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Costa Rica’s SuccessWhile numerous well-publicized problems plague many Latin American countries, especially in Central America, Costa Rica’s success as a nation stems from several factors. For decades, Costa Rica has had a more open political system and provided a better quality of life than its neighbors. Costa Rica is considered one of the happiest and most sustainable countries in the world. As news stories of Central America are often negative, Costa Rica provides a success story that inspires hope.

Political Stability and Representation

Since 1949, Costa Rica has maintained a stable and democratic government. Therefore, Costa Rica has avoided the political and gang violence that other Central American countries struggle with. Costa Rica has a strong constitution that enshrines many democratic rights, ensuring that rights are not eroded and that Costa Rican people are represented. Many people credit democratic values for Costa Rica’s success.

Costa Rica’s government has gained a reputation in Latin America for its socially progressive policies. Moreover, these politics led to much greater female representation in government than in many comparable countries. The nation has had a female president and has a very high proportion of women in its legislature. Women now comprise 45.6% of the legislature, which is the ninth-highest in the world.

The Economy, Education and Healthcare

Costa Rica has one of the most developed economies in Latin America. The economy is generally stable and had not experienced a significant downturn in decades until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The poverty rate halved in the past two decades and the country maintains a strong export economy. The country grows at an economic rate of 2.5%  annually. Costa Rica’s success in the economic realm is also because the government does not have an army, freeing up funds to spend on social programs and development.

Costa Rica is considered an upper-middle-income country with the lowest poverty rate in Central America. About 20% of the country earns less than $155 a month, pushing them into the poverty category. In terms of the international poverty line, less than 2% of Costa Ricans are considered impoverished —  an impressive accomplishment.

Costa Rica has a high-quality education system and its citizens have a high reputation for being well-educated. Education in the country is sufficiently accessible. Furthermore, according to the World Economic Forum, Costa Rica invested 8% of its GDP into education in 2019. Costa Rica has the second-highest life expectancy in North America, just behind Canada. Furthermore, the country’s robust healthcare system is considered to be one of the best in Latin America.

Happiness and Sustainability

Costa Rica was ranked the most sustainable and happy country on Earth by the Happy Planet Index. The country’s commitment to green energy and environmental sustainability can provide an example for the rest of the world. Costa Rica generates more than 99% of its energy from renewable sources, primarily relying on hydropower. It has also reversed deforestation and designated one-third of its land as protected natural reserves. This environmental protection preserves the country’s beauty and supports the tourism industry, a vital part of the economy.

Clay Hallee
Photo: Flickr

Youth Workforce
Pakistan is looking to bridge the skills gap between Pakistan’s youth workforce and the upcoming demands of its rising technology and automation markets. Structural change is necessary for Pakistan as the growing youth population faces challenges such as a rising unemployment rate and socioeconomic and gender disparities that keep students out of the classroom. In 2020, youth in Pakistan faced an unemployment rate as high as 8.5%; today, approximately 44% of children and teenagers are out of school. With 64% of the population younger than 30, Pakistan has more young people than ever who have the power to revolutionize its workforce by becoming re-skilled in relevant and desirable industries.

Pakistan’s Fourth Industrial Revolution

Pakistan is ushering in its fourth industrial revolution with a big challenge to overcome: enrolling more youth in schools where they can begin working with technology at an early age. This is especially critical as countries are growing increasingly dependent on online learning and employment during the worldwide COVID-19 crisis.

Pakistan’s rising investments in automation, e-commerce, digital payment systems and more requires the youth workforce to keep pace with new technologies. Such growth poses many new opportunities for the nation, including modernizing technology and making tasks such as digital banking and online learning easier.

According to Parwaaz, a reskilling initiative that the World Economic Forum supports, the top 10 skills of 2025 include:

  • Technology Use & Monitoring
  • Technology Design
  • Critical Thinking & Analysis
  • Active Learning & Learning Strategies
  • Reasoning, Problem Solving & Ideation
  • Analytical Thinking & Innovation
  • Resilience & Stress Tolerance
  • Complex Problem Solving
  • Leadership & Social Influence
  • Creativity & Originality

These skills can take the Pakistani youth beyond their current capabilities by smoothing their transition into the workforce while giving existing employees opportunities for career advancement.

