Disparities: Growing smaller but always there (Week 11, Part 1)

I, myself, have always had a very philosophical view of the term justice. In reality, I have more of distributive lens that I view it through. This I believe more aligns with social justice. Social justice follows a more egalitarian movement that focuses on 1) equality for all groups across the board and 2) balancing out matters of wealth financially, physically, socially, etc.

As Begum describes it, justice should and must be viewed as right as opposed to a form of charity. Especially in our Western culture, we see social justice as a way to help celebrate in an almost Christ-like fashion those who have been marginalized. Instead of celebrating the abilities and contributions of others, we view their shortcomings as things that must make them some easily observable and discriminated. There are even a lot of ways that social justice movements that try to serve as a voice for the disenfranchised can go as the same zoo animal effect that people often view.

For instance, a current social movement in the United States is “23 Reasons” which is used to signify that women, on average, make 23 cents less than men per dollar. The 23 Reasons campaign is there to show the twenty-three reasons why women are great and deserve as much as men. Of course, I wholeheartedly agree, but why do women need twenty-three reasons? Why not just one? I feel like these are some of the questions that need to be asked. How can we advocate for social justice without grotesquely gratifying the marginalized?


Approaching Sexual Violence in a Patriarchal Culture (Week 10, Part 2)

Sexual violence is not an exclusionary issue. Whether you are affected directly or indirectly, regardless we are all affected by sexual violence. More largely, we are affected by power-based violence. According to Mizzou’s RSVP Center, power-based violence can be defined as: a form of violence that has a primary motivator: assertion of power, control and/or intimidation in order to harm another.

This type of violence exists in some form in every culture and creating a broad approach to combatting it will be the best and most holistic way to combat sexual violence. Wood’s article about “He forced me…” specifcally related to the male struggle to power over their female counterparts in a variety of ways. One of the most basic and visible ways that people can start learn about power-based violence is by opening the gateways to dialogue. For instance, some of the most targeted groups in sub-Saharan Africa are girls who attempt to attend school or advocate for education. Because many cultures submit to values that place women in purely domestic or submissive roles, men’s roles are threatened by the idea of women becoming more powerful. By opening up dialogue that female empowerment actually helps men and families as well can help aid hostility toward women in these cultures.

We additionally see that trying to show men first hand that violence and harassment toward women can be an effective tool to helping them understand what harm that this type of violence and intimidation can cause. The video below shows how a man in Egypt disguised himself as a female to show how men in Egypt treat women .

More largely, the socialization of men should also be discussed. Because men are taught by their peers and older influences to not show compassion, to express themselves as aggressive and hypersexual, it can be clear that essentially from the time they are born, men are bred and trained to express themselves in these traits and until we tell and open dialogue about how men do not need to be placed in gender boxes. The trailer of the documentary below is a preview into how socialization can negatively affect male populations:


Representation as a form of contraception (Week 10, Part 1)

Young girls on the African continent is beneficial. I know, too simple of a sentence, but really there are many layers to this.

On a micro level, by helping out just one girl, you serve the benefit of not only the future of that girl but also of her family. Education provides more intellectual and vocational skills that can help her become more confident and well-spoken as well as the ability to read, write, understand basic enterprise principles, etc.

On a macro level, because of the aiding of individual and families, the infrastructure of a nation is widely improved. There are more persons contributing to the local economy  and thus not only putting more revenue into the system but also using enterprise to grow a stronger future. The opportunities to succeed intellectually and economically greatly give opportunities for families and more largely communities to have better macro-stability leading to less violence, less poverty, less hunger, and greater prosperity.

While talking about education and opportunity for women in Africa can put us in rosy moods, it is easier said than done.

Representation is the largest influence of how women will live their lives. If there are women that only take domestic roles and lead submissive lives, future wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters will follow suit. This is no different in our own country of the United States when women are represented in the media and community as simply followers of men. For example, there is a trope in American cinema called the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She is a flighty, two-dimensional female character who often exists in stories to move forward the emotional/economic/creative/mental/physical growth of the male main character. Essentially, it whittles down women to only one thing: a plot device.

This is why plays, publications, and other material like Eve Ensler‘s Vagina Monologues are so important. Without honest public demonstrations and speeches of the challenges that women face all throughout the world, women and girls will remain voiceless. When governments and public figures tell women that they have a right to education and they do not have to be forced into child marriages, it gives them empowerment to have a voice. By women sharing their voices, the unification of many voices become one shout to the patriarchy that women are more than simply fillers of domestic roles.

