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development in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a country located on the frontiers between Europe and Asia. This largely unheard of, mountainous country has a population of more than 8.6 million with an average GDP per capita of around $3,200, placing it near the bottom of the global ranking. However, over the past few years, the GDP of Tajikistan has grown between 6 and 7 percent. This article will address five facts about development in Tajikistan, including the challenging areas and opportunities that the country faces.

Five Facts About Development in Tajikistan

  1. Geography: Tajikistan’s geography is impugning its development since more than 90 percent of the country is mountainous. If fact, much of the land lies above 3,000 meters in altitude. Subsequently, the population is largely rural and widely dispersed, complicating infrastructural developments. However, as a result of this landscape, the majority of Tajikistan’s electricity production comes from hydroelectric power. The system is still largely inefficient though, especially in winter months. Users reporting shortages up to 70 percent of the time in winter months. Recent efforts have sought to address the gaps in provisions. In March 2019, the World Bank agreed to finance the rehabilitation of the Nurek Hydropower Plant, which generates 70 percent of the country’s energy demand. The rehabilitation should increase the plant’s winter generation by 33 million kWh, allowing it to meet winter energy demands and become a net exporter of energy in summer periods.
  2.  Government Policy: According to the U.S. State Department, Tajikistan is a country of ‘high risk’ but ‘high reward’ investment. Despite its consistent low ranking on the Freedom House Index, which measures civil and political rights, continual economic reforms have increased its Economic Freedom and promoted more investment. These reforms helped Tajikistan officially join the WTO at the end of 2013 after the changes made in property and investor rights. The 2019 ‘Doing Business’ World Bank report stated that Tajikistan had increased its rank overall by taking steps to participate more in the regional economy. Through the Simplified Customs Corridor agreement, Tajikistan has improved customs clearance with Uzbekistan. Based on the international classification, the poverty rate is projected to fall to 12.5 percent by 2020.
  3. Labor Migration: Due to the lack of employment opportunities, Tajikistan has a negative net migration rate, meaning that there are more people leaving the country than entering it. Most of the migrants are working-age men going to work in Russia. In 2015, worker’s remittances accounted for around 29 percent of Tajikistan’s GDP. But, this dependency means that Tajikistan’s fiscal health dropped from 95.8 percent to 60.3 percent in the period from 2016 to 2017 as a result of Russia’s economic downturn. To increase the opportunities for the workforce, the International Labour Organization has launched a pilot project aimed at strengthening National Skills Development systems as part of the ‘G20 Training Strategy’. Although it only has 1,460 participants so far, the updated frameworks could help increase Tajikistan’s current low productivity.
  4. Gender Disparities: In Tajikistan, women face a number of barriers to succeed economically, gain access to education, find employment or receive healthcare. They receive fewer years of schooling than their male counterparts and earn approximately 60 percent of what men do. However, with a migrating male workforce, female participation in the economy could be beneficial for economic development in Tajikistan. With help from funding from U.N. Women, the Tajikistan National Business Association for Women runs a number of training programs to improve employment opportunities for women. From 2015 to 2018, 3,200 women received training in business and 2,200 women received training in vocational areas. The organization also runs a bi-annual women-only entrepreneurship competition, which received more than 700 applications in both 2016 and 2018.
  5. Border Problems: Tajikistan shares a 750-mile long border with Afghanistan, one of the world’s largest opium producers. Consequently, illegal drug trafficking in Tajikistan is estimated to be worth around 30 percent of the GDP. However, the Project for Livelihood Improvement in Tajik-Afghan Cross-border Areas (LITACA) is one of a number of projects seeking to enhance cross-border cooperation between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, especially for women entrepreneurs. The Government of Japan finances this initiative, and the UNDP Tajikistan implements it in order to add stability and security to the region and ease border tensions. This program introduced around 25 socio-economic projects between 2014 and 2017, boosting economic growth to 45,000 people on both sides of the border. The project improved direct access to “schools, hospitals, irrigation, drinking water, energy supply, roads and bridges” for more than 388,000 people.

Tajikistan faces a number of barriers to its economic development. However, these five facts about development in Tajikistan show that important work is being done. There are many opportunities for growth. Economic reforms and continued investment could change the lives of the hundreds of thousands affected by poverty.

Holly Barsham
Photo: Unsplash

Women in TechGlobally, information and communications technology (ICT) is rapidly becoming more and more important to the economy. However, ICT is leaving women and girls behind. In the world today, there is a gap of 250 million women compared to men using the internet. In developing countries, the gap is even bigger, with a 31 percent difference. There are 200 million fewer women than men in the world who own a mobile phone.

In the corporate world, only 3 of the Fortune 500 tech companies are run by women. These companies are IBM, Xerox and Oracle.  Barriers to the tech field for women include poverty, gender stereotypes and discrimination. It is important that these barriers be eradicated so that women can be included in the increasing digital economy. “Digital skills are indispensable for girls and young women to obtain safe employment in the formal labor market,” said the founder of Women’s Worldwide Web, a charity that provides digital literacy training for women in tech.

A Possible Solution: Tech4girls

In March 2018, GSMA, a company that represents the interests of mobile operators, started a program called Tech4Girls. Part of its programming is educational workshops for girls between the ages of 7-18. So far, it has reached more than 100 girls in North America, Latin America and the Carribean.

These workshops are designed for girls to have hands-on experience with technology, to come away with a sense of knowledge and accomplishment and to developing interpersonal skills. The goal of these workshops is to increase the confidence of girls in their technological abilities so that they may aspire to pursue technological careers.

Another objective of these workshops is to increase interest and involvement from other tech companies to involve girls in technology. They do this by building local and global awareness through “events, SDG tie-in, and external communications.” This is part of the effort to develop relationships with tech companies, groups and schools to create a sort of pipeline for girls in technology.

Implications for the Future

A 2017 study by the Brookings Institute found that since 2002, 517 of 545 occupations have increased their use of digital tools. With the future of the economy going digital, it is important that women have the opportunity to participate in order to prevent the impoverishment of women. According to U.N. Women, an estimated 90 percent of future jobs will require ICT skills. There is currently a shortage of 200 million ICT-skilled people in the job market. There is plenty of room for women in the economy; it’s just a matter of lowering their barriers to entry. An Intel study found that access to the internet for women could “contribute between $13-18 billion to annual GDP across 144 developing countries.” The implications for encouraging women to become more involved in technology go beyond helping women, but also improve the economy.

While there is a shortage of women in tech, companies like GSMA and their Tech4Girls programs are beginning to close the gap. Encouragement and resources for women and girls to gain digital literacy skills are vital in our ever-digitizing world. There is certainly more to be done, but these workshops that build confidence and improve skills are a great way to start.

– Sarah Faure
Photo: Flickr

Meghan MarkleMeghan Markle, now known as the Duchess of Sussex, began humanitarian work long before she joined the royal family. When she was 11 years old, she was so struck by a clearly sexist ad for dish soap that was targeting women, she wrote a letter to elected officials, to which she received a written response from Hillary Clinton. She has famously cited this story in her speech at the U.N. Women gathering in 2015 as the starting point to her activism. She utilized the fame she garnered from starring on the popular USA Network TV show “Suits” to increase her humanitarian efforts.

Since becoming Duchess of Sussex, she has traveled throughout the Commonwealth discussing humanitarian issues that affect the countries the royals represent. Here are the 10 best humanitarian quotes by Meghan Markle, Dutchess of Sussex.

The 10 Best Humanitarian Quotes by Meghan Markle

  1. “One hundred and thirteen million adolescent girls between the ages of 12-14 in India alone are at risk of dropping out of school because of the stigma surrounding menstrual health […] these factors perpetuate the cycle of poverty and stunt a young girl’s dream for a more prolific future.” In her 2016 visit to Delhi and Mumbai, India, Markle was prompted to write an open letter, featured in Time magazine, calling for action against menstrual stigmas that keep Indian girls from school and from being equal participants in society.
  2. “I think there’s a misconception that access to clean water is just about clean drinking water. Access to clean water in a community keeps young girls in school because they aren’t walking hours each day to source water for their families. It allows women to invest in their own businesses and community. It promotes grassroots leadership, and, of course, it reinforces the health and wellness of children and adults. Every single piece of it is so interconnected, and clean water, this one life source, is the key to it all.” Also in 2016, Markle traveled to Rwanda as a global ambassador with World Vision, a humanitarian agency who seeks to impact the lives of young children by eliminating the root causes of poverty. It is one of the largest international charity organizations for children.
  3. “Women’s suffrage is about feminism, but feminism is about fairness.” In celebration of the 125 year anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand in late 2018, Markle gave a speech about feminism. New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women’s suffrage. In her speech she also quoted suffragette Kate Sheppard, reiterating that “All that separates, whether race, class, creed or sex, is inhuman and must be overcome.”
  4. “Women don’t need to find their voice, they need to be empowered to use it and people need to be urged to listen.” In February 2018, in her first public appearance alongside Prince Harry, Kate and Prince William, Markle voiced her support of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, which focus on eliminating sexual misconduct against all people and supporting victims of assault while promoting gender equality across all industries.
  5. “Don’t give it five minutes if you’re not going to give it five years.” When delivering the keynote speech at the Create & Cultivate Conference in 2016, Markle brought to light the importance of prioritizing and making commitments. She demonstrated the importance of utilizing skills for long-term solutions and goals and to focus attention and energy only on things that can be cultivated and maintained in the long run. She also emphasized pursuing passions and planning on working towards it for years to come.
  6. “We just need to be kinder to ourselves. If we treated ourselves the way we treated our best friend, can you imagine how much better off we would be? … Yes, you can have questions and self-doubt, that’s going to come up, that’s human.” Markle puts the “human” in humanitarian. She shows it is important not only to show up for others but to show up for yourself in order to make a lasting impact and to be able to maintain your best self in the process.
  7. “With fame comes opportunity, but it also includes responsibility – to advocate and share, to focus less on glass slippers and more on pushing through glass ceilings. And, if I’m lucky enough, to inspire.” In an interview with Elle Magazine, Markle talked about the things that inspired her when she was young and her experiences going from working on a TV series to helping in Rwanda.
  8. “Everyone should be afforded the opportunity to receive the education they want, but more importantly the education they have the right to receive.” In October 2018 in Fiji, Markle gave a speech on the importance of women’s education and cited the ways scholarships and financial aid funded her education and how worthwhile it was for her as an adult.
  9. “Because when girls are given the right tools to succeed, they can create incredible futures, not only for themselves but also for those around them.” The trip to Fiji and Markle’s speech were used to announce two grants that were awarded to Fiji National University and the University of the South Pacific to provide workshops for the women faculty at the universities to allow more women to be a part of decision-making at the schools.
  10. “I am proud to be a woman and a feminist.” Markle began her speech at the U.N. on International Women’s Day 2015 with this line. It was the same speech where she told the story of her 11-year-old self prompting advertisers to change their sexist dish soap advertisement.

Meghan Markle started her activism at the early age of 11 and didn’t look back. Her career as a successful actress gave her the platform to share her causes with the rest of the world. Clearly, the Duchess of Sussex has been a humanitarian long before being thrust into the global stage, and the top 10 best humanitarian quotes by Meghan Markle prove it.

Ava Gambero

Photo: Mark Tantrum

Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act
The Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act (WEE) of 2018, H.R. 5480, was introduced in the House earlier this month. The House of Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and Representative Louis Frankle (D-FL-22), 
Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, worked together to propose this bipartisan legislation.

“By confronting these barriers women face, we can help lift people out of poverty and drive economic growth – by some estimates adding trillions of dollars to annual global GDP,” says Chairman Royce.

Introduction to the WEE Bill

The aim of the WEE bill is to improve the status of women worldwide through empowerment and education so that women play a greater role in entrepreneurship. An introduction to the “Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act” means that the bill would supplement programs that promote women’s economic roles through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The “Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act” specifically focuses on:

  • Ensuring the reduction of gender disparities including gender-based violence, women’s property rights and economic participation as part of U.S. policy
  • Ensuring that all USAID programs incorporate gender-specific issues in attempts to empower women
  • Advocating for small and medium-sized enterprises that are owned, controlled or managed by women
  • Increasing women’s use and jurisdiction over resources such as land and financial inclusion

It’s no secret that the majority of the world’s poor are women. According to the U.N. Women Deputy Executive Director, Lakshmi Puri, If women and men have the equal access to land, technology, financial services, education and markets, the consequent 20-30 percent increase in agricultural production on women’s farms could lead to 100-150 million less hungry people.”

U.N. Women and Women Everywhere

The Borgen Project’s main goal is to eliminate global poverty; nevertheless, the facts cannot be ignored that when women play a greater role in the economy, it brings innumerable benefits to the nation and the world as a whole. According to U.N. Women, by increasing female labor force participation, education, shared household income, and women’s overall participation in the economic world, it would bring exponential benefits to the country as a whole.

Not only would economic empowerment bring millions of families out of poverty, child mortality would decrease and economies grow faster. Finally, the Mckinsey Global Institute study proposes that “closing gender gaps in labour-force participation rates, part-time versus full-time work and the composition of employment would add 12-25 percent to global GDP by 2025.”

An introduction to the “Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act” understands the obstacles when empowering women’s economic standing. The bill symbolizes a step in the right direction for U.S. efforts to help eliminate global poverty.

– Emma Martin

Photo: Flickr

Improving Women's Empowerment in ZimbabweGlobal efforts to achieve gender equality have made an impact on long-standing notions of male dominance in many countries. This change can be seen throughout the increased social and economic opportunities available to women around the world. The overwhelming evidence from research continues to indicate that gender equality is necessary for ensuring sustainable development. Thus, improving women’s empowerment in Zimbabwe is key to having a successful future.

The United Nations established 17 goals under its initiative known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A major tenet of the SDGs is to promote gender equality. In Zimbabwe, the U.N. has consolidated its efforts to promote women’s and girls’ empowerment through the establishment and implementation of laws, policies and frameworks.

While a push for greater women’s empowerment in Zimbabwe has been codified into law, the practice is oftentimes overshadowed by the actions of traditional society. Despite setbacks such as gender-based violence and limited financial opportunities, a couple of key steps in women’s empowerment have been made in Zimbabwe.

Supporting Women in Leadership

According to the U.N., women’s representation in politics and decision-making positions in Zimbabwe is still below those benchmarked in the SDGs. The UNDP, in collaboration with U.N. Women, held the Zimbabwe Gender Commission and the Women Parliamentary Caucus in support of a High-Level Political Dialogue regarding the upcoming 2018 elections.

Promoting Financial Independence

In 2012, the first Zimbabwe Market Fair was held in its second-largest city, Bulawayo. This two-day fair focused on empowering women and youth and equipped the 134 participants with “pre- and post-market fair training aimed at enhancing their capacity to exhibit and interact with customers.” This targeted instruction not only benefited women but caused a ripple effect on families, communities and the country as a whole.

There is still progress to be made in regards to women’s empowerment in Zimbabwe, but continued efforts through programs and dialogue are paving the way to a more gender-equal future.

– Belén Loza

Photo: Flickr


In 2015, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) reported that access to basic rights such as health, education and employment was becoming increasingly difficult for women in the country of Panama. UNDP representative Martin Santiago lamented that the current climate was creating a “Panama for men and not for women.” Women’s empowerment in Panama is ultimately about making sure that all of Panama’s citizens have the same opportunities to thrive. It is important to remember that a society cannot truly move forward unless it empowers all its citizens.

The idea that women’s empowerment is good for everyone within a society became quickly apparent in a U.N. Women water management program. The program set out to increase access to drinking water for Panama’s indigenous population.

The indigenous population in Panama has the lowest standard of living of any group in the country. Ninety-six percent of Panama’s indigenous citizens live in poverty and accessing clean drinking water is extremely difficult.

The U.N. Women program found that women in these indigenous groups had more relation to water than the men did, but the women were treated like second-class citizens in many ways. By working toward women’s empowerment in Panama, they could also increase access to clean drinking water.

The program sought to foster greater gender equality within the Ngäbe Bugle people by increasing women’s community involvement and access to education and by instilling the idea that women and men are equal members of society. The program had very successful results: 99 percent of the Ngäbe Bugle people no longer have problems accessing clean water and there has been a significant decrease in illnesses that result from unsanitary water usage.

The program also led to a more equitable society. The Ngäbe Bugle women now play a more significant role in their community. They are able to start their own economic activities and more women are being elected to leadership positions.

U.N. Women has pledged to continue to work toward women’s empowerment in Panama. The organization states that its goal is to promote the rights of women and girls by closing gender gaps in the labor force, eradicating violence against women and ensuring that women play an equal role in Panama’s development.

With the continued work of this organization and many others, women’s empowerment in Panama will continue to improve and create a Panama not just for men, but for everyone.

– Aaron Childree

Photo: Flickr

The 2015 Global Gender Gap Index declared Egypt as number 136 out of the 145 countries measured, with the country ranked at number 1 having the best gender equality and the 145th country expressing the most disparities. With Egypt among the top ten countries with the largest gender gaps, USAID, U.N. Women and UNICEF are all determined to advocate for women’s empowerment in Egypt.

Women Empower Women

U.N. Women tells the story of an Egyptian woman named Maissan Hassan, who is the program manager for the Women and Memory Forum (WMF). Since 1995, WMF seeks to tell the stories of Arab women without any bias or negative perceptions.

Hassan grew up with her mother telling of the inequalities she experienced regarding her career choice and her inability to choose a husband. Her mother battled these inequalities and became a professor at a university.

Hassan was inspired by her own mother’s life story and wished to document the trials and experiences of other women.

Not only does WMF record both oral and written histories on Arab women, but they also establish the Women and Memory Library and Documentation Centre to provide a designated resource center for gender and women’s studies. These stories empower Egyptian women and girls to seek their own dreams and join the battle against gender disparities.

To spread the word and gain female empowerment, WMF and other NGOs held two events in 2014 called “Women’s Rights and the State: Insight into the Egyptian Feminist Movement” and “Revolutionizing Gender Education: Lessons from Egypt.”

Education

Advocacy and education work hand-in-hand to gain women empowerment in Egypt. UNICEF and education officials from Egypt partnered with UNGEI to hold a conference in support of gender equality in Egyptian schools.

As one of the first to gain partnership with UNGEI, Egypt has focused on improving early childhood programs through training teachers and creating a child-centered curriculum since 2006. The conference also identified the value in informing parents and gaining families’ support in equal, quality education to end gendered stereotypes.

With UNICEF financially supporting community schools and UNGEI advocating for higher female attendance, Egyptian schools began to witness a leveling of the gender gap in 2012. While the primary school enrollment rate was 105 percent male, it was 99 percent female. This ratio proves a near success in the efforts to provide females with an education equal to that of males.

Labor

In turn, USAID partnered with the government of Egypt to end restrictions on women’s economic participation. The 2015 Global Gender Gap Index stated that 79 percent of men participate in the labor force, while only 26 percent of females participate.

To address such a disparity, USAID implemented the Strengthening Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development (SEED) project, which aids women with business strategies and guides them toward opening their own businesses. In the encouragement of entrepreneurship, women create more jobs in Egypt and gain leadership roles without needing to battle the male hierarchy.

Even further, USAID promotes women empowerment in Egypt by granting scholarships to female undergraduates and graduates in fields related to business, science, and engineering. Since 2014, USAID has given over 600 of these scholarships.

Through the tireless efforts of NPOs, a shift in the role and confidence of women within Egyptian communities has prevailed.

– Brianna White

Photo: Flickr

 

Women’s Empowerment in El Salvador
El Salvador is a tiny conservative country in Central America and also one of the world’s deadliest countries for women in the world. In fact, the country has the highest murder rate in the Western Hemisphere. Women’s empowerment in El Salvador is a task made all the more difficult given the highest rate of women murdered in the country.

The Plight of Female El Salvadorians

In 2016, one in every 5,000 women was killed according to the Institute of Legal Medicine. This figure did not and could not take into account the females killed, dismembered and buried in clandestine locations.

Criminal gangs, known as maras, are the largest impediment to women’s empowerment in El Salvador. The government has periodically attempted to establish truces with the gangs but the bitter rivalry between Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 youth gangs has left little room for hope of an end to war and conflict.

Spurred by mass deportations of gang members from the U.S., the problem of gangs began affecting El Salvador at a sensitive time in its history when civil society was recuperating. The government lacked any strategy to reintegrate or psychologically support these gang members, who found the only recourse in turning to abduction, killings and extortions. The same gangs today inflict sexual violence and assaults on women from all walks of life.

Sexual and LGBTQ Assaults

Because abortion is illegal in El Salvador under any circumstances, including rape, victims of sexual assaults face heavy penalties and are subject to authorities’ prejudices. Earlier this year, a teen rape victim was sentenced to 30 years in prison after having a stillbirth, the same amount of time given to gang members convicted of murder.

According to the UNHCR, seven transgender women in El Salvador were killed in the country but some local LGBT organizations placed the number as high as 17 in the first four months of 2017. Lack of investigation and prosecution of violence against the LGBT community by police and gangs alike has engendered a culture of impunity and threatened efforts for all women’s empowerment in El Salvador.

One Salvadoran transgender activist, Karla Avelar, has spoken out against such violence despite receiving many threats and surviving three assassination attempts.

Other Salvadoran women are far from silent; rather they actively uplift themselves to plant seeds of independence and empowerment.

For instance, a Salvadoran woman is at the heart of legally challenging restrictions on refugees seeking a better life in neighboring countries. After President Trump issued executive orders to curtail immigration and refugee resettlement in the United States and cast doubt on the role of the United States as a safe country for refugees, many Central American migrants living in the United States made the dangerous border crossings to seek asylum protection in Canada.

One of these persons was a Salvadorian woman identified as “ABC” in court documents escaping persecution and facing removal proceedings in the United States. After ABC was denied entry to Canada under the Safe Third Country Agreement, many groups filed challenges to the Agreement to prevent her deportation from the United States to El Salvador.

Global Encouragement of Women Empowerment

In El Salvador, rural women cooperatives are encouraging the participation of women in agriculture. With the support of international and local government initiatives for women’s empowerment in El Salvador, such as Ciudad Mujer, many rural women are finding a way out of poverty through increased access to public services, income levels and even provisions for child care for working women.

One of the 26 such cooperatives, Mujeres en Acción (Women in Action), has been supported by the U.N. Women to encourage women to become entrepreneurs. Other women are partaking in economic empowerment through cooking businesses.

HOPE

Salvador’s HOPE is a Christian-based, non-profit based in Melbourne, Australia working to uplift Salvadorans from the traps of poverty. According to the organization, HOPE is just the beginning of changing the living and working conditions of women in El Salvador. It works with the civil society and local NGOs in El Salvador “to positively influence, impact and empower people through the establishment of programs that promote development and self- sustainability.”

HOPE also runs several Women’s Empowerment projects that provide education, training and support to women as well as challenge the gender stereotypes that perpetuate violence against women.

The Women’s Empowerment Project 

Another initiative, the Women’s Empowerment Project (WEP), has combated the marginalization and vulnerability of Salvadoran women by providing them with workshops, counseling and other services “that aim to strengthen their self-confidence, improve their leadership and communication skills as well as develop business management techniques.”

Women’s empowerment in El Salvador remains a work in progress and is compounded by the violence inflicted against them by corrupt police officials and gang members. The rights of women in El Salvador and elsewhere are an integral part of the fight for universal human rights and fundamental freedoms and need to be extended for women’s economic, political, social and cultural empowerment.

Salvadoran women are actively mobilizing and breaking down barriers to participate in public life; they should be encouraged and aided by the United States and the international community to empower their communities and care for their families.

– Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in MyanmarThere is still a long way to go in order to achieve universal gender equality. However, more governments and organizations around the world are making this a priority. As such, there is progress being made to improving women’s empowerment in Myanmar.

One of the most notable recent pushes for gender equality was the U.N. Millennium Development Goal number three, which seeks to promote gender equality and empower women. This goal has helped governments and NGOs all over the world have a better understanding of the importance of prioritizing women’s empowerment.

Myanmar is an example of a country that still has a long way to go to achieve gender equality. But progress is being made in closing the gender gap. The country is at a key juncture and must continue to develop in a way that benefits its entire population.

Here are some of the positive steps that are being taken toward women’s empowerment in Myanmar.

  1. Myanmar’s Ministry of Social Welfare and Relief and Resettlement is implementing reforms that enhance gender equality and empowerment. The ministry is cooperating with other international organizations to work toward women’s empowerment in Myanmar.
  2. Myanmar’s government created a National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women. This plan includes many of the same areas of focus as the Beijing Platform for Action, the agenda for women’s empowerment adopted by the United Nations. The National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women is a ten-year plan. It includes directives targeting the key areas that affect women’s lives and indicates practical ways to address the issues that Myanmar’s women experience.
  3. U.N. Women has been working in Myanmar since 2013. The organization has made electing more women to government positions one of its priorities. This will give women a stronger voice in politics and make sure that their concerns are heard in all areas of government. Other priorities include ending violence against women and girls and working for women’s economic empowerment.
  4. The Gender Equality Network was founded in Myanmar in 2008. This NGO works toward women’s empowerment in Myanmar by influencing government policy as well as social and cultural norms.

Women’s empowerment in Myanmar has improved in key ways, but there is still work to be done. Because of the long history of patriarchal societies ingrained in cultures across the globe, progress toward women’s empowerment is often slower than we would hope for it to be.

It is important to recognize the progress that is being made while maintaining a commitment to the goal of complete gender equality across the globe.

– Aaron Childree

Photo: Flickr

Women in Afghanistan
Afghanistan’s population largely consists of people under 24 years of age, and about 400,000 people are entering the workforce every year. It is hard enough finding a job as a young graduate, but it’s even harder for the women in Afghanistan. The women in Afghanistan who try to get an education or become working members of the society still face a backlash from men.

Although 64 percent of Afghans believe women should be allowed to work, many men still feel that women should be forbidden from pursuing an education. Girls who attempt to get an education face great danger. Schools for girls have been burned down, teachers have been threatened and killed and girls have been injured walking to and from school. The women who actually complete their education often have forces working against them, preventing them from getting a job.

In December 2015, U.N. Women developed an internship program to help women who have graduated from college acquire skills and develop a work ethic to better prepare them for the working world in Afghanistan. As of now, 48 women have completed the U.N. Women’s internship program in Afghanistan. It is a six-month program, where two months is spent training the women in different professional skills, and four months is spent interning with an organization in the woman’s chosen field, where they receive a stipend from U.N. Women for the duration of their internship period.

As drastic and detrimental as things are for women in Afghanistan, the country is making progress for women and girls in education, political participation and in their economic role. The National Unity Government has committed to the empowerment of women and recognizes that equal opportunity for women is necessary for stabilizing Afghanistan and to ensure that the country develops in a sustainable way. There are more women in power than ever before in history – 27.7 percent of parliament consists of women, four ministries and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission are led by women, and three women serve as ambassadors. Also, Afghanistan has in place a National Action Plan for implementing a resolution for the peace and security of women. These strides for progress show that there have been efforts in promoting and upholding a peaceful society with equal opportunity for women.

The internship program has helped the women in the program with vital social and professional connections with different programs around the world, some of which have offered these women jobs after completing their internships. The U.N. Women internship opportunity is helping women in Afghanistan look more suitable and appealing to job recruiters, even more appealing than the many young men they are competing against for jobs.

Women in Afghanistan continue to be disproportionately affected by poverty, discrimination and exploitation. There is still a substantial amount of resistance and discrimination in the workforce, but Afghanistan is making progress. With help from U.N. Women, the working and educated women in Afghanistan can be the progressive rebels that serve as role models and leaders to all other women and girls. Although Afghanistan has established ambitious goals, these actions are necessary to ensure that progress is not reversed and to preserve the great gains the country has made.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr