Women Waste Collectors
In developing countries where the most impoverished people live alongside garbage heaps and landfills, many earn livings as waste collectors. Although women waste collectors significantly outnumber male waste collectors, they face inequalities and disproportionate economic and health impacts in comparison to their male counterparts.

Plastic Waste Exports to Developing Countries

Wealthy countries often export their plastic waste to developing countries. The United States shipped close to “1.5 billion pounds of plastic waste to 95 countries” in 2019 alone. Developing countries welcome this waste as these nations receive trade incentives for accepting plastic waste exports from other countries. Plastic waste, therefore, stands as a source of income and a way to ease the suffering of a country’s most impoverished populations.

However, many developing countries lack the facilities and recycling programs to manage plastic waste effectively. The consequence is that the waste piles up and pollutes the surrounding environment. Individuals also resort to burning the waste, a practice that emits harmful dioxins into the air.

The environmental and health consequences of plastic waste disproportionately impact people who live and work in or around plastic waste dumps. In many countries, the informal waste collecting industry goes unregulated because they do not recognize waste-collecting as official employment. Because of this, there are often no protocols in place to ensure that waste collectors conduct their jobs safely.

The situation intensified in 2018 upon China’s refusal to accept foreign plastic waste, prompting countries to divert waste to other nations in Asia and Africa. The world openly burns roughly “41% of waste,” however, in some cities in Africa, as much as 75% of waste disposal consists of burning rather than recycling.

Waste Collecting as a Livelihood

The low value of plastic waste means women waste collectors remain stuck in a cycle of extreme poverty. In Nakuru, Kenya, waste collectors average a daily income of less than $2 per day “before accounting for expenses such as storage or transportation.” In terms of plastic specifically, in Nairobi, Kenya, waste pickers receive less than $0.05 per kilogram of plastic.

Although informal industries such as waste-collecting are challenging to monitor, according to a study in Ghana of women waste collectors in the plastic value chain, women who work as plastic waste collectors typically earn less than men. These women also have less power in the workplace, compete with men for the most valuable recyclables and lack equipment such as pushcarts, storage facilities and personal protective equipment. In Ghana, 74% of women working in plastic waste facilities have the lowest-paying positions (such as washing and sorting) and only 7% of women work in positions that allow them to make decisions.

Chemicals in Plastics Disproportionately Harm Women

The chemicals added to plastics during manufacturing come with known human health risks and some that disproportionately harm women. Body fat is an ideal storage site for bioaccumulating and lipophilic chemicals, and because women’s bodies store more fat than men’s, exposure to these chemicals leads to higher concentrations of absorption in women, even when the exposure rate is the same.

Chemicals that cause endocrine disruption (a process that changes the body’s hormonal system) can cause cancers, congenital disabilities, immune disorders, reproductive disorders, neurological disorders and developmental problems in women, fetuses and children. Endocrine disruptors (EDCs) such as bisphenol A, phthalates, dioxins, lead and cadmium are present in plastics used for food packaging, electronics, textiles, cosmetics and more. EDCs are an urgent international health issue, especially for developing countries where people are unable to protect themselves against high levels of exposure.

WIEGO Empowers Women Waste Collectors

Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) is an international organization dedicated to improving the conditions of people (especially women) who work in informal industries, such as women waste collectors. WIEGO has formed a partnership with Latin American waste collector movements, as well as organizations and institutions, to form the Gender & Waste project, “a collaborative project involving waste pickers.”

The Gender & Waste project works to empower women by highlighting gender-related discrimination among waste collectors and addressing the needs of women who work in this role. The Gender & Waste project offers educational workshops, toolkits and videos to both raise awareness and empower women waste collectors. The Gender & Waste project has empowered women waste collectors in Latin America to “mobilize more collectively and demand that gender be a key issue on the agenda of the national movement.”

In areas of the world where the government recognizes and supports waste collecting, such as in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, waste collectors generally “have higher incomes than other informal workers.” By empowering women waste collectors to unionize, initiatives like the Gender & Waste project help to improve working conditions, promote personal safety and ensure higher incomes. Safer working environments and higher incomes for women waste collectors safeguard the health and well-being of women and empower them to rise out of poverty.

– Jenny Rice
Photo: Flickr

Women in Yemen
Yemen’s ongoing conflict has driven the nation progressively nearer to socioeconomic disintegration since it erupted in 2015. Inflationary pressures have put the cost of fundamental needs beyond reach for the majority of people. The conflict in Yemen continues to significantly damage the position of women, resulting in a near-elimination of their safety protocols and increased their susceptibility to assault and exploitation. Yemen has a deeply ingrained patriarchy that severely limits the quality of life for women. Yemeni women face some of the world’s most heinous despotism and are fighting for their rights in three key areas: workplace possibilities, gender discrimination and political underrepresentation.

Fight for Rights in the Workplace

According to Article 40 of Yemen’s Personal Status Law, a woman cannot acquire employment in the same capacity as a male and “the work must have been agreed by her husband.” The most recent figure from 2019 was the 6.04% employment rate for women in Yemen. In comparison, the global average in 2019 was 51.96%, based on 181 nations.

Additionally, there is no legislation prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace, nor are there legal sanctions or civil recourse for workplace sexual misconduct. Because of the unspoken societal consensus that females are often at fault, women are less likely to submit a sexual misconduct complaint due to a concern that they will receive accusations of soliciting men’s attention. Women in Yemen have to fight for rights in the workplace because no law requiring equivalent compensation for the labor of equivalent merit exists.

USAID promotes women’s financial freedom in Yemen by providing career development, allocation and guidance to help women boost competitive engagement in the workforce. Additionally, technological guidance and strategic initiatives aid females in obtaining investment and job options, hence improving take-home pay. In 2020 alone, USAID helped more than 1,300 Yemeni women.

The Fight Against Gender Discrimination

Yemen sees women as secondary. Because of that, many women in Yemen cannot make important family decisions. In Yemen, there is no particular statute regarding spousal abuse. Females do not disclose abuse instances because they are afraid of arrest or abuse.

According to Articles 51-72 of Yemen’s Personal Status Law, men can obtain a divorce with significantly fewer limitations than women. Men’s rights to the guardianship of kids exceed that of women in the event of divorce.

According to UNICEF, 80% of the nation is reliant on relief aid. Therefore, poor Yemeni households frequently have to marry young in an attempt to nourish the youth and obtain bare necessities. Fathers sell their daughters into marriage and consequently, abruptly end their adolescence. This is a basic breach of human freedoms. In 2020, USAID funded initiatives aimed at avoiding forced early-aged marriages by equipping more than 6,000 girls with essential competencies such as “problem-solving and decision-making.”

The Fight for Women’s Rights in the Political Arena

In the 2011 protest, women were key participants and continued to be throughout the subsequent domestic discourse. When the uprisings’ effect dissolved, the women ultimately experienced abandonment and could not promote their beliefs. Yemen does not have a policy that safeguards women. Instead, Yemeni legislation disparages them if they undermine any political organization.

Women in Yemen have virtually no authority to sway legislation in order to strengthen their roles. They do not have widespread popular political support due to the fact that a disproportionate number of men participate in politics. The men exclude women who promote or show any political interest.

U.N. Women works in Yemen to increase women’s civic involvement. It firmly supports encouraging engagement in community affairs and political judgment. U.N. Women values the significance of equitable participation of both sexes in diplomatic discussions and crisis settlement.

Because of the importance of increasing political dialogue for women in Yemen, it established the Yemeni Women’s Pact for Peace and Security platform. It advocates for the inclusion of women in all political conversations.

Despite the marginalization of Yemeni girls and women, they are receiving assistance from major global organizations. These efforts have been essential in effectively working to promote women’s rights in Yemen.

– Tiffany Lewallyn
Photo: Flickr

Human trafficking in Honduras
Human trafficking in Honduras is one of the most prominent human rights issues in the country. A 2020 report by the U.S. Department of State identifies Honduras as a Tier 2 country since it is making great strides in reducing human trafficking cases. However, the country still needs to meet the set baselines. With the new legislation, a new anti-trafficking plan and advocacy efforts by government-backed programs, Honduras is on its way to creating a safer society.

Causes of Human Trafficking in Honduras

The main causes of human trafficking in Honduras are unemployment, lack of economic opportunity and family issues. These issues leave people desperate to have a stable income and, unfortunately, make them more vulnerable to human trafficking. According to the World Bank data, the unemployment rate in Honduras reached 10.98% in 2020, about a 5% increase from the unemployment rate of 5.7% in 2019. Often, traffickers lure victims to other countries with false promises of an escape from poverty and crime-ravaged areas, according to the 2021 report by the U.S. Department of State.

