Women’s Rights in Sudan
For decades, the subject of women’s rights has been at the forefront of media and politics. While progress has been made, women’s rights in Sudan still lag behind other countries. Women in Sudan are fighting for equal rights amid new legislation such as the Personal Status Law of 1991, which allows child marriages and states that women can only marry if they have consent from a father or male guardian. Here are five facts about the women’s rights movement in Sudan.

5 Facts About Women’s Rights in Sudan

  1. Women make up 70% of protesters. As women band together to protest against laws and government officials that want to limit women rights, Global Fund for Women estimates that women account for nearly 70% of protesters in Sudan. The women taking part in these protests have labeled their movement “the women’s revolution.” Although many women have been beaten or flogged, they stand strong and continue to protest.
  2. Many of the laws women are protesting stem from long-lasting traditions. Tradition is important in Sudan’s culture — but tradition does not justify oppressive laws. Laws in Sudan restrict women from wearing pants, enjoying equality and representation in government and escaping child marriage. Modern women demand equal rights; however, rights are difficult to attain when women have a limited voice within government and law.
  3. Women in Sudan have been fighting for their rights for over 30 years. Under the oppressive rule of dictator Omar al-Bashir, women in Sudan have had to fight for basic equal rights since 1989. While inequality did not start with Al-Bashir, he did support and enforce laws that limit women’s rights. Military and government officials beat, rape and murder women for speaking out against years of abuse and inequality.
  4. The women’s revolution movement helped overthrow Al-Bashir. In 2019, women refused to stay silent as Sudan began to rise up against Al-Bashir. Even though they had to deal with persecution from the military, women continued to rise up against their oppressors. According to Harvard International Review, protesters such as Alaa Salah and Lina Marwan stood strong to tell their stories of inequality, continuing to protest even after being harassed by Sudanese military officials.
  5. The “No to Women Oppression Initiative” promises a better future for women in Sudan. As of January 2020, West Kordofan started its first “No to Women Oppression Initiative.” Though currently the only initiative of its kind, this may spark further collaborations between women’s rights organizations across Sudan. These organizations are also continuing to discuss violence against women with Sudan’s government, in hopes of attaining equal rights.

These five facts about women’s rights in Sudan indicate that the country has a long way to go in achieving equal rights for women. But as protests continue and women persist in fighting for their rights, this country can hope for a stronger, more equitable future. Moving forward, it is essential that women in Sudan receive international support for their protests. By working together, conditions for women in Sudan can improve.

Olivia Eaker
Photo: Flickr

afghan womenAlthough Afghanistan’s Constitution, ratified in 2004, forbids discrimination and declares that “man and woman, have equal rights and duties before the law,” gender inequality still persists. Women are repeatedly denied opportunities for social, educational and economic advancement, leaving 80% out of the workforce and only 8% with more than a primary education. Gallup surveys conducted in 2018 identify Afghan women as the “least satisfied women in the world,” with more than half reporting that they would permanently leave the country if given the opportunity due to discrimination, food insecurity and violence. The good news, however, is that the United Nations Mine Action Service has enacted a new initiative in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province that mobilizes women to escape poverty and empowers them to clear war-torn communities of the remnants of war.

Poverty and Conflict

The World Bank estimates that the number of people living in areas overwhelmed by conflict has doubled since 2007, a rate that has increased alongside poverty expansion. People living in fragile and conflict-affected situations, or FCS, are 10 times more likely to be poor. Forty-three of the world’s most impoverished countries are classified as FCS regions. Proximity to conflict directly affects education, infrastructure, health and the economy. In violent areas, children are less likely to travel to school, families are more likely to suffer long-term medical conditions and communities lose valuable opportunities for monetary mobility and advancement.

The Taliban has sustained a significant presence in Afghanistan for over a decade and has remained a constant threat. More than 1,400 people were killed or injured by landmines in Afghanistan in 2018, a number that has tripled since 2012. Mines and other explosives are certainly detrimental to infrastructure after detonation, but unexploded devices can be equally as destructive. Construction projects are largely avoided for fear of encountering an explosive during the building process. This leaves many areas without roads, essential buildings and airports, all assets that could play a role in reducing poverty.

