AFRIpads in Uganda
Sophia and Paul Grinvalds created AFRIpads in Uganda while they were living in a remote village there in 2010 and saw the lack of accessible menstrual products firsthand. To combat the scarcity of menstrual products and the stigma periods carried in the country, the Grinvalds invented an affordable and reusable menstrual pad. AFRIpads in Uganda promote hygienic and accessible menstrual health in order to educate and empower young girls in the nation and across the world to feel comfortable and safe during their periods.

AFRIpads in Uganda

Today, AFRIpads employs over 200 Ugandans in the country’s full-time, formal employment sector. In addition, it has impacted millions of girls all over the world with its sustainable and affordable products. The company has helped the environment by eliminating the use of approximately 190 million disposable pads, as women can use each AFRIpad for up to a year.

In addition to helping the environment and giving back to the country’s economy, AFRIpads is helping empower the women of Uganda by focusing on educating schoolgirls about healthy and natural period habits. Menstrual health education is a taboo topic in Ugandan culture, and schools have never formally taught it. However, AFRIpads is helping to turn this around by providing use and care guides, as well as an educational comic in all of the brand’s menstrual kits. The company also offers online training for adults to learn how to teach young girls about the menstrual cycle.

Co-founder Sophia Grinvalds told the Irish Times that “There’s misconceptions about losing your fertility if you do certain things when you have your period…In one part of the country there’s a belief that if a girl on her period, or a woman on her period, walks through your garden when you’re growing vegetables, that everything in your garden will die.”

Employment

Grinvalds and her team decided to base AFRIpads in the Ugandan village Kitengeesa in order to deliberately boost the rural economy. Women make up 90% of the company’s employees, giving these women an opportunity for greater independence with their own incomes. “They have bank accounts at Barclay’s, have savings accounts, are saving for the government pension plan, [and are paying taxes],” Grinvalds told NPR in an interview.

The Kitengeesa manufacturing base for AFRIpads in Uganda provides a sense of community for the workers who feel proud to involve themselves in the organization’s impactful mission. In addition, it empowers women by allowing them to economically support their goals. A testimony by AFRIpads’ production supervisor Judith Nassaka stated that “The best thing about AFRIpads is that there is strong teamwork among the employers and employees…They also pay me the best salary. My future plan is to buy a plot of land and build my own home.”

Future Plans for Outreach

AFRIpads also collaborates with several other international nonprofit organizations such as Girls Not Brides, an organization that advocates to end child marriages and seeks to empower young girls. Through partnerships like these, women are able to access educational resources, affordable products and advocate for themselves.

AFRIpads stated on its website that it has reached more than 3.5 million girls and women across the globe with reusable and affordable products. AFRIpads continues to educate girls and women about the menstrual cycle and safe hygiene practices, in addition to providing employment in developing areas of Uganda. This, in turn, can help combat environmental waste across the world.

– Myranda Campanella
Photo: Flickr

Afghan Women's Writing Project
Writing in Afghanistan has typically been a taboo craft for women. Especially under the influence of the Taliban, women and girls were not able to go to school or learn to read and write safely. The Afghan Women’s Writing Project is an innovative writing program for empowering female voices in Afghanistan.

Founded in May 2009, the project gives Afghan women a way to publish their writing directly onto the internet. Although the Writing Project’s existence can only spread by word-of-mouth for security reasons, it has empowered more than 100 women in Afghanistan. Here are five facts about the project.

5 Facts About the Afghan Women’s Writing Project

  1. Marsha Hamilton is the founder of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project. Hamilton started the program after viewing the execution of a woman named Zarmina by the Taliban. Zarmina allegedly killed her husband, but Marsha Hamilton felt that Zarmina did not have the chance to tell her side of the story before her brutal execution. Hamilton also witnessed how women publish their writings. In Afghanistan, women usually publish their work through the men in their family or the media. This prevents some women’s voices from being heard due to the possible censorship that may occur through these channels. Zarmina’s execution and the less-than-ideal way of publishing led Hamilton to decide to create an online platform that allows women to publish their writings.
  2. The Afghan Women’s Writing Project uses Dari and English writing workshops to help educate women. The project collaborates with Afghan-based agencies to provide Dari and English writing workshops. These workshops teach women different techniques and skills to further their writing. Additionally, the program conducts “Reading Salons” every month. These meetings take place in secret locations in Kabul and Heart to avoid retribution from various groups in Afghanistan or writers’ own families. During the reading salons, women are able to read their work and talk about their writing experiences in an encouraging space.

