Information and news about woman issues

Women in Senegal
Despite making some considerable progress in areas of political representation and educational enrolment, women in Senegal still have many challenges to surmount. Women in Senegal make up the majority of the population — 51% in 2020 — yet about 33% of employed Senegalese females 15 and older live “below the international poverty line.” In comparison, this rate stands at about 27% for males in the same category, a 6% lower rate. The financial inclusion of women in Senegal increases the likelihood of them rising out of poverty.

Gender Issues Women in Senegal Face

In an interview with The Borgen Project, retired U.N. Women regional director (West Africa), Cecile Mukarubuga, says that “in addition to a lack of education, [women face] structural barriers [such as] negative social norms that claim that women can’t make decisions or own property or assets.” Outdated gender norms see little place for women in Senegal outside household duties. Although women’s participation in the workforce is increasing as the years’ pass, standing at 40% in 2019, most women’s employment does not extend beyond the informal sector. In addition, men in this sector earn “82.9% more than women.”

Gender violence, female genital mutilation, underage marriage and cultural perceptions serve as significant hindrances to women’s autonomy and development and also impact their overall well-being and standing in society. According to a 2018 UNICEF report, in Senegal, 1.6 million girls and women faced childhood marriages. While there are laws and policies in place that protect women from violence, cultural traditions that value men and see a specific place for women hold more societal weight.

An example of this is the practice of female genital mutilation, which can lead to severe health complications or even death among girls and women in Senegal. Even though Senegal declared the practice illegal as early as 1999, the practice continues as it is a deeply entrenched cultural tradition. According to UNICEF data, “one in four women” between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced female genital mutilation in Senegal.

Financial Inclusion of Women in Senegal

In a world of gender inequality, financial inclusion can enhance women’s economic agency by equipping them with financial services and products that may improve their economic standing. This includes ensuring women have greater control of economic assets as well as equal access to opportunities and financial resources, such as bank accounts, inheritance, insurance and credit programs.

These financial resources are essential in ensuring women in Senegal are able to break poverty cycles. “For the short term, the best strategy would be to advocate for financial institutions to design financial products and services that meet the needs and capacity of women,” Mukarubuga says. However, she also notes that, first, “there’s a need to transform mindsets and change mentalities.”

Whether these advantages materialize as expanding small businesses, managing cash flow or even increasing assets, financial inclusion and opportunities would activate the untapped economic potential of Senegalese women, even setting the stage for them to be a part of the economic decisions in the household. Financial inclusion means families can look beyond “survival mode” and properly plan for their futures. “Women need a security net because when they do get a loan, most use it to feed their children or meet basic needs, so there is a need to adjust the supporting strategy to the most vulnerable women,” notes Mukarubuga.

United Nations Capital Development Fund

The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) aims to address gender inequality in Senegal and increase the financial inclusion of women in Senegal. Primarily working with girls and women 10 years and older, the UNCDF looks to improve “awareness of, access to, use of and control over appropriate financial products and services.” Additionally, the organization works to address the socio-cultural environment in hopes of improving the agency of women and girls. In this way, the UNCDF strengthens female “economic empowerment and participation” in Senegal, which play an essential role in their ability to rise out of poverty.

The UNCDF runs various empowerment programs covering areas such as agriculture, digital finance and business management. In 2014, through a partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, UNCDF launched a Mobile Money for the Poor Programme(MM4p) that works to address the lack of digital financial inclusion in West Africa. The program was particularly successful in Senegal. From 2014 to 2020, the digital financial inclusion rate rose “from 13% to 29%.” In 2016 alone, women accounted for 10% of digital finance users in Senegal. The program also helped people set up digital wallets and connected local businesses to the digital payment service.

Looking Ahead

While the financial inclusion of women in Senegal is not an all-encompassing solution to dissolving the complex gender inequality issues within the nation, it serves as an empowerment tool to help women progress in society. The financial inclusion of women in Senegal stands as a potential pathway out of poverty for the nation’s female population.

– Owen Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr

Entrepreneurs in Liberia
Women who live in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa are more likely than their male counterparts to suffer from poverty. These women are unable to achieve their full potential due to inequalities. Because of this and a lack of resources, women have no other choice but to live in poverty. Structural poverty affects women in sub-Saharan Africa. This poverty stems from the economic, social and political background of the country. In 2018, Liberia ranked 155th out of 162 countries on the Gender Inequality Index. Despite these challenges, many women are turning into entrepreneurs in Liberia through the help of the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC).

