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Human Trafficking in MoroccoWhile human trafficking in Morocco persists, this small North African country is working to end it. The U.S. Department of State identifies Morocco as a Tier 2 country, meaning it has taken steps to eliminate human trafficking but it does not yet meet minimum standards. In 2016, Morocco enacted an anti-trafficking law, laying the groundwork to tackle this issue. Morocco addresses human trafficking in a variety of ways, including partnering with organizations that spread awareness, providing resources to victims and preventing future trafficking.

Types of Human Trafficking in Morocco

Human trafficking in Morocco includes unpaid domestic labor, forced begging and sexual exploitation. Children can become victims when their families, usually from low-income backgrounds, send them away to work. Boys often become agricultural laborers or work in trades such as carpentry or mechanics. Meanwhile, girls typically work as domestic servants or experience exploitation through sex trafficking. Despite Morocco’s child labor law and a 2018 law that specifically protects domestic workers, employers frequently pay these children far below minimum wage and abuse them. Traffickers also force migrants into sex work and other types of labor. Morocco’s major cities are destinations for “sex tourists” from Europe and the Middle East who take advantage of trafficked women and children.

Who are the Victims?

The U.S. Department of State reported that, in 2020, Morocco identified 441 trafficking victims and referred them to care. Of these reported victims, 245 were female, 196 were male, 398 were adults and 43 were children. The majority (426) were Moroccan citizens, although migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia were also vulnerable. Some migrant human trafficking victims may have gone unidentified.

Families who are struggling economically contribute to trafficking by taking children out of school and sending them to work, where they often experience exploitation. Traffickers also frequently target migrants, some of whom are undocumented and are passing through Morocco en route to Europe. The U.S. Department of State reported that traffickers who abuse migrants often come from the same countries as their victims. Traffickers may use physical and emotional abuse or withhold migrants’ passports to keep them in servitude.

How Morocco is Addressing Human Trafficking

In 2016, Morocco enacted Law No. 27.14. This law defines human trafficking victims as well as human trafficking crimes and their penalties. Under this law, the government provides victims with medical and psychological assistance as well as free legal aid. Morocco’s anti-trafficking law also created a national commission to stop human trafficking and prevent future cases from occurring.

In addition to policy changes, Morocco addresses human trafficking by working with organizations locally and abroad. SAVE, which stands for Soutien à l’identification et l’accompagnement des Victimes de Traite des êtres Humains, is a three-year project that aims to identify and support trafficking victims in Morocco. In 2019, the French nonprofit CCEM founded SAVE, which the European Union funds. SAVE partners with the Moroccan government and several Moroccan nonprofits. The goals of the project include receiving at least 500 trafficking reports and identifying a minimum of 100 victims by 2022. It also hopes to share best practices with other nations in the region.

Moving Forward

While Morocco has made progress in ending human trafficking, more work is necessary. According to the U.S. Department of State, Morocco’s efforts in prosecuting and convicting human trafficking cases have decreased. Additionally, migrant trafficking victims still receive unfair punishment for crimes, such as immigration violations and prostitution, that traffickers forced them to commit. The U.S. Department of State’s recommendations include establishing systemized procedures to identify victims, especially migrants, separating data on human trafficking and migrant smuggling crimes and providing training on Morocco’s anti-trafficking law.

In an interview with U.N. Women, Amina Oufroukhi, president of the International Judicial Cooperation Department, noted that victims are often afraid to seek help, making identifying human trafficking difficult. To address this problem, Oufroukhi has helped create a network of prosecutors who have training in victim identification and established a Moroccan public awareness campaign. She is also working on a guide that will help prosecutors better apply Morocco’s anti-trafficking law. Oufroukhi further hopes the government and organizations will continue to build trust with those affected and that more research on human trafficking and migration in Morocco will occur.

Human trafficking continues to plague Morocco. However, efforts by the government as well as organizations working on the ground have made great strides in protecting the rights of victims and preventing future exploitation and abuse. As Morocco addresses human trafficking with a diverse set of invested stakeholders, there is hope that its most vulnerable populations will eventually live in freedom.

Annie Prafcke
Photo: Flickr

Economic Violence Against Women in Turkey On March 20, 2021, Turkey announced its withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, a treaty focused on combatting violence against women. Violence against women is a significant problem in Turkish society. Violence against women takes many forms, but economic violence against women in Turkey is one type of violence that is particularly problematic for poverty reduction.

Defining Economic Violence

Also known as economic abuse, economic violence against women is a form of violence where women have no financial autonomy. Another person, often a husband or father, controls the women’s monetary resources and leaves her in a state of dependency. The Istanbul Convention includes economic violence in both its definitions of violence against women and domestic violence. Examples of economic violence against women include:

  • Barring women from accessing work and educational opportunities.
  • Preventing women from accessing the necessary funds for resources such as food.
  • Excluding women from decisions about their household’s income.

Economic Violence Against Women in Turkey

Economic violence is an issue many women face in Turkey. Women generally complete a disproportionately high amount of their households’ domestic work. According to the United Nations, Turkish women spend approximately “19.2% of their time” on wageless domestic work in contrast to the 3.7% of the time that men spend on unpaid domestic work. Placing women in a position where they spend so much time on unpaid work makes women likely to become dependent on male family members and susceptible to economic violence.

Social expectations and perceptions of the roles of men and women play an important part in economic violence against women in Turkey. Perceptions of women as performers of domestic work and men as laborers create an expectation for women to engage in unpaid labor, making them susceptible to economic violence. When Turkish women are members of the workforce, which only 35% of Turkish women currently are, they accept the seizure of their income by their husbands due to cultural norms of male “dominance in the domestic environment.”

Working to End Economic Violence Against Women

Ending economic violence against women is critical to ending other forms of violence against women. While exposure to economic violence does not guarantee that women will experience other forms of violence, dependency on a male family member or partner makes women more susceptible to other forms of abuse from that person.

One significant challenge to preventing economic violence against women in Turkey is that the country currently lacks adequate systems to monitor most aspects of its progress toward Sustainable Development Goals concerning gender equality. Consequently, data about Turkish women is incomplete, which makes it challenging to determine the extent of the economic violence against women in Turkey.

With the data that is currently available, researchers have identified factors that reduce rates of economic violence against women. One critical factor is education. Research shows that men with high levels of education are less likely to perpetrate economic violence against their wives or female partners than less-educated men. Factors such as expanding employment opportunities for women and preventing substance abuse among men are also associated with lower rates of economic violence against women.

Organizational Efforts to Economically Empower Turkish Women

Several organizations focus on improving Turkish women’s economic rights. The International Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW) is one of these organizations. BPW Turkey implements several programs in Turkey to improve economic opportunities for women. Its Pace to Employment and Assurance for a Respectable Life (PEARL) program teaches women skills they need to be financially independent. Furthermore, BPW Turkey’s Civil Initiative Strategic Research Center (SISAM) improves awareness and understanding of the U.N. Women’s Empowerment Principles and provides educational programming on these principles to entities such as local governments and human resources staff.

Economic violence against women in Turkey is an ongoing issue, but it is not unpreventable. Working with both men and women can help women obtain and maintain autonomy over financial resources and break the cycle of violence against women.

Caroline Kuntzman
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in MaldivesIn recent years, the Republic of Maldives established itself as an upper-middle-income country with a booming tourism sector. The nation’s islands, spread across many atolls, have become a popular destination for luxury stays in overwater bungalows. International visitors provide half of the Maldives’ revenue. With jobs and opportunities on non-native islands, women have been stepping out of traditional domestic roles and are migrating to urban areas for greater economic independence. This shines a light on women’s rights in the Maldives.

Obstacles to Women’s Rights in the Maldives

The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching effects on the citizens of this island nation. Tourism and related services affect standards of living and lifestyles significantly. In 2019, poverty in the Maldives had fallen to 2.1%. In 2020, the World Bank estimated that poverty rates would rise to 7.2%.

The pandemic has impacted women’s rights in the Maldives in two significant ways. Firstly, women experienced income losses more severely than men, and secondly, women reported an increase in gender-based violence and domestic violence.

Women in the Workforce

In the Maldives, which has a historically patriarchal culture, many women rely on informal employment and financial contributions from others to make a living. This disqualifies them from unemployment and other forms of COVID-19 assistance. Although many men also engage in informal work, 54% of women have seen their income decline during the pandemic compared to only 40% of men.

As a result of the pandemic, many women are not only earning less and receiving less from family or friends but are also unable to qualify for assistance. Government support and charity remain the only stable resources during the pandemic. However, women benefit less from both forms of aid on average.

With the economic success of tourism and related fields, many women migrate to the capital city of Malé where opportunities for formal work and economic independence abound. Still, only 59% of women make a living from paid employment relative to 70% of men.

When the COVID-19 virus began to spread, tourism in the Maldives came to a halt and women were the first to lose their jobs. As the economy suffered, the cost of living in Malé forced many to return home to rural communities and resort to informal work. The implication is that many of these women may never return to the city or to formal employment.

Gender-Based Violence and Domestic Violence

COVID-19 brought financial stress and upheaval to many homes in the Maldives. In a U.N. Women survey, 68% of Maldives women reported increased mental and emotional stress since the onset of the pandemic. The study identified likely stressors to include economic strain and the rise in gender-based violence.

A surge in gender-based violence and domestic violence reports occurred after the nation’s lockdown and again when the Maldives lifted its COVID-19-related restrictions. During the lockdown, welfare services were secondary to the pandemic response and there was also a relatively low number of reports. However, the instances of violence may be higher. Lockdown and restrictions place the affected women in constant, close proximity with perpetrators while financial stress and lifestyle changes compound instances of violence. In the Maldives, societal norms dictate the authority of men and shame women for coming forward with reports of gender-based violence.

Moving Forward

Despite these recent setbacks, the country is making progress in improving women’s rights in the Maldives. Women have made strides for gender parity in education and are building a sense of empowerment through financial security. The nation has set an example for other countries with an equal ratio of boys to girls enrolling in and completing primary and secondary school.

The Maldives’ Strategic Action Plan for 2019 to 2023 notes women’s economic participation, representation in government, sexual harassment and domestic violence as policy priorities. The planning document also recognizes that additional resources are necessary to follow through on important gender equality legislation. The Maldives introduced it recently to address these disparities.

Within the past decade, the Maldivian government has introduced the following legislation to advance women’s rights in the Maldives: the Gender Equality Act (2016), the Sexual Harassment and Prevention Act (2014), the Sexual Offenses Act (2014) and the Domestic Violence Act (2012).

COVID-19 presents a challenge to the momentum building for women’s rights in the Maldives, but with the return of international tourism, projections determine that the economy will rebound. Looking forward, women’s economic empowerment should remain a priority for the Maldives to continue making significant gains in gender equality.

– Angela Basinger
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Côte d'IvoireWomen in Côte d’Ivoire have grappled with gender discriminatory practices for years. Examples include political exclusion, limited access to land and marginalization from high-paying jobs. According to the National Statistics Institute, 75% of rural Ivorian women live below the poverty line. Without access to basic social services, the chances of reaching economic independence are low for these women. Gender constraints highly limit women’s rights in Côte d’Ivoire.

4 Facts About Women’s Rights in Côte d’Ivoire

  1. Land Rights: The primary source of wealth in Côte d’Ivoire is land as the economy mainly depends on agriculture. About 66% of the land is used for agriculture and 43% of women participate in the agricultural workforce. However, women often lack rights to land due to customary laws that favor males, depriving women of economic empowerment. A lack of access to land also impacts women’s access to credit services that would also help women economically.
  2. Unpaid Care Work: In many societies, women shoulder the burden of household chores and caregiving duties. This is also the case in Côte d’Ivoire. According to U.N. Women, “women carry out at least two and a half times more unpaid household and care work than men.” As a consequence, women have less time to participate in paid work and engage in educational opportunities that would help them rise out of poverty.
  3. Fertility Rates: Côte d’Ivoire’s fertility rate is high. In 2019, it averaged 4.6 births per woman. High fertility rates increase health risks for children and their mothers. It also lessens human capital investment, decelerates economic growth and aggravates environmental threats. High fertility rates correlate with inadequate access to family planning methods, low educational attainment and low levels of empowerment. Studies show that, worldwide, more “empowered women desire significantly fewer children” in contrast to less empowered women.
  4. Politics and Education: Women lack a voice within the public, social and political domains. The male-centered culture of Ivorian society does not accept the leadership of women in the public arena. In February 2021, just 11% of Ivorian women held positions as members of parliament. Despite the presence of women in Côte d’Ivoire’s government, women’s electoral weight is limited by minimal female representation so women are unable to hold true decisional power in politics. Moreover, in 2018, 40.5% of women were literate compared to 53.6% of men, putting women at a clear disadvantage.

Upholding Women’s Rights

The Organization of Active Women in Ivory Coast (OFACI) is a non-governmental organization founded in 1999 that focuses on fighting for women’s rights in Côte d’Ivoire. Its goals include increasing the literacy of girls and encouraging women’s leadership in social, political and economic environments. By creating programs to educate and support women, OFACI hopes to eliminate gender-based violence and discrimination against women. OFACI has 10 observation locations across the country that monitor and report on women’s rights in Côte d’Ivoire on a monthly basis. The organization has recently been pushing for, at minimum, a 30% representation of women in politics.

Recent progress in the country includes a marriage bill that was approved by the Council of Ministers of Côte d’Ivoire in 2019. Its main goal is to legislate equality between men and women in marriage through specific provisions. These solutions include new rules for the nullity of marriage, inheritance rights and marital property distribution. Another aim of the bill is to increase the age of legal marriage. This legislative progress provides hope for women’s rights in Côte d’Ivoire.

UN Women Shea Butter Program

Another example of an innovative program that targets women’s empowerment is a climate-smart agricultural program launched by U.N. Women in Côte d’Ivoire in 2017. The program, funded by the Government of Japan, seeks to empower rural women in the shea butter production sector. The traditional method used to produce shea butter requires intense labor. The resulting product fails to meet international quality standards so the women who work in this field struggle to make high profits. Since October 2017, U.N. Women trained 300 women on improved production practices and upgraded equipment in manufacturing facilities to meet international standards. The program also assisted women in the shea butter industry with financing and market access.

Despite the discrimination against women in Côte d’Ivoire, change is coming. NGOs and the government are stepping up to ensure greater equality among women and men and uphold the rights of women in the country.

– Virginia Arena
Photo: Flickr

Women's International Work
U.N. Women, an entity of the United Nations, strives to improve gender equality and the empowerment of women around the world. Specifically, U.N. Women’s international work involves collaboration with governments and societies to create real change. The organization creates change by working to reform, implement and secure policies, programs, resources and legislation to ensure the rights of women and girls are upheld globally.

UN Women’s International Work

U.N. Women not only works on gender equality in the world but also inside its organization. For example, U.N. Women employs more than 3,000 people of 150 different nationalities in 90 geographical locations, working together on global challenges and initiatives. About 74% of employees are female and employees are supported by staff resource groups such as the Youth Council and the LGBTQI Network. U.N. Women believes that diversity and inclusion create the best workforce and a safe space. This allows room for respect, professionalism and integrity.

U.N. Women began its work in January 2011. The entity brings together four United Nations offices prioritizing gender equality. This includes The U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) and the U.N. International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW). U.N. Women supports the development of gender equality policies and provides technical and monetary support to help countries with their gender equality goals. The entity holds the United Nations as a whole “accountable for its own commitments on gender equality” through ongoing monitoring and assessment.

Issues Impacting Women

U.N. Women’s gender equality work contributed to landmark agreements such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The organization emphasizes that gender inequality is a problem in every society due to its deeply rooted history. Globally, women do not always receive equal opportunities to men.

Gender wage gaps still exist and women frequently experience discrimination when attempting to garner employment and while working in the workplace. Women lack access to basic necessities such as essential healthcare and education. Women also severely lack representation in politics and economics even though they are significantly impacted by these decisions. However, U.N. Women works to give women and girls a voice at all levels on issues that affect them. In the greater scheme of global poverty, women are disproportionately affected by poverty.

Carol Cassidy

Carol Cassidy is a human rights journalist who has worked on and off with U.N. Women for seven years. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Cassidy explains that that U.N. Women’s focus is international. Cassidy states, “U.N. Women’s major focus is combating violence against women worldwide. Violence takes many forms, from selective abortion, lack of education for women and girls, lack of opportunities for women outside of housework” and more. Cassidy says further that the organization is interested in initiatives that address poverty and violence.

The organization’s main mission is not to overtake projects or programs women have created, but to provide funding and support to allow the programs to flourish. U.N. Women looks to enhance accountability and involve women in general decision-making and conversations within their communities. U.N. Women has worked with countries all around the world, from South Africa to Ukraine. Cassidy was drawn to the organization because she shares similar goals, morals and ethics.

Empowering Women Globally

Cassidy’s past work with U.N. Women includes supporting women’s economic rights in post-conflict zones such as Gaza, Uganda and Sri Lanka. Cassidy recalls a specific example of supporting women. In Gaza, unemployment rates skyrocketed during the war and women came together to build and run a bakery. Women were able to bake goods to sustain families in the community. U.N. Women supported these women by providing funding.

U.N. Women strives to create a world where women have the same opportunities and protections as men. U.N. Women’s international work has helped bridge gender barriers to close the gender inequality gap around the world.

– Lauren Peacock
Photo: Flickr

empowering Indonesian womenIndonesian women made significant gains in recent years but there is still more to be accomplished. Women in Indonesia are often well educated but cultural expectations and economic and legal structures still prevent them from entering the workforce. The employment rate for Indonesian women is 55.5% while for their male counterparts it stands at 83.2%. Indonesian women’s economic empowerment needs improvement. Organizations like The Asia Foundation and U.N. Women are supporting empowering Indonesian women in the workplace.

Indonesian Women’s Participation in the Workforce

Women’s participation in the workplace revolves around cultural, structural and legal barriers. Indonesian culture expects women to stay at home to complete domestic and childcare responsibilities. Because of these cultural expectations, women are largely responsible for childcare. This means they cannot achieve their professional goals. If a mother does work, it is usually to only provide a side income for the household.

An analysis from the World Bank revealed that if Indonesia added another public preschool per 1,000 children, the participation of mothers in the workforce would rise 13%. Surprisingly, in Indonesia, more women are currently receiving tertiary education than men. Despite this, most Indonesian women still leave the labor market after marriage even though fertility rates have dropped. Women who work outside of the house after marriage still only participate mostly in informal labor.

Within the informal sector, women lack access to support systems that formal employment has. Despite more women working in the informal sector, the wage gap for women is 50%. In the formal sector, the wage gap for women is lower than in the informal sector but still concerningly high at 30%. Additionally, women often work in the retail, hospitality and apparel sectors. These are vulnerable sectors, meaning women have little job security, which leads to higher unemployment for women.

Lack of Legal Protection

Although Indonesia has progressive maternal rights regulations, other laws often restrict women from achieving economic empowerment. According to the World Bank’s “Women, Business and the Law 2021” report, there is no law that prohibits discrimination in access to credit based on gender. Additionally, the report states that daughters and wives do not have equal access to inheriting assets from their parents and husbands. These laws can prevent women from rising out of poverty by making it difficult for women to retain economic assets.

Indonesian Women in the Workplace

Expanding women’s involvement in the workplace is beneficial for Indonesia’s entire economy. Improving Indonesian women’s economic power and standing could potentially lead to large economic growth. By closing gender employment and wage gaps, productivity will increase and economic growth will accelerate. It is reported that if women’s labor participation in Indonesia increased by 25% by 2025, it would generate an extra $62 billion and boost Indonesia’s GDP by almost 3%. Improving women’s economic standing leads to better business performance and a better economy.

Improving Indonesian Women’s Economic Empowerment

The Asia Foundation and WeEmpowerAsia aid Indonesian women in the workplace. The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit that works in 18 Asian countries, including Indonesia, to improve lives across the continent. The Foundation’s Women’s Empowerment Program in Indonesia partners with local women and organizations to help Indonesian women achieve economic empowerment. It has provided microloans for 42 women’s groups that have more than 1,500 women members. The Asia Foundation and these loans help Indonesian women build confidence in their economic decisions. The Women’s Empowerment Program works by empowering Indonesian women to effectively advance their development and economic success.

WeEmpowerAsia is a U.N. Women’s program that works to increase the number of women in Asia working in the private sector. In Indonesia, WeEmpowerAsia hosts its WeRise workshop. During these workshops, women entrepreneurs and workers learn how to overcome gender-related hurdles. During its first workshop in early December 2020, 41 female entrepreneurs attended. The workshops help women become more confident and assertive in economic situations.

Looking Ahead

Indonesian women face hardships and barriers to employment and economic empowerment because of cultural expectations and structural barriers. Economic empowerment for women is important for Indonesia’s economy because it generates growth. Programs and initiatives are working toward empowering Indonesian women in the workplace to ensure a better and brighter future for them.

Bailey Lamb
Photo: Flickr

Finland's Foreign Aid
Rankings and dollar signs are typically what one can use to compare a country’s contributions to foreign aid against the next. However, what is not present in those comparisons and dollar signs is the context and structure behind the contributions of these countries. The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) ranked Finland number 19 out of 30 countries because it provides only $1.08 billion in aid. This ranking is consistent across the board showing Finland as one of the lowest contributors of foreign aid, however, Finland’s foreign aid contributions include quality standards that every country should mimic to get the most out of their contributions.

Finland’s Goal Regarding Foreign Aid

Finland’s long-term overarching goal is not simply to help countries in need but also to free those countries from their dependency on aid and provide each country it contributes to with the ability to flourish. This goal puts Finland in a position to use the idea of quality over quantity when it decides its foreign aid budget and what country will benefit the most from Finland’s foreign aid contributions. Finland’s foreign aid policies follow a strict set of criteria that helps to guide and direct small but potent decisions. The Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of Finland has spelled out the four driving components to criteria for foreign aid contributions within Finland’s Development policy.

4 Driving Forces Behind Finland’s Foreign Aid

  1. Strengthening the Status and Rights of Women and Girls: Finland intends to improve the rights of women and girls across the globe and promote gender equality. In fact, Finland is one of the largest contributors to UN Women, after giving the organization 10 million euros in 2016.
  2. Strengthening the Economic Base in Developing Countries and Creating Jobs: Without a strong economy, a country may have limited jobs, so it is crucial for Finland to actively participate in the rebuilding or strengthening of that economy. Finland seeks out partnerships and opportunities to promote the creation of jobs and strengthen the countries’ trade environments. In a three-year span of time, between 2016 and 2019, Finland contributed over $500 million in investments and loans to support sustainable development. Finland’s investment in Somalia went solely toward economic infrastructure and electricity distribution as well as the private sector. This contribution should provide valuable stepping stones to help Somalia rebuild and sustain the resources available to it.
  3. Education, Well-Functioning Societies and Democracy: Finland stands by its rule of law to provide a safe and peaceful environment, sustainable resources and public services to its population. Moreover, it extends those values to other countries. In fact, 57% of Finland’s foreign aid goes to fragile states in order to promote stability and security.
  4. Environmental Challenges and Natural Resources: Finland also aims to offer reliable access to safe and clean water and better water and land resources. It also intends to promote better farming conditions, forest management and decreased risk of hygiene-related diseases. It has implemented sanitation projects in Nepal, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Kenya and more.

Examples of Finland’s Foreign Aid Projects

Finland’s foreign aid contributions have centered around rural development, food security and land tenure in Africa and Asia. Again, while Finland’s contributions may not evenly compare to other countries’ contributions, they directly align with its overarching goal of creating opportunities for countries to build and sustain their own resources. As a result, those countries might be able to enter a position to sustain themselves.

Another great example of Finland’s contributions is its investment in water supply and sanitation programs. Access to clean water and food is a worldwide issue and Finland is aiming to alleviate those issues in Ethiopia, Kenya and Nepal. Ethiopia and Nepal were among the top five recipients of Finland’s foreign aid in 2015. Finland has dedicated itself to providing support to countries that have the highest need for funds. In Vietnam, Finland contributed to the urban water supply and sewage system, helping those countries achieve self-sufficiency and providing them with consistent access to the sources they need.

These programs and resources are only effective if they can occur over the long term. This is why Finland’s foreign aid contributions focus on programs that support rule of law and political systems. For example, Finland gave Afghanistan $3.2 million between 2016 and 2019 to broaden “civic engagement” and help foster an environment where the people participate more closely with the decision-making process of Afghanistan’s government.

Concluding Thoughts

Individually, each criterion above may seem like an impossible mountain to climb, but for Finland, these are simply the small but potent foundational steps necessary to create and sustain an efficient, profitable and sustainable economy. Finland’s foreign aid contributions may seem like only a small blip on the radar compared to the contributions that the United States and other larger countries are making, but it is blazing a trail to ensure that the funds, no matter how big or small they are, can make a powerful contribution to countries in need.

– Janell Besa
Photo: Flickr

Theresa Kachindamoto’s Activism
Malawi operates under a democratic chiefdom system, which has been in existence for hundreds of years. Theresa Kachindamoto is the youngest of 12 siblings and the mother of five children. She works as a tribal Malawian chief in the district of Dedza. This district consists of nearly 900,000 people and 551 headmen. Theresa Kachindamoto’s activism for Malawi children stems from the cultural practice of child marriages.

Kachindamoto has been working to annul child marriages and ensure that the female victims of it can receive an education. In Malawi, one in two girls will marry before 18, preventing them from completing their education. Kachindamoto uses her voice to explain the practicality of arranged marriages with healthy boundaries. She also advocates for safe environments for the betterment of all parties involved. Here is some information about Theresa Kachindamoto’s activism for Malawi children.

Empowerment of Children

Some call Theresa Kachindamoto the terminator of child marriages. In fact, she has annulled over 1,000 marriages and immediately aided in getting individuals back to school afterward. Kachindamoto has said she will be chief until she dies, giving the children of Malawi a solid and long-term advocate. She is accomplishing change through the creation of a reliable support network to alter traditions.

U.N. Women has been a big supporter of Theresa Kachindamoto’s activism for Malawi children and how she brings attention to the issue of child marriages.

Many young women end up having to enter child marriages since their families are in poverty and cannot provide for their basic needs. Benedeta Matinson talked about marriage and finishing school in a U.N. Women video before she received employment. She conveyed information about experiencing marriage and pregnancy at the age of 15. Benedeta stated that marriage not a suitable solution for the lack of basic necessities.

The Problem

Malawi is the sixth most impoverished country in the world. Girls who marry before the age of 18 make up 18% of the country. Kachindamoto has expressed that motherhood and wifehood often take precedence over girls’ education. Thus, the chief is working towards altering traditions. Theresa Kachindamoto’s activism for Malawi children empowers young women. It grants the girls understanding of their value and what they deserve. This includes quality education before marriage arrangements.

Child marriages lead the way to more significant problems. An example of a problem is sexual initiation camps. These are places where young women learn how to sexually please men and understand their “duties” as wives. The tradition translates as “kukasa fumbi,” which basically means sexual cleansing. Girls either graduate the program by having relations with their instructor or go home virgins. Meanwhile, if they return home as virgins, their parents force them to lose their virginities to local men. This cultural practice makes girls more susceptible to unwanted pregnancies and the spread of HIV. In fact, statistically, every one in 10 Malawians becomes ill with HIV/AIDS.

With the teen pregnancy rate rising during the COVID-19 pandemic, 57.2% of girls ages 15 to 19 are mothers. In addition, 63.5% of girls are mothers-to-be.

The Importance of Education

As part of Theresa Kachindamoto’s activism for Malawi children, she created and signed an agreement for her district to end child marriage along with sexual initiation camps. This was the result of conversing with 50 sub-chiefs who gave Kachindamoto significant pushback. In response, she firmly said, “these girls will go back to school” and the other tribal members slowly worked towards sticking to the new law. In her reign, Kachindamoto raised the age of consent for marriage from 15 years old to 18 years old.

The Mpapa mothers’ group is an organization that seeks out victims of child marriages. Members go door to door in search of those who have dropped out of school due to early marriage, and they attempt to return the girls to school. Mpapa Primary School is a school that the girls then attend, where drop-out rates were at 6% in 2020 and attendance was at 87%. Nationally, only 51% of girls finish primary school.

The Joint Programme on Girls Education (JPGE) trains the Mpapa mothers’ group. The United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency supports the group as well. The group encourages to complete education by mentoring teens on pregnancy issues, marriage and their rights as women.

A 15-year-old girl and Mpapa Primary School attendee, Aisha Kayima, benefited from mentoring sessions two times a month. The mothers’ group has taught Kayima to be better informed about her choices so that she can have a quality future.

Looking Ahead

Putting a stop to child marriages can change the economic status of young girls while ensuring entire communities’ safety by inhibiting the spread of HIV/AIDS. Theresa Kachindamoto’s activism for Malawi children also helps reconnect girls with their warranted educational paths. In Kachindamoto’s words, “If you educate your girl, you will have everything in the future.”

– Libby Keefe
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Kosovo
Since its independence, Kosovo has made efforts to progress gender equality. Its written laws and Constitution declare women as equal to men and one can see such equality at the highest levels with the recent promotion of a woman as acting president and the multiple females operating in high-level cabinet positions, including deputy prime minister. Kosovo law obliges all public institutions to ensure equal gender representation, including in leadership positions, as well. From the outside looking in, the laws in place and the fact that women are in leadership roles in government appear to showcase the promotion of women’s rights in Kosovo. However, the country requires more work to ensure full equality between men and women.

The Reality

Despite what looks like outstanding progress towards gender equality and the strengthening of women’s rights in Kosovo, the reality is that women face insurmountable struggles compared to their male counterparts in everyday life. Women experience discrimination regarding access to property and social resources, and problems of personal security and cultural equality. What many see from the outside is not representative of the traditional patriarchal society that exists in Kosovo, in which men have primary access to economic and social resources. It seems that not even law can uproot cultural traditions, which continue to dominate people’s perceptions of female rights and roles in society.

Property Rights

The situation regarding property rights illustrates the mirage of gender equality and the deeply ingrained cultural traditions that limit women’s rights in Kosovo. Despite inheritance law, which grants equal inheritance rights to men and women, women own only 17% of property in Kosovo; far below other Balkan states. Much of the reason for this roots in the power of traditional societal norms and roles that originated from the Albanian code of ethics, the Kanun. This ancient code subverts women to second-class citizenship. It suggests that a woman must move into her husband’s ancestral home. Meanwhile, it dictates that if her husband dies, the property rights should go to her brother or a male cousin.

What does this mean for poverty? The idea that women cannot own property can trickle into other areas that dictate women’s rights in Kosovo and female access to opportunities and resources. The norms perpetuate the stereotyping of gendered roles, with female associated roles as domestic and males as the breadwinners. Such stereotyping reduces the ability of women to be an equal member of the family and society in terms of economics. It also results in significant dependency on male family members as well as the government for women to financially survive.

Even where women want to pursue their dreams and break the glass ceiling, property rights disrupt their progress. Without property, women cannot gain access to loans, and without loans, many women have no means of becoming entrepreneurs or training in new occupations. This is evident in the business sector where females own only 6% of businesses. Clearly, cultural norms are significant and greatly limit female chances of economic and social progression.

Looking Forward

Despite deeply embedded cultural and social norms, women’s rights in Kosovo are improving. In January 2014, UN Women in Kosovo financed the production of a report to look into property rights and the legal structures that govern them. Other organizations and human rights NGOs have followed suit and undertaken and supported campaigns aimed at researching, spreading awareness and pressuring the domestic government to enforce equal property rights.

Aside from advocacy and government pressure to act to better implement policies to protect women’s rights regarding owning property, the Kosovo Cadastre Agency (KCA), which the World Bank co-created with the Agency for Gender Equality, has created a program to register joint ownership of marital property between spouses. Such schemes are helping women gain the rights they deserve and that Kosovo’s Constitution gives them. The creation of new programs and the pressuring of the Kosovar government are going towards ensuring equal access to property rights, and as a result, equal access to financial and social resources and opportunities to allow women to flourish.

– Elizabeth Alexander
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Samoa Samoa has had a long history of being considered a place where women’s rights have been hindered. Women’s voices in Samoa are often brushed aside when it comes to major issues such as domestic violence and politics. That being said, improvements on the basis of women’s rights in Samoa have occurred. U.N. Women has also worked to set up programs to support women’s equality in Samoa, which provides hope for the creation of more inclusive Samoan communities in the future.

The Samoan Woman’s Voice

Within the islands of the Pacific, where Samoa is located, the lowest rates of women’s participation in politics are found. Women within the Samoan culture are not encouraged to discover a sense of independent thought that they are willing to express. Because of this, women’s representation in governmental positions is a mere 10%. This minimum of 10%, however, will remain consistent due to an amendment of the Samoan constitution that was passed in 2013. The amendment states that women’s seats will be added into parliament if women are not elected, in order to ensure that at least 10% of parliamentary representation is women.

There are many cultural structures that greatly impact women’s rights when it comes to the expression of political opinions. One of these structures is the Matai councils that are in charge of local decision-making. Although women are allowed to join the Matai council, it is mainly considered a male council because of the low level of female members. The cultural family structures in Samoa also discourage women from reaching for political positions like becoming a Matai. Women mainly answer to their husbands within households so they feel a disconnect between having a desire for political power and their familial positions.

Violence Against Samoan Women

Only 22% of women that live in Samoa have not been a victim of some kind of domestic violence within their lifetime. Within the 78% of women who have experienced abuse, 38% said that the abuse was physical. Overlooked violence is one of the largest setbacks to obtaining more holistic women’s rights in Samoa. Women believe that the violence they face is not of importance. This can be justified by the fact that domestic violence was only reported to the police by 3% of women who experienced it.

3 Programs Improving Women’s Rights in Samoa

As many setbacks as there have been in gaining women’s equality in Samoa, U.N. Women has set up programs in order to empower women in Samoa.

  • The Women’s Economic Empowerment Programs: These programs work to ensure that women in Samoa can secure proper employment and are getting paid for the work they are doing. It also makes sure that women have access to assets and increased economic security.
  • The REACH Project: This program has worked to educate the general rural public of Samoa about general rights, including those of women. Although the goals of this program were extensive, one of them was to create equality of gender and to empower young girls for a better future. REACH accomplished its goals through the creation of sessions meant to increase awareness of rights and gender equality that citizens in rural areas could attend.
  • The Ending Violence Against Women Program: This program has created a fund in order to support women victims of violence within Samoa. It also works to change government policies that could support violence against women in any way. The information and support that this program gives to women who may not be aware of their right to speak up against violence against them is invaluable.

Overall, women’s rights in Samoa are progressing with the help of organizations like U.N Women fighting for the well-being and empowerment of women. Samoa has come a long way with regards to gender equality and the future looks hopeful for women in the country.

– Olivia Bay
Photo: Flickr