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Global Girls’ AllianceOn the International Day of the Girl, Michelle Obama, former first lady of the U.S., announced that she is launching the Global Girls Alliance, a program aimed at empowering adolescent girls through education around the world.

The Goal of Global Girls Alliance

The Global Girls Alliance is designed to support grassroots leaders around the world who best understand the unique challenges girls face in their local communities and the strategies needed to overcome them. Obama was inspired to start the alliance during her visit to a local high school in Liberia. Obama stated that the organization is seeking to empower adolescent girls around the world through education so that they can support their families, communities and countries.

She said that she is supportive of the girls that show up every day in school even though their families depend on them to take care of younger siblings, cook meals and ensure their household is running smoothly. They show up even though many are pressured to marry as adolescents, sidetracking their own goals for a man’s. Girls that attend secondary schools have higher salaries, lower infant and mortality rates and are less likely to contract malaria and HIV. Educating girls is not good just for the girl, but for wider communities as well.

Girls’ Educational Issues

According to a U.N. study, there are almost 98 million adolescent girls that are not receiving any form of education. In some countries, it is unsafe for girls to attend school as they can be subjects of sexual harassment, assault, or a dangerous commute. In addition, many adolescent girls are forced to miss school during menstruation due to lack of resources or stigma and some are expected to take on household responsibilities or get married. Child-marriage is also a big issue that perpetuates global poverty, and one major way to reduce child-marriage is to get more girls in school. Through education, women can be empowered and work to eradicate global poverty.

Successful Story

Mainly, the Global Girls Alliance connects with grassroots leaders globally to share ideas and strategies that best work for their community. Among these grassroots leaders is Eliakunda Kaaya from Tanzania, who was the first in her family to graduate from high school and college despite her family’s belief that women shouldn’t attend school. Kaaya has worked as an education mentor for girls and is currently working on girls on reproductive health sessions, as Tanzania’s education policy is that girls cannot attend school if they become pregnant, even after the child is born.

Kaaya hopes the Global Girls Alliance will help this movement move forward with more resources and by mobilizing more members of global communities to be involved in the issues surrounding girls’ education. Kaaya, like many other girls, grew up with this belief in her household and community, but sought education despite it and is empowering girls through education as part of the Global Girls Alliance. “Anything good you see in this world it is because women have been part of it,” Kaaya said in Webster’s interview, reflecting on her meeting with Michelle Obama.

GoFundMe

The program also has a GoFundMe page where donors can give financial support to these grassroots leaders, either as a general donation or to a specific project. Funding is used for scholarships, mentorship programs, entrepreneurship preparations and parental education to ensure girls are supported both at school and within the home.

So far, the campaign has raised $225,907 of their $250,000 goal. Specific project donations include Uganda’s Empower Girls through Education, Malawi’s CRECCOM Equitable Quality Education, India’s SHEF’s Education Initiative, Ghana’s Change the World, Educate a Girl! and Guatemala’s The Thousand Girl Initiative. These donations can reap a large return effect.

According to the World Bank, limiting girls’ education costs countries from $15 to $30 trillion in loss of lifetime productivity and earnings. Educating girls can improve health, economic well-being and overall livelihood of communities. The alliance also seeks to shift the paradigm of girls’ education by advocating for developed countries to spread the word and get involved by spreading awareness.

Education young girls and women, in general, is beneficial for women, but for the whole world as well. Empowering them to step out of their traditional roles and take command over their lives can directly impact GDP growth of the countries. Organizations such as Global Girls Alliance are realizing this potential and are making sure it is being utilized.

– Anna Power
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in EstoniaEstonia, a small Baltic nation, is often perceived by the Western countries as the standard bearer of former communists values that took steps to embrace capitalistic and democratic ideals.

Be that as it may, poverty is still very prevalent in this European nation and living conditions in Estonia are certainly not ideal.

