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

  Clothing Companies That Give Back
It is possible to make a positive impact through one’s purchases when buying for oneself or gift-giving. Below are 10 clothing companies that give back to those in need.

10 Clothing Companies That Give Back

  1. Anchal: Anchal is an accessory company that sells items like scarves, outerwear and handbags. Sisters Colleen and Maggie Clines founded the company in 2010 after seeing the exploitative world of commercial sex trafficking and the lack of opportunity for women in India. The Cline sisters believe that design and interdisciplinary collaboration can be a catalyst for positive change. The company uses design in order to include working women in every step of production. Through intensive design workshops, artisans learn problem-solving and how to create new designs. By offering economic alternatives, rich in self-expression and rooted in community, the company is helping women rediscover their worth, potential and creativity. Female artisans, that received employment through the company’s holistic programs, craft each product.

  2. Raven and Lily: Another of the clothing companies that give back is Raven and Lily, which is an accessory company that sells luxury handbags and jewelry. The company’s prime focus is to make products that bridge gaps between traditional and modern, near and far and people and planet. Each product is handmade by women with sustainable materials and a careful touch. Raven and Lily work to empower women by working with artisans from all around the world and some of these areas include Ethiopia, Kenya, India, Malaysia, Morocco, Peru and Mexico. Raven and Lily is a certified Fair Trade and Microloan organization; with every purchase, the company gives back to a microloan program that supports female entrepreneurs in East Africa.

  3. Panda Sunglasses: WearPanda is a sustainable accessory company that sells eyewear as well as watches. The company focuses on giving back to the planet and its inhabitants. The bamboo-made products helped to create the idea of “fashion with a purpose;” with every product the company sells, a portion of the profit goes to people in need. This company has helped Optometry Giving Sight screen about four million people, deliver over 20,000 pairs of glasses and support more than 15 optical labs and over 100 optometry students in 39 countries. WearPanda also partners with the nonprofit Kiva and has helped support 12 microloans in 10 countries.

  4. Sudara Punjammies: In 2006, Sudara partnered with a sewing center in India and taught six women how to sew patterns in pajama pants, and they eventually became Punjammies. Shannon Keith founded this company after returning from a trip to India and hearing about women who were at high risk of their families forcing them into sex slavery or sex traffickers picking them up off the streets. Women in India often enter sex slavery because they lack an education or the resources and the skills to make a choice. After returning from her trip, Keith formed a small team of her family and friends. They looked for groups in India with a determination to help women out of the red light districts. The team knew that safe, steady living-wage employment would be a pathway to freedom and offer more choices for women. By making donations and purchasing Sudara goods, customers are helping to keep millions of women and young girls out of the sex trafficking industry in India.

  5. 31 Bits: 31 Bits is an ethical jewelry company that emerged after one of its three founders went on a trip to Uganda. While traveling, she discovered numerous women who grew up in war and had nothing. They were single mothers with no education or jobs; the founders yearned for change due to how young these women were. They discovered that these women did not have a basic education, but they were resourceful and made gorgeous jewelry out of old posters and scraps. The founders found that these women had the skills but just needed a market. From there, the founders created 31 Bits, a company that focuses on making fashionable products that could also help artisans from around the world to acquire dignified jobs and have access to the global market.

  6. Teysha: Teysha is a footwear company that strives to connect people through art, community and culture. The shop merges heritage with contemporary art so that communities and art can flourish. Teysha works directly with artisans in Guatemala and Panama to develop local infrastructure, value chains, designs and production processes, which work together to honor traditional craftsmanship while bringing market access and opportunity. The company has worked to support over 60 families with wages that Teysha provided. The organization also has four shops in Guatemala which women run, and these shops have also provided over 20 educational workshops.

  7. Sseko Sandals: Sseko is an accessory and clothing company that emerged to allow young women in Uganda to receive higher education. In order to help, Sseko hires these women during the nine-month period between secondary school and college. By working with Sseko, these women are not only able to save money for education, but they also gain important skills and work with professional mentors to obtain valuable work experience. At the end of the nine-month period, the company matches each woman’s savings by 300 percent. Every woman who has graduated from Sseko’s program has been able to pursue a college education. As of 2019, Sseko has helped its 131st woman attend university.