  3. In 2018, Afghanistan reported that only 10% of the population had access to the internet. Due to the lack of reliable internet and computer access, the Afghan Women’s Writing Project provides many members with laptops and internet access. This enables every woman in Afghanistan, regardless of status, to participate in the program. According to the website, it costs about $2,500 to provide each woman with a laptop, internet, workshops and books. This amazing opportunity is funded by small contributions as well as fundraising initiatives by volunteers and readers.

  4. Writing has long been a form of expression and empowerment. Through the work of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, Afghan women are changing themselves and the world around them. The project website claims, “In telling their own stories, we’ve seen these women gather strength, courage, and self-confidence. They become empowered to make change within their homes, their communities, and eventually their country. They also gain computer literacy and skills of language and critical thinking, which increases their job-related skills.” The skills and empowerment that women gain from this program help them empower themselves and others, as well as change the way people around the world see Afghanistan.

  5.  The Afghan Women’s Writing Project is currently working on an “oral stories component.” This project will allow disabled or illiterate women to share their stories as well. Human Rights Watch reports there are about 3.5 million children out of school and 85% of them are girls. Additionally, with about 2.7% of the population disabled, there are not many programs in place to help them succeed. Disabilities are often stigmatized in Afghanistan as “punishments from God” and it is difficult to find work. These women are often marginalized by their community. The Writing Project hopes to empower them to share their experiences and triumphs despite the obstacles they may face.

Women across Afghanistan continue to step up and speak their mind through the few means available to them. The Afghan Women’s Writing Project is working hard to give women’s voices a platform in Afghanistan.

– Ashleigh Litcofsky
Photo: Wikimedia

Companies Fighting for Women's Rights
Women around the globe are still fighting for a world in which they can receive equal treatment. In many developing countries, women are more vulnerable to human rights abuses and others often deny them opportunities to reach their full potential. Here are three technology companies fighting for women’s rights.

3 Tech Companies Fighting for Women’s Rights

  1. IBM: The multi-national technology company has celebrated the success of women throughout its history. IBM has had a female CEO since 2012 and has been strategic in empowering women throughout the company and around the globe. For International Women’s Day, IBM Systems Lab Services created a #BalanceforBetter campaign. The campaign engages employees around the world to advocate for women’s rights. IBM employees held up signs challenging stereotypes and biases, celebrating IBM women and supporting gender equality. IBM’s Corporate Service Corps (CSC) gives women and girls across the globe the opportunity to thrive. Additionally, the organization supports organizations that serve women in 40 countries. These organizations support economic growth, health care and violence prevention among others. In Ghana, an IBM team paved the way for educating girls in rural communities. In Kenya, India and Mexico, IBM has supported organizations preventing violence against women. Additionally, in Peru, IBM supports initiatives increasing cervical cancer screenings. Through these efforts, IBM hopes to empower and protect women, while continuing to bridge the gap between women and STEM.
  2. Microsoft: For years, Microsoft has used its research technology for good to protect vulnerable populations. For example, the organization has partnered with WorldPop to count every person on Earth. By using Microsoft Azure, organizations can track the location and distribution of vulnerable populations. Microsoft hopes to aid in the creation of programs and policy changes that protect vulnerable populations and empower women. Microsoft researchers recognize that women are more vulnerable to poverty. However, they also recognize that pulling them out of poverty has exponential effects on their families and communities. In January 2020, Microsoft partnered with Care Egypt Foundation (CEF) and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) to launch a women empowerment campaign. Through this initiative, all organizations hope to empower women through the development of practical skills necessary for the workforce. Since 2014, Microsoft has also had an ongoing partnership with the Central Department for Community Development, aiming to tackle unemployment and economic issues through the empowerment of women in Egypt.
  3. Google: Another prominent tech titan among companies fighting for women’s rights is Google. The company equips young women with skills they need to thrive in the tech world and advocates for gender equality around the world. For example, Google’s partnership with Technovation Girls empowers young women around the globe to learn and develop technology that will impact their community. Technovation is a tech education nonprofit that empowers individuals to problem-solve, create and lead. Each year through its Technovation Girls program, the organization invites young women from all over the world and equips them to solve real-world problems through technology. Google is a platinum sponsor and has hosted these young innovators to pitch their apps at the company’s main campus in California for the chance to win scholarships. Additionally, in Google’s Arts and Culture section, the company has created a “Women in Culture” page, celebrating women in a variety of different fields. The page highlights women like Dolores Huerta, creator of the United Farm Workers, who advocated for the rights of impoverished farmers in Central America. It also features the unheard stories of women in India who have impacted Indian culture. Above all, the page champions women’s equality around the world, highlighting many unsung female heroes who have fought against injustice.

