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Improve Education in BangladeshIn a speech given at a Boston high school in 1990, Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” For many of the world’s impoverished, education is not an option. Today, more than 72 million children of primary education age are not in school and nearly 759 million adults are illiterate. While many maintain the capacity to survive without an education, the knowledge and awareness garnered through school allows the impoverished to improve their living conditions and rise out of poverty. USAID and the World Bank are working to improve education in Bangladesh as a means of addressing poverty.

The State of Education in Bangladesh

In the last 10 years, there has been progress when it comes to improving education in Bangladesh. According to USAID, nearly 98% of children of primary school age are enrolled in school. In 2016, 50.9% of all enrolled students were girls, meaning total gender parity. Both of these statistics are major accomplishments but there is much more to be done to improve education in Bangladesh.

While enrollment is high, the quality of education that the children are receiving remains quite low. Reading fluency is the barometer that is used to measure a school system’s quality, and in Bangladesh, most students are unable to pass basic fluency assessments. To put exact numbers to this, USAID conducted an assessment and determined that “44% of students finish first-grade unable to read their first word and 27 % of third-grade students cannot read with comprehension.”

This lack of literacy not only puts these students at a great disadvantage but stunts prospects of economic growth for Bangladesh. Education plays a significant role in sustaining and developing countries and economies which is why USAID and the World Bank have invested in improving Bangladesh’s education system.

The World Bank’s Education Efforts

On January 18, 2021, Bangladesh signed an agreement with the World Bank, financing $6.5 million to help more than 39,000 kids receive primary school education. The package also allocates funds to vocational training schools for approximately 8,500 dropouts. Mercy Tembon, the World Bank country director for Bangladesh and Bhutan, says that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted the education of children from lower-income households. The additional financing will help slum children and vulnerable youth to build the foundations necessary to improve their lives and increase their opportunities. The World Bank has given Bangladesh the means necessary to improve the quality of their education system and thus support the greater economy.

USAID’s Educational Assistance

USAID has taken a more hands-on approach in improving the quality of education. It works directly with Bangladesh’s Ministry of Primary and Mass Education to improve early grade reading for children to ensure that all children learn to read in their first years of schooling. USAID’s education programs in Bangladesh have:

  • Expanded access to schooling to almost 30,000 out-of-school children
  • Increased the reading fluency of third graders by 18%
  • Increased the first-word reading fluency of first graders by 36%
  • Trained nearly 17,000 new teachers on how to teach early grade reading
  • Issued more than two million reading materials to primary schools

Education as a Key to Poverty Reduction

Every young mind deserves the opportunity for education and with the help of the World Bank and USAID, Bangladesh has the means to offer that. Efforts to improve education in Bangladesh will uplift an entire nation. The state of education in the world is progressing and thus bringing about poverty reduction success.

Matthew Hayden
Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in TanzaniaTanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world, however, according to the World Bank, poverty from 2007 to 2018 was reduced by 8% overall. There are multiple reasons why the largest east African country is in such despair such as food scarcity, poor access to education and proper healthcare. This article will discuss five facts about the causes of poverty in Tanzania.

Causes of Poverty in Tanzania

  1. The population rate is continuously increasing faster than the poverty reduction rate in Tanzania. This is causing millions of people to live in poverty and survive off of $1.90 a day or less. According to the World Bank’s Poverty and Equity Brief, from 2011 to 2018, there was only a 1.8% decline in poverty. To combat this issue, according to the brief there should be more opportunities available for those living in rural areas. This is because rural areas are where the poverty rate is the highest.

  2. A lack of a proper education lowers the chances for sustainable employment. A primary issue related to education in Tanzania is the decline in enrollment of children in primary school. According to a report for out of school children in Tanzania by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), out of the 1.3 million children aged 7 years old in Tanzania, 39.5% do not attend primary nor secondary school. However, as children get older, the more likely they are to attend school.

  3. Severe and life-threatening diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria impact millions of the Tanzanian population. Many families have to pay out of pocket to receive continuous treatment. Recurring payments pressure already low-income households, adding to one of the causes of poverty in Tanzania. To mitigate the diseases affecting millions living predominately in rural areas, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided treatment to decrease the severe heath conditions’ growth and spread.

  4. Out of a population of 57.3 million people in Tanzania, access to clean water isn’t available for four million of them. Additionally, 30 million people don’t have access to proper hygiene. This causes women and young females primarily to carry massive amounts of water for a great distance in order to provide it for their families.

  5. The labor force is continuously declining in Tanzania. This can be partially attributed to a lack of government support in initiating sufficient employment opportunities, especially in rural areas. Due to poverty being the highest in rural areas because of poor living environment circumstances, many tend to move into urban areas. Unfortunately, unemployment persists due to people lacking skills for the jobs in their new urban environment. Access to proper education and an increase in attendance in primary and secondary schools will help expand opportunities and skills for more promising and long-lasting employment.

Progress Eradicating Poverty

The key to eradicating poverty in Tanzania is education. However, for more children to become educated, there needs to be an increase in access to education and school attendance. As of 2020, Tanzania’s literacy rate is 70.6%. However, the literacy rate has fluctuated over the last decade, not ensuring continuous growth.

Nevertheless, one organization, “Room to Read” has taken the necessary steps to ensure 14.3 million children are literate. The organization helps young children to be educated, literate and aware of personal health and proper forms of family planning. Their work primarily targets young girls. Room to Read distributes its resources not only to Tanzania but also to over 12 other countries around the world. Suppose Tanzania’s government recognizes the importance of education, a better healthcare system, and an increase in employment opportunities. In that case, the causes of poverty in Tanzania will end sooner than expected. This in turn could help set an example for other impoverished countries.

Montana Moore
Photo: Flickr

literacy in EthiopiaThere are 781 million adults in the world who are considered illiterate. This statistic reflects more than just the ability of people to read, it is inherently tied to the poverty rate. In fact, 43% of adults with low literacy rates live in poverty. There are multiple issues that contribute to this, however the most influential is education. Several programs address literacy in Ethiopia.

The Relationship Between Literacy and Poverty

In the fight against global poverty, education is a sought after resource. With increased education comes increased opportunities for those within the community to contribute to the economy and increase their prospects. In order to bolster educational efforts, children must be able to read. Literacy is considered to be the foundation of learning and is directly responsible for the success of children in education as a whole. Without this vital skill, children are unlikely to move onto higher education or secure high paying jobs. This stagnant economic standing is perpetuated through families because parents with low literacy rates are 72% likely to pass that low literacy rate down. The resulting generational illiteracy is a detriment to the growth of communities because it cements them into a lower economic standing.

The importance of literacy within the fight against poverty is underscored by the World Bank. It has coined the term “Learning Poverty” which refers to the inability of a child to read and comprehend by age 10. The severity of “Learning Poverty” aids in the prediction of future literacy and economic success. Additionally, the World Bank believes that this statistic is a useful indicator as to whether or not global educational goals are being met. In relation to poverty, these goals are paramount in the rate of sustainable development in poor countries. Moreover, poverty would be reduced by 12% if all students in low-income countries were able to read. As educational goals are met and literacy is increased, impoverished communities have the opportunity to create sustainable change in terms of their economic standing and overall quality of life.

Illiteracy and Poverty in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa, with 109.2 million people. Unfortunately, the country also suffers from rampant poverty as it was reported in 2016 that 24% of Ethiopia’s population is considered impoverished. Poverty is a multifaceted and complicated issue, however, one can generally find a low literacy rate in countries with corresponding high poverty rates. In Ethiopia, this holds true because just under half of its population is illiterate. Given the extreme disadvantage that low literacy rates put on communities, there have been multiple efforts to improve the Ethiopian education system. and literacy in Ethiopia.

READ II

READ II is a project that focuses on the education of children considered at risk of school failure or dropout due to the cognitive, emotional and physical effects of hunger, violence and displacement. READ II spans 3,000 schools across 50 districts, ultimately wishing to expand the basic model to reach a targeted 15 million learners. Specifically, within the Addis Adaba, Tigray and Amhara regions, the project is working to improve the preparedness of teachers, increase support for women’s education and push for the widespread education of English.

Unlock Literacy

Unlock Literacy is a project founded by World Vision in 2012 that has reached a total of 1.7 million children in the endeavor to increase the literacy rate in impoverished countries. Unlock Literacy is committed to the implementation of teacher training programs, better educational resources and appropriate reading materials. The program acknowledges the fact that oftentimes rural areas are unable to attain reading material that is applicable to the children being educated. As a result, it has aided in the creation of over one million new books in the common languages of the students. Unlock Literacy has also seen success as children who could read with comprehension rose from 3% to 25% after the program.

READ TA

READ TA was founded in 2012 by USAID in partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education in order to advance writing and reading among 15 million early education students. With READ TA’s methods, more than $17 million has been provided to train 113,385 teachers in safe and practical learning initiatives. In recognition of low literacy’s association with poverty, the program also seeks to improve the student’s overall understanding of class materials. This has been accomplished by giving schools the necessary educational resources that have been designed to appeal to the student reading it. Additionally, READ TA has adapted 320 educational materials to address the local context of communities living outside of administrative regions.

With organizations and programs committed to improving literacy in Ethiopia, the prospect of reduced poverty in the region is hopeful, as is reaching the goal of alleviating global poverty overall.

– Stella Vallon
Photo: Flickr

BOOK FAIRIES ADVANCE LEARNINGChildren are the world’s future but half of children account for the world’s poor. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, 59 million children, aged between 5 and 17, work to provide for their families instead of attending school. Therefore, every fifth child ends up in child labor. Even in richer countries in Europe, one in five children lives in poverty and 25% were at risk of poverty in 2017. Since poverty and literacy correlate, both must be improved. In Africa, 48 million youth aged 15 to 24 are illiterate and 30 million primary-aged children are not in school. Globally, literacy rates have improved in the past 20 years but women and children still lag behind in literacy. The main cause of illiteracy globally is a lack of books. Organizations like The Book Fairies advance learning in developing nations and address illiteracy.

The Book Fairies

Founded by Amy Zaslansky, The Book Fairies began in Long Island, New York, as an organization accepting new and used books that are donated to libraries and schools that lack funding for educational resources for children.

Developed in 2012, The Book Fairies has donated more than 130,000 books to 25 school districts and 100 organizations across New York. Now, the organization has expanded globally, donating over two million books to date.

Partnered with US-Africa Children’s Fellowship (ACF), a nonprofit that gives supplies to impoverished schools in Africa and refugees in Jordan, The Book Fairies provided 80,000 books in 2017 to ACF. Approximately, this figure accounted for 50% of ACF’s shipped donated books that year. Every year, the organization ships thousands of books to Africa.

The Book Fairies advance learning and literacy in underdeveloped global nations such as Africa, India, China, South America and the Caribbean Islands. Even with COVID-19, students in poor communities in the U.S. and abroad still have access to books due to the organization’s efforts.

Other Book Fairies Hiding Books Globally

The influence of this organization has spread. In 2017, a similar reading organization launched in Europe, also known as The Book Fairies. To be a book fairy, a person chooses a book that they have read and enjoyed, they then put an official book fairy sticker on it that reads “take this book, read it and leave it for the next person to enjoy.” Then, the book is hidden in public for someone else to find and read. This little tradition has expanded to almost 9,000 people sharing books in over 100 countries.

Actress Emma Watson is a notable book fairy. After starring in the 2019 film “Little Women”, the actress launched a Little Women campaign. A whole 2,000 copies of the book were hidden around the world, with a handwritten note from Watson herself that promotes The Book Fairies’ organization.

Alleviating Illiteracy and Poverty Through Books

The main missions of book organizations such as those above are to end the cycle of poverty by improving literacy. The Book Fairies advance learning by providing books of all kinds to poor communities and countries and give children a fighting chance to take themselves out of poverty.

– Shelby Gruber
Photo: Flickr

South African poverty and educationSouth Africa is a country with 19.6 million children, making up about 35% of its total population of 56.5 million people. Of these 19.6 million children, about 98% have “attended some form of an educational facility.” However, these high attendance rates do not mean high-quality education and lack of academic resources is a large contributing factor to the correlation between South African poverty and education.

Education in South Africa

Despite having high rates of education enrollment, the quality of education in South Africa is poor. Reports have shown that of the students who attended school for five years, only half can do basic math. Furthermore, there are little to no standards for the teachers to be held at. About 10% of teachers across the country are absent from school on any given day and 79% of grade six math teachers do not have the content knowledge to be teaching at their respective level.

Education is compulsory until grade nine, and over the years, there have been increasing numbers of drop-out students, for a variety of reasons. The main reason is unequal access to resources as a result of poverty. The disparities between female and male students also continually present issues in the South African education system, especially with low percentages of girls pursuing careers in science, math or technology.

In addition, South African schools have struggled to teach basic skills such as reading and writing as well as early development for young children. Only 38.4% of children ages zero to four attended a school system such as day-care, playgroup or pre-kindergarten programs. The early development issue is further seen as 46.8% of parents say they do not read with their children and 43.15% say that they do not color or draw with their children.

South African Poverty and Education Correlation

South Africa has struggled with high rates of poverty for many years and the correlation between South African poverty and education is present in many different aspects of the relationship. In rural areas in the former homelands, about 81% of children are below the poverty line and 44% of children in urban areas live in poverty as well. Education in rural areas suffers especially, simply as a result of the barriers presented by the location. For example, critical resources such as water, electricity, books and technology are missing from many schools, which present obstacles for South African children to have a complete educational experience. Furthermore, the location of schools in comparison to students’ homes, present long commutes. Without reliable transportation, students and teachers both struggle to consistently arrive at school.

Why Low Education Enables Poverty

Poor education is a leading factor in continuing the cycle of poverty. Research continually supports the idea that children who suffer from high rates of poverty are more likely to drop out of school after grade nine as a result of the barriers poverty creates. Increasing the quality of education results in a growing economy, lowers income inequalities and decreases the risk of disease and violence. Without a basic education, South African children struggle to become members of the workforce, and as a result, cannot escape poverty. Education not only teaches basic skills such as reading and writing but helps to develop important qualities such as strong communication and social skills. Without this, it is difficult for children to become working members of society. Furthermore, education differences between the poor and the rich as well as males and females, increases inequality, resulting in poor systems that cannot fix the underlying issues.

Partners for Possibility

Partners for Possibility is an example of a grassroots organization that works to fix the issues between South African poverty and education all while improving businesses in the United States. Business leaders from companies in the United States go overseas to South Africa for a 12-month program in which they teach principals and leaders of schools about leadership and engagement. By doing so, business professionals help to change the unstable and ineffective system of South African education, while simultaneously learning about poverty and culture in South Africa. The program has had extremely positive outcomes as education leaders, teachers and parents become more invested and engaged in the school system, which in turn, benefits the children.

South African poverty and education are strongly linked and this presents many issues for children. However, it is not an impossible mission to address and Partners for Possibility demonstrates the mutual return for U.S. businesses and South Africans that comes with finding these solutions.

– Alyssa Hogan
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Guatemala
Guatemala, with an ever-growing population of almost 18 million, is the most populous country in all of Central America. After 36 years of civil war, the country struggles to rebuild and combat poverty. Poverty is a prevalent and persistent issue in the land of the Maya. Unfortunately, Guatemala ranks in the top 50 poorest countries in the world with 56% of the population living below the poverty line. By and large, this disproportionately affects Guatemalan children, and specifically native children of the Maya, Garifuna and Xinca. Combined, these Native groups comprise over half of the entire population. Thus, aboriginal kids are the primary victims of extreme Guatemalan child poverty. Furthermore, it is important to understand what contributes to this cycle of child poverty in Guatemala, its effects and what the global community is doing to eradicate it.

Facts About Guatemalan Child Poverty

The consequences of child poverty in Guatemala are heavy. The cycle of poverty begins when a child is born and statistically follows them into adulthood. These facts demonstrate the effects of child poverty in Guatemala:

  • About 28% of Guatemalan children do not attend school and must work to help contribute to their family’s income. As a result, Guatemala has one of the highest child labor rates in the Americas.
  • Due to such scarcity in resources and money, almost one-half of young Guatemalan children are continuously undernourished.
  • Girls are especially vulnerable to the cycle of poverty due to their familial situations. This stems from child marriage and the overwhelming growth of families. Thus, the larger the family, the harder the struggle to stay above the poverty line.

With these facts in mind, it is important to note that many global forces are working to end Guatemalan child poverty and impoverishment as a whole in the country.

How to Help End Guatemalan Child Poverty

There are many ways to end child poverty in Guatemala. One of these is education. In fact, a study by the World Bank stated that “education plays a crucial role in combatting chronic poverty and preventing transmission of deprivation between generations.” Intervening in education is not only a vital need for individual children but also for their families and society at large. A leader in the fight against child poverty in Guatemala is Save the Children.

Save the Children

Since 1999, Save the Children has been a leading charity organization in Guatemala. The organization works to aid poor, indigenous families living in rural areas of the country by providing education, protection and peace-building programs.

The organization’s Literacy, Education and Nutrition for Sustainability (LENS) program provides the following:

  • Encourages and strengthens reading skills
  • Promotes healthy behaviors and best practices
  • Provides well-balanced school food programs
  • Improves school facilities
  • Focuses and educates communities on water and sanitation techniques
  • Teaches the skills necessary for livestock management and production

With the help of donations, volunteers and spreading awareness, Save the Children provides the necessary education and skills to help kids sustain a liveable income. In turn, results show that proper schooling enables access to better employment and higher wages.

Overall, the country has felt the organization’s impact. The nonprofit’s work to give Guatemalan children the opportunity to have a successful life through education, protection and overall aid has shown great progress. Save the Children has provided safety for 9,000 kids and helped more than 30,000 children in crisis. It has also provided help to overcome poverty to more than 65,000 kids.

By and large, the fight to end child poverty in Guatemala continues to progress. There are many avenues in which one can involve themself and help make a difference. One kind act such as a donation can change the lives of many.

– Sallie Blackmon
Photo: Flickr

Literacy in TuvaluThe World Bank has awarded a grant to improve early childhood development and literacy in Tuvalu. The grant will help Tuvalu provide a better educational infrastructure for its citizens, while also preserving aspects of Tuvaluan culture. There are only 198 teachers on the island leading to a high ratio of pupils to teachers at 18:1. The scarcity of educators creates a disadvantage for students whose one-on-one time with teachers is crucial to their development.

Tuvalu’s Educational System

Tuvalu became independent from Britain in 1978; Tuvalu’s colonial past has greatly influenced the country’s modern society and culture. For instance, although both Tuvaluan and English are the official languages of Tuvalu, many schools only teach in English. The current system may cause the next generation to forget their native language. Consequently, some citizens worry the current educational system may lead to the disappearance of the Tuvaluan language altogether. 

The World Bank initiative will foster more teacher training and activities for children. Moreover, The Tuvalu Learning Project will aid communities in educating the population on the importance of health and physical activity in early childhood.

The Tuvalu Reading Program

The World Bank believes that early reading is critical to ensure a promising future and build a better society. This mission is addressed by the Tuvalu Reading Program, which teaches students to read in Tuvaluan. The curriculum introduces students to new reading material and relies on teacher-led lectures. The program exposes students to a robust curriculum and assesses them on what they have learned.

The Tuvalu Learning Project and Reading Program expand on existing initiatives, including the Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning Project (PEARL), which was initiated in 2014. The Tuvalu Reading Project enhances PEARL by focusing on Tuvaluan children and preserving their native language. 

Helping the Tuvaluan Community

The World Bank will direct additional funds toward increasing community access to education overall. For example, schools located in outer-island regions will recieve funding to increase their internet connectivity. Better internet in these areas will increase students’ access to valuable educational tools and improve their communication with teachers. Furthermore, The Tuvalu Learning Project also hopes to add more school activities that benefit students through the availability of technology. 

The World Banks’ contribution of $14 million is estimated to benefit 10 thousand people on the island. New job opportunities from the program will extend to teachers, community leaders, and the department of education.  In Tuvalu, 26.3% of people live below the poverty line. For this reason, the expanded education sector can create more opportunities, increase literacy in Tuvalu, and eventually raise the country’s overall standard of living. 

Sarah Litchney
Photo: Wikimedia

Technology to promote literacy

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is an independent state comprised of about 600 small islands, that also shares a land border with Indonesia. PNG uses technology to promote literacy in a number of ways. PNG broke off from Australia in 1975 but still receives substantial economic, geographical and educational gains from the country. However, the Australian government reports that in spite of their economic growth and middle-income country status (due to agricultural and mineral wealth), “PNG’s social indicators are among the worst in the Asia Pacific. Approximately 85 percent of PNG’s mainly rural population is poor and an estimated 18 percent of people are extremely poor.”

The World Bank details that PNG also faces a “vexing” situation regarding their remoteness and number of languages. Communities in PNG are very closed off from one another and land travel is strenuous. PNG has 563 airports and air travel has proven to be the common way to get from one place to another. At over 800 languages, PNG is recognized as “the most linguistically diverse country in the world.” As a result of these two factors, PNG’s education system faces a variety of challenges. PNG was ranked 153 on the Human Development Index in 2017, and its adult literacy rate was reported to be 63.4 percent in 2015. Australian Aid and the Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) cooperated to produce The SMS Story research project, a way to use technology to promote literacy.

The goal of the SMS Story Research Project was to ascertain whether daily text message stories and lessons would improve the reading ability of children in grades 1 and 2 in Papua New Guinea. The text messages were sent to elementary school teachers in the Madang Province and Simbu Province using a free, open-source software program called Frontline SMS. The project was a controlled trial with two groups, one group of teachers received the message and the other did not. About 2500 students were evaluated before and after the trial. Using statistical testing, it was determined that the reading ability of the group who received text messages was higher than that of the group that did not.

It was found that the schools participating in the study had little to no reading books in the classroom and that students in groups without an SMS story were “twice as likely to be unable to read a single word of three sub-tests (decodable words, sight words and oral reading).” It seemed that many classrooms in PNG did not provide easy access to reading materials or proper reading lessons.

Amanda Watson, a researcher involved with the project stated that the SMS stories were helpful to the teachers as well. She says, “The teachers actually received almost like a reminder to teach, a bit of a motivator to keep teaching and they received that every single day and we think that really helped them to realize that they’re supposed to be teaching reading every single day, five days a week.” This suggests that before the trial, some of the teachers may not have promoted reading as much as they should have, either due to lack of access to materials or not realizing its importance.

Daniel A. Wagner, of the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues, detail the importance of using technology to promote literacy in countries with minimal access to education or educational materials in their paper, “Mobiles for Literacy in Developing Countries: An Effectiveness Framework”. He underlines the importance of promoting literacy through information and communications technologies (ICTs) in today’s world where there are “more connected mobile devices than people” and provides several examples of organizations that are working towards increasing literacy through ICTs.

The Bridges to the Future Initiative (BFI) is run in South Africa by the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy. They aim to “improve literacy through interactive, computer-based lessons” created by the University of Pennsylvania’s International Literacy Institute (ILI). They provide access to educational materials and issue students with “mother-tongue resources” in regions where computer sources or books are mostly in English. Comparably, Ustad Mobile is an application in Afghanistan that runs offline on phones. They center around instructing reading comprehension, listening, and numeracy. Teachers and students can download and share lessons; the app also includes exercises, videos and interactive quizzes in order to “mobilize education for all”.

BBC Janala is another project using technology to promote literacy in Bangladesh. It is a multi-platform service and can be accessed through TV, internet, print and mobile phones. BBC Janala concentrates on teaching English through three-minute audio lessons, quizzes, TV shows, newspapers, textbooks and CDs.

Illiteracy is an issue in Papua New Guinea; most likely due to the lack of reading materials and importance placed on literacy. However projects like, “The SMS Story” are all over the world and are working towards using technology to promote literacy one step at a time.

Jade Thompson
Photo: Flickr

the urban-rural poverty gap in morocco

Though Morocco’s economic and political status has improved as a result of King Muhammad VI’s reign, the North African nation remains impoverished. Specifically, the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco is one of the nation’s most complex issues. Morocco’s larger cities, namely Casablanca and Rabat, are evolving into flourishing economic centers, attracting companies and tourists from around the world. Simultaneously, Morocco’s rural and agrarian communities–the Amazigh people–have found themselves stuck living with little access to modern commodities.

A First-Hand Account

Sophie Boyd, an undergraduate student majoring in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Colgate University, studied abroad in Rabat last summer. Boyd provided the Borgen Project some insight into the poverty situation in the North African nation. “There was a huge disparity between the living conditions of Moroccans in cities compared to the rural Amazigh villages we visited,” Boyd said. “You could be wandering around the enormous shopping mall in Casablanca and still only be an hour drive away from people who live with almost no electricity. This extreme gap was unfortunate to see and these neglected and impoverished people desperately need more accessible resources and aid.”

The Amazigh People

Unfortunately, Boyd’s observations were fairly accurate and realistic, as Morocco’s Amazigh population has faced hardship and poverty for decades. Though there are about 19 million Amazigh people living in Morocco, which makes up approximately 52 percent of the nation’s population. Their language, known as Tamazight, was not even recognized as an official language of Morocco until 2011. Not only do the Amazigh people who occupy these rural communities not have adequate means to subsist on, but they had also lost their representative voice in the Moroccan government until recently.

Urban Gains

A 2017 study conducted by the World Bank and the Morocco High Commission for Planning found that poverty was actually decreasing at a much faster rate in urban areas than in rural communities. This makes sense considering there is more room for economic growth and consumption in urban centers. Still, this phenomenon contributes to the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco and creates an even more drastic inequality between rural and urban communities.

Poverty Rising

Another aspect of the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco that has continued to develop over time is the concept of subjective poverty. The subjective poverty rate refers to the percentage of people, in this case, Moroccans, who consider themselves to be poor or impoverished. The aforementioned World Bank study found that from 2007 to 2014, the subjective poverty rate in rural areas increased from 15 percent to 54 percent. This drastic increase can be partially attributed to the recent economic growth in urban areas. However, it may also have to do with the daily living conditions of the rural Amazigh communities. For example, CIA World Factbook states that only 68.5 percent of Moroccans are literate. This can make life for rural people trying to emerge from poverty increasingly difficult, compounding with other factors such as the infertile, arid land.

A Hopeful Future, Still

The Moroccan government has made it a point to address the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco. The nation has already demonstrated its interest in resolving this gap through initiatives such as the National Initiative for Human Development Support Project, a plan launched in 2005 to try and close the poverty gap. Morocco will have to continue to work toward better living conditions in its rural communities. If the nation can fix issues like illiteracy and decrease the subjective poverty rate, then it will be well on its way toward closing the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco.

Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

Women empowerment and employment in India
India has certainly made substantial progress in recent decades, but the country has a long way to go when it comes to women empowerment. According to a World Bank report, India ranks 120th among 131 nations in women workforce. Improving women empowerment and employment in India are very important steps in achieving a poverty-free country.

Education

India ranks 38th among the 51 developing countries in female literacy rates. Forty eight percent of females in India have attended till 5th standard, out of which only 15 percent of females who attended second standard are literate.

India falls short in female literacy rates in comparison to neighboring states like Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh; fortunately, though, the government is taking significant actions. To provide better education for the women, especially for the tagged “below poverty-level” families, the government has made concession packages on free books, uniforms, clothing and midday meals.

An article from the a 2016 Economic Times article states that “32 educational institutes have been built in villages of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu.” Things cannot change in one go, but efforts are being made to increase women literacy rates, which are crucial to women empowerment and employment in India.

Domestic Violence

India is not the only nation with frequent stories of domestic violence — it happens all around the world. The only feature that sets India apart from other countries is that most women in India suffer in silence. According to a study done by ICRW, 52 percent of women have experienced violence in their entire lifetime, and 60 percent of men admitted acting violently against their partners.

The rate of reported incidents have increased in 2013 than 2003 and reporting is higher in areas where women are more educated and vocal. Varsha Sharma, senior police officer in Crime Against Women cell in Delhi said, “it’s a good thing that the number of cases is consistently rising because it means that women are refusing to suffer in silence.”

Employment

The Labor Force participation rate has declined from 42 percent (1993-94) to 31 percent (2011-12). Nearly 20 million Indian women quit work between 2011/12 and May 2014. The predictable reasons for this occurrence have always been patriarchy, marriage, motherhood, late nighttime schedules and security.

The female participation rates have been dropping since 2005, despite having 42 percent of women graduates per graduating cycle. As article from Hindustan Times says, “Women want to work but there are not enough jobs being created.”

According to BBC news, another possible reason for this drop in employment could be the recent expansion of secondary education; that is, women opting to continue studies rather than join work. At the same time, getting a higher education also does not ensure that women will eventually go to work.

Ela Bhatt, Indian Co-operative organizer and activist, states a very important fact: “Employment is empowering. It helps women to develop their identity and when they become organized they build up courage and confidence to talk to the police, the courts, banks or their husbands as equals.”

Gender Equality

India ranks fifth among all the nations in regard to skewed ratio of girls to boys. Gender discrimination begins at a very young age and starts, in fact, right from the beginning because of cultural preference for having a son rather than a daughter.

USAID, India and its partners are promoting programs of gender equality in the fields of food security, clean energy and environment, education, sanitation and health care. The outcome of these efforts was that 2.5 million girls and boys received equal attention and opportunity in classrooms.

India may be significantly behind in growth prospects with two thirds of women not working, so improving women empowerment and employment in India is very important to acquiring a more prosperous nation.

– Shweta Roy
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