  8. Cotopaxi: Cotopaxi is a clothing and outdoor gear company that awards grants to outstanding nonprofit organizations with track records at improving the human condition and ending poverty. A few of the organizations include The International Rescue Committee, Escuela Nueva, the U.N. Foundation, Nothing But Nets, Mercy Corps and a division of Utah’s Department of Workforce Services. The shop is a B Corporation, which means that 1 percent of profits go towards addressing poverty and supporting community development. Cotopaxi also has a grant program to promote organizations that are successfully improving the human condition. As of now, Cotopaxi has awarded 42 grants in six focus countries.

  9. Faircloth & Supply: Phoebe Dahl founded Faircloth & Supply in 2013 with the idea of creating timeless fashion designs that could help to create a path that leads to a more sustainable industry. Linen casual wear, heritage textiles and utilitarian workwear inspire Dahl’s line. Faircloth Supply’s collection donates a percentage of its proceeds towards girls’ education in Nepal. The company also has the option for customers to donate to the charity of their choice upon checkout on its website. Dahl believes that in order to prevent sex trafficking, child marriage and children’s rights violations, children must obtain a basic education. With every purchase, Faircloth & Supply provides access to education for girls in Nepal.

  10. DIFF Charitable Eyewear: DIFF Charitable Eyewear is a company that sells eyewear, as well as eyewear accessories. The company’s mission is to use fashion as a force for good. Since 2015, DIFF has donated over one million eyeglasses to people in need around the world with its buy one give one structure. The company also encompasses worldwide programs in support of empowerment and education through Project DIFF. Through Project DIFF’s Pouch Program, the company provides dependable incomes to female artisans and is helping to develop Little Angels School. One way it is accomplishing this is through the crafting of elaborate sunglass cases in Uganda and its partnership with Tribe Alive in Honduras. Proceeds from the pouches go to Little Angels School in order to support it in accomplishing its goal of creating a safe, positive environment for learning, and providing the necessary tools to make it happen. Through the company’s partnership with Tribe Alive, DIFF works to empower women around the world. Ten female artisans in Tegucigalpa, Honduras handmake each of the sunglass chains and the sale of these helps each one provide a sustainable, living wage to support her family.

These 10 clothing companies that give back are working to end global poverty with every purchase. Where one chooses to spend their money can have a great impact on those who really need it. Try shopping where it counts when looking to purchase articles of clothing, jewelry, accessories or shoes.

Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Palestine
Despite Palestine’s constant immersion in conflict as a result of Israeli occupation, there are some positives in regards to girls’ education. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Palestine that showcase both the good and the bad of the country’s education system.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Palestine

