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Biden’s “Feminist Foreign Policy”The Biden administration has made gender equity a cornerstone of its domestic and foreign policy. About 61% of White House employees are women. Furthermore, the administration’s intention is to “protect and empower women around the world.” The government aims to do this by making women’s rights a key component of foreign policy. Biden’s “feminist foreign policy” would redirect national attention from military dominance to global equality by instituting new changes to systems of defense, foreign aid, immigration, trade and diplomacy.

Studies on global gender and security suggest that if the United States increases its effort to improve women’s rights abroad, countries with a greater emphasis on gender equity will be less likely to experience instability and civil war. As such, the Biden administration has the power to advocate for a more just, inclusive and peaceful world.

Feminist Foreign Policy in Other Countries

Canada and Mexico have adopted a women-friendly stance on foreign policy. Thus, Canada began a “feminist international assistance policy” that focuses on supporting the global health of women, children and adolescents in 2017. The Canadian government pledged an annual $1.4 billion to foreign governments and international organizations. This money will be used to increase access to education, healthcare and nutrition in developing countries. Approximately $700 million will go to ending gender-based violence and promoting sexual health. Furthermore, $10 million will be allocated for UNICEF to reduce female genital mutilation.

In January 2020, Mexico became the first Latin American country to adopt a feminist foreign policy. The government aims to increase global gender equity, combat gender-based violence and end inequality in social and environmental justice. In addition, Mexico plans to increase the foreign ministry staff to have at least 50% women by 2024. Moreover, the nation wants to ensure equal workplace conditions.

Additionally, France, Norway and Sweden have adopted an official feminist foreign policy overseas. Now, the U.S. will join a growing list of nations committed to promoting gender equality.

Feminist Foreign Policy in the United States

The departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security and the U.S. Agency for International Development have each announced a plan to advance women empowerment in 2020. This plan promotes women’s participation in foreign diplomacy, advocates for women’s rights and ensures access to humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, Biden’s feminist foreign policy aims to establish a cohesive foundation across trade, aid, defense, diplomacy and immigration that prioritizes equality for women. The strategy would emphasize peace and security as methods of conflict resolution. It will also increase the representation of women across all branches of government.

One of President Biden’s first actions in office was to eliminate the “global gag rule.” This global gag rule limits the type of healthcare services organizations receiving U.S. foreign aid are allowed to perform. The funding restrictions limited access to all types of healthcare in low-to-middle-income countries. Moreover, this restriction exposed women to a greater risk of disease and forced them to seek unsafe health services. A major goal of the Biden administration is to reallocate financial resources in a way that levels the playing field for women. Furthermore, the administration aims to provide greater support and opportunities for women. Additionally, the U.S. government plans to use foreign aid to increase support for women in the areas of healthcare, education, workplace protections and conflict zones.

The United States is unlikely to replace a focus on military strategy with a strictly feminist foreign policy. However, promoting gender equity at home and abroad can set the stage for an increased global emphasis on women’s rights. The U.S. can reallocate more financial resources to women’s access to education, healthcare and human rights and increase women’s participation in government and diplomacy. This dual strategy aims to combat existing inequality and create a more peaceful and equitable global future.

– Eliza Browning
Photo: Flickr

Gender Equality in Ethiopia

Ethiopia faces many struggles, but the land where coffee originated has many accomplishments as well. The continuous progression made for gender equality in Ethiopia is one of them. Gender-based roles constitute a significant part of the Ethiopian culture. It is also the primary reason for many families’ extreme poverty. However, through policy reform and promoting women’s political participation, there has been a noteworthy change in bridging the gaps between women and men.

Policy Reforms Encourage Gender Equality in Ethiopia

Thanks to two reforms, research suggests that promoting gender equality in Ethiopia has become very feasible.

One reform is the Family Code, which was revised in 2000 with new developments. The re-evaluated version of the Family Code states that women receive equal rights throughout the marriage. This pertains to the entire term of their marriage, the duration of the divorce, and after the finalization of the divorce. The revisions also note that the individuals must equally split all assets. As a result, the report states that women were less likely to involve themselves in domestic work. Instead, women found more sustainable employment outside of the household, which encourages their independence.