Why It Matters

An increase in women’s rights around the globe can have drastic effects on the global economy. According to U.N. Women, there is a very strong connection between empowered women and thriving economies. Providing women with job opportunities increases productivity and growth within economies. Supporting women through health care and education can also protect them from potential violence and discrimination. Large companies fighting for women’s rights have the potential to use their prominent platforms to advocate for women and to reflect these values within their own companies.

– Megan McKeough
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Women Empowerment Organizations in Sub-Saharan AfricaWomen’s empowerment is a critical component in achieving development and sustainably reducing poverty. It increases the quality of life for men and women globally. Gender parity would allow for a $28 trillion increase in the global GDP. In addition, women typically invest in their families and communities more than men. This will contribute to overall economic and social growth. Sub-Saharan Africa is a rapidly developing region. However, there are serious challenges when it comes to gender equality in terms of education, economic rights, leadership opportunity and access to healthcare. Gender parity in sub-Saharan Africa will specifically allow for $721 billion in growth to the GDP. For the region to develop and grow to its full potential, the gender gap must be addressed. Many women’s empowerment organizations are working to address gender gaps. Here are four gender empowerment organizations operating in sub-Saharan Africa

4 Gender Empowerment Organizations

  1. Africare: Africans and Americans founded Africare in the 1970s. Africare is a non-governmental organization with the mission of improving the quality of life of people in Africa. Since its beginning, Africare has provided more than $1 billion in assistance to tens of millions of people across the African continent. The organization does this by addressing Africa’s development and policy issues. In addition, Africare partners with African people in an effort to build sustainable communities. Africare’s approach includes community engagement, capacity building, locally-driven behavior change and innovative public-private partnerships. Africare is a women’s empowerment organization that believes providing resources to African women is beneficial to African societies. Additionally, as women receive education and higher legal status, they are able to provide their households with better nutrition and access to healthcare. Moreover, Africare works to provide greater leadership opportunities for women by working with local partners. Africare provides leadership coaching, literacy training, business training and market access for African women.
  2. Make Every Woman Count (MEWC): Make Every Woman Count is an African, women-led organization that works in mobilization, networking, advocacy and training African women. The organization helps build women’s leadership capability and works towards changes in policy to be more supportive of women. The work is largely online, using the potential of the internet to reach out to women in Africa. In addition, MEWC plays a huge role in information proliferation. They give guidance to other organizations and grassroots movements operating to empower women in Africa. In addition, the organization also provides a platform for women to exchange ideas and create networks to “establish female leaders in Africa.” Furthermore, MEWC’s major goal is to make sure that African women “have a strong voice in governance institutions.”
  3. Asante Africa Foundation: The Asante Africa Foundation is primarily an educational organization. Its mission is to educate and empower the next generation of agents of change. In 2018 alone, the organization was able to impact 23,085 lives. Moreover, it understands the specific challenges that face women and girls in aspects of access to education in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, the foundation has programs that are female-centric to aid in these issues. The foundation pioneered the Girls’ Advancement Program. This is one of the women’s empowerment organizations that centers around the idea that using girls’ education promotes development and economic growth. Moreover, the Girls’ Advancement Program takes a holistic approach by taking into account the “cultural, social and health factors.” All of these factors are relevant and correlated to the gender gap in education. The program aims to do this by creating safe spaces, educating in reproductive health, building peer support and mobilizing women as mentors in their communities.
  4. Men Engage: Non-governmental organizations along with U.N. agencies formed Men Engage in 2004. The organization works to engage men and boys in the struggle for gender equality. The coalition is made up of organizations like the Family Violence Prevention Fund, International Planned Parenthood Federation, WHO, UNDP and so forth. The understanding that men play an important role in achieving gender equality is essential to the alliance. In addition, the alliance is working at the national level in many African nations through its MenEngage Africa section to create a dialogue with key individuals, policymakers and advocates working locally to make gender equality a reality. Its sub-Saharan African Regional Symposium brought together delegates from 25 countries, resulting in the MenEngage Africa Declaration and Call to Action.

These women’s empowerment organizations are doing important work in addressing gender inequality and building capabilities. Women’s empowerment is a necessary focus on creating sustainable development and reducing poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and globally.

Treya Parikh

Photo: Flickr

HIV in Djibouti
According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), addressing poverty means first reaching those who feel the greatest impact; progress does not necessarily trickle down to the population that is most disadvantaged. The 2016 Human Development Report found that one-third of the world’s population lives in low human development circumstances. Furthermore, some sectors of society are more disadvantaged than others. Inequalities and social exclusion that people such as those living with HIV face present larger barriers to development and access to health programs. For this reason, the World Food Programme, alongside UNDP, UNAIDS and the national network of people living with HIV in Djibouti (RNDP+), have created an income-generation program that provides loans for people living with HIV. Such loans are empowering women with HIV in Djibouti to live dignified and successful lives.

Men and Women with HIV in Djibouti

As of 2017, 1.3 percent of the adult population in Djibouti was living with HIV, a decrease from 1.6 percent – or 9,900 people – in 2014. Social and cultural norms, destructive policies, improper medical services and restrictive laws impede HIV treatment and prevention measures. In Djibouti, women are most vulnerable to stigma and social exclusion and therefore often suffer the most.

The Income Generation Programme

The World Food Programme’s income-generation initiative supports and empowers women through longterm aid. By providing a regular, stable income, the World Food Programme is creating financial security for women with HIV in Djibouti. The money that women receive typically goes toward starting and running a retail business. These loans generally range from $141 to $148 per person and include a training program teaching effective business skills.

How it Works

Recipients of the loan become chosen from two networks in Djibouti that specifically support those living with HIV: ARREY and Oui à la Vie – Yes to Life. Oftentimes, those diagnosed with HIV are susceptible to deteriorating conditions, are unable to hold down a job and face discrimination, causing the citizens to be unwelcome in public sectors. Women with HIV in Djibouti that receive these loans are able to make a consistent income for themselves and overcome the stigma that some associate with HIV. Further, these women are able to take back control of the lives they previously led.

The Outcome

One such recipient of the loan stated that she was “no longer a desperate woman.” She now makes enough to support her family and other dependents. Additionally, once this loan gave her the capital to launch a sustainable business, she was able to repay the loan in only 10 months. During that time the recipient was also able to expand the retail business to include furniture and electronics.  

The World Food Programme’s income-generation initiative aids the Sustainable Development Goal of ending HIV by 2030, and furthermore, leaving no person behind. According to UNDP’s findings, development itself does not automatically ensure that the entire population is included. Programs such as this target the multidimensional factors involved in people receiving proper aid.

Empowerment is an essential part of development; without the ability to feel successful and fulfilled, women often lack the means to seek treatment and make educated decisions regarding health. The loan initiative empowers women living with HIV in Djibouti to combat the associated stigma and obtain financial investment necessary to develop a sustainable business. With a stable income, women are able to seek health services that might not have been previously accessible. 

Laurel Sonneby
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Issues in West AfricaMany different factors undermine women’s public health issues and political power in West Africa. Many of these factors, such as gender inequality, weak economic capacity and gender-based violence disproportionately affect women in the region more than men. Gender-based social stratifications have resulted in a disparity in the benefits women receive when compared to their male counterparts, and this undermines their social status and power as well. Here is more information concerning women’s issues in West Africa.