Dauntless De-Miners

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) began a de-mining pilot program in 2018, featuring 14 brave Afghan women in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province. After receiving training from the UNMAS de-mining experts, the women strap on Kevlar vests and sport protective face shields that enable them to search the soil using massive metal detectors. Once a detector beeps, the team member will kneel and sift through the dirt until the mine or explosive is found and deactivated.

The primary goals of the program are to clear mines, educate villagers and equip Afghan women with the tools they need to escape poverty. The team works approximately nine hours per day, but depending on location, mine removal projects may be short-term. In circumstances where land can be swiftly searched, the team uses the remaining time to learn vocational skills taught by UNMAS workers, training that has the potential to change their status. Additional education for Afghan women, who would otherwise receive very little, is crucial to broadening their job opportunities, increasing household income and helping them rise out of poverty. UNMAS also requires women to participate in meetings that decide how to use the land that is newly mine-free, which showcases their growing presence and immense contribution to their historically war-torn communities.

Fatima Amiri was one of the Bamiyan province’s first team members, and she is frequently highlighted for her dedication. She works tirelessly for her team after witnessing the devastating effects of hidden and unexploded devices. A member of her community traveled to a mountain on the Day of Eid, or the end of Ramadan, and never returned. Amiri realized that day she wanted to rid the surrounding area of mines, and she notes that now, “no one says that women are weak.”

Brace for Impact

Afghanistan’s fearless team is looking to expand its efforts beyond the Bamiyan province in the coming years. Since its inception, the team has covered more than 51,500 square meters and is projected to clear their land of mines and explosives by 2023. Most of the cleared region is now being used to build infrastructure or for farming, a lifestyle that boosts community economies and indirectly improves Afghan women’s social status. The de-mining women are recognized for their success and newly respected for providing their fellow community members with safety, food security and ways to maintain a steady income, three things crucial to overcoming conflict-induced poverty. The community’s appreciation erodes traditional gender norms that have restricted Afghan women for centuries by proving their value as productive members of society capable of protecting thousands in war-torn communities.

Natalie Clark
Photo: Flickr

Indian women
The coronavirus is disproportionately affecting women across the globe, setting back progress for global gender equality. Confined inside homes, women are shouldering more of the housework and childcare than their husbands, fathers and brothers. In India, a country where women are expected to fulfill homemaking roles, the gender disparities in housework between men and women are only growing more apparent, especially as more women exit the workforce. For Indian women, domestic unpaid labor consumes hours of their days and limits them to a life of financial dependence on their partners or a life of poverty. In India, two-thirds of the population lives in poverty. With the unemployment rate being as high as 18% for Indian women, compared to 7% for men in India, it’s inevitable that women make up a large percentage of this impoverished population.

Women’s Unpaid Role in India

While men in India complete less than an hour of unpaid labor each day, Indian women spend six hours of their day on unpaid labor. In comparison, men around the world typically spend around two hours a day on unpaid labor, while women spend four and a half hours.

Although the time and energy women put into cleaning and caring for children and the elderly are essential roles in economies, housework isn’t widely recognized as a form of labor. As part of their domestic responsibilities, Indian women must also retrieve water from wells, a chore that spans several hours and multiple trips in one day. Often lacking the aid of technology, Indian women must cook, clean and do laundry by hand.

Because women in India bear the burden of housework, they can’t maintain stable jobs outside their homes. This requires them to rely on their partners. This is in part due to the traditional patriarchal system India upholds. From a young age, Indian women are trained to fulfill roles inside the home. As a result, Indian women are excluded from the workforce, and young girls are pulled from schools to work inside the home, jeopardizing their education.

This reality has only grown over the years, as more and more women have exited the workforce. Over the past decade, the percentage of women in the workforce has dropped from 34% in 2004 to 25% in 2018, compared to the nearly 80% of men who work.

Why Female Employment Is Declining

The decline in female employment directly impacts Indian women’s risk of falling into poverty, as they are unable to financially support themselves. But up to 64% of women said they had to be responsible for housework as there were no other family members who would perform these responsibilities.

