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UNDP Provides Legal Aid in Egypt for Impoverished and Illiterate
For those who are poor or illiterate, understanding and using legal services is often difficult and preventative from obtaining justice. Since 2008, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has worked with the Ministry of Justice to provide free legal aid in Egypt for the impoverished and illiterate, establishing 35 Legal Aid Offices as of 2016.

Free Legal Aid in Egypt

This project focuses on disputes in family courts and handles cases that do not require an attorney. Without this help, those who are impoverished generally cannot afford legal services and the illiterate do not have the skills to successfully fill out the required paperwork. These two populations often intersect, as the poor are more likely to be illiterate.

Financed by UNDP and Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), over 50,000 cases in Egypt have now been assisted by free Legal Aid Offices.

The project also trains staff, holds roundtables for family court judges and assists with digitizing family court records. Approximately 17 training sessions and workshops for family court judges have been organized, reaching over 500 judges and legal aid employees.

Dispute Settlement offices have been upgraded as well, and employees have received training on dispute settlement skills, child rights and personal status laws. Additionally, efforts have been made to influence lawmakers to amend laws that would make the processing of cases more efficient and lead to cases being resolved more quickly.

New Goals, New Connections

Beginning in 2013, new goals were added to the project after an evaluation by an independent consultant of the free legal aid in Egypt. These goals include:

  • Developing adequate training programming
  • Improving court and case management
  • Modernizing hotlines in order to get feedback
  • Increasing dissemination of legal information
  • Designing outreach programs for both literate and illiterate women

The Ministry of Justice is working to establish a central electronic database of court decisions to link electronically to Egypt’s national bank. This connection would make payments awarded by the courts easier to collect.

In December 2014, UNDP, the Egyptian Ministry of Justice, the National Center for Judicial Studies, and the French Cultural Center in Egypt organized a workshop for legal aid employees. This workshop was “to strengthen participants’ knowledge of French legal framework for family mediation and introduce practical tools for mediation based on international best practices and relevance to local family courts.”

Legal Aid in Egypt Empowers Egyptian Women

Approximately one million cases are filed in Egyptian family courts each year, and 80 percent of those are brought by women. Therefore, the UNDP’s legal aid in Egypt is often for women in desperate need of legal services. In fact, over 70 percent of the 50,000 cases handled by the project were filed by women.

Without this support, women — particularly poor and illiterate women — often do not have the resources to settle marital or family disputes. Male family members or spouses can often get away with violent behavior or criminal acts if the woman they’ve harmed is barred from legal aid by a system not amenable to vulnerable populations.

Incidents of Personal Distress

For example, “Yasmin” is an Egyptian woman who faced legal difficulties after her ex-husband kidnapped her oldest daughter. She went to the court on multiple occasions, unable to find a resolution to this problem. However, with the free legal services provided by UNDP, Yasmin was finally able to file her claim in the family court system.

Another woman, Omaima Abdel Khaleq, utilized free legal aid in Egypt to file a domestic violence case against her husband. She explains, “The legal aid office made me aware of what exactly I should do instead of being lost among lawyers.”

Situations like these are not uncommon for women, and the project’s Legal Aid Offices help women complete the required paperwork, as well as provide legal advice about their rights and claims.

Helping the Impoverished and Illiterate

If an individual is illiterate, they are far less likely to be knowledgeable about the laws that protect them (or the person they wish to file a claim against). Without the help of an oftentimes unaffordable attorney or legal services, these people will not be able to access the information they need to correctly file a claim and obtain justice.

Project manager Gihane El Batouty states, “We are helping people themselves — and women themselves — with their legal rights.” UNDP wants to continue to grow this project, as it has become essential to helping the impoverished and illiterate, many of whom are women, access legal aid in Egypt.

Across the globe, UNDP supports similar initiatives in 54 other countries. This support reflects the organization’s commitment to making legal services available to vulnerable populations.

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

poverty in TibetDespite political tensions, Tibet has seen marked improvements in everyday life for its average citizens. The central government in Beijing and other nations may have ulterior motives behind their funding, but the result is the same: a more prosperous Tibet. Aid is flowing in from the Chinese government, the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) and Nepal, to name a few.

According to the regional authority, over the course of the past five years, over 530,000 people have escaped poverty in Tibet. It comes as no surprise that with a falling poverty rate, there is a rise in registered capital. Currently, the number stands at over $162 billion, a 39.4 percent increase from the previous year.

Tibetan Politics: A Delicate Situation

Tibet and China have been in a tense struggle over Tibet’s autonomy since the 1950s. Many Tibetans wish for independence, and in the past, the Chinese government has acted forcefully.

The most notable example of this is the situation with the current Dalai Lama who has been living in exile in India since the Tibetan Rebellion. Despite the Dalai Lama’s tension with Beijing, it seems even he believes that remaining with China is in Tibet’s best interest. Couple that with the many development projects China has enacted in Tibet, and it appears that their relationship is looking up.

China Tries to Tackle Poverty in Tibet

The government in Beijing gives the impression that its best path to quieting Tibetan independence talks is to tackle the region’s poverty problem. One such project that China has funded is in Amdo County, where once-nomadic herders who lived in adobe huts are now receiving homes paid for by the government with a market rate of approximately $47,000.

The Shopko family, one of the recipients of these homes, have gone on the record to express their heartfelt thanks for their new home. Their old hut sat at 16,000 feet with no heating or roads to connect them to the nearby villages.

To help with the move, the Chinese government is giving migrants jobs at local tourism centers, hotels and car washes. It follows up on this guarantee with monthly bonuses for locals who manage and protect the essential grasslands, as well as 5,000 yuan a year to residents who enroll in university.

While the Shopkos serve as an ideal for how the government attempts to tackle poverty in Tibet, the program has only reached 121 families so far, but in the previous five years, the government has spent more than $9 billion to try to alleviate poverty in Tibet. Seemingly, Beijing is looking for answers to its political issues.

Foreign Aid to Tibet

Foreign countries are investing in Tibet as well. The Nepalese government has been distancing itself from its neighbor, India, in favor of China. This political posturing could be for a host of reasons; however, the projects Nepal is planning in Tibet are apolitical for the Tibetan people.

Gobinda Karkee is a Nepalese diplomat who oversees development projects with China. The most famous of these is the Friendship Bridge, which was renovated in 2016. The plans are not all symbolic, though. By 2020, Nepal plans on finishing a rail network that will connect with Tibet and lessen its reliance on using Indian ports. The $226 million project is jointly funded by Nepal and China. Along this rail line will be multiple trading points and border checks. The two nations hope the plan will boost the local economy and help rebuild much of the infrastructure that was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake.

Poverty in Tibet has often gone unnoticed in the media because when the region is in the news, it is being celebrated for its rich culture and history. The UNDP sought to take advantage of this by building tourism infrastructure in rural areas, which in turn provides higher paying jobs for the impoverished people in the Tibetan Steppe.

Much like the Chinese government’s program, UNDP has put a heavy focus on preserving the local ecology and economy. The bulk of the project focuses on Old Lhasa City. The city is famous for its courtyards, which UNDP is mapping, landscaping and organizing the foundation of to make Lhasa a tourist destination. Old Lhasa has become an exemplary case of the economic and cultural benefits of the UNDP program.

Tibet rests in a political hotbed in South Asia, and the effects of the decisions made by its neighbors can have unintended consequences on the proud region. Throughout the religious and diplomatic dilemmas, poverty in Tibet has long been a debilitating issue. Thanks to organizations like the UNDP, this problem is now being dealt with and has already improved the lives of half a million people.

– David Jaques

Photo: Flickr

SomaliaThe debate over the efficacy of humanitarian aid in impoverished countries has been a hot topic in recent years. Some people believe that humanitarian aid breeds dependence, while others argue that it can exploit some of the most vulnerable people in impoverished countries. To provide better and longer-lasting aid, the U.N., the U.N.’s International Children’s Emergency Fund and the World Health Organization, among others, are taking a new approach to humanitarian aid. The new method, dubbed “A New Way of Working,” combines the short-term aid for emergency relief with long-term development efforts. The organizations are testing this model for development in Somalia, one of the more embattled nations on Earth.

Finding a Solution

Whether it’s disaster relief or funding for infrastructure projects, foreign aid does help people who need it. Despite the horror stories in the news concerning corruption, mishandled aid only accounts for an estimated 9 percent. Not perfect, but not as bad as some purport.

Many issues still plague not only the development in Somalia but in humanitarian aid and global investment around the world. One reason is modern humanitarian assistance finds its roots as a disaster response mechanism, whether it’s man-made or natural, and funds need to be spent within 18 months. Conversely, developmental aid sprung up as a result of colonialism and seeks long-term solutions such as education and agriculture, with funding plans structured in three to five years cycles. So, the projects needed to accomplish these varying goals are often very different.

Development in Somalia: A Guide for Others

Somalia is a country recovering from a two-decade civil war and a 2011 drought that killed over 260,000 people. With the government declaring 2017’s drought another national emergency, aid organizations realized a different approach was necessary.

In January 2018, the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the U.N.’s Development Program (UNDP) set out to provide immediate assistance to those in desperate need of water. It also tried to identify the root of the emergency and establish projects that will allow everyday people to tackle the problem on their own when the next drought inevitably comes along.

While this sounds great in theory, there needs to be a practical element for improving development in Somalia. The current drought has lasted three growing seasons and is killing crops and livestock at alarming rates, which precipitates into a nationwide famine. In response, the OCHA-UNDP project built a sand dam in Bandarbeyla.

This dam allowed farmers to maintain their livestock, a vital resource for the agricultural economy in Somalia. Farmers say they can now save up the money they used to have to spend on water. Finally, these aid groups no longer have to focus solely on subsistence and can invest their energy and resources on education and security projects that will make Somalia stronger and more stable as it progresses as a nation.

Where Will It Be Seen Next?

The success of this project for development in Somalia is giving hope for other nations dealing with similar environmental and security-related emergencies.

  • South Sudan:
    The world’s youngest nation has over 1 million people at risk of famine. Luckily, the massive humanitarian response has kept the situation from getting worse.
  • Nigeria (Northeast region):
    Due to the Boko Haram insurgency, more than 5 million people need housing and food assistance.
  • Yemen:
    A brutal civil war has left more than 75 percent of the population in need of humanitarian aid.

These three nations face similar problems to Somalia in that they endure a vicious cycle of drought and insecurity. The UNDP and other organizations are hoping to implement strategies similar to what is occurring in Somalia with the goal that “A New Way of Working” will allow these countries to flourish on their own.

– David Jaques

Photo: Flickr

OssetiaDiscussing poverty in Georgia is difficult to do without also acknowledging the sensitive subjects of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There is extensive debate over how best to describe these regions, but they are described as anything from disputed territories to de facto Russian client states propped up and recognized by few other than Russia itself. As such, poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia comes with its own special set of circumstances.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was a major turning point in the history of this part of the world and it has left lingering trauma in the region. Abkhazia and South Ossetia were relatively well-off parts of the Soviet Union, but following its collapse, they both saw their populations and their standards of living decline. The effect of this collapse is lingering poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia such that a majority of residents view the dissolution of the USSR in a negative light.

The current political situation in both of these territories is far from stable, even after nearly two decades of violence, suspected ethnic cleansing and political turmoil. This presents a unique set of obstacles for addressing poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, particularly in Abkhazia.

Most residents of Abkhazia, regardless of ethnic group, seem to favor total independence with the exception of ethnic Armenians, who support integration into the Russian Federation. If anything, however, Russian influence is strongly cemented into the Abkhaz political sphere, which means that any changes in the status of Abkhazia will lean heavily toward deeper integration with Russia.

South Ossetia is also finding itself pulled more and more into Moscow’s orbit. However, this is less of a problem than in Abkhazia as an overwhelming majority of its ethnically homogenous population is in favor of joining the Russian Federation.

The international community continues to debate whether and how to handle this political situation, but few are confident that a solution will be reached anytime soon. Meanwhile, however, poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia remains a problem and residents are finding that few in the midst of this great power struggle are attentive to their real and pressing needs.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia face particular challenges when dealing with poverty because of their disputed political status. It is difficult for them to access international markets, but Abkhaz and Ossetian products do not necessarily fare well in Russian markets. It is also worth noting that Georgia also suffers as a result; it has lost access to Russian markets as a result of this political dispute, where prior to the conflict 70 percent of its trade volume was with Russia. The complicated political situation makes it difficult for aid to reach these regions and hinders efforts to collect accurate data.

The 2014 Winter Olympics were a beacon of hope to relieve poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The goal was for tourism to nearby Sochi to help shine a light on these locales and promote tourism there as well. However, this ended when Russia, prioritizing security above all else, closed the Abkhazian and South Ossetian borders.

That being said, there are a number of actors trying to improve the situation and promote economic development in this troubled region. The UNDP in Georgia has made combating poverty, and specifically youth unemployment, a key feature of its work. Promoting youth employment is key because it not only promotes economic growth, but can also discourage young people from becoming involved in political violence.

While Abkhazia and South Ossetia face many challenges that will not abate any time soon, efforts are being made to work around the political situation to bring real change to the lives of the people in these regions. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are just two reminders that even in seemingly intractable conflicts, poverty reduction is still critically important and can make a huge difference.

– Michaela Downey

Photo: Flickr

Plans to Improve Sustainable Agriculture in Turkmenistan Sustainable agriculture in Turkmenistan has been difficult to implement due to a lack of resources and an effective way of maintaining agricultural plans. Improvements to the country’s agricultural systems are currently being discussed by activists and governments across the globe.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) cites lack of management and effective irrigation systems as barriers to the implementation of sustainable agriculture practices. To address these barriers, aid organizations will not only need an effective irrigation plan in a country where, according to USAID, 80 percent of land is classified as desert, but will need to outline a sound managerial plan for maintaining it.

According to Support for Further Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in Turkmenistan (SARD III), the European Union has drawn plans for a four-year project. This complex initiative to improve sustainable agriculture in Turkmenistan required presentations in addition to a lengthy outline. In addition to government plans, aid organizations have chosen to address the issue through education and new technology.

Last fall, a partnership between The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Global Environment Facility and the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Economy of Turkmenistan resolved to construct a water pipeline to assist with the issue of sustainable agriculture. According to UNDP, a seminar was given in Ashgabat to outline the plan for the pipeline, explain its success in the past and discuss the importance of daily water conservation practices.

Education about effective agricultural methods has been adopted by other agencies as well. In a statement on the USAID Turkmenistan website, the organization claims to “…prioritize greenhouse horticulture, helping high-value fruit and vegetable growers, processors and marketing specialists connect with local and international markets.” Although the actions and projects by aid organizations as well as plans for improvement are important, aid organizations also emphasize education and explain ways people can make a difference in their everyday lives.

Although activists are doing what they can to address their concerns about sustainable agriculture in Turkmenistan, citizens also consider agriculture a priority and referenced agriculture in a 2015 UNICEF report about goals for the future. Aid organizations and volunteers aim to make sustainability projects a priority and to make sustainability plans a reality.

– Gabriella Evans

Photo: Flickr

28. Cooperative Market Development Program for Farmers in Nepal
On February 2nd, the government of Nepal and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) signed an agreement to launch the Cooperative Market Development Program throughout the South Asian country.

According to the press release on the UNDP website, the aim of this program is to help farmers in Nepal by increasing the quality and stability of agricultural production. The program would accomplish this through improvements in infrastructure, training on new, updated farming techniques and development of marketing methods.

 

Importance of Agriculture

Agricultural production is crucial for the majority of Nepal’s population, where it serves as a form of occupation for 68 percent of the people.

Although agriculture is the main livelihood for a majority of the population, Nepal still faces certain challenges when it comes to producing enough food for its population. USAID reports that Nepalese citizens do not receive a sufficient amount of food.

 

Food Deficiency

This food deficiency has led to 36 percent of children under the age of five to suffer from malnutrition and its accompanying effects; however, the situation in Nepal is more optimistic then these statistics make it seem. The International Labour Organization (ILO) reports that in the last decade, poverty in Nepal has gone down from 42 percent to around 24 percent.

The Cooperative Market Development Program will further contribute to this decline in poverty by helping farmers in Nepal innovate their practices.

 

Development of Farming

The duration of the program will be five years, and will primarily assist six districts in the Kathmandu Valley. While cooperative markets are not new to the farming community in Nepal, a variety of obstacles exist that affect the success of this method.

The UNDP press release states that cooperative farming markets have been hindered by “poor infrastructure, including transport and storage facility, inadequate access to market information and regulatory and institutional bottlenecks.”

The Cooperative Market Development Program has the potential to boost Nepal’s economy by working on a local level throughout the country. This is significant and would benefit Nepalese farmers because currently one-third of supplies for the farming community are imported from other countries, as reported by UNDP.

 

Long-Term Benefits for Nepal

It is estimated that the program will directly help 14,000 farmers in Nepal, who live throughout the six districts of the Kathmandu valley. The government of Nepal plans to contribute $5 million dollars to the program, while UNDP will contribute $2 million dollars.

The program will take some specific steps to achieve its goals: provide training on various farming-related activities such as production enhancement, branding and marketing, and create 90 collection centers.

 

Eliminating Poverty and Hunger

Furthermore, the Cooperative Market Development Program will contribute towards Nepal’s achievement of two of their Sustainable Development Goals: eliminating poverty and hunger.

In addition, improved food production and enhanced quality of fruits and vegetables could help combat malnutrition and food shortage.

Farmers in Nepal will be able to increase their incomes and update their farming practices through this program, which in turn will have a lasting impact on the continued reduction of poverty in Nepal.

– Jennifer Jones

Photo: Flickr

5 Development Projects in Suriname

There are several important development projects in Suriname that are currently taking place to help the country positively progress. The United Nations Development Programme, the Caribbean Development Bank and the Inter-American Bank all currently have active development projects in Suriname.

Suriname’s economy is dependent on mineral resources such as oil, gold and bauxite as well as natural resources, due to the fact that four-fifths of the country is covered by tropical rainforest. The country as a whole, however, still needs help to keep its economy from faltering and to improve climate control.

 

The UNDP’s Projects

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is one of the organizations that has implemented different development projects in Suriname to assist in the country’s needs when it comes to climate change. The UNDP currently has three active development projects in Suriname called National REDD+ Strategy, Suriname Global Climate Change Alliance and Strengthening the National Assembly of Suriname.

The National REDD+ Strategy project’s purpose is “to ensure success in continuing to preserve Suriname’s natural capital, enhance the value of forest-related services and benefits for its peoples and contribute to the international fight against climate change and the preservation of healthy ecosystems.”

The Suriname Global Climate Change Alliance project’s purpose is to support Suriname in improving its current climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts by providing more knowledge on the effects of climate change and developing tools that target adaptation measures, as well as strengthen capacities for mangrove conservation.

The Strengthening the National Assembly of Suriname project’s purpose is to provide best practices in parliamentary development, good governance, policy guidance and initiate capacity building initiatives.

 

The CDB’s Projects

The Electricity System Upgrade and Expansion Project is another development project in Suriname that has been created by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the government of Suriname. The project’s objective is to deliver a more reliable, efficient and sustainable electricity supply in Suriname.

When discussing the importance of the project to Suriname, Vice President of Suriname Ashwin Adhin said, “Our government will leave no stones unturned to achieve the objectives necessary to improve the energy sector. We will do this together with CDB and other important people and institutions.”

 

The IDB’s Projects

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which is the largest source of development financing for Latin America and the Caribbean, has also partnered with Suriname to create a developmental project to assist the country’s needs. The IDB Group Country Strategy with Suriname 2016-2020 project’s objective is to support Suriname’s economic stabilization.

This project is complemented by a longer-term view on the modernization of the public and private sectors in the country. Reducing subsidies, lowering public spending while protecting the social safety net, strengthening public administration and strengthening human capital are all important parts of the project’s focus.

Development projects in Suriname like the ones these organizations are implementing will continue to help the country of Suriname in its goal to become a thriving country.

– Kennisha L. Crawford

Photo: Flickr

Development Projects in LebanonLebanon is a small country bordered by the countries Israel and Syria. Since gaining its independence in 1943, Lebanon has experienced turmoil within the country. This includes a civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1990, Syrian military occupation from 1976 to 2005, continued fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah militia and a short-lived war in 2006. In more recent times, over one million registered Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon due to the ongoing Syrian Civil War. As a result of these events, numerous organizations have been working within Lebanon to address a wide variety of concerns and challenges. Below are five noteworthy development projects in Lebanon that are currently being implemented.

The Lebanon Host Communities Support Programme (LHSP)

The LHSP was created in 2012 under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in response to the Syrian Civil War and in joint cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs. The LHSP works in communities where there is a high risk of tension and hostility due to the high numbers of Syrian refugees resettling in these communities. The total budget is over $39 million, with top donors including Denmark, Ecuador and Italy. The LHSP aims to facilitate conflict resolution, create peaceful coexistence and stability and maintain livelihoods and services, making this project a standout in terms of noteworthy development projects in Lebanon.

The Water Supply Augmentation Project of Lebanon

This project, approved in 2014 and projected to end in 2024, is funded by the World Bank and aims to increase the available water supply to the greater Beirut and Mount Lebanon regions. This project includes various components such as financing and constructing the Bisri Dam, constructing pipelines to the already existing Joun reservoir and expanding the Ouardaniyeh water treatment plant. The total estimated cost of this project is $617 million.

Project Supporting Economic and Social Fund for Development (ESFD)

Another example of development projects in Lebanon is the ESFD, which is also a UNDP affiliated project. It was created in 2011 to improve employment and community development opportunities in Lebanon. Due to UNDP’s strong partnerships with local authorities and actors in various parts of the country, this project will support ESFD in working in poorer regions of Lebanon to assist in job creation and community outreach programs. The sole donor of this project is the Lebanese Council for Development, providing a total of over $12 million to this project.

Lebanon Country Programming Framework (CPF)

The CPF, which was started in 2016, aims to address various issues identified in the Ministry of Agriculture Strategy of 2015-2019 and the Food Security Strategic Response Plan of 2016. This project focuses exclusively on seven distinct areas which include increasing food security in vulnerable communities, improving food sanitation and safety, strengthening reliable nutrition information systems, providing assistance to develop sustainable agricultural practices, implementing sustainable management of land, establishing an efficient agricultural statistics system and promoting the increase of crop value chains.

Sports for Development Project

Launched in 2013, this project is a joint collaboration between the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and HOOPS Club, with the objective of fostering communication between Syrian refugees and Lebanese communities. This project has been implemented in Beirut, Akkar, Baalbek and Sour, where there has been a large influx of Syrian refugee families. This project brings together young people from both communities to encourage interaction and the free exchange of ideas and thoughts. Due to the Syrian Civil War, many Syrian refugee children lost their close network of friends and this project helps to foster friendship and establish harmony between the two communities.

Although Lebanon has experienced a broad range of events and political turmoil in just the last 50 years, there are numerous actors, institutions and organizations that are working to improve the situation in Lebanon. Although these projects listed are noteworthy development projects in Lebanon, they are not alone in working to secure a better and brighter future for Lebanese citizens and those that have just started calling Lebanon their home.

Miho Kitamura

Photo: Flickr

FijiFiji is a developing country that is widely popular with tourists due to its tropical atmosphere. It has a population of over 900,000 people; however, roughly 28 percent of the population lives in poverty. There are several development projects in Fiji being facilitated that seek to address poverty along with other issues currently facing the country.

Community Youth Empowerment Project (CYEP)

The Community Youth Empowerment Project is an initiative by the Peace Corps. The program seeks to focus on the promotion of behavior change and empower youth to live more productive lives. CYEP also includes activities that are targeted towards parents and youth service providers to promote positive youth development. The volunteers who carry out the project often serve as teachers of life skills and health classes in a middle or high school setting. The volunteers also work outside of schools performing community-based development.

One volunteer, Kelli Maddock, uses music as a method of teaching life skills to youth. “Most of the time, I use music therapy techniques such as lyric analysis to enhance critical thinking skills in regards to life skills, singing to boost self-esteem or songwriting to increase confidence,” wrote Maddock in her article for the Peace Corps. One song that Maddock has used is “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke and Pharrell to address the topics of consent, rape culture and victim-blaming.

Fiji Development Bank Project

Seeking to create innovative financial solutions for businesses in Fiji, the Fiji Development Bank Project provides loans for various industries. These loans include commercial loans, bus loans, small and medium business loans and agricultural loans. The project has been established for 50 years this year.

Fiji Community Development Program (FCDP)

Funded by the Australian government, one of the development projects in Fiji is the Fiji Community Development Program. The FCDP seeks to mitigate the social and economic hardships faced by vulnerable and poor communities. It does so by funding community development work and improving the Civil Society Organization’s (CSO) capacity to provide necessary programs for vulnerable communities. The FCDP also focuses on promoting enhanced communication between the government and CSOs and increasing the resilience of the communities by giving them the tools and knowledge needed to deal with hardships when they arise.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

The United Nations Development Programme aims for effective governance, inclusive growth, resilience and sustainable development and gender equality in roughly 170 countries and territories. Their initiatives in Fiji include promoting sign language as a method of acquiring equal access to services and advocating for rights. The UNDP also provides aid to neighboring countries like the Solomon Islands by conducting safety drills for students in preparation for tsunamis and other natural disasters.

Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research seeks to improve the development of the Pacific region islands by working with their civil societies and government. The ACIAR believes in the importance of agriculture, forestry and fisheries sustaining households across the Pacific islands, including Fiji. The ACIAR also aims to invest in and empower women, as women play a key role in household food gardening, tree production and the marketing of horticultural and fisheries products. The ACIAR seeks to reduce poverty by transforming agricultural, fisheries and forestry into income-generating activities.

With these development projects in Fiji, the country will be able to continue to grow and reduce its poverty rates.

– Blake Chambers

Photo: Flickr

Malaysia has made great strides in its economic development in recent decades, becoming a regional economic powerhouse on its way to being a high-income nation. Despite a notable increase in income and quality of life, half of the country’s population is still being left behind — there are still a number of barriers to achieving women’s empowerment in Malaysia.

Malaysia is a diverse and multiracial country where the status of women’s empowerment is complex and may depend on their religion and ethnic background. About 60 percent of Malaysians are Muslim Malays, 23 percent are Chinese, 7 percent are Indian and the rest hail from various indigenous groups. The country’s major religions include Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism.

Within Malaysia’s large Muslim community, over 90 percent of women reported undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM), making the country one of the worst offenders in the world for the practice. FGM is spreading in popularity in Malaysia, especially in more conservative Muslim states dominated by religious parties.

While non-Muslim women have equal parenting rights across the country, Muslim women only enjoy those rights in four out of thirteen states. Child marriage is still permitted in Malaysia, and efforts to raise the age of marriage for girls to 18 were defeated in parliament last year.

Despite these challenges, a greater focus has been placed on women’s empowerment in Malaysia, particularly in regard to women entrepreneurs, journalists and politicians. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the wife of imprisoned former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, is the leader of the country’s opposition and may become Malaysia’s first female prime minister at the next elections in 2018.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has a project that supports women’s empowerment in Malaysia by aiding low-income women entrepreneurs in the conservative states of Terengganu and Kelantan, enabling them to succeed in the cottage food industry. Women now outnumber men in universities despite constituting a minority of the total population and participation in the labor force has steadily increased in the last two decades.

– Giacomo Tognini

Photo: Flickr