  1. Literacy Rates: Palestine has one of the highest literacy rates in the world with 96.9 percent of its population being literate. In particular, there have been great strides in improving women’s literacy rates. The literacy rate went from 78.6 percent in 1995 to 97 percent in 2018. Female literacy rates are at their highest in the West Bank and their lowest in Salfit.
  2. School Infrastructure and Teachers: The education system is struggling due to insufficient school infrastructure and a lack of teachers with adequate training, as well as the existence of schools in marginalized areas. During the first 10 years of the Israeli occupation, the government built no new schools and classrooms of existing ones were overcrowded. The lack of schools led to an emergency-like situation in education, which resulted in some positive achievements, such as the regaining of the credibility of the Tawjihi, a secondary school matriculation exam. There has also been an improvement in extracurricular activities for students.
  3. The Effects of the Israeli Occupation: The Israeli occupation is mostly responsible for the struggles of the education system, given that it continually causes the exposure of schools to rockets and bombs. Building restrictions that Israeli rule implemented in places such as Area C and East Jerusalem are primarily responsible for the shortage of infrastructure. There are also movement restrictions, such as checkpoints and the Barrier, which can pose challenges to accessing services like education. The Barrier is an Israel-approved physical barrier in and around the West Bank in Palestine.
  4. Enrollment in Early, Primary, Secondary and Higher Education: There is a comparable amount of enrollment in primary education when it comes to boys and girls. Still, admissions are higher for female students to both secondary and higher education institutions. However, when it comes to Early Childhood programs, only 14.9 percent of girls are enrolled. Therefore, the U.N. has made it a priority to start investing in early childhood education, focusing on funding both teacher education and gender equality awareness.
  5. Raising Awareness About Female Education: Some of the U.N.’s planned interventions include raising awareness about the disadvantages of early marriage and the importance of female education. This effort is on-going, as women still struggle with early marriage, and gaining education and employment in Palestine. A female Palestinian student interviewed by the L.A. Review stated that “we have this thing in our society that is like, your house, your kids are [more] important than anything else. Your job is not so important because it’s like, your husband is working.”
  6. Education and Conflict: Education is critical in Palestine because it can be a non-violent form of protest against the on-going conflict. UNICEF enforces this ideology by using a behavioral change approach towards students. It encourages students, parents and teachers to challenge the acceptance of violence. It enforces this mindset by providing education and raising awareness.
  7. Women and Unemployment: Women in Palestine experience marginalization despite their education, suffering from a high rate of unemployment when compared to the rest of the world. The unemployment rate among women with 13 years of schooling or more was 50.6 percent in 2016, which was a significant increase from the 21.9 percent recorded in 2000.
  8. Women’s Participation in the Labor Market: Palestinian women have the lowest participation in the labor market within the MENA region. When it comes to labor force participation, women have a 19 percent participation rate compared to 71 percent of male participation. There is a joint effort to find and apply solutions to this problem. One solution is the U.N.’s policy to encourage girls to have Technical and Vocational Education Training, which the U.N. has partially implemented to date.
  9. Dangers on Route to School: Approximately half a million children in Palestine require humanitarian assistance to receive a quality education. The violence in the West Bank poses threats and challenges, which lead to children to experience distress and fear, even when going to and from school. This is because they might pass high-risk locations or checkpoints.
  10. Electricity Shortages: Electricity shortages that constant conflict causes are affecting access to education, both at school and at home, by striking study time and concentration. These shortages are a result of the sole electric company facing a lack of fuel, which is a consequence of the closure of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza. To reduce the reliance on fuel, organizations such as the World Bank and the International Committee of the Red Cross have been working on providing alternative energy sources.

Foreign aid and raising awareness about the importance of girls’ education in Palestine have enabled some progress. However, as a conflict-ridden area, there is more that the country requires to ensure long-lasting development and enforce quality education. By looking at these 10 facts about girls’ education in Palestine, one can begin to see some of these efforts and realize how it should be a priority to find additional solutions.

– Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

Female Leadership in Nepal
When many people think of Nepal, they imagine the Himalayas, the Mt. Everest base camp and some of the most culturally and ethnically diverse people. What these people fail to think of is the highly patriarchal society that is also Nepal. Luckily, there are four women showing female leadership in Nepal to improve life for women and girls.

The Situation

Nepal is notorious for its discrimination against women in almost every aspect of life. The literacy rate for females is significantly lower than it is for males, with only 44.5 percent of females being literate compared to 71.6 percent of males. Superstitious beliefs say that women are the reason for Nepal’s poor status in the global context. The reality, however, is that Nepal remains one of the poorest countries because of gender discrimination. Nepal eliminates half of its labor force participation rate by preventing women from seeking education and job opportunities, and this contributes to its rising poverty crisis as women are the most susceptible to poverty.

At least 75 percent of Nepal’s citizens are in poverty, with over half those citizens being females. Eighty percent of Nepalis report that their quality of life has gone down in the last five years.

Despite the ongoing oppression against females, there are Nepali women who are finding a way to make their mark in the country. The following four women show how Nepali female leadership can assist in the war on poverty in Nepal, breaking the barrier and making footprints for others to follow.

