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Human Rights in San MarinoSecuring human rights in San Marino, one of the world’s oldest republics, has been a progressive and relatively successful venture. The state is a multi-party democracy where authorities maintain effective control over law enforcement.

According to the Department of State, no outrageous human rights abuses have taken place in San Marino in recent years. Although, according to various international organizations, the state still needs to reduce gender inequality and further the protection of women’s rights in particular.

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, recently congratulated the state for its success in combating violence against women during his visit in 2015.

The prevention of violence against women has been successful due to legislation passed throughout the last decade, including the “Prevention and elimination of violence against women and gender violence” in 2008. The decree to implement the law was passed in 2012, according the U.N. It also provided an assistance center for victims of violence.

Additionally, during this time, a special study group was established by the San Marino delegation which specializes in meeting the requirements of the Council of Europe Convention for preventing and combating violence against women.

Despite progress against violence, women in San Marino continue to face hurdles in practicing their human rights. According to Muižnieks, action should be taken to address the gender gap in employment and political participation, along with action to combat harmful gender stereotypes.

The commissioner suggested in 2015 that these goals regarding human rights in San Marino, particularly for women, can be achieved through increased efforts by and resources towards the Authority for Equal Opportunities in the state. He also suggested goals of gender equality could be made through the state’s ratification of the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention. San Marino ratified and entered the Istanbul Convention early in 2016, confirming its commitment to ensure human rights and women’s rights in the country.

Melanie Snyder

Human Rights in Tuvalu
Human rights violations occur to some groups in Tuvalu. Social patterns and traditions cause discrimination against women and minority religious groups. Women still lack land and child custody rights, and domestic violence remains a problem in the country. These violations call for an improvement and show why human rights in Tuvalu need to be a priority.

In November 2015, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga, stated that climate change threatened the core principles of Tuvalu’s human rights. Sopoaga added that human rights are essential to developing Tuvalu’s climate change solutions, especially for Tuvaluans without access to food and water. Tuvalu plans to express this issue at international climate meetings.

Tuvalu’s 2016 human rights report revealed that some human rights were already in place for the country. There were no reports of government officials or agents committing unlawful killings. The report also stated that Tuvalu’s constitution prohibits cruel, inhumane or degrading treatments for crimes. No government officials were reported to have committed these crimes either.

Tuvalu’s 2016 human rights report also reveals no prison or detention center conditions that would raise human rights concerns. No deaths were reported in Tuvaluan prisons, and the government received no complaints of inhumane prison conditions. A “people’s lawyer” would take any complaints or concerns that prisoners had.

In July 2016, the Pacific Community worked with Tuvalu’s government to formulate the country’s first national action plan for improving human rights. The national action plan would focus on improving rights for women, children, disabled people and other Tuvaluan minority groups. The national action plan would also provide a timeframe for addressing these human rights issues.

Enele Sopoaga opened a consultation on the plan. Government ministers, permanent secretaries, judiciary members and other Tuvaluan officials attended Sopoaga’s meeting to discuss the country’s key human rights issues. The government’s leadership in making commitments was greatly appreciated as a way to improve human rights in Tuvalu.

In January 2017, the country’s government launched a national action plan on human rights in Tuvalu. Tuvalu’s government plans for donors, development partners and other entities to ensure that the action plan’s goals and objectives are fulfilled. The national action plan will especially help Tuvalu’s elderly, women, children and disabled residents.

Romulo Nayacalevu, the Pacific Community’s senior human rights advisor, added that Tuvalu is the first country in the Pacific to launch a human rights action plan. Nayacalevu added that human rights include not only civil and political rights but access to education, water and healthcare. This means that Tuvalu could have these opportunities as well.

Human rights in Tuvalu are expected to improve with the national action plan in place. Women, disabled residents, children and other minority groups in the country now have the potential to see positive outcomes from these changes, and Tuvalu’s people can hope for a positive future so long as Tuvalu’s government keeps its promise to improve human rights.

Rhondjé Singh Tanwar
Photo: Flickr

Education in BangladeshBangladesh has made remarkable gains over the past two decades in the education sector. In 2016, statistics from Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics (BANBEIS) showed great developments in gross enrollment with 112.1 percent of children listed in primary education. The ratio of girls to boys also improved that same year. This allowed Bangladesh to achieve gender equality for educational access in both primary and secondary education. Despite victory in registration and elimination of gender disproportion, challenges continue to keep Bangladesh from advancing further. Here are three problems facing education in Bangladesh.

  1. Literacy
    The UNESCO Institute for Statistics shows Bangladesh literacy rates still need some upgrading. Approximately 30 percent of the population 15 years or older still struggle to successfully read and write. According to the Bangladesh Education for All  (EFA) 2015 National Review, the blame could partially be placed on the obstacles involved with universal access and completion of primary education. Public examination scores for Bangladesh show a gap between grade completers, those sitting for the public completion examination, and those passing the examination.
  2. Assessment Scores
    National Student Assessments from this same EFA report display low test scores at the end of the primary education cycle. Test results show only 25 percent of students successfully obtain reading capabilities by the end of primary school. Similarly, only 33 percent of students master proficiencies in mathematics. The rest of students finish primary education with knowledge that is short of expectations in the reading, writing and math curriculum for Bangladesh. Findings from earlier grades conclude that many students are falling short of achieving relevant competencies because they are not meeting appropriate targets set early on. If students do not consistently meet recommended goals throughout primary education, weak scores will continue to result.
  3. Dropout Rates
    UNICEF suggests the Bangladesh dropout rate remains an issue due to children’s need to help with farming, poor teaching methods, crowded classrooms and unappealing educational surroundings. Though the average dropout rate shows a decrease of more than half during 2005 to 2013, 19.2 percent of students still do not complete primary school. According to BANBEIS Educational Database, 10.5 percent of boys dropped out of Grade 4 in 2016. This contributed to the total dropout rate of almost 10 percent of students in Grade 4 that same year. It is also noted that progress in decreasing dropout rates is beginning to slow. Since 2012, dropout rates have only decreased by about 2 percent. This is sluggish activity compared to the 23.1 percent decline recorded from 2008 through 2012.

By focusing on reducing poverty, education in Bangladesh should continue to improve. Speed bumps are part of the road trip towards Bangladesh accomplishing the most out of their education system. With these three problems facing education in Bangladesh already known to researchers, policies can be made to steer future direction.

Emilee Wessel

Photo: Flickr

Rural Azerbaijan
In the 10-year period ending in 2012, Azerbaijan achieved the remarkable feat of lowering its national poverty rate from 49 percent to six percent. Baku, the nation’s capital, has transformed into a modern metropolis where unemployment levels have dropped and a number of social reforms have started to foster greater economic opportunity. However, these improvements have not been felt across the entire country equally; rural areas, particularly near Azerbaijan’s southern border with Iran, are still struggling. To address this, though, new Women Resource Centers signal hope for growth in these locations.

The centers are the result of a project that aims to dramatically alleviate poverty just as much as it hopes to bring about gender equality. Sponsored by an international partnership comprised of UNDP, USAID and Azeri state government bureaus, the project is based on the philosophy that economic growth is the result of social empowerment which drives entrepreneurship and thus employment. Seeing rural women as the most economically disenfranchised, Women Resource Centers became the solution to break Azerbaijan’s vicious cycle of child marriages and poor educational standards.

At the centers, women are encouraged to share creative ideas with their communities and are educated about their personal rights. Women also receive vocational training, often in fields in which they have no prior knowledge. Importantly, these training sessions include basic business operations such as marketing, managing cash flows and filing taxes. Lastly, members can propose business plans and, if they are viable, they will receive financial contributions to help get started. Project success stories include a cattle-breeding business, a clothing store and a baker who doubled her regular clients after participating in the program.

To date, the project has already assisted more than 400 women and indirectly benefitted more than 1500 residents of the area. This includes roughly 50 new businesses led by women in order to provide for their families. From a countrywide perspective, the initiative is also shifting focus toward rural growth, which has traditionally received despairingly little attention (estimated around 11 percent of programs in the past).

Nearing the halfway point of the project’s two-year timeline, four Women Resource Centers have been constructed in Bilasuvar, Masalli, Sabirabad and Naftchala. Their opening ceremonies have touted Azerbaijan’s progress toward sustainable development, and it is clear that officials remain committed to future openings before the March 2018 end date.

According to U.N. resident representative Ghulam Isaczai, the project “helps women and youth improve their lives in a meaningful way by starting successful careers matching their aspirations…By helping them, we are helping the future of our beautiful country.”

Zack Machuga

Photo: Flickr

Women-Only Villages of Kenya Defy Patriarchal Laws
In some countries, structural change fights systemic oppression. Historically disenfranchised groups will organize and work their way through the existing power structure in order to undermine the ruling class.

The women-only villages in the foothills of Kenya have a different approach. In order to fight the patriarchal laws of the Samburu region, they’ve formed gender-exclusive villages where their peers support the women and provide resources to raise their children without husbands or other family members.

Umoja, which means “unity” in Swahili, is the most prominent of the women-only villages in the southeastern region of Kenya. It is home to about 50 permanent residents who support themselves by opening up their village to tourists and selling handmade jewelry.

Chairlady Rebecca Lolosoli established Umoja 25 years ago with 15 other women. They had all experienced rape and abuse by British soldiers and felt unsupported by their communities. In Samburu tradition, women are considered men’s property and therefore not legally protected in cases of rape and abuse. A group of men brutally beat Lolosoli for speaking out against the patriarchal standards of Samburu culture; she was recovering in the hospital when she got the idea for Umoja.

Today, the women of Umoja share in the day-to-day responsibilities of maintaining the village and protecting it from angry neighbors. They build homes, operate a school for their children, conduct jewelry sales and sleep in shifts in case men from nearby villages come to claim their wives. Many of the current residents consider themselves refugees, coming to Umoja after escaping abusive marriages.

Another reason women come to Umoja is to escape the culturally-ingrained practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). Historically, FGM is used as a mechanism to disempower women and enforce strict patriarchy.

Once “circumcised,” girls as young as eight can be given away to older men. Despite its reputation in traditional cultures for being safe and healthy, FGM frequently results in long-term health consequences, like urinary problems, menstrual problems, life-threatening infections and psychological trauma. The World Health Organization considers FGM a human rights violation and strongly advises against its practice worldwide.

Umoja provides a type of mobility that women of the Samburu tribe don’t have in a traditional setting. The opportunity to earn and save her own money liberates a woman from relying on her husband or family.

On top of that, living in Umoja allows women to raise their daughters beyond the confines of traditional Samburu culture, protecting them from FGM and forced early marriage. For single women who don’t wish to marry or have children, Umoja offers a safe environment in which they can work and live.

There are several other women-only villages in Kenya, including Nachimi and Supalake. In contrast to Umoja, men in Nachimi are allowed in the community, but they must respect the women’s authority.

In Supalake, gender rules still exist, but reversed; men complete chores like house maintenance and water retrieval, while women make the laws and conduct business. Each village serves as a place of refuge for women who have faced oppression or victimization of harsh Samburu traditions.

The women-only villages of Kenya are important to understanding the obstacles women face in traditional tribal cultures. Seeing how women live beyond the confines of patriarchal laws can help people understand the kind of institutional changes needed for gender equality. Places like Umoja, Nachimi and Supalake show us that economic independence is a requisite for social mobility.

Jessica Levitan

Photo: Flickr

 Sustainable Tourism
Tourism brings both advantages and disadvantages to a country. It can bring wealth and jobs to communities that would otherwise remain poor just as much as it can lead to social dislocation, loss of cultural heritage and ecological degradation. UNESCO claims that tourism must be sustainable for the advantages to outweigh the disadvantages.

“Tourism that respects both local people and the traveler, cultural heritage and the environment” is what UNESCO calls sustainable tourism. This form seeks to benefit the host country and local economies so that people in that country may have better lives.

Evidence shows that sustainable tourism is a great tool for development and poverty alleviation in developing countries. These are ten ways in which sustainable tourism alleviates poverty:

  1. “Tourism is one of the most important sources of foreign exchange earnings and job creation in many poor and developing countries with limited options for alternative economic development” according to the U.N.’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
  2. Tourism can be directly taxed creating the necessary funds for improving infrastructure, education and health on the ground.
  3. The tourism industry employs a high proportion of women, which contributes to gender equality and women’s empowerment in poor countries.
  4. Locally owned microenterprises ran by the poor serve as a benefit, as tourists buy a wide variety of goods and services.
  5. Sustainable tourism leads to employment diversification on a local level, which reduces the vulnerability of the poor.
  6. The UNWTO claims, “Wages can often reach $1,000 to $4,000 per worker per year.” This is enough to bring workers and their families above the poverty line.
  7. In 2012, the tourism industry accounted for more than 260 million jobs according to the International Labor Office (ILO). This number is expected to rise given that tourism is one of the fastest growing industries.
  8. The tourism industry employs a high proportion of individuals under 25. As a result, youth gain access to higher earnings and better opportunities through sustainable tourism.
  9. Tourism provides a vast number of jobs to people with little or no formal training.
  10. Working conditions are generally decent within the tourism industry as the industry depends on providing a quality service.

This list is by no means exhaustive. There are many other ways in which tourism can help the poor. As long as tourism is sustainable and wealth from tourism trickles down to the poor, the poorest countries will prosper. Given the increasing popularity of sustainable tourism, prosperity and wealth are a likely prospect for many poor countries.

Christina Egerstrom

Photo: Flickr

Global Vision International
Global Vision International (GVI) was founded in 1998 with the mission of working “hand in hand with local communities, NGOs and government organizations to facilitate real change on the ground.” Global Vision International programs range from environmental and wildlife protection to global education, community development, health and construction projects that help communities use their resources sustainably and to their benefit. The ultimate goal of the organization is to fulfill local communities’ needs and requirements so they may move forward towards a better future.

GVI currently operates in over 25 countries all over the world in collaboration with international partners like World Wildlife Fund and Save the Children. The organization received multiple awards for its excellent programs that allow individuals from around the globe to help those in need. The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic, CNN, The Boston Globe and other newspapers and magazines have also praised the organization for providing opportunities for sustainable tourism and teaching individuals the ins and outs of being a responsible global citizen.

Originally GVI programs were geared towards community development, education, health and environmental protection. These were considered the essential elements of international development efforts by organizations like USAID and the U.N. Recently GVI inaugurated new programs that will add another level to development and will help create more equal societies. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are now essential components of GVI’s goals.

So far GVI has helped provide microloans for women entrepreneurs in Latin America and has begun women’s education classes in Africa and Asia. This is a big step towards achieving global economic growth because, like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says, “Empowering women is smart economics” as “closing gender gaps benefits countries as a whole, not just women and girls.”

The IMF claims that achieving women’s empowerment and gender equality will ensure international development goals in education, health and poverty reduction are met. Increasing the number of women participating in the paid labor force has been found to accomplish many positive goals. Such goals include, raising both economic and agricultural productivity, increase spending on the education and health of children and shifting policies towards providing greater access to clean water and sanitation.

It is very good news for international development that organizations outside the U.N. and the IMF have incorporated women’s empowerment into their programs and policies. When more organizations incorporate women into their projects greater change is possible. GVI is only one of many groups that have adopted the necessary innovations for change.

Christina Egerstrom

Photo: Flickr

Gender Equality
President Obama recently penned an article on gender equality, highlighting the strides made over his past two terms.

President Obama’s article appeared in a recent issue of Glamour Magazine. In it, he detailed the upbringing he had (raised by both his single mother and grandmother) that influenced his feminist views. He also discusses his successes and failures as a father, admitting that there were times when the pressures of raising two daughters often fell to his wife while he was off pursuing his career.

He cites the changes that have already been made in the past 50 years: from women gaining the right to vote to the ability to achieve financial independence, or being nominated as a major party’s presidential candidate for the first time.

Still, there is work to be done.

In the past eight years, during his Presidency, Obama has made concrete steps towards promoting equality amongst all genders. According to a White House press release, President Obama has created the White House Council on Women and Girls, as well as appointed the White House Advisor on Violence against Women, the Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s issues, and two female Supreme Court justices.

Furthermore, when he signed the Affordable Care Act into law, he ensured that insurance companies could no longer charge higher premiums based solely on sex. More recently, with the help of Vice President Joe Biden, Obama has launched the It’s On Us campaign to help change the conversation and stigma surrounding sexual assault.

Obama’s gender equality policies extend beyond the domestic, however. Abroad, he and the First Lady launched Let Girls Learn in March of 2015, which aims to bridge the disconnect between adolescent girls and access to quality education.

Prior to that, in 2011, he announced Executive Order 13595 and the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. This act aims “to support women’s voices and perspectives in decision-making in countries threatened and affected by war, violence, and insecurity.”

Already, the United Nations’s Millennium Development Goals have achieved equality in primary education for girls and boys. The hope is that the new Sustainable Development Goals (launched in 2015) will take this a step further.

On its website, the U.N. explains why gender equality is so important: “Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.”

Sabrina Santos

Photo: Flickr

Plan International

Plan International recently announced a multi-organizational partnership to help track the U.N.’s global goals for gender equality.

The goals for gender equality stem from the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals, adopted in 2015, aim to vastly improve the living conditions around the world.

The central focus of this project is gender inequality. Plan International decided to collect relevant data and use it as a benchmark to determine the amount of progress.

To do so, they partnered with several organizations. These include the International Women’s Health Coalition and KPGM. In addition, Plan International chose the ONE Campaign and Women Deliver.

Plan International chose these organizations because their previous work and values align with those of Plan. However, some organizations bring additional value to the table.

For instance, KPMG has a history of partnership building in the private sector. They also have a strong data tracking history with their Change Readiness Index. That index will be especially important in the project’s next few months.

The project’s first step is to sift through the data that already exists. They can then determine what is relevant to their goals for gender equality and what is not.

In an exclusive interview with Mary Bridger, the Engagement Manager for Plan’s SDG tracking initiative, she said, “We don’t feel that you can truly comprehend the realities for girls and women until you look beyond the quantitative data and find out what the lived realities for these individuals are (i.e. you can measure the geographic proximity of a school to girls, but until you ask them whether they feel safe on public transportation, you don’t know the true barriers).”

For now, the project’s next goal is to work with their partners to push the scope of their research and develop the tools necessary to allow them to best capture those lived realities.

Bridger underscored the importance of this campaign when she said, “Plan International’s purpose is to work towards all children fulfilling their rights, focusing on excluded and vulnerable groups so that no-one is left behind. However, we have recognized the urgent need to prioritize girls as the most marginalized group whose rights are violated most.”

Plan International and their partner organizations all believe that meeting goals for gender equality will have a ripple effect within local communities and even worldwide.

Sabrina Santos

Photo: Talent Culture

Global gender data gapThe Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced in May that it will donate $80 million to reduce the global gender data gap. This donation will contribute to meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Current data collection standards do not adequately record women’s economic and social information in developing countries.

According to a press release by the organization, “a lack of comprehensive, current information about women and girls, especially in developing countries, hinders efforts to advance gender equality.” In order to achieve the health, educational and social proposals of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, world entities need access to accurate information about women everywhere. Closing the global gender data gap would provide that information.

The New York Times reports that standards for collecting data are gender-biased. These standards also fail to account for the complexity of women’s global situations. For example, many traditional surveys do not count female-led households in the same way as male-led households. They do not fairly count women who are homemakers or caretakers. Surveyors might end an interview after documenting “homemaker” as a woman’s primary activity, even if she has other economic occupations.

According to the same New York Times article, surveyors only collect about 30 percent of women’s economic activity. On the other hand, surveyors collect 75 percent of men’s activity. Statistics like this compelled the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to improve data collection methods. Entities such as the United Nations Foundation and the U. S. Department of State have also joined them.

The funding will support the creation of effective training techniques and improved tools for people who work with data. Tools like the Population Council’s Girl Roster Toolkit can provide those who collect and analyze data with holistic perspectives about issues girls suffer from globally and how they must properly document them. The Girl Roster also connects the world’s neediest young women with services in their areas.

In order to keep governments and politicians accountable to use the new and improved data, organizations like Avenir Health’s Track20 will help governments connect with women worldwide in order to give women access to family planning services.

The good news is that data gaps are already closing for women. According to the New York Times, the number of mothers dying during childbirth has dropped more than 40 percent worldwide. Similar statistics show much progress, but others show the need for more work to completely close the global gender data gap.

With the help of sponsors like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the work of data analysts and cooperative governments, the world can continue to give women everywhere the chances they need to live whole and happy lives.

Addie Pazzynski

Photo: Flickr