The Situation

In rural areas of Liberia, women make up 60% of the population and stand as the backbones of the community. Despite continuous contributions to their families and the economy, women’s hard work rarely benefits them. Their work continuously goes unnoticed and bears no reward in the areas they live in. Agriculture and forestry are the foundations of Liberia’s economy. Women make up more than half of the agricultural workers. With no time for education, they end up vulnerable to the possibility of poverty. Household chores, caretaking and tasks such as fetching water, fuel and fodder take up the time of women.

How BRAC Helps Women Become Entrepreneurs in Liberia

With a mission to help, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed founded a nonprofit organization, the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), in 1972 to empower people in poverty. Its mission is to empower people and communities in situations of poverty, illiteracy, disease and social injustice. This humanitarian movement has had an impact on Liberian women. About 750 women in Liberia received training to help them overcome poverty as part of BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation Program.

With a focus on women, the approach successfully aided 750 Liberian women in becoming microentrepreneurs. The graduation approach of the program provides “consumption support” at the beginning of the program until students can afford food, a safe place to store their savings, training according to their aspirations and asset transfer. Lastly, the students go through technical and life skills training.

Improvement is Possible

As of 2021, 90% of the Liberian households participating in the BRAC program have multiple sources of income, savings have increased by $9.14, average loan size jumped from $17.10 to $57.14 and the average nutritious meal consumed has grown as well. The improvements are all results of the power of women and the well-deserved push the program gave them. The once poverty-stricken women that lived on less than $1 a day are now entrepreneurs in Liberia with their own businesses. Other women run farms and breed livestock for a living. All it took was a helping hand.

The Importance of BRAC in Liberia

The purpose of BRAC programs is to reduce poverty — these initiatives serve as stepping stones for the betterment of Liberia. The effect of BRAC programs spans 12 Liberian counties and serves several other countries around the world.

BRAC programs alone have ensured that 23.9% of participants have access to adequate amounts of food and increased monthly income by 36.8% after two years. Aside from improving food security, BRAC also provides employment opportunities. Out of 494 BRAC staff members, 94% of them are Liberians and 30% of the management team are women. Organizations like BRAC are useful in providing education, jobs, empowerment and livelihoods to the community. Although BRAC Liberia only began in 2008, it is continuing its mission to reduce poverty in Liberia.

– Destiny Jackson
Photo: Flickr

Violence Against Women in Cameroon
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make headlines, several other global challenges have come to light as a result. Like with many widespread concerns, crises often intensify the reality of serious issues. This is true regarding violence against women in Cameroon. While violence against women in Cameroon has attracted more attention since the beginning of the pandemic, its existence far precedes COVID-19. However, it is important to recognize that the implications of the current global pandemic worsen the intensity of gender-based violence.

Growing Violence Over Time

Data from 2012 reveals that 51% of women in Cameroon faced some sort of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. According to a 2019 research paper on gender equality in Cameroon, “56.4% of women in [a] union” face some form of violence. Furthermore, discrimination against women in Cameroon extends beyond gender-based violence. For example, 51.5% of women in Cameroon live below the poverty line in comparison to 39% of the general population. Moreover, 80% of women who live below the poverty line endure underemployment. Although COVID-19 is not a root cause of violence against women in Cameroon, it raises awareness regarding the severity of the matter. This growing global recognition draws attention to efforts addressing gender-based violence in the country and beyond.

WACameroon

Women in Action Against Gender Based Violence (WACameroon) began in 2005 as an organization centered around advancing human rights. WACameroon’s main focus is to advocate for a society in which everybody respects and upholds the rights of all. This includes improving the lives of impoverished women and other marginalized groups in Cameroon. WACameroon’s main objectives are:

  1. To encourage peacekeeping and the upholding of human rights.
  2. To create “action-oriented” initiatives to mitigate “gender-based violence and discrimination.”
  3. Improving the health of Cameroon’s population, specifically as it concerns HIV/AIDS.
  4. Ensuring the sustainability of both “natural and human resources.”
  5. Strengthening governance and democracy nationwide.

WACameroon’s efforts have seen success. The organization was able to improve girls’ access to education and female school completion rates while mobilizing “men as partners in the struggle for gender equality.” In addition, WACameroon helped facilitate “access to productive resources [for impoverished women].” With regard to gender-based violence, in particular, WACameroon “empowers perpetrators of [gender-based violence] to become advocates of gender equality.” The organization also empowers women with the confidence and assertiveness to enforce their rights. In 2010, the organization gained international recognition: International Service U.K. presented WACameroon with an International Human Rights award for its work in empowering people in Cameroon.

Opportunity Moving Forward

Violence against women in Cameroon brings more than just physical harm. The lasting effects of gendered violence bring along psychological challenges that can last a lifetime. While addressing these problems requires considerable time and effort, increased support from global organizations is an essential first step in demonstrating that individuals are not alone in their struggles. With the work of organizations like WACameroon, there is a growing awareness of the urgency for resources and aid in addressing violence against women in Cameroon.

– Chloé D’Hers
Photo: Flickr

Nigerian Women's Health
In a 2021 Brookings Institution report, Dr. Damaris Parsitau proposed that African women and girls remain at the forefront of recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic. In explaining why, the Kenyan professor of religion highlighted that African females bear the brunt of the pandemic’s disasters, making up more than 60% of Africa’s health care workforce and essential services workforce. According to the report, this disproportionately high percentage of females reaches slightly more than 90% in some countries, such as Egypt. Women in African countries face not only an increased risk of death from COVID-19 but also poor working conditions, low pay and lack of voice due to androcentric leadership. The conditions that African women experienced during the pandemic raise questions surrounding African women’s health more broadly. Here is some information about how the Health Aid for All Initiative (HAFAI) is promoting women’s health at a holistic level for Nigerian women.

About the Health Aid for All Initiative

Health Aid for All promotes Nigerian women’s health in two different ways: by promoting women’s education concerning menstrual health and working to reduce maternal and infant mortality via disease control, immunization against common childhood diseases and population management. Dr. Ugochi Ohajuruka founded Health Aid for All on Valentine’s Day 2006. Today, she runs the executive operations of the nonprofit as its CEO.

About Dr. Ugochi Ohajuruka

Dr. Ohajuruka holds a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from the University of Ibadan; Ibadan claims its status because it is the capital of Oyo State in Southwestern Nigeria. She also holds a bachelor of medicine (MBBS) and a master’s in public health from the University of Liverpool in Northwestern England. In the English educational system, a bachelor of medicine is equivalent to the MD doctoral designation in the United States. To further qualify Ohajuruka’s expertise, she also took a course on international women’s health and human rights from Stanford University and studied leadership and management in health at the University of Washington in the United States.

The Origins of Health Aid for All (HAFAI )

The Health Aid for All Initiative began in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, and was fully registered as a nonprofit via the Integrated Tax Office of the Federal Inland Revenue Service on June 12, 2015. The organization also holds an office in the Bronx, New York.

Ohajuruka founded HAFAI to address the cognitive, interpersonal and structural problems that girls’ menstruation raises in Nigeria. Nigerian girls suffer from misconceptions concerning menstruation and have little bodily freedom during their menstrual cycles. In addition, the lack of proper menstrual products means that girls miss school for long periods of time, which affects the quality of life for the country as a whole. There is also an environmental impact as the sanitary pads used (up to 11,000 in one lifetime) are not biodegradable or environmentally friendly.

Nigeria suffers a lack of proper waste management resources. These concerns motivated Ohajuruka to found the organization. According to a story from Laureate, a nonprofit organization using education to promote changed lives, Ohajuruka was working on her dissertation to complete her online MPH. While working at her local health center one day, she saw a teenage girl rushed to the emergency room after suffering a pelvic infection caused by managing her menstruation with feathers and other unsafe alternatives. This was enough for the medical doctor to start the organization.

The Mission of Health Aid for All Initiative

HAFAI addresses women’s health holistically, targeting important issues like maternal and child health, menstrual hygiene management and adolescent health. Concerning maternal and infant health, Nigeria is the second-largest contributor to the global under-5 mortality rate and the global maternal mortality rate; daily, the West African country loses about 2,300 children 5 years old and younger and 145 women of childbearing age. To combat this, Health Aid for All provides educational opportunities on safe motherhood and the reduction of infant mortality rates.

Menstrual hygiene management is an important focus of HAFAI. HAFAI provides Nigerian girls information on menstruation to counter the misconceptions that religious and cultural influences promote. In addition, the nonprofit has produced an affordable, sustainable, washable and reusable sanitary towel for young women that lasts up to three years. As of date, HAFAI has distributed more than 22,400 reusable pads and has enabled 650 women to start pad-making businesses and thus earn a living. Abuja has seen a nearly 67% decrease in school absenteeism from 24% to 8%.

HAFAI has also shared success stories of individuals it has helped through its initiatives; readers can share the link to this webpage through their social media pages. The organization also has a blog through which readers can learn more about menstrual hygiene and other women’s health issues. Readers can also share links on social media to increase awareness.