Women’s Issues in West Africa

While certain factors do continue to impede upon the growth of women’s social status in the region, the region has made some small steps regarding women’s roles in society. The West African countries of Sierra Leone, Cabo Verde, Mauritania, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso and Senegal have recently been able to close the gender gap in primary school enrollment, making early childhood education more accessible to young girls within the region. Senegal has made even more progress in terms of women’s rights with increased representation in its parliament. The number of female parliament members has almost doubled in the past few years, which is a particularly good start in giving more political power to women in the West African region. Women’s equal political participation still remains a challenge in the majority of these countries, but following in the steps of Senegal could make for increased inclusion of women in politics throughout the region. Even though such changes will take time, the progress that Senegal has made has provided women with more representation for the time being.

Women’s Issues in the Workplace

Women in West Africa face issues in the workforce within the region as well. Struggles with infrastructure and fully-functional public services in the region push women into more domestic and care work. In the West African region, women spend approximately six times more than men on unpaid care work, which typically involves household tasks and caring for children and the elderly. This disparity leads to economic and social issues for women in West Africa. Since their work is unpaid, they often have little to no economic mobility and are instead reliant on members of the family that work for pay, and this lack of economic status pushes them further down in societal ranks. These two combined make for even more difficulties in addressing the issues that specifically affect women in West Africa.

With economic inequality disproportionately affecting women in West Africa, it is important to emphasize not only the issues at hand but also the ways in which people can change them for the better. The economy does not always legitimately count the household and family-centered work that women in West Africa typically perform because people deem it to be an informal sector of work where workers do not earn wages. In some cases, women will contribute substantial amounts of labor in the agricultural sector but lack access to credit and markets, making attaining a profit and higher economic status difficult once again.

Moving forward, people must put development policies into place and carry them out properly in order to engage women in the workforce in a way that will count in the formal economic sector. It may be in the best interest of women in West Africa for their countries to adopt the same sorts of policies that countries like Tanzania and Uganda have already proved successful. These countries along with several others have adopted a tool called gender budgeting which analyzes government spending and its impacts on gender and age subgroups. The goal of using this tool is to better understand where economic disparities arise and adjusting the government’s spending choices to alleviate adverse effects.

Child Marriages in West Africa

Aside from economic disparities affecting women in West Africa, another problem has arisen concerning the younger population. Previously, arranged marriages adversely affected young girls because little to no policies were in place protecting their rights. This practice is particularly salient in the West African region, where the rates of child marriage are more than double the world average.

Now, all West African countries are signatories of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human Rights and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, the African Youth Charter and finally the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. These show commitment to national campaigns looking to end child marriage and protect the rights of young girls, creating a great step in the direction of progress. Now that some legal loopholes have closed, new cultural customs must also put the rights of young girls and women first, therefore elevating their status and importance in greater society.

The Future for Women’s Issues in West Africa

Women in West Africa are not simply accepting these issues as unchangeable but are instead taking stances to improve their lives. The development of women’s organizations in West Africa has helped spark attention and change in certain areas thanks to the collective efforts of these women. From grassroots campaigns to highly professional and organized non-governmental organizations, these organizations have focuses ranging from specific women’s rights to even broader agendas. For many, the idea of gender equality in the region is at the forefront of its mission.

While all of these organizations tackle different issues and call for a response from the public in varying ways, each organization gives refuge for women to join together and learn about their rights. These organizations act as a support structure for women in West Africa and help to provide them with the resources to better themselves socially, economically and politically. By joining together, these women are creating unstoppable numbers that are currently pressuring political and structural change to rectify the issues women in West Africa face every day. With their perseverance and dedication, they will continue empowering women for generations to come and bring resolve to the issues that have adversely affected women in the region for decades.

Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in South America
Women’s rights throughout the last century have achieved huge strides. All over the world, women have fought for the right to vote, to go to school and to express themselves. This timeline of women’s rights in South America explores the most pivotal moments for it during the past 150 years. Before even having the right to vote, women have launched movements, wrote publications and protested governments, all to ensure that others would hear their voices. 

