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Female Genital Mutilation in Guinea-BissauFemale genital mutilation in Guinea-Bissau, also known as FGM, is the complete removal of the female external genitalia. It is a traditional cultural practice that young girls and women in Guinea-Bissau suffer. More than 400,000 girls and women have experienced an FGM procedure within Guinea-Bissau. If the practice of FGM does not end, half of the females in Guinea-Bissau will, unfortunately, experience FGM by the year 2030.

FGM is supposed to “guarantee” a female’s virginity and fidelity after marriage. Certain communities conduct FGM to elevate the sexual pleasure of men. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), communities view FGM as “a necessary part of raising a girl and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage.” The unnecessary procedure of FGM violates women and can impact their entire lives.

About FGM in Guinea-Bissau

Women in Guinea-Bissau have experienced torture and mistreatment for decades. If a female refuses to undergo FGM in Guinea-Bissau, those within her town may harass her and she will most likely have trouble finding a husband. The percentage of FGM procedures in Guinea-Bissau during the year 2014 was 44.9%. However, from the year 2014 to 2018-2019, the percentage increased to 52.1%. Due to the fact that many cases of FGM occur in girls from infancy to age 15, Guinea-Bissau has seen an increase in sexual and reproductive services.

Types of FGM in Guinea-Bissau

Furthermore, female genital mutilation in Guinea-Bissau consists of four different types of procedures. Additionally, many of the procedures occur with no anesthesia whatsoever. The main two that practitioners use in Guinea-Bissau are Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 involves the partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce, whereas Type 2 comprises partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora.

After females experience FGM, they have to remain immobilized from hip to ankle for 40 days to allow for healing after the surgery. According to the Journal of Medical Ethics, “Several studies have indicated that many girls are subjected to FGM several times, particularly if the members of the family or their social network are not satisfied with the result of the first procedure.”

An uproar has occurred due to the fact that unnecessary FGM procedures are happening across rural and eastern parts of Guinea-Bissau. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), “In several countries, harmful practices meant to control women’s sexuality have led to great suffering. Among them is the practice of female genital cutting, which is a violation of basic rights and a major lifelong risk to women’s health.” Several long-term risks of FGM are difficulty during childbirth, sexual dysfunction and psychological effects.

Plan International

Since about 52% of females have undergone Type 1 or Type 2 FGM, more than a handful of people are speaking about FGM’s harm. For instance, some sections of Guinea-Bissau are addressing and doing public proclamations to stop FGM. In addition, the girls and women who have endured the procedure are encouraged to use their experience to educate others on the dangers of FGM so that the practice can come to a complete end.

An organization that seeks to advocate for those who have undergone FGM is called Plan International. This organization is fighting for women’s rights and has partnered with Nickelodeon and The Body Shop to raise awareness and take action about the FGM issue. A 52-year-old woman named Siren from Guinea-Bissau shared her story with Plan International to inform and educate others about her experience and how she overcame FGM.

Plan International is working with community leaders in Guinea-Bissau like Sawandim Sawo, who performed FGM for 18 years before Plan International informed her of the dangers of the practice. As a result, Sawo joined Plan International to raise awareness by speaking to men, women and children. Plan International encourages girls to raise awareness about FGM in their communities by performing songs and creating poetry and drawings.

Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP)

In addition, Tostan is a human rights organization that emerged in 1991 to educate African-Americans who had little to no schooling. Tostan began advocating for an end to FGM through the Community Empowerment Program (CEP) in Guinea-Bissau in 2008. CEP allows people to share human rights knowledge and connect with others through the program. More than 8,000 communities, including some in Guinea-Bissau, have decided to abandon the FGM practice as a result of CEP’s efforts.

Often, practitioners use unsterilized scissors, razors or even a piece of glass to perform FGM procedures. Additionally, they frequently use the same tools on dozens of girls on the same day. Due to this course of action, a significant percentage of HIV transmission occurs as a result of FGM surgeries. Approximately 5.3% of the women’s population in Guinea-Bissau are living with HIV.

The practice of FGM is a violation of women’s rights and human rights. However, organizations such as Plan International and Tostan are raising awareness and speaking to communities about female genital mutilation in Guinea-Bissau. Such efforts can educate and inform people in Guinea-Bissau about FGM and how to eradicate it.

– Carolina Reyes
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in KenyaPeriod poverty in Kenya, or poor access to menstrual hygiene facilities, products and education, marginalizes women. In the year 2016, “a report funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation” noted that about half of Kenyan girls could not openly talk about menstruation due to a negative societal response to the topic. However, organizations and initiatives aim to combat menstrual stigma and fight period poverty in Kenya.

5 Solutions to Fight Period Poverty in Kenya

  1. Increasing Access to Sanitary Products. To fight period poverty in Kenya, it is important to ensure free or affordable access to sanitary products for all young girls. Access to menstrual products can keep girls in school, which will reduce the disproportionate dropout rates between boys and girls when transitioning into high school. In May 2021, a Kenyan citizen filed a petition to have the Kenyan government provide sanitary products in schools for free.
  2. Proper Policy Implementation. The government must properly implement policies that aim to combat period poverty. In 2017, the government of Kenya passed a law that would have seen all girls receive sanitary products for free while enrolled in school, but this law was not properly implemented. In addition, the government, where possible, must allocate more state funds to ensure more girls can access sanitary products regardless of economic status.
  3. Private Sector Involvement. Procter & Gamble, the company that produces the Always menstrual brand, created the Always Keeping Girls in School program to address period poverty in African countries. Since 2008, this program has donated more than 13 million pads to more than 200,000 girls in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Similarly, Bayer employees have shown initiative by providing free menstrual cups to girls in Kenya. Involving the private sector in the fight against period poverty would also help the Kenyan government implement its policies better.
  4. More Education Initiatives. Innovative programs focused on key populations have emerged to fight period poverty in Kenya. For example, the United Nations Population Fund partnered with a grassroots organization called This-Ability Trust, which has been providing menstrual education to those with disabilities. Puberty education is also crucial. Currently, only about 50% of girls are willing to openly discuss menstrual health matters in family settings. Breaking the silence by educating pubescent teens and adolescents on the importance of menstrual health will encourage them to approach their teachers, parents and guardians for further guidance.
  5. Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Lastly, aid is needed to help Kenya recover from the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic, which had indirect effects on period poverty. Quarantine measures in Kenya meant that women and girls could not access health services that provide sanitary products for free. Economic stresses also meant girls and women could not afford sanitary products. Organizations like Plan International have been able to lend a helping hand to girls who live in slums. Plan International distributed almost 3,000 sanitary products to women in Kenya’s Kibera slum in partnership with the Kenyan organization ZanaAfrica. Since 65% of women and girls in Kenya are unable to access sanitary products due to economic reasons, these humanitarian efforts help fight period poverty in Kenya.

Looking to the Future

By focusing on such solutions to fight period poverty in Kenya, the Kenyan government and nonprofit organizations can empower and uplift impoverished Kenyan women. Reducing period poverty in Kenya ensures that the lives of girls and women are not disrupted simply due to the inability to afford menstrual products.

– Frank Odhiambo
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Female Genital Mutilation in Sudan
In Sudan, authorities have declared that they will ban female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, a monumental push forward for girls and women’s rights. Sudan will adopt the eradication of child marriage into all articles of the African charter on the rights and welfare of a child, reported The Guardian. Sudan’s authorities hope that these new additions allow for more protection for Sudan children. Here is some information about FGM in Sudan.

FGM in Sudan

Female genital mutilation involves the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia for non-medical reasons. Different types of FGM procedures exist, however, the core purpose is that it is a rite of passage into adulthood and a pre-requisite for marriage.

As of July 2020, laws in Sudan are making the practice of FGM punishable by up to three years in jail. By enforcing stricter laws against FGM, Sudanese government officials project a decline in FGM rituals. According to an in-depth analysis conducted by UNICEF in 2016, nearly two-thirds of circumcised women experienced FGM as early as ages 5 and 9 years and more than one-tenth of women married before 15 years of age.

Child Marriage in Sudan

People in Sudan commonly practice child marriage and about a third of Sudanese girls marry before the age of 18. Child brides are prevalent in Sudan due to several factors such as poverty, level of education and harmful traditional beliefs that younger girls are easier to socialize into obedience. Some Sudanese families believe they must marry off their daughters when they reach puberty to “protect” their chastity.

The Psychological Effects of Child Marriage and FGM

Child marriage and FGM can be detrimental to girls in Sudan as they can experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Sudanese girls are 23% more at risk of suffering from cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Child marriage can also often lead to domestic abuse due to a potential imbalance in the power dynamic. The inequality in power threatens young girls’ ability to negotiate contraception, risking frequent early pregnancies. As the Sudan government and world leaders fight to put an end to child marriage and FGM in Sudan, this could, in turn, decrease potential long-term damaging psychological and physical effects on vulnerable Sudanese girls and women.

Plan International

Plan International is one of the many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) helping to end gender-based violence amongst vulnerable children and young people in Sudan. Since 1977, Plan International has been working towards inspiring girls and young women of Sudan to reach their full potential instead of entering into a cycle of violence and poverty. Through advocacy, academic opportunity, leadership outreach and mentorship programs that address child marriage and gender-based violence, Plan International has been inspiring girls and young women to obtain new opportunities. Helping advance children’s rights and equality for girls through its programs and projects is how Plan International aims to aid in the fight to eliminate child marriage and female genital mutilation.

As a new era in girls’ and women’s rights is present in Sudan, the road is still full of challenges. The process of complete abolishment of these crimes against humanity might be extensive but world leaders have pledged that these crimes will no longer exist by 2030. Fortunately, the future looks promising as Sudan’s government officials begin to consider how to improve female’s living conditions.

 – Jessica Barile
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Australia
Period poverty in Australia impacts women and girls across the nation and has only worsened in the days since the coronavirus swept the globe. However, Australian authorities have noted this issue, and have taken action to alleviate some of the hardship for women in need.

Period Poverty for Young Girls

Women’s Agenda Australia, a small team composed of reputable, all-female journalists reporting on gender equality issues in their country, defines period poverty as “the inability to purchase sanitary products [that] presents a significant obstacle to health, comfort, and engagement with school and community activities.” The publication released an article regarding period poverty’s effect on young girls; the women they feature have to deal without necessary sanitary products, all while trying to navigate the high school experience, which is difficult in its own right no matter the resources a student may have.

Though research about period poverty in these scenarios is rather limited in terms of the scale of the problem in educational institutions, administrators can vouch for the fact that poor menstrual management impacts the emotional and physical wellbeing of adolescents, thereby affecting attendance. Dr. Ruth Knight from The Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies expands on this issue, sharing that she has “been told girls use socks or rolled up toilet paper with underwear left on the floor or in bins while toilets are only accessible at certain times of the day. Unfortunately, what is a basic human right is often seen as a taboo topic.”

The Impact of the Coronavirus

The implications of COVID-19 worsened period poverty all across the globe, and Australia is not exempt from repercussions. As the nation put stay-at-home orders in place, components of the production process of feminine hygiene products ended up shut down due to the need to manufacture other sanitary products directly linked to slowing the spread of the virus. For example, the program manager of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Initiatives, or WASH, Australia, described how one of its partners, Plan International, an independent development and humanitarian organization working for children’s and women’s rights, experienced supply chain disruption reducing its ability to produce pads.

Though precautions against COVID-19 are of utmost importance, menstrual hygiene concerns persist and even worsen due to this newfound neglect. Plan International compiled a report titled “Periods in a Pandemic” to detail this issue and used evidence from directly impacted Australian civilians to illustrate their cause. One of the document’s quotations from a woman they identify as a “young Australian” reads, “Due to bulk buying it has been extremely hard to find any products at all, and when you do find them, they are quite expensive.”

Solutions

Australian authorities have not completely turned a blind eye to period poverty. As of January 2019, the list of Goods and Services Tax (GST) exempt products now includes tampons. The campaign to “axe the tax,” as original advocates for the movement touted, was made a reality through a unanimously approved deal amongst state and territory treasurers in Melbourne along with Federal Official Josh Frydenberg back in 2018. This game-changing decision occurred, despite the $30 million Australia lost in tax revenue as a repercussion. The unanimity of the push for the removal of the tax demonstrates that officials recognize the issue, even though it may not be on the radars of Australians at the local level (such as those of the people that could play a hand in stopping period poverty in schools).

Young girls face period poverty in Australia every day and often miss out on pieces of their education as a result. Though little research has occurred on period poverty in this sector of the nation’s population, adolescents are monitored in tandem with their access to schooling, through attendance, academic performance, and the like. Therefore, though the hardship that these young women face appears to be the worst part of the problem, women beyond school age likely face the same challenges, even though unmonitored. COVID-19 only worsened the issue, as priority went to sanitary products pertaining to the virus over those created for menstruation. Period poverty in Australia is on the radar of the nation’s authorities, however, as proven by the country’s abolition of the tax on tampons in 2019.

– Ava Roberts
Photo: Pexels

 

Period Poverty in Uganda
Uganda’s Ministry of Education reported that, as of 2019, nearly one in every four Ugandan girls between ages 12 to 18 will drop out of school once they begin menstruating. For those who do attend school, girls’ absence rates triple from 7% to 28% during their periods. Dropping out of school decreases their likelihood of escaping the cycle of poverty and increases their chances of early marriage and motherhood. Like many other international leaders, the Ugandan minister of higher education, John Chrysostom Muyingo, stresses the importance of girls’ school attendance, adding that this must include proper menstrual health practices. He articulates that period poverty in Uganda seriously jeopardizes Uganda’s likelihood of reaching many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially those which concern gender equality, education and health care.

Understanding Period Poverty in Uganda

The definition of period poverty is inadequate access to menstrual health care and sanitation, as well as the stigma and shame surrounding menstruation that prevents menstruating women from fully participating in society. Poverty, education and a lack of waste and sanitation management exacerbate the global problem of period poverty.

In 2015, the Ugandan government rolled out an initiative to work alongside NGOs and schools to improve access to menstrual care. However, reports indicate that Uganda’s school system has failed to improve these rates. Poor washing and hygiene facilities that make product removal and privacy difficult, as well as the embezzlement of funding for pads and sanitation infrastructure improvements, have hampered the initiative’s success. A profound stigma surrounding menstruation also exists as people often perceive it as dirty and a private matter. This makes educating girls and boys on the matter difficult without proper funding and insistence. Additionally, despite a 2017 tax removal on sanitation products, they still cost around $2 USD per package, unaffordable for those living in poverty.

Developing Sustainable Solutions

Fortunately, several organizations are working tirelessly to combat period poverty in Uganda. The Red Cross and AFRIpads, a local manufacturer, have partnered with the Ugandan government for the Keep a Girl in School Initiative to provide girls with sanitation products and educational services. AFRIpads’ reusable pads help tackle the problems of waste and affordability. The Binance Charity Foundation uses cryptocurrency donations to directly reach women in need to circumvent corruption within the school systems. To date, the organization has helped over 1,400 girls in Uganda pay for sanitation pads.

PLAN International has worked with schools in Torono, Uganda by adding doors to toilets for privacy and creating “menstrual hygiene management clubs.” Both girls and boys between the ages of 11 to 18 learn about periods and make reusable products for the girls to take home. The clubs use songs and other fun activities to create a positive culture surrounding menstruation, using roleplay to combat social norms. Educators have been highly supportive of this initiative and noticed a change in boys’ attitudes and support and girls’ attendance.

Men Making an Impact

This is not the only initiative that has stressed the role of men in creating supportive environments for girls’ health. One church in Mulatsi, Uganda, realized that period poverty was the biggest problem the community reported. One father, Milton, became motivated to improve the situation for his daughters but noted the high cost of pads. With a church organization, he and his community work to educate and make reusable pads, which cost only $1.50 USD and last an entire year. Other men judged Milton for his involvement in this but Milton has insisted that fathers must involve themselves in reducing period poverty in Uganda for their daughters’ sake. The project’s success inspired more churches to join the movement, which has educated 4,800 boys and girls about periods and proper feminine care.

The Ganda Boys are another male group supporting the cause. This group, made up of male musicians, has helped over 2,000 girls gain access to menstrual products using donations they received from their performances. After moving to the U.K., the men give back by working in refugee camps to improve menstrual hygiene education.

Period poverty in Uganda is far from being solved, and it presents a threat to Uganda’s SDGs. Yet, it has presented several opportunities for innovative solutions that can be learned from. While funding for supplies and sanitation improvements may come from all over the world, local communities are working to untangle deep-rooted stigmas. The inclusion of men and boys in educating about women’s and sexual health has contributed to the success of these projects. With continued government and INGO support, period poverty in Uganda can reduce, and more girls can continue their education.

Elizabeth Stankovits
Photo: Flickr

The Cost pf Ending PovertySeveral economists estimate that the cost of ending world poverty is around $175 billion. To the average person, this amount can seem like an unachievable goal to reach, therefore making any contribution futile. In other instances, some people prefer not to make direct donations to end poverty, in fear that their money is not being allocated efficiently.

Let’s consider a product that has had immense success despite its price often being called into question.

AirPods, similarly to most Apple products, have become a staple for many technology users. Chances are that you either know someone who owns a pair of AirPods or you own a pair yourself.

On different social media outlets like Twitter and TikTok, AirPods have turned into a meme in which the small product is often mocked for its big price. The first generation AirPods sold for an average of $149 per pair. On October 30, 2019, Apple launched AirPods Pro at a price of $249.

Apple sold over 60 million pairs of AirPods in 2019 and is projected to sell an estimated 90 million pairs in 2020. In 2019, AirPods generated an estimated revenue of $6 billion while the revenue in 2020 is expected to reach $15 billion.

Apple’s sales of AirPods in 2020 alone is eight percent of the yearly estimated cost of ending poverty. On a large scale, this percentage may seem like a small portion of what is needed to minimize this global issue. However, $250 on a smaller scale can go a long way to help.

6 Other Ways to Spend $250 that can Help End Global Poverty

  1. Sponsor a child – Many children from war-torn countries live as refugees in impoverished conditions. With a full $250 donation, UNICEF will be able to sponsor three refugee children for a lifetime. Through this donation, UNICEF can provide these children with access to clean drinking water, immunizations, education, health care and food supply.
  2. Buy a bed net – A bed net can help prevent the spread of malaria by creating a physical barrier between the person inside and the malaria-carrying mosquitos. The CDC Foundation’s net is an insecticide-treated net (ITN) which continues to create a barrier even if there are holes in it. Each net can protect up to three children and 50 nets can be provided with a $250 donation.
  3. Provide a community with bees – Bees pollinate around an average of a third of the food supply. Consequently, providing a community with a batch of bees could help local agriculture flourish. Additionally, these bees are often monitored by community-based youth programs that promote entrepreneurship. Through Plan International, seven different communities could benefit from a $250 donation.
  4. Register a child – By registering a child with a birth certificate, that child then has access to necessary human rights such as health care, education and inheritance. A birth certificate is also an essential part of protecting children from child marriage, human trafficking and forced labor. A $250 donation could register seven children for a record of existence.
  5. Buy a goat, baby chicks and a sheep for a familyGoat’s milk can provide children with protein that is essential for growth. Baby chicks can also produce nutritious eggs and the possibility to generate income. Sheep will yield milk, cheese and wool for a family. All of these animals will offer a family a continuous supply of living necessities. One of each animal can be given to a family through a $250 donation.
  6. Fund a community center – A $250 donation could go towards investing in the lives of youth in poverty by funding a community center. This donation goes towards building or modernizing youth centers in impoverished areas. A community center creates a space for health operations, play spots for children and technological hubs.

These are a few of the many effective ways to make a simple contribution to alleviating this global problem that costs no more than a set of AirPods.

Ending world poverty is not an easy task, nor is it inexpensive upon first glance. However, an individual can make a massive impact once the cost of ending poverty is put into perspective. A personal contribution to ending poverty can be as simple as making a donation for the same price as a pair of AirPods.

Camryn Anthony
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in MalawiChild marriage rates in Sub-Saharan Africa are the highest in the world, with an average of 35% of girls married before the age of 18. In the sub-Saharan nation of Malawi, the rate of child marriage in 2015 was the ninth highest worldwide. The widespread issue of child marriage in Malawi has impacted many young girls and their futures. One of the major contributors is widespread poverty. Over half of the Malawi population lives below the poverty line, causing girls to be married off in hopes of economic advancement. However, these marriages perpetuate the cycle of poverty in the nation as girls are unable to continue their education: 55% of girls in Malawi do not return to school after eighth grade. However, recent successes are working to end child marriage in Malawi.

Changes to Malawi’s Constitution

The Malawi government has been making strides against child marriages within the nation. In 2015, the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act raised the minimum marriage age from 15 to 18. Nevertheless, a loophole limited this law from fully eradicating child marriage by allowing children between the ages of 15 and 18 to get married as long as their parents gave consent.

Luckily, in February of 2017, the country’s government addressed this loophole. A vote ensued in the nation’s Parliament to pass a constitutional amendment banning child marriage in Malawi for those under the age of 18. The amendment passed unanimously, making child marriage officially illegal in the nation.

The Road to Change

In recent years, organizations around the world have shown increasing interest in eliminating child marriage in Malawi. For example, Plan International, an organization dedicated to advancing equality for children with a focus on girls, joined the movement by supporting Malawian youth groups that spoke up against child marriage.

The United Nations has also spoken out against this issue. U.N. Women Malawi engaged through lobbying efforts, holding consultations with different Malawian agencies about banning child marriage. The organization is continuing to support the ban by aiding in the law’s implementation.

Government Efforts

Local leadership and government have also proven a fighting force against child marriage. Many chiefs within the nation have created specific rules regarding child marriages for their communities. For example, Chief Kapolona of Machinga, Malawi has seen success as the number of child marriages in his community decreased from 10-15 a year to just two cases in 2017.

On the national level, the Malawian government has made commitments to ensure a complete ban on child marriages. For instance, the government has pledged to a United Nations Sustainable goal to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” Through this goal, the nation plans to eradicate all child marriage in Malawi by 2030. Malawi’s government also created the National Plan of Action to Combat Gender-Based Violence in Malawi. This document includes many smaller goals, all of which are designed to end child marriages.

Although Malawi has a robust history of child marriage, the nation has made drastic progress in eradicating the issue. Hope now exists for young girls across the country to escape poverty, finish their education and gain financial independence.

– Erica Burns
Photo: Flickr

School closures in Kenya
As a means to control the rampant virus that is COVID-19, Kenya closed all of its schools in March 2020. Although school closures in Kenya have occurred to maintain citizens’ safety, there are problems and concerns. George Magoha, Education Prime Minister of Kenya, stated that, due to schools closing just three months into the school year, students will be a year behind in their studies once school resumes in January 2021. The school closures could further marginalize certain children and families. Additionally, teenage pregnancy is another problem that learning at home could bring.

Further Marginalization of Kenyans

Once schools shut down worldwide, many students seamlessly transferred to online learning. This, however, was not the case for rural, remote areas in Kenya like Kajiado and Samburu county. According to the World Economic Forum, only 17% of Kenyan households had internet access as of 2016. With little to no access to internet connectivity and technology itself, online learning is nearly impossible. These children are at a strikingly harmful disadvantage in comparison to students residing in more urban areas, like Naibori country. Students in rural areas cannot academically progress like other students who have the means to learn online.

Not only are students with little internet access often behind, but school closures in Kenya also greatly impact refugee students. For many refugee students living in the Dadaab refugee complex, for example, going to school and receiving an education is their best opportunity for future success. Considering lower retention rates and even being a year behind, this success may prove to be more difficult to attain.

School closures in Kenya also place a heavy burden on parents and guardians. With little to no preparation for home-schooling, parents and guardians now have to teach their children. Little to no academic planning creates major problems with information retention, causing students to be even more behind in school.

Teen Pregnancies

Only 10% of teenage girls who leave school ever go back. Due to the virus, young girls cannot attend school, thus potentially lowering this percentage even more. The longer teenage girls are out of school, the worse the consequences may be for their futures. One example is teen pregnancies.

According to a Kenya government-administered health survey, teen pregnancies are rapidly increasing. As of 2015, Kenya had the largest number of teen pregnancies in East Africa. According to Plan International, “98% of pregnant girls were not in school, and 59% of the pregnancies among girls aged 15-19 years were unintended.” Prior to the pandemic, education and resources for young teenagers were not readily available for many. Now, those resources are even more difficult to receive.

Moreover, going to school every day was an escape for teenage girls from predatory family members in the home. With school closures in Kenya, young women do not have the protection from family members and neighbors that their schools provided. Sexual violence in Kenya affects about 33% of girls; due to school closures, this number may rise.

Solutions

Although many students do not have access to necessary resources, learning by the radio has been a very helpful resource for both Kenyan and refugee students. For the 100,000 students who reside in the Dadaab refugee complex, radio lessons have been able to reach all 22 of the complex’s schools. This allows refugee students to continue their education, thus, continuing their mobilization in society.

To promote the health and safety of all Kenyans, UNICEF delivered many basic needs to Kibera in April 2020. Kibera is the largest informal settlement in Africa where nearly 1 million individuals live on less than a dollar a day, according to UNICEF. The delivered supplies included 26,000 bars of soap and 100 disinfectant sprayers for the Nairobi City Government’s use in public spaces. Aid like this keeps Kenyans safe and should later create safer conditions for schools in Kenya.

School closures in Kenya have created countless problems and concerns for its citizens. With delayed schooling, lack of necessary technology and the potential of increased teenage pregnancies, the effects of school closures in Kenya may persist for years to come. However, organizations like UNICEF are working to provide compulsory resources, like proper education.

– Anna Hoban
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in Sudan
Sudan is one of the poorest developing countries in the world with over 40% of its citizens living below the poverty line. Poverty in Sudan results from a combination of factors ranging from the country’s location in the Sahara desert to rampant government corruption.

The History of Poverty in Sudan

Around 80% of the country’s rural population relies on subsistence agriculture. However, due to inconsistent rainfall and a lack of conservation measures, many of these vulnerable populations end up landless and jobless due to desertification and flooding. As a result of these conditions, more than 2.7 million children are acutely malnourished. Further, estimates determine that 5.8 million people in Sudan are food insecure.

Additionally, since its independence in 1956, Sudan has faced continued political unrest. The dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir banned nongovernmental organizations, which inhibited humanitarian assistance and led to the persecution of the Christian minority in the country. Although circumstances looked hopeful in 2019 as a result of the overthrow of Omar Hassan al-Bashir and the shift of Sudan into a transitional democratic government, the scars of Bashir’s 30-year regime remain. Sudan still faces an economic crisis due to the loss of two-thirds of its oil revenues with the succession of South Sudan during Bashir’s rule. Additionally, Sudan has over 2 million internally displaced people.

These conditions have left Sudan in a humanitarian crisis. However, many organizations are combatting the issues and providing relief to the Sudanese people. Here are five organizations fighting poverty in Sudan.

5 Organizations Fighting Poverty in Sudan

  1. UNICEF Sudan: Around 65% of the Sudanese population is under 25 years old, and UNICEF Sudan is the leading agency dedicated to providing long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to these vulnerable children and adolescents across the country. The organization has allocated an aggregate budget of $47,125,000 from regular resources and $193,925,000 in other resources to Sudan’s country program from 2018 to 2021. UNICEF Sudan established its Policy, Evidence and Social Protection program to help strengthen the national and local governmental agencies in Sudan by redistributing budget allocations to improve holistic conditions for children in aspects ranging from health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education and social protection. One of UNICEF Sudan’s objectives in 2020 is to provide treatment for 300,000 children between the ages of 6 to 59 months who experience severe acute malnutrition.
  2. The World Food Programme (WFP): The World Food Programme works to improve conditions in Sudan by providing food, economic resources and educational programs to the Sudanese people experiencing continuous internal conflicts. In 2019, the organization implemented a four-tier plan that will last until 2023 and aims to respond to imminent emergencies and other persistent issues such as malnutrition, food insecurity and lack of access to humanitarian resources. In 2019, there were 3,810,110 beneficiaries of the program. The program also delivered 153,698 mt of food to the country. The World Programme is currently working to install a solar power plant to reduce carbon emissions in Sudan.
  3. Save the Children: Save the Children began its work in Sudan in 1984. This organization aims to help displaced women, children and families by providing assistance in the areas of education, health and related programs. Although Bashir’s rule in 2009 revoked Save the Children U.S., its partnership with Save the Children Sweden and the help of donations and sponsors allowed this organization to continue to affect change by protecting 38,342 children from harm and providing 185, 009 children vital nourishment.
  4. Mercy Corps: Mercy Corps began humanitarian and development assistance in Sudan in 2004. It operates primarily in the South Darfur and South Kordofan states to provide resources for food, health care, education and other humanitarian efforts. In addition, Mercy Corps also helps Sudan manage conflict and disasters with the hope of providing long-term stability and resourcefulness to the Sudanese people. Specifically, Mercy Corps hopes to maintain stability through its establishment of 10 community-based organizations that provide emergency preparedness, response and coordination in South Kordofan states. Mercy Corps has impacted hundreds of thousands of Sudanese people to date by providing clean drinking water to 265,000 individuals and assisting 23,000 local farmers.
  5. Plan International: Plan International has provided humanitarian relief to Sudanese women and children since 1977. Plan Sudan focuses on the following program areas: children’s health, water and sanitation; hygiene; learning for life and economic security. One can see the success of its efforts through its sponsorship of 31,419 Sudanese children.

Though the country requires a lot more work to eliminate poverty in Sudan, these organizations provide hope for its people. Through continued efforts, hopefully, Sudan will overcome the systemic poverty and internal corruption that has long plagued the country.

– Kira Lucas
Photo: Flickr

Gender inequality in Somalia

COVID-19 is deepening gender inequality in Somalia, as girls and women are increasingly losing autonomy over their bodies and the ability to plan for families themselves. It is projected that there will be an increase in female genital mutilation (FGM) and childhood marriages. The international community has a responsibility to intervene in Somalia to protect the human rights of girls and women.

Female Genital Mutilation

The COVID-19 lockdown in Somalia has led to a rapid increase in Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Somali parents have taken advantage of school closures as a result of COVID-19, asking nurses to perform FGM on their daughters now because they have time to stay at home and recover.

Circumcisers are traveling neighborhoods offering to cut girls who are at home, causing a dramatic increase in FGM procedures. Sadia Allin, Plan International’s head of mission in Somalia stated, “the cutters have been knocking on doors, including mine, asking if there are young girls they can cut.

COVID-19 prevention measures are perpetuating the continuation of FGM and consequently gender inequality in Somalia. In 2020, at least 290,000 girls in Somalia will undergo FGM, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Somalian citizens are unable to raise awareness about the dangers of FGM in their local communities because of the ongoing lockdown.

Child Marriage

Child marriages are also projected to increase as a result of COVID-19. Families are more likely to marry off their daughters during stressful crises to reduce the number of people they must provide for. It is expected that the economic fallout of the pandemic will result in 13 million child marriages by 2030.

The closure of Somalian schools because of COVID-19 could also escalate the number of child marriages. Girls Not Brides chief executive Faith Mwangi-Powell stated, “Schools protect girls. When schools shut, the risks (of marriage) become very heightened.”

Efforts to Stop Gender Inequality

International organizations, such as Girls Not Brides, Plan International and Save the Children, are taking a stance to protect vulnerable women and girls in Somalia.

In April, Girls Not Brides wrote a letter to the African Union, urging the group to take a stance against gender inequality. Girls Not Brides explained ways that the African Union can protect vulnerable communities during COVID-19. These steps include training educators to recognize and prevent violence, protecting social sector spending and adopting distance learning solutions, among many others.

Plan International is demanding that sexual and reproductive health information and services that prevent and respond to harmful practices, such as FGM, should be an integral part of the COVID-19 response. The organization also advocates that girls and young women should be included in the conversation to ensure their voices are heard and their needs are met. Plan International strives to end FGM so that women and girls can make their own decisions regarding their sexual reproductive health and well-being. Its work is extremely important because FGM can cause a variety of short-term and long-term health risks. Girls and women who undergo FGM are likely to experience excessive bleeding, genital tissue swelling and infections.

Save the Children is a humanitarian organization for children around the world. The organization launched the “Save our Education” campaign to promote distance learning and to encourage investment in education systems for the future.

Somali girls who do not return to school will grow more vulnerable to the effects of gender inequality as described above. The World Bank discovered that “each year of secondary education may reduce the likelihood of marrying before the age of 18 by five percentage points or more in many countries.”

Organizations such as Girls Not Brides, Plan International and Save the Children are trailblazers for the eradication of FGM and discontinuation of unwanted pregnancies and child marriages in Somalia during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are paving the way to decrease gender inequality in Somalia.

Danielle Piccoli
Photo: Flickr