Meghan MarkleMeghan Markle, now known as the Duchess of Sussex, began humanitarian work long before she joined the royal family. When she was 11 years old, she was so struck by a clearly sexist ad for dish soap that was targeting women, she wrote a letter to elected officials, to which she received a written response from Hillary Clinton. She has famously cited this story in her speech at the U.N. Women gathering in 2015 as the starting point to her activism. She utilized the fame she garnered from starring on the popular USA Network TV show “Suits” to increase her humanitarian efforts.

Since becoming Duchess of Sussex, she has traveled throughout the Commonwealth discussing humanitarian issues that affect the countries the royals represent. Here are the 10 best humanitarian quotes by Meghan Markle, Dutchess of Sussex.

The 10 Best Humanitarian Quotes by Meghan Markle

  1. “One hundred and thirteen million adolescent girls between the ages of 12-14 in India alone are at risk of dropping out of school because of the stigma surrounding menstrual health […] these factors perpetuate the cycle of poverty and stunt a young girl’s dream for a more prolific future.” In her 2016 visit to Delhi and Mumbai, India, Markle was prompted to write an open letter, featured in Time magazine, calling for action against menstrual stigmas that keep Indian girls from school and from being equal participants in society.
  2. “I think there’s a misconception that access to clean water is just about clean drinking water. Access to clean water in a community keeps young girls in school because they aren’t walking hours each day to source water for their families. It allows women to invest in their own businesses and community. It promotes grassroots leadership, and, of course, it reinforces the health and wellness of children and adults. Every single piece of it is so interconnected, and clean water, this one life source, is the key to it all.” Also in 2016, Markle traveled to Rwanda as a global ambassador with World Vision, a humanitarian agency who seeks to impact the lives of young children by eliminating the root causes of poverty. It is one of the largest international charity organizations for children.
  3. “Women’s suffrage is about feminism, but feminism is about fairness.” In celebration of the 125 year anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand in late 2018, Markle gave a speech about feminism. New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women’s suffrage. In her speech she also quoted suffragette Kate Sheppard, reiterating that “All that separates, whether race, class, creed or sex, is inhuman and must be overcome.”
  4. “Women don’t need to find their voice, they need to be empowered to use it and people need to be urged to listen.” In February 2018, in her first public appearance alongside Prince Harry, Kate and Prince William, Markle voiced her support of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, which focus on eliminating sexual misconduct against all people and supporting victims of assault while promoting gender equality across all industries.
  5. “Don’t give it five minutes if you’re not going to give it five years.” When delivering the keynote speech at the Create & Cultivate Conference in 2016, Markle brought to light the importance of prioritizing and making commitments. She demonstrated the importance of utilizing skills for long-term solutions and goals and to focus attention and energy only on things that can be cultivated and maintained in the long run. She also emphasized pursuing passions and planning on working towards it for years to come.
  6. “We just need to be kinder to ourselves. If we treated ourselves the way we treated our best friend, can you imagine how much better off we would be? … Yes, you can have questions and self-doubt, that’s going to come up, that’s human.” Markle puts the “human” in humanitarian. She shows it is important not only to show up for others but to show up for yourself in order to make a lasting impact and to be able to maintain your best self in the process.
  7. “With fame comes opportunity, but it also includes responsibility – to advocate and share, to focus less on glass slippers and more on pushing through glass ceilings. And, if I’m lucky enough, to inspire.” In an interview with Elle Magazine, Markle talked about the things that inspired her when she was young and her experiences going from working on a TV series to helping in Rwanda.
  8. “Everyone should be afforded the opportunity to receive the education they want, but more importantly the education they have the right to receive.” In October 2018 in Fiji, Markle gave a speech on the importance of women’s education and cited the ways scholarships and financial aid funded her education and how worthwhile it was for her as an adult.
  9. “Because when girls are given the right tools to succeed, they can create incredible futures, not only for themselves but also for those around them.” The trip to Fiji and Markle’s speech were used to announce two grants that were awarded to Fiji National University and the University of the South Pacific to provide workshops for the women faculty at the universities to allow more women to be a part of decision-making at the schools.
  10. “I am proud to be a woman and a feminist.” Markle began her speech at the U.N. on International Women’s Day 2015 with this line. It was the same speech where she told the story of her 11-year-old self prompting advertisers to change their sexist dish soap advertisement.

Meghan Markle started her activism at the early age of 11 and didn’t look back. Her career as a successful actress gave her the platform to share her causes with the rest of the world. Clearly, the Duchess of Sussex has been a humanitarian long before being thrust into the global stage, and the top 10 best humanitarian quotes by Meghan Markle prove it.

Ava Gambero

Photo: Mark Tantrum

Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene
In many developing countries, gender inequality in access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH for short) creates additional risks and hardships for women and girls, in addition to all equalities that women must endure. As of 2015, 2.1 billion people globally did not have access to safe water services and 4.5 billion did not have access to a safely managed sanitation service. In order to improve access to these services and the livelihoods of women in developing countries, it is essential that policy-makers view WASH as a gendered issue and involve women in decision-making.