Timeline of Women’s Rights in South America

1883: Elvira García y García pioneered the path for women’s rights in South America before feminism was a word. She created the girls’ school, Liceo Peruano, where she brought education to countless young girls across Peru. Through this, she tore down traditional gender barriers and inspired girls to obtain an education.

1919: Bertha Maria Júlia Lutz and another woman founded the League for the Intellectual Emancipation of Women, which was an organization aimed at addressing the inability for women to vote. This historic organization fought for voting rights and the right for women to work across Brazil without their husband’s authorization. Lutz relentlessly tackled key issues until obtaining the right in 1932. Further, she successfully worked to obtain international women’s rights at the U.N. Charter at San Francisco Conference on International Organizations in 1945.

1938: Julia de Burgos, a Puerto Rican writer, released a controversial collection of poetry on social justice issues. The poems discussed slavery, colonialism and women’s rights in South America; after the first publication, she went on to write about feminist theory. One main topic of her works was the idea that motherhood and womanhood were not synonymous. These works continued to live through the movement and eventually inspired American Latina Feminist creators like Mariposa, Andrea Arroyo, Luzma Umpierre, Rosario Ferré and Yasmin Hernandez.

1945: Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, or Gabriela Mistral, was the first Latin American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature as a Chilean woman. She was also passionate about education, becoming a school teacher by the young age of 15. One of the primary ways she fought for women’s rights in South America was by ensuring that girls had access to quality education.

1946: Felisa Rincón de Gautier became mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, becoming the first female mayor of a capital city in the Americas. She fought for women’s rights in South America with a strong belief that all women should have the right to vote and have the opportunity to be active in politics. She continued to engage in the movement throughout her life, even at the age of 95.

1969: María Jesús Alvarado Rivera was the first modern champion of women’s rights in the country, as honored by The National Council of Women of Peru. Throughout her life, she fought for women’s rights in South America by educating the public on women’s suffrage. She too worked to ensure education for young girls across the country.

1999: All of these brilliant women’s activities prompted the Venezuelan government to develop a new constitution, aligning with a majority of the republics in the Western Hemisphere. It explicitly stated that all citizens, regardless of gender, have social, political and economic rights. The Assembly of Social Movements also recognized and addressed domestic abuse, sexual harassment and discrimination as issues.

Since the turn of the century, non-government organizations have fought to continue providing opportunities to strengthen women’s rights in South America. Countless women and allies across the continent have made huge commitments to gender equality. More women are involving themselves in these movements and organizations than ever before, which is not only a cause for celebration but also a victory for the women who dedicated a lifetime of activities towards improving women’s rights in South America.

– Asha Swann
Photo: Flickr

How Women are Pushing for Gender Equality in Sudan
Gender equality in Sudan has experienced wide debate, especially in the last two decades. Many women across the country saw Omar al-Bashir’s removal from office as a victory for women’s rights. For years, women have been protesting to have the right to a fair trial, to play sports, to have freedom of speech and to have a position in politics. Here is more information about how women are pushing for gender equality in Sudan.

Sudan’s First Female Football League

Women in Sudan started branching out into new activities after Omar al-Bashir’s removal from office. Women across the nation started branching out into new territory: professional sports. Somewhere that women have been thriving is on the football field. Sudan’s first-ever all-women football league began near the end of 2019. Since the league’s arrival, protests across the country have called for more women to involve themselves in sports both professionally and as a hobby. The new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has vowed to make female participation throughout the country a priority in the government. Many across the nation believe that the numbers and volume of women protesting was one of the reasons for Omar al-Bashir’s removal from office. Allowing women to compete in sports helps break down some of the barriers that have been preventing gender equality in Sudan.

Women’s Rights

Conversations about gender equality in Sudan and women’s rights first made headlines in the early 2000s. Sexual abuse and violence were at the forefront of the demonstrations. The International Criminal Court indicted former President Omar al-Bashir and several of his staff for systematic sexual abuse in Darfur, between 2003 and 2008.

