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Human Trafficking in Uruguay
Uruguay has recently increased its national response to violent and organized crime after seeing an increase has included the smuggling of drugs, weapons and people. To help end human trafficking in Uruguay, the government is taking steps to increase awareness and identification about the practice and its victims.

The United Nations defines human trafficking as the transfer of persons through the use of force or coercion for the purpose of exploitation, often involving forced labor or sex work. Around 10% of human trafficking occurs in Latin America, accounting for over $1 billion of the money traffickers make throughout the world.

Where Uruguay Stands

A small country of over 3.4 million bordering Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay has historically had one of the lower crime rates in South America. Despite this, the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report categorizes Uruguay as a Tier 2 country, which it has been for the last five years. The report, which the U.S. State Department publishes, consists of three primary tiers. The first denotes that a country is making sufficient effort to end human trafficking and the third signals that a country is making little to no effort.

In 2019, Uruguay identified 83 new victims of human trafficking; this number is down from the 95 victims it identified in 2018. Shelters and other services are available for victims, however, most resources like these are only in the capital of Montevideo. Victims identified in other areas of the country face additional challenges because of this.

Most victims of human trafficking are women and girls, who are often from vulnerable communities. Poverty is one of the leading risk factors that experts associate with human trafficking, meaning that in addition to direct responses to human trafficking, reducing poverty can also be a form of prevention.

What Uruguay is Doing

As a Tier 2 country, Uruguay still has room to improve its handling of human trafficking but is making significant efforts to advance the quality of its response and resources for victims. Primary among these is the country’s National Action Plan in 2018, which involved the creation of a committee focused on ending human trafficking in Uruguay.

Besides raising public awareness about the issue, Uruguay is also training law enforcement and other officials on how to recognize human trafficking when it occurs and provide help. A national hotline is also now available 24 hours a day. Uruguay is also providing access to shelters and services for victims outside of Montevideo as an ongoing effort to end human trafficking in the country.

Civil society and the public have also made their voices heard on the topic, including former victims. In the summer of 2019, Sandra Ferrini, who experienced trafficking as a teenager, made a powerful statement as she led the country’s first march against human trafficking.

Potential Improvements

The efforts that Uruguay is enacting to prevent and educate about human trafficking have improved the country’s situation, but it still needs to do more work. The Trafficking in Persons report made several recommendations for Uruguay to continue improving its efforts.

One area the recommendations focused on was improving the long-term support for victims. Suggestions included more funding for shelters, particularly in areas outside of the capital Montevideo. Programs for social reintegration are also a promising form of support, including those that focus on vocational training.

The report also recommended that Uruguay pursue more prosecutions of the people running human trafficking. Cases against traffickers have increased in the last few years, with 18 cases undergoing prosecution in 2019 compared to just 10 a few years before. Increasing prosecution can further hold perpetrators accountable and decrease trafficking in Uruguay.

With further engagement on the issue from both the government and the public, Uruguay can improve services for victims and significantly reduce human trafficking within its borders.

– Nicole Ronchetti
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

The Connection Between Prison and Poverty
In many societies around the world, mass incarceration is rampant and disproportionately affects those living in poverty. In 2013, reports determined that more than 10 million impoverished people have undergone incarceration. This has led to a dampening of upward social mobility because even after prison convicts face the stigma of being a former felon, individuals who believed that their best option to rise from poverty was a life of crime will likely return to a community where their best survival option is criminal. A connection between prison and poverty emerges in developing countries where cyclical policies keep people at the bottom of the social hierarchy with no way out.

The Connection Between Prison and Poverty

Former U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston studied this prison-poverty connection. In 2018, he released his findings in a report that documented how overly harsh government policy can have a pronounced effect on impoverished offenders. Alston notes, “so-called fines and fees are piled up so that low-level infractions become immensely burdensome, a process that affects only the poorest members of society, who pay the vast majority of such penalties.” If someone fails to pay their debts, the government will often place restrictions on their driver’s license, making recidivism far more likely.