4 Women Showing Female Leadership in Nepal

  1. Renu Sharma: Renu Sharma is the co-founder and current president of The Women’s Foundation Nepal (WFN), as well as an accomplished Nepali woman, leading a non-governmental organization that helps women and children in Nepal. The organization, established in 1988, provides shelter homes, access to education, training and micro-credits for women and children who are victims of violence, abuse or poverty. WFN has helped over 150 women and children find a home and gain access to medical and legal support. It has also aided in over 450 children receiving education until the 10th grade and 3,000 women obtaining training to pursue careers in local businesses or teaching. Additionally, it has given out at least 1,000 scholarships to those pursuing higher education. WFN is looking to expand its projects to cover a larger population and eventually become self-sustainable, but to do so, it needs further support. If the mission of Renu Sharma and her colleagues is inspiring, consider these options. As this article will continue to show, a small action or a quiet voice can have a lasting impact.
  2. Bidhya Devi Bhandari: Bhandari is the country’s first woman president and has been carving the path for her fellow females since the beginning of her political career, when she served as the Minister of Defence. As of today, people credit Bhandhari with increasing female representation in the government and providing females more opportunities. Bhandhari served as the chair of the All Nepal Women’s Association, where she understood the importance of increasing Nepali female leadership in the nation. Throughout her position as President, Bhandari has ensured that a third of all politicians in Nepal are women and that all women in the country have legal rights. Bhandari’s next steps include increasing the opportunities for education for young girls and developing a gender-responsive budget system that will prevent women from falling into poverty due to an unfair wage gap.
  3. Sushila Karki: Appointed the first female Supreme Court Justice at the Supreme Court of Nepal, Sushila Karki made major contributions to fixing poverty and women’s rights in the country. Known for her zero tolerance for corruption, Karki has increased enforcement against corruption and brought many organizations and individuals to justice. Karki also believes in the emancipation of women, and she has worked to ban the practice of chhaupadi, which is when women become separate from society during menstruation. By increasing the punishment for chhaupadi, Karki has reduced the presence of the practice, and she hopes that her followers will continue to maintain a strict policy that will eventually eradicate the practice. Chhaupadi is a major contributor to female poverty, and by reducing its prevalence in society, Karki hopes that fewer females will find themselves homeless or jobless.
  4. Samjhana Pokhrel: Serving as chairperson for the NGO Jagaran Nepal (JN), Pokhrel has helped the organization move mountains in the past 10 years. JN is a leading organization that works to equalize women’s participation in society, whether that be in politics, the classroom or the family. Under Pokhrel’s leadership, the organization has advocated for human rights and social protection for all women, regardless of class. The organization has also implemented programs across the country that focus on women’s economic empowerment, women’s reproductive health, anti-violence movements and young girl’s education; the primary reason girls do not receive adequate education is due to health concerns, such as menstruation and violence, both of which force girls to drop out of school and eventually fall into poverty. Samjhana’s mission with JN is to create a program that hears the voices of women in need and acts on it, reducing their susceptibility to poverty. 

Nepal’s struggles with poverty are far from over, but these women are taking steps to combat it any way they see possible. By setting examples in Nepali female leadership, these women are forging a path that others can follow. As Nepal continues to make an effort to support women and close the gender gap that exists, the country is making progress in reducing its poverty.

Shvetali Thatte
Photo: Flickr

5 Women Fighting Poverty in Latin America
Around the world, women bear the brunt of poverty. Specifically in developing countries, women hold the responsibility of household welfare and the gendered division of labor; in their attempt to manage both, women face the absence of autonomy and economic opportunities.

Here are five women fighting poverty in Latin America. These women are working hard to ensure their rights and the rights of thousands of people in their countries who are living in poverty.

Mariana Costa Checa

A businesswoman from Peru, Mariana Costa Checa is the brain behind Laboratoria. Laboratoria is a web-based education startup that uses online boot camps and corporate training programs to train women in the tech industry. The goal of the company is to enable women of all income levels to train for and connect with and work at tech jobs that have an impact at the systematic level. By providing women with a source of income and the knowledge to pursue various careers, Mariana has established a company that has the potential to draw hundreds of women, and their households, out of poverty.

Claudia López

Another one of the women fighting poverty in Latin America is Claudia López, who was elected as mayor of Bogotá in Colombia’s October 2019 election. This event marked a historic first for the country as Claudia López is the first woman, and the first gay woman, elected as mayor. In Colombia, the mayor of Bogotá holds a high position, often considered the second most important politician in the country after the president. López has reached a milestone for women, and she promises to continue fighting for women by providing educational opportunities and opening up more job opportunities.