Women all across Sudan became increasingly angry with the government not reacting to alleged sexual abuse crimes that the police force committed as well. One report shows that government security allegedly killed 118 people and raped dozens of female demonstrators. Gender equality in Sudan also brings up arguments over the legal system in the country. Women across Sudan have also been protesting the legal system, which can allow women to face imprisonment for crimes such as wearing trousers or leaving the house without a man who is not their husband. One report shows that up to 40 women are in courts each day because of these laws. It is common for the women to have a trial without a lawyer, go to jail or receive punishment by public lashings.

Sudanese Women in Politics

The Sudanese Women’s Union began in 1952. Since its creation, it has been advocating for women to go to school, combating underage marriages, fighting for the right for equal pay between men and women and obtaining women’s right to vote. The Sudanese Women’s Union is not the only group striving for gender equality in Sudan. Another group called MANSAM, also known as Women of Sudanese Civic and Political Groups, is a large collective of non-government organizations involved in aiding women throughout Sudan. In total, the collective includes eight political women’s groups, 18 civil society organizations and two youth groups. Currently, one of MANSAM’s main goals is for women to represent half of the political officials in Sudan.

Women in Sudan are pushing for gender equality. They have been fighting for gender equality for decades, both in the form of NGOs and grassroots organizing. They are fighting to have an equal say in politics, in the law and even in sports. The changes that the country has made over the last two decades have been drastic and will likely continue as women’s voices grow stronger.

Asha Swann
Photo: Flickr

Goals for Girls: Sports and Empowerment“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they can understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination,” said South African anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela. Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. More than 240 million people play soccer. At least 30 million girls participate in the sport. Goals for Girls helps young women across the globe score their own goals and celebrate empowerment.

Goals For Girls

Goals for Girls changes the world of young women. It started with a team of 16-year-old soccer players who opted to impact the world through soccer rather than compete at an international tournament. Now, Goals for Girls has teamed up with funding agencies, new partners and stars of the U.S. women’s national soccer team to teach and develop young women into agents of change through soccer. The organization aspires to give each young girl the tools to become a world changer.

Sports offer many psychological and physical benefits for girls and women. People who participate in sports benefit from a more positive body image, self-concept and overall well-being. In 2016, Saudi Arabia sent four women to compete in the Rio Olympics. This historical move represented a forward shift for women in Saudi Arabia. Before, they had faced discrimination and had restricted rights; they still do.

Maria Toorpakai, a Pakistani squash player, uses her sport to face and fight the Taliban. She gained their attention as she rose to fame. She moved to Canada to train, but she hopes to go back to Pakistan to bring sports to boys and girls. The U.S. women’s national soccer team is paid one-fourth of what their male counterparts are, but it is paving the way for the equal pay movement.

India

India hosted the first Goals for Girls program in 2014. The program tackled awareness, communication, teamwork and goal-setting. These are the four international summit pillars of Goals for Girls. The organization aimed to facilitate activities that help with issues the young girls faced on a regular basis like gender-based violence, child marriage and education inequality.

Child marriage has been practiced for centuries in India. In 2016, 27 percent of marriages were child marriages. Luckily, this is improving. Child marriage has decreased from 47 percent in 2006. Child marriage facilitates the cycle of poverty which enables malnutrition, illiteracy and gender discrimination. Child marriage also perpetuates a cycle of gender-based violence and education inequality.

Girls are more likely to be pulled from educational opportunities. Additionally, girls who marry young tend to have lower educational levels and are perceived as an economic liability to their family. UNICEF is working with the Indian government to forgo child marriage through girls’ empowerment, which aligns with the mission of Goals for Girls.

South Africa

South Africa became a country of focus after the launch of the program in 2007. In South Africa, the program centers around the aforementioned international pillars, but the activities are tailored toward issues plaguing girls in South Africa like HIV, teenage pregnancy and education inequality.

There have been strides made in recent years to combat the HIV epidemic. Despite having the largest antiretroviral treatment program globally, South Africa still has the highest prevalence of HIV in the world. Poverty, along with gender-based violence and gender inequality, perpetuates the discrepancy between gender and HIV rates. In 2016, South Africa implemented the “She Conquers” campaign to increase economic opportunities for women, prevent gender-based violence and keep girls in school.

Sports have been a platform for change for many women on a global scale. Goals for Girls is working to make that change even stronger. It is providing girls with education, teamwork building skills and important life skills. Its ultimate goal is women’s equality.

Gwendolin Schemm
Photo: Flickr

10 Improvements in Women’s Rights in Bangladesh
Bangladeshi women are no strangers to fighting for what they believe in. In 1952, the women of Bangladesh fought against the patriarchal regime alongside their husbands for the recognition of the Bengali language. Below are 10 improvements in women’s rights in Bangladesh.

10 Improvements in Women’s Rights in Bangladesh

  1. Health. The USAID assisted in joint communication between husbands and wives regarding women’s health. Therefore, decision-making is mutual and focuses on the future of the family, including healthier pregnancies for both mother and child. Bangladeshi women formed NGOs to mobilize and provide door to door health services, family planning and income-earning opportunities.
  2. Agriculture. Bangladeshi women are not only homemakers, but they are also income earners. Female farmers utilize a new technology, known as the fertilizer deep treatment method. This method uses less fertilizer and produces a higher return on investment. Additionally, Bangladesh also encourages women to sell in markets and pursue other areas of earned income, such as culturing fish and shrimp.
  3. Gender-Based Violence. The USAID works to implement the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act of 2010 in training 50 percent of Bangladeshi women. Further, Bangladesh also supports grassroots efforts of social protection groups as well. Groups act as the ears and eyes of the community, as well as enforcing current human rights laws and providing resources to legal channels. Groups include social workers, doctors, religious leaders, teachers and students.
  4. Voting Rights. The country has set an example of women’s equality in voting. In 1972, the Constitution of Bangladesh guaranteed women the same voting rights as their male counterparts. The constitution also guaranteed equal opportunities, such as serving in parliament. For example, in 1991, there was the election of the first female Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia. Today, Sheikh Hasina holds the seat as Prime Minister. Furthermore, Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury holds the seat as House Speaker.
  5. Women and Children Repression (Special Act). In 1995, Bangladesh passed the special act for severe punishment for anyone guilty of forcing women to marry against their will, as well as marrying for dowry. In 2018, the high court also banned and prohibited the two-finger test; it deemed this test irrational and belittling to rape victims. Instead, the government adopted a more appropriate form of health care protocol in line with the World Health Organization.
  6. Education. Research finds that access to education and employment plays a positive role in helping women avoid becoming victims of dowry-related transactions. Illiteracy stifles the opportunity for growth and empowerment for women. The Centre for Policy Dialogue completed a study and found that if homemakers received pay for what people believe is
    non-work, they would receive 2.5 to 2.9 times higher pay than paid services income.
  7. Mass Awareness. Bangladesh also encourages mass discussion, debates and programs to bring awareness to gender inequality. According to lawmakers, mass public initiatives must include legislations and policies; this includes awareness that people teach and model at home.
  8. Working Women. Bangladeshi working women increased from 16.2 million in 2010 to 18.6 million in 2016-17. In 2017, the Gender Gap Index reported Bangladesh in the first spot amongst South Asian countries.
  9. Education. In 1990, the implementation of stipends exclusively for female students in efforts to end gender disparity for secondary schools occurred. Also, 150,000 primary school girls improved their reading skills. Participation increased from 57 percent in 2008 to 94.4 percent in 2017. Moreover, 10 million rural and underprivileged women in 490 Upazilas of 64 districts gained technology access. Bangladesh tops the Gender Gap Index in education in the primary and secondary education category.
  10. More Achievements. Bangladesh initiatives thus far include a reduction in infant and child mortality, poverty alleviation, increased female entrepreneurs and increased education and health. Other initiatives include strengthening workplace treatment and security for women against violence. There have also been income-generating initiatives to train over 2 million women at a grassroots level. Finally, Prime Minister Hasina created the Reserve Quota aimed at increasing the number of women in government, judiciary and U.N. peacekeeping missions and roles.

These 10 improvements in women’s rights in Bangladesh continue to set an example for other countries where inequality is extremely pervasive. While Bangladesh still requires significant work, these improvements bring more opportunities for Bangladeshi women to succeed in the future.

Michelle White
Photo: Flickr