Water Collection

In the absence of basic water services, individuals must travel to a water source to collect water for their household. This burden disproportionately falls on women, with women and girls responsible for water collection in eight out of 10 households without water on the premises. More than 73 percent of water collection is done by women, and 6.9 percent is done by girls under the age of 15. While water collection can be important to the social lives of women, as it offers an opportunity to communicate with women from different households, it poses a risk to women’s safety and takes away time that could be spent on other activities.

In sub-Saharan Africa, it takes approximately 33 minutes to travel to and from a water source in rural areas, and 25 minutes in urban areas. Many people have to make this trip more than once per day. During this trip, women may be vulnerable to gender-based violence, including sexual assault while traveling on their own. For girls, water collection takes away from time that could be spent on obtaining an education. For women, this is the time that could be spent on childcare, housework or income-generating activities.

Sanitation and Hygiene Issues

Many people do not have access to latrines in developing countries and therefore practice open defecation. In Central and Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, nine out of 10 individuals openly defecate in fields, forests, bushes and bodies of water. Women and girls may require additional privacy when defecating, and therefore in some cultures can only do so at night. This increases the risk of violence, and suppressing their bodily functions during the day can lead to urinary tract infections and chronic constipation.

Menstruating can also be extremely difficult in these settings, with many women lacking access to basic products and services. Many schools lack private bathroom facilities for girls, causing many girls to leave school once they reach puberty. If they do stay, they often stay home while they are menstruating, decreasing their chances for educational success. Adult women are also impacted, and may not be able to work at certain locations if they do not have gender-segregated bathroom facilities.

Additionally, without water, sanitation and hygiene become increasingly difficult. Even if women and girls do have access to private toilets, if they do not have clean water to wash their hands, this poses a serious health risk for them and for others. In general, women are more likely to be exposed to dirty water, as they do a majority of household work, including taking care of young children. Contact with wastewater increases the risk of disease for many women.

Issues to Consider

Those trying to solve the problems associated with water, sanitation and hygiene must take into account a few different factors. First, in emergency situations, such as natural disasters or conflict, water may become additionally scarce, increasing hardships for women and girls. They may have to walk farther to collect water, making them more likely to experience violence.

On the other hand, cultural or social constraints may confine women to the home during more dangerous times, further decreasing their access to water and sanitation facilities. Second, household gender dynamics and societal gender roles need to be considered. If gender roles are radically altered, particularly if women are given more power than they initially possessed, this could increase gender-based violence because men feel as though they are losing control.

Moving Forward

Involving women in efforts to improve water, sanitation and hygiene is crucial in solving these issues and is already underway in many communities. Women are influential in raising awareness about water and sanitation issues, and improving water and sanitation can greatly empower them.

A study by the International Water and Sanitation Center conducted in 15 countries found that water and sanitation projects that included women were more effective and sustainable. For example, in Zimbabwe, female community members were involved in committees on WASH, and this highlighted community health concerns and provided insights for the construction and maintenance of water sources. Similarly, a project in Uganda worked with women to help them build rainwater harvesting jars, decreasing the amount of time needed for water collection.

Projects like these are being conducted in developing countries around the world, and the general lesson remains the same- involve women in decision-making at every level and remain conscious of the role played by specific cultural contexts in these issues. Efforts that effectively work with communities have the potential to vastly decrease the problems associated with water, sanitation and hygiene for women and girls, reducing gender inequalities and improving livelihoods of everyone.

– Sara Olk

Photo: Flickr

Femicide in Argentina
Argentina is South America’s second-largest country and it was once one of the world’s wealthiest nations. Argentina has a vast variety of agricultural and mineral resources and a highly educated population, but it also has a long history of political and economic instability. With a population of 44.1 million people, Argentina legally has good human rights, but these rights are often disregarded or ignored, especially towards women. Women continue to face economic discrimination, gender-based wage gaps, extream violence and poor job security.

The world justice report says that women in Argentina are more likely to be employed through informal means, without any social security and find it difficult to access free services. Of all the issues that Argentina faces, the biggest and most well-known issue is the increasing amounts of femicide cases.

Definition of Femicide

Femicide is described as the gender-based killing of women because of their gender and it is the leading cause of premature death for women globally. Femicide in Argentina continues to grow each year. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs reports that in the last decade in Argentina, 2,638 women were killed or have died for the sole reason of being women. Out of this number, 75 percent of the deaths were committed by men close to the victims, either family members, romantic partners or ex-partners. “Every 29 hours a woman is killed in the country,” said Raquel Vivanco, president of the Observatorio Ahora Que Sí Nos Ven at a press conference.

Another chilling fact about femicide in Argentina is that 17 percent of the women murdered had filed a complaint against the assailant and 11 percent even had judicial protection. The Observatorio reported that this happened to all age ranges. Forty-one percent were between the ages of 21 and 40 years old, 25 percent between the ages of 41 and 60, 13 percent older than 60, and 10 percent between the ages of 16 and 20.

Ni Una Menos

There have been numerous mass protests in response to the unjust treatment of women and the governments’ failure to recognize the issue. The biggest movement to date is the Ni Una Menos which translates to “Not one (woman) less.” This movement started in 2015 after a continuous string of murders of women, all in different circumstances but similar murderers and reasoning. This movement against femicide in Argentina continues to run and will have their annual march in June later this year.

Causes of Femicide in Argentina

The advocates for human rights group says that the causes of this type of violence are linked to gender inequality, discrimination and economic disempowerment and are the result of a systematic disregard for women’s human rights. Femicide frequently occurs in an environment where everyday acts of violence are accepted and impunity is facilitated by the government’s refusal to deal with the problems.

Another theory is the social attitude often associated with Latin American and Hispanic cultures called “Machismo” and can have positive and negative connotations. The positive connotation is associated with protecting one’s family, community and country. The negative connotations are what is commonly associated with the causes of femicide. This being the use of violence as a way to demonstrate physical strength, masculinity and superior over women.

Actions Being Taken

In December 2018, Argentine Chamber of Deputies approved the Micaela Law to eradicate gender-based violence with 171 votes in favor and only one against. The bill, named after Micaela Garcia, a femicide victim who was murdered in 2017, calls for a mandatory gender training for all state officials and workers. This training is much needed because of the insensitivity of public servants while dealing with cases of gender-based violence.

There are six key points of the Micaela Law:

  1. Everyone in public service must go through training on “gender and violence against women.”
  2. The National Institute of Women (INAM) will enforce the law. It will also be responsible for directly training high officials.
  3. The training will be conducted in collaboration with gender offices. New materials and programs will be produced for training.
  4. The INAM will control the quality of the said materials and the training must be imparted within a year of the law coming into force.
  5. INAM will also publish information regarding the degree of compliance of each state agency and do follow-up reports on its impact.
  6. If any public employee refuses to attend the training “without just cause”, they would be subjected to a disciplinary sanction.

Activist groups are getting involved as well. The Latin American Group for Gender and Justice (ELA) has a 12-month program which addresses the two most urgent problems, violence against women and access to reproductive rights. The purpose of this program is to promote a network of individual lawyers, practitioners, organizations, and nongovernmental organizations with expertise on women’s rights to provide legal assistance to women facing rights violations and contribute to the cultural transformation needed to end the discrimination against women.

Femicide in Argentia is a big issue and continues to negatively affect the way of life in this beautiful country. However, many activists groups and the Ni Una Menos movement are trying to team up with the Argentinian government to solve this problem and put an end to femicide in Argentina once and for all.

– Madeline Oden

Photo: Unsplash

Top 10 Facts About Girls' Education in Kazakhstan
In 2012, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced the ambitious Kazakhstan 2050 plan to make this Central Asian nation one of the world’s 30 most developed. Much of the plan revolves around the economic activity, but a crucial secondary function is to bolster and expand the country’s education system. Since Kazakhstan 2050 was kicked off, substantial strides have been made regarding making education and schools more accessible and high quality for all citizens. However, there are still barriers in place that prevent girls from utilizing of Kazakhstan’s growing scholastic offerings. In the article below, the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Kazakhstan are presented.

Top 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Kazakhstan

  1. The topic of sex is very taboo in Kazakhstan, and as a result, there is no structure in place to educate young people about safe sex and health. State-level plans across the board offer very little, and the national Ministry of Education supplies nothing at all. Without a syllabus for teachers or schools and a cultural inability to discuss sex, the birth rate for girls ages from 15 to 19 years is 28 per 1,000. This rate coincides with a 20 percent decrease in gross enrollment of girls from lower to upper secondary school, where students are typically from 16 to 18 years old.
  2. In January 2017, the Ministry of Education passed a decision that all schools, except for universities, would require students to wear uniforms, and that religious garments of any kind would be banned. In schools across the country, substantial portions of female students refused to attend until the ban is lifted. In one school, 73 percent of hijab-wearing students refused to comply. Dissenters maintain the ban is unconstitutional.
  3. Human Development Indices and Indicators report illustrate problems with education and outcomes in Kazakhstan. The report uses the Gender Development Index that measures inequalities in achievement in three basic dimensions of human development: health, education and command over economic resources, which is measured by Gross National Income (GNI) per capita. The difference between male and female GNI is more than $11,000 and 12 percent more of the male population participate in the country’s labor force.
  4. In 2017, the Kazakhstan government invested $56 million in support of female entrepreneurship in order to improve upon the substantial job increase caused by female-owned small and medium enterprises. Additionally, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) kicked off a Women in Business program in 2015, that provides female-owned businesses with designates credit lines.
  5. Access to primary and secondary school is a constitutional right in Kazakhstan and education is compulsory from 7 to 15 ages, ending before the final two years of secondary school. The last nine years have seen a decline in primary school enrollment, dropping from 90 percent in 2008 to only 86 percent in 2017. However, secondary school enrollment has trended in the opposite direction with net enrollment improving from 90 percent in 2010 to 99.85 percent in 2017.
  6. While primary and secondary enrollment rates for boys and girls are mostly equal, far more women pursue advanced degrees. Around 64 percent of students pursuing masters degrees and 58 percent of doctoral students are women. Women with advanced degrees most often go into education, health and administrative working fields, while men tend towards technical fields.
  7. While there is little gender disparity in the national rate for the attendance of primary school, the regional metrics show that girls in certain locations are more likely to miss out on primary education. In East Kazakhstan, the net attendance for boys is 90 percent while girls attendance is only 72 percent.
  8. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a comparative study of the learning outcomes of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science. Kazakhstan’s results show no significant differences between girls and boys, whereas other participating countries on average see an 11 point difference in mathematics. However, PISA does reveal that rural students tend to lag behind their urban counterparts. To stem this tide the Kazakhstan Ministry of Education and Science has partnered with the World Bank to kick off the Modernization of Secondary School. The program will last for 17 years and $75 million will be spent on improvement of the quality of education to reduce the gap between rural and urban schools, and to support inclusive education.
  9. Kazakhstan has entirely closed its gender gap in regards to educational attainment. In September 2018, Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Education and Science announced a collaborative plan to bring better education to women in Afghanistan. In collaboration with the EU and the governments of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, the unnamed program allocates $2.3 million for training and educating women.
  10. A study conducted by the Asian Development Bank found that the overwhelming majority of college and vocational students in STEM fields were men. In order to overcome the antiquated beliefs that push women towards certain jobs and fields, the International Youth Foundation partnered with Chevron to start the Zangar Initiative. This program is meant to stimulate students interests in STEM fields while in primary and secondary school and establishes after-school clubs for students to combine their math and science lessons with engineering design processes to address real-world problems.

Kazakhstan’s aspiration to be one of the world’s most developed nations seems very likely considering the progress the country has made in recent history. By investing in and rethinking the educational system, Kazakhstan shows the importance of education for the country’s future and that, in order for the country to realize its potential, so must its citizens regardless of their gender. Educating women is a must when achieving the status of a prosperous nation.

– Nick Sharek

Photo: UNICEF

Pregnant in Niger
Pregnancy can be challenging anywhere, but being pregnant in Niger is often life-threatening. Around 14,000 women in Niger die every year as a result of pregnancy-related complications, with only 29 percent of births attended by skilled medical professionals. Because giving birth at home is a deeply ingrained cultural tradition in Niger, only 17 percent of women give birth in health facilities.

Challenges in Being Pregnant in Niger

The difficulties of being pregnant in Niger are exacerbated by the persistence of gender inequality. Women are often treated as property, with girls being married or even sold off before reaching puberty. Violence against girls and women remains a huge problem, especially because victims have often been conditioned to expect and tolerate these abuses.

Due to limited national resources and inadequate funding, the health care system in Niger is unequal to the task of providing universal care for all Nigeriens and relies heavily on assistance from charitable organizations. In 2015, an evaluation of Niger’s national health policy, led by the World Health Organization, revealed that only minimal progress had been made in the area of maternal health. To address this need, nonprofit groups such as Nutrition International are taking action.

Nutrition International

Nutrition International is an organization “helping more pregnant women and their newborns receive access to essential health care services, medicines and other commodities, including vitamins and minerals.” This initiative includes assessing the prenatal and antenatal care as well as pregnancy outcomes and evaluating the potential barriers to care for Nigerien women. These barriers range from a lack of confidence that prenatal and antenatal care is as important as they are being told to more practical concerns such as being able to afford transportation to medical appointments.

The period of time during and shortly after birth is a crucial one for both mother and newborn child. Unforeseen complications can arise, and without adequately trained health providers as well as the proper medicine and equipment, too many mothers and babies needlessly die. Nutrition International is also making materials available to facilities in Niger to provide care to pregnant and postpartum women as well as to train health personnel to give improved care and counseling to their patients. Furthermore, they are utilizing volunteers within the community to impart to pregnant women and their families the importance of antenatal care.

UNICEF and UNFPA

In 2017 alone, 81 out of every 1,000 live births resulted in the death of the infant before reaching one year of age. UNICEF provides support to the government of Niger to ensure that mothers and their babies receive a “continuum of care,” from prenatal to antenatal and promotes the education of girls, which can decrease the odds of childhood or adolescent pregnancy.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) implemented a program in 2014 called Action for Adolescent Girls. This has played an important role in helping to improve conditions for women who are pregnant in Niger. One important mission of the organization is to ensure that the women, and not young girls, are entering into marriages of their own volition and not being impregnated before they are physically and emotionally ready.

UNFPA sought out and trained local women to serve as mentors to young Nigerien girls, teaching them the basics of female hygiene, reproductive health, literacy and the basics of how to manage money. They were taught that child marriage is illegal and were informed of their other rights as citizens and human beings. Within the first eight-month cycle of the program, this initiative had already resulted in an increase of contraceptive use from 19 percent to 34 percent.

Looking Ahead

The government of Niger continues to work with global organizations to improve the health of prospective and new mothers as well as their children. USAID contributes to this effort with development and humanitarian programs in Niger, all of which are aimed at making the country more self-sufficient. The more financially solvent the country is, the better educated its population will be, ensuring that fertility rates continue to decline while the Nigerien economy continues to improve. With assistance from the U.S. and other wealthy nations, Niger can fulfill its potential and all of its citizens can thrive.