López also prioritizes fighting corruption, ending child labor and putting more police officers on the streets. With her victory, the country has a chance to put an end to some of its most ongoing and pressing issues.

Erika Herrero

As the chief executive officer of Belcorp, Erika Herrero Bettarel has been making waves in the beauty industry and the community of women. Belcorp is a multi-brand corporation that specializes in beauty products and services based in numerous countries around Latin America. Belcorp believes that women are a major driver of positive social change, and the company aims to bring women closer to their idea of beauty and fulfillment. With Erika’s help, Belcorp has been able to help support over 1 million women in terms of receiving income, flexible working hours, appropriate training, social protection and micro-life insurance.

Belcorp has also facilitated over 1,600 scholarships for young Latin American girls and trained over 18,400 low-income adult women in areas of personal development, violence prevention and economic development. Erika Herrero says that by capitalizing on the importance of the beauty industry, she is able to use Belcorp to open up more networks and job opportunities for women in Latin America, promising women a better future by helping to end their poverty.

Lynne Patterson and Carmen Velasco

Co-founders of Pro Mujer, Lynne Patterson and Carmen Velasco, are leading women’s development through social entrepreneurship. Patterson and Carmen’s work has provided women in Latin American with health, microfinance and training services that are typically out of reach to women of low-income families. Pro Mujer works with over 277,000 women across five Latin American countries to help diagnose and treat health problems such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. Individuals in poverty are at high risk for these chronic diseases due to economic problems.

When individuals in poverty are struck with illnesses that go untreated, their condition further deteriorates, perpetuating the cycle. Pro Mujer promotes healthy behavior among clients by holding meetings, offering health counseling and education and using innovative and financially sustainable health models to diagnose and treat illnesses. By offering below-market prices for its services, Pro Mujer is giving sophisticated health care to those in poverty.

 

Women may still carry the weight of poverty, but there are many women fighting poverty in Latin America. Mariana Checa, Claudia López, Erika Herrero, Lynne Patterson, Carmen Velasco and countless others are making a significant difference with their work. As women continue to make progress in Latin America, the region has high hopes of economic growth.

Shvetali Thatte
Photo: Pixabay

 Female Weaving Co-op in Mexico
Female weaving co-ops began to proliferate in Mexico in the late 20th century, especially in the country’s most impoverished areas. Indigenous Mexican women living in these areas found it imperative to collectivize to navigate an oppressive socio-political landscape. Vida Nueva is one example of a co-op that grew out of this context. This female weaving co-op promotes gender equality in Mexico in ways that people never before imagined.

How This Female Weaving Co-op Promotes Gender Equality in Mexico

Oaxaca is the second-poorest state in Mexico, with historically low GDP growth relative to the national average. In Oaxaca, 28 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty, a statistic due mainly to income disparities between rural and urban centers and the region’s low manufacturing capacity. In the small township of Teotitlán del Valle, Zapotec women feel social and economic marginalization the hardest, because they must contend with a communal infrastructure that favors men and limits their participation in municipal government. Until the 1990s, women could not pursue education or obtain a drivers’ license.

Today, many Zapotec women are still illiterate and bound to male intermediaries so they may engage meaningfully with the economy. This is especially the case regarding the textile industry, their principal export. Under these conditions, even their own reproductive health can present a source of ignorance.

Weaving Cooperatives as a Means of Social Change

The establishment of weaving cooperatives has benefitted Zapotec communities like Teotitlán in confronting the onset of globalization and neoliberal economics in Mexico. This phenomenon has proven to be damning to rural indigenous communities throughout the country. However, the biggest impact changes in textile production have been in improving gender relations in otherwise patriarchal contexts.

Since Zapotec women began weaving, their stake in local politics has increased, as well as their lobbying ability. Exposure to new markets through access to technology and travel has led to instances of financial and ideological independence. They have placed new importance on education and female empowerment, reshaping social norms to value female labor and domestic contributions at home.

Vida Nueva

Vida Nueva (New Life in Spanish) is an all-female weaving cooperative changing the social geography for women in Teotitlán for the better. The group comprises of solteras or unmarried women, widows and the wives of migrants, who banded together in an attempt to circumvent merchant control over their products. When starting, the women struggled to sell their rugs independently due to a language barrier (most do not speak any Spanish), stigmas against indigenous Mexicans in the city, exploitative bureaucracy and male backlash within their community.

