Posts

Top Ten Facts about Period Poverty in the U.K.
Nearly 800 million women and girls menstruate daily. Period poverty encompasses the shame, guilt and cost barriers around access to sanitary products. One in 10 girls in the United Kingdom is unable to afford sanitary wear, resulting in detriment to their self-esteem, education and overall quality of life. Eliminating period poverty has often been the focus of nonprofits and the U.K.’s government. Below are the top 10 facts about period poverty in the U.K. that are important to know.

Top 10 Facts About Period Poverty in the U.K.

  1. An estimated 49 percent of girls have missed a day of school due to their periods. One in five girls surveyed in a 2019 study reported being a victim of bullying and teasing because of their periods. Girls faced increased feelings of shame and embarrassment when on their periods or discussing their period in an academic setting. This resulted in absences from school and led female students to struggle to keep up with their schoolwork.
  2. Women in the U.K. spend as much as 18,450 euros ($20.744 USD) due to their period across their lifetime. The total accounts for the costs of sanitary items, pain relief for cramps, new underwear and other period-related costs such as sweets or magazines. Of those interviewed, 91 percent purchase pain relief to ease the symptoms of periods on a regular basis. All of the 2,134 women surveyed responded that feminine hygiene products should cost less money, and some added that the government should remove its tax on those products.
  3. Free Periods is a campaign supplying low-income girls with menstrual products. Amika George, a 19-year-old student studying at Cambridge University, founded Free Periods. George called on the U.K. government to assure sanitary products are widely available in educational settings. The campaign also held a protest in London to bring attention to the ongoing issue.
  4. Plan International UK found that 10 percent of girls are unable to afford sanitary products. The cost of sanitary products has led 14 percent of girls to borrow sanitary products from friends, 12 percent to improvise sanitary products and 19 percent to change to less suitable products.
  5. Bloody Good Period, created by Gabby Edlin in 2018, supplies 25 asylum seeker centers in the U.K. with a flow of menstrual products. The growing initiative aspires to supply more food banks and centers in its mission to end period poverty.
  6. Girls throughout the U.K. not only miss school but often improvise sanitary products to use during their period. Girls have shared their stories of wrapping a sock around their underwear to control the bleeding. Others have wrapped rolls of tissues or newspapers in order to prevent leakage through their uniforms.
  7. In 2018, the Scottish government rolled out a plan to provide free sanitary products to women unable to afford them. Projections determine that it will reach approximately 18,800 low-income women and girls in an attempt to combat period poverty.
  8. The Gift Wellness Foundation provides non-toxic sanitary pads to women in crisis throughout the U.K. The Foundation relies on donations and the generosity of local community businesses. Donated sanitary products contain all-natural ingredients to ensure they are free of harmful chemicals.
  9. As of 2017, an estimated 68,000 women lived on the streets in temporary housing or shelters. These women have to make decisions that often leave them without sanitary products due to their financial situation. Each year, shelters get an allowance for condoms but not for sanitary products.
  10. Three individuals who met as interns at a London advertising agency founded #TheHomelessPeriod. Inspired to minimize the hidden side of an inequality, #TheHomelessPeriod aims to have tampons and towels available in homeless shelters through donations, crowdfunding and fundraising.

The top 10 facts about period poverty in the U.K. show the frequent inaccessibility of sanitary products to girls and women throughout the nation. While the Scottish government leads the way in the efforts to end period poverty, other governments have yet to replicate its actions. Individuals within the U.K. have taken it upon themselves to create campaigns to combat the hidden inequality and have seen success in their efforts.

– Gwen Schemm
Photo: Unsplash

Girls' Education in Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor, is a half-island nation located in Southeast Asia. With a lack of economic opportunities, Timor-Leste is known to be one of the poorest nations in Asia. Of the country’s population, 42 percent live below the national poverty line, making education a critical resource. Girls’ education in Timor-Leste is a complicated piece of this issue.

Education in Timor-Leste

The government of Timor-Leste recognizes the importance of school for young people as they want all individuals to have access to a quality education that will prepare them for life. In 2010, the Timorese government created a goal to achieve the nationwide completion of basic education in the country. As a result, the educational sector has made significant progress in the last five years, especially for young girls. For both boys and girls, the net enrollment rate grew from 67 percent to 83 percent in those five years. Also, gender disparity decreased substantially in early education.

Young Women are Being Left Behind

Although progress has been made in reaching gender equality, women and young girls are still disproportionately under-represented in undergraduate education. In regards to primary and secondary education in Timor-Leste, girls and boys are almost equal in enrollment. In primary school, 91.3 percent of boys and 90.6 percent of girls participated in their schooling.

However, the gender disparity in education increases as young people approach higher education. For instance, women become greatly outnumbered in higher education. For every 80 women, there are 100 men enrolled. Consequently, the literacy rate for adults 15 and older is 60 percent for women compared to 69 percent for men.

The Challenge of Rural Areas

Girls living in impoverished rural areas have a harder time accessing education in the country. Nearly 37 percent of people aged 15 to 24 are illiterate in rural regions compared to just six percent in urban areas.

Many poor families cannot afford schooling costs such as books, paper or pencils. Also, there is limited access to good facilities in rural areas. Many schools are aging, becoming dangerous for young children to be inside of. Of the basic education schools, 66 percent do not have functioning toilets and 40 percent do not have drinking water.

Timorese student Delfina explains her experience in her local schooling facility before it was renovated by UNICEF. “The building was falling apart. There weren’t enough chairs and the rooms were really crowded. They also flooded when it rained,” she said.

A Hidden Crisis

Young girls are subject to human trafficking and prostitution which interrupts their education but also places their lives in grave danger. Child sex-trafficking is widespread in Timor-Leste, but it specifically targets the girls in the country. There is little formal information available regarding the extent of human trafficking in the country because it is not easily traceable. However, it is still overwhelmingly prevalent. In some cases, poverty in certain remote villages is so severe, families send their daughters to more populated cities or towns to earn money as a prostitute. These girls can be as young as 10-years-old. Many times, girls will become pregnant and return to their villages. They will either have to take care of their baby or be forced back into prostitution.

Organizations Taking Action

Several organizations are helping the nation’s government improve girls’ education in Timor Leste. One, in particular, UNICEF, recognizes the importance of investing in the country’s education system in order to help girls and women receive an education and find their voice in society. The organization focuses on remote, rural areas where schooling facilities can be rare. So far they have helped to build 59 child-friendly schools while also supporting another 62 in the country. These schools are also equipped with learning materials and properly trained teachers.

The World Bank funded the Second Chance Education Project which was a national equivalency program in Timor-Leste. This project aimed to improve literacy rates in adults while also increasing community participation in education. Through this project, nine community educational facilities were created as well as a flexible curriculum that is appropriate for adult students. Because of this program, young adults were given the opportunity to complete parts of their education that they may have missed. This allowed young women to either further their education or pursue a career.

A Bright Future

There is a reason to be optimistic as girls’ education in Timor-Leste progresses with every passing year. Although there is still some work to be done, the status of female education in the country is becoming almost equal to that of their male counterparts. Because the Timorese government and many other organizations recognize the value of educating females in the country, more girls now are able to go to school and realize their full potential than ever before.

– Marissa Pekular
Photo: Flickr

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

Education in Israel
As Israel has become a center for innovation, the nation has attracted investors and entrepreneurs from across the globe. In fact, new technology in computer science and cyber security entices nearly 15 percent of the world’s venture-capital in the industry. While the standard of living in Israel ranks around 19th in the world, over one-fifth of its population lives in poverty.

Education Combats Poverty

One of the ways in which the country combats poverty is through access to education in Israel. Israeli culture and history emphasizes the importance of education and employment in traditionally white collar jobs. Israel’s education system is three-tiered, schooling children from age 5 to 18.

The OECD’s report on education recognizes Israel as one of the most educated countries in the world; almost half of the countries 25 to 34 years old held bachelor’s degrees. While there is high participation in higher education, there are major gender inequalities.

Gender Inequality in Israel

UNICEF’s data indicates that girls fare better in primary and secondary schools with rates slightly higher than their male counterparts.While access to education in the state-run school system is generally equal, the outcomes of this system are not. Education in Israel succeeds in educating its population through 18, but does not always provide ample employment opportunity for its women.

Women in Israel are enrolling in higher education, making up about 57 percent of incoming students. They are outperforming their male peers but are less likely to find work upon graduation.

Women are also paid around 30 percent less than their male counterparts, which is higher than the OECD average of 26 percent. Despite a well-educated population, over 20 percent of Israel’s population lives below the poverty line; the connection between gendered wage disparities and poverty is curious. Arab women and haredi men tend to see the highest rates of unemployment. Engaging women in the workforce and building on the classroom education experience could benefit the economy and quality of life for families in Israel.

Women in the Workforce

Women participating in the workforce, although earning less than men, also work fewer hours. The primary reason for the large portion of women working part-time is child care — only half of women with higher education and children aged 0 to 4 worked, while their husbands, with similar education levels, were employed at a rate of 84 percent.

The cost and responsibility of childcare rests primarily on women’s shoulders, preventing women from adding to the family income and also creating a ripple effect in delaying a woman’s professional development and the timeline for her career. That being said, Israel does have policies to protect women in the workforce before, during and after their pregnancy. With 6 months maternal leave, about 3 months paid, these policies provide incentives for women to remain in the workforce during childbearing years.

Keeping Israel’s Future Bright

While the future of Israel looks bright, low participation in the workforce remains a daunting problem hindering economic development and poverty reduction. By continuing to explore ways to strengthen the system of education in Israel, the state can improve on one of its best assets — its people.

An asset-based community development plan can help firms benefit from improved labor participation, and benefit families living below or near the poverty line. All in all, creating opportunities for women and using their education in Israel can lead to reduced poverty and a more robust economy.

– M. Shea Lamanna
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Afghanistan facts
In recent memory, people often think of Afghanistan as the nation of the Taliban, who provided sanctuary to terrorists like Osama bin Laden. However, they do not tend to think about how a country falls into the grip of such extremism. Often, when poverty is widespread, terrorism and instability take hold. Poverty in Afghanistan has been a serious problem for nearly three decades, starting with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

This instability can make poverty alleviation an uphill battle. According to the World Bank’s 2017 Poverty Status Update Report regarding socioeconomic progress in Afghanistan, the 15 years of growth that the country has seen are now jeopardized by a recent rise in insecurity. The World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan, Shubham Chaudhuri, explains that with poverty rising from 36 to 39 percent of the Afghan population, there need to be reinforcements to guarantee that economic growth reaches Afghan families. For further information about the living conditions of the Afghan people, here are 10 facts about poverty in Afghanistan.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Afghanistan

  1. According to Aryana Aid, poverty in Afghanistan stems from two factors: “food insecurity and the lack of a social security net.” As a result, 50 percent of Afghan children are stunted and 20 percent of Afghan women of child-bearing age are underweight.
  2. Food is distributed unequally throughout the country, going mainly to areas where there is heavy fighting. This puts more strain on people in other areas and contributes to the ongoing food insecurity,
  3. Furthermore, half of the people living in both rural and urban regions have no access to clean water.
  4. The government’s strategy to address food insecurity has been to focus on adequate calorie intake, but this has left people susceptible to food price shocks, meaning they lower the quality of their diet in order to afford food.
  5. The war in Afghanistan is one of the main contributing factors to poverty; 55 to 75 percent of the Afghan population is living in poverty in the worst-hit regions, whereas as other regions have lower poverty rates.
  6. According to Center for Strategic and Regional Studies, the poverty rate in Afghanistan has remained stagnant since the outbreak of war in 2001, even with increases in foreign aid.
  7. Only 28 percent of the entire Afghan population 15 years and older is literate.
  8. Because of the lack of water and other necessities, Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate in the world.
  9. Approximately 70,792 Afghan families are taking refuge in unclean makeshift camps; 25 percent of those families have been living there for more than ten years.
  10. Unemployment is a significant challenge in relocating these and other internally displaced people, as they are reluctant to return to rural areas where there are no jobs available.

To help bring some relief to these issues, Aryana Aid has been providing food packages to the people of Afghanistan since 2009. In early 2018, USAID’s Office of Food For Peace provided $25 million to the World Food Programme; an estimated 547,000 malnourished Afghan people were provided with emergency aid from local and regional marketplaces.

The World Bank projected economic growth for Afghanistan in 2017, by 2.6 percent compared to 2.2 percent in 2016. The progression is predicted to continue in 2018 with a 3.2 percent growth, which will help cure the many problems listed on the top 10 facts about poverty in Afghanistan.

– Christopher Shipman

Photo: Flickr

enable consumers to fight for female education
There is a proven link between lack of education and rises in poverty numbers. People around the world struggle with poor school systems, denied scholastic access and few academic resources. Illiteracy is directly correlated to poverty, and creates a cycle that is hard to break. The difficulties associated with this crisis are large scale and ones that few individuals feel that they can fix by themselves.

 

The Female Plight

At the brunt of this battle is the female population. Due to gender-based violence, negative stigma within communities and higher rates of poverty, women globally lack education opportunities that are often provided to men.  

Many citizens believe that there is nothing that they can do to help, and rely on the bigger voices to take the lead. But there are companies working to change that and to enable consumers to fight for female education as well.

These companies work to help individuals make a global difference and improve the lives of women and girls who are deprived of an education. Consumers can join the fight to educate, empower and break the cycle of poverty created by females’ lack of schooling and access to it.

Here are a five of the most impactful companies that are working towards educating the world.

 

1. Conscious Step

This sock company supports many different global causes, including their non-profit partner, “Room to Read.” For every pair of “socks that give books” sold, a school book is given to a child in one of a list of targeted countries that struggle with education.

The company especially focuses on communities that need gender equality in their school systems, and work towards enabling girls to achieve an education alongside their male counterparts. Conscious Step also enables consumers to fight for female education through beautiful socks that everyone loves.

 

2. Sseko Designs

The apparel company, which specializes in sandals, works with young women in Uganda to ensure that many can receive a college education. Sseko Designs employs local girls during the nine-month period between the end of high school and potential beginning of college.

The organization then provides the pre-collegiate girls with employment and scholarship opportunities. For each month of their nine months,  50 percent of the girls’ earnings go into a savings fund for college. This savings account not only allows these driven women to further their education, but it also deters them from caving to social pressures to give the money away to family and friends, which would thus continue the poverty cycle.

At the end of employment terms, Sseko provides the involved girls with scholarships matching the amount of their savings by 100 percent. Thanks to their employment opportunities, the company has already sent 87 girls to college, so far.

 

3. Out of Print

A business that sells literature themed products, Out of Print not only donates to literacy programs but for every piece purchased, the company also sends one book to a community in need.

Many of these communities have low female attendance in education due to extremely high rates of gender violence. These products help improve these struggling communities and encourage girls to receive an education so that they can rise above poverty and illiteracy.

The book based company work to enable consumers to fight for female education, bring literacy into poorer communities and spread awareness about the difficulties in high illiteracy rates.

 

4. Bloom and Give

With a specialty in handmade bags, this company sends girls in India to school. The company works to help girls fight against social views and norms that deter them from attending class, and enable them to become educated even through cultural protests. The company donates half of their profits to programs and grassroots movements that work directly with in-need communities.

Bloom and Give’s vibrant bags and other products serve as a way for shoppers to give back globally and also help Indian communities educate girls.

 

5. Naja

This underwear and lingerie company helps educate Colombian children and aid mothers to return to work. Naja, through its “Underwear for Hope” line, employs local single mothers, or female heads of household, and provides their children with books, uniforms, school supplies and all school meals.

The company strives to change the dialogue that makes mothers choose between childcare and employment, and helps its female employees to educate their children. On top of that, two percent of Naja’s revenue goes towards local charities that fund continuing education for these women.

Naja empowers not only Colombia’s women and children to become educated but also empowers consumers to help in the process through their purchases.

 

Every Person Counts

While the education crisis is a global one, each person can make a difference. Educating women does not have to solely ride on the backs of the wealthy and the well-connected. The average person can send a girl to school, teach a girl to read and send a woman to college through conscious purchasing and globally-minded companies.

– Emily Degn

Photo: Pixabay

female education in lesotho
The gender gap favoring males in education is largest in low-income countries. But in Lesotho, a small, poor, landlocked country surrounded by South Africa, the gender gap in education favors females. The ratio of female-to-male enrollment rates in secondary education is the highest in the world, with 1.6 females enrolled for every male.

“This is really, really unusual in the developing world,” says Theresa Ulicki, a professor of Gender and Development Studies at Dalhousie University.

Female education in Lesotho is a result of male outmigration to South Africa, which was triggered by high unemployment and poverty. In the late 20th century, over half of the Basotho male population emigrated to South Africa for better wage-earning opportunities. Because cross-border migration to South Africa was almost exclusively male — with most Basotho males staying in South Africa from adolescence to retirement — women outnumbered men in the general population by a ratio of four-to-one.

Employment rates of Basotho men in South Africa have since declined, but the same norms govern gender differences in education and labor force participation. Most males of primary school age are involved in cattle-herding— a practice that requires young boys to withdraw from school and tend cattle for their families — and many male adolescents withdraw from school to find employment in South Africa.

Equal access to education and employment does not necessarily result in gender equality. In Lesotho, the gender gap in education is in some sense evidence of the lower perceived value of women. Women’s literacy rates and other levels of education are higher than those for men, yet most Basotho women work jobs that have lower status and pay.

Other indications of gender inequality in Lesotho include gender‐based violence and related developmental problems. Gender-based violence is a serious problem in Lesotho, where females are marginalized, making them susceptible to HIV/AIDS, abuse and rape. In 2011, the rate of sexual assault in Lesotho was among the highest in the world, with 88.6 rape cases per 100,000 female inhabitants. In 2016, Lesotho had one of the highest numbers of new HIV infections worldwide. Illegal marriages are also prevalent, with 19 percent of Basotho females under age 18 being forced into illegal marriages, often with older men.

Education is a central element in economic development and social progress. However, female education in Lesotho shows that ensuring equal access to education is an important but insufficient step toward social development.

– Gabrielle Doran

Photo: Flickr

Education in Malawi
While the availability of schooling has improved, education in Malawi is still hampered by many issues: insufficient funds, high student to teacher ratios, non-mandatory attendance and irregular attendance and high female dropout rates. Exams also act as a barrier to rather than a bridge towards continued schooling.

Schools are short-staffed, and class sizes of more than 100 children make teaching a tiring profession. In June 2016, the Malawi government was forced to rethink their funding for teachers after a teacher’s strike.

The Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development provided $16 million in funding to hire 10,500 primary school teachers and 466 secondary school teachers next year.

It is vital that the government invests in children’s education and values teachers. However, as CCTV Africa predicts, the Treasurer might have a difficult time procuring the funds promised without foreign aid.

This is a valid concern because the World Bank has decreased the amount it will spend on education in Malawi; it will spend $44.9 million on education in Malawi within the next four years, only half the amount of aid it gave in previous years.

The previous grant with contributions from Germany, UNICEF, IDA and DfID achieved a great deal in five years. Funds from the grant were used to construct 2,936 classrooms and boarding homes and produce 26 million textbooks.

It also provided more than 80,000 children money for school and allowed 23,550 teachers to be trained to initiate a distance learning program. The dispersal of the upcoming grant from the World Bank will be geared towards early education and education for women.

Education in Malawi is at a turning point. Basic needs and accommodations are met, however, the state must further consider the mental well-being of teachers and students.

Recent revisions of the 2016 academic calendar, released last summer, allots days for holidays and midterm breaks. This keeps morale up and gives students a break from their usually rigorous schedule. The Ministry of Education mandates that this schedule applies to both public and private schools, to ensure a healthy learning environment for all.

Another significant change to the secondary school curriculum will take place. The Junior Certificate of Education (JCE), a test used to gauge an individual’s readiness for the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MCSE), will begin to be phased out. Malawi education officials noted that the test had become an obstruction for young women, who are less likely to pass this test due to poor childhood education.

Thus, the ministry moved to drop the test and allow everyone to advance to Form 3 and 4. In these higher-level classes, female students will have 2 more years to study and prepare for the MCSE, and access a larger selection of classes. This will give more girls the opportunity to continue their educations and complete secondary school in a timely manner.

Amy Whitman

Photo: Flickr

women_in_the_middle_east
Women in the Middle East are subjected to extreme patriarchal systems that often deprive them of their human rights and their dignity. In 1995, Dr. Golnar Mehrah a UNICEF education consultant published a report titled “Girls drop out of primary school in the Middle East and North Africa.”

In his report, Dr. Mehrah set out to discover why despite the fact that girls’ enrollment rates had increased significantly since 1985, girls were dropping out before the 5th grade. In this report, he found that there existed a gender disparity in the enrollment of girls in primary school in the Middle East and North Africa. The primary reason for both male and female dropouts in the Middle East and North Africa region was poverty.

Their parents pulled them from school in order to help with domestic and agricultural tasks. In many cases, there were a lack of basic programs for students such as an available teacher for a given grade. In some villages in the Middle East and North Africa regions lack educators past a certain grade level making it difficult for students to be promoted to the next grade.

A report by the Population Reference Bureau on the Middle East and North Africa region sheds light on the challenges that women face in the region. Two key factors highlighted in the report was the MENA culture and the oil based economy. The report shows a clear gender biased toward men in the region.

In the report, women were asked if they could only afford to send one child to a university and they had a son and a daughter who would it be. An overwhelming majority of the women said they would pay for their son over their daughter to go to school. The statistics were shocking with 39 percent in favor of the son going on to higher education and only 8 percent in favor of the daughters.

There is a clear son preference in Middle Eastern culture that has privileged them with certain advantages in their society. In certain places in the MENA region this gender biased is enforced by a set of codified laws. This trend is slowly changing with the rise of women activists in Islamic society who demand better treatment for women.

Recently a news report from U.S. News and World Report shows a rise in enrollment rates for women in several countries in the Middle East and North Africa region as of 2014. The current global score for the Middle East and North Africa region is 31 which is actually higher than the global average of 30.

As foreign aid and development enter the region, many MENA countries are seeing the economic benefits of breaking away from rigid tradition and encouraging women’s participation in education. Egypt, in particular, is making great strides toward women’s education.

Robert Cross

Sources: Public Reference Bureau, UNICEF Report, US News and World Report
Photo: Open Equal Free

First Woman District Governor Aids Development of Afghan Women-TBP

In 2013, Afghanistan’s Independent Directive of Local Governance and the United Nations Development Programme’s Subnational Government Program held merit-based recruitment for District Governors and Civil Servants. One District Governor chosen for a poor province that has lacked local governance for years was Ms. Sayra Shakib Sadat—Afghanistan’s first female District Governor.

Sadat works to help bring the government closer to the people of Kuhwaja Do Koh in the Jawzjan Province. She feels that it is important to hear the demands of the people. That is why, as part of her work, Sadat is focusing on education and the development of Afghan women. She also came from a poor uneducated family, and it was not until later that she received an education and worked her way into politics.

Since Sadat took office, more women and girls are in school and working than ever before. There are programs out that teach women trades and skills so that they can work outside the home.

For example, Sadat set up the Tailoring and Needlework program. The women’s transport fees are paid and they are provided with the tools they will need; therefore, the women have fewer out-of-pocket expenses that could hinder their education. Each year, the technical school graduates roughly 50 successfully skilled women. Sadat even takes the time to visit the school and check on the conditions.

When Sadat took office in January 2013, there were three schools between 32 villages for over 3,000 school-aged girls. Her office has been working to increase the number of schools and ensure that as many of these girls as possible have access to education.

The women in the community fully support her and her strides to educate women to give them the opportunities to be successful. They feel that by having a female District Governor, Sadat can better relate and provide what the women need. The women already feel like actions are taking place and opportunities are changing for the better.

– Katherine Hewitt

Sources: Afghanistan Today, UNDP, Youtube
Photo: UNDP