Raquel Ramos
Photo: Unsplash

10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Honduras
As one of the largest and poorest countries in Central America, Honduras faces several obstacles in girls’ education. The people of Honduras fear gang violence and human trafficking. Child labor and domestic violence are also issues that the government continues to combat. These are only a few facts that impact education in Honduras and the reasons why one in three Honduran girls drop out of school every year. The top 10 facts about girls’ education in Honduras include problems connected to cultural attitudes, quality of education, and the issues related to crime.

Top 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Honduras

  1. Primary school (ages 6 to 12) is compulsory and free to all Honduran children. There is an 80 percent rate of completion of primary school nationally. In 2014, the Honduran Ministry of Education created a Strategic Plan that was designed to correct educational issues at every level. One of the first steps was to make the first two years of secondary school mandatory. Coverage of secondary education level for girls is 53 percent, whereas coverage for boys is 46 percent.
  2. A national survey indicates that girls in urban settings have a 7 percent illiteracy rate, compared to 5.5 percent of illiterate urban boys. Additionally, 16.8 percent of girls in rural settings are illiterate, while 17.5 percent of rural boys are illiterate. Higher rates of poverty correlate directly with higher rates of illiteracy. This is because poorer families, typically those in rural areas, are only able to send their girls to school for 5.8 years, which dramatically increases rates of illiteracy. On the other hand, wealthier families in the larger cities are able to send girls to school for 11 years, which lowers female adult illiteracy to 2.4 percent.
  3. From 2008 to 2012, 98 percent of Honduran girls were enrolled in primary school. However, in Honduras, one out of four children are drop-outs. Interestingly, drop-out rates have been linked to the level of parental education as 78 percent of children who dropped out of school in 2016 had parents with either no education or primary education only.
  4. A 2015 study indicates that 29 percent of girls performed unsatisfactorily in math, while 62 percent were classed as needing improvement. For boys, performance in the same category resulted in 32 percent unsatisfactory and 60 percent needing improvement. In addition to performing at lower rates than Honduran boys, performance standards for Honduran girls are significantly lower than other regional Latin countries.
  5. Because of high rates of crime, girls in urban settings are often forced to not attend class or drop-out altogether for fear of their own safety. For urban girls, the threat of harassment and sexual assault from gang members is a debilitating reality. Gangs often establish their dominance in an area of a city by murdering girls and leaving their mutilated bodies to be found in public places.
  6. While rural areas have less crime, the people living in rural settings have more pressing financial concerns. Many rural children in Honduras are forced to work at a young age, and girls, in particular, are tasked with taking care of younger siblings, as well as marrying young and starting families of their own. A 2014 program launched by Population Services International called Chicas en Conexión aims to empower nearly 700 rural girls to make choices about their own lives. The program also promotes equality by involving community leaders, providing safe spaces, and lobbying for equality legislation.
  7. Not only children suffer from the country’s impoverished educational system. Teachers in rural areas have difficulty obtaining up-to-date and functional teaching materials, as well as facing the issue of inadequate school buildings. However, teachers are fighting back. By partnering with the U.N. Refugee Agency, teachers in Honduras are making their voices heard and advocating for better policies to reduce the systemic shortfalls in the Honduran educational system. The Honduran Ministry of Education has promised to increase school funding and implement a prevention and protection strategy for schools by 2020.
  8. In 2014, only 24.4 percent of girls enrolled in college courses, significantly less than many other developed countries in the region. Moreover, even for girls who have higher education, there is a much lower chance of being hired for work outside of the home. In 2018, women made up only 37 percent of the labor force. This is due to the cultural custom of women working inside the home.
  9. An estimated 26 percent of Honduran women become mothers before the age of 18, which contributes to the high drop-out rates of Honduran girls. In 2013, the Committees for the Prevention of Pregnancies and STIs among Adolescents (COPEITSA), a peer-education sexual health program for Honduran children, was launched. The program teaches sexual health and family planning- topics that are all but afterthoughts in Honduran education and public awareness.
  10. As recently as 2016, 34 percent of girls were married before the age of 18. However, in 2017, the Honduran government banned child marriage. Even with parental permission, it is now illegal in Honduras for anyone over 18 to be married. This is a drastic change from past decades, where child marriage was common and kept girls uneducated and in poverty.

Since 2007, the rate of education for girls has almost doubled in Honduras. Even taking into account school performance and drop-out rates included in the text above, the number of girls being enrolled in school and pursuing secondary education has improved over the last decade. It is clear from the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Honduras that many of the new changes implemented by the Honduran government are designed to favor girls. This is an effort to address mistakes made in the past and correct the systematic failure of girl’s education in Honduras. As of 2014, the Strategic Plan set forth by the Honduran Ministry of Education has addressed many of the pitfalls in their education system. The Honduran government continues to create legislation designed to promote equality for girls and better the educational prospects of girls nationwide.

– Rachel Kingsley
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 facts about girls’ education in Haiti
Education reform in Haiti has provided opportunities for women and young girls to escape the conditions of extreme poverty in the country. However, girls continue to struggle in getting an affordable education and traditional gender norms challenge the potential opportunities for women. Haiti ranks 177th out of 186 countries in the world in terms of national spending on education. Advocating for the benefits of education for young girls can break these barriers. In the text below, the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Haiti are presented.   

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Haiti

  1. Girls have shown an increase in primary school enrollment. From 2008 to 2012, primary school attendance for girls has grown to 77.7 percent compared with boys at 76.7 percent.
  2. Haiti’s education system has some challenges as ineffective teaching methods contribute to low-quality education. In addition, there is a persistent shortage of qualified teachers who remain unpaid. Around half of the public sector of teachers lack basic qualifications, 80 percent of them have not received any pre‐service training and 25 percent have never had a formal education or have attained a secondary school.
  3. The 2010 earthquake left Haiti in shambles and further damaged already-weak school infrastructure. The earthquake destroyed 4,000 schools, including one of the biggest educators of Haitian women and girls, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny. Schools have struggled to provide students with a quality education. In some instances, children aged 5 to 12 attended classes in one-room local churches. Following the earthquake, these were temporary measures to shelter student so they could resume their schooling.
  4. Educate a Child is an organization that implemented a project called Quality Basic Education for Out of School Children (OOSC) with the goal to increase access to education by building primary school options in Haiti, as well as expanding them. The project’s goal is to reach at least 50,000 school children or OOSC within the following sub-groups of girls and boys: in domestic servitude situations, in rural and semi-rural areas, in rural farm situations without economic means to attend school and in street or semi-street situations. Currently, there is one OOSC program in Haiti. The project benefits parents of OOSC, teachers, school officials and an estimate of 227,000 children.
  5. Young girls with little or no education are more likely to have children and be victims of domestic violence. About 70 percent of women in Haiti have been victims of gender-based domestic violence. One survey found that 13.1 percent of girls and 14.6 percent of boys between the ages of 10 and 14 who were not enrolled in school were among the estimated 150,000 to 500,000 children who lived with non-relatives as unpaid domestic servants, and 65 percent of them being girls. Girls who are unable to attend school go to domestic labor and become vulnerable to physical, sexual and psychological abuse, unlike the girls who finish primary and secondary school who are more likely to escape these conditions and marry later in their adult years.
  6. Gender discrimination continues to be an obstacle for girls seeking access to education. Children from the ages of 5 to 17 work as unpaid domestic laborers. These children are also called restavek, and the majority of them are girls. Though girls enter school on par with boys, they are marginalized and are subject to higher dropout rates.
  7. Most Haitian schools follow French education model and French is used on the national tests. This creates a language barrier since most Haitians speak Creole. Less than 22 percent of Haitian primary school children pass the entrance examination at the end of grade five. About 13 percent of girls succeed in these entrance exams, while the rest are ill-prepared and unable to proceed to secondary school.
  8. The literacy rate is approximately 61 percent- 64 percent for males and 57 percent for females. Haiti Now is an organization committed to investing in accelerated educational programs for girls vulnerable to domestic servitude and at risk to drop out. They build on literacy skills by distributing and purchasing textbooks for young girls. As of 2016, 7,246 textbooks have been distributed to classrooms throughout Haiti and 425 girls have been recipients to textbooks.
  9. Malnutrition and natural disasters pose an obstacle for girls to stay in school. The World Food Program (WFP) delivers daily hot meals to about 485,000 school children in over 1,700 predominantly public schools throughout Haiti. WFP found that girls’ education contributes to a 43 percent reduction in child malnutrition over time, while food availability accounts for 26 percent reduction. For families who struggle to provide food at home, food programs in school also ensure that girls stay in school and are focused and ready to learn.
  10. The access to primary education in Haiti has improved with 90 percent of primary school-aged children enrolled in school to date. Although these changes are an improvement in Haiti’s education system, quality education remains a challenge. Many students repeat a grade and about 53 percent drop out before completing primary school, while 16 percent of girls stop attending primary school altogether.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Haiti demonstrate how barriers are broken and how conditions continue to improve for girls that are eager to learn. However, gender discrimination continues to be an obstacle to Haiti’s development in education. Despite these inequities, women in Haiti continue to be the necessary leaders, caregivers, professionals and heads of households by serving their communities and responding in times of crisis. As Haiti continues to rebuild, it will be critical to providing educational opportunities for the current generation of girls to ensure sustainable development efforts are met.

– Luis Santos
Photo: Flickr

The Importance of Female Disaster Responders
Within the aid sector, female disaster responders are essential to ensuring the concerns of women and girls are heard and met. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable during crises, facing risks that male responders may not even consider that can happen. Additionally, a lack of local female responders may reinforce gender inequalities. In certain regions of the world, however, women are coming together, taking charge of disaster response efforts and helping their communities prepare for and respond to crises.

The Forgotten Effects of Disasters

A recent study by the International Federation of the Red Cross on three Southeast Asian nations- Indonesia, Laos and the Philippines, found that sexual and gender-based violence increased after disasters. Sexual harassment, sexual assault, child marriage, child sexual abuse, domestic violence and human trafficking all increased in the aftermath of natural disasters.

Often, those in charge of the disaster response do not take into account these risks when designing shelters and evacuation centers. It is crucial that these facilities have separate areas for men and women, provide separate, lockable bathroom facilities and have adequate lighting.

The Importance of Female Disaster Responders

Having female disaster responders increases the likelihood that these issues will be considered and addressed. International aid groups need to work to increase the number of women who are deployed to participate in the disaster response. Having female staff can help make communication with local women easier, and ensure that women’s concerns are being met.

This can be difficult, however, as female responders face additional risks and concerns, including safety, security and access to personal hygiene products. To mitigate these concerns, the safety of female responders always needs to be taken into account when designing living arrangements and women need to be encouraged to speak up about sexual harassment or assault. Women should also be encouraged to speak up about hygiene needs, and all staff needs to be trained to be open and understanding about these issues.

Involving local women in response efforts is also crucial. Suzy Madigan, the senior humanitarian advisor for gender and protection with CARE International, stated: “By not understanding what are the protection risks facing women and girls and, crucially, what are the solutions that they themselves would suggest, then we’re failing 50 percent of the population that we’re trying to serve.”

Madigan also warns that not including women in disaster response efforts can “reinforce barriers and discrimination.” In certain communities, women may already be generally excluded from decision-making, so if humanitarian groups are only working with men, they are both reinforcing this inequality and ignoring the needs of women.

Femlink Pacific

In certain areas of the world, women have started forming female-led disaster response organizations for their communities, breaking down gender barriers and ensuring the needs of women are met. Female disaster responders in Fiji provide a perfect example of this and their work can potentially be used as a model for other locations. The southwestern Pacific averages seven tropical cyclones every year between November and April. Recent cyclones have been particularly devastating, with three Category 4 cyclones in the Pacific between November 2016 and April 2017.

The Women’s Weather Watch program, run by a women’s media organization in Fiji, Femlink Pacific, maintains a network of 350 women across the nation. They use this network to communicate weather reports to women in different communities and provide advice for preparing for the coming weather. Women working with Femlink Pacific connect with other women in their communities and may even lead meetings for local women to help educate them. For example, Fane Boseiwaqa leads monthly meetings for 60 women in the area. She says that women are leaders, but they have to have access to adequate information and communication.

It is not always easy for female disaster responders to get their voices heard by the wider community, however. While doing their part to prepare for disasters and help their neighbors, women are often sidelined. Sarojani Gounder, a member of the Femlink Pacific network and local district councilor, stated: “Nobody comes and asks the women what you want or what you need. There’s nothing.”

In response to this, women have begun organizing on their own, taking the initiative to form women-based groups. When there are shortages in food and supplies, women have proven themselves to be the most effective first responders, as they are more likely to work together for the betterment of the whole community. Selai Adi Maitoga, a member of the Femlink Pacific network, stated, “Men don’t ask the neighbors. But the women, we talk to each other. That’s why women are the first responders.”

The initiatives of female disaster responders in Fiji can provide a model for disaster response elsewhere, exemplifying the importance of getting local women involved in preparing for storms and providing aid in their aftermath. The knowledge that local women have about the needs of their communities is crucial to any disaster response. Where possible, efforts to include local women should be made, helping to bring women’s concerns and needs to light and adequately address them in the aftermath of a disaster.

– Sara Olk

Photo: Flickr

top 10 facts about girls’ education in Mozambique
The Southeast African country of Mozambique has made great progress in education in terms of enrollment and access. However, retention rates the quality of education are still inadequate and are still a huge issue for the country. The top 10 facts about girls’ education in Mozambique presented in the text below will cover the successes and shortcomings of the school system in the country and the effects it has on girls and gender equality.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Mozambique