A chance encounter with Flor Cervantes, a social justice promoter in Oaxaca with over eight years of self-esteem workshops under her guidance, gave Vida Nueva the architecture to develop into what it is now. Under Cervantes’ guidance, the women learned about their bodies, their business potential and how best to advocate for themselves. With this knowledge, Vida Nueva began to expand. It eventually gained recognition from the United Nations and the licensure to sell its goods worldwide. Through education and cooperative production, Vida Nueva regained control over the production and sale of its work.

While Vida Nueva’s biggest impact on gender equality in Mexico is qualitative, concrete change also exists. By 2004, nearly 15 percent of households in Teotitlán participated in textile cooperatives. This is a considerable increase since Vida Nueva’s inception in 1996.

According to the New York Times’ measure last year, the textile industry involves almost all of Teotitlán’s 5,500 residents in some way. Since the early 2000s, higher volumes of female co-op members received invitations to attend community assemblies. Now, it is commonplace for whole collectives to receive written invitations. This serves as evidence that a once-rigis, patriarchal local government is finding women to be more valued assets.

Giving Back

At no point in becoming independent artisans did the women of Vida Nueva compromise their practice. They continue to use the natural dyes (made from pomegranate, marigolds, pulverized insects, etc.) and the arduous weaving techniques that predated colonization. Vida Nueva is a community-driven project with a localized vision. Every year, the collective sponsors a new initiative to improve the quality of life in Teotitlán for all residents. Since starting, the group has championed recycling and forestation efforts, senior care services and feminism.

Elena Robidoux
Photo: Taken by Elena Robidoux

Advances of Somali women
Located on the eastern seaboard of Africa, Somalia is a country synonymous with strife and civil unrest, with a civil war raging on since 1991. The country has endured continuous hardship, and, as is often the case, women carry an unfair proportion of the burden. The advances of Somali women in recent years demonstrate the progress and possibility for the future of Somalia.

The State of Somali Women

Due to a combination of cultural and religious practices, Somali women always existed in a state of subservience. The traditionally patriarchal society grew worse in terms of gender equality as political tensions and divides grew in the 1980s and reached a state of full and outright oppression with the start of the nation’s current civil war. The average Somali women lives only 58 years, 16 years less than the world average. This is in large part due to the lack of medical treatment women receive. Somalia has the seventh-highest maternal mortality rate in the world and the ninth highest birth rate. The country’s lacking health care and infrastructure worsen these statistics. Somalia’s state of civil war and lack of a set government for almost 20 years caused nearly all progression to stop and fall back.

Somalia ranked the fourth worst country to be a woman. This ranking came from a poll of 213 women’s rights experts. It judged countries on the factors of poverty, violence, rape, human trafficking, lack of health services and a variety of other criteria. Cases of genital mutilation and child marriage are also extremely common.

Inequalities and Poverty for Somali Women

The nation’s impoverished state likely plays a large role in the oppression of women, with little work of worth for them to take on. Somali women often need to tend to children, the home and herds of cattle. This typically starts at a young age, which therefore excludes Somali girls from attending school. A great barrier in relation to gender equality in Somalia comes by way of political representation. Due to the constant oppression women face, very few Somali women hold political office, nor do they hold roles with any substantial power. In Somaliland, a region in the north of Somalia in the grips of a fight for its independence from Somalia, there are only two female members of parliament out of 86. Moreover, only one female minister out of the 28 currently holds the position. When Somali women do speak out against the bias of the system, they often face violence.

Even with odds bent against them, Somali women are fighting for their equality. The advances of Somali women largely go overlooked, but this may change. A visit of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed put the recent advances of Somali women at center stage. Somalia served as a stop on the joint UN-African Union trip to countries in the Horn of Africa. While in Somalia, Mohammed met with the African Union Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, Bineta Diop. The trip highlighted the strides Somalia took as a nation in the years since the bloodiest stages of its civil war, as well as addressing the progress and advances of Somali women in recent years. These advances lay somewhat in the abstract, more in effort and aspiration than drastic reform. Somali women fought for equal participation in elections, worked to redevelop Somalia’s economy and pushed against the rise of extremism.