With a population of over 1.3 billion people, it’s increasingly difficult to secure a position in the Indian job market, and work positions designated for women are slim. On top of this, upon completing the same job as men, women earn 34% less in wages than their male coworkers. For women who manage to secure a job, their time is stretched thin as they complete both paid work and unpaid work. As a result, they are less likely to spend time on education, cultural and leisure activities.

There are exorbitant economic losses, though, when women are not welcomed into the workforce. According to an Oxfam report on female unpaid labor, the value of global unpaid labor performed by women amounts to at least $10.8 trillion annually, or, as the study suggests, “three times the size of the world’s tech industry.” By putting into context the monetary value of unpaid labor in society, the true economic loss of excluding Indian women from the workforce is undeniable.

In a step toward creating a more inclusive workforce environment for Indian women, the country passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act in 2017. The amendment increased the number of weeks for paid maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks. But this act hasn’t led to a significant change in female workforce employment. Instead, the act could continue to negatively impact female employment. Newly responsible for covering the cost of additional paid maternity leave, companies may be less inclined to hire female workers.

Combined with the recent growth in female education and declining fertility rates, India’s economy is primed for welcoming women into the workforce. But the country must strike a balance between paid and unpaid labor, a gendered expectation rooted in Indian tradition.

Closing the Gender Gap: One Indian Woman’s Petition

One Indian woman is especially determined to redefine gender roles in India. Juggling unpaid labor at home along with her involvement in a charity for reproductive justice, Subarna Ghosh realized she was shouldering the majority of housework —particularly since the pandemic forced her family to stay home.

In July 2020, Ghosh decided to draft a petition on Change.org and describe her experience as a working woman in India expected to perform the majority of the housework. “Unequal distribution of unpaid household work has rendered the harshest blow to women across India during this lockdown. Yet, women’s care work continues to be invisible and no one wants to address this gross imbalance,” she wrote.

Directing her efforts at India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ghosh concluded her petition by calling on Modi to encourage Indian men to equally fulfill their share of housework. The petition has received over 75,000 signatures, mostly from women who stand in solidarity with Ghosh and relate to her experience.

Ghosh’s petition reflects the persistent struggle for female equality in India, as one woman’s experience echoes the experience of thousands. Only when women in India are given the same opportunities as men will they be able to earn their own financial independence.

Grace Mayer
Photo: Flickr

women's rights in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is a conservative and religious country where the existence of mistreatment of women still exists. In October 2011, an article published by Oxfam pointed out that the women who lived under the Taliban regime were not allowed to work outside their homes and were forced to wear a burqa. Women’s rights in Afghanistan suffer under these policies. However, as an act of resistance, Afghan women started an online campaign in 2017, titled #WhereIsMyName. The focus of this campaign is for women in Afghanistan to have the right to publicly reveal their names. These women want their names recognized. Despite facing repercussions for their mobilization, some Afghan women are still campaigning for their rights and the free use their names through the slogan “Where’s My Name”.

The Campaign Begins

The campaign started three years ago when Laleh Osmany realized that she was fed up with women being denied what she thought was a basic right — the right to publicly use their names. Shortly after Ms. Osmany started her campaign, Afghan celebrities began supporting it, including singer and music producer Farhad Darya and singer-songwriter Aryana Sayeed.

In July 2020, demand has resurfaced yet again. This time, the right to have mothers’ names listed on their children’s documents was the key issue. For years, women’s rights activists demanded their names mentioned in official documents, including their children’s birth certificates. Similar to Afghan identification, birth certificates only carry the father’s name and even on a woman’s wedding card, her name does not appear. Only the woman’s father and future husband’s names appear. Moreover, the woman’s name also does not appear on her grave. This led the activist Wida Saghari, a single parent, to speak out and denounce her difficulties in obtaining custody of her child’s identity documents.

Progress Ensues

Due to the efforts of these activist women, many more people recognize the campaign, #WhereIsMyName, and its imposition is now much greater in Afghanistan. It is quite a common occurrence for family members in Afghanistan to coerce women into hiding their names from non-family members. The use of a woman’s name in public is an offense, per Taliban law. #WhereIsMyName recently made a big stride forward in its cause. The right of women to use their names is being studied to amend the Population Registration Law. This will allow women to issue their names on identification cards and birth certificates.

