living conditions in Qatar

Qatar is a small nation bordered predominantly by Saudi Arabia. The nation has the highest GDP production in the Arab speaking world. Because of this, living standards are higher than many other Middle Eastern nations. Yet, Qatar is not without its issues surrounding living conditions despite its perceived excessive wealth.

10 Things to Know About Living Conditions in Qatar

  1. Qatar has a forced labor problem. Migrant workers make up 90 percent of Qatar’s population. Under a 2009 sponsorship law, workers have to hand over their passports to their employers. Workers often hesitate to complain or report abuses because this makes them vulnerable to the whims of their employers. Workers pay thousands to recruiters and often arrive to find that they are being paid less than promised, but they can’t leave because they are under contract and their employers have their passports.
  2. Qatar has a unique single-payer public health care system and a new national health strategy that seeks to improve outcomes for those living in Qatar. Qatar has one of the most effective healthcare systems in the Middle East. It ranks 13 in the world’s best healthcare systems and is number one in the Middle East.
  3. Men outnumber women four to one. There are only 700,000 women in Qatar, a country of 2.5 million people. This is due to the massive influx of migrant workers in the country, which are mostly men trying to provide for their families.
  4. Women in Qatar are twice as likely to pursue higher education than men. Men often decide to go straight into work after high school. Although women graduate at twice the rate of men, they only occupy 31 percent of the workforce.
  5. Women’s rights are limited in Qatar. The nation is a religious and conservative Muslim country, subscribing to Sharia law. It is still a taboo for women to fraternize with men. Women in Qatar cannot marry without the consent of a male family member. While men have uninhibited access to divorce, a woman can only divorce a man on narrow grounds. A woman cannot divorce her husband in Qatar if she is beaten or raped by her husband because domestic abuse and marital rape are not illegal under Qatari law.
  6. Qatar has the first Refugee Asylum Law in the Gulf. Qatar recently passed a law allowing refugees to seek asylum in the country. In an attempt to improve its public image for the upcoming world cup, Qatar has abolished exit visas for migrant workers. This may be a good first step in resolving the countries problem with forced labor. The law offers freedom of religion and freedom of movement for refugees as well as giving them access to an education while in Qatar.
  7. It is believed that upwards of at least 12,000 workers have died in the construction of World Cup stadium. This is due to workers being forced to build outside during summer in a country where temperatures usually can reach up to 50C (122F) degrees. There is a law banning work outside from June to August from 11:30- 3:00, but this has done little to decrease the work-related deaths. The most support for workers has come not from the Qatari Government, but from the Human Rights Watch, which has been trying to get the country to provide better conditions for workers.
  8. Pregnancy can be a crime. Sex outside of wedlock is illegal in Qatar, and extramarital affairs are punishable by stoning to death. Doctors are even required by law to refer to any pregnant women who cannot prove they are married to the authorities.
  9. Half of Qatar’s fresh water comes from a desalination process, and chemicals are added to the water to keep it from corroding the pipes. Unfortunately, the water often lacks basic minerals and contains harmful bacteria and is often not potable. This water is mostly good for use in agriculture. Qatar has the highest domestic water consumption in the world. The average household in Qatar uses 430 liters of water a day. Crops are watered with water from aquifers, which are being used up faster than they can be replenished.
  10. Qatar has a significant expat population. People from many different nationalities flock to Qatar for a number of reasons, including job opportunities and fewer tax restrictions. Those arriving from nearby nations experience less of a culture shock than those arriving from Western Europe although English is still the second highest spoken language in the region. Qatar is actively promoting the influx of expats through reduced visa restrictions.

Life in Qatar is vastly different and often times more difficult than that of the Western World. Human rights abuses still occur every day. Women, by international standards, are struggling to find a prominent socio-economic role. Even still, Qatar has a few unique features, including its single-payer healthcare system, that separate it positively from other nations. There is clearly more work to be done in regards to living conditions in Qatar.

Sarah Bradley
Photo: Flickr

Women in ZanzibarIn Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, many women struggle to overcome gender inequalities. Women are more likely to be illiterate, uneducated and unemployed in addition to being prevented from owning land and lacking opportunities to obtain leadership positions. Some women are fighting back against these barriers, however, by helping themselves and others increase their social and economic status. Furthermore, supporting female empowerment in Zanzibar has become a priority for a few local and national organizations.

The Situation for Women in Zanzibar

Women in Zanzibar are “twice as likely as men” to be uneducated. This has contributed to increasing employment inequalities since an education is becoming more essential to obtaining a job. Approximately 32 percent of female youths in Zanzibar are unemployed in comparison to only 10 percent of male youth. Women who do have jobs often earn less with 73 percent of women being paid at a lower rate than their husbands.

Additionally, only 16 percent of women in Zanzibar have bank accounts, and 91 percent do not own land, making it hard for women to become economically self-sufficient. When women do own land or other assets, these things are often controlled by their husband or male relatives. Female empowerment in Zanzibar involves women gaining financial and economic freedom as well as increasing their social status. The following are a few ways women’s lives in Zanzibar are improving.

Female Entrepreneurship

In response to high youth unemployment, many young women are turning to entrepreneurship as a way to make a living. At least 47 percent of women who are self-employed stated that their reason for doing so was the inability to find other employment. The majority of those who become interested in entrepreneurship are women with 82 percent of working women being self-employed. Self-employment and entrepreneurship offer women the opportunity to become financially independent, which is difficult in the low-paying formal sector.

Entrepreneurship is difficult, however, and many women who are self-employed still struggle economically. According to the Ministry of Labor, there are initiatives that support female entrepreneurs, but these do not reach all women. The most marginalized women do not have these opportunites. Moving forward, it is crucial that female entrepreneurs receive more support from the government and NGOs, otherwise, many will remain financially dependent on male relatives.

Seaweed Farming

For other women, seaweed farming has helped decrease economic inequalities and increase female empowerment in Zanzibar. In coastal villages, women have long been sequestered in their homes, only leaving for funerals, weddings or to care for sick relatives. Seaweed farming was taken up by women from these villages as a way to enter the public sphere and earn money for themselves.

According to marine biologist Flower Msuya, “At the beginning some husbands threatened divorce if their wives went out to farm seaweed… But, when they saw the money women were making, they slowly began to accept it.” Women’s social statuses in the villages have increased, and many have helped their families rise out of poverty. The work has also been crucial for women who were divorced from their husbands as they need to be able to support themselves.

Solar Training

Barefoot College, an organization that spread from India to East Africa, is offering a training program for women in Zanzibar, teaching grandmothers and single mothers in rural villages how to be solar engineers. The program focuses on this demographic of women because many are often illiterate and lack other opportunities. Solar training is also beneficial to the community as a whole since rural areas often lack adequate electricity.

Women are trained at Barefoot College for five months after which they return to their villages to set up solar lighting systems for family and neighbors. This is a cheaper option for most families, and the price they pay helps support the female engineers who help maintain the solar equipment in their village. Salama Husein Haja, a single mother, praised the program, stating, “When I go back I will have status. I will be knowledgeable and I will be proud.”

Reclaiming Public Spaces

A project in Zanzibar called Reclaim Women’s Space is working towards female empowerment in Zanzibar by helping women overcome cultural and religious constraints that require them to stay in the private sphere. There are few public places for women to gather socially in Zanzibar, so women generally go to work and then return home, in part because they are also responsible for domestic tasks.

Reclaim Women’s Space seeks to give women spaces in the public sphere where they can meet and work together to solve community problems. One of their projects was the creation of a community center, which has become a symbol of women’s economic, social and political power. Madina Haji, an engineer involved with the project stated that the goal is to “empower women to stand on their own” by improving their social status and giving them opportunities to come together.

It is crucial that initiatives such as these continue, and that women who are trying to obtain more autonomy are supported by local, national and international organizations and programs. Female empowerment in Zanzibar will take time to achieve, but persistent efforts to help these women become economically independent in a way that is also personally and socially empowering for them are an important part of making gender equality a reality.

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Best and Worst Countries for Women’s RightsIn all parts of the world, at some point in history, women have been forced to fight for equal rights. The struggles faced by women vary wildly depending on cultural factors. But across the board, equality comes down to women having the same access to opportunities as men. Here are the best and worst countries for women’s rights in 2019.

Five Best Countries to Live in for Women’s Rights

1. Sweden: Sweden has risen to secure the top spot for women’s rights, and it is hard not to see why. Sweden is famous for its healthy work and life balance, in which women receive up to 480 days of maternity leave and free childcare. The country is also well on its way to closing the gender pay gap.

2. Denmark: Scandinavian countries generally score high on population satisfaction ratings overall. This year, that satisfaction rate holds true for women as well. Denmark ranks second place in the best countries to live in for women’s rights. Plus, it has consistently ranked in the top five best countries for women’s rights in the last decade. This country is especially ideal for women of retirement age with its advanced welfare system.

3. Canada: Canada is the only country outside of northern Europe to rank on among the top five best countries for women’s rights. While Canada also ranks as one of the best countries in the world to live in overall, Canadian women still fight to close the surprisingly stagnant pay gap.

4. Norway: Another country that consistently ranks high for women’s rights is Norway. Boasting one of the smallest gender pay gaps in the world, Norway also has a record-high number of women in the workforce—specifically in leadership or board positions—leading to even more equal representation.

5. The Netherlands: Dutch women are supposedly some of the happiest in the world. And it is believed this happiness is partially due to their upbringing. Findings determine the Netherlands is one of the best countries to raise young girls in. The Dutch school system offers age-appropriate sex education classes for girls, and the country has one of the best maternal health care systems in the world.

Five Worst Countries to Live in for Women’s Rights

1. Syria: Over the last decade, Syria has been living in a perpetual state of war. With gender-based crimes and violence at an all-time high, Syria is ranked as the most dangerous country for women to live in the world.

2. Afghanistan: Women in Afghanistan face extremely restricted living conditions and a high child-marriage rate. Moreover, a recent Human Rights Watch report found only 37 percent of Afghan women are literate.

3. Yemen: Yemen has long been a dangerous country for women and girls. The country has high sexual violence rates. Plus, women have unequal access to inheritance or child custody in comparison to men.

4. Pakistan: In Pakistan, the main threat toward women and girls is domestic violence. Domestic abuse and honor killings are prevalent. Honor killings refer to a man’s right to murder his female relative for behavior he finds unacceptable and dishonorable. Despite attempts to stop them, these killings still happen frequently.

5. The Central African Republic: Suffering from a long and war-torn history, the Central African Republic is still in the throes of armed conflict. And unfortunately, women are receiving the brunt of it. Sexual violence is often a tactic of war. Consequently, this tactic is inflicted upon women of all ages, with girls as young as 10 reporting abuse.

Well-known women’s rights activist Alice Paul said it best, “There will never be a new world order until women are a part of it.” In order for society to succeed, all members must benefit from equal opportunities. Thus, these best and worst countries for women’s rights showcase where it is best for women to live, as well as where significant improvement is required.

– Olivia Bendle
Photo: Flickr

5 Organizations That Empower Women
Women’s empowerment in the developing world is a major tool that countries can use to alleviate socioeconomic issues like poverty and corruption. Here are the top five organizations that empower women.

5 Organizations That Empower Women

  1. Women’s Global Empowerment Fund
    The Women’s Global Empowerment Fund (WGEF) is an organization committed to creating opportunities and addressing inequality, strengthening communities and families and using political, social and economic programs to support women. WGEF’s programs provide frameworks for women to create opportunities for themselves at the grassroots level. As of January 2017, WGEF’s Credit Plus Program provided more than 10,000 microcredit loans, which help women create and expand sustainable, viable businesses in developing countries. That same year, many of the WGEF’s clients applied for their fourth or fifth loans to further grow their businesses. Since its inception, WGEF’s literacy program reached more than 1,500 women in rural or poor communities, and 416 women were reached in 2016 alone. The literacy program takes place twice a week over the course of six months and costs $80 per person annually. Ten of WGEF’s clients, many of whom benefitted from the literacy program, ran for local and regional offices during national elections in 2016.
  2. Panzi Hospital
    Panzi Hospital is located in Bukavu, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since its founding in 1999, it has served as a general hospital for local residents. Still, the hospital has become a well-known organization that empowers women because of its efforts to help victims of sexual violence and women suffering from complicated gynecological issues. Panzi Hospital is now comprised of four departments: obstetrics and gynecology, surgery, internal medicine and pediatrics. In 2012, the team at Panzi Hospital implemented a project to provide cervical cancer screenings to patients, the first of its kind in the region. Patients at Panzi Hospital also have access to psychological care, socioeconomic assistance and legal assistance. From 1999 to 2015, Panzi Hospital served 85,864 women. As of the end of 2015, 48,482 of the hospital’s patients were victims of some form of sexual violence. Forty to 60 percent of the women treated at Panzi Hospital cannot return to their home communities because of conflict and the stigma surrounding sexual violence and reproductive injuries. These women are housed at the hospital’s aftercare center, Maison Dorcas.
  3. Her Farm
    Her Farm is located in Nepal and supports women in the rural areas at the base of the Himalayas. The organization’s mission is to provide women with the tools they need to be self-sufficient, including access to healthcare, economic opportunities and education. Her Farm is owned and operated by women and for women; the women freely farm the land and make all the decisions regarding Her Farm themselves. Currently, Her Farm provides employment and safe living conditions for 30 women and children, and they educate 12 children daily. As a result of Her Farm’s efforts, 300 people have access to an emergency center. Annually, Her Farm has 150 visitors.
  4. Orchid Project
    Orchid Project is an organization battling female genital cutting (FGC). FGC refers to a practice that involves removing parts or all of a girl’s external genitalia, or any injuries associated with the practice. Usually, girls go through FGC before the age of five, but it can occur at any time between birth and adolescence. The practice of FGC is largely cultural; there are no religious obligations associated with FGC. Globally, the practice of FGC impacts over 200 million women and girls, with 3.9 million girls at risk annually. Today, FGC occurs in at least 45 countries worldwide. The practice is internationally recognized as a violation of human rights. Orchid Project, like other organizations that empower women, focuses on education and advocacy to eliminate FGC. The organization partners with other nonprofits like Sahiyo and Tostan on the ground in countries where FGC is still practiced to host knowledge-sharing workshops within impacted communities. This approach recognizes that FGC is a cultural phenomenon and allows the members of the community to come together and choose to abandon the practice. From 2015, Orchid Project has held 12 workshops across Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Somaliland.
  5. Equality Now
    Equality Now is committed to changing laws to promote socioeconomic change for women and girls around the world. The organization’s network of lawyers and activists are currently fighting to end female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual violence, human trafficking, child marriage and gender inequality. In 2017, 11 laws that Equality Now had been fighting for were changed or strengthened. The organization also provided training to 50 lawyers and judges and its supporters sent more than 21,300 advocacy letters.

Without empowering its women, no country can hope to eliminate issues like poverty. These 5 organizations that empower women are committed to ending inequality in the developing world.

– Shania Kennedy
Photo: Flickr

Women Activists in Developing CountriesThere are many reasons for people around the world to use their voices and advocate for social equality. Here is a list of five women activists in developing countries.

Top 5 Women Activists in Developing Countries

  1. Kriti Bharti
    The founder of the Girls Not Brides movement in Rajasthan, northern India, Kriti Bharti prevented over 900 child marriages. Kriti established the Saarthi Trust in 2011 to pull girls from forced child marriages and to educate them on their societal rights. Bharti is both a social activist and a rehabilitation psychologist. She set up rehabilitation programs for the girls released from child marriage.The Girls Not Brides movement has forums that provide food, shelter and water for girls banished from their families. The forums also include educating girls on their societal rights and providing them with life skills such as sowing. Twenty-seven percent of girls in India marry before the age of 18 resulting in India being the highest country with child brides. The Saarthi Trust was the first organization in India to annul a marriage and annulled 31 other child marriages since 2012.

    Poverty is a leading cause that resolves itself in child marriage. Usually, families marry off their young daughter to help alleviate finances; the younger the bride, the lower the dowry (a form of payment). Gender norms also play a key factor in child marriages. A girl is of lower value in general. Typically, females are not able to contribute to society because of this, leading their value to be held in household chores and motherhood. Moreover, a woman’s value is upheld in her benefitting her marital family more than her blood family. Thus, the family will usually educate their sons rather than their daughters.

    The South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC) takes local action against abuse towards children by providing shelter with food and water and by educating girls in jobs. The Sustainable Development Goals stated that India is striving to end child marriages and forced labor by the year 2030.

  2. Malala Yousafzai
    Malala is now a household name across the world. The youngest person awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014; she now uses her voice and her story to speak for the women around the globe who could not. “I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls,” Yousafzai said.After she spoke out against education oppression towards girls in 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Malala in the head in 2012. Then, she began the Malala Fund. The Malala Fund now reaches six different countries; Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria. In each country, it recruits female teachers and tries to bridge the gap between gender disparity in education. It also educates teachers and students on gender discrimination, teaches girls how to speak about their rights, gives free secondary schooling and campaigns for new policies advocating for girls’ education. The goal of Malala’s Fund is to give girls “12 years of free, safe, quality education.”
  3. Holida, Suci and Ria
    The Yes I Do project of Indonesia began with three girls advocating against child marriage in their village and country. Holida, Suci, both 18, and Ria, 16, advocated that the abuse’s of child marriage is everyone’s responsibility to end. The Yes I Do project strives to prevent child abuse and forced sexual acts due to the selling of young girls into marriage. The project exposes the effects that sexual abuse has and the ways it affects reproductive health.Through village forums and discussions, the girls highlighted with their fellow neighbors that they have the same rights as boys do. Through their voices, child marriage cannot go unnoticed. Now, when a girl is forced or marries young, people talk about it. This gives fire to Holida, Suci and Ria’s campaign. The girls plan on making a movie to take to other villages around their own. “We want everyone to know why child marriage is wrong so that girls everywhere can achieve their dreams,” Suci said.
  4. Manal al-Sharif
    Manal al-Sharif, an Iraqi woman, co-founded the Women to Drive movement bringing awareness to the oppression of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia and bringing back the ability for women to drive. In 1957, Saudi Arabia decreed that women could no longer drive. In 1990, a large protest took place where 47 women drove around the country’s capital. Over 20 years later, in 2011, Manal al-Sharif started the Facebook campaign called Women to Drive to spread awareness of their oppression.Later that same year, al-Sharif and fellow co-founder, Wajeha al-Huwaider, recorded a video of themselves driving and speaking out against the difficulty of being a woman and commuting. In June 2018, King Salman issued a decree that Saudi women could obtain a driver’s license. Al-Sharif and the women advocating for years for freedom for their gender are making progress. Since the summer of 2018, women can take to the road, something they were not able to do for 62 years.
  5. Zahra’ Langhi
    The Lybian Women’s Platform for Peace (LWPP) is an organization that puts pressure on the government to give opportunities to women to uphold sociopolitical places within government and society. Zahra’ Langhi is a co-founder and feminist activist who started speaking out in 2011 when Muammar Gaddafi’s reign ended after decades of abusing his power over the country. The leading effects after the uprising resulted in 35 women joining together to form LWPP. The state of Libya is dangerous and unbalanced, especially for women advocating to eliminate corruption in politics. Langhi never gave up her voice and continues to speak for compassion and understanding to infiltrate her country. “We need to start acting as agents of compassion and mercy. We need to develop a feminine discourse that not only honors but also implements mercy instead of revenge, collaboration instead of competition, inclusion instead of exclusion,” Langhi said.

These five women activists in developing countries spread their knowledge to their fellow neighbors and friends. From halfway across the globe, people Western countries can stand next to these women activists in developing countries and let them know they have support.

Hannah Vaughn
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Health care in CambodiaThe Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia is currently experiencing its worst in maternal mortality rates. In Cambodia, maternal-related complications are the leading cause of death in women ages 15 to 46. The Minister of Health has created several partnerships with organizations such as USAID to help strengthen its healthcare system. Here are five facts about women’s health care in Cambodia.

Top 5 Facts About Women’s Health Care in Cambodia

  1. Health Care Professionals and Midwives
    USAID has provided a helping hand when it comes to educating healthcare professionals and midwives. Since USAID’s partnership with the Ministry of Health, USAID has helped raise the percentage of deliveries assisted by skilled professionals from 32 percent to 71 percent. The Ministry of Health was also able to implement the Health Sector Strategic Plan to improve reproductive and women’s maternal health in Cambodia.
  2. Health Care Facilities
    Between 2009 and 2015, the number of Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (CEmONC) facilities increased from 25 to 37. With more access and an increase in healthcare facilities, 80 percent of Cambodian women are giving birth in health care facilities.
  3. Postpartum Care
    The Royal Government of Cambodia renewed the Emergency Obstetric & Newborn Care (EmONC) Improvement Plan and extended the Fast Track Initiative Roadmap for Reducing Maternal and Newborn Mortality to 2020. This aims to improve women’s health care in Cambodia to improve the lives of women living with postpartum depression. It is also used to improve newborn care and deliveries.
  4. Obstetric Care
    Obstetric care has improved rapidly. According to a 2014 Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey, 90 percent of mothers receive obstetric care two days after giving birth, and three-quarters of women receive care three hours after. Intensive obstetric care has helped drop Cambodia’s maternal mortality rate significantly. In 2014, Cambodia’s maternal mortality rates decreased from 472 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 170 deaths per 100,000 live births.
  5. U.N. Women
    U.N. Women is working closely to help address the AIDS epidemic in Cambodia. The organization’s efforts to reduce the epidemic focus on protection and prevention. In 2003, 3 percent of Cambodian women reported being tested for AIDS. It has also been observed women in urban areas are more likely to get tested than those in rural areas. Ultimately, Cambodia has set a goal to eradicate AIDS from the country by 2020 through prevention and protection.

Cambodia has seen much economic growth over the years, but the money provided for health care is minimal. Consequently, it is difficult for the government to provide all services. However, there have been great strides in improving women’s healthcare in Cambodia. By fighting to better the lives of women, the Cambodian government has set a goal to establish universal health care by 2030.

Andrew Valdovinos
Photo: Flickr

Justice for Iraqi WomenThe status and protection of women remain a heated topic of discussion in international and national committees, particularly concerning justice for Iraqi women. Iraq’s government is aware of the violations committed by its previous regime against certain civil community groups. As a result, Iraq’s government has strived to drastically change how they aid and support victimized and often impoverished groups. However, Iraq’s strategy to reconcile these issues is unique. For example, China encourages its impoverished population to move to urbanized cities, and the United Kingdom encourages participation in its labor market. But Iraq seeks to acknowledge the voices of the victims.

In 2003, Iraq’s government and the International Center for Transitional Justice partnered with the Human Rights Center of the University of California, Berkeley to create Iraqi Voices. Iraqi Voices is a report based on data collected from in-depth interviews and focus groups. This data represents different perspectives of the Iraqi population regarding transitional justice. There are seven main topics of focus represented in this report: past human rights abuses, justice and accountability, truth-seeking and remembrance, amnesty, vetting, reparations, and social reconstruction and reconciliation.

Hearing Women

Iraq is working to have women and girls meaningfully participate in all stages of decision making. Programs and organizations like the SEED Foundation have worked to ensure this justice for Iraqi women. In particular, the SEED Foundation works to empower and engage the voices of violence and trafficking victims in Iraq. As such, SEED Foundation leaders and activists encourage the meaningful participation of women in sustainable peace negotiations and conflict reconciliation. Through their efforts, the Iraqi Parliament now has a quota setting aside 25 percent of seats for women in provincial councils. By acknowledging these voices, the Iraqi government is helping seek justice for Iraqi women.

Moreover, Iraq has taken strides to bridge the gap between policymakers and victims when addressing the needs of local communities affected by ISIS. To do so, Iraq is considering partnering with or accepting assistance from other nations. While international policymakers seek justice for Iraqi victims, they fail to address the real concerns of affected communities. Instead, they often focus on prosecuting the perpetrators. But affected communities also have more immediate needs. Therefore, this partnership and assistance allow victims of affected communities to participate in prioritizing and creating appropriate policies. Efforts to ensure meaningful participation in Iraq’s government thus bring about transitional justice. By addressing systemic failures, Iraq’s government brings justice to marginalized victims, including justice for Iraqi women.

Bringing Change

Ultimately, the changes implemented by the Iraqi government aid and empower impoverished and victimized groups, such as women. The inclusion of female voices in politics influences larger discussions affecting women and, as seen as Iraq, helps get justice for Iraqi women.

Jordan Melinda Washington
Photo: Pixabay

10 facts UkraineUkraine is a beautiful country nestled between Russia to the east and the European Union to the west. This precarious location has led to conflict and hardship for the people of Ukraine, but there are programs in place now to improve the lives of the citizens living in these conflicted regions. In order to evaluate the best course of action to better the lives of the Ukrainian people, it is important to understand these top 10 facts about living conditions in Ukraine.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Ukraine

  1. In 2014, the Euromaidan movement erupted in eastern Ukraine when President Viktor Yanukovych decided not to sign an agreement with the European Union, thus bringing Ukraine a step further away from joining the EU. Yanukovych was removed from the presidency in 2014, followed by political unrest, the annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014 and the outbreak of fighting between Ukrainian nationalists and Russian forces in the Donbass region of Ukraine. This conflict has resulted in more than 10,000 deaths.

  2. The conflict in Ukraine has resulted in 1.5 million internally displaced persons, according to the Ukrainian government. Despite this enormous challenge, the UNHCR is working to provide aid, including blankets, cooking supplies, clothing and other supplies to help these people survive the harsh winter. Understanding the top 10 facts about living conditions in Ukraine can help shed light on what more needs to be done to aid these displaced people.

  3. In the immediate aftermath of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, hunger and food shortages became pressing issues. The United Nations Food Programme responded by increasing its presence in Ukraine to provide food to the 190,000 people deemed vulnerable due to conflict or the inability to leave the conflict zone. The World Food Progamme has also provided food supplies to the region in case further violence and displacement ensue.

  4. The Roma minority in Ukraine are continuing to face discrimination without much aid from the government. This discrimination has culminated in violent attacks against Roma communities. For example, in April 2018, a nationalist group called C14 attacked a Roma community by throwing rocks, spraying pepper spray and tearing down tents. None of the members of C14 were arrested despite the fact that the group filmed their attack and posted it to the internet. Instead of punishing the group, the government awarded them with grants to hold “patriotic education” meetings in rent-free auditoriums. Further attacks continued, resulting in the murder of a Roma man and the robbing of 150 Roma families in Slovyansk.

  5. Anti-Semitism has become a devastating problem that is quite prevalent in Ukraine since the conflict with Russia began. After a Passover service in a synagogue in Donetsk, masked members of the Donetsk People’s Republic, a pro-Russian group that “claims to represent ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine,” handed out leaflets to the members of the synagogue that read that all Jewish Ukrainians should register with the government, leave the country or pay a fine. When confronted about the issue, the Donetsk People’s Republic denied they were involved and in turn claimed the Ukrainian government was guilty of anti-Semitism.

  6. Unemployment in Ukraine decreased from 8.30 percent in the second quarter of 2018 to 8 percent by the third quarter; although, the rate did increase again up to 9.3 percent. Although the Ukrainian economy grew by 3 percent last year, which is positive, it should be growing at a rate closer to 5 or 6 percent annually. In fact, the Ukrainian finance minister stated that, at this current rate, it would take Ukraine up to 50 years to reach the economic growth of its neighbor, Poland.

  7. Gender equality has a ways to go in Ukraine in the political, economic and social spheres. The Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum ranks Ukraine at 64 in terms of women’s income, 22 in terms of women’s education and 119 in terms of political representation. Women make up 55 percent of the unemployed population in Ukraine. Women make up only 9.4 percent of the Ukrainian parliament. However, the Ukrainian government does recognize this issue and is taking steps to promote gender equality. There is a new state program to reduce the wage gap through efforts to increase the hiring of women in better-paying positions and “combating gender stereotypes about female and male professionals.” Equal pay will also be a focus in order to reduce the wage gap.

  8. One major issue around in Ukraine is child marriage. According to UNICEF, 9 percent of Ukrainian girls are married before the age of 18. The issue is more prevalent in poorer, rural areas of the country where 15 percent of women in poorer households were married before the age of 18 compared to 10 percent in the wealthier families in Ukraine. According to the organization Girls Not Brides, “Patriarchal attitudes still maintain that a Ukrainian woman’s main role is to be a wife and mother. Some young girls and families support early marriage as it leads to the ‘right path’ in life.” However, the government has recognized this issue and has signed several U.N. resolutions to eliminate child marriage.

  9. Education attendance rates are high in Ukraine, although there are several institutional issues. According to the World Bank, there is very little gender disparity in primary school attendance. In 2014, 92 percent of boys and 93 percent of girls attended primary school. However, the World Bank also reported that “unofficial payments are common in education. […] schools collect money from parents for classroom remodeling and flowers or gifts for teachers.” The Ukrainian government has taken steps to designate 7 percent of its annual GDP to improving education throughout the country.

  10. Despite the devastation the conflict in Ukraine has caused for citizens, there are NGOs in the region attempting to provide aid to those affected by the violence. Hope for Ukraine is an organization that delivers aid packages to the frontline in the Donbass region. It has volunteers visit wounded soldiers in hospitals and holds after-school English lessons for Ukrainian school children through its Children’s Rescue Center.

The issues in Ukraine will not be easily solved, but hopefully, these top 10 facts about living conditions in Ukraine highlight the successes that several organizations have brought about and what still needs to be done to improve the lives of Ukrainian citizens.

Alina Patrick
Photo: Flickr

girls education in SyriaThe ongoing civil war in Syria has had a serious impact on many aspects of Syrian life. Syria once contained a highly educated middle class, but since the start of the civil war, this has significantly declined. Women have experienced a large reduction in their access to education. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Syria.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Syria

  1. During the 1990s, primary and preparatory schools were built to combat low literacy rates in Syria. Parents were legally required to send their daughters to school. This created equal enrollment ratios in primary schools for male and female students that reached around 92.61 percent enrollment in 1996. The war in Syria has drastically decreased opportunities for children to attend school, dropping the overall enrollment rate in secondary schools down to 44 percent by 2013 from 72 percent just four years before in 2009.
  2. Conflict in Syria has caused countless families to flee from rural areas to neighborhoods of 1070, Tishreen and Al-Riyadeh. These are areas where urban planning has worked to create apartments. A need for more classrooms arose due to a population increase and people taking refuge within these neighborhoods. UNICEF built a new 1070 school in 2013, the only girls’ intermediary school in the neighborhood, providing safety for students from the conflict in their neighborhood. However, in 2016, residents of the neighborhood fled due to an increase in mortars and bombardment. The school was abandoned and destroyed. This is common in Syria, where one in every three schools are damaged or destroyed, severely limiting student’s access to educational facilities.
  3. With 2 million children out of school due to the war, the amount of young displaced Syrian girls who get married before 18 has reached 41 percent. Education limits girls’ vulnerability to early marriage. However, with limited opportunities for girls to attend school, they have no way to learn the skills and obtain knowledge to advocate for themselves against child marriage.
  4. Regions controlled by Islamic extremists follow a curriculum outlined in “Women of the Islamic State”, a manifesto defining the role of women in society. This curriculum discourages women from attending institutions of higher education. It also supports a domestic-based education and marriage by the age of 16.
  5. Under the guise of an educational opportunity, young girls are often recruited for armed conflict. In 2017, 89 girls were recruited and used for armed conflict. Recruitment removes children form educational opportunities and puts them at severe risk.
  6. The Syrian Government has also worked to diminish the role of female teachers in the education system by denying the salaries for women teachers located in conflict zones. This often eliminates the primary income of a family and disproportionately affects young girls working towards achieving an education. Without female role models as teachers, young girls are often displaced from the education system, putting them at a higher risk for sexual and economic exploitation.
  7. Efforts made by the Malala Fund are working to provide technology that does not require internet access for Syrian girls to continue their education after seeking refuge in surrounding countries. Specifically, the Malala Fund paired up with Fadi Hallisso, the CEO of Basmeh and Zeitooneh, a Lebanese organization that works with Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Turkey. The organization works to expand educational opportunities for Syrian refugee girls in those regions. The Malala Fund and Basmeh and Zeitooneh have worked to create accelerated learning programs and cultural centers to assist girls in getting up to speed on the educational standards of the local schools.
  8. U.N. Women started working to increase skills building and educational opportunities for girls displaced by the conflict in Syria. Sixteen-thousand female Syrian refugees benefit annually from the Oasis centers created by U.N. Women. These centers offer 400 cash-for-work opportunities as well as skill-building training to improve their opportunity for increased incomes. Syrian girls are also benefiting from the “SADA Women-only Centre,” which teaches technological skills, provides language courses, offers counseling services and connects women with jobs. U.N. Women is also working to build advocacy and leadership by Syrian women. A meeting was convened in June 2018 where 200 Syrian women convened to discuss the advancement of women’s rights in Syria.
  9. UNICEF started working to increase educational access for children in Syria, providing more than two million children with textbooks, stationery and school bags. UNICEF has also provided almost 80 thousand children with informal education opportunities. UNICEF’s focus on educational access for young Syrian children reaches across Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey with the goal of providing equitable educational access to 1.2 million children.
  10. Countries with high numbers of Syrian refugees are actively working to lift restrictions for school enrollment that disproportionately affect young Syrian girls and implement systems that are accessible for Syrian refugees. In 2014, Jordan recently lifted the requirement for Syrian refugee children to hold a residency card to attend their schools. Syria also introduced a temporary education system that offers Syrian students an education taught in Arabic.

These 10 facts about girls’ education in Syria present the lack of access and safety for Syrian girls attempting to obtain an education in Syria and in refugee areas. Many organizations are working to improve the educational inequality for Syrian girls. These efforts are improving educational conditions; however, as the conflict in Syria persists, there is still a necessity for progress towards equitable education in Syria.

Claire Bryan
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Representation in RwandaRwanda has a higher percentage of representation of women in government than any country in the world. In 2017, there were 49 women in the lower house of parliament, which is more than half of its 80 seats, and 10 women in the upper house of parliament consisting of 26 seats. The high proportion of women in government came after the devastating Rwandan genocide of 1994, and the country has made significant strides since then.

A Shift in Gender Representation

The genocide in Rwanda marked a change in gender representation because, after the violence had subsided, 70 percent of the surviving population was women. This was a result of the practice of killing men and allowing women to survive as sex slaves during the genocide. However, it was not only the new gender disparity that caused an increase in women’s roles in government, but the country also introduced quotas requiring 30 percent of candidates for public office to be women.

It is important to note that the Rwandan government decided to increase the representation of women in government through candidate quotas in political parties rather than seat reservations in parliament. According to a study by Mala Htun published in Perspective on Politics, “Women and men belong to all political parties; members of ethnic groups, by contrast, frequently belong to one only.” By using quotas, the Rwandan government is acknowledging the bipartisan nature of women in government.

Therefore, the most efficient way to establish a higher representation of women in government is to promote their representation within political parties because they are a cross-cutting group, meaning that women have an active political presence across the political spectrum. This thoughtful approach to increasing women’s representation in the Rwandan government has resulted in record-breaking numbers of women becoming involved in political life in Rwanda and setting positive examples for young girls throughout the country.

The Difficulties Women in Government Face

The presence of women in such politically powerful positions in Rwanda has not come without difficulties. Many women face backlash from their families or husbands for sacrificing domestic work in order to become political leaders. In fact, Berthilde Muruta, Executive Secretary in the Rubavu District noted that “there are people who think that we come to meet men, or for other business, which makes it hard to be trusted by our husbands.” Additionally, female politicians in Rwanda are oftentimes not seen as equals to the men in similar positions.

According to Claudette Mukamana, a District Vice Mayor, “When people see you holding any of those [elected] positions as women, the very first question asked by everyone is: Will she be able to perform her duties? Is she capable of holding such a position?” Despite these difficulties, the presence of so many women in the Rwandan government has resulted in the passing of several key pieces of legislation to improve the lives of women and girls throughout the country.

These reforms include legislation to alter the Civil Code to allow women to have equal inheritance rights as men, equal pay, consequences for gender discrimination and harassment in the workplace and further prevention and consequences for violence against women and children. In addition, with 7 of the 14 supreme court justices in Rwanda now being women, new laws were passed requiring that both boys and girls must attend primary and secondary school.

Areas to Improve

A lot still needs to change in regards to the perception of women’s roles in society. Furthermore, there is still more progress to be made, especially in terms of violence against women. The Rwandan government performed a study that showed that two out of every five women ages 15 and older had been physically abused at least one time in their lives. As more women are elected to office, hopefully, more people will change their perspective in these areas and these statistics will represent that improvement.

The representation of women in the Rwandan government has led to significant advancements for the rights of women and girls throughout the country. Globally women only hold 21.9 percent of all elected seats in government. Promoting the equality of men and women in political positions in Rwanda and around the world is integral to solving many of the issues governments face. Although the system is not yet perfected, the world could learn a lot about the importance of women in government from Rwanda.

Alina Patrick
Photo: Flickr