UNDP Provides Legal Aid in Egypt for Impoverished and Illiterate
For those who are poor or illiterate, understanding and using legal services is often difficult and preventative from obtaining justice. Since 2008, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has worked with the Ministry of Justice to provide free legal aid in Egypt for the impoverished and illiterate, establishing 35 Legal Aid Offices as of 2016.

Free Legal Aid in Egypt

This project focuses on disputes in family courts and handles cases that do not require an attorney. Without this help, those who are impoverished generally cannot afford legal services and the illiterate do not have the skills to successfully fill out the required paperwork. These two populations often intersect, as the poor are more likely to be illiterate.

Financed by UNDP and Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), over 50,000 cases in Egypt have now been assisted by free Legal Aid Offices.

The project also trains staff, holds roundtables for family court judges and assists with digitizing family court records. Approximately 17 training sessions and workshops for family court judges have been organized, reaching over 500 judges and legal aid employees.

Dispute Settlement offices have been upgraded as well, and employees have received training on dispute settlement skills, child rights and personal status laws. Additionally, efforts have been made to influence lawmakers to amend laws that would make the processing of cases more efficient and lead to cases being resolved more quickly.

New Goals, New Connections

Beginning in 2013, new goals were added to the project after an evaluation by an independent consultant of the free legal aid in Egypt. These goals include:

  • Developing adequate training programming
  • Improving court and case management
  • Modernizing hotlines in order to get feedback
  • Increasing dissemination of legal information
  • Designing outreach programs for both literate and illiterate women

The Ministry of Justice is working to establish a central electronic database of court decisions to link electronically to Egypt’s national bank. This connection would make payments awarded by the courts easier to collect.

In December 2014, UNDP, the Egyptian Ministry of Justice, the National Center for Judicial Studies, and the French Cultural Center in Egypt organized a workshop for legal aid employees. This workshop was “to strengthen participants’ knowledge of French legal framework for family mediation and introduce practical tools for mediation based on international best practices and relevance to local family courts.”

Legal Aid in Egypt Empowers Egyptian Women

Approximately one million cases are filed in Egyptian family courts each year, and 80 percent of those are brought by women. Therefore, the UNDP’s legal aid in Egypt is often for women in desperate need of legal services. In fact, over 70 percent of the 50,000 cases handled by the project were filed by women.

Without this support, women — particularly poor and illiterate women — often do not have the resources to settle marital or family disputes. Male family members or spouses can often get away with violent behavior or criminal acts if the woman they’ve harmed is barred from legal aid by a system not amenable to vulnerable populations.

Incidents of Personal Distress

For example, “Yasmin” is an Egyptian woman who faced legal difficulties after her ex-husband kidnapped her oldest daughter. She went to the court on multiple occasions, unable to find a resolution to this problem. However, with the free legal services provided by UNDP, Yasmin was finally able to file her claim in the family court system.

Another woman, Omaima Abdel Khaleq, utilized free legal aid in Egypt to file a domestic violence case against her husband. She explains, “The legal aid office made me aware of what exactly I should do instead of being lost among lawyers.”

Situations like these are not uncommon for women, and the project’s Legal Aid Offices help women complete the required paperwork, as well as provide legal advice about their rights and claims.

Helping the Impoverished and Illiterate

If an individual is illiterate, they are far less likely to be knowledgeable about the laws that protect them (or the person they wish to file a claim against). Without the help of an oftentimes unaffordable attorney or legal services, these people will not be able to access the information they need to correctly file a claim and obtain justice.

Project manager Gihane El Batouty states, “We are helping people themselves — and women themselves — with their legal rights.” UNDP wants to continue to grow this project, as it has become essential to helping the impoverished and illiterate, many of whom are women, access legal aid in Egypt.

Across the globe, UNDP supports similar initiatives in 54 other countries. This support reflects the organization’s commitment to making legal services available to vulnerable populations.

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

UNESCO and Worldreader are providing mobile devices to fight illiteracy. According to UNESCO there is direct relationship between poverty and illiteracy. People living below the poverty line and those who are illiterate are in the same portion of the population. Increasing the availability of books to the almost 800 million illiterate adults and children in developing countries will change lives.

Knowing how to read and write improves educational success, health, earning potential, safety, and ultimately breaks the cycle of poverty. Literate people are empowered to seek jobs for which they might otherwise be unqualified. The increase in earnings potential contributes to overall economic growth. Literacy is related to improved self-esteem, increased community involvement, and more.

Socio-economic status is directly linked to literacy. People living in poverty and lacking access to enough food and clean water are less likely to attend school and learn to read and write. Adult literacy rates are lower in households belonging to the poorest people. In countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, the Sudan and Togo there is a 40 percent literacy gap between those living in poverty and the rich.

Access to books is necessary so that children can develop reading and writing skills, yet as many as 40 percent of schools in Africa do not have access to reading material, and if they do, it is not current, level-appropriate, or relevant to readers’ interests. Only five percent of poor families in developing countries have books in their homes for children under the age of five.

What is the answer?  Worldreader believes that providing mobile devices to fight illiteracy is part of the answer. Almost six billion of the seven billion people on Earth have access to a mobile device, providing mobile devices. Providing access to mobile devices including mobile phones, e-reader apps and e-readers will help to level the playing field.

In places where access to books is limited, Worldreader and UNESCO are helping by providing mobile devices to fight illiteracy. Worldreader is providing schools with e-readers, mobile phones as well as the Worldreader Mobile reading app. Authors and publishers around the world are helping by translating and digitizing popular book titles as well as top trade and textbook titles. Most books are free.

In surveys and interviews conducted by UNESCO and completed by more than 4,000 people in Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe, it was revealed that people read more on mobile devices and enjoy reading more, too. They also read to their children more from mobile devices.

Clearly leaving a bunch of books on a table or even on a mobile device does not necessarily mean that people will read, but they certainly won’t if they don’t have access. Hopefully, having access will promote both curiosity and literacy.

Mary Barringer

Photo: Flickr

Education in Morocco
Education in Morocco has staggered slowly towards greater improvements in their learning infrastructure as illiteracy rates remain high. According to a 2015 statement by the National Agency for the Fight Against Illiteracy (ANLCA), approximately 10 million men and women are still illiterate.

Mounia Benchekroun, a Moroccan consultant in social and educational development stated in The Arab Weekly, “The figure of 10 million illiterate in Morocco should raise a national awareness that would require a much stronger national political engagement in order to fight this scourge.”

Morocco’s High Commissioner for Planning Ahmed Lahlimi also shared his analysis of illiteracy rates in 2014. Lahlimi stated it was more common for adults over 50-years-old to be illiterate, which is approximately 61.1%. In contrast, only 3.7% of children under 15-years-old face illiteracy. There is an evident gender gap as approximately 41.9% of women are illiterate compared to 22.1% of men.

Although the National Education and Training Charter (CNEF) lagged behind in its goal to reduce illiteracy to less than 20% by 2010 with complete eradication by 2015, this issue of high illiteracy rates is accompanied by good news. Literacy rates have made strides throughout the years for education in Morocco, increasing with the implementation of literacy programs by NGOs and with a new 2024 goal to eradicate illiteracy.

Lahlimi states that rates have dropped to 32% compared to 42% of the population 10 years prior. Moreover, Morocco has earned the Confucius Literacy Prize honorable mention for its improvements in literacy rates between 2004 and 2012. A continued emphasis on improving literacy rates for education in Morocco is significant in creating equality and advancing the health and development of the country as a whole.

The Global Education Monitoring Report states that educated mothers are less likely to die in childbirth by two-thirds and that child mortality would be reduced by a sixth. Literacy plays an important role in mortality rates through the ability to read. Literacy provides information to make well-informed decisions, such as utilizing a nurse at birth or understanding nutrition. In addition, according to Alfalit International, research has shown that illiteracy can limit an individual’s ability to understand and process information necessary to take care of oneself.

With the importance of literacy among Moroccan men and women, ANLCA calls on national and international powers “for a new impetus to-wards a literate Morocco.” New improvements for education in Morocco will come in addition to an eradication of illiteracy by 2024.

Priscilla Son

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Afghanistan
When we talk about Afghanistan or hear about it in the news, it can be very easy to forget that the insurgents are people and that a huge portion of them are suffering through extreme poverty. For the average Afghan, life can be very difficult and stricken with economic struggle, food insecurity, and a lack of resources to improve their lives. Discussed below are facts that may come as a surprise about those living in poverty in Afghanistan.


Top 5 Facts about Poverty in Afghanistan


  1. Only 28.1% of the entire population over the age of 15 is literate, meaning that 71.9% of adults are incapable of even basic reading and writing skills. On average, those who are capable of going to school only complete about 8 years, with females generally completing 4 years less than their male counterparts.
  2. A 2008 estimate of the percentage of children aged 5-14 suggests that at least 25% were involved in child labor. UNICEF made an estimate in 2011 that the number had risen to at least 30%. In either case, around ¼ or more of all young kids in the country were being forced to work, therefore missing out on childhood and, most importantly, a proper education.
  3.  36% of the population, or about 9 million people, lives in absolute, extreme poverty and another 37% lives just above the determined poverty line even though around $35 billion was put into the country from 2002-2009. In fact, the number one killer in Afghanistan is not armed conflict, it is poverty.
  4. Half of the population still lives without access to improved water sources, this accounts for both men and women living in rural and urban areas.
  5. For every 100,000 births, 460 mothers die and for every 1,000 births, 119 infants die. This leaves Afghanistan with the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world and the third highest infant mortality rate. Many of these deaths would be preventable with trained doctors and expedient, affordable care. But, with less than 1 doctor per every 1000 people, 0.21 of a doctor to be precise, proper care is difficult to come by.

Aid programs are doing what they can to help to citizens of Afghanistan rise about the poverty line, but the country has been torn apart by decades of fighting and inequality. The process will be a long and arduous one, but every person should be able to take care of themselves and provide even just the basic tools for survival for their families.

– Chelsea Evans

Sources: CIA World Factbook, Center for Strategic and International Studies

poverty in ankara
Ankara is Turkey’s capital and its second-largest city, second only to Istanbul. As more refugees from Syria seek refuge in Turkey, poverty rates increase.

Ankara’s skyscrapers and views make it a popular tourist destination, yet, evidence of poverty is littered throughout the city. The poverty line for Turkey is $4 USD per day. The number of individuals and families living below the poverty line is increasing as more and more Syrians cross into Turkey. Food is scarce among the poor and sanitary living conditions are growing increasingly rare. Approximately 20 percent of people in Ankara are living in poverty.

Poverty is connected with the level of education a person has, and in Ankara, education is a rare opportunity for many, particularly girls and women. Women do not usually work in Ankara, and if they do, they are limited to low-paying jobs such as babysitting or housecleaning. Women’s duties are primarily childcare and taking care of sick or elderly family members. In many cases, mothers pass duties down to their young daughters, who are then forced to quit school in order to maintain the household. Poverty has become cyclical in Ankara.

In Ankara, 13.1 percent of women are illiterate, while 5.1 percent of men are illiterate. In nearly all cases of poverty and migration, the reasons why women migrated from rural to urban areas are due to marriage or husband’s job, while men mostly migrate because they are searching for a job.

The a lack of adequate shelters and sanitary environments in Ankara further contribute to the dire circumstances of the urban poor. Health is also a growing concern in poor neighborhoods, which are often overcrowded, allowing diseases spread easily among individuals.

For Ankara, Turkey, the key to reducing and eliminating poverty may lie in education. As children are educated, a stronger foundation for Turkey is laid, and the road out of poverty begins to be paved.

Alaina Grote


As the world’s leading countries and corporations search for new frontiers, all eyes are focused on Africa.  The continent offers many opportunities for economic activity and prosperity.  African nations are seeking to take advantage of their position but face tough obstacles due to an undereducated population.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 176 million adults are unable to read and write.  47 million youths ages 15-24 are illiterate and 32 million primary aged children are not in school.  In nations like Malawi, one of the world’s poorest nations, where 45 percent of the population is under 14 years old, it is imperative to produce future generations of educated citizens capable of lifting the nation out of poverty.

Malawi is a land locked nation and is home to approximately 17 million people.  The country does not have many natural resources such as oil like its neighboring countries.  The economy is based on agriculture, mainly, the export of tobacco and is supported through financial aid by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

In order to turn the tide and help the people of Malawi, Xanthe Ackerman founded Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa, or AGE Africa.

AGE Africa seeks to transform the lives of millions of young girls by providing them with opportunities to become educated leaders.  Beginning with Malawi, the organization’s vision is to ensure all girls in Africa have equal access to secondary education and that they be able to leverage their education into economic opportunities.

Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa seeks to create informed citizens capable of making their own life choices.

The Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa organization has a multidimensional approach to achieving their stated goals.  The first begins with comprehensive scholarships that allow girls to not only attend schools but also complete their education.  Scholarships go towards providing for tuition and school related expenses.

The second approach deals with extracurricular programs that promote life skills, leadership development, self-advocacy and career guidance.  The final piece of the program, post-secondary transitions, ensures that the girls have the necessary information, resources, and support to apply for educational and economic opportunities beyond high school.

AGE Africa’s impact on the girls of Malawi is extraordinary.

By age 20, just 17 percent of Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa participants are mothers compared to 65 percent of 20-year old women in Malawi.  About 88 percent of AGE Africa students finish all four years of secondary school, compared to just 8 percent nationwide.

Among these students, 74 percent are now pursuing higher education, have wage-based employment or engage in economic activity that provides income above the poverty threshold.

The tremendous success of Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa within the country of Malawi is beacon of hope for the nation and a promising sign of the future for other girls throughout the continent.

Sunny Bhatt

Sources: AGE Africa, AGE Africa, AGE Africa, FAO
Photo: Development Diaries

Many have called for the Turkish government to spend more of the national budget on social aid as poverty rates in Turkey are over the average for countries in the European Union. Current spending on social aid policies is a paltry 1 percent of Turkey’s budget. But in addition to establishing policies that help the impoverished, some are also questioning whether Turkey is doing enough to diminish the extreme income inequality.

Even though it has maintained a 5 percent annual growth and is experiencing rising employment, Turkey has one of the highest income inequality rates among the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. This income inequality is largely due to educational problems. The poverty rate for the illiterate in Turkey was 30 percent in 2009, compared to the only .7 percent for those who graduated from a university. As a result, the many agricultural laborers are stricken with poverty. The reason for this is that the agricultural industry in Turkey accounts for 9 percent of its GDP, but is around 25 percent of overall employment.

The overall education levels need to improve in Turkey with the help of more social aid spending, but, most urgently, educational rates for girls also need to rise. The literacy rate of men is much higher than that of women, causing more women to face the risk of living in poverty.

Even though the country has gone through many phases of immigration, urbanization, population rises, and changes in family structure, the social services and aid policies have not been properly reformed to address changes adequately. The institution in charge of social spending, the Family and Social Policies Ministry, has not allocated more than 1.2 percent of the GDP on policies that combat income inequality and poverty. Many are calling for a change, the Turkish government needs to make more of an effort to engage in social intervention.

But social aid policies are of no use if not managed properly. Turkey should to transfer policy implementation to local authorities instead of the current system of having social aid policy centrally controlled. If funds are managed by individual provinces, funding and resources can be more efficiently utilized, and efficaciously target poverty and income inequality within the region.

Over the last few years, Turkey has experienced significant growth, however more than a quarter children in the country still live in poverty. Even though the total percentage rate of poverty has dropped around 8 points, the fact is that still a fifth of the population is impoverished. Turkey has been investing in sustainable technology and building urban centers, but, to fully prosper, it will have to do more than flash signs of wealth and development. A budget reform in Turkey to reallocate more resources to boosting education and employment will decrease poverty and bridge the income inequality gap in the country.

– Rahul Shah

Sources: Today’s Zaman, The Guardian, Hurriyet Daily News

“They thought that the bullet would silence us. But they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices…Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen, can change the world. Education is the only solution.” These were the words spoken by Malala Yousafzai in her address to the UN Youth Assembly on July 12th, falling on her 16th birthday. In October, a Taliban gunman boarded Malala’s school bus in Pakistan’s northwestern Swat Valley and shot her in the head. The Taliban decided death was to be her consequence for campaigning on behalf of girls’ education. She survived, however, and in doing so has brought the issue of women’s education to the attention of the world.

After the shooting, Malala was flown from Pakistan to the U.K. for treatment and recovery, and now resides in Birmingham, England. Her appearance at the UN headquarters was her first public speech since October’s incident. She told the UN that the Taliban’s attack did not change her aims or stop her ambitions as they hoped, but has rather made her more determined. Malala called on politicians to take urgent action to ensure every child has the right to an education. “I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists,” said Malala.

Aid agencies agree that girls’ access to education in Pakistan is a real concern. The country ranks among the lowest in terms of girls’ enrollment, government spending, and literacy. Malala explained she was fighting for the rights of women because “they are the ones who suffer the most”. Unesco and Save the Children released a report which found that 95% of the 28.5 million children who are not receiving a primary school education live in low and lower-middle income countries: 44% in sub-Saharan Africa, 19% in south and west Asia and 14% in the Arab states. Girls make up 55% of these children without education and are often the victims of rape and other sexual violence that comes with armed conflict.

Adnan Rasheed, a senior Pakistani Taliban leader, recently sent a letter to Malala in which he does not apologize, but says he wished the attack “had never happened”. Rasheed further suggests that all that the Taliban opposes is western education. Despite this claim, there are currently 1,000 closed schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan due to arson attacks and threats. The Taliban have long argued that only schools used as army bases are attacked, however schools have been shut down hundreds of miles from any Pakistani army presence.

According to Gordon Brown, a United Nations Special Envoy on Global Education, in just the last few weeks alone 14 young women were killed when the bus carrying them from college was firebombed, a school principal was shot dead and his colleagues maimed in broad daylight at a prize giving ceremony held in the playground of an all-girls school in Karachi, and a teacher was gunned down in front of her son while driving to teach at an all-female college.

Illiteracy, particularly among girls, will hold back Pakistan’s development efforts if current education trends continue. It is also known that young people denied an education fall prey to extremist propaganda. Following the attack, Malala set up the ‘Malala Fund’, and presented a petition which included more than three million signatures to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, demanding education for all. The Malala Fund launches in the fall of 2013, and will focus on helping girls go to school and raise their voices for the right to education. Donations to the Malala Fund can be made at

Malala has shown millions of young girls that it is possible to stand up to the Taliban. Young people are insisting that education is a universal right. Malala has sparked a revolution and a modern civil rights struggle is now underway.

– Ali Warlich
Sources: BBC, CNN, The Malala Fund, BBC