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Saudi women empowermentThe Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has struggled with issues regarding women’s rights for a long time. Saudi Arabia ranked 146 out of 153 in the 2020 Global Gender Gap Index. The country also did not allow women to drive until the government lifted the driving ban in 2018. In 2017, the country allowed women to apply for passports and allowed women above the age of 21 to travel independently without permission from male guardians. Saudi women even gained the right to vote and run for public office in 2015. Saudi Arabian women celebrate women’s empowerment due to the country’s recent progress toward gender equality.

Challenges Women Still Face

While Saudi Arabia is making progress, the country is not without its issues. The country still requires male guardians, usually fathers or brothers, to make decisions for Saudi women. To this day, the government also limits women when it comes to choosing whom to marry or initiating a divorce. This caused some Saudi women, such as Rahaf Alqunun, to flee because of the strict male guardianship system.

Additionally, several women’s rights activists, such as Loujain al-Hathloul, have been arrested by Saudi officials for encouraging Saudi women empowerment. Al-Hathloul posted videos of herself driving during the driving ban with her hair uncovered. She also ran for office but her name was never added to the official ballot.  Al-Hathloul was arrested in 2018 with 11 other activists on charges of promoting women’s rights and collaborating with foreign organizations and media. However, her trial was indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Loosening Restrictions: Women Moving Forward

Saudi Arabia made the largest improvement globally in women’s rights at work, according to The World Bank. The strides are credited to greater freedom of movement for women and reforms for women at work. The country criminalized sexual harassment and established work protection to prohibit employers from firing pregnant women. Saudi Arabia also equalized the retirement age for both men and women at 60, which allows for more financial freedom. Finally, the country outlawed gender-based discrimination in financial services to increase female entrepreneurship.

These reforms were a part of the Saudi government’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims to diversify the economy by promoting the private sector. The plan also includes increasing women’s labor force participation from 22% to 30%.

Street Style and Women’s Empowerment

Marriam Mossali, a Saudi entrepreneur, launched her second edition of “Under the Abaya: Street Style from Saudi Arabia” celebrating Saudi women empowerment on June 24. The book, a partnership with LUX Arabia and Niche Arabia, exposes the kingdom’s unknown fashion scene. The first edition introduced progressive Saudi women while this second edition exposed the challenges these women face.

All of the book’s proceeds go toward scholarships for women to pursue higher education. To Mossali, the book is a celebration of Saudi women empowerment because it allows women to share their own stories. The book has a forward by Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, the country’s first female ambassador to the U.S. Al-Saud told Arab News that the book tells stories and embodies the principle of women supporting women.

“Our participation in the #WomenSupportingWomen movement is much more than just a hashtag,” the book’s website says. “We believe in giving voice to these talented women in Saudi and the opportunity to pursue their aspirations.”

The first edition of the book fundraised enough to award five aspiring photographers a yearlong scholarship to Future Academy in Jeddah. The second edition aims to award women aspiring to pursue a Bachelor’s in fashion design.

Despite strides made in women’s empowerment, women in the kingdom still face many challenges. However, Saudi women continue to fight for change and equality. From filming videos to photographing street fashion, Saudi women are taking a stand for gender equality and celebrating women’s empowerment.

– Grethel Aguila
Photo: Flickr

The protection of women’s’ rights and access to opportunities for economic empowerment are vital pieces to the reduction of extreme poverty. Indian women continue to face major challenges in gender equality as inferiority persists between men and women through familial relations and cultural norms. Emphasis on traditional gender roles such as taking care of the home, children, elders and religious obligations often leave women with little time to pursue educational opportunities. As a result, India has one of the lowest female literacy rates in Asia. With a lack of education, finding employment that provides a livable wage can seem hopeless, but organizations like Shakti.ism are creating new hope.

Economic Empowerment as a Solution – Shakti.ism

Shakti.ism, a female-led social enterprise, aims to dismantle these cultural norms through economic empowerment. The organization provides employment opportunities for women in India, many of whom are victims of domestic and gender-based violence. The women work to create unique hand-crafted accessories and develop and establish themselves as artisans. The social enterprise partners with NGOs throughout India to reach as women and girls as possible. Shakti.ism is also committed to abiding by and promoting the 10 Principles of Fair Trade and the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. Founded by Jitna Bhagani, a survivor of gender-based violence herself, she hopes to encourage self-sustainment, independence and entrepreneurship in efforts “to break the cycle of poverty.”

