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Women's Economic Empowerment in Mexico
In recent decades Mexico has made significant changes to close the gender gap. These progressive impacts include a series of legislative initiatives in 2002, 2008, 2014, and the 2015-2018 National System for Equality between Women and Men. Additionally, political parties promise to promote gender equality in nominations and to allocate money towards training women. By promoting women’s economic empowerment in Mexico, women of all backgrounds can achieve financial independence.

Obstacles To Financial Independence

Women in Mexico face several obstacles toward reaching financial independence. Martina Zoldos, a Slovanian writer, described the discrimination she faced while interviewing for a job in Mexico. Zoldos was asked, “whether [her] husband agreed with [her] decision of having a 9-to-5 office job.”

Traditional values are often placed on Mexican women. A study conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development discovered that in Mexico, “only 45% of women between the age of 16 and 64 are employed, yet women perform over 75 percent of unpaid household work and childcare.” Additionally, women face daily violence in the form of rape, domestic abuse, and sexual harassment.

The United Nations identifies Mexico as one of the most violent countries for women. In 2017, The National Institute for Statistics and Geography detailed that 66% of women over 15 experienced some form of violence. In 2018, Mexico’s Security Minister Alfonzo Durazo signed a memorandum with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) to “strengthen actions against gender-based violence.” In addition to violence, women also struggle with access to justice, education, and opportunities. However, organizations like UN Women make it possible for women’s economic empowerment in Mexico.

The Work of UN Women

UN Women seeks to improve the financial independence of women. Various international organizations work for women’s economic empowerment, such as the Beijing Platform for Action, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the International Labour Organization. UN Women prioritizes migrant workers and rural and indigenous entrepreneurs. The agency also develops public systems that recognize the contributions of women to the economy.

The programs encourage women to secure decent jobs, build assets, and influence public policies and institutions. To improve women’s economic empowerment in Mexico, UN Women provides for the most vulnerable women. That work often happens in tandem with civil society groups and grassroots movements. UN Women works to develop financial skills among rural women, domestic workers, and migrants. They aim to help these marginalized women find decent work, earn higher incomes, and gain access to and control of resources. The agency also provides resources for women that face violence.

Government efforts also improve the lives of indigenous women. These women have the highest levels of illiteracy, maternal mortality, domestic violence, and poverty in the country. The government supports groups of indigenous embroiderers that create and sell fair-trade art. These efforts empower indigenous women to take part in local and state elections. While there is more to accomplish in protecting women against violence, financial independence can open doors for many women and generations to come.

– Mia Mendez
Photo: Flickr

Cambodia Job FoundationBetween 1975 and 1979, Cambodia was ruled by communist leader Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge regime. Under his administration, millions of Cambodians were forced to labor without adequate food. In order to improve the lives of Cambodians who are recovering from the regime’s rule and help impoverished people become self-reliant, The Cambodia Job Foundation (CJF) is using steady employment to empower people. 

Cambodia’s History of Struggle

During Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime’s rule, those who were educated–or those who appeared so–were seen as a threat. People were profiled by something as simple as wearing glasses and many were killed. The majority of teachers at the time were murdered; thus, the education system was largely destroyed. 

Cambodia is still in the process of recovery from the Khmer Rouge. 37.2% of the country still lives in poverty, according to the2019 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index issued by the United Nations. Many Cambodians are also illiterate. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported that the 2015 literacy rate in Cambodia for the population over age 65, most of whom lived through the Khmer Rouge, was only 53%.

Many NGOs have been working to alleviate poverty in Cambodia, and one in particular labors to help educate and create jobs for Cambodians. 

The Cambodia Job Foundation

The Cambodia Job Foundation aims to help impoverished young Cambodians become more self-reliant. According to its mission, the organization “empowers individuals to improve their lives and support their families through quality and stable employment.”

With teams in both Cambodia and the United States, the foundation mentors Cambodians, specifically those aged 30 and younger, with a focus on business startup and operation as well as financial management. It also provides access to information and resources, to which those learning the programs can apply what they are taught. In 2018, the foundation helped 131 families complete financial training lessons, mentored 66 individuals in starting a business and led 80 individuals to graduate from an IT class.

