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Women's Empowerment in VietnamVietnam is a Southeast Asian country. During the past few years, gender inequality has been an issue that has increased noticeably. Women’s empowerment in Vietnam does not seem to be a prominent topic at first glance. This is because, within the Asian’s country society, it is traditionally portrayed the fact that women are supposed to become mothers.

Nowadays, Vietnamese society does not empower women as much as it once did. During the Vietnam War from 1955 to 1975, women left their households, and along with men, became soldiers to fight in battle.

From this, women became greatly respected in Vietnam. But the portrayal of women as mothers has overcome the once-powerful vision of these female soldiers. Now, Vietnamese women do not take part in the constabulary, government and state positions.

Most women become stay-at-home mothers whose only duty is to take care of their house, children, and husband. It is for this reason that practically all Vietnamese women become pregnant. They believe, as well as the other people in that same society, that it is the one and only duty and service that a woman has to and can successfully accomplish.

In addition to becoming mothers and housewives, most women perform jobs within the agricultural sector, one of the biggest parts of the Vietnamese economy.

It is clear that gender equality and women’s empowerment in Vietnam are concepts that have yet to be fully developed. Women of all ages are physically and mentally abused every day. Whether it is within their households, workplace or elsewhere, Vietnamese women do not seem to be in a safe position nowadays.

Along with such abuse, Vietnam’s human trafficking nets grow day by day at an extremely concerning growing rate. Women are abducted and sold from Vietnam to other Asian countries. The victims are usually sold in order to become sex workers or wives.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been working toward women’s empowerment in Vietnam for now decades. By creating women’s clubs, the UNDP has created safe spaces for Vietnamese women to share their stories and get to know other women in similar positions.

The UNDP is also working on a four-year project that will work with women and girls in order to advance gender equality in the public sector and to boost female representation in leadership positions.

The United Nations has created awareness in regard to violence towards women in the Asian country. Through initiatives such as “Delivering as One,” that promotes empowering women within their households, society, and others, gender equality is soon to become a reality in Vietnam.

– Paula Gibson

Photo: Flickr

women's empowerment in GabonHome to about 1.7 million people, the small West African country of Gabon is wealthy from oil exports and boasts impressive environmental diversity. An authoritarian government and family dynasty led by President Ali Bongo keeps wealth in its hands and contributes to high levels of inequality. Under the Bongo dictatorship, many legal and cultural obstacles remain that challenge and limit women’s empowerment in Gabon.

According to the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report for Gabon released in 2017, Gabon provides limited legal rights for women, and when laws do exist, they are poorly enforced. Marital rape remains legal, and women are often too ashamed or afraid to report a rape to the local police. Women’s empowerment in Gabon is promoted by several NGOs that work with the government to respond to incidents of domestic violence and harassment. Some positives include a very low rate of female genital mutilation (FGM), which is prohibited in Gabon.

While FGM has not taken root in the country, other traditions like polygamy are still practiced and act as a barrier to women’s empowerment in Gabon. Current laws limit the number of wives a man can have to four, and despite full legal rights on paper, many women still suffer discrimination based on customary laws relating to marriage, divorce and inheritance.

According to Amnesty International, the promise of gender equality in Gabon’s constitution is not borne out by the country’s laws and legal practices. The legal code continues to discriminate against women in child custody and crucial elements like the minimum age of marriage for women and girls, significant barriers to women’s empowerment in Gabon. Female domestic workers also suffer high levels of sexual harassment and have fewer avenues to legal help than other women suffering abuse in Gabon.

The World Bank is investing in a project to foster women’s business development and women’s empowerment in Gabon. The Investment Promotion and Competitiveness Project seeks to boost female employment, as the current female unemployment rate is at 27 percent — 11 percent higher than the male rate. The project will create a one-stop shop to register businesses with a central web-based database, empowering female entrepreneurs to receive training, access financial services and open small and medium-sized businesses. Projects like these are a key part of alleviating poverty for women in Gabon and helping them achieve empowerment.

– Giacomo Tognini

Photo: Flickr

As with many areas populated mainly by rural people, women’s empowerment in Mozambique takes a long time to spread through scattered communities. As of July 2017, Mozambique’s population stands at around 26,573,706, a number that accounts for the millions of inhabitants who have died from the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which severely affected much of this region.

The seaside nation is one of Africa’s less-populated countries, and, as the CIA states, the majority of its population is under the age of 15. With such an underprivileged and underaged society, there is much room for improvement, especially in the area of women’s rights.

U.N. Women

U.N. Women is an organization working to produce international legislation and support for women where women may not have a voice otherwise. According to its most recent report on Mozambique, “Mozambique is in a period of great transformation. Rapid economic growth coexists with high inequalities, very low human development indicators and a tense political situation.”

The amount of poverty and lack of economic growth in the region coupled with the major loss in adult population due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic leaves the women of Mozambique in a tough position — they are in charge of the economic stability in their community due to the lack of male population, but they are required to still adhere to strict social standards of the past.

Land and Labor

One of the most significant inhibitors of women’s empowerment in Mozambique is the tradition of male land-ownership. According to U.N. Women, women account for 87 percent of the labor force, but only 25 percent of these workers own land of their own. Many traditions in the Mozambique society focus on patriarchal norms, with the man being the breadwinner, landowner and leader in household activities.

However, with the severe decline in male population, these traditions are becoming harder to uphold. According to the International Labor Organization, over 59 percent of women work in informal or manual labor, which makes up 95 percent of the labor distribution in Mozambique.

The small margin of formal labor is known to be quite discriminatory toward women, and so the International Labor Organization produced a list of recommendations that labor unions and the Mozambican government to work on implementing for the betterment of women’s empowerment in the country.

Women’s empowerment in Mozambique is just beginning to take form; according to the U.N.’s Economic Commission for Africa, there are now 98 women in Parliament as of 2012. This number has increased from women holding only seven political seats in 2008, but it still only amounts to 39 percent of the entire parliamentary population.

Legal Action Needed

In the legal system, Mozambicans fight major issues such as human trafficking and abuse through legislation such as The Family Code, which was adopted in 2004. According to the International Federation for Human Rights, the Family Code establishes “total gender equality in family law, marriage, divorce, raising children and sharing assets within a marriage.” The law also establishes a woman’s right to property ownership which, as mentioned before, has been a contentious subject in the rural areas.

With this law, among many others which protect against egregious human rights violations such as human trafficking and rape, women in Mozambique are beginning to be viewed as equal to men in their homes, communities and society overall.

While there is plenty of work to be done in advocacy and fighting for women’s empowerment in Mozambique, there have been many strides taken to readjust the outlook of Mozambican society and to open doors for rural and cosmopolitan women in the country.

– Molly Atchison

Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in TongaIn recent years, Tonga has taken action to bridge the gap in gender equality by improving women’s livelihoods and attempting to stop domestic violence against them, while also improving their economic power. They believe that in order to eliminate poverty in their country, women’s empowerment in Tonga needs to improve.

Tonga’s government is determined to promote gender equality. On December 9, the Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team and the Ministry of Justice helped create a new Access to Justice Project for Tongan residents. The plan’s aim is to provide assistance to victims of domestic violence and offer them the services that they need.

The plan projects to open a community center in Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, in early 2018. The center will provide assistance that will increase survivors’ abilities to apply for protective services under the Family Protection Act. It will also include free legal assistance. For women who are not in Nuku’alofa, the center will provide assistance over the phone.

An earlier development created in 2016 to improve women’s empowerment in Tonga is the Talitha Project. With assistance from Australian Aid and U.N. Women, the project organized a drop-in center as a safe place for women to come and get support and discuss any difficulties they may be having. This center provides counseling and empowerment courses to help women become independent members of society.

The Talitha Project also launched a campaign this year, supported by the Ministry of Justice, to end child marriage in Tonga. The campaign is called “Let Girls Be Girls!” and plans to increase awareness of child marriage in Tonga, as well as repeal sections of the Births, Deaths and Marriage Registration Act of 1926. The current legal age to marry in Tonga is as young as 15 years of age if the child has the consent of a parent.

The campaign is hoping to change the age minimum for marriage to 18. The founder of the Talitha Project, Vanessa Heleta, says this is an essential step to ensure that women realize their full potential.

More recently, Heleta has used the Talitha Project to partner with the Bank of the South Pacific and a telecommunications company to encourage over 50 women to empower themselves financially. The project ensures that these young women are provided guidance on how to become financially independent entrepreneurs.

The project’s main purpose is to increase women’s empowerment in Tonga. With the help of the bank, these young women in Tonga will get assistance in opening a bank account. The project also works with the women to use any talents they may have to create or make goods they can sell, such as handicrafts or fabric printing. Then, when cruise ships come in, the women go to these locations and set up a tent where they can sell their products.

These young women having a functioning bank account and earning an income from the work they have done themselves empowers them and gives them leadership skills. The purpose of all of these projects is to improve women’s empowerment in Tonga and give them the confidence and support they need in order to continue striving as individuals.

Although a persistent effort is needed to further increase women’s empowerment in Tonga, there are numerous projects and plans in place to ensure that this improvement continues. These projects are only some of the influential ones taking place in Tonga and empowering women daily.

– McCall Robison

Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in TanzaniaMany women in the countries of Africa deal with marginalization and lack of opportunities. Tanzania is no exception. However, there have been efforts to improve this and empower women. Three unique programs aimed at improving women’s empowerment in Tanzania include USAID/Tanzania’s Gender Equality and Youth Inclusion Project, also known as Tumaini (“Hope” in Kiswahili), Let Girls Learn and the Waache Wasome (Let Them Learn) program.

Among the issues that women in Tanzania face include discriminatory laws, restrictive customary practices, no control over resources, barriers to decision-making, maternal mortality rates and HIV.

The Tumaini program includes a broad range of programs by working with communities and local government to increase women’s equality and youth inclusion.

Tanzania is one of two initial priority countries under Let Girls Learn, a United States government initiative to ensure young girls and women receive an education with the goal to improve enrollment and retention in educational programs.

Even though primary school enrollment among girls and boys is nearly equivalent in Tanzania, less than 20 percent of women age 20-24 have completed secondary school and 20 percent have never had any education, according to USAID.

Since USAID and the Department of State launched the Let Girls Learn Challenge Fund in 2015, the Waache Wasome (Let Them Learn) program has been launched. Waache Wasome is a five-year program working to improve the enrollment and retention of girls ages 13 to 19 in secondary school in select districts of the Arusha and Mara regions.

Over the five-year life of the project, Waache Wasome will reach at-risk adolescent girls and their families, covering 268 communities and 67 secondary schools across the four target districts of Tanzania. Their mission is to “address barriers to girls’ education” and “combat gendered beliefs and practices within homes, schools and communities and empower adolescent girls to aspire to and reach their full potential to learn and achieve.”

Because of these programs along with other efforts to combat women’s inequality and provide opportunities for education, there is hope for women’s empowerment in Tanzania, as well as hope for women all over to be empowered and make changes within their communities and in the world.

– Julia Lee

Photo: Flickr

women's empowerment in burkina fasoApproximately one out of every two girls in Burkina Faso will be married before the age of 18, and one out of ten girls will be married before the age of 15. Although child marriage rates vary from one region to another, rates are as high as 76 percent in the East region and 86 percent in the Sahel region. Tradition, poverty and lack of education contribute to child marriage in Burkina Faso.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) recorded the following trends among women aged 20 to 24:

  • 60 percent of women with no education were married at age 18.
  • 42 percent of women with primary education were married at age 18.
  • 3 percent of women with secondary education or higher were married at age 18.

These findings show that there is a negative correlation between the amount of education a woman receives and the age at which she marries. An educated woman is more likely to avoid child marriage than an uneducated woman.

Ending child marriage is possible by increasing women’s empowerment in Burkina Faso. In November 2015, the country finalized a national strategy to end child marriage by 2025. The strategy prevents child marriage, strengthens national efforts to end child marriage, supports child marriage victims and monitors its implementation. A multisectoral platform launched in June 2016 outlines the strategy’s roles and responsibilities.

In November 2015, The Hunger Project-Burkina Faso hosted two workshops for women’s empowerment in Burkina Faso. The workshops focused on female leadership and the fight against forced child marriages. The first workshop was held at Boulkon Epicenter, and aimed to generate interest among female leaders in involving their fellow women in the electoral process.

The second workshop, The Child Marriage Project, included training on sexual and reproductive rights of young girls forced into marriage. It was held in collaboration with Association D’appui et d’Eveil Pugsada, an organization that empowers women to assume significant roles in community development, and Kinderpostzegels, a Dutch organization that supports vulnerable children across the world. Burkina Faso is also a focus country of the UNICEF-UNFPA Global Program to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage.

Girls who know their human rights and are equipped with education and life-skills are proven to be less vulnerable to child marriage. With continued work from the government and nonprofit organizations, increasing women’s empowerment in Burkina Faso can help end child marriage.

– Carolyn Gibson

Photo: Flickr

Education in NingxiaNingxia, known as Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, is located in the northwest of China. This region of about 6.7 million people is surrounded by Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi and Gansu. People of the Hui ethnicity make up more than one-third of the population in Ningxia. The steady and continuous progress of education in Ningxia has taken place since it was founded in 1958.

Until now, the nine-year system of compulsory education in Ningxia has established an enrollment rate of more than 98 percent. There are nine universities and ten professional colleges. Standards of higher education and vocational education for adults are high.

Last year, education in Ningxia reached a number of milestones. A total of 69 kindergartens were newly set up or restructured, the heating facilities of 1,086 schools were renovated and rural schools ended the use of stove heating. Nine vocational training centers were built. A total of 313,000 people received financial aid from the Student Financial Assistance Project and 280,000 students were benefited by the Nutrition Improvement Program.

Compared to the last century, great changes have taken place for education in Ningxia. However, regarding the overall quality of education in this region, there remain significant disparities compared to the well-developed southeastern provinces of China.

Firstly, there is an observable gap between education in urban and rural areas. By the end of 2016, there were still 43.7 percent of people living in rural areas of Ningxia. About 380,000 rural people live below the poverty line. Take the Chencha Primary School as an example. It is the most remote school in the countryside, about 250 miles away from Yinchuan. Due to the inconvenience of lacking transportation services, each of the 48 students across five grades has no option but to walk a long distance to school.

The second problem is the ethnic disparities in education. In October 2014, an investigation on ethnic disparities concluded that the Hui children have a shorter period of education than the ethnic majority and that this had been occurring for generations. Sample statistics showed that while urban males in Hui and Han ethnicities had an average of 11 years’ education, in rural Ningxia, male Hui had 1.4 fewer years of education on average than rural male Han. However, many senior women of rural Hui only had a couple of years’ education and their illiteracy rates in poor, remote areas were high.

Gender inequality in education accompanies this ethnicity problem. It was reported that in rural Ningxia, Hui females had two fewer years of education on average than those of Hui males. Meanwhile, in some Hui families with multiple children, it is likely for parents to put the education of younger boys above that of girls and older boys. Due to the relatively low attendance rate of Hui girls, education in that region was lower, which restricts the overall development of education.

A recent investigation on the lifestyle transformation of Hui Muslim women in Ningxia found that higher education is correlated with avoiding early marriage. Meanwhile, some rural Hui families regard education as unnecessary for women. While the enrollment of primary schools had reached 99 percent in Ningxia, quite a few rural girls terminated their education in grade three or four.

In the Chinese government’s thirteenth five-year plan, the local government in Ningxia will be part of a plan to improve the overall education level of China by 2020. A total of 15,000 new kindergartens are expected to be constructed in poor villages across this region.

These policies will address poverty-related issues and provide aid to minority students and poor families attain education in Ningxia. Global giving with online donations is another measure to support scholarships for girls in rural families of Ningxia.

Better education in Ningxia demands reliable support from all individuals and broader society now and in the future.

– Xin Gao

Education in MacauEducation in Macau experienced slow progress before the middle of the twentieth century. Primary education was gradually popularized from the 1960s onwards, and the development of secondary and higher education followed. The economy of Macau was developing fast in the following two decades, which induced changes in the structure of society and families. As a result, education in Macau boomed, particularly primary.

Since the Macau Special Administrative Region of China was set up in December 1999, the government has provided 15 years compulsory education, comprised of three years of kindergarten followed by primary and secondary education each of six years. Out of 77 secondary schools in Macau, 65 offer free education. There are 10 accredited institutions for higher education in Macau, offering more than 250 academic programs.

Compared to China and other nations, education in Macau displays special features of its own. The whole society in Macau pays high attention to education, comprehensive curricula and professional development. Students are open to bilingual education and extracurricular activities.

While education in Macau is fast developing and has made great achievements, a few existing problems are also transparent. Before free and compulsory education was extended to 15 years in Macau, only 35.3 percent of the employed population had received a high school education.

Despite the overall education level of the labor force gradually improving in the past decade, in-grade retention rates are relatively high in Macao. As reported in 2013, the retention rate in junior middle school was as high as 15 percent; a previous study showed that 76 percent of senior high school graduates had been retained at some stage.

Tertiary education in Macau is also far from problem-free. The system of tertiary education is not consistent with other levels of education; performance appraisal in universities exists in name only. Due to the high cost of tuition in Macau, student resources and living space and restrictive. Meanwhile, more than 70 percent of students choose the major of economy and business management, which leads to an unbalanced allocation of educational resources. This is harmful to the healthy growth of these institutions in the long run.

In 2017, the government launched the third phase of its Continuing Education Development Plan in Macao. For tertiary education, the corresponding services office kept on facilitating a variety of external cooperation projects within that field, and seek reinforced collaboration from China inland.

To sum up, the current education in Macau has great potential for future improvement. Kindergarten education urges more attention from governmental and public support, and there is a need for better integration of all levels of education. Meanwhile, the structure of tertiary subjects also requires adjustment to meet the economic development strategy with diversity in this region.

– Xin Gao

Women's Empowerment in the Central African RepublicThe landlocked Central African Republic has a population of about 4.7 million and a land area of 623,000 square kilometers. Women’s empowerment in the Central African Republic is a challenging task in this nation, known as the unhappiest country in the world. The Human Development Index ranks this country as the lowest among 188 nations.

Similar to a few other undeveloped nations, economic and social discrimination are common barriers to women’s empowerment in the Central African Republic. Single women are not regarded as the heads of households and are often denied family subsidies to which they are entitled. While the constitution guarantees equal rights, many women, especially seniors and those without families, had been accused of being witches. The proportion of women in government ministries and female seats in parliament remains relatively low, at 12.5 percent as of 2015.

While equal inheritance and property rights are enshrined in civil law, women are vulnerable to discriminatory customary laws, especially in rural areas. There is no penalty for spousal rape, nor a minimum sentence for rape. Incomplete statistics suggest that one in seven women had been raped during the previous year, while the true incidence of rape could be even higher. Of women surveyed, 22 percent claimed physical harm by a member of their household. Also, there is no set of penalties on sexual harassment till then.

A 2013 report found that access to primary school was not equal for girls and boys. While 65 percent of girls were enrolled in the first year of school, this number sharply declined to 23 percent after the sixth grade. Many girls left school in their early teens to marry and have children. The illiteracy rate of females was also much higher than that of males.

A recent study reported that this nation has the second-highest rate of child marriage in the world, where 68 percent of teenage girls got married before the age of 18 and 29 percent were married before the age of 15. There is no prohibition against polygamy and bride-trading, which poses significant barriers to women’s empowerment in the Central African Republic.

A few global institutions such as U.N. Women and the International Rescue Committee put great effort into the protection of women’s empowerment in the Central African Republic. Their officials appealed to the international community to mobilize for the peace and security of women.

While some notable progress had been recognized on women’s empowerment in the Central African Republic, gender inequality and other related issues persist, demanding patient global advocacy on closing the long-existing gender gaps for this nation.

– Xin Gao

Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in Taiwain

Since ancient times, Taiwan has been part of China. The 23.5 million Taiwanese have a variety of similarities in language, culture, social and domestic habits with residents of China mainland. Women’s empowerment in Taiwan made a lot of progress in the past few decades. Thanks to family law amendments between 1996 and 2002, the legal rights of Taiwanese women improved. Women’s empowerment in Taiwan was among the top five Asia Pacific nations in 2013.

A 2013 survey presented an index of three indicators: employment, education and leadership. Among all participating Asian countries, Taiwan scored third in the employment indicator and second in women’s attendance in government. In regular employment and higher education, Taiwan’s score indicated that the job market and academia favor women over men.

Following the January 2016 election in Taiwan, the proportion of female legislators was 38 percent, putting it far ahead of the global average of 22 percent, many of its Asian counterparts as well as other nations including Britain, Germany and the U.S.

Since 1998, revised regulations were helpful to women’s empowerment in Taiwan by protecting property rights, prioritizing the best interests of children and allowing more freedom in divorce. Revisions to family law attenuated the superiority of a husband’s decisions on residence, property management and disciplinary measures. The Domestic Violence Prevention Law also has similar orientations on protecting women from mental and physical harm by their spouses.

A new employment law in May 2016 stipulated that any firm with more than 100 employees must provide a nursing room, childcare facilities or off-site alternatives. Official statistics showed that female labor participation increased from 45.3 percent in 1995 to 50.7 percent in 2015, and more than 90 percent of women aged 25-29 hold gainful employment at present.

In 2006, Landmarks of Women’s Culture in Taiwan was published by National Cultural Association, featuring many pioneering women in the nation. From 2013 to 2015, the Project on Women and Economic Development was spearheaded in Taiwan, where females played a keynote role on several forums of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Innovation. In October 2017, an APEC workshop hosted 60 women from 14 nations in Taipei, with the goal of promoting women and girl’s participation in STEM majors.

While women’s empowerment in Taiwan performs well among Asian-Pacific regions, issues of violence and discrimination require further concern. Most notably, real gender equality and empowerment of women must aim at cultural cognition, which promotes social harmony.

– Xin Gao