Information and news about woman issues

Empowering Women in Vietnam
Like in many emerging economies around the world, women in Vietnam form the majority of the working poor, often earning less than men and having fewer high-income opportunities. In Vietnam, many disparities between men and women result from gender-based discrimination and the social acceptance of inequity. These can manifest in educational discrimination and pay discrimination.

Without equal resources and support, young girls lack the necessary skills and acceptance for their futures to move beyond vulnerable positions or “invisible” jobs such as homeworking and street vending. However, many organizations are working to promote equity for women in Vietnam, whether through government lobbying or independent support. Here are three NGOs empowering women in Vietnam.

The Asia Foundation

Working throughout the continent, The Asia Foundation has worked in Vietnam specifically for more than 25 years, partnering with local NGOs and governments to improve women’s livelihoods. This organization seeks to strengthen and improve women’s and girls’ economic opportunities and autonomy. It has advocated for more inclusive political atmospheres and worked to expand women’s rights. To expand women’s economic opportunities, it partnered with the Vietnam Women Entrepreneurs Council to increase women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises.

With funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The Asia Foundation facilitated a mobile banking platform aimed toward low-income populations in Vietnam. In 2017, The Asia Foundation provided 333 girls with secondary schooling scholarships, school supplies, books, uniforms and bicycles. Through its expansive and integrated approach to empowering women in Vietnam, The Asia Foundation provides the tools necessary to help create an equitable future for women and girls.

Women’s Empowerment and Voice (WEAV)

This organization is unique among the three as it consists of Vietnamese Americans, including general members and leadership. Members’ work focuses on the improvement and inclusion of impoverished girls and women in a complete education. By providing the opportunities necessary to complete a college education, WEAV enables the potential for higher-paying careers and a wider variety of employment options.

In Vietnam, “[o]nly boys can expect to be educated at the primary and secondary levels,” according to the organization.” As a result, this organization funds scholarships for girls needing financial support to stay in school. Women’s Empowerment and Voice supports more than 100 women attending four different colleges in the Mekong Delta. Since WEAV launched in 2011, it had its first college graduate in 2015.

Additionally, it continues to increase the number of scholarships with each passing year. Its dedication to uplifting women in poverty or in financial need supports women and their families, lifting overwhelming economic burdens. WEAV provides futures by breaking down barriers of discrimination and socioeconomic disadvantages to empower women in Vietnam, allowing bright minds to shine.

CARE

In covering a wide variety of circumstances, CARE’s programs in Vietnam work to enhance women’s economic growth and prevent gender-based violence, including workplace sexual assault. Since its work in Vietnam began in 1989, eliminating gender-based discrimination and mapping strategies to eliminate poverty have helped underprivileged communities. A recent program that CARE formed called “Ignite” seeks to boost women-led entrepreneurship in Vietnam, placing these businesses at the forefront of their fields.

Despite the growth in women-owned businesses, numbers remain low and often unseen. Ignite hopes to improve visibility and support entrepreneurs in maintaining businesses. The program seeks to accelerate the growth of 50,000 enterprises and positively impact at least 340,000 entrepreneurs, of which at least 70% would be women. In order to stand against social norms disassociating women from business, CARE provides access to resources and support organizations ready to assist women, allowing for more equitable opportunities both within and outside of the workplace.

Looking Forward

Despite Vietnam’s economic growth and development over recent decades, social norms and financial inequality leave women with fewer opportunities and lower incomes than men. However, these three NGOs empowering women in Vietnam lay the groundwork for effective positive change.

With their support, women can hold more political autonomy and economic power, while other organizations and programs focus on alleviating financial burdens on families to allow girls a comprehensive education. As the Australian government partnered with The Asia Foundation, the United States and other economic powers have the opportunity to reflect such a partnership and increase funding toward poverty elimination and gender equity worldwide.

– Mikey Redding
Photo: Flickr

women farmers' movement in IndiaIndia is experiencing one of the largest and longest-lasting protest movements in world history. It has seen continuous protests for about seven months, most prominently in New Delhi, the capital city. Hundreds of thousands of protestors have gathered to support the movement, in which farmers demand the repeal of three agricultural laws passed by India’s government in September 2020. Women, many of them farmers, are leading these protests.

The Farm Laws

The three laws passed are known as the Farm Laws. They allow for the privatization of agricultural markets. While the government stated that the Farm Laws would “give expanded market access and provide greater flexibility to farmers,” protestors say the laws will push small farmers into poverty by curtailing produce prices and favoring large corporations.

Women’s Role in Agriculture

Women are prominent in the farmers’ movement protest scene for multiple reasons. The laws can affect both their work as farmers and their family lives as spouses to farmers. According to India’s National Council of Applied Economic Research, women account for more than 42% of India’s agricultural labor force but own only 2% of farmland.

In 2019, more than 10,000 agricultural sector workers in India committed suicide, partially due to financial hardships. Widowed women were left to provide for themselves and were often unable to gain rights to their husbands’ farmland due to gender-biased inheritance traditions.

Women’s Role in the Protests

The farmers’ protests and women’s role in them have received mixed reactions from the public and the government. S.A. Bobde, the Chief Justice of India, asked, “Why are women and elders kept in the protest?” Bobde asked advocates to encourage women to stop showing up at protest sites. However, women responded to his remarks by yelling “no” into microphones and continuing to protest.

Jasbir Kaur, a 74-year old farmer, told Time Magazine, “Why should we go back? This is not just the men’s protest. We toil in the fields alongside the men. Who are we — if not farmers?” On Christmas Eve, protestor Amra Ram, the vice president of the All India Kisan Sabha, acknowledged the work and importance of women in the farmers’ movement in India.“Women farmers are fighting the battle at the threshold, and we are here to follow them,” he said.

Global Response

Despite governmental dismay toward the protestors, there is support for the Indian farmers’ movement across the globe. Solidarity protests have been held in Great Britain, the U.S. and Canada. Furthermore, women celebrities such as singer Rihanna, climate activist Greta Thunberg and author Meena Harris have used their Twitter platforms to stand in solidarity with the Indian activists.

“We ALL should be outraged by India’s internet shutdowns and paramilitary violence against farmer protesters,” Harris tweeted in February.

India’s foreign affairs ministry accused foreign celebrities of being dangerously “sensational” after Rihanna’s tweet reading “why aren’t we talking about this?! #FarmersProtest” increased anger toward India’s government officials.

History of Women in Protests

A large female presence is not new in Indian protest scenes. In the 1960s and 1970s, women activists stood up against gender violence and the economic exploitation of women. Their efforts drew the attention of the United Nations, which called for the reassessment of social conditions for women in India. That led to the founding of the Committee for the Status of Women in India (CSWI) in 1974.

More recently, in 2012, protests following the gang rape of Jyoti Pandey demanded public safety reform for women. India passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 2013 to address concerns about sexual violence.

In India, women protestors have historically been persistent in demanding reform. Women are propelling the farmers’ movement in India, one of the largest protests in history. However, the Indian government has yet to repeal the Farm Laws as protestors demand.

– Sarah Eichstadt
Photo: Flickr

women in sub-Saharan AfricaEducation has long been an uphill battle for women in sub-Saharan Africa who disproportionately lack the opportunity to go to school. The U.N.’s Education Plus Initiative aims to empower adolescent girls and young women, particularly in regard to HIV/AIDS prevention, through secondary education. A recent UNAIDS study suggests a correlation between HIV education and completing school, which also leads to a better socioeconomic future.

Education and Disease Among Young Women

Sub-Saharan Africa has become a hot spot of population growth. With more than 60% of the region’s population aged 25 and younger, a new generation of African citizens waits to meet the world on a global scale. But, educational attainment has long presented a hurdle for many sub-Saharan countries.