Marginalization: More of a Reality than a Concept for Women (Week 9, Part 2)


Asking why women are being marginalized is like asking why people have desire. There are a million reasons to give and yet not one answer will suffice. The simple answer I can give for this blog is: the patriarchy.

Now before you go thinking that I am some militant, bra-burning feminist, I will admit that 1) I am a feminist and 2) I have a very realistic view of the world.

If I look at why women are marginalized in the Western world, I can attribute that to a lot of the expected “traditional” role of women. They must be nurturers and caregivers but never breadwinners. A lot of this marginalization comes from the idea that women cannot perform in roles that are not domestic.

I cannot even imagine how the role of women in sub-Saharan Africa come into play for when they try to get jobs. Women are subject to the burden of domestication and fulfilling family building roles but anything that can be categorized as something that is simply not that.

Looking at Ghana, which is the focus of my final project, it is a very male-oriented society. Daughters are given off to be married by their fathers and husbands can take any number of wives they see fit. Their role was mainly to bear children.

The Education Act of 1960 in Ghana gave way so that all children should receive and have the right to elementary education. But even more than 50 years later, families are still slow to accepting and open to the idea of sending their daughters to school. There is a fear that women would lose their chance of getting married.

The marginalization of women exists in the idea of family building. If a woman works and is educated, there is a chance that she will not be desirable for marriage and thus bear no children. The honor of family is still the highest and it will continue to prevent women from receiving certain resource whether it is by men or by their own accord.

After the lecture, I really do believe in the power of micro-financing. Perhaps I show some Western narcissism, but I feel grateful that I can provide resources for others, especially these woman who probably could not obtain loans such as these in their respective nations. Considering that in many of these cultures, women would more than likely be denied loans for their ventures and passions.

South Africa: A Look Into African Development

By Connor J. Wangler
Photo by Connor Wangler

Photo by Connor Wangler

The Republic of South Africa is celebrating twenty years of democracy and the fall of Apartheid, whites-only governance. Since the elections of 1994, South Africans have seen tremendous economic growth; however, unlike the “rainbow nation” image that is propagated, this growth has still left many groups behind and in a state of extreme poverty. Thousands are still marginalized from formal economic participation and, as such, remain subject to the heavy burdens of a system that pushed them to the fringes of society. Many still live in informal settlements typified by tin shacks and extremely high population densities, are still denied access to education and employment opportunities, are still facing the battle of HIV/AIDS and malnutrition, and are still trying to escape a culture of abuse and discrimination. Seen as the “jewel of Africa” because of its relatively high level of development for the continent, South Africa still faces the battles of extreme poverty and development. Its successes, however, warrant an assessment of the many efforts, by both the government and private groups, to continue to raise people out of poverty.  Using five key areas identified by Jeffrey Sachs in The End of Poverty, a case study of South Africa’s successes and failures will highlight what can work for developing countries, as well as what might be avoided. Here is a piece by CNBC Africa that discusses the country’s development issues and the national development plan with Planning Minister Trevor Manuel:

The five areas that Sachs are Agricultural Inputs; Basic Health; Education; Power, Transport, and Communication Services; and Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation. Each of these areas incorporates essential components for alleviating extreme poverty and growing development. The challenge in this assessment is the differing degrees to which these areas are already developed in South Africa compared to the rest of the continent; therefore, this examination will need to reflect not only on the future of development, the “what can be” view, but also the past, the “what once was” view. This will allow for a greater ability to compare countries with differing levels of poverty and development. One interesting subject that will be looked at is the level of development achieved during the years of the Apartheid government; different countries were left by the colonial powers in different situations.

Source: South African National Planning Commission

Source: South African National Planning Commission

This case study will also make an effort to look at the multiple realms in which development can stem from. Thousands of NGOs, both non-profits and corporations, start projects each year aimed at uplifting people out of poverty. These range from building homes to lobbying for policy changes. The government is particularly concerned with eradicating poverty in South Africa, not just because of the economic benefits but because of a constituency deeply committed to proving that Africans can successfully govern. The people of South Africa, still healing from the decades of Apartheid, want to show that an “African” solution to governing can work. That is why South Africa created “Vision 2030,” the national development plan.

While South Africa is far ahead of many other African countries in the development game, it can teach many lessons. Examining the path South Africa has taken, and is on right now, can shed light on where other countries trying to grow should focus. Obviously each country’s situation is unique and its solution must be unique; however, assessing the moves made by other countries can help avoid costly mistakes. That is why South Africa is a valuable player in African development and that is why it is included in this project.


