Poverty is a topic that worries all nations and governments around the globe. Every year, governmental and non-governmental actors come together in efforts to help reduce the number of people in poverty. However, a very important factor is often overlooked when implementing policies aimed at reducing poverty levels: the gender dimension. In 2020, 70% of people living in extreme poverty worldwide were women. Likewise, it was estimated that the vast majority of the 1.5 billion people living on 1 dollar a day, or less, are women. Thereupon, until this factor is taken into consideration, solutions implemented will only have a superficial or minimal effect.
The feminization of poverty not only means that women have a superior level of incidence of poverty than men, but also that their poverty is more severe and is in constant increase due to their living conditions. Poverty is a multi-dimensional social phenomenon, thus, gender inequality, gender disparity, the gender division of labor and the gender wage gap come all into play. According to the Global Gender Gap Report made in 2022 it will take 132 more years to obtain full parity and 155 years to close the economic participation and opportunity gender gap. Along with, in 2022, women still earned 17% less than men for doing the same jobs. The access to resources that women enjoy are not the same as men, payments and job options are not the same neither, and while the gender gap continues to widen, they will never be the same.
Moreover, it is imperative to recognize that the institutional inequalities women face are rooted in the capitalist economic system, which at the same time, it supports itself with the patriarchal system. Capitalismfoundation relies in the establishment of gender roles; feeds the belief of men being considered as the strong work force that endures long hours of labor and women the ones in charge of the household. In addition, unmarried mothers have higher rates of poverty than married women, with or without children, and unmarried women without children. In 2019, it was reported that almost 30% of single parents live in poverty, whilst couples only encompass the 6%, and single mothers are much more likely to be poor in comparison to single fathers. There is no system in place that actually supports the advancement of single mothers which means those women will very likely forever be trapped in the poverty cycle.
In like manner, it is true that the sexual division of labor has to do with the physical capabilities of each gender, nonetheless, this has been taken as an excuse to formalize the separation between production places and reproduction places. Production places can be seen as enterprises, spaces where mainly men participate, are a fundamental part of the economy, whilst reproduction places are considered as part of the domestic and private aspect of life. Consequently, this task division institutionalizes the inferiority of women and separates their work at home from any possible market value. Capitalism depends on the depreciation of domestic work, mostly done by women, to generate huge savings. For example, in the United States of America 50% of the workers are women, but they contribute to less than the 50% of the Gross Domestic Product of the country due to the devaluation of their work, which means women do most of the free work.
Girls and women today still lack accurate healthcare, education access and support from their communities to play an active role within them; all circumstances which add up to generate the poverty cycle that enables itself. In some parts of the world women still cannot own properties and have to endure sexist norms. So much as, in 2021, 32% of women globally suffer food insecurity in comparison to 28% of men. Therefore, women’s limited possibilities to defend their interests and resources will always be tied to economic, social, and cultural factors that place men in advantage. Girls and women need to be granted autonomy, so decisions can be made in name of their best interests and not as a product of unjust conditions. That is why, governments’ bet should be aimed at gender parity if they really want to diminish poverty in the long run. Meaning each gender should be represented equally while guaranteeing the same access to opportunities and resources, working under the same conditions and with the same rights.
Talking tolerance in polarised societies
EU research projects provide fresh insights into what it takes for communities to accept different religious and world views.
By ALISON JONES
Ann Trappers harnessed a shock in her native Belgium to help heal social wounds across Europe.
After Islamic terrorist attacks in Brussels in March 2016 left 35 people – including three suicide bombers – dead and more than 300 injured, Trappers and her colleagues at a non-governmental organisation called Foyer sought to rebuild community trust and cohesion.
They used the NGO’s long-established youth centre in the religiously and ethnically diverse neighbourhood of Molenbeek. Their experience fed into a research initiative that received EU funding to explore and foster religious tolerance in eight European countries.
‘One of the ways in which we worked to counter radicalisation was to ensure it didn’t become a taboo subject,’ said Trappers, programme coordinator at Foyer. ‘We wanted young people to be able to talk about it freely and safely in the setting of the youth centre.’
Concerns about growing polarisation in Europe have pushed the issue up the EU political agenda.
The portfolio of a vice-president of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, includes dialogue with churches as well as religious associations and communities. The portfolio is called “Promoting our European Way of Life”.
The EU is also putting its weight behind various initiatives – including the Radicalisation Awareness Network – aimed at helping communities in Europe live harmoniously together.
