Inequality in South Africa
South Africa has long been known as one of the most unequal societies in the world. In the 1990s, South Africa’s Gini coefficient–a measure that reflects inequality, where zero is absolute equality and one is absolute inequality–was, at 0.66, the highest in all the 57 countries for which this data was available. That measure, as of 2015, has remained the same. The top 10 percent of South Africans earn roughly 60 percent of all income and own 95 percent of all the country’s assets, whereas 80 percent own no wealth at all. Inequality in South Africa continues to be a major issue as the country moves to distance itself from its apartheid- era exclusionary style.

The root causes of South Africa’s severe inequality can be traced back to the establishment of Cape Town, a Dutch shipping port in the 1650s. Over the next two centuries, “military conquest and political exclusion, which took a colonial and racial form,” expanded into the interior.

After the British took over in the early nineteenth century, the defeated indigenous groups were never fully incorporated into the economic and political model. The twentieth century brought the neighboring counties under British rule, culminating in a peace settlement which “inscribed racial discrimination in the foundations of the new South African state.” The framework for inequality in South Africa had already been laid by the time the National Party came to power in 1948 and enforced its apartheid legislation.

South Africa continues a system of socioeconomic exclusion. However, whereas historically the exclusionary practices were racially-based, today the extent and depth of inequality in South Africa is increasingly intersectional. Although it continues to impact black South Africans the most, it strikes at race, gender, class and age. Over 55 percent of South Africans continue to live in poverty and unemployment sits at 25 percent.

All hope is not lost, however. The University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg has founded a new center, the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies, that will drive a five-year-long, interdisciplinary project. It will include approximately 80 researchers from across the country: economists, historians, legal academics, healthcare experts, sociologist and other disciplines.

The most promising hope yet for combating inequality in South Africa comes from the implementation of the National Development Plan. The plan seeks to reduce inequality and eliminate poverty by 2030 by “drawing on the energies of the country’s people.” Some of the key points include: increasing employment to 24 million, ensuring all children can read and write by the third grade and providing affordable healthcare and a public transit system. It also aims to strengthen the criminal justice system, including governmental accountability. “Progress over the next two decades means doing things differently,” the plan states.

In detail, the plan calls for:

  • infrastructure investment set at 10 percent of the country’s global domestic product (GDP).
  • raising rural incomes.
  • strengthening social wages.
  • professional public service.
  • private investment to boost labor.
  • housing market gaps to be closed.
  • informal settlements to be upgraded.

After handing over the plan to President Jacob Zuma, Minister Trevor Manuel stated that “social cohesion needs to anchor the strategy.”

South Africa’s apartheid era formally came to an end in April of 1994. Less than a month later, in May of 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first black, democratically elected president. The exclusionary system that Mandela grew up in is still widely overreaching within the country, but as the nine provinces continue to work together, there will be hope. Inequality in South Africa does not have to be a perpetuation.

– Aaron Stein

Photo: Flickr

Segregated Education in Libya, Post Gadhafi
The entire culture of Libya has changed since the very public takedown of Moammar Gaddafi during a long battle in 2011. Since then, Libyans have lived through free elections, the collapse of their government and an ongoing civil war. The women of Libya, in particular, have been affected most harshly. Islamization imposed on a formerly modernized religious culture through news laws puts women’s access to education at risk, along with their general freedom in society. This is what you need to know about the current state of segregated education in Libya.

Education for Women Once Was Better
When Gaddafi led the Libyan government as a dictator, there was no segregated education in Libya. Instead, there was unlimited access for women to attend school at all levels. As a result, the number of well-educated women in Libya is higher than elsewhere in the region. An almost equal number of women (32 percent) as men (33 percent) hold university degrees, and almost 77 percent of female high school graduates intend to pursue higher degrees.

As a result of the country’s increased Islamization, women are encouraged to stay at home. Because of increasing violence against women, this is slowly becoming a reality.

Even Elementary Education Is Affected
Education until the ninth grade is compulsory for children in Libya. Before the civil war, roughly one million students attended school, but this year, with the civil war ongoing, around 297,000 children have been unable to attend school.

Schools are also shutting down at alarming rates, transforming into shelters for persons displaced during the war. The city most affected by this is Benghazi. Those schools that remain open lack electricity for long periods of time and their access to sanitation is also lacking.

New Laws Affect Women in Universities
Segregated education in Libya was made possible in 2013 when a school in Derma built a wall in the middle of a university campus to keep men and women apart.

In that same year, new laws made it harder for women achieve a normal schooling experience. A 2013 fatwa announced that women could now attend a university only if they attended schools that were segregated by gender.

Segregated education in Libya also requires that women dress in accordance with Islamic tradition. All women are forced to wear some form of headwear that covers their hair. In April 2014, Libya made headlines when a woman who attended a university did not wear her headscarf and was harassed and abused by a security guard on campus.

Ultimately, only the Libyan government can make it easier for women to attend its universities. But with newly segregated education in Libya, we can only hope that things take a turn for the better in the near future.

Maria Rodriguez

Photo: Flickr

Too often we forget that America has not always enjoyed its position as a human rights watchdog. Only a few generations ago, Americans were legally segregated with women and African-Americans barred from the voting booth. And looking back a few more generations, America was engaged in one of the most devastating slave trades the world has ever known.

As a nation, we have come a long way since then. But that is no excuse for forgetting our history. Remembrance for that arduous journey and reverence for the great men and women who led the way is in order.

The year 2014 gives us a unique opportunity to reflect on the long road to freedom that Americans have endured.

One hundred fifty years ago, the city of Atlanta was ravaged in one of the final battles of the Civil War. The Battle of Atlanta sealed the fate for the war-torn South, and it paved the way for the important, yet only marginally successful Civil Rights Amendments: the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. Combined, those amendments to the U.S. Constitution made slavery illegal, guaranteed equal rights for all and made it unconstitutional to deny a voter on the basis of color.

Sixty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that separate did not mean equal. The ruling deemed segregation of schooling facilities to be unconstitutional.

The basis for the ruling was the 14th amendment, which was added to the Constitution nearly a decade prior to the decision. Progress for the human rights movement in America was by no means swift.

This month also marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Along with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, these laws were able to finally instantiate the ideals set forth in the 14th amendment.

But that was not the end for the human rights movement in America. True equality remains an elusive dream for the two aforementioned groups: women and African-Americans.

According to a 2012 Associated Press Poll, the majority of Americans — 51 percent — “now express explicit anti-black attitudes.”

Likewise, studies show that women earn somewhere between 77 and 84 percent of what their male counterparts earn.

Despite the great strides that we have made in the human rights movement, there is still much work to be done if we are to realize the full equality guaranteed to us by the First Amendment.

Even still, the progress that has yet to be made in America pales in comparison to the dismal condition of human rights globally.

Given our relative success in realizing human rights, and given our dominance on the global scale, America stands in a unique position where we can sacrifice a portion of our time and money to rectify human rights violations around the world.

If  a superpower like the U.S. had existed in the midst of our earlier struggles, a helping hand would have dramatically expedited our social development process.

Human rights are being advanced around the world, but at a relatively sluggish rate. America stands in a position to help move that process along, both with our bountiful resources and our invaluable knowledge of how to successfully lead a human rights movement.

We learned from the American human rights movement that progress takes time. It takes a monumental struggle. It requires trial and error. And more than anything else, it takes sacrifice.

– Sam Hillestad

Sources: US Courts, Historynet, SaportaReport, Stanford, Pew Research, USA Today
Photo: Civil Rights Teaching