The Final Countdown: An E-Book and The Republic of Congo

Our group is centering our E-book around five different African, Sub-saharan countries and the cultural, economical, political and social challenges that they are facing. Now, this isn’t news for anyone who has been researching as much as we have been researching for the entirety of this class. From all of the different viewpoints of Sach’s and Moyo regarding aid and the state of developing countries, there is one thing that they undeniably agree on: sub-sahara Africa is not doing well.

For my country, I chose to research the Republic of Congo. Here are some bare bones statistics about the country that I have collected through research of the World Fact Book.

Upon independence in 1960, the former French region of Middle Congo became the Republic of the Congo. A quarter century of experimentation with Marxism was abandoned in 1990 and a democratically elected government took office in 1992. A brief civil war in 1997 restored former Marxist President Denis SASSOU-Nguesso, and ushered in a period of ethnic and political unrest. Southern-based rebel groups agreed to a final peace accord in March 2003, but the calm is tenuous and refugees continue to present a humanitarian crisis. The Republic of Congo is one of Africa’s largest petroleum producers, but with declining production it will need new offshore oil finds to sustain its oil earnings over the long term.


Central Africa, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Angola and Gabon
1 00 S, 15 00 E
total: 342,000 sq km

country comparison to the world: 64

land: 341,500 sq km
water: 500 sq km
slightly smaller than Montana
total: 5,504 km
border countries: Angola 201 km, Cameroon 523 km, Central African Republic 467 km, Democratic Republic of the Congo 2,410 km, Gabon 1,903 km
169 km
territorial sea: 200 nm
tropical; rainy season (March to June); dry season (June to October); persistent high temperatures and humidity; particularly enervating climate astride the Equator
coastal plain, southern basin, central plateau, northern basin
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Berongou 903 m
petroleum, timber, potash, lead, zinc, uranium, copper, phosphates, gold, magnesium, natural gas, hydropower
arable land: 1.46%
permanent crops: 0.18%
other: 98.36% (2011)
20 sq km (2003)
832 cu km (2011)
total: 0.05 cu km/yr (69%/26%/4%)
per capita: 13.99 cu m/yr (2005)
seasonal flooding
air pollution from vehicle emissions; water pollution from the dumping of raw sewage; tap water is not potable; deforestation
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
about 70% of the population lives in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, or along the railroad between them


noun: Congolese (singular and plural)
adjective: Congolese or Congo
Kongo 48%, Sangha 20%, M’Bochi 12%, Teke 17%, Europeans and other 3%
French (official), Lingala and Monokutuba (lingua franca trade languages), many local languages and dialects (of which Kikongo is the most widespread)
Roman Catholic 33.1%, Awakening Churches/Christian Revival 22.3%, Protestant 19.9%, Salutiste 2.2%, Muslim 1.6%, Kimbanguiste 1.5%, other 8.1%, none 11.3% (2010 est.)
4,662,446 (July 2014 est.)

country comparison to the world: 125

note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected
0-14 years: 41.1% (male 966,852/female 950,411)
15-24 years: 17.7% (male 411,263/female 413,594)
25-54 years: 34.2% (male 808,181/female 787,554)
55-64 years: 3% (male 90,795/female 94,837)
65 years and over: 2.7% (male 60,400/female 78,559) (2014 est.)
population pyramid: 
total dependency ratio: 84.9 %
youth dependency ratio: 78.7 %
elderly dependency ratio: 6.3 %
potential support ratio: 15.9 (2013)
total: 19.8 years
male: 19.7 years
female: 20 years (2014 est.)
1.94% (2014 est.)

country comparison to the world: 55

36.59 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)

country comparison to the world: 18

10.17 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)

country comparison to the world: 47

-7.02 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2014 est.)

country comparison to the world: 204

urban population: 63.7% of total population (2011)
rate of urbanization: 2.84% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
BRAZZAVILLE (capital) 1.611 million (2011)
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2014 est.)
19.8 (2011-12 est.)
560 deaths/100,000 live births (2010)

country comparison to the world: 16

total: 59.34 deaths/1,000 live births

country comparison to the world: 24

male: 64.49 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 54.04 deaths/1,000 live births (2014 est.)
total population: 58.52 years

country comparison to the world: 198

male: 57.38 years
female: 59.7 years (2014 est.)
4.73 children born/woman (2014 est.)

country comparison to the world: 23

44.7% (2011/12)
2.5% of GDP (2011)

country comparison to the world: 186

0.1 physicians/1,000 population (2007)
1.6 beds/1,000 population (2005)
urban: 95.5% of population
rural: 31.9% of population
total: 72.4% of population
urban: 4.5% of population
rural: 68.1% of population
total: 27.6% of population (2011 est.)
urban: 19.5% of population
rural: 14.8% of population
total: 17.8% of population
urban: 80.5% of population
rural: 85.2% of population
total: 82.2% of population (2011 est.)
2.8% (2012 est.)