The Health Aid for All Initiative has seen marked success in promoting Nigerian women’s health, which improves their quality of life, especially through education. This, in turn, provides hope for the reduction of poverty in the country as increased education causes fewer children to be born into poverty.

– Ozichukwu Ojukwu
Photo: Flickr

Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan, formally the Kyrgyz Republic, is a country in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan has a population of approximately 6.5 million people, with more than 60% of the population living in rural areas. A practice of the Kyrgyz people, most prevalent in the country’s poor rural areas, is bride kidnapping, which occurs when men abduct women and force them into marriage with or without the consent of the woman’s family. Kyrgyzstan’s government and USAID are working to tackle this issue. However, one of the most effective ways to combat the practice of bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan is addressing poverty in rural Kyrgyzstan.

The Connection Between Poverty and Bride Kidnapping

Because some of Kyrgyzstan’s population regard bride kidnapping as a traditional and romantic practice, men may “kidnap” brides with consent from the bride and her family. This is known as consensual bride kidnapping. However, bride kidnappings that occur without the bride’s knowledge or agreement are non-consensual bride kidnapping. The U.N. has condemned this practice of forced marriage as a violation of human rights.

Poverty and unemployment in recent years provide a source of frustration for young men in rural Kyrgyzstan seeking to marry. One characteristic of traditional Kyrgyz marriage is kalym, or the “bride price,” by which a man seeking to marry must pay the bride’s family in cash and livestock.

Poor men in rural Kyrgyzstan often do not have the money or resources to pay this price. Additionally, these men face pressure from their communities to marry before they reach a certain age. Thus, the quickest and cheapest way to do so is to kidnap a bride.

Other Factors in Bride Kidnapping

Aside from poverty, many other factors can also help explain why bride kidnappings occur. One reason why a man may kidnap a bride is simply that he cannot otherwise obtain her consent or because he is worried she may marry someone else.

Another factor that explains bride kidnapping is the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Once the Soviet Union collapsed and Kyrgyzstan gained its independence, the young country sought to assert its nationalist dignity and separate its identity from the Soviet Union by reviving traditional practices, such as bride kidnapping.

The U.N. estimates that one in five marriages in Kyrgyzstan is the result of bride kidnapping. Poverty is one factor that incentivizes bride kidnapping. However, bride kidnapping can also cause further poverty, particularly for the few women who manage to escape their marriages. Often uprooted in the middle of their pursuit of education or professional opportunity, these women return to a society where they lack the skills they need to support themselves and their children.

Additionally, the state does not register marriages that are a product of bride kidnapping, as Girls Not Brides reported. Therefore, these women are not entitled to any assets or support they might have otherwise received in the case of legal divorce. Along with driving women further into poverty, negative effects of bride kidnapping on women also include domestic abuse, denial of educational or economic opportunities, high rates of depression and suicide.

What is the Government Doing About It?

In 2013, Kyrgyzstan’s government increased the prison sentence for bride kidnapping from a maximum of three years to a maximum of 10 years. The state also set forth a Criminal Code that prohibits bride kidnapping and forced kidnapping.

The government’s efforts to criminalize bride kidnapping are worth noting and encouraging further. Still, it needs to more consistently and effectively enforce laws that address bride kidnapping. Women who manage to file a complaint against their kidnappers often find that the crime remains unprosecuted. Additionally, the government does not yet sufficiently fund services for survivors of bride kidnappings and the domestic abuse that can result from such a practice.

The Five-Year Enterprise Competitiveness Project

However, the state is not alone in its efforts. Several USAID projects focus on helping the poorest regions of Kyrgyzstan by supporting job creation and economic growth. Since poverty is one factor that can potentially motivate bride kidnapping, efforts to relieve poverty may translate into deterrence from bride kidnapping.

For example, in 2018 USAID started the five-year Enterprise Competitiveness Project. It focuses on growing sectors that can quickly create more jobs such as the agricultural, manufacturing and apparel sectors. The project provides businesses in regions with high levels of poverty and unemployment with grants and technical advice, funds research and creates partnerships with financial institutions. USAID expects the project to create 19,000 new jobs.

The USAID Business Growth Initiative

USAID also works to support and empower the women of Kyrgyzstan in a variety of ways. The USAID Business Growth Initiative supports women-owned businesses in sectors such as tourism and apparel. Thus far, the project has provided 2,000 women with new technical skills.