Honduras is primarily a source country for sex trafficking and forced labor. Oftentimes, traffickers exploit victims within their own communities and homes. Traffickers transport women and children, who are primarily victims of sex trafficking, abroad to experience exploitation in countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and the United States. Additionally, traffickers usually transport people for forced labor to Guatemala, Mexico and the United States.

As the U.S. Department of State reported, traffickers force their victims to beg on the streets, traffick drugs and work in the informal sector. Children have to work in dangerous occupations such as the agricultural, construction, manufacturing and mining industries. The U.S. Department of Labor statistics show that 9% of children from ages 5 to 14 in Honduras are working. Around 53% of these children work in the agricultural sector, 12.7% work in the industry sector (mining, construction and fireworks production, etc.) and 34% work in the services sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the situation, negatively impacting economic opportunity further. This has caused more people to be vulnerable to human trafficking in Honduras, according to the 2021 report by the U.S. Department of State.

Government Initiatives

The previously mentioned report shows that the Honduran government is taking action to reduce cases of human trafficking in Honduras in the following ways:

  1. Increasing funding for Inter-institutional Commission to Combat Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking in Persons (CICESCT): In 2019, the Honduran government increased funding to 5.5 million lempiras (USD 221,400). CICESCT uses this funding to provide assistance to victims such as protection and therapy. In 2020, CICESCT’s immediate response team provided 67 victims with these services. Additionally, CICESCT works with other organizations and NGOs to provide further assistance to victims such as medical care.
  2. Identifying More Victims: Law enforcement and social service providers have certain procedures to follow to identify symptoms of human trafficking and refer suspected victims to the CICEST immediate response team.
  3. Enacting a New Penal Code Provision: The definition of trafficking is now as per international law. However, the new penal code lowered the penalty for trafficking, resulting in the crime not being on par with other serious misdemeanors.
  4. Implementing the 2016-2020 National Anti-Trafficking Plan: This plan includes measures such as providing anti-trafficking training to the public (virtually during the pandemic) and providing awareness-raising campaigns through social media. The Honduran government also formed a network of 32 government agencies and NGOs to help carry the plan out.

UNODC Campaign

In 2019, the Honduran government joined the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Blue Heart Campaign. The idea is to raise awareness about human trafficking in Honduras and to prevent these crimes. The Blue Heart Campaign focuses on advocacy and seeks to recruit others to help prevent human trafficking crimes by building political support to take more action against it. The campaign sends its donations to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, whose goal is to aid other organizations and NGOs globally to assist victims. According to the U.N. Office of Drug and Crime, the campaign resulted in the rescuing of 194 people in 2019.

CICESCT

CICESCT is a Honduran government agency that aims to reduce the number of human trafficking cases and to provide care for victims. Since its formation in 2012, Honduras has increased funding for CICESCT. This allows for more aid and investigations into human trafficking cases. In 2018, more than 300 victims received aid, protection and services (mental health counseling, food, housing, legal care and medical care) to integrate back into society. Also, 28 people received prison sentences with time ranging from 5 to 15 years for human trafficking.

Moving Forwards

There are still critical issues to reach a resolution regarding human trafficking in Honduras. However, the country has made significant progress and is continuing to work on eradicating human trafficking from the country. If this level of progress and awareness continues, Honduras can achieve a trafficking-free society.

– Shikha Surupa
Photo: Unsplash

Gender Wage Gap In Namibia
Namibia ranks sixth in the Global Gender Gap Report of 2021, the highest-ranked African country for bridging the gap between women and men economic opportunity, educational attainment, health and political empowerment measure. In just nine years, Namibia has climbed 35 spots, excelling past Canada and the United States in the Global Gender Gap Report. A closer look at Namibia’s history provides insight into actions taken to bridge this gap and how the gender wage gap in Namibia still plays a role in society today.

Post-Independence Namibia Focuses on Gender Equality

Prior to Namibia gaining independence, many considered women the property of men. When Namibia gained full independence from South Africa in 1990, it implemented numerous changes aimed at improving gender equality, as well as equality for all, in the new constitution. Article 10 states that “[n]o persons shall be discriminated against on the grounds of sex, race, color, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status,” emphasizing Namibia’s commitment to equality.

Also, the Married Persons Equality Act became law in 1996. The act allows women to sign contracts, register a property in their name and act as directors of companies. Women in Namibia hold about 44% of the managerial professions.

