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women’s empowerment in MacedoniaSince Macedonia’s independence, equal opportunity for both men and women has been at the forefront of the government agenda. In 2013, the Macedonian Women’s Rights Center organized an event, “Woman Has the Power,” to address economic discrimination and violence against women, ultimately trying to boost women’s empowerment in Macedonia. The event criticized the current economic injustices and financial insecurities that women face.

These insecurities stem out of the traditional role that men play in the Macedonian society. Women still cannot inherit property, which hinders the ability to access bank loans for businesses and entrepreneurship advances. “Woman Has the Power” introduced participants to U.N. agencies and E.U. mission representatives. In the case of successful women, this event enabled them to reach out to other women to give guidance and help.

In 2011, successful actress and movie producer Labina Mitevska, through Women Unlimited Macedonia, advocated against drug addiction, violence, corruption and prostitution in regards to women. Women Unlimited Macedonia was a platform created with the help of The Art of Living Macedonia for women to network, to discuss and gain support and to practice yoga and meditation. These efforts in individual organizations fueled government involvement and initiatives.

Implementation to create equal rights for both men and women continued in the government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s commitment to end discrimination and violence against women. The National Strategy for Prevention and Protection against Domestic Violence, adopted by the government, focuses on domestic violence and placement of women in the social and economic sphere of society.

The National Strategy’s aim is to strengthen the capacities for courts to handle cases regarding violence against women, establish services for victims of such crimes and educate parents and children on prevention. These efforts were signed into the National Strategy for Gender Equality 2013-2020, in accordance with Step It Up for Gender Equality. The movement did not stop there to enhance women’s empowerment in Macedonia.

The International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES) works to promote women for candidacy for Parliament and local government positions. Fighting violence against women who attempt candidacy, both the IFES and the Club of Women promote the presence of women in the government. One of the significant success efforts of the Club of Women was a mandatory quota of no less than 30 percent of candidates be women running for Parliament and municipal councils.

Successes such as these provide hope for women in Macedonia. Progress is not perfect and women are still the less represented gender, but through organizations’ efforts, there is potential for improving women’s empowerment in Macedonia.

– Bronti DeRoche

Photo: Flickr

The Marshall Islands are located in the northwest of the Pacific Ocean, with a land area of just 181 square kilometers and a population of just over 74,000. While some organizations have promoted women’s empowerment in the Marshall Islands since its independence in 1986, the progress of legal rights for girls and women has not been significant.

For the past 30 years, the Marshall Islands has had few female senators. In the country’s 2015 elections, three women won seats, taking up 9 percent of the total 33 members in parliament. In January 2016, Hilda Heine won the presidential election to become the first female president of the Marshall Islands.

Though the nation did ratify the U.N.’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 2006, the Marshall Islands has no current legislation on any issues related to domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual harassment or sex tourism. Furthermore, there is no minimum sentence for sexual violence.

Due to the insufficiency of the law, violence against women in this nation is not unusual. A report by Women United Together Marshall Islands has shown that 51 percent of women experience domestic violence, while more than half of the population generally agrees that it is normal to commit violence against women in marital relationships, according to U.N. Women.

On the other hand, as a crucial metric on women’s empowerment in the Marshall Islands, gender parity and equality in education has some good news. Literacy rates among male and female youth are above 98 percent at present. A 2015 national review on education in the Marshall Islands reported that girls perform better than boys on all tests except for science in grade three.

However, the gender pay gap and inequality in employment still call for more attention to women’s empowerment in the Marshall Islands. Statistics have shown that the male and female unemployment rates are, respectively, 28 percent and 37 percent. Annual wages of women are $3000 less than those of men in the same occupations. Potential discrimination in job markets frequently restrict women from earning credits or managing businesses, which affects their economic independence.

Another concern is related to women’s health and environmental issues. Due to a shortage of fruits and vegetables, more than half of women in the Marshall Islands have obesity or risk factors for related diseases. Teenage marriage, adolescent pregnancy and mortality for children under five in this nation still remain high compared to the global average, despite significant decreases in the past few decades.

Founded in 1987, a nonprofit organization named Women Union Together Marshall Islands serves as the leading voice for eradicating violence against women in the nation. Several other U.N. organizations have also dedicated efforts to promoting gender equality in the Marshall Islands.

Significant progress on women’s empowerment in Marshall Island has been achieved. Political leaders play a strong role in promoting gender equality and ending violence against women. However, further efforts to improve the status of women are still challenging and necessary.

– Xin Gao

Photo: Flickr

women's empowerment in st. lucia
Women’s empowerment is a quickly-growing movement around the world, especially in developing countries. St. Lucia, an Eastern Caribbean island, is one of many developing nations taking huge steps toward equality among all its residents.

Women in Equality Empowerment Program

In 2014, women’s empowerment in St. Lucia received a large financial boost when the Saint Lucia National Commission for UNESCO presented a $26,000 check to fund the Women in Equality Empowerment Program (WEEP). The program, run by the National Skills Development Center (NSDC), aimed to make professional training and job placement more accessible to women in St. Lucia. The program ran from 2015 to 2016 and successfully trained and placed 27 students into new jobs.

National Skills Development Center

The NSDC has continued to make strides in women’s empowerment in St. Lucia. Currently, the NSDC runs the Construction for Women Project, the goal of which is to train women for work in the construction field and to desensitize the St. Lucian society to the idea of women working in non-traditional fields.

Sacred Sports Foundation

Empowering young women is the focus of the Sacred Sports Foundation (SSF), a foundation that focuses on helping girls and women lead healthy lifestyles and socialize with each other. In 2012, the SSF asked that the Florida Association for Volunteer Action in the Caribbean and the Americas (FAVACA) assist them in training SSF employees for a new program focused on teaching girls aged 13 to 17 about health and life skills. The program promoted social inclusion, health education, HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention and mentoring in leadership.

Raise Your Voice St. Lucia

Possibly the most important organization pushing for women’s empowerment in St. Lucia is Raise Your Voice St. Lucia (RYVSLU). The organization’s goal is to teach women and children about their legal rights and provide support to those suffering through domestic violence, rape and other human rights violations.

In November and December 2017, RYVSLU ran the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence program in which panels, community meetings, and public marches were arranged to educate and empower women. The program was funded by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) and pushed for an end to violence against women.

These efforts are changing the current dialogue of women’s empowerment in St. Lucia, and hopefully serve as positive omens for the island nation’s future.

– Anna Sheps

Photo: Flickr

reducing poverty through education
Education is often widely viewed as one of the fundamental pillars used to eradicate global poverty. According to Global Citizen, “61 million school-age children are not in school today,” and many trends show that education is perhaps the strongest tool to reduce extremism and bring world peace. Fortunately, the United States Agency for International Development has made tremendous progress in the realm of education.

Utilizing less than one percent of the total federal budget, “literacy rates are up 33 percent worldwide in the last 25 years, and primary school enrollment has tripled in that period.” In order to tackle global poverty, there must be a collective effort from grassroots movements to provide the necessary resources that foster opportunities for those in need. Some governments have made tremendous improvements in this regard, providing sustainable initiatives towards reducing poverty through education.

Chad

In Chad, the Global Partnership for Education responded in a timely fashion by providing nearly $7 million to the Ministry of Education in 2016 as a response to the 2016 conflict. This grant was not only allocated towards assisting the humanitarian relief crisis at the time, but was also used to provide education for refugees and displaced returnees.

According to the United Nations Education Index, Chad ranks 184th in the world in terms of its educational levels; nearly one in five children lived in poverty in 2015. In Hong Kong, a recent study came out affirming that “children who grow up in low-income households tend to have less access to opportunities and therefore are more likely to remain poor in adulthood.”

Many parents are strong proponents of education as they would like to invest in their children’s future, especially if they come from a predominantly poor household. The kinds of benefits procured from education help youths to break out of the poverty cycle and potentially become primary contributors to their country’s economy.

Additionally, income level persists when a child is enrolled in formal education. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have reduced poverty through initiatives in education such as developing workshops and extended learning opportunities.

Ghana

A headmistress at a recent school conference in Ghana recently lauded the value of education in society, claiming it “is the only means through which one could bridge the poverty and knowledge gaps in society.” Mrs. Elizabeth Ama Asare also stressed the importance of education towards economic empowerment, asserting that without it, “you cannot dine with the rich” or “reason with the professors.”

Her remarks were made in light of the commencement of the Government’s Free Senior High School (SHS) policy, one of the many significant initiatives towards reducing poverty through education.

In Ghana, World Vision International (WVI) has played an integral role in improving the lives of children and levels of education in 10 basic schools in Kpikira. The WVI’s efforts include educating the youth on maintaining general hygiene, and fighting to end the practice of child-marriage that’s embedded in many communities.

According to the article, “ending child-marriage could help the district achieve at least eight of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, including health, education, and poverty.”

Israel

Additionally, the Haredi community in Israel is beginning to more strongly promote education. Characterized by traditional Jewish Law, the Haredi are marrying less and focusing more on their higher education. As seen in 2017, the number of Haredi enrolled in higher education spiked from 1,000 to 10,800. The Haredi community constitutes 16 percent of Israel’s population, and is set to increase monumentally to 40 percent by 2065.

If governments, international organizations and charities actively come together, then bridging the poverty gap can become an achievable task. Those living in destitute areas can benefit through the creation of institutions that enhance learning perspectives and opportunities. Such robust initiatives in reducing poverty through education are vital in paving the way for those who learn in a classroom environment to pursue a better life.

– Alexandre Dumouza
Photo: Flickr

women's empowerment in vanuatu
In the beautiful country of Vanuatu, a South Pacific Ocean nation made up of roughly 80 islands, there is a strong fight for women’s empowerment.

Gender Equality Measures

Vanuatu falls under the umbrella of the UN Women’s Fiji Multi-Country Office (MCO) based in Suva, that covers 14 Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICT). PICTs work with governments and civil society organizations, and the MCO works to progress gender equality and women’s empowerment in the Pacific through the four key programs:

  1. Women’s Economic Empowerment
  2. Ending Violence Against Women
  3. Advancing Gender Justice in the Pacific
  4. Increasing Community Resilience through Empowerment of Women to Address Climate Change and Natural Hazards Program

Violence Against Women

No sexual harassment legislation is in place in Vanuatu, and failure to comply with the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW, exists. There is also an unequal minimum age for marriage – 18 years for males and 16 years for females with parental consent.

Violence against women must be addressed in order to bring women’s empowerment in Vanuatu. According to UN Women, 3 in 5 women that have been in a relationship have experienced physical or sexual violence. Women are often treated as property, and they deal with a culture of sexual abuse fostered through adolescence by male family members. Most women are accustomed to these roles and accept that it is normal for men to beat them if they are not obedient.

Economically Empowering Females

In regard to women’s economic empowerment, over half of women who make an income and live with a man earn about the same or more than their husband or partner; however, less than one in five has savings in the bank, and few women own any major assets on their own. In fact, more than 1 in 5 women had their earnings taken away by their husband or partner, who also has the ability to disrupt, or forbid, their female’s work.

The impacts of climate change also directly impact women’s empowerment in Vanuatu. Rising sea levels and changes in air and water temperature affect women’s traditional economic, agricultural and fishing duties. Natural disasters also increase women’s vulnerability to violence and deprivation. Humanitarian intervention is crucial for the improvement of this aspect of women’s empowerment in Vanuatu.

Thankfully, the MCO’s four programs seek to address these issues, and bring significant change to the levels and regions of women’s empowerment in Vanuatu.

– Julia Lee

Photo: Flickr

women's empowerment in surinameSuriname, a small country in South America, has had issues in the recent past with women’s rights. While there has been growth, it has taken many years and it is difficult to continue the changes in the country. Certain actions have been taken by other countries and women’s groups to promote women’s empowerment in Suriname.

Suriname has enacted laws to dismantle inequality. Mostly created during the 21st century, an example is the Penal Code, which, once amended in 2009, penalized rape within marriage. The Law on Combatting Domestic Violence was passed in 2009. It punishes all forms of violence, and has, along with increased awareness, cut instances of domestic violence from 1,769 in 2009 to 1,213 in 2010.

This increased awareness continued in 2015 when Iceland convened with Suriname in January to discuss violence against women. In 2013, the two countries were ranked almost exactly opposite in women’s rights, with Iceland first and Suriname 110th in the world. The conference was the first time the United Nations brought together male leaders of nations to specifically discuss gender equality.

Another program for women’s empowerment in Suriname was an exchange between the South Dakota National Guard and the Suriname Defense Force. In March 2017, there was a three-day conference about Women in Leadership. Four women from Suriname went to South Dakota to learn about support services and the opportunities in which women can serve. By the end of the conference, the women were able to work with foreign partners and share their experiences to gain an understanding of each other’s cultures.

Elsewhere, there is the Ilse Henar Foundation for Women’s Rights in Paramaribo, Suriname. As women tend to have a disadvantageous position in Suriname society, the foundation seeks to eliminate these inequalities. For example, in 2006 they started a project called “Elimination of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace in Suriname.” The NGO helped draft legislation specifically regarding this topic, and it organized vulnerable women’s groups for domestic workers and migrant women workers.

Several agencies and countries are taking a stand for women’s empowerment in Suriname. By addressing gender inequality, it will enable women to improve their social standing while benefiting society as a whole.

– Nick McGuire

Photo: Flickr

The third-largest nation in the Pacific, the Solomon Islands, is located northeast of Australia and west of Vanuatu. It has a population of about 600,000 with a land area of almost 28,000 square kilometers. Women’s empowerment in the Solomon Islands currently endures great difficulties, though is in progress. Despite the ratified conventions passed to eliminate any form of discrimination against women in 2012, there is no legislation on domestic violence, such as marital rape, in the Solomon Islands.

In 2007, only 67 percent of adult females and 84 percent of adult males were literate in the Solomon Islands. While this sharp contrast has gradually shrunk in the past ten years, women performed poorer than men in gross enrollment at almost all levels of education. In tertiary education, female students took up only 38 percent of total enrollment in 2012, and were concentrated in tourism, hospitality and education.

Another concern for women’s empowerment in the Solomon Islands is related to improving their health conditions. Malaria infections are high in pregnant women and children. There is a shortage of fresh water, fruits and vegetables in women’s diets, and this contributes to a high maternal mortality rate. Huge numbers of sexually transmitted infections come from early marriage, sexual violence and culturally sanctioned male infidelity, all of which contribute to gender inequality in the nation.

Lower levels of education and vulnerability to health issues leads to the poorer status of women in the economy. A large gap in employment rates sees 72.2 percent of men and 60.4 percent of women employed in the Solomon Islands. Land ownership and other traditional property rights still exclude women, despite the fact that 76.2 percent of women are involved in subsistence work, compared to 58.1 percent of men.

Female political leaders in this nation are almost nonexistent. Freda Tuki Soriocomua is the only woman holding one of the 50 seats in parliament, and also serves as minister for women. As claimed by the Inter-Parliamentary Union in June 2017, the Solomon Islands has the sixth-worst representation of women in parliament in the world.

Furthermore, due to the lack of domestic violence legislation, violence towards women in the Solomon Islands is a serious issue. As reported by the Family Health and Safety Study in 2009, among women aged 15 to 49 who had ever had a partner, 64 percent had experienced physical or sexual violence. About one-third of women reported being sexually abused before age 15, while around 10 percent of women reported physical violence during their pregnancy. Actual numbers could be even higher due to incomplete statistics.

Besides the 2012 ratified conventions and other regional commitments, U.N. Women in the Solomon Islands has been running a variety of programs to promote gender equality. These programs include Advancing Gender Justice in the Pacific, Ending Violence Against Women, Increasing Community Resilience through Empowerment of Women to Address Climate Change and Natural Hazards, and Women’s Economic Empowerment.

Women’s empowerment in the Solomon Islands demands increased concern. While previous cultural barriers and the nature of work created restrictions to women’s empowerment in the Solomon Islands, global efforts and collaborative policy development will gradually relieve the inequality-related issues of this nation.

– Xin Gao                   

Photo: Flickr

women's empowerment in comorosWomen’s issues in Comoros are closely associated with tradition, customs and religion. Challenges for gender equality include women being under-represented at the political level, a need for women in leadership, violence against women and women’s healthcare. By focusing on women’s empowerment in Comoros, these challenges could be properly addressed.

Women in Comoros, as well as Nigeria, Swaziland, the Republic of the Congo and Benin still have less than 8 percent female representation in their legislatures.

U.N. Women Working Towards Women’s Empowerment in Comoros

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (U.N. Women) works towards building capacities for women to participate in leadership. This transformative leadership training allows women to engage from a perspective of basic human rights and understand broader governance issues and democracy in general.

In Comoros, U.N Women has peacebuilding projects underway in partnership with the U.N. country team. Its contribution is to build the skills of women to understand the issues of gender relations in peace and in peacebuilding. It also strives to help women understand conflicts and how conflicts occur in order to help women build allies within the traditional leadership.

Addressing Domestic Violence and Women’s Healthcare

Violence against women, including domestic violence, is widespread in many places of Comoros. The physical, sexual and psychological violence against women threaten women’s empowerment in Comoros.

There has, however, been an advancement in women’s empowerment in Comoros through the improvement of healthcare services and decreasing maternal mortality.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) programs are key to the improvement of healthcare services. These programs provide emergency obstetric care and family planning, aim to maintain the low prevalence of HIV/AIDS and manage sexually transmitted infections. They also increase the availability and use of timely and reliable demographic data and integrate population variables into gender policies and development programs.

Reproductive health is a priority in the national health strategy of Comoros. According to U.N. Women, maternal mortality rates fell from 381 to 170 deaths per 100,000 live births between 2007 and 2012. Programs have extended services to women during pregnancy, delivery and after birth.

Comoros pledges to strengthens its multi-sectoral strategy on HIV, enhance women’s access to microcredit, and continue to implement actions to bring more women into key decision-making posts across national institutions.

With efforts to provide women with more opportunities to succeed, women’s empowerment in Comoros will effectively address the challenges women face in society.

– Julia Lee

Photo: Flickr

lack of education creates poverty
The connection between lack of education and poverty is of a cyclical nature, with each one leading to the other. Documentation of how lack of education creates poverty dates as early as the 1966 publication of the Coleman Report, as this report demonstrated that, when compared to their middle and upper-income counterparts, lower income students were less likely to perform well in school.

When looking at the connection between education and poverty, it is essential to consider a variety of factors, including health and women’s empowerment. Since each of these factors is improved when people are better educated, improving these factors then helps to decrease global poverty.

Education and Health

Educated people are less likely to suffer from poor health since they better understand how to prevent the contraction of various diseases. A study in Uganda demonstrated that in rural Uganda, those who were educated were 75 percent less likely to suffer from HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS rates are cut in half among younger people who are educated through primary school.

Education is also linked to maternal health and the health of children. When mothers are more educated, they are more likely to seek care during pregnancy, and they are better equipped to care for their children. Mothers that are educated are 50 percent more likely to seek immunization for their children than mothers who have no schooling.

Additionally, children of educated mothers are over twice as likely to live to the age of five than children of uneducated mothers. Statistics documenting the link between education and health — specifically the health of women and mothers — also demonstrate how education improves women’s empowerment.

Education and Women’s Empowerment

Young girls who are educated are less likely to marry at a young age. This fact means that they have a higher chance of entering into the workforce and not relying on their husbands and families for financial support. Women’s empowerment through education is another factor that demonstrates how lack of education creates poverty.

Women who are educated are able to develop better decision-making skills which allow them to succeed in the workforce. For women who are educated beyond grades three and four, each additional year of education leads to 20 percent higher wages, a fact that clearly demonstrates the link between education and poverty.

How to Improve

Research clearly indicates that if people lack the basic skills to read and do simple math, they will be less likely to get a job. An inability to get a job creates a clear pathway to poverty; however, lowering school fares and increasing investment in the education sector are key ingredients in improving the amount of educated people.

Between the years 2002 and 2007, an estimated 40 million more children were able to attend school, according to the Global Campaign for Education. This increase in educational attendance was due to a variety of factors including lowering school fares in countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi, and the increase in investment in education in Latin America.

Though many people claim that poverty is what causes poor education, they fail to recognize the complicated cyclical nature of the dilemma as a whole. In fact, many studies demonstrate how lack of education creates poverty. With the proper investment in education, more people can have access to education, enter the workforce and not fall into poverty.

– Haley Rogers

Photo: Flickr

women’s empowerment in Timor-LesteWomen’s empowerment in Timor-Leste has been a serious agenda since the nation gained independence from Indonesian occupation in 2002. The occupation left 70 percent of the nation’s infrastructure in shambles and most of its inhabitants displaced.

The small island suffers from one of the highest poverty rates in Asia as well as high levels of malnutrition. Women in Timor-Leste face challenges including poverty, gender-based violence and a lack of opportunities to be seen as community leaders.

The country’s government, as well as outside groups, is working to make sure that these issues are addressed. It is imperative that women’s empowerment in Timor-Leste is a top priority as the country seeks to provide a better future for all its inhabitants.

When Timor-Leste became an independent nation, a Gender and Constitution Working Group was formed with support from U.N. Women. This group was tasked with making sure that gender equality and women’s empowerment would be an integral part of Timor-Leste’s new constitution.

Because of the Gender and Constitution Working Group’s efforts, gender equality is included in Timor-Leste’s constitution, as well as a provision declaring that all citizens must be given equal opportunity in the social and political sphere. Due in no small part to these policies, Timor-Leste now has the largest percentage of women in political positions in the Asia Pacific Region.

A report by Mercy Corps found that increasing women’s empowerment in Timor-Leste helped to reduce childhood malnutrition and improve children’s health. Mercy Corps reported that when women have control over household finances, they are more likely to use funds to benefit themselves and their children. Similarly, when women have increased decision-making power they are more likely to make an expedient decision to get a sick child the care they need.

Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) is another organization that supports women’s empowerment in Timor-Leste. According to AVID senior program officer Alita Verdial, the nation’s “patriarchal society means that women do not have sufficient respect and resources to allow them to make their own decisions.” The organization is combatting these problems by providing volunteers to support local workers in areas such as human rights, education and economic empowerment.

Timor-Leste is a young country which faces many challenges. Women in the country do not yet have equal opportunity in the social, economic or political spheres. But key policies have been implemented to make sure women have equal protection under the law, and international programs are working to support the country’s women.

If Timor-Leste’s government and humanitarian organizations can continue to make women’s empowerment in Timor-Leste a priority, there is hope that the country will have a freer and more equitable future.

– Aaron Childree

Photo: Flickr