Posts

Ghana's Economy
Ghana is a western African country situated on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. More than half of the country’s GDP comes from the services sector, one-fifth comes from agriculture, and about one-fourth lies in industry. Though the nation possesses many major resources, like coal and gold, Ghana’s economy is suffering from a high debt burden and inflation. Thus, working-class individuals and those in poverty suffer as the prices of common goods rise, making it difficult for people to purchase necessities. According to the World Bank, “Simulations suggest that, in 2022, nearly 850,000 Ghanaians were pushed into poverty due to rising prices and the loss in purchasing power.”

Inflation in Ghana

In July 2023, Ghana experienced a significant inflation rate of 43.1%, marking an increase from the previous four months. The primary driver of this inflation was the soaring food prices, with food inflation rising from 54.2% to 55%. Additionally, non-food prices also saw an increase.

Furthermore, Ghana is grappling with a historically high level of public debt, nearly equivalent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In response to these pressing economic challenges, Ghana sought and secured a $3 billion bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in December 2022.

Despite Ghana’s economic struggles, inflation has improved slightly since last year’s peak. In 2022, the cedi, Ghana’s local currency, lost more than half its value compared to the U.S. dollar. To cope with inflation, the Bank of Ghana increased interest rates, which hurt businesses and households that relied on borrowed funds. Consumers and businesses are still suffering from the ramifications of last year’s economic catastrophe.

Impact on Civilians

Citizens are facing heightened financial challenges as essential commodity prices continue to rise. Lower-income families grapple with the increasing costs of rent, school fees and food. Businesses, too, encounter difficulties as fluctuating prices for goods make investments more uncertain. This economic instability impacts various aspects of people’s lives.

Poor government spending has also resulted in mounds of debt. Government entities now owe thousands of contractors money, which puts those workers at a loss. For example, many teachers face months of back pay, making it even more difficult to purchase everyday goods. Inflation has also diminished consumers’ purchasing power, shown through the prices of goods like maize: 159 kg cost 300 cedis in 2021, compared with the current price of 650 cedis. Maize is a prime example of a staple grain in Ghana that has increased significantly in price.

Causes of Economic Struggles

There are many contributing factors to Ghana’s economy, but the nation was not always struggling. When President Nana Akufo took power in 2017, inflation decreased significantly from 15.4% to 7.9%. By 2019, Ghana had the world’s fastest-growing economy and was described by the World Bank as “Africa’s shining star.” That same year, Ghana’s budget deficit was reduced to 5% of the GDP.

Some argue that the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drove inflation. However, many economists attribute much of the issue to poor government decisions, including excessive borrowing from the Bank of Ghana.

Hope for the Future

Numerous organizations are actively engaged in addressing Ghana’s economic challenges. More than 24 aid groups, which include Oxfam, Christian Aid, Caritas Ghana, ActionAid and Debt Justice, have collaboratively called on international creditors to reduce a portion of Ghana’s debt. In a joint letter signed by these organizations, they highlight the direct impact of the debt crisis on the people of Ghana. Ghana’s substantial debt burden has led to inflated prices, which, in turn, have made it increasingly challenging for many families to meet their basic needs.

The U.S. is also doing its part to assist Ghana. In March 2023, Kamala Harris announced that the U.S. pledged $100 million in assistance. The government has also requested another $139 million from Congress for aid to Ghanaians. The aim is to put these donations into efforts to lower some of the costs of commodities like food and fuel.

While Ghana’s economy is still suffering, the fact that inflation is lower this year than last gives hope for the future.

– Lindsey Osit
Photo: Pexels

Aid to the DRCOngoing conflict and persistently high poverty levels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have spurred the active involvement of both non-governmental and government organizations in the United Kingdom (U.K.) over several years. These organizations have dedicated their efforts to providing essential aid to those affected by poverty and assisting displaced victims of conflict in the region.

The UK’s Involvement in the DRC 

The U.K. has for years been actively involved in the DRC to help protect those who are financially vulnerable and those vulnerable due to continuous conflict across the country. There are many ways in which the U.K.’s aid to the DRC has happened. 

Between 2014 and 2022, the U.K. actively implemented the ‘Supporting Peace and Stability in Eastern DRC‘ program, which yielded significant contributions toward conflict reduction and community stabilization in the region. Throughout the program’s duration, it allocated more than £55 million in funding across various critical areas. These areas encompassed civilian peacebuilding, conflict prevention and resolution, security system management and reform, rural development and active participation in international peacekeeping operations. Notably, the program prioritized the promotion of gender equality as one of its overarching objectives.

The New Humanitarian Program Aiding Conflict

In recent times, the U.K.’s aid to the DRC has continued. In May 2023, the U.K. government announced that it would provide a humanitarian package for the DRC worth £21 million to support the citizens of the DRC who have been negatively impacted by their surroundings. The conflict has taken place in the form of internal and external conflict, with regional tensions leading to the displacement of 465,000 people in 2022 in the Kivu region. The external conflict has risen through the political problems between the DRC and Rwanda. The U.K.’s constant support has proven to be of massive help to those who need it within the country. 

There has been continuous work by the U.K. government throughout the years. It has continued to work with the government of the DRC to create national strategies in alignment with government objectives. 

Non-Government Organizations

The U.K.’s aid to the DRC has also come from non-government organizations with success. ActionAid U.K. has worked in the DRC since 1987. In addition, it has continued its long-term program, especially in North and South Kivu provinces, focusing on preventing the occurrence of sexual violence and providing agricultural tools to help communities build and stabilize themselves to be able to produce. It has provided training throughout the years, teaching women about sexual health and the police and military about stopping sexual violence. Overall, Action Aid actively works to ensure that communities can sustain themselves. 

Aid from non-government and governmental bodies in the DRC tends to focus on the provision of basic needs and facilities, such as helping the education sector by encouraging more children to get into education, the provision of health care where many do not have access to it in due to the citizens of DRC not having the money to afford health care and the lack of health care in areas experiencing conflict. So far, the U.K.’s aid to the DRC has positively impacted the citizens of the country. 

– Christelle Wealth-Mukendi
Photo: Flickr

Feminization of Poverty
The “feminization of poverty” is the concept of social and economic factors that keep women disproportionately poor globally. It touches on how women experience poverty in more severe forms than men. It also looks into how poverty is on the rise among women.

Gender inequality is the most common form of inequality in the world, and as a result, it is one of the biggest barriers to alleviating poverty. The following are some important facts to know about the feminization of poverty in the world.

5 Facts About the Feminization of Poverty

  1. Millions of Women Live Below the Poverty Line: Estimates from U.N. Women reported that 388 million women and girls around the world would be living in poverty in 2022. For comparison, the study reported the number of men and boys in the same category as 372 million. It also stated the potential for the number to reach 446 million in a “high-damage” scenario.
  2. Women of Color are the Most Affected: Of the number of women living in poverty, 345 million are from Asia and Africa. This means the feminization of poverty spans across the axes of intersectionality such as race and ethnicity. But this does not stop at the global south, as women of nearly all races and ethnicities are more likely to face poverty than their white counterparts. In the U.S., 91.9% of women living in poverty are black, Asian, Hispanic, Alaska native or other races, while only 9% are white.
  3. Violence Keeps Women and Girls Poor: Women who have abusive partners or family members may be less likely to find work due to potential control issues. If they are able to find work, they may miss days and opportunities as a result of injury. For instance, in the MENA region, 35% of women experience domestic violence, resulting in Gender-Based Violence (GBV) accounting for a loss of 3.7% in the GDP, as women are also prevented from participating in labor. Women that are unable to work and earn a living have a harder time escaping their situation. Consequently, they continue to live below the poverty line.
  4. Women are More Likely to Get Low-Income Jobs: In the U.K. alone, a fifth of women are working jobs that are below the real living wage. This means that 2.9 million women are living below the living wage. In comparison, only 1.9 million men work low-paying jobs that place them below the living wage. Most recent estimates show that globally, women earn 16% less on average than their male counterparts. In Australia and New Zealand, the gender pay gap stands at 19.3%, and in India, it is 14.4%.
  5. Childbirth Impacts Career Progress: Less than one in five women in the U.K. return to full-time work within the first three years after childbirth, and 17% of women leave work completely after having children, compared to only 4% of men. This disparity in gender responsibilities results from various factors, such as poor maternal leave policies and the disproportionate burden of caretaking duties on mothers. This situation highlights how gender inequality affects a woman’s earning potential and ability to lift herself out of poverty.

Ongoing Efforts and Potential Solutions

Fighting gender inequality plays a significant role in ending poverty. U.N. Women, which emerged in July 2010, has a project dedicated to supporting women worldwide, training them to become entrepreneurs and start small businesses. UN Women has four strategic priorities that include helping women to participate in and benefit from governance systems, secure income and exercise economic autonomy. Its aim is to free women and girls from all forms of violence and enable them to contribute to building a sustainable world.

Other organizations like ActionAid and Forgotten Women are committed to delivering safe aid to help women out of poverty and crisis situations through training and awareness initiatives. In 2021, ActionAid spent £31.9 million on humanitarian and development programs globally.

There is still much work to do in the fight against female poverty. Nonetheless, several organizations are already working to provide women with the support and opportunities that they need to succeed. Supporting the ongoing efforts of active organizations, through awareness and community work, can potentially play a vital role in putting an end to the feminization of poverty.

– Safa Ali
Photo: Flickr

Charities Operating in Brazil
Between 2019 and 2021, 9.6 million people who were not previously impoverished fell below the poverty line. By 2021, 62.9 million people in Brazil (29.6% of the population) had a monthly per capita income of up to R$497. This was the highest level of poverty that the country had experienced since 2012. Although Brazil is facing a number of issues, such as homelessness and poverty, five charities operating in Brazil aim to improve the lives of the most disadvantaged citizens.

5 Charities Operating in Brazil

  1. The Favela Foundation. This organization came about in 2017 with the goal of, according to its website, “contributing to the development and growth of sustainable social and educational projects in the favelas of Brazil.” Essentially, the Favela Foundation provides various forms of support to grassroots initiatives working to advance education and improve social welfare in the favelas. The Foundation also works alongside NGOs to provide free English classes to people of all ages. Knowledge of English can help boost working and earning potential in Brazil. The Foundation’s main area of operation is in Rocinha — a favela located inside Rio de Janeiro and also the largest favela in the country.
  2. Catalytic Communities. This nonprofit organization is a Rio- based think tank and advocacy NGO. In short, this organization works as a news and research source that advocates for the well-being of the people who inhabit the favelas of Rio. This nonprofit plays a role in advocating for pro-favela legislation within the local and national governments by raising awareness and conducting research. Its most recent project is making a legislative proposal that would allow Community Land Trusts in Brazil. These trusts would help by essentially providing more affordable housing.
  3. Community in Action. Founded in 2004, this NGO focuses on social outreach with the goal of facilitating community development in the favelas through education initiatives and other projects. The organization has a large network of volunteers from all over the world. Volunteer opportunities include providing English lessons, assisting with child care, assisting with manual labor and urban gardening projects. With its plethora of volunteer opportunities, anyone who wishes to help has many options.
  4. ActionAid. This U.K.-based NGO has played a humanitarian role in Brazil since 1999. Most recently, ActionAid has made efforts to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Brazil’s most at-risk residents. It has helped vulnerable Brazilians amid the pandemic by providing food, hygiene kits and protective face masks to those in need. Prior to the pandemic, ActionAid focused on education for slum children, safeguarding girls from sexual exploitation and helping drought-ravaged areas to recover from extreme weather events and become more climate resilient, among other activities.
  5. Associacao Crescimento Limpo. This is a social services organization that is focused on the homeless population of Brazil. Located in a town outside of São Paulo, this organization provides services in the area of housing and job training. One of its most recent projects is a halfway house for people who are struggling with homelessness and drug abuse. Crescimento Limpo has made a positive difference by helping the homeless community in Brazil, with many success stories to prove it. One example of Crescimento Limpo’s success is visible in the story of Wayne. Wayne suffered from drug addiction and eventually sought help. He was later placed in one of Crescimento Limpo´s halfway houses. After recovery, he launched a new initiative with the organization called Caféla, a restaurant that provides jobs for unemployed residents.

Overall, through community initiatives, these five charities operating in Brazil are working to make Brazil a better and safer place. These organizations not only benefit Brazil but also contribute to the reduction of poverty worldwide.

– Timothy Ginter
Photo: Flickr

Address Period Poverty
Period poverty affects those who menstruate in both developing and developed countries. According to the United Nations Population Fund, “period poverty describes the struggle many low-income women and girls face while trying to afford menstrual products.” Period poverty also includes a lack of access to hygiene and sanitation facilities to properly manage menstruation. The World Bank highlights that, across the world, “an estimated 500 million lack access to menstrual products and adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management.” Furthermore, “1.25 billion women and girls have no access to a safe, private toilet” and 526 million females have no access to any toilet. Despite this form of poverty affecting women and girls globally, period poverty affects developing countries the most. In many developing countries, 50% of all females resort to using “items like rags, grass and paper” to manage their menstruation rather than safe sanitary products, a 2022 article by ActionAid said. For these reasons, campaigns for governments to address period poverty are essential.

Comments from a Youth Campaigner

Sixth former Ellie Massey is a former member of the Youth Parliament for Northern Ireland. Massey played an instrumental role in campaigning for Northern Ireland to pass legislation for the free provision of sanitary products. In an interview with The Borgen Project, she highlighted that there needs to be further progress on the scheme within universities. Many tertiary-level students live away from their families and are already facing student debt in order to access university education, meaning that “period products are a lot less accessible for them.”

Massey speaks on useful techniques campaigners can use when campaigning to address period poverty. For instance, writing a personal plea for politicians and lawmakers to address the issue as opposed to “generic letters” that flood their inboxes.

Massey detailed that within a personal plea regarding addressing period poverty should be reasons why it is the politician’s responsibility to make legislative progress on the issue and specific details on the actions the politician can take to help.

During her time of campaigning for progress in the realm of period poverty in the United Kingdom, she wrote a letter to the education minister at the time, Peter Weir, and reached out to organizations such as the Human Rights Commission. She also interviewed students that period poverty affected and included these personal quotes in her letter to give it more standing.

Massey said that advocacy on the issue works better via in-person meetings or Zoom as politicians can put a face to a name and campaigners tend to argue points better when talking face-to-face. Once politicians actually realize the devastating impact of the issue, most of them are happy to help, so it is just about getting the message across in the most effective and impactful way.

Campaigning for Change

Amika George is a British youth activist who at the age of 17 began the Free Periods campaign in the U.K. to address period poverty and its impacts on girls’ education. The campaign began as an online petition after George learned that students in the U.K. would miss as much as a week of school per month due to the inability to afford sanitary products while menstruating.

Speaking on the issue, the activist commented to Cherwell that “the existence of period poverty only came to public consciousness as recently as [2018] when reports of girls routinely missing school because they couldn’t afford menstrual products were thrust into the media glare.”

“What’s been depressing since then is the lack of any affirmative action by the government, despite outrage and horror that girls were using socks stuffed with tissue or newspaper,” George said. The petition called on the U.K. government to take action by providing free period products to students who are eligible for free school meals and to work toward addressing period poverty.

Organizations Addressing Period Poverty Internationally

The Gift Wellness Foundation works to address period poverty in the U.K. and beyond. In August 2022, volunteers and Dr. Zareen Roohi Ahmed, the Foundation’s chair, delivered sanitary products to Syrian women across six refugee camps in Lebanon. The delivery included 500 boxes of menstrual products as well other essentials such as “shampoo, soap and washing powder.”

Commenting on the trip to Lebanon, Roohi Ahmed said on the Foundation’s website that the Syrian women refugees showed inspiring “resilience and bravery in the face of such upheaval.” However, “no one should be without basic menstrual products. The children in these camps need their mums to be empowered if they are to have any future at all.”

The Gift Wellness Foundation also donated sanitary pads to Rohingya women in Bangladesh. This took place within Cox’s Bazaar refugee camp, which is “the largest refugee camp in the world.” The Communities Against Poverty (CAP) Foundation runs a women’s health center in the camp, where many women give birth. In fact, “60,000 Rohingya women and young girls have given birth in the camp after being raped in Myanmar.”

The Gift Wellness Foundation provided more than 10,000 pads to support these women. Iqra International partners with the Foundation to give out sanitary pads in schools across the most impoverished areas of Bangladesh.

Looking Ahead

In the face of alarming statistics regarding period poverty and the impacts on female health and education, young activists and campaigners are taking a stand to create change.

– Claire Dickson
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Malawi
For young women in Malawi, their first period means scavenging for some spare cloth, clean paper or even a banana peel–anything to create a facsimile of a pad or tampon. In countries like Malawi, something as commonplace as a period or sanitary protection alters the course of a woman’s life. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world with approximately 50% of its people living below the poverty line. Moreover, for most households, a single sanitation product is equivalent to a day’s working wage. Simply put, it is often not even a consideration to purchase menstrual sanitary products when the compromise would be forfeiting affording food or water. As a result, period poverty in Malawi is prevalent.

COVID-19 has exacerbated period poverty in many countries, but ActionAid is fighting for women’s rights and the end of period poverty in Malawi. ActionAid is an international charity that emerged in 1972 and works on the frontlines with women and girls living in poverty around the world. It has been working to provide aid in Malawi since 1990.

Period Poverty in Malawi and Education

The inability of women and girls to access sanitary menstruation products has led to an increase in infection, disease and a lack of education among women in developing countries. Only 29% of girls stay in school up until reaching Standard Eight of their education.

Around 50% of school-age girls in Africa do not have access to sanitary products. When young women are able to go to school without the hindrance of insufficient sanitary products, the quality of life for women and families in developing countries increases exponentially. Women’s education has a positive correlation to decreased fertility rates, infant mortality rates and maternal mortality rates. A U.N. study ascertained that educating women serves as a critical factor in determining childhood survival rates. In short, tackling period poverty can in turn reduce other side effects of global poverty.

ActionAid’s Work to Eradicate Period Poverty in Malawi

In April 2020, ActionAid donated MK150 million to districts in Malawi that COVID-19 hit the hardest. It also donated hygiene materials such as sanitary towels, soap and clean undergarments. For the past few years, ActionAid has spearheaded projects that train women and girls on how to make their own hygienic and reusable sanitary pads. Poverty causes period poverty but community stigmas regarding menstruation can also women and girls to miss out on school. In fact, UNICEF has estimated that one in 10 African girls of schooling age does not attend school during menstruation. Young women in Africa find it difficult to continue school or attend school during their period due to the burden that comes with having to constantly wash and reuse unsuitable sanitary protection.

In addition to equipping women and girls with the skills necessary to make their own sanitary pads, ActionAid also facilitates girls’ clubs and safe spaces in schools that provide information and assistance. ActionAid safe spaces exist across Africa and provide a private space where women can receive medical help, hygiene kits and emotional support. ActionAid has changed the lives of women and girls in Malawi for the better. When asked how ActionAid has impacted her, one 17-year-old Malawi girl replied, “I am able to stand in class without being conscious of what is behind me and can even play netball. I’m really happy and [ActionAid] helps a lot.”

While ActionAid is not the only organization combating period poverty in Malawi, the work it has accomplished has already transformed the stigma. Moreover, it has improved how people in Malawi treat menstruation and women’s rights.

– Nina Forest
Photo: Flickr

bringing opportunity to Brazil's favelas
Brazilian favelas, or slum neighborhoods, are Brazil’s historically impoverished and overlooked communities. Typically located on the outskirts of the country’s largest cities, the favelas are especially prevalent in the greater São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro areas. An estimated 1.5 million people live in these favelas, lacking proper infrastructure and water systems. Crime and police killings within favelas are rampant, relative to Brazil’s affluent neighborhoods. In addition to favelas’ dangerous and unhygienic conditions, their low-income residents often lack opportunities for socio-economic growth; this is largely due to the neighborhoods’ marginalized nature. Recently, however, organizations throughout the world have brought resources to help people living in the favelas.

5 NGOs Bringing Opportunity to Brazil’s Favelas

  1. The Favela Foundation funds and collaborates with countless educational initiatives throughout Rochina and Rio de Janeiro’s slums. The foundation recognizes the lack of government action, realizing the importance of grassroots initiatives to assist vulnerable youth. Further, the foundation has played a major role in the success of literacy projects in favelas, launching a teacher training program specifically geared toward children in these areas.
  2. Catalytic Communities, or CatComm, is an NGO based in Rio de Janeiro that is dedicated to empowering favela communities through strategic advocacy, research and education. These efforts are made to ensure that impoverished residents are treated as equal citizens. A recent project, the “Casa Technology Hub,” offers internet access to these communities. The group also launched a website that publicizes the voices of favela residents who are often excluded from mainstream media. By offering funded assistance to these communities, CatComm’s initiatives have been effective in bringing opportunity to Brazil’s favelas.
  3. Community in Action focuses its efforts on education development in Rio de Janeiro, working to elevate the lives of both children and adults in the favelas. Programs include extracurricular sporting events, childcare and vocational training for adults trying to enter the workforce. Since 2004, the NGO has offered these individual and group programs, resulting in countless foreign volunteers serving more than 10,000 people living in favelas.
  4. ActionAid is a UK-based NGO that aims to empower women and girls. The organization has made significant efforts in Brazil’s favelas, recognizing that female inhabitants are a marginalized group within an already marginalized community. They are often the victims of violence and sexual exploitation within favelas, as many young girls resort to prostitution to improve their circumstances. ActionAid provides therapy and educational courses to empower these women and give them the skills they need to enter the workforce. Each of ActionAid’s programs works toward its greater mission of gender equality, one favela at a time.
  5. The Brazil Foundation has raised $53 million for over 625 grassroots organizations throughout hundreds of Brazilian cities, since its founding in 2000. In addition to partnering with and funding NGOs that promote social and economic opportunity in Brazil, the Brazil Foundation offers each organization unique training to ensure the sustainability of its projects. The foundation’s thematic approach categorizes the organizations it supports in categories ranging from socio-economic development to health. This makes certain that the foundation distributes its funding and assistance to diverse groups in an organized and effective manner.

Since the turn of the century, these five organizations have worked tirelessly to bring opportunity to Brazil’s favelas. They aim to counteract the inequality and opportunity gaps between Brazil’s wealthiest citizens and regions, and impoverished favela inhabitants. With about one in every 20 Brazilians living in a favela, the role of these NGOs is growing and becoming more vital to bringing opportunity to Brazil’s favelas.

Breana Stanski

Photo: Flickr

 Sexual Violence in Kenya
Sexual violence exists in all societies and impacts all kinds of people. It does not discriminate based on gender, sexuality or race. Globally, it is estimated that one in three women will experience sexual or physical abuse. However, sexual violence in Kenya is even more frequent due to its high poverty levels. In 2018, 36.1% of the population was living below the poverty line.

The Relationship Between Poverty and Sexual Violence

There are many reasons for and consequences of the correlation between poverty and sexual violence. Here are five facts about this relationship.

  1. Women of all ages living in poverty are more susceptible to being sexually exploited and trafficked. There are at least 20.9 million adults and children who are bought and sold worldwide into commercial sex slavery and forced labor.
  2. Women who work on the flower farms are at higher risk of rape and sexual assault. In Kenya, they make up 75% of the industry workers. One female worker, Julia, shared that the men she worked with closely claimed that if females wear skirts, men want to have sex with them. Because of this, women feel they must be careful and dress “appropriately.” Julia even left a job because she refused to have sex with her superior.
  3. The poverty girls experience increases their exposure to abuse, specifically during walks to and from school. In poorer, rural areas, girls often have to travel further distances to access education, putting them at an increased risk of sexual violence.
  4. Young girls and adult women living in poverty are often reliant on men to financially support them. Therefore, due to lack of funds, shelter and/or adequate education, sexual violence victims in Kenya can find themselves in situations where they are dependent on their abusers.
  5. Sexual assault impacts the lives of women and girls in various ways. Many experience injuries or other health consequences, leaving some unable to work or care for their loved ones. Survivors can also battle mental and emotional trauma, including fear, anxiety, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts.

Efforts to Fight Sexual Violence

Although these heinous acts cannot be diminished overnight, progress has been made in the fight against sexual violence in Kenya. For most of its history, Kenya has failed to bring rape cases to court and punish those who have committed these crimes. This is mainly due to corruption in the legal system, families of the victim making deals with the accused or the victim staying silent because the perpetrator is a member of their family.

However, over the last eight years, the Rural Education and Economic Enhancement Program (REEP) has brought more than 500 child rape cases to court and has seen abusers punished. Another important component is providing girls with safe space to speak about what has happened to them and building up their confidence to report abuse. ActionAid, an organization that seeks to end violence and extreme poverty around the world, established Girls’ Clubs in nations like Kenya to provide this crucial support.

The Next Steps

While some progress has been made, sexual violence in Kenya remains prevalent. This is something that will not just go away; for survivors to feel safe and heard, further action needs to be taken.

One way to make headway is to end the stigma that victims are at fault for what happened to them. No one should be blamed and shamed for the trauma they endure. Even the authorities have this attitude and often turn accusers away. Instead, Kenyan authorities should make certain that health care workers follow a distinct protocol to make sure referrals are given to victims. Further, doctors and police should properly collect, document and store all evidence in cases of sexual violence presented to them.

Another way to mitigate the issue is to support organizations that are helping survivors. After an instance of sexual violence in Kenya, less than 10% of victims receive any sort of professional help. This is either because they are fearful of speaking up or they cannot afford it. Support organizations that aid in the prevention, protection and response of addressing sexual violence, including such as ActionAid and the Wangu Kanja Foundation, are essential to helping survivors.

 

Moving forward, more work needs to be done to decrease sexual violence in Kenya. Recognizing the correlation between poverty and sexual violence is essential to understanding where and how to concentrate efforts and make the greatest impact. Hopefully, the coming years will see a decrease in sexual violence in the country.

– Stacey Krzych
Photo: Flickr

Witch camps in Ghana
A modern-day witch hunt is taking place in Northern Ghana, where witch camps are still prevalent. Neighbors continue to turn on women in their communities, accusing them of practicing witchcraft. Due to discrimination, threats and fear for their own lives, these women have to flee from their own homes. Once exiled from their homes, hundreds of these accused women end up in “witch camps.” As of 2018, up to 1,000 women lived in the witch camps, which act as a place of refuge for these women. Below are the top five things to know about witch camps in Ghana.

5 Things to Know About Witch Camps in Ghana

  1. There are six witch camps in Ghana. Spread out across the Northern Region, the six confirmed witch camps reside in Bonyasi, Gambaga, Gnani, Kpatinga, Kukuo and Nabuli. Some sources state the possibility of more camps, but these camps are more remote and there are not many records about them. Several of these camps date back to well over a century ago. In 2014, the government created a plan to shut down the camps in an effort to stop the stigma and mistreatment of these women and reunite them with their communities. The Ghanaian government began the shutdowns with the Bonyasi camp. However, activists feared that communities would refuse to reaccept these “witches” and the women would no longer have a home. The government has since halted its plans to shut down the camps, as many of the accused witches fear returning to the communities that sent them away.
  2. The population of the witch camps is mostly women. It is almost undeniable that the communities’ accusations that these women are witches have a lot to do with sexism and misogyny. These women are often vulnerable, such as older women, single mothers, widows and unmarried women who do not fit the stereotype that their society sees as desirable. Furthermore, these women do not have a male authority figure to protect them, so it is easy for their communities to cast them out.
  3. Communities often accuse these women of things out of their control. Communities often accuse women of witchcraft because they believe they are guilty of circumstances like bad weather, disease and livestock death. Some communities exile women simply for appearing in someone’s dream. Showing signs of dementia or mental illness also leads to witch accusations. Often, communities’ accusations are based on superstition. In 2014, a woman received an accusation of witchcraft and her community compared her to Maame Water, a sea goddess that lures men to their deaths, because a man drowned beside her. The method that communities use to determine if a woman practices witchcraft involves slaughtering a chicken and taking note of its posture as it dies.
  4. Women are not the only ones who reside in the witch camps in Ghana. Children occasionally accompany women to the camps. A child may go with the accused witch in order to protect them. Often, a woman’s own children accompany her. These children suffer greatly from the discrimination of their previous communities. The camps have no access to education, little access to water and insufficient food. Most of these children go their whole lives with no formal education and spend their time completing chores. While the camps may not have the best living conditions, the inhabitants believe it is better than facing discrimination and possible violence.
  5. ActionAid is pushing to improve the conditions for women and children in these camps. ActionAid, an organization that fights for and protects women’s rights, strives to provide aid for the accused witches. ActionAid works to dissolve the camps and reintegrate the accused with their past communities. However, the organization understands that that cannot happen without ending the superstition and stigmas surrounding witchcraft. Until that day arrives, ActionAid is prioritizing the current needs of the women and children of the camps. Its work includes increasing the accused witches’ self-confidence, teaching the women their rights and finding ways they can support themselves. ActionAid promoted the creation of a network of alleged witches, Ti-gbubtaba, that works to register the camp’s inhabitants on the National Health Insurance Scheme and gain food aid. In 2011, ActionAid brought the inhabitants of all six camps together in a two-day forum. This forum was space for the accused women, children, priests, local government and organizations to come together to discuss future solutions for the camps.

These five facts about witch camps in Ghana give a look into the accused women’s lives, as well as the organizations trying to help. While organizations are making great strides to better the lives of these women and hopefully reintegrate them into their communities, much more is necessary for the future.

– Lilith Turman
Photo: Wikimedia

Health Care in Guatemala
Guatemala is currently experiencing an invisible health care crisis because people have not noticed the harmful effects of the lack of access to primary health care services for decades. Guatemala has a population of 16.91 million, with 60 percent of the population living below the national poverty line and 23 percent of the population living in extreme poverty. Fortunately, there are some nonprofit organizations attempting to improve health care in Guatemala.

Barriers to Indigenous Health Care in Guatemala

Access to health care in Guatemala is heavily reliant on environmental and socioeconomic factors. Indigenous populations, in particular, have the greatest difficulty accessing basic health care services. An estimated 40 percent of the population is indigenous and speaks indigenous languages such as Xincan and K’iche. Most health care providers in Guatemala speak Spanish, posing a communication barrier to administering health services.

Another barrier is that the majority of health care services are located in the capital, Guatemala City, making them geographically unreachable for many indigenous people. In order to receive adequate health care, indigenous people would have to take time off work, pay money out of pocket for transportation and travel many hours to the capital. This is unattainable for families who are already struggling to afford basic daily amenities such as food and clean water.

Cultural barriers also represent another hurdle in terms of health care access for indigenous people in Guatemala. Many indigenous communities have rigid cultural practices regarding health care and they feel that the national health care systems do not respect their traditions. Many would prefer to go to a local traditional healer who uses more holistic methods such as plant-based medicine and spiritual guidance. Sometimes this sort of natural-based health care suffices, but with more serious illnesses, traditional remedies do not always work and patients arrive at hospitals with untreated or advanced, serious illnesses.

Government Funding

According to Guatemala’s constitution, access to health care is a human right, however, lack of funding in rural areas excludes indigenous populations from this fundamental right. The Guatemalan government spends around $97 per person per year on public health care, dramatically less than the United States which spends $7,825. This means many local health care services are understaffed, lack proper supplies and are understocked. This has the greatest impact on indigenous people who cannot afford to go to expensive private hospitals and clinics.

Nonprofits and Foreign Aid Working to Expand Indigenous Health Care in Guatemala

Several groups are working to eliminate these barriers to health care access in Guatemala, particularly among the indigenous populations. The local nonprofit, Mayan Families, aims to provide “world-class care to patients free of charge, including primary care, health education, specialist referrals and all medications.”

The international nonprofit, ActionAid, has many regionally focused programs, specifically in Peten, which is home to many Q’echi people, an indigenous group that makes up about 6 percent of Guatemala‘s entire population. ActionAid worked with many local partners to train translators and hospital staff in Q’echi languages and culture so that hospitals could provide adequate health care to local indigenous populations.

USAID’s Health Finance and Governance (HFG) project aims to help improve health in developing countries and is working to increase access to health care in Guatemala. Experts from HFG conducted an assessment of health care in Guatemala and came up with a plan to help increase health care coverage. Its plan includes funding, increasing supplies and training specialists. This will help increase access to health care for indigenous people as more funding means cheaper health care services.

The lack of access to health care in Guatemala for indigenous people is not an unsolvable issue. An increase in attention to the issue has led to international organizations taking action. A combination of advocacy, donations and political actions can greatly improve the country’s current health care system, and increase the overall health of indigenous people in Guatemala.

– Laura Phillips-Alvarez
Photo: Flickr