Relatively few African children receive higher education, with young women being the least likely. According to a recent study from the United Nations, more than 80% of the world’s women (aged 15-24) with HIV/AIDS are located in sub-Saharan Africa. Such health issues create a barrier to pursuing further education. A 2014 Millennium Development Goals Report shows a strong correlation between disease and missed educational opportunities, reporting that more than 33 million children in sub-Saharan Africa are out of school, with 56% being girls.

The Millennium Declaration, a set of goals adopted by world leaders to reignite education and fight disease, says that incorporating education into young women’s lives in sub-Saharan Africa promotes poverty reduction, improves mental health and decreases rates of HIV/AIDS.

AIDS and HIV in Africa

The HIV/AIDS epidemic has ravaged entire countries in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 50 girls die from AIDS-related women’s illnesses every day worldwide and more than 90% of adolescent HIV/AIDS deaths happen in sub-Saharan Africa. According to a 2019 study from UNAIDS, young women in Africa generally lack sufficient sex education. Thus, young women in sub-Saharan Africa face disproportionate exposure to many diseases. This includes two of the most threatening in terms of both education and life expectancy: HIV and AIDS.

HIV/AIDS has become prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa because of arranged child marriages and early pregnancies. A recent study from UNESCO found that nearly 52% of Sudanese girls older than 18 were already married, numbers that are mirrored throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Empowerment at the legal level decreases women’s chances of forced marriages and pregnancies, thus reducing rates of HIV and AIDS.

Michel Sidibé, the executive director of UNAIDS, stated, “When girls can’t uphold their human rights — especially their sexual and reproductive health and rights — efforts to get to zero exclusion, zero discrimination, zero violence and zero stigma are undermined.”

More than 79% of new HIV infections occur among girls aged 10-19, according to a 2019 UNAIDS research study. Young women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa need educational and health support. Fortunately, several organizations are working to empower them.

The Education Plus Initiative

UNICEF, in collaboration with UNAIDS, UNESCO, UNFPA and U.N. Women, has created a new initiative in sub-Saharan Africa called Education Plus. Education Plus focuses on empowering young women and girls and achieving gender equality through secondary education. According to UNAIDS, sexual education has helped empower tens of millions of young women throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Education Plus aims to revolutionize policies related to women’s sexual education in order to improve their quality of life. Education Plus will begin in 2021 and run through 2025. It plans to create policies that add sexual education to young women’s school lessons, launch tech-based publicity programs to promote women’s rights and expand upon HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment and recovery, among other initiatives.

A UNICEF study revealed just how important education is to empower young women in sub-Saharan Africa. When young girls finish secondary school, they are six times less likely to marry young. The study also found that if a child’s mother can read, the child has a 50% better chance of survival.

Moving Forward

Education Plus is set to run for five years to help women and girls achieve social, educational and economic success. UNICEF, UNAIDS and several other organizations have come together to make supporting young women in Africa a priority.

Moving forward, empowering young women in sub-Saharan Africa, one of the world’s highest poverty areas, requires an array of solutions. Organizations like UNAIDS hope the area can one day flourish as an oasis for young women and girls, who will, in turn, have the educational and social resources to create a more stable Africa.

Mario Perales
Photo: Flickr

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

3 Advancements in Women’s Rights in New Zealand

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

The Road Ahead

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

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

– Jordyn Gilliard
Photo: Flickr

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

A Communal Economic Model

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

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

Chamas Help Avoid Economic Crisis

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

Chamas Empower Women

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

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

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

Frank Odhiambo
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Problems and Solutions with Human Trafficking in India
With its current population of 1.3 billion people, India is the second-largest country in the world. However, with its size comes a myriad of human rights issues. With so many people in one country, many of them can easily fall under the radar. Human trafficking in India is one of the most prominent human rights issues within the country.