USAID also provides professional training for female Members of Parliament. The agency sponsors conferences between these women and political activists. It is fostering connections that strengthen support for legislation that combats bride kidnapping and prioritizes women’s rights. Furthermore, USAID partners with civil society organizations to raise awareness about criminal liability for bride kidnapping. It also advocates for laws protecting women from domestic violence.

Thus, providing greater economic opportunity for men in rural Kyrgyzstan is one way to decrease the risk of bride kidnapping. Men who are more secure in their finances and assured of their employment will have less incentive to kidnap brides.

Additionally, providing greater state protections and services for victims of bride kidnapping as well as a greater guarantee for prosecution can also serve to deter this practice and rehabilitate the victims of this human rights violation. Finally, raising awareness for women’s rights could help dismantle traditional, misogynistic practices such as bride kidnapping.

– Savannah Algu
Photo: Flickr

Human trafficking in Honduras
Human trafficking in Honduras is one of the most prominent human rights issues in the country. A 2020 report by the U.S. Department of State identifies Honduras as a Tier 2 country since it is making great strides in reducing human trafficking cases. However, the country still needs to meet the set baselines. With the new legislation, a new anti-trafficking plan and advocacy efforts by government-backed programs, Honduras is on its way to creating a safer society.

Causes of Human Trafficking in Honduras

The main causes of human trafficking in Honduras are unemployment, lack of economic opportunity and family issues. These issues leave people desperate to have a stable income and, unfortunately, make them more vulnerable to human trafficking. According to World Bank data, the unemployment rate in Honduras reached 10.98% in 2020, about a 5% increase from the unemployment rate of 5.7% in 2019. Often, traffickers lure victims to other countries with false promises of an escape from poverty and crime-ravaged areas, according to the 2021 report by the U.S. Department of State.

Honduras is primarily a source country for sex trafficking and forced labor. Oftentimes, traffickers exploit victims within their own communities and homes. Traffickers transport women and children, who are primarily victims of sex trafficking, abroad to experience exploitation in countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and the United States. Additionally, traffickers usually transport people for forced labor to Guatemala, Mexico and the United States.

As the U.S. Department of State reported, traffickers force their victims to beg on the streets, traffick drugs and work in the informal sector. Children have to work in dangerous occupations such as the agricultural, construction, manufacturing and mining industries. The U.S. Department of Labor statistics show that 9% of children from ages 5 to 14 in Honduras are working. Around 53% of these children work in the agricultural sector, 12.7% work in the industry sector (mining, construction and fireworks production, etc.) and 34% work in the services sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the situation, negatively impacting economic opportunity further. This has increased the vulnerability of people to human trafficking in Honduras, according to the 2021 report by the U.S. Department of State.

Government Initiatives

The previously mentioned report shows that the Honduran government is taking action to reduce cases of human trafficking in Honduras in the following ways:

  1. Increasing funding for Inter-institutional Commission to Combat Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking in Persons (CICESCT): In 2019, the Honduran government increased funding to 5.5 million lempiras (USD 221,400). CICESCT uses this funding to provide assistance to victims such as protection and therapy. In 2020, CICESCT’s immediate response team provided 67 victims with these services. Additionally, CICESCT works with other organizations and NGOs to provide further assistance to victims such as medical care.
  2. Identifying More Victims: Law enforcement and social service providers have certain procedures to follow to identify symptoms of human trafficking and refer suspected victims to the CICEST immediate response team.
  3. Enacting a New Penal Code Provision: The definition of trafficking is now as per international law. However, the new penal code lowered the penalty for trafficking, resulting in the crime not being on par with other serious misdemeanors.
  4. Implementing the 2016-2020 National Anti-Trafficking Plan: This plan includes measures such as providing anti-trafficking training to the public (virtually during the pandemic) and providing awareness-raising campaigns through social media. The Honduran government also formed a network of 32 government agencies and NGOs to help carry the plan out.

UNODC Campaign

In 2019, the Honduran government joined the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Blue Heart Campaign. The idea is to raise awareness about human trafficking in Honduras and to prevent these crimes. The Blue Heart Campaign focuses on advocacy and seeks to recruit others to help prevent human trafficking crimes by building political support to take more action against it. The campaign sends its donations to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, whose goal is to aid other organizations and NGOs globally to assist victims. According to the UNODC, the campaign resulted in the rescuing of 194 people in 2019.

CICESCT

CICESCT is a Honduran government agency that aims to reduce the number of human trafficking cases and to provide care for victims. Since its formation in 2012, Honduras has increased funding for CICESCT. This allows for more aid and investigations into human trafficking cases. In 2018, more than 300 victims received aid, protection and services (mental health counseling, food, housing, legal care and medical care) to integrate back into society. Also, 28 people received prison sentences with time ranging from five to 15 years for human trafficking.

