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living conditions in morocco
Morocco is a country rich in history and tradition with a unique culture that comes from Arab, Berber, French and African influences. While the country faces several economic, political and social challenges, it has also been experiencing continued growth in GDP, indicating the progress in its development. Evidence of the country’s domestic progress can be seen through its efforts in increasing school enrollment and literacy rates and reducing poverty. It has also displayed its progress internationally by taking the lead on environmental progress in the region. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Morocco.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Morocco

  1. Morocco’s government has implemented programs focused on job creation and the reduction of economic disparities that have been effective enough to improve the overall economy. Morocco represents the sixth largest economy in Africa. Its GDP growth rate increased from 2.40 percent in July 2018 to 3 percent by October 2018. Although in previous years, the GDP had been higher, this increase represents a new upswing in growth.
  2. There was slight progress in reducing unemployment in 2018, with a small drop from 10.6 percent to 10 percent by September that year. The High Commission for Planning estimates that 122,00 jobs were created within the last year. In addition, youth unemployment rates dropped from 27.5 percent to 26 percent.
  3. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) concluded in an index evaluation that Morocco is the worst country in North Africa in terms of income inequality. The income share held by the highest 20 percent amounted to 47 percent in 2013 while the lowest 20 percent held a total of 6.70 percent. Distribution of income in Morocco is a challenge that still needs to be addressed.
  4. Although income inequality persists, the poverty rate in Morocco had decreased from 8.9% in 2007 to 4.2% in 2014. The World Bank reported an increase of 3.3 percent in consumption per capita between 2001 to 2014. However, progress is more apparent in urban areas rather than rural.
  5. In order to improve and diversify its economy, the government has been focusing on becoming more innovative. In 2010, research efforts accounted for 0.73 percent of its GDP, making Morroco one of the highest in the Arab world in that focus. In 2009, the country adopted the Moroccan Innovation Strategy by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Investment and the Digital Economy with the aim of developing domestic demand for innovation and improving innovative funding.
  6. Due to severe understaffing, the World Health Organization (WHO) had listed Morocco as one of the 57 countries that could not provide essential healthcare to its citizens in 2010. The government has since taken measures to improve this. It announced the allotment $10 billion to go towards healthcare and education as part of its $46.5 billion 2019 Finance Bill.
  7. In 2001, Morocco had implemented a program to do away with all the slums. The “City Without Slums Initiative” was set to be accomplished by 2011, but was set back considerably after terrorist attacks in 2003. Its purpose was to improve housing, sanitation and quality of life. It is currently only 68 percent complete. Of the original 85 cities that were scheduled to be updated, 58 have been completed.
  8. In partnership with USAID, Morocco has adopted measures to improve its educational system in 2017. Fewer than 15 percent of students who start in first grade are predicted to graduate from high school. The newly implemented program focuses on teacher training, after-school reading programs as well as distributing important learning materials. The program has already trained more than 340 teachers and improved literacy for 12,000 students.
  9. Literacy rates had improved substantially from 41.6 percent in 1994 to 71.7 percent in 2015. However, the adult literacy gender gap in Morocco is still a challenge that the government is facing. In 2015, the male literacy rate reached 78.6 percent; whereas, the female literacy rate was only 58.8 percent. However, these rates improve significantly when looking at the youth between the ages of 15-24. The gender gap is still present in youth, but much narrower, with roughly 88 percent for women and 95 percent for men.
  10. Similarly to the social challenges the whole region faces, Morocco is a patriarchal society. Gender inequality is embedded in the social, political, legal and economic structures of the country. However, the government has taken constitutional measures to increase gender equality. In 2004, it amended the Mudawanna legal code, guaranteeing legal rights for women in areas like property ownership, divorce and child support. Women currently make up one-third of the formal workforce and almost half of the students graduating from university.

Looking to the Future

These 10 facts about living conditions in Morocco illustrate the government’s efforts to not only achieve economic growth but develop overall. The U.N. Development Program indicated that the Human Development Index for Morocco had increased from 0.458 in 1990 to 0.667 2017. The Moroccan government’s 2019 agenda for development is focused on education and a huge investment in its citizens for the purpose of economic transformation.