Top 10 facts about living conditions in Estonia, the most important facts, both positive and negative, within the context of Estonians’ access to shelter, education, transportation, health and general well-being will be discussed in this article.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions In Estonia

  1. According to the OECD index, the average Estonian household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is $18,665 a year. This number is significantly lower than the OECD average of $30,563 a year. This figure represents the amount of money available to be spent on necessary goods and services, such as food and heating. With this average, Estonia lacks behind countries such as Slovenia, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.
  2. There is a considerable income disparity between the rich and poor in Estonia. The top 20 percent of the population earn more than five times as much as the bottom 20 percent. In an interview with Estonian Public Broadcasting, the CEO of Swedbank Eesti, Robert Kitt, said that though Estonia has a strong and thriving business sector inequality is also greater than ever before.
  3. Estonia has the most carbon-intensive economy within the OECD. However, with 51 percent of Estonia’s land being forest, Estonians are breathing well. The level of atmospheric particulate matter, air pollutant particles small enough to cause damage to lungs and make breathing harder, is well below the OECD average.
  4. Estonia provides hot school lunches, study books and learning materials for free to students in basic education. This is a standard since 2006 and is a clear step of the country in enabling education more equitable and accessible to everyone. And it has worked since Estonia has one of the highest levels of educational attainment, with 90 percent of people in the age group of 25 from 64 have completed upper secondary education. Estonian women perform exceedingly well in tertiary education with 45 percent of Estonian women completing the third level of education, compared to 28 percent of Estonian men achieving the same feat.
  5. A surprising fact about living conditions in Estonia is that a comparatively high percentage of citizens live below the poverty line. By estimation, 21.1 percent of the population lives under the poverty line, and by this regard, Estonia is similar to nations such as Ecuador and Venezuela, nations that are perceived as being economically unstable and inequitable.
  6. Not everyone in the country is covered by public health insurance. Although pregnant women, children and young adults up to the age 19, old age pensioners and students automatically qualify for Estonia’s public health care, others must work for an employer that pays a social tax to the national government in order to qualify for public health insurance. Otherwise, barring any disabilities, the citizens must purchase their health care privately (or pay a social tax to the national government if they are self-employed).
  7. Estonia has a very small homeless population. The Foundation Abbé Pierre and Feantsa estimate that around 1,371 Estonians are homeless. Lodging shelters, homeless shelters and resource centers have stepped in to help those that are indeed homeless, especially in the most populous city in Estonia, Tallinn, where there is the most need for this aid.
  8. According to the World Bank, in 1994, the average life expectancy of Estonians was at 66.5 years. In 2016, this number was at 77.8 years, Although the life expectancy rate has vastly improved, it still lags behind the average of the European Union. Estonia faces a shortage of nurses and family physicians, as funding for such services has dwindled in rural regions of Estonia. At 6.5 percent of its GDP being spent on health care, Estonia is short of the EU member-state average of 9.9 percent.
  9. About 94 percent of Estonians are insured. The others, uninsured, do receive emergency care, as well as take part in other public health programs and treatments in which the national or city government provides compensation or free care. Tuberculosis and HIV drug treatments are covered by the state in many cases.
  10. Bus transportation is free for Estonian citizens, as long as they are located in a territory that has accepted national government funds to do so. Because of this, travel from outer regions to urban centers such as Tallinn is very affordable, if not free, allowing for more movement of peoples and funds as well.

Like most Western nations, Estonia is no perfect place for all of its people. Poverty is high while general satisfaction is lower than average, but steps have been taken to ensure better living conditions such as access to transportation, education and health care.

In the article, both the negative and positive aspects of Estonia’s current living conditions are presented, as well as the comparison of these living conditions to other nations in order to allow one to more easily discern what life is like for those in Estonia and compare it to their own lives.

– Kurt Thiele
Photo: Unsplash

Sustainable Agriculture in MauritaniaMauritania is a rather large country in western Africa that has abundant natural resources like iron, oil and natural gas. Unfortunately, water and arable land are not at the top of the list. Nearly two-thirds of the nation is desert. Despite the lack of water, nearly half of the nations 3.8 million people make a living from livestock and cereal grain farming. Sustainable agriculture in Mauritania is essential to put this land to its best use and help the rapidly urbanizing population economically.

Promoting Sustainable Agriculture in Mauritania

According to the FAO, the amount of food produced domestically in Mauritania each year only meets one-third of the country’s food needs, leaving the other 70 percent to be imported from other countries. The FAO has been working to increase crop output by promoting and supporting agriculture farming in Mauritania. One such program is the Integrated Production and Pest Managment Program (the IPPM) in Africa.

This program covers nine other countries in West Africa. Since its inception in 2001 as part of the United Nations new millennium programs, the program has reached over 180,000 farmers, 6,800 in Mauritania. In Mauritania, the IPPM program focuses on simple farming techniques to increase both the quantity and quality of the crop yield each year.

These techniques include teaching farmers how to chose the best seeds to plant along with the optimum distance to plant the seeds from one another. The program also educates farmers about the best use of fertilizers and pesticides. Overuse of these chemicals can pollute the already small water supply and harm the crops. The program also teaches good marketing practices to help with crop sales.

Programs Working With Government Support

It is not only outside actors that are promoting sustainable agriculture in Mauritania. The government has been helping as well. A report by the Guardian from 2012 explains the government’s new approach since 2011. The plan includes new irrigation techniques, the promotion of new crops, such as rice, and the training of college students in sustainable agriculture techniques through subsidies.

Data from the World Bank in 2013, showed that the program was slowly succeeding; however, too little water was still the biggest issue. The World Bank and the government of Mauritania are still working towards those goals by building off of the natural resources available. According to the CIA, a majority of the economy and foreign investment in Mauritania involves oil and minerals.

A Work In Progress

Data is not easy to find on the success of these programs after 2016. What can be noted, though, is that programs run by the FAO and other international organizations are still fighting for sustainable agriculture in Mauritania. They have been able to sustain using money from mining and oil that is coming in each year.

While these are certainly not the cleanest ways for a government to make money, it is a reliable way for the foreseeable future. The government has already proven that it is willing to spend this money on its people. Hopefully, the government will continue to invest in its people and sustainable agriculture in Mauritania.

Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Bangladesh
In the last decade, numerous methods, groups and programs have attempted to reduce poverty in Bangladesh. With help from its government, as well as other governments, the nation has managed to reduce its poverty levels by over half in the last decade and is working towards reducing it even further. The country has implemented several successful development innovations. On top of it all, the country is also providing asylum to almost one million Rohingya people.

3 Organizations Reduce Poverty in Bangladesh

What has been done to get Bangladesh to this point? These are three organizations and their efforts that helped reduce poverty in Bangladesh:

  1. BRAC: As of December of 2016, the national aid organization BRAC had reached over 90,000 families in Bangladesh suffering from extreme poverty. BRAC was founded in 1972 in Bangladesh with the goal of discovering the cause of extreme poverty in the nation and ways to relieve its people. The main aim of the organization was to empower the impoverished, especially women, through interventions described as a “poverty graduation” plan. The steps of the plan are as follows: target a group, transfer assets, provide weekly stipends, encourage members to begin a savings account, provide specialized training, introduce health care and integrate the group into society. The poverty graduation plan takes around two years to complete. What’s unique about this program is it provides people with the tools to make this lifestyle sustainable so they will not fall back into poverty (if the tools remain available). To date, more than 95 percent of the participants have reached graduation.
  2. The Grameen Danone Foundation: This foundation was established in 2007. It is a social business model that aims to reduce extreme hunger in Bangladesh through the distribution of affordable yogurt that provides missing nutrients to malnourished people. The foundation created jobs for local farmers and women looking to bring themselves out of poverty. To ensure lasting jobs, the foundation used as little machinery as possible so that production would be more hands-on. On top of such action, Grameen Danone paid laborers at top prices to boost the economy. When acquiring the materials for the yogurt, the foundation goes to local farms and businesses to keep the process at a grass-roots organization level. The main priority of the organization is to provide nutritious products to extreme poverty areas at an affordable rate, while also providing jobs to those looking to help themselves.
  3. The Poverty Eradication Program (PEP): PEP is a non-profit, non-governmental (NGO) organization operating at the national level in Bangladesh. PEP focuses on rural poverty in its most extreme variations and works with the people to provide them with resources that will allow them to rise out of poverty. The organization specializes in economic, social and environmental empowerment. For example, in some instances, PEP helps families start up small businesses that will not only empower them but the whole community they live in as well. PEP will provide the resources needed to start the business then watch as it flourishes. They accomplish such feats through grants, training or offering the tools required for business.

Daily Improvement

Organizations and charities recognized that investing in the people of Bangladesh was the best way to reduce poverty. World Bank group president, Jim Yong Kim, gave a speech in 2017 praising the efforts made by Bangladesh. One of his most important points was that between 2003 and 2013, women’s employment jumped from seven million to seventeen million.

Bangladesh aims to become a middle-income country by 2021 and to eradicate most, if not all, poverty by 2030. With the help and compassion from several organizations and the government, there has been great progress to reduce poverty in Bangladesh. Many other countries could follow suit and learn from Bangladesh’s poverty reduction efforts.

– Miranda Garbaciak
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in The Democratic Republic of the CongoPoverty in the Democratic Republic of The Congo (DRC) can be interpreted as a combination of spillover conflict from neighboring African nations, as well as an embedded culture of governmental corruption. In the text below, the top 10 facts about poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will address the underlying causes, as well as how DRC has been able to improve impoverished conditions in recent years.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

  1. The Democratic Republic of Congo has a population of approximately 78 million people. Out of this number, 80 percent of the population live in extreme poverty. DRC is classified internationally as the country of medium concerning human development. Indicators of human development measure parameters such as population’s well being, regarding life expectancy, child/maternal mortality, infant mortality, malnutrition and mortality associated with a disease.
  2. Wealth is unequally distributed, far better in urban over rural areas and wealth is a determinant for access to sanitation and medical services. The poor in rural areas are most affected.
  3. Poverty is also a direct consequence of the political conflict that occurred during the 1990s, called the First and Second Congo War. The country has seen a dramatic transformation from a state engulfed in brutal genocidal violence into a relatively stable post-conflict society. Poverty is a byproduct of political violence that in turn has significant economic and social repercussions. The consequences of the war can be seen even today, as more than 900,000 people were displaced from the country. in 2016 War-torn communities have left approximately 4 million children orphans or living on the streets.
  4. Contrary to popular belief, poverty and development are linked. As African nations develop, their populations rise as a result. However, the flip side to this is that malnutrition and new diseases spread as the existing system of governance cannot keep up with the uptick of the population.
  5. DRC transitioned from a Marxist to free market economy that has relied heavily on wealth from the mining industry. Upon the transition, the new economy has not been managed appropriately, as wealth is spent lavishly on the patronage of government officials instead of humanitarian efforts.
  6. War impacted on poverty since infrastructure communities that rely on for clean water and sanitation were destroyed, contributing to the spread of disease. Waterborne diseases, such as diarrhea, cholera and malaria are the most common and deadly in the country. Less than one-fourth of DRC’s population has access to clean drinking water and sanitation services. DRC has a 45 percent inoculation rate of malaria, resulting from lack of access to cleaning drinking water and poor nutrition. Approximately 40 percent of deaths in the country is related to malaria.
  7. DRC’s governmental structure has had a tumultuous relationship with the population, engaging in genocidal violence during internal conflict, and an unstable kleptocratic government post-conflict system. Historically, the country functions under an economy and government of affection. Primarily, government investment is spent on personal relations to buy popular support, rather than on social programs that would earn support.
  8. The people of the DRC look to the international community and nongovernmental organizations for assistance. The Nouvelle Esperance (New Hope) program offered great assistance in the Millennium Declaration that is based in human development and humanitarian assistance but also has specific goals to eliminate poverty all together using a strategy that fosters national and international stability. The Global Partnership plays an integral role in improving education in the DRC, increasing access to education by providing $20 million in learning materials and renovating 728 classrooms. Other notable contributions have come from UNICEF and USAID that aid and monitor the quality of the services that the country’s government provides.
  9. Significant assistance programs have been provided by transnational banks such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank. African Development Bank’s helps reduce infant and maternal mortality rates through programs that equally distribute medical supplies. World Bank’s helps with the program aimed to increase standards of living through sanitation, energy and various accessible social services. World Bank has 29 total projects active in the country representing a total of $3.8 billion. World Bank has also funded medical projects assisting the DRC in the successful eradication of poliomyelitis. Since World Bank began humanitarian projects in the DRC in the post-conflict era of the 1990s, there is a vast improvement since the strategy has shifted away from emergency assistance programs to sustainable growth strategies.
  10. Different organizations are helping the country’s situation. With the help of the U.N. which the Democratic Republic of Congo joined in 2000, the country has successfully been able to demobilize and improve health and education opportunities. Britain’s Department of International Development has developed an initiative that aims to support long-term programs that tackle the underlying issues of poverty, with the goal of cutting the number of people in poverty in half, as well as ensuring all children have a primary education, sexual equality, a reduction in child and mother death rates and environmental protection. Other notable contributions have come from the French and Belgian governments that foster public management of resources as well as public administrative support.

These top 10 facts about poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo provide an understanding of not only how poverty developed in the country and the effects poverty has had on the people, but also working solutions to address this issue. The Democratic Republic of the Congo can also provide an example of success for other post-conflict societies in improving poverty rates.

– Kimberly Keysa
Photo: Flickr

Everything You Need to Know About Girls' Education in Samoa and PrincipeGirls’ education is an important facet of an impoverished country. An educated female population lowers birth rates, improves children’s well being, grows the size of the country’s workforce and increases household incomes. This impact holds true in the small island countries of Samoa and Principe. While both countries are making improvements, there are still obstacles that face girls’ education in Samoa and Principe.

Statistics of Girls’ Education

According to UNICEF data, a majority of females between the ages of 15 and 24 in Samoa and Principe read. In Samoa, the literacy rate for young females is 99 percent. Comparatively, the rate of literate females in Principe is 77 percent.

While the majority of females attend primary school in Samoa, the case is not the same for secondary school. Eighty-nine percent of Samoan females enrolled attend primary school, which is roughly 1 percent higher than male attendance. In secondary school, only 69 percent of girls enrolled attend class. In addition, the gap between male and female participation grows; girls’ attendance in secondary school is 19 percent higher than boys.

In Principe, a drop off in secondary attendance for girls is also seen. However, it is much more dramatic. Roughly 85 percent of females enrolled in primary school attend a school which is at parity with the male population. In secondary school, female attendance drops to 30 percent while male enrollment drops to 29 percent.

Child Marriage

There are many reasons that girls do not seek education beyond primary school. One of these is child marriage, which affects both Samoa and Principe. In Samoa, seven percent of adolescent females are married, and in Principe, almost 20 percent of adolescent females are married. Child marriage ends a girl’s education since she is expected to take care of the household. Once a girl gives birth, the responsibility of a child makes it even more difficult for her to return to school.

Poverty

The largest obstacle to girls’ education in Samoa and Principe is poverty. In Samoa, the per capita income has risen to 5,038 talas or roughly $2,000, meaning the country has moved out of the least developed country category. However, the country’s infrastructure and the economy are vulnerable to natural disasters. In 2009, Samoa was hit by a tsunami that affected its economy and destroyed four primary schools and one secondary school, leaving over 1,000 children without a classroom.

Poverty poses a larger problem for girls’ education in Principe. Roughly 29 percent of the country’s population is reported to live in extreme poverty. In Principe, there is a severe lack of opportunity for its people, which discourages education. In 2015, the country’s human development index was .574, which placed it 142 out of 188 countries. In addition, the unemployment rate was roughly 13 percent.

Geography

Geography also affects girls’ education in Principe. Girls who live in urban areas are more likely to go to secondary school than girls who live in rural areas. Roughly 19 percent of girls who live in urban areas attend secondary school. Comparatively about 7 percent of girls who live in rural areas attend secondary school.

Improving Girls’ Education

Despite roadblocks facing girls’ education in Samoa and Principe, there are several organizations working in both countries to help improve conditions, including the World Bank. In Principe, the World Bank Group approved the Quality Education for All project. The goal of this million dollar project is to improve the quality of education that students receive. Since the project was approved in 2014, the number of qualified primary teachers has risen from 0 to 372. In addition, 50 percent of female students in primary school have benefited from the program.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is another group aimed at improving girls education in Samoa. After the tsunami in 2009, UNICEF and the Samoan Ministry of Education worked to move displaced children to host schools. UNICEF provided tents to the host schools to use as classrooms since the schools were receiving an influx of new children. Teachers also received psycho-social training from UNICEF to help students recover from any trauma that was a result of the tsunami.

The Government of Samoa has also taken action to improve girls’ education. In 2015, the Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi opened National Literacy Week, which encourages parents to read to their children and for children to take their education seriously. The week also includes reading and writing competitions and a book fair. Students from all over Samoa represent their schools in four zones and compete against each other in order to promote reading inside and outside the classroom.

Girls’ education in Samoa and Principe faces many challenges, including child marriage and poverty. However, a majority of females in both countries are literate and attend primary school. There are also several organizations in both countries working to improve the quality of education girls receive and that natural disasters do not get in the way of girls attending school. Organizations like UNICEF and the World bank give girls in Samoa and Principe hope for a brighter future.

– Drew Garbe
Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in AngolaAs of 2016, Angola was the United States’ fourth largest African trading partner. This is primarily due to the vast oil reserves that exist within Angola’s borders. Because of the lucrative nature of oil exports, these reserves are a crutch that Angola’s economy relies heavily upon. Oil, as a commodity, has a predictive economic effect. The global economy experiences an ebb and flow that roughly mirrors oil prices. Angola, due to its heavy reliance on oil exports, is a microcosm of this pattern, meaning that its economy is at the mercy of shifting global oil prices. As of August 2, 2018, the price of a crude oil barrel was at a moderately strong $70. This is a slight boon to Angola’s economy, but will likely be short-lived as powerful global players such as the United States and China begin maneuvering to reduce their reliance on unclean energy sources.

Economic Diversification

Economic growth and longevity in Angola are reliant on sector diversification. If the nation continues to rely heavily on its oil production, then it will not be able to achieve economic stability and robustness in the coming years. Developing and growing new economic sectors often requires start-up capital in the form of investments and loans. Despite strong financial institutions, credit portfolios are limited in Angola across both the private and public sector. Increasing credit access options in Angola is key to its success as a developing nation.

A variety of institutions and initiatives exist that aim to increase credit access in Angola. Chief among them is Angola’s own governing body, the Government of the Republic of Angola (GRA). In 2015, the GRA created both new legislation and a new agency dedicated to investment and exports. Both these initiatives were established with the hope of employing start-up capital to bolster economic diversification and reduce reliance on oil in the nation.

Credit Access in Angola

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) began a program in 2014 aimed specifically at Angola’s small and medium business sectors. Credit access across these sectors is chronically low, which results in drastically reduced economic growth. USAID’s 2014 credit access program revolves around a partnership with Banco Keve, a bank headquartered in Angola’s capital, Luanda. This partnership provided the program with increased financial mobility, which allowed it to offer $4.8 million in loans to businesses lacking credit access in Angola. Ninety-six percent of these loans were utilized, and 38 percent went to women-led small- and medium-sized businesses.

Recently, credit access in Angola has received local support. This summer, the African Development Bank approved $100 million worth of credit to be received by Angola’s primary investment bank, Banco Angolano de Investimentos (BAI). This funding is to be focused on the development of a new facility dedicated to providing capital support for small and medium businesses involved in international trade. The timing of this deal is key, as banks in Angola have been facing difficulties of securing credit access dedicated to trade support for local businesses.           

Even as credit access in Angola has been buoyed by international and local support, it still faces significant challenges. Angola remains quite low on the World Bank’s 2018 Doing Business index, which reduces the potential for foreign investment. This is only compounded by steadily declining economic growth within the nation. Clearly, Angola is presented with a long road towards inclusive credit access and economic diversification. Luckily, more and more institutions and agencies are stepping in to contribute to the cause. With this growing support, Angola now wields an ever-expanding credit-based toolkit that will aid it in weathering an ever-changing global economic climate.   

Ian Greenwood
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Fiji
Fiji is currently in the midst of altering their education system to better incorporate girls and empower them to lead more fulfilling lives. About 83 percent of students in Fiji — both male and female — complete their compulsory education; however, it has been found that girls’ education in Fiji lacks STEM subjects and menstrual health.

Fijian Culture and Views About Women

The culture of Fiji has remained traditional, and until the early 2000s, still viewed its women as inferior to its men. The World Bank reported that in 2012, young girls — although educated — were often domesticized directly after completing their compulsory education.

It was noted in the same World Bank report that boys are more likely to focus their attention on making money, while girls are expected to live almost solely within the home. As of 2016, 41 percent of women and 76 percent of men work in the labor force of the Fiji Islands.

To change the outcome of girls’ future, the Fiji government is encouraging young girls to engage more with nontraditional, ‘non-female’ education tracks like math, physics and science. Leadership works to accomplish such prioritization through altering education systems to index young girls’ early education towards these STEM subjects. However, the World Bank found that in 2013, only 3.88 percent of the country’s GDP is spent on education.

Changing the STEM Status Quo

Nevertheless, Fiji’s government has promised to alter its education budget so that primary and secondary education facilities throughout Fiji receive proper funding for STEM subjects. The purpose of pushing these subjects is to encourage young girls (and later women) of Fiji to pursue careers in technological, mathematical and scientific fields, which have historically been dominated by men.

This gender disparity in STEM fields can be seen at the Water Authority of Fiji (WAF), an organization formed by the Fiji government to provide a sustainable and effective water system for the country. As of 2017, only four percent of the engineering and technical staff and about 25 percent of the entire staff of WAF are female.

This gender imbalance at WAF can be traced back to gender stereotypes that dominate much of Fiji’s culture, and discourage women from entering male-dominated fields.

Finding Empowerment Through Education

To combat much of the traditional gender segregation embedded in the mindset of Fiji’s society, The World Bank suggests that Fiji begin to teach courses on gender, like the empowerment of women, in schools.

Fiji also has struggled to teach young girls about menstrual health and hygiene due to shaming. Fiji’s education board classifies menstrual health as a ‘women-only’ issue and therefore does not educate male students about the subject. This separation has created a divide in education amongst the students and thus the society.

Moreover, labeling menstrual health as a ‘women-only’ issue has made the subject taboo for men in Fiji. This restriction often translates to the shaming women for their education of the topic. UNICEF’s menstrual health and hygiene assessment found that the number one reason girls are dissuaded from continuing with education in menstrual health is that of the taunting they receive from their male counterparts.

Female Under-Representation in Leadership

As a result of the inadequate girls’ education in Fiji, there remains a major under-representation of women in senior positions of power — in parliament, managerial roles, deans of education and many others. The Human Rights Commission found that in 2016, only 16 percent of Fiji’s parliament was made up of women.

Moreover, as of 2004, only five percent of directors of publicly listed companies were women, 14 percent of legal partnerships were held by women, and about 15 percent of professors and associate professors at universities in New Zealand were female.

Much of the inconsistencies amongst genders comes from the cultural norms of New Zealand. The norm of New Zealand is that the woman cares for the home and the children, while the man works. As a country, New Zealand has struggled to shake the idea of the “domestic woman” and the “working man” from its public perception. Consequently, women’s jobs, girls’ education and overall female opportunities have suffered.

Attaining Equality for Girls’ Education in Fiji

Fiji has strived for equality and has recognized that their major setbacks — particularly in girls’ education — are hindering them from reaching such a goal. These setbacks are large and are deeply rooted in the cultural norms of the country.

Nevertheless, the fight for girls’ education in Fiji has remained firm in ensuring that the government’s promise — to provide female students with equal opportunities — is pushed through to completion. It remains to be seen, however, how Fiji’s government will further drive the equality agenda, and how much of a priority equal education will continue to be.

– Isabella Agostini
Photo: Flickr

US Backs World Bank Capital Increase
The World Bank has secured a $13 billion paid-in capital increase by committing to reforms in its lending programs. The increase, opposed until recently by the Trump administration, will help the bank continue its mission of alleviating poverty and supporting international economic development.

The World Bank

The World Bank is a multilateral institution that supports developing countries through loans and grants for investment in education, healthcare, infrastructure and a variety of other initiatives that accelerate and sustain economic growth. Given its status as a nonprofit organization, the bank is willing to fund projects in poorer and riskier countries that privately funded and profit-focused organizations may not be willing to.

The World Bank must have a secure capital base in order to lend this money. This funding is supplied by its 189 member countries, with the United States (17.25 percent of total subscribed capital), Japan (7.42 percent), and China (4.78 percent) providing the most capital and thus being among its largest shareholders.

In 2015, The World Bank set a goal for a capital increase for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and International Finance Corporation (IFC), two of its lending arms, by the end of 2017.

International Economic Development and the U.S.

Initially, this goal faced a major obstacle: the United States government. A contributor of approximately 16 percent of the bank’s capital, the United States is The World Bank’s largest shareholder and the only member to have veto power over changes in the bank’s structure, giving it the capability to block the increase.

In 2017, the Trump administration expressed skepticism over the capital increase, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressing concerns that too much lending is being directed to upper middle-income countries that have plentiful sources of credit. Mnuchin contended that the bank should target lower income countries, supporting international economic development in locations more in need of a source of loans and grants.

In April, following a World Bank agreement to commit to certain reforms, the United States pivoted from its previous objection and supported the increase, resulting in an injection of $13 billion of paid-in capital from the bank’s shareholders and channeling more resources to developing countries.

Global Financing

Lending is now expected to average around $100 billion annually until 2030, compared to $59 billion last year — a stark increase that will ensure funding for the bank’s ongoing initiatives. To cite a recent example of the bank’s capital being put to work, The World Bank approved an $180 million guarantee to Kenya in April to encourage private sector financing in the country’s largest electricity company and increase energy security.

The aforementioned reforms accompanying the capital increase will result in a greater share of initiatives directed to lower-income markets. Countries classified in the lower- to mid-range of the IBRD income classifications currently receive approximately 60 percent of IBRD commitments, and the reform package will seek to elevate that to 70 percent.

Hurdles and Hope

These reforms mean that the bank’s increased capital will be in service of supporting international economic development for countries on the lower end of the income spectrum.

The ultimate success of the capital injection and its associated reforms will be determined in the years to come, but by overcoming the Trump administration’s initial reservations and obtaining funding, the World Bank, backed by the U.S. and other shareholders, has secured its role as a leading institution for economic development for the foreseeable future.

– Mark Fitzpatrick
Photo: Google

US Investments Strengthening Education in TunisiaThe United States has invested $100 million in strengthening education in Tunisia, Africa. The project, known as Strengthening Foundations for Learning, is designed to support the government in addressing major challenges in primary education.

What Will the Project Do?

The main goal is to direct resources toward key areas for a transformative impact on student learning. The project will focus on expanding access to quality early childhood education, strengthening literacy and numeracy in the early grades, improving teacher skills and improving school management, accountability and student assessment.

Investment in high-quality early childhood education is one of the most cost-efficient investments in human capital. These investments have been linked to significant improvement in primary education grade promotion, reduction in repetition and dropout rates.

“By investing in education, Tunisia is investing in the future,” says Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb. “Quality basic education is a way of giving children the opportunity to become active participants in the transformation of the societies in which they live, and to contribute to future growth and prosperity.”

Who Will the Project Benefit?

The Strengthening Foundations for Learning Project will improve learning conditions in public preschools and primary schools. Increasing access to public preschool education in selected districts will be a main focus as well as strengthening management practices in education. The project aims to empower school leaders and instructional staff to work collaboratively to raise student achievement by strengthening education in Tunisia.

The direct project beneficiaries include an estimated 1,144,000 students attending public preschools and primary schools. Another 64,000 primary school teachers will benefit from improved opportunities for professional development. Furthermore, 5,360 primary school directors and deputy directors, 615 pedagogical inspectors and 850 pedagogical counselors will benefit from this project.

“Tunisia has successfully addressed issues of access to schooling, having achieved universal primary education and gender parity more than two decades ago, but the quality of education has suffered and students need to be supported in developing strong foundational skills,” says Michael Drabble, World Bank Senior Education Specialist and co-Task Team Leader.

What Does Strengthening Education in Tunisia Mean?

There are four core components attached to this project investment for strengthening education in Tunisia:

  1. Improving quality and increasing supply of public preschool education at an estimated total cost of $19.6 million.
  2. Improving learning conditions in public primary schools at an estimated total cost of $46.6 million.
  3. Strengthening management practices in the education sector at an estimated total cost of $32.5 million.
  4. Project Management Support at an estimated total cost of $1.3 million.

“Teachers need access to relevant and well-designed professional development programs to help them adapt new instructional methods to boost learning in the classroom. Well-prepared and committed school leaders are needed to turn around poor performing schools,” says Samira Halabi, World Bank Senior Education Specialist and co-Task Team Leader of the project.

This type of investment will provide unprecedented strengthening of education in Tunisia benefiting thousands of primary education students. Tunisia has a total of 2,199,000 students enrolled in primary and secondary education. Of these students, about 1,047,000, or 48 percent, are enrolled in primary education.

In Tunisia, the primary net enrollment rate is 99 percent and the primary completion rate is 102 percent. Both of these indicators provide a sense of the progress the country is making toward universal primary education.

The United States investment in Strengthening Foundations for Learning is a generous one with only beneficial outcomes. Continuously strengthening education in Tunisia is only going to provide better education and more access so that the country can grow and improve.

– Richard Zarrilli
Photo: Flickr