Pre-Trial Detention in Brazil

Brazil ranks as the country with the third-highest rate of incarceration, behind China and the U.S. Its prison population rises above 755,000. Like the United States, the developing country engages in pre-trial detention. Pretrial detention is the act of holding a person suspected of a crime without rights until a court date. However, poor people often stay in detention facilities longer than the wealthy. This is because they cannot afford the exorbitant cash bail that the wealthy can. A 2010 study found that hundreds stayed in jail several years past their planned release. Additionally, “irregularities” lead to the mistaken detainment of over 16,000 Brazilians. Pretrial detention inmates currently overcrowd Brazil’s prisons, which make up nearly a third of the inmate population.

The War on Drugs in Thailand

With the number of people incarcerated at 344,161, Thailand ranks as number six in the world when it comes to mass incarceration. Similar to Brazil, the country has its own struggles with prison and poverty. An unexpected explanation for Thailand’s overcrowded prisons is the American War on Drugs. In 1997, a financial crash forced many Thai people into unemployment. This economic despair led to an increase in the number of drug users. In 2003, the government chose to heavily police these now-impoverished citizens. While Thailand has backed away from violent crackdowns, the majority of arrests are still primarily drug offenses. To evade time in prison, wealthier people can pay the $1,300 in drug charges. In 2016, only 27% of first-time offenders managed to avoid recidivism, as those in poverty could not afford bail.

Penal Reform International

While the connection between prison and poverty seems deep-rooted, it is still capable of transformation. Organizations have worked to alleviate the flaws of prison systems throughout the globe through educational, political and relief efforts to break the cycle. Penal Reform International is one such group.

Founded in 1989 with a focus on rehabilitation, Penal Reform International (PRI) works with the United Nations and other organizations to advocate for fair treatment of people in the criminal justice system. PRI observes detention centers and offers solutions to systemic abuse. For example, PRI studied the lives of the female offender population in the country of Georgia. The report found that they detained over a third for non-violent drug offenses. About 40% of those questioned committed crimes for financial reasons, while 80% were also mothers. Among those who received a release from prison, more than half had trouble finding employment due to their record, while most never obtained any kind of rehabilitative assistance. Between 2016 and 2019, PRI created a project providing services to Georgian women prisoners. Services included legal aid, counseling, business grants and healthcare assistance. Respondents expressed that the project has greatly improved their mental wellbeing, preparedness and self-esteem.

Prison and poverty can intertwine when the prison system values money over people. Nevertheless, learning about these issues surrounding developing countries can shed light on the flaws in one’s own.

– Zachary Sherry
Photo: Flickr

Denmark's Foreign Aid
When it comes to foreign aid, one of the most widely-commended countries is the small nation of Denmark. The Danes are well-known for their generous aid spending and both donor and recipient nations recognize Denmark as a highly effective partner in the fight against global poverty. Here are five facts about Denmark’s foreign aid.

5 Facts About Denmark’s Foreign Aid

  1. Denmark is a world leader in foreign aid spending. In 2019, Denmark spent $2.55 billion on foreign aid, a seemingly small figure compared to the $34.62 billion the United States spent, but Denmark’s population is only about 1.76% that of the U.S. When adjusted for population, Denmark’s foreign aid totals $447 per-capita, much higher than the United States’ $95 per-capita. In fact, Denmark is the fourth-highest per-capita spender of all OECD countries after Norway, Sweden and Luxembourg.
  2. Denmark has consistently been a world leader since the 1970s. The United Nations uses foreign aid as a percentage of Gross National Income to measure a country’s proportional spending, and Denmark is one of the few countries that has met or exceeded the U.N.’s target of 0.7% of GNI since 1978. Denmark’s foreign aid currently amounts to 0.71% of its GNI, trailing only Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden among OECD countries. However, for a brief period during the 1990s, Denmark actually increased this number to over 1%.
  3. Low-and-middle-income countries rate Denmark high for usefulness, influence and helpfulness in foreign aid. In a new study that AidData conducted, leaders from 40 aid-receiving nations ranked Denmark as a top development partner. Besides meeting the U.N.’s foreign aid target, Denmark scored second among all countries for its usefulness regarding policy advice, second for its influence in setting agendas and first for its helpfulness regarding reform implementation. Since 2009, these reforms have included promoting greater private sector expansion and focusing on social progress as a catalyst for economic growth. Denmark’s long-term commitments to implementing such policies in a small number of prioritized nations have proven to be highly effective in reducing extreme poverty.
  4. Denmark manages its foreign aid spending and implementation through DANIDA, the Danish International Development Agency. DANIDA’s top priorities for 2020 are advancing human rights and equality, developing sustainable green growth, providing humane asylum for displaced people and maintaining international cooperation in all global efforts. Denmark’s foreign aid reaches over 70 low-and-middle-income countries, but those of the highest urgency include Afghanistan, Somalia and Niger. Efforts in Afghanistan largely center around education as Danish aid provides teacher education, updated textbooks and curriculum development. In Somalia, DANIDA works to develop safety nets, human rights advancements and strengthen national and local governance. Niger receives policy advice on properly handling the irregular number of migrants in the country as well as basic delivery of living essentials to impoverished children.
  5. Denmark can still improve. While the country is one of only six to meet the U.N.’s target of 0.7% GNI in 2019 with 0.71%, this is a substantial drop from 2015 when Denmark spent 0.85% of GNI on foreign aid. Addressing this cutback, which was largely due to increased spending on refugees within the country, should be a top concern. Reverting back to 2015’s percentage or higher is a positive step Denmark can take, and such a move is all the more likely now as Denmark’s 2019 net migration was negative for the first time in almost a decade. As the country spends less on internal migrants, more of the Danish budget is available to supplement the once-highly-robust foreign aid sector.

One of the most effective ways developed governments can help to improve conditions in poverty-stricken nations is by properly funding and managing healthy foreign aid budgets. By taking Denmark’s example, more countries should seek to meet the U.N.’s 0.7% GNI target and implement this aid in a manner that best fits the needs of impoverished individuals in low-income countries.

– Calvin Melloh
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Egypt
Currently governed under Islamic Law as Egypt’s amended Constitution states, religion plays a major role within legislative policies. It has been a debate for several years as to whether the decline in women’s protection in Egypt is due to religious laws or the current socioeconomic environment. In order to approach the complexities of modern-day Egyptian society and women’s rights in Egypt, one must first understand the history of Islamic Law. Known for existing as more of an all-encompassing religion, Islam not only provides theological practices but also a way of living.

 Islamic Law

 Article 40 and 46 of Egypt’s present constitution explicitly states, “All citizens are equal before the law. They have equal public rights and duties without discrimination between them due to race, ethnic origin, language, religion or creed.” The second article of this same constitution declares “Islam is the religion of the state and Arabic is its official language. The principles of Islamic Sharia is the principal source of legislation.”

 Many women in Egypt (and other predominantly Islamic regions) are facing a dilemma concerning their religious and basic freedoms. Because Egypt incorporates Islam even within legal policies, it somewhat discourages other religions. This is why the second-largest religious community is Christianity, comprising approximately only 5% of the Egyptian population.

Women’s religious and basic human rights greatly differ from men’s rights and social roles. An example of this may include the regulations in regards to a woman’s attire. The hijab as well as other head and body coverings was initially symbolic of modesty within the Islamic religion. Moreover, although the Qur’an very clearly addresses men alongside women when proclaiming rules of “guarding their modesty,” men do not have to participate in the wearing of head/face coverings.

As of recently, though, the practice of adopting body and face veils into a woman’s everyday appearance has evolved into more of a preliminary societal standard. Because scripture claims that women exposing themselves to any man unrelated to them (besides children) is a sinful act, women experience pressure to adorn these religious coverings in public just to prevent shame, which only further enforces this oppression.

Socioeconomic Factors

This brings up the debate attempting to answer whether the lack of basic human rights for women is due to the Islamic nature of Egyptian society, or society itself? Women are hesitant to go into public without these coverings because of societal and religious pressures, but the act of preserving their modesty exists now as somewhat of a precautionary measure, as well.

In several impoverished countries or regions of extreme poverty, the economy is the primary factor in societal normalities. Women’s rights in Egypt undergo frequent testing, especially in areas of extreme poverty within the country. Because of scarce job opportunities and the dilapidated financial state of certain areas, women frequently endure mistreatment. They often cannot challenge their social or religious roles or financially provide for themselves. Their husbands, neighbors and, in some cases, their relatives, use this to their advantage which results in the very common sexual harassment of women.

