development in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a country located on the frontiers between Europe and Asia. This largely unheard of, mountainous country has a population of more than 8.6 million with an average GDP per capita of around $3,200, placing it near the bottom of the global ranking. However, over the past few years, the GDP of Tajikistan has grown between 6 and 7 percent. This article will address five facts about development in Tajikistan, including the challenging areas and opportunities that the country faces.

Five Facts About Development in Tajikistan

  1. Geography: Tajikistan’s geography is impugning its development since more than 90 percent of the country is mountainous. If fact, much of the land lies above 3,000 meters in altitude. Subsequently, the population is largely rural and widely dispersed, complicating infrastructural developments. However, as a result of this landscape, the majority of Tajikistan’s electricity production comes from hydroelectric power. The system is still largely inefficient though, especially in winter months. Users reporting shortages up to 70 percent of the time in winter months. Recent efforts have sought to address the gaps in provisions. In March 2019, the World Bank agreed to finance the rehabilitation of the Nurek Hydropower Plant, which generates 70 percent of the country’s energy demand. The rehabilitation should increase the plant’s winter generation by 33 million kWh, allowing it to meet winter energy demands and become a net exporter of energy in summer periods.
  2.  Government Policy: According to the U.S. State Department, Tajikistan is a country of ‘high risk’ but ‘high reward’ investment. Despite its consistent low ranking on the Freedom House Index, which measures civil and political rights, continual economic reforms have increased its Economic Freedom and promoted more investment. These reforms helped Tajikistan officially join the WTO at the end of 2013 after the changes made in property and investor rights. The 2019 ‘Doing Business’ World Bank report stated that Tajikistan had increased its rank overall by taking steps to participate more in the regional economy. Through the Simplified Customs Corridor agreement, Tajikistan has improved customs clearance with Uzbekistan. Based on the international classification, the poverty rate is projected to fall to 12.5 percent by 2020.
  3. Labor Migration: Due to the lack of employment opportunities, Tajikistan has a negative net migration rate, meaning that there are more people leaving the country than entering it. Most of the migrants are working-age men going to work in Russia. In 2015, worker’s remittances accounted for around 29 percent of Tajikistan’s GDP. But, this dependency means that Tajikistan’s fiscal health dropped from 95.8 percent to 60.3 percent in the period from 2016 to 2017 as a result of Russia’s economic downturn. To increase the opportunities for the workforce, the International Labour Organization has launched a pilot project aimed at strengthening National Skills Development systems as part of the ‘G20 Training Strategy’. Although it only has 1,460 participants so far, the updated frameworks could help increase Tajikistan’s current low productivity.
  4. Gender Disparities: In Tajikistan, women face a number of barriers to succeed economically, gain access to education, find employment or receive healthcare. They receive fewer years of schooling than their male counterparts and earn approximately 60 percent of what men do. However, with a migrating male workforce, female participation in the economy could be beneficial for economic development in Tajikistan. With help from funding from U.N. Women, the Tajikistan National Business Association for Women runs a number of training programs to improve employment opportunities for women. From 2015 to 2018, 3,200 women received training in business and 2,200 women received training in vocational areas. The organization also runs a bi-annual women-only entrepreneurship competition, which received more than 700 applications in both 2016 and 2018.
  5. Border Problems: Tajikistan shares a 750-mile long border with Afghanistan, one of the world’s largest opium producers. Consequently, illegal drug trafficking in Tajikistan is estimated to be worth around 30 percent of the GDP. However, the Project for Livelihood Improvement in Tajik-Afghan Cross-border Areas (LITACA) is one of a number of projects seeking to enhance cross-border cooperation between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, especially for women entrepreneurs. The Government of Japan finances this initiative, and the UNDP Tajikistan implements it in order to add stability and security to the region and ease border tensions. This program introduced around 25 socio-economic projects between 2014 and 2017, boosting economic growth to 45,000 people on both sides of the border. The project improved direct access to “schools, hospitals, irrigation, drinking water, energy supply, roads and bridges” for more than 388,000 people.

Tajikistan faces a number of barriers to its economic development. However, these five facts about development in Tajikistan show that important work is being done. There are many opportunities for growth. Economic reforms and continued investment could change the lives of the hundreds of thousands affected by poverty.

Holly Barsham
Photo: Unsplash

Womenkind WorldwideInternational organization Womankind Worldwide is working to unify gender equality campaigns globally.
To achieve its aims, Womankind Worldwide teams up with local organizations to create action plans that will help meet the local needs as well as follow cultural traditions. By partnering with local organizations and movements, it can quickly identify the needs of the community and strategies on how best to interact with the social and political climate.

Womankind Worldwide

Womankind Worldwide has finely tuned its approach over the past three decades based on what is most effective and what will create sustainable change. It currently works in Africa, Latin America and Asia, tailoring its plan of action to each country with the aim of meeting three universal goals.

  1. End violence against women and girls in any and all forms
  2. Increase women’s rights for economic freedom and land ownership
  3. Ensure that woman have an equal voice in politics and policy decisions.

The organization has found that the goals are best achieved through three approaches. First, in collaboration with local partners, it creates a variety of projects and services to support and uplift women. Not only does the organization create shelters for women in need but it also develops workshops to help women uncover new career paths.

Second, it believes supporting and strengthening existing local women’s rights movements is critical to creating sustainable change. It works to support the growth of local organizations through technical support, communications, shared learning, advocacy and funding opportunities. Lastly, Womankind Worldwide works on an international level to create change. As a leading authority on global women’s rights, it uses its influence and expertise to ensure women’s development is at the heart of international advancement work.

Challenging Initiatives

Part of its commitment to creating change on international levels is challenging initiatives that may be approaching the problem incorrectly. Womenkind Worldwide has continually argued that the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, launched in 2017 and managed by the World Bank, ultimately undercuts economic growth for women.

Through the initiative, the World Banks targets so-called “high-growth women,” which Womankind Worldwide argues will most likely not reach the poorest women. It also argues that it undermines women’s access to “decent work” and fails to address the structural issues causing the disparity. It continues to emphasize the importance of expanding the program and digging deeper into the roots of the problem.

Connecting Women

Womenkind Worldwide is currently focusing on strengthening Women’s rights movements across Africa by connecting them. It has partnered up with the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), the National Association for Women’s Action in Development (NAWAD) and local legal organizations to develop legislation promoting equality and access.

In 2017-18, Womankind Worldwide directly benefited 103, 705 women and indirectly supported more than 12.7 million women. It currently focuses on Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe with smaller programs also in Tanzania Zambia, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone. In Ethiopia, Womankind Worldwide has given more than 2,000 women business training, provided more than 3,500 women with legal aid and supported the education of 4,000 girls.

Womankind Worldwide believes that long-term collaboration is the most effective way to create lasting change, but small steps can make significant changes for individuals. For many women, the spaces created by Womankind Worldwide and their partners are the first time women are brought together and asked what difference they want to see. As many organizations look to implement short term solutions or projects for women, Womankind Worldwide is looking to change the way they interact with their world.

Carly Campbell
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Patriarchy
While poverty and patriarchy may seem like separate issues, the two connect deeply. As long as poverty exists, women’s rights and livelihoods will suffer. Likewise, women’s oppression leads to their inability to contribute to the economy and prevents a family’s escape from cycles of poverty. Here are some examples from around the world of poverty and patriarchy reinforcing each other, and some ways humanitarian aid can improve these situations.

Microcredit in Bangladesh Has Left Millions of Women At High Risk For Domestic Violence

From the 1980s to the mid-2000s, people thought that micro-loans would be the future of international development. In Bangladesh, most of these loans went to women on the belief that women could handle money more responsibly than their male counterparts. They received a small amount of money to invest in materials to start a business and earn an independent livelihood in order to bring their families financial stability. Unfortunately, when these women were unsuccessful at lifting their families out of poverty and their families plunged into greater debt as a result of the loans, they often suffered spousal abuse. For other women, as soon as they received the money, the men and their families took it and used it, leaving them to pay off the loans by themselves. As a whole, micro-credit has not had the intended impact on the people of Bangladesh that the international community once hoped for, and rates of violence against women have climbed, increasing the correlation between poverty and patriarchy

Solution: Investing in women’s education will provide them with the knowledge they need to become financially independent and ensure greater legal protection for victims of domestic violence could greatly combat this issue.

Poverty As a Weapon Against Women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Sixty-one percent of women living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo live in poverty, compared to only fifty-one percent of men. This is because people have systematically excluded women from peace-building efforts in the country. Because there are no women’s voices at the decision-making table, countries set policies that prioritize men, often at women’s expense. Disturbingly, women’s rights activists in the country are often a target for violence. Many think that those who advocate for women-centered poverty-relief efforts are distracting from larger issues within the country.

Solution: Studies that researchers conducted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo demonstrate that in areas with high levels of poverty, there are high levels of violence against women. Providing food security, as well as funding institutions and organizations to empower women, are important steps in relieving both poverty and oppression in the DRC.

Time Poverty Makes it Nearly Impossible for Indian Women to Contribute to the Economy

In India, the average man works seven hours per day. Although women usually work for nine hours a day, the vast majority of their labor is unpaid housework and childminding. This means that they have little time to earn any outside wages, and therefore, remain financially dependent on the men in their families.  The power dynamic that this situation creates is extremely dangerous. Women lose any agency they may have because they depend on their fathers, husbands or brothers for everything. This means that they have no power to go against their male relative’s wills. It also hurts the Indian economy, as women have little ability to contribute to it.

Solution: In rural India, women spend upwards of four hours each day gathering fuel and cleaning utensils to cook with. Providing them with solar or electric cookers could save them three hours of unpaid labor, giving them more time to do what they want to do or contribute to the economy as an untapped workforce.

These examples display just how poverty and patriarchy intertwine and push women and their families into poverty. If women could gain an education, receive food security or use alternative cooking equipment to limit labor, they might be able to improve their situation and lift themselves out of poverty.

Gillian Buckley
Photo: Wikimedia

Live in For Women
Where in the world do women have the most opportunities? One must consider many factors when evaluating a country’s appeal to women. Gender equality, women’s rights, equal pay, the poverty rate for women, the rate of education for women and more specific issues like paid parental leave all play a significant role in building an egalitarian society. The following five countries are the best countries to live in for women.

Sweden

The Swedish government has declared itself a feminist government, setting forth a nation-wide standard of gender equality. Gender equality in Sweden goes beyond equality of opportunities and extends into ensuring equal qualities of life to ensure a positive future for Sweden. Workplace gender discrimination has been illegal beginning in 1980 and Swedish legislation further developed gender equality when the Swedish Discrimination Act passed in 2009. This law states that all employers and businesses must take active steps to ensure the existence of equality between women and men and the absence of harassment in the workplace. In 2017, the law expanded to include the prevention of all harassment, not only harassment on the basis of gender. Notably, Sweden’s legislation prevents discrimination against individuals seeking to take parental leave, the absence of which causes a major financial burden on families worldwide. These policies ensure that women, whether single or married, mothers or not, receive protection against all major forms of harassment. A telling fact of the extent of gender equality in Sweden is the percentage of women comprising Swedish parliament and cabinet – 46 and 50 percent, respectively.

Denmark

Women in Denmark integrate incredibly into the workplace, as women generally maintain jobs outside of their homes. With a generous parental leave policy, women are able to raise families while working without worrying about maintaining income. Similar to women in Sweden, Danish women have respect and can participate in government affairs, with 40 percent of Swedish parliament being female. According to a 2016 survey that the U.S. News and World Report conducted, Denmark is the number one country in the world for women to live in. Respondents considered five factors including safety, progressiveness, income equality and gender inequality.

Canada

Canadians have ample legislation to preserve the presence of equality for women and men. Previously, Canadian women did not experience such egalitarianism, and the government of Canada has made tremendous strides in bettering the country for women. In 2015, Justin Trudeau famously appointed an equal number of males and females to his cabinet, setting forth a precedent for his time in office. Canadian women receive protection from discrimination through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Women are, on average, more educated than men in Canada, indicating definite equality when it comes to educational opportunities. However, Candian women still experience the wage gap and income inequalities in the workplace. Canadians claim that these issues are the largest and greatest obstacles standing in the way of true equality in Canada.

Norway

In 2014, the Constitution of Norway expanded to include more human rights, including the Equality and Anti-Discriminatory Act. This act improved the status and rights of women and minorities and was necessary due to violence against women and the segregation of men and women in the workplace. In 2016, the Government of Norway signed a new plan into action that would take steps to further women’s rights and gender inequality. The Action Plan for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in Foreign and Development Policy focused on five different goals, including equal participation for men and women in politics, full economic rights for women to participate in the labor workforce and inclusive education programs for all children, male or female. These policies contribute to why Norway is on the list for top countries for women to live in.

The Netherlands

Prior to 1956, women in the Netherlands automatically lost their job as soon as they married. This fact is hard to fathom when compared to the state of women’s rights and gender equality of the Scandinavian country today. Dutch law legally prevents discrimination and explicitly bans any type of inequality in men’s rights and women’s rights. However, a closer look into the Netherlands reveals that the country is not exactly a perfect place to live for women. For example, though men and women have close to equal levels of education, there still exists a gap in the comparison of individuals doing paid versus unpaid labor. In terms of safety, 45 percent of Dutch women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. Governments in countries like the Netherlands have had to implement new platforms and legislation to ensure that citizens feel safer in favor of true gender equality.

These best countries for women to live in concentrate in North America and Scandinavia. The top 10 list also includes Finland, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and Germany, expanding the geographic regions outward. The United States of America ranks at around number 16, appearing lower on the list due to crippling income inequality. Additionally, some regions in the world provide very dangerous environments for women, including the Middle East and Asia in countries such as Afghanistan and India.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr

end female genital mutilationThe international agencies UNICEF and UNFPA are now in their second year of Phase III of their joint campaign to end female genital mutilation (FGM). While this human rights violation receives less coverage than many other plights affecting the world’s poor, the world’s leaders have come together in recent years to agree on the need to end female genital mutilation. Complete elimination of FGM is recognized as part of the Sustainable Development Goals the global community hopes to reach by 2030.

The Issue at a Glance

The UNFPA defines FGM as “any procedure involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genitals for non-medical reasons.” Affecting 200 million women and girls today in 30 countries, FGM can take the form of a clitoridectomy, infibulation—a way of surgically sealing the vaginal opening—excision, or other damage to the genital area.

While FGM is most prevalent in Africa, it is widely practiced in parts of Asia and the Middle East as well. Egypt and Somalia have among the highest rates in the world, where over 90 percent of girls undergo FGM. In Indonesia and some Asian countries, FGM is so standardized that hospitals expect to perform it on all newborn girls.

Why FGM Should Be Stopped

Part of what makes FGM a human rights violation is that this treatment is typically done to girls under 15 who are not old enough to offer informed consent. Many agree to FGM after hearing myths of what will happen if they forgo the treatment, and the youngest never agree at all—their parents decide.

Not only does FGM violate a women’s right to make informed decisions about what happens to her body, which has physical and psychological repercussions, but it has a negative impact medically 100 percent of the time. Even when done by medical professionals with sterile tools and cutting-edge technology, FGM is a dangerous medical procedure that has no health benefits and frequently leads to a multitude of health issues later in life, including urinary problems, painful copulation and complications during childbirth, as affirmed by the World Health Organization. In short, girls are put through a painful procedure that has negative side effects down the road because of a cultural bias that women can’t be trusted to manage their sexual decisions.

How UNICEF-UNFPA’s Program Works to End Female Genital Mutilation

The reason FGM exists in the first place and has been so difficult for aid organizations to combat is that it is ingrained as a cultural norm. Girls grow up knowing that they will undergo this procedure and that their daughters will too—breaking that cycle appears inconceivable. Unfortunately, the reasons girls are guided to FGM are entirely myth-based and built on a sexist desire to limit female’s use of their sexuality. Girls are told that unless they undergo FGM, they will be dirty, impure or ineligible for marriage by either a religious sect or often by their community. This means that the work UNFPA and UNICEF does to fight involves looking for ways to change the social expectations around FGM.

Some of the specific ways UNFPA and UNICEF’s Joint Program is ending FGM include working with social groups and media to spread awareness of the health and human rights concerns associated with FGM and “to change perceptions of girls who remain uncut.” The agencies have also worked with government leaders to design policies that prohibit FGM to discourage the procedure for legal reasons and with religious leaders to “de-link FGM from religion.” As a result of their work, 31 million people have publicly declared abandonment of FGM. The focus has been on collective abandonment, since when only one or two individuals in a community give up the practice, they face being ostracized by their peers.

UNFPA and UNICEF, along with countless other international agencies, have worked to end FGM one girl at a time. Unfortunately, the procedure is still all too prevalent in large regions of the world. Removing taboos that FGM is too religious or too intimate of a topic to discuss will be necessary for the fight against FGM, and so women may be freed from this violation of their bodies.

– Olivia Heale
Photo: Flickr

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's empowerment in nigeria
Hajiya Amina Ahmed inspires women all over Nigeria to become more involved in making decisions that affect their daily lives. She believes that women should have a role in decision-making processes concerning peace and security. Women in Nigeria are often on the receiving end of conflict situations, but people do not give them a voice in rectifying such situations. Ahmed is a voice that empowers women in Nigeria; she acts against the inequality that women face by empowering women and building communities across religious and ethnic lines.

A Long Way Toward Women’s Empowerment

Achieving women’s empowerment in Nigeria is a very difficult task, especially considering that Nigeria has been violently divided by sex for so long that even some women are against complete equality. There are prominent women in Nigeria who believe that men and women should be different, but equal. Some believe that women should have careers, but that men are the heads of the house and are in control of their wives in the home. Ahmed is counteracting the notion that men and women cannot have equal rights in Nigeria.

Some believe that men and women cannot be completely equal thinking as it will not end gender-based and may increase it. This is why education is the most important aspect of Ahmed’s initiative to involve women and girls in their communities.

Ahmed’s Work

Ahmed is the Executive Director of the Women Initiative for Sustainable Community Development in Plateau State, Nigeria. She has been working in peace and conflict transformation since the 2001 ethno-religious crisis in Plateau State. Since 2001, the recurring communal violence in Plateau State has killed at least 4,000 people.

Ahmed’s work involves countering this violence, specifically the violence against women and girls, as well as promoting their involvement in development processes. She believes that the more women and girls involve themselves, the more they will want to continue and be a voice in their communities. The end goal is for men and women to have equal voices in their communities. Slowly, but surely, she is seeing the difference that she is making as she empowers women in Nigeria.

Ahmed, along with her co-workers, also believes that the most important aspect of women bridging the gap between men’s and women’s roles in their communities is education. When women know what is at stake and what could be different about their lives, they are much more likely to take action and to become models of their communities.

The Nigerian Parliament

In Nigeria, men are disproportionately in control of leadership positions. Even though women make up 49 percent of the Nigerian population, they do not make up even close to 49 percent of Nigerian leadership positions. There are seven female senators out of a total of 109 senators and there are 22 female representatives in the House of Representatives out of 360 total. Nigerian women are trying their best to be a part of their government, but it is difficult when others force them into their cultural and religious obligations of ceding governance to men. Ahmed’s work is an important aspect in giving women more of a say in the Nigerian government.

Ahmed’s Impact

Ahmed is one of the many women who contributed to the Promoting Women’s Engagement in Peace and Security in Northern Nigeria Programme. The E.U. funds the program and supports the Nigerian government strengthening women’s leadership, gender equality and protection of women and children from violence. This program exists in three northern Nigerian states, including Ahmed’s home state of Plateau. Women that are tired of conflicts in which innocent people have perished are leading and carrying out this plan.

Nigeria’s government lacks female representation, but Ahmed, along with her fellow peacemakers, is making a difference by achieving women’s empowerment in Nigeria. Hopefully, more people will join the cause in making Nigeria a country that men and women lead equally. Peacemakers are the starting point of making Nigeria a country that does not divide itself based on sex.

– Megan Maxwell
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