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Life Expectancy in Kiribati

Kiribati is a small, low-lying island nation straddling the equator in the Pacific Ocean. The nation is comprised of three archipelagoes, scattered in an area roughly the size of India. Often overlooked globally, the Kiribati people have faced a number of challenges especially since gaining independence in 1979. This struggle is illuminated by these nine facts about life expectancy in Kiribati.

9 Facts about Life Expectancy in Kiribati

  1. Kiribati ranks 174th in the world in terms of life expectancy, with the average life lasting only 66.9 years. The country ranks last in life expectancy out of the 20 nations located in the Oceania region of the Pacific.
  2. The lives of Kiribati women last approximately 5.2 years longer than their male counterparts, with female life expectancy standing at 69.5 years and the male life expectancy at 64.3 years.
  3. The entire nation’s population is the same as the population of about 4 percent of the borough of Brooklyn, with roughly 110,000 citizens. Even with such a small population, Kiribati faces serious issues relating to overcrowding. The Western Gilbert Islands (one of the three archipelagoes comprising Kiribati) boasts some of the highest population densities on earth, rivaling cities like Tokyo and Hong Kong. This overcrowding causes great amounts of pollution, worsening the quality and length of life for the Kiribati people.
  4. Due to underdeveloped sanitation and water filtration systems, only about 66 percent of those living in Kiribati have access to clean water. Waterborne diseases are at record levels throughout the country. Poor sanitation has led to an increase in cases of diarrhea, dysentery, conjunctivitis, rotavirus and fungal infections.
  5. Around 61.5 percent of Kiribati citizens smoke tobacco products on a regular basis. There are more smokers per capita in Kiribati than in any other country in the South Pacific. Due to this and other lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, there has been a drastic spike in lower limb amputations on the islands, doubling from 2011 to 2014.
  6. Suicide is on the rise. The number of self-harm related deaths increased by 14.4 percent from 2007 to 2017.  Climate change is suspected to play a large role in the growth of this troublesome statistic. With sea levels rising, the people of Kiribati deal with the daily fear that, even if only a small storm were to hit the island, the entire nation could be submerged into the Pacific. Such a foreboding possibility weighs heavily on the Kiribati people.
  7. Sexual violence is at a high in Kiribati, especially in regards to sexual violence between spouses. According to a 2010 study, approximately 68 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 reported experiencing physical or sexual abuse, or a combination of the two, from an intimate partner. Sexual violence towards children and adolescents is also expected to be prevalent, however, statistics are lacking in regards to children under 15.
  8. Kiribati is a young country, with a median age of 25. In most countries with relatively young median ages, women have a large number of children. This is not the case in Kiribati, where the average woman has 2.34 children. This can be viewed as a positive for the nation’s future, for when women have fewer children, the life expectancy typically experiences an increase.
  9. The Health Ministry Strategic Plan (HMSP) plans to raise both the quality and quantity of health care facilities in the country. The Ministry’s goal is to maintain a minimum of 40 trained health care professionals for every 10,000 people and to have at least 80 percent of medicines and commodities that have been deemed essential, available at all times.

– Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in TunisiaA lawyer by training and a former militant against the colonialist movement, Béji Caïd Essebsi, current president of Tunisia, has earned himself another title for his resume: women’s rights activist.

Tunisia, birthplace of the Arab Spring, is often regarded as a model country for Middle Eastern countries trying to move toward democracy. In a predominantly Muslim country, President Essebsi has been the subject of much criticism due to his support for controversial legislation regarding women’s rights. However, the president maintains that under the country’s constitution, Tunisia is a civil state that emphasizes equality.

In July 2017, Tunisia’s parliament passed an unprecedented legislative package defending women’s rights. The law on violence against women, specifically rape and domestic violence, became a landmark step toward women’s empowerment in Tunisia, as well as all over the Middle East. Including key elements of the United Nations Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women, the law defines violence as “any physical, moral, sexual or economic aggression against women based on discrimination between the two sexes and resulting in damage or physical, sexual, psychological or economic suffering to the woman, including threats of such aggression, pressure or deprivation of rights and freedoms, both in public and private life.”

Tunisia became the first to overturn the draconian law offering impunity to rapists if they marry their victim of the few countries that still enforced it. Shortly after, Jordan and Lebanon followed suit. In addition, the laws passed by the Tunisian parliament include criminal provisions for violence committed within a family, as well as public sexual harassment. The new law takes important steps to women’s empowerment in Tunisia by requiring equal pay and protection against child employment. The law also includes crucial preventative measures to prevent violence against women, and requires assistance be given to surviving victims of domestic violence.

President Essebsi did not stop there though. In September 2017, he shifted his focus toward administrative orders regarding marriage and inheritance. President Essebsi urged the government to rescind previous law forbidding Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men. Additionally, he seeks to allow women to receive equal inheritance as women heirs are currently entitled to only half the inheritance of a man.

While President Essebsi’s emphasis on equality has the potential to empower women in Tunisia, passing a law is only the first step. Changing the way people think about women, not only in Tunisia and the Middle East but all over the world, still promises to be an uphill battle.

Richa Bijlani

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About the Genocide of Yazidis by ISILIslamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State, is an insurgent group operating in Iraq and Syria. Its propaganda is centered around brutality towards its enemies and those who violate Islamic law. Here are 10 facts about the genocide of Yazidis by ISIL.

Top Yazidis Genocide Facts

  1. The Yazidis are a Kurdish religious minority who live in Iraq, Syria, the Caucasus region and some parts of Turkey and Iran. Their religion has elements of Islam, Christianity and Zoroastrianism. The Yazidis were subjected to genocide several times under the Ottoman rule in the 18th and 19th centuries for their beliefs. On August 3, 2014, ISIL attacked the Yazidi living in Sinjar (Iraq).
  2. The most important of the facts about the genocide of Yazidis by ISIL is the orchestrated attack that was a part of a wider offensive to take control of minorities and Christians, who were asked to convert to Islam or pay religious taxes to stay alive. However, the Yazidis were declared infidels and “devil-worshippers” who deserved to be exterminated from the face of the earth.
  3. Tens of thousands of Yazidis had to flee to Mount Sinjar. They remained trapped there for days and many died of hunger and dehydration, while hundreds were massacred by ISIL. On August 7, 2014, the U.S. announced military action to help the trapped Yazidis at the request of the Iraqi government.
  4. Around 10,000 Yazidis were either killed or captured in August 2014 alone, out of which 3,100 were murdered by gunshots, beheaded and burned alive.
  5. In addition to the killings, ISIL systematically separated the women to rape, sexually mutilate and sterilize while many children were sent to training camps.
  6. The sexual violence against Yazidi women captured by ISIL is the most talked about among the facts about the genocide of Yazidis by ISIL. Around 7,000 women were sold as sex slaves or handed to jihadists as concubines. Girls as young as nine were sold off to Islamic State fighters, routinely raped and punished with extreme violence when they tried to escape. Children were killed as a means to punish their mothers for resisting.
  7. Mass graves were found with bodies of older women who could not command a price in the sex market. These mothers and grandmothers were not considered young or beautiful enough to rape, so they were simply taken behind the technical institute to be shot down in Solagh, east of Sinjar.
  8. Videos were recorded of “converted” Yazidi men and boys urging their relatives to convert to Islam and were then shown in all the holding sites. Families that obeyed were reunited. However, ISIL determined in the spring of 2015 that all conversions by Yazidis were false and separated all the reunited families.
  9. The Yazidi shrines of Sheikh Mand, Sheikh Hassan, Malak Fakhraddin and Mahma Rasha were destroyed following the attack. Yazidi homes were marked with symbols to distinguish them from others so that they could be looted and destroyed.
  10. The United Nations has classified the attacks on Yazidis by ISIL as genocide in its report, stating “ISIS has sought to erase the Yazidis through killings; sexual slavery, enslavement, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and forcible transfer causing serious bodily and mental harm; the infliction of conditions of life that bring about a slow death; the imposition of measures to prevent Yazidi children from being born, including forced conversion of adults, the separation of Yazidi men and women, and mental trauma; and the transfer of Yazidi children from their own families and placing them with ISIS fighters, thereby cutting them off from beliefs and practices of their own religious community.”

– Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr

Conflict in MyanmarSince winning independence from colonial rule in 1948, ethnic conflict in Myanmar has plagued the country. Myanmar endured the world’s longest ongoing civil war, in which the ethnic Bamar Buddhist majority living in the central valley has tried to control other groups living in the mountainous outskirts of the country.

An impressively free election in 2015 gave power to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of the National League for Democracy (NLD). The foremost goal of the administration is to end the decades of ethnic conflict, but the complexity of these issues does not allow for easy solutions.

The Alliance for Gender Inclusion in the Peace Process works to promote women’s rights and gender equality as a method to end Myanmar’s ethnic conflict.

Obstacles to women entering decision-making roles include the prevalence of gender violence and entrenched societal expectations that women must play supporting roles in society. Myanmar’s constitution condones discrimination, with section 352 stating “nothing…shall prevent the appointment of men to the positions that are suitable for men only.” Women are frequently characterized as “decorative.”

The conflict affects women, men and children differently since they occupy different roles in society. Men are susceptible to combat-related injuries, while women bear the burden of sexual violence, damage to property, and mental trauma. Despite these obstacles, women take an active role in mitigating the damage done by the conflict in Myanmar.

Women have convinced conflicting groups to fight in locations farther from villages. They have also protected men and children by sending them away or hiding them and stepped up to keep the village functioning as their men fled for safety. Excluding women from the peace process prevents the perspective and experiences of 52 percent of the population.

Women better understand the impact of conflict on women, children, the disabled and the elderly. The role of men in these conflicts effectively prevents them from being able to effectively represent large portions of society in negotiating solutions.

International research has shown that women tend to best represent marginalized groups. According to a study by the United Nations, women participating in the decision-making process is a crucial element for achieving sustainable peace.

Involving women in political processes is also an effective strategy for countering extremism. Extreme religions tend to restrict women’s rights, but funding and supporting women weakens the influence of extremists.

In Myanmar, women have crucial roles in dealing with and responding to conflict, and the efforts supported by the Alliance for Gender Inclusion in the Peace Process are a promising step in the right direction to ending decades of conflict in Myanmar.

Kristen Nixon

Photo: Google

Human Rights in the UAE
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the richest nations on earth, best known around the world for the city of Dubai and its glitzy developments and jaw-dropping skyscrapers.

A darker side of the Emirates exists concurrently with the nation’s modern image. Human rights in the UAE are sorely lacking, and the experience of some Emiratis, particularly for its migrant workers, is one of labor abuses, indefinite detention and even torture.

Amnesty International has identified repeat offenses where human rights are violated in the UAE. Peaceful critics of the ruling royal family regularly face prosecution without sufficient trials; arbitrary detentions have led to “disappearances” of critics altogether and female Emiratis are largely unprotected under UAE law from sexual violence or domestic abuse.

The UAE is a nation of immigrants who make up 88 percent of the population; 65 percent of these are migrant workers from South Asia and this community often faces harrowing violations of their human rights. The ‘kafala’ system requires workers to receive sponsorship from an employer before arriving, making them legally dependent and vulnerable to abuse.

On projects like Saadiyat Island, soon to be home to an NYU campus and a surrogate of the Guggenheim Museum, striking migrant workers have been deported, others have had their passports confiscated and wages have been withheld. In a 2009 report, Human Rights Watch urged the UAE government to reform the kafala system to prevent these abuses taking place. However, subsequent visits to Saadiyat revealed violations to have continued and any reforms put in place to have been inconsequential.

Human Rights Watch, under pressure from the UAE authorities, has to conduct their research and interviews discreetly. As a result, the extent of human rights violations is unclear and difficult to address effectively with any third-party organizations.

However, organizations such as the Tourist Development and Investment Company (TDIC) have taken steps to address the abuse. TDIC has introduced new labor guidelines for employers to prevent passport seizures and ensure fixed working hours. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) acts as a compliance monitor.

Reforms to the kafala system that enable workers to change employers more easily have so far failed to be properly implemented. Under the auspices of the TDIC and the Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority (EAA), human rights in the UAE and its situation for migrant workers could improve significantly.

Jonathan Riddick

Photo: Flickr

sexual_health
There are more than 1 billion teenagers worldwide. Seventy percent of them live in developing countries. According to the Demographic and Health Surveys and the AIDS Indicators Survey, the average age that young people in impoverished countries have their first sexual encounter is, at the lowest, age 16 or younger, and, at the highest, 19.6.

Just like in developed nations, with sexual activity comes the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Unlike wealthier nations, these impoverished countries lack adequate healthcare. In places such as Sub-Saharan Africa, AIDs is an epidemic. Two-thirds of those infected are adolescents.

Adolescent girls run the greatest risk for sexual and reproductive health threats. A young girl that becomes pregnant who lacks access to healthcare faces many serious health risks. Pregnancies, child-birth and abortions are all perilous. The likelihood that a 15-year-old girl in a developed nation could ultimately die of maternal complications is 1/3800. Compare this to just 1/150 in the developed world.

Meet Reem: she is a 15-year-old girl living as a refugee in a camp. Her two month-old baby is underweight because it was born prematurely and because Reem was never taught how to breast feed. She has no one to help her, her husband was killed before the baby was born, and her mother was separated from her in the national conflict.

In other instances, girls marry older men. Hibo is a 13-year-old girl living in a Somalian refugee camp. The oldest of five children, she is responsible for helping her mother care for the family. Her parents are planning to marry Hibo to a wealthy landowner that will bring the family much-needed money and honor. She has been told that it is her duty to marry, serve her husband, and bear him children.

Married women like Hibo are encouraged to have children as soon as possible. Their social status and identity are associated with raising children. Being childless is frowned upon. Unfortunately, wedding older men who have had previous partners bring the potential for STDs.

Young people also face the danger of sexual violence. A national survey in Swaziland revealed that one-third of girls aged 13-24 suffered sexual abuse before the age of 18. Boys face abuse as well, but are reported as being less likely to reach out for help from healthcare providers.

Although young people are getting married at an older age, the amount of premarital intercourse is increasing. At the same time, contraceptive use for all teens is low. In Sub-Saharan Africa, contraceptives are used by a low of 3% of sexually active adolescents in Rwanda and a high 46% in Burkina Faso.

Due to the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals, more youth have greater access to formal education. Health officials decided that school-based sexual/reproductive health programs were the perfect way to educate adolescents. Yet, a survey of these programs and their effects have produced varied results. Not all adolescents attend school, and the funding for these programs is not always there.

The Save the Children organization understands that if there are no programs that specifically reach young people with sexual health programs and education, they will never access the care and knowledge they need. The organization has set up teen-accessible places to teach them about safe sex and offer health services.

Their methods and the continuation of school-based programs have been yielding promising results in places like Mexico, Nigeria and the Dominican Republic. Young people are taking more measures to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancies.

Lillian Sickler

Sources: Guttmacher Institute, Women and Children First (UK), Alliance for International Youth Development
Photo: The Times

Wo-man_Foundation
Uganda shares many of the same struggles most African countries have, including defilement. The Guardian states that defilement is a, “sex crime against juveniles that seems to thrive on widespread poverty.” Because of the poverty, many reported cases of defilement are dropped because parents are paid off with large sums of money so the defendant won’t face imprisonment.

Girls have to endure this abuse and so much more. Young girls are married off and have no control over who they marry, when they marry them and when they will begin birthing children. Wanting to put an end to this inequality, Ugandan Nargis Shirzai founded the Wo-man Foundation.

The Wo-man Foundation was created to empower women and girls of Uganda, “by working to improve their sexual and reproductive health and rights,” Global Citizen reports. One of the campaigns the foundation is initiating is providing girls with sexual and reproductive classes and providing girls with sanitary pads so that girls do not miss class because of their menstrual cycle and a lack of sanitization. When girls can stay in school, they’re more likely to graduate, marry later in life, survive pregnancy, and continue the trend of education.

Partnered with AFRIpads, Ugandan girls in rural areas who typically have to use rags or paper, now have access to reusable sanitary pads.

In addition to classes and providing sanitation, Shirzai intends to hold the government accountable to its commitments of FP2020, which will supply citizens with necessary supplies for family planning, increase the budget from $3 million to $5 in the next five years and be accountable for financial distribution. Holding to these promises will likely prove a vast improvement to the health and well-being of the country.

– Kori Withers

Sources: Global Citizen, Family Planning 2020, The Guardian, The Observer
Photo: Flickr

Female mechanics in the Congo
In a nation where rape is rampant and commonplace, women are taking matters into their own hands. Sporting blue jumpsuits and grease stained hands, women of the city of Goma are asserting their independence as female mechanics in the Congo.

A 2011 study from the American Journal of Public Health found that about 48 women are raped every hour in the DRC. The incidence of sexual abuse is pervasive in Congolese society, as it is implicitly condoned in the domestic sphere. Husbands have unyielding authority over their wives; women still need their husband’s permission to start a business or open a bank account. Matters are even more severe in the city of Goma, which has been given the title “ the rape capital of the world.”

However, this has not discouraged women in Goma. In fact, it has empowered them. Despite social censure and criticism, they are entering the workforce as mechanics, a position traditionally reserved for men. Natural disaster coupled with routine insurgent outbreaks has left the infrastructure of the city dilapidated and downtrodden. The demand for mechanics is therefore high.

The girls claim that as mechanics, prospects are more promising. When they arrive to the auto body yard they are simply expected to perform their tasks. They are not subject to discrimination or scrutiny; they are treated just like everybody else. This for them is a type of independence that they have never experienced. And it’s certainly uprooted traditional, patriarchal norms.

Two young female mechanics in the Congo, Kubuya Mushingano and Dorcas Lukonge, have been practicing at an auto body yard for about four months now, after a year of training at ETN, or Equipe d’Education et d’Encadrement des Traumatses de Nyiragongo. ETN in conjunction with CARE International, has been functioning as a vocational training program since 2013, pulling street kids, young mothers, sexual abuse survivors and former soldiers throughout Goma.

These apprentices are given the choice of seven different sectors of training. Though in the Congo females make up half of the labor force typically as seamstresses, cooks or farm laborers, trainers of ETN encourage females to pursue unconventional vocations. For Mushingano and Lukonge (and many others), this was mechanics. When their fellowships at the auto body yard ends, ETN will give them a mechanic’s kit to start their own business or join a current one and become self-sufficient.

Jeane, a female mechanic trainee at ETN, was a victim of sexual violence herself. She said that the skills she has learned and acquired as a mechanic have given her a new sense of autonomy. Like many acts of social defiance, female mechanics in the DRC are quiet, yet powerful. Their subtle defiance is in some ways making a loud statement.

– Samantha Scheetz

 

Sources: The Daily Beast, The Guardian, The New Africa
Photo: The Daily Beast

reproductive health
Modern conflicts continue to uphold the old adage “when elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers.” Women and young children are the most vulnerable members of society for a variety of reasons, meaning they must endure the hard end of the stick when conflict rolls through their communities.

Children are vulnerable for obvious reasons – they are physically weak, ideologically malleable and typically do not have nearly as many financial resources as adults. Their plight is apparent on the United States’ southern border, where thousands of Central American children are seeking shelter after fleeing rampant violence in their home countries.

Women also lag behind men concerning access to financial resources. Widows are left in a rough position after their husbands are killed during armed conflict, having to care for their children and make a livelihood in the absence of a male head-of-household. In addition, rape is a prominent consequence of war and can leave the victim physically, emotionally and socially scarred. Women are often the target of sexual violence, which leaves stigma, disease and unwanted pregnancies in its wake.

Women are most exposed to the setbacks of conflict when they are with child. The World Health Organization reports that out of the 10 countries with the highest maternal mortality rates, eight of them are experiencing conflict.

A recent publication by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports that, “Conflict can negatively impact all aspects of reproductive health, directly through damage to services, gender-based violence and forced displacement of populations, and indirectly through reductions in the availability of basic health care and breakdown of normal social institutions.”

The RCOG report also states that humanitarian emergencies lead to 170,000 maternal fatalities each year, and that 15 percent of displaced women face life-threatening complications during pregnancy.

Conflict prevents women from accessing reliable contraceptives as well. An increase in unwanted pregnancies leads to a rise in dangerous abortion practices, which account for 13 percent of maternal deaths worldwide.

In light of rising global migration and ongoing conflicts, humanitarian workers must continue to be particularly sensitive to reproductive health issues if they wish to help the most exposed victims of violence.

– Kayla Strickland

Sources: Tech Times, Trust.org
Photo: Flickr

Stopping Sexual Violence in Conflict
Hosted by the British government, the four-day Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict has begun in London. The event is the biggest of its kind, with representatives from more than 100 countries as well as hundreds of experts, survivors, faith leaders and staff from NGOs and international organizations.

UNICEF has reported that over 150 million young girls and 73 million boys face sexual violence every year. Those living in nations devastated by conflict are especially vulnerable. Forty percent of Congolese women have been subjected to some form of sexual violence during their lives.

In South Sudan, rape has been used as a weapon by both sides of the recent conflict. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 women were raped during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Approximately 20,000 to 50,000 women were raped during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the early 1990s. However, very few perpetrators are ever prosecuted or convicted for their actions. Around the world, there is a culture of silence and denial that contributes to continued war zone rape and allows rapists to avoid the consequences.

Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, who serves as a special envoy for the United Nations, co-chaired the summit with Foreign Secretary William Hague of the United Kingdom. Jolie urged the international community to focus on efforts to hold the perpetrators of sexual violence accountable. “They feel above the law because the law rarely touches them and society tolerates them… we must send a message around the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence – that the shame is on the aggressor.”

The organizers of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict have four major goals: ending the “culture of impunity” by developing and reaching a consensus on an international protocol for documenting and investigating sexual violence in war and conflict zones, training soldiers and peacekeepers to protect women from rape, expanding support for victims, survivors and human rights activists and reaching a “seismic shift” in the global attitude toward sexual violence so that the issue is recognized and addressed on a large scale. To inspire people around the world to recognize its damaging effects on international peace and security, Hague announced a pledge of $10 million from the government of the United Kingdom to help support rape survivors in conflict zones.

David Bull, Executive Director of UNICEF UK, has stated that the summit marks a “watershed in the global fight against the horrors of sexual violence in conflict.” Other key international leaders and activist groups have joined the effort to raise awareness of the abuse of women and children in war, but practical follow-up action is crucial to make a real difference. More nations should devise concrete plans to address the issue of sexual violence, challenge impunity and support the survivors.

As Jolie stated, “it is a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict. There’s nothing inevitable about it. It is a weapon of war aimed at civilians. It has nothing to do with sex, everything to do with power.”

— Kristy Liao

Sources: CNN, Lowy Institute for International Policy, United Nations, UNICEF
Photo: Stewardship Report