Moving Forward

There are still critical issues to resolve regarding human trafficking in Honduras. However, the country has made significant progress and is continuing to work on eradicating human trafficking from the country. If this level of progress and awareness continues, Honduras can achieve a trafficking-free society.

– Shikha Surupa
Photo: Unsplash

Gender Wage Gap In Namibia
Namibia ranks sixth in the Global Gender Gap Report of 2021, the highest-ranked African country for bridging the gap between women and men economic opportunity, educational attainment, health and political empowerment measure. In just nine years, Namibia has climbed 35 spots, excelling past Canada and the United States in the Global Gender Gap Report. A closer look at Namibia’s history provides insight into actions taken to bridge this gap and how the gender wage gap in Namibia still plays a role in society today.

Post-Independence Namibia Focuses on Gender Equality

Prior to Namibia gaining independence, many considered women the property of men. When Namibia gained full independence from South Africa in 1990, it implemented numerous changes aimed at improving gender equality, as well as equality for all, in the new constitution. Article 10 states that “[n]o persons shall be discriminated against on the grounds of sex, race, color, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status,” emphasizing Namibia’s commitment to equality.

Also, the Married Persons Equality Act became law in 1996. The act allows women to sign contracts, register a property in their name and act as directors of companies. Women in Namibia hold about 44% of the managerial professions.

In the year 2013, “Namibia’s ruling party, the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO),” implemented a 50/50 gender policy that requires “equal representation of men and women” in parliament. At the time of the policy creation, women filled only 25% of the positions in parliament. Currently, women occupy 44% of the seats in parliament, proving that the gender policy has been effective in adding more women to work in government roles. The government’s adoption of these policies aid in creating a more inclusive environment for women in Namibia, particularly in political and urban settings.

More Women Seek an Education

Women in Namibia are leading their male counterparts in post-secondary education with a tertiary education enrollment rate of 30% for women and 15% for men. At the largest university in Namibia, the University of Namibia (UNAM), 64% of the students are women while only 36% are men. Many women continue on to obtain their master’s degrees or doctoral degrees. Once out of school, the labor force participation rate for women drops below men at 57% and 64% respectively. Even though more women seek secondary education than men, women earn less than men in several industries.

While the gender wage gap in Namibia is less prominent than that of many other countries, the distribution of wealth is immensely unequal. According to the Gini index, which measures the degree of inequality in the distribution of family income, Namibia ranks second-highest in comparison to all other countries in the world. Namibia has one of the highest Gini index ratings because of its high unemployment rate, with women more likely to experience unemployment. About 64% of Namibians survive on less than $5.55 per person per day, which equates to slightly more than $2,000 a year. The average amount U.S. citizens spend on a summer vacation is roughly the same.

Namibians Continue to Reach for Gender Equality

Much like other patriarchal societies, when women and men reach for equality, there are often roadblocks along the way. While women in Namibia now occupy 44% of the positions in parliament, they are still shy of the 50% goal of the 50/50 gender policy. The gender wage gap in Namibia has narrowed significantly, but there is still massive inequality concerning family income distribution. There is also an underlying dialogue in Namibia that women are inferior to men. Sexual and gender-based violence is prevalent due to societal and cultural norms. In fact, among the age group of 15 to 49, 28% of women and 22% of men in Namibia believe a husband beating his wife as a form of discipline constitutes a justifiable act. These beliefs contribute to a culture of gender inequality, which often proliferates inequalities in the workplace and perpetuates traditional gender roles.

Fortunately, the government is continuing to implement policies beneficial to gender equality. Additionally, women are pursuing secondary education at astounding rates, which is crucial in combating gender-based disparities as well as decreasing the gender wage gap in Namibia.

– Amy Helmendach
Photo: Flickr

Domestic Violence Against Women in Venezuela
The fight to reduce domestic violence against women in Venezuela still needs improvement. In the past few decades, the country has faced severe political turmoil. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the violence women in Venezuela face. In most cases, women still have to rely on their domestic abusers for financial support. Currently, the country still presents many challenges and obstacles for women to obtain justice against their attackers. Recognizing the dire need for changes, domestic and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are working hard to protect Venezuelan women’s rights and safety. Here are some NGOs leading the fight for reducing domestic violence against women in Venezuela.