Bhagani recognizes that cultural norms continue to largely impede upon the achievements and rights of women living in India. In a featured post by the Harvest Fund, Bhagani shares the stories of some of the women that Shakti.ism has helped. Many of these women are victims of discrimination as a result of the caste system. Although outlawed in 1950, it still remains deeply culturally embedded today. She notes that a lack of education, sex trafficking, familial relations and religious and cultural beliefs are some of the most prevalent causes of poverty and gender-based violence in India.

Impact

In collaboration with several NGOs, Bhagani’s Shakti.ism aims to tackle these issues by providing women with training focused on strengthening livelihood skills, compensating for a lack of formal education, a safe place to work, and alleviating dependence on male family members which reinforce societal norms. Another core goal of Shakti.ism’s mission is to provide women with the opportunity to become self-sustaining entrepreneurs, granting them access to a global market, financial and emotional support and secured wages.

Shakti.ism’s partnership with several NGOs has allowed the organization’s mission to reach women living in many parts of India, including Pondicherry, Jaipur, Hyderabad, and Chennai. The nonprofit organization has also partnered with another social enterprise called Basha Enterprises, allowing the mission to expand its reach to women in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Many of the women that have been employed by Shakti.ism have pursued entrepreneurship and are now participants in a global market, and working to ensure economic prosperity and a decrease in global poverty.

Future Directions

The United Nations cites that “empowering women in the economy and closing gender gaps in the world of work are key to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Growth” which strives to end poverty. As demonstrated by the work and reach of Shakti.ism, the economic empowerment of women is vital in the mission to end global poverty.

– Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

Nepal Youth Foundation
Despite the country’s growing GDP, Nepal ranks the poorest among countries in South Asia and the 12th poorest in the world. One quarter of the 28.09 million population lives below the poverty line. Nepal’s poverty is even more evident in the country’s young population, as more than 60% of children lack at least one basic necessity. With children under the age of 18 making up 40% of Nepal’s population, investments in youth are integral to the nation’s continued improvement. Nepal Youth Foundation (NYF) is a nonprofit organization that works to empower Nepali youth through educational programs, health services and girls’ empowerment.

The Problem: Education in Nepal

Although Nepal’s education system improved in the past decade, gender disparities and segregation of disabled children prevail. Secondary school completion rates remain low, as only 30% of males and 15% of females have completed secondary school. Poorer areas pose additional challenges to female education, as the female literacy rate in rural areas is 74% compared to 89% in urban areas.

However, Nepal’s education system fails vulnerable, disabled children the most. More than 30% of children with disabilities do not attend school, as most public schools refuse to enroll them. When they do attend school, children with disabilities are placed in segregated classrooms, resulting in social isolation and an education of lower quality. It is estimated that more than 200,000 children in Nepal have disabilities.

3 Solutions from Nepal Youth Foundation

  1. Educational Scholarships: Nepal Youth Foundation provides educational scholarships for vulnerable youth, which include disabled, orphaned and homeless children. These scholarships pay for clothing, health services, living costs and counseling, in addition to educational expenses.
  2. Day School Scholarship: Nepal Youth Foundation’s Day School Scholarship program purchases school supplies and covers school fees for 165 children living in Kathmandu’s slums.
  3. Supporting Higher Education: The organization supports impoverished, high-performing students in college, prioritizing girls and other vulnerable groups. Nepal Youth Foundation contributes to the education of more than 300 students in Nepali universities. By prioritizing education for girls and vulnerable groups, Nepal Youth Foundation provides specific solutions for Nepal’s impoverished and vulnerable young people.

The Problem: Malnutrition and HIV/AIDS in Nepal

Both malnutrition and HIV/AIDS pose significant challenges to Nepal’s impoverished youth, who are most likely to lack basic needs and contract diseases. Of every five Nepali children, two are malnourished. Although the nation produces greens and sprouted vegetables that could solve malnutrition, these nutritional foods are most commonly fed to livestock, in accordance with rural traditions in Nepal. As a result, most rural Nepali people eat white rice for the majority of their meals. Healthcare providers’ lack of awareness of the connection between diet and malnutrition exacerbates Nepal’s staggering malnutrition rate, as hospitals fail to address the root causes of malnutrition and offer temporary remedies instead.