country comparison to the world: 23

74,500 (2012 est.)

country comparison to the world: 52

5,200 (2012 est.)

country comparison to the world: 37

degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: malaria and dengue fever
animal contact disease: rabies
water contact disease: schistosomiasis (2013)
4.7% (2008)

country comparison to the world: 163

11.8% (2005)

country comparison to the world: 61

6.2% of GDP (2010)

country comparison to the world: 39

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 83.8%
male: 89.6%
female: 78.4% (2003 est.)
total: 11 years
male: 11 years
female: 11 years (2012)
total number: 252,171
percentage: 25 % (2005 est.)


conventional long form: Republic of the Congo
conventional short form: Congo (Brazzaville)
local long form: Republique du Congo
local short form: none
former: Middle Congo, Congo/Brazzaville, Congo
name: Brazzaville
geographic coordinates: 4 15 S, 15 17 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
12 departments (departments, singular – department); Bouenza, Brazzaville, Cuvette, Cuvette-Ouest, Kouilou, Lekoumou, Likouala, Niari, Plateaux, Pointe-Noire, Pool, Sangha
15 August 1960 (from France)
Independence Day, 15 August (1960)
previous 1992; latest approved by referendum 20 January 2002 (2002)
mixed legal system of French civil law and customary law
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
chief of state: President Denis SASSOU-Nguesso (since 25 October 1997, following the civil war in which he toppled elected president Pascal LISSOUBA); note – the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Denis SASSOU-Nguesso (since 25 October 1997); note – the position of prime minister was abolished in September 2009
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president

(For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)

elections: president elected by popular vote for a seven-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 12 July 2009 (next to be held in 2016)
election results: Denis SASSOU-Nguesso reelected president; percent of vote – Denis SASSOU-Nguesso 78.6%, Joseph Kignoumbi Kia MBOUNGOU 7.5%, Nicephore Fylla de SAINT-EUDES 7%, other 6.9%
bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (72 seats; members elected by indirect vote to serve five-year terms) and the National Assembly (139 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve six-year terms)
elections: Senate – last held on 5 August 2008 (next to be held in July 2014); National Assembly – last held on 15 July and 5 August 2012 (next to be held in 2018)
election results: Senate – percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – RMP 33, FDU 23, UPADS 2, independents 7, other 7; National Assembly – percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – PCT (and allies) 117, UPADS 7, independents 12, vacant 3
highest court(s): Supreme Court or Cour Supreme (consists of NA judges)
note – the High Court of Justice, outside the judicial authority, tries cases involving treason by the president of the republic
judge selection and term of office: judges elected by parliament and serve until retirement age
subordinate courts: courts of appeal; regional and district courts; employment tribunals; juvenile courts
Action Movement for Renewal or MAR
Congolese Labour Party or PCT
Congolese Movement for Democracy and Integral Development or MCDDI [Michel MAMPOUYA]
Movement for Solidarity and Development or MSD
Pan-African Union for Social Development or UPADS [Martin MBERI]
Rally for Democracy and the Republic or RDR [Raymond Damasge NGOLLO]
Rally for Democracy and Social Progress or RDPS [Jean-Pierre Thystere TCHICAYA, president]
Rally of the Presidential Majority or RMP
Union for Democracy and Republic or UDR
United Democratic Forces or FDU [Sebastian EBAO]
many smaller parties
Congolese Trade Union Congress or CSC
General Union of Congolese Pupils and Students or UGEEC
Revolutionary Union of Congolese Women or URFC
Union of Congolese Socialist Youth or UJSC
chief of mission: Ambassador Serge MOMBOULI (since 31 July 2001)
chancery: 1720 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
telephone: [1] (202) 726-5500
FAX: [1] (202) 726-1860
chief of mission: Ambassador Stephanie S. Sullivan (since 12 August 2013)
embassy: 70-83 Section D, Maya-Maya Boulevard, Brazzaville;
mailing address: B.P. 1015, Brazzaville
telephone: [242] 06 612-200
divided diagonally from the lower hoist side by a yellow band; the upper triangle (hoist side) is green and the lower triangle is red; green symbolizes agriculture and forests, yellow the friendship and nobility of the people, red is unexplained but has been associated with the struggle for independence
note: uses the popular Pan-African colors of Ethiopia
lion; elephant
name: “La Congolaise” (The Congolese)


The economy is a mixture of subsistence hunting and agriculture, an industrial sector based largely on oil and support services, and government spending. Oil has supplanted forestry as the mainstay of the economy, providing a major share of government revenues and exports. Natural gas is increasingly being converted to electricity rather than being flared, greatly improving energy prospects. New mining projects, particularly iron ore, that entered production in late 2013 may add as much as $1 billion to annual government revenue. Economic reform efforts have been undertaken with the support of international organizations, notably the World Bank and the IMF, including recently concluded Article IV consultations. The current administration faces difficult economic challenges of stimulating recovery and reducing poverty. The drop in oil prices during the global crisis reduced oil revenue by about 30%, but the subsequent recovery of oil prices boosted the economy’s GDP from 2009-13. Officially the country became a net external creditor as of 2011, with external debt representing only about 16% of GDP and debt servicing less than 3% of government revenue.
$20.26 billion (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 134

$19.15 billion (2012 est.)
$18.44 billion (2011 est.)
note: data are in 2013 US dollars
$14.25 billion (2013 est.)
5.8% (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 39

3.8% (2012 est.)
3.4% (2011 est.)
$4,800 (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 162

$4,700 (2012 est.)
$4,600 (2011 est.)
note: data are in 2013 US dollars
61.4% of GDP (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 1

56.2% of GDP (2012 est.)
61.3% of GDP (2011 est.)
household consumption: 24.8%
government consumption: 11.1%
investment in fixed capital: 55.4%
investment in inventories: 0.9%
exports of goods and services: 91.8%
imports of goods and services: -84.1%
(2013 est.)
agriculture: 3.3%
industry: 73.9%
services: 22.9% (2013 est.)
cassava (tapioca), sugar, rice, corn, peanuts, vegetables, coffee, cocoa; forest products
petroleum extraction, cement, lumber, brewing, sugar, palm oil, soap, flour, cigarettes
2% (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 126

2.89 million (2011 est.)

country comparison to the world: 105

53% (2012 est.)

country comparison to the world: 196

46.5% (2011 est.)
lowest 10%: 2.1%
highest 10%: 37.1% (2005)
revenues: $6.608 billion
expenditures: $4.618 billion (2013 est.)
46.4% of GDP (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 18

14% of GDP (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 3

32.1% of GDP (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 112

31.8% of GDP (2012 est.)
calendar year
1.7% (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 46

3.9% (2012 est.)
4.25% (31 December 2009)

country comparison to the world: 78

4.75% (31 December 2008)
14.8% (31 December 2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 44

14.8% (31 December 2012 est.)
$4.678 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 102

$4.403 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
$5.119 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 127

$4.795 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
$-1.053 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 187

$-1.448 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
$638.2 million (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 51

$187.9 million (2012 est.)
$9.912 billion (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 96

$10.53 billion (2012 est.)
petroleum, lumber, plywood, sugar, cocoa, coffee, diamonds
China 39%, US 13%, France 9.5%, Australia 8.8%, Netherlands 6.8%, Spain 5.3%, India 5.2% (2012)
$4.297 billion (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 136

$4.45 billion (2012 est.)
capital equipment, construction materials, foodstuffs
France 19.5%, China 13.5%, Brazil 9.1%, US 6.1%, India 5.8%, Italy 4.8%, Belgium 4.4% (2012)
$5.239 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 94

$5.568 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
$3.274 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 134

$2.999 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
Cooperation Financiere en Afrique Centrale francs (XAF) per US dollar –
500.7 (2013 est.)
510.53 (2012 est.)
495.28 (2010 est.)
472.19 (2009)
447.81 (2008)


the location of the boundary in the broad Congo River with the Democratic Republic of the Congo is undefined except in the Pool Malebo/Stanley Pool area
refugees (country of origin): 89,424 (Democratic Republic of Congo) (2012); 8,404 (Rwanda); 11,000 (Central African Republic) (2014)
IDPs: 7,800 (multiple civil wars since 1992) (2009)


Africa’s Ongoing Struggle to End Violence Against Women

Men and women face many different challenges in day to day life, but women alone are hindered by the rampant sexual abuse problems in Africa today. While women are making strides in education and employment equality, they cannot seem to escape the effect that this abuse has on their well-being. Over half of women in many Sub-Saharan African countries face physical, domestic, and sexual abuse in their daily lives. Whether it is related to female genital mutilation or domestic abuse, women face problems that men largely avoid in these categories. Only by actively making a change both in the societies in which they live and in their cultures as a whole can these women be freed of this constant abuse.

A man holds a sign supporting the end of sexual abuse in Africa.

The ending of the torturous and barbaric practice known now as Female Genital Mutilation or FGM is a constant battle for