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COVID-19, Poverty and The Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI)
In the wake of its continuing devastation, Covid-19 has left, among other things, recessions across the world’s poorest countries. These recessions threaten to push more than 100 million people below the $1.90-a-day threshold that defines extreme poverty. To prevent poverty exacerbation, G20 countries have been called on by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to establish the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI). The initiative is designed to redirect funds planned for debt liquidation towards battling the pandemic and helping the most vulnerable populations.

How Does It Work?

Established in April 2020, the DSSI allows the suspension of government-to-government debt payments for 73 eligible countries. Over 60% of these countries accepted the offer as of 2021. The International Development Association and the U.N.’s respective lists of least developed countries encompass all countries cleared for suspension, minus Angola. Qualification for deferment also requires an application for an arrangement with the IMF, along with a commitment to use unfettered money towards social, health, or economic spending designed to remedy the effects of Covid-19.

Including interest and amortization payments, the total sovereign debt servicing payments in 2020 was projected to reach nearly $14 billion. Less than $4 billion of that belongs to the Paris Club group, prompting calls for other creditors like China and Russia to take part. Additionally, the G20 received requests to include entities such as banks and investment funds in the initiative, but this call has yet to receive a favorable response. About $5.7 billion in payments were deferred in 2020, with an additional deferment of $7.3 billion planned for June 2021.

The Unturned Stones

Reservations have been voiced regarding the ability of the temporary cessation of bilateral debt payments to provide adequate relief for the countries concerned. All debt is not the sovereign debt that is accounted for in the DSSI, and the fiscal ability of the approved countries is largely insufficient to weather the inclemency of Covid-19, even with debt deferment. At the vanguard of the call to private-sector creditors to adopt the initiative is the Institute of International Finance (IIF), a global association concerned with the finance industry.

Estimations from the IIF show that participation by private-sector creditors would provide an extra $13 billion in deferment. This would offer significant potential relief from the $35.3 billion owed collectively by the countries eligible for the DSSI. However, the IIF has made its concerns clear, particularly concerning the DSSI’s lack of consideration for the unique situation of each debtor country and the doubt that this causes for private-sector creditors.

The overall narrow eligibility scope of the DSSI has also been called into question. Middle-income countries have over eight times the amount of collective external debt outstanding compared to DSSI eligible countries. With $422.9 billion in debt payments in 2020 alone, these countries also run the risk of being financially incapable of dealing with Covid-19. After foreign investors pulled approximately $100 billion from middle-income countries’ markets in stocks and bonds, capital outflows leveled. The IIF, perhaps because of this observation, projected that the countries in question will encounter difficulties in borrowing money. The IIF also made projections that indicated unparalleled fiscal deficits in 2020.

Possible Solutions

Currently, no mechanism is in place to ensure that deferred debt payments will be used accordingly. One proposal involves the creation of a central credit facility (CCF) at the World Bank. This organization, if allowed, would require countries requesting relief to deposit deferred interest payments to certify that the funds would be used to negate the effects of the pandemic. Although the CCF has gained academic support and press recognition, whether countries will adopt it is uncertain.

Corporate or individual bankruptcy for countries is not an option.  The IMF attempted but failed to establish a sovereign resolution regime with its Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism (SDRM) proposal in 2002, ultimately because of conflicting opinions on how to structure its design. A notable implementation of a debt moratorium occurred in 1931 by Herbert Hoover, then President of the United States. His declaration was followed by a rush of countries defaulting. Although these countries recovered faster than countries that did not default, such countries were hard-pressed to find any foreign lending for more than 20 years after defaulting.

Forging A Way Forward

While COVID-19 inflicted disastrous financial difficulties on nations worldwide, initiatives like the DSSI work to counteract the damage. In April 2021, G20 government-to-government creditors extended the DSSI for the final time by six months, taking its activity through December 2021. Despite concerns about its implementation and consequences, the DSSI represents a positive attempt by creditors nationwide to help the most vulnerable in the wake of COVID-19.

– Mohamed Makalou
Photo: Unsplash

Egyptian EconomyEconomies worldwide have been hit hard by the pandemic. However, few have been able to come out positively. The Egyptian economy has been able to make meaningful economic progress, such as through GDP growth, throughout 2020 and 2021. As it is working toward poverty reduction, Egypt is an example of how to keep an economy steady. Egypt has been fighting poverty for more than a decade now – a third of Egyptians live in poverty and half of the population is either in or near poverty.

Egypt’s Economic Steps

The Egyptian economy has taken economic hits in the past several years. However, that does not mean recent steps are not worth mentioning. Egypt has recently seen poverty reduction for the first time in 20 years due to the reforms taken by the government. At the end of 2016, several economic reforms started a turning point for Egypt. The Economic Reform Program is made up of currency policies, decreasing dependence on fuel and electricity, increasing job opportunities (particularly for women), implementing structural business reforms, and endorsing economic acts to further progress. Certain moves also attracted many investors to Egypt, boosting the economy. Social programs targeted at more individual and community levels have also lifted 1,000 villages out of poverty. These broad economic reforms have also strengthened Egypt for the pandemic.

COVID’s Impact, and Fighting Through It

The past few years have had a monumental impact worldwide. Nearly every economic power has suffered a decline or a recession. One worry within Egypt is that the recent growth would collapse on itself. The pandemic did impact job creation and the private sector, but not enough to make a dent in progress. Previous actions have cushioned Egypt, such as the poverty rate going down from 32.5% to 29.7% in the fiscal year 2019-2020. This monumental victory for Egypt and for poverty worldwide took place over two years.

The Future of Egypt

Egypt Vision 2030 is the long-term future that is planned out for Egypt. As Salah Hashim, advisor for the Ministry of Social Solidarity for Political Policies, put it, “Egypt Vision 2030 has focused on promoting social justice, not only helping the poor and low-income people like before.” This shows that Egypt is willing to tackle injustice in multiple systems. The Egyptian economy should be an example for other countries struggling to build economic growth sustainably. While poverty is still abundant, this growth shows a bright future for Egypt’s economy and its future.

– Audrey Burran
Photo: Flickr

Coffee Economics: How Your Cup of Starbucks is Fighting Global PovertyStarbucks is fighting global poverty. Their website boasts that they are “making coffee the world’s first sustainable product to improve the lives of at least 1 million people in coffee communities around the world”. How does this pertain to global poverty? It is simple – of the world’s poorest countries, many are also the top producers of coffee. Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia are the top 5 producers of coffee in the world. These 5 countries additionally experience some of the highest poverty rates in the world. Starbucks has undertaken the mission of giving back to those who laid the groundwork for what has made their business so successful for 50 years, the coffee farmers.

Global Farmer Fund

With the goal of turning coffee into a sustainable product, in 2008, Starbucks founded the Global Farmer Fund Program. Starbucks founded this program to aid coffee farmers in developing countries. Before the launch of the program, Starbucks actually provided its first loan to a farming project in Mexico in the year 2000. This first loan allowed Starbucks to see the effect that such a program could have for farmers in need in developing countries. At the inception of the program, Starbucks pledged to provide $20 million to coffee farmers in need. In 2015, Starbucks committed to providing an additional $30 million, raising the Global Farmer Fund to a $50 million-valued program. According to Starbucks, “By providing access to capital, farmers have the ability to make strategic investments in their infrastructure, offering the stability they need to manage ongoing complexities so that there is a future for them and the industry”.

Fairtrade International

In order to meet their sustainability goals, Starbucks also partnered with Fairtrade International. Fairtrade International’s website boasts, “We transfer wealth back to farmers and workers in developing countries who deserve a decent income and decent work. We are the leading independent global movement for trade justice, and we are still the most recognized and trusted sustainable trading standard in many leading markets.” Fairtrade International makes sure that coffee farmers are getting paid fairly for their work, and in return, farmers adhere to environmental and labor standards set by the organization.

Fighting Poverty

The production of coffee plays a major role in the global economy, particularly in regions that are home to many living below the poverty line. Sustainable coffee production allows for an ethical and lasting source of income that has the potential to not only lift many out of poverty but keep them above the poverty line for generations to come. With Starbucks supporting fair trade agreements, they are protecting the integrity of their company at the root, while also improving the lives of coffee farmers in developing countries. Support for companies that implement programs, such as the Global Farmers Fund, and acknowledgment of the impact they are making shows Starbucks is fighting global poverty with sustainable poverty reduction.

– Michelle M. Schwab
Photo: Unsplash

South Africa’s Vaccination EffortAs COVID-19 cases soared in South Africa in June 2020, the country endured a severe lockdown. During this lockdown, 27-year-old Clementine gave birth to a baby boy, Lelo Matthew. With a mask covering her face in the delivery room, Clementine feared contracting COVID-19 while at the hospital. Fortunately, no one in Clementine’s family tested positive. Unfortunately, giving birth during a global pandemic gave Clementine more anxiety than the average new mother. Based on the experience, Clementine named her son for the word hope. It has been a year since Clementine gave birth to her son. South Africa’s vaccination effort coincides with rising COVID-19 infections and an economy threatened by COVID-19.

COVID-19’s Impact

Before the pandemic began, South Africa faced a recession. The closure of businesses and decreased consumer spending because of COVID-19 damaged the economy even further. In 2021’s first quarter, the unemployment rate in South Africa jumped to 32.6%. Specifically, the industries with the most prevalent job losses included construction, trade, private households, transport, and agriculture. Trade accounts for nearly 20% of employment in South Africa, so the job losses in this industry are especially worrisome. This rising unemployment rate will likely cause more South Africans to fall into poverty as 10.3 million South Africans already live below the international poverty line of $1.90 per day.

In June 2021, South Africa remained the most COVID-19-affected country in Africa. As this “third wave” caused devastation, the South African government enforced a minimum lockdown of 14 days starting on June 27, 2021. Measures included school and restaurant closures and prohibited gatherings will occur.

A Promising Future

Although COVID-19 cases continue to flood the country, South Africa’s vaccination effort does not look bleak. A South African consortium is creating the first COVID-19 mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub in a historic decision. This technology will be possible with support from the World Health Organization (WHO). Through the establishment of this facility, manufacturers from developing countries will master vaccine production techniques. Additionally, the manufacturers will receive licenses to produce vaccines. Consequently, South Africa and other African countries will have greater access to COVID-19 vaccines. This access is a considerable feat, given South Africa’s current vaccination rate rests at less than 1%.

Afrigen Biologics, a biotech company, plays a critical role in the project as it will produce mRNA vaccines and educate Biovac, an additional manufacturer, in vaccine production. Soon, the WHO will be responsible for supervising the quality of COVID-19 vaccine production and implementation.

The True South Africa

While the leaders of this project foresee the vaccine hub taking critical leaps in South Africa’s vaccination effort, the hub also has implications for the future of South African medicine. WHO chief Tedros Adhamon anticipates that the hub will be essential in COVID-19 vaccine production and the production of future vaccines. The hub could create remedies that impoverished individuals struggle to access, an achievement that is especially opportune as the unemployment rate of South Africa and other African countries rises.

South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, sees the hub as having large-scale benefits for Africa’s portrayal. Ramaphosa remarked that the world often stigmatizes Africa as the center of disease and poor development. The innovations of this hub will provide African countries with the opportunity to correct the globe’s inaccurate perception.

In Ramaphosa’s words, Africa is “on a path to self-determination.” This vaccine technology transfer hub only brings South Africa and other African countries closer to demonstrating that fact to the rest of the world.

– Madeline Murphy
Photo: Flickr

The United Kingdom is known for being a popular city for tourists with sites, such as Big Ben, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace. However, what may not be as well-known is the fact that the UK struggles with a significant class difference. It has an ever-widening gap between the poor and the affluent, which leads to high rates of poverty in the UK, specifically for children.

Child Poverty

Child poverty is one of the most notable effects of overall poverty in the UK. This poverty crisis struck Britain hard in 1999. Its child poverty proportion became the highest out of all of the western European countries.

In 2016-17, poverty impacted nearly 30% of children — 4.1 million — in the UK. In the following year — 2018-19, the number of children in poverty in the UK increased by 100,000. The trend is on an upward spike rather than its 2003 downward rate when child poverty was made a priority. Poverty in the UK needs to be addressed, especially among the youth. It leads to increased hardships in life from education to mental and physical health to employment and so much more.

Use of the Film Industry

Films produce major results in ending poverty. The film industry has positively impacted poverty in the UK in many ways. For one, the film industry creates many job opportunities. In 2009, the core UK film industry created or impacted nearly 100,000 jobs relating to film production, sales and tourism. Furthermore, portrayals of the UK in films contribute heavily to tourism and yearly account for about £1.9 billion. That brings the total UK film industry contribution in 2009 to raising the GDP by more than £4.5 billion.

The improved economy can be a promising solution for aiding the UK’s children out of poverty. The country can use the funds to help out the struggling citizens, focusing specifically on the poor. In this way, films pose as a promising solution for poverty aid in other countries as well.

“Poor Kids”

The amount of money and the impact the film industry has on the UK is astounding and a promising solution for poverty. However, the impact one film made for children in poverty is even more remarkable.

The film, “Poor Kids,” has made great strides toward improving the lives of impoverished UK children. The film illustrates the living situations of three families in poverty through the lens of the children. Courtney (age 8), Paige (age 10) and Sam (age 11) give detailed and heart-wrenching accounts of their experiences growing up in poverty. The film received much acclaim. It was a Broadcast Best Documentary Nominee, a Learning on Screen Nominee, a Televisual Bulldog Best Documentary Nominee and received the Chicago Film Festival Gold Plaque for Social and Political Documentary in 2012.

Films awards aside, “Poor Kids” sparked change in the community. Make Lunch is a program that began after Poor Kids debuted as a direct result of the film. The program contributes free meals to children during the times when school is not in session and when children could potentially go for a long period without food. In the summer of 2012, as many as 13 lunch kitchens were providing the free lunches.

And That’s A Wrap

The effects of poverty in the UK are prevalent, notably in the large number of impoverished children. The worsening situation provides a sense of sorrow to the country, but a solution presents itself. Films not only contribute to the wealth of a country, but they provide jobs as well. Both of these aspects could be potential resources to utilize when fighting poverty.

Additionally, films bring about emotion, and that creates change. The inspiration that “Poor Kids” ignited contributed to a charity that helps the children in poverty. With results, such as the Make Lunch program, films can yield great benefits for poverty in the UK and the world.

Hailee Shores
Photo: Flickr

Government of GhanaThe African country of Ghana, home to over 30 million people, is a particularly influential nation in the region and a capable force for innovation. It is recognized as the third most peaceful country in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the U.S. State Department asserts that Ghana’s economy has been “historically  regarded as one of the drivers for West Africa.” Unfortunately, due in major part to the COVID-19 pandemic, this economy has suffered robust declines, with Ghanaian annual GDP growth falling almost 80% between 2019 and 2020. National leadership from the government of Ghana, and particularly the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation, stands as a testament to still capable strides being made in gender equality initiatives, natural resource protection and climate action spheres.

GIRC Centre

The Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation (MESTI) is heavily involved in promoting both research opportunities and funding the next great wave of Ghanaian technology to put the country on the cutting edge.

To that end, the Ghana Innovation and Research Commercialisation (GIRC) Centre, which is newly established, has already inspired initiatives to be introduced to the national parliament. Support for Ghana’s modernization and continued movement into the research effort has been given by the Science Granting Councils Initiative, which “aims to strengthen the capacities of 15 science granting councils in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

The GIRC Centre, to begin its ambitious scientific goals and in conjunction with the government of Ghana, will also be setting up a National Research Fund, into which financial backing measured by Ghana’s GDP will be introduced. The fund is meant to be all-inclusive and only has the pursuit of scientific development in its intentions; notably, equal disbursement, regardless of gender or disability, has been a focal point in the ministry’s announcement, signaling that the nation’s STEM-based progress is also progressive toward inclusion.

National Biodiversity Steering Committee

An already critical part of Ghana’s relationship with poverty is its relationship with natural resources. The country’s strong development propelled its poverty trends into lower and lower bounds, from a national poverty rate of over 50% in 1991 to a rate of less than 10% in 2013. Urbanization, reliant on oil, gas and other natural resources, also requires a careful level of balance with the environment, particularly for long-lasting sustainability. Recognizing this, the government of Ghana has established a recently equipped National Biodiversity Steering Committee.

Functioning under MESTI, the Committee’s primary directive is to maintain policy that ensures Ghana’s environmental strength, which is a particularly staggering responsibility in a nation whose primary exports of cocoa, gold and sawn wood, are all dependent on conscientious management of Ghana’s environmental resources.

Climate Development Revision Goals

Equally in line with Ghana’s focus on future resiliency is a national push for redevelopment under the Paris guidelines for climate aware policy. Ghanaian efforts have been met with logistical and financial difficulty but meaningful steps have helped deliver more efficient energy to areas and even supply grants to northern areas in order to facilitate community-wide adaptations to projected climate changes. Partnered efforts with the UNDP have also led to cross-cultural inroads to other nations, such as Switzerland, which lends the government of Ghana greater resources, greater economic strength that can then be used to weather poverty and health crises as well as greater international legitimacy.

These combined efforts all play into larger plans for Ghana’s advancing growth, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many poverty and health alleviation goals are inexorably tied to the status of the government and country at large. Progressive policies that put growth on track, encourage innovation from all sectors and actively ensure natural balances between communities, protect not only a government but an entire country.

– Alan Mathew
Photo: Flickr

EcovillagesGreen growth refers to economic growth through the use of sustainable and eco-focused alternatives. These “green” alternatives benefit both the economy and the environment all while contributing to poverty reduction. Ecovillages are a prime example of an environmentally conscious effort to address global poverty. They are communities, rural or urban, built on sustainability. Members of these locally owned ecovillages are granted autonomy as they navigate a solution that addresses the four dimensions of sustainability: economy, ecology, social and culture.

The Global Ecovillage Network

The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) recognizes that all four facets of sustainability must be addressed for maximum poverty reduction. Solely focusing on the economic or environmental impact will not yield optimal results. Embracing, not eliminating, the social and cultural aspects of sustainability should the aim of all communities in order to move toward a better future.

The development of sustainable communities around the globe is a commitment of the GEN. The organization’s outreach programs intend to fuel greater global cooperation, empower the citizens of the world’s nations and develop a sustainable future for all.

Working with over 30 international partners, GEN focuses on five defined regions. GEN Africa was created in 2012 and has overseen developments in more than 20 communities across the continent.

A Focus on Zambia

Zambia is one the countries garnering attention. Over half of Zambia’s population — 58% — falls below the $1.90 per day international poverty line. The majority of the nation’s impoverished communities live in rural regions.

Zambia’s government addresses these concerns by integrating the U.N.’s sustainable development goals into its development framework. With a focus on economic and ecological growth, Zambia could lay the groundwork for the success of its’ ecovillages.

Planting the Seed

The Regional Schools and Colleges Permaculture (ReSCOPE) Programme recognizes youth as the future keepers of the planet. As well as Zambia, the program has chapters in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The focus is on establishing regional networks to strengthen sustainable efforts. The Zambia chapter along with its 17 newly joined organizations work toward the goal of educating and encouraging communities to find sustainable methods of food production.

ReSCOPE seeks to connect schools and their local environments through the Greening Schools for Sustainable Communities Programme. The program is a partnership between GEN and ReSCOPE and has received funding from the Scottish government. Through education and encouraging sustainable practices, Zambia’s youth have an active role in ensuring future growth.

Greening Schools

Greening Schools strengthens the communities of four schools — the centers of resilience and a source of community inspiration. Beginning with nutrition and food security, students are able to play a part in developmental change. Their hard work includes planting of hundreds of fruit trees. The schools became grounds for hands-on agricultural experience and exposure to the tending of life.

However, the impact was not restrained within the schools. The greening schools inspired local communities to make seed security and crop diversification a commitment. In 2019, these communities “brought back lost traditional crops and adopted intercropping and other agroecological practices.”

As part of their sustainable development goals, the U.N. recognizes the value of investing in ecovillages. Goals 11 and 12 stress the importance of sustainable communities and responsible consumption and production respectively. Educating and advocating for youth to take part in ecovillages addresses this matter.

Coming generations will determine the future, and the youth wield the power to address global concerns like sustainability and poverty. Ecovillages are a great new way to break the cycle of poverty.

Kelli Hughes
Photo: Unsplash

floods in southeast asiaTraditionally, the people of Southeast Asia benefitted from small floods that enriched the soil and prevented bigger floods. However, human interference with the rivers has disrupted their natural ecological processes and increased long-term damage. The disruption of crops, destruction of land and the displacement of people due to flooding increases poverty, especially during Southeast Asia’s current economic crisis. Mitigating steps are necessary to prevent the harmful effects of floods in Southeast Asia.

Destructive Floods in Vietnam

In October 2020, heavy rains in Vietnam caused massive flooding that destroyed homes, land and agriculture. A massive 178,000 homes were destroyed and nearly 700,000 livestock fell victim to the floodwaters.

Described by the president of the Vietnam Red Cross Society as “some of the worst we’ve seen in decades”, the floods in Vietnam have affected around five million Vietnamese people, which will push more people toward poverty.

Urban Flooding in Cambodia

In Cambodia, cities such as Phnom Penh suffer from the effects of urban flooding. Urban flooding is unpredictable and has wide-ranging consequences, from the disruption of everyday life to the spreading of waterborne diseases. As is commonly associated with climate change, the poor are hurt the most by urban flooding, for their ability to prepare and recover from damages is significantly weaker than other classes.

Roughly 250,000 people living in Phnom Penh are living in informal settlements and deal with inadequate waste management and infrastructure. Stagnant bacteria-ridden water from floods can linger for eight months after floods, spreading a host of waterborne diseases to those in proximity. Furthermore, as the economy is projected to decrease by 4% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, poor people are increasingly likely to be trapped in cyclical poverty.

COVID-19 Stalls Decades of Growth

Despite decades of deadly civil war, Cambodia has made consistent progress towards reducing poverty before COVID-19. Over the past two decades, life expectancy has increased 10 years, poverty has been reduced from 47% to 13%, and growth in the country averaged out to 8%.  Additionally, the country lowered infant mortality rates from 10% to 2%.

While Cambodia’s COVID-19 cases are very low, with zero deaths thus far, the contraction of the global economic market has led to financial struggles for its citizens. The poverty rate is expected to balloon back up to 20% as a result of the economic crisis. The sectors hit hardest include the tourism and garment industries, where demand from its Western consumer base has drastically fallen.

Measures Against Floods in Southeast Asia

Although the nature of monsoons is unpredictable, the extent of the damage and destruction of floods can be mitigated. One recommendation is for Southeast Asian nations to commit to curbing emissions in order to combat climate change, which can increase the volatility of weather. Climate change reduces the ability for scientists to estimate long-term trends and build dams to control flood levels.

Additionally, the concept of leaving room for the river has become popular. This concept essentially promotes soft engineering, or removing human technology from rivers and allowing their ecological processes to be carried out naturally. Furthermore, allowing and managing small floods can benefit the land and those cultivating it while preventing big floods.

Though natural disasters cannot be controlled, efforts from organizations and governments may help the country’s resilience in the aftermath of floods in Southeast Asia. Such efforts can provide instant relief to affected people and may also help to alleviate overall poverty in the countries.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

Glamour BoutiqueThere are a number of advancements in legal gender rights across the world. However, social norms still play a large role in preventing women from attaining economic independence. Globally, women are almost three times more likely than men to work in the unpaid sector—namely domestic work and caring for children. When the women who are confined to this lifestyle are able to find paid work, it is often part-time and low-wage. This sets them at a significant financial disadvantage. They must depend on their husbands and families to provide for their basic needs.

The Fix

The Inclusive and Equitable Local Development (IELD) sector of the United Nations Capital Development Fund fights to right these wrongs. They invest in small businesses in developing countries that are largely run by women. Through their investments, these businesses expand, hire more people, increase their consumer market and earn more money. When women achieve financial independence, the reward is multiplied. Economically secure women are likely to invest in education, health and their community.

The Entrepreneur

One of these businesses that the IELD benefits is Glamour Boutique—a fashion business in Jessore, a small town in southwestern Bangladesh.

Glamour Boutique was officially founded in 2007 by Parveen Akhter. Akhter had been kidnapped and forced into child marriage when she was in the ninth grade. Her husband—her kidnapper and a drug addict—made it a habit of abusing her throughout their seventeen-year marriage. Encouragement from her oldest son, 16-years-old at the time, led her to file for divorce and set up the Glamour Boutique House and Training Centre. It was based in her home and capitalized on the embroidery and tailoring skills Akhter had taught herself over the years. Once business picked up, she moved into a rented space.

This is when the IELD stepped in. Akhter had little money, a small market and limited machines. They loaned her nearly 30,000 USD to expand. Since then, Glamour Boutique has employed over 50 women and consistently trains around 20 in tailoring and embroidery.

More than anything, the company is female-friendly. It helps to lift women out of poverty and give them a purpose and community. Additionally, she is sensitive to her employees having outside commitments. She offers short four-hour shifts for women who are enrolled in school, have children or have other situations warranting a flexible schedule.

Mussamad Nafiza, an employee at Glamour Boutique, testifies to the beauty of working there. She describes her own and others’ financial gain and independence as well as her dreams of opening a business similar to Akhter’s. Dipa Monjundar, a friend of Akhter’s and fellow small business owner, commends Akhter’s work and celebrates the economic empowerment of women across Bangladesh.

Next Steps

Although important, investing in women’s businesses is not the only way to help women achieve economic prosperity. Commitments from men and the government are essential. They need to respect, uphold and uplift women’s rights to sustainably change the way communities approach gender disparity.

Jessore’s mayor participated in several gender equality training sessions before starting any major projects. If other community leaders encourage participation in similar training courses, economic gender parity may no longer be a far-fetched dream.

Rebecca Blanke
Photo: Flickr

street vendors As the first country affected by COVID-19, China is now recovering from the pandemic. Businesses are reopening gradually and people are slowly returning to their normal day-to-day life. However, the pandemic triggered an increase in unemployment, rising from 5.7% to 6.2% in February. Since then, the government has been working to address this rapid rise. In addition to the expansion of civil servants and enterprises, the government is encouraging street vendors to help solve the problem of employment.

Economic Disparity

China has a large population of low-income citizens whose vulnerability is increased during times of crisis. This problem is not only an economic problem but also an issue of stability of sovereignty. During last month’s parliament session, Prime Minister Li Keqiang discussed civilian livelihood, reporting that 600 million citizens were still only making a monthly income of around 1,000 yuan ($140). This shows that there is still a large number of people in China who are unable to fill their basic needs without an increase in their income. As a result, China has begun to recognize the importance of developing the street vendor economy, which can help decrease unemployment and drive up higher consumption.

Street Vending in Public Policy

With the target of eliminating poverty by 2020, the approval of street vendors has become a necessary choice. Street stalls were previously thought to clash with the modern urban landscape of cities. However, the Chinese government had a change in attitude following the successful street stall experiment in Chengdu, China. The government found that reintroducing street stalls in Chengdu created 100,000 new jobs and largely increased people’s interest in entrepreneurship. Thus, the policy was implemented across the country.

Additionally, many large companies from a variety of sectors are stepping in and showing their support for street vending. Alibaba is one of the largest online shopping platforms in China. It pledged to sell merchandise to stall owners at a reduced price. Additionally, Dongfeng Motor Group and Jiangling Motors Corp (JMC) said its “vans can be modified to suit vegetable sellers or BBQ street food vendors.”

Effect on Unemployment

In June, unemployment was at  5.7%, which was a decrease of two points from the previous month. At that time, China had also created 5.64 million jobs. The increased use of street vendors is contributing to the stimulation of China’s economy and encouraging cash fl0w. Street vendors are aiding in the absorption of the labor force. They are helping those who have been unable to find work and who have not yet received aid due to the pandemic.

There is still some debate in areas like Bejing as to whether street vendors will help the economy. However, Chengdu created 100,00 jobs in May by opening “tens of thousands of street stalls.” Other local governments are following suit. Lanzhou announced its plans to open 11,000 more vendors with the possibility of providing an additional 300,000 jobs. By July, the unemployment rate had not lowered, but it also did not go up.

In a time when many countries are facing a spike in unemployment, China’s use of innovative solutions sets an encouraging example. By using street vendors as a way to stimulate the economy, China is supporting small businesses and improving consumer confidence. 

Dihan Chen
Photo: Flickr