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Education for Girls in PakistanIn April 2018, a school will open that is focused on improving education for girls in Pakistan of all grades. Thanks to the Malala Fund and the Big Heart Foundation’s Girl’s Child Fund, this school will serve approximately 330 girls with the expectation to increase gradually to 1,000 students.

Farah Mohamed, CEO of the Malala Fund, and Mariam Al Hammadi, the Director of the Big Heart Foundation, signed an agreement regarding the school in Oxford, London. In attendance at the signing was Malala Yousafzai and Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, the Big Heart Foundation’s Humanitarian Envoy.

Financing for the School

The Big Heart Foundation donated $70,000 to the school and agreed to pay for the school’s operational needs such as medical, security expenses, transportation, uniforms, staff salary and books. The Big Heart Foundation plans to finance the school’s first two years with these funds. The school will be located in Swat Valley, which is the hometown of Malala Yousafzai, the founder of the Malala Fund.

Malala Yousafzai commented on the donation, saying, “I overwhelming thank the Big Heart Foundation for believing in my dream of a world where girls can choose their own future path. With their support, the Malala Fund can provide education for girls in my hometown, Swat Valley in Pakistan.”

Pakistan’s Education System

The creation of this school is a small but essential step in improving tragically low literacy and education levels in Pakistan’s lagging school system. As of 2015, there were about 3,309,514 young girls not enrolled in school. This does not include the other 2,902,032 adolescent women who were also not enrolled. In 2014, the illiterate population for women who were 15 and older was over 32,000,000.

Pakistan’s primary education school has been characterized as one of the most underdeveloped programs. Only 60 percent of its children complete their education through the fifth grade, while the others drop out for various reasons. Additionally, only 8 percent of Pakistan’s population has the qualifying grades to receive a tertiary education.

The Contributors

The Big Heart Foundation was created in May of 2015 by Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bin Mohammed Al Qasimi. The organization’s goal is to provide needed humanitarian support from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Its primary aim is to help vulnerable families and children who live outside of the UAE, such as Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and others. It hopes to provide safe and secure environments to families and children in need, help increase the cooperation between local and regional government and help improve financial support.

The Malala Fund was founded in 2013 by Malala Yousafzai along with her father. This organization campaigns the idea that every girl has the right to 12 years of free and safe education. It believes that “girls are the best investment in future peace and prosperity of our world.”

Thanks to these two important organizations, in the near future, education for girls in Pakistan will finally be provided. Though education for girls in Pakistan is in dire need of improvement, this school is a vital, beneficial and necessary step.

– Cassidy Dyce

Photo: Flickr

Women’s empowerment in IndiaApproximately 270 million Indian people live in poverty, the highest proportion of them women and children. Despite centuries of oppression and social exclusion, women’s empowerment in India is the key to success in alleviating rural poverty throughout the nation. Studies have shown that the poorer the family, the more they rely on the women of their family for survival.

Women in the Workforce

Historically, Indian women have been tasked with collecting clean drinking water, fetching wood for cooking and ensuring other day-to-day tasks to keep their households running smoothly. A cultural shift has recently allowed more women to enter the workforce.

Indian women are proving to be absolutely essential for the future success of India’s growing economy. Many families depend on women’s earnings to keep them afloat and women have started turning to the agricultural sector for employment. Agriculture employs over 80 percent of India’s economically active women. As a result of more women turning to agriculture for work, the country’s agricultural wages have risen and the gap between male and female agricultural wage rates has shrunk.

The Creation of Self-Help Groups

Women’s empowerment in India has been a focus for the Indian government for a number of years. Across the country, self-help groups (SHGs) focused on empowering women have been introduced in rural communities. These groups are usually comprised of 10 to 20 local women from the targeted area. The goals of SHGs are specific to the community it serves, but generally are implemented with a focus toward training members in income-generating activities.

Success Stories of Women’s empowerment in India

In 1998, a small village in India’s north-eastern Jharkhand state was crippled with poverty. The village of Teliya was ridden with severe food insecurity and very little money. Today, Teliya is a thriving village producing year-round cash crops and selling other products to national markets. This transformation began with an SHG.

Teliya’s SHG was started by PRADAN (Professional Assistance for Development Action), an India-based non-governmental organization. Funded by a New York-based social justice program, the Ford Foundation, PRADAN has focused on empowering India’s poor and has worked collaboratively with impoverished villages for the past 30 years.

The SHG implemented in Teliya encouraged women to save what money they could to start a community of resource sharing and investment making. Women in the area started contributing what little money they had over the course of a few months. After gaining new confidence, women in Teliya quickly became representatives for their community, unafraid to speak out for the rights of themselves and their families. Women’s empowerment in India has thus proven to be a success.

Teliya’s success story is similar to other SHGs. Most SHGs start out with a small number of women pooling their money to create a savings for their community and to provide group loans to their other community members. PRADAN works as an outside supporter, giving the community or village the necessary tools to work from the ground up. The organization is currently working with villages in eight different states across India.

With the success of each SHG and organizations devoted to women’s empowerment in India, the number of people living in poverty steadily decreases. Continued progress toward gender equality will only serve to further improve the nation’s economic and social states.

– Sonja Flancher

Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in the PhilippinesThe Philippines has maintained its place among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of gender equality. To achieve women’s empowerment in the Philippines, the government adopted the Magna Carta of Women (MCW) was adopted in 2009. It seeks to end all discrimination and to promote the rights of women, as well as to establish the Philippines’ commitment to the principles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women’s Committee and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The MCW’s agenda includes:

  1. Achieve fifty-fifty gender balance in government positions.
  2. Leave benefits and nondiscrimination in employment, especially in military and police.
  3. Equal access in education and equal status.
  4. Nondiscriminatory and nonderogatory portrayal of women in media and films.
  5. Mandates review, amendment and repeal of existing discriminatory laws.

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) is the oversight body on women’s concerns and acts as the catalyst for gender mainstreaming and the lead advocate of women’s empowerment in the Philippines. It works around focus areas such as Women’s Priority Legislative Agenda, gender-responsive governance, leadership and political participation, violence against women and women’s economic empowerment.

However, challenges still exist for the Philippines. Poverty and vulnerability of rural and indigenous women remain a pressing issue. Each day, 11 women die due to complications from pregnancy and childbirth, and many women still lack access to productive employment.

The Philippines is the only country in the world which does not allow for a divorce.  Other than the death of one’s partner, getting an annulment is the only option for dissolving a marriage. According to the Philippine Commission on Women, this can be done on grounds of “lack of parental consent; insanity/psychological incapacity; fraud, force, intimidation or undue influence; impotence; and sexually transmissible diseases.” The burden of a failed marriage often falls on the woman due to cultural stereotype. Adopting divorce in the Philippines’ Family Code is essential to uplift the plight of women trapped in a marriage ridden with violence, abuse, oppression and deprivation, and to achieve women’s empowerment in the Philippines.

The Philippines also considers adultery and concubinage as criminal offenses against chastity and are drafted as well as implemented in a manner prejudicial to women. Many provisions of the Family Code give men more decision-making powers than women. Another blatant violation of human rights, Article 247 of the Revised Penal Code, exempts a husband or a parent who causes serious physical harm or death upon his wife or minor daughter if she has been caught portraying “unacceptable sexual behavior.”

Structural sexism remains the biggest obstacle to women’s empowerment in the Philippines. Even though there are many laws in place that score well on international measures, the implementation of these policies are slow and have not translated into gender parity in the largely patriarchal society.

-Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr

Women’s Empowerment in South SudanOver the past several decades, South Sudan has experienced severe political division, violence and unbearable poverty. Millions of people have been forced to flee their homes to neighboring countries for asylum. The violence has been targeted at men, women, children, the disabled and the elderly. However, women and young girls are considered a particularly vulnerable population for violence, specifically physical and sexual violence. This sometimes includes forced marriages. In spite of the vulnerability and risk, women’s empowerment in South Sudan is growing. Here are some things to know about the empowerment of women in South Sudan.

Current Situation

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), approximately 475,000 women and girls are at risk for physical and sexual violence. Most recent estimates indicate that more than half of young women between the ages of 15-24 have experienced some form of gender-based violence. The violence women are experiencing in South Sudan is of serious concern and importance because it deeply impacts women’s physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health, and may also place them at an increased risk for contracting diseases, such as the incurable HIV.

Forced marriages are a frequent practice in South Sudan. Almost 50 percent of South Sudanese girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are married, and some are as young as 12. Forced marriages have severe psychological implications for girls and women, but experts also argue that it contributes to the high levels of poverty, gender gaps in education and the country having one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.

The perpetual gender-based violence and forced marriage creates serious physical and mental health concerns, limits their potential for progress and improvement and strips them of their basic human rights.

What is being done?

The United Nations Development Programme currently works to empower women in South Sudan through education and awareness. Awareness is one of the fundamental aspects of their work in South Sudan, as fear and stigma frequently prevent women from seeking the help they need. The program also provides additional support to women who have already experienced severe violence through counseling services and medical assistance.

The UNDP is also working with the government to encourage women’s empowerment in South Sudan. The government is working to address gender-based violence through mental health support programs and through national planning. South Sudan is in the process of developing a new permanent constitution and building new institutions that reflect the country’s movement towards gender equality and the empowerment of women.

What can be done?

Currently, South Sudan lacks severe governmental infrastructure, and overall the country has some of the worst human development indicators across the globe.  Many programs related to women’s empowerment in South Sudan are underfunded as gender-based violence is not considered to be a priority for government spending, due to the country’s high rate of poverty.

However, poverty and gender-based violence go hand-in-hand. If fewer women are subjected to violence and forced marriages, more women would then have the ability to work and find jobs; in turn lifting individuals, and possibly families, out of poverty. Women’s empowerment in South Sudan needs additional awareness, coupled with increased funding in order to provide women with the best future possible.

– Sarah Jane Fraser

Photo: Flickr

Women’s Empowerment in Sri LankaOn November 2, the World Economic Forum released the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report. The report did not reflect well on the state of women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka.

The Global Gender Gap Report grades 144 countries on their progress toward attaining gender equality in four areas: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political Empowerment. Sri Lanka has been declining from its position in the top 20 since 2010. The country slipped from closing 74.6 percent of the gender gap in 2010 to 66.9 percent this year.

The country’s gap in Economic Participation and Opportunity increased because it failed to improve conditions of wage inequality for similar work. Additionally, Sri Lanka now ranks 86th among 144 countries in the gender gap in Educational Attainment.

In Political Empowerment, Sri Lanka ranked 65th. The country compensated for low scores on the Women in Parliament and Women in Ministerial Positions indicators with high marks on the Years with a Female Head of State indicator. Sri Lanka has had a female head of state for 21 out of the last 50 years.

Despite these discouraging statistics, efforts to advance the state of women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka persist. Aitken Spence PLC, Jetwing Hotels Ltd., MAS Holdings (Pvt.) Ltd. and the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (Pvt.) Ltd. have signed on as partners of Women’s Empowerment Principles.

Developed through a partnership between U.N. Women and the United Nations Global Compact, the two organizations designed the principles to help companies review existing policies and practices and establish new strategies to promote women’s empowerment.

The principles include:

  • Establishing high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
  • Treating all women and men equitably at work by respecting and supporting human rights and non-discrimination
  • Securing the health, safety and well-being of all female and male workers
  • Promoting education, training and professional development for women
  • Implementing enterprise development and employing supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
  • Nurturing equality through community initiatives and advocacy

Participating companies must measure and publicly report their progress toward achieving gender parity.

In addition to economic measures, non-government organizations are implementing social programs to enhance women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka. Emerge Centre for Reintegration is the newest program sponsored by the Emerge Lanka Foundation, which supports survivors of sexual abuse aged 10-18. For 12 years, the foundation has helped countless exploited young women by providing training in life, financial and professional skills. Now, through the Centre for Reintegration, it offers assistance to young women who are over 18 as they face the challenging transition stage from living in shelters to thriving on their own.

Enabling women to participate fully in communities builds stronger economies, helps attain internationally agreed upon objectives for development and sustainability and improves the quality of life for women, men, families and communities. The work being done in Sri Lanka can help counter its decreasing rankings and ensure empowerment for all women.

– Heather Hopkins

Photo: Flickr

global educationTwo of the biggest myths about global poverty are that countries are doomed to stay poor no matter how much aid they receive and that global poverty is too big to fix. There is progress in the fight to end global poverty every day. Several of the largest importers of American goods and services, including countries such as South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, have graduated from U.S. foreign aid programs to economic independence, and global poverty has been cut in half since 1990.

Foreign aid helps contribute to the downsizing of global poverty, but there are other ways to help as well. If total global education were achieved, it would have a significant impact on the reduction of poverty.

Here are six ways global education can reduce global poverty.

  1. Education can reduce economic inequalities. If everyone had the same amount of education, disparity in working poverty would shrink by 39 percent.
  2. Education promotes economic growth. According to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), “In 2050, GDP per capita in low-income countries would be almost 70 percent higher if all children were learning.”
  3. Education can increase earnings. According to UNESCO, one extra year of schooling increases an individual’s earnings by up to 10 percent. According to the GPE, for each additional dollar invested in an extra year of schooling, earnings increase by $5 in low-income countries and $2.5 in lower-middle income countries.
  4. Education can lead to gender equality. Women have been proven to reap higher returns from schooling, and some countries that fail to educate their girls properly lose out on an estimated $92 billion in economic growth.
  5. Education can lead to access to clean water. In rural areas, girls spend 15 hours a day collecting water for their families. If everyone, girls included, were educated properly about their health and water sanitation, local water sanitation would increase. This could potentially lead to a decline in the amount of time needed to fetch water.
  6. Education can lead to peace and justice. The world’s most dangerous countries are also the poorest. Educated people tend to participate in the democratic process and exercise their civil rights, according to UNESCO. They also tend to be more tolerant of people different than they are.

It would take only $16 billion a year in aid to send all children to school in low-income countries, according to UNESCO. For comparison, the U.S alone spends $601 billion on its military. Global education is attainable, and it can change and save lives.

Dezanii Lewis

Photo: Flickr

4 Reasons Gender Equality Benefits EveryoneIn 2006, the Economist proclaimed that women are “the world’s most underutilized resource.” While gender equality mainly entails giving women rights and opportunities that are equal to those which men have, achieving this equality will provide benefits to all. Here are four benefits of gender equality:

  1. Increased human resources spur economic growth
    Raising female employment to be equal to male employment levels could increase GDP by 34 percent in Egypt, by 12 percent in the United Arab Emirates, by 10 percent in South Africa and by nine percent in Japan. Empowering women to become active in their economy boosts productivity, a benefit that could help the poorest countries rise out of poverty. Based on these findings, many international companies have created programs to empower women economically and improve the productivity of their business.
  2. More resources reach children
    When women have more control over family resources, spending patterns tend to benefit children. Gains in women’s education and health have also been shown to result in better outcomes for children. Improving the lives of young people enhances the growth prospects of their countries.
  3. Decision-making is more reflective of collective interests
    Empowering women politically and economically so that they have a voice in the decision-making process of their community makes community policies more reflective of all members’ interests. In India, increased political participation by women has lead to more funding being allocated towards public goods, such as water and sanitation initiatives.
  4. Family planning improves quality of life
    When women are empowered to make decisions about when to have a child, the quality of their children’s life improves. Children born less than two years apart are twice as likely to die in the first year of life as children born further apart. Being unable to spread out pregnancies also interferes with breastfeeding, which has a crucial role in child nutrition.

Nestlé has decided to promote gender equality as a means of improving their business. The company partnered with COPAZ in 2010, a female cocoa cooperative in the Ivory Coast that has about 600 members.In 2014, Nestlé expanded its efforts to empower women by establishing local women’s associations, listing the wives of male cocoa farmers as members of cocoa cooperatives and helping women to increase their crop yield.

Several other companies, including Coca-Cola, Kate Spade & Company, Avon Products and Abbott Laboratories have realized that promoting gender equality is both a morally and economically sound investment. Unlocking women’s potential will improve life for both genders.

Kristen Nixon

Photo: Flickr

Family Planning

Women are the key to smart family planning. By increasing access to sexual education and contraceptives, women gain the power to make decisions about their own health and the chances of economic success.

Kamla is a 22-year-old female from Gaya, India. She is a domestic helper and lives in a single room shanty with her husband and young daughter. She does not want another child anytime soon because she feels financially unable to care for one. However, she does not have access to information about contraceptives. Increasing access to information about sexual health should be a priority for four main reasons.

  1. Uncontrolled population growth is an economic barrier
    Nearly all population growth occurs in the developing world, and high fertility is an expensive burden on economies of these countries. High population growth limits opportunities for economic growth and increases health risks for both women and children. Quality of life suffers due to limited access to education, nutrition, employment and scarce resources such as clean water.
  2. Women want control over their fertility
    Surveys in developing countries suggest that 10 to 40 percent of women want to spread out or limit childbirth but do not have access to contraception. This demonstrates an unmet need for birth control. The biggest barriers for women are lack of knowledge and concerns of undesirable health effects.
  3. Quality of life is enhanced
    Family planning improves the lives of both women and children. Reducing the fertility rate would save many women from dying during childbirth. In developing countries, maternal mortality rates are 20 times higher than in developed countries. Increased access to contraceptives also benefits children. Children born fewer than two years apart are twice as likely to die in the first year of life as children born further apart. Being unable to spread out pregnancies also interferes with breast-feeding, which has a crucial role in child nutrition.
  4. Gender equality is advanced
    Improvements in gender equality result from the power that contraceptives give women. Teen pregnancies interfere with education and unwanted pregnancies at any life stage interfere with a woman’s economic power. Giving women control over their bodies and family size allows them to make smarter economic decisions for themselves and their family.

The Challenge Initiative is a $42 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to promote reproductive health in developing countries. A previous initiative funded by this foundation showed promise in increasing contraceptive access in certain cities in Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and India.

Based on rigorous data collected from the earlier initiative, The Challenge Initiative will use demand-based methods and partnerships with cities in order to implement successful programs in a variety of locations. If philanthropic organizations continue to invest in this solution, people – especially women – around the world will soon reap the benefits of family planning.

Kristen Nixon

Photo: Flickr

Education in Djibouti
Located directly north of Somalia and east of Ethiopia on Africa’s eastern coast, Djibouti is a small country – it only covers 8,950 square miles, making it slightly smaller than the state of New Jersey. About 865, 267 people live in Djibouti and the country is also home to the U.S.’s largest African military base. Close ties to the U.S. have fortunately brought Djibouti foreign aid, which the country has put toward the welfare of its citizens, including improvements to education in Djibouti.

 

6 Facts about Education in Djibouti:

  1. Improving education in Djibouti is at the forefront of its government’s development policies. In 2000, the government of Djibouti began a reform of their education system, focusing on expanding access and improving the quality of schooling. More recently, in 2010, the government released another plan for educational improvements, spanning from 2010 to 2019. Some of the objectives included in this plan are to achieve 100 percent primary education enrollment by 2019, achieve gender equality by 2019 and to develop preschool education in collaboration with the private sector, communities and local institutions.
  2. In 2007, Djibouti’s primary gross enrollment rate – the percentage of children enrolled in primary school – was only 50 percent. In 2014, it hit a high of 68 percent, but has since dropped to 64.8 percent in 2016.
  3. Djibouti’s education is a 5-4-3 system, meaning primary or elementary school is five years, lower secondary or middle school is four years and upper secondary or high school is three years. Students in Djibouti begin school at age six. In 2016, about 64.3 percent of students completed primary school and only 44 percent of students completed lower secondary school.
  4. Although Djibouti is working toward gender equality in education, wide gaps between males and females still exist. For example, more female students are out of school than male students, with 46 percent of female students out of school in 2015 and 39.3 percent of male students out of school in the same year. Additionally, 68.6 percent of male students were enrolled in primary school in 2016, while only 60.9 percent of female students were enrolled in the same year.
  5. As of 2007, there were 81 public primary schools, 24 registered private primary schools, 12 secondary schools, and two vocational schools in Djibouti. Comparatively, in Delaware, where the population is 952,065 – making it close to that of Djibouti’s – there are 110 primary (elementary) schools and 64 secondary schools. While Djibouti’s primary education offerings by number of school is close to that of Delaware’s, its number of secondary schools is drastically lower, representing the sharp decrease in children continuing their education beyond primary school in Djibouti.
  6. The main causes of non-enrollment for students in Djibouti are poverty and social problems, legal-status issues, disability and sociocultural issues, including child labor.

Although education in Djibouti still lags behind more developed nations, efforts to improve education have already made strides forward for the children of Djibouti and improvements and plans have been crafted through to 2019. With continued attention and effort put toward education, the future for Djibouti youths is looking up and may very well continue to improve.

Mary Kate Luft

Photo: Flickr

Menstrual Hygiene ManagementPoor menstrual hygiene management can be fatal. In Nepal, the “chaupadi” tradition of Hindus in western Nepal lead to a teenager named Tulasi Shahi being forced to stay in her uncle’s cowshed for days.

Why? Because she was on her period. A snake bit her while she was in the shed, and she died hours later.

Roshani Tiruwa, a 15-year-old girl, died a few months earlier from the “chaupadi” practice when she lit a fire in her hut and suffered from smoke inhalation. 50 percent of women in western Nepal suffer from this tradition.

Period-related shaming is not limited to Nepal. One out of three girls in southeast Asia had no knowledge of menstruation before getting their first period. 48 percent of girls in Iran and 10 percent of girls in India believe that getting your period is some kind of disease.

On top of harmful cultural influences, access to affordable hygienic materials is often very limited. Sometimes women attempt to use mud, leaves, dung or animal skins to control the bleeding.

For these women, periods are more than just embarrassing; they are an economic obstacle. The lack of information and products available to manage menstruation cause girls to miss significant amounts of school, and women to miss out on economic opportunities.

On the bright side, the solution to this problem already exists: pads, tampons, and knowledge that periods are natural and necessary for the survival of the human population. Days for Girls is an organization working to improve the lives of women in Uganda, Ghana and Nepal by improving their experience with menstruation.

The organization provides health education and affordable hygiene kits, which last up to three years. In addition, days for girls provides microbusiness and sewing training to empower women to improve their economic situation as well as their period.

Christine, a woman in Nairobi, attended a two-week Days for Girls training program, which taught her how to sew, spread health information and make and sell menstrual hygiene kits in her community. Christine now owns three hygiene kit enterprises and believes the program changed her life.

The world is beginning to understand that menstrual hygiene management is an important international problem. More organizations have been formed to tackle the issue, and major development groups are beginning to recognize the gravity of this problem.

Many women in the world are shamed and hindered from achievement because of a normal, crucial body function. The movement to promote menstrual hygiene management is an important step towards gender equality worldwide.

Kristen Nixon

Photo: Flickr