Somalia’s state of instability leads to much guesswork when predicting what may be to come. However, the civil war that brought destruction to the nation seems to be in its waning phase. If the efforts and advances of Somali women tell of anything, they tell of the possibility to change, to grow and brighten the future with the better days to come.

Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Nonprofits That Empower WomenToday, the fight for women’s rights continues to pick up steam. However, many women’s voices around the globe are still not being heard. Fortunately, more organizations are taking up the mantle to ensure that gender equality remains a top priority when it comes to global development. Here are five global nonprofits that empower women.

5 Global Nonprofits That Empower Women

  1. Women for Women International
    Women for Women International, or WfWI, is a nonprofit founded in 1993 working with women from impoverished and war-torn countries. It assisted more than 500,000 women since and is currently situated in Afghanistan, Northern Iraq, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, South Sudan, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This nonprofit works to give women an opportunity to build a support network for each other and share their experiences while also teaching them new skills and resources to safeguard their futures. WfWI believes in empowering women in four different ways—economic empowerment, social empowerment, sustaining peace and responding to conflict. Outside of programs that relate directly to helping women, WfWI also focuses on “complementary programs” that center around men’s engagement in women’s rights issues, graduate support and community advocacy.
  2. The Malala Fund
    Malala and her father Ziauddin Yousafzai founded the Malala Fund in 2013 to give girls around the world an opportunity to receive a safe and quality education. The fund mainly focused its attention on countries where girls are least likely to have access to this kind of education, specifically in Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey. This fund targets three specific areas when it comes to ensuring that girls have an opportunity to receive a quality education. These are (i) advocacy, specifically in holding leaders accountable, (ii) investing in educators and those who are also fighting for girls’ education and (iii) giving girls the opportunity to speak for themselves and allowing their voices to be heard.
  3. Global Fund for Women
    Founded in 1987, the Global Fund for Women strives for gender equality and advocates for the rights of women and girls across the globe. It mainly fights for reproductive rights for women, violence prevention and economic fairness. For the Global Fund, women and girls around the world should always feel “strong, safe, powerful and heard.” This group specifically partners with “women-led groups who are courageously fighting for justice in their own communities” which allows these organizations to tackle issues head on. Since its founding, it has worked in 175 countries and contributed to at least 5,000 organizations that have similar values as the Global Fund for Women.
  4. Pathfinder International
    Founded in 1957, Pathfinder International works to improve the sexual and reproductive health of people around the world. While it participates in all aspects of sexual and reproductive health, its main focus is pregnancies and making sure women are aware of all options available to them. Pathfinder International’s mission is to try to lower the rate of women dying from preventable complications with pregnancies, help those infected with HIV and promote proper sexual and reproductive health. It operates under the values of respect, courage, collaboration, innovation and integrity. Pathfinder International is located in 20 countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt and Mozambique.
  5. Madre
    Madre is a women’s rights organization that specifically works with smaller organizations fighting for women’s rights in war-torn nations. It focuses on three specific issues. These are gender violence, climate justice and “Just Peace,” which is meant to provide women with an opportunity to recover from the experiences they had and work toward a more peaceful world. In order to work with these three specific causes, Madre uses three strategies—grantmaking, capacity building and legal advocacy. These three strategies bring women into the conversation and allow them the opportunity to enact change, support one another and give them an opportunity to take part in policymaking. Some of the countries Madre reaches include Guatemala, Colombia, Haiti, Nicaragua, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Kenya.

– Sydney Toy
Photo: Flickr

Programs Aiding Women in Vietnam

Too many Vietnamese women find themselves locked into a life of abuse and poverty, with no skills or access to education to become gainfully employed. One example lies in the story of Sung Thi Sy. Sy resides in the Sa Phin village in the Dong Van District of Vietnam. According to the Asia News Network, her family lived in severe poverty for much of her life and she constantly lived in fear of her husband who would regularly abuse her. She considered running away, but she was worried about providing for her two young children. However, thanks to the support of a locally-funded program, Sy and her children are now thriving. There are many other programs aiding women in Vietnam including the following.