Campaign members have explained that they intend to identify issues before the Afghan government and enact rights to protect women. They also stressed that the movement worries that only 38% of women possess Tazkera, the country’s main identity document. Since the start of the campaign, organizations such as the Revolutionary Association of Women joined the cause by declaring their opposition to the current state of women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Challenges & Continued Progress

Although Osmany welcomes an amendment, she says that the country is very conservative and male-dominated. It is due to these circumstances, that many women would still face challenges in society, even if the law passes. One of these challenges is the gender-based violence seen in the country as 87% of women experience some type of violence.

Mobilizing #WhereIsMyName is an advancement for women’s rights in Afghanistan. The campaign enables women and creates at the very least, a space for opportunities for women’s rights advancement. This is a critical step in achieving gender equality in a conservative country.

– Juliet Quintero
Photo: Pixbay

Water Crisis in UgandaWater is a necessity for all living beings, and access to safe water is a basic human right. Despite the world’s experiencing exponential growth in all areas with advances in science and technology, 663 million people are without access to clean water. The country of Uganda is no exception: 51% of Ugandans are in need of safe water resources. This lack of clean water affects the health of the Ugandan people, their productivity and their economy. Here are some of the realities everyone needs to know about the water crisis in Uganda.

The Current State

Currently, 21 million Ugandans lack access to safe water. One in nine people lack quality water and have no alternative to dirty, contaminated water sources. The stress of economic growth over the last two decades put an enormous strain on the land and its resources. Up to three-quarters of the surface water in Uganda is polluted, making it unsuitable for consumption. With no other choice but to drink contaminated water, people are often too sick to work or attend school.

Human waste, soil sediments, fertilizers and mud all run into drinking water sources due to the widespread absence of proper toilets and showers. Additionally, the lack of adequate filtration systems and the loss of vegetation, which acts as a natural filtration system, creates dirty water that leads to various health problems. 144 million Ugandans are still collecting water directly from these rivers, lakes, and other surface water sources. According to the World Health Organization, over 3,000 small children die a year from diarrhea in Uganda. Other waterborne diseases include hepatitis A, dysentery, typhoid and cholera.

The water crisis in Uganda also makes 40%  of Ugandans travel more than 60 minutes to access safe drinking water. Some travel up to three hours a day, without a guarantee of finding water. Excess time spent on water provision hinders people’s ability to work, maintain the household and take care of children.

Initiatives for a Better Future

Many initiatives are underway to address the water crisis in Uganda and the problems it has created. For example, in 2013, Water.org launched its WaterCredit solution, which has led growth for water and sanitation loans. This initiative has reached 259,000 people and disbursed $10.3 million in loans, helping to create long-term solutions to the water crisis in Uganda.

Another program addressing water in Uganda is the Uganda Women’s Water Initiative, which transforms contaminated water into clean and drinkable water for school children. Over 300 women in Gomba, Uganda were trained to build rainwater harvesting tanks and Biosand filters. The simple filter consists of layers of rock, sand and gravel that remove 99% of bacteria from water. Funded by Aveda and GreenGrants, this initiative also conducts programs about hygiene and sanitation to support these women. Thanks to this program, school children are safe from typhoid and diarrhea that could keep them sick and out of school. Remarkably, Gomba saw a reduction of school absences by nearly two-thirds thanks to filters and harvesting tanks.

Additional projects that focus on drilling new boreholes in barren areas and repairing existing boreholes help relieve long travel times for water. Generosity.org has concentrated on rehabilitating boreholes by working closely with the District Water Departments of communities in need. Generosity.org also aided in the development of water user committees, which create an infrastructure to ensure the boreholes are maintained and cleaned through fee collection. Its work aims to achieve the sustainability of these boreholes for the future, putting an end to the water crisis in Uganda.

Looking Forward

Ugandan leaders have recognized that water is a basic human right and understand that better water and sanitation systems are critical for a healthy society and a stronger economy. The Ugandan government now aims to have clean water and improved sanitation for everyone by 2030. Uganda plans to reach this goal by investing in quality water infrastructures, which involves restoring and maintaining clean water sources as well as promoting hygiene and investing in sanitation facilities. The organizations that are providing loans for wells, restoring boreholes and creating filtration devices are helping realize this ambitious goal. This focus on making clean and safe water available to everyone is critical. Without water, there is no life.