In India, kidnappings for labor and sexual needs have been constant. In 2020, a U.S. Department of State report identified India as a Tier 2 country. In spite of many genuine efforts, the country remains hindered by its inadequate solutions to alleviate the problem and the department feels that India did not sufficiently ensure the mitigation of the issue. Enslavement has also been a common issue. In 2016, the Global Slavery Index found that 18 million people out of 46 million people are enslaved in India.

Trafficking of Women

Within the system of human trafficking in India, most of those victimized are either women or minors. In 2016, The National Crime Records Bureau estimated that 33,855 people in India have been victims of kidnapping for the purpose of marriage. Half of this percentage consisted of individuals under 18 years of age. Kidnappers most commonly force women into commercial sex and indentured servitude.

Bride trafficking has also been a consistent commodity due to skewed sex ratios in certain areas. There has been a lack of women for the larger male population to marry, so many buy their partners. A UNODC report in 2013 found that of the 92 villages of the Indian state of Haryana, nine out of 10 households bought wives from poor villages in other parts of the country. The report also mentioned that most of the women experienced abuse and rape as well as working like slaves.

Child Kidnappings

Alongside the trade of women, many child kidnappings occur. Kidnappers force many of the victims into servitude within industries of agriculture and manufacturing. In 2016, the Central Bureau of Investigation estimated that 135,000 children become victims of human trafficking in India annually. Many of the Indian train stations, such as Sealdah in the city of Kolkata, have had reports of youth kidnapping. Due to the frantic environment of the station, most of these disappearances go unnoticed. A lot of these children either live near the station due to poverty and abuse at home or travel out to work despite the danger and illegality of child labor. Children have also experienced kidnapping during natural disasters. During an earthquake in Nepal, traffickers targeted children whose parents had lost their lives. Wherever traffickers send these children, they work in brutal conditions and receive little pay or nothing at all.

Action in Legislation

Despite the magnitude of the issue and the bleakness it presents, there are glimmers of hope. The government and the public have pushed to mitigate these problems. Prosecution and the tracking of victims are becoming a focus of legislation creation. The Ministry of Women and Child Development has worked to develop a new law to combat the issue. The draft law will include measures to make placement agencies compulsory and rules to monitor where workers are from and where they are going. The 2020 Department of Justice report recommended that increased prosecutions and legislation are necessary to combat the issues.

There are also Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that can give outside assistance in helping trapped women escape. One such group is Chetanalaya, which is the social action group of the Archdiocese of Delhi. Started in 1970, the organization focuses on mobilizing volunteer groups and state and union governments to assist in its efforts. The group has managed to liberate more than 800 enslaved domestic workers in the past two decades.

Helping Faceless

With the rise of technology in India, many have looked to use new innovations to assist in their cause. An example of this is the app Helping Faceless. Created in 2013, it helps fight child kidnapping and trafficking through the use of search engines that use facial recognition to help find wandering youth. To assist in helping women, the website is available for anonymous documentation of sexual assaults and other horrific experiences. By 2015, 5,000 downloads had occurred and the app continues to grow with attempts to improve the technology. Moreover, some are proposing to bring it to other countries that have similar human rights issues.

Going Forward

While the current issues regarding human trafficking in India are immense, the information and technology available can help alleviate the problem. Looking into a problem is one of the best steps in creating a good future and, while it may take a while, there is reason to hope. With the large population in the country, there are many individuals who have survived these experiences and are ready to fight to ensure that others will not endure them.

– John Dunkerley
Photo: Flickr

Women’s rights in FranceWith the rise of women’s rights movements in recent years, French citizens have mobilized to address gender issues, especially the prevalence of femicide and domestic violence. France has made much progress in the realm of gender equality, including the establishment of policies and programs promoting women’s rights in France under the Macron administration. However, there is still much to be done to reach true equality and to end gender-based violence.

