Dalit womenThe caste systems found in countries such as India and Nepal are socially hierarchical systems that divide people into five primary groups: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Sudra and Dalit. Those in the Dalit caste rank as the lowest and are considered societal outcasts. As a result, they suffer harsh treatment and discrimination. Due to the patriarchy in these societies in addition to widespread support for caste systems, Dalit women face high levels of discrimination. This reality creates great disparities in overall life and health outcomes.

Access to Care

Dalit women’s health outcomes largely depend on their access to health care. This access, however, is limited considering Dalit women’s low socioeconomic status. For example, in the southwest Indian state of Karnataka, which is home to over 61 million people and is the eighth-largest state in India by population, about 74.4% of Dalit women reported having issues regarding health care access. This number is about 70% at the national level, according to 2018 India’s National Family Health Survey. Partially due to this struggle in accessing health care, Dalit women have a 15-year shorter lifespan on average than upper caste women.

When they do have access to care, it can be very costly. Asia-Pacific Journal of Public Health revealed that some unlicensed private doctors exploit Dalit women and other lower-caste women by charging them high fees, forcing many of them to take out loans for treatment. This practice contributes to the cycle of poverty among Dalit women and can make access for many extremely difficult. These issues with health care access often lead to negative health outcomes considering women’s greater vulnerability to diseases such as malnutrition and anemia, as well as maternal mortality.

Mental Health Disparities

Two main issues face Dalit women in terms of mental health: firstly, mental health issues are more prevalent in their caste than for those in higher-ranking castes, and secondly, these women have less access to care. In 2020, the Journal of Global Health Reports conducted a study in which 12 Dalit participants from Nepal talked about their experiences with mental health. From the outset, the researchers made it known that Dalits in Nepal “face the greatest discrimination and have a greater prevalence of depression and anxiety when compared with high castes.”

In terms of the actual results of the study, a number of the participants stated they believe that gender-based discrimination in Nepal makes issues of mental health for Dalit women more difficult, as it causes them to “receive more stigma for mental health conditions.” The stigmas that these women receive can lead to dangerous outcomes for them. Two participants in the study stated that Dalit women are at considerable risk when they are cast out from their families, as they become homeless and therefore are more vulnerable to exploitation, rape and abuse.

Some research also indicates that Dalit and other low-caste women may have experienced worsening mental health outcomes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a 2022 study, lower-caste women tended to have a greater fear of COVID-19 than higher-caste women. The study also found that Dalit women and women of other backward castes (OBCs) suffered from more severe anxiety and stress symptoms than higher-caste women.

Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO)

In light of the continuing discrimination against Dalit women, several organizations are taking action to create better opportunities for this underprivileged community. Perhaps one of the most prominent is the Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO), which is a nonprofit organization that was founded by a group of Dalit women in 1994. The organization works to address and fight back against the various inequalities experienced by affected women in Nepal.

FEDO is present in 56 of Nepal’s 75 districts, seeking to improve the lives of Dalit women by advocating for human rights and economic empowerment initiatives. This includes helping Dalit women become financially literate so that they can have opportunities to own small businesses and break the cycles of poverty found in Dalit communities throughout Asia. The work of organizations like FEDO could bring about upwards social mobility for Dalit women, therefore giving them greater access to health care services and improving their overall quality of life.

– Adam Cvik
Photo: Flickr

The Benefits of Giving, How Generosity Can Improve Your HealthNow more than ever, the world needs more compassion and generosity. Many are suffering mentally and emotionally as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic—and one possible way to alleviate this is to show kindness to others. According to experts, generosity can have a positive impact on individuals’ well-being. There are many benefits of giving, improving the health and financial well-being of not only the receiver but the giver too.

How Generosity Improves Emotional Health

The concept of “helper’s high” refers to the positive emotional response one experiences after performing an act of generosity. According to experts, this emotion is associated with “greater health and increased longevity.” A recent study has proven that acts of altruism trigger activity in the temporoparietal junction (TPJ), a part of the brain that is linked to the brain’s reward system.

During a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, the giving and receiving parties can benefit from generosity. Another study found that different types of generosity can have different effects on individuals. The researchers found that performing generous acts for those close to us can reduce activity in the amygdala, a part of the human brain associated with stress and anxiety.

However, they also found that less targeted actions, such as giving to charity, also trigger activity in the ventral striatum, a region associated with compassion and care in mammals. Time and time again, studies have shown that acts of kindness toward both your loved ones and strangers can improve your mental and emotional health. Thus, it is especially important during this unprecedented time of crisis to find ways to show kindness.

How Giving Can Improve Your Financial Well-Being

On top of reducing one’s own stress and emotional turmoil, there are financial benefits of giving. During the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans have struggled as a result of business closures, limited job opportunities and a struggling economy. Although it may seem counterintuitive to donate money to others when finances seem scarce, there are both practical and mental benefits to giving.

Under the current federal COVID-19 relief provisions, donating money can provide more tax breaks than ever before. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act for short, allows individuals up to $300 in charitable contribution deductions. It also raised the limit on charitable contributions from 60 to “up to 100% of 2020 adjusted gross income,” if the deductions are itemized.

The financial benefits of giving do not just end at tax deductions, though. Financial planner Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz believes that charitable contributions are important to reformulate the ways in which we perceive money. Money should be spent wisely, and that includes putting it toward causes and issues that one cares about.

Ways to Give

During the COVID-19 pandemic, generosity, compassion and giving are especially important. There are also more ways than ever to help, both big and small. One easy way is to complete small tasks such as grocery shopping or making care packages for your loved ones who are more vulnerable to COVID-19. There are also ways to support your community such as by making and distributing cloth face masks or by collecting and donating food for those in need. An even simpler way to help is through donations. There are many around the world who are suffering as a result of the ongoing pandemic, so now is a great time to give to causes you care about.

Individuals suffering from extreme poverty can be more susceptible to COVID-19 and can suffer more from the pandemic’s socio-economic consequences. The Borgen Project is accepting donations so that it can do as much as possible to make this issue central to American foreign policy in the future. Donating will not only help those who need it the most but the donator too.

– Leina Gabra
Photo: Flickr 

Digital Finance is Empowering Women in Bangladesh

Recent innovation in digital finance is empowering women in Bangladesh by meeting their unique financial needs and capabilities. While 90 percent of Monetary Financial Institutions’ 21 million clients are women and 35 percent of Bangladesh women hold a bank account, women make up only 18 percent of digital finance users in Bangladesh.

Some of the barriers that hinder the inclusion of women in digital finance are low mobility, cultural barriers in male-dominated markets and English illiteracy incompatible with English-language phone menus. Women in Bangladesh also face low financial literacy, so they require guidance and training in order to benefit from increasingly more prevalent mobile-based platforms.

In addition, members of a typical household in low-income countries share one mobile phone. So, it makes sense that more than just having a registered mobile money account in her name is necessary in order for a woman to be financially included in Bangladesh.

Most low-income women in Bangladesh currently turn to insecure and informal saving mechanisms like keeping emergency funds stashed at home, buying excess stock for their business, using clay money boxes  or working with neighborhood savings groups. This puts their savings at risk of loss due to natural disasters or theft. It is no wonder, then, that it is difficult for women to save money for their futures, to pay school fees, to attain loans and to afford healthcare and insurance.

Saving money is particularly important to women. In Bangladesh, since women are dependent on their male spouses to provide for their families, they lack a safety net if their husband dies or abandons them. This makes women more vulnerable to health risks and death than men.

One innovation through which digital finance is empowering women is the human-centered designs financial service providers have been developing that are more intuitive, easy-to-use and affordable. The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, an organization devoted to alleviating poverty by empowering the poor, started a training program for women in remote areas to learn how to handle mobile money.

Some other efforts that address the digital inclusion gap are:

  • Dutch-Bangla Bank Limited’s signing with 245 garment factories to distribute salaries to garment workers (mostly women) with accounts through agents, ATMs and client-initiated mobile transactions.
  • The Asia Foundation’s new program that will assist women entrepreneurs in using digital financial services and in using e-commerce to reach new markets.
  • Swosti’s new “mobile credit card” for depositing money and withdrawing emergency loans.
  • Grameen Bank’s creation of the concept of microcredit to be used by low-income women.

Some potential improvements that have been suggested further demonstrate how digital finance is empowering women. Some of the propositions include promoting government transfers and increasing the access women have to registered accounts by changing identity requirements and allowing for one-to-one interactions with women agents and sales representatives to improve communication and prevent harassment.

Other suggestions include making additional banking services that improve financial security for women available such as loan payments, insurance and long-term savings. Digital savings accounts would enable women to save small amounts of money as frequently as they want. It has also been suggested to make use of various channels of accessing finances to simplify the interface of mobile finance platforms.

There are so many financial possibilities that digital finance can make possible for women in Bangladesh. By considering the barriers to financial inclusion, the country is well on its way to improving the lives of its women and their families.

– Connie Loo

Photo: Flickr

Credit helps to improve financial status so that a person can buy homes, get credit cards, and build trust between financial institutions and the consumer. Despite the many benefits to having access to credit, Albania still seems to have a low credit market.

Credit access in Albania is low due mostly in part to a supply-demand mismatch. This means that the creditors in Albania don’t have the products that the people are interested in. As a result of this mismatch, the supplier tends to change their product or becomes forced to go out of business.

Part of the reason why the country’s credit access is in a supply-demand mismatch is because some parts of the country have easy access to credit and a reliable supplier, while poorer parts of Albania do not.

Individual Albanian people’s credit access seems threatened by the lack of borrower awareness and protections, as well as a lack of a functioning credit registry. Without these two things, a person is left vulnerable to financial debt and burden that can last years.

Credit awareness is important because it poses as a financial risk for those who cannot afford it. If one is not careful, they can end up with massive debt. Debt hinders the chances of acquring a house, car, or financing any other prosperous items.

According to the World Bank, while individual access may be threatened, cooperate business account for 74 percent of all credit in Albania and small businesses account for majority of the economic population. Though credit access usually reflects the economic stability of a country, Albania relies heavily on cooperations.

For cooperate companies, credit access is important because credit helps businesses receive the funding they need to succeed financially. According to Cardhub in 2015, the average business needs 12-18 months to improve its business credit score.

By improving credit access in Albania, financial status is sure to improve as a result. Albanian credit access can further smart banking and loaning so that the country can decrease their economic expenses.

– Seriah Sargenton

Photo: Flickr