Information and news about woman issues

Period Poverty in Nepal
Just like the rest of the world, COVID-19 is significantly impacting Nepal. With an actual existing poverty rate of 25.2% and low literacy rates of 75.1% for males and a 57.4% rate for females, the pandemic has further challenged Nepal through forced school closings and shortages of necessary household items. In particular, period poverty in Nepal has become a dilemma for many Nepalese women and girls. The lack of access to menstrual sanitary products as well as the cultural stigma of chhaupadi, an outdated tradition of isolating menstruating women and prohibiting them from touching others and communal objects, combine to make period poverty in Nepal a pressing issue for women.

The Problem: Existing Stigmas and Disparities

The Nepali government technically outlawed chhaupadi in 2005; however, 18 women died because of chhaupadi since this policy’s creation. Additionally, a 2019 study found that 77% of west-central Nepali girls had undergone menstrual exile. In the context of the pandemic, discriminatory ideals are on the rise. Many fear that contact with menstruating women increases the risk of contracting COVID-19. Traditionally, a majority of girls receive menstrual hygiene products from schools. Without access to school due to the pandemic lockdown, however, many Nepalese girls have been deprived of essential resources like tampons. These closings increased demand for sanitary products in retail stores, causing many businesses to deplete their inventories following the announcement of quarantine quickly.

This deficiency forced women to begin relying on unhygienic alternatives such as old pieces of clothes and even leaves to manage their periods. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, roughly 83% of women used alternate forms of hygiene rather than a sanitary pad, while only 15% used actual hygienic pads. Furthermore, 47% of girls admitted to missing school because of menstruation. The use of these unhygienic methods increases the risk of reproductive tract infections as well as cervical cancer. Around 77% of young girls claimed that, due to hygiene products’ lack of accessibility and affordability, they resorted to making their pads.  The financial difficulties that COVID-19 has created have only exacerbated the inability to purchase sanitary pads.

Organizations Helping to Overcome Period Poverty in Nepal

Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO) is pouring its efforts into combating period poverty in Nepal by educating young girls on how to make reusable, hygienic and sanitary pads. VSO initiated a program called Sisters for Sisters that paired young Nepali girls with mentors. Before the pandemic, this mentorship program had informed 2,000 girls on how to construct their sanitary pads. These pads can last up to five years, making this solution appealing to the majority of Nepali families. The Sisters for Sisters program has also focused on debunking discriminatory menstruation ideology.

Action Aid is another organization working to combat period poverty in Nepal. This organization distributes sanitary menstrual kits following emergencies or disasters, with a commitment to helping every woman and girl manage their periods safely. The organization’s efforts to tackle period poverty include various tactics. Similar to the Sisters for Sisters campaign, Action Aid trains girls to make their reusable sanitary pads. It also offers educational services better, informing girls about their periods and how to navigate menstrual cycles healthily. Finally, Action Aid aims to eliminate period shaming ideologies such as chhaupadi in Nepal.

Hope for a Better Future

Period poverty is a continual issue for many impoverished countries with preexisting discriminatory stigmas surrounding the topic, and the pandemic has only amplified these issues. With the help of organizations working to aid women and girls in their communities and eradicate period poverty in Nepal, however, there is hope for a safer and more sanitary future.

– Adelle Tippetts
Photo: Flickr

afghan womenAlthough Afghanistan’s Constitution, ratified in 2004, forbids discrimination and declares that “man and woman, have equal rights and duties before the law,” gender inequality still persists. Women are repeatedly denied opportunities for social, educational and economic advancement, leaving 80% out of the workforce and only 8% with more than a primary education. Gallup surveys conducted in 2018 identify Afghan women as the “least satisfied women in the world,” with more than half reporting that they would permanently leave the country if given the opportunity due to discrimination, food insecurity and violence. The good news, however, is that the United Nations Mine Action Service has enacted a new initiative in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province that mobilizes women to escape poverty and empowers them to clear war-torn communities of the remnants of war.

Poverty and Conflict

The World Bank estimates that the number of people living in areas overwhelmed by conflict has doubled since 2007, a rate that has increased alongside poverty expansion. People living in fragile and conflict-affected situations, or FCS, are 10 times more likely to be poor. Forty-three of the world’s most impoverished countries are classified as FCS regions. Proximity to conflict directly affects education, infrastructure, health and the economy. In violent areas, children are less likely to travel to school, families are more likely to suffer long-term medical conditions and communities lose valuable opportunities for monetary mobility and advancement.

The Taliban has sustained a significant presence in Afghanistan for over a decade and has remained a constant threat. More than 1,400 people were killed or injured by landmines in Afghanistan in 2018, a number that has tripled since 2012. Mines and other explosives are certainly detrimental to infrastructure after detonation, but unexploded devices can be equally as destructive. Construction projects are largely avoided for fear of encountering an explosive during the building process. This leaves many areas without roads, essential buildings and airports, all assets that could play a role in reducing poverty.

Dauntless De-Miners

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) began a de-mining pilot program in 2018, featuring 14 brave Afghan women in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province. After receiving training from the UNMAS de-mining experts, the women strap on Kevlar vests and sport protective face shields that enable them to search the soil using massive metal detectors. Once a detector beeps, the team member will kneel and sift through the dirt until the mine or explosive is found and deactivated.

The primary goals of the program are to clear mines, educate villagers and equip Afghan women with the tools they need to escape poverty. The team works approximately nine hours per day, but depending on location, mine removal projects may be short-term. In circumstances where land can be swiftly searched, the team uses the remaining time to learn vocational skills taught by UNMAS workers, training that has the potential to change their status. Additional education for Afghan women, who would otherwise receive very little, is crucial to broadening their job opportunities, increasing household income and helping them rise out of poverty. UNMAS also requires women to participate in meetings that decide how to use the land that is newly mine-free, which showcases their growing presence and immense contribution to their historically war-torn communities.

Fatima Amiri was one of the Bamiyan province’s first team members, and she is frequently highlighted for her dedication. She works tirelessly for her team after witnessing the devastating effects of hidden and unexploded devices. A member of her community traveled to a mountain on the Day of Eid, or the end of Ramadan, and never returned. Amiri realized that day she wanted to rid the surrounding area of mines, and she notes that now, “no one says that women are weak.”

Brace for Impact

Afghanistan’s fearless team is looking to expand its efforts beyond the Bamiyan province in the coming years. Since its inception, the team has covered more than 51,500 square meters and is projected to clear their land of mines and explosives by 2023. Most of the cleared region is now being used to build infrastructure or for farming, a lifestyle that boosts community economies and indirectly improves Afghan women’s social status. The de-mining women are recognized for their success and newly respected for providing their fellow community members with safety, food security and ways to maintain a steady income, three things crucial to overcoming conflict-induced poverty. The community’s appreciation erodes traditional gender norms that have restricted Afghan women for centuries by proving their value as productive members of society capable of protecting thousands in war-torn communities.

Natalie Clark
Photo: Flickr

Water Crisis in UgandaWater is a necessity for all living beings, and access to safe water is a basic human right. Despite the world’s experiencing exponential growth in all areas with advances in science and technology, 663 million people are without access to clean water. The country of Uganda is no exception: 51% of Ugandans are in need of safe water resources. This lack of clean water affects the health of the Ugandan people, their productivity and their economy. Here are some of the realities everyone needs to know about the water crisis in Uganda.

The Current State

Currently, 21 million Ugandans lack access to safe water. One in nine people lack quality water and have no alternative to dirty, contaminated water sources. The stress of economic growth over the last two decades put an enormous strain on the land and its resources. Up to three-quarters of the surface water in Uganda is polluted, making it unsuitable for consumption. With no other choice but to drink contaminated water, people are often too sick to work or attend school.

Human waste, soil sediments, fertilizers and mud all run into drinking water sources due to the widespread absence of proper toilets and showers. Additionally, the lack of adequate filtration systems and the loss of vegetation, which acts as a natural filtration system, creates dirty water that leads to various health problems. 144 million Ugandans are still collecting water directly from these rivers, lakes, and other surface water sources. According to the World Health Organization, over 3,000 small children die a year from diarrhea in Uganda. Other waterborne diseases include hepatitis A, dysentery, typhoid and cholera.

The water crisis in Uganda also makes 40%  of Ugandans travel more than 60 minutes to access safe drinking water. Some travel up to three hours a day, without a guarantee of finding water. Excess time spent on water provision hinders people’s ability to work, maintain the household and take care of children.

Initiatives for a Better Future

Many initiatives are underway to address the water crisis in Uganda and the problems it has created. For example, in 2013, Water.org launched its WaterCredit solution, which has led growth for water and sanitation loans. This initiative has reached 259,000 people and disbursed $10.3 million in loans, helping to create long-term solutions to the water crisis in Uganda.

Another program addressing water in Uganda is the Uganda Women’s Water Initiative, which transforms contaminated water into clean and drinkable water for school children. Over 300 women in Gomba, Uganda were trained to build rainwater harvesting tanks and Biosand filters. The simple filter consists of layers of rock, sand and gravel that remove 99% of bacteria from water. Funded by Aveda and GreenGrants, this initiative also conducts programs about hygiene and sanitation to support these women. Thanks to this program, school children are safe from typhoid and diarrhea that could keep them sick and out of school. Remarkably, Gomba saw a reduction of school absences by nearly two-thirds thanks to filters and harvesting tanks.

Additional projects that focus on drilling new boreholes in barren areas and repairing existing boreholes help relieve long travel times for water. Generosity.org has concentrated on rehabilitating boreholes by working closely with the District Water Departments of communities in need. Generosity.org also aided in the development of water user committees, which create an infrastructure to ensure the boreholes are maintained and cleaned through fee collection. Its work aims to achieve the sustainability of these boreholes for the future, putting an end to the water crisis in Uganda.

Looking Forward

Ugandan leaders have recognized that water is a basic human right and understand that better water and sanitation systems are critical for a healthy society and a stronger economy. The Ugandan government now aims to have clean water and improved sanitation for everyone by 2030. Uganda plans to reach this goal by investing in quality water infrastructures, which involves restoring and maintaining clean water sources as well as promoting hygiene and investing in sanitation facilities. The organizations that are providing loans for wells, restoring boreholes and creating filtration devices are helping realize this ambitious goal. This focus on making clean and safe water available to everyone is critical. Without water, there is no life.

Tara Hudson
Photo: Pixabay

Senegalese Female Farmers
In a remote village in Senegal, female farmers are banding together to save their village from drought, famine and environmental difficulties. Local Senegalese farmers are struggling with food insecurity, and available land has dwindled. As a result, men are leaving the village to search for opportunities elsewhere. However, one of the biggest problems is the recent decrease in water supply due to rain shortages. Thanks to innovative efforts by these Senegalese female farmers, however, conditions are improving.

Food Insecurity and Environmental Changes in Senegal

Increasing changes to the environment are affecting farmland at an unprecedented rate, with Senegal being one of its main targets. Predictions determine that environmental factors will displace almost 1 billion people by 2050. Rural communities in Senegal and other parts of Africa feel these effects the most. In response to these challenges, Senegalese female farmers have made it their priority to create more sustainable lives. This has proved especially challenging given the little farmland and resources available to them.

While female Senegalese farmers make up a majority of the workforce, they have relatively little access to farmland and other resources. The dwindling supply of farmland does nothing to help this issue. Two and a half million people in Senegal might fall into food insecurity within the next year. Thus, there are a number of initiatives developing to help empower female farmers.

The Solutions

Some of these initiatives include providing women with access to farming equipment and machinery that allows them to tend to their crops more efficiently. Furthermore, educating women on nutrition and self-sufficient farming methods also helps them to become better contributors to their local economy. Many of these women share their knowledge with women in other villages, spreading the impact of their farming efforts. The wide-reaching impact of word of mouth combined with guidance from various nonprofits has helped struggling populations in Senegal by giving them the tools they need to improve their farming techniques.

Since most men in these villages leave for better opportunities, women are left behind to take care of children and provide for themselves. It places an almost unbearable burden on women to be left behind by men in a society in which it is nearly impossible to succeed without them. However, Senegalese women have still managed to come together in order to challenge pre-existing gender norms.

Remaining Barriers and Steps Forward

In spite of numerous obstacles, these women have managed to succeed in cultivating new farmland and revitalizing the local economy. There are still many barriers that prevent women from reaching their full potential. For instance, women produce 80% of the food in the country but have virtually no rights or political power. Nonetheless, recent developments seek to ensure the continued presence and support of women in the agriculture sector in Senegal. These include providing women with plots of land and enabling them to travel to other areas for business. After seeing the positive changes taking place in their communities, men have started to return to their wives. The success of these Senegalese female farmers illustrates how, with the right tools and guidance, women in developing countries can create better lives for themselves and their families.

Xenia Gonikberg
Photo: Flickr

Women Are Disproportionately Affected by HIV

Young women between the ages of 15 and 24 make up approximately 9.8% of sub-Saharan Africa’s total population, but they account for 20% of the region’s confirmed cases of HIV. While part of the reason why HIV affects women the most is due to basic biology and the fact that women are more likely to contract HIV, it also has to do with economic, cultural and legal factors present in sub-Saharan Africa.

Poverty and the Spread of HIV

The good news is that poverty is declining globally. The bad news is that extreme poverty is becoming ever more prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, where experts believe that 90% of impoverished people will live by 2030. A struggling economy warrants little room for government expenditures on healthcare and education, so not only are many poor people in sub-Saharan Africa not able to access affordable methods of HIV prevention and treatment, but they also do not receive substantial education on how to prevent its spread. Specifically, in this region, 70% of young women have not learned about the risks, treatments and preventions of HIV.

Without promising futures, it is not uncommon for young women to resort to transactional sex or early marriage for support. Both customs are associated with less condom use, sexual violence and multiple partners. Both transactional sex and child marriage often result in a significant age gap between partners. Evidence shows that HIV in men becomes more prevalent with age, so higher age gaps cause HIV to affect young women.

Cultural and Political Barriers

Gender norms that accompany older man/younger woman relationships also add how HIV disproportionately affects women. In order to feel masculine, men tend to assert their dominance by having many partners, refusing to get tested for sexually transmitted infections and not wearing a condom during sex. These practices reinforce ideals that perpetuate sexual health as a woman’s responsibility and are some of the reasons for why HIV affects women so significantly.

Culturally, there is much stigma surrounding premarital sex, having multiple partners and being a woman with HIV. There are many reports of unsupportive healthcare professionals, denial of service and miscommunication about results concerning HIV status. Coupled with the fear of horror stories of forced sterilization, forced abortions and forced virginity examinations, there are high barriers discouraging women from accessing the care they need.

Restrictive policies also make it difficult for young women to access information about their sexual health. In a study that received results from 110 countries, over half of the responding African countries required parental or spousal consent for women under 18 to receive HIV testing. Although these laws may be to protect children, it actually prevents young women from accessing sexual and reproductive medical care. For places that do offer HIV services, many are exclusively for married women with children, so most young women do not fit the criteria to obtain testing. Additionally, nearly half of the responding African countries reported having age restrictions for buying condoms.

Action Plan

The statistics look grim, but the World Health Organization’s five-year plan to reduce the number of HIV infections and deaths is in full swing. Its goals include increasing testing, eliminating discriminatory laws and creating larger global access to testing for sexually transmitted infections.

The plan includes five specific tactics the WHO intends to use, which cover assessing the situation, deciding which services to provide, how to provide these services, financing the efforts and implementing structural change. In the end, the WHO aims to end the AIDS epidemic by prioritizing preventative measures like wearing condoms and education about injection safety, allocate more resources towards ending gender-based violence and discrimination, introducing a harm-reduction intervention package and much more.

If WHO carries out this plan correctly, it will reach hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are young women residing in sub-Saharan Africa. It should also equitably deliver HIV services to those who are most in need.