Violence Against Women

In France, femicides —  the killing of women by a relative or significant other — have been a significant reason for protest in recent years. La Fondation des Femmes, or the Women’s Foundation, is one protest group that has formed around the issue as it believes government efforts to curb the violence are not enough to keep citizens safe. In a recent article from the BBC, the Women’s Foundation criticized the lack of adequate gun policy as firearms are one of the most common weapons used in femicides.

Additionally, pandemic-induced lockdowns have forced many women to be confined in the same space as abusers, resulting in a 30% increase in domestic violence reports, according to France24. Due to its continued prevalence, gender violence is a central concern for activists advocating for women’s rights in France.

The #MeToo movement also gained traction in France in 2017 under the French name #BalanceTonPorc. Though there were no significant convictions or resignations of perpetrators of sexual violence at first, the rise in protests and social media movements greatly increased the visibility of victims in 2020.

Efforts to Combat Gender-Based Violence

President Emmanuel Macron’s emphasis on gender equality provided much hope for feminist voters during his 2017 presidential campaign. As part of his pledge to support women’s rights in France, Macron implemented protective policies for women and has established the position of Secretariat of Equality between Women and Men, a role currently held by Marlène Schiappa. Under Macron’s administration, France scored 75.1% in 2020 in terms of the Gender Equality Index, ranking third-best among all members of the EU.

In response to protests and the advocacy of groups such as the Women’s Foundation, the French government implemented several pieces of legislation addressing gender violence. According to the BBC, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe held a domestic violence conference in 2019, during which he pledged to increase the number of temporary shelters for victims, improve the procedures of domestic violence cases and contribute more than $6 million to the cause. French parliament added to these measures by approving a law permitting doctors to reveal the identity of a patient if domestic violence is putting the patient’s life at risk.

Women’s Rights Progress

There has been some improvement as between 2019 and 2020 the number of domestic murders of women decreased from 146 to 90, a historically low number that the government believes to be a result of the work of its policies and law enforcement.

Despite government efforts to decrease gender violence, many individuals are still concerned by the alarming numbers of femicides. Protest groups in France are creating street collages highlighting femicide and sexual harassment. Caroline De Haas, the founder of the feminist movement NousToutes, told the Guardian that “nearly 100 deaths is no reason to celebrate.”

There are several hopeful developments for gender equality in France. However, despite an explicit government commitment to equality, the government must take additional steps to conquer disparities in female employment and leadership, gender violence, harassment and wage gaps. The continued protests asserting an end to violence against women demonstrate the need for more policy and execution of legislation for women’s rights in France.

Sarah Stolar
Photo: pixabay

Unbound is Fighting Global Poverty
The challenge of addressing global poverty requires a multitude of solutions and approaches. The nonprofit organization Unbound is fighting global poverty one person at a time. Unbound makes poverty personal by connecting the sponsored family with the sponsor supporting them. It formed as a grassroots program built on a foundation of human connection that gives a hand to struggling families worldwide. The nonprofit currently works in 19 nations, creating mothers’ groups and supporting families out of poverty. To discuss how Unbound helps impoverished families worldwide every day, The Borgen Project interviewed Scott Wassermann, the CEO of the organization.

Scott got his start at Unbound volunteering for the board. His wife, Annabella, pushed him to sponsor a child. After sponsoring his first child, he and his wife received an invitation for a homecooked meal from the founders. This is when he realized that Unbound was a community organization that is changing the world. He continued to work on the board while also working as a juvenile lawyer. During this time, Scott grew closer to the founders and their mission.

Unbounds’ Approach to Ending Global Poverty

The Borgen Project asked Scott why the founders had the drive to end global poverty. He said, “We had two principal founders [Bob and Bud Hentzen], about five people total [Bob, Bud, Jim and Nadine Hentzen and Jerry Tolle], but two are really leading it.” They had spent time serving in Latin America, living among the poor. Upon their return to the United States, they longed to continue their work. The founders asked themselves what they valued from their time in Latin America. Scott says the answer was simple: “The people we met, the families we knew.” Unbound built the foundation on community and humanity. It understood from its inception the power that one person can have, no matter how small.