Centro de Justicio y Paz (Cepaz)

Cepaz is a nongovernmental organization that works to promote democratic values, human rights and the culture of peace in Venezuela. The idea was born in a context that a great institutional crisis and generalized violence characterized. Cepaz focuses on the empowerment of citizens and women, activism networks and promotion of the culture of peace in the country. The organization aims to reduce violence against Venezuelan women by developing specialized work for vulnerable demographics. With its combined program in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action, the organization serves women victims of gender violence.

It accompanies grassroots women in impoverished areas to boost their leadership and awareness of rights. Cepaz is also supporting them in the generation of organizational processes that generate well-being. It provides assistance in the community in areas such as water, food, violence, sexual and reproductive health, among others. Through these works, Cepaz hopes to educate the country to recognize the immense danger Venezuelan women are facing due to domestic violence and gender inequality.

Prepara Familia

Prepara Familia is a nongovernmental organization committed to serving women and families. It is contributing to the construction of a solidary and a fairer society, as well as accompanying the defense and awareness of women’s rights. It began as a grassroots organization, working hand in hand with doctors, family members and children hospitalized at the J.M de los Ríos Hospital. Since its foundation, Prepara Familia has worked intensively for the rights of mothers, children and teenagers. The organization develops training and empowerment programs for Women Caregivers in the hospital and assists women who have suffered domestic violence. Through their works, the organization hopes to reduce violence against Venezuelan women and aid those in need.

Tinta Violeta

Tinta Violeta is a feminist nongovernmental organization that aims to use artistic expressions, such as the media and cinema, as mobilization tools. The organization seeks to mainstream feminism in all communication content and cultural discourses in Venezuela. Tinta Violeta wants to create a Venezuela with gender equality and free of domestic violence against women. Providing psychological and legal help the organization also accompanies the victim to the police station or the Prosecutor’s Office to file the complaint. Volunteers from Tinta Violeta have offered their own homes as safe houses and often listened to all those Venezuelan women that get in touch with them through their website, as well as their Facebook and Instagram accounts.

FundaMujer

FundaMujer is a nongovernmental organization that seeks to create a safe space for feminist leaders to discuss and advocate for gender equality and reducing violence against women in Venezuela. Created when the aggravated situation regarding violence affecting women in Venezuela has escalated, FundaMujer supports the protection of women’s rights defenders. It is monitoring any threat against feminist organizations or women’s groups and providing security for any individual who is at risk. The organization also promotes the right of women to a life free of domestic violence. It mobilizes national and international resources to support women. FundaMujer holds local, regional and national authorities accountable for any violation of women’s rights.

Together, these four NGOs are all fighting for reducing domestic violence against women in Venezuela in addition to efforts made by the government. Through these combined efforts, domestic violence against women in Venezuela has substantially declined and women’s rights have continued to strengthen.

– Tri Truong
Photo: Flickr

Gender Equality Reforms
Vietnam’s gender disparities have come under scrutiny in recent years in part because of the global push for gender equality. Despite the nation’s progress in closing the gender gap in both education and labor participation, inequalities still persist. Recognizing this phenomenon, the Vietnamese government recently renewed its Labor Code, reaffirming its commitment to achieving gender parity through gender equality reforms. The reformed Labor Code aims to advance gender equality in the workplace. Vietnam drafted its revamped Labor Code in 2019 to go into effect in 2021. Here are five of its proposed reforms to promote gender equality in the Vietnamese workplace.

5 Gender Equality Reforms in the Vietnamese Workplace

  1. Equal Pay for Equal Work. The new Labor Code limits the gender wage gap in Vietnam by tackling gender discrimination in the workplace. Vietnam’s 2016 Labor Force Survey revealed that women receive 10.7% less than men, with the gender wage gap standing at 8.1% for unskilled female workers and 19.7% for female employees with higher education qualifications. The amended Labor Code “maintains the payment of equal wages for work of equal value.”
  2. Equal Access to Jobs. As of 2019, legislation denied Vietnamese female workers “access to 77 jobs” on the basis of sex, pregnancy or child caretaking responsibilities. These “prohibited jobs include occupations that are heavy and hazardous such as in construction, mining and fisheries.” The amended Labor Code removes these prohibitions, and instead, gives women the right to choose an occupation suitable for them.
  3. Paid Paternity Leave. Only women workers in Vietnam receive paid parental leave to care for sick children younger than 7 years old, perpetuating the stereotype that women are the primary caretakers of their children. Because males “have the same capacity to care for children and the home,” males should be able to take this leave as well. As such, the new Labor Code “now entitles male employees to paid paternity leave” so that this responsibility is equal. Gender discrimination both in hiring and workplace practices hinders women’s abilities to contribute fully and fairly to the Vietnamese labor force.
  4. Addressing Discriminatory Barriers. The reformed Labor Code seeks to combat discriminatory barriers. The law includes protections against discrimination based on marital status, pregnancy, disability and more. Female workers can now take daily breaks to breastfeed children younger than 12 months old. During menstruation, women can take a 30-minute break.
  5. Combating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. Vietnam also seeks to address sexual harassment in the workplace. Statistics show that women constitute 80% of victims of workplace sexual harassment. The amended law provides a specific definition of sexual harassment to ensure justice for victims, including any form of physical, verbal or non-verbal harassment. The government broadened this definition of the workplace to include a wide variety of “work-related locations.” Addressing sexual harassment in the workplace “will improve retention and productivity of all women workers.”

Striving for Gender Equality in Vietnam

By combating gender equality in the workplace, Vietnam has the potential to better its economy while advancing women’s rights. With reforms to improve gender equality, Vietnam aligns with global goals as the fight for equality dominates the global discourse. Aiming to achieve a work-life balance for both men and women dissolves gender stereotypes. Business owners, employers and employees can now rely on a strong legal framework against sexual harassment. More importantly, the adjusted Labor Code empowers women and inspires more female workers to join the workforce. These efforts will inevitably help advance gender equality in Vietnam.

– Tri Truong
Photo: Unsplash

Women's Rights in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, with a population of 6.6 million inhabitants. Women in Nicaragua face many challenges such as increased poverty and violence. The following will present several areas where women’s rights in Nicaragua require improvement.

Violence Against Women

In Nicaragua, violence against women in the form of abuse is one of the most serious social issues that the country faces. Among married women in Nicaragua, 52% have reported cases of spousal abuse, with a median duration of five years. Additionally, 21% of these women reported an overlap between both emotional and sexual violence, with 31% of these women being sexually and/or violently abused during their pregnancy.

Needless to say, these statistics are disheartening and scary. With such high rates of abuse around the country, there seems to be little or no hope for Nicaraguan women to escape this abusive cycle. However, there are several organizations that have contributed to the decrease of sexual abuse in southern countries, such as Self-Help International. It is the largest global organization that works to prevent torture and abuse of all sorts by educating and empowering women in developing countries. Misinformation about abusive relationships is very common among Nicaraguan women. Organizations like this allow women to escape this kind of relationship.

The Gender Gap

The Human Development Report has ranked Nicaragua 124 out of 189 countries based on Gender Equality Index in 2017. Additionally, women are more likely to face poverty in Nicaragua than men. With facts like these, it is evident that there is a disparity between men and women in Nicaragua.

Family members are often the ones who push women in Nicaragua to the sex trafficking industry. Additionally, 28% of Nicaraguan women give birth before they are 18, which is mostly due to sexual violence. This is the issue of society not discouraging violence against women.

Women’s Rights and Poverty

The 2016 poverty rate in Nicaragua was 24.9% with an average salary being $265. A large number of women in Nicaragua experience pregnancy at a young age. They usually stay at home and care for their children rather than working and garnering an income. However, the income that their male counterparts provide for their families is frequently insufficient. In fact, about 78% of households in Nicaragua live in ‘substandard’ conditions, the highest rate in all of Latin America.

This problem returns to the roots of the gender gap and women’s treatment in Nicaragua. It means that the cycle of women having children at a young age and caring for them with a low household income will only continue across the years, even affecting future generations. This means that one of the most important places to start with solving this problem is encouraging education about abuse.

Solutions

Though there are certain difficult cases that prevent the maximum execution of women’s rights in Nicaragua, hope still exists for the country. With a declining number of abuse cases due to the exposure of organizations like Self-Help International, women’s rights in Nicaragua are beginning to solidify. Self-Help has been working to solve global issues like hunger and poverty since 1999, and it provides education and opportunities for women in these countries. In 2019, Self-Help was able to offer clean drinking water to 3,600 Nicaraguan residents in nine communities. With this preceding success, it is likely that Self-Help’s initiative to alleviate the women’s rights issues in Nicaragua will quickly gain traction.

Self-Help is currently working on a project to educate and empower 200 Nicaraguan women through workshops and microloans. This could lead to a reduction in young women entering and staying in abusive relationships. It is the success of the organizations like this one that can bring hope to women and influence the policymakers when spreading awareness about women’s rights.

Though Nicaragua’s statistics regarding women’s rights and abuse are not yet within positive measures, the work of NGOs should result in the improvement of conditions for women in Nicaragua over the next decades.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Flickr