Information and news about woman issues

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

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

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

 

Poverty and PTSDCommonly associated with combat veterans, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) impacts more of the global population than maybe expected. Recent studies have found a link between poverty and PTSD that reveals that socioeconomic status contributes to the majority of anxiety disorders.

How Poverty Contributes to PTSD

Mental disorders manifest in distinct ways for many people. However, the common underlying origin of Post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) remains a terrifying or traumatic life event. Living in poverty often means surviving daily in vulnerable conditions, and with financial instability that limits access to necessities such as food, shelter and water. The inability to pay for expenses starts to become emotionally and mentally taxing. Poverty acts as a traumatic experience in many people’s lives and even after graduating in class status, difficulty persists to enjoy day to day life.

Symptoms of PTSD can appear within months of the traumatic event and include:

  • Avoiding: Detaching from the traumatic event by avoiding triggers such as places, situations or people.
  • Reliving: Flashbacks and nightmares due to memories that force reliving the traumatic experience.
  • Increased Arousal: An increased blood pressure or heart rate accompanied by outbursts of anger and difficulties sleeping

Some people with PTSD may exhibit all these symptoms, while others exhibit just a few. The severity of PTSD also varies from person to person. PTSD can be broken down into subtypes such as:

  • Delayed on-set PTSD: This variation refers to when symptoms of the disorder develop many years after the traumatic event.
  • Complex PTSD: This type of PTSD usually surfaces after ongoing childhood physical or sexual abuse.
  • Birth Trauma: This type occurs after traumatic childbirth.

Women with PTSD

Research estimates that 284 million people globally suffer from anxiety disorders such as PTSD. About 63 percent of people that suffer from anxiety disorders are women. In addition, women living in poverty tend to face PTSD at higher levels than any other group within the general population. The relationship between poverty and PTSD embodies that of the domino effect. Poor women’s PTSD symptoms often worsen due to the fact that living in impoverished neighborhoods risk ongoing exposure to triggers of the traumatic incident. A study undertaken by the Social Cognitive Theory also reveals that most of the women living in poverty with PTSD share a history of domestic violence and lack social support.

Treatments

It can feel nearly impossible to live a normal life with PTSD. Luckily, effective treatments exist that minimize the symptoms of the disorder. One of the best treatments for PTSD is Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy allows PTSD victims to talk about their cognitive behavioral process to a mental health professional to reduce and change reactions to triggers. Another important tool for managing PTSD is having a strong support system. The help of friends and family means everything during a mental health crisis. A support system of others that have suffered from PTSD also helps signify that a person is not alone in the experiences of the mental disorder. There are also organizations such as the PTSD Alliance, who work to educate and empower people with PTSD psychologically, economically and emotionally to thrive beyond environmental barriers. The organization currently has five international partners that provide programs to help improve the lives of those living in poverty with PTSD.

Overall, poverty and PTSD remain two prominent issues impacting people on a global scale. The connection between poverty and PTSD only further emphasizes that the more work that is done to reduce global poverty also diminishes the mental health crisis.

Nia Coleman
Photo: Wikimedia

Hiring Refugee Women Can Boost Global GDP
Women and girls make up about half of the refugee population worldwide, but less than half have a paid job. In some countries, such as Germany and Lebanon, females make up just 6 percent of the working world compared to the United States’ 40 percent. Even in the United States, the number is low. Many refugee women do not have paid work because they face violence and discrimination in workplaces, including sexual assault and exclusion. However, if accepted into the working world, hiring refugee women could boost the global GDP by $1.4 trillion.

How Hiring Refugee Women Could Boost the Global GDP

More workers mean more hands to create products. Companies can sell more if they produce more. The global GDP is an annual measurement of all the final goods sold worldwide. Statistically, only four out of 10 migrant women are getting paid to work compared to seven out of 10 men. As mentioned earlier, the gap in women workers is partly due to workplace discrimination and partly to pay gap. In places such as Turkey,  where the pay gap between women and men is highest, the difference in salaries is about 94 cents per dollar. In the United States, where the gap is lower, the difference is 29 cents per dollar. By increasing women’s pay and making workplaces more accessible, women could not only become more motivated to enter the field, but the hiring of refugee women could also boost the global GDP to a total of $2.5 trillion.

Effect of Businesses Hiring Refugee Women

The hiring of refugee women could have a positive impact on the economy and local businesses as well. In 2017, Starbucks Coffee pledged to hire around 10,000 refugees by 2022, which will help give more opportunities for refugee women to go out and seek work. With hiring refugee women, Starbucks hopes to help “a population who seeks a chance to rebuild their lives and have a fresh start.” By giving refugee women a paid job, they are able to start over and put the money towards their families. 

The Pay Gap Status

The way to help employ more refugee women would be to close the pay gap between men and women. Worldwide, only 63 percent of the wage gap has closed, meaning men are making more than women in over half of the world. This rate is highest in countries such as Germany, Lebanon and Jordan. By closing the pay gap, refugee women in these countries will have a steady income to support their families, and make them less dependent on aid from their governments.

Besides economic growth, refugee women can make improvements in society, as well as make personal improvements. In Baalbeck, Lebanon, a Syrian woman refugee named Bushra makes her living by fixing electronic devices. Not only does it bring in a source of income, but it is also making an impact on the world around her, “The role of an electrician is mostly for men,” Bushra says. “But it shouldn’t be exclusively for men. We can work even better than them.” Bushra is one of the few women in the village that has a paid job. She is using her skills to help improve the society around her, while still providing for her family.

Over half of the world’s refugee women do not hold a paying job. If brought into the working world, hiring refugee women can boost global GDP by $1.4 trillion, bringing the total to $2.5 trillion. There will not only be an economic increase but an increase in societal empowerment as well. By encouraging women to use the skills that they have, they will not only improve the production of goods but can use their skills to help others.

– Destinee Smethers
Photo: Flickr

Female Entrepreneurship in Mexico
According to a 2016/2017 study by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Mexico is one of the five countries in the world where the number of women starting their own businesses is equal to or greater than men. This is fantastic news because if men and women participate equally in the economy, Mexico’s GDP could increase by 43 percent or $810 billion. From 2000 to 2010 alone, women’s participation in the workforce decreased extreme poverty by 30 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. With that increase in female entrepreneurship in Mexico, women are able to become more independent, but many women still face powerful barriers in starting their own business.

Many women, especially in subsistence settings, lack access to training, financing and markets, and face physical, sexual and economic violence. The average female-headed household earns $507 a month in urban areas and $273 a month in rural areas while male-led households earn $780 a month in urban areas and $351 a month in rural areas. The burden of domestic tasks also falls mostly on women. A 2009 survey found that men spend an average of 53 hours a week on economic activities and 12 hours on domestic tasks while women spend an average of 40 to 45 hours a week earning money and 20 hours maintaining the family and household.

The Marketplace Literacy Project

Elena Olascoaga, a gender and development consultant and former project manager for the Marketplace Literacy Project in Mexico, is very familiar with the challenge successful female entrepreneurship in Mexico faces. Olascoaga describes the Marketplace Literacy Project as an initiative to help people in subsistence settings become entrepreneurs by acknowledging the skills they already have in the marketplace and giving them the tools to build on and market pre-existing skills.

According to Olascoaga, the founder of this methodology and workshop program, Professor Madhu Viswanathan, tried to bring this program to Mexico for a long time before finding a U.S. State Department grant intended for breaking cycles of violence against women due to economic dependency. He initially designed the program to be gender-neutral so Olascoaga came in because her background in gender consultancy allowed her to effectively factor the unique challenges female entrepreneurship in Mexico faces to the workshops. She added a new program to the methodology that she called autonomy literacy, because, although the program teaches participants to create their own income, it is often difficult for people in abusive situations to start a business, even if they have the know-how.

The Need for Female Entrepreneurship in Mexico

While Mexico has made great strides to improve gender equality, there is often still a cultural emphasis for women to become mothers and housewives, to a point where Olascoaga describes economic dependence as romanticized. Many consider women lucky if they do not have to work because their husband provides food and shelter. However, this kind of love can be a trap. If the husband is the only provider, then the wife is not building her own savings or gaining experience in the workforce. “If something goes wrong in the relationship, then they have nowhere else to go,” she said.

In an interview by Forbes Magazine, hotel owner Gina Lozada said that “…Most parents don’t educate their girls to succeed in business. On the contrary, it is normal that women are raised to believe that their goal should be to marry and take care of the family.” Often, because female entrepreneurship in Mexico does not receive emphasis, women feel that they do not have many options and lack the confidence to start their own company.

Olascoaga observes that, because women in subsistence settings feel that they cannot strike out of their own, they often stay with their abuser. “A common phrase is no se hacer nada which is I don’t know how to do anything,” she says. Autonomy training, when combined with marketplace literacy training, teaches women that they do know how to do something. For example, they might be good cooks or skilled embroiderers. The methodology of the Marketplace Literacy Project is to build on preexisting knowledge and teach women to recognize their skills and to think strategically about their resources.

Autonomy Literacy

“We want women to be aware that they can create their income,” said Olascoaga. In the workshops, the Marketplace Literacy Project works with women in two age groups, women older than 18 and girls 14 to 18 years old. In her experience, almost all the women older than 18 had been in violent relationships where they stayed with their aggressors because they did not have economic independence. Some among the younger group were already mothers and in violent relationships where they had the potential to work and build skills, but their partners would not let them.

As the younger group went through the program, though, many of them began to realize that their mothers, aunts and other relatives were living in similar situations. One struggle that she noted when working with women is that they will not recognize that they are living in an abusive situation, especially to a group of strangers, so they instead speak in hypotheticals. The participants may know someone in this situation, and if they did, they would express how they could help.

The Marketplace Literacy Project, though, has helped give more than 4,500 women tools for economic independence since its start in 2016. Olascoaga said that those who participate have two major takeaways. The first is that autonomy becomes a very important concept and the second is that they do not need money to start a business. Olascoaga was happy to report that women will often come up to her and say that, after the workshop, they started businesses by selling cookies or embroidering. “It might seem small to us,” Olascoaga said, “but for them, it’s a really big deal.”

With female entrepreneurship in Mexico on the rise, more and more women are not only finding empowerment in their lives but changing the world around them by challenging a culture that often devalues their work.

Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr

 

Women in Peace and Security

In mid-June, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing to discuss the importance of women in peace and security, a follow-up to the Women, Peace, and Security Act (WPS) passed in 2017. This particular hearing responds to the recently published White House Strategy that sets various objectives and goals to diversify the roles women play in the peace process and increase women’s leadership by providing them with the resources, skills, and support needed to secure successful peace agreements.

The members of the committee, as well as the testimonies, emphasized the opportunity to put these plans into immediate action in Afghanistan. The U.S. has committed to peace negotiations with the Taliban but each agreement has failed due to miscommunication, stalemates, or other political reasons. Palwasha Kakar, Senior Program Officer for the U.S. Institute of Peace, stated that including Afghan women in peace and security negotiations is essential to the success and sustainability of peace and recovery in Afghanistan.

Women in Afghanistan

The Taliban government of Afghanistan held power from 1996 to 2001, during which Afghan women were stripped of natural rights–they were prevented from obtaining an education and job, showing skin in public and leaving the house without a male chaperone. Rape and violence against women were widespread until U.S. military action overthrew the regime. A driving factor of U.S. intervention 18 years ago was to protect Afghan women from threats and actions against their human rights. Despite the tremendous gains women have achieved in political, economic and social life since 2001, women still struggle to have a seat at the peace talk table.

However, Afghan women have found ways to participate at a local level. Women have brokered local deals by negotiating directly with Taliban leaders; for example, Afghan women’s communication with the wives of the Taliban helped facilitate the release of hostages several times. Second, Afghan women use their access to information to act as informants for the U.S. and its partners. Third, Afghan women mobilize the public by increasing public awareness and support for the peace process. Fourth, Afghan women have mobilized support across various ethnic lines to push for a unified commitment to equal rights for all Afghan citizens.

Impact of Women on the Peace Process

On a local level, Afghan women in peace and security positions have made significant achievements for Afghanistan and its cities. However, on a global level, women were only included in two out of 23 rounds of negotiations with the Taliban between 2005 and 2014. Yet research shows that women are a necessary asset at the negotiation table. When women are involved in peace agreements, they are 64 percent less likely to fail and 35 percent more likely to last more than 15 years. In her testimonial, Jamille Bigio argues that women in peace and security negotiations are more likely to deescalate tensions and stabilize their communities. Therefore, closing the gender gap will improve a country’s conditions.

Four Focus Areas Outlined in the WPS Strategy

The outcome of this hearing suggests that women’s participation in Afghanistan is essential to create a stable and sustainable agreement. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans to simultaneously use and revise the following four goals from the WPS Strategy to encourage multi-agency resources and support for women’s participation in Afghanistan peace talks.

  1.  “Seek and support the preparation and meaningful participation of women around the world in decision-making processes related to conflict and crises.”
  2. Three activities to support this goal includes: Incentivizing women to participate in security-sector programs that train foreign nationals in male-dominated courses, integrating local women’s interests into conflict prevention and resolution, and leading by example by increasing American women participation and making local women partners.
  3. “Promote the protection of women and girls’ human rights; access to humanitarian assistance; and safety from violence, abuse, and exploitation around the world.”
  4. Women are often the targets of violence, and therefore experience unique consequences of conflict. To increase the role of women in peace and security, the U.S. must identify and eliminate obstacles that generate sex-based discrimination and gender-based violence and include medical care and psycho-social support for women as part of humanitarian aid.
  5. “Adjust U.S. international programs to improve outcomes in equality for, and the empowerment of, women.”
  6. Train U.S. diplomats, military and development personnel on the needs and perspectives of women to increase their ability to prevent and mediate violence and support the involvement of women in peace and security negotiations.
  7. “Encourage partner governments to adopt policies, plans, and capacity to improve the meaningful participation of women in processes connected to peace and security and decision-making institutions.”

Women peacekeepers receive more trust from their communities and therefore have more power to increase participation among other women. Further, research shows that women are more likely to address social issues during negotiations, which helps communities recover. Women’s participation increases the likelihood of reaching a sustainable agreement.

Women are essential for achieving peace and security in Afghanistan, and vice versa. The U.S. is more likely to bring peace to a hostile environment with women’s participation. As Sen. Tim Kaine said at the hearing, “We [U.S] have incredible power to give people hope and inspiration, and I hope we will continue to do it. And I think there’s a lot of women in the world who really have grown to count on us during the years, and I hope we don’t let them down.”

– Haley Myers
Photo: Flickr

Building Schools Using Recycled Plastics
Education in Cote d’Ivoire continues to be a major challenge in the country which has had a literacy rate of 53.02 percent among 15 to 24-year-olds as of 2014. In fact, more than 2 million children are out of school due to a lack of infrastructure. Classrooms are often full beyond capacity with more than 100 students. Fortunately, West Africa is building schools using recycled plastics as a ground-breaking initiative to change the status quo.

The Fighting Women

Abidjan, a city in Cote d’Ivoire, produces about 288 tons of plastic waste every day. The country recycles only 5 percent of the waste, and when it is, it is usually women that do so informally. These women recover the waste and use it to make money.

A women’s group called The Fighting Women makes a living from collecting plastic and selling it for recycling. However, The Fighting Women is now a part of a project that will not only clean up the environment but will also help improve education. The Fighting Women is an organization of 200 women that collect plastic. A woman named Mariam Coulibaly runs the organization and she has been collecting trash for 20 years. Coulibaly’s organizational skills are what made the project possible. The plastic that these women collect go into bricks in order to build schools.

Conceptos Plasticos

UNICEF in Cote d’Ivoire has partnered with Conceptos Plasticos, a for-profit plastic recycling Colombian company that will turn plastic to bricks and build schools for children. This project will help reduce the issue of overcrowded classrooms and give children the opportunity to attend school.

In 2018, the first African recycled plastic classroom emerged in Gonzagueville. It only took five days to build this classroom as opposed to the nine months it would take to build traditional classrooms. In addition, within the first year, two small farming villages, Sakassou and Divo, constructed nine demonstration classrooms. These new classrooms included bricks that are cheaper and lighter than traditional ones, and also last longer.

Before the new plastic classrooms, children would go to school in traditional mud-brick and wood buildings. The mud-brick would erode from the sun and rain, and require repairs constantly. However, the newly built plastic classrooms are way better and longer-lasting. The classrooms are fire retardant and stay cool in warm weather. In addition, the classrooms are waterproof, have excellent insulation and can fight off the heavy wind. UNICEF and Conceptos Plasticos are planning to build 500 classrooms for more than 25,000 children with the most urgent need in the next two years.

Further Success of the Project

On July 29, 2019, a plastic converting factory opened in Cote d’Ivoire, which is also the first of its kind. This factory produces easy to assemble, durable and low-cost bricks others can use to build classrooms. The factory will solve a lot of major education challenges that children in West Africa face. According to UNICEF, kindergarteners from poor areas will be able to join classrooms with less than 100 students for the first time. Once the factory is fully functioning, it will recycle 9,600 tons of plastic waste a year and provide a source of income for women that collect trash. Moreover, there are plans to expand this project to other countries where there is a high percentage of children that are out of school.

Now, children are able to sit comfortably in classes that were once too overcrowded. This project of building schools using recycled plastics has not only constructed classrooms, but it has also reduced plastic waste in the environment. Although there is still a large number of children out of schools, this innovative project to help build schools in West Africa has been tremendously successful and has impacted the lives of many women and children.

Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Patriarchy
While poverty and patriarchy may seem like separate issues, the two connect deeply. As long as poverty exists, women’s rights and livelihoods will suffer. Likewise, women’s oppression leads to their inability to contribute to the economy and prevents a family’s escape from cycles of poverty. Here are some examples from around the world of poverty and patriarchy reinforcing each other, and some ways humanitarian aid can improve these situations.

Microcredit in Bangladesh Has Left Millions of Women At High Risk For Domestic Violence

From the 1980s to the mid-2000s, people thought that micro-loans would be the future of international development. In Bangladesh, most of these loans went to women on the belief that women could handle money more responsibly than their male counterparts. They received a small amount of money to invest in materials to start a business and earn an independent livelihood in order to bring their families financial stability. Unfortunately, when these women were unsuccessful at lifting their families out of poverty and their families plunged into greater debt as a result of the loans, they often suffered spousal abuse. For other women, as soon as they received the money, the men and their families took it and used it, leaving them to pay off the loans by themselves. As a whole, micro-credit has not had the intended impact on the people of Bangladesh that the international community once hoped for, and rates of violence against women have climbed, increasing the correlation between poverty and patriarchy

Solution: Investing in women’s education will provide them with the knowledge they need to become financially independent and ensure greater legal protection for victims of domestic violence could greatly combat this issue.

Poverty As a Weapon Against Women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Sixty-one percent of women living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo live in poverty, compared to only fifty-one percent of men. This is because people have systematically excluded women from peace-building efforts in the country. Because there are no women’s voices at the decision-making table, countries set policies that prioritize men, often at women’s expense. Disturbingly, women’s rights activists in the country are often a target for violence. Many think that those who advocate for women-centered poverty-relief efforts are distracting from larger issues within the country.

Solution: Studies that researchers conducted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo demonstrate that in areas with high levels of poverty, there are high levels of violence against women. Providing food security, as well as funding institutions and organizations to empower women, are important steps in relieving both poverty and oppression in the DRC.

Time Poverty Makes it Nearly Impossible for Indian Women to Contribute to the Economy

In India, the average man works seven hours per day. Although women usually work for nine hours a day, the vast majority of their labor is unpaid housework and childminding. This means that they have little time to earn any outside wages, and therefore, remain financially dependent on the men in their families.  The power dynamic that this situation creates is extremely dangerous. Women lose any agency they may have because they depend on their fathers, husbands or brothers for everything. This means that they have no power to go against their male relative’s wills. It also hurts the Indian economy, as women have little ability to contribute to it.

Solution: In rural India, women spend upwards of four hours each day gathering fuel and cleaning utensils to cook with. Providing them with solar or electric cookers could save them three hours of unpaid labor, giving them more time to do what they want to do or contribute to the economy as an untapped workforce.

These examples display just how poverty and patriarchy intertwine and push women and their families into poverty. If women could gain an education, receive food security or use alternative cooking equipment to limit labor, they might be able to improve their situation and lift themselves out of poverty.

Gillian Buckley
Photo: Wikimedia

Health Care in Rural Nepal
In the shadow of the Himalayas, the infrastructure of health care in rural Nepal is often at the mercy of inadequate roads that extreme weather can make inaccessible. Despite these struggles, Nepal has lowered its maternal mortality rate from 539 women in every 100,000 live births in 1996 to 239 in 2016 thanks in part to telemedicine.

It was not until 1950 that Nepal began investing in road systems. While still poor, its road infrastructure is most central to development since the country has a declining railway network and air travel is expensive. Corruption and inadequate quality control measures have stymied infrastructure growth.

Natural Disasters and Nepal’s Health Care Facilities

While infrastructure development has improved, the two 2015 earthquakes, both with magnitudes over seven, destroyed 90 percent of health facilities in the immediate area because people did not build the facilities with disaster preparedness in mind. This disaster killed over 9,000 people and displaced 2,000,000.

Such dramatic geography and inadequate infrastructure development have made health care unaffordable and inaccessible for the majority of people. For example, 90 percent of women in the wealthiest quintile delivered their babies in health facilities compared with only 34 percent in the lowest quintile.

Effective Broadband for Health Program

The Internet Society Nepal Chapter and Center for Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) have implemented the Effective Broadband for Health program. This is a pilot program in rural Dullu, a hard to reach community in mid-western Nepal and has become possible with support from the Beyond the Net Funding Programme. The expansion of broadband is improving health care in rural Nepal.

To get to Dullu, visitors must fly from Kathmandu to Surkhet and then take a dirt four-wheel-drive road 80 kilometers. Dullu’s hospital often does not have enough people and supplies. Lack of funding coupled with harsh winters and poor road infrastructure have made medical supply and staff deliveries very challenging. These problems endanger the lives of Dullu’s 45,000 residents. Many residents are a two to three-day walk from the nearest hospital on trails which people cannot access in the rainy season.

Before video conferencing or the implementation of other internet-based modalities, those behind Effective Broadband for Health first had to amplify the signal from Surkhet to reach Dullu. Pavan Singh Shakya, Executive Director of ICT4D and project manager asserts that “A community healthcare system underpinned by a robust, high-speed Internet access for these communities is the only lifeline.”

After ensuring proper internet connectivity, Effective Broadband for Health stocked Dullu’s community health center with two multiservice portable health kits. These kits store medical records and allow personnel to remotely track diagnoses. The kit has basic diagnostic tools that capture and transfer data via Bluetooth to Dhulikhel Hospital about 700 kilometers away. With this technology, care providers on the ground in Dullu can have real-time consults with medical specialists thus improving health care in rural Nepal.

Telehealth for Women and Girls

One study suggests that telehealth has particular benefits for the wellness of women and girls since it reduces the amount of time it takes to consult with a doctor. Ossified gender norms have confined Nepali women to certain activities and largely restricted their movements to their local community. For example, women must fetch all fuel and water for their family’s needs and enterprises. This labor takes a great deal of time and energy; as such, if medical care is the three-day walk away, they are unlikely to seek it out even if it is necessary.

Societal expectations in Nepal dictate that women must be married in order to seek reproductive or sexual advice from a physician. Since women can be anonymous over mobile phones, more have begun to discuss their sexual and reproductive health with medical providers. These discussions are reducing maternal mortality and improving health care in rural Nepal.

The Chaupadi Practice

Even though access has improved, women in rural Nepal are still dying from practices such as chaupadi. Chaupadi derives from two Hindu words chau meaning menstruation and padi meaning women; it operates under the assumption that menstruating women are impure. During menstruation, women in some areas must sleep separately in a tiny hut called a goth with little food and few blankets for warmth. They cannot interact with others or use a water source.

Even though the Nepali Supreme Court banned chaupadi in 2005, enforcement does not reach rural areas where gender norms are often stronger. A 2011 U.N. survey in the Accham District of Nepal suggested that 95 percent of women still participated in chaupadi. Women participating in chaupadi experience particular health concerns from exposure and malnutrition to increased vulnerability to wild animals such as poisonous snakes. The U.N. does not have statistics on the number of women whose deaths are due to the practice of chaupadi, but the anonymity that telemedicine offers has increased the number of women asking for medical help.

Telemedicine is remaking the face of health care in rural Nepal. One study of women and telemedicine in Nepal found that women reported “increased comfort in seeking consultation through telemedicine for sexual and reproductive health matters” with access to mobile phones and video conferencing. As technology steers health care, the intersection of development, health and gender dynamics must remain of paramount importance and study not only in Nepal but all over the world. Telemedicine is improving health care in rural Nepal.

– Sarah Boyer
Photo: Flickr