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Causes of Poverty in St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a small island nation in the Caribbean that has faced a number of challenges in the past decade. The nation has a population growth rate of negative 0.31 percent and approximately 15 percent of the total population was unemployed in 2008. There are several causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, but most are related to its failing economy and poor education system.

The failure of the banana industry around 2008 pushed much of the population into unemployment or poverty, and the sudden rise of the construction industry has created an income gap. There were very low wages across the country and few job opportunities, leading to a poverty rate of 30.2 percent. The nation needs to focus on better integration into the global economy and on creating a more competitive national economy.

Low education levels has also been one of the larger causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. While there are programs in place, such as the School Meals and Textbooks program, to help low income families educate their children, many poor children still do not attend school everyday. Literacy rates were at 84 percent in 2008, but younger generations did have higher levels than older generations.

Gender inequality with relation to access to education is another of the causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In 2008, it was reported that nearly 50 percent of women had their first pregnancy between the ages of fifteen and nineteen. It was also noted that the labor market was inherently biased and women needed much higher levels of education to be able to compete with men. Households with a female head tended to be much poorer, and there was no formal legislation to deal with gender discrimination in the workplace.

Strides have been made, however, toward reducing poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In terms of the economy, tourism has become a larger sector and has created more jobs. With increased tourism has come increased construction, and that has also created the need for more labor. In terms of education, in 2000 the government set a number of goals that were to be achieved by 2015. These goals focused on providing good quality and compulsory primary education to all children, but particularly girls and ethnic minorities, and improving literacy rates and access to higher education for both boys and girls.

While there is not a lot of recent data about poverty in the nation, these goals are quite progressive and have shown solid attempts to reduce the causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. With continued effort from the government, the small island nation should be able to develop further and improve the quality of life for its citizens.

Liyanga De Silva

Photo: Flickr

Day of the Girl ChildOn October 11, the U.N. celebrated its annual Day of the Girl Child, which focuses on advancing the status of girls worldwide by celebrating their potential when combating the forces that endanger and repress them, such as child marriage, education inequality and health issues.

Since its inception in 2011, the Day of the Girl Child centers on a different topic each year. In 2016, the theme “Girls’ Progress = Goals Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement,” emphasizes the use of technological advances to acquire comprehensive data on girls worldwide, their unique struggles and the forces that oppress them.

In an address at the U.N. headquarters on October 11, 2016, Executive Director of U.N. Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka spoke on the importance of this movement: “Working with our partners, we are supporting countries to strengthen national capacity and systems to collect, analyse and disseminate gender data to improve statistics on priority issues for girls — including gender-based violence, adolescent pregnancy and reproductive health, informal employment, entrepreneurship, and unpaid work.”

Much of the U.N.’s efforts regarding the Day of the Girl Child centers on the practice of child, early and forced marriage, all of which remain prevalent issues in the world’s poorest countries.

Child marriage not only leaves psychological and physical scars that inhibit girls from personal fulfillment but also perpetuates cycles of poverty that trap families in situations with little or no education, economic disadvantages and poor health conditions.

Families often seek the temporary financial relief of a “bride price,” money given to them in exchange for marriage to their daughter. This practice, however, only continues the cyclical nature of poverty in their communities – it denies girls the opportunity for education, and ultimately, cripples new and developing families in the same way.

The other option — education for girls — helps to solve this long-term problem. A girl who has received just one additional year of primary education is 15 percent more likely to boost their future earnings, and this figure only increases with each additional year of education.

The U.N. has already made some advancements in the for fight for girls’ equality. After drawn-out and passionate lobbying in Malawi, the country passed the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act in 2015, which restricts the age of marriage without parental consent to 18.

Thanks to advancements in data collection, the lives of girls and women across the globe may now be much easier to improve. U.N. Women has continued to push for the end of child marriage, and thus, a step toward ending deeply entrenched poverty in some of the world’s poorest countries. As U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Lakshmi Puri phrased it, “Humanity can’t afford to lose half of the world’s creativity, passion and work. When you invest in a girl everyone benefits.”

Emily Marshall

Photo: Flickr