Tara Hudson
Photo: Pixabay

gender gap in Latin AmericaRanked the third-highest after Western Europe and North America, Latin America has an average gender gap of 29%. Many Latin American countries are seeing improvements in education, healthcare and shortening the gender gap. According to the World Economic Forum in their Gender Gap Report for 2020, Nicaragua was ranked 5th globally, with 80% of its gender gap closed. On the lower-ranking end of the gender gap in Latin America, Guatemala and Belize have closed 66% and 67% of their gap, respectively. While these percentages are promising, the current COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat to gender equality.

Looming COVID-19 Crisis

Decades worth of progress toward eliminating the gender gap in Latin American could potentially reach a halt or decline with the impending COVID-19 pandemic. Since the onset of the pandemic, stay at home orders have caused an increase in domestic violence. A few examples from Latin America expose the enormity of the issue. In Colombia, the domestic violence helpline has risen by 9%, and by 36% in Mexico. Also, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, a city in Bolivia, has reported the highest number of cases of both domestic violence and COVID-19. The issue is exacerbated as women avoid reaching out to health services in fear of getting the virus.

The other obstacle COVID-19 leads to is losses in jobs, more specifically, the availability of jobs for women. According to the World Bank’s Gender Dimensions of the COVID-19 Pandemic brief, women engaged in informal work such as self-employment and domestic works are unable to receive unemployment insurance. Since COVID-19 has restricted travel, Latin American countries that depend on retail, hospitality and tourism will see half of their working population lose jobs. Additionally, the effects of COVID-19 will force women to stay at home to care for children and the elderly, thus reducing working time and possibly excluding them from the labor market.

Lastly, the COVID-19 crisis will cause setbacks to efforts to reduce teen pregnancy. The shift in resources can interfere with health services for women and girls, including reproductive and sexual health services and family planning. In similar crises, lack of critical resources led to a surge in teen pregnancy and maternal mortality. Although COVID-19 causes a lot of complications surrounding the future of gender equality, there are actions regarding the gender gap in Latin American that governments and institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations can take to continue progressive efforts.

Thus, The World Bank has outlined the following four methods to approach gender equality.

  1. Improving Quality of Life: Latin American countries need to reduce teen pregnancy and maternal mortality, improve water and sanitation services, secure women’s access to healthcare and close educational gaps. The World Bank Group (WBG) supports removing negative gender stereotypes in curriculums and is helping train teachers to create classroom environments that encourage inclusivity. The WBG is also backing programs aimed at supporting girls to enter STEM fields.
  2. Increasing Female Employment: Latin American countries should change gender norms about career choices, provide adequate child care services, create connections for women entrepreneurs and allocate time-saving resources. In Mexico, the WBG partnered with the National Institute of the Entrepreneur to devise and evaluate the institute’s first national program to promote female entrepreneurs, Women Moving Mexico. The pilot was launched in five states and “provided close to 2,000 women with a mix of hard skills (better management and business literacy), and soft skills (behaviors for a proactive entrepreneurial mindset)”.
  3. Removing Barriers to Women’s Financial Independence: The WBG supports efforts to provide land and property titles to women and to increase access to capital and financial services. In partnership with indigenous women’s organizations in Panama, the WBG designed a pilot intervention in six indigenous communities. The pilot supports training designed for indigenous women, technical assistance for women’s producer organizations and financial inclusion through the founding of community banks and financial management training.
  4. Enhancing Women’s Voice & Agency and Engaging Men and Boys: Latin American countries can support gender equality by acknowledging a woman’s right to control her own life. For example, giving women control over income and the capacity to move freely and have a voice in society, including the ability to “influence policy and family formation, and have freedom from violence.”

Bettering COVID-19 Response

The United Nations has also developed a response to the pending COVID-19 and its effect on gender equality. The U.N. seeks to recognize the “impact of COVID-19 on women and girls and ensure a response that addresses their needs and ensures that their rights are central to strengthening prevention, response and recovery efforts.” Institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations make it possible for girls and women in Latin America to aspire for more for themselves in education and career, despite the current setbacks prompted by COVID-19. Within the next couple of years, the gender gap in Latin America could be significantly reduced by promoting women’s rights and giving them access to education and career opportunities.