The EU project in which Trappers was involved ran from May 2018 through October 2022 and was called RETOPEA. It brought together academic organisations from Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Poland and Spain as well as non-EU countries North Macedonia and the UK.
The project explored ways in which religion is regarded in the educational, professional and social realms. It also examined how peaceful religious coexistence has been established over history.
Past and present
The idea was to use insights gained from the past to inform thinking about religious tolerance today.
‘It’s not often you get the opportunity as a historian to make your work relevant,’ said Patrick Pasture, who coordinated RETOPEA and is a professor of modernity and society at Catholic University Leuven in Belgium.
The project delved into more than 400 primary source extracts from historical peace treaties, contemporary news reports and cultural snippets.
Based on these materials, teenagers from Foyer and other youth associations in each of the participating countries joined workshops to create their own video blog – or “vlog” – about religious tolerance and coexistence.
The vlogs, available on the RETOPEA website, include interviews with passersby, drawings and other creative work.
Pasture said the act of working together took the focus away from the participants’ differences.
‘The most important thing will always be that people have to learn to talk – to refrain from immediately judging,’ he said.
Spreading the word
Pasture was struck by the number of students who were unaware of the religious beliefs of classmates and by how open they were to talking about the issue.
He said most participants were upset about the divisiveness of contemporary discussions of religion and ‘hated’ the rise of polarisation.
Around a year after RETOPEA wrapped up, the results and materials collected are informing actions by interfaith organisations, governmental bodies and European teacher associations.
The project team is regularly invited to make presentations at teaching workshops and seminars in the EU and beyond – places ranging from Austria and Italy to Jordan and Wales.
And the European Association of History Educators – established in 1992 to build educational bridges on the continent following the collapse of communism in eastern Europe – includes the RETOPEA materials on its website.
Another EU-funded research project looked specifically at the notion of tolerance – how it feels for people to push themselves to accept “others” and what it feels like to be “tolerated.” The research relied mainly on questionnaires and online experiments.
‘People have their own opinions and their own beliefs and we can’t just expect them to give them up and consider everything of equal value,’ said Maykel Verkuyten, who led the initiative and is a professor in interdisciplinary social science at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands.
Called InTo for Intergroup Toleration, the project ran for five years through September 2022.
In conducting studies in the Netherlands and Germany, Verkuyten and his team were pleasantly surprised to find that a clear majority of people regarded tolerance as an important societal value.
He said that most respondents agreed with, for example, the following two presented statements: “I accept it when other people do things that I wholeheartedly disapprove of” and “Everyone is allowed to live as he or she wants, even if it is at odds with what I think is good and right”.
On a cautionary note, the team also found that it’s far easier to move people towards greater intolerance than it is to make them more tolerant.
Verkuyten is driven by an interest in the middle ground of the whole subject – where space exists for differing views without any desire either to crush or to celebrate them.
He said this zone must be promoted through civics courses, human-rights lessons and other educational initiatives to help ensure the health of democracies and multicultural societies.
‘There is something in between being very negative, discriminatory, and fully embracing all diversity,’ Verkuyten said. ‘That’s essential for a functioning liberal democracy and indispensable for a culturally diverse society.’
Research in this article was funded by the EU via the European Research Council (ERC). This article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.
Women’s Health Security: Threats for Women in Refugee Camps
Women’s Health Issues
Natural disasters and socio-political conflicts in a country are events that can disrupt people’s lives and encourage the flow of refugees. Refugees are people who have to leave their home areas for their safety or survival. A refugee’s home area can be a country, state, or territory. most refugee law is based on a 1951 United Nations document, the Convention, relating to the status of refugees. The 1951 Convention was created to deal with the large number of people displaced by World War II. (National Geographic, 2023).
In these situations, women and girls do not have access to basic materials, such as pads, clothes, and underwear, needed to regulate monthly blood flow. As the number of refugee women increases, health problems are prevalent due to the lack of access to women’s production health services throughout the refugee camps, even though women need a private space to change clothes, breastfeed, or rest. This high refugee population requires more than just basic care, including antenatal care, postnatal care, hygiene care, and care during menstruation, which is a widespread problem for women around the world. In the case of Rohingya refugee women, they mostly use natural materials such as mud, leaves, dung, or animal skins to regulate their menstrual flow. In addition, lack of access to water and private latrines and increased open defecation put women and children at greater risk of disease. therefore, this paper aims to discuss the constraints on vital hygiene practices that pose a health threat to women in refugee camps (Kashfi Pandit, 2022).