Njoud Mashouka

Photo: Flickr

Using Technology for Decreasing Poverty in the Dominican Republic Via Technology
A promising program that is aiming to help to bring people in the Dominican Republic out of poverty is the Community Technology Center Program (CTC). This initiative is one key sign of the progress the country is making in improving health, promoting gender equality and decreasing poverty in the Dominican Republic. With more innovative programs like the CTCs, the country could continue to see significant progress in many areas of poverty reduction through education and access to technological resources.

What Do CTCs Offer?

Since its inception in 1998, the primary purpose of the CTCs is to offer technology resources for people to help in areas such as employment and education, thereby increasing financial stability. The CTCs are also working to achieve its mission connected to health by helping to prevent the spread of disease by offering people access to information about health. Currently, there are 87 centers, but there are plans to build more.

The CTC initiative works towards helping families living on a dollar per day to possess the tools to help themselves increase their financial stability. One of the reasons for the success of the CTC program is that it utilizes technology to help people at no cost, thereby bestowing to people the tools to have a say in their lives. In fact, the centers offer technology training for those who don’t know how to use the resources.

Empowering Women and Minorities

Assistance for women, the disabled, immigrants and others who have not had access to online information and technology is a top priority. One of the issues the CTC programs has been trying to address is women’s access and use of the Internet. At least “three-fourths of the female population don’t use the internet.” The CTC initiative is also working to expand women’s participation in technology and Internet access.

The part of the program, women on the net, also demonstrates the progress that the CTCs are making. Some of the areas of education the centers provide are programming, multimedia and telecommunications. By providing education in these areas, the goal is for participants to find jobs in technology. By 2013, 700 female participants had finished programs at various centers, learning computer literacy and technology.

By providing assistance to people with disabilities, immigrants and non-legal residents, CTCs are helping to reduce poverty in often marginalized communities. One of the people the program has aided in employment, Julien Joseph-Josue, said the CTC program made him feel like “part of a family.” Joseph-Josue is a Haitian immigrant who received training to help his career as an interpreter.

The Success of the Program

The centers provide opportunities for learning and sharing in a community space as well as providing training in obtaining a job. Currently, the centers have achieved substantial progress in alleviating poverty in the Dominican Republic and have made significant strides in working to promote gender equality. The number of people CTCs has helped demonstrates this development. CTCs have helped develop the skills of around 40,000 people, 60 percent of these people being women, creating a more positive outlook.

Demonstrating a continual sign of progress the CTC program has made is the Bill and Melinda Gates recognition for the initiative for its innovation. The organization awarded the initiative The 2012 Access to Learning Award (ATLA), an award for organizations across the globe that offer access to technology. The CTC program obtained $1 million from this award. Furthermore, Microsoft will give $18 million worth of software to the initiative in accordance with its global citizenship effort to offer help in the positive developments from technology.

The technology that the program provides allows for access to information aiding in financial stability, health and decreasing poverty in the Dominican Republic. In addition, the CTCs have been shown to move the Dominican Republic further along on the path to achieving gender equality. With the continual effort of the initiative, hopefully, there will be more positive results in the effort to alleviate poverty in the Dominican Republic.

– Daniel McAndrew-Greiner
Photo: Flickr

Women Rights in Senegal
In the past, women in Senegal did not have many rights, if any. But that situation is beginning to change as stipulations have been put out. However, these demands have been continuously violated by men who still believe that women should have certain traditional roles in society.

The most repugnant of these violations are forced marriage, genital mutilation, widespread violence against women, limited access to education, employment and decision-making positions, in the work or in the house. The government has been working toward making women’s rights in Senegal a priority.

Improvements in Women’s Rights in Senegal

Slowly, but surely, Senegalian women are getting more of a say in societal matters. Women have been appointed to decision-making positions, especially in the legal field, but they are still very under-represented in public and political affairs and need to become a larger voice in the public sphere.

In 1999, the Criminal Code was revised to make tougher penalties for crimes against women. This revision allows for the punishment of previously unrecognized crimes, such as incest, rape, sexual harassment, excision and domestic violence.

The National Strategy for Gender Equality was implemented between 2005 and 2015, concentrating on increasing women’s status in society, improving their capability, improving their economic position and setting up workshops to start the conversation in order to raise awareness about the issues that are prevalent to Senegalian society.

These three achievements have led Senegalian women one step closer to gender equality, but much more needs to be done in order to fix this sizable issue.

Current Status of Women’s Rights in Senegal

The Senegalian constitution says that all human beings are equal before the law and that men and women have equal rights. Women’s basic socio-economic rights are spelled out here, but they are not always followed through with. In most instances, men feel that they have power over their partners or co-workers based on the simple prejudice that they are not equal.

Some aspects of women’s rights have been improving, but there is still a huge discrepancy between what the law states and the reality for the Senegalian woman. Women are still viewed as second-class citizens.

In Senegal, the traditional view of society is still a reality, which is why it is difficult for women to get a say and be more prominent in the public sector of their communities. Men are raised up and women are pushed down, but changes to this are in process.

Barriers to Gender Equality

One of the largest impediments to gender equality in Senegal is forced marriage. This violation of human rights has been outlawed by the constitution, prohibited by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1979 and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa of 2003, this issue is still very prevalent in Senegal society.

Another impediment to gender equality in Senegal is violence against women. This includes domestic violence, rape, the criminalization of abortion, discriminatory practices in access to economic resources and the silencing of women and girls in the in important decision-making processes.

What is Being Done and What Needs to Be Done

In order to break this tradition of inequality, women need to have more self-sufficiency, they need to have proper training and information sessions and they need to conduct economic activities to guarantee their sustainable economic progress and to ensure their access to justice without discrimination.

In terms of the criminalization of abortion, the Working Group strongly supports the current bill that aims to expand abortion in cases of incest and rape. The entirety of this West African country needs to work together in order to solve the huge issue of women not getting the rights that they deserve and that are promised by the law.

There continues to be growing support of women’s rights in Senegal, as well as a growing opposition to harmful traditional and cultural practices. However, there is a perception that the issue of gender inequality is the agenda of political leaders, which is completely false. This issue has been relevant to politicians only during election season.

In order for further improve women’s rights in Senegal, women need powerful allies and legislative measures to be put into action. Poverty legislation could be put to great use in order to give women a leg up in their communities. Every available resource needs to be tapped in order to achieve equality of men and women in Senegal.

– Megan Maxwell

Photo: Flickr

Nonprofits that Empower Women
All over the world and throughout history women have not been given the same opportunities as men, whether in business, education or healthcare. 
These strict gender norms can be difficult to overcome anywhere, but it’s especially difficult to overcome in an impoverished country. There are nonprofits all over the world helping to empower women to be successful in their communities — here are five nonprofits that empower women. 

Share and Care Foundation

The Share and Care foundation is concentrated in rural India. The goal of the foundation is to create equality, specifically gender equality, healthcare and education. The organization helps to empower women in rural India through teaching different life skills and helping these women overcome gender norms present in their country.

Some of the opportunities available for women through this foundation are:

  • Vocational training
  • Financial management skills
  • Self-defense lessons
  • Confidence training
  • Safe space for women that have escaped red light districts.

The foundation also has a class on gender equality open to both young boys and girls to help re-educate the youth on a woman’s role in society.

This foundation has been very successful in helping to empower women throughout rural India. The Share and Care Foundation has taught women business skills in subjects like fashion design or computer training, shown women they can be self-employed and contribute to India’s economy and helped many women regain the confidence they need to succeed.

School Girls Unite

This goal of School Girls Unite is to overcome prejudice throughout the world and provide girls with an education and leadership skills. The organization believes no one should be denied the freedom of an education, especially based on their gender. This foundation works specifically in the country of Mali, where only 50 percent of girls completed elementary school.

School Girls Unite has provided many young girls an education in Mali that they otherwise would not have received. The group provides full scholarships to ten girls a year; the cost of attending school for one year is only $75. This cost is broken down into $35 for tuition, $20 for books and supplies and $20 for tutoring and mentoring.

The efforts of School Girls Unite have helped ten girls complete ninth grade, which is very rare in rural Mali; in addition, three students are continuing in their education without scholarships and two girls have received an associate’s degree. This nonprofit has been helping to empower women and changing lives for almost 15 years.    

Women for Women International

Women for Women International was started in 1993 and has provided aid to over 478,000 women since. These women harken from eight different countries that have been impacted by war or conflict. This foundation is helping to empower women by supplying them with support, tools and life skills to help them become economically self-sufficient.

In addition to such benefits, women also learn life, vocational, health and nutritional skills in this program. Once they are enrolled, this population is also provided with a monthly stipend to help be able to pay for things while they learn valuable life skills.

Women for Women International has changed and improved the lives of women in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovnia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Sudan.

Women’s Global Empowerment Fund

Women’s Global Empowerment was founded in 2007 and has since changed the lives of many women in Uganda. This fund has given numerous women access to microcredit loans, literacy, education in business, leadership development and health initiatives.

As of 2017, this organization provided over 10,000 microcredit loans, business training classes and other developmental programs. This program has improved the lives of many women in Uganda by empowering them through business education and skills that help women work in agriculture and markets, among other vocational sectors in Uganda.

Madre

Madre aims to help the world become a place where all individuals can enjoy human rights. They partner with local women’s groups stricken with war or disaster throughout the world.

One of the organization’s goals is to advance women’s rights by meeting the urgent needs of these communities and providing solutions. Madre combines meeting urgent needs and teaching women life and leadership skills to create long lasting change throughout the world.

Madre works with communities in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Haiti, Columbia, Kenya, Palestine, Syria and Iraq. For 35 years, this organization has improved the lives of many women by fighting to combat violence against women, building peace throughout the world, fighting to end rape as a weapon of war, battling for rights of the LGBTIQ community, and providing emergency relief to communities in need.

These nonprofits that empower women do so by providing resources and education needed to build sustainable communities. Hopefully, others will continue to follow in such inspirational footsteps. 

– Ronni Winter
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Uganda
Girls’ education in Uganda is not a priority for the leaders of this East African country. Because of the huge gender gap and the perpetuated stereotypes of women and girls working in the home, their education does not take precedence. Instead, boys’ education is what is at the top of schools’ minds. In Uganda alone, more than 700,000 children between the ages of 6 and 12 have never attended school. Despite these facts, a handful of organizations are helping girls in Uganda get the education they need.

Organizations Improving Girls’ Education in Uganda

  1. Global Partnership for Education
    This organization granted Uganda $100 million to improve its education system and so far, the results are exceptional. Since this money was granted, more than 18,000 teachers have been trained in early grade reading in English and in local languages, teachers and committees have been trained in more than 900 schools, and as of January 2018, there are more than 550,000 direct project beneficiaries. These results will directly impact girls in Uganda because a more proficient school system will be able to support more children and give them the education they need. The education sector of Uganda has the goal of increasing the participation, performance and progress of women and girls in the education system. Hopefully, with the help of the Global Partnership for Education, this goal will be achieved in abundance.
  2. United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative
    UNGEI has implemented several strategies in order to improve girls’ education in Uganda. Since UNGEI partnerships have begun working in Uganda, the process for developing messages for the national gender parity campaign has begun, female role models for empowering girls have been promoted and support for young people is being led by this initiative in its program for community outreach to find out-of-school children. This organization will encourage girls to take a greater interest in completing their education. Through this work, girls’ education will hopefully become more of a priority for everyone in Uganda.
  3. Girl Up Initiative Uganda
    This organization has a number of programs to empower young girls to participate more in their communities, one of them being the Adolescent Girls Training Program. This program is conducted inside the local Uganda schools and it focuses on building young girls’ aptitudes for individual empowerment and social survival. Girl Up confronts gender inequality to help young girls to advocate for themselves and to build their self-esteem. This organization allows girls to feel empowered and not as if the world is run solely by boys and men. This program provides girls with critical thinking skills and gives them the tools to deal with unfair realities in their daily lives. By doing so, this initiative is forging the next generation of confident women who will someday become leaders in their country. Girl Up addresses areas of education that are missing from young girls’ everyday lives and schooling. A couple of the areas that this organization covers are self-esteem and body image, violence against women and children, children’s rights and leadership skills. This program provides girls with the tools to be a leader within their school and their community as a whole.

If the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act is passed through the Senate and is signed by the president, these organizations will benefit immensely. This act will prioritize efforts to support access to primary and secondary education for displaced children, mainly focusing on including women and girls in foreign assistance programs. This is the main purpose for all three of these organizations and this act will allow this goal to cover more ground as well as being achieved much faster. This act will give girls’ education in Uganda a huge boost, as well as all impoverished countries in which girls’ education is not a priority.

Megan Maxwell
Photo: Flickr

To find out more about the past successes of our advocacy work and our current legislative priorities in Congress, head over to our Legislation page.

Girls Finishing Primary School
The importance of education in lifting a country out of extreme poverty has been well established. Specifically, girls’ education promotes gender equality, raises wages and results in smaller, healthier families. There is an unprecedented increase in girls finishing primary school, allowing them to get educated alongside their male peers.

Income Levels and How they Affect Girls Finishing Primary School

The percentage of girls who can afford to attend (and finish) primary school is directly tied to their country’s income level. Level 1 is extreme poverty; the family can barely afford to eat and must get water from wells. Level 2 is lower-middle income; the family can afford decent food and shoes. Level 3 is upper-middle income; the family can afford running water and basic appliances. Level 4 is high income; the family can afford a nice house and cars.

Level 4: Oman

One hundred percent of girls in Oman finish primary school. Primary school starts at age 6 and continues until age 18, and girls can go to one of 1,045 schools as of 2011. However, back in 1973, when Oman was a Level 1 country, there were only three primary schools with no girls attending them at all. Oman has experienced phenomenal advances in both poverty reduction and girls’ education.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said ascended the throne in 1970 and did not like what he saw. He vowed to improve life for the Omani people. This included, among many other things, opening more schools and allowing girls to attend them. Additionally, he made public school free, allowed private schools to exist and created a comprehensive kindergarten curriculum. With the availability of free education for girls, 100 percent of girls attend and complete primary school.

Level 3: Iraq

In Iraq, 58.8 percent of the nation’s girls finish primary school. This is down from 68 percent in 2004, but it is higher than the 0.722 percent that it was in 1974. At present, girls make up 44.8 percent of students in primary schools.

The Iraqi school system is far from ideal. Uneducated girls, when asked why they do not attend school, cite abusive teachers, poverty, the presence of boys and concerns about domestic and national safety. Those who do go to school endure dirty bathrooms, a lack of clean drinking water and the aforementioned abusive teachers. Despite this, there are enough girls finishing primary school in Iraq to keep the country out of extreme poverty in the next generation.

Level 2: Morocco

In Morocco, 94.7 percent of girls finish primary school. This is a stark increase from 22.9 percent in 1972. After King Mohammed the Sixth ascended the throne on July 30, 1999, he began placing more focus on the education of his people. His efforts have impacted girls more than boys, as shown by the fact that only 9 percent of girls have to repeat any grades in primary school, which is less than the 13 percent of boys who have to do so. Although this has done little to improve women’s reputations as workers thus far, it is still a victory for the country.

Level 1: Myanmar

In Myanmar, 89.3 percent of girls finish primary school. This number was only 30.8 percent in 1971 for a simple reason: extreme poverty. While schooling itself is technically free, parents still need to pay for uniforms and supplies, and boys are favored over girls in terms of whom parents will spend money on. Sometimes, girls as young as 4 years old are sent to schools in Buddhist monasteries, which means being separated from their families.

However, help is being provided by the international community. Educational Empowerment is an American organization dedicated to promoting educational equality in Southeast Asia. It develops and supports schools in Myanmar, publishes books, and gives microloans to mothers to help get their daughters into school. This has helped girls catch up to their male peers and finish primary school.

For girls, getting an education has historically not been an easy task. Between the cost of school attendance, the existence of extreme poverty and general gender inequality, girls often fall behind their male peers when it comes to receiving an education. However, thanks to new government rulings and help from nonprofit organizations, there are now more girls finishing primary school than ever before, and the number is set to rise even higher. In the near future, girls’ education will be on par with that of their male counterparts. This is important because educating girls leads to educated women, and educated women can help lift a country out of extreme poverty.

– Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Flickr

How to Measure Women's Empowerment for EqualityInvesting in gender equality has proven to stimulate economic growth and create safer and healthier communities. If a woman is given the opportunity to work, her entry into the labor force initiates economic expansion. When given equal access to education, girls are able to become educated mothers and, in turn, create a more stable environment for the family.

Reasons to Invest in Gender Equality

With such good benefits, why wouldn’t someone invest in such equality? The problem is that the world needs an accurate way to measure women’s empowerment so it’s possible to create prosperous and efficient programs.

Multiple theories have arisen attempting to address this issue. Some believe a good way of assessing the level of empowerment in a woman’s society is to gauge how much she is able to participate in formal and informal social institutions.

Ability to make one’s own life choices is always emphasized as a factor of measurement. Having agency over decisions is an important part of everyone’s life that women in impoverished countries are often deprived.

Women’s Empowerment Framework

UNICEF uses its own method called the Women’s Empowerment Framework (WEF) that includes control, social participation, access to resources and welfare. According to this measurement system, supplying women with welfare will have a domino effect that will turn into mobilization and finally, control.

The WEF promotes women having careers and leadership positions so that they have an equal place in society to that of men. It also emphasizes the importance of having access to maternal healthcare and closing the gender wage gap.

J-PAL Approach

The most recent developments in methods to measure women’s empowerment comes from MIT’s Poverty Action Lab called J-PAL. This approach takes into account the local context of the girl’s community and how that affects her ability to makes choices in her own life.

According to J-PAL’s plan, there needs to be a logical way of measuring the amount of impact a program has on a woman and her community. Surveys are an option, but researchers acknowledge that sometimes women do not know how or cannot answer the question well. However, phrasing questions in simple, easy-to-answer ways can increase the accuracy of survey results.

Research studies to measure gender bias in communities is also a good way to gauge women’s freedom. J-PAL also addressed the gravity of properly collecting data from this research. Without an accurate and easy way to track results, it will not be possible to construct effective programs.

Achieving Gender Equality

J-PAL’s outline for conducting gender analysis can ultimately help a lot of women living in oppressed communities. Reliable systems need to be put into place in order to measure women’s empowerment and thus create real equality.

The approach is far from perfect, but with a constantly changing subject of research, it is near impossible to pin down a way to measure with 100 percent accuracy. Despite some flaws, the invention of this method helps women today and has the promising potential to change how people view and react to women’s empowerment across the world for years to come.  

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

7 Reasons Why Cooperatives Are Important To Poverty ReductionCooperatives are important in reducing poverty. All cooperatives, social or economic, are mechanisms that ensure the growth and prosperity of communities. In developing and transitioning countries that lack access to capital, education, and training, cooperative structures allow communities to pool together their resources to solve problems, identify common goals and target the causes and symptoms of poverty.

What Are Cooperatives?

Cooperatives are organizations of all types that address a wide range of issues — from food producers and consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, to credit and hybrid cooperatives all around the globe.

Anytime people have common concerns, face similar struggles or are looking for solutions bigger than they alone can accomplish, cooperatives offer an answer via strength in numbers. This is why cooperatives are important to poverty reduction.

When Did Cooperatives Begin?

Cooperatives date back to the 1840s when the Rochdale Society of Equitable Partners came together after losing their jobs to industrialization. This group decided to band its resources together and open a store that provided goods they all needed, but couldn’t afford on their own.

Out of their individual experiences, we were left with the Rochdale Principles — a set of operations still in use today that helped the pioneering group manage the realities of poverty in an organized and productive manner.

What Are Cooperatives Core Principles?

The success of cooperatives depends upon seven core principles of cooperative development:

  • Voluntary and open membership
  • Democratic member control
  • Member economic participation
  • Autonomy and independence
  • Education, training and information
  • Cooperation among cooperative
  • Concern for community

More than 760 million people around the world are a part of the cooperative movement. Here are seven reasons why cooperatives are important to successful poverty reduction.

7 Reasons Cooperatives are Important to Poverty Reduction

  1. Cooperatives directly answer community needs, adjusted to local concerns. They are anchors that distribute, recycle and multiply local expertise, resources and capital. Autonomous cooperatives reach the poorest people in the community, offering upward mobility and basic infrastructure ignored by large businesses. Consumer Cooperatives, like Rochdale play a vital role in distributing food and basic resources in poor and rural areas. Profits and benefits also circulate within the same community.
  1. Cooperatives help build peaceful societies. In the process of transforming poverty-ridden communities into vibrant economies, cooperatives contribute to skill-development and education. They bolster gender equality and improve the health and living standards of an entire community. Cooperatives have been instrumental in meeting the Millenium Development Goals, as nations are more likely to stay peaceful by escaping the poverty trap.
  1. Cooperatives enable farmers to obtain higher returns. Agricultural and fishing cooperatives support its members by providing training, credit and resources. Rural cooperatives, dependant on agriculture, don’t have to look to international companies to grow. In impoverished communities with low inputs, it is unlikely they can produce the quality and quantity desired to make profitable margins. Combining supply purchases, sales and other expenses can help cooperatives operate at lower cost-per-unit than their individual farmer counterparts. This can allow for an entire community to re-market their product at a higher price.
  1. Worker cooperatives promote collaborative entrepreneurship and economic growth. Cooperatives reduce individual risk in much-needed business ventures and create a culture of shared productivity, decision-making and creative problem-solving. Only 10 percent of cooperatives fail while 60 to 80 percent of businesses fail; in fact, cooperatives can revive communities by allocating funds to rising workers with vested interests. Credit cooperatives also supply money to start a new business or repair current ones. Profits from sales can then support larger community projects that help each member and the community as a whole to survive.
  1. Cooperatives create competition within local markets. Since services come at a cost to members, pricing adjustments occur to benefit members and impact other organizations in order to compete at the same efficiency. Purchasing cooperatives, in particular, help businesses compete with large, national retailers. Cooperatives not only provide positive outcomes for its members, but also excite local markets as a whole.
  1. Multi-purpose and credit cooperatives provide small loans to their members. These loans go to self-employment, offering an opportunity for better wages through retail shopkeeping, farming or livestock. This allocation of funds can go towards building needed community infrastructure projects and financing small businesses that help local economies grow.
  1. Industrial and craft cooperatives help members produce marketable products. In addition to training, shared facilities allow members to access raw materials and technical machinery otherwise unavailable in rural areas. These cooperatives can provide an additional source of income for families and allow them to grow in their communities, rather than travel to urban centers at a high cost.

Empowerment and Collaboration

Cooperatives organize all over the world because they can help in almost every circumstance. Both developing and developed countries depend on cooperatives because they are an empowering model that promotes collaborative social change.

While foreign aid and investments drastically help impoverished communities, external remedies are only half the battle. Cooperatives provide a grassroots initiative and social structure to address all symptoms of poverty.

Cooperatives also make aid and assistance all the more powerful. With strong communities and the right foreign assistance, eradication of extreme poverty becomes all the more feasible.

– Joseph Ventura
Photo: Flickr

gender barriers
Equality between men and women still remains a struggle in the majority of countries around the world, but the fact that removing gender barriers fuels economic growth is becoming more evident in the world’s fastest-growing economies. In addition to fueling the principle of equality, women’s economic participation is a vital, often overlooked, piece to the labor force.

Female Economic Participation

According to the International Monetary Fund, the importance of female economic participation mitigates the shrinking labor force in developing countries. The more opportunities women have increases the likelihood of the gender contributing to broader economic development. Such outcomes are often seen through higher enrollment numbers for education.

Currently, in the Middle East and Northern Africa, women account for 21 percent of the labor force. Often these gaps lead to significant GDP losses. Countries that have acquired such losses include Qatar, Oman and Iran, and all three nations have a projected GDP loss estimated at 30 percent or higher.

Many of these countries pose a legal threat to women — women signing contracts, traveling abroad and negotiating finances are not common. However large the losses, there are significant macroeconomic benefits to eliminating gender barriers. Some of these benefits include:

  • Improvements in financial analytics
  • Economic inclusion and data collection
  • Reformative fiscal policies that integrate equality into law

One U.N. study claims that removing gender barriers fuels economic growth by fostering an additional $89 billion into the Asian Pacific economy per year.

A Rwandan Success Story

Some countries have fought hard to relinquish the negative stigma associated with women in their economies. From innovative coffee plantations in Rwanda to legislative change, alleviation of bias is slowly filtering its way through exclusive boundaries.

For instance, Rwanda has recently become a powerful leader in the gender equality sphere. Policies regarding gender empowerment and budgeting of public services are setting precedents for many Sub-Saharan African countries. In addition, the Ministry for Gender and Family Promotion is the largest gender equality organization in the country. Its commitment is centered on gender-based budgeting and fighting gender-based violence.

Rwanda and Gender

Post-Rwandan Genocide culture opened many doors for women just as World War II did for Americans. President Paul Kagame recognized the need for women’s labor and in 2003 passed legislation requiring 30 percent of parliamentary seats to be reserved for women. Kagame battled to revitalize the torn country with a labor force that was unheard of for many Eastern African countries.

As of January 2018 and thanks to President Kagame, 64 percent of seats in Rwandan legislature were held by women. This is a feat highly praised by most Rwandan women, but still remains a slight issue with Rwandan males and traditional females who choose to ignore the fact that removing gender barriers fuels economic growth.

Though Rwandan history has uniquely paved the way for female empowerment, many countries still lag behind the concept of gender equality. If barriers continue to be eliminated, economic success is sure to follow. Perhaps global powerhouses, like the U.S., can learn from Rwandan history, gender equality and culture, and bring gender equality to the forefront.

– Logan Moore
Photo: Flickr

2018 women's marchOne year ago, on Jan. 21, 2017, the largest day of protests in the history of the United States took place: the 2017 Women’s March. This protest originated from the palpable tension many felt after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. After its conception, however, the campaign exploded, exponentially growing into something greater than just a protest against a particular president and inspiring the 2018 Women’s March on its anniversary.

The message of the 2017 Women’s March was heard around the world. From Washington to Kenya, Saudi Arabia and many more, women and men alike took to the streets and commenced their mission to obtain health, economic security, representation and safety. These are the four pillars that first brought millions of people from all different backgrounds together for the 2017 and 2018 Women’s Marches.

Although this is a step in the right direction, there are still many countries that need to recognize the strength of their female citizens. Here are several active issues that women in developing countries faced during the 2017 and 2018 Women’s Marches.

Kenya’s Constitution

According to the Constitution of Kenya, women are required to hold at least one-third of government positions. Unfortunately, this parameter has never been met since the constitution’s inception in 2010.

On Jan. 22, 2018, hundreds of Kenyan women marched in defiance of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who had just recently dropped all of the female members of his Cabinet. The nine new nominees he chose were all be male. A petition has been established to require the government to follow its constitution, but the courts have, so far, remained silent.

A Driving Force

During the 2017 Women’s March, one of the largest issues that Saudi Arabian women fought for was their right to drive. This freedom has the power to vastly improve the lives of these women and the country as a whole.

Fortunately, their pleas were heard; on Sep. 26, 2017, a royal decree declared that, for the first time, Saudi Arabian women had the right to drive. Now, a few months later, the country has seen modest economic growth as women are given more freedoms, and thus are presented with more economic opportunities.

The Sky is the Limit

The next objective for Saudi Arabian women during the 2018 Women’s March was to allow women into the field of aviation. This new freedom is the brainchild of the Saudi Arabian government’s 2030 Vision, a strategy designed to relieve the country’s dependence on oil exports. The Saudi government may be giving women more freedom mostly in the pursuit of economic stability, but it is still a powerful victory for womankind.

In a country where more than half of the graduate degrees are earned by women, but only 20 percent of women are in the workforce, it is easy to find talent in this untapped market. Saudi Arabia may have a long way to go, but its quest for modernization should prove very beneficial to the country’s economy as well as its female population.

With the power of the Internet and modernization in general, developing countries like these can be a part of the global conversation. The 2017 and 2018 Women’s Marches are shining examples of what can happen when technology, activism and passion collide.

– Nicolas Lennan

Photo: Pixabay