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Protecting African Women from a “Shadow Pandemic” During COVID-19By 2063, The African Union (AU) hopes to accomplish a “socio-economic transformation” across the continent where poverty is eradicated. This is impossible without achieving gender inequality. Although Africa has made significant progress toward this foreseeable future, progress is still painfully slow. Several countries’ progress is stagnant and only addresses the issue by “acknowledging” that girls’ and women’s empowerment is key to improving Africa’s economy. There are many factors prolonging the AU’s vision coming to fruition. Some of the significant factors are violence against women in Africa and the perpetuation of poverty in the continent. Now, with COVID-19, violence against women or the “shadow pandemic” in Africa is reported at a higher number than before, possibly undoing all the continent’s progress.

The Gender Gap and Violence against Women

Violence against women in Africa is primarily fueled by the “gender gap,” which is the difference in opportunities, status and attitudes between men and women. This gap fosters violence against women. Unfortunately, violence is so embedded within African culture that 51% of women’s reported beatings from their husbands are justified.

This attitude toward women promotes poverty because it denies basic human rights and support for mental and economic hardship. Women account for more than 50% of Africa’s population, yet only contribute approximately 33% of the continent’s domestic gross product (GDP). As a result, Africa loses approximately $95 billion each year due to the gender gap.

The “Shadow Pandemic”

Africa has called the violence against women an epidemic long before COVID-19. However, violence against women in Africa has been on an alarming rise since the start of COVID-19 and the subsequential lockdowns. The United Nations calls it a “shadow pandemic,” or “in the shadow of the pandemic.”

During COVID-19, countries across the continent have reported much higher cases of violence. In Kenya, nearly 4,000 girls became pregnant during the lockdown from sexual assault. The main issue is that women and girls have such low status in Africa. Women are seen as easily disposable objects for men’s use and pleasure. With the loss of jobs, decreasing resources and being contained inside homes for lockdowns, women are at the mercy of husbands, fathers or other males living in their homes.

Organizations Fighting to End Violence Against Women in Africa

Several organizations have risen up to end the violence against women in Africa. These organizations are working hard to protect and empower women with economic opportunities. Spotlight Initiative and Alliances for Africa are a couple of organizations that are doing tremendous work to lead Africa into their 2063 vision amid COVID-19.

Spotlight Initiative is a partnership between the United Nations and European Union, whose goals are to eradicate violence against women by 2030. It is the largest global initiative working to eliminate violence against women and girls. Currently, the Spotlight Initiative advocates for interventions for African women, such as integrating prevention efforts for violence against women in COVID-19 response plans and addressing gender gaps in legislation and policy on COVID-19.

Alliances for Africa (AfA) is an international African-led organization advocating for human rights, peace and sustainable development. Its vision is to contribute to eliminating the causes of poverty in Africa. The organization’s six focus areas are poverty, hunger, health and well-being, quality education, gender inequality and clean water and sanitation. All of these focus areas are a part of the AU’s 2063 agenda mentioned earlier. AfA partnered with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa to support 120 rural women farmers during COVID-19. Each woman could revive and sustain their production, have access to markets and stay informed on COVID-19 preventive measures.

Countries worldwide are struggling to manage the socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, issues like violence against women have risen during the COVID-19 lockdowns, affecting millions of women around the world. In Africa, the “shadow pandemic” is a growing concern amid an unprecedented crisis. Organizations like Spotlight Initiative and Alliances for Africa are working to alleviate the “shadow pandemic” but there is still much to be done to end violence against women and achieve gender equality. African governments and humanitarian organizations must continue their efforts to save women from facing another epidemic amid COVID-19.

– LaCherish Thompson
Photo: Flickr

Education in Guinea-BissauWith a population of 1.8 million, about 69% of people in Guinea-Bissau live below the poverty line and 25% experience chronic malnutrition. In addition to working toward reducing poverty, there is a focus to improve education in Guinea-Bissau, which faces many struggles, including low enrollment rates, limited financial support and gender inequality.

Education Statistics in Guinea-Bissau

In Guinea-Bissau, the literacy rate is around 53%. Only 30% of children begin school at the specified age of six. According to a study conducted by UNICEF, as a result of late enrollment, a significant proportion of children in lower primary grades are overage. As of 2010, 62% of children finished their basic education. About 14% of those in grade one end up completing grade 12. Additionally, out of the 55% of children who attend secondary school, about 22% complete it. As of 2014, the net primary school attendance was 62.4%. Lack of accessibility to school, especially in terms of secondary education outside of urban areas, contributes to these statistics.