Syrian refugees often report high rates of gynecological problems, including menstrual irregularities, reproductive tract infections, severe pelvic pain, and dysmenorrhea. Married Syrian refugee women living outside refugee camps particularly suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, sexually transmitted infections, and mental health symptoms. In addition to the impact on physical health, women also have a significant impact on mental health due to the pressures of living as refugees, such as the lack of opportunities to earn a living, substandard living conditions, lack of access to food and transportation, the possibility of having to adapt significantly in bearing additional social burdens to ensure the care of their children (SAMS Foundation, 2019).
In 2017, Rohingya refugees also caught the attention of the public in large numbers, with more than 700,000 Rohingya people entering Bangladesh. With this influx of refugees, the condition of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) is greatly affected. SRH issues in Rohingya women and girls include increased risk of morbidity, mortality, and gender-based sexual violence, higher risk of sexually transmitted diseases causing unwanted pregnancies, and the potential for unsafe abortion and its complications. The rape of women in refugee camps violates the sexual and reproductive health rights of adolescents, the non-use of contraceptives can increase their population and allow the transmission of HIV among them, but the absence of a good sanitation system and hygienic environment causes women to suffer (Semonti Jannat, 2022).
Similar to Syrian refugees, Rohingya refugee women and girls also urgently need sexual and reproductive health services, including antenatal care, delivery assistance, postnatal care, family planning services, menstrual health, safe abortion, and prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. As many as 85 percent of refugees still do not have access to latrines, which can lead to outbreaks of communicable diseases among refugees (Karin et al., 2020). The lack of gender-segregated latrines and hygiene means that women in refugee camps must walk to the forest in the dark, leaving them vulnerable to harassment, violence, and even attacks from wild animals. (Semonti Jannat, 2022).
Health security is a state of freedom from disease and infection. Health is an essential component of human development and individual well-being and is recognized at the global level as a basic need if people are to achieve an optimal quality of life. Basically, human development and individual well-being cannot be achieved if the person is not adequately protected from threats and does not feel safe. Therefore, health security and human security are closely interconnected (WHO, 2002). In the case study of women’s health in refugee camps, it is clear that women and girls feel unsafe and have their health compromised. Thus, international assistance is needed to address women’s health issues in refugee camps because these refugees have difficulty getting adequate health facilities, causing insecurity to increase, and people find it difficult to take the initiative to protect themselves.
Contribution of International Organizations
In the case of Syrian refugees, there is a government organization called the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), which is a global medical aid organization that is at the forefront of crisis relief in Syria and surrounding areas to save lives for every patient in need. In 2016, SAMS supported 66 Syrian reproductive health centers, helping deliver nearly 40,000 babies and providing a quarter of a million reproductive health services. In 2017, SAMS also provided 457,043 reproductive health services in Syria and provided reproductive health training to communities. In Lebanon, the organization supports women’s health services through a specialized Obgyn mission, as well as opening mental health and psychosocial services focused on helping mothers and supporting healthy parenting practices, treating anxiety disorders and speech disorders in children, and addressing the psychological wounds of conflict victims. SAMS reaches out to several countries, including Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Bangladesh, Egypt, and Kurdistan (Society et al., 2023).
In the case of Rohingya refugees, there are also non-governmental organizations that address similar issues, namely the Bangladesh American Society of Muslim Aid for Humanity (BASMAH), an organization based in the United States dedicated to providing assistance to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. BASMAH has established health clinics to serve Rohingya refugees located in Bangladesh due to the lack of hygienic and sanitary quality of their living quarters, which are highly susceptible to diseases. Every day, hundreds of Rohingya patients, consisting of women, girls, the elderly, and men, also receive free services, free medicines, emergency services, and other health consultations. About 1.3 million Rohingya refugees, consisting of 75% women and children in a day there, are 300 patients receiving health services from doctors under BASMAH. Since 2017, BASMAH has been working directly in the camp and creating programs to help refugees. These programs include clean water, a learning center, an education project, medical care, empowering women, orphans & helpless children, dental care service, winter project, Qurbani, zakat / sadaqah, Ramadan iftar, feed the hungry, home for the homeless, rohingnya refugee support, skill development center, urgent earthquake relief, eid gifts for children (BASMAH, 2023).
However, women’s health problems in refugee camps still occur, and these organizations have not reached all refugees in the world. They only serve Syria, Bangladesh, and surrounding areas. But, in Africa it has not been equally assisted. The World Health Organization (WHO) has verified that there were 46 attacks on health workers that killed eight people, and health facilities were also looted and used by armed forces. The incident caused refugees in the African region to not get help. Thus, the issue of women’s health is still a problem and has not been resolved until now (Renewal, 2023).