3 Programs Aiding Women in Vietnam

  1. Education and Training: One of the most well-known organizations that work to solve this problem is the Vietnamese Women’s Union (VWU). Founded in 1930, the VWU originally found roles for women during the liberation of Vietnam from French colonialism. After the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the VWU focused on helping women rebuild their lives by pulling them out of poverty and introducing them to the workforce. Today, the VWU has more than 19 million members that constantly work towards gender equality for Vietnamese women. The VWU offers loans to help poor Vietnamese women afford a higher education and training programs to provide the skills needed to find higher-paying careers.
  2. Agriculture: Women in the Dong Van district of Vietnam face a high risk of human trafficking and domestic violence and an unpredictable climate with barren land which makes farming a challenge. One of the programs aiding women in Vietnam with these struggles is the Lanh Trang (White Flax) Agricultural and Forestry Services Cooperative. Launched in 2017, the program works to provide vocational skills for disadvantaged women and invests in the necessary equipment to grow and harvest flax for the women in the Dong Van area. Since its inception, the Lanh Trang Cooperative has created stable jobs for 95 women, including Sung Thi Sy, all of whom live on a budget of around $170 to $260 per month.
  3. Entrepreneurship: The United Nations Development Programme launched an initiative dubbed the Economic Empowerment of Ethnic Minority Women via Application of 14.0 to aid women in Vietnam through entrepreneurship. This initiative creates an online platform in which Vietnamese women can learn modern financial solutions, take online courses on creating a business, obtain new technology for production and many more services.

Today, Sung Thi Sy has a job in the production of flaxseed products and brings home a consistent paycheck to feed her children and preserve the roof above their heads. Women like Sy are living proof that with enough funding, programs like these can promote tangible improvements in the fight against poverty and inequality in Vietnam.

– Charles Nettles
Photo: Flickr

Empowered Fijian Women
When Cyclone Winston barreled down on rural Fiji in 2016, the women left the kitchen and shouted to their neighbors to warn them of the impending storm. The women protected food in containers and buried crops to save them from the destruction. Using their phones, the women spread messages to other rural areas and warned others of the forecasted disaster. This network of women is the Women’s Weather Watch Program and it has empowered Fijian women.

The Women’s Weather Watch Program

The Women’s Weather Watch Program consists of around 350 empowered Fijian women all connected by a mobile network. The program started in 2009 following Cyclone Mick. The reason the program started was that women’s communities were excluding them from the decision making process despite their selfless efforts to protect their homes.

The base is in Fiji‘s capital, Suva, and those members monitor weather reports. In the event of a natural disaster, they send a message to women all over Fiji that are part of the program. These women then warn their villages and prepare them for the worst. This unique method of preparation for a storm shows how natural disasters have empowered women in Fiji.

Femlink Pacific Empowers Fijian Women

The entire weather watch program is run by Femlink Pacific. It is a feminist non-governmental organization that uses the media to empower women. It interviews women all over Fiji about their needs and concerns. Femlink then broadcasts these interviews from its studios in the hopes that it can raise awareness for those women.

The lives of these women have changed for the better with the creation of the Weather Watch Program. Previously, people told the women to be quiet, stay in the kitchen and look after the kids. The men took power and disregarded their opinions. Now, Femlink Pacific and the Women’s Weather Watch Program have given these women a voice. They use their voices to warn neighbors and friends all over their villages and will no longer confine themselves to the kitchen. The women are leaders and now that they have a say, they are changing things for the better.

Fijian women know how to best prepare for a disaster. They know how to help their crops when drought hits. When times are tough, they are the ones who skip meals to help their families. The women find ways to get money by talking to each other and teaching each other how to survive in the face of adversity.

The progress that women have made in Fiji is remarkable. It is amazing to see how natural disasters have empowered Fijian women. The work they do truly does save lives. Less than half of Fiji is connected to the internet. There is no app on these women’s phones to tell them a storm is coming. There is no way to search online for how to prepare for a storm or how to recover after one has passed. It is the women who have taken on this important job. Without the Women’s Weather Watch Program, a severe storm could cost countless lives and the destruction of crops simply because people were not expecting it.

– Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr