Women's Rights in South America
Women’s rights throughout the last century have achieved huge strides. All over the world, women have fought for the right to vote, to go to school and to express themselves. This timeline of women’s rights in South America explores the most pivotal moments for it during the past 150 years. Before even having the right to vote, women have launched movements, wrote publications and protested governments, all to ensure that others would hear their voices. 

Timeline of Women’s Rights in South America

1883: Elvira García y García pioneered the path for women’s rights in South America before feminism was a word. She created the girls’ school, Liceo Peruano, where she brought education to countless young girls across Peru. Through this, she tore down traditional gender barriers and inspired girls to obtain an education.

1919: Bertha Maria Júlia Lutz and another woman founded the League for the Intellectual Emancipation of Women, which was an organization aimed at addressing the inability for women to vote. This historic organization fought for voting rights and the right for women to work across Brazil without their husband’s authorization. Lutz relentlessly tackled key issues until obtaining the right in 1932. Further, she successfully worked to obtain international women’s rights at the U.N. Charter at San Francisco Conference on International Organizations in 1945.

1938: Julia de Burgos, a Puerto Rican writer, released a controversial collection of poetry on social justice issues. The poems discussed slavery, colonialism and women’s rights in South America; after the first publication, she went on to write about feminist theory. One main topic of her works was the idea that motherhood and womanhood were not synonymous. These works continued to live through the movement and eventually inspired American Latina Feminist creators like Mariposa, Andrea Arroyo, Luzma Umpierre, Rosario Ferré and Yasmin Hernandez.

1945: Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, or Gabriela Mistral, was the first Latin American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature as a Chilean woman. She was also passionate about education, becoming a school teacher by the young age of 15. One of the primary ways she fought for women’s rights in South America was by ensuring that girls had access to quality education.

1946: Felisa Rincón de Gautier became mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, becoming the first female mayor of a capital city in the Americas. She fought for women’s rights in South America with a strong belief that all women should have the right to vote and have the opportunity to be active in politics. She continued to engage in the movement throughout her life, even at the age of 95.

1969: María Jesús Alvarado Rivera was the first modern champion of women’s rights in the country, as honored by The National Council of Women of Peru. Throughout her life, she fought for women’s rights in South America by educating the public on women’s suffrage. She too worked to ensure education for young girls across the country.

1999: All of these brilliant women’s activities prompted the Venezuelan government to develop a new constitution, aligning with a majority of the republics in the Western Hemisphere. It explicitly stated that all citizens, regardless of gender, have social, political and economic rights. The Assembly of Social Movements also recognized and addressed domestic abuse, sexual harassment and discrimination as issues.

Since the turn of the century, non-government organizations have fought to continue providing opportunities to strengthen women’s rights in South America. Countless women and allies across the continent have made huge commitments to gender equality. More women are involving themselves in these movements and organizations than ever before, which is not only a cause for celebration but also a victory for the women who dedicated a lifetime of activities towards improving women’s rights in South America.

– Asha Swann
Photo: Flickr

How Women are Pushing for Gender Equality in Sudan
Gender equality in Sudan has experienced wide debate, especially in the last two decades. Many women across the country saw Omar al-Bashir’s removal from office as a victory for women’s rights. For years, women have been protesting to have the right to a fair trial, to play sports, to have freedom of speech and to have a position in politics. Here is more information about how women are pushing for gender equality in Sudan.

Sudan’s First Female Football League

Women in Sudan started branching out into new activities after Omar al-Bashir’s removal from office. Women across the nation started branching out into new territory: professional sports. Somewhere that women have been thriving is on the football field. Sudan’s first-ever all-women football league began near the end of 2019. Since the league’s arrival, protests across the country have called for more women to involve themselves in sports both professionally and as a hobby. The new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has vowed to make female participation throughout the country a priority in the government. Many across the nation believe that the numbers and volume of women protesting was one of the reasons for Omar al-Bashir’s removal from office. Allowing women to compete in sports helps break down some of the barriers that have been preventing gender equality in Sudan.

Women’s Rights

Conversations about gender equality in Sudan and women’s rights first made headlines in the early 2000s. Sexual abuse and violence were at the forefront of the demonstrations. The International Criminal Court indicted former President Omar al-Bashir and several of his staff for systematic sexual abuse in Darfur, between 2003 and 2008.

Women all across Sudan became increasingly angry with the government not reacting to alleged sexual abuse crimes that the police force committed as well. One report shows that government security allegedly killed 118 people and raped dozens of female demonstrators. Gender equality in Sudan also brings up arguments over the legal system in the country. Women across Sudan have also been protesting the legal system, which can allow women to face imprisonment for crimes such as wearing trousers or leaving the house without a man who is not their husband. One report shows that up to 40 women are in courts each day because of these laws. It is common for the women to have a trial without a lawyer, go to jail or receive punishment by public lashings.

Sudanese Women in Politics

The Sudanese Women’s Union began in 1952. Since its creation, it has been advocating for women to go to school, combating underage marriages, fighting for the right for equal pay between men and women and obtaining women’s right to vote. The Sudanese Women’s Union is not the only group striving for gender equality in Sudan. Another group called MANSAM, also known as Women of Sudanese Civic and Political Groups, is a large collective of non-government organizations involved in aiding women throughout Sudan. In total, the collective includes eight political women’s groups, 18 civil society organizations and two youth groups. Currently, one of MANSAM’s main goals is for women to represent half of the political officials in Sudan.

Women in Sudan are pushing for gender equality. They have been fighting for gender equality for decades, both in the form of NGOs and grassroots organizing. They are fighting to have an equal say in politics, in the law and even in sports. The changes that the country has made over the last two decades have been drastic and will likely continue as women’s voices grow stronger.

Asha Swann
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Southern Russia
Women’s rights are an international concern. The state of women’s rights in Russia is challenging, particularly in Southern Russia, where the police and government treat feminists as extremists. Southern Russia includes Adygeya, Astrakhan, Kalmykia, Krasnodar, Rostov and VolgogradThis article will mainly inform on the gender pay gap in Russia as well as violence in the form of domestic violence and harassment. Additionally, it will shed light on some solutions and progress that women and the government have made. The solutions that have been working highlight that it is possible to outline new ones and effectively fight for women’s rights. 

Gender Pay Gap

A significant topic when discussing women’s rights in Southern Russia is the gender pay gap, which is significant. Back in 2015, men earned $670, while women earned $452. The pay gap percentage is smallest in the educational sector, while it rises in the IT sector with a 33 percent difference. Still, Olga Golodest, a Russian politician and economist, says that the gap has narrowed in the past decade, when women’s salaries were 40 percent lower than those of men, compared to a current 26 percent.

Violence

In 2018, Russian journalists accused influential lawmaker Leonid Slutsky of sexual harassment through the #MeToo movement. The parliament’s ethics committee held a hearing, but later on dismissed the complaints, calling them a conspiracy that sought to smear Slutsky’s image. He never admitted any wrongdoing. A year before, in 2017, the parliament also decriminalized domestic violence as long as it does not cause any serious bodily harm that requires hospitalization. Many saw this move as a step in the wrong direction because domestic violence is rampant in Russia, and so much so that around 12,000 women suffer killing as a result of it every year.

Taking Action

 In St. Petersburg, two women opened Russia’s first exclusively female co-working space called Simona. One of the co-founders, Svetlana Natarkhoba, explained that she “got tired of sexism and mansplaining at work, especially when [she] found out that [her] male colleague, who worked just as much as [she did], had a salary up to 15,000 rubles ($230) higher than [hers].” Simona allows any female customer to stay and work there for only $2.2 per day. Another positive development has been the spread of feminism. Women have been demanding new legislation to restrain abusers and innovative ways to tackle outdated gender attitudes.
There is also a significant representative in politics for feminism named Oksana PushkinaPushkina became an elected member of United Russia in 2016 and is campaigning to get the law that decriminalizes domestic violence overturned. She is also seeking to get Russia to pass its first-ever domestic violence law.

The pay gap between men and women, as well as violence against women and how the population perceives it, are vast indicators of how women’s rights are doing in a particular place. By looking at Simona and the efforts of Oksana Pushkina, it is clear that some in Russia are fighting these injustices and obtaining results. Learning about the solutions that have been working shows that it is possible to outline new ones and effectively fight for women’s rights in Southern Russia and around the world.

– Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

Goals for Girls: Sports and Empowerment“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they can understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination,” said South African anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela. Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. More than 240 million people play soccer. At least 30 million girls participate in the sport. Goals for Girls helps young women across the globe score their own goals and celebrate empowerment.

Goals For Girls

Goals for Girls changes the world of young women. It started with a team of 16-year-old soccer players who opted to impact the world through soccer rather than compete at an international tournament. Now, Goals for Girls has teamed up with funding agencies, new partners and stars of the U.S. women’s national soccer team to teach and develop young women into agents of change through soccer. The organization aspires to give each young girl the tools to become a world changer.

Sports offer many psychological and physical benefits for girls and women. People who participate in sports benefit from a more positive body image, self-concept and overall well-being. In 2016, Saudi Arabia sent four women to compete in the Rio Olympics. This historical move represented a forward shift for women in Saudi Arabia. Before, they had faced discrimination and had restricted rights; they still do.

Maria Toorpakai, a Pakistani squash player, uses her sport to face and fight the Taliban. She gained their attention as she rose to fame. She moved to Canada to train, but she hopes to go back to Pakistan to bring sports to boys and girls. The U.S. women’s national soccer team is paid one-fourth of what their male counterparts are, but it is paving the way for the equal pay movement.

India

India hosted the first Goals for Girls program in 2014. The program tackled awareness, communication, teamwork and goal-setting. These are the four international summit pillars of Goals for Girls. The organization aimed to facilitate activities that help with issues the young girls faced on a regular basis like gender-based violence, child marriage and education inequality.

Child marriage has been practiced for centuries in India. In 2016, 27 percent of marriages were child marriages. Luckily, this is improving. Child marriage has decreased from 47 percent in 2006. Child marriage facilitates the cycle of poverty which enables malnutrition, illiteracy and gender discrimination. Child marriage also perpetuates a cycle of gender-based violence and education inequality.

Girls are more likely to be pulled from educational opportunities. Additionally, girls who marry young tend to have lower educational levels and are perceived as an economic liability to their family. UNICEF is working with the Indian government to forgo child marriage through girls’ empowerment, which aligns with the mission of Goals for Girls.

South Africa

South Africa became a country of focus after the launch of the program in 2007. In South Africa, the program centers around the aforementioned international pillars, but the activities are tailored toward issues plaguing girls in South Africa like HIV, teenage pregnancy and education inequality.

There have been strides made in recent years to combat the HIV epidemic. Despite having the largest antiretroviral treatment program globally, South Africa still has the highest prevalence of HIV in the world. Poverty, along with gender-based violence and gender inequality, perpetuates the discrepancy between gender and HIV rates. In 2016, South Africa implemented the “She Conquers” campaign to increase economic opportunities for women, prevent gender-based violence and keep girls in school.

Sports have been a platform for change for many women on a global scale. Goals for Girls is working to make that change even stronger. It is providing girls with education, teamwork building skills and important life skills. Its ultimate goal is women’s equality.

Gwendolin Schemm
Photo: Flickr

Support Women in PovertyHelping those in need begins with the basics. The same is true when it comes to helping women in poverty. There are simple, actionable ways to change the lives of these marginalized groups. Becoming mindful consumers, giving to reputable charities and raising an impactful voice are ways to support women in poverty.

Mindful Consumption

One should be mindful of where their purchases come from when they purchase food, drink or clothing. Becoming a conscious consumer can directly support women in poverty. It is a simple lifestyle choice that results in purposeful outcomes.

Many jobs and markets exploit women by giving women unfair prices for the goods they produce or work in unsafe environments. Fairtrade is one of the leading establishments coming together to ensure women around the world are not taken advantage of. This cooperative set forth stringent standards on what qualifies as responsibly sourced goods. Items that qualify carry the “Fairtrade Mark,” which allows consumers to know they are spending money where it counts the most.

The sourcing of general products may originate from human trafficking rings. In these rings, forced labor produces goods. When consumers purchase items that have unethical roots, they inadvertently fund those crimes to continue. More than 70 percent of individuals that endure trafficking are females and they must work under horrifying conditions without pay. Consumers can download and use applications like Free2Work, which informs the public of the behind-the-scenes of where their money goes.

Charity

Financially supporting nonprofits with missions to uplift women out of poverty is crucial. Various reputable nonprofits focus on a wide range of obstacles that women face. A core issue is making sure these women have the available resources necessary to receive an education. Funding for schools in impoverished rural areas is one battle. However, females encounter other challenges that cause them to miss or stop attending school altogether.

Girls around the world who lack access to menstrual education and products miss at least one week of schooling every month during her period. This holds girls back and can lead to them dropping out of school altogether. The organization AFRIpads recognizes this crisis and has made it its mission to address it. AFRIpads supplies reusable menstruation pads to regions where girls do not have access to sanitary products. With this simple and effective solution, many girls can attend class no matter the time of the month. Small donations to a cause like AFRIpad’s will help the continued support of women in poverty.

Another reason girls drop out of school is due to unplanned pregnancies. Nonprofits like Global Health Partnerships (GHP) prioritize providing birth control to women and empowering family planning. When The Borgen Project had a chance to speak with the Vice President of GHP, Dr. Ruth O’Keefe, she spoke about the impact that providing Depo shots to villages in Kenya makes. “I’ve never seen a calendar in anyone’s house, but they all know exactly when it’s time to get their next shot,” she said. It is evident that GHP has empowered women to utilize family planning. Meaningful causes to support women in poverty like GHP’s become sustainable through donations.

Voice

When it comes to fighting for the underdog, every voice matters. Writing to members of Congress lets leaders know how significant funding for vital poverty acts is. Breaking the cycle of poverty starts at the education level. Providing this betterment opportunity for women allows people to help them so they can help themselves. Reaching out to local and national media channels is another useful action. Sending messages to news sources is a great way to have one’s voice heard. The increase in coverage of women in poverty will raise greater awareness and support for this humanitarian matter, and in turn, bring more legislators attention to it as well.

Raising a voice to support women in poverty costs little time and effort. Meanwhile, it can change the lives of so many women. Straightforward actions support women in poverty. Voicing opinions on this issue helps legislators focus on this matter. Financially supporting those who make a difference every day in marginalized communities is crucial.

Ariana Kiessling
Photo: Flickr

10 Improvements in Women’s Rights in Bangladesh
Bangladeshi women are no strangers to fighting for what they believe in. In 1952, the women of Bangladesh fought against the patriarchal regime alongside their husbands for the recognition of the Bengali language. Below are 10 improvements in women’s rights in Bangladesh.

10 Improvements in Women’s Rights in Bangladesh

  1. Health. The USAID assisted in joint communication between husbands and wives regarding women’s health. Therefore, decision-making is mutual and focuses on the future of the family, including healthier pregnancies for both mother and child. Bangladeshi women formed NGOs to mobilize and provide door to door health services, family planning and income-earning opportunities.
  2. Agriculture. Bangladeshi women are not only homemakers, but they are also income earners. Female farmers utilize a new technology, known as the fertilizer deep treatment method. This method uses less fertilizer and produces a higher return on investment. Additionally, Bangladesh also encourages women to sell in markets and pursue other areas of earned income, such as culturing fish and shrimp.
  3. Gender-Based Violence. The USAID works to implement the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act of 2010 in training 50 percent of Bangladeshi women. Further, Bangladesh also supports grassroots efforts of social protection groups as well. Groups act as the ears and eyes of the community, as well as enforcing current human rights laws and providing resources to legal channels. Groups include social workers, doctors, religious leaders, teachers and students.
  4. Voting Rights. The country has set an example of women’s equality in voting. In 1972, the Constitution of Bangladesh guaranteed women the same voting rights as their male counterparts. The constitution also guaranteed equal opportunities, such as serving in parliament. For example, in 1991, there was the election of the first female Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia. Today, Sheikh Hasina holds the seat as Prime Minister. Furthermore, Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury holds the seat as House Speaker.
  5. Women and Children Repression (Special Act). In 1995, Bangladesh passed the special act for severe punishment for anyone guilty of forcing women to marry against their will, as well as marrying for dowry. In 2018, the high court also banned and prohibited the two-finger test; it deemed this test irrational and belittling to rape victims. Instead, the government adopted a more appropriate form of health care protocol in line with the World Health Organization.
  6. Education. Research finds that access to education and employment plays a positive role in helping women avoid becoming victims of dowry-related transactions. Illiteracy stifles the opportunity for growth and empowerment for women. The Centre for Policy Dialogue completed a study and found that if homemakers received pay for what people believe is
    non-work, they would receive 2.5 to 2.9 times higher pay than paid services income.
  7. Mass Awareness. Bangladesh also encourages mass discussion, debates and programs to bring awareness to gender inequality. According to lawmakers, mass public initiatives must include legislations and policies; this includes awareness that people teach and model at home.
  8. Working Women. Bangladeshi working women increased from 16.2 million in 2010 to 18.6 million in 2016-17. In 2017, the Gender Gap Index reported Bangladesh in the first spot amongst South Asian countries.
  9. Education. In 1990, the implementation of stipends exclusively for female students in efforts to end gender disparity for secondary schools occurred. Also, 150,000 primary school girls improved their reading skills. Participation increased from 57 percent in 2008 to 94.4 percent in 2017. Moreover, 10 million rural and underprivileged women in 490 Upazilas of 64 districts gained technology access. Bangladesh tops the Gender Gap Index in education in the primary and secondary education category.
  10. More Achievements. Bangladesh initiatives thus far include a reduction in infant and child mortality, poverty alleviation, increased female entrepreneurs and increased education and health. Other initiatives include strengthening workplace treatment and security for women against violence. There have also been income-generating initiatives to train over 2 million women at a grassroots level. Finally, Prime Minister Hasina created the Reserve Quota aimed at increasing the number of women in government, judiciary and U.N. peacekeeping missions and roles.

These 10 improvements in women’s rights in Bangladesh continue to set an example for other countries where inequality is extremely pervasive. While Bangladesh still requires significant work, these improvements bring more opportunities for Bangladeshi women to succeed in the future.

Michelle White
Photo: Flickr

Boglatech Gebre

Born in a small village in Ethiopia’s Kembata region, Boglatech Gebre was one of 14 children. Growing up, people described her as the average Ethiopian girl. She would help her mother with the chores and the cooking, help look after her siblings and would have to take a daily walk to get clean water for the family. However, unlike other young girls she grew up with, Gebre was secretly attending school. When she was growing up, females did not have access to education. Gebre received a secret education daily and soon she was able to read and write unlike other girls her age. She did this by excusing herself to fetch water in the early morning and having her uncle help her complete her chores. Gebre eventually received a scholarship to attend an Ethiopian school. Following studying microbiology in Israel, as well as the United States, she received her Masters and started studying for her Ph.D., leaving the program to return to Ethiopia as a women’s rights activist. Here are five facts about Boglatech Gebre.

5 Facts About Boglatech Gebre

  1. Boglatech Gebre was an Ethiopian Women’s Rights Activist. At the age of 12, Gebre underwent genital mutilation. Although the physical scars healed, the mental scars did not. This procedure was a key factor as to why Gebre abandoned her Ph.D. to become a women’s rights activist. Gebre not only focuses on ending the act of female genital mutilation (FGM) but is also passionate about ending the kidnapping of underage girls to become child brides.

  2. She Started a Charity with her Sister. In 1997, Boglatech Gebre and her sister founded KMG Ethiopia, based in Kembata. The letters stand for the phrase “Kembatti Mennti-Gezimma-Tupe,” which, in the Kambaata language, is a phrase that describes the power that united women have. People have credited KMG for saving 10s of thousands of young girls from becoming child brides. The charity has also essentially ended female genital mutilation in the Kembata region. In 1998, one year after Gebre and her sister founded KMG, the female genital mutilation rate was 100 percent, but by 2008, it dropped to 3 percent. The charity also focuses on providing women’s health services, because it opened up the first mother and child health center in Ethiopia. KMG also provides women and girls with education, livelihood and economic empowerment, information and health on gender-based violence, human rights information, environmental change and infrastructure development.

  3. Gebre was Influential in Passing Legislation. Ethiopia heard Gebre’s passion for creating a safe country for women. Because of her active role in speaking out for women’s rights, Ethiopia passed bans on issues such as child marriage and female genital mutilation. Ethiopia has also banned the practices of bride abduction, polygamy, widow inheritance and domestic violence. KMG persuaded Ethiopian courts to hear the cases of women, and the country has even hired female judges.

  4. Gebre and KMG have Received International Recognition. Since the foundation of KGM, Boglatech Gebre and the organization have won fifteen major awards. These awards include the Spanish National Committee for UNICEF’s International Award in 2015, the Bruno Kreisky Prize for Services for Human Rights in June of 2013 and the North-South Award of the Council of Parliament of Europe in 2005. All the awards the charity has received reflect its commitment to improving human and women’s rights.

  5. She has Influenced other Improvements in Ethiopia Outside of Women’s Rights. As mentioned earlier, KMG has influenced Ethiopia’s environment and infrastructure development. The charity has planted over nine million trees that are indigenous to Ethiopia in an act of combating the environmental crisis. Gebre and the organization have also helped build bridges throughout the rural area of Kembata, opening up ways of travel that were not previously available to the local people.

On November 2, 2019, Boglatech Gebre passed away in Los Angeles, California. Although her charity did not release her cause of death, people believe it was due to a car wreck from 1987 that left her with nerve damage. Since the accident, Gebre would fly out to California to receive treatment. Initially, medical authorities told her she would never walk again, but she went on to run marathons, literally and figuratively. People knew Gebre for not letting anything hold her back, whether it be nerve damage or her gender. These five facts about Boglatech Gebre show the legacy and influence she has left behind, but KMG Ethiopia plans to continue it.

– Destinee Smethers
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Living Conditions of the Muhamasheen
The Muhamasheen (the marginalized) pejoratively known as the Akhdam (servants) constitute a distinct community in Yemen that the broader Yemeni society consigns to the lowest part of the social hierarchy. Though Yemen has officially abolished its caste system, the legacy of centuries of discrimination persists today. Below are eight facts about the living conditions of the Muhamasheen.

8 Facts About the Living Conditions of the Muhamasheen

  1. Over 50 percent of the Muhamasheen population suffers from unemployment. Systemic exclusion from most employment in the agrarian sector, despite the community’s concentration in rural areas, contributes heavily to this unemployment rate. Muhamasheen workers compete for nomadic seasonal labor such as thrashing grain at harvest time. These deeply-embedded exclusionary practices cement the subordinate status of the Muhamasheen.
  2. Entrenched custom relegates urban sanitation jobs, such as street cleaners, to the Muhamasheen. Thus many urban Muhamasheen people encounter and treat waste products that higher castes view as contaminating and taboo. Inadequate compensation and the possibility of pretextual termination with little notice often awaits Muhamasheen sanitation workers employed by the municipal authorities in the cities.
  3. Inadequate housing, vulnerable to destruction by natural disasters, depresses the living conditions of the Muhamasheen. Rather than the solid and sturdy adobe construction characterizing traditional Yemeni home structures, many Muhamasheen reside in homes constructed from cardboard and thatch or even from sheets extracted from empty containers. Exposure to the elements, whether intense heat and cold or inundation during the rainy season, invariably characterizes life in these dwellings. Other Muhamasheen live in small and cramped concrete structures, the living conditions therein little better than those residing in makeshift cardboard structures.
  4. Southeastern Yemen’s October 2008 floods were particularly devastating to the Muhamasheen. In response, UNHCR provided shelters to Muhamasheen reduced to the status of internally displaced persons. The Yemeni NGO al-Dumir implemented this initiative, encompassing the construction of 100 two-room shelters, with financial backing from the Japanese government amounting to USD $300,224. Akhdam also received household items from UNHCR in the course of this relief program due to how flooding affected it.
  5. Regular exposure to the elements and inadequate access to clean water subject the Muhamasheen to increased health hazards. Respiratory and ocular infections and skin diseases all pose a greater risk to the Muhamasheen than to other groups. Muhamasheen children, many coming of age in lowland drainage areas or near landfills, are more likely to die of malaria and chronic infectious kidney disease than of other illnesses. Poor sanitation contributes to a high rate of infant deaths from parasites, while malnourishment worsens both maternal and infant mortality rates. The marginalization of the Muhamasheen limits the willingness of the health care sector to treat them.
  6. In 2014, a UNICEF study concluded that poor literacy rates pervade the Muhamasheen community. A survey sample consisting of 9,200 Muhamasheen households, encompassing 51,406 persons, yielded a literacy rate of one in five among Muhamasheen ages 15 and older. Survey data yielded school enrollment rates of two in four for youths between ages 6 and 17.
  7. In 2014, UNICEF and Yemen’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor administered a survey of 9,200 Muhamasheen households, which revealed significant inequities in education, sanitation, shelter and medical care. The following year, the government of Yemen began designing initiatives for the improvement of the social and economic standing of the Muhamasheen community. These ameliorative programs include the creation of family-targeted financial inclusion programs involving both the Social Welfare Fund Office in Taiz Governorate and nonprofit organizations such as Alamal Microfinance Bank. Other initiatives encompass enforcing the right of Muhamasheen children to attend school without discrimination and providing students with uniforms and school supplies.
  8. Testimony that WITNESS and the Yemeni NGO Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights obtained attests to the epidemic of public abuse of Muhamasheen women by non-Muhamasheen men. Out of this research, the organizations above filmed an award-winning documentary, “Breaking the Silence,” successfully spreading awareness of these endemic attacks. Given the Muhamasheen community’s limitations of access to the full weight of the justice system, such documentaries as “Breaking the Silence” play an invaluable role in revealing the systemic abuses contributing to the living conditions of the Muhamasheen.

The marginal living conditions of the Muhamasheen, a legacy of centuries of caste discrimination, remains a serious issue in Yemen. However, NGOs such as UNICEF have increasingly paid more attention to the community’s plight and designed initiatives to improve the living conditions of the Muhamasheen. These measures, alongside the awareness-spreading efforts of such organizations as WITNESS and the Yemeni NGO Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights, show that there is hope for the future of the Muhamasheen.

Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Advances of Somali women
Located on the eastern seaboard of Africa, Somalia is a country synonymous with strife and civil unrest, with a civil war raging on since 1991. The country has endured continuous hardship, and, as is often the case, women carry an unfair proportion of the burden. The advances of Somali women in recent years demonstrate the progress and possibility for the future of Somalia.

The State of Somali Women

Due to a combination of cultural and religious practices, Somali women always existed in a state of subservience. The traditionally patriarchal society grew worse in terms of gender equality as political tensions and divides grew in the 1980s and reached a state of full and outright oppression with the start of the nation’s current civil war. The average Somali women lives only 58 years, 16 years less than the world average. This is in large part due to the lack of medical treatment women receive. Somalia has the seventh-highest maternal mortality rate in the world and the ninth highest birth rate. The country’s lacking health care and infrastructure worsen these statistics. Somalia’s state of civil war and lack of a set government for almost 20 years caused nearly all progression to stop and fall back.

Somalia ranked the fourth worst country to be a woman. This ranking came from a poll of 213 women’s rights experts. It judged countries on the factors of poverty, violence, rape, human trafficking, lack of health services and a variety of other criteria. Cases of genital mutilation and child marriage are also extremely common.

Inequalities and Poverty for Somali Women

The nation’s impoverished state likely plays a large role in the oppression of women, with little work of worth for them to take on. Somali women often need to tend to children, the home and herds of cattle. This typically starts at a young age, which therefore excludes Somali girls from attending school. A great barrier in relation to gender equality in Somalia comes by way of political representation. Due to the constant oppression women face, very few Somali women hold political office, nor do they hold roles with any substantial power. In Somaliland, a region in the north of Somalia in the grips of a fight for its independence from Somalia, there are only two female members of parliament out of 86. Moreover, only one female minister out of the 28 currently holds the position. When Somali women do speak out against the bias of the system, they often face violence.

Even with odds bent against them, Somali women are fighting for their equality. The advances of Somali women largely go overlooked, but this may change. A visit of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed put the recent advances of Somali women at center stage. Somalia served as a stop on the joint UN-African Union trip to countries in the Horn of Africa. While in Somalia, Mohammed met with the African Union Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, Bineta Diop. The trip highlighted the strides Somalia took as a nation in the years since the bloodiest stages of its civil war, as well as addressing the progress and advances of Somali women in recent years. These advances lay somewhat in the abstract, more in effort and aspiration than drastic reform. Somali women fought for equal participation in elections, worked to redevelop Somalia’s economy and pushed against the rise of extremism.

Somalia’s state of instability leads to much guesswork when predicting what may be to come. However, the civil war that brought destruction to the nation seems to be in its waning phase. If the efforts and advances of Somali women tell of anything, they tell of the possibility to change, to grow and brighten the future with the better days to come.

Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Nonprofits That Empower WomenToday, the fight for women’s rights continues to pick up steam. However, many women’s voices around the globe are still not being heard. Fortunately, more organizations are taking up the mantle to ensure that gender equality remains a top priority when it comes to global development. Here are five global nonprofits that empower women.

5 Global Nonprofits That Empower Women

  1. Women for Women International
    Women for Women International, or WfWI, is a nonprofit founded in 1993 working with women from impoverished and war-torn countries. It assisted more than 500,000 women since and is currently situated in Afghanistan, Northern Iraq, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, South Sudan, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This nonprofit works to give women an opportunity to build a support network for each other and share their experiences while also teaching them new skills and resources to safeguard their futures. WfWI believes in empowering women in four different ways—economic empowerment, social empowerment, sustaining peace and responding to conflict. Outside of programs that relate directly to helping women, WfWI also focuses on “complementary programs” that center around men’s engagement in women’s rights issues, graduate support and community advocacy.
  2. The Malala Fund
    Malala and her father Ziauddin Yousafzai founded the Malala Fund in 2013 to give girls around the world an opportunity to receive a safe and quality education. The fund mainly focused its attention on countries where girls are least likely to have access to this kind of education, specifically in Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey. This fund targets three specific areas when it comes to ensuring that girls have an opportunity to receive a quality education. These are (i) advocacy, specifically in holding leaders accountable, (ii) investing in educators and those who are also fighting for girls’ education and (iii) giving girls the opportunity to speak for themselves and allowing their voices to be heard.
  3. Global Fund for Women
    Founded in 1987, the Global Fund for Women strives for gender equality and advocates for the rights of women and girls across the globe. It mainly fights for reproductive rights for women, violence prevention and economic fairness. For the Global Fund, women and girls around the world should always feel “strong, safe, powerful and heard.” This group specifically partners with “women-led groups who are courageously fighting for justice in their own communities” which allows these organizations to tackle issues head on. Since its founding, it has worked in 175 countries and contributed to at least 5,000 organizations that have similar values as the Global Fund for Women.
  4. Pathfinder International
    Founded in 1957, Pathfinder International works to improve the sexual and reproductive health of people around the world. While it participates in all aspects of sexual and reproductive health, its main focus is pregnancies and making sure women are aware of all options available to them. Pathfinder International’s mission is to try to lower the rate of women dying from preventable complications with pregnancies, help those infected with HIV and promote proper sexual and reproductive health. It operates under the values of respect, courage, collaboration, innovation and integrity. Pathfinder International is located in 20 countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt and Mozambique.
  5. Madre
    Madre is a women’s rights organization that specifically works with smaller organizations fighting for women’s rights in war-torn nations. It focuses on three specific issues. These are gender violence, climate justice and “Just Peace,” which is meant to provide women with an opportunity to recover from the experiences they had and work toward a more peaceful world. In order to work with these three specific causes, Madre uses three strategies—grantmaking, capacity building and legal advocacy. These three strategies bring women into the conversation and allow them the opportunity to enact change, support one another and give them an opportunity to take part in policymaking. Some of the countries Madre reaches include Guatemala, Colombia, Haiti, Nicaragua, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Kenya.

– Sydney Toy
Photo: Flickr