Schools also receive insufficient funds for quality education and have to rely on families for support. Adequate standards for physical school buildings and textbooks are also lacking. Teachers tend to lack a proper level of competency in regard to the subject they teach and have insufficient teaching materials. According to a text published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “At a level corresponding to the fifth year of primary education, teachers fail to answer a quarter of the questions on Portuguese and under a half of those in mathematics arising from the syllabus for their pupils.” Furthermore, many schools fail to offer a full curriculum and 46% of teaching days from 2016 to 2017 were lost because of teacher strikes. More than 20% of students aged 7 to 14 years old reside over half an hour from a school and distance decreases their likelihood of attending. Furthermore, many students, the majority being girls, drop out of school due to early marriage and child labor.

Gender Inequality

A gender gap is prevalent within Guinea-Bissau’s education system. Of children aged 10 to 11 years old, 17.5% of boys are not attending school as opposed to 25.7% of girls. Among impoverished families, boys are 1.8 more likely to reach grade six than girls. In general, boys are 1.5 times more likely than girls to take part in General Secondary Education. Moreover, boys obtain 59% of public resources for education, while girls get 41%.

The gender inequality in Guinea-Bissau’s education system leads to consequences, such as child marriage among girls. About 54% of women without an education experienced child marriage, as opposed to the 9% of women who achieved secondary education or higher. The average age of a woman without education for the first delivery of a child is 18.2 years old as opposed to 21.4 years old for a woman who studied for 14 years. Women who received an education of 14 years have an average of about 1.2 kids. On the other hand, women without education have an average of 3.3 children.

Decreasing the gender gap in Guinea-Bissau’s education system would lead to benefits for not only women but the entirety of the population. Women who achieve higher education are 50% likely to vaccinate their children under the age of 5, whereas the likelihood for women without an education is 26%. Furthermore, the likelihood of women who did not attend school using a net to prevent malaria for their children under the age of 5 is 71%, as opposed to 81% among women who studied for at least six years.

The Quality Education for All Project

In July 2018, the World Bank developed the Quality Education for All Project in Guinea-Bissau. The goal of the Project is to improve the overall environment of schools for students from grade one to grade four. Through the Project, the World Bank aims to reduce teacher strikes by providing training. The World Bank also plans to update the curriculum taught as well as educational supplies and materials. Furthermore, the Project encourages greater community involvement in the management of schools.

UNICEF’s Educational Efforts

UNICEF aims to improve the quality of education in Guinea-Bissau, especially with regard to early childhood, through partnership and the rehabilitation of classrooms. Alongside PLAN international, Handicap International and Fundação Fé e Cooperação (FEC), UNICEF monitors schools by training 180 inspectors who are responsible for over 1,700 schools. The monitors focus on teacher attendance as well as the process in the classroom. In order to establish standards, such as National Quality Standards and Early Learning Development Standards, UNICEF also partnered with the Ministry of Education. UNICEF launched Campaign “6/6” to encourage the enrollment of children in school beginning at age 6 and maintaining their attendance throughout primary education.

Response to COVID-19

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE), which coordinates with UNICEF, allocated $3.5 million to Guinea-Bissau for a COVID-19 response from 2020 to 2021. Through its grant, GPE plans to achieve greater health standards in schools and training among community members to increase awareness of COVID-19 prevention. GPE also supports a radio distance education program as well as a distance program that addresses gender-based violence and the inclusion of children with disabilities. UNICEF broadcasts programs three times a day for radio distance learning. Additionally, GPE aims to assess preschool and primary age students to gather further information about learning loss and to create a program for children out of school.

– Zoë Nichols
Photo: Flickr

addressing gender inequality in EgyptEgypt recently launched the “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator” to reinforce its stance on female economic gender discrimination. This initiative is a partnership between the World Economic Forum (WEF), National Council of Women, the Egyptian Government and the private business sector. The financial and human capital investment in this undertaking shows that the country is committed to addressing gender inequality in Egypt.

Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator

In 2019, Egypt’s Minister of Tourism, International Cooperation and Investment, Dr. Rania Al-Mashat, signed a letter of intent along with the WEF and the National Council of Women to empower women. More than 48 million women represent this emerging countries’ population and the good news is that their involvement will expedite the growth of the economy and gather momentum in eliminating poverty.

Each party has a specific role in the program’s success. Businesses will be tasked with the presence of additional women in the workforce, equal pay and professional development. Other benefits included are extended maternity leave for either parent and subsidized childcare to offset barriers that will cause women to fall behind, lose their position or not enter the labor force.

Egypt’s government, which has invested more than $3 billion in this project, will incentivize strategies and track the program’s evolution. In addition, the legislature has the commitment of more than 90 businesses.

Objectives of the Accelerator

Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator’s mission has four objectives: eliminate the gender pay gap, ensure more women are promoted into business management roles, expand their growth in the workforce and make sure that women are poised to work in a society that is will be powered by the likes of digital technology and artificial intelligence along with robotics.

One of the co-chairs of the private sector for the Accelerator, the Commercial International Bank known as Qalaa Holdings, firmly believes in empowering women in the workplace and it has demonstrated that by having 25% of the company’s executive board and leadership positions filled by women.

While the Accelerator is focused on women’s success in the economy, it also takes into account how women are viewed in the male-dominated workforce. Creating a safe climate in companies is just as important so the unfair barometers that women are measured by have to be eliminated as well as dismantling the discriminatory behavior toward them.

Global Gender Equality

Egypt is one out of nine countries, and the first country in Africa to set in motion a project of this magnitude created by the WEF.  After more than 10 years of researching global gender inequality issues, WEF realized that it would take nearly 100 years for political gender parity to be achieved. Women comprise 50% of the global population in most countries and to purposely exclude them from the equation would seriously compromise a society’s overall economic and societal impact worldwide.

WEF’s Accelerators to Close the Gender Gap

To combat this shortcoming, WEF created accelerators and issued a challenge to nations that want to close the economic gender gap. Public and private entities form accelerators to be inclusive of women in business, from job recruitment to job promotions and work on eliminating prejudice against them. Each country is on a three-year timetable (countries start date varies) and the WEF preserves the global structure of the project while the countries operate independently in the communities.  So far, Iceland has seen the most success out of the nine participating countries, by consistently closing the gender parity gap for 11 consecutive years.

A Bright Future for Egyptian Women

The Accelerator is an important tool for addressing gender inequality in Egypt. This initiative is good news for the women of Egypt as it shows the country’s continuous commitment to removing societal hurdles that have unjustly smothered women’s attempts at succeeding in the economy and stifled their much-needed contribution to society.

-Kim L. Patterson
Photo: Flickr

The Nike Foundation’s Girl EffectAround the world, many young girls are without access to basic health and educational resources. Research has shown that gender equality and women’s empowerment initiatives are key to alleviating global poverty. Over the years, organizations have developed across the globe committed to providing such resources in order to improve the quality of life for millions. One of those organizations is The Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect. This organization is a creative nonprofit working where girls are marginalized and vulnerable.

4 Facts About Girl Effect

1. Girl Effect has been in operation for 12 years. The Nike Foundation launched Girl Effect in 2008 at the World Economic Forum. According to its website, “The Girl Effect is about the unique potential of adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world.” Nike designed the organization to inspire the most influential leaders in the world to get girls in vulnerable nations on the global development agenda and help increase the drive of resources to them. Girl Effect also aims to create media resources for girls around the world in order to increase their access to resources surrounding education and healthcare. Through partnerships with prominent organizations and creating branded media content, Girl Effect has provided millions of girls access to life-saving information.

2. It uses media and the internet to reach girls in developing nations. Girl Effect creates branded media for girls around the world that helps to “navigate the pivotal time of adolescence so they can make positive choices about their health, education and economic future.” Girl Effect currently operates seven different digital programs to reach girls around the world; Chhaa Jaa, Ni Nyampinga, Springster, TEGA, Tujibebe, Yegna and Zathu. The Chhaa Jaa program, which means “go forth and shine” in Hindi, is a “digital-first youth brand that inspires, informs and equips girls in India with the right skills and confidence to navigate adolescence.” These resources include helping girls access information about sexual and reproductive health, how to negotiate with parents about their choices for continuing their education, and how to prepare for their first job. Tujibebe is a program that was born from Tanzanian culture and is a mobile-based brand focused on helping provide adolescent girls with information and resources they need to make positive choices about their future. This includes how to finish their education and setting up their own small business.

3. It partners with numerous organizations to share its message. Girl Effect has worked with organizations from a variety of industries, from nonprofits to social media networks, to help effectively spread its message to girls across the world. One of the largest nonprofit organizations that it partners with is UNICEF. Together the organizations support and promote the Ni Nyampinga program in Rwanda. Through this partnership, UNICEF and Girl Effect have been able to make Ni Nyampinga a nation-wide movement with 80% of the population of Rwanda aware of it, which is almost 6.6 million Rwandans. Another prominent partner of the organization is Facebook. Through the use of Facebook’s Free Basics platform, which provides people with full access to services on their mobile phones, Girl Effect is able to promote its Springster program on a worldwide scale. Through this partnership, Facebook and Girl Effect have been able to reach over 12 million users in the past year alone. The program is available in over 50 countries, including South Africa, Nigeria, the Philippines and Indonesia. A few additional Girl Effect partners include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gavi and Mastercard Foundation.

4.  The Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect made great strides reaching developing countries. Since its introduction in 2008, Girl Effect has been able to reach millions of girls in developing nations to provide education and resources. In India and South Africa, its online chatbots have responded to over 1.2 million messages asking for advice on sex and healthy relationships. It has helped connect over 15,000 girls in India with efficient sexual and reproductive health information and services online. In Malawi, girls who read Girl Effect magazine are 32% more likely than non-readers to go to a medical provider and receive their first dose of HPV medication. In Indonesia, those who have seen Girl Effect’s digital nutrition campaign are 32% more likely to make healthier food choices than those who did not view it.

Girl Effect Closes the Gender Gap

Since its beginning, The Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect has helped to create media for girls around the world to provide resources on how to improve their education, healthcare and well-being. For years, the world has struggled to include girls in the many advances that have been made in healthcare and education. However, organizations like Girl Effect help to close this gap.

– Sara Holm
Photo: Flickr

Cafe Femenino FoundationEstimates place women’s involvement in coffee production at as high as 70% of all the labor, making women an integral part of the coffee industry. However, women face high levels of gender discrimination within the industry in terms of access to “land, credit and information”, resulting in lower incomes and crop yields when compared to men. The Cafe Femenino Foundation looks to change this.

Cafe Femenino Foundation

Noticing the inequity, Garth and Gay Smith founded the Cafe Femenino Foundation in 2004 to empower women working in the coffee industry. The nonprofit organization provides grants to women’s coffee collectives in nine countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Rwanda and Sumatra. The grants can be used for a vast range of initiatives including food security, income diversification and health, to empower women socially, politically and economically.

Food Security Initiatives

Cafe Femenino Foundation provides grants to combat food insecurity in multiple countries’ coffee-growing regions, which also helps women earn extra income. In Peru, training sessions teach women how to preserve fruits to prevent spoiling and extend the period during which they can be eaten. Preserved fruit can also be sold at markets when the supply of fresh fruit is diminished, allowing the women to sell for higher prices. Women who participated in the training sessions went home with 10 cans of each fruit they preserved, which is credited with helping lower rates of child malnutrition in the regions.

Similarly, in the Dominican Republic, Cafe Femenino Foundation grants supported women’s coffee collectives to start growing passionfruit and breed both cows and goats. Passionfruit is used in many foods and drinks, making it popular among the women themselves and at the markets. Since 2009, more than 200 women and their family members have benefitted from access to passionfruit. The goat and cow breeding initiatives provide women with milk and meat to feed their families and to sell for additional income. As of 2013, almost 30 women participated in the animal breeding programs.

Health Initiatives

In Colombia, grants have been given by Cafe Femenino Foundation to the COSURCA coffee cooperative to improve women’s health through kitchen remodeling. Since kitchens are traditionally women’s spaces, they are often not remodeled and are constructed of poor materials with dirt floors. The kitchens of 18 women have been remodeled as of 2013 to include outdoor ventilation that prevents smoke inhalation and running water to improve cleanliness and hygiene.

Cafe Femenino Foundation has provided similar grants in Peru to improve health conditions by improving stoves. The new stoves decrease smoke inhalation and respiratory illnesses that occur as a result.

Women’s Empowerment Initiatives

Also in Peru, Cafe Femenino Foundation grants have supported the building of community safe spaces, called Casa Cafe Femenino, for women in multiple coffee-growing communities. These spaces provide women with opportunities to meet and talk in places that are not “borrowed from the men”, promoting women’s independence and agency. Casa Cafe Femeninos are also able to act as temporary shelters for women facing domestic violence. As of 2013, these spaces benefitted more than 800 women from two coffee collectives.

Cafe Femenino Foundation also supports the education of women. In Peru, the nonprofit helped five women complete training to be promoted to the role of internal coffee inspector, giving these women more power within the coffee industry. In the early years of the nonprofit, a grant provided scholarships for 600 girls, all of who were the daughters of coffee producers, to attend school.

Equality in the Coffee Industry

The coffee industry is made up largely of women yet these women face gender discrimination and inequality. Cafe Femenino Foundation strives to eliminate the gender gap in coffee production by providing grants to women’s coffee collectives in a range of areas, including food security, health and women’s empowerment based on the needs of the women. The projects, while benefitting the women, also help to teach leadership and problem-solving skills through a democratic process of distribution, furthering women’s empowerment.

– Sydney Leiter
Photo: pixabay

Innovative Projects Empowering WomenIn our booming technological world, the gender digital divide continues to suppress women’s access to technology and the global economy. In low- and middle-income countries, women are 10% less likely to own a mobile device than men, and 23% less likely to use the internet. A 2019 report from the GSMA highlights four main reasons for the divide, including affordability, literacy and tech-literacy rates, safety and security, and relevance to daily life. The report also estimates that closing the digital divide in just mobile internet usage by 2023 could increase GDP growth by $700 billion in low- and middle-income countries over the next five years.

Through the U.S. government’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP), presidential advisor Ivanka Trump and USAID Administrator Mark Green launched the WomenConnect Challenge. With this funding, initiatives seek to shrink the barriers of digital illiteracy and “technophobia” fueled by a lack of complex resources, such as Internet access or formal education. That these barriers unequally limit women and girls leaves entire populations further and further behind in an increasingly digital world. In the first round of the challenge in 2018, USAID awarded more than $2 million to an initial nine projects working to close gender-based digital divides. The W-GDP initiative hopes to connect 50 million women in developing nations by 2025.

The First Projects that Received Funding

  1. Mali Health – Launched in 2019, the Mali Health application’s trial run proved useful in the lives of 65 women, most of whom live under the poverty line. The women were provided with a smartphone as well as training on the app’s features. The app allows users to search for medical information, advertise their small businesses and connect with larger markets using voice navigation in their native language. An upcoming feature will allow users to voice-record their medical questions and receive a recording back from a doctor. Surveys from the trial run indicate that innovative projects empowering women with knowledge and information boost women’s views on gender equality.
  2. GAPI and Bluetown – GAPI-SI and technology partner Bluetown established the Women in the Network program in Ribaue, Mozambique in late 2019. The project created content “clouds” for locals to access at lower costs than traditional network access, as well as a rent-to-own cell phone program. Additionally, they are training a team of Ribaue women in technology and internet use so that they may bring this knowledge to their peers and promote widespread connectivity.
  3. GramVaani – Meri Awaz Meri Pehchan, or “My Voice My Identity”, is an app from GramVaani enabling women to connect with other women and spread important information securely in Bihar, India. The application is voice-based, removing the literacy barrier from the equation. Women are trained as “reporters” and sent to rural communities to play informational recordings. They gather voiced comments on topics ranging from government programs and water availability to women’s rights. Innovative projects empowering women such as GramVaani make an impact through the dissemination of knowledge, a resource that cannot be taken for granted.
  4. Viamo – The Calling all Women program from Viamo makes use of a voice-based informational platform called the 3-2-1 Service, which allows for individuals to share valuable information for free on topics like health, hygiene, and financial literacy. The information has reached over 150,000 people in Tanzania and Pakistan. Additionally, Viamo’s program includes recorded lessons for women on mobile technology and the internet to help bridge the gender digital divide.
  5. Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) – HOT’s project #LetGirlsMap trains women and male allies to map data from Tanzanian villages and report significant issues via mapping platforms. The program has reached 78 villages and has partnered with schools to gather and disseminate knowledge on gender-based violence and economic literacy. Such innovative projects empowering women and girls help them to confront gender norms and inequality while learning about technology and the economy.
  6. Evidence for policy design (EPoD) India at the Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR) – EPoD’s project Mor Awaaz utilizes a preexisting government program that is distributing 2 million mobile phones to women in rural India. Mor Awaaz offers training and voice-recordings for women on technological literacy and has reached 11,000 women so far, eliminating barriers like caste, mobility, and affordability.
  7. AFCHIX – Innovative projects empowering women like AFCHIX are addressing inadequate internet access in poor communities. AFCHIX created four women-led “community networks” in Kenya, Namibia, Morocco and Senegal. In these countries, women in community networks lead development projects to bring internet access to their communities and learn the skills needed to upkeep the hardware. They serve as both technicians and role models.
  8. Equal Access International – Based in Northern Nigeria, Equal Access International created the Tech4Families program to address the cultural norms that prevent women from accessing technology. Tech4Families launched a radio production in August consisting of twelve episodes that teach listeners about the benefits of technology and justify women’s use of technology via religion and social concepts. They will be meeting with families to discuss the show’s impact and the next steps toward destigmatizing the idea of women in tech.
  9. Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) – Low-income women in the Dominican Republic are often unable to access credit from financial institutions because they do not have a credit score. IPA, along with the World Bank, a couple of American universities, and other institutions use machine learning and specialized algorithms to redo the credit-earning criteria for women, separately from men. This will allow more women to gain financial credit, and many have reported that they will use the money for entrepreneurial endeavors, to feed their families, and to invest in education.

– McKenna Black
Photo: USAID

Indian women
The coronavirus is disproportionately affecting women across the globe, setting back progress for global gender equality. Confined inside homes, women are shouldering more of the housework and childcare than their husbands, fathers and brothers. In India, a country where women are expected to fulfill homemaking roles, the gender disparities in housework between men and women are only growing more apparent, especially as more women exit the workforce. For Indian women, domestic unpaid labor consumes hours of their days and limits them to a life of financial dependence on their partners or a life of poverty. In India, two-thirds of the population lives in poverty. With the unemployment rate being as high as 18% for Indian women, compared to 7% for men in India, it’s inevitable that women make up a large percentage of this impoverished population.

Women’s Unpaid Role in India

While men in India complete less than an hour of unpaid labor each day, Indian women spend six hours of their day on unpaid labor. In comparison, men around the world typically spend around two hours a day on unpaid labor, while women spend four and a half hours.

Although the time and energy women put into cleaning and caring for children and the elderly are essential roles in economies, housework isn’t widely recognized as a form of labor. As part of their domestic responsibilities, Indian women must also retrieve water from wells, a chore that spans several hours and multiple trips in one day. Often lacking the aid of technology, Indian women must cook, clean and do laundry by hand.

Because women in India bear the burden of housework, they can’t maintain stable jobs outside their homes. This requires them to rely on their partners. This is in part due to the traditional patriarchal system India upholds. From a young age, Indian women are trained to fulfill roles inside the home. As a result, Indian women are excluded from the workforce, and young girls are pulled from schools to work inside the home, jeopardizing their education.

This reality has only grown over the years, as more and more women have exited the workforce. Over the past decade, the percentage of women in the workforce has dropped from 34% in 2004 to 25% in 2018, compared to the nearly 80% of men who work.

Why Female Employment Is Declining

The decline in female employment directly impacts Indian women’s risk of falling into poverty, as they are unable to financially support themselves. But up to 64% of women said they had to be responsible for housework as there were no other family members who would perform these responsibilities.

With a population of over 1.3 billion people, it’s increasingly difficult to secure a position in the Indian job market, and work positions designated for women are slim. On top of this, upon completing the same job as men, women earn 34% less in wages than their male coworkers. For women who manage to secure a job, their time is stretched thin as they complete both paid work and unpaid work. As a result, they are less likely to spend time on education, cultural and leisure activities.

There are exorbitant economic losses, though, when women are not welcomed into the workforce. According to an Oxfam report on female unpaid labor, the value of global unpaid labor performed by women amounts to at least $10.8 trillion annually, or, as the study suggests, “three times the size of the world’s tech industry.” By putting into context the monetary value of unpaid labor in society, the true economic loss of excluding Indian women from the workforce is undeniable.

In a step toward creating a more inclusive workforce environment for Indian women, the country passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act in 2017. The amendment increased the number of weeks for paid maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks. But this act hasn’t led to a significant change in female workforce employment. Instead, the act could continue to negatively impact female employment. Newly responsible for covering the cost of additional paid maternity leave, companies may be less inclined to hire female workers.

Combined with the recent growth in female education and declining fertility rates, India’s economy is primed for welcoming women into the workforce. But the country must strike a balance between paid and unpaid labor, a gendered expectation rooted in Indian tradition.

Closing the Gender Gap: One Indian Woman’s Petition

One Indian woman is especially determined to redefine gender roles in India. Juggling unpaid labor at home along with her involvement in a charity for reproductive justice, Subarna Ghosh realized she was shouldering the majority of housework —particularly since the pandemic forced her family to stay home.

In July 2020, Ghosh decided to draft a petition on Change.org and describe her experience as a working woman in India expected to perform the majority of the housework. “Unequal distribution of unpaid household work has rendered the harshest blow to women across India during this lockdown. Yet, women’s care work continues to be invisible and no one wants to address this gross imbalance,” she wrote.

Directing her efforts at India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ghosh concluded her petition by calling on Modi to encourage Indian men to equally fulfill their share of housework. The petition has received over 75,000 signatures, mostly from women who stand in solidarity with Ghosh and relate to her experience.

Ghosh’s petition reflects the persistent struggle for female equality in India, as one woman’s experience echoes the experience of thousands. Only when women in India are given the same opportunities as men will they be able to earn their own financial independence.

Grace Mayer
Photo: Flickr


Since the beginning of the digital age, there have been several advances in the world of digital currency. From mobile banking apps to mining for cryptocurrency, the use of physical bills and coins is becoming less common. The potential of this new technology in developing countries, particularly for those in Africa, cannot be ignored. Here are four ways digital currency in Africa can improve the economy.

4 Ways Digital Currency in Africa Can Improve the Economy

  1. Transferring money is easier and faster when combined with technology. For those who cannot waste time waiting for money to travel from one location to another, digital currency in Africa would allow for conveniently instantaneous transfers. Additionally, more companies are taking notice of the strong potential market for digital currency in Africa and the positive impact it could have on citizens and businesses. Airtel Africa, a telecommunications company serving East, West and Central Africa, has recently partnered with Mukuru, an online remittance company, allowing Mukuru customers to instantly send money transfers directly to Airtel Money customers across 12 African countries. This means that people can make intra-Africa payments from Southern Africa, where Mukuru has a major presence, to other nations in Africa. Users would also benefit from no longer going to an agent to receive international payments physically. Once Airtel Money customers receive the money, they can use it to pay bills, purchase goods and services or even cash out at one of Airtel Africa’s branches or kiosks. This will allow African citizens to get the most out of their money.
  2. Managing personal income leads to greater financial literacy. As the use of digital currency spreads, people are increasingly exposed to the language of business as well as standard banking practices. For those living in countries with low financial literacy rates, this could be the difference between economic stability and poverty. The implications of digital technology in Africa are astronomical due to the previous lack of education on these financial principles across the continent. In Somalia, the current rate of financial literacy is estimated to be 15%. On the other side of the spectrum, Botswana has a rate of over 51%—the highest in all of Africa. With this first-hand knowledge, more people will be able to learn how to manage their finances properly.
  3. Digital currency allows for more connections between African citizens and the rest of the world. The use of digital money transfers not only allows those living in Africa to pay and request money from people within their continent but also those around the world. With the recent partnership between Airtel Africa and Mukuru, small business owners in Africa can now establish business relationships with people in Europe, Asia and the United States, among others. As these relationships continue to grow, the digital currency can flow freely between Africa and the rest of the world, opening the continent up to high-dollar investments from more developed regions and, in time, lead to a potential rise in the African economy.
  4. More women have access to their finances. Only 37% of women in Sub-Saharan Africa have a bank account compared to 48% of men—a gap that has only widened in the past few years. The numbers are worse in North Africa, with around two-thirds of the adult population remaining unbanked and the gender gap for access to financial education standing at an 18% difference, the largest in the world. However, with the rise of digital technology in Africa, more women can become empowered and take control of their finances. Female entrepreneurs rarely apply for loans as a result of low financial literacy, risk aversion and fear of losing their businesses. If these women were to utilize digital banking technology, they would be able to pay employees, investors and, most importantly, themselves more efficiently. As more and more women manage their finances, they will be able to lift themselves out of poverty and strengthen their local economies.

As digital currency in Africa continues to flourish, more entrepreneurs, families and willing investors will be able to witness the rise of the African economy. Money transfers and online banking will likely support the growing economy as it joins the rest of the world in the technology age. With continued global support, African citizens will be able to lift their economy to new heights.

Daniela Canales
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in AnatoliaAnatolia is known as the Asian side of Turkey. Communities in Anatolia generally engage in a rural way of living where, most of the times, dynamics like globalization and technology are not the primary driving forces. Anatolia has been dealing with the issue of gender inequality in education, and there are many questions about girls’ education in this part of Turkey.

Reasons Behind the Gender Gap in Education

The gender gap that exists in Anatolia has not only existed in the workforce but has also translated to education in the region as well. Due to several different reasons, the people of Anatolia used to wish for their daughters to stay home and do domestic chores but, on the other hand, were motivated to send boys to school. That kind of behavior was a result of several barriers: lack of classrooms and schools, the distance of the school, the economic situation of families, early marriages problem and lack of female role models in Anatolia.

As the government was focused on decreasing the gender gap in education, the officials came up with a new program in 2004 that opened a door to many other programs and establishments related to this problem. Soon, the bad image of the situation was fixed with the help of different participants and the government taking effective steps to overcome the issue of the gender gap in the education of Anatolia.

Off to School, Girls!

One of the most impactful campaigns that was organized by the Minister of National Education and supported by UNICEF was Haydi Kızlar Okula! (Off to school, girls!). The campaign was very effective and became one of the first steps in the process of changing girls’ education in Anatolia.

The goal of Haydi Kızlar Okula! was to close the gender gap in 53 provinces that had the lowest enrollment rates of girls in schools in Anatolia by the end of 2005. The campaign did not only enable a sustainable social mobilization of the communities but also solved the issue of a lack of available schools and classrooms in different districts.

The campaign itself was a collective effort of many participants and institutions fulfilling their responsibilities for girls’ education in Anatolia. The government of Turkey might seem like the main organizer of the program but many other companies and organizations were also involved. Nationwide TV channels voluntarily contributed to the program in terms of spreading the news, and Coca-Cola provided free publicity.

The contribution of the campaign in solving the problem with girls’ school enrollment was remarkable because it increased the number of girls in primary schools immediately. According to 2010 data shared by the Ministry of National Education in Turkey, the number of the girls in schools in 10 provinces was 10 by the end of 2003. This number was increased to 33 provinces and 73.2 girls by the end of 2004 and then up to 53 provinces and 62.251 girls by the end of 2005. It should be highlighted that a total of 239.112 girls attended primary school as a direct result of Haydi Kızlar Okula!

Haydi Kızlar Okula! might seem off-topic to the revolutionary decrease of the gender gap in Anatolia today due to the fact that it happened in the early 2000s, but it is considered the first of many other campaigns that solved the issue of the educational gender gap in Anatolia.

– Orçun Doğmazer
Photo: Flickr

girls' education in Venezuela
The people of Venezuela are currently suffering as a result of the economic and political crisis occurring in the nation, which has affected girls’ education in Venezuela severely. Public schools that used to be ranked among the top in South America are now rarely opened for class. The annual dropout rate has doubled and more than one-quarter of teenagers are not enrolled in school. Additionally, according to Foundation Bengoa, a quarter of Venezuelan children missed class in the 2017-2018 school year because of hunger.

The many protests and high crime rate put students at risk and disrupt the school day often. According to Business Insider, more than one-quarter of teenagers are not even enrolled in school due to fear and lack of resources. According to Tupac Amaru Rivas, the head of El Sistema school in Caracas, parents often prefer to keep their children at home and teachers often cannot attend school so the school is forced to cancel class.

How the Venezuelan Government is Reacting

Although there is proof of a decline in the quality of education, the government refuses to acknowledge this by insisting that 75 percent of the national budget goes to the social sector. President Maduro released a statement saying, “Amid the economic war, the fall of oil prices, international harassment and financial persecution, not a single school has closed.” Venezuela currently ranks last globally in the Rule of Law Index. The lack of transparency and press coverage means that some official information is inaccurate or unavailable.

Ever since former President Hugo Chavez came into power, delivering a high-quality education to the youth was a priority in Venezuela. However, due to the recent economic and political crisis, girls’ education in Venezuela and education, in general, has taken a hit.

Issues Affecting Girls’ Education in Venezuela

School in Venezuela is often canceled because of the lack of basic utilities and food. The Caracas Public High School has even had to close down for weeks at a time.  A group of parents has said that Venezuelan children have missed an average of 40 percent of class time because of canceled classes.

The schools have also been affected by crime and instability in the country. Teachers are among those who have been shot, murdered or are missing. Additionally, teachers even exchange a passing grade for food. It is also common for teachers not to show up to class because they are waiting in food lines for their families.

Issues Within the Venezuelan School System

Even when school is open, what is being taught in schools is often flawed. The Associated Press has reported that some schools even leave textbooks delivered by the government unopened because teachers see them as “too full of pro-socialist propaganda to use.” This not only affects girls’ education in Venezuela but also education in the nation as a whole.

Education itself it suffering enough and the gender gap continues to increase in the midst of the economic crisis. In 2017, Venezuela scored 0.71 on the Gender Gap Index compared to 0.69 for the three previous years, meaning that women are approximately 29 percent less likely than men to have equal opportunities.

Although this is concerning, Venezuela is known to have very little discrimination in educational and social institutions. Rates of school enrollment and years of education in Venezuela are about the same for girls and boys.

The issue of the educational decline in Venezuela needs to be addressed before it is too late. A spokeswomen from the Movement of Organized Parents in Venezuela told the Associated Press, “This country has abandoned its children. By the time we see the full consequences, there will be no way to put it right.” Education, specifically girls’ education in Venezuela, will continue to suffer until these issues are dealt with.

– Luz Solano-Flórez
Photo: Flickr