Women's Rights in Mozambique
According to the 2019 United Nations Development Programme’s report, Mozambique ranks 180th out of 189 countries with a high Gender Inequality Index (GII) of 0.569. The Gender Inequality Index is a parameter that evaluates gender-based inequalities in three aspects including reproductive health, empowerment and economic activity. Over the years, the untiring efforts of the UN Committee on The Elimination of Discrimination Against Women have sparked a wave of non-governmental organizations that fight for women’s rights in Mozambique. These efforts have resulted in a noticeable change, although the country still has a long way to go.

Mozambique’s Success at Women’s Empowerment

Historically, Mozambique has been a male-dominated country with men holding the majority of official positions. Traditionally, women were absent from the country’s public affairs. However, Mozambican women were not completely powerless. Older women, for instance, gained respect as mothers-in-law and community advisers on marital issues. Nevertheless, the small portion of power that women held did not entirely cocoon them from inferior treatment by their male counterparts as women had no right to ownership of land and therefore comprised 80% of the country’s poor.

The lack of equal rights between men and women also forced women to seek protection from men. Consequently, practices such as polygamy received encouragement, and women accepted it without protest since it promised them their husbands’ protection.

What Sparked A Change?

The last two decades have been a period of progressive growth and transformation for Mozambique. The 1977 Civil War, which exposed women to physical violence and other forms of sexual violence such as gang rapes and abduction, led to the country’s increased focus on women’s rights in Mozambique. Despite the war’s atrocious effects on women, however, it created conditions that favored the rise and empowerment of women. As a matter of fact, during the war and the ensuing years, Mozambican women became the primary breadwinners of their families since a majority of men died, became disabled or entered the frontlines to fight to restore order to their troubled nation.

After the war in 1992, Mozambique’s government went the extra mile to promote women’s rights. Over the years, it has accomplished much in the areas of women’s parliamentary inclusion, land ownership and education among others. Here is a list of women’s organizations that the Mozambican government created to advocate for women’s rights.

  • The Ministry of Women and Social Action: The Ministry for Women and Social Action emerged in 2000. Among its major achievements is the development of Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM), which provides a course related to gender planning and budgeting every year. This course has consequently raised awareness and increased the number of trained decision-makers both at the provincial and district level on the topic of gender equality.
  • The Directorate-General for Women’s Affairs: This institute is responsible for the implementation of decisions and policies from the Ministry.
  • The National Council for Promoting Women: The National Council for Promoting Women pools official organizations, NGOs and their representatives, private sector participants and religious officials in a joint effort to promote women’s rights in Mozambique.

Female Parliamentarians

Over the years, the percentage of women in the Mozambican parliament has undergone a remarkable change from 25.2% in 1997 to 41.2% in 2019. The Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), which opened in Mozambique in 2004, played a cornerstone role in the achievement of this milestone through a campaign it dispatched in 2009 to encourage Mozambique’s major political parties, FRELIMO and RENAMO, to nominate a higher number of women candidates.

Land Ownership Rights

In modern-day Mozambique, the reformed Land Law, which emerged in 1997, endorses that all Mozambicans of either gender have the right to land use. As a result of this Law, 25% of women have land title use rights. This is yet another milestone and a big win for women.

Although the Land Law has led to a significant rise in the number of female landowners, women’s rights to land still experience restriction in rural Mozambique. This is evidenced by the restricted territorial control of most women in the country’s north, as they only control 30% of land plots.

Education

A major transformation has also taken place in regard to girls’ education. The government has enhanced school access to all, which resulted in a consequential increase in the girls’ enrolment rate from 3 million in 2002 to 4.1 million in 2006. Moreover, the number of girls in school has been going up since.

Today, 94% of Mozambican girls enroll in primary schools, however, only 11% of them progress to a secondary level. Additionally, only 1% attends college. This engenders low literacy rates among Mozambican women whereby their illiteracy rate is almost double what is if for men.

Taking Action

The Government of Mozambique has recently approved the 2020 Annual Work Plan of the Spotlight Initiative to end violence against women. The Spotlight Initiative is a partnership between the European Union and the United Nations to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030.

Through joint efforts with the Mozambican Government, The Spotlight Initiative plans to provide online training to service providers and promote existing hotlines to ease the process of reporting cases of domestic violence, which have surged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Minister of Gender, Child and Social Action, Nyeleti Mondlane, remarked that the Mozambican government has to strengthen women’s economic social empowerment efforts to contribute to an equal, fair and peaceful society.

