Posts

Coding in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is primarily an agricultural country, with more than 80 percent of its citizens living in rural areas. More than 108.4 million people call Ethiopia home, making it Africa’s second-largest nation in terms of population. However, other production areas have become major players in Ethiopia’s economy. As of 2017, Ethiopia had an estimated gross domestic product of $200.6 billion with the main product coming from other sources than agriculture.

Today, 1.2 million Ethiopians have access to fixed telephone lines, while 62.6 million own cell phones. The country broadcasts six public TV stations and 10 public radio shows nationally. 2016 data showed that over 15 million Ethiopians have internet access. While 15 percent of the population may not seem significant, it is a sharp increase in comparison to the mere one percent of the population with Internet access just two years prior.

Coding in Ethiopia: One Girl’s Success Story

Despite its technologically-limited environment, young tech-savvy Ethiopians are beginning to forge their own destiny and pave the way for further technological improvements. One such pioneer is teenager Betelhem Dessie. At only 19, Dessie has spent the last three years traveling Ethiopia and teaching more than 20,000 young people how to code and patenting a few new software programs along the way.

On her website, Dessie recounts some of the major milestones she’s achieved as it relates to coding in Ethiopia:

  • 2006 – she got her first computer
  • 2011- she presented her projects to government officials at age 11
  • 2013-she co-founded a company, EBAGD, whose goals were to modernize Ethiopia’s education sector by converting Ethiopian textbooks into audio and visual materials for the students.
  • 2014-Dessie started the “codeacademy” of Bahir Dar University and taught in the STEM center at the university.

United States Collaboration

Her impressive accomplishments continue today. More recently, Dessie has teamed up with the “Girls Can Code” initiative—a U.S. Embassy implemented a project that focuses on encouraging girls to study STEM. According to Dessie, “Girls Can Code” will “empower and inspire young girls to increase their performance and pursue STEM education.”

In 2016, Dessie helped train 40 girls from public and governmental schools in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia how to code over the course of nine months. During those nine months, Dessie helped her students develop a number of programs and projects. One major project was a website where students can, according to Dessie, “practice the previous National examinations like SAT prep sites would do.” This allows students to take practice tests “anywhere, anytime.” In 2018, UNESCO expanded a similar project by the same name to include all 10 regions in Ghana, helping to make technology accessible to more Africans than ever before.

With the continuation of programs like “Girls Can Code” and the ambition of young coders everywhere, access to technology will give girls opportunities to participate in STEM, thereby closing the technology gender gap in developing countries. Increased STEM participation will only serve to aid struggling nations in becoming globally competitive by boosting their education systems and helping them become more connected to the world in the 21st century.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

Maternal Health in the Gambia

Maternal health continues to be a concern in developing countries around the world. Although overall maternal mortality decreased by 44 percent from 1990 to 2015, many nations still have a long way to go if the goal of fewer than 70 deaths per 100,000 live births is to be reached by 2030. Of note, despite improvements, the maternal mortality in The Gambia remains one of the highest in the world, with 706 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

Maternal mortality is a reflection of the disparities between the rich and the poor, with 94 percent of all maternal deaths occurring in developing countries. The fact that 50 percent of The Gambia’s population lives below the poverty line contributes to the high rates of maternal mortality in the nation.

A majority of the complications that lead to maternal deaths are preventable or treatable. However, either because the mother is giving birth outside of a health care facility or due to a lack of supplies or expertise, the necessary care is not always provided.

The main causes of maternal deaths are severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure and delivery complications. Other deaths are caused by malaria, AIDS and other diseases.

Contributing Factors

In The Gambia, the national maternal mortality ratio decreased by 46 percent between 1995 and 2015. This can, in part, be attributed to an increase in antenatal care coverage, as 86.2 percent of Gambian women now receive antenatal care from a skilled health professional.

For deliveries, however, only 57.2 percent take place in the presence of a skilled health professional. Most women deliver at home with a traditional birth attendant; the main barriers to giving birth in a health care facility being insufficient time to travel and lack of transportation.

Maternal health in The Gambia is further complicated by social and cultural factors that contribute to pregnancy complications and the low percentage of women who give birth at a health facility or with a health professional. A study done in rural Gambia found that there were four interrelated factors that impacted maternal health:

  • Pregnant women’s heavy workload
  • The gendered division of labor
  • Women’s inferior status in the household
  • Limited access to and utilization of health care

Women in rural Gambia generally work alongside their husbands on farms, a fact that does not change even with pregnancy. Gambian women described being physically and emotionally exhausted from physical labor in the field and the house, noting that they did not get sufficient rest at any point during their pregnancy.

This is connected to the way labor is divided between men and women, as women often work longer hours than their husbands, regardless of whether they are pregnant or not. Social practices prevent men from doing certain household chores while their wives are pregnant to allow them to get more rest, which contributes to poor maternal health in The Gambia.

The activities that women continue to perform can also have negative impacts. Women noted that they had to fetch and carry water from long distances, pick groundnuts and cook with firewood, all of which are health risks for pregnant women.

Additionally, women have less control than their husbands, largely because they are economically dependent on them. Despite doing equal work in the field and more work in the house, women receive no financial benefits. This keeps them from becoming economically independent and forces them to rely on their husbands, giving their husbands more power.

As a result, many women who wanted to stop working could not unless their husbands allowed it. They also could not make certain decisions, including where to give birth, without the oversight of their husbands, contributing to a lack of utilization of health care facilities. As women are often required to work up until they give birth, their workload prevents them from being able to travel to a health care facility in time for delivery.

Improving maternal health in The Gambia, therefore, is connected to women’s autonomy. In addition to improving access to health care facilities and ensuring adequate supplies are available, work needs to be done to ensure that families are educated about the dangers of working during pregnancy and that women have the ability to make decisions for themselves about where to give birth.

Improvement Efforts

Other efforts are also important to decreasing maternal mortality in The Gambia. Within the last decade, the Horizons Trust Gambia and The Gambian Ministry of Health partnered with an organization called Soapbox to launch the Maternal Cleanliness Champions Initiative aimed at reducing infections from childbirth.

One of the main projects of this initiative is the distribution of Clean Birth Kits, which include soap, a clean blade and a clean plastic sheet to help ensure that expectant mothers have sanitary materials regardless of whether they are giving birth at a hospital or at home.

The Maternal Cleanliness Champions Initiative also worked to create a manual for cleanliness standards at health care facilities in The Gambia, adapting the manual to work with the local context of each hospital. The program also supported the training of facility staff to ensure that they knew how to adequately clean to prevent infections and other health complications.

These important efforts need to be combined with others to form a holistic approach to improving maternal health in The Gambia. Only coordinated efforts that are adapted to cultural and social contexts will be successful in significantly reducing maternal mortality in the nation.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

 

Justice for Iraqi Women

The status and protection of women remain a heated topic of discussion in international and national committees, particularly concerning justice for Iraqi women. Iraq‘s government is aware of the violations committed by its previous regime against certain civil community groups. As a result, Iraq’s government has strived to drastically change how they aid and support victimized and often impoverished groups. However, Iraq‘s strategy to reconcile these issues is unique. For example, China encourages its impoverished population to move to urbanized cities, and the United Kingdom encourages participation in its labor market. But Iraq seeks to acknowledge the voices of the victims.

In 2003, Iraq‘s government and the International Center for Transitional Justice partnered with the Human Rights Center of the University of California, Berkeley to create Iraqi Voices. Iraqi Voices is a report based on data collected from in-depth interviews and focus groups. This data represents different perspectives of the Iraqi population regarding transitional justice. There are seven main topics of focus represented in this report: past human rights abuses, justice and accountability, truth-seeking and remembrance, amnesty, vetting, reparations, and social reconstruction and reconciliation.

Hearing Women

Iraq is working to have women and girls meaningfully participate in all stages of decision making. Programs and organizations like the SEED Foundation have worked to ensure this justice for Iraqi women. In particular, the SEED Foundation works to empower and engage the voices of violence and trafficking victims in Iraq. As such, SEED Foundation leaders and activists encourage the meaningful participation of women in sustainable peace negotiations and conflict reconciliation. Through their efforts, the Iraqi Parliament now has a quota setting aside 25 percent of seats for women in provincial councils. By acknowledging these voices, the Iraqi government is helping seek justice for Iraqi women.

Moreover, Iraq has taken strides to bridge the gap between policymakers and victims when addressing the needs of local communities affected by ISIS. To do so, Iraq is considering partnering with or accepting assistance from other nations. While international policymakers seek justice for Iraqi victims, they fail to address the real concerns of affected communities. Instead, they often focus on prosecuting the perpetrators. But affected communities also have more immediate needs. Therefore, this partnership and assistance allow victims of affected communities to participate in prioritizing and creating appropriate policies. Efforts to ensure meaningful participation in Iraq‘s government thus bring about transitional justice. By addressing systemic failures, Iraq’s government brings justice to marginalized victims, including justice for Iraqi women.

Bringing Change

Ultimately, the changes implemented by the Iraqi government aid and empower impoverished and victimized groups, such as women. The inclusion of female voices in politics influences larger discussions affecting women and, as seen as Iraq, helps get justice for Iraqi women.

Jordan Melinda Washington
Photo: Pixabay

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

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

The 10 Best Humanitarian Quotes by Meghan Markle

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

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

Ava Gambero

Photo: Mark Tantrum


Women face difficulties all over the world but especially in developing countries. Global nonprofit organizations play a key role in promoting female empowerment in areas such as education, health care and employment. They recognize that when you empower women, you empower entire communities and countries.

Here are 10 organizations that help women around the world.

10 Organizations that Help Women Around the World

  1. Women’s Global Empowerment Fund
    This nonprofit organization was founded in 2007 and works to provide women in Uganda with access to microcredit loans, business and leadership development training, literacy, health initiatives and more. Karen Sugar, Women’s Global Empowerment Fund Founder, created the organization with the idea that microfinance, when bundled with educational programming, can increase the potential for women’s empowerment and success.
  2. Center for Reproductive Rights
    The goal of this organization is to help promote a world where women are free to make their own decisions about kids and marriage. The organization strives to create a safe space where women can make these decisions without conflict. According to its website, the Center for Reproductive Rights is the only global legal advocacy organization dedicated to reproductive rights.
  3. World Pulse
    World Pulse makes the list of organizations that help women by using the power of technology and social media to connect women worldwide. They are a social network that gives women the opportunity to connect, unite, share, launch movements and run for office. Overall, World Pulse’s goal is to create a world, online and off, where women can flourish.
  4. The Girl Effect
    Through the idea that creativity empowers, The Girl Effect builds vibrant youth brands. The organization operates globally, from places like Ethiopia to the Philippines, to help girls and women worldwide share their stories of growing into adulthood through mobile platforms. Through self-expression and community support, The Girl Effect believes that every girl can begin to value herself, build quality relationships and get access and education about things she needs.
  5. Global Fund for Women
    The Global Fund for Women supports and advocates for groups led by women who demand equal rights in their communities. This organization fights for some of the most important ingredients for women’s human rights: reproductive rights, freedom from violence, leadership and more.
  6. New Light
    New Light is an organization that provides children of sex workers with a safe haven—especially at night time. The organization is located deep inside the red-light district of Kalighat, Kolkata. New Light has grown from caring for nine children in the year 2000 to 250 children of many different ages currently. The organization provides education, healthcare, nutritional support, a recreational facility, HIV/AIDS care, income opportunities for the mothers and residential care. New Light also fights against gender-based violence.
  7. Global Grassroots
    The mission of this organization is to promote leadership in women and girls in their communities. The goal is to educate women on Conscious Social Change, which is a methodology that “employs mindfulness throughout the process of designing a social solution.” Global Grassroots works to create a world where all women and girls have the ability to pursue their own dreams and ideas and turn them into something impactful in their own community. There are two main programs: Academy for Conscious Change, which works with marginalized and impoverished women in post-conflict regions and Young Women’s Academy for Conscious Change which is for young women who are between high school graduation and university enrollment.
  8. Global Goods Partners
    Global Goods Partners’ (GGP) goal is to provide artisan jobs for women. This not-for-profit social enterprise has partnered with over 60 artisan, women-led organizations throughout Asia, Africa and the Americas. GGP invests all of the proceeds from product sales to provide training, funding and sustainable market access.
  9. BRAC
    BRAC fights against the obstacles that prevent children in developing countries from receiving a quality education including violence, discrimination, displacement and extreme poverty. Although BRAC works to help every child, the organization focuses especially on women and girls and making sure they have the ability to take control of their own lives. The organization provides educational programs in six countries, boasting the largest secular, private education system worldwide. There are more than 900,000 students enrolled in BRAC primary schools all over the world.
  10. CAMFED
    The Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) is an international non-profit focused on supporting marginalized girls to succeed through education. CAMFED, which is African-led has supported approximately 2.6 million children to go to school. There are 120,000 women involved in their alumnae network that multiplies donor investments in girls’ education.

– Malena Larsen
Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in Costa Rica
Costa Rica was ranked 32nd out of 144 on the 2016 Global Gender Gap Report. With a score of two representing maximum gender equality, Costa Rica scored 0.736, moving up six positions since the 2015 report. While this report evaluates the gap between women and men in economics, political empowerment, education, health and life expectancy, from an economic standpoint Costa Rica is making great leaps toward equality. With traditional family roles shifting and more Costa Rican women working outside of the home, opportunities have had to be available over the last decade to accommodate this change and growth. While conditions are far from perfect and equal pay is still a hot topic, women occupy more leadership roles in business, politics, education and agriculture, creating a significant influx of female empowerment in this Latin American country.

Female Leadership
Costa Rica is one of five Latin American countries that have adopted gender parity policies, aimed at increasing the number of women in national parliaments.

In 2011, Costa Rica elected its first female president. Laura Chinchilla Miranda won the presidential election and was more than 20 percentage points ahead of the runner-up. Her term ended in 2014, but her presence in a position of power marks the great strides being made toward gender equality and women’s empowerment in Costa Rica. With the 2018 election approaching, the representation of women has significantly increased, with women in Parliament exceeding 40 percent. These are historic numbers.

Among government leadership, there has also been an increase of female representation in the police force. Over the past three years, Costa Rica’s police force has gone from 3 percent to 17 percent female officers in the agency. With leadership in Parliament and on the streets, Costa Rican women are being represented more and more.

The Gender Equality Seal
Costa Rica has created a seal to verify and certify gender equality in the workplace. The Gender Equality Seal is a recognition given to public and private organizations. Its goal is to implement a system that will guarantee gender equality in each organization’s internal processes and labor relations. Existing gaps between women and men must be identified and a work plan to close those gaps must be created. The system is implemented in four areas: human resources, integral health, social co-responsibility in care and workplace environment. The seal seeks to empower women by offering them more opportunities in the workplace with equal pay as well as opportunities for high-level executive positions.

In 2016, 45 organizations participated in The Gender Equality Seal and signed a letter of commitment towards gender equality.

Coffee
More than 500 million people around the world are dependent on coffee for their livelihoods. Costa Rican coffee has been considered among the best in the world. As one of the country’s top three exports, coffee is a major source of revenue and a staple in the economy. Although coffee farmers can be paid extremely low wages for their work, there has been an influx of female-centered organizations seeking to remove the gender gap and allow women to make a living through coffee farming.

The International Women Coffee Alliance Costa Rican chapter, Women in Coffee Alliance of Costa Rica (WCACR), provides women in coffee a voice and vote in political decisions regarding the commodity. Formed in 2005, WCACR seeks to create sustainable developments in each community that are environmentally, economically and socially viable. They also offer opportunities for women in the coffee industry to learn more about the production of coffee and the marketplace.

Organizations like ASOMOBI, the Association of Organized Women of Biolley, make a point to advertise that their coffee is produced by women in an effort to strengthen gender equity and empower the women of this cooperative.

Today, with more than 30 associate members of the chapter including millers, producers, exporters and roasters, they represent 17 companies and organizations from Costa Rica’s seven coffee-producing regions.

Although Costa Rica is moving in the right direction, with equality in the workplace and gender salary as a topic of discussion among leaders and influencers, they still have a long way to go. But as politics change and leaders invest more energy into promoting an equal and thriving country, there is hope that women’s empowerment in Costa Rica will continue to be on the rise.

Kailey Brennan

Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in CameroonCameroon, like many countries around the world, has dealt with women’s inequality. There are several laws in Cameroon that are severely discriminatory towards women, and even after observations and suggestions made by the CEDAW Committee to the government of Cameroon in 2000 and 2009, there have been no legal reforms to improve the protection of women’s empowerment in Cameroon. To make matters worse, customary law is applied next to statutory law, which brings about many contradictions and inconsistencies.

There are many customs and traditions that impede the implementation of statutory laws. Many marriages are forced, especially in rural areas, where some girls as young as 12 are married. There is also the practice of levirate, where widows are forced to marry the brother of their deceased husband, a very common practice since widows are considered property. Furthermore, according to tradition, only male children can inherit property.

Domestic violence is prevalent and happens often while remaining socially acceptable. Unlike many other countries, marital rape is not considered a criminal offense. The government has not established shelters or legal aid clinics, and victims usually have to suffer in a culture of silence and impunity.

When it comes to education, the literacy rate for the 15-26 age group is 72 percent for males and 59 percent for females. This is due in part to families being more in favor of boys getting an education if they are unable to send all their children. Even though there are still fewer females than males in secondary school, there is slight progress. There have been some efforts made by the government to promote girls’ access to education. However, only so many girls have been able to benefit from the scholarship policy after already being affected by the lack of infrastructure, educational materials and a shortage of qualified teachers.

There are labor laws in place to honor gender equality and provide equal access to employment and equal wages for equal work, but women are still being employed in informal sectors like agriculture and household services. Sexual harassment in the workplace is common and is not punishable by law.

There are calls for the authorities of Cameroon to reform or repeal all discriminatory measures in statutory law; specifically, the provisions of the Family Code concerning the age of marriage, consent, polygamy, marital power and property. They need to take all necessary measures to improve women’s access to public and political life when it comes to decision-making positions, which include adopting special temporary measures such as a quota system and passing legislation criminalizing sexual harassment. Furthermore, there is an urgent need to improve women’s access to health care; in particular, developing healthcare infrastructure and intensifying the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The country has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women but has not ratified the protocol of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. These changes would further encourage women’s empowerment in Cameroon.

The government of Cameroon must act and vigorously combat these issues so they can become things of the past. If the government does not make these changes and bring about equality, it will be seen as inadequate and paying lip service to the noble goal of gender equality. Women’s empowerment in Cameroon is the goal and it is up to the government to instill these laws and hold people accountable.

Chavez Spicer

Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in KenyaKenya is an East African country situated between two war-torn countries, Somalia and Uganda. The country is a low income, food-deficient country where 52 percent of people live below the poverty line, 40 percent are unemployed and 1.3 million live with HIV/AIDS. Despite the threat of natural disasters and violence, women’s empowerment in Kenya is also a major issue.

Kenya has many patriarchal systems in place, including one known as “beading”. Beading is a practice where girls as young as age six are engaged to a male relative and are allowed to have sexual relations. They do not allow pregnancy because they believe having a baby will lower the girl’s chances of getting married. The only concern is for the girl’s future marriageability, not the fact that the girl has most likely has suffered physical harm and mental trauma. The Children Act (2006) and the Sexual Offenses Bill (2001) were put in place to protect women from rape and incest, but beading is socially accepted within certain tribes, who believe it to be a part of their culture.

In addition to the practice of beading, there are ceremonies for female genital mutilation (FGM). Nearly 140 million girls around the world are living with the consequences of FGM. While Kenya has banned the practice, there are still some communities that participate in the ceremony. Kenya has created a prosecution unit to stop the mutilation from happening, but some parents take their daughters to more remote regions to have them undergo FGM. It is so integral to some communities that if a young girl does not undergo the practice, she will face stigma and alienation.

There are certain social, political and economic contexts that show the different layers of beliefs in Kenya that contribute to practices like beading and FGM. Kenya fits the description of a patriarchal society, where women are marginalized and dominated by men. The profound gender disparities caused by the patriarchal norms and laws have brought about steady attacks on women’s rights to land and property. Women make up about 80 percent of the workforce, but Kenyan women only hold about 1 percent of land titles in their names. Addressing women’s rights requires strategic interventions at all levels of programming and policymaking. The United Nations Population Fund suggests that the focus be on certain areas that are critical and compromised, like giving women control over their lives and bodies, as well as economic, educational and political empowerment, to encourage women’s empowerment in Kenya.

With these traditional ideas of what a woman’s role should be in Kenya, women are held back from contributing to important development goals. However, the new constitution, passed in 2010, provides methods to address gender equality. Marking a new beginning for women’s empowerment in Kenya, there is a movement to stop excluding women and promote their involvement in every aspect of growth and development in the country.

With the help of USAID, there are plans to create safe societies where women and girls can live free from violence, provide care and treatment services for victims, strengthen women’s access to resources and opportunities to expand economic growth, increase the participation of women in policies at all levels, ensure women have a role in peacebuilding and conflict prevention and narrow the gender gaps in education and learning. Women’s empowerment in Kenya has come a long way and is making progress.

Chavez Spicer

Photo: Flickr

The Importance of Women and Girls in AgricultureSmall communities and impoverished areas oftentimes rely on farming for their food supplies, however, due to the low socioeconomic statuses of many of these places the livestock is often diseased and plagued by harmful pests and environmental factors.

According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, there is a large opportunity to improve health outcomes in countries of low socioeconomic status by helping communities that rely on farming. Moreover, the organization believes that providing aid to farming and agriculture is “the most effective way to reduce hunger and poverty over the long term.”

Women and girls tend to run the farms in their small communities, working in order to provide food for their families and local communities. Bill and Melinda Gates are aware of the role women and girls have in agriculture and have developed a variety of agricultural education programs that help women and girls thrive on these farms.

For instance, the organization is currently working with the United Nations World Food Programme‘s Purchase for Progress initiative in order to create goals that are specifically geared towards women and girls in agriculture. Programs that are “gender-aware” are more likely to reach women who lack education and encourage women to step into leadership roles.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has found that yields on farms run by women are approximately 20 to 40 percent lower than yields on farms run by men, and therefore, “gender-aware” programs that specifically seek to increase the work of women on farms are vital.

As mentioned above, women are typically the providers of food for their families and local communities. Access to healthy food is important for children in school and the health of the community as a whole which is why agricultural education for women is important because it is promising better health outcomes for communities in which farming is the main source of food.

Emily Santora

Photo: Flickr

House Passes the Women, Peace, and Security Act

The Women, Peace, and Security Act (S. 1141) became a public law at the beginning of October 2017. The purpose of the bill is to ensure that women play meaningful roles in diplomacy and leadership, especially in regions of violent conflict.

The bill recognizes the importance of women as peacemakers in their communities and the power they have in promoting inclusive, democratic societies. If signed into law, this bipartisan legislation would establish gender equality as a priority in U.S. foreign policy.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) first introduced the bill to the Senate in May. It then passed the Senate body without amendment in early August. The bill is the Senate-companion bill to H.R. 2484, which passed the House earlier this session.

The Women, Peace, and Security Act is really a culmination of years of bipartisan work throughout the course of several administrations. Versions of this bill have been presented in past sessions; in fact, a hallmark of the Obama administration’s foreign policy was the implementation of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. Like the S. 1141, the executive order was established to promote global gender integration as a means of conflict prevention and peace-building.

A wealth of research demonstrates the successful outcomes gleaned from the participation of women in leadership roles. Women in conflict-affected areas have been shown to be effective in combatting violent extremism, countering terrorism and resolving disputes through nonviolent negotiation. Furthermore, the presence of women in government is critical in the creation of sustainable, democratic policies in post-conflict relief scenarios.

When women are invited to participate in decision-making, the whole community is elevated. Studies suggest a positive correlation between a country’s gender equality and the strength of its economy. Thus, not only would women in leadership promote global security, but it would also fight poverty.

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, stands firmly behind the Women, Peace, and Security Act. He is concerned, however, about the current foreign aid budget. The new budget would see funding reduced by more than one third.

He said of the proposed cuts, “The Administration’s budget proposal would slash funding for diplomacy and development to dangerous levels, and a current redesign effort at the State Department might strip out initiatives like women, peace, and security. I hope that won’t happen.”

Indeed, with mounting evidence to verify the importance of female leaders, programs that endorse the progress of women cannot afford to be forgotten in a time of such global upheaval. Were this bill to pass into law, it would reaffirm the United States’ stance on gender equality. Furthermore, it would pave the way for comprehensive global policies that sustain peace and economic security.

Micaela Fischer
Photo: Flickr