The second reform is the community-based land registration, which was initiated in 2003. Ethiopia’s population has strong gender norms that tend to favor men and subordinate women in power roles. Research results have shown that as women migrate from the north of Ethiopia to the southern region, they tend to lose societal and household status. Women also have their “bargaining power” revoked from them, which can relate to property rights and ownership. However, this reform emphasizes the implementation of property rights for married women by creating “joint certification.”

A significant sign of independence in Ethiopia is property. However, men typically have land ownership in marriages. This reform opposes that gender-based norm in Ethiopia and allows women to access economic and political opportunities. When women own land, it increases their chances of earning money and controlling their own life. Rules set by their husband no longer have to confine them. They are also less likely to be victims of domestic violence. Ethiopian women who own property are significantly less likely to experience domestic violence within their marriage than women who do not own property.

Women’s Political Participation Rises

Women currently make up 37% of congress in Ethiopia. Considering only 22% of women represented congress in 2010, there has been significant progress ever since. However, the Ethiopian government’s accuracy and trustworthiness will remain in question until women account for at least 50% of the parliamentary seats.

The country also needs to make political careers more accessible to women. The “motherhood penalty” requires women to attend to constant family duties and responsibilities, such as breastfeeding and always being present for the children. Endless motherly duties can hinder their potential political career due to the amount of time it takes. This is especially true if a women’s marriage is based on strong religious beliefs. Certain religious beliefs in Ethiopia tend to prohibit women from having the independence they deserve and hinder their decision-making abilities.

DCA

In Ethiopia, women are perceived as those to be led, not to be the ones leading. However, recent years’ progression contradicts that idea. The organization DCA (Dan Church Aid) emphasizes the idea of women empowerment. They hold and spread the belief that every woman deserves fundamental human rights “economically, socially, and culturally.”

DCA was created in 1995 to promote gender equality in Ethiopia. Since then, the organization has helped over 3.2 million people in the world’s most impoverished countries deprived of everyday opportunities. Due to the continuous contribution of DCA and recognition from Ethiopia’s government regarding the encouragement of gender equality, the women of Ethiopia can seek more political positions and close those gender gaps within communities.

Montana Moore
Photo: Flickr

New Policies to Protect Women and Girls in AlbaniaSince 2018, Albanian law has changed in ways that are finally giving women and girls more protection against violence. To respond to the current COVID-19 pandemic, various NGOs and the Albanian government have adapted once again to help survivors and victims. Here is how new policies in Albania are protecting women and girls.

5 Legislation Changes to Protect Women and Girls in Albania

  1. Law on Measures Against Violence in Family Relations: In 2018, important changes were made to the Law on Measures against Violence in Family Relations in Albania’s legal code. The most important changes involve how local law enforcement and courts should respond to reports of domestic violence. Police officers now must perform risk assessments after identification of the victim, report the domestic violence cases and issue preliminary protective orders. These preliminary protective orders allow the police to remove the perpetrator of violence from the residence before the court has issued an actual protection order. These new police obligations offer survivors more immediate help, instead of having to wait for the courts to react. Another important change in this law is the prohibition of the reconciliation procedure in court. This policy helps protect women and girls in Albania.
  2. Women’s Shelters During the Pandemic: On April 10, 2020, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection created a protocol that ensured women’s shelters in Albania would function undisrupted among the COVID-19 pandemic. This protocol designated the shelters for domestic violence protection as essential services, which means they must remain open and welcome any new survivors that come in. This is extremely important as the outbreak of the virus has increased the number of reports of domestic violence and violence against women in Albania. Shelters did not remain open and were not accepting women in need of help before the new protocol.
  3. NGO Services in Albania: One NGO in Albania, the Woman Forum Elbasan (WFE), is working extremely hard to adapt to the needs of women during the pandemic. WFE provides free services to survivors of violence, including social, psychological and legal help. WFE also works with police and health professionals in several municipalities of the Elbasan area of Albania to improve the help given to women by local institutions. A grant from the U.N. Trust Fund to End Violence against Women funds WFE. During the pandemic, WFE performed almost 300 virtual counseling sessions to survivors in just March and April. Virtual counseling and hotlines are one way that WFE adapted to COVID-19 restrictions, they also use social media to raise awareness about safety measures and protective equipment needed. WFE also operates emergency shelters for victims of violence that is kept clean and disinfected for anyone needing their services.
  4. Institutional Monitoring: Since 2018, the Monitoring Network Against Gender-Based Violence is lobbying, advocating and monitoring the legal and policy framework on ending violence against women in Albania. Established by UN Women, this network is now made up of 48 different organizations. Since being established, they have given numerous recommendations for changes to the Law on Social Housing, Law on Free Legal Aid and the Law on Measures against Violence in Family Relations. These institutions play a crucial role in acting as a voice for Albanian women to the government, police and court systems. The Monitoring Network works to protect and help the situation of women, which is not often on the forefront of the political or social agenda.
  5. Improved Data on Violence against Women: Albania’s latest survey on violence against women and girls, taken in 2018, engaged with service-providers, local governments and civil society organizations to create the most accurate dataset possible. This was the first time widespread consultations on the survey took place. To share the results of the survey, government ministries, municipalities, police forces and other organizations attended workshops on how to understand and use the new information. These workshops helped raise awareness of this significant issue. This new survey is especially important because most police and government surveys about violence against women produced a much lower amount of instances. The survey has also been used as evidence to promote new policies and laws on protecting women in Albania.

Although women and girls in Albania are still experiencing and at risk of facing domestic violence, these recent changes have given more resources to survivors and victims. The Albanian legal code and policies have also shifted to protect more women and girls in Albania, from written laws to the new socio-economic environment forced by COVID-19.

Claire Brady
Photo: Flickr 

Fighting Poverty With Soap OperasGlobally, it is estimated that at least 150 million people, or 2% of the world’s population, are homeless, with another 1.6 billion people, or over 20% of the world’s population, lacking adequate housing. However, at the end of 2018, 51.2% of people worldwide and 45% in developing countries were using the internet. Almost 60% of households had internet access in their homes in 2018, which is up from less than 20% in 2005, and broadband access continues to grow with a penetration rate of 69.3 per 100 participants. A report by the International Telecommunication Union found that almost 80% of households had a TV by the end of 2012. This percentage is 69% in developing countries, while “virtually all” households in the developed world have TVs. Over two-thirds of households with TVs took digital signals in Sub-Saharan African in 2016, and estimates report that TV penetration will reach 99% in 35 forecast countries by 2021. Especially in impoverished areas, internet and television, and more specifically soap operas available across many different providers, help people stay up-to-date on both current events and employment opportunities, learn more effectively and, rather surprisingly, escape poverty.

Soap Operas Aid Poor Turkish Women

In a study by Ozgun, Yurdakul and Atik, the researchers found soap operas affected young women’s self-perception and social advancement who lived in impoverished neighborhoods of Izmir, Turkey. The study found that due to their local income, the women overall viewed these soap operas as tools of information gathering without the emotional burden of heavier news. The study suggests that soap operas become their primary connection with the outside world, exposing them to consumer culture and marketing that are useful skills to have when entering the workforce.

More profoundly, these women were often able to connect on a cathartic level with the characters in these soap operas who endured the same economic struggles but were able to escape poverty. Some women noted that the soap operas reminded them of their difficult pasts, which prompted them to “review and assess” their current life conditions and deal with daily problems. The shows also revealed to the women what they lacked in life, whether it be a job or power, and exposed them to the affluent “other life,” which led some to feel dissatisfied with their condition and ultimately try to come up with solutions to escape from it.

However, the study also reveals that while soap operas empower some women, they can also exacerbate poverty even more, as some women try to mimic the lavish lifestyle of some characters without the finances to do so. Thus, the authors suggest that it may be more impactful for television networks to showcase culturally accessible public programming with more informative, advice-filled narrative content to better reduce poverty.

Combating Poverty Through “Edutainment”

Similar to the suggestions of Ozgun et al., Bilal Zia and Gunhild Berg experimented with “edutainment,” or entertainment with an educational aspect, by working together with the production company of “Scandal!,” a popular South African soap opera, to incorporate financial education messages throughout the plot. Since making financial decisions can be challenging for impoverished populations that lack education in finance, “Scandal!” hoped to develop better habits within viewers through a subplot about debt and gambling.

Zia and Berg ran a study in which one group of people would watch this soap opera while a control group watched another show, and the researchers found that viewers of “Scandal!” showed significant improvements in financial knowledge and behavior. Viewers of “Scandal!” started to borrow from others less and reduce unnecessary expenditures like gambling. Viewers reportedly connected with the main character of the show and ultimately made more economical life decisions that could in the future help them escape poverty.

Fighting HIV with Soap Operas

In addition to increasing financial literacy, soap operas can also improve health and medical awareness among impoverished populations. A study in Nigerian found that people who watched the soap opera “MTV Shuga” were twice as likely to get tested for HIV and were overall more knowledgeable about HIV transmission. The show, which has been broadcasted in more than 70 countries, focuses on an impoverished woman and her HIV-positive lover as she navigates the complex reality of HIV’s role in daily life.

The show, which has been supported by organizations like UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, raises awareness of the dangers of risky sexual behavior especially in regions like Sub-Saharan Africa, which has approximately 1.5 million new HIV/AIDS cases each year. In addition to HIV testing, “MTV Shuga” also contributed to a reduction of chlamydia infections by 58% and a reduction in having concurrent sex partners by 14%. The study reveals that edutainment like “MTV Shuga” is more influential and cost-effective than more traditional educational campaigns, which keeps people both entertained and informed.

Lowering Fertility Rates Through Soap Operas

A 2012 study by La Ferrara, Chong and Duryea explored the impacts of telenovelas, or Brazilian soap operas, on fertility rates in Brazil. After a year that the signal for Rede Globo, the main telenovela producer in Brazil, became available in municipalities across the country, the researchers found that fertility rates sharply declined. This effect was strongest for women of low socioeconomic backgrounds, many of whom lack proper education regarding safe sex and childbirth.

The research found that among the telenovelas studied, 62.2% of main female protagonists did not have any children, while 19.8% only had one child. Data reveals that telenovelas contributed to the decline in the number of live births particularly among 30 to 34-year-old women from around 4.4 to around 3.2. The study concluded that these soap operas helped mothers make more educated decisions surrounding raising a family, which could lead mothers to seek future employment or save monetary resources for child education.

– Noah Sheidlower
Photo: Flickr


Somalia is a country located on the horn of Africa, with a population of almost 14 million people. Although women and girls in Somalia consist of 50% of the country’s population, women and men are far from equal. Globally, Somalia places fourth highest on the gender inequality index. In Somalia, gender inequality is exacerbated by poverty, disability, social class and harmful practices that violate the rights of women and girls. Today, women in Somalia are susceptible to gender-based violence and sexual violence, an issue that is heightened in areas of conflict.

Genital Mutilation in Somalia

Common problems that perpetuate gender inequality in Somalia include female genital mutilation, child marriage, maternal mortality rates and a lack of access to fundamental tools for success, such as education, healthcare, credit and more. Women in Somalia, especially adolescent girls are susceptible to undergo genital mutilation. Often, these girls undergo this before they turn 13 years old, according to a 2013 report by the World Health Organization. Somalia has the highest rate of genital mutilation, with 98% of girls subjected to it. With the upsurge in coronavirus cases, girls in Somalia are forced to stay home. This leads to higher rates of genital mutilation. According to the United Nations Population Fund, the coronavirus could contribute to two million more instances of genital mutilation over the next decade that could have been stopped. Although genital mutilation remains legal in Somalia, the practice has no health benefits and harms women in girls in a plethora of ways, as it poses health risks and robs women of the full capacity of their reproductive organs.

Maternal Mortality in Somalia

Another issue plaguing Somalia that perpetuates gender inequality is the maternal mortality rate, which is the highest of any country in the world. For children in Somalia, four in 100 infants die within the first month of their lives. Women in Somalia suffer from these high rates of maternal mortality due to poor healthcare infrastructure within the country and a lack of access to adequate services. In the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda, the central principle is “leaving no one behind”. This commitment from the United Nations involves prioritizing the rights, access and abilities that women in Somalia have.

Lack of Education and Leadership

For women in Somalia, there is a lack of women involved in political and social leadership roles. One of the reasons behind this is a lack of education. In Somalia, primary schools have one of the lowest rates of enrollment, with only 30% of children in school. Of the children in school, less than half of them are females. For girls living in rural areas, these numbers are lower. Compared to men, women in Somalia have much lower literacy levels. In Somalia, only 26% of women can read, compared to 36% of men.

The Future for Women in Somalia

Somalia remains a state of male power but there is hope that the country will become more focused on gender equality. The Somali Provisional Constitution, created in 2012, is being revised. In 2021, the country is participating in a one-person-one-vote election. With the future revision of the Somali constitution, there is opportunity for empowering women and girls across the country by implementing gender equality provisions. It is hopeful that 2021 may promise more widespread opportunities for women and girls in the country.

– Caitlin Calfo
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in UgandaWomen’s rights in Uganda are notoriously spotty. Ugandan women experience high rates of physical and sexual abuse, at 56% and 22% respectively. Additionally, child marriage is common and 40% of Ugandan girls marry before they turn 18. As a result, many girls never complete their education or gain the necessary job skills to help them provide for themselves and their families. The lack of opportunities for women to thrive economically only perpetuates poverty in the region.

The Gender Gap and Poverty

Uganda currently ranks 65th out of 153 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index for equal “economic participation and opportunity” among men and women. With 19.7% of Ugandans still living below the poverty line in 2013 and two in three households that escape poverty and then fall below the poverty line all over again, striving for women’s rights in Uganda is one essential step needed to combat the region’s prevalent poverty. Over the last few years, the Ugandan Government and nonprofit groups have made great strides to advance women’s rights in Uganda.

Legislation for Women’s Rights in Uganda

Over the last 15 years, Uganda has passed a volley of legislation designed to protect women’s rights. These laws make it more likely for women to have the physical health and wellbeing to hold jobs and begin to address the social barriers to women’s economic participation.

  • Laws prohibiting violence against women: The 2009 Persons Act (anti-trafficking), 2010 Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Act, 2010 Domestic Violence Act and additional 2011 domestic violence regulations.
  • The Equal Opportunities Commission Act of 2007: This law gives the Ugandan state power to punish discrimination against sex, while also permitting the state to implement “affirmative action in favor of groups marginalized on the basis of gender… for the purpose of redressing imbalances which exist.”

Governmental Plans for Women’s Rights

Addressing women’s rights in Uganda is a key part of Uganda’s Second National Development Plan 2015/16 – 2019/20. The Plan explains attaining women’s rights as a prerequisite to desired economic growth and proposes several key initiatives to increase women’s access to business ownership and resources. The initiatives include using technology to promote women’s issues, advancing economic reforms to allow women equal access to inheritance, property and public financial resources as well as addressing widespread gender discrimination. An additional public policy plan, The National Strategy to End Child Marriage, seeks to enhance women’s autonomy and economic opportunity by curtailing child marriage, which stunts teenagers’ abilities to seek education and exposes them to marital violence. Due to child marriage, currently up to 35% of girls drop out of school before age 18.

Organizations for Women’s Rights in Uganda

Nonprofit advocacy groups are playing a part to advance and raise awareness for women’s rights too. Girl Up Initiative Uganda provides programs tailored to educate adolescent girls, teaching job skills and economic empowerment. Additionally, Action for Rural Women’s Empowerment (ARUWE Uganda) focuses on teaching agricultural job skills to women in rural areas.

The National Union of Women with Disabilities in Uganda (NUWODU) seeks to expand ongoing women’s rights work to women with disabilities. In particular, NUWODU aims to end discrimination against disabled women workers in the job market and to increase their wages and access to services.

While there is still plenty of work to do, the progress being made by nonprofits and governmental action taken on behalf of Ugandan women enables them to attain long-term economic equality and prosperity that will help the region as a whole to fight poverty.

– Elizabeth Broderick
Photo: Flickr

Glamour BoutiqueThere are a number of advancements in legal gender rights across the world. However, social norms still play a large role in preventing women from attaining economic independence. Globally, women are almost three times more likely than men to work in the unpaid sector—namely domestic work and caring for children. When the women who are confined to this lifestyle are able to find paid work, it is often part-time and low-wage. This sets them at a significant financial disadvantage. They must depend on their husbands and families to provide for their basic needs.

The Fix

The Inclusive and Equitable Local Development (IELD) sector of the United Nations Capital Development Fund fights to right these wrongs. They invest in small businesses in developing countries that are largely run by women. Through their investments, these businesses expand, hire more people, increase their consumer market and earn more money. When women achieve financial independence, the reward is multiplied. Economically secure women are likely to invest in education, health and their community.

The Entrepreneur

One of these businesses that the IELD benefits is Glamour Boutique—a fashion business in Jessore, a small town in southwestern Bangladesh.

Glamour Boutique was officially founded in 2007 by Parveen Akhter. Akhter had been kidnapped and forced into child marriage when she was in the ninth grade. Her husband—her kidnapper and a drug addict—made it a habit of abusing her throughout their seventeen-year marriage. Encouragement from her oldest son, 16-years-old at the time, led her to file for divorce and set up the Glamour Boutique House and Training Centre. It was based in her home and capitalized on the embroidery and tailoring skills Akhter had taught herself over the years. Once business picked up, she moved into a rented space.

This is when the IELD stepped in. Akhter had little money, a small market and limited machines. They loaned her nearly 30,000 USD to expand. Since then, Glamour Boutique has employed over 50 women and consistently trains around 20 in tailoring and embroidery.

More than anything, the company is female-friendly. It helps to lift women out of poverty and give them a purpose and community. Additionally, she is sensitive to her employees having outside commitments. She offers short four-hour shifts for women who are enrolled in school, have children or have other situations warranting a flexible schedule.

Mussamad Nafiza, an employee at Glamour Boutique, testifies to the beauty of working there. She describes her own and others’ financial gain and independence as well as her dreams of opening a business similar to Akhter’s. Dipa Monjundar, a friend of Akhter’s and fellow small business owner, commends Akhter’s work and celebrates the economic empowerment of women across Bangladesh.

Next Steps

Although important, investing in women’s businesses is not the only way to help women achieve economic prosperity. Commitments from men and the government are essential. They need to respect, uphold and uplift women’s rights to sustainably change the way communities approach gender disparity.

Jessore’s mayor participated in several gender equality training sessions before starting any major projects. If other community leaders encourage participation in similar training courses, economic gender parity may no longer be a far-fetched dream.

Rebecca Blanke
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable TechnologyTechnology is constantly evolving in the 21st century and through it, MPOWERD is alleviating the ailments that impoverished communities face. In 2016, 1.6 billion people across the globe lived without energy access. MPOWERD’s mission to bring sustainable technology to all points of the globe through practical, portable and affordable solar power impacts millions of lives each year. A dramatic reduction of communities without electricity as of 2019 suggests that 13% of the world’s population currently live without power. In addition, MPOWERD hopes to eradicate unaffordable energy costs and provide clean solutions to all of the world’s poor by 2030.

Form, Function, Empowerment

Since 2012, MPOWERD has reached over 3.7 million lives through sponsorship with community programs, disaster relief and health initiatives. The patented design of the “Luci” inflatable solar light reduces exposure to toxic kerosene fumes and provides light to those in crisis after storms. It also promotes healthy environments for the administration of medication, urgent health care and completion of schoolwork after sunset.

Moreover, MPOWERD focuses on helping women being more involved in their community and family decisions. Through a partnership with the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, local ethnic groups in Kenya participate as resellers of the sustainable technology Luci lights in conjunction with E³Merge to stimulate investment in the local economy. The Maasai women cultivate spaces of undeniable empowerment where issues of Female genital mutilation, domestic violence and other inequalities are discussed. Additionally, alternative practices such as dance and song are now permitted in place of FGM due to newfound empowerment as business leaders.

Impact on Poverty

The distribution of the sustainable technology Luci lights fosters economic and social empowerment. Local craftsmen and women may work in the nighttime to create products for sustainable income without the worry of daylight. Furthermore, with a Luci light, children can study at night. This ensures the completion of homework and health clinics in rural areas can stay open late. In addition, workers who commute in the dark run less of a risk of injury. Women can feel safe from predators with MPOWERD’s compact light-source technology.

To put it simply, markets and businesses that stay open past daylight have the potential to earn more capital. As local markets thrive and expand, employment opportunities arise. Rural communities with limited trade commerce have more capital to exchange when electricity is not a concern. Thus, it allows freedom to invest in other pressing issues. According to the World Economic Forum, education is one of the most efficient steps to reduce poverty. In turn, reducing the need for basic electricity infrastructure allows for higher funding of various social programs. This includes agriculture, healthcare and education. As a result, it diminishes overall poverty.

Sustainable technology launches emerging nations into the global market through basic principles of infrastructure aimed towards poverty-reduction. The provision of portable solar lights in rural communities boosts local economies and establishes business expansion and stability. It also constructs safe environments where education and empowerment are centered at the forefront of improvement. MPOWERD is a force for good that does good through accessible sustainable technology in impoverished areas.

Natalie Williams

Photo: Flickr

The International Women's Coffee Alliance
The International Women’s Coffee Alliance aims to empower women to achieve sustainable, meaningful lives through international coffee communities. IWCA recognizes the integral part women play in both a business and an economic aspect. As such, IWCA believes women need to be involved in both family sustainability and economic choices. When this happens, multiple aspects typically leading to poverty in a community decrease.

“When women are fully involved, the benefits can be seen immediately: families are healthier; they are better fed; their income, savings and reinvestment go up. And what is true of families is true of communities and, eventually, whole countries,” states Kofi Annan, as quoted on IWCA’s homepage.

Strong Women = Strong Coffee

IWCA’s motto is “Strong Women = Strong Coffee: Connect. Empower. Advance.”

According to IWCA chapter manager Blanca Castro, “The chapters have very localized issues that they centralize their work around to be a collective force. The common denominator for the groups is that they are all mothers, daughters and workers and share many of the same challenges around the world, not just specific to coffee, such as the price of coffee but the also laws and customs that make women earning a dignified living that much more of a challenge.”

Now how is the IWCA taking action to implement and empower women?

IWCA Ethiopia

Strong Partners Build Economic Empowerment

IWCA is involved in multiple parts of the world, including Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Women in Coffee (EWiC) partnered with the International Trade Center, which brings platforms for corporations to empower companies to connect with women-owned supply companies. As a result, the EWiC and ITC are working together to build a foundation for the same goal.

The EWiC is one branch under IWCA. It moves to improve the economy and the importance of women within a community. Through the incorporation of women in international trade, IWCA believes that poverty within Ethiopia will soon be alleviated.

IWCA Burundi

Working Together Grows Quality and Premiums

The IWCA also has a chapter in Burundi, specifically in the regions of Ngozi and Kayanza where they have seen a growing impact of empowering the women of this region. Since their start in Burundi in 2012, there has been an increase in job opportunities for the community. Moreover, this has led to improved livelihoods based on coffee bonuses and pay raises.

In Burundi alone, there has been an increase in green coffee bags. In 2012, 94 green coffee bags were produced, as compared to 2,065 green coffee bags in 2017.

WCA-India

Building Awareness, Strengthening Communities

Coffee Santhe (Coffee Market) is held annually in India’s coffee capital, Bangalore. Santhe is a program that helps raise funds for communities. It also unites different states within India’s massive demographic to come together and learn how they can impact and improve their communities.

Santhe generates funds and provisions for children who are in government-run schools in coffee regions. These funds and provisions support their education. It also teaches them how they can impact their own lives and those around them.

The IWCA has a presence in 22 different countries. And it promotes economic sustainability by empowering women to enter the workforce of international trade, specifically through the coffee industry. Ultimately, the International Women’s Coffee Alliance believes by uniting different nations and closing the gender gap in the workforce, the issues of global poverty will disperse.

Hannah Vaughn
Photo: Google Images

Global Feminist CompaniesFrom government initiatives to individual campaigns, a wide range of efforts exist to remove obstacles and create opportunities for women and girls in developing countries. Countless global feminist companies have formed in recent decades, offering goods and employment to women and girls in an effort to shift the economic climate in poorer areas of the world.

Below are five global feminist companies helping women and girls in developing countries to pursue education, advance their careers and gain autonomy in their communities.

L.
After working for the Red Cross and the United Nations as a photojournalist and witnessing firsthand the obstacles that plague women’s lives around the world, Talia Frenkel founded L., a one-for-one feminine hygiene company on a mission to provide supplies to women and girls in developing countries. L. distributes donations via female entrepreneurs around the world in order to foster financial independence among women and multiply the company’s global impact. L. employs more than 2,800 women, positioning them to efficiently support their families and achieve agency within their communities.

The majority of donated goods go to girls in countries like Sierra Leone, Nepal and Afghanistan, where many miss school during their periods due to lack of supplies. With an increasing customer following, L. estimates it will donate 50 million products by the end of this year.

Thinx
Thinx, a company specializing in period panties, uses profits to fund the Global Girls Club (GGC). This six-month program hosts girls from ages 12 to 18 to train them on the finer points of human rights, reproductive health and financial independence. Using this multi-pronged educational model, the GGC experience provides young women with practical skills while building self esteem and combating the stigma around menstruation. Attendees also receive donations funded by customers’ purchases, allowing them to stay in school all month long.

The company includes environmentalism as a critical component of its mission, as the reusable nature of the product helps to cut down on waste from disposable goods. In addition, Thinx actively seeks partnerships with health education organizations and plans to continue growing the GGC program with the support of grassroots movements and concerned individuals.

Rallier
Rallier is another company determined to keep girls in school. Every purchase from the New York-based clothing line warrants a donation to Shining Hope for Communities, an organization which uses funds to provide girls in developing countries with locally sourced school uniforms. With this method, humanitarians all around the world can contribute to girls’ successes and simultaneously stimulate developing economies.

Access to uniforms is a major stumbling block when it comes to girls’ education in developing countries. Studies show that providing uniforms to needy students has increased enrollment by 64 percent—and with efforts like Rallier’s, numbers could shift even more dramatically.

Sseko
Uganda-based fashion brand Sseko bolsters women’s higher education by selling sandals, handbags and other accessories crafted by East African artisans. The company has used profits to send 87 promising Ugandan women to university and will send 15 this year alone. Participating scholars spend nine months working for the company to save money before attending school, and Sseko matches each woman’s savings with a scholarship.

Dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty altogether, Sseko’s business model is designed to bolster rather than undermine economies in developing countries. With a keen eye on the future, the company aims to prepare women for leadership roles in order to create widespread gender equality.

Same Sky
Same Sky, a jewelry trade initiative working between Rwanda and the United States, focuses on awarding ethical employment to women in developing countries. In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, where nearly one million people were murdered, systematic sexual violence against women triggered an epidemic of HIV/AIDS while society crumbled. Same Sky set out to repair the landscape of women’s lives in Rwanda by creating opportunities for them to learn a trade in order to support themselves and their families.

Women who work for Same Sky make 15 to 20 times the average wage in sub-Saharan Africa—and they get the opportunity to express themselves while they do it, as attention to “the talents and the passions of the artisans” is a central tenet of the company’s mission. These women do not just benefit from working for Same Sky; they actively contribute to the global growth and creative evolution of the company.

Poverty creates complex obstacles in the lives of women, but global feminist companies like these fight to open doors. With the continued worldwide support of women and girls in need, developing countries are sure to see progress.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Google