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Rafode
For many years, microfinance was viewed as one of the most successful means of raising individuals and communities out of poverty. In Myanmar, small and medium enterprises made up 99% of the country’s businesses. Most of those were, to no surprise, micro-businesses. In particular, the tool of microfinance was viewed as especially helpful to women. Yet, it turns out that studies found that microloans were not actually as impactful as many wanted them to be. The problem is that, because microloans are often given to those considered high-risk borrowers, high-interest rates are charged, making it difficult for those receiving the loans in the long run. The way to make microloans sustainable is by diverting the focus away from scalability and immediate returns. Rafode, a startup in Kenya, has done just that.

Headquartered in Kisumu, Kenya, Rafode is a “non-deposit taking Microfinance Institution.” With its main focus on women in rural communities, Rafode has successfully distributed over 40,000 loans, all with a value of around 700 million Kenya Shillings or $6.5 million. Relying on technology to deliver its products and services, Rafode has succeeded in reaching rural communities and uplifting both men and women through microloans.

Products and Services

Rafode has eight different products, all in the form of loans for different purposes.

  1. Inuka Business Loan: As a group loan, this is intended to encourage clients to create, upgrade or expand a business. This loan is the first step to receiving an individual loan and can range from 10,000 to 480,000 Kenya shillings.
  2. Masomo Loan: Dedicated to education, this loan is aimed to support a client’s family in receiving an education.
  3. Green Energy Loan: Working with other companies that provide green products, including Burn, Marathoner and Sunking, this group loan provides support for rural clients seeking access to affordable green energy products.
  4. Agribusiness Loan: As the name would suggest, this loan exists to specifically help small scale farmers in the agribusiness industry.
  5. Pamoja Loan: As another group loan, this works to support a group hoping to support its local economy.
  6. Emergency Loan: As an individual loan, the Emergency Loan serves to cater to the client’s emergencies, typically related to their business.
  7. Individual Business Loan: A more selective loan to receive, this loan exists exclusively for clients who already have businesses, and who already have businesses that are stable and have a reliable source of profits.
  8. Asset Loan: This final loan is self-securing. Providing real flexibility to clients, they gain the ability to finance movable assets and free up cash they might not have had before. Like the Individual Business Loan, this exists for clients who already are seeing their business profit, and hope to expand or grow it even more.

The Value of Microfinance

While conventional microloans have not been so effective, researchers have found that by providing microloans with little to no collateral, there are usually better results. Specifically, when given to women, these results are even more effective. This is because, especially in developing countries, microloans are among the only things that increase women’s decision-making power. In other words, microloans undeniably empower women.

So, Rafode’s efforts to give 85% of their microloans to women, focusing on rural communities and offering a plethora of different types of loans, all with very little collateral, have enabled this startup to do extremely impactful work that provides mutual benefits to the clients and back to the company. The most successful microfinance products allow flexible payment periods, individual liability contracts and one of Rafode’s main tools, the use of technology.

By believing in microfinance and adjusting to what will work by trusting in their clients, Rafode has raised individuals and families out of poverty, as well as revitalized economies in the process.

– Olivia Fish
Photo: Flickr

VisionSpring Supports Women While Spreading SightFor every $5 donated to VisionSpring, a low-income adult gets their eye prescription, a pair of glasses expected to last two years, and an estimated 120 percent increase from their initial income directly due to the glasses. This organization’s strategy zeroes in on the local: optometrists; female vision entrepreneurs as saleswomen; wholesale partnerships with government agencies, local hospitals and NGOs; and corporate social responsibility projects with large businesses. VisionSpring supports women, local business and helps create sustainable supply chains in the countries it works in.

Jordan Kassalow is the founder and visionary behind this organization that has already generated over $1.2 billion of economic impact. In 2019, he published his book “Dare to Matter,” in which he describes his journey. Starting as a mediocre student due to a rare eye disease, he had a post-graduation epiphany that people’s lives have meaning through their work to make the world better. While on a volunteer medical mission in the Yucatán Peninsula, Jordan gave an extremely nearsighted child a pair of glasses – and his sight.

Seven years later, Dr. Kassalow founded what would become VisionSpring today, to return productivity and livelihoods to the 2.5 billion sight-impaired people in the world who lack glasses. From the beginning, the organization has sought to empower women in the communities where it works. The Borgen Project interviewed Dr. Kassalow about how VisionSpring supports women in its sight-focused mission.

When you first had people on the ground, how did you reach people – and specifically women – to let them know about the vision entrepreneur opportunity?

There are a few reasons why we select women. One was because there was a higher rate of unemployment or underemployment with women. So, they are a natural, existing workforce that was underutilized. That was the whole root of the idea, to create livelihoods for the women and sustain livelihoods for their customers. (Microcredit research) showed pretty clearly that when you gave women access to resources that a lot of virtuous things started happening in society: their fertility rates would go down, the health of their children would go up, their housing conditions would go up and so forth.

We partnered with microcredit organizations and eye hospitals (for more advanced cases and to) give some credibility to the women who worked for us. The microcredit organizations were already in the communities where we worked (and) had a whole list of good customers who had exhibited their capacity to pay back their loans. So, it was largely through local credit organizations that we started identifying women and continued to source people.

I read in your book about one vision entrepreneur, Rama Devi, who has her husband driving her on a motorcycle so she can reach more people. It seems to upset traditional gender roles and has vision entrepreneurs stepping out of their traditional jobs at home (and) making more money than their husbands. Did you ever see any conflict of interest or anything like that?

Particularly in that area of India where we were working which had a Muslim culture primarily. It was somewhat antithetical to the historical-cultural norms for women to take on these more entrepreneurial roles, so we lost some of our best salespeople. We found that women would come, educated, supported somewhat by their husbands and fathers-in-law. But there seemed to be almost an expectation that they wouldn’t succeed. So, they would let them (work) while the stakes were low. But for those who would start to succeed, and the money would start to flow in, we saw many cases where they had to withdraw from the program, not because of a lack of their interest, but because of pressure from their husbands or fathers or so forth. So, we definitely did experience that.

I wanted to ask how (the See to Learn) strategy of providing glasses to schoolkids differs from adults. What initially drew you to this sector of the population?

I’ve always looked at vision as an input to global development and human development. The two areas most impacted by poor vision are productivity in work and learning in school. When you start an organization that has basically no human and financial resources, it’s good to try to take the really big problem and break it down to its component parts and strategically start with the place (that) execution-wise is the simplest. So, we started with See to Earn because it only required four different prescriptions.

Now, in kids, there is no similar corollary to simple, ready-made non-prescription reading glasses. Each kid has their own unique kids’ glasses (and) unique prescription, so it gets more complicated and you need higher trained people.

What we do is training teachers to do the work of the vision entrepreneur. (They do) the vision acuity test and figure who can pass and fail. And kids who fail, which in India is usually about 10 percent, get seen by a team of (local) optometrists who come once all those kids are identified. We can make about 70 percent of those glasses on the spot and (the rest) we custom make in the lab.

You mention in a 2017 interview with Mary Magistad from PRI that you encountered the issue of girls thinking they are less marriageable if they wear glasses. How have you amended your practice to account for cultural differences in the different countries you’ve worked in?

The cultural context is very important in our local operations. Particularly with girls, we find that almost the parents look for an excuse to take them out of school. If they are nearsighted and not thriving in school, they’ll be pulled out of school more quickly than the boys will. That’s a huge injustice.

Studies have shown that girls in India believe that, if you wear glasses, you are less marriable. We recently did a film that tracks a girl through identifying that she can’t see all the way to getting glasses and using them in school. We are trying to normalize, if you will, glasses through this film. It’s meant to be used as part of the curriculum before the team of optometrists comes to the school.

Dr. Kassalow’s newest breakthrough was the founding of EYElliance, a multinational coalition working towards integrating innovations into public and private sectors of countries around the world. Currently, with more than 40 member organizations (including USAID), EYElliance is Dr. Kassalow’s next big step towards achieving his original goal: getting eyeglasses to everyone who needs them. Hopefully, Kassalow’s ongoing priority that VisionSpring supports women will demonstrate to other international aid organizations that women are the building blocks to international development.

Daria Locher
Photo: Wikimedia

Always Helps Girls
In March 2018, Always — a major feminine hygiene product maker — launched a campaign aimed at ending period poverty. Since then, Always and The Red Box Project, a community-driven initiative that ensures girls can access sanitary products, have donated over 14 million sanitary pads to school girls in the U.K. This is not the first time Always has helped girls around the world. Always has partnered with over 60 organizations that help girls in need. Below are a few of the programs that Always helps girls with around the world.

How Always Focuses on Girls’ Education Around the World

  1. #EndPeriodPoverty
    Always believes that every girl should be able to access sanitary hygiene products, and as of March of 2019, it has donated more than 15 million pads to school girls in the United Kingdom. By partnering with The Red Box Project, Always helps girls become empowered all across the United Kingdom. This initiative has also reached the United States.
  2. In Kind Direct Partnership
    Before launching #EndPeriodPoverty, Always worked with In Kind Direct, a nonprofit organization in the United Kingdom that “inspires product giving for social good and works to alleviate hygiene poverty.”  This organization receives donated items from over 1,125 different companies, like Always, and distributes them to charities across the United Kingdom. For over 14 years, Always has partnered with In Kind Direct and donated over two million hygiene products to the more than 137,700 school girls in the United Kingdom that miss school due to period poverty.
  3. UNESCO and Save the Children Partnership and the Syrian Refugee Crisis
    The Syrian refugee crisis represents one of the worst humanitarian crises of this time. The majority of the more than 11 million Syrians that have fled their homes during the Syrian Civil War are girls and young women who are unable to attend school or find employment. The main reason for this is that these young girls face gender-based barriers. Always and P&G have partnered with UNESCO and Save the Children to implement an empowerment program that ensures that girls and young women living in Jordan have access to educational opportunities, learn life skills and have access to work readiness training. This program is an expansion of the Always and Save the Children partnership, which has concentrated on helping young girls in Mexico, Nepal, South Africa, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa stay in school. It is also an extension of Always’ previous work with UNESCO, which gives girls in Senegal and Nigeria basic literacy and information technology education. By creating educational programs such as this, Always empowers girls to build confidence and strive to reach their fullest potential.
  4. Always and UNESCO: Girl’s Literacy Programme
    In 2011, Always and UNESCO partnered to give young African girls access to literacy education. According to Always, 497 million girls and young women are illiterate and in Senegal, more than four out of 10 girls have dropped out of school. With the Girls’ Literacy Program, 60,000 girls in Nigeria and Senegal have gained information and communication technologies which will help them achieve access to the education they need. Through the Revitalizing Adults and Youth Literacy program, also created by Always and UNESCO, young girls use e-Learning to learn how to read and write, gain basic numeracy and learn life and vocational skills as well. Always has committed to reaching 110,000 girls in Nigeria and Senegal before 2020.
  5. Puberty, Health and Hygiene Education with Save the Children
    According to UNICEF, one in 10 African school girls does not attend school during menstruation or drops out of school altogether because they lack sufficient sanitation facilities. Another reason that these young girls drop out of school is that their families and cultures do not have the correct facts about menstruation. In a video produced by Save the Children, one girl from Ethiopia said that her parents told her that a girl gets her period when she has sex outside of marriage. Save the Children and P&G, the producers of Always, have partnered to ensure that young girls gain the knowledge and confidence to stay in school. Together, Always and Save the Children have helped over 10,000 girls in Nepal, Ethiopia and Mexico escape embarrassment from menstruation and allow them to remain in school. By providing the tools to succeed, Always empowers girls to say in school.
  6. Always’ Keeping Girls in School Programme
    While many girls around the world miss school during menstruation, providing basic hygiene products as well as education about puberty and menstruation can help keep girls in school. By working with local governments and charities, Always helps girls stay in school by making sure they have clean and safe sanitary facilities and provide education about feminine hygiene and puberty. Always’ Keeping Girls in School programme has helped over 170,000 girls in addition to donating 11 million pads to schools.

Always helps girls and women all around the world and empowers them to live their lives without any barriers. Millions of girls worldwide miss school and drop out due to period poverty. Girls from Africa to the United States suffer this issue but Always is dedicated to empowering girls and young women by educating them about puberty and providing them with proper feminine hygiene products.

– Andrea Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

Ethical Fashion Brands
Ethical fashion refers to how clothing is made and takes into account the materials that are used but also the treatment of the workers, their salaries and their safety. The movement is growing and shedding light on the unsustainable practices of so-called “fast” fashion – miserable working conditions, unlivable wages, environmental degradation and pollution. Poor men and women must endure these conditions because they do not have a choice. Currently, more and more ethical brands aim to give back to local communities in developing countries. In this article, five ethical brands working to alleviate poverty by empowering women are presented.

Ethical Brands that Empower Women

  1. Krochet Kids puts a face behind the product. Everything they produce is hand-signed by the woman who made it and customers can learn about the stories of these women online. The company provides job opportunities to women in need to help them break the cycle of poverty. It all started as a hobby of high school friends who crocheted their own winter hats and other products. After attending college and spending some time in Uganda, the idea to pass on the skill of crocheting to people emerged. By teaching people the craft they gave them the autonomy to start working and providing for their families. Krochet Kids provides jobs which is a crucial step toward alleviating poverty. They also work with a nonprofit partner Capable, in order to go further and provide services to help their employees in all areas of life. The program includes mentorship, educational and financial services. Capable’s goal is to equip people with the skills, knowledge and resources they need to permanently get out of poverty and create their own business.
  2. ABLE is a lifestyle brand whose mission is to end generational poverty by giving women economic opportunity. The founder, Barrett Ward, had a firsthand experience witnessing how poor young women in Ethiopia had to prostitute to support themselves and he decided to change that. The brand has grown a lot over the years and currently works in countries like Ethiopia, Mexico, Peru and Nashville. All of the company’s products have something in common- they are made by women and help bring the end of generational poverty closer. To show the true impact of their work, ABLE is committed to radical transparency and publishes the wages of their employees. They also use a platform that measures social impact. By being radically transparent they want to empower consumers to demand change through their choices and invest in women.
  3. Initially starting out as a nonprofit organization in 2008, Raven + Lily now employs over 1,500 women in order to help them break free from the cycle of poverty. Their partners ensure that they pay their employees livable wages. Raven + Lily recognizes that production impacts people and the planet and does not only minimize the waste by using repurposed or recycled materials but aims to empower women on a bigger scale. Every purchase funds microloans given to women entrepreneurs in local communities. Raven + Lily provides women with a safe job, fair wages, health care and tools to empower them to thrive.
  4. Mayamiko is an ethical brand that produces clothes, accessories and homeware ethically made in Malawi. The brand uses and draws inspiration from African techniques and locally printed fabrics. Mayamiko works closely with Mayamiko Trust, a charity that aims to nurture the talents and creativity of those most disadvantaged. They lift people out of poverty by training them in activities that could transfer into a trade. The Mayamiko Trust and the brand work together through the Mayamiko Fashion Lab. The Lab provides education, nutrition and sanitation. Disadvantaged women, many of them being HIV patients or orphans, learn sewing and tailoring and develop business and financial skills. Upon completion of the training, they receive guidance, mentorship and recognized qualifications as well as access to microloans to help them start their own business. The Mayamiko Trust also crafts and provides reusable sanitary kits to women, giving them a safe and hygienic option for their period.
  5. HopeMade is child-labor-free certified brand and committed to high-quality ethically made products. The company started in September 2016 with the goal of producing conscious and ethical fashion and providing employees with dignifying wages and work. The brand uses 100 percent alpaca fiber that is knitted in Peru by local artisans. Their core values are sustainability, fair trade and ethics and they are on a mission to transform the way style is produced, perceived and consumed. The brand is managed from Colombia where indigenous tribes work and earn fair wages.

Empowering women impacts and lifts whole communities out of poverty. When women earn a sustainable income, they reinvest it back into food, health, education, children, their family and the community. Ethical brands help women create their own businesses, provide for their families and escape the cycle of poverty.

– Aleksandra Sirakova
Photo: Flickr

Gender Equality in Pakistan
Throughout the years, U.S. organizations and agencies have worked in cooperation with the government of Pakistan and other development partners to establish gender equality in Pakistan. These efforts work to ensure Pakistani women feel empowered to pursue opportunities just as brazenly as their male counterparts.

History: Relations Between Pakistan and the United States

Since Pakistan gained independence in 1947, the United States has provided considerable support in the overall development of the country. The U.S. was one of the first nations to recognize Pakistan as an independent nation.

For more than 60 years, Pakistan and the U.S. have forged a strong, cooperative relationship that has proven to benefit the people of both countries.

Achieving Gender Equality in Pakistan

In recent years, there have been important advancements in gender equality in Pakistan. Today, Pakistani women are more likely to participate in the labor force and access health and educational services than their mothers and grandmothers would have. Pakistan also has a relatively strong women’s political representation —  about a fifth of parliamentary seats held by women.

However, there is still significant progress to be made if Pakistani women are to be full partners in the development of Pakistan. Women comprise more than half of Pakistan’s population and yet only 22.7 percent are part of the labor force. Even those who are part of the labor force belong largely to the informal sector, receiving little pay and few legal protections.

Also, while Pakistan enjoys a high gross enrollment rate of 89 percent of girls in primary schools, that rate drops to about 41 percent of girls who are enrolled in secondary schools.

Female Empowerment

The empowerment of women and girls is a critical aspect of any prosperous, democratic society. Female empowerment in Pakistan will not only safeguard human rights but also further international peace and security while establishing a growing, vibrant market economy.

Through the efforts of a combination of many organizations such as the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pakistan is even closer to achieving gender equality.

USAID: The Gender Equality Program (GEP)

The Gender Equality Program (GEP) actively works to diminish the gender gap in Pakistan by supporting women’s economic, political, and social advancement. The program helps women become full and active members of their own society by providing access to information, resources and public services.

The GEP also works to change the derogatory societal attitudes towards women in Pakistan. This program educates women about their fundamental rights at home, at work and in society.

A staggering 32 percent of all Pakistani women have experienced physical violence; 40 percent of married Pakistani women have experienced spousal abuse. Even more concerning, one in two Pakistani women who have experienced physical abuse never sought help.

Through the support of the GEP, local activities are conducted to expand women’s knowledge of and ability to exercise their rights and obtain justice. The GEP helps women’s shelters provide legal aid, counseling and vocational skills that connect women to potential employers.

Empowering Girls Through Education

USAID also has programs such as the Sindh Basic Education Program and the Improving Education Quality Project to ensure more girls have the opportunity to pursue an education. These programs mobilize communities to increase girls’ school enrollment rates and train more female teachers, which encourages Pakistani families to send their girls to school.

USAID also provides scholarships to women pursuing higher education through the Merit and Needs-Based Scholarship program (MNSBP) and the Fulbright Program. MNSBP gifts university scholarships to academically talented, economically disadvantaged Pakistani students.

Major Accomplishments in Gender Equality in Pakistan

Pakistani women have experienced major improvements in regards to gender equality. The USAID has provided shelter, legal, health and economic support to nearly 40,000 victims of gender-based violence while also committing $70 million to help educate and empower over 200,000 adolescent Pakistani girls.

Although, societal beliefs of traditional gender roles may be difficult to break, raising awareness about women’s rights and supporting pro-women laws is a significant step towards achieving gender equality in Pakistan.

– Lolontika Hoque
Photo: Flickr

girls’ education in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a country known for its dedication to its diverse environment. But less known is its dedication to educating its youth, predominantly girls. The range of resources offered throughout the country, whether institutional or grassroots oriented, are just as diverse as its environment. The following are ten facts that help illuminate the successes and improvements of girls’ education in Costa Rica.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Costa Rica

  1. As of 2018, four percent of the country’s total GNP, one-fourth of the national government budget, was given to education. More money is spent on education in Costa Rica than any other Latin American country.
  2. In 1869, the country made education free and compulsory for all citizens. After this mandate, the number of schools in the educational system have risen to more than 4,000. The World Bank reports as of 2016 that girls’ educational participation at the primary school level is 96.6 percent, with secondary school enrollment at 84.5 percent.
  3. Girls’ enrollment at the tertiary level of education in Costa Rica is 60.9 percent, which is much higher than the male enrollment at the same level who have a participation of 46.6 percent. This participation in higher education is substantial. The world’s average percentage of girls enrolled at the tertiary level of education is only 38.9 percent.
  4. UNICEF reports as of 2012 that girls ages 15 to 24 years old have a literacy rate of 98.7 percent in Costa Rica. This rate exceeds the literacy rate for males, which is 97.9 percent.
  5. There are several programs for girls’ education in Costa Rica that include sustainable development. Sulá Batsú is a local organization that targets young women, specifically in low-income communities, and provides education on technology. By integrating the arts and cultural practices into the process, girls learn more than just technical skills. They also learn how to incorporate their unique identities into the work they produce. The organization has seen the success of 250 students in their technology camps in 2018 alone.
  6. February 15, 2017, marked the inaugural event of the first International Day of Women and Girls in Science in the country. Along with the U.N., this celebration aimed to encourage girls’ education in Costa Rica in science-related fields. Positions in these fields have been traditionally held by men; only 28 percent of researchers are women. Science is viewed not only as the main component of creating a sustainable society aimed at protecting the planet but is also seen as a path to eradicating poverty.
  7. Young girls engaged in STEM are reaching unprecedented rates in Costa Rica. In 2014, at the Twenty-sixth Math Olympiad, 66 medals were given to 132 high school students who had achieved success in the final events of the academic competition. Of these 132 students, a high number of finalists were girl students. This trend was also seen at the Fifth Robotics Olympiad in Costa Rica, where many of the teams had girl participants and some groups being formed solely of females.
  8. The World Bank estimates that of the 4.85 million people living in the country, 1.1 million live in poverty. The Women’s Empowerment Coalition in the country is aimed at helping impoverished girls and women to ensure that they reach a higher standard of living through education. The Coalition works by educating socially vulnerable girls, ensuring they achieve a high school education and job placement assistance. The organization’s model is “collaborative, reciprocal and relational.” The classes are self-paced and mentoring, educational materials and resources are provided to students to assist them in achieving U.S. high school diploma equivalencies. The Coalition has reached over 4,000 women and girls thus far.
  9. Mujeres en Tecnología en Acción (Women in Technology in Action) was launched in January of 2015 and is an organization aimed at promoting the participation of girls in science and technology-related fields in Costa Rica. The group identifies girls aged 15 to 19 living in communities at social risk and invites them to take part in the program. Participating girls learn skills that will better serve them in technology-based careers, such as leadership, entrepreneurship and female empowerment.
  10. UNESCO has worked with the government to identify a list of goals to be reached by 2030. Several of the goals center on educational standards, which will be implemented throughout the country. UNESCO identifies girls as being vulnerable to poverty if not properly educated at an early age. As of 2016, less than 6,000 girls had dropped out of school, a significant decrease from the 2011 record of 10,000. This progress illustrates the dedication to girls’ education in Costa Rica as a means of eradicating poverty country-wide.

Costa Rica has taken strides to ensure that its population consists of well-educated, globally-minded citizens. These 10 facts about girls’ education in Costa Rica exemplify how an already progressive state will continue to work hard to maintain this standard well into the future.

 – Taylor Jennings
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Girls' Education in Uganda

Girls’ education in Uganda varies from region to region. The gender gap has become smaller; however, there are serious issues holding back the progress of the development of girls’ education. Below are 10 facts about girls’ education in Uganda that highlight the obstacles as well as the benefits proven to be derived from the continuation of a girls’ education.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Uganda

  1. The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) reported that more than 700,000 girls in Uganda between the ages of six to 12 have never attended school. In fact, around half of girls between the ages of 15 to 24 are illiterate and four in five girls do not attend high school.
  2. A large contributor to low female literacy rates and school attendance rates is that up to 40 percent of girls in Uganda are married before the age of 18. Around 10 percent of these girls are married before the age of 15. Around 35 percent of girls drop out due to marriage and 23 percent drop out due to pregnancy. In contrast, allowing girls to continue through secondary education significantly reduces the chances of early marriage and childbearing.
  3. In Uganda, teenage pregnancy rates are some of the highest in the world. The national average is 24 percent; however, statistics change from region to region. The poorest regions have the highest percentage of teenage pregnancy.
  4. Poverty is the largest contributor to low standards in girls’ education in Uganda. Though education is free, school supplies and uniforms are not. Because of this, when faced with either sending a son or a daughter to school, a son’s education will usually be prioritized.
  5. Because of the high poverty rates, girls are usually expected to work as a way to increase the family’s income. The Global Partnership for Education reported that especially in rural areas, local traditions dictate that girls can be married in exchange for a dowry, a sum of money given to the daughter’s family as payment.
  6. Uneducated girls are highly susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases as well as other health complications. Health issues put girls at a risk of not continuing their education. In 2015, around 567 young people between the ages of 15 to 24 contracted HIV/AIDS on a weekly basis. A staggering 363 of these young adults were female.
  7. Girls are less likely to attend school during their menstrual cycle which creates gaps in a girl’s education. This is caused by inadequate infrastructure and resources for good hygiene in schools, especially for girls. Furthermore, girls often feel ashamed and embarrassed about their cycle because women’s health education is not a priority.
  8. Statistics show that educated mothers are more than twice as likely to ensure the education of their children. They are also more likely to earn higher wages than an uneducated person. A World Bank report shows that there would be a 14 percent rise in a girl’s wage if she would continue her education rather than get married.
  9. Educating girls would see a reduction in child marriage and births. This is closely linked to lower mortality rates as well. It would also greatly improve the standard of living across Uganda and reduce poverty rates.
  10. Educated women are more likely to invest back into their families. Roughly 90 percent of an income will usually go back to the family.

While the Ugandan education system has progressed and policies have been adopted, the lack of enforcement is the real issue. There must be further investment in the future of girls and their education; as these facts about girls’ education in Uganda illustrate, investing in girls would benefit the country in immeasurable ways.

– Trelawny Robinson
Photo: Flickr

Girls' education in Thailand
Thailand, a country located in Southeast Asia, has made great strides toward educating its population. From 1985 to 2005, the country had exceptional growth in its real income per capita and it is no secret that socioeconomic factors play a role in gender equality.

Because of economic growth and modernization, Thailand has continued to work toward a more equal society from its traditional male dominated society. Although the great advances in girls’ education must not go unnoticed, it is also worth noting there are still challenges in girls’ education. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Thailand that everyone should know.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Thailand

  1. Thailand’s Ministry of Education grants all children a twelve-year education, and under the 1999 Education Act, “all children, without discrimination” have a right “to a quality education.”
  2. Thailand has been one of four countries in Asia to successfully promote the right to girls’ education.
  3. Between the years 2005 to 2010, the primary school completion rate for girls in school was 89 percent while the completion rate for boys was 97 percent.
  4. Analyst Liza Romanow mentioned in the Global Majority E-journal that “educational opportunities for women in Thailand are improving. While there are still fewer girls than boys attending primary school, the gender gap has decreased considerably from slightly more than eight percent in 1971 to slightly less than two percent in 2009.”
  5. Challenges that continue to hinder girls’ education in Thailand include discrimination amongst marginalized groups, poverty, language and transportation to school.
  6. A further challenge is that some material taught in public schools perpetuates a cycle of gender inequality in all aspects of society. An example presented by the World Bank is a study that randomly selected 538 textbooks in schools and found that women represented in the textbooks were limited to playing small roles in society like marital duties rather than men who were represented as having superior positions in society.
  7. In 1977, Thailand’s agricultural sector improved, opening an increasing number of jobs for men. At the same time, cities began gaining more wealth. Because of the country’s economic growth and increasing amount of job opportunities in urban areas, women were able to actually have more opportunity in higher education than men and many were able to enter different industries in the city.
  8. Although women have more opportunities than men in higher education, there is still a disparity in earnings. While there has been significant progress since 1985 (when the average male was making 34 percent more than his female counterpart), in 2005, men still received nine percent more than women in the workplace.
  9. Thailand’s Ministry of Education has begun working with the U.N. to become the first country to adopt a U.N. policy toolkit to promote STEM education among Thai girls. Although 53 percent of science students in higher education are female, less than 24 percent of women study engineering, manufacturing and construction studies.
  10. In 1998, the Child-Friendly School (CFS) initiative was launched in order to promote education for all, and many of CFS’s activities are ongoing in Thailand today.

Every girl deserves the right to education. Thailand’s government has done tremendous work to promote girls’ education in the country but recognizes that it still has work to do. With combined efforts between the Thai government and international organizations, Thailand can continue to support and improve the well-being of girls’ education.

– Emma Martin
Photo: Flickr

girls’ education in Sierra Leone
As is true in many countries around the globe, female education in Sierra Leone has lacked greatly throughout the nation’s history. Remnants of severe educational inequality still persist with males leading their female counterparts in literacy rates at all levels of education. While the country as a whole faces extreme poverty, it is females who suffer the most. In times of desperation, many young women are forced to leave school in order to work at home or find a husband. As a result, the current state of girls’ education in Sierra Leone is underemphasized and unjust, however, we may be embarking on a new era in female empowerment.

A Turning Point for Sierra Leone

The last decade has proved to be a turning point for the nation and its female population. Beginning in 2007, Sierra Leone became a member of the Global Partnership for Education. Through its commitment to the organization and the reciprocal aid received in the process, Sierra Leone was able to redesign its Education Sector Plan and offer new resources to females across the country.

This new plan not only focused on increased access to free pre-primary education (ages three to five) but also enhanced its commitment on the backend, strengthening equitable access to senior education by providing more scholarships to female students. As the country enters into more formal relationships with international groups, such as the U.K. Department for International Development, girls’ education in Sierra Leone is undergoing a remarkable transition.

Improving Girls’ education in Sierra Leone

In addition to government-sponsored relief, other organizations have also implemented innovative programs that increase the focus on girls’ education in Sierra Leone and create an atmosphere where such a focus is of utmost concern. UNICEF now annually supports a Girls’ Education Week which is formally run by the Education Ministry. The fact that such a program is now receiving national attention demonstrates the changing public attitude in regard to girls’ education in Sierra Leone.

Girl Child Network, a nonprofit organization that works around the globe, is currently implementing crucial outlets for girls to be protected, be treated as individuals and be able to receive quality educational materials throughout Sierra Leone. The organization offers leadership training programs, which aim to build confidence in young women and girls.

It is also currently implementing Girls Empowerment Villages that offer a place of refuge where abused girls can stay. Now protected, these girls have the ability to pursue education and receive quality information that is disseminated within the villages.

Effects of Girls’ Access to Education

While relief and equal access programs are vital in transforming girls’ education in Sierra Leone, it is important to see the true effectiveness of this recent movement. According to the Global Partnership for Education, the gender gap between primary enrollment and primary completion rate has decreased since 2012. While the male enrollment rate has not changed dramatically, female enrollment has been on a steady increase and completion rates have skyrocketed.

As of now, improvements to girls’ education in Sierra Leone are still underway and the eventual outcome cannot yet be determined. However, the success of recent years and the amount of campaigns and groups that continue to operate on behalf of girls and their education nationwide is promising. National commitment to this movement, combined with international aid, is creating the foundation for a stable future in female education in Sierra Leone.

– Ryan Montbleau
Photo: Flickr

Justice for WomenThe United Nations estimates that there are currently four billion people excluded from the rule of law, with over 150 countries that have one or more laws that discriminate against women. To address this inequality and bring more women access to justice, the High-level Group on Justice for Women (HLG) had its inaugural meeting at the Hague from May 28-29, 2018.

What is the High-level Group on Justice for Women?

This group was started by U.N. Women along with the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO). Its members include experts on human rights, gender and justice from civil society organizations, governments, academics and intergovernmental organizations.

The main purpose of this group is to act as advocates for women’s access to justice during the High-level Political Forum in 2019 where the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be reviewed. In particular, the HLG is focused on SDG 16 with its stated goal being to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

One of the HLG’s main purposes is to ensure the implementation, monitoring and reporting of SDG 16 in the years to come. The group wishes to highlight the justice gaps that women and girls face around the world, ways to improve global access to justice and why this is a necessary cause to invest in. To address these issues, the HLG is focused on these approaches:

  • Reforming the legal and policy framework
  • Reforming justice institutions
  • Legally empowering women to access justice and claim rights
  • Addressing customary and informal justice

Why Justice for Women Matters

The HLG argues that ensuring justice for women is at the heart of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals because, without this measure, other SDGs such as education, equality, health and employment will not be realized. The SDGs are key to fighting global poverty, with the first goal being to end poverty in all its form everywhere. Equal justice is a means to recognizing and respecting women’s rights as it allows women to function as equal members of society who can contribute to development and ending poverty.

Beyond equality and respect for human rights, the HLG strongly believes that women’s access to justice is both a requirement and enabler of development. There has been more and more evidence that with greater gender equality comes greater economic development. For instance, when women are permitted to work and contribute to household incomes, studies have shown that more money is allocated for health, education, food and children. Improving justice for women gives social, economic and environmental benefits instead of continuing poverty, social exclusion, bad health, violence and crime.

Closing the Justice Gap

All of this work highlights the contrasts between what is promised in SDG 16 and what women are really experiencing and the contrasts between what women need and want when seeking justice and what they actually receive. In other words, this is known as the justice gap.

Around the world, 104 economies have laws preventing women from working specific jobs like manufacturing, construction, agriculture, water and transportation. Equally shocking, 45 countries have no laws on domestic violence and 59 economies have no laws about sexual harassment in the workplace.

This unequal justice and lack of respect for women’s rights is a hindrance to development and ending global poverty. The HLG is an important ally in the fight to end global poverty and its work to combat the justice gap will hopefully see great results in the years to come.

– Alexandra Eppenauer
Photo: Flickr