Although HIV/AIDS is considered a concentrated epidemic in Nepal isolated to at-risk groups, stigma around the disease has detrimental effects on those diagnosed. Children diagnosed with HIV/AIDS are neglected by society, denied healthcare, refused school enrollment and socially isolated by their peers.

3 NYF Solutions

  1. Nutrition Rehabilitation Homes: Nepal Youth Foundation’s 17 Nutrition Rehabilitation Homes exclusively treat malnourished children. Since 1998, these homes have replenished the health of more than 15,000 children. Malnourished children stay in Nutrition Rehabilitation Homes for three to four weeks and are fed diets catered to their specific needs. Additionally, these homes teach caregivers and mothers about cooking healthy foods with cheap, available produce to ensure the long-term health of children and families.
  2. Nutritional Outreach Camps: NYF’s Nutritional Outreach Camps provide further prevention and intervention services for malnourished children. To treat malnourished children, NYF provides medical check ups and medicine and distributes a nutritional flour called Lito. The organization’s prevention techniques include nutrition and hygiene education for local communities. Each short camp serves between 500-800 children and their families.
  3. New Life Center: The organization’s New Life Center serves children with HIV/AIDS with a team of doctors, nutritionists and specialists that provide healthy diets, counseling, treatment and fun activities. Nepal Youth Foundation also ensures that adults are trained in proper hygiene practices. Nepal Youth Foundation’s commitment to finding solutions to malnutrition and reducing the stigma against children with HIV/AIDS has lasting effects on the communities it serves.

The Problem: Indentured Servitude of Kamlari Girls

Kamlari is a rural Nepali tradition of indentured servitude, through which girls from impoverished families are sold as domestic slaves for a yearly monetary price.  These girls, often sold at very young ages, are not legally protected by a contract and are almost always denied the food, bed and education they are promised. Additionally, many are subjected to violence, food deprivation and rape. Although many girls have been rescued as a result of NYF and government efforts, more than 300 girls remain in child slavery.

Nepal Youth Foundation Solutions

The organization’s Empowering Freed Kamlaris program provides management and business training, vocational career counseling and emotional support for former Kamlari girls. NYF also collaborates with local governments to locate and rescue enslaved Kamlari girls. The organization’s Freed Kamlari Development Forum has contributed to the rescue of more than 12,000 girls. Kamlari girls support each other in building businesses through the Freed Kamlari Development Forum, which has more than 2600 members in 37 business collectives. Many former Kamlari girls in the program are trained in specialized skills to run a business and secure a stable source of income. By rescuing and training former Kamlari girls in self sufficiency and economic freedom, Nepal Youth Foundation empowers girls and strengthens the communities in which they build their businesses.

The Nepali government should follow the example of Nepal Youth Foundation and continue to implement programs that support the country’s future generation in education, employment, access to healthcare and gender equality. It is by empowering young people that developing nations progress.

Melina Stavropoulos
Photo: Unsplash

ONE Campaign
In 2004, Bono and Bobby Shriver co-founded the ONE campaign. It is an international non-partisan campaign that believes the fight against poverty is not about charity but bringing justice and equality. ONE aims to end extreme poverty and preventable diseases by 2030.

What ONE Is

ONE pressures governments, either through grassroots campaigns or lobbying with political leaders, to do more to fight extreme poverty and preventable diseases. The campaign is not government-funded, and is financed entirely by individual philanthropists and corporate partners.

The ONE campaign is made up of several celebrities and world leaders. U2- lead singer Bono and activist Bobby Shriver continue bringing in other leaders to aid in their efforts. The team, which includes former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron and U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, works worldwide to fight extreme poverty. Volunteers make up the backbone of the ONE campaign. These volunteers mobilize education and advocacy efforts for people facing global poverty. Anyone can be a volunteer; artists, activists, students, leaders and celebs, including Ellen DeGeneres, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Liam Neeson and Jewel, are all working together to end extreme poverty and preventable disease by 2030.

Who ONE Helps

The ONE campaign aims to end extreme poverty mainly in Africa’s Sub-Saharan region where 51 percent of the world’s poorest live. The campaign fights for several issues including no poverty, zero hunger and gender equality.

To address zero poverty, ONE campaign leaders propose:

  1. Ensuring all students in low-income countries have basic reading skills. This could cut extreme poverty by 12%.
  2. Increasing the amount spent on key health interventions for women and children. The proposed amount is $5 per person per year to 2035 in 74 developing countries. This could yield 9 times the return on investment in economic and social benefits.
  3. Ending hunger. The percentage of undernourished people dropped from 19 percent in 1990 to 11 percent in 2014. The campaign aims to reduce it from 11 to zero percent by the year 2030 through lobbying and campaigning with governments to provide the necessary programs and resources to nations facing extreme poverty. A key element of ending hunger includes closing the gender gap in resource access. Global hunger numbers could be reduced by 100-150 million people if female farmers had equal access to agricultural resources such as fertilizers.
  4. Fostering gender equality. “In general, women spend 19% of their time in unpaid activities (including housework, child and elder care) versus just 8% for men. Unpaid care work limits women and girls’ ability to complete their education, learn valuable skills and pursue income-generating opportunities.” By addressing this issue and closing the gender gap “developing countries could yield between $112 and $152 million every year and boost global GDP by up to $28 trillion by 2025.” (These projections made pre-COVID-19 pandemic). In addition, girls receiving a primary education may decrease maternal mortality by 70% in Sub-Saharan Africa.

How ONE Helps

The ONE campaign took more than 23 million actions towards alleviating global poverty. ONE championed 35 policy changes, with more than 128,000 supporters mobilized in Abuja, Berlin, Brussels, Dakar, Johannesburg, London, New York, Ottawa, Paris and Washington DC educating and lobbying governments.

“In Europe, ONE has been a key part of several victories shoring up support for development. In March 2013, the UK became the first G8 country to reach the 43-year-old 0.7 percent target for international aid as a share of national income, which meets the commitment made by the coalition government after the general election of May 2010.”

Also, the ONE campaign played a large role in lobbying for a provision of the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) to pass. The provision “increases mutually beneficial trade ties between the U.S. and Africa and promises to lift people out of poverty and into employment and prosperity.” It passed the U.S. House and Senate in 2012

Since starting the campaign in 2014, Bono and Bobby Shriver have been working to bring in leaders and volunteers to join them in the fight against poverty. By mobilizing volunteers to educate and lobby governments, the ONE campaign has been able to influence a number of policy changes. These successes continue bringing the ONE campaign closer to its goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030.

– Danielle Beatty
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Sweden
When discussing global poverty, most tend to think of cases of extreme poverty. However, poverty exists everywhere, even in prosperous countries. Sweden, a Nordic country in Northern Europe known for its progressive politics, is home to a population of 10.3 million. Although Sweden is a relatively wealthy country, 16.2% of its people are at risk of falling into poverty. Here are the top 10 facts about poverty in Sweden.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Sweden

  1. As referenced above, Sweden’s “risk of poverty” is defined as meeting the criteria for severe material poverty or low-income standards. Citizens with low-income standards are those whose household income is inadequate to afford necessary living costs. Currently, 6% of Sweden’s population (570,000 people) fall under low-income standards.
  2. In 2016, Statistics Sweden announced that less than 1% of the population in Sweden suffers from severe material poverty. Sweden defines “severe material poverty” by not being able to afford at least four of the following six components: unforeseen expenses, a week’s holiday per year, a meal with meat or fish every other day, satisfactory heating and housing, capital goods and bills.
  3. Since 2015, Sweden’s unemployment rate has declined by more than 0.35% per year. In 2018, the unemployment rate was 6.35%, which was a 0.37% decline from 2017. However, due to COVID-19, unemployment rates grew to 8.2% in Sweden as of April 2020. 
  4. Sweden’s welfare system reduces poverty across the country. Sweden offers a standard minimum income for all its citizens, providing approximately 60% to 70% of the average wage in Sweden. Swedish law additionally ensures all workers earn 25 paid vacation days and 16 public holidays each year.
  5. Sweden offers equality between genders, especially in the workplace. In 2009, The Swedish Discrimination Act required employers to promote equality between men and women and ban workplace harassment. Then in 2016, Sweden updated its parental leave for both parents to have three months of paid leave. Nevertheless, Sweden has room for improvement, as there is still a 10% wage-gap between men and women.
  6. Sweden’s incorporation of equal education opportunities, beyond gender or socioeconomic status, help increase opportunities for Swedish citizens, thus limiting poverty expansion. Sweden’s Education Act protects free education equality for citizens aged 6-19. In 2017, Sweden reported more than 90% of Swedish students received leaving qualifications equivalent to that of a United States high school diploma. 
  7. The free, universal healthcare in Sweden aids the country in fighting poverty. The healthcare system is highly tax-funded, and it ensures all citizens have equal access to substantial health benefits. Sweden’s Health and Medical Service Act protects universal healthcare, and Sweden’s central government oversees it.
  8. The life expectancy of Sweden is one of the highest in the world: 84 years. Municipal taxes primarily fund elderly care in Sweden. Statistics from 2014 show that the total cost of elderly care was SEK 109.2 billion, or more than USD 12.7 billion. Yet, the patients compensated for only 4% of the total cost themselves.
  9. Sweden’s aim for equal opportunities benefits everyone, including the disabled. The Swedish government and parliament authorized several disability policies. The policies cover accessibility regulations for disabled citizens across housing, transportation and employment sectors. 
  10. Although Sweden offers its citizens free education, universal healthcare and a standard minimum income, the country’s taxes are monumentally high. The tax range in Sweden is 29.2% to 35.2%, depending on the citizen’s income, compared to the lowest federal income tax in the United States, which is 10%.

As the Swedish government fixates on opportunities for its citizens, aiming for equality across genders, age and socioeconomic status, the country offers hope to its citizens that they will continue to reduce their poverty statistics.

Kacie Fredrick
Photo: Flickr

Femicide in Mexico“Mexico is a deadly place to be a woman.” That is the line Isabel Cholbi used in her piece in Berkeley Political Review on femicide in Mexico. The definition of femicide is the intentional murder of women simply because they are women. However, some broader definitions say it is all murder of women and girls. Intimate femicide—the killing of women by a current or former boyfriend or husband—is one of the most common forms. More than 35 percent of all women’s murders are, in fact, a result of intimate femicide. In contrast, only 5 percent of all men’s deaths are by an intimate partner. Understanding the hate crime of femicide is incredibly relevant. This piece will cover femicide in Mexico as well as current efforts to stop it.

Femicide in Numbers

There are more than 63 million women and girls in Mexico, which equals approximately 60 percent of the population. However, there is an escalating wave of violence happening against them, occurring more frequently and becoming more brutal. It began in the 90s in Ciudad Juarez but now has spread throughout the entire country. In fact, between 2015 and 2019, more than 3,000 women reported acts of violence Every day and estimate 10 women are murdered in Mexico. Per 100,000 people, 0.66 percent of women were murdered in 2015. This number has nearly doubled from then to 2019, rising to 1.19 percent.

Taking Action

Prompted by these cases, the Mexican government took action. In 2007, the government launched the Program Against Gender-Specific Violence (AVGM). This program envisions prevention and emergency measures that have been established in 18 out of 32 states. Some of these measures involve increased patrolling, more light in public spaces, higher supervision to public transport and follow-up to protection orders in cases of family violence.
The European Union has provided foreign aid mainly from its “Spotlight” initiative to combat gender violence.  Mexico has joined this initiative. The first phase involves investing 500 million euros in the top five most conflictive areas to be a woman or girl. This program is set to last four years before expanding into a second phase. Short objectives are to better the current public politics, strengthen the institutions, change the “macho” culture and strengthen the job of civil society organizations. “These initiatives are like a mouthful of air,” said Irinea Buendía, mother of Mariana Lima, who was a victim of femicide in Mexico.

Looking Forward

Femicide is increasingly relevant in the world, especially in Mexico. In Mexico, the government with AVGM, and the international community with Spotlight, are a beacon of hope for decreasing violence against women and femicide in Mexico.

Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Development in Uzbekistan

Doubly landlocked by its neighbors, Uzbekistan is rich in a variety of resources, such as cotton, gold, uranium and zinc. However, since becoming an independent country, the people of Uzbekistan have suffered from high rates of poverty, coupled with a lack of access to a reliable source of clean drinking water and subpar health care. In order to fight poverty in Uzbekistan and improve the quality of life, the government has embraced the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and worked to establish a variety of reforms within its framework. As of 2018, the Asian Development Bank lists the poverty rate for Uzbekistan at 11.4 percent.

Supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals

In October 2018, the government of Uzbekistan adopted a resolution titled “On Measures to Implement the National Goals and Targets in the Field of Sustainable Development for the Period Until 2030.” This resolution reaffirmed Uzbekistan’s dedication to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The resolution also set 16 national sustainable development goals for Uzbekistan that focused on environmental, economic and social issues in the country.

The country’s environmental goals include considerably reducing waste production and significantly increasing renewable energy generation by 2030. Economical goals include reducing youth unemployment, increasing Uzbekistan’s per capita GDP and significantly reducing the poverty rates by 2030.

Electricity, Clean Water and Sanitation

As of 2016, 100 percent of the population of Uzbekistan has access to electricity. However, only 3.2 percent of Uzbekistan’s total energy comes from renewable sources. As part of Uzbekistan’s national sustainable development goals, it hopes to significantly increase renewable energy production by 2030. In addition, it plans to reduce waste production by promoting prevention, reduction and recycling.

Uzbekistan has made major strides in improving its sanitation services and water supply throughout the years. However, despite these efforts, less than half of the population has access to a piped water supply. Only 17 percent of city households receive water for the entire day. The situation is much worse in smaller towns and rural communities.

The situation is particularly poor in the Syrdarya region where low-income families must either rely on small storage tanks that are refilled every month at a high price or spend hours of their day walking to a public tap outlet to fill containers with water. The World Bank has launched the Syrdarya Water Supply Project to help provide clean drinking water to the region of nearly 280,000 inhabitants.

Gender Equality

The Uzbekistan government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have worked to empower women and support gender equality in the country. They have established laws that support women in the legal system and in government, such as laws against sexual harassment and gender discrimination. The UNDP has also supported initiatives that economically empower Uzbek women. Financial decision-makers are working closely with the Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan in order to ensure that these initiatives receive proper funding. The UNDP has also aided women-run businesses to grow and achieve success domestically and internationally.

The government has worked with the UNDP to ensure that women receive the same help and benefits as men, including the protection against and treatment of HIV infections. With the support of the UNDP, 5,995 women are currently receiving continuous ARV treatment for HIV. Women also make up 38 percent of participants in HIV prevention programs in the country.

Health Care Reforms

The maternal mortality rate in Uzbekistan has significantly decreased from 33.1 per 1,000 live births in 2000 to 20 per 1,000 live births by 2013. In addition, the government of Uzbekistan is currently working with international partners in developing new and effective health care programs. By 2030, they aim to decrease the child mortality rate by 50 percent, the maternal mortality rate by 30 percent and reduce the number of deaths from noncommunicable diseases by 30 percent.

People often suffer from subpar health care, particularly in rural regions. The government began implementing major health care reforms in 2017, particularly focusing on training health care professionals and fighting tuberculosis. They have also worked to improve the quality of health care in rural hospitals and clinics by requiring all graduates of publicly-funded medical schools to work in rural areas for three years. Uzbekistan already offers free health care; however, the cost of medical supplies is often high. In order to make health care more affordable, the government has instituted reforms to lower the costs of medical devices and fight against corruption.

Economic Liberalization

The Uzbek government implemented vital reforms to liberalize its economy. In 2017, the government commissioned 161 major industrial facilities. As a result of these reforms, the economy grew by 5.5 percent in 2017 and exports grew by 15 percent. The som, the national currency of Uzbekistan, was unpegged from the U.S. dollar and allowed to float freely. This increased currency trading and provided more revenue for the government. A dozen new free economic zones were created alongside 45 industrial zones to spur the economy. The government also created national development programs to promote innovation and investment in the economy.

In cooperation with international organizations including the UNDP, the government of Uzbekistan has worked to distribute income more equitably and create new jobs, particularly in rural areas. It has put a particular effort into helping the most vulnerable communities. The government has proven its dedication to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals by promoting sustainable development throughout the country, supporting women’s empowerment, economic reform, health care reform, clean energy and more. As a result of this dedication, the government of Uzbekistan has successfully reduced poverty and improved the quality of life for its citizens.

Nicholas Bykov
Photo: Pixabay

10 International Issues to WatchWith the world always changing, there are some issues that remain constant. Some of these issues are directly related to poverty while other events increase the likelihood of creating impoverished communities. Here are 10 international issues to watch in relation to world poverty.

10 International Issues to Watch

  1. Poverty in sub-Saharan Africa
    The good news is that global poverty rates have been dropping since the turn of the century. Nevertheless, there is still work that needs to be done. Approximately 10 percent of people in developing areas live on less than $2 per day. Poverty rates have declined in Eastern and Southeastern Asia, but more than 40 percent of residents of sub-Saharan Africa still live below the poverty line.
  2. Lack of Access to Clean Water
    There are more than 2 billion people in the world who cannot access clean water in their own homes. Lack of access to clean water increases the likelihood of contracting illnesses. When people get sick, they have to spend money on medicine, which can cause families to fall into extreme poverty. In other cases, people have to travel extremely far to collect clean water. Altogether, women and girls spend approximately 200 million hours walking to get water daily. Access to clean water is one of the 10 international issues to watch in relation to world poverty.
  3. Food Security
    By 2050, the world will need to feed 9 billion people, but there will be a 60 percent greater food demand than there is today. Thus, the United Nations is taking steps to address the problem. The U.N. has set improving food security, improving sustainable agriculture and ending hunger as some of their primary focuses by the year 2030. The U.N. must address a wide range of issues to combat these problems. These issues include gender parity, global warming and aging populations.
  4. Improving Education
    Most impoverished communities around the world lack a solid education system. Some common barriers include families being unable to afford school, children having to work to support their family and the undervaluing of girls’ education. UNESCO estimates more than 170 million people could be lifted out of poverty if they had basic reading skills.
  5. Limited Access to Jobs
    In rural and developing communities around the world, there is often limited access to job opportunities. There is a multitude of factors that can lead to a lack of adequate work or even no opportunities at all. Two common roadblocks are a lack of access to land and a limit of resources due to overexploitation. It is obvious that no available means to make money ensures that a family cannot survive without outside help.
  6. Limiting Global Conflict
    When conflict occurs, it impacts the poor the hardest. Social welfare type programs are drained, rural infrastructure may be destroyed in conflict zones and security personnel moves into urban areas, leaving smaller communities behind. At the state level, impoverished communities have lower resilience to conflict because they may not have strong government institutions. Poverty and conflict correlate strongly with one another.
  7. Gender Equality
    From a financial standpoint, gender equality is vital to improving the world economy. The World Economic Forum states that it would take another 118 years to achieve a gender-neutral economy. In 2015, the average male made $10 thousand more a year than their female counterparts. However, there has been an increased amount of awareness on the issue that may lead to an improved economy for all.
  8. Defending Human Rights
    In 2018, the world saw a decline in global freedom. However, over the last 12 consecutive years, global freedom rights have decreased. More than 70 countries have experienced a decline in political and civil liberties. However, in 2019, steps are being taken to limit this problem. At the International Conference on Population and Development, there will be a focus on human rights. France will also align its G-7 efforts at limiting a variety of inequalities.
  9. Responding to Humanitarian Crises
    The 2019 Global Humanitarian Overview shows a large number of humanitarian crises around the world. Between Syria, Colombia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there are more than 19 million internally displaced people. In 2019, approximately 132 million people have needed humanitarian help, costing the world economy almost $22 billion.
  10. Climate Change
    From a scientific standpoint, the land temperature has increased by 1 degree C. in the last half decade, and greenhouse gas emissions have risen to their highest levels in more than 800,000 years. This has led to increased storms and droughts throughout the world. In the last 39 years, weather-related economic loss events have tripled.

Even though the world still has many issues to address, progress is being made in a variety of areas that may help limit global poverty. These are but 10 international issues to watch in relation to global poverty. The global awareness of poverty-related issues is something that continues to be extremely important for the advancement of our world.

Nicholas Bartlett
Photo: Google Images

Five Organizations that Help Impoverished WomenPoverty affects people all over the world. However, women have a more difficult time overcoming poverty due to gender inequality. Subsequently, they face injustice, financial dependence, poor education and violence. Here are five organizations that help impoverished women across the globe.

5 Organizations that Help Impoverished Women

  1. Women’s Global Empowerment Fund
    This organization develops plans to reduce poverty and the marginalization of women. For example, Credit Plus is a program that teaches women how to microfinance. For instance, how to save money or how to repay loans. WGEF provides women with credit that may otherwise not be accessible to them. WGEF also provides women with literacy programs, leadership development programs, agriculture training programs and more.
  2. School Girls Unite
    This organization believes education is key in providing women with the tools they need to gain access to independence and opportunities. The nonprofit, volunteer-run, U.S. organization works in Mali. This is because the country has one of the highest percentages of girls not in school in the world. Furthermore, 55 percent of girls in Mali are married before the age of 16.
  3. Pathfinder International
    Pathfinder campaigns for women’s sexual and reproductive health rights in 20 countries. They provide women resources for family planning; STD information and care; maternal health and more.
  4. Dress for Success
    This nonprofit works to help women achieve economic freedom by giving support, professional attire and developmental tools. Dress for Success has helped more than 1 million women become self-sufficient. The organization works in 29 different countries, providing women with the resources and attire needed to secure professional jobs.
  5. Madre
    The organization fights for feminist futures by working toward ending violence against women. Additionally, the organization is dedicated to helping women recover from war. Madre has built clinics and counseling centers for women, children and LGBTQ people who have been victims of gender violence. For example, Madre partnered with Taller de Vida to provide art therapy to help girls who have experienced trauma as a result of rape during war in Columbia.

Why This Matters

With poverty as a contributing factor, women all over the globe experience a lack of independence, education, freedoms and opportunities. These five organizations that help impoverished women work to improve the lives of women all over the globe. Though many women have been helped, there’s still a long way to go in defeating gender inequality and achieving women’s rights globally.

– Jodie Filenius
Photo: Flickr

Quality of Life in IcelandSituated about 400 miles west of Greenland in the northern Atlantic, Iceland is a mid-sized island with a population of around 340,000. Given its high latitude, Iceland’s climate is unexpectedly temperate. Its dramatic landscapes draw millions of tourists each year from around the world. Iceland is governed by parliamentary democracy and has a strong tradition of center-left politics.

Top Ten Facts About Quality of Life in Iceland:

Gender Equality

Iceland has consistently held the number one spot in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap index over the past several years. An article published by The Guardian in 2016 traces this back to a time where Icelandic men would leave their villages for long hunting trips, leaving the women to take charge of the key political and economic decisions in their absence.

Strong Economy

Although hit badly in the 2009 global recession, Iceland has since bounced back, and now ranks among the wealthiest countries in the world. According to data from Focus Economics, Iceland ranked fourth highest in the world for GDP per Capita in 2017.

High Life Expectancy

With a life expectancy of 83.1 years at birth, Iceland ranks seventh in the world for this metric. Iceland also has very low infant mortality rates at just 2.1 deaths out of every 1000 births.

High “Subjective Happiness” Levels

According to the World Happiness Report, ranking each country according to “subjective happiness” indicators, Iceland comes in at number four, behind Finland, Norway and Denmark. The authors of the report argue that the happiness scores—generated from survey results—closely follow six quality of life indicators. These factors are GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, generosity, freedom and absence of corruption.

Low Exposure to Sunlight

Despite its high World Happiness score, Iceland has the 40th highest suicide rate of any nation on earth with 14 suicides for every 100,000 of the population. Iceland’s Nordic neighbors Sweden, Finland and Norway all have high suicide rates despite impressive scores in other quality of life indicators. These numbers led some to draw a link between suicide and low exposure to sunlight during the winter months.

Low Poverty Risk

According to data collected in 2016, less than 9 percent of Iceland’s total population is at risk from poverty, which is about half the combined rate for the 28 countries that make up the European Union.

Political Corruption Rates

Although Iceland suffers from low political corruption compared to global averages, corruption levels in Iceland are the highest of all Nordic states, and recent reports suggest they are growing worse. During her election campaign in late 2017, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir spoke about rebuilding trust after two years of political instability preceding her administration.

Education Quality

Although education in Iceland is funded entirely by the state, from preschool to university, one international education survey calls its quality into question. According to test results collected from 45 countries by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Icelandic children scored below the group averages in math, science and reading.

Homelessness

Despite having one of the world’s most generous welfare systems, Iceland is reportedly struggling with a growing homelessness problem. According to one study, the number of homeless people living in Reykjavik—Iceland’s capital—nearly doubled between 2012 and 2017 from 179 to 349, or about three out of every thousand.

Healthcare

Iceland has a nationalized healthcare system that is largely tax-funded. A recent study ranked the Icelandic healthcare system second in the world, based on a review of comprehensive criteria.

The combination of market forces with a generous welfare system crafted a model that secures a high quality of life in Iceland for the majority of its citizens. But a closer look into Iceland’s education, corruption and homelessness problems shows that even the most affluent and equitable societies carry their share of problems. Historically, Iceland has found success by addressing society’s problems collectively— continuing this approach will serve it well in the future.

– Jamie Wiggan
Photo: Flickr