A Multistakeholder Approach to Success

Pakistan’s largest skills development fund, the Punjab Skills and Development Fund (PSDF), is partnering with the World Economic Forum to join the “Reskilling Revolution.” According to Managing Director Saadia Zahidi, the goal of the revolution is to bring better work, skills and education to over 1 billion people by 2030. Challenges to reskilling include high costs, disconnects between training and relevant skills and few private training opportunities. However, with the launch of Parwaaz, a more structured form of reskilling is underway.

A multi-stakeholder public and private skills training initiative, Parwaaz has pinpointed six sectors that require trained workers in order to accommodate future market demands. These sectors include:

  • ICT
  • Financial Services
  • Textile
  • Hospitality
  • Retail and Services
  • Manufacturing & Light Engineering
  • Agriculture & Livestock

Parwaaz is expecting to change the core skills of 40% of workers in the country, raise the rate of automation from 33% in 2020 to 47% by 2025 and give two out of three employers returns on human capital investment. It plans to achieve this by creating incubators that will train 1,000 young people by June 2021 in market-relevant skills. Parwaaz will continue to function with financial and policy support from the Pakistani government and support from other stakeholders such as educational institutions and industry experts.

Integrating Pakistan’s youth workforce into new, more advanced markets is a nationwide effort that will result in high-performing companies, skilled employees, increased innovation and a stable structure for the future. Ultimately, investments in technology, automation and the growing youth workforce will lead to a brighter future for everyone while helping lift vulnerable populations of poverty.

Julia Ditmar
Photo: Flickr

addressing gender inequality in EgyptEgypt recently launched the “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator” to reinforce its stance on female economic gender discrimination. This initiative is a partnership between the World Economic Forum (WEF), National Council of Women, the Egyptian Government and the private business sector. The financial and human capital investment in this undertaking shows that the country is committed to addressing gender inequality in Egypt.

Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator

In 2019, Egypt’s Minister of Tourism, International Cooperation and Investment, Dr. Rania Al-Mashat, signed a letter of intent along with the WEF and the National Council of Women to empower women. More than 48 million women represent this emerging countries’ population and the good news is that their involvement will expedite the growth of the economy and gather momentum in eliminating poverty.

Each party has a specific role in the program’s success. Businesses will be tasked with the presence of additional women in the workforce, equal pay and professional development. Other benefits included are extended maternity leave for either parent and subsidized childcare to offset barriers that will cause women to fall behind, lose their position or not enter the labor force.

Egypt’s government, which has invested more than $3 billion in this project, will incentivize strategies and track the program’s evolution. In addition, the legislature has the commitment of more than 90 businesses.

Objectives of the Accelerator

Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator’s mission has four objectives: eliminate the gender pay gap, ensure more women are promoted into business management roles, expand their growth in the workforce and make sure that women are poised to work in a society that is will be powered by the likes of digital technology and artificial intelligence along with robotics.

One of the co-chairs of the private sector for the Accelerator, the Commercial International Bank known as Qalaa Holdings, firmly believes in empowering women in the workplace and it has demonstrated that by having 25% of the company’s executive board and leadership positions filled by women.

While the Accelerator is focused on women’s success in the economy, it also takes into account how women are viewed in the male-dominated workforce. Creating a safe climate in companies is just as important so the unfair barometers that women are measured by have to be eliminated as well as dismantling the discriminatory behavior toward them.

Global Gender Equality

Egypt is one out of nine countries, and the first country in Africa to set in motion a project of this magnitude created by the WEF.  After more than 10 years of researching global gender inequality issues, WEF realized that it would take nearly 100 years for political gender parity to be achieved. Women comprise 50% of the global population in most countries and to purposely exclude them from the equation would seriously compromise a society’s overall economic and societal impact worldwide.

WEF’s Accelerators to Close the Gender Gap

To combat this shortcoming, WEF created accelerators and issued a challenge to nations that want to close the economic gender gap. Public and private entities form accelerators to be inclusive of women in business, from job recruitment to job promotions and work on eliminating prejudice against them. Each country is on a three-year timetable (countries start date varies) and the WEF preserves the global structure of the project while the countries operate independently in the communities.  So far, Iceland has seen the most success out of the nine participating countries, by consistently closing the gender parity gap for 11 consecutive years.

A Bright Future for Egyptian Women

The Accelerator is an important tool for addressing gender inequality in Egypt. This initiative is good news for the women of Egypt as it shows the country’s continuous commitment to removing societal hurdles that have unjustly smothered women’s attempts at succeeding in the economy and stifled their much-needed contribution to society.

-Kim L. Patterson
Photo: Flickr

Black PantherWhen Black Panther graced the big screen in 2018, it altered the landscape of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fans marveled at the rise of T’Challa, played by the late Chadwick Boseman. He claimed his birthright amid civil dispute and protected his people from colonization. Fans from every background admired their new hero and shouted “Wakanda Forever” upon leaving the theater.

In the wake of Chadwick Boseman’s death, Black Panther’s influence moved to the forefront of public conversation. At the same time, Marvel fans mourned the loss of their beloved hero and debated possible replacements for the title character, Black Panther-inspired Africa, to reassess its development strategies. Wakanda might be a fictional country, but the World Economic Forum claims it represents a technologically driven and socio-economically responsible vision for Africa.

An Ideal Africa

Wakanda embodies the United Nations 2020 Sustainable Development Goals as it presents an Africa with gender equality, no hunger, no poverty, good health, well-being and clean energy sources. While Africa cannot thrive on the fictional substance of “vibranium,” the World Economic Forum believes it can realize Wakanda’s “4.0 Globalization” by investing in its people, industries and governments. Here are three ways Black Panther is inspiring Africa’s development.

Youth Employment Opportunities

Like Black Panther, African communities see younger people as a developmental asset. T’Challa believed in youth, like his sister Shuri, and the African Development Bank Group does as well.

A 2019 study by the African Development Bank Group found 420 million unemployed young people in Africa, making them a valuable, untapped resource. The World Economic Forum suggested that Africa create over 130 million jobs for young people, doubling the number of opportunities currently available to spur economic growth across the continent. Indeed, the working-age population could increase productivity in industries, ensure economic prosperity and lower poverty rates.

Government Support of SMEs

Wakanda’s economy rivaled that of the most developed countries in our world. Again, “vibranium” will not stabilize African economics as it does not exist. However, the World Economic Forum believes that creating government-backed investment funds might ensure Africa’s economic prosperity.

African governments seem to be getting on board with this plan. They are investing in technological businesses as well as smaller SMEs, like startups. African governments already invested in SMEs within the agricultural industry, like FaLGates rice farms. They also funded healthcare SMEs, like Jamii Africa’s micro-health insurance group.

The World Economic Forum believes that investing in smaller companies could recycle and increase the African nation’s capital. The capital might never meet Wakanda’s gold standard, but it will improve Africa’s poverty rate and stimulate technological advancements.

Protecting Public Interests

Black Panther depicted an idealized version of politics. The film presented T’Challa as a leader who valued his citizens’ feedback and acted on their best interests. However, our political world does not always operate in this way, and corruption often surfaces.

The World Economic Forum claims that one-fourth of Africa’s GDP goes to “disguising” corruption. It suggests that governments become transparent about their programs and practices. Like Wakanda, African governments are fighting corruption and putting their people’s needs first. They are supporting medical programs and clean energy projects.

Black Panther projected a bright future for the African continent: one without poverty, disease or corruption. It also gave hope to a new generation of comic book fans. Chadwick Boseman’s passing once again prompted fans to cry, “Wakanda Forever.” However, Africa’s youth employment opportunities, SME investments and public interest projects will help it realize Wakanda today.

Kyler Juarez
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

gender gap in Latin AmericaRanked the third-highest after Western Europe and North America, Latin America has an average gender gap of 29%. Many Latin American countries are seeing improvements in education, healthcare and shortening the gender gap. According to the World Economic Forum in their Gender Gap Report for 2020, Nicaragua was ranked 5th globally, with 80% of its gender gap closed. On the lower-ranking end of the gender gap in Latin America, Guatemala and Belize have closed 66% and 67% of their gap, respectively. While these percentages are promising, the current COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat to gender equality.

Looming COVID-19 Crisis

Decades worth of progress toward eliminating the gender gap in Latin American could potentially reach a halt or decline with the impending COVID-19 pandemic. Since the onset of the pandemic, stay at home orders have caused an increase in domestic violence. A few examples from Latin America expose the enormity of the issue. In Colombia, the domestic violence helpline has risen by 9%, and by 36% in Mexico. Also, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, a city in Bolivia, has reported the highest number of cases of both domestic violence and COVID-19. The issue is exacerbated as women avoid reaching out to health services in fear of getting the virus.

The other obstacle COVID-19 leads to is losses in jobs, more specifically, the availability of jobs for women. According to the World Bank’s Gender Dimensions of the COVID-19 Pandemic brief, women engaged in informal work such as self-employment and domestic works are unable to receive unemployment insurance. Since COVID-19 has restricted travel, Latin American countries that depend on retail, hospitality and tourism will see half of their working population lose jobs. Additionally, the effects of COVID-19 will force women to stay at home to care for children and the elderly, thus reducing working time and possibly excluding them from the labor market.

Lastly, the COVID-19 crisis will cause setbacks to efforts to reduce teen pregnancy. The shift in resources can interfere with health services for women and girls, including reproductive and sexual health services and family planning. In similar crises, lack of critical resources led to a surge in teen pregnancy and maternal mortality. Although COVID-19 causes a lot of complications surrounding the future of gender equality, there are actions regarding the gender gap in Latin American that governments and institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations can take to continue progressive efforts.

Thus, The World Bank has outlined the following four methods to approach gender equality.

  1. Improving Quality of Life: Latin American countries need to reduce teen pregnancy and maternal mortality, improve water and sanitation services, secure women’s access to healthcare and close educational gaps. The World Bank Group (WBG) supports removing negative gender stereotypes in curriculums and is helping train teachers to create classroom environments that encourage inclusivity. The WBG is also backing programs aimed at supporting girls to enter STEM fields.
  2. Increasing Female Employment: Latin American countries should change gender norms about career choices, provide adequate child care services, create connections for women entrepreneurs and allocate time-saving resources. In Mexico, the WBG partnered with the National Institute of the Entrepreneur to devise and evaluate the institute’s first national program to promote female entrepreneurs, Women Moving Mexico. The pilot was launched in five states and “provided close to 2,000 women with a mix of hard skills (better management and business literacy), and soft skills (behaviors for a proactive entrepreneurial mindset)”.
  3. Removing Barriers to Women’s Financial Independence: The WBG supports efforts to provide land and property titles to women and to increase access to capital and financial services. In partnership with indigenous women’s organizations in Panama, the WBG designed a pilot intervention in six indigenous communities. The pilot supports training designed for indigenous women, technical assistance for women’s producer organizations and financial inclusion through the founding of community banks and financial management training.
  4. Enhancing Women’s Voice & Agency and Engaging Men and Boys: Latin American countries can support gender equality by acknowledging a woman’s right to control her own life. For example, giving women control over income and the capacity to move freely and have a voice in society, including the ability to “influence policy and family formation, and have freedom from violence.”

Bettering COVID-19 Response

The United Nations has also developed a response to the pending COVID-19 and its effect on gender equality. The U.N. seeks to recognize the “impact of COVID-19 on women and girls and ensure a response that addresses their needs and ensures that their rights are central to strengthening prevention, response and recovery efforts.” Institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations make it possible for girls and women in Latin America to aspire for more for themselves in education and career, despite the current setbacks prompted by COVID-19. Within the next couple of years, the gender gap in Latin America could be significantly reduced by promoting women’s rights and giving them access to education and career opportunities.

Mia Mendez
Photo: Pixabay

Covid-19 Crisis
The COVID-19 crisis or coronavirus pandemic continues to grow as the number of global cases rises. With U.S. President Donald Trump approving a fiscal stimulus package of $2.2 trillion, the dire economic ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis grow more significant. Yet, there are disproportionate economic impacts on the world’s poor that highlight the implications of COVID-19 on global poverty.

What the COVID-19 Crisis Means for Global Poverty

Unfortunately, the aftershocks of COVID-19 will destabilize the world economy even further during the beginning of 2020 and beyond. The Asian Development Bank already estimates that the collective global impact of the COVID-19 crisis will be between $77 billion to nearly $347 billion in economic output costs worldwide.

The World Economic Forum calls the COVID-19 crisis a “pandemic in the age of inequality” as it especially impacts countries lacking universal health care or adequate health care systems. Many workers have lost work and are cannot even take paid sick leave of any kind.

“[I] fear hunger will kill us before coronavirus,’’ says Momanned Sabir, a young street entrepreneur in Delhi who owns a yogurt-based drink shop. Her words come in response to the three-week lockdown that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed. Poverty and unemployment impact many daily wage earners and workers in informal and unorganized sectors. This is particularly evident in nationwide lockdowns from India, China, the Philippines, the Middle East and European countries.

Among the 50 countries under the United Nations’ Least-Developed Country Status (LDC), more than 900 million remain vulnerable to the risk of COVID-19. This is due to the poor health care infrastructure and resources to support a large-scale health crisis. Most importantly, many countries continue to be in short supply of testing kits.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed for $2 billion to help the world’s poor who have been impacted by COVID-19. World Health Organization director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus implores G20 nations to offer aid and support low and middle-income countries.

Future Course of Action

Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharamn has proposed an economic stimulus package for financial relief to women and vulnerable groups. For example, there are welfare systems that distribute free gas cylinders, wheat and rice for up to three months. For women in India’s Jan Dhan banking system, the government offers compensation of 500 rupees for the next three months. In addition, India has issued a bailout package of $22 billion to help cushion the economic impacts of its lockdown, especially as several daily wage and unorganized workers have lost out on work and pay during this period.

The number of testing kits will also increase soon due to the invention of a new working test kit by Dr. Minal Dhakave Bhosale. India will thus rely less on more expensive imported kits. There will be a distribution of more than 100,000 kits every week from now on.

Moreover, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has provided $50 billion to control the COVID-19 crisis in low-income countries that seek support through its emergency financing facilities. Along with the IMF, the World Bank is also providing debt relief to poor countries through loans and grants. The group is also working with more than 35 countries to address the economic implications of the pandemic. The World Bank also plans to spend a whopping $160 billion over the next 15 months and is already securing fixed amounts for wide-scale mitigation efforts and projects.

Oxfam International is working on ways to use its knowledge and expertise in public health to better address the ongoing crisis, especially after its work during other outbreaks like Ebola and the Zika virus. Oxfam is also assisting in the delivery of sanitation services and offering accurate information to people.

Looking to the Future

To help those who have lost jobs due to COVID-19, the Asian Development Bank recommends focusing on strengthening social assistance. It also urges attention to upgrading labor market policies and programs.

The COVID-19 crisis could also impact the way the world addresses global poverty going forward, especially given the potential global impacts. It will take long-term development strategies to get low-income workers and poorer communities back on their feet.

Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Flickr

10 facts about living conditions in Paraguay
According to the World Bank report in 2017, Paraguay has achieved impressive economic and shared prosperity over the last 15 years. From 2014 to 2017, Paraguay’s economy grew by 4.5 percent per year on average. In 2015, the middle class made up 38 percent of the total population, almost doubling since 2003.

For Paraguay’s poor, though, living conditions have remained difficult. Indeed, the country ranks fourth in extreme poverty, after Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, according to a 2016 ECLAC report. In the article below, top 10 facts about living conditions in Paraguay are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Paraguay

  1. Inequality is widespread. Though the country’s GINI coefficient, that indicates economic inequality, has dropped from 0.51 to 0.47, there is still a significant gap between rich and poor Paraguayans. According to the General Statistics Surveys and Census Bureau (DGEEC), the poorest 40 percent of Paraguayans earn only 12.5 percent of the nation’s revenue, while the richest 10 percent earn 37.1 percent of the total income.
  2. Underemployment is high and working conditions are poor. In 2017, underemployment was recorded at 19 percent, while 20 percent of Paraguayans worked less than 30 hours per week. In the Chaco region of Paraguay, region dominated by large-scale cattle agricultural facilities, some workers characterized their working conditions as a form of slave labor.
  3. Small-scale farmers are losing their jobs due to the big agricultural companies. Almost 90 percent of the land belongs to just 5 percent of landowners. The rural-urban economic gap is the result of large-scale agriculture steadily monopolizing the market in Paraguay. Studies have confirmed that, between 1991 and 2008, when the last National Agricultural Census was conducted, the number of farms and homesteads covering less than 100 hectares has shrunk, while those between 100 and 500 hectares has risen by almost 35 percent, and massive plantations covering more than 500 hectares are up by almost 57 percent. In late March 2017, 1,000 farmers converged on Asunción, country’s capital, in an annual march, demanding agrarian reform.
  4. Paraguayan democracy is lacking in social components. It consists almost exclusively to ensure that institutions function, elections are held regularly and transparently. A steady stream of scandals has revealed widespread fraud and corruption.
  5. One-fifth of the people who live in Asunción live in slums. Although complete official accounting of informal settlements is not available, the National Housing Bureau, SENAVITAT, estimates that there are 1,000 slum areas around the city. Slums along the flood-prone riverbanks of the city sometimes house up to 100,000 people. There has been a dramatic increase in the production of social housing for low-income families living in Asunción. In 2016, the Ministry built more than 10,000 low-income housing units, compared to less than 2,000 units built in 2014.
  6. Paraguayans face hunger and malnutrition. Only 6 percent of agricultural land is available for domestic food production, while 94 percent is used for export crops. According to the Food Security Index, around 10 percent of children under the age of 5 currently suffer from stunting. Nearly 27 percent of pregnant women are underweight, while 30 percent are overweight.
  7. Educational attainment is lacking. The 2016-2017 Global Competitive Index of the World Economic Forum ranked the overall quality of Paraguay’s primary education system at the 136th place out of 138 countries. Around 65 percent of children do not complete secondary education which is one of the highest dropout rates in Latin America. The latest 2017 household survey showed that about 5 percent of the adult population, or roughly 280,000 people, are still illiterate. This number has not decreased over the past decade.
  8. The rates of poverty and extreme poverty among indigenous people are at 75 percent and 60 percent, respectively. Factors such as corruption, the concentration of land ownership and environmental degradation combined with institutional weaknesses hinder progress in alleviating poverty and create obstacles for the indigenous people to maintain access to their fundamental rights, such as water, education and health care. The rate of chronic malnutrition among the indigenous population is 41.7 percent. Some indigenous communities have seen improvements, though, in regards to increased food security. A food-security cash-transfer program, Tekoporã, expanded to cover more indigenous population- from 3 percent in 2013 up to nearly 70 percent in 2018.
  9. Health care is not accessible to everyone. An estimated 40 percent of the population is unable to afford health care of any kind. Around 7 percent have private health coverage and 20 percent are covered by the health services of the social security institute, the Instituto de Previsión Social. The rest depend on the public health system.
  10. Paraguay has made giant leaps in increasing access to clean drinking water. The country triumphantly achieved almost complete access to safe drinking water among its rural population, from 51.6 percent in 2000 to 94 percent in 2017.

These 10 facts about living conditions in Paraguay provide a snapshot of the experience of Paraguay’s poor and exemplify that economic growth does not always translate to improved living conditions for everyone.
Photo: Flickr

Women's empowerment in Kazakhstan
Since gaining independence in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has come to have a population of 17.8 million. Its president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has been in power since independence. Not only is the country’s population large, but so is its geographic size, being no smaller than Western Europe. Though the country may face issues in some areas, the issue of women’s empowerment in Kazakhstan is better than it is in some other countries.

The percentage of women in the national parliament in Kazakhstan is equivalent to that of France, ranking Kazakhstan 47th in the world. This ranking is nearly 30 spots higher than the U.S., which is ranked 76th when it comes to the country’s percentage of women in national parliaments.

Similarly, 66 percent of entrepreneurs in Kazakhstan are women and in 2011, 34.4 percent of businesses in the country were either owned or partly-owned by women. Statistics like these are what contribute to Kazakhstan’s rank of 43 out of 142 countries when considering gender equality.

The country’s effort to support entrepreneurship among its female population is evident with its support of the UNDP Country Development Programme Document for 2016-2020, which aimed, among many other things, to provide more specialized support to female entrepreneurs. This document was created with the help of Kazakhstan’s government.

However, the country still faces problems when it comes to the issue of violence against women. In 2016, there were 2481 registered cases of violence against women and young girls, though this number does not account for undocumented violence. In the same year, 778 women died because of sexual assault, 742 of those being due to suicide.

Despite this setback, U.N. Women in Kazakhstan has funded a project that aims to provide survivors of this trauma with the help they need, which is a positive step regarding women’s empowerment in Kazakhstan.

The country views women as important contributors to its economic, political and social success and even recognizes International Women’s Day, March 8, as a national holiday.

Though Kazakhstan may still struggle with gender inequality and violence against women, the country has made significant efforts to remedy these issues, such as providing $56 million for the development of programs that will support women’s entrepreneurship. As with many other countries, women’s empowerment in Kazakhstan can improve, but improvement is hardly implausible with the number of resources Kazakhstan dedicates to improving gender equality.

– Haley Rogers

Photo: Flickr

Women’s Empowerment in Sri LankaOn November 2, the World Economic Forum released the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report. The report did not reflect well on the state of women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka.

The Global Gender Gap Report grades 144 countries on their progress toward attaining gender equality in four areas: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political Empowerment. Sri Lanka has been declining from its position in the top 20 since 2010. The country slipped from closing 74.6 percent of the gender gap in 2010 to 66.9 percent this year.

The country’s gap in Economic Participation and Opportunity increased because it failed to improve conditions of wage inequality for similar work. Additionally, Sri Lanka now ranks 86th among 144 countries in the gender gap in Educational Attainment.

In Political Empowerment, Sri Lanka ranked 65th. The country compensated for low scores on the Women in Parliament and Women in Ministerial Positions indicators with high marks on the Years with a Female Head of State indicator. Sri Lanka has had a female head of state for 21 out of the last 50 years.

Despite these discouraging statistics, efforts to advance the state of women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka persist. Aitken Spence PLC, Jetwing Hotels Ltd., MAS Holdings (Pvt.) Ltd. and the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (Pvt.) Ltd. have signed on as partners of Women’s Empowerment Principles.

Developed through a partnership between U.N. Women and the United Nations Global Compact, the two organizations designed the principles to help companies review existing policies and practices and establish new strategies to promote women’s empowerment.

The principles include:

  • Establishing high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
  • Treating all women and men equitably at work by respecting and supporting human rights and non-discrimination
  • Securing the health, safety and well-being of all female and male workers
  • Promoting education, training and professional development for women
  • Implementing enterprise development and employing supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
  • Nurturing equality through community initiatives and advocacy

Participating companies must measure and publicly report their progress toward achieving gender parity.

In addition to economic measures, non-government organizations are implementing social programs to enhance women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka. Emerge Centre for Reintegration is the newest program sponsored by the Emerge Lanka Foundation, which supports survivors of sexual abuse aged 10-18. For 12 years, the foundation has helped countless exploited young women by providing training in life, financial and professional skills. Now, through the Centre for Reintegration, it offers assistance to young women who are over 18 as they face the challenging transition stage from living in shelters to thriving on their own.

Enabling women to participate fully in communities builds stronger economies, helps attain internationally agreed-upon objectives for development and sustainability and improves the quality of life for women, men, families and communities. The work being done in Sri Lanka can help counter its decreasing rankings and ensure empowerment for all women.

– Heather Hopkins

Photo: Flickr

Tech Solutions That Improve Humanitarian Service Delivery

With natural disasters like the recent earthquakes in Mexico and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria wreaking untold havoc, the question of how to improve humanitarian service delivery is all the more pertinent. Technology is quickly changing the way we respond to crises and will continue to transform our responses in the future.

According to the GSM Association, increased mobile connectivity is a lifeline that has made service delivery more efficient. Network operators can get in touch with anyone connected to a mobile device to warn them of incoming disasters and provide them with strategies to prepare for the worst. The rise of social media has given political leaders and news organizations similar powers to connect with their citizens and audiences.

In addition, mobile devices make humanitarian cash transfers easier—it is far more convenient and quicker to send digital money than cash—and improve access to energy. Especially in the developing world, many people live off the traditional “grid” but are covered by pay-as-you-go energy providers, who partner with mobile services, to ensure easy and orderly digital payments.

According to the World Economic Forum, robots are making a difference in how humanitarian aid is deployed, and they will likely do so to an even greater extent in the future. Certain areas become too dangerous during disasters for human responders to be able to assess needs or deliver aid, and robots (including drones) have the potential to mitigate that. Indeed, drones are currently being used, albeit in a limited manner.

With the number of people affected by humanitarian crises nearly doubling over the course of the past decade, technological solutions like these will be vital to minimizing the effects of the growing displacement crisis and the security risks and poverty it causes.

Gisli Rafn Olafsson believes one of the most important effects of technology on humanitarian service delivery is its potential to encourage a “bottom-up” approach that will soon replace the current, unwieldy “top-down” paradigm. With technology, the beneficiaries of humanitarian response can organize their own responses to wars and natural disasters rather than wait for help to arrive. A grassroots network is invariably the strongest tool and the best solution to improve humanitarian service delivery.

Chuck Hasenauer
Photo: Flickr