– Rebecca Blanke
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Pregnant Women and Children
The Yemeni Civil War began in 2015 and has become a humanitarian crisis, devastating families and communities. The conflict between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels continues with no end in sight. More than 80 percent of the population, about 24 million people, lack food, health care and safe living conditions. Those who need assistance most are pregnant women, newborns and children.

Childcare and the Civil War

The civil war in Yemen prevents the most defenseless people in Yemeni society — pregnant women, newborns and children — from receiving life-saving medical treatment on time. At MSF’s Taiz Houban Mother and Child Hospital, the number of children and newborns dead on arrival at the location has doubled from 52 in 2016 to 103 in 2018. The most prevalent causes of death in newborns were prematurity, deprivation of oxygen known as birth asphyxia and severe infection.

Families struggle to find access to limited medical facilities and must navigate frontlines and checkpoints to receive care. Additionally, the Yemenis’ ability to access healthcare of any kind has dramatically diminished. Due to the declining economy that has devalued people’s savings, the vast majority depend on insufficient public healthcare.

Despite the conditions pregnant women and children during the Yemen Crisis are facing, several organizations aim to help these disadvantaged Yemenis receive the care they need.

Stay Safe Mama Project

The United Nations Population Fund, with help from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has launched the Stay Safe Mama project so that pregnant women in Yemen can safely deliver their babies. As a result, 300 health facilities have been enhanced with reproductive health kits, medicine and supplies for maternity units. The project also supports midwives in local communities so that pregnant women and children during the Yemen Crisis who don’t have access to a hospital can still obtain the care they deserve. Aisha, a 27-year-old, who fled the violence from her village in Hodeida and now lives in a small shack with multiple relatives and children, received healthcare through a center organized under the ‘Stay Safe Mama’ project.

“The care I received at the center was beyond what I expected,” Aisha told representatives from UNFPA. Aisha also said that she “had regular check-ups, and when it was time to give birth, [she] was not worried anymore. [She] gave birth to a healthy baby girl.”

Responsive Governance Project

The Responsive Governance Project (RGP), with the assistance of the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID), provides instruction to improve the skills and knowledge of midwives. Additionally, RGP’s main priority is to provide pregnant women and children during the Yemen Crisis access to emergency obstetrical and natal care. Dr. Jamila Alraabi, the Deputy Health and Population Minister, states that the RGP has supported her agency and local health councils to improve maternal health policies.

In speaking with Jeff Baron from Counterpart International, Dr. Alraabi said that “no one can work alone, and no one can achieve success alone. It should be a partnership, and this is our hope in Yemen, that we will not have a woman die from preventable causes.”

UNICEF and Yemen

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) provides Yemenis access to health treatment and access to safe water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene. As of August 2019, UNICEF maintained over 3,700 health centers and aided around 730,000 pregnant and lactating women by providing basic health care services. Additionally, 11.8 million children were vaccinated for measles and rubella, and 200,000 children were treated for severe acute malnutrition. Going forward, UNICEF’s efforts will focus on “strengthening systems, improving access to primary health care, as well as malnutrition management and disease outbreak response, including maintaining vaccination coverage.”

These three organizations are just examples of the efforts raising awareness and providing aid toward the Yemen Crisis. Children continue to be killed and injured during the conflict. Before COVID-19, 2 million children under the age of five were dying from acute malnutrition and in need of treatment. In addition to this, around 70 percent of the arriving pregnant women experience “obstructed labor, prolonged labor, eclampsia, uterine rupture or post-partum bleeding” and other life-threatening conditions. While the conflict continues, these organizations are making efforts that have helped many women and children in Yemen. 

– Mia Mendez
Photo: Flickr

Obstetric Violence
Of all topics concerning women, obstetric violence is one of the most taboo. Obstetric violence involves patients experiencing abuse, neglect or disrespect at the hands of their OB-GYN, particularly during childbirth. A study by the WHO which followed and interviewed over 2000 women pre- and post-childbirth in Ghana, Nigeria and Guinea concluded that 42% of respondents experienced discrimination or verbal or physical abuse. This abuse includes slapping, mocking, forced episiotomies and unnecessary medication or cesarean sections. Here are six things to know about obstetric violence.

6 Things to Know About Obstetric Violence

  1. Power disparities between doctors and patients discourage women from objecting to or speaking out against abusive practices. According to the Latin American Journal of Nursing, the unequal power relationships with patients leads to “the loss of the woman’s autonomy and her right to decide on matters related to her body.” As a result, women are prone to experiencing different forms of violence during labor and delivery care.
  2. Obstetric violence is not limited to pregnant women. It can occur during any OB-GYN visits and includes invasive practices, denial of pain, refusal of treatment, verbal humiliation and non-consensual touching. According to another study by the WHO, 49.9% of women in Ghana reported undergoing vaginal examinations performed without their permission.
  3. Specific groups of women are more likely to be mistreated than others. Ethnic minority, low income, unmarried, adolescent and migrant women are more likely to be mistreated by an OB-GYN. According to the WHO, “Younger, unmarried women were more likely to have non-consented vaginal examinations.” The midwives and doctors often justified abusive treatment as punishment for women they found “uncooperative.”
  4. Obstetric violence discourages women from consulting maternal health services or OB-GYNs. This could cause medical complications to go unnoticed and untreated, potentially leading to maternal or child mortality. Women who experience abusive treatment from medical professionals may also suffer serious complications, however. The abuse often leads to permanent emotional, mental and physical damage. It also presents a health hazard at the community level, as the prevalence of obstetric violence encourages the idea that such treatment is normal.
  5. Countries have recently started defining obstetric violence. In 2006, Venezuela defined it as the “appropriation of the female body and reproductive processes by health professionals.” Similarly, Argentina’s definition is “cruel, dishonorable, inhuman, humiliating threatening treatment by health professionals, causing physical, psychological and emotional harm to assisted women.” Defining mistreatment by health professionals in legislation is the first step to combatting it on a legal level.
  6. NGOs such as Make Mothers Matter (MMM) are fighting obstetric violence. MMM “works in synergy with grassroots organizations around the globe” to empower women. It recognizes the potential women have as leaders for change. The NGO places emphasis on the importance of proper treatment of women and mothers at the hands of their OB-GYN being crucial for child wellbeing and development. In addition, MMM exposes the dangers of obstetric violence and spreads awareness to bodies of governments capable of creating real change.

Obstetric violence violates fundamental women’s rights. Fighting it will involve recognizing the role gender inequality has in creating hierarchical dynamics between doctor and patient. Efforts by governments and NGOs to end mistreatment by OB-GYNs will improve the physical and mental welfare of women and children around the world.

Mathilde Venet
Photo: Flickr

Women During COVID-19Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, women have assumed positions of leadership in several fields to fight the virus. Women work hard at home to take care of their families, while also constituting a majority of those on the front lines in the global healthcare industry. They are discovering innovative new ways to generate income through agriculture, and are even manufacturing masks in refugee camps. Here are a few of the many heroic responsibilities undertaken by women during COVID-19.

Women at Home

Worldwide, almost 22% of women care for their families through unpaid labor, while only about 2% of men provide this kind of care. As caregivers at home, women play a crucial role in maintaining the safety of their families and communities. This task goes well beyond managing others’ physical health; women cook, clean, supervise children and elders and gather resources like water and wood. In addition, with lockdown measures, kids and other family members are home more often, increasing demands on these women.

Women in Healthcare

During the COVID-19 pandemic, women have taken the lead in providing medical care for patients. Because women make up 70% of the global healthcare and social services industries, many women have now become essential workers and hold the huge task of caring for patients, often at the expense of their own safety.

Healthcare workers like Dr. Entela Kolovani of Albania have been treating patients day and night since the pandemic hit in March. Women in healthcare are juggling several roles as they take care of those who are sick while trying to avoid endangering their families. Women are working longer hours and facing new challenges every day. In describing her nurses, Dr. Kolovani said, “Their work never ends, from making up the beds of patients, to performing therapies, taking tests and filling in documents. I am so deeply grateful to them.”

Women in Agriculture

The role of women during COVID-19 is not just limited to the healthcare field. Globally, nearly one out of every three women are employed in the agricultural industry; women in rural settings have inspired their communities to take safety precautions and earn income through farming. For example, in northwestern China, women in rural villages are ensuring compliance with social distancing practices are met and learning the trade of pig farming to earn extra income for their families. One such woman, Yan Shenglian, is training other women in this trade and teaching them the importance of women in the agricultural sector during COVID-19.

In addition, women in Cote d’Ivoire worked with UNICEF and the World Food Programme to spread health and sanitation measures to other women farmers. Along with the work already being done to encourage efficient farming practices, women in these rural villages are prioritizing food security and safety during COVID-19.

Women as Refugees

Of those affected by the pandemic, refugees have been disproportionately impacted. Nearly 80% of refugees are concentrated in low-income countries, where access to proper sanitation and basic resources is limited. As nearly half of all refugees are girls and women, the effect of COVID-19 on women refugees is especially high. However, these individuals have also stepped up to fight the pandemic. In partnership with the U.N., Rohingya women in the world’s largest refugee camp have made more than 50,000 masks for distribution. This initiative involved almost 50 families with female breadwinners, allowing these women to bring additional income to their families and teaching lasting leadership skills.

Looking Forward

Women have stepped up to lead the fight against the pandemic in a plethora of ways. They are keeping communities safe while generating income. These are just a few examples of the many critical roles adopted by women during COVID-19; there is no doubt that their presence will continue to be instrumental throughout the pandemic and beyond.

– Anita Durairaj
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty in Peru
Peru has gradually reduced poverty over the past decade. Currently, approximately 6 million Peruvians live under the national poverty line in comparison to 16 million in 2004. This is remarkable progress in tackling poverty in Peru. Around 20.5% of Peru’s population lives in poverty nonetheless. Most of them are indigenous Quechua and Aymara communities living in the rural Sierra region. Despite their essential role in the economy, women bear the greatest burdens of extreme poverty in Peru. Here are eight facts about women’s poverty in Peru.

8 Facts About Women’s Poverty in Peru

  1. Women account for the majority of the population living in extreme poverty. In the Piura, Cajamarca, La Libertad and Apurímac districts, extreme poverty affects 25.7% of women. This is over three times the national average.
  2. In 2020, Peru scored 0.65 in the gender gap index, meaning that women are 35% less likely to have economic equality with men. In fact, 30.4% of women in Peru receive no personal income. Women who do receive personal income still make 30% less per month than men. Fortunately, Peru passed Law No. 30709 in 2017, prohibiting pay discrimination by gender. On July 1, 2019, The National Superintendency of Labor Inspection put the law into effect.
  3. Women are essential to Peru’s economy. The average rural woman accounts for 80% of her family’s labor force, working in agriculture, livestock and traditional household care. Women’s underpaid and underrepresented labor allows household men to search for temporary work.
  4. Women hold few influential roles in the workforce and politics, due to Peru’s traditional views about the role of women. This means women face higher rates of unemployment and poverty.
  5. Girls and women suffer from higher illiteracy rates than boys and men. Illiteracy among women in rural areas is 33.7% in comparison to 10.9% of men. In urban areas, where 7.4% of women and 2.4% of men are illiterate, women still face unequal opportunities in education. Organizations like Peruvian Hearts and the Sacred Valley Project give girls, especially those in rural areas, opportunities for further education in the form of scholarships, tuition and boarding schools.
  6. Peruvian women and girls often face violence and discrimination. Between 2009 and 2015, domestic violence and gender-based crimes killed more than 700 women. In 2006, 69% of women reported that they had suffered physical violence. These reports were higher in rural areas. In 2015, Peru adopted Law No. 30364 aiming to eradicate all forms of violence against women and family members. Over time, the implementation of Law No. 30364 has improved, leading to the creation of a Gender Justice Commission composed of women judges. Reporting domestic violence is now easier and safer. Groups like Ni Una Menos raise awareness about violence against Peruvian women. Last year, it organized a protest in Lima to demand justice and government action for victims of gender violence.
  7. Peruvian women face limited access to reproductive and maternal healthcare. Choices regarding birth control are slim, and resources are often hard to find or too expensive. The fight for reproductive rights is ongoing. In 2014, Peru issued national guidelines for legal abortions in the case of sexual assault. Therapeutic abortion has been legal since 1924, however, access was not secure until 2014. Increased spending on reproductive healthcare over the past decade has improved access to birth control and other contraceptives. Organizations in Peru like PROMSEX promote sexual health and reproductive rights through political advocacy.
  8. Environmental challenges impact women the most in Peru. Resources like clean water, energy and food are scarcer in rural areas of Peru. Since women secure these resources, they bear the pressures of environmental challenges. Taxing jobs like collecting firewood and gathering clean water are becoming even more difficult as resources become scarce. These burdens make families vulnerable, forcing women to put family before health. Additionally, women’s lack of representation in government denies them information and resources that mitigate the effects of climate change.

Hope for the Future

Gender inequality worsens women’s poverty in Peru. Recent legislation and activism have begun to bridge this gap and focus on women’s rights. For example, political representation for women is near 30% and growing. Economic equality is also growing thanks to Law No. 30609 that prohibits pay discrimination between genders. Additionally, reforms to domestic violence services have reduced crime against women in Peru.

Meanwhile, women’s rights organizations like Womankind Worldwide are partnering with Peruvian organization FEPROMU in efforts to educate women and develop leadership skills. The organizations Women’s Empowerment Coalition and Awamaki partnered in 2019 to build an artisan center in Huilloc. The women’s association can now weave and make textiles and train women for leadership.

Government reform and the activism of women’s organizations have allowed helped the women of Peru to climb toward gender equality. This progress should hopefully lessen women’s poverty in Peru.

Dalton Dunning
Photo: Flickr

Eritrean Women Fight Gendered PovertyThe Eritrean War of Independence oversaw a liberation on two fronts. The first was a divergence from Ethiopian colonial rule and the creation of a free Eritrea. The second was a women’s emancipation from culturally embedded subordination and the development of a semi-feminist state. The women’s movement began alongside the Eritrean War of Independence in 1961. It was quick to gain support and traction. The movement allowed women freedoms they did not have pre-revolution. However, as the state transitioned its focus towards a restructuring of administrative processes, the women’s movement lost steam and support. Now the Eritrean women fight gendered poverty. They are fighting issues such as malnutrition, the pan-African AIDS epidemic and limited access to education and health resources.

Poverty and Eritrea

According to the World Health Organization, 53% of Eritreans are living below the poverty line. Further research conducted by UNICEF reported that female-headed households in Eritrea tended to be the poorest. Many long-standing traditions in Eritrean society, pre-dating the civil war, are sources of this income disparity between male and female-headed households. An example of these gender norms is the fact that Eritrean women were not allowed to own property; this often led to unemployment and as a result, a lower income. These outdated expectations cause female ex-combatants a great deal of difficulty in readjusting to gendered cultural norms.

The National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW)

Poverty hit the women of Eritrea women hard, but that has not stopped them from fighting. The National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) is a direct response to the feminist movement born out of the liberation war.

As an organization, the NUEW works with communities of women, including demobilized women fighters. The organization lifts women out of poverty through a combination of literacy programs, vocational training, income-generating activities and micro-credit schemes. In addition, another big part of the NUEW’s mission is promoting women’s participation in local and national government. In working closely with the Government of the State of Eritrea (GSE), the NUEW secured a hold on 30% of elected positions for women. After additional advocacy, the NUEW is working with the GSE to increase that number. The NUEW provided more than just relief programs to women in poverty; it created a space where women were able to have their voices heard.

While Eritrean women have had to overcome numerous hurdles in post-independence Eritrea, they did not do so alone. Eritrean women are fighting gendered poverty. The NUEW provides an invaluable service to Eritrean women through advocacy, education and relief programs. Today, the NUEW is working towards the total emancipation of women and continuing their efforts to raise their country up one woman at a time.

Elizabeth Price

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