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Mental Health in GabonIn the heart of Libreville, Gabon, the pulse of urbanization beats ceaselessly, creating a maze where individuals navigate the balance between tradition and modernity. The sounds of daily life, from the crowded markets to the congested streets, amplify the challenges of adapting to the rapid changes associated with contemporary living.

The pressures of modernity are real, as traditional values do not mix with the need for progress. For many, the struggle to find an equilibrium between the familiar echoes of cultural heritage and the ever-changing demands of the present creates a unique set of stressors. The forces that drive societal evolution — the surge of technology, the pursuit of economic prosperity and the appeal of a sophisticated lifestyle — become catalysts for mental health concerns.

Furthermore, urbanization deepens the complexity of mental health challenges in Gabon by eroding communal bonds. In a city where the pace of life often outstrips the time available for social connections, feelings of isolation can intensify. The once-strong support networks rooted in communal living may break down as the cityscape reshapes dynamics between residents, contributing to a sense of separation that becomes a burden for many.

Challenges of Mental Health That Undermine Solutions

Access to mental health services remains a significant issue, particularly in rural areas where resources are scarce, adding to the burden for those in need. Traditional beliefs, deeply rooted in Gabonese culture, come into conflict with modern perspectives on mental health, delaying necessary interventions. Economic strain, youth pressures and the disruptive effects of urbanization further compound the challenges, creating complexities for mental health challenges in Gabon. These challenges pose a tough barrier when seeking solutions. Bridging the urban-rural divide, dismantling cultural stigmas and fostering mental health awareness requires a comprehensive approach. As Gabon strives for progress, addressing the layers of mental health challenges becomes critical to ensure the well-being of its residents.

Mental Health Challenges From Rural Gabon

Beyond the pulsating urban heartbeat of Libreville, rural Gabon tells a story of unique mental health challenges. In these remote corners, the issue of unaddressed mental health issues weighs heavily on residents. The absence of readily available professionals, coupled with insufficient awareness about mental health, fosters an environment where struggles often go unnoticed. The modern standard of mental well-being becomes one of perseverance rather than active support, contributing to a cycle of silent suffering.

A Holistic Solution

Breaking down deeply rooted cultural stigmas surrounding mental health becomes vital in fostering an environment where individuals feel strong enough to seek help without fear of judgment. Educational campaigns aimed at dismissing misinformation, conducted at both community and national levels, can play a pivotal role in reshaping perceptions and normalizing conversations about mental health.

Establishing accessible mental health services involves increasing the number of available mental health professionals and locating services to reach both urban and rural areas. Telehealth solutions, community outreach programs and partnerships with local organizations can extend the reach of mental health services. This will ensure that every Gabonese citizen, regardless of their geographical location, has access to the support they need.

Conclusion

According to a Gabonese proverb, “Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it entirely.” This ancient wisdom holds a contemporary truth—addressing mental health in Gabon requires a collective embrace of understanding, support and empathy. As the nation paints its future on the canvas of progress, let it recognize the importance of nurturing the minds that shape its destiny.

– Mahima Bhat
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in GabonNew legislation in Gabon provides women with more rights and reduces gender inequalities. In recent years, women’s rights in Gabon improved drastically; however, there is still room for more progress. The following is a brief look into everything about women’s rights in the country.

Historical Discrimination

Historically, Gabon is a country with limited women’s rights. Gabonese women experience inequalities in marriages, such as husbands having control of their wives’ ability to work and women not being allowed to have their own bank accounts. Women also faced gender-based discrimination in financial services, and this made it difficult for them to access credit. Although domestic violence is illegal, it is still prevalent, and authorities rarely intervene to stop it. Female domestic workers often face sexual harassment with minimal resources to obtain legal support.

Gabonese women disproportionately suffer from poverty compared to their Gabonese male counterparts. According to the United Nations Women Count for Gabon, 3% of employed women in Gabon live below the international poverty line compared to 1.3% of employed men. Additionally, 28.5% of women in Gabon above the age of 15 are unemployed, which is 14.1% higher than the unemployment rate for men.

Progress for Women’s Rights

In recent years, lawmakers made several legislative strides to improve women’s rights in Gabon. In 2021, Gabon passed new legislation to prevent discrimination against women in the economy and financial institutions and decrease violence against women.

The Gabonese government also changed laws concerning marital rights. In the past, the government required women to get the permission of their husbands to administer marital assets. With the passing of these new shared marital assets laws, women now have equal rights to administer those assets. Women can also open bank accounts separate from their husbands, own property and be the official heads of their households.

Barriers Against Women in Gabon

According to the U.S. State Department’s 2022 Human Rights Report for Gabon, societal barriers prevent women from reporting sexual assault and rape. Although the law criminalizes rape, victims are typically unwilling to testify. Researchers found that almost half of Gabonese women experienced domestic violence. A women’s advocacy NGO found rape remains a prevalent problem in Gabon, with societal disapproval discouraging discussions about it, leading victims to often refrain from reporting incidents due to fear of retaliation or humiliation.

Women and girls in poverty continue to endure exploitation in various areas, including restaurants, servitude and the commercial sex trade. Their conditions include forced labor, little pay and long hours. There are still no laws that require equal wages for men and women. As things stand, women earned lower wages compared to men for performing equivalent work.

Looking Ahead

Key women leaders, such as First Lady Sylvia Bongo Ondimba, Minister of Social Affairs and Women’s Rights Prisca Raymonda Nlend Koho and Vice President Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda continue to fight for the improvement of women’s rights in Gabon. In 2020, they began implementing a strategy to promote women’s rights. Their efforts contributed to the passing of a new labor code that grants women access to employment in all jobs and sectors of work.

Gabon also implemented new legislation which better protects women from violence. With research showing that 90% of sexual violence victims in Gabon affect women, this legislation is an important step in protecting women from violence. Gabon’s new law establishes criminal penalties for violence against women. It also requires protection orders to be given to victims of violence within two days of receiving a report of violence occurring.

These advancements are just a few crucial actions taken to improve women’s rights in Gabon. And the country’s leaders continue to fight for more rights and equal treatment for Gabonese women.

– Marisa Del Vecchio
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in GabonGabon is a Central African nation with an abundance of culture, wildlife and landscapes. However, the country faces a range of challenges, including its continuous and worsening struggle with human trafficking. Gabon finds itself in a challenging predicament as it has become a popular location for human trafficking, especially child trafficking. Mélanie Mbadinga Matsanga, Gabon’s social affairs director-general, even referred to Goban as an Eldorado for human trafficking.

There has been a steady decadence in the severity of human trafficking in Gabon. The nation has witnessed unrestrained and swiftly burgeoning growth of trafficking with no rigorous systemic mechanisms to tackle the issue.

Between 2003 and 2010, there were no trafficking-related convictions in Gabon, while the nation has downgraded to a Tier 2 Watch List in the U.S. Department of State’s 2022 report.

The Reality of Gabon’s Human Trafficking

Gabon has become a popular transitory or final destination for human trafficking victims of West and Central Africa. Gabon both receives and sources trafficked people. Those who end up trafficked often by force become street vendors, transportation assistants, mechanics, fishermen, domestic servants, illicit gold miners, wildlife trafficking or sex workers, according to the Department of State.

The state of human trafficking in Gabon is due to its inadequate systems to prevent and address the issue at hand. A glaring indicator of this absence of systemic instruments is the nation’s inability to adopt an anti-trafficking national action plan (NAP) for the third consecutive year. To compound the issue, the federal government has neglected to create a functioning anti-trafficking coordination system within the national inter-ministerial commission.

Moreover, the lack of national coordination has also made data collection and usage immensely more complicated, thereby hindering the ability to properly understand, investigate and prosecute. For instance, the Gabonese authorities claim to have begun 10 human trafficking-related investigations, while there were zero in 2020 and only three in 2019, according to the Department of State.

Corruption and Collusion

To aggravate the situation, there have been persistent accusations and a scarcity of inquiries for governmental corruption and collusion in human trafficking. Experts have alleged that there has been intentional postponement or dismissal of trafficking cases that bribed judges cause. The Department of State suggests that while the government contends that delays stem from legal inadequacies and the absence of knowledge, the lack of concrete action against corruption accusations foments concerns.

Furthermore, Gabon’s existing anti-trafficking programs and committees lack transparency and commitment. The government has not disclosed the funding for the nation’s anti-trafficking programs and the government’s interministerial committee against trafficking has not convened since 2019. There is a discouraging aura of depreciation and inconsequence to solving these heinous crimes.

Gabon’s Poverty and Human Trafficking

In the shadows of human trafficking in Gabon lies a root catalyst of systemic inequalities and disparities. Poverty renders certain groups significantly more susceptible to exploitation and possible trafficking. Conflict, lack of access to professional and educational opportunities and mass displacement all have poverty as a central element that leaves individuals especially vulnerable.

U.N. Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons Joy Ngozi Ezeilo emphasizes how poverty, some traditional Western African and domestic work’s high demand in high Gabonese society are the foundation for the nation’s human trafficking issues. The dire conditions people face in extreme poverty leave them desperate and more likely to accept risky jobs or sell their daughters into marriage. Traffickers meticulously scout potential victims who live in a cycle of poverty, miseducation, unemployment, desperation and violence.

International Organization for Migration (IOM)

While the concerns and shortcomings of Gabon’s handling of its human trafficking situation, the national government and international institutions have made genuine efforts to tackle the issue.

One of the institutions that has been playing a vital role in the fight against human trafficking is the International Organization for Migration (IOM). IOM assists the Gabonese government in managing migration-related issues, emphasizing mixed population movements, migration governance and migration flows.

The return and reintegration of migrants, including minors in reception centers and adult migrants, is a crucial component of IOM’s activity in Gabon. IOM helped 143 migrants, the majority of whom were trafficking victims, return safely and integrate into their communities in 2020 and 2021 alone.

In addition, IOM Gabon works to advance the goals outlined in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). The organization helps to ensure that migration is secure, effectively managed and advantageous for both migrants and the societies they join by cooperating with this global endeavor.

Future Hopes

Gabon is in dire need of action and attitudinal change in order to properly solve trafficking in its nation. “I am confident that Gabon can become a model for other countries in the region and beyond in the fight against trafficking,” said Joy Ngozi Ezeilo

With the appropriate mechanisms in place that strengthen prevention, ensuring the protection and reintegration of victims, paired with the support of international organizations, there is a genuine possibility of amending human trafficking in Gabon and creating a brighter future for its people.

– Agustín Pino
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Gabon
For many citizens of the nation of Gabon, living on less than $2 a day is a harsh reality, with a third of the population living below the poverty line. However, this affliction of poverty in Gabon sharply contrasts the economic success of wealthier citizens, showcasing significant inequality within the country.

Economic Successes and Failures

Gabon had a GDP per capita of more than $7,600 as of 2019, the fourth-highest on the continent. Oil is by far the top industry in Gabon; as a small African country on the Atlantic Ocean, 80% of its exports are based on oil production, along with 45% of its GDP. However, some consider this dependence on the abundant supply of oil to be more of a curse than a blessing, as fluctuations in prices have the potential to significantly damage the Gabon economy. Additionally, oil dependence has also contributed to inequality, with only 20% of the population holding around 90% of the wealth in the nation. Gabon has done little to expand economic possibilities in spite of these effects, leaving approximately 400,000 people unable to find work and reinforcing the affliction of poverty.

Urbanization

Urbanization is incredibly high in Gabon, with more than half of the population living in two cities, Libreville and Port Gentil. In the overcrowded slums of Libreville, Gabon’s capital and largest city, many immigrant workers and local Gabonese live in absolute poverty. Thousands of people in Gabon’s urban areas do not have reliable sources of food or proper means of sanitation.

A positive for those living in the urban areas of Gabon is that clean drinking water is readily available: more than 97% of citizens living in cities have access. In rural areas, however, the percentage drops to less than 55%. Gabon’s government is working to make clean drinking water accessible throughout the country. In 2018, the African Development Bank (ADB) granted Gabon a fund of $96.95 million to improve the water deficit in Libreville by expanding the drinking water infrastructure into the greater Libreville area and other municipalities.

Lack of Infrastructure

The lack of developed infrastructure in rural areas has been a crippling issue. Most of the country’s roads are unpaved and impassable during the rainy season. The postal system is a nightmare for businesses trying to move products and raw materials around Gabon. To combat issues like these, Bechtel, an American engineering company, agreed to a partnership with Gabon in 2010, to complete projects improving transportation, housing, education, medical facilities and water and waste management. After six years of work, the partners agreed to extend the partnership by an additional $25 billion. The project will build 17 schools capable of housing 15,000 children, provide 64,000 homes with clean energy and repair roads and railroads, among other improvements. This modernization effort could prove revolutionary for industries in Gabon as well as the country’s poor. At the very least, this overhaul is bringing jobs to a population in desperate need, as the project hired much of its workforce locally.

In recent years, there have been great strides toward repairing Gabon’s economic issues. Reducing poverty in Gabon by diversifying the economy and repairing infrastructure both seem to be successful initiatives. With plans in place to modernize the country, prosperity could be on the horizon for the less fortunate citizens of Gabon.

Matthew Beach
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Girls' Education in Gabon
The top 10 facts about girls’ education in Gabon presented in the text below are interesting to consider because of the intersection they suggest between the country’s strengths and weaknesses. Women in Gabon suffer at the hands of domestic abuse and a deficiency of certain instrumental rights. At the same time, literacy rates in the country are relatively high compared to other countries in the region.

The 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Gabon

  1. Compulsory education in Gabon lasts for 10 years. Students begin at age 6 and finish at age 15. This can be considered as a relatively short period, particularly when compared with a typical education in a country like the United States where students usually begin their education at age 6 and finish at age 18.
  2. In 2012, about 82 percent of people over age 15 in Gabon were considered literate. Out of this number, 85 percent were male and 80 percent were female. This is one indicator of gender inequity in education in Gabon.
  3. Compared to other countries in the region, Gabon has a relatively high overall education enrollment rate. In 2005, this rate was at the 92.4 percent. This may, in part, have to do with the fact that education is compulsory through certain ages.
  4. There is overcrowding in primary level schools and a high drop out rate in secondary schools. This suggests that when the compulsory years are finished, students neglect the idea of continuing their education.
  5. Gender equality in schools increases with age and education level. Still, only 54 percent of female students in Gabon continue into the latter parts of secondary education.
  6. UNICEF is making efforts to help keep girls in school. The Ministry of Family has set up in-school daycare to help ensure that young mothers are able to attend school. Many women in the country marry and start families young so solutions like these are essential to ensure woman’s continuing education.
  7. Poverty is most rampant in villages in Gabon. Because of this, villages also lack proper education systems. This often means that children have to attend schools far away from their homes. Families in rural areas often discourage their children from pursuing education, particularly females who are expected to help in the household.
  8. Education itself is free in Gabon but students are subject to fees that amount to about $50. Poor families cannot afford these fees and their children are, as a consequence, unable to receive an education. This education barrier affects both girls and boys in the country.
  9. In 2011, a study revealed that 77 percent of children in Gabon were victims of violence. Children are not likely to want to continue education past compulsory stages if it is associated with trauma and abuse.
  10. Constitution of Gabon affirms gender equality and the country has ratified documents affirming women’s rights but problems still persist. Women are frequently victims of domestic abuse and are often forced to marry at very young ages. These young marriages often prevent them from continuing to pursue their education.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Gabon indicate that though the system is providing decent literacy rates, education in Gabon is far from perfect. Women still face lower literacy rates than men and early marriages prevent them from having sufficient educational opportunities.

Efforts like those of UNICEF mentioned above will help to ameliorate such problems but the most promising prospects for the future will have to come from the country itself.

– Julia Bloechl
Photo: Flickr