Over the years, Mozambique has made outstanding achievements in promoting women’s rights, involving the implementation of women’s organizations and female parliamentarians and increased school attendance for girls. Although the present state of affairs is not one to complacently settle for,  past successes give a splinter of hope for a better future for Mozambican women.

– Divine Mbabazi
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in the DRC
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has suffered from longstanding conflicts that have only exacerbated the country’s poverty crisis. About 70% of the country’s population lives below the poverty line. While these conditions have greatly affected the status of women’s rights in the DRC, much work is occurring to raise the standard of living for women.

Gender-Based Violence

The DRC documented more than 35,000 sexual violence cases in 2018, and U.N. Women reports that gender-based violence has risen by 99% with the onset of COVID-19. In war-torn states, conflict uniquely affects women and they are often subject to rape or sexual violence as a weapon of war. To combat these alarming statistics and improve women’s rights in the DRC, the country revised its strategy for combating gender-based violence in August 2020. The new national strategy includes a care framework for survivors, prevention methods for crimes and increased scope of the strategy throughout the entirety of the country, reaching over 51 million women in the DRC.

Women, Peace and Security

As of July 2019, a mere 16% of women constituted the DRC’s Senate, and none of the country’s Constitutional Court judges or provincial governors are women. The Women, Peace and Security agenda, as the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 adopted, aims to promote the inclusion of women in positions of power. The DRC’s National Action Plans (NAP) has incorporated it to better include women in decision-making. The DRC’s second NAP experienced enactment in 2019 and expectations have determined that it will be implemented until 2022, with the goal of increasing the inclusion of women and girls in economic and political decision-making to at least 20%.

Women’s Education

An estimated 52.7% of girls between the ages of 5 to 17 do not attend school in the DRC. Gaining an education directly links to an increase in women’s rights and independence, as staying in school commonly leads to lower rates of child marriage, increased financial literacy and expanded job and life opportunities. Although women’s participation in the workforce (70.7%) is roughly equivalent to that of men (73.2%), women’s participation comes primarily from agricultural work where lack of education and gender roles restrict women’s access to financial freedom and property ownership.

While poverty and lack of infrastructure have historically barred women’s and girls’ access to education, UNICEF has worked to improve educational opportunities and thus increase women’s rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. UNICEF has partnered with the DRC’s Ministry of Primary, Secondary and Technical Education to facilitate distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, and has supported the education of close to 7 million students in the DRC.

Maternal Health

The DRC’s under-5 mortality rate is 84.8 per every 1,000 live births, and in 2011, the DRC accounted for half of all maternal deaths. Women are in particular need of proper healthcare facilities and ease of access to reliable medical centers, two factors that the DRC’s state of conflict and low status of women has greatly affected. To better aid pregnant women and uplift mothers post-birth, the DRC’s National Health Development Plan received €4.5 million ($5.3 million) in monetary aid in June 2020 from the European Union and UNICEF. The E.U. has sent additional doctors and provided blood bags, medicine, vaccines and food for newborns suffering from malnutrition, targeting six of the country’s provinces and 33 health zones.

Looking Forward

While the DRC continues to combat a myriad of issues in regards to women’s rights, it is clear that conditions are constantly improving and progress continues to occur in various sectors of society. As efforts make headway to improve women’s rights in the DRC, the country’s state of poverty and conflict should also experience reform.

– Caroline Mendoza
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in El Salvador
Establishing effective women’s rights in El Salvador, including freedom from domestic, sexual and organized violence, is challenging but not impossible. Grassroots organizations and marches are leading the charge for the law and society to be more aggressive towards male perpetrators against women.

There are similar yet unique narratives that women who endure extreme violence, die from extreme violence or seek asylum in other countries tell to escape such violence. Much of the violence that women in El Salvador endure boils down to a critical lack of reproductive choices, resources, education and discriminatory gender hierarchies in the home and the workplace. Machismo, or macho-man characteristics, beliefs are present in all of these narratives.

For women’s rights in El Salvador to flourish, the country must assess and address the ways machismo, as a form of systemic patriarchy, is persistent in the daily functions of El Salvadorian women’s lives and identify potential solutions to this system issue.

Laws Protecting Women’s Rights in El Salvador

There are a collection of laws, international and domestic, upholding women’s equal status with men, barring discrimination or violence against woman. El Salvador is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), as well as the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Sanction and Eradicate Violence against Women (Convention of Belém do Pará).

Despite these existing conventions, reports reveal that seven of the top 10 countries with the highest femicide rates are in Latin America, including El Salvador. This highlights the primarily symbolic nature of these conventions, many of them suffering from a general lack of enforcement.

In 1996, 2010 and 2011, the Salvadoran government implemented three laws to further the protection of women’s rights and deter violence against women.

The first was the Family Domestic Violence Act (1996) addressing intra-familial violence and femicide. A 2010 law, the Special Integral Law for a Life Free of Violence against Women, aimed to punish all forms of violence against women, ranging from workplace harassment to murder. Lastly, the Creation of Specialized Courts for a Life Free of Violence and Discrimination against Women (also known as Decree 286 or the “Femicide Law”), of 2011, emerged for specialized courts to deal with cases of all violence against women, requiring all legal staff to obtain necessary knowledge on a woman’s right to a life free of violence and discrimination.

Unfortunately, the laws have not proven effective as the endurance of beatings, rapes and femicides have multiplied since the introduction of the first policy in 1996. For example, in 2012, a year after El Salvador instated the Salvadoran femicide law, the United Nations Commissioner on Human Rights (UNHCR) estimated that El Salvador’s impunity rate was as high as 77%.

Grassroots Efforts to Protect Women’s Rights in El Salvador

La Colectiva, a nonprofit based in El Salvador, aims to provide services and resources to women facing and addressing gender-based violence. The organization’s founder, Morena Herrera, strives to abolish the country’s abortion penal code. The organization not only addresses domestic conflicts but also focuses on reproductive rights and education so that women feel empowered to retain all rights to their bodies and seek help when necessary.

Abortion and reproductive rights are critical issues in El Salvador. The country has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in all of Latin America, with one-quarter of young women ages 15 to 19-years-old having been pregnant. In fact, 41% of pregnancies among 10 to 19-year-old girls stems from sexual abuse, with 12% of those being the result of incest. The degradation of women’s rights in the eyes of the law is most apparent when women seek an abortion, as the law considers it a homicidal offense with a 30-year-minimum sentence.

The feminists of El Salvador are also targeting the judicial system, a conservative stronghold, for its negligence of violence against women cases, including the sexual assault of teenage girls. Many women deem authority efforts futile since perpetrators function about society with impunity. To offset this disparity, El Salvador is making strides to equip more women judges with proper training on gender issues, making them more likely to support victims and women’s rights in El Salvador.

In April 2017, feminist organizations throughout the country organized and demonstrated to denounce widespread sexual violence, the mysterious disappearances of women and mass femicide, in an effort to disrupt the machismo culture that affects women from all backgrounds, ages and economic statuses. These marches occur every year on March 8, International Women’s Day, as women’s rights activists demand more radical and swift change for equality.

– Vicki Colbert
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Ghana
People have explored the topic of gender rights for many decades as women’s conventional role in modern society drastically changed. This evolution changed how genders interacted with one another and challenged the conventional norms of patriarchy that went unchecked for centuries. Women’s rights in Ghana is important socially and economically. Although ahead of its neighboring counterparts economically, politically and developmentally, there is still a wide gender gap that needs bridging.

Beginning of Women’s Independence

Ghana is a West African country located on the Gulf of Guinea and enjoys a tropical climate. Ghana gained independence from British colonial rule in 1957. There is no denying the role of Ghanaian women’s benefaction to the outcome of this freedom, as it segued into the establishment of the National Council of Ghana Women in 1960. The council’s intent was to empower and benefit women’s rights in Ghana by developing vocational training centers and daycare facilities.

Efforts to propel women to the forefront of the country’s progression were lacking. The numbers show how far behind women were in comparison to their male counterparts. Ghana is “in the bottom 25% worldwide for women in parliament, healthy life expectancy, enrolment in tertiary education, literacy rate, and women in the professional and technical workforce.”

Enrollment in Tertiary Education

Tertiary education illustrated the gender gap in Ghana best. Looking at the reasons separating women from pursuing higher learning exposes the patriarchal ideology woven into society. In general, keeping girls in education raises a country’s GDP. According to a report by Water.org, increasing accessibility for children in Ghana “on a global scale, for every year a girl stays in school, her income can increase by 15-25%.”

Impact of Literacy Rates

The impact of literacy is as severe as reducing a country’s GDP. However, with such devastating numbers related to the gender gap in Ghana, the sinking literacy rates had to be addressed. Women in Ghana do not necessarily obtain the ability to read and write from receiving a formal education due to the consequences of the quick development of schools in low-income countries such as Ghana. There is a current disruption in educating students due to the exponential growth within education systems, which impacts the school’s full potential. However, the literacy rate for women in Ghana has made significant progress over the years. According to the World Bank’s data report in 2018, the literacy rate for females aged 15 or older is 74.47%. While the literacy rate for females aged 15 to 24 years old is 92.2%, increasing young girls’ independence.

Women’s Employment and Labor Force

Currently, 46.5% of the labor force in Ghana is female. However, these women participate in domestic labor, such as in the agricultural field, without any pay, which limits their independence. Despite the rights Ghanaian women have gained since the 1960s, the country has recognized that economic growth does not necessarily reduce gender-based employment and wage gaps.

Contrary to the women who receive no pay, women who earn a subsistence wage through agriculture are at risk of significant health issues due to the physically demanding nature. Ghana is a traditional-based society explaining gender-based roles. However, one nongovernmental organization defending women’s rights in Ghana is Womankind. The organization emerged in 1991 with the goal of ending violence against all women in Ghana. This can help increase their social rights and political power within the government. Over 600 women in Ghana received recognition for their professional training experience to construct their own political decisions within the last five years. The secondary school leadership roles consist of 30 young girls who studied management within the organization. As a result, this increases the chances of independence and rights for women in Ghana.

Developing Women’s Rights in Ghana

Women and men are legally equal in Ghana, and women’s rights in Ghana have made significant progress. However, multiple aspects of traditional society affect gender equality, impacting their rights as women. With educational empowerment and recognizing that economic growth does not necessarily mean women are receiving the same job opportunities as men, gender equality will be more promising in Ghana.

Montana Moore
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Sudan
Public discourse surrounding political, human and women’s rights in Sudan is experiencing a major shift. Issues of political and social participation and freedoms have been at the forefront of Sudanese protests in recent years. Women have played a major role in breaking down norms and building up a new female identity.

The Protests

Sudan still faces major internal conflict due to the secession of South Sudan and the ensuing conflict in 2011. In recent years, the role of women and their rights has come into question for the Sudanese people. Women in Sudan have specifically felt subjugated due to legal regulations and celebrated when the country eradicated these laws.

A key facet of these issues is class. Upper-class women wear different clothes than poorer women in Sudan. This discrepancy is not only troubling but deeply rooted in socio-political inequity. BBC reported that “in recent years it was common to see rich Khartoum women wearing trousers in public—while those targeted by the morality police were often poorer women from the marginalized areas on the periphery of this vast country.”

The Reason

The Global Fund for Women outlines the varying causes for many of the protests in Sudan. Some of the protests took place at military headquarters. The protestors staged a sit-in and called for “civilian rule, women’s rights and an end to the nation’s civil wars.”

Some of the specific regulations that women want to change are in regard to their physical appearance. Some examples Sudanese would like to change include how they must dress or cover their hair. Breaking any of the current rules can result in harsh and demeaning punishments. GFFW reported that “thousands of women have been sentenced to floggings under the laws, with poor and minority women particularly affected.”

Violent Response

The protestors filling the streets are primarily women, an estimated 70%. These women come from many backgrounds ranging from students to housewives to street traders. This diverse group of females march the streets while chanting, clapping and singing. Amidst the clamoring for change, human rights violations also occur.

There was an increase in violent attacks during many of the protests in favor of women’s rights in Sudan and the ending of the civil conflict. There have been instances of rape, disfigurement and burnings. The military more subtly uses sexist language and insults as another weapon against those protesting for women’s rights in Sudan. Human Rights Watch asserts that this retaliatory violence “escalated following the Arab uprisings, the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Sudan’s economic downturn and the proliferation of new wars in southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.”

Looking Forward

The push for women’s rights in Sudan is progressing forward and incorporating the issues of class and poverty. The country now realizes that the need for comprehensive human rights laws (and specific laws protecting women) is urgent.

The women’s movement is strong but needs continued organizational support. There are few laws currently in place to protect women and children and this must change. Protests, as well as the documentation of human rights violations, are not enough. The government needs to create change and protect its citizens. Women, just like all other citizens, deserve human rights.

Kiahna Stephens
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Afghanistan
Wandering the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan in the 1960s, one passed lively, miniskirt-clad women alongside male friends as they strolled to their university classes. Heiresses to a new age of freedom, these women voted, laughed and lived freely, invigorated by the progressive spirit that pervaded every corner of the city. Beginning in the 1970s, however, conflict and poor governance gradually weakened women’s societal freedom. Then in 1996, the Taliban dismantled what semblance of equality remained. The United States’ post-9/11 occupation in Afghanistan ousted the Taliban and has helped to revive and work toward improving women’s rights in Afghanistan for nearly two decades. Yet in February 2020, the U.S. endorsed a deal with Afghanistan to withdraw from the country called The U.S.-Taliban Peace Deal. Although the agreement heralds a much-overdue peace between these long-warring countries, the departure of American troops may facilitate the return of Taliban rule and the subsequent eradication of women’s rights in Afghanistan.

The Taliban’s Unchecked Oppression of Women

The first half of the 20th century saw great progress toward gender equality in Afghanistan. The era’s feminist vigor enfranchised women and integrated them with men. When the 1960s constitution cemented women’s rights in the fabric of the nation, true gender equality seemed imminent.

Hardship soon befell Afghanistan. The country’s status as a Soviet proxy state in the 1970s, and later, the jihadist activity by Mujahideen groups, eroded women’s rights. Additionally, these conflicts contributed to the political fragility that ultimately enabled the Taliban to take power in 1996. In pursuit of establishing an Islamic state, the Taliban implemented a doctored, repressive interpretation of sharia law.

This Islamist code drastically encroached on women’s rights in Afghanistan and effectively confined them to the domestic sphere. Depriving them of the right to vote, to receive an education or to seek employment, the Taliban subordinated women. Even minor defiance to these restrictions met with violent floggings, abuse and even stonings. Such atrocities extended beyond legal sanctions; women were frequently subject to sexual assault. The Taliban’s message was clear: womanhood itself was punishable.

US Occupation and Female Empowerment

After al-Qaeda-engineered the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. deployed thousands of troops to Afghanistan to depose the Taliban. This maneuver catalyzed nearly two decades of bloodshed. Though it has been hotly contested, America’s involvement has boosted women’s rights in Afghanistan. During the U.S. occupation, women have regained considerable economic opportunity and social freedoms.

Post-Taliban legislative actions have codified gender parity. The new constitution recognizes women’s legal equality with men. Rape, violence and physical abuse, previously an unrelenting threat to Afghan women, are now indictable offenses.

Women are also profiting from widening economic and educational opportunities and changes in societal attitudes. After decades of flatlining, the female labor force participation rate has increased by 7% since 2010, with women foraying into education, medicine, law enforcement and even public office at record levels. Women’s recent vocational advances have contributed to shifting ideologies across the country. In February 2020, NBC News reported that most Afghans have discarded misogynistic views in support of improving women’s rights in Afghanistan. Such a cultural transformation seems to herald women’s long-term empowerment and civic engagement.

Repercussions of the US-Taliban Peace Deal

Tragically, the U.S.-Taliban peace deal, signed Feb. 29, has the potential to reverse these last two decades of progress. With robust backing from both sides, the document provides for the departure of American troops from Afghanistan. This deal promises an end to the United States’ longest war. For its part, the Taliban has agreed to reject terrorism in pursuit of negotiating peace with the Afghan government.

The deal aspires to pacify a country too long battered by conflict, but it contains a grave flaw: it makes no provisions for women’s rights in Afghanistan. Despite its previous claims that harmony would “not be possible” without securing equality for women, the U.S. deferred the determination of gender parity to intra-Afghan discussions.

The Taliban has committed to granting women the rights that Islam guarantees. However, it claims to have upheld this pledge during its brutally repressive rule from 1996 to 2001. Given that the Taliban’s understanding of women’s rights has proven alarmingly narrow, its recent promise is hardly a consolation. Moreover, according to the U.S.’s most recent report, the territory that the Afghan government commanded in 2019 had dwindled to a record low. Without foreign aid or military backing, many fear the Taliban will easily overthrow the weakening Afghan government following the withdrawal of American troops.

Progress

In the past 20 years, Afghan women have shattered thousands of glass ceilings as they have built successful careers and enjoyed their hard-won freedoms. As the terms of the peace deal are actualized. However, the potential return of Taliban rule threatens to obliterate these advances. In order to avert a revival of misogyny and secure women’s rights in Afghanistan, Women for Afghan Women’s (WAW) Peacebuilding Program is preparing women to participate in future intra-Afghan talks. Along with stimulating meaningful political discourse among citizens, the program has coached 3,065 women in advocacy and negotiation. Politically and socially empowered, these outspoken women are joining the everyday conversations and monumental peace talks that will dictate their and their country’s future, and work toward improving women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Rosalind Coats
Photo: Pxfuel

Women’s Rights in Botswana
Botswana, considered one of Africa’s most politically stable countries, has seen a recent victory in the fight for women’s rights and gender equality. Here is some information about women’s rights in Botswana.

A Recent Victory

In September 2020, President Mokgweetsi Masisi amended the 2015 Land Policy to give married women in Botswana the right to own land. Previously, married women were only eligible to own land if their husbands did not. The policy excluded not only married women but widows and single mothers as well, which left millions of women affected.

Tshegofatso Mokibelo, a 38-year-old widowed financial analyst, received a denial when she applied for a residential plot of land, as her late husband had owned a plot previously and his family had since claimed it. “Women also have the right to own land,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

This recent amendment gives both men and women equal rights to own land.

More Good News

“Botswana will be a society where all men and women have equal opportunity to actively participate in the economic, social, cultural, and political development of their country.”

Botswana’s Vision 2036, one of its various initiatives towards improving the republic, promises progress for women’s rights. Since the U.N.’s Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, the country has made several commitments to gender equality and women’s rights in Botswana. These commitments include its ratification of The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1996, The Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme and the adoption of the National Policy on Gender and Development in 2015.

The progression toward women’s rights in Botswana has led to notable successes in education. Botswana has almost equal enrollment rates for girls and boys at every level in school. In fact, a Gender Parity Index report in 2012 favored girls at both the secondary school and tertiary education levels. More recently, UNICEF reported the GPI for primary education in 2014 as favoring girls, indicating improvement. However, according to the Sustainable Development Report, challenges remain in this area.

Other positive strides include equality within the labor force, reported as achieved in the Sustainable Development Report and having one of the lowest adolescent birth rates in Africa at 50 per 1,000 population, ages 15-19.

Gender Equality

According to the Sustainable Development Report, significant challenges remain in the effort to achieve the gender equality goal. Seats that women held in parliament, for example, are reported as stagnating with “major challenges remaining.” According to statistics from the World Bank, the proportion of seats that women held in parliament has decreased from 17% in 2000 to 9.5% in 2018.

The dual legal system in Botswana, a consequence of colonization, also creates complications in achieving gender equality. Customary laws that currently exist in Botswana discriminate against women. However, Botswana’s government has engaged itself in talks with traditional leaders since 2012 on how to bring women’s rights into customary law. This has resulted in several community groups establishing Gender Committees to open discourse around gender inequality.

Gender-based Violence

One of the greatest remaining challenges, which the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated, is gender-based violence. In July 2020, the current Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Anna Mokgethi, revealed an unprecedented increase in reports of gender-based violence since the April 2020 lockdown.

According to The United Nations Population Fund, over 67% of women in Botswana have experienced abuse. In order to combat this, the UNFPA is working with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and several organizations to provide gender-based violence prevention and access to services for those at risk.

One of the NGOs working to eradicate gender-based violence in Botswana is the Botswana Gender Based Violence Prevention and Support Centre. It offers prevention programs such as community outreach and education, as well as several services that gender-based violence personally affects. Kgomotso Kelaotswe, Counselor Supervisor for the NGO reported that during the lockdown period, 155 clients sought shelter at the organization, 67 clients received hotline counseling services and a further 50 obtained assistance through the short line message service.

Botswana continues to face challenges in the fight for women’s rights. However, the government’s commitment to tackling these challenges remains promising.

– Emma Maytham
Photo: Flickr

Women in CubaWomen have experienced oppression at the hands of men for centuries. The world is continually reminded of this fact in current cultural and societal practices. Different nations have made progress in recent years, but this is still a common and enduring problem. However, the information dispersed regarding this topic is commonly obscured by those in charge. Women in Cuba have faced these issues head-on for decades in their fight for equal rights. The long and complex history of women’s right makes it difficult to distill the reality of the situation. However, there is potential for improvement. Here are the key things to know about this pivotal issue.

Education

Compared to other nations, Cuba may appear to be far more progressive on women’s rights. According to the Havana Times, women comprise 53% of the congressional body, and they account for 60% of college graduates. These numbers portray a clear female dominance in areas of higher education and are much higher compared to other developed nations.

Women’s Organizations

“Women’s organizations” are still not welcome in the nation. A new state constitution took effect after the 1960s Cuban revolution that barred the legalization of women’s organizations. An exception was made for the already established FMC.

The FMC, the Federation of Cuban Women, is a communist-controlled organization intended for the advancement of the women in Cuba. This is not inherently indicative of any corruption. However, women are prevented from assembling themselves and are dependent upon the state-sanctioned organization due to the lack of organizational options.

The Workplace

Societal standards are still oppressive to women. Numbers depict women moving out of their roles in the household to earn degrees and serve in the congressional body. The caveat is that women are still expected to perform all the duties that come with running a household. This includes cooking, cleaning and childcare.

This “machismo” mindset is heavily prevalent in Latin American nations. Essentially, this relegates women to the stereotypical domestic roles. This is even applied to women who are practicing doctors, lawyers and teachers. This societal standard burdens working women as well as those who choose to not enter the workforce or pursue higher education.

Discrimination in the workplace is another struggle women in Cuba must face. Women still face societal barriers in how they are compensated and employed. Female physicians and professors are typically paid the governmental base wage because most hospitals and universities are state-owned. This means that women are usually earning $30/hour in these typically high-paying fields. Further, the congressional body that women composed the majority of does not have any actual legislative power. That power is found within the Communist Party, which is only 7% female.

A Positive Outlook

The situation for women in Cuba is difficult to navigate. However, there are statutes in place to assist women in their quest to achieve equal rights within their society. For example, the constitution has an article that specifically protects maternity leave as a right for mothers in the workforce. Furthermore, the accessibility of higher education promises benefits to women of all classes that will last for generations. In essence, there is a long way to go, but that does not diminish how far the women’s rights movement in Cuba has come already.

Allison Moss
Photo: Flickr

Problems in Rural India
Despite the country’s soaring GDP, India is home to almost a quarter of the world’s poor population. Although India lifted 270 million people out of poverty between 2006 and 2016, 270 million more people continue to live below the global poverty line. The extreme poverty that India’s poor faces disproportionately affects rural populations and women, who receive fewer opportunities in education, healthcare and employment.

Named after the goddess of education, nonprofit Bani Mandir works to elevate people in India’s most vulnerable communities by solving problems in rural India. The organization, based in West Bengal, India, aims to address the root causes of poverty, particularly in rural areas and among women. By providing solutions to education inequality, access to healthcare and women’s opportunities, Bani Mandir empowers India’s rural poor.

Education

One of the root causes of poverty is a lack of education. Access to education is integral to lifting people out of poverty, as education reduces inequality and drastically improves the opportunities students obtain as they age. In India, where 45% of the poor population is illiterate, improving access to education in rural areas is vital.

Girls in India, particularly those living in poverty, face additional barriers when it comes to attending school. India gave girls the right to education in 2009. However, many girls are still unable to attend school due to housework responsibilities, stigma and health concerns. The lack of girls in school contributes to fewer women in the workforce. Women make up only 25% of the labor force in India.

To increase enrollment of girls and students from rural areas, Bani Mandir has provided education for more than 10,000 students, maintaining equal representation between girls and boys. Bani Mandir also helps children receive sufficient nutrition support and trains teachers in effective teaching practices. These advancements are improving the quality of education for a larger number of students.

Access to Healthcare

In India, rural communities receive significantly less access to healthcare. Due to the lack of health facilities and insufficient awareness about the benefits of healthcare, many workers in rural communities are unwilling to sacrifice a day’s wages to attend a healthcare visit. Additionally, women in India receive less access to healthcare than men. In a 2019 study, men and boys were two times as likely to visit a healthcare facility. The study also found that many women who should have seen a doctor did not.

To improve access to healthcare in India’s vulnerable communities, Bani Mandir offers comprehensive healthcare programs. Women make up 60% of those benefiting from Bani Mandir’s health services. Bani Mandir’s 23 health projects served more than 3,500 people living in rural villages and slums. The organization also arranged more than 100 health camps to address immediate medical needs. Finally, Bani Mandir partners with schools to provide health programs to students. Its work is encouraging students to seek healthcare and to grow up in a culture where going to the doctor is standard practice.

Women’s Empowerment

Since many women are often denied access to education and healthcare, their employment opportunities are limited. Furthermore, employment is not a guarantee of equal treatment. In fact, pay inequalities result in men making 65% more than women for the same labor. Although gender equality in India is a constitutional right, many women are unaware of their rights and of the ways they can support themselves financially.

Bani Mandir offers more than 375 self-help groups across 30 villages and supports more than 15,000 women and girls to help eliminate problems in rural India. These women’s empowerment groups educate women about their rights, organize finances and offer loans for small businesses, encouraging female entrepreneurs. Bani Mandir also aims to change societal perceptions and stigmas against women by educating broader communities. Bani Mandir’s programs are educating upwards of 10,000 community members about women’s rights issues.

By addressing the problems in rural India pertaining to poverty, such as education, healthcare and women’s opportunities, Bani Mandir is inciting change across entire communities and improving the lives of rural populations. The organization also offers services that improve sanitation, care for the elderly and support for abandoned children. With its wide scope, Bani Mandir is providing countless examples of concrete ways to create change. To build upon the positive change that Bani Mandir and other nonprofits have inspired, the Indian government should sharpen its laws around gender equality to ensure that women and girls obtain adequate access to employment, healthcare and education.

Melina Stavropoulos
Photo: Unsplash

Women's Rights in Jordan
In Jordan, women make up approximately half of the overall population, yet they only contribute to about 15% of the labor force. Their unemployment rates are nearly 10% higher than the male unemployment rates. This is four times as high as the female unemployment rates worldwide. The number of labor force participation rates contradicts the number of educated women. In 2014, more women went to college in comparison to men. So, why do women in Jordan not work? The answers to this question have to do with women’s rights in Jordan.

Women’s Economic Contribution: What is Going On?

Regarding women’s rights in Jordan, there are many contributing factors that made the country rank 144 out of 149 countries in economic participation and opportunity. Ranging from lack of transportation to social norms, here are some reasons why women do not work as much as their male counterparts:

  • Childcare: If women are at work, they must be able to find someone to look after their children. Finding childcare along with affordable childcare is a key issue. Jordan women only make around $270 USD a month. As a result, many women feel that it is easier and more affordable to stay home with their kids instead of creating an extra expense.
  • Pay Gap: There is a large pay gap in Jordan. The Gender Pay Gap in the public sector is over 13%. In addition, there is a larger gap of over 15% in the private sector. With a gap like this, many women receive discouragement from working.
  • Social expectations: Social norms remain a large issue when it comes to women working. When there is a shortage of jobs in the country, over 80% of people believe that men should have more rights to jobs than women. According to a World Bank study, the majority of people believe that it is not okay for women to work if they return after 5 p.m. or if they are working in mixed workplaces.
  • Transportation: There is a lack of transportation, while also a lack of safe transportation for women in Jordan. This is a reason why many women reject job offers. Not only is it unsafe, but it is also just another expense added to women’s already low incomes. Combined with the daycare prices many women pay when they decide to enter the workforce, the cost of going to work is not worth it to many.

Solutions

Fortunately, there is a current action plan in place that aims to solve these issues regarding women’s rights in Jordan and the country’s workforce inequality. For example, the Jordan government implemented the Women’s Economic Empowerment Action Plan and the Mashreq Gender Facility supports this plan. The overall goal of this plan is to increase women’s participation in the workforce by 24% in a span of five years. After five years, the government hopes the action plan will have increased women’s opportunity to become business owners. The plan also aims to provide safe and inclusive work environments. As a result, more women will be able to successfully join the workforce.

There is a lot that needs to occur for the action plan to be successful. As of now, the action plan is focusing on things such as legislation. It also focuses on constraints that are keeping women out of the workforce, creating a welcoming and comfortable work environment, breaking the social stigmas connected to women working and increasing the female employment rates in the private sector. Certain tasks that the action plan will accomplish in order to get to this point are:

  • Improving the knowledge of gender gaps and teaching gender equality in education settings.
  • Creating affordable childcare services so that women do not have to be concerned about the costs of going to work.
  • Creating a code of ethics for workers in public transportation so that women are able to get to and from work without experiencing harassment.

The Women’s Economic Empowerment Action Plan has explained other actions it will take to achieve its goal as well. One can access these actions through the World Bank website to learn more. Hopefully, after the five years are up, women’s rights in Jordan will have made a significant improvement and women will be able to contribute to the economy.

Sophie Dan
Photo: Flickr