Because of the different roles of Egyptian men and women, the deterioration of women’s rights in Egypt and sexual harassment of women has been a prominent issue since at least the ‘80s (this was the beginning of the selective documentation of sexual harassment cases in Egypt). Although the Qur’an prophesizes the equality of men and women under God, others in Egypt sometimes see women as lesser than. In this case, the argument that socioeconomic factors are separate from religious practices and laws is valid.

 Moreover, the United Nations conducted a census in 2013 revealing that an estimated 99.3% of women could encounter sexual harassment in Egypt. Meanwhile, another study concluded that about 86% of women reported that bystanders frequently ignore the aggression.

This demonstrates the frequency in which these dangerous acts happen in public. It is seemingly a social norm for women to not only have to uphold traditional religious roles but also to face arbitrary sexual aggression in public.

Solutions

As of 2014, however, Egypt is now addressing this violent aggression towards women. For the first time in Egyptian history, sexual harassers are undergoing prosecution and courts are holding them accountable. Egypt still requires more improvement, but more and more women are beginning to make others aware of this issue, even globally. The current economic state of Egypt is also developing. With an extreme poverty rate of 32% in 2018 and one of approximately 29% in 2020, Egypt is continuing to see a decline in extreme poverty.

 The societal and religious pressures persist, but Egypt is generating more discourse to help bring more attention to the issue of women’s rights in Egypt. Moreover, the debate over religion is increasing along with the dismantling of unjust socioeconomic systems.

– Caroline Kratz
Photo: Flickr

5 Facts About Insecurity in KuwaitLocated on the western edge of the Persian Gulf, Kuwait is a small Arab state comparable to the size of New Jersey. Nevertheless, Kuwait holds the sixth-largest oil reserve in the world. This has helped its citizens become among the wealthiest in the world. Kuwait has consistently ranked among the Arab world’s best for food security. However, its reliance on food imports, as well as having underdeveloped agriculture and fishing industries, could hinder its future. Here are five facts about food security in Kuwait.

Top 5 Facts About Food Security in Kuwait

  1. According to the Economist’s 2019 Global Food Security Index, Kuwait received a score of 74.8 out of 100 and ranked 27 out of 113 countries for food security. As a result, Kuwait only trails Qatar (ranked 13) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (ranked 21) in the region. Kuwait is most notably fifth in the world for food “affordability” and boasts a high “sufficiency of supply”. Both factors significantly prevent hunger.
  2. Despite its high ranking on the Global Food Security Index, Kuwait imports over 96% of its food. Given that Kuwait only has 1.4 million citizens, more than 700,000 foreign nationals and migrant workers benefit from a subsidy program. In November 2019 alone, subsidy expenditures reached upwards of $23.5 million. Kuwait’s food subsidy initiative has ultimately improved the nutrition of Kuwaiti children and created widespread food security in Kuwait.
  3. Expatriates in Kuwait who do not receive subsidized food are at great risk of food insecurity. The average non-Kuwaiti worker in 2018 earned about 299 KD, while the average Kuwaiti citizen earned 1,415 KD. In the event of another surge of COVID-19, this wage gap could be especially catastrophic for the 2 million foreign nationals in Kuwait who do not receive food subsidies. For some, their salary might even not cover all of their basic human needs.
  4. A major reason for Kuwait’s reliance on imported food is its weak agriculture industry, which has traditionally consisted of fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, onions and melons. Ultimately, agriculture contributes less than 0.5% to the country’s GDP. Further development of agriculture seems unlikely considering an average annual rainfall of about four inches and 8.6% arable land. An underdeveloped agriculture sector would be an existential threat to most countries. Conversely, Kuwait’s small population, great wealth and diversified imported food supply chain allow it to circumvent such risks.
  5. Kuwait’s fisheries have experienced reduced production. Kuwait’s fisheries can provide only 33-49% of total fish demand in Kuwait and their production has dropped by over 20% in recent decades. Anything that negatively impacts Kuwait’s fishing industry could make Kuwait more dependent on other countries for their fish supply. If water temperatures increase as predicted, the average price of fish would likely rise with the departure of locally-sourced fish. This could increase poverty nationwide. Therefore, programs like the DNA Project are crucial to protecting Kuwait’s food security in the future. The DNA Project intends to collect DNA from local and migrating fish in order to manage stock more effectively.

Kuwait Works with FAO

Although fighting domestic poverty has long been a priority for Kuwait, the growing presence in foreign policy is exciting. Kuwait’s current work with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to combat hunger in Syria is just one example of this transition. In May 2019, Kuwait donated three million dollars to the FAO, securing 200 kilograms of enhanced wheat seeds for 20,000 Syrian farmers and their families. Consequently, agricultural production and food security in Syria have both been bolstered. Kuwait’s involvement in eliminating poverty in Syria builds on its partnership with the FAO in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria, where it has achieved similar success in improving food security. As collaboration develops between nations to eliminate poverty, the ability to achieve other humanitarian goals will significantly increase as well.

Alex Berman
Photo: Pexels

Fruits and Vegetables
The United Nations 74th General Assembly declared 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IFYV). Thus, the United Nations has four primary focus areas: Raising awareness of nutrition and health benefits, promoting balanced and healthy diets, reducing losses and waste and promoting consumption, sustainability, supply chains and capacity strengthening.

IFYV and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The International Year of Fruits and Vegetables is in congruence with three SDGs. It works towards achieving zero hunger ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being and promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns. Consequently, the initiative helps raise awareness about the health benefits of fruits and vegetables and hastens the 2030 Agenda’s attainment.

Cross-cutting Issues to Address

  • Small-Scale Production: Over 50% of fruits and vegetables grow on less than 20 hectares of land worldwide. Consequently, developing countries produce a significantly low volume of fruits and vegetables. Farmers in developing nations primarily practice subsistence farming for consumption. Thus, farmers sell the remaining fruits and vegetables to markets.
  • Technology and Innovation: To ensure quality and quantity output, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) hopes to improve its already-existing farming technologies in the fruit and vegetable sector. As a result, it targets high-yielding and disease-resistant cultivars, insect-breeding for pollination, pest control and conservation-agriculture techniques.
  • Gender and Youth: Although women play a significant role in the world’s fruit and vegetable sector, they still face disproportionate disadvantages such as lack of legal access to land, insufficient financing and low and unequal pay. Fostering innovations in this sector would open opportunities for women and the youth in this sector to gain economies of scale and improve its overall thriving.
  • Policy: In the past, fruits and vegetables have received less attention than staple crops in policy, research and funding. In 2021, however, thanks to FAO’s initiative, the Fruits and Vegetable sector potentially stand a chance of receiving financing both from governments and investors, which will, in turn, boost its productivity.
  • Losses: East and Southeast Asia and farms in sub-Saharan Africa lose about 50% of fruit and vegetables during storage. Technological advancements would help increase supply chains’ efficiency and reduce losses and waste.

Policies & Measures

The 2021 International Year of Fruits and Vegetables policies’ aim to attain sustainability, boost productivity and ensure profitability in this sector. Thus, it strives to nurture a healthy food environment for consumers to consume fresh produce. Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of including fruits and vegetables in a balanced diet.

Furthermore, these policies explore opportunities for tax incentives and deductions in business activities. Additionally, it seeks new sources of funding for infrastructure development in developing countries. This enables smooth and timely transportation of the harvest to redistribution facilities and markets.

Policies aim to reduce food waste in developing countries by modifying market standards for fresh produce and facilitating food banks’ access to fruits and vegetables in the field for easy redistribution.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu launched the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables. He remarked that promoting healthy diets is crucial for immune system strengthening. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this especially important. It is difficult to assess the project’s progress this early, but it has undoubtedly made progress.

– Divine Mbabazi
Photo: Flickr

SDG Goal 1 in BangladeshThe United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) help direct all countries towards a more sustainable future. Members of the UN General Assembly enacted 17 SGDs in 2015 to reduce poverty, to eradicate widespread hunger, and to address other global challenges. Assuming all countries follow the yearly agenda, all developing countries will enjoy a more prosperous life by 2030. This article will highlight the progress of SDG Goal 1 in Bangladesh.

Since 2015, Bangladesh has made remarkable improvements in reducing poverty (SDG Goal 1). For instance, by 2010, only three years after the implementation of the SDGs, the proportion of Bangladeshis living below the international poverty line decreased by 8.3%. Similarly, the proportion of Bangladeshis living below the domestic poverty line decreased by 9.9% from 2010 to 2018. While this is an exceptional improvement, Bangladesh still has much to improve by 2030. This article will introduce five ways Bangladeshis are working towards SDG Goal 1:

Increasing Opportunities For Women

Bangladesh has a large, young workforce. More than half of Bangladesh’s population is under the age of 25, and approximately 2 million people enter the workforce every year. Many women, however, cannot work or hold jobs below their potential. This is particularly apparent in rural areas where the employment gap between men and women is especially high. According to the SDG Fund, only 36.4% of women are employed; unfortunately, this employment rate is 46.9% lower than that of men. Addressing this disparity between women and men is necessary to reduce poverty in Bangladesh over time.

Growing the Economy

Bangladesh is well-known for its garment production industry, the second-largest in the world. Many businesses hire firms from Bangladesh to manufacture their products. This, in turn, provides Bangladeshis with more work opportunities and provides revenue for the economy. Garment exports from Bangladesh continue to rise by approximately 16% every year.

Increasing Digital Power

Like Bangladesh’s garment industry, the digital power and technology industry continues to grow rapidly. Bangladesh has the largest number of information technology (IT) freelancers in the world: over 600,000 IT freelancers work within the country. Freelancers are able to work remotely and assisting people worldwide; therefore, the job is relatively secure. Much of Bangladesh’s youth is seeking IT experience due to the good pay and job security.

Concentrating on Lagging Regions

Economic and environmental issues disproportionately impact the rural areas of Bangladesh. Ergo, these regions are more prone to poverty than urbanized cities. In order to dissipate national poverty and to fulfill SGD Goal 1 in Bangladesh, officials focus on improving lives in these lagging regions. Therefore, the SDG Fund’s program primarily supports rural districts such as the Kurigram district in Northwest Bangladesh and the Satkhira district on the country’s Southwest coastline.

Improving Infrastructure

Improved infrastructure is another vital aspect of fighting poverty in Bangladesh. According to the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report from 2013, the country’s overall infrastructure ranked 134th out of 142 countries. However, since the development of the SDGs, Bangladesh, along with financial help from the World Bank, paved 800 km of new roads while maintaining 4,500 km of rural roads in 26 districts. Officials also implemented road safety engineering measures and a community awareness campaign regarding road safety.

Bangladeshis have made significant progress since implementing the SDGs in 2007. By increasing opportunities for women, growing the economy, increasing digital power, concentrating on lagging regions, and improving infrastructure, Bangladesh can achieve its goal of providing its people a more prosperous life by 2030. More specifically, these poverty reduction methods will help achieve SGD Goal 1 in Bangladesh.

Heather Law
Photo: Flickr

SWEDD projectThe Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend SWEDD) regional initiative was launched in 2015 with its conclusion set for 2018. The call for the initiative came from six African presidents to accelerate the empowerment of women as a transitional power in the region. The Sahel region is reeling from a host of issues like climate issues, terrorism, organized crime and much more. Lack of food, clean water and medicines are prevalent concerns and the region has suffered a set of humanitarian crises in response. The region’s crises garnered the attention of the United Nations and the World Bank Group, which initiated the SWEDD project and its phase two continuation.

Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD)

The main objective of the SWEDD project is to increase women and adolescent girls’ empowerment and their access to quality reproductive, child and maternal health services. It also seeks to promote social and behavioral change and reinforcement of advocacy at policy development levels to support these objectives.

Nine countries are currently involved in the SWEDD project, creating an inclusive economy that centers on gender equality issues. These countries are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

As of 2014, women made up a majority of the population in every country listed in the program. Based on this fact, the future envisioned by policymakers would have to embrace and empower the female population, driving a new paradigm for the Sahel.

SWEDD’s Impact

Through this initiative, the establishment of improved societal, financial and health structures have developed in the region. The benefits of the program are seen in various key development sectors.

  • The completion rate for girls in secondary schools rose from 35.1% to 40.3% between 2015 and 2018.
  • The program led to increased access and use of contraception, with more than 4,302,000 women using more modern methods.
  • A whole 10,154 midwives have gained training in new technologies, increasing the overall growth of the field by 15.2% in the initiative’s first four years of existence.
  • The completion rate for girls in secondary schools rose from 35.1% to 40.3% between 2015 and 2018.
  • The program created 1,640 clubs for husbands and husband-to-be in the region, which sets its aims on the education and participation of men and boys for gender equality.
  • The average income of women in the region has risen.
  • A notable decrease in the number of child marriages has been linked to educational attendance.

Continuation of SWEDD

The impact of the SWEDD project in the Sahel region is substantial. The changes stemming from the initiative, have begun a societal restructuring of communities throughout the Sahel, at a critical moment in African post-colonial history. The overwhelming success of the initiative has been rewarded by continuing well beyond its initial end in 2018 to 2023. Phase two of the program ensures that even more women in the region are empowered.

– Christopher Millard
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Eritrea
Eritrea is an isolated, one-party state where children must frequently leave school for mandatory military training along with a large percentage of farmers and agricultural workers. This leaves food, water, education and shelter from violence almost inaccessible. For these reasons, many Eritrean citizens seek shelter in neighboring countries or refugee shelters where human trafficking is the most rampant. Human trafficking in Eritrea is very common due to over 30 years of violence between neighboring countries leaving it extremely militarized and vulnerable.

Human trafficking is a serious crime and a violation of human rights that occurs in almost every country in the world. The United Nations defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation and harboring of people for the purpose of forced labor, prostitution, slavery or any other means of exploitation. Trafficking runs rampant in underdeveloped nations, highly militarized and war-torn states and countries without sufficient protection systems in place.

Current State of Human Trafficking in Eritrea

Eritrea is classified as a source country. This means that the majority of human trafficking in Eritrea happens within the country’s borders, mainly for forced domestic labor with sex and labor trafficking happening abroad to a lesser extent.

Most trafficking occurs inside Eritrea’s borders because citizens face “strict exit control procedures and limited access to passports and visas,” trapping them in the country or forcing citizens to flee to refugee camps where they have a high chance of getting kidnapped and returned. Kidnappers commonly try to coerce victims with a promise of reuniting families, food or shelter.

Sinai Desert Trafficking

Between 2006 and 2013, non-domestic human trafficking in Eritrea increased exponentially. Smugglers of neighboring countries were kidnapping Eritreans from refugee camps in order to hold them in the Sinai Desert for ransom. Victims often experienced extreme violence like torture, organ harvesting and rape. Of the estimated 25,000 to 30,000 victims of Sinai trafficking, estimates have determined that about 90% are Eritrean.

Current Protection in Place

According to the U.S. Department of State, the Eritrean government has not reported significant efforts to identify and protect human trafficking victims in the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report: Eritrea.

The government has not reported any systems in place to protect victims and the Eritrean court used to only require perpetrators of human trafficking to pay restitution and/or fines, but now it offers jail time along with a fine of $1,330-$3,330. The government has not identified or persecuted any government officials of human trafficking but did arrest 44 military officials for conspiracy to commit trafficking crimes in 2015.

Prevention and Progress

The U.S. Department of State ranks Eritrea as a Tier 3 country in human trafficking matters meaning that it does not meet the minimum anti-trafficking standards and is not making an effort to do so. The government did not report any protection systems in place for trafficking victims, it does not provide services directly to victims and it does not show significant effort to create legislation to punish traffickers.

Even though the Eritrean government continues to subject its citizens to forced national service, in 2019, it increased international cooperation on human trafficking and similar matters. Officials were active in an international anti-trafficking workshop that created a regional and national level action plan to combat trafficking.

In the past decade, Europe has offered to reinstate aid to Eritrea to help stimulate the economy and reduce the number of people attempting to leave the country. Europe is a destination point for many migrants who stop through Sudan and Libya on the way, but many do not make it through due to the difficult journey.

More recently, the Eritrean government has been educating its citizens on the dangers of irregular migration and trafficking through events, posters, campaigns and conventions to hopefully prevent men, women and children from entering high-risk trafficking zones. This is one of the best things the government can do for its citizens as it better informs them of their surroundings on a day to day basis.

The U.S. Department of State has also recommended the continuation of anti-trafficking training to all levels of government, as well as the enforcement of limits on the length of mandatory national service for citizens and the enactment and enforcement of anti-trafficking laws that criminalize the act and prosecutes the perpetrators of human trafficking in Eritrea.

One of the most important ways to slow or stop human trafficking would be to end mandatory national service or impose strict time limits on such service. Many Eritreans attempt to flee or experience trafficking by military officials because they are in service for an indefinite amount of time with no way out. Once Eritrea begins to persecute any and all human traffickers and can break free from an authoritarian one-party political system, it can begin to be a safe country for its citizens.

 – Julia Ditmar
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Gabon
Many African nations are losing the fight against hunger. Levels of hunger are rising faster than governments can handle, but one country is setting an example of how nations should respond to this persistent struggle. Gabon, an African nation off the west coast of Africa, is taking steps to combat the threat of hunger around the region. Starvation is a massive problem in Africa and Gabon is no exception. Hunger proliferates throughout the African nation, but Gabon, with the help of international organizations, is making big strides that have helped thousands of Gabonese people.  Here are five key points to know about hunger in Gabon.

5 Key Points to Know About Hunger in Gabon

  1. The proportion of undernourished people in Gabon is rising again. According to the 2019 Global Hunger Index report, Gabon’s proportion of undernourished people has been steadily decreasing every year since 2008. However, hunger levels decreased every year between 2008 and 2014 but have since started to rise.
  2. Children and women are at the greatest risk. In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that 18% of children under 5 years old suffered from chronic malnutrition. Furthermore, a 2016 report found that close to 61% of women in Gabon were anemic. Improved access to food can help prevent starvation, malnutrition and sickness.
  3. GHI lists Gabon’s level of hunger as ‘moderate.’ Gabon’s GHI Score in 2000 was 20.8 indicating that the country’s level of hunger ‘serious.’ Many Gabonese people continue to suffer from malnutrition, but the Gabonese parliament had undergone great efforts to alleviate the problem. Gabon has adopted policy frameworks, such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), which outlines a plan for improved access to water and food security. In 20 years, Gabon has dropped its score to 18.2, lowering the nation’s level of hunger to ‘moderate.’ Today, Gabon continues to make progress in its fight to end hunger throughout the nation.
  4. Gabon’s government has taken measures to fight the hunger epidemic. In 2019, the Gabonese government founded the Gabonese Parliamentary Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (APGSAN). The organization, established in association with the FAO Subregional Office for Central Africa and the United Nations, is committed to fighting hunger and malnutrition throughout the nation. APGSAN will work with other parliamentary coalitions to help provide sustainable food to the 42.7 million people who are starving in Central Africa. APGSAN’s formation proves that nations can allocate money, design legislation and form coalitions to combat pressing issues.
  5. From 2000 to 2019, the prevalence of growth stunting in children dropped from 25.9% to 20.2%. Growth stunting in children has seen a steady decline, but since 2010, the number of children suffering from stunted growth has in fact increased from 17% to 20.2%. In response, NGOs like ScalingUpNutrition (SUN) have created detailed action plans that illustrate hunger priorities the Gabonese government must address, such as resource mobilization for nutrition and budget allocations.

Like many other African nations, the threat of malnutrition has not spared Gabon. However, increased efforts on the part of Gabonese parliament and international bodies have proven effective in the fight against rising levels of hunger. Gabon is not 100% free from the hunger plague, but despite this harsh reality, the nation is getting better. Hunger levels in Gabon are decreasing faster than most countries in the same region. Continued commitment by the Gabonese government and international organizations to fight hunger will be the key to end it once and for all.

Pedro Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr