Women’s Rights in Djibouti and What the US is Doing to HelpGenerally speaking, many inequalities exist between men and women in Djibouti. Men make up the vast majority of the national workforce. Women have a very low proportion of representation in government compared to men. Historically, the state permitted many forms of unjust treatment for women. In recent years, the Djiboutian government has made many strides in improving the lives of women through legislation, the ratification of international treaties and the cooperation with foreign governmental agencies. In spite of these improvements, quite a bit of work remains in order to assure women’s rights in Djibouti.

Women in the Workforce

Djibouti’s constitution, ratified in 1992, states that all people are equal under the law regardless of sex, language, origin, race or religion. Nevertheless, large gaps exist between men and women which is particularly evident within the workforce. Only 19% of women are employed, compared to 81% of men. According to the Labor Code and Penal Code, all people are protected from discrimination when seeking employment. It is illegal for employers to take into account one’s gender when hiring and is punishable by imprisonment and fines. Furthermore, employers are required to pay men and women equally for equal work.  In spite of these legal protections, labor restrictions still exist for women. For example, women are restricted from working a job that is considered above their strength. This frequently excludes women from jobs that include any manual labor. Thereby, it contributes to 19% employment rate.

Domestic Issues

When it comes to domestic issues, obstacles stand in the way of women having equality within the family. For example, men can request a divorce without the burden of evidence. However, for a woman, she must surrender any financial rights and sometimes even pay her spouse damages. Furthermore, the high illiteracy rate of women in Djibouti (61%) causes women to have minimal access to justice, information regarding their rights and legal assistance. In terms of domestic violence, the penal code only criminalizes violence generally. However, it does not provide specific legal protections from domestic violence. Rape is a violent act and punishable under the law. In spite of this, marital rape remains taboo and is rarely prosecuted.

Gender-based Violence

Gender-based violence (GBV) is another women’s rights issue in Djibouti. The Djibouti federal government has taken many administrative and legal actions to outlaw gender-based violence and reduce its occurrence. The Ministry of Women and Family collaborates with the National Union of Djiboutian Women (UNFD) to combat gender-based violence. This collaboration advocates for better legal protections for women and also provides counseling services to victims of GBV.

One of the greatest obstacles for women in terms of GBV is female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C). Many legal instruments are in place that aims at eliminating FGM/C such as Article 333 of the Penal Code and the establishment of the National Committee for the Abandonment of FGM/C. However, FGM/C is still a common practice. As of 2015, an estimated 71% of women and girls were victims of FGM/C. In order to respond to the continued practice of FGM/C, the Ministry of Women and Family released the National Strategy for the Total Abandonment of FGM/C 2018-2022. This plan aims to use radio, television, door-to-door campaigns, school curriculum and high-profile publicity strategies to effectively and quickly eliminate the practice.

How the U.S. Is Helping Djiboutian Women

USAID, through a grant to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), began a two and a half year program entitled “Women’s Empowerment and Community Strengthening.” This plan aims at empowering impoverished women in suburban and rural areas through skills-strengthening strategies.

This program has three primary goals: to improve the capacities of the Ministry of Women and Family, to bolster women’s income-generating skills and to promote new women’s cooperatives. A relatively small-scale operation, the program plans to provide about 850 women with the skills to engage in small-scale economic activities. Some of the program’s successes include the donation of raw materials and equipment to women creating handicrafts. It also includes providing literacy courses to women in national languages and supporting artisan fairs where women can showcase their crafts.

This program through USAID is certainly a step in the right direction in improving women’s rights in Djibouti and the ability to earn income. However, a larger-scale program would do even more to help. In light of the efforts of the Ministry of Women and Family and the more recent structural and legal protections, the future looks hopeful for Djiboutian women.

Alanna Jaffee

Photo: Flickr

Efforts to Improve Girls Education in Djibouti
Educating young people is one of the first steps to decreasing extreme poverty in many underdeveloped countries of the world. In Djibouti, this fact has been recognized and progress is being made to educate children. The special attention is on educating young girls in the country.

Statistics of Education in Djibouti

In four short years, between 2002 and 2006, net school enrollment in Djibouti rose from 43 percent to 66 percent. This was viewed as amazing progress at the time, but it was still unsatisfactory. In order to meet the standards of the Millenium Development Goals, Djibouti needed to lessen the statistic that showed that one of three children is not attending school. The final goal of the government is to get all its boys and girls into school.

Within the statistic mentioned above, the majority of the children not attending school were girls. To fix this, the focus was on bettering girls’ education in the country. Two organizations that have done an amazing job on girls education in Djibouti are UNICEF and Global Partnership for Education Efforts.

UNICEF Efforts

UNICEF discovered, without any surprise, that the main reasons why girls are not enrolled in schools were directly correlated with poverty and social problems. These reasons included the fact that most of the girls out of school were orphans, homeless and neglected. Other factors that affected this statistic were health problems and disabilities.

UNICEF implemented the Basic Education and Gender Equality Program which was composed of three components: equal access to educational facilities, quality of primary education and non-formal education. Each component had subtopics within them.

The most important and impactful ones were social mobilization efforts, creating mass media educational systems, promoting child-friendly school systems, increasing teacher training, increasing women involvement in teaching, better access for children from rural areas and the development of alternative teaching methods.

Global Partnership for Education Efforts

The Global Partnership for Education Efforts partnered with the Djibouti government for the first time in 2006. Their education sector plan for the country is a nine-year program, planned from 2010 to 2019.

This organization has very similar goals as UNICEF, which makes sense since these are partner programs. However, it is still important that yet another organization pushes hard for equal education rights in the country.

The program has six main objectives. The first is developing a pre-school system that connects rural, urban, private and public sectors so that everyone receives the same education across the board. For primary education, their second goal is to have 100 percent of eligible children enrolled by 2019. They have settled for 79 percent for secondary education, understanding the need to work in some situations.

The third goal is to eliminate the gender disparity. The organization understands the importance of bridging the gap between genders so that girls can become future leaders, teachers and lawmakers who will continue to fight for equal rights for all citizens in Djibouti. This goal is the most important one from the standpoint of improving the girls’ education in Djibouti. The remaining goals all have to do with reform on every level that interacts with the education system in Djibouti. Global Partnership for Education has many strategies that they are using to reach these goals.

The government of Djibouti has been aware of the need to increase school enrollment of girls since the early 21st century. Since then, they have been working with organizations like UNICEF and Global Partnership to fix disparities.

Being aware and making moves to fix things are some of the most important steps to fixing a problem, especially one concerning poverty and education rights. The fight for increasing girls’ education in Djibouti is not over yet.

Global Partnership still regularly updates their progress on the matter, with their most recent article being from October 2018. Keeping hope alive and working together matters most in these harsh times.

Miranda Garbaciak
Photo: Flickr

 DjiboutiChinese investment is driving a boom in infrastructure in Djibouti, but gaps still remain when it comes to providing essential services to the country’s most at-risk inhabitants.

Chinese investments promise to revitalize and expand shipping and transportation infrastructure in Djibouti, turning the small African nation of roughly a million people into a major trans-shipment hub on the Gulf of Aden. Chinese-backed projects include an electric train route to Ethiopia’s capital city and developing port facilities in the Port of Doraleh. Djibouti will also host China’s first overseas military base.

Despite these investments and the rapid growth of the nation’s economy over the past 20 years, some people are still left behind, citizens and refugees alike. Djibouti hosts more than 27,000 refugees from across the region, including those fleeing conflict in Ethiopia and Yemen. These refugees typically live in crowded camps with poor sanitation and little access to clean water.

Many citizens of Djibouti also lack reliable sanitation and access to water, particularly in rural areas. Nearly a quarter of the population still lives in extreme poverty, and 48 percent of working-age people are unemployed. The African Economic Outlook estimates that infrastructure development and economic changes driven by foreign investment may trickle down to impoverished citizens in the form of new jobs.

The international community beyond China has also taken an interest in infrastructure in Djibouti. While China’s interests chiefly lie in economic development, others are looking to more humanitarian issues such as education and food security. For example, the United Nations has been working through UNESCO on projects designed to bolster access to water, sanitation and education for both disadvantaged citizens and refugees. Their efforts have reached thousands, but thousands more continue to struggle every day.

The United States is on the ground in Djibouti as well, with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) working with many partners on multiple projects. USAID is active in improving access to education and its quality. USAID is also working with private and governmental partners to address the transmission of diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS along the developing Ethiopia/Djibouti transportation corridor.

However, as NPR reports, USAID funding is insecure under the current administration. The current budget proposal offered by President Trump’s administration would cut USAID and related programs by $2.2 billion. According to the New York Times, savings from these cuts will go to fund further investment in the military and domestic infrastructure. This move by the administration is unlikely to go unopposed. Doubts have already surfaced as to whether Congress will get on board with the administration’s proposals. Following a deal with Democrats, the administration’s budget isn’t likely to come up again for consideration until mid-December.

The government of Djibouti has its own ambitious plan to leverage infrastructure development in the mid- to long-term to raise the nation to “developing” status by 2035. In conjunction with humanitarian aid from abroad, this plan may see the fortunes of all Djiboutians rise like the expected ships at dock in the country’s expanding ports at high tide.

– Joel Dishman

Photo: Flickr

Djibouti, a small country wedged in the horn of Africa has had a long history of economic instability and poverty. In the last decade, the country boasted some of its highest poverty rates, however, after 2007, the Djibouti poverty rate finally started to decline.

In 2007, when the Djibouti poverty rate saw its first significant spike downwards, it was recorded at 42 percent. Now, with the buffer from aid organizations and economic help from foreign financing and foreign direct investments, Djibouti has successfully lowered its poverty rate to about 18.8 percent. This rate is a tremendous achievement as the last two decades the poverty rate has fallen about 30 percent.

Following its 2007 rate, the Djibouti poverty rate had dropped to 23 percent by 2013 and then to about 18.8 percent currently.

In 2011, Djibouti’s population reached 820,000. Unfortunately, most of the population were living in extreme poverty. The common causes of poverty in the country were consecutive years of drought, loss of livestock, destruction of crops, malnutrition and unemployment.

The little resources the natives did have were stretched thin for the influx of refugees from neighboring Somalia, where refugees were estimated at 15,000 and growing.

With resources quickly being depleted and food and fuel prices rising, organizations such as the U.N., the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation raised approximately $20 million for food, drought relief, water rehabilitation and mobile health units.

With poverty rates falling, Djibouti has seen increases in its GDP, industrial production growth rate and labor force. The GDP in 2016 was reported at $3.34 billion, an increase of $200 million from 2015, while the industrial production growth rate rose to 4.7 percent in 2016, ranking it 40 in the world.

Although the country still experiences a relatively high percentage of poverty and unemployment, the Djibouti poverty rate has successfully fallen and will continue to fall with help from foreign countries.

Amira Wynn

Why Is Djibouti Poor

Djibouti is a small nation located in the Horn of Africa between Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea. The country faces a major poverty problem. About 41 percent of the population live in poverty and 23 percent live in extreme poverty. So why is Djibouti poor?

At the heart of Djibouti’s poverty is a lack of resources. The arid land makes Djibouti a poor place for farming. In fact, just 0.04 percent of land in Djibouti is arable; this is largely due to the harsh, dry climate. Drought is common and a huge threat to Djibouti’s rural population, which consists of nomadic farmers. The most recent drought saw malnutrition rates rise to 18 percent and in some areas, chronic malnutrition was as high as 30 percent.

These conditions have caused people to flee to urban areas like Djibouti’s capital city, which is home to over 75 percent of the population. Due to the unprofitable nature of farming in Djibouti, the country has to rely on foreign imported food to feed its people.

In addition to a poor agricultural sector, Djibouti also suffers from the stresses of war. In the 1990s, Djibouti experienced a civil war after President Hassan Gouled Aptidon transformed the government into a single party state and began granting privileges to the Issa clan. The Afar clan rebelled, which led to a three year civil war. By the time peace was finally attained, the war had caused significant damage to rural livestock production and infrastructure. Djibouti has spent a decade recovering from these damages.

Despite these great challenges, Djibouti’s future is looking brighter. The nation is gaining significant investment, primarily from China, in the hopes of making Djibouti a free trade zone. These investments have caused Djibouti’s GDP to grow and the country is expected to have its GDP growth rate continue to rise in the next two years. Consistent foreign investment in infrastructure and Djibouti government reforms to make the area more business friendly could be a significant boon to ending poverty in Djibouti. Hopefully with continued progress, we will no longer have to ask “Why is Djibouti poor?”

Carson Hughes

Photo: Flickr

common diseases in Djibouti Two common diseases in Djibouti are HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. The weak infrastructure of the national health system, equipment shortages and scarcity of human resources make treating and eradicating tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS in Djibouti difficult.

The prevalence of tuberculosis in Djibouti is among the highest in the world with over 200 people reported as infected weekly. Tuberculosis is an airborne bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Due to malnutrition, diminished water resources and steadily increasing border movements there has been a rise in tuberculosis. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the diseases is compounded by the difficulty of access for numerous localities, lack of resources, limited capacities of mobile health units and the reduced mobility of the rural population.

HIV/AIDS is one of many common diseases in Djibouti. It is a sexually transmitted disease that destroys the immune system and eventually results in death without proper treatment. Djibouti has one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the world among young adults and the number of those infected only rises.

In 2015, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimated that over 9,000 people in Djibouti were living with HIV/AIDS. At least 8,000 are adults over the age 15. The epidemic has left an estimated 5,000 orphans up to the age of 17.

Over the years, the epidemic has continuously grown and affected the lives of not only those infected but their loved ones as well.

The government of Djibouti has declared a plan to invest in improved control of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. The HIV/AIDS National Strategic Plan and National Tuberculosis Strategic Plan will be implemented through public sector agencies, private and non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations.

The goal is to contain and reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS as well as tuberculosis and its impact on those infected and affected by the epidemic. They will work to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis by reducing transmission, expanding access to treatment, providing care and support.

HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis are two of the common diseases in Djibouti. Countless are suffering due to the impact of the diseases. The government of Djibouti has decided to implement efforts to contain the diseases and to lessen the impact on those not only infected but affected by the diseases.

Danyel Harrigan

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Djibouti
The plight of refugees is of interest currently both in political and humanitarian terms. Refugees suffer a great uprooting from their homes, from their lifestyles and often experience a cultural shock at refugee camps. At their most vulnerable point, refugees must depend on stop-gap solutions to see them through their temporary and difficult living situations.

Djibouti is temporary shelter to thousands of refugees, as they search for a home beyond Djibouti. A tiny country on the Eastern coast of Africa, Djibouti is at the point where three countries meet: Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. A narrow part of the Red Sea separates Djibouti from Yemen. Here are ten facts about refugees in Djibouti:

  1. Annually, 100,000 people pass through Djibouti. Such a large number of refugees pass through Djibouti because of its location adjacent to three countries.
  2. The refugees predominantly arrive from several places: Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Of these, 55 percent of those who arrive at Djibouti are Yemeni. Yemeni and Ethiopian refugees get usually placed in Markazi, a refugee camp located near Obock, a port in the northern part of Djibouti. Somalis and Eritreans get often put in Ali Addeh and Holl Holl, other refugee camps, in the south of Djibouti.
  3. Approximately 19,636 Yemeni refugees and 5,100 Ethiopian refugees have arrived or passed through Djibouti since 2015. Around 70 percent of the refugees, including Somalis and Eritreans, are women and children.
  4. Yemeni refugees are fleeing south because of war, while Ethiopian refugees are fleeing north because of drought. A militant group, Houthi Shia, overthrew the Yemeni government in 2015. Consequently, Saudi Arabia began a bombing campaign in Yemen. Ethiopians fleeing north towards Yemen are sometimes not aware of the conflict when they reach Djibouti and head towards Yemen.
  5. Refugees enter Djibouti via bus or boat as the most common mode of transport. Ethiopian refugees also travel to Djibouti on foot, though crossing the desert surrounding Djibouti is dangerous since temperatures may reach 130 degrees. After their journey on foot, Ethiopian refugees use smugglers’ boats to reach Djibouti.
  6. Djibouti has a population of about one million people. Around 400,000 permanent residents live in slums near the edge of the capital, Djibouti City, with little access to necessities such as food and water. The sudden influx of refugees has created difficulties in resource allocation between long-time residents and refugees.
  7. Approximately 5,963 children in the country are suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM).
  8. Refugees predominantly live in three camps: Ali Addeh, Holl Holl and Markazi. Markazi alone is a temporary home to over 1,400 refugees as of February 2017. The living conditions in the camps are arduous. For example, in Markazi, refugees live in tents and have thin sleeping mats. The camps are fenced in to protect the refugees from wild animals, but snakes and scorpions often enter the camps. Refugees in Markazi are also concerned about sandstorms: in the past, sandstorms have blown over their tents.
  9. Around 74 percent of the refugee population lives on less than $3 per day. Despite the poor living conditions, refugees still attempt to educate their children by sending them to temporary schools in the camps.
  10. The influx of refugees has helped expand business networks for permanent residents of Djibouti, boosting the local economy. The refugees and residents of Djibouti have developed strong, friendly connections. The government of Djibouti echoes the positive reception that refugees have received, calling the refugees “our brothers and sisters.”

These facts about the refugees in Djibouti show that they are suffering because of bloody conflicts and harsh environmental conditions, circumstances beyond their control. Fortunately, Djibouti’s welcoming of refugees underscores the importance of being open to those impoverished by their circumstances.

Through examining even 10 facts about the refugees in Djibouti, the realization of how refugees can positively contribute to business and social networks is emphasized. Ultimately, communities must fuse together to advocate for solutions to poverty.

Smriti Krishnan

Photo: Google

Djibouti is a small country on the Horn of Africa, in which more than 23 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty. The prevalence of extreme poverty in the Republic of Djibouti is more than seven times higher in rural areas than in the capital, despite rural inhabitants only comprising one-fourth of the total population. These disparities result in a large prevalence of hunger in Djibouti.

An Absence of Agriculture

While a majority of civil strife in Djibouti has been resolved since 2001, a large proportion of the population still experiences the effects of the former social instability. During the recovery period, the rural population often depended almost entirely on emergency food aid, with little emphasis on rebuilding infrastructure. Poor rural Djiboutians lack access to reliable financial services, which are needed for more lucrative business opportunities outside the agricultural field.

With less than 1,000 square kilometers suitable for farming,  Djibouti has a chronic food deficit. Agricultural production accounts for only three percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), so Djibouti imports 90 percent of its food commodities.

This reliance means it is highly sensitive to external economic disruptions and natural disasters such as floods and droughts. Any variation in the international prices has a considerable impact on the poorest segment of the population, who spend 77 percent of their household budget on imported food.

Lack of access to affordable food correlates with high rates of malnutrition in Djiboutian children, currently affecting 29.7 percent of children under five.

Collaborative Solutions

The World Bank’s 2014-2017 Country Partnership Strategy marks a collaboration between the International Development Association (IDA), International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). The strategy supports the government’s goal to reduce extreme poverty by 2035. The strategy will also build the infrastructure to benefit all members of the population through harnessing the country’s human and economic potential by reducing vulnerability and strengthening the business environment.

By improving long-term infrastructure and opening markets for poor rural communities, rural citizens may eventually escape poverty and subsequently hunger in Djibouti.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Djibouti
The small nation of Djibouti, located in the Horn of Africa, is only about 9,000 square miles and has a small population of about 820,000 people. Currently, poverty in Djibouti persists as a major problem with more than 23% of those 820,000 living in conditions described as extreme poverty.

Consistent food deficits caused by Djibouti’s harsh climate make agriculture harder here than in other areas of the continent. This creates a dependence on imports to feed the population and leaves the country especially disadvantaged by drought, floods and other natural disasters. Droughts leave an exceptionally long-lasting impact in the form of crop destruction and loss of livestock. In 2011, the U.N. reported that Djibouti’s ranchers lost 70-80% of their livestock during a period in which food prices also rose 50%.

These increasing rates of malnourishment have led many to migrate away from rural areas to the capital in search of work. Today, around two-thirds of the population is condensed in Djibouti City, leaving a small percentage to farm. These factors culminate into mass poverty in Djibouti and need direct solutions as well as continued foreign support to combat. Many in Djibouti must concentrate what little income they earn towards food and basic survival at the expense of health and education. Those in the Garabtisan Village must walk 23 kilometers just to fetch water for the village, many surviving on 40 liters for up to three days at a time.

Despite its plethora of issues and dependence on foreign aid, Djibouti’s geographical position as a trade gateway to Ethiopia has spurred some economic opportunities. The International Monetary Fund estimates that real GDP increased during 2015-2016 by around 6.5%, but continued support is needed to continue this positive trend into the future. Efficient infrastructure development, political stability, and natural disaster relief remain crucial to Djibouti’s continued growth. Suffering has been alleviated by efforts such as the U.N. raising $17.4 million in response to the 2011 drought, the World Food Programme providing emergency food aid to 61,000 rural farmers and $1 million from UNICEF for Djibouti’s children.

Continued economic growth may provide more paths out of poverty and consistent foreign assistance from countries around the world can, one day, end poverty in Djibouti. Reaching out to U.S. members of Congress for continued USAID support can go a long way in giving millions the opportunities needed to become self-sufficient. Each and every person in the United States possesses the power to speak out for what matters, ending human suffering around the globe.

Aaron Walsh

Photo: Flickr

Stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and self-proclaimed travesti exécutif, Eddie Izzard, traveled to Djibouti in July 2015.

Izzard, a UNICEF UK Ambassador, met with child refugees who escaped the ongoing civil war in Yemen, Izzard’s country of birth. The children he spoke to fled their homes with nothing, traveling across the Red Sea by boat.

According to UNICEF UK, more than 20,000 people, including 10,000 Yemenis, have taken the journey across the Red Sea into Djibouti since March. Many of these Yemeni refugees are living in Markazi, a refugee camp outside the city of Obock.

“For decades, the children of Yemen have been living in fear and danger. They are now living through the hell of civil war and many have had to flee across the Red Sea, to Djibouti via Bab-El-Mandeb – the Gate of Tears” Izzard explains.

“The harrowing stories from Yemenis, particularly those from Aden, the city of my birth, will stay with me forever. I have a responsibility to highlight this crisis to the world, and I hope I can persuade the UK public to help the 10 million Yemeni children that are in danger right now.”

Izzard wishes to help the many children caught within the turbulence of conflict—products of what he calls a “forgotten civil war”.

In his appearance for Sky News, he highlights UNICEF’s efforts, stating that with any donations the organization would be able to provide a week’s worth of nutritious food or even 60 vaccinations against polio.

Out of the 25 million total population of Yemen, he states, nine million children have become extremely vulnerable and have faced much hardship due to the ongoing conflict.

Jaime Longoria

Sources: MSN, UNICEF