Unbound’s approach to resolving poverty is unique. It makes use of terms such as the airplane view, plaza view and porch view to explain the multiple approaches to poverty. Scott explains these terms as follows: “The airplanes view our global evaluations; the Plaza view is community evaluations and porch view as individual families. And that’s where our heart is, is a porch.” Using this kind of imagery helps others grasp that different approaches are necessary to end global poverty. By working together, more progress can happen.

How Unbound is Fighting Global Poverty and Changing Lives

Unbound helps impoverished people get ahold of the resources they need to thrive. That means providing funding, education and aid to help provide better occupations and standards of life for sponsored families. It does this by setting up a bank account for families and giving them the monthly funds from their sponsor. That money also goes toward distributing resources that would offer the most aid for that person’s specific situation. For example, Unbound helps communities facilitate solar panels or hold classes on how to use a computer. Unbound’s goal is to support impoverished communities to give them the funding and resources to live a happy, healthy life.

Unbound Mother Groups

Mothers groups are more recent programs. These groups offer an added layer of support for women in extreme poverty. Women, in many cases, suffer from a higher level of marginalization in impoverished areas than men do. Unbound addressed this by utilizing the need for community support. Thus, the mother groups emerged, consisting of different mothers from the same community. Scott Wassermann told a story about a mother group that he had met in India.

“Anabella [Scott’s wife] and I were meeting with a mother’s group in Allahabad, India and what was amazing about this group was that there were both Hindus and Muslims in this group. They were telling us that even though they lived on the same block, they had never met each other…They created these lime green saris because we didn’t want any difference between Hindus and Muslims in Unbound. So, they say we all wear the same color of saris.” The group told them that, when one of the mothers in the group fell ill, all the other members cared for her and her family. This story shows the power of humanity and offers a hand up.

The Power of Group Support

The nonprofit’s success demonstrates that giving others the tools that they need to reach their goals produces promising results. Many people living in extreme poverty have no knowledge of where or how to lift themselves out of poverty. Unbound is fighting global poverty and has reached thousands of people in all 19 countries it works in.

Rachel Wolf
Photo: Unsplash

Las Damas de BlancoLas Damas de Blanco (The Ladies in White) is a peaceful civic movement of wives and female relatives advocating for the release of jailed political protestors in Cuba. The group has been active since 2003 and is internationally acclaimed for its dedication to human rights advocacy, having won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2005. Currently, the movement is the subject of a resolution on the Senate calendar.

History of Las Damas de Blanco

Las Damas de Blanco formed in 2003 following an event known as the Black Spring. The Black Spring was a mass arrest of 75 journalists and political protestors in Cuba. Each of the arrested had either spoken out against the Castro regime or advocated for democracy in some way. The people arrested ranged from librarians to human rights activists who were all peaceful in the dissent and yet were arrested for threatening Cuban national security. In response to the arrests, the wives and sisters of the protestors decided to band together and form a countermovement. Every Sunday, the women gather and attend mass wearing white, and then, march silently through the streets. The white clothing symbolizes peace and the message is centered on family and freedom.

Overcoming Barriers

As a women-led movement, Las Damas de Blanco faces many challenges in its advocacy efforts. The movement is agitated by other citizens and particularly by Cuban authorities. The Cato Institute reports that the women “are routinely harassed, threatened, beaten and arrested” for the peaceful protest. Despite this, the movement has never weakened. The Ladies in White continue to march every Sunday and the members have brought global awareness to the issue. All 75 of the protestors arrested in the Black Spring were freed by 2011, in large part due to the efforts of the Ladies in White. The women-led movement still protests consistently and will not cease until all Cuban political prisoners are freed.

US Recognition

In March 2021, Sen. Mark Rubio introduced a resolution honoring Las Damas de Blanco and adding the Senate’s voice to the call for the release of all political prisoners in Cuba. The resolution acknowledges the efforts of the women-led movement and the Cuban regime’s consistent attacks on the movement. It particularly honors the legacy of the movement’s founder, Laura Ines Pollán Toledo, on human rights advocacy.

A more recent event highlighted in the resolution is the second arrest of Las Damas de Blanco member, Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz Miranda, which took place in 2018 and resulted in Miranda developing a rare skin disease in prison. Miranda’s health deteriorated and she was hospitalized in Cuba for more than six months. In 2020, the U.S. government granted Miranda a humanitarian visa and transferred her to a hospital in Miami.

The resolution’s direct calls for the Cuban government to release all political prisoners and allow Las Damas de Blanco to attend mass in peace are vital actions of solidarity. If it is agreed to in the Senate, the resolution will further amplify the voices of Las Damas de Blanco and all peaceful Cuban dissidents hoping for liberty.

Samantha Silveira
Photo: Flickr

Craft AssociationThe incidence of poverty in Nepal had been dropping before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the pandemic could increase Nepal’s poverty rate to the levels of more than a decade ago due to a loss of jobs and income. A UNICEF-sponsored survey indicates that, in October 2020, a shocking 42% of families in Nepal had no income at all. Furthermore, in the same month, 45% of people reported job losses. In addition, one in five households surveyed reported being unable to secure adequate food to feed their families. Even people who still have jobs are earning less than before the pandemic. The tourism sector has also been severely hurt by the pandemic and more than half of all households are at risk of returning to poverty. The Association for Craft Producers (ACP) is helping combat poverty in Nepal.

The Association for Craft Producers

Helping to counter the effects of poverty in Nepal is the Association for Craft Producers. The organization founded in 1984 is a not-for-profit, fair trade organization that helps low-income Nepalese craft producers with design, marketing and management services for their craft products. Due to its success, it has grown to roughly 1,000 artisans, 90% of whom are women. The artisans produce beautiful crafts such as ceramic teapots, woven rugs and wooden tables. Nepali Craft Trading Ltd. exports the artisans’ products to 18 different countries. Since 2003, ACP has been certified as a Fair Trade organization. The group abides by the principles of fair trade as outlined by the World Fair Trade Organization to ensure artisans are provided with adequate compensation and benefits for their work.

Benefits for Nepali Artisans

The ACP artisans have access to a number of benefits to help lift them out of poverty and progress. For instance, artisans are provided a clothing stipend, 90 days of paid maternity leave and an allowance for emergencies. The ACP also provides information to the artisans on matters such as health, education and other important development topics. Since many of the women have never earned enough to be able to save money for the future, producers are encouraged to deposit 10% of their pay into an interest-producing account.

To encourage the education and empowerment of girls, ACP provides a monthly allowance for up to three years to producers who ensure their daughters are enrolled and participating in school for a minimum of four consecutive years. Furthermore, the ACP rewards the three best students with support for an additional year. In addition, the ACP provides the producers with funds for retirement. In these ways, ACP encourages financial security while providing outlets for the artisans to sell products.

Environmental Awareness

The ACP also takes specific actions to preserve its local environment at the foot of the Himalayan mountains. The practices include using recycled paper, installing a rainwater treatment plant and a wastewater treatment plant and discouraging the use of plastic bags. The artisans use an environmentally friendly acid for dyeing and water-based pigments for printing instead of oil-based paints. Finally, the artisans have switched to electric firing methods for ceramic products rather than kerosene-based firing. The women artisans remain environmentally conscious while helping to support families and reduce the devastating effects of poverty in Nepal.

Overall, the ACP craft association is supporting artisans in Nepal in several ways in order to ensure that they are able to rise out of poverty and secure better futures.

Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr