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Poverty Eradication in Germany
Historically, Germany has not been without its economic or financial hardships. Since the 1990s, nearly a quarter (or 15%) of Germany’s population has had the classification of being poor. What is Germany doing in the modern age to combat a significant and stagnant impoverished population? Additionally, why have Germany’s poverty rates not reflected the country’s staggering economic growth? Finally, how is Germany’s poverty-reduction legislation impacting refugee families? This article will illuminate the radical legislation and innovations about poverty eradication in Germany including what the country has implemented to reduce inequality, domestically and globally, in the 21st century.

The BMZ Behind It All

Poverty eradication in Germany began with the BMZ (a German-language acronym for the English-translated “Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development”). The BMZ is solely responsible for all affairs regarding poverty relief and economic development in Germany and abroad. In recent history, the BMZ has committed itself to addressing the underlying factors, circumstances and mechanisms that create poverty in the first place. In the early 1990s, the BMZ published international and domestic development goals which, to this day, influences the nation’s fight against poverty. Strong social welfare, personal incentive for work and widespread access to education reduced the national proportion of people experiencing poverty to as low as 7% in 2007.

At the time, radical steps like systemic reformations and direct focus on franchising majority impoverished groups of people were novel and began Germany’s repertoire as a powerful benefactor to its poorest constituents. With recent international crises (like the Syrian Civil War) and the advent of automation, however, Germany’s poverty line has all but slowly grown. However, a recent 6.1 billion euro ($7.2 billion USD) expansion of Germany’s social welfare program, Hartz IV (dedicated to long-term unemployment) spells relief for many displaced and at-risk peoples in Germany.

Young Families, New Challenges

Starting a family is, unquestionably, one of the most difficult and unique things a couple (or individual) can undertake. Additionally, it is no short order to both raise a young family while providing for it – and, sometimes, it is nearly impossible to maintain a “work-life balance,” which typically ends in financial hardship. Poor families are at risk to begin with; a new child may well be the tipping point into impoverishment, and the cycle only proliferates when families raise children in poverty. Enter one of Germany’s most radical pieces of legislation, the Parental Allowance and Parental Leave Act, created exclusively to alleviate the financial stresses that new families often face. New parents may receive up to 60% of their income for up to 3 years, addressing underlying systemic cycles of poverty, especially with already at-risk, younger individuals, rather than focusing on short-term manifestations of it.

Providing low-risk, low-stress economic stability for growing families almost ensures that the cycle breaks as well. As of 2014, only 9.5% of children in Germany lived in poverty, compared to the nation’s average of 14%. The Parental Allowance and Leave act has proven to be an extremely successful player in poverty relief in Germany.

International Commitments

Germany has not only invested in domestic poverty relief, it is also interested in working toward poverty relief internationally. Chancellor Angela Merkel has committed to doubling the nation’s UNDP core funding to combat the economic hardship that COVID-19 has brought on internationally. Germany has been the largest single contributor to the UNDP’s core resources since 2017 and has solidified that position by donating nearly $124 million to the core fund this year alone. What that means is increased spending power for the UNDP during the COVID-19 pandemic, which the UNDP predicts will cause the first reversal of human global development since the early 1990s. Germany’s increased budget for the UNDP will go to essential poverty relief efforts in 130 countries that the pandemic has greatly affected, providing assistance for hundreds of millions across the globe.

COVID-19 Relief in Germany

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Germany experienced its impact economically, socially and culturally much like the rest of the world. In Germany, the unemployment rate from March to April 2020 increased by 0.8%. Poverty rates have remained consistent as well, with surprising research showing that poorer workers are at no greater risk of succumbing to the novel coronavirus. What differentiates Germany’s COVID experience is its radical response and mobilization against the extreme economic fallout COVID spelled.

The German government has committed an unprecedented $868 billion relief package for its most vulnerable populations, small businesses and manufacturers. In addition, Germany has expanded wage subsidies for furloughed individuals and executed a tax slash of 3%. In this exceptionally trying time, Germany has revolutionized the way the world thinks about social security, and it stands that German citizens will feel the impact of this emergency poverty relief in Germany for decades to come.

Germany has been a litmus test as a standard for social welfare since the dawn of the modern age. Poverty eradication in Germany is a multifaceted, extensive and progressive approach to the seemingly Sisyphean task of battling poverty at home and abroad. Strong COVID-19 relief plans, the groundbreaking Parental Leave Act, a dedicated ministry of economic affairs and a commitment to international well-being makes for innovative anti-poverty measures that are paving the way for the world.