Mia Mendez
Photo: Pixabay

hair trade
Poverty comes in various forms: lack of education, malnutrition, preventable diseases, and, in some cases, loss of hair. Hair, like poverty, comes in different appearances: long, wavy, short, brown, curly, red, mid-length or white. Some people covet certain styles, particularly those whose hair cannot naturally conform to the latest trend. Therefore, alternatives such as natural or synthetic hair stand in as solutions. For years, India was the primary provider of natural hair to African American women in the United States. However, in recent years, Cambodia, a Southeast Asian country riddled with poverty, took the spotlight, sending hundreds of locks of hair to America, Europe, South Africa and Nigeria, with the American market accounting for 80% of sales in the hair trade industry. Eyes dote upon these pristine locks, which fall into consumers’ hands at a reasonable price, but the hair trade rarely comes at a fair price to the proprietor.

Injustice in the Industry

In Cambodia, women’s hair typically sells for $8 to $30, depending on the length of the lock. Companies then clean, sew and sell it for an average of an outstanding $500 in the United States. The hair that sells online and in American shops generally come from the heads of poor Khmer women. These women often experience coercion to sell their hair for an unfair price. These women are unaware of the value of their hair and do not know how to barter. In return, the women end up with split ends, bald spots, jagged edges and low self-esteem.

Poverty in Cambodia

Poverty forces unwanted decisions. It includes numerous losses, such as the loss of hair, which signifies beauty and strength. However, the blazing light of poverty is beginning to fade in Cambodia. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Cambodia had one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. In fact, over the course of the past 20 years, Cambodia has reduced its poverty level by half. Infant mortality rates have decreased and primary education enrollment has increased. Statistically speaking, Cambodia is on the rise.

NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) have played an instrumental role in the economic climb. One NGO, Open Arms, provides vocational training through various methods, including hairdressing and salon maintenance. Through Open Arms, women, who once had to sell their hair to make financial ends meet, now have the privilege of empowering other women through the simplicity of a haircut.

The shift in the country’s economy has shed light not only on Cambodia’s best but also on her worst, which includes the hair trade industry. With the injustice of the hair trade industry making the pages of prominent news outlets, such as NBC, there is potential for change. After all, awareness is the building block for action. While Cambodia is on an uphill climb, she still has a long way to go. However, she is moving in a positive direction, gaining prominence with each step she takes.

Chatham Rayne Kennedy
Photo: Pixabay

Sisters Tackle Period Poverty in FijiTwo teenage sisters are working to tackle period poverty in Fiji. AnnMary and Faith Raduva, 16- and 13-year-old sisters, launched the Lagilagi Relief Campaign to help people who are unable to afford sanitary pads and tampons. In the aftermath of the recent Cyclone Harold and the COVID-19 pandemic, the two sisters noticed a shortage of sanitary pads had resulted in a spike in prices. The sisters started their campaign so that everyone who needed period products would be able to get them, regardless of their financial struggles.

The Current State of Period Poverty in Fiji

Though Fiji has experienced fewer than 50 cases of COVID-19, the global pandemic has impacted Fiji’s tourism industry, in which approximately 17% of native Fijians work. Since the pandemic, imports to the island nation have decreased, and Fijian women report that the cost of pads has gone up FJD $3, or 1.39 USD. This makes them more difficult to purchase, especially on a minimum wage salary.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the only disaster Fijians have faced in 2020. In April, Cyclone Harold ravaged Fiji as a category four tropical storm. The cyclone caused major flooding and destroyed homes, schools and farms on multiple Fijian islands, including Viti Levu, the largest island of Fiji.

AnnMary Raduva said to Radio New Zealand that, for people who are currently out of work, free period products mean they can save those valuable dollars to purchase other necessities for their families. The Raduva sisters told the station that no one should have to choose between food for their loved ones or menstrual products.

How the Lagilagi Relief Campaign Is Helping

Since the cyclone, the Raduva sisters have put together over 300 of their “dignity kits,” each containing two packages of menstrual products, a toothbrush, toothpaste and a bar of soap. When they began, the sisters used solely their own time and money to compile the dignity kits, but they have since received donations from supporters and loved ones to help with their campaign.

The sisters also caught the attention of Asaleo Care Fiji, an Australian-based hygiene company that produces Libra-brand pads and tampons. The company donated over one thousand menstrual products to the Lagilagi Relief Campaign. Thanks to generous donations like these, the Lagilagi Relief Campaign will produce an additional 600 dignity kits for people struggling with period poverty in Fiji.

The Next Steps to End Period Poverty in Fiji

Though the Lagilagi Relief Campaign has helped hundreds, AnnMary Raduva is still advocating for systematic change to get to the root of period poverty in Fiji. She wrote in an opinion piece in the Fiji Sun, “Period poverty is widespread… and the taboo nature of menstruation prevents women and girls from talking about the problem.” Raduva praised New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for making menstrual pads free for all school-aged girls, and she encouraged Fiji and other countries to follow New Zealand’s lead.

In an interview with RNZ Pacific, Raduva stated that the Lagilagi Relief Campaign would continue to fight period poverty in Fiji. One way they hope to improve their dignity kits is by sewing washable pads to eliminate the need for disposable pads. Additionally, the sisters are taking their campaign to the government, asking Fijian leaders to invest in free sanitary care products for those who can’t afford them. This is in the hopes that period poverty in Fiji will no longer stand in the way of girls’ education and women’s rights.

– Jackie McMahon
Photo: Pixabay

Garment Industry in Bangladesh
The garment industry in Bangladesh is the number one business in the country, accounting for 80% of the country’s exports. Four out of five of the 4.4 million workers employed in the garment industry in Bangladesh are women, so one can often consider issues facing this industry to be feminist issues. Here are five facts about the garment industry in Bangladesh including how they relate to feminism.

5 Facts About the Garment Industry in Bangladesh

  1. The garment industry in Bangladesh is huge. As previously stated, the garment industry is the number one business in the country. Bangladesh is the second-largest individual country in the world for apparel manufacturing, second only to China. H&M, Target and Marks and Spencer are among the global brands that contract with garment factories in Bangladesh for clothing production.
  2. The minimum wage is not a living wage. The average garment industry worker will work for 12 hours a day and make about $95 a month. The majority of these workers are women who support several relatives and live paycheck to paycheck. According to an international aid group Oxfam, only 2% of the price of an article of clothing that a person purchases in Australia go to the worker who made it. By contrast, a top fashion industry CEO will make in four days what a Bangladeshi garment factory worker will make in a lifetime.
  3. The garment industry in Bangladesh has a history of disaster. Two garment factory disasters, one in 2012 and one in 2013, left almost 1,200 garment factory workers dead. Following these incidents, many changes occurred to improve labor regulations and safety conditions in the garment factories. Many companies contracting with these factories also stepped up, paying full wages to workers unable to return, as well as providing compensation to injured workers and families of those who had died.
  4. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the garment industry in Bangladesh hard. Millions of workers are unemployed due to the global pandemic. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturer’s Export Association (BGMEA) reported that 1,025 factories experienced cancellations of export orders totaling 864.17 million items worth $2.81 billion. The BGMEA president also reported a 50% decrease in orders and does not expect the sales to bounce back for at least another year. Although Bangladeshi law requires employers to pay severance, few actually do. There are no unemployment benefits in Bangladesh. Many displaced garment workers fear that they will die of starvation if they do not die of COVID-19 first.
  5. Pre-existing shortcomings of the Bangladeshi garment industry are being highlighted. Longstanding issues of the industry include a lack of unity among the 16 trade unions, political pressure by industry owners and big brands, loopholes in the country’s labor laws and a disconnect between a practical living wage and the legal minimum wage. After most factories shut down because of COVID-19, the Bangladeshi government issued a $600 million bailout for all manufacturing industries in Bangladesh. The garment sector received the majority of this, but the amount barely covered about a month’s salary for all the workers in the garment industry.

Despite the seemingly dire state of the garment industry in Bangladesh in the face of constant poverty coupled with a global pandemic, some are making many efforts and are continuing to implement them in order to better the industry. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has launched many efforts to better the garment industry in Bangladesh since the disasters of 2012 and 2013. One of these efforts is called the Gender Equality and Returns (GEAR) program which offers career progression opportunities for female sewing operators. They receive training in the soft and technical skills necessary for them to assume supervisory positions. The program also trains managers on how to select, promote and support female workers in the industry. Since the launch of this program, IFC has trained over 140 female sewing operators in 28 factories, 60% of whom received promotion weeks after completing the training. Remake, a nonprofit in San Francisco that aims to make the global fashion industry more humane and environmentally sustainable, has launched another effort. Recently, Remake has pressured big brands to pay back contractors in Bangladesh for whatever they ordered before the pandemic. Of these brands, 16 have already agreed to do so.

Caroline Warrick-Schkolnik
Photo: Flickr

The Pangea NetworkAround the world, women are disproportionately affected by poverty. Kenya is one place where gender issues and poverty go hand in hand. Over 35% of the Kenyan population lives below the poverty line, and women, children and the elderly are most at risk. However, as poverty and inequality increase, so does the movement to help change the tides in Kenya. Nicole Minor learned of Kenya’s struggles and set out to change the lives of women throughout the country. The Pangea Network, a non-profit organization focused on empowering women in Kenya, was born.

Poverty in Kenya

Kenya has a population of more than 50 million, with over 17 million currently living in poverty or extreme poverty — on less than $1.90 a day. However, poverty in the country is steadily decreasing, falling from 43% in 2003 to 36% in 2016. And although poverty in Kenya remains a significant problem, the country has a lower overall poverty rate than most sub-Saharan countries. Kenya’s GDP continues to rise by approximately 5% annually, which is an impressive feat. Despite these facts, however, Kenya is unlikely to reach the goal of eradicating poverty by 2030 without new poverty reduction policies and faster growth rates.

Women in Kenya

In Kenya, women and girls are most vulnerable to poverty. One notable gap between men and women is in education. Of those in Kenya that earn higher education, approximately 30% are women — despite government policies that ensure gender equality in education. One reason for this is that women in Kenya have traditionally been relegated to the domestic sphere and lack opportunities for attending university, which can limit job prospects.

Despite the hardships they face, women are fighting back against gender inequality and poverty through enterprise and entrepreneurship. That’s where the Pangea Network comes in.

What is the Pangea Network?

The Pangea Network is a nonprofit organization focused on “empowering motivated individuals” with “knowledge, skills and an ongoing network of support in order to achieve their dreams and make positive, life-changing contributions in the communities where they live.” The organization’s founder, Nicole Minor, began creating the framework for the Pangea Network in 2005 in an effort to dedicate herself to social service. Today, the Pangea Network is an international organization that operates in Kenya and the United States.

How it Works: The Kenyan Women’s Network

The Pangea Network operates a four-year course called the Kenyan Women’s Network, which teaches participants a variety of skills intended to guarantee their future success. Some practical skills that participating women may learn include bookkeeping, financial literacy and micro-financing; women can also learn about issues like human rights, wellness and personal development.

The ultimate goal of the Kenyan Women’s Network is to enable participants to develop and grow their own businesses, which will generate profit and allow them to become financial providers for their households. Women who participate receive loans from the Pangea Network, allowing them to fully develop and expand their enterprises.

Impact

The Pangea Network has had a huge impact throughout its years in action. For those participating in the Kenyan Women’s Network, the average weekly income rose by almost 40% between 2015 and 2018. Over 560 different businesses founded by participants have grown in size and revenue, 45 of which began only with help from the Pangea Network. Furthermore, almost 200 women have received animal husbandry and livestock training; nearly 400 women have received first aid training; and more than 60% of Kenyan women who participate in the program report that they are their family’s primary source of income.

Beyond the Women’s Network, the Pangea Network provides scholarships for school-aged children in Kenya. It also sponsors boys’ and girls’ retreats focused on empowering children and providing them with both skills and a love of learning.

The Pangea Network is an inspiring organization dedicated to empowering Kenyan women and equipping them to succeed. Participants in the Women’s Network are hardworking, driven and well-deserving of the tools they are given to start or grow their own businesses. The Pangea Network is not only providing these women with hope, but it is also helping to close the gender gap and fight poverty in Kenya.

– Paige Musgrave
Photo: Pixabay