Problems in Rural India
Despite the country’s soaring GDP, India is home to almost a quarter of the world’s poor population. Although India lifted 270 million people out of poverty between 2006 and 2016, 270 million more people continue to live below the global poverty line. The extreme poverty that India’s poor faces disproportionately affects rural populations and women, who receive fewer opportunities in education, healthcare and employment.

Named after the goddess of education, nonprofit Bani Mandir works to elevate people in India’s most vulnerable communities by solving problems in rural India. The organization, based in West Bengal, India, aims to address the root causes of poverty, particularly in rural areas and among women. By providing solutions to education inequality, access to healthcare and women’s opportunities, Bani Mandir empowers India’s rural poor.

Education

One of the root causes of poverty is a lack of education. Access to education is integral to lifting people out of poverty, as education reduces inequality and drastically improves the opportunities students obtain as they age. In India, where 45% of the poor population is illiterate, improving access to education in rural areas is vital.

Girls in India, particularly those living in poverty, face additional barriers when it comes to attending school. India gave girls the right to education in 2009. However, many girls are still unable to attend school due to housework responsibilities, stigma and health concerns. The lack of girls in school contributes to fewer women in the workforce. Women make up only 25% of the labor force in India.

To increase enrollment of girls and students from rural areas, Bani Mandir has provided education for more than 10,000 students, maintaining equal representation between girls and boys. Bani Mandir also helps children receive sufficient nutrition support and trains teachers in effective teaching practices. These advancements are improving the quality of education for a larger number of students.

Access to Healthcare

In India, rural communities receive significantly less access to healthcare. Due to the lack of health facilities and insufficient awareness about the benefits of healthcare, many workers in rural communities are unwilling to sacrifice a day’s wages to attend a healthcare visit. Additionally, women in India receive less access to healthcare than men. In a 2019 study, men and boys were two times as likely to visit a healthcare facility. The study also found that many women who should have seen a doctor did not.

To improve access to healthcare in India’s vulnerable communities, Bani Mandir offers comprehensive healthcare programs. Women make up 60% of those benefiting from Bani Mandir’s health services. Bani Mandir’s 23 health projects served more than 3,500 people living in rural villages and slums. The organization also arranged more than 100 health camps to address immediate medical needs. Finally, Bani Mandir partners with schools to provide health programs to students. Its work is encouraging students to seek healthcare and to grow up in a culture where going to the doctor is standard practice.

Women’s Empowerment

Since many women are often denied access to education and healthcare, their employment opportunities are limited. Furthermore, employment is not a guarantee of equal treatment. In fact, pay inequalities result in men making 65% more than women for the same labor. Although gender equality in India is a constitutional right, many women are unaware of their rights and of the ways they can support themselves financially.

Bani Mandir offers more than 375 self-help groups across 30 villages and supports more than 15,000 women and girls to help eliminate problems in rural India. These women’s empowerment groups educate women about their rights, organize finances and offer loans for small businesses, encouraging female entrepreneurs. Bani Mandir also aims to change societal perceptions and stigmas against women by educating broader communities. Bani Mandir’s programs are educating upwards of 10,000 community members about women’s rights issues.

By addressing the problems in rural India pertaining to poverty, such as education, healthcare and women’s opportunities, Bani Mandir is inciting change across entire communities and improving the lives of rural populations. The organization also offers services that improve sanitation, care for the elderly and support for abandoned children. With its wide scope, Bani Mandir is providing countless examples of concrete ways to create change. To build upon the positive change that Bani Mandir and other nonprofits have inspired, the Indian government should sharpen its laws around gender equality to ensure that women and girls obtain adequate access to employment, healthcare and education.

Melina Stavropoulos
Photo: Unsplash

Women’s Rights in Morocco
Since Morocco gained its independence from France in 1956, there have been many changes to women’s rights. Across the nation, women continue to fight for their rights in legal, social, political and economic contexts. Although work remains, local organizations have made great strides in improving the status of women’s rights in Morocco.

Women’s Rights On Paper

Morocco’s Constitution addresses the issue of women’s rights. Article 19 of the 2011 Constitution states, “The man and the woman enjoy, in equality, the rights and freedoms of civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental character.” This is a general guarantee of gender and matrimonial equality. Moreover, there have been numerous other ratifications in the Moroccan legislature that correlate to this statement.

Moroccan women now have protections against male guardian requirements, rape-marriage allowances and sexual harassment. The government passed all of these laws after 2004, with one as recent as 2018. Yet, there are still a few loopholes in the legal system. For example, the Family Law allows forced marriage if a judicial waiver is provided. Many believe that there is still progress to be made.

Status of Women’s Rights in Morocco (Social Contexts)

While the Moroccan Constitution is promising and shows progression, conservative ideals remain common in social institutions. This includes the hierarchy of power held by males and gender-based discrimination. Socially, the need is the greatest for reform and change, which law or legislation do not often achieve.

Women are fighting for equality in Morocco today by seizing opportunities, including education, economic and financial freedom and leadership positions. By holding higher positions in society, these conservative assumptions may begin to dissipate in family and cultural contexts.

Status of Women’s Rights in Morocco (Political Contexts)

Women gained both the right to vote and the right to stand in an election on the same date in May 1963. The assumption of leadership by women is historical and considered to be a great gain for Moroccan women. Bassima Hakkaoui, a veiled political leader, is now in charge of the Ministry of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development. She is the first veiled woman to hold this position.

Unfortunately, most women struggle to gain access to political leadership positions today. As of 2018, only 81 out of 395 parliamentary members were held by women. This begs the question of whether Moroccan women can be accurately and meaningfully represented by their government voices. Many activists call for more female representation in parliament and other positions of power.

Status of Women’s Rights in Morocco (Economic Contexts)

According to USAID Morocco, ranks 141 out of 149 countries in women’s economic participation and opportunity. Women make up 50% of Morocco’s population but only 26% of the labor force. Also, the female labor force participation rate in Morocco decreased by 6% between 1999 and 2010. Moroccan women remain a largely untapped resource within the very borders of the country.

One of the results of the 2011 Constitution includes positive advancements in girls’ education. Increasing access and encouraging girls to finish school has led to more women contributing to the labor market and the economy. The accumulation of generational wealth is an example of this influence.

Fighting for Women’s Rights

To continue improving the status of women’s rights in Morocco, the strengthening of the justice system is crucial. Addressing social and cultural barriers is also important, as many gender limitations stem from conservative or patriarchal views.

Two notable organizations are fighting to raise the status of women’s rights in Morocco and both reside in Rabat. The Democratic Association for Moroccan Women and the Mobilizing for Rights Associates (MRA) work within the community and advocate for legal reforms. These reforms promote women’s social, economic and political equality, monitor international human rights compliance and assist women’s rights campaigns.

MRA also tracks the implementation of the newly signed Elimination of Violence Against Women law, which was recently enacted in September 2018. This law has shown the world that Morocco is willing to make progress in gender equality. Furthermore, it exemplifies the importance of these women’s rights organizations in making progress.

Moving Forward

Although Morocco has made improvements in women’s rights, work remains. Women across the country are continuing to fight for equality in all contexts. Moving forward, women’s rights organizations continue to advocate for the safety and liberty of all Moroccan women.

Savannah Gardner
Photo: Flickr

Pineapples Against Poverty in Rwanda
Poverty plagues many residents in the East African country of Rwanda. As a result of the deadly 1994 genocide, many female-led households are struggling. To provide for their families, these women are using their small parcels of land for agricultural cultivation. However, it was not until a group of residents in the district of Kirehe founded the Tuzamurane Cooperative in Eastern Rwanda that things changed. Through these efforts, profitable gain could now occur. Tuzamurane has worked to boost incomes by cultivating pineapples, a practice that has supplemented the community and helped combat poverty. By using pineapples against poverty in Rwanda, there is potential for improved quality of life for thousands.

What is the Tuzamurane Cooperative?

Established more than 10 years ago, the Tuzamurane Cooperative emerged to educate women on horticulture and financial literacy. Workers identified pineapples, a locally grown and climate-suitable fruit, as an ideal agricultural crop for local cooperative members to cultivate.

After some members visited a Belgian export convention, inspiration struck to collect community pineapple harvests and market them for both local and foreign sale. After this collection process, the initiative sells these fresh pineapples to locals and exports the dried fruits. Unfortunately, however, local markets pay very little just 6 cents for a single pineapple.

Community Success and Support

Oxfam, an Irish organization focused on mobilizing people against poverty, joined this cooperative’s efforts in 2015 and helped turn its pineapple production into profit. With Oxfam, Tuzamurane could attain proper facilities like processing equipment, a more thorough supplier base and adequate organic certification. Cooperative members now have access to a broader market with a higher profit margin, which can directly fight poverty in Rwanda.

Tuzamurane, meaning “lift up one another,” is a fitting name for the organization’s mission. For instance, the educational opportunities and market accessibility Tuzamurane provides its members are profound on their own. Yet, its support goes beyond these areas. If a co-op member needs monetary assistance to make ends meet, Tuzamurane readily provides financing. Members pay for this financing interest-free by supplying an equivalent amount of produce. Furthermore, Tuzamurane covers the cost of employees’ health insurance. In these ways, the cooperative protects the social well-being of its members and their families.

The positive impacts of Tuzamurane Cooperative within the community and region are profound. The pineapple farming income has provided members, particularly women, with funds to pay for their children’s schooling and household expenses. They can also invest in their futures by purchasing livestock and more land for cultivation. Additionally, they can hire more labor to help during busy times. Notably, members of the cooperative are no longer part of the lowest income groups. Tuzamurane has made incredible progress in using pineapples against poverty in Rwanda.

Social and Economic Impact

With Oxfam’s support, Tuzamurane finds great success in providing for Kirehe and Rwanda’s greater community. While pineapples may seem like a simple crop, their ability to grow on small land plots makes them easier for women to manage. In this way, the cooperative’s support empowers male and female heads of households alike. Facilitating their escape from poverty and the ability to adequately provide for their families.

With juicy pineapples in tow, the Tuzamurane Cooperative has addressed several needs of those facing poverty in Rwanda. By educating locals on introductory horticulture, providing essential equipment and offering more business opportunities, more than 300 people and their families have escaped dire poverty in Rwanda. With its lucrative business model, this co-op will undoubtedly continue to inspire thousands throughout the region to use pineapples against poverty in Rwanda.

– Eliza Cochran
Photo: Flickr

Education Will Help End Poverty
Education is a luxury many people take for granted, but it is something poverty-ridden families often sacrifice to have. Globally, over 250 million children and young adults are not in school. As a result, around 617 million young children and adolescents around the world are unable to read or do mathematics within the minimum proficient level. Poverty is one of the main reasons for this tragedy and it often comes from generations prior that also lacked schooling. By properly educating new generations, poverty rates could reduce significantly. Here are some ways that proper education will help end poverty.

Health

Estimates have determined that in developing countries, one-eighth of all children are born malnourished and that about 47% of those in low-income countries will continue to experience malnourishment until they reach the age of 5. Poor nutrition is a direct result of poverty and often linked to insufficient knowledge of proper nutritional diets. A study that occurred in 13 different countries found that the standard yearly gain production increased with those with basic education by 8.7%, which in turn increased food security and helped lower rates of malnourishment in children.

Education will help end poverty because, with basic education, parents learn more about how to care for themselves and their families, which in turn leads their children towards healthier lifestyles. Health education gives families have a higher chance of survival and even reduces rates of HIV and AIDS.

Mortality Rate

Education will help end poverty because it is particularly powerful for girls. Education has many effects on girls and women, but a primary impact is that if all women in poverty finished primary school, then the child mortality rate would reduce by almost 17%. This adds up to about 1 million newborns saved every year, but how does saving lives help lower poverty rates?

If more children survive, then families would not feel the need to have more children, thus the size of families would be smaller. If the families were smaller, then families would have more income and resources to go around, thus reducing poverty. For example, sub-Saharan African women with no education have 6.7 births on average, but with access to schools, these women only have 5.8 births. And finally, those studied who had finished secondary education have 3.9 births on average.

With schooling, women could more easily recognize danger signs in pregnancy and be able to seek care faster. Women with more knowledge about their body, pregnancy and childbirth have a better chance of giving birth safely. Records have determined that a child with a mother who had basic education is 50% more likely to surpass their fifth birthday.

Income and Economic Growth

Income is, of course, a huge factor in poverty. Records have stated that if someone has basic education (that is, reading, writing and mathematical skills), this not only has a positive impact on their own income but can also “increase the rate of return on the economy.” Those with education have a much higher chance of getting better jobs with higher wages. Just one year of education can result in a 10% raise in pay. More pay means better, more nutritious food, better access to sanitation, better access to healthcare and better housing.

For example, Vietnam was one of the poorest economic countries in the world due to its 20-year war. However, since 1990, Vietnam transformed its poor and war-torn country into a GDP that grew to 3,303%. Its economic growth rate was the second fastest and the main strategy for this success was the improvement and modernization of its education system. Vietnam is only second to China, which also implemented a new education system, causing it to have the number one fastest GDP growth.

With children attending schools and developing both important skills and abilities, they will one day get better jobs. The more income they have, the more goods and products they consume which benefits the companies. This in turn increases the demand for the production of more products, thus giving jobs to more people and helping the economy grow. These changes and more will be key in eradicating poverty around the world.

Katelyn Mendez
Photo: Flickr

innovations in poverty eradication in ugandaWhen it comes to the fight against poverty, innovation is just as important as in any other field. Coming up with creative, sustainable solutions for such a massive problem is critical in any nation. However, it is more important in developing countries, where funds allocated for poverty reduction are often limited. By thinking outside the box, governments, private sector organizations and NGOs can effectively accomplish poverty reduction efforts across many sectors. Here are just a few innovations in poverty eradication in Uganda.

The Private Sector

In fact, the private sector is often where innovation originates and forward-thinking people thrive. Normally, many people think of poverty reduction as a job for governments and NGOs. However, by involving private corporations, the fight against poverty can work outside the bureaucracy that often impedes the work of governmental agencies.

Additionally, there is a large incentive for private businesses to get involved with poverty reduction. The world’s poor represents a largely untapped market of consumers. By lifting them out of poverty, businesses will create a larger client base and ultimately more profit. Today, 4 billion people are living on less than $8 a day. This segment of the population provides opportunities for expanded market development and human capital. Indeed, there is no shortage of entrepreneurs looking to work with this demographic.

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Uganda

The private sector is where many innovations in poverty eradication in Uganda emerge. One particular business-focused innovation that has taken hold in Uganda is microfinancing. Microfinancing practices give small loans to fledgling entrepreneurs. Recipients use the loans to grow their businesses, create jobs and positively impact their communities. This opportunity for those traditionally excluded from the banking system to obtain credit has done lots of good, particularly in Uganda.

For example, The Hunger Project is taking its microfinancing efforts one step further. Not only is it promoting economic self-reliance, but it is ensuring the inclusion of women. Women even lead its microfinancing program, giving them an influential voice in their communities. Thus, microfinancing is one among many innovations in poverty eradication in Uganda.

Empowering Women

Another success story is the Women’s Microfinance Initiative (WMI). WMI’s mission is “to establish village-level loan hubs. Local women administrate the loan hubs to provide capital, training and support services for women in East Africa. This is to help them engage in income-producing activities.” Since 2008, WMI has issued over $7.2 million in loans to more than 17,500 women in East Africa. The organization estimates that each loan provides a positive economic outcome for at least 20 people. Overall, this means that this program has reached over 350,000 individuals in the past 12 years.

The anecdotal evidence above as well as the available data show that microfinancing initiatives are effective innovations in poverty eradication in Uganda. According to the World Bank, the percentage of those living below the poverty line in Uganda decreased by 11.4% from 2006 to 2013. The organization credits much of this progress to agricultural innovations, many of which use microfinancing. This goes to show that often, innovation and progress happen from the bottom up.

Moving Forward

However, if this progress is to continue, innovators looking to further innovations in poverty eradication in Uganda need to focus on malnutrition, education, sanitation and electricity. Without access to these services, innovation efforts will fall short. Therefore, a potential approach to poverty reduction in Uganda would be a blend of governmental, NGO and private sector efforts. Long-term, inclusive and sustainable solutions can go a long way toward reducing poverty in Uganda and elsewhere.

Addison Collins
 Photo: Flickr

women's education in the gambiaAcross the developing world, millions of women and girls in poverty receive little to no education. Women learn to cook, clean and care for children. Men, in contrast, often receive an education from a young age. With this advantage, men can work toward opportunities beyond the reach of their female counterparts. When girls have access to education, they can forward the benefits to their community. One educated girl can impact generations. This is why women’s education in The Gambia is important.

In The Gambia, a small West African country, girls face problems common in developing countries. The average family lives on a daily income of $1, but education after grade six costs $100 per year. Families frequently invest their small income in educating boys, whom they think will support them in adulthood. As a result, women struggle to find opportunities beyond domestic labor.

In addition to these limitations on women’s education in The Gambia, other barriers include cultural biases and teenage marriage. The culmination of these obstacles prevents nearly 50% of the Gambian population from accessing education and economic empowerment. Consequently, the lack of women’s education in Gambia hurts the country’s development.

Why Does Education Matter?

For women living in poverty, including those in The Gambia, very few opportunities wait for them. These girls face the expectation from a young age that they will grow up to become mothers and homemakers. Early on, girls learn about domestic skills and how to raise children. Men, on the other hand, have the opportunity to dive into their education and accelerate their careers.

The education of women in developing countries is absolutely critical to their personal growth. When young girls receive the same opportunities as boys, they learn essential skills that go far beyond the classroom. Health classes teach young women about the spread of illnesses and the importance of nutrition. Math lessons provide analytical skills that they can apply to household finances. Language courses allow them to communicate better with others and read the news.

For women in The Gambia, these skills would allow them to improve their own quality of life. In a nation that often undervalues gender equality, women’s education in The Gambia is a critical first step to leveling the playing field.

Women’s Education and Economic Development

The smallest country in mainland Africa, The Gambia faces limited economic development. The current regime has harmed business freedom and has contributed to the weakening labor force. With a population of around 2.1 million, the country has a limited workforce. Most jobs center on agriculture and crop exports. However, excluding women from the workforce cuts the number of potential workers in half.

Additionally, since the nation’s economy depends on crops, The Gambia’s GDP fluctuates with farmers’ production. This means that in dry seasons, when people struggle to water their crops, the economy struggles as well. In fact, the Gambian economy recently contracted by 10% as a result of erratic rainfall, according to The World Bank.

Including women in the workforce would increase the available amount of labor, which would help in cultivating crops. Additionally, more labor would allow other sectors of the economy to grow, creating a more diverse and stable economic system. If women received an education, making them more employable, more businesses would develop and the economy would grow exponentially.

Education Brings Hope

Over the past several years, efforts around the globe have worked toward improving women’s education in The Gambia. Women in The Gambia are now achieving higher levels of education, and experts predict this trend will continue. Many charities and NGOs are raising money and bringing awareness for this cause. Some are even increasing education through international programs. One of these NGOs is Janga Yakarr, which uses exchange programs in the United States to increase women’s education in The Gambia.

Janga Yakarr, which directly translates to “education, hope,” is a charitable organization founded by sisters Alexandra and Erica Chalmers in 2011. After learning about the lack of opportunities for women in The Gambia due to limited education, they decided to help. The sisters arranged a shipment of desks, chairs, whiteboards, chemistry equipment and educational materials to The Gambia. This effort meant to help children in The Gambia complete their education.

An Educational Exchange

The Chalmers became inspired by how their school supplies supported young girls and the relationships they formed with these students, who lived nearly 4000 miles away. From this point on, the Chalmers sisters wanted to enhance the relationship between students in the U.S. and in The Gambia. They now create an educational connection between the two countries.

To do so, they started the nonprofit Janga Yakurr in partnership with grassroots organization Starfish International. The organization’s aim is to raise money for women’s education in The Gambia. Additionally, it aims to foster relationships between U.S. high schoolers and students in The Gambia, as well as run exchange programs between the schools.

Alexandra Chalmers told The Borgen Project, “Looking at the struggle that many women go through in The Gambia in order to feel empowered, it opened our eyes to how much we take for granted in the United States. Our own education has provided us with so much opportunity to pursue, and we wanted to share that with these girls as well.”

The Future of Women’s Education in The Gambia

Over the past several years, many organizations like Janga Yakurr have helped make progress on women’s education in West Africa. This is important not just for women but for these countries as a whole. When young girls receive the same opportunities as young boys, they can get higher-paying jobs. From there, the labor force will continue to grow, which will improve economic stability.

Additionally, as women are more highly educated, they may help fight for women’s equality. They can use their education to fight for equal representation, for example, and to reduce female circumcision and domestic abuse. With a higher level of education, many women and girls may also gain respect and equality in other facets of life.

Education fuels empowerment. For women in poverty, they likely cannot feel empowered without education and financial support. However, women’s education in The Gambia will provide ample opportunity for them to thrive and for the whole economy to prosper.

Daniela Canales
Photo: Flickr

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Akola_women_in_Uganda.jpgDiva Taxi, an all-female transportation company, recently launched in Uganda. As Uganda’s female-run rideshare, it is distinct because of its strict rule of hiring only female drivers. Diva Taxi hopes to alleviate the demand for taxis in the Ugandan capital city, Kampala while providing women with a safe method of transportation. While the company expects to thrive in the rapidly developing capital, Diva Taxi also hopes to expand to other regions in Uganda. Its emphasis on female entrepreneurship, strict screening and affordability will positively affect the transportation sector in the Ugandan economy. Moreover, it will employ women struggling financially. Here are 5 ways in which Diva Taxi will positively influence Ugandan women.

5 Benefits of Diva Taxi: Uganda’s Female-Run Rideshare

  1. Hiring Women. Diva Taxi focuses on hiring women, a demographic typically overlooked on other driving applications. Gillian Kobusingye, one of the managing partners of Diva Taxi, observes that other companies are male-dominated. She estimates that men make up 80% of transportation companies in Uganda. Because of this, companies are less likely to hire women drivers, favoring the status quo. This gender disparity is not restricted to the transportation sector alone: 14.4% of working-age Ugandan women are unemployed. This, compared with 6.2% of men. Diva Taxi eliminates this selection bias as Uganda’s female-run rideshare.
  2. Affordability. Becoming an employee of Diva Taxi is completely affordable. For women struggling financially, the need to purchase technology or equipment often restricts access to desperately-needed jobs. Like Uber and Bolt, Diva Taxi is an application, which means office registration and other bureaucratic red tape is avoidable when joining. Employees only need a functioning car to join the team. Diva Taxi drivers note how the company’s flexibility provided them the opportunity to quickly make money for their families. This is critical during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. Since the onset of the pandemic, jobs shrank in Uganda, enhancing the significance of jobs that remain open to female employees.
  3. Employee Safety. The application prioritizes safety for its employees. New hires are taught basic self-defense skills to guard themselves against potentially dangerous clients. One precautionary measure for drivers includes “Panic Alerts,” a protective in-app function that safeguards employees from potential thieves. Additionally, employees and customers receive a unique registration number when they create their profile. This enables their tracking if things go awry. Lastly, customers must book rides two hours in advance so no relative trip requests can occur that may endanger the driver.
  4. Client Safety. Diva Taxi offers a safe ride home for girls and women. Despite newly-passed laws and policies to protect victims and survivors of abuse, violence against women increased by 4% in Uganda. According to the Uganda Police Force’s annual report, as of 2016 — 22% of Ugandan women between the ages of 15–49 experienced some form of sexual violence. This percentage is equivalent to more than 1 million Ugandans. A safe, female-run company like Diva Taxi is an essential form of transportation for women. This group is among the vulnerable in the bustling streets of Kampala, especially at night.
  5. COVID-19 Precautions. Diva Taxi takes the necessary precautions against COVID-19. All drivers must clean their cars routinely, as well as wear a mask to maintain the safety of the customer and themselves. As of August 2020, Uganda has 2,362 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which means these precautions are still necessary.

By Women, For Women

Diva Taxi was created by women, is run by women and protects women. Although Diva Taxi was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic (an uncertain era for transportation companies) it is a positive influence on female Ugandans which will hopefully keep it afloat.

Faven Woldetatyos
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Empowering women in NigerIn Niger, the agricultural sector employs more than 80% of the nation’s population. Despite making up approximately 40% of Niger’s GDP, agriculture faces poor management of natural resources and lack of access to markets. This restricts economic growth in Niger. Importantly, women make up 49.75% of Niger’s population but face a lack of access to resources like quality seeds and soil. With poor education and gender inequality, women in Niger have a difficult time gaining financial independence. In this situation, the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Niger Compact is key to empowering women in Niger and securing a stable economic future.

Challenges for Niger’s Agricultural Sector

Some of the main issues facing the county’s agricultural sector include a lack of reliable access to irrigation, water for crops and livestock as well as a lack of access to markets. The climate in Niger is hot and dry, but only 10% of crop fields have proper irrigation. As a result of frequent droughts, many people struggle to subsist on revenue from crop production and animal agriculture.

Further, the intense variability of the annual amount of rainfall causes drastic changes in crop yield each year. In addition to environmental factors, farmers in Niger are often unable to access quality seeds and fertilizers. Pests like locusts also often destroy crops. All of these factors work together to create challenges to achieving economic stability and food security in Niger.

Addressing These Challenges

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)  aims to address these challenges in Niger through agricultural grants. Its Niger Compact program focuses on encouraging sustainable use of Niger’s natural resources improving market access. To do so, MCC invests in irrigation systems, improved roads, resource management and climate-resilient crop production. As of June 30, 2020, MCC has given more than $74 million in grants to agricultural enterprises. The organization has also successfully helped fund the renovation of the Konni Irrigation System, Niger’s largest irrigation system. In the future, the improved irrigation system will help boost the economy and improve food security in the nation.

Empowering Women in Niger

As a part of the Niger Compact, MCC commits to empowering women and young people through its grants. Experts believe that if Niger could close its gender gap in the agricultural sector alone, more than 25,000 citizens would escape poverty. While men invest only 35% of their income in their families, women invest 90%. Thus, when women have greater income and spending power, a community’s health and education improves. For example, women who have higher incomes can provide their children with higher protein diets that include more meat and fish. Although the Niger Compact focuses on all entrepreneurs and small business owners, MCC believes that poverty reduction requires empowering women in Niger.

Between October 2018 and March 2020, MCC gave $2.3 million in grants to 25 different agricultural production groups. Women owned or ran 13 of those groups. Beyond financial support, the MCC is empowering women in Niger by providing them with educational opportunities. Along the perimeter of the Konni Irrigation System, the organization is offering free literacy courses for farmers. Of the more than 4000 participants in the course, 56% are women.

The MCC’s Niger Compact is an important step in raising the socioeconomic status of women in Niger. Investing in women allows them to become more active participants in their country’s economy. Accordingly, empowering women in Niger is an important step toward reducing poverty nationwide.

Maddi Miller
Photo: Flickr

Female Leaders in the PandemicIn the months since COVID-19 first emerged in late 2019, the world has experienced many challenges that have led people across countries to experience economic, social and political instability. The pandemic has also exposed another issue: COVID-19 has displayed the strengths of female leaders while highlighting the need for more opportunities for women in the future.

Female-led Countries Perform Better

Around the world, female leaders in the pandemic have been praised for their response to the global crisis.

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has become a stellar example of thoughtful and resourceful leadership in handling COVID-19. Her decision to implement strict lockdown procedures at the beginning of the pandemic saved thousands of lives and the country’s economy. On June 8, months before many other areas, Ardern declared there were no longer any cases of COVID-19 in the country.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has done a significantly better job at controlling the virus in Germany than many of her European neighbors. Even though the virus hit Germany hard, the country “had about a quarter as many deaths as France,” in April.

In Taiwan, Tsai Ing-Wen combated COVID-19 early. By beginning testing in late December, she prevented the virus from getting out of control in its early stages. Praised for her approach to containing the virus, the president now has a 61% approval rating.

Such successes of female leaders in the pandemic are not isolated events. The strength, compassion, thoughtfulness and collaboration that women have shown throughout the pandemic have benefited the health and safety of their countries. Across the world, female-led countries “have suffered six times fewer confirmed deaths from COVID-19 than countries with governments led by men.”

The Strengths of Female Leadership

Women bring specific strengths to the table when it comes to leadership. Women are naturally more inclined to act compassionately and work cooperatively. These characteristics are especially important in the midst of the pandemic. Focusing on collaboration instead of competition is the only way to effectively handle an international crisis. Contact tracing, self-isolation and simply wearing a mask are all altruistic actions that depend on a cooperative response from the public. Leaders must serve as role models by exemplifying those actions.

Humility has also been recognized as a characteristic closely associated with women and is vital to managing the pandemic. Leaders must acknowledge that they cannot eradicate the virus alone and recognize the value of insight from experts like the medical community.

Female Experience and Crisis Management

Female leaders are also, to some degree, free from the expectations grounded in toxic masculinity, including the standard to act aggressively and competitively. This appeal to hyper-masculinity has appeared in some male-led countries during the pandemic. In the United States, for example, by calling himself a wartime president, President Trump has framed the virus as an enemy requiring the same aggression and violence as war. His decision not to wear a mask is an attempt to appear strong and assertive over his enemy. However, this kind of militaristic charisma does intimidate a virus. In contrast, many female leaders have “emphasized compassion and patience, rather than war and victory,” thus taking a more humane approach that prioritizes the health and safety of human lives over a desire to appear ‘tough’.

Women’s life experiences also inform their response to a crisis. Comprising the majority of essential workers and the newly unemployed, women may have a more empathetic response to the pandemic. Women of color “may be more attuned to the disproportionate impact of the virus on marginalized communities than people who have never had to think about marginalization before.”

For female leaders in the pandemic, these experiences bring to light the severity of the situation while fostering compassionate and collaborative solutions to overcome the crisis.

The Girls LEAD Act

The success of female leaders in fighting the pandemic has made one thing clear: women should receive greater political and leadership opportunities. The Borgen Project supports the Girls LEAD Act, which seeks “to strengthen the participation of adolescents, particularly girls, in democracy, human rights, and governance.”

The Act aims to expand opportunities for girls by implementing “activities to increase adolescent girls’ civic and political knowledge and skills and address barriers to political participation.” It also offers “foreign assistance funding for democracy, human rights, and governance programs.”

Female leaders in the pandemic have highlighted the importance of opening opportunities for women through legislation such as the Girls LEAD Act. Women’s ability to participate in politics and access leadership roles is not only of pivotal importance for gender equality but also imperative to the health and safety of our world.

– Jessica Blatt
Photo: Wikimedia

Equal Land Ownership
On September 17, 2020, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi announced that wives will now be able to own land independently from their husbands. This is an amendment to the 2015 Land Policy that prevented women from owning land independently if their husband was already a landowner or even co-owning land equally along with their husbands. Botswana, a landlocked country located in Africa, had also prevented widowed women from inheriting their deceased husband’s property. Because people considered women to be their husband’s property, the deceased husband’s inheritance would then pass down to a male relative, leaving the widow without any land to live or work on. Now that Botswana gives women equal land ownership, wives can regain independence inside of marriage. Married women are able to choose their own plot of land, which includes both state-owned and tribal land.

Measures Toward Equal Land Ownership

Unmarried women could purchase land after the 2015 Land Policy passed, but married women and widows had always experienced exclusion from this right. Additionally, husbands had the power to sell a property without consulting their wives, preventing them from having access to land used to work. Because Botswana gives women equal land ownership, wives are now equal to their husbands.

As an extra measure, President Masisi encouraged non-governmental organizations to teach women about their rights. Women will also have access to legal support to assist them in securing their success as landowners. This additional project will ensure the enforcement of the amendment so that as many women as possible can benefit from it.

This amendment is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as widows previously could not inherit their husband’s land. Widows face the threat of becoming social outcasts and typically have no choice but to marry male relatives to grant security. Now that Botswana gives women equal land ownership, widows are able to support themselves and remain independent.

Women in Agriculture in Botswana

Land ownership is especially important for women in order to make a living from farming. About 80% of Botswana’s population are farmers, the majority being single women who can own land. Married women now will have an equal opportunity to work and contribute to their family income. Less than one month after President Masisi’s announcement, 53% of the 620,660 people on a waitlist to purchase property were women according to Botswana’s land audits reports. Globally, only 15% of female farmers own land, despite women making up the majority of farmworkers. Because an agricultural-based country like Botswana gives women equal land ownership, it is certain to have an impact on inspiring global farmers.

When announcing the new amendment, President Masisi said “The Botswana Land Policy 2015 was discriminatory against married women and did not give them equal treatment with men, and I am happy to report that this discriminatory sub-section has since been repealed.”

Botswana certainly has a long way to go with securing women’s rights, but protecting widows and granting wives equality to their husbands is a huge step in the right direction. Botswana’s recognition of married women’s rights to own land promises further advancements in women’s rights.

– Karena Korbin
Photo: Flickr