A Former Intern’s Experience

A native of Kampong Cham, Cambodia, Theary Leng was an intern for CJF during the summer of 2019. Leng has helped the organization with various training and mentoring programs as well as grant approvals. She’s seen the foundation’s impacts in her country. 

“They have helped some of the low-income families to get on their [feet] by giving them a $500 grant to start up a small business,” she said.

Leng said she believes a variety of obstacles prevent Cambodians from obtaining work, including a lack of vocational training skills and education, gender inequality in the workplace and government corruption. But through the Cambodia Job Foundation, she is able to help those in her country.

“As someone who grew up in Cambodia and as a direct witness who has been impacted by poverty, I understand and know how hard it would be to live in poverty,” Leng said. “That’s why I want to help Cambodians to become self-reliant.”

The Cambodian people are still recovering from the Khmer Rouge regime. Many people still live in poverty and lack literacy skills. CJF is working to lift up Cambodians by empowering them through resources that can help them gain and retain stable employment. 

Emma Benson
Photo: Unsplash

Gender Inequality in VenezuelaIn Venezuela, like other conservative countries, women have often been viewed as the weaker sex, creating vast gender inequalities. In the past few decades, the country has faced severe political turmoil. Women have shouldered the brunt of the force. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the extent of gender inequality in Venezuela, as women must rely on their partners for financial support – those same partners from whom many women face domestic violence. Thankfully, there are many resources for Venezuelan women to turn to, including the Women’s Development Bank, abbreviated Banmujer. It is the only state-owned women’s bank in the world. Here are six ways that Banmujer is addressing gender inequality in Venezuela.

Six Ways Banmujer is Aiding Women

  1. For women, by women – The Venezuelan Women’s Development Bank was created in 2001 to help empower women by ensuring financial stability independent from their partners. Banmujer supports female entrepreneurs by only providing loans to women, promoting financial independence, creativity and innovation. In addition, the organization employs women who travel to rural communities to develop female-led business proposals. This would be instead of having regional offices. This makes it extremely easy for women all over the country to apply for a loan.
  2. More than just a bank – Not only does the bank provide loans, but it also provides training and education to women. The organization teaches women how to develop an entrepreneurial idea, efficiently use the loan and manage a business. Extending their efforts even further, the bank hosts workshops on women’s health, prevention of domestic violence, community leadership, legal advice and more.
  3. Real and long-lasting change – The bank is fighting gender inequality in Venezuela by offering small loans to groups of women with business ideas. Banmujer has also trained over 100,000 women. Many women have benefited from these small loans and each story is unique. The Guardian highlights one such success story. Matild Calixte used to work at a hair salon earning well below the price of a haircut. She even had to take on a second job to provide for her family. With the help of the Women’s Development Bank, Calixte was able to open her own hair salon and equally split the income with the other hairstylists. Because of this, she has achieved financial stability and can now afford to send her daughter to college.
  4. Making it easy – Most of the world’s property owners are men. It is easier for men to be approved for loans – they have collateral to secure them. When the idea of a women’s bank was proposed by Nora Castañeda, Banmujer’s original president, she made it a priority to allow women with no financial assets to be included in the loans. This alone is absolutely revolutionary in the gender equality movement. In addition, when women successfully pay back their loans, they can take out another loan worth one and a half times their previous one. Monthly interest rates are also fixed at a low rate of 1% which makes getting a loan even more attainable.
  5. Creating a caring economy – The Women’s Development Bank doesn’t solely measure success by financial profits, but societal ones. While there has been criticism of high default rates in the bank’s earlier years, it should not be defined in purely economic terms. Banmujer focuses on the progress being made to address gender inequality in Venezuela. Castañeda explains that “we are creating…an economy at the service of human beings, not human beings at the service of the economy.” The bank cares more about helping Venezuelan women than it does about making a profit.
  6. Helpful for the whole economy – Banmujer recognizes that fighting gender inequality in Venezuela by empowering women means reducing poverty. Close to 45% of Venezuelans live in poverty, and 70% of those are women. However, the loans have created over 70,000 jobs. By empowering women to reach financial independence, it stimulates the economy.
Banmujer has had an incredible influence on more than 100,000 women, effectively addressing gender inequality in Venezuela. By giving small loans, the program encourages entrepreneurial ideas and financial independence. The aim for the loans is to spur collaboration between women, not competition. The president of the bank made sure to focus program efforts on lifting women out of poverty and empowering them to start their own businesses.

– Karin Filipova
Photo: Banmujer CA

Income_Africa
The idea that guaranteed basic income can solve poverty was first proposed by lawyer Thomas More in the 16th century. Guaranteed basic income, also known as universal basic income is an unconditional periodic money transfer to ensure that a citizen can pay for his or her basic necessities no matter what. The idea that everybody will be paid money every month, whether or not they have a job, is undeniably radical.

Guaranteed Basic Income Has Supporters and Detractors

Economists are divided into two groups over the idea: one in favor of guaranteed basic income and the other against it. Those opposing the idea believe that it will undermine the incentive to do a job, that more people would end up in low-wage jobs or that a “handout” is by no means a tool to “turn things around”. Some of them also argue that even if guaranteed basic income can solve poverty, a program like this can be very expensive and hence negatively affect a nation’s economic growth.

On the other hand, the idea has found acceptance among several intellectuals, politicians, historians, economists and entrepreneurs alike. One of them is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg, who has called for others to embrace the idea, in case people start losing their jobs to automation and artificial intelligence.

Current Studies Testing the Efficacy of Basic Income

To see how guaranteed basic income can solve poverty, many experiments are underway around the world. A nonprofit organization in Kenya called GiveDirectly has launched one of the most comprehensive economic and social experiments in human history. They will be selecting groups of people who will receive $22 per month for a period of two to 12 years, no strings attached.

To date, the organization has distributed more than $70 million among 80,000 households in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. “What’s interesting about basic income is that, coincidentally, it’s a conversation people are having all the way from Silicon Valley, where they are worried about job loss to robots, to some of the poorest countries in the world,” said Paul Niehaus, professor of economics at the University of California San Diego, co-founder of GiveDirectly and a firm believer that guaranteed basic income can solve poverty.

In Finland, the government randomly selected 2,000 unemployed citizens for a one of a kind experiment started at the beginning of 2017. To study how guaranteed basic income can solve poverty, these people will receive €560 every month for two years, tax-free. A key goal of the Finland experiment is to give unemployed people incentive to work by providing them with financial assistance even after they become employed again. Researchers chose the €560 monthly amount because it roughly equals the current level of unemployment benefits.

In a recent interview given to NPR, Stockton, California mayor Michael Tubbs said,” In fact, I think [it] will make people work better and smarter and harder and be able to do things like spending time with their families [be]cause we’re not robots.” Stockton will start a similar experiment by the end of this year.

What Basic Income Can Do for Impoverished People

The proponents of guaranteed basic income caution that the amount paid must be sufficient to be of assistance when misfortune strikes but not large enough to satisfy all of a person’s wants. They also argue that the freedom to start a new business or to say yes to a job that pays little but yields joy, or to say no to a job that pays too little or is demeaning, should not be reserved only for the wealthy.

Historian Rutger Bregman highlights an experiment conducted in India by American psychologists involving Indian sugarcane farmers. These farmers get around 60 percent of their income all at once. Hence, they are relatively rich during one part of the year but poor the rest of the year. The farmers were subjected to an IQ test before and after the harvest. The results showed that farmers gained nine IQ points after the harvest, as the extra money freed up mental resources that were previously concerned with making ends meet.

A similar study conducted between 1974 and 1979 in Dauphin, Canada proved that a guaranteed basic income can solve poverty by making the recipients smarter, healthier and richer. Further studies can bolster the effectiveness of basic income worldwide and could lead to it becoming an important tool in ending global poverty.

– Himja Sethi

Photo: Flickr


After a recent series of verbal threats and missile tests from Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, President Donald Trump put North Korea back on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, a designation it shares with only three other countries.

Normally, it is in the U.S.’s interest to see credit access increase responsibly around the world because more credit access generally means more investment, growth and opportunities for trade. However, when it comes to countries from the state-sponsored terrorism list, increased growth can give a boost to dangerous regimes—and their (nuclear) weapons programs.

So, while U.S. and global support for improved credit access in North Korea may be complicated, it is still worth looking closer at how credit access is improving the lives of ordinary North Koreans.

 

North Korea’s Banking System

According to The Wall Street Journal, there are no commercial banks in North Korea. All banking institutions are either state- or party-run, or state- or party-associated, which leaves North Korea with a highly centralized, unwieldy system.

That system is the legacy of a communist system, set up in the 1950s, that provided financial security for North Koreans. But, a major famine in the 1990s led to an economic collapse that crippled that system—and the North Korean government has done little to change it since.

 

Credit Access in North Korea: Unauthorized and Unregulated

As The Wall Street Journal notes, a semi-market economy emerged in the wake of that economic collapse that helps provide a living for up to three-fourths of the nation and is largely supported by unauthorized private commerce.

As a result, an unregulated system of lending and currency exchange has risen, making it possible to get loans and financing. North Korean defectors have described a system in which private savings are being channeled into lending to make a profit.

Scams were common at first, due to the lack of legal infrastructure and investment guarantees, but over time, it seems that trust and credit have grown. Lenders are investing in everything from crop seeds and fertilizer to merchants who import foreign goods, like smartphones.

 

Investment Opportunities in North Korea

Reuters reports that, in theory, plenty of investment opportunities exist in North Korea along China’s border. Most of these are related to tourism or manufacturing and had funding from China and other international investors.

However, U.N. sanctions against North Korea have led the Chinese government to ban new or expanded Chinese investment in North Korea and transactions with North Korean banks.

Ultimately, the growth of North Korean credit access and investment depends on the Kim administration dramatically altering course. It would need to show a willingness to cooperate internationally and develop a legitimate market-based economy. Neither seems likely to happen anytime soon.

– Chuck Hasenauer

Photo: Flickr

 

Learn about poverty in North Korea

 


The credit financial system allows one party, typically a bank, to provide money as a loan to another party who is obliged to repay and return those resources at a later date. The process of obtaining credit is relatively easy in places such as the United States. However, credit access in Haiti and other small countries is not as simple.

Credit is beneficial to entrepreneurs because it offers a way of obtaining funds that is not illegal. It is also convenient as it offers a system for repaying the loan in the future, when funds are available or when people have a higher income. People can do this as a one-time payment, or they can pay off their credit in a developed installments plan.

For micro and small businesses, especially, credit access in Haiti is very limited. This makes it all the more difficult to establish any sort of entrepreneurial endeavor. The reality of the situation can actually be rather tough: very few individuals can afford to start a practice entirely from their own savings. This is why loans or other forms of investment are necessary.

The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) has been working to improve access to new economic opportunities to the over 50,000 micro and small businesses in Haiti (2013). The MIF strategically plans to expand financial services beyond the capital city of Haiti, which is Port-au-Prince.

Fortunately, there are companies that are working to improve access opportunities for those who need it most. For example, in 2010, Technoserve and its partners initiated the Haiti Hope Project. The projected goal was to double the incomes of 25,000 mango farmers within five years of joining. This goal would be accomplished by creating relationships between the mango farmers located in rural areas and investors in the capital.

Many of these farmers were previously excluded from financial programs, making it difficult to kick start and fund any sort of business. This fact is exacerbated given the environmental and economic competition also occurring in the country. The results of the Haiti Hope Project show that 44 percent of the participants now have access to credit.

While credit access in Haiti is still limited, in comparison to other countries, there is a lot of progress being made. Thousands of rural farmers and micro-entrepreneurs are being offered credit and other financial resources. Once adequate incomes are generated, and businesses are steadily entering and competing in the market, the loans can be paid off.

Credit, while seemingly complex, can be a simple way to change the market and economy of countries in need of growth and development.

– Caysi Simpson

Photo: Flickr