  1. Mozambique ranked 139th out of 159 countries on the UNDP’s Gender Inequality Index. Various cultural beliefs that insist on the inferiority of women expose females to threats of disease, discrimination and violence.
  2. Around 94 percent of girls in Mozambique enroll in primary school. Mozambique’s primary and secondary schools became free in 2003, making them accessible even for low-income families. Mozambique also invested in teachers and infrastructure, reducing the distance students needed to travel to get to school. The school system reform nearly doubled school enrollments from 2003 to 2014.
  3. Despite the fact that there is a high number of girls in primary schools, only 11 percent of girls continue to study in secondary schools. As girls grow older, they are met by an increasing domestic workload and more responsibilities. Many girls choose to stay at home in order to do chores or work to help their families.
  4. In terms of primary and secondary school enrollment, Mozambique does continually increase gender parity, from 0.74 in 2000 to 0.92 in 2015.
  5. Although enrollment rates have increased dramatically, the quality of education in Mozambique still demands improvement. An alarming 66 percent of students graduate from primary school without having proper reading, writing and math skills. As one USAID sponsored study showed, over half of third graders could not read and those who could have great difficulty doing so.
  6. Mozambique’s female literacy rate is less than half of that of males. Only 28 percent of females know how to read and write compared to 60 percent of males.
  7. Women tend to enroll in more secretarial and administrative courses, composing 60 percent of students in those fields. Agriculture and technical training, however, are more male-dominated, reflecting gender stereotypes and the type of chores assigned to girls and boys.
  8. In a study done by the UNGEI, 66 percent of girls reported physical, sexual, or psychological violence and abuse and about a quarter of those abuses were conducted in schools. Young girls often face sexual abuse from older men, leading to unwanted pregnancies. In many cases, poverty pushes girls to exchange sex for money, food, or school supplies. As a result, their sexual activity starts earlier, along with their exposure to deadly threats of HIV and AIDS.
  9. Teen pregnancies prove to be a major reason for girls dropping out of school early. From 30 to 40 percent of girls are pregnant before they turn 18 years old.  As a result, many girls leave school to take care of their child and household, taking night classes instead. Although these classes allow them to continue schooling, girls often have to travel long distances to attend class, putting themselves in danger. The burden of taking care of a child, working and performing household chores can be overbearing and may leave little time for school. Teen pregnancies also put girls’ lives at risk as girls between 15 and 19 years are four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related issues than women over 20.
  10. Child marriages are another roadblock to education. Almost half of the girls in Mozambique are married before they turn 18 and around 15 percent are married before they turn 15. As a result, girls must drop out of school to stay home or work to take care of their families. Mozambique is working harder to enforce the legal age of marriage (18 years) through the initiation of the National Strategy for the Prevention and Combating of Early Marriage in 2016. The strategy serves to empower young women and target vulnerable teens.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Mozambique show that great strides in education and gender equality have been made in the country, but more work needs to be done. Teen pregnancies and marriages pose a major threat to girls’ education, keeping them in the cycle of poverty and oppression. Improvements to education allow them to break free of that cycle and pursue better lives for them and for their communities.

– Massarath Fatima
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Fiji
In recent years, Fiji has made gender equality in education a priority. Women and girls are encouraged to achieve their academic goals and take advantage of the flourishing community. This is great news, but sometimes, there are obstacles and growth brings growing pains. In the article below top 10 facts about girls’ education in Fiji that will try to shed light on the state of schooling and academia for females are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Fiji

  1. Fijian women and girls, especially those in rural areas, face disadvantages regarding their reproductive health. They rarely receive the education and resources to adequately care for themselves during menstruation. Twenty-five percent of primary schools in Fiji do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities and water supply, which creates difficulties when it comes to female sanitation and managing menstruation. When there are inadequate sanitation facilities in schools, menstruating students and teachers are highly impacted. Girls may miss as much as 20 percent of school days due to menstruation.
  2. In 2014, The Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Jiko Luveni, opened the Ability to Shine Production Centre. Located in Suva, the facility can produce 300 sanitary pads a week so women have access to affordable napkins. The center was also meant to make the lives of rural women easier and empower female students to attend school.
  3. Female representation in school management positions is inadequate, meaning there are very few women who are in positions in committees responsible for administering management or finances. Women occupy only 10 percent of positions on committees at schools that are in rural and remote areas. These schools are considered to be the most underprivileged and impoverished.
  4. On October 23, 2018, The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle announced that two grants will be awarded to the Fiji National University and the University of the South Pacific. These grants would help support access to higher education for women in Fiji. She explained that through work study, grants and scholarships she was able to attend university and she thinks every girl deserves the same opportunity. These grants will allow each school to run workshops that empower their female staff.
  5. In developing countries, when there is conflict or hardship, girls’ education is often times the first thing affected. In Fiji, it is a common gender stereotype or assumption that a girl is going to decide to stay home, be a mother or do housework rather than educating herself, making her education low priority.
  6. Women who completed school and received the same or similar education as Fijian men are not as prevalent in the workforce. There is only 65 percent of women with certificates or diplomas who are working, whereas 89 percent of men with the same education are in the workforce.
  7. Of the 30,000 Fijians at the three Fijian universities, 53 percent are women. Even though women make up more than half of the students in higher education, there is only a small proportion enrolled to qualify in technical occupations.
  8. Thirty-six percent of men of 25 years old and above and 40 percent of women of the same age have a similar level of education which is a secondary qualification. Secondary education lasts four years and includes courses like metalwork, woodwork and home economics.
  9. Social norms, low salaries for women and difficult transportation lead to a lack of women in the workforce. When almost 50 percent of the population is not given the same rights or opportunities as the other half, this affects children and is especially makes impactful on young girls.
  10. Fiji’s National Gender Policy was launched in 2014. This policy promotes the advancement of women’s rights and provides gender sensitization training, gender analysis and fodder for gender-sensitive language in legislation and government documents. It also includes strategies for boosting women’s participation in decision-making processes. An area of focus for this policy is girls’ access to basic services including education and health services.

While some of the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Fiji are difficult to grasp, others show signs of improvement. Fiji has made strides forward when it comes to gender equality in education and the workplace. Although there is a continued promise from the government to keep pushing for female empowerment and equality, there is yet to be a plan set in stone to ensure this. The present is brighter than the past, but with awareness, the future could be even brighter.

As Joeli Cawaki, The Commissioner for the Western Division stated: “We in Fiji are fortunate that our children have been given equal rights and opportunities to attain an education. Therefore, I encourage you to make the best of this opportunity. Educate your children, especially the girl child.”

– Malena Larsen
Photo: Flickr