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Women’s rights in TunisiaFor neighboring countries, Tunisia is a model of women’s rights. Although women’s rights in Tunisia are lacking in some areas, activists and lawyers have consistently worked to dismantle patriarchal social structures.

Poverty in Tunisia

The national poverty rate consistently fell between 2005 and 2015. In 2005, the poverty rate in Tunisia was 23.1%, and in 2015, the poverty rate was 15.2%. Poverty tends to disproportionately affect inland regions in Tunisia.

Inland regions register higher rates of poverty than coastal regions. This difference is often stark. In Centre West, a landlocked region, the rate of poverty was 30.8%, whereas, in Centre Est, a coastal region, the poverty rate was 11.4%. The national poverty rate for men and women, however, was nearly identical.

Role of Women in the Economy

By 2005 the number of female entrepreneurs in Tunisia was nearly 5000 and had impressively doubled to 10,000 by 2008. Despite the expansion of women’s rights in Tunisia, which has played out through a legal process, deferral to traditional gender roles continues to hold women back from pursuing entrepreneurial roles in society. A 2010 study found that this may be explained by an “inadequate support system” for women in Tunisia who aspire to develop careers in the business world.

Mowgli Mentoring

The development of a strong support system for women entrepreneurs in Tunisia is the goal of Mowgli’s partnership with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The initiative partnered 12 Tunisian businesswomen with Mowgli mentors for a year. Its goal was to create a new culture of support and sustainability that will foster “economic and societal development throughout Tunisia.”

This approach is fundamental to shift the business culture in Tunisia. Institutional support for women entrepreneurs is tantamount to their success. Women entrepreneurs generally receive less institutional support than their male counterparts receive upon starting a new business. This includes a lack of financial support from financial institutions. Women entrepreneurs are also less likely to be offered opportunities to participate in business training, courses or schooling.

Women Entrepreneurs in Tunisia

Despite these obstacles, women entrepreneurs in Tunisia have developed innovative ways to improve support for women in business. Raja Hamdi is the director of the Sidi Bouzid Business Center. The center supports startups by providing mentors to evaluate business and market trends.

The Sidi Bouzid Business Center works closely with the Mashrou3i program, which is a partner of Go Market, a research and marketing firm located in the Kairouan region of Tunisia. Go Market was founded by female entrepreneur, Hayfa Ben Fraj. It works strategically in market analysis to support a “wide range of sectors and diverse fields such as technology, crafts and agriculture.”

Working Toward an Inclusive Economy

Although patriarchal structures of repression endure in Tunisia, the overall attitude is one of progress, equality and inclusion. Constituting one half of the population in Tunisia, women represent a latent workforce with the potential to reshape Tunisia’s economy through a series of innovative programs based on a culture of mutual support. Women’s rights in Tunisia will continue to increase as entrepreneurial opportunities for women flourish.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

Female Health Care in KenyaPoverty affects genders differently, with women often being more disadvantaged than men. Meeting the strategic needs of those living in poverty must be accompanied by fulfilling practical gender needs. This will ensure equal access to economic progress for all. One NGO is working to fight gender discrimination by providing female health care in Kenya.

Girls in Danger

In the wake of COVID-19, mass closures of schools and businesses have further hindered the economic development of remote Kenyan districts. The strict COVID-19 guidelines implemented by local authorities have resulted in the closing of safe homes and centers for girls. The preoccupation with COVID-19 regulations led authorities to produce minimal effort to stop the violence against women and girls. On top of the pandemic, the country has fallen victim to other disasters. Extreme droughts and flooding, as well as a locust invasion, have lowered the food supply for rural areas.

These desperate circumstances have left low-income families with limited financial options. Some families have resorted to employing their young children and marrying off their daughters in exchange for money and cattle. This incites increased gender-based violence as child marriages leave girls vulnerable to sexual and physical violence.

Dr. Esho, who works on-site for Amref Health, said, “Including community systems in the prevention of and response to FGM/C (female genital mutilation and cutting) and child marriage is more important than ever. More women and girls are now at risk of harmful practices and gender-based violence.”

Centering Women in Health Care

Amref Health Africa is an NGO based in Nairobi, Kenya. It has been a crucial part of introducing health care services and technology to Sub-Saharan Africa. Established in 1957, the organization has a long history of bringing modern medicine to rural African communities.

Amref Health Africa is proving how female empowerment isn’t a silly social movement but a crucial factor in women’s livelihoods. The NGO dedicates much of its work to improving female health care in Kenya. Women often lack education on their sexual health, which impedes prudent, informed decisions regarding their futures. Advancements in female health care in Kenya can empower women to take control of their bodies and pregnancies. Additionally, it can offer better support to these women in their chosen paths.

Amref also aids women suffering from violence. Organization members, such as Dr. Esho, work jointly with local activists and health workers to construct a plan of action. The community members have firsthand knowledge and experience working with survivors of FGM/C and other cruelties, which Amref acknowledges and utilizes. Therefore, the NGO ensures victims are getting proper care and refuge from their abusive situations.

What We Can Do

Amref strives to bring awareness to gender-based violence and the positive effect of proper female health care in Kenya. With the hashtag #EndFGM, Amref is trying to engage international activists through social media. The organization is also accepting direct donations through its website.

One may feel powerless during times of international emergencies. However, that must not stop everyone from doing their part. Those who want to help can contact their congressmen and congresswomen as well as other representatives to protect the U.S.’s foreign aid budget. This will benefit NGOs, similar to Amref Health, that work closely with poor communities to identify unique problems and solutions.

Lizt Garcia
Photo: Flickr

The Nike Foundation’s Girl EffectAround the world, many young girls are without access to basic health and educational resources. Research has shown that gender equality and women’s empowerment initiatives are key to alleviating global poverty. Over the years, organizations have developed across the globe committed to providing such resources in order to improve the quality of life for millions. One of those organizations is The Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect. This organization is a creative nonprofit working where girls are marginalized and vulnerable.

4 Facts About Girl Effect

1. Girl Effect has been in operation for 12 years. The Nike Foundation launched Girl Effect in 2008 at the World Economic Forum. According to its website, “The Girl Effect is about the unique potential of adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world.” Nike designed the organization to inspire the most influential leaders in the world to get girls in vulnerable nations on the global development agenda and help increase the drive of resources to them. Girl Effect also aims to create media resources for girls around the world in order to increase their access to resources surrounding education and healthcare. Through partnerships with prominent organizations and creating branded media content, Girl Effect has provided millions of girls access to life-saving information.

2. It uses media and the internet to reach girls in developing nations. Girl Effect creates branded media for girls around the world that helps to “navigate the pivotal time of adolescence so they can make positive choices about their health, education and economic future.” Girl Effect currently operates seven different digital programs to reach girls around the world; Chhaa Jaa, Ni Nyampinga, Springster, TEGA, Tujibebe, Yegna and Zathu. The Chhaa Jaa program, which means “go forth and shine” in Hindi, is a “digital-first youth brand that inspires, informs and equips girls in India with the right skills and confidence to navigate adolescence.” These resources include helping girls access information about sexual and reproductive health, how to negotiate with parents about their choices for continuing their education, and how to prepare for their first job. Tujibebe is a program that was born from Tanzanian culture and is a mobile-based brand focused on helping provide adolescent girls with information and resources they need to make positive choices about their future. This includes how to finish their education and setting up their own small business.

3. It partners with numerous organizations to share its message. Girl Effect has worked with organizations from a variety of industries, from nonprofits to social media networks, to help effectively spread its message to girls across the world. One of the largest nonprofit organizations that it partners with is UNICEF. Together the organizations support and promote the Ni Nyampinga program in Rwanda. Through this partnership, UNICEF and Girl Effect have been able to make Ni Nyampinga a nation-wide movement with 80% of the population of Rwanda aware of it, which is almost 6.6 million Rwandans. Another prominent partner of the organization is Facebook. Through the use of Facebook’s Free Basics platform, which provides people with full access to services on their mobile phones, Girl Effect is able to promote its Springster program on a worldwide scale. Through this partnership, Facebook and Girl Effect have been able to reach over 12 million users in the past year alone. The program is available in over 50 countries, including South Africa, Nigeria, the Philippines and Indonesia. A few additional Girl Effect partners include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gavi and Mastercard Foundation.

4.  The Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect made great strides reaching developing countries. Since its introduction in 2008, Girl Effect has been able to reach millions of girls in developing nations to provide education and resources. In India and South Africa, its online chatbots have responded to over 1.2 million messages asking for advice on sex and healthy relationships. It has helped connect over 15,000 girls in India with efficient sexual and reproductive health information and services online. In Malawi, girls who read Girl Effect magazine are 32% more likely than non-readers to go to a medical provider and receive their first dose of HPV medication. In Indonesia, those who have seen Girl Effect’s digital nutrition campaign are 32% more likely to make healthier food choices than those who did not view it.

Girl Effect Closes the Gender Gap

Since its beginning, The Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect has helped to create media for girls around the world to provide resources on how to improve their education, healthcare and well-being. For years, the world has struggled to include girls in the many advances that have been made in healthcare and education. However, organizations like Girl Effect help to close this gap.

– Sara Holm
Photo: Flickr

instability in the CongoThe Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Over the past decades, war, gender imbalances and lack of political development, as well as conservation issues, have contributed to the country’s vulnerability. Instability in the Congo has been a challenge, but citizens continue to strive for peace and security.

With a population of 84,068,091 in 2018, 50.1% of the Congo’s population are women, while 49.9% are men. The population has a nearly equal gender ratio, though women face significant challenges in gender equality. As in many developing countries, women are not respected equally and typically do not hold positions of power. In the Congo, beginning in 1996, sexual violence has been used as a war weapon to intimidate and control women during and after the war.

According to the U.N., women in the Congo suffer drastically from a lack of rights and increasing vulnerability during the rise of military operations in 2018. With cases and reports of sexual violence increasing by 34% in 2018, the need for change is apparent. The U.N. quickly addressed these issues, working with the Congolese government to negotiate for peace with the Patriotic Resistance Front of Ituri. This brought about a decrease in sexual abuse cases committed by such military groups. Though the issue remains, there was a reported 72% decrease in sexual abuse cases following the UN’s intervention.

Poverty and Poaching

A decrease in the Congo’s poverty line has also occurred over the past two decades, although according to the World Bank, 72% of the population remains under the poverty line, living on less than $1.90 a day. With more than half of the Congo’s citizens struggling to make ends meet, poaching is an increasingly significant issue. Conservation is particularly essential in developing countries in which biodiversity and wildlife create tourist attractions that provide crucial economic income. Much of the country’s wildlife, such as elephants and primates, are subject to dangerous conditions. Primates are particularly vulnerable to threats such as the bushmeat trade and the pet trade. These trades are directly linked to poverty and instability in the Congo. This is because the industry provides a source of income and food. Therefore, in order to end poaching, baseline levels of infrastructure, employment and socioeconomic stability must be attained. Until this happens, many conservation establishments, such as the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), Kahuzi National Park and Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Center are working to eliminate poaching and protect endangered wildlife.

Protection and Rehabilitation of Wildlife

Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Center was established in 2002 by the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and the Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles (CRSN). Following the establishment of Lwiro, Coopera NGO stepped up to support the center’s rehabilitation and educational practices. Lwiro gained the support of the Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance (ICWCA) and the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP). Two women now run Lwiro: Lorena Aguirre Cadarso works as the country director, and Itsaso Vélez del Burgo works as the technical director. These two women strive to ensure that Lwiro is actively addressing cultural and conservation issues in the Congo.

The fact that Lwiro is run by women is unusual, as women in the Congo have been subject to significant gender inequality for decades. They are breaking gender barriers while protecting at-risk wildlife and helping improve instability in the Congo.

Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Center

Lwiro is home to 92 chimpanzees and 108 monkeys, adding up to a total of 13 different species. Rehabilitation and preservation of primates in the Congo mean saving the lives of the endangered animals, whether they have been injured due to poaching or other reasons. Typically young primates are brought to the center because their families have been taken from them and they will be unable to provide for themselves. Lwiro offers multiple dormitories for the chimpanzees and monkeys and includes a five-acre enclosure for the primates to play while the staff ensures that the dormitories are safe and clean. The rehabilitation of primates requires care and attention, just as the care of humans requires. Infant primates are treated with particular love and attention. Caretakers strive to teach social skills to primates that might have lost their families and would not otherwise be socialized. Lwiro’s mission is to ensure that resident animals acquire the necessary social skills for reintegration into wild chimpanzee communities after completing rehabilitation.

Sexual Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation

Along with primate rehabilitation, Lwiro also offers rehabilitation and treatment for local sexual abuse victims. Sexual abuse is a pervasive issue in the Congo. The center provides treatment for victims ages 2 to 18 years old. Treatment can be modified to meet the needs of particular victims. According to Cadarso, the center helps “victims of sexual violence, victims of gender violence and widows.” The staff uses methods such as Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE), meditation and prayer. Lwiro focuses specifically on survivors’ mental health. “You need to give psychological support that aims to provide the tools to resolve their trauma and skills to promote their resilience,” Cadarso stated. Lwiro has worked with nearly 350 victims and counting, most being women and children. The center also provides therapy for individuals for three months and three weeks. It reports an 85% patient improvement rate after treatment. Lwiro’s therapy offerings reveal that addressing instability in the Congo can start at the level of individual people.

A New Psychological Reference Center

Lwiro is expanding its center in 2020, starting a new project to build the first Psychological Reference Center (PCR). In the past, victims have not had a physical place to conduct their psychotherapy sessions. Therefore, this project will be massively impactful. Additionally, the Psychological Reference Center (PCR) will implement new practices such as training primary healthcare workers training to recognize mental disorders like PTSD, depression and anxiety. The second phase will provide similar training specialized for teachers, teaching “skills to recognize children with severe problems so they can be referred for more specialized treatment,” Cadarso states, and “providing listing resources available in their communities.” This initiative will enable individuals to recognize and assist those who are struggling physically and mentally. They will be able to determine proper care or treatment.

The project’s implementation and funding would not be possible without the support of many NGOs, such as the Jane Goodall Institute, the Ivan Carter Wildlife Foundation and more. To address instability in the Congo, multiple approaches are required, and Lwiro ensures that no person — or chimp — is left behind.

Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

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