to provide healthy snacks all over the world as one of the many rising female entrepreneurs in Latin America.

Marian Villa Roldán

Being a female entrepreneur is difficult anywhere, but in Latin America, where a certain level of masculinity called “machismo” is integral to the culture, it is more difficult. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean found that 40 percent of Latin American women have been on the receiving end of violence in their lives. This negative attitude toward femininity goes all the way to the top, where only 17 percent of executive positions are held by women.

Marian Villa Roldan and her company Eversocial are out to change that. Eversocial, an online marketing and design company, has supported numerous initiatives that empower Latin American women, including PionerasDev, which helps teach young women how to code. Eversocial has also supported Geek Girls LatAm, a similar organization that helps Latin American women get into STEM fields.

Success for Female Entrepreneurs in Latin America

Latin American women pursuing careers in entrepreneurship are succeeding in a tough environment, but they do not let that stop them from giving back to their communities. Whether it be through providing employment, offering a helpful product, or supporting noble causes, these women fight poverty and serve as role models for the next generation of female entrepreneurs in Latin America.

– Jonathon Ayers
Photo: Flickr

Examples of Gender Inequality

The fight for gender equality is an ongoing struggle for men and women throughout the world. Many aspects of gender inequality are events that men will never face, but that constantly shape women’s mental health and opportunities. Listed here are the top 10 examples of gender inequality found in the daily lives of women across the globe.

10 Examples of Gender Inequality

  1. Infant Life Expectancy: In India and China, the two most populous nations in the world, there is significant data that shows a survival disadvantage for girls under five years of age. In China, girls have a seven percent higher infant mortality rate than boys, and in India, a study conducted in the first decade of the 2000s found that the risk of death between the ages of one and five was 75 percent higher for girls than for boys.
  2. Access to Prenatal Care and Maternal Mortality: As of 2017, there are 1.6 billion women of reproductive age in the developing world. Of the 127 million women who gave birth in 2017, just 63 percent received a minimum of four antenatal care visits and only 72 percent gave birth in a health facility. Among women who experienced medical complications during pregnancy or delivery, only one in three received the care they or their newborns needed.

    In 2017, an estimated 308,000 women in developing nations died from pregnancy-related causes and 2.7 million babies died in their first month of life. Many of these deaths could have been prevented with full access to healthcare.
  3. Education: Less than 40 percent of countries offer girls and boys equal access to education and only 39 percent of countries have equal proportions of the sexes enrolled in secondary education. By achieving universal primary and secondary education attainability in the adult population, it could be possible to lift more than 420 million people out of poverty. This would have its greatest effect on women and girls who are the most likely to never have stepped foot inside a school.

    Even once girls are attending school, discrimination follows. One in four girls states that they never feel comfortable using school latrines. Girls are at greater risk of sexual violence, harassment and exploitation in school. School-related gender-based violence is another major obstacle to universal schooling and the right to education for girls.
  4. Illiteracy: There are approximately 774 million illiterate adults in the world and two-thirds of them are women. There are approximately 123 million illiterate youths and 61 percent of them are girls. Women’s share in the illiterate population has not budged in 20 years. These facts not only affect women but their children as well. A child born to a mother with the ability to read is 50 percent more likely to survive past age five.
  5. Economic Independence: Increases in female labor force participation result in faster economic growth, but women continue to participate in labor markets on an unequal basis with men. In 2013, the male employment-to-population ratio was 72.2 percent compared to 47.1 percent for women, and women continue to earn only 60-75 percent of men’s wages globally. It is estimated that women’s income could increase globally up to 76 percent if the employment participation gap between men and women was closed, which could have a global value of $17 trillion.

    Women also carry a disproportionate amount of responsibility for unpaid care work. Women devote one to three hours more a day to housework than men, two to 10 times the amount of time a day to care (for children, elderly and the sick) and one to four hours less a day to income-based activities. The time given to these unpaid tasks directly and negatively impacts women’s participation in the workforce and their ability to foster economic independence.
  6. Violence Against Women, Sexual Assault and Rape: The mental health effects of sexual assault and rape can have jarring results on women’s stability and livelihoods. Women who have experienced sexual or physical abuse at the hands of their partners are twice as likely to have an abortion, almost twice as likely to have depression and, in some regions, 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV compared with women who have not experienced partner violence.

    The prevalence of sexual assault and violence against women is deep and systemic, making it one of the most important examples of gender inequality. Worldwide, around 120 million girls, a number which represents slightly more than one in 10, have experienced forced intercourse or another forced sexual act in their lifetime.
  7. Female Genital Mutilation: At least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation. In most of these cases, the majority of girls were cut before age five. In these instances, proper anesthesia is rarely used or is ineffective, causing severe pain. Excessive bleeding is also possible, resulting from the accidental cutting of the clitoral artery or other blood vessels during the procedure. Chronic genital infections, reproductive tract infections and urinary tract infections are common.Female genital mutilation is also associated with an increased risk of Caesarean section, postpartum hemorrhage and extended maternal hospital stay. All of these subsequent complications along with the shock and use of physical force during the procedure are some of the many reasons why survivors describe the experience as an extremely traumatic event.
  8. Child Marriage: Globally, almost 750 million women and girls alive today married before their eighteenth birthday. Those who suffer from child marriage often experience early pregnancy which is a key factor in the premature end of education. As mothers and wives, girls become socially isolated and are at an increased risk for domestic violence. Child marriage is one the most devastating examples of gender inequality, as it limits women’s opportunities and their ability to reach their full individual potential.
  9. Human Trafficking: Adult women and girls account for 71 percent of all human trafficking victims detected globally. Girls alone represent nearly three out of every four children trafficked. Women and girls are clearly the disproportionate victims of human trafficking with 75 percent trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
  10. Representation in Government: As of June 2016, only 22.8 percent of all national parliamentarians were women. There is growing evidence that women in positions of leadership and political decision-making improve the systems in which they work.

These are 10 of the countless ways in which women are oppressed, abused and neglected. These top ten examples of gender inequality cannot begin to do justice to the discrimination and obstacles that women around the world face each day. Women’s rights are human rights and affect every person in every community.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow

Photo: Flickr

Mother of Orphans
Some life stories have the strength to change our outlook towards the world. They reveal the power of empathetic gestures and prove that even one person can bring about a huge transformation in the society irrespective of their position in life.

While we often hear about the works done by the government, world organizations and celebrities towards uplifting the poor, we rarely hear about the lesser-known superheroes who lack a paparazzi trail. One such human being is Sindhutai Sapkal, who devoted her entire life towards the welfare of the poor orphans in India.

Sindhutai Sapkal

Affectionately known as mai which means ‘mother’ in Marathi, Sapkal is a born fighter with strong levels of determination and willpower. She did not attend school and does not know much about feminism or politics, but her thinking and understanding of social issues has always been well beyond the realms of any modern educated person’s understanding. She personifies what “selfless love” stands for and has come to be known as the ‘Mother of Orphans.’

Early Life

Sapkal’s story might be unbelievable to many. She was born on November 14, 1948 in Pimpri Meghe village in the Wardha district of Maharashtra, India. She wanted to pursue an education and although her father was very supportive of it, the village tradition and patriarchy shattered her dreams. She was married off at the age of 12 to a 30-year-old man with whom she had an abusive relationship; by the time she was 20, she was already a mother to three children.

Over the years, she struggled to battle the abject poverty in her life. She was fearless and voiced her opinions against the corrupt practices of a local strongman who sold dried cow dungs, which are used as fuel in India, without providing profit to the villagers. This action created a huge uproar in the village and the district collector had to intervene and put an end to the illegal practice.

Out of strong contempt for the woman, the strongman urged her husband to leave her. Since patriarchy is deep-rooted in the society, Sapkal’s husband did exactly that. Little did she know then that this ending was actually the beginning of her calling to become the ‘Mother of Orphans.’

Journey towards becoming the Mother of Orphans

Sapkal started her journey as a social activist in her early twenties when she was abandoned by her husband and thrown out into the streets. She was nine months pregnant when the world rejected her and left her to die. But, without the help of a single person, this indomitable woman survived despite all odds and gave birth to a baby girl in a cow shelter and cut the umbilical cord using a sharp stone.

She then walked several kilometres to her mother’s house but was unwelcomed there. Setting aside the thoughts of suicide, this woman started begging on the streets of Maharashtra to feed herself and her newly born child.

While struggling to survive on the streets, Sapkal was pained to see the plight of poor orphan children who lived their life begging sans any touch of care or warmth. Having lost her own childhood to patriarchy, this young mother took it upon herself to embrace these young people and provide them with whatever little she could.

Sapkal then started begging in earnest for these kids by singing in the local trains of Mumbai as she was determined to bring about a change in their lives. She slowly realized that taking care of them gave her a purpose and satisfaction in life, and thus decided to become the ‘Mother of Orphans’ by being a mother to every child in need of love and care.

Recognition

After years of effort and struggle, Sapkal’s work slowly caught public attention and people started recognizing her efforts. In the year 2016, the D.Y. Patil College of Technology and Research, Mumbai conferred upon her the degree of Doctorate in Literature. So far, she has been honoured with more than 750 awards for her relentless and selfless social work. On March 8, 2018, International Women’s Day, she was awarded the Nari Shakti Award 2017 by the President of India.

Sapkal spends all the money from the awards towards uplifting those in need. She not only helps poverty-stricken children, but also offers her care to abandoned women. She now has a huge family of 36 daughter-in-laws, 207 son-in-laws and over 1000 grand kids. Many of her children went on to become lawyers and doctors and others run their own orphanages to help the poor and assist her in her noble goals.

Impact Through Film: Mee Sindhutai Sapkal

Sapkal’s life became an inspiration to many, and to celebrate this ‘Mother of Orphans,’ a Marathi filmmaker decided to make a film on her life. The film, Mee Sindhutai Sapkal, was released in the year 2010, won several national awards and was selected for world premiere at the 54th London Film Festival.

This warrior woman who started her life’s journey with nothing at all has proved that one does not have to be rich or in a higher political position to bring about a change in society. She has made possible the impossible, created history and won her personal battle against poverty. Sapkal’s actions made her a hero in regard to her own life, and also for the thousands of lives she changed with pure love and affection.

– Shruthi Nair
Photo: Flickr

women in poverty
Economic inequality is an issue that has existed for years around the world, especially in developing countries. Sometimes dubbed “global capitalism,” this inequality can be argued to have, in turn, created social classes that have ultimately influenced women in poverty around the world.

Such women often find themselves in situations of informalization, flexibilization and feminization as capitalism causes a high discrepancy between earning wages and living affordability in certain countries. Developed countries could arguably do more to help those in developing countries so that women in poverty do not find themselves relying on the informal sphere to survive and make a living.

What is Informalization?

Any economic activity that isn’t regulated, legal or outside of the formal sphere is considered work in the informal economy. This work usually isn’t ideal as it is not monitored, regulated or taxed by the government; it is considered a labor activity lacking authority where cash is barely exchanged. This work ranges from household child- and elder-care, to domestic labor and community projects, which are often seen as examples of “invisible” informal work.

Interestingly, it can be irregular activities where payment is expected that legal regulation is difficult to enforce. These activities can range from street vending, petty trade, home-based industries, sex work, drug dealing and arms trade — most of which are seen as illegal informal work. Since it’s usually dangerous or precarious work, these scenarios lack major benefits to the employee other than an income. Women working in this sphere lack protection, labor laws or even social benefits. In fact, they often work in unsafe working conditions with risk of sexual harassment.

This type of work environment also has long-term effects on women — if workers don’t have pensions globally, many find themselves in situations of poverty in their old-age as well; in other words, this system creates a never-ending cycle for women in poverty. In fact, “today researchers estimate that informal activities constitute more than one-half of all economic outputs, and equal 75 percent of the GDP of some countries.” According to U.N. Women, 95 percent of women in South Asia, 89 percent of Sub Saharan Africa and 59 percent of women in Latin America and the Caribbean work in the informal sphere.

How Does Informalization Lead to Flexibilization and Feminization?

Flexibilization and feminization are sources of inequality that derive from informalization. Flexibilization is usually non-permanent or part-time work that ends up feminizing the workforce. People in these situations tend to be women, which is where feminization comes into play.

These minimum wage jobs require docile but reliable workers who are available for part-time/temporary work and willing to labor for low wages. Although women generally aren’t most of these qualifications, gender stereotypes depict women as perfect candidates for these informal jobs, especially in developing countries.

How Can the Women in Poverty be Alleviated From These Situations?

When women in poverty aren’t getting paid enough for their labor, they aren’t able to support themselves and their families. Consequently, these women then need to get second jobs or find themselves in situations of informalization, flexibilization and feminization. Thankfully, many are finding ways to help women out of these jobs through news outlets, organizations or simply word of mouth.

Often, developed countries are viewed as not doing enough to help developing countries. Increases in the wealth gap lead to an increase of women in these precarious jobs. Therefore, organizations like the U.N. Women, Me to We, The Borgen Project and numerous others try to address this inequality and help women around the world.

U.N. Women started a project towards this goal that trains women and families to become entrepreneurs by creating their own businesses. This is an example of just one organization and project working towards improving the lives of women in poverty working in the informal sphere.

– Negin Nia
Photo: Flickr

MexicoAs Mexico’s poverty rate has remained over 40 percent since 2008, the number of single mothers and female-headed households in Mexico has increased. According to the National Institute of Statistics, Geography, and Informatics (INEGI), from 1970 to 2005, the percentage of female-headed households increased from 13.7 percent to 23.1 percent.

This raises major social concerns as studies show that female-headed households are more likely to be in poverty. This substantial increase also contributes to the “feminization of poverty.” The “feminization of poverty” is the phenomenon in which the rate of women in poverty is significantly higher when compared to men. Female heads of households encounter various challenges with income level, choices of employment, domestic responsibilities and labor discrimination, especially among women with a lack of education. Such disadvantages have made poverty within female-headed households a major policy issue.

Gender Pay Gap in Mexico

Women in the workforce often earn fewer wages than men due to an inequality of employment opportunities within the labor market. Mexico currently has a gender pay gap score of 3.55 out of seven. Hilda Gudino, 64, was a single mother in Jalisco, Mexico when she was earning 10 pesos (50 cents) a day working at a clothing store. Gudino told The Borgen Project, “In small towns, there is not much work and most jobs don’t pay very much.”

In Mexico, government assistance is not much of an option since welfare provisions are underdeveloped.
Previously known as PROGRESSA, Oportunidades is a conditional cash transfer program formed by the Mexican government to help alleviate poverty. But because of the program’s scarce resources, Mexico’s poor hardly receive the minimum protection. Though Oportunidades is not aimed towards single mothers, they still comprise a great number of its recipients.

Female-Headed Households

Female-headed households in Mexico are typically a result of male migration to the United States or other urban areas for work. However, these women differ from single mothers because they are not divorced, separated or never married. Wives of migrants are also likely receiving international money transfers from their husbands.

Female heads of household that find employment often work informal, part-time jobs at clothing stores, grocery stores or as housekeepers. Gudino said she knows a woman who goes to people’s houses to do pedicures for a living. The woman always takes her daughter to work with her because she cannot afford childcare. Gudino said that some women will create their own jobs by selling fresh juice or food on the streets. She said: “Some will go door to door selling strawberries and orange juice. Some create their own small business or sell on the streets. Some also help clean houses and work there every day in the morning. I started my own beauty salon and was the only one who did nails.”

According to an ethnographic study in Guadalajara, female-headed households in Mexico have at least one additional family member living in the home. These family members will help with housework, also allowing single mothers to work.

Single Mothers

Single teenage mothers are less likely to finish school, causing more disadvantages in the labor market, poverty, and limited resources. Additionally, for some women, a lack of education comes as a result of sociocultural norms. Gudino said: “The girls did not have to go to school because they were going to get married and husbands do not let them work. Parents told their daughters that they had to stay with the children. But more women are working now than they did back then.” Discrimination in the labor force along with having little to no education make it difficult for women to find work. In 2013, 26 percent of women reported labor discrimination in Mexico.

Single mothers are also under pressure to balance both domestic responsibilities and wage work. This can typically affect the types of jobs a mother is able to apply for. In Mexico, it is very common for single mothers to rely on family or kinship networks as a safety net. These networks will share chores and provide childcare so mothers are able to work.

Programs for Change

Oxfam Mexico has created programs to educate women and provide them with employment strategies. Oxfam Mexico works to improve living conditions for the impoverished, enhances local organizations and ensures citizens’ rights are being met. Some of these programs are:

  • Women as Agents of Change: Focuses on local development, employment and income generating strategies. This program aims to give women social and economic power while helping them acquire leadership and entrepreneurial skills.
  • Indigenous peoples fighting discrimination: The building of local organizations to protect their territories while advocating the important role that females play in these communities.

In recent years, many legislative improvements have been made in Mexico to promote gender equality, including efforts made by Mexico’s Supreme Court.

Although poverty remains as the overarching issue, measures are being taken to provide women in Mexico with the necessary skills and resources to improve their financial situations. Such programs by Oxfam Mexico and the promotion of gender equality are a step in the right direction and give hope for an equal labor market and pay wage.

– Diane Adame
Photo: Flickr