The Vast Potential of the Human Spirit
With hope and courage, we must rise to the challenges before us. We must rise to the challenge of a world set afire by climate change, forced displacement, armed conflicts and human rights abuses. We must rise to the challenge of girls being denied their right to an education in Afghanistan. We must rise to the challenge of a global refugee crisis that is disrupting development gains the world over. We must rise to the challenge of brutal and unconscionable wars in places like Sudan and Ukraine that are putting millions of children at risk every day.
By ensuring every single child has access to quality education and embracing the vast potential of the human spirit – especially the 224 million girls and boys caught in emergencies and protracted crises that so urgently need our support – we can rise to this challenge. It’s a chance for girls with disabilities like Sammy in Colombia to find a nurturing place to learn and grow, it’s a chance for girls that have been forced into child marriage like Ajak in South Sudan to resume control of their lives, it’s a chance for refugees like Jannat in Bangladesh to find hope and dignity once more.
As Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies, has successfully completed its first strategic plan period and now enters its second strategic period, we are seeing time and again the power of education in propelling global efforts to deliver on the promises outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and other crucial international frameworks. By ensuring quality holistic education for the world’s most marginalized and vulnerable children in crisis settings, we invest in human capital, transform economies, ensure human rights, and build a more peaceful and more sustainable future for all.
The achievements outlined in ECW’s 2022 Annual Results Report tell a story of a breakout global fund moving with strength, speed and agility, while achieving quality. Together with a growing range of strategic partners, ECW reached 4.2 million children in 2022 alone. It was also the first time girls represented more than half of the children reached by ECW’s investments, including 53% of girls at the secondary level, which is a significant milestone in achieving the aspirational target of 60% girls reached. Now in its sixth year of operation, ECW has reached a total of 8.8 million children and adolescents with the safety, power and opportunity of a quality, inclusive education. An additional 32.2 million children and adolescents were reached with targeted interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are also seeing a global advocacy movement reaching critical mass, together with stronger political commitment and increased financing for the sector. In 2022, funding for education in emergencies was higher than ever before. Total available funding has grown by more than 57% over just three years – from US$699 million in 2019 to more than US$1.1 billion in 2022.
However, the needs have also skyrocketed over this same period. Funding asks for education in emergencies within humanitarian appeals have nearly tripled from US$1.1 billion in 2019 to almost US$3 billion at the end of 2022. This means that while donors are stepping up, the funding gap has actually widened, and only 30% of education in emergencies requirements were funded in 2022.
With support from key donors – including Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, as the top-three contributors among 25 in total, such as visionary private sector partners like The LEGO Foundation – US$826 million was announced at the ECW High-Level Financing Conference in early 2023. Collective resource mobilization efforts from all partners and stakeholders at global, regional, and country levels also helped unlock an additional US$842 million of funding for education in-country, which was contributed in alignment with ECW’s Multi-Year Resilience Programmes in 22 countries, and thus illustrates strong coordination by strategic donor partners who work in affected emergencies and protracted crises-contexts.
We must rise to this challenge by finding new and innovative ways to finance education. To date, some of ECW’s largest and prospective bilateral and multilateral donors have not yet committed funding for the full 2023–2026 period, and there remains a gap in funding from the private sector, foundations and philanthropic donors. In the first half of 2023, ECW faces a funding gap of approximately $670 million to fully finance results under the Strategic Plan, 2023–2026, to reach more than 20 million children over the next three years.
The investments will address the diverse impacts of crisis on education through child-centred approaches that are tailored to the needs of specific groups affected by crisis, such as children with disabilities, girls, refugees, and vulnerable children in host communities. These investments entail academic learning, social and emotional learning, sports, arts, combined with mental health and psycho-social services, school feeding, water and sanitation, as well as a protection component.
Since ECW became operational, we have withstood the cataclysmic forces of a global pandemic, a rise in armed conflicts that have disrupted social and economic security the world over, the unconscionable denial of education for girls in Afghanistan, floods and droughts made ever-more devastating by climate change, and other crises that are derailing efforts to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.
Now is the time to come together as one people, one planet to address the challenges before us. Now is the time to embrace the vast potential of the human spirit. With education for all, we can make sure girls like Sammy, Ajak and Jannat are able to reach their full potential, we can build a better world for generations to come.
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