– Henry Comes-Pritchett
Photo: Getty Images

Poverty Eradication in Egypt
Innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt have taken a sustainable and decentralized form in the last four years. Through local initiatives and collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Egypt has incorporated social welfare and development programs aimed at improving the standard of living in its poorest governorates and providing a permanent path out of poverty for future generations.

With Egypt’s poverty rate rising to 5% in 2019, how exactly does Egypt plan to have a “competitive, balanced, diversified, and knowledge based economy” that would eliminate poverty by 2030?

UNDP Sustainable Development Strategies

One significant innovation in poverty eradication in Egypt is the UNDP’s adoption of a social entrepreneurial and minority centralized model. Through partnerships with Egypt’s public sector, private companies and civil society, the UNDP not only helped prioritize economic development but also made women, children and disabled people a focal point.

  1. The GSER Program: The GSER program under the Misr El-Kheir Foundation, a nonprofit development institution in Egypt, organizes social innovation camps with UNDP’s support. Youth from all parts of Egypt co-scheme solutions to improve the livelihoods in Fayoum’s fishing community, one of Egypt’s poorest governorates. Accomplishments include a redesigned shrimp peeling table for fishermen’s wives, which advanced hygiene and shell quality in Fayoum.
  2. The IBM Academic Initiative: The IBM Academic Initiative invested $70 million with the objective of providing over 25 million Africans free digital skills training and launching one of its regional offices in Egypt. UNDP’s contributions will help Egypt cultivate a STEM-oriented workforce through access to IBM’s cutting edge tools and course material.
  3. The Game Changer Fellowship: The Game Changer Fellowship is a one-year program that provides incubation support to aspiring Egyptian game designers through a partnership between UNDP Egypt and the Engagement Lab at Emerson College in Boston, U.S.A. This has enabled Egypt’s youth to uniquely approach development challenges by stimulating behavior change. Given that 84% of Egypt’s unemployment rate comprises young men and women, such initiatives are imperative in enhancing human capital in order to prevent an underdeveloped workforce.
  4. The Mobile Ramp App: The Mobile Ramp App helps Egypt’s disabled community lead easier, more integrated lives. UNDP partnered with Fab Lab Egypt and the Misr El-Kheir Foundation to launch a media campaign that promotes and teaches sign language as well as maps out locations with available ramps.

J-PAL’s (Abdul Latif Jamil Poverty Action Lab) Innovative Research

Despite these innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, reports determined that there were 32.5% of Egyptian citizens living below the poverty line in 2019. According to J-PAL, a global research center aiming to reduce poverty, this extreme poverty figure of 32.5% indicates that the policies and programs designed to alleviate Egypt’s poverty are not as effective as they could be.

In order to achieve successful innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, J-PAL’s MIT branch is launching a research center at the American University in Cairo. Through research and professional training to inform evidence-based policies and engage governments and relevant NGOs, Egypt will establish a culture of empirical policy making so that it can adequately evaluate the efficacy of its plans. 

Institutionalizing Social Innovation and Sustainable Development

While international efforts facilitate innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, government and grassroots organizations in Egypt have adopted technological and sustainable based solutions to economic problems through their own localized projects and findings.

  1. The Egyptian Government: The Egyptian government is investing EGP 47bn ($3 billion) to Upper Egypt governorates in its 2020-2021 fiscal year. This is a 50% increase from 2019, representing 25% of total government investments.
  2. The Takaful and Karama Program: The Takaful and Karama program provides income support to the poor through a conditional and unconditional cash transfer program that aims to increase food consumption and necessary healthcare. Nevin al Qabbaj, the Social Solidarity Minister, reported that by 2020 around 2.5 million Egyptian families have benefited from the program.
  3. SEKEM: SEKEM, an Egyptian sustainable development organization, is working with the Egyptian government to implement Egypt Vision 2030. The plan includes 12 “pillars” targeting economic development, social justice, innovative research, education, health and the environment. Additionally, along with local NGOs, SEKEM has revitalized Egypt’s desert land and developed its agricultural businesses using biodynamic methods.

Egypt’s ability to mitigate poverty across all demographics using sustainable, innovative and ethical practices is testimony to its economic and cultural prosperity. Egypt’s innovations in poverty eradication are unique in that they exemplify the duality of individual, entrepreneurial growth in the private sphere and collective, righteous leadership in the public sphere.

– Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Algeria
Algeria is located on the Northern coast of Africa and is home to 42.2 million people. The nation adopted a universal single-payer healthcare system in 1984, which allows anyone to access healthcare at no cost to themselves. The nation’s economy is largely reliant on oil prices and sales, but these have proven to be volatile in the past several decades. Due to this economic instability, 23% of the population lives below the poverty line, even though the nation has some of the largest oil and gas reserves in the world. What is even more startling is the 29% youth unemployment rate. Given that such a large segment of the population falls below the poverty line and cannot find work, many Algerians are reliant on their publicly funded healthcare system to provide for them in times of need. Here are five facts about healthcare in Algeria in light of the country’s economic hardship.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Algeria

  1. The Public Healthcare Network has Struggled Recently: In 2019, Algeria’s public healthcare network ranked as the 173rd most secure healthcare network out of 195 nations. This stems from the chronic economic insecurity that dominated the nation due to drops in oil prices. The “breakeven” price for oil in Algeria was $157 per barrel in 2020. However, the price fell to just $20 a barrel, leaving the nation to stumble upon hard times. Yahia Zoubir notes that many Algerian medical professionals have chosen to take their practices out of the nation due to the “chronically insufficient healthcare system.”
  2. A Private Healthcare Sector Exists within Algeria: In 2015, there were 250 operational private clinics, and the government approved plans for the construction of the first private hospital in the nation. Many questioned the utility of the private sector because it fills in the gaps of the public sector, but it can only serve those who could afford it. Essentially, the presence of the private sector heightens disparity in the quality of care that the healthcare system provides to Algerians in different socio-economic classes.
  3. COVID-19 has Highlighted Major Issues with the Public Healthcare Network: As noted before, the national economy took major hits in 2019, and the nation announced a 50% cut in public spending as a result. Due to an inability to provide physicians with the necessary equipment and a general lack of human capital, there were 17 beds per 10,000 Algerians, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015. Because of this limited hospital capacity, COVID-19 patients easily overran public healthcare in Algeria.
  4. Where Health Officials Fail, the People Provide: Throughout the pandemic, government officials were notorious for failing to communicate with the public to slow the spread of the virus. Villages located further away from urban centers encountered these issues most prominently. Despite this, the Algerian people demonstrated resilient and innovative capabilities. The United Nations Development Program notes two distinct ways Algerians are reacting to the pandemic. First, in urban centers, many merchants are turning away from their cash-based system and moving toward e-commerce. E-commerce limits the amount of person-to-person contact involved in economic transitions of all sorts. Meanwhile, villages are working together to limit the spread of the virus themselves. Notably, a village called Tifilkout went into self-confinement to protect its citizens and other villages in the area. This plan originated from the tradition of “wise men” leading the village. These solutions demonstrate that while healthcare in Algeria may be unstable, the people will still assist one another regardless.
  5. The Algerian Struggle has Incited a Global Response: Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have also stepped up to assist in COVID-19 relief. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged to donate $20 million to fight COVID-19 in Africa. The money will go towards ensuring that PPE and treatments are available to all who need them, not just those who can pay the most. While these efforts going towards Africa generally, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has demonstrated its commitment to Algeria in the past. In 2002, it joined groups working to fight the spread of malaria, and through its assistance, Algeria was the second nation in Africa to become malaria-free.

Healthcare in Algeria has struggled for years, and the COVID-19 pandemic exposed many of its weaknesses. However, the pandemic has also allowed communities to respond to such weaknesses in full force. While Algerians are working to protect one another through e-commerce and social distancing, the international community is banding together to support the nation as well.

Allison Moss
Photo: Flickr

food safety in el salvadorThe ability to have access to safe and nutritious food is essential to maintaining life and good health. Unsafe food contains harmful parasites, viruses and bacteria that can lead to more than 200 diseases, from diarrhea to forms of cancer. Approximately 600 million people become ill after consuming contaminated food each year, which results in 420,000 deaths and the loss of thirty-three million healthy life hours. Food safety and nutrition are linked to cycles of health. Unsafe food causes disease and malnutrition, especially with at-risk groups.

Education on Food Safety in El Salvador

Women in El Salvador are participating in an educational program supported by the World Health Organization that teaches safe hygiene practices and food safety. The WHO works in collaboration with El Salvador’s government and other United Nations partner organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UNICEF, UNWomen, and the World Food Program (WFP). The program aims to address foodborne illnesses and poor nutrition by educating local women who then pass on their knowledge to other women in the community.

In preparation for the village workshops, there are two ‘train the trainers’ workshops held to train health promoters who can then go on to educate women in other villages. The women teach others how to host their own educational workshops. Women are chosen as leaders since they play a vital role in food preparation and safety.

Teaching Subsistence Farming

In El Salvador 1 in 10 people live on less than $2 U.S. a day, which makes it hard to buy food.  A large sector of the population lacks the proper education about nutrition needed to grow food themselves. This program provides women with education about farming, specifically focusing on five keys to growing safer fruits and vegetables.

  1. Practice good personal hygiene. Good hygiene begins in the home with a clean body, face, and clothes. People must maintain cleanliness to curb the spread of pathogens and prevent food contamination. A toilet or latrine must be used for proper sanitation.
  2. Protect fields from animal fecal contamination. In areas where animals live in close proximity to humans and fields, it is imperative to control the risk of exposure to fecal matter. Exposure to animal feces is correlated with diarrhea, soil-transmitted helminth infection, trachoma, environmental enteric dysfunction and growth faltering.
  3. Use treated fecal waste. Waste may be reused as a fertilizer for agriculture, gardening or horticultural, but must be safely handled, treated, stored and utilized.
  4. Evaluate and manage risks from irrigation water. Be aware of all risks of microbial contamination at all water sources and protect water from fecal matter.
  5. Keep harvest and storage equipment clean and dry. Wash harvest equipment with clean water and store away from animals and children. Remove all visible dirt and debris from all products.

Results

After participating in the program, the women involved began to change their lifestyles and safety habits. Women use mesh to protect fields from contamination from animals and can grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables while practicing food safety. Foodborne illnesses decreased in households where safety measures were practiced. Families that utilized the five keys at home reduced their chances of getting diarrhea by 60% compared to families in communities where these hygiene and safety measures were not applied. Families that began to practice food safety also had a more diversified crop production that contributes to improved nutrition.

 

Many people in El Salvador live on less than $2 U.S. a day and education on nutrition needed to grow food independently is sometimes lacking. In order to address these issues, The WHO, and other organizations, partnered with El Salvador’s government to host workshops on food safety and hygiene practices. While food safety remains an important issue in El Salvador, the workshops positively impacted food safety in the country by decreasing foodborne illnesses in households that applied the safety measures.

– Anna Brewer
Photo: Flickr

 

In the past decade, Cambodia has made progress in reducing the inequality gap between men and women. In partnership with the UN and USAID, gender barriers and negative social norms surrounding women’s place in society are being broken.

Women have taken the lead in various areas of poverty reduction, such as participating in the democratic process and spearheading efforts against water insecurity and climate disaster.

Here are some ways in which gender equality in Cambodia is improving.

Changing Societal Norms

During the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, violence against women escalated, including rape. The UN has worked to support victims and correct assumptions and inattention surrounding violence against women in Cambodia. Through the UN Joint Global Programme on Essential Services for Women and Girls Subject to Violence that began in 2017, survivors of rape and violence are receiving help and support. They focus on various needs of victims.

Through such programs, the UN has made efforts toward openly discussing and reducing violence against women, promoting gender equality in Cambodia.

A UN survey found that 82% of men and 92% of women accept that a woman’s main role lies only in overseeing the home. By using media, the UN is educating the public about negative social norms surrounding the role of women. For example, UNDP Cambodia and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs of Cambodia (MoWA) developed an initiative that focuses on improving gender equality in Cambodia. Between 2017 and 2020, this initiative focused on three areas:

  • Refining various institutions in the health, legal, and economic sectors to implement policies that empower women.
  • Using media to educate and engage the public to break societal norms and gender barriers.
  • Advance efforts to place women in positions of leadership and decision-making.

Women Lead Efforts Toward Water Security

Not only is the conversation surrounding gender equality in Cambodia changing, but women have stepped into positions of leadership in poverty reduction. For example, women are instrumental in efforts to achieve water security. In Cambodia, women are the main members of the household to fetch and handle water.

In addition to daily water needs, women also depend on water for its use in farming. Almost two-thirds of Cambodians are farmers, many of whom are women. The USAID Sustainable Water Partnership (SWP) recognizes the leadership skills of women and trains them to aid efforts toward water security. For example, in 2018, this program trained 17 women in the Stung Chinit Watershed and placed them in positions of leadership. These women gained knowledge in various areas, including conflict resolutionteamwork, communication and overseeing finances. In future years, the SWP plans to continue to include women in the fight for water security.

Women in the Democratic Process

The USAID has also worked toward including women in the democratic process. Through grassroots organizations, women are now becoming part of various civil rights causes. The USAID has promoted the participation of women in lobbying for workers’ rights and human rights.

Cambodia’s National Assembly is still composed of 80% men, but efforts to place women in political leadership positions are being undertaken. For example, a Cambodian NGO SILAKA is focused on partnering with political parties to engage women in politics. In 2017, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) focused on including qualified women candidates on candidate lists during council elections.

Women and Climate Disaster

In 2019, UNDP Cambodia increased efforts to prevent climate disasters and protect communities from these disasters. The UNDP has emphasized the role of women in disaster management. They are equipping local women with leadership and decision-making skills as a part of the Charter of Demands for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation.

Looking Forward

With the aid of the UN and USAID, Cambodia has made crucial efforts toward reforming negative societal norms. This has come through media campaigns and through involving women in poverty reduction efforts. To achieve greater gender equality in Cambodia, further efforts are needed to empower women politically, economically and socially.

– Anita Durairaj
Photo: Needpix

Poverty in Georgia
Sitting between Turkey and Russia, the nation of Georgia tells a unique story about successfully fighting poverty. Although the country’s poverty rate sits at around 20.1%, the current figure represents a steep decline from the 2010 rate of 37.4%. A more complete understanding of the decline of poverty in Georgia requires an understanding of the nation’s history.

Recent Georgian History

Throughout the 19th century, the Russian empire slowly annexed Georgia. In 1918, after the collapse of the Russian Empire, the Democratic Republic of Georgia declared its independence. In 1921, the Soviet Union forcibly incorporated Georgia. Under Soviet rule, the economy of Georgia modernized and diversified from being largely agrarian to featuring a prominent industrial sector.

In 1936, Georgia became a constituent republic and remained so until the collapse of the Soviet Union. After the collapse in 1991, Georgia regained its independence, but instability, civil unrest and a falling GDP plagued the nation. After the Rose Revolution of 2003, the government of Georgia attempted to liberalize the nation’s economy and pursue cooperation with the West. Russia invaded the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions in 2008 due to a territorial dispute, which is still ongoing.

When viewing the recent history, it is clear that the decline of poverty in Georgia deeply intertwines with its reforms after emerging from the Soviet Union. With a government focussed on stability and economic development, Georgia has been able to make strides to downsize poverty.

Success in Fighting Poverty

When the Georgian government made an attempt to liberalize the nation’s economy and pursue international cooperation after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the nation sought trade agreements with China and the European Union (E.U.) and made reforms to eliminate corruption and simplify taxes. As a result, Georgia’s GDP per capita has expanded at an average rate of 4.8% per year.

In 2007, The World Bank ranked Georgia as the world’s number one economic reformer due to its successful policies focussing on promoting competition and diversifying the financial sector. In 2014, it found that poverty in Georgia had decreased for the fourth consecutive year. Since 2014, Georgia has joined the E.U.’s Free Trade Area, and the E.U. has become the country’s largest trading partner.

Georgia has also been working with the United Nations Development Programme to pursue democratic reforms, inclusive growth, conflict transformation, green solutions and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2012, Georgia demonstrated positive growth, conducting a democratic election with a peaceful transition of power.

Fighting Poverty in the Future

Though the nation holds many statistical successes, poverty in Georgia is still a pressing matter. According to the Asian Development Bank, 20.1% of the population still lived below the national poverty line in 2018.

Unemployment remains a contributing factor to poverty in Georgia. The national rate sits at about 13.9%, though in some regions it is as high as 40%. Young people especially struggle economically in Georgia, and the country is currently working with the United Nations to improve vocational education and training. In 2017, the Georgian government put forth a rural development strategy, emphasizing its focus on the growth and diversification of the rural economy.

Despite the nation’s economic improvements, Georgia’s standard of living has decreased dramatically due to the loss of the cheap sources of energy previously received in the Soviet era. The country recognizes this problem and has made efforts to rebuild the energy sector in a sustainable way. In 2015, Georgia joined the EU4Energy Programme, which is dedicated to making effective, research-based policy decisions in the energy sector.

Healthcare also remains a contributing factor to poverty in Georgia, especially among children. The nation struggles with both a high infant mortality rate and a high rate of infections and parasitic diseases. In 2013, the country adopted a universal healthcare plan, which represents a significant step in making health care more accessible. The nation is currently working to expand the service to all areas of the population.

The previous victories in the decline of poverty in Georgia are laudable. Though Georgia still requires more work, the nation continues to make reform efforts and strives to ensure that the next chapter of economic history is one of continued success.

Michael Messina
Photo: Flickr

gender inequality in IndonesiaAs the fourth most populous country in the world, Indonesia continues to battle poverty and conditions of inequality for women. However, Indonesia has made strides in improving access to education for girls. The nation also has one of the highest literacy rates in Asia. Various U.N. programs are promoting women’s access to learning while advancing the benefits of women in Indonesia’s marketplace. Here are many ways in which gender equality in Indonesia is improving.

Women in Politics

Indonesia implemented a democratic system in 1998. Since then they have implemented laws that decrease the inequality gap between men and women. For example, one law requires that political parties be composed of at least 30% of women. 2018 even saw Indonesia’s female finance minister voted Best Minister in the World by the World Government Summit. Women in Indonesia have also been influential in promoting certain bills that grant women more rights. The 2019 sexual violence bill, for example, identifies nine different forms of sexual harassment all of which would be made illegal. Discussion of this topic is taboo in some social settings in Indonesia, which makes support for this bill by women crucial.

Grassroots Movements

Women activists and Indonesian civil society organizations (CSOs) have played a role in breaking away social norms regarding inequality. With international support, these CSOs have impacted 900 villages over 27 provinces. This has positively affected more than 32,000 women from more than 1,000 groups in 2018. At the village level, these organizations promote women’s involvement in decision-making and focus on reducing violence against women.

Economic Empowerment

In 2019, U.N. Women launched an online learning platform that aims to empower women business owners called WeLearn. The platform offers free curricula to women entrepreneurs. WeLearn also provides access to lessons from industry experts and fellow women entrepreneurs.

A 2018 study of Women Empowerment Principles in the top 50 companies in Indonesia found that there was a minimum of one woman on every board of at least 84% of the companies that participated in the survey. These companies have also implemented initiatives to empower women in the workplace.

Access to Education

Access to education in Indonesia is also improving for girls. Indonesia has one of the highest literacy rates for women among Asian countries, with 99.7% of women ages 15–24 literate in 2018. By 2019, almost every child in Indonesia attended school at the elementary level. In fact, there were slightly more female students enrolled than male students. Furthermore, females were shown to do better than males.

Looking Forward

Intergovernmental organizations are also promoting gender equality in Indonesia. For example, the UNDP Indonesia Gender Equality Strategy and Action Plan 2017-2020 is committed to addressing four aspects of gender equality in Indonesia:

  • Empower women to achieve a better standard of living and sustainable employment
  • Work with local groups to grant women better healthcare access
  • Support the involvement of women in the sustainable use of natural resources
  • Improve access to responsible and fair public institutions, especially for women who are in more vulnerable situations

Overall, conditions of gender equality in Indonesia are improving through the involvement of women in politics and grassroots organizations. This is especially possible with the support of international organizations like the United Nations. Continued efforts to empower women entrepreneurs and communicate the benefits of women in the marketplace are essential to realizing greater economic benefits and achieving greater gender equality in Indonesia.

– Anita Durairaj

Photo: Wikimedia

9 Facts About Sanitation in Eritrea
The land that encompasses the modern-day state of Eritrea is vast and old. The country itself, however, is one of the youngest countries on the African continent. After winning its independence from neighboring Ethiopia in a 30-year-long war of liberation, Eritrea emerged on the world stage as an underdeveloped and rural nation. While Eritrea has dealt with more than its fair share of struggles in its first 30 years of independence, sanitation and water usage continue to challenge communities. Many consider sanitation to be a gateway to development and modernization, and subsequently, Eritrea is taking steps to address this rising national issue. Here are nine facts about sanitation in Eritrea.

9 Facts About Sanitation in Eritrea

  1. As of June 2019, Eritreans have received encouragement to ration water, reduce flushing and prepare for more drastic water limitations. This reactionary measure was in response to the nationwide water shortages that mismanagement and intense drought caused. Most Eritreans live in rural or semi-rural areas where seasonal rivers run dry for most of the summer. They rely on wells and government-supplied tankers for their daily water. As these water supplies dwindle, the rural inhabitants often do not have a reliable water source. Some people have even begun to migrate to different areas of the country in search of new water sources.
  2. Community-led endeavors make up most of the efforts currently combating a lack of sanitation in Eritrea. In late 2007, the Eritrean government adopted a new initiative called Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). Through this program, villages appointed hygiene promoters to assess the sanitation needs of approximately 20 homes and advocate for new community measures. One significant breakthrough came when the 2008 pilot village of Adi Habteslus achieved 100% of households having and using a toilet, after the implementation of CLTS in 2007. A conference on community-led sanitation in December 2018 established an initiative to end open defecation by 2022. Thus far, the results have been promising, with a total of 163 villages declared open-defecation-free. This translates to around 135,109 people across Eritrea gaining access to established latrines. This progress is due in part to the widespread initiative of the Ministry of Health to establish CLTS in communities across Eritrea, not just in villages in close proximity to the capital.
  3. Community-implemented fines have had a positive impact on community health. For example, in late 2019 the U.N. volunteers reported that after implementing a penalty of 100 Nfk (equivalent to $7) for open defecation, a village in Anseba is now reporting “a significant decrease in the diarrheal diseases.” Today, Eritrea is still on track to meet the goal of declaring an open-defecation-free state by 2022, thanks in part to the continued success of CLTS.
  4. Community activists are also organizing the construction of latrines at their own cost to promote cleaner sanitation habits. In a program meant to reduce and even eliminate open defecation, many rural Eritreans are constructing communal latrines without any subsidies and using locally available materials. One woman, Amna Abdela Mussa, age 45 from the Emberemi Village, benefited greatly after constructing her own latrine, saying that it was empowering to give back to her community and improve her own sanitation.
  5. Poor sanitation in Eritrea disproportionately impacts women and girls. It is a long-standing cultural expectation that women and girls in rural and urban Eritrea are responsible for overseeing the water collection and usage in each household. As the main users of water, women have also been playing a decisive role in the planning, implementation and operation of sanitation projects. Yirgalem Solomon is one of these women. She is currently spearheading a project to introduce an open dialogue in Eritrean middle schools about menstruation and sanitation to “break the taboo and help the girls address the many challenges they face.”
  6. Waste disposal still proves to be a difficult issue to manage, as many rural areas have no sanitary facilities. Open defecation is not the only cause of this. Additionally, latrines without proper sewage allow human waste to go back into the soil. This, combined with flash flooding that deforestation and mismanaged agricultural practices intensified, increases the chance of water pollution and eutrophication. Unfortunately, there are no large-scale projects yet to oversee the development of sanitation facilities.
  7. Consistent infrastructure, like the Khashm el-Girba Dam, is in jeopardy in response to water shortages. Many rivers in Eritrea are seasonal, however, the Setit River flows all year and forms a small reservoir at the base of the Khashm el-Girba Dam. Through proper irrigation, the dam allowed for steady water supply until recently. Due to the prolonged drought, there are more than 500,000 people seeking shelter in refugee camps neighboring the dam. This influx of improper usage is making it difficult to keep the water clean.
  8. Japan is collaborating with the Eritrean government to lessen the effects of the drought. The small town of Dbarwa proved to be a valuable example of this outreach. The drought heavily impacted this rural community and caused it to lose all assurance of well- and tanker- supplied water. However, the Japan International Cooperation Agency assisted in drilling five boreholes for the town, providing water to almost 30,000 inhabitants.
  9. The most effective way to ensure a path towards equal sanitation is to promote sustainable habits that keep water clean and available. Current projections estimate a temperature increase of 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius) by 2050 and increasing variability in rainfall, making clean water more difficult to obtain. Eritrea is trying to combat this through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). This program has already led to advancements in irrigation and soil erosion reduction through an emphasis on the adaptive capacity to climate change.

These nine facts about sanitation in Eritrea provide a glimpse into the current modernization techniques that the country is pursuing. While Eritrea still has plenty of work to do, thanks to the participation of rural and urban communities alike, sanitation across the country is increasing both in quality and reach.

Elizabeth Price
Photo: Flickr

HIV in Djibouti
According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), addressing poverty means first reaching those who feel the greatest impact; progress does not necessarily trickle down to the population that is most disadvantaged. The 2016 Human Development Report found that one-third of the world’s population lives in low human development circumstances. Furthermore, some sectors of society are more disadvantaged than others. Inequalities and social exclusion that people such as those living with HIV face present larger barriers to development and access to health programs. For this reason, the World Food Programme, alongside UNDP, UNAIDS and the national network of people living with HIV in Djibouti (RNDP+), have created an income-generation program that provides loans for people living with HIV. Such loans are empowering women with HIV in Djibouti to live dignified and successful lives.

Men and Women with HIV in Djibouti

As of 2017, 1.3 percent of the adult population in Djibouti was living with HIV, a decrease from 1.6 percent – or 9,900 people – in 2014. Social and cultural norms, destructive policies, improper medical services and restrictive laws impede HIV treatment and prevention measures. In Djibouti, women are most vulnerable to stigma and social exclusion and therefore often suffer the most.

The Income Generation Programme

The World Food Programme’s income-generation initiative supports and empowers women through longterm aid. By providing a regular, stable income, the World Food Programme is creating financial security for women with HIV in Djibouti. The money that women receive typically goes toward starting and running a retail business. These loans generally range from $141 to $148 per person and include a training program teaching effective business skills.

How it Works

Recipients of the loan become chosen from two networks in Djibouti that specifically support those living with HIV: ARREY and Oui à la Vie – Yes to Life. Oftentimes, those diagnosed with HIV are susceptible to deteriorating conditions, are unable to hold down a job and face discrimination, causing the citizens to be unwelcome in public sectors. Women with HIV in Djibouti that receive these loans are able to make a consistent income for themselves and overcome the stigma that some associate with HIV. Further, these women are able to take back control of the lives they previously led.

The Outcome

One such recipient of the loan stated that she was “no longer a desperate woman.” She now makes enough to support her family and other dependents. Additionally, once this loan gave her the capital to launch a sustainable business, she was able to repay the loan in only 10 months. During that time the recipient was also able to expand the retail business to include furniture and electronics.  

The World Food Programme’s income-generation initiative aids the Sustainable Development Goal of ending HIV by 2030, and furthermore, leaving no person behind. According to UNDP’s findings, development itself does not automatically ensure that the entire population is included. Programs such as this target the multidimensional factors involved in people receiving proper aid.

Empowerment is an essential part of development; without the ability to feel successful and fulfilled, women often lack the means to seek treatment and make educated decisions regarding health. The loan initiative empowers women living with HIV in Djibouti to combat the associated stigma and obtain financial investment necessary to develop a sustainable business. With a stable income, women are able to seek health services that might not have been previously accessible. 

Laurel Sonneby
Photo: Flickr

Plastic Waste Action and Poverty in IndiaWithin the last year, more information has come out about the consumption of plastics and their mismanagement. The information has spread awareness of the dangers of single-use plastics and encouraged using paper or reusable straws along with a number of other initiatives. Few, however, have been as transformative as one undertaken in India by the NGO Sarthak Samudayik Vikas Avan Jan Kalyan Sanstha (SSVAJKS). SSVAJKS has spearheaded a streamlined process of plastic waste collection and sell to recyclers. Though SSVAJKS may be the only organization connecting plastic waste action and poverty in India, others are joining the efforts to mitigate the problem.

Large Scale Support

At least 16.5 million tons of plastics are consumed annually, 43 percent of which are single-use, packaging material. Around 80 percent of these plastics are discarded. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Clean India Drive promises to address pollution in India. In March 2019, India banned imports of plastic waste. By September, it banned single-use and disposable plastic products. Headlined by Modi’s speech on August 15 calling for the elimination of such items by October 2, the Indian government aims to reduce disposable plastics to zero by 2022.

In alignment with this initiative, Amazon India and Walmart’s Flipkart announced actions to remove single-use plastics from their packaging. They will instead opt for entirely paper cushions and recycled plastic consumption by March 2021. In June 2018, PepsiCo India vowed to replace its plastic Lays and Kurkure bag with “100 percent compostable, plant-based” ones. This was countered by Coca-Cola’s goal to recycle one can or bottle for every one sold by 2030.

Sarthak Samudayik Vikas Avan Jan Kalyan Sanstha

While governments and corporations have addressed the future of plastic consumption, they neglect the areas where SSVAJKS helps the most. SSVAKLS is dealing with the existing plastic that has already been produced. SSVAKLS has the support of the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Program under the advisement and jurisdiction of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). These efforts have connected the campaigns against plastic overconsumption and mismanagement with SSVAJKS’ recycling initiative.

The NGO began linking plastic waste action and poverty in India in the city of Bhopal in 2008. It developed a sustainable integrated waste management system for the city’s five wards, a model that expanded to the state level in 2011. Replicated across India in all of its states, this model relies on ‘ragpickers’ to sift through the waste and pick out plastics returned to municipal collection centers. These collectors come from highly vulnerable, socially marginalized castes and are predominantly poor, illiterate women.

Since partaking in this initiative, the incomes of the ‘ragpickers’ have vastly improved, doubling in many cases. The plastic they collect and submit to the collection centers is recycled into roads and co-processing in cement kilns, benefitting upwards of two million people. The overwhelming success of the NGO led to another SGP grant that enlisted “2,000 unorganized waste pickers” across the Bhopal Municipal Corporation’s 70 wards.

The Endgame

SGP hopes to build a sustainable plastic waste management system and ensure the co-processing of plastic waste. It will also increase the standards of living for 2,000 ragpicker families. New initiatives are introducing vermicomposting along with paper bag and cotton making units. The results are phenomenal. Ragpickers have collected 4,200 megatons of plastic, saving plastic from burning and emitting 12,000 megatons of carbon. Additionally, the ragpickers themselves are able to open bank accounts to accumulate their savings, lifting them slowly but surely out of abject poverty. The success of the SSVAJKS in combining efforts to address plastic waste action and poverty in India demonstrates the NGO’s capacity to tackle multiple issues at once and incentivize the solving of one through the other.

Alex Myers
Photo: Flickr