In the year 2013, “Namibia’s ruling party, the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO),” implemented a 50/50 gender policy that requires “equal representation of men and women” in parliament. At the time of the policy creation, women filled only 25% of the positions in parliament. Currently, women occupy 44% of the seats in parliament, proving that the gender policy has been effective in adding more women to work in government roles. The government’s adoption of these policies aid in creating a more inclusive environment for women in Namibia, particularly in political and urban settings.

More Women Seek an Education

Women in Namibia are leading their male counterparts in post-secondary education with a tertiary education enrollment rate of 30% for women and 15% for men. At the largest university in Namibia, the University of Namibia (UNAM), 64% of the students are women while only 36% are men. Many women continue on to obtain their master’s degrees or doctoral degrees. Once out of school, the labor force participation rate for women drops below men at 57% and 64% respectively. Even though more women seek secondary education than men, women earn less than men in several industries.

While the gender wage gap in Namibia is less prominent than that of many other countries, the distribution of wealth is immensely unequal. According to the Gini index, which measures the degree of inequality in the distribution of family income, Namibia ranks second-highest in comparison to all other countries in the world. Namibia has one of the highest Gini index ratings because of its high unemployment rate, with women more likely to experience unemployment. About 64% of Namibians survive on less than $5.55 per person per day, which equates to slightly more than $2,000 a year. The average amount U.S. citizens spend on a summer vacation is roughly the same.

Namibians Continue to Reach for Gender Equality

Much like other patriarchal societies, when women and men reach for equality, there are often roadblocks along the way. While women in Namibia now occupy 44% of the positions in parliament, they are still shy of the 50% goal of the 50/50 gender policy. The gender wage gap in Namibia has narrowed significantly, but there is still massive inequality concerning family income distribution. There is also an underlying dialogue in Namibia that women are inferior to men. Sexual and gender-based violence is prevalent due to societal and cultural norms. In fact, among the age group of 15 to 49, 28% of women and 22% of men in Namibia believe a husband beating his wife as a form of discipline constitutes a justifiable act. These beliefs contribute to a culture of gender inequality, which often proliferates inequalities in the workplace and perpetuates traditional gender roles.

Fortunately, the government is continuing to implement policies beneficial to gender equality. Additionally, women are pursuing secondary education at astounding rates, which is crucial in combating gender-based disparities as well as decreasing the gender wage gap in Namibia.

– Amy Helmendach
Photo: Flickr

Domestic Violence Against Women in Venezuela
The fight to reduce domestic violence against women in Venezuela still needs improvement. In the past few decades, the country has faced severe political turmoil. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the violence women in Venezuela face. In most cases, women still have to rely on their domestic abusers for financial support. Currently, the country still presents many challenges and obstacles for women to obtain justice against their attackers. Recognizing the dire need for changes, domestic and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are working hard to protect Venezuelan women’s rights and safety. Here are some NGOs leading the fight for reducing domestic violence against women in Venezuela.

Centro de Justicio y Paz (Cepaz)

Cepaz is a nongovernmental organization that works to promote democratic values, human rights and the culture of peace in Venezuela. The idea was born in a context that a great institutional crisis and generalized violence characterized. Cepaz focuses on the empowerment of citizens and women, activism networks and promotion of the culture of peace in the country. The organization aims to reduce violence against Venezuelan women by developing specialized work for vulnerable demographics. With its combined program in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action, the organization serves women victims of gender violence.

It accompanies grassroots women in impoverished areas to boost their leadership and awareness of rights. Cepaz is also supporting them in the generation of organizational processes that generate well-being. It provides assistance in the community in areas such as water, food, violence, sexual and reproductive health, among others. Through these works, Cepaz hopes to educate the country to recognize the immense danger Venezuelan women are facing due to domestic violence and gender inequality.

Prepara Familia

Prepara Familia is a nongovernmental organization committed to serving women and families. It is contributing to the construction of a solidary and a fairer society, as well as accompanying the defense and awareness of women’s rights. It began as a grassroots organization, working hand in hand with doctors, family members and children hospitalized at the J.M de los Ríos Hospital. Since its foundation, Prepara Familia has worked intensively for the rights of mothers, children and teenagers. The organization develops training and empowerment programs for Women Caregivers in the hospital and assists women who have suffered domestic violence. Through their works, the organization hopes to reduce violence against Venezuelan women and aid those in need.

Tinta Violeta

Tinta Violeta is a feminist nongovernmental organization that aims to use artistic expressions, such as the media and cinema, as mobilization tools. The organization seeks to mainstream feminism in all communication content and cultural discourses in Venezuela. Tinta Violeta wants to create a Venezuela with gender equality and free of domestic violence against women. Providing psychological and legal help the organization also accompanies the victim to the police station or the Prosecutor’s Office to file the complaint. Volunteers from Tinta Violeta have offered their own homes as safe houses and often listened to all those Venezuelan women that get in touch with them through their website, as well as their Facebook and Instagram accounts.

FundaMujer

FundaMujer is a nongovernmental organization that seeks to create a safe space for feminist leaders to discuss and advocate for gender equality and reducing violence against women in Venezuela. Created when the aggravated situation regarding violence affecting women in Venezuela has escalated, FundaMujer supports the protection of women’s rights defenders. It is monitoring any threat against feminist organizations or women’s groups and providing security for any individual who is at risk. The organization also promotes the right of women to a life free of domestic violence. It mobilizes national and international resources to support women. FundaMujer holds local, regional and national authorities accountable for any violation of women’s rights.

Together, these four NGOs are all fighting for reducing domestic violence against women in Venezuela in addition to efforts made by the government. Through these combined efforts, domestic violence against women in Venezuela has substantially declined and women’s rights have continued to strengthen.

– Tri Truong
Photo: Flickr

Gender Equality Reforms
Vietnam’s gender disparities have come under scrutiny in recent years in part because of the global push for gender equality. Despite the nation’s progress in closing the gender gap in both education and labor participation, inequalities still persist. Recognizing this phenomenon, the Vietnamese government recently renewed its Labor Code, reaffirming its commitment to achieving gender parity through gender equality reforms. The reformed Labor Code aims to advance gender equality in the workplace. Vietnam drafted its revamped Labor Code in 2019 to go into effect in 2021. Here are five of its proposed reforms to promote gender equality in the Vietnamese workplace.

5 Gender Equality Reforms in the Vietnamese Workplace

  1. Equal Pay for Equal Work. The new Labor Code limits the gender wage gap in Vietnam by tackling gender discrimination in the workplace. Vietnam’s 2016 Labor Force Survey revealed that women receive 10.7% less than men, with the gender wage gap standing at 8.1% for unskilled female workers and 19.7% for female employees with higher education qualifications. The amended Labor Code “maintains the payment of equal wages for work of equal value.”
  2. Equal Access to Jobs. As of 2019, legislation denied Vietnamese female workers “access to 77 jobs” on the basis of sex, pregnancy or child caretaking responsibilities. These “prohibited jobs include occupations that are heavy and hazardous such as in construction, mining and fisheries.” The amended Labor Code removes these prohibitions, and instead, gives women the right to choose an occupation suitable for them.
  3. Paid Paternity Leave. Only women workers in Vietnam receive paid parental leave to care for sick children younger than 7 years old, perpetuating the stereotype that women are the primary caretakers of their children. Because males “have the same capacity to care for children and the home,” males should be able to take this leave as well. As such, the new Labor Code “now entitles male employees to paid paternity leave” so that this responsibility is equal. Gender discrimination both in hiring and workplace practices hinders women’s abilities to contribute fully and fairly to the Vietnamese labor force.
  4. Addressing Discriminatory Barriers. The reformed Labor Code seeks to combat discriminatory barriers. The law includes protections against discrimination based on marital status, pregnancy, disability and more. Female workers can now take daily breaks to breastfeed children younger than 12 months old. During menstruation, women can take a 30-minute break.
  5. Combating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. Vietnam also seeks to address sexual harassment in the workplace. Statistics show that women constitute 80% of victims of workplace sexual harassment. The amended law provides a specific definition of sexual harassment to ensure justice for victims, including any form of physical, verbal or non-verbal harassment. The government broadened this definition of the workplace to include a wide variety of “work-related locations.” Addressing sexual harassment in the workplace “will improve retention and productivity of all women workers.”

Striving for Gender Equality in Vietnam

By combating gender equality in the workplace, Vietnam has the potential to better its economy while advancing women’s rights. With reforms to improve gender equality, Vietnam aligns with global goals as the fight for equality dominates the global discourse. Aiming to achieve a work-life balance for both men and women dissolves gender stereotypes. Business owners, employers and employees can now rely on a strong legal framework against sexual harassment. More importantly, the adjusted Labor Code empowers women and inspires more female workers to join the workforce. These efforts will inevitably help advance gender equality in Vietnam.

– Tri Truong
Photo: Unsplash

Women's Rights in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, with a population of 6.6 million inhabitants. Women in Nicaragua face many challenges such as increased poverty and violence. The following will present several areas where women’s rights in Nicaragua require improvement.

Violence Against Women

In Nicaragua, violence against women in the form of abuse is one of the most serious social issues that the country faces. Among married women in Nicaragua, 52% have reported cases of spousal abuse, with a median duration of five years. Additionally, 21% of these women reported an overlap between both emotional and sexual violence, with 31% of these women being sexually and/or violently abused during their pregnancy.

Needless to say, these statistics are disheartening and scary. With such high rates of abuse around the country, there seems to be little or no hope for Nicaraguan women to escape this abusive cycle. However, there are several organizations that have contributed to the decrease of sexual abuse in southern countries, such as Self-Help International. It is the largest global organization that works to prevent torture and abuse of all sorts by educating and empowering women in developing countries. Misinformation about abusive relationships is very common among Nicaraguan women. Organizations like this allow women to escape this kind of relationship.

The Gender Gap

The Human Development Report has ranked Nicaragua 124 out of 189 countries based on Gender Equality Index in 2017. Additionally, women are more likely to face poverty in Nicaragua than men. With facts like these, it is evident that there is a disparity between men and women in Nicaragua.

Family members are often the ones who push women in Nicaragua to the sex trafficking industry. Additionally, 28% of Nicaraguan women give birth before they are 18, which is mostly due to sexual violence. This is the issue of society not discouraging violence against women.

Women’s Rights and Poverty

The 2016 poverty rate in Nicaragua was 24.9% with an average salary being $265. A large number of women in Nicaragua experience pregnancy at a young age. They usually stay at home and care for their children rather than working and garnering an income. However, the income that their male counterparts provide for their families is frequently insufficient. In fact, about 78% of households in Nicaragua live in ‘substandard’ conditions, the highest rate in all of Latin America.

This problem returns to the roots of the gender gap and women’s treatment in Nicaragua. It means that the cycle of women having children at a young age and caring for them with a low household income will only continue across the years, even affecting future generations. This means that one of the most important places to start with solving this problem is encouraging education about abuse.

Solutions

Though there are certain difficult cases that prevent the maximum execution of women’s rights in Nicaragua, hope still exists for the country. With a declining number of abuse cases due to the exposure of organizations like Self-Help International, women’s rights in Nicaragua are beginning to solidify. Self-Help has been working to solve global issues like hunger and poverty since 1999, and it provides education and opportunities for women in these countries. In 2019, Self-Help was able to offer clean drinking water to 3,600 Nicaraguan residents in nine communities. With this preceding success, it is likely that Self-Help’s initiative to alleviate the women’s rights issues in Nicaragua will quickly gain traction.

Self-Help is currently working on a project to educate and empower 200 Nicaraguan women through workshops and microloans. This could lead to a reduction in young women entering and staying in abusive relationships. It is the success of the organizations like this one that can bring hope to women and influence the policymakers when spreading awareness about women’s rights.

Though Nicaragua’s statistics regarding women’s rights and abuse are not yet within positive measures, the work of NGOs should result in the improvement of conditions for women in Nicaragua over the next decades.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Liberia
Although there have been steps toward equal rights for women, some countries are struggling more than others. In Liberia, gender disparities and imbalances are common. To put it another way, there is little appreciation or recognition for the contributions of women to the Liberian community. However, progress has occurred in regard to improving women’s rights in Liberia and gender equality.

The Root of Inequality

In Liberia, traditional and religious insight impacts gender inequality and the neglect of women. This leaves women underrepresented, uneducated and undermined. Gender inequality plays a major role in the rights of women. They have no one to advocate for their rights but themselves. This would not be as unfortunate if women had a right to equal education. While contributing all of their time to family and working, women have less time to focus on education and social life. Furthermore, the stringent roles and responsibilities of women have prevented them from being able to partake in society and benefit development.

The Roles of Women

Women account for more than 50% of the labor in agriculture, cash production and food crop production, along with marketing and trading in Liberia. Despite their heavy role in the workforce, private and public sectors do not even honor the law of allowing pregnant women to go on maternity leave. They are also responsible for taking care of the household and doing additional work on the side, such as gathering wood and water. Despite their roles in agriculture, women own less property and have no other option than to be dependent on male relatives. The discrimination in land ownership is due to biases in the formal legal framework and customary law. Men are also more likely than women to inherit the land, control decision-making, allocation, management and the use of land.

Besides a woman’s role economically, they also experience a high risk of violent behavior against them in Liberia. These acts of violent behavior can include female genital mutilation, wife burning, dowry-related violence, rape, incest, wife battering, female femicide, female infanticide, trafficking, early marriage, teenage pregnancy, execution and prostitution. Any violence against women is a human rights violation according to the Geneva Conventions. The Geneva Conventions and their protocols provide protection against discrimination against women, allowing women to be equal to men under the Humanitarian Law, subsequently improving women’s rights in Liberia.

Aid and Hope

Another aid established is the 2009 National Gender Policy, which fights to abolish all gender issues. The main goal is to form a fair society where girls and boys along with women and men enjoy their human rights equally on a basis of non-discrimination. In other words, where the full potentials of all, regardless of sex, are harassed toward achieving unprejudiced rapid economic growth which includes equal access to social, financial and technological resources.

Inconsistency in the national legislature has delayed the implementation of the National Gender Policy. After President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became Africa’s first female president, men began to recognize the possibility of a woman in power. As the President of Liberia from 2006 to 2018, she secured millions of dollars in foreign investment. She also formed a Truth and Reconciliation Committee to investigate corruption and heal ethnic tensions.

The history and roles of women in Liberia are what drive the ongoing evolution of women’s rights. The more women who have representation, the better the chances are for their rights. Changes start as small policies and fill bigger shoes such as presidencies. Although improvements are still necessary, any is better than none at all.

– Destiny Jackson
Photo: Flickr

Aiding Women in Afghanistan
Afghanistan has been experiencing challenges economically, socially and politically. While these situations are affecting its citizens and the world, children and women are the most vulnerable members of the community, leading to many being impoverished, but there are ways that people/organizations are aiding women in Afghanistan.

About the Situation

Uncertainty has been governing Afghanistan since the outbreak of the crisis. Many escalations in violence have occurred since the impositions of new authorities. Over half a million of the population have demanded humanitarian assistance.

After 40 years of social crisis, poverty, several natural disasters and the outbreak of COVID-19 and the Taliban rule have increased poverty rates drastically. Both factors are a deadly combination for people in Afghanistan. About “50% of those in need in Afghanistan are women and girls.” Summing up, the outbreak of COVID-19 has pushed thousands of people to poverty, especially women and girls, affecting global poverty rates.

Women and girls are the most vulnerable group in society. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is highly worried about how women and girls will overcome the situation in  Afghanistan. As a fundamental human right, women’s rights must receive respect. By consequence, all services must undergo proper delivery, ensuring all women and girls have access to health services, to freely work and go to school.

The Concerns of the International Community

The international community is aware that as the crisis escalates, women living in poverty in Afghanistan increase too. Levels of domestic violence, abuse and exploitation are dramatically increasing as global poverty rates are tremendously increasing. Elinor Raikes, IRC vice president and head of program delivery states, “We know that during times of crisis, violence against women and girls increases. With uncertainty mounting throughout Afghanistan, the IRC is concerned that we could see an increase in violence against women as well as an increase in child marriage.”

The international community is heavily working on reducing global poverty on reducing poverty in Afghanistan. It is essential for world leaders to drive an international plan and work on the solution. Since August 2021, the international humanitarian response plan for Afghanistan has received only 38% of its necessary funding. According to data “the shortfall could mean that 1.2 million children will lose specialized protection services, making them more vulnerable to violence, recruitment, child labor, early and forced marriages, and sexual exploitation.”

Challenges for Women in Afghanistan

Data has demonstrated that women are the most vulnerable group in society. Since the outbreak of the crisis, “1.4 million women, many of them survivors of violence, will be left without safe places to receive comprehensive support.”

Several attacks have been taking place in small villages and schools. As a result, many girls will lack access to education. According to the report published by UNICEF, “An estimated 3.7 million children are out-of-school in Afghanistan. 60% of them are girls.” Undoubtedly, girls are the ones suffering the major consequences of the crisis in Afghanistan, impacting global poverty.

The challenge of women in Afghanistan is a significant topic across the world today. The Taliban is constantly oppressing women and limiting women’s rights. Thus, gender equality which had been progressing in the country has suddenly diminished as the new authorities are pushing back all the effort done. As mentioned above, many girls are not going to school and women have been limited the rights they had. As a consequence, women in Afghanistan fall into poverty as they cannot access a job.

How Some are Aiding Women in Afghanistan

The World Bank has highlighted a few of the national programs established in Afghanistan to help women and mobilize social groups. Women Economic Empowerment Rural Development Project (WEE-RDP) is the most popular national approach in Afghanistan. As the World Bank reported, “These groups help their members access financial services and start small businesses. During the COVID-19 pandemic, self-help groups have also provided critical support for health and livelihoods.”

In conclusion, the Taliban’s rule is becoming a major concern for the world. Undoubtedly, national and international approaches have undergone implementation with the purpose of aiding women in Afghanistan and reducing poverty.

– Cristina Alvarez
Photo: Flickr

The Past and Present of Women’s Rights in Iran
The state of women’s rights in Iran has fluctuated throughout the past century. From the early to late 20th century, there was steady progress for gender equality. However, in 1979, during the Iranian Revolution, women’s rights in Iran took a drastic step back. Currently, activists are trying to restore fundamental rights for women within Iran.

History Before the Revolution

In the 1920s, women’s rights in Iran began to make significant progress toward gender equality. Education was more accessible to girls when it became free for both girls and boys. In addition, Iran’s first university allowed the enrollment of women. By the mid-1900s, the suffrage movement made significant headway, especially politically. Women’s organizations underwent implementation and the Iranian Women Party began in 1942. Despite the large opposition and obstacles, women’s organizations and the Women’s Party lobbied for improvements in women’s rights.

It was also helpful that the Shah of Iran (Mohammad Reza Pahlavi) had a twin sister, Ashraf Pahlavi. She worked in the High Council of Women’s Organizations of Iran. At the beginning of 1963, the Shah proposed a reform program “primarily aimed at land reform” but also incorporating “a provision for extending suffrage to women.”

He allowed women to vote on the referendum, which passed. This monumental moment eventually led to Iranian women gaining the right to vote. A handful of laws passed around this decade, including raising the minimum age of marriage from 13 to 18, the ability to request for a divorce, gaining the ability to fight for child custody and other marriage and child custody rights under the Family Protection Law.

By the late 1970s, several women served in Iran’s parliament and hundreds took up positions in local councils. Iranian women were also a considerable part of the workforce. However, in 1979, Iran’s revolution led to a regression of women’s rights in Iran that is present to this day.

After the Revolution

The change in political structure in Iran also changed women’s rights in the country. Rollbacks in family law rights occurred. Iran enforced strict laws and punishment regarding Islamic dress codes. Itan reduced the legal marriage age to just 9 years old and women had to leave several government positions. Women “held on to the right to vote and run for parliament,” however, officials ignored their voices.

Even with severely stricter laws, activists still persevered and fought for women’s rights in Iran throughout the years. Because of this activism, more women attended schools, there was a slight increase in women in office and the minimum age of marriage increased to 13 years old. However, even though women gained some rights, they continue to suffer misogyny and discrimination under Iranian law.

Men continue to have significant legal authority over women. The government disregards violence and sexual assault against women. Women experience punishment for standing up for themselves and, in some cases, they even experience execution. Despite women making up more than half of the student body at universities, they only make up 15.2% of the Iranian workforce. From these facts, it is clear that there is a dire need to improve women’s rights in Iran.

The Atena Women Life Quality Improvement Institute

The risk of facing punishment does not deter activists from fighting for gender equality within the country. One NGO that has made a significant impact on women in Iran is the Atena Women Life Quality Improvement Institute. It began in 2006 unofficially, however, after years of work and recognition, in 2013, it officially underwent registry under the State Welfare Organization of Iran. The organization empowers women in several different ways, including supporting them in different fields of work and increasing public awareness for women’s rights. The organization’s impact is widespread, currently supporting more than 200 families with its services and even helping domestic violence victims through education and support. One of Atena’s current projects includes an entrepreneurship initiative that focuses on helping Iranian women earn an income through entrepreneurship. Atena is one of the many impactful NGOs that empower women in Iran.

While activists can face severe punishment in Iran, the fight for women’s rights is essential and advocates stand strong in their commitment to advance women’s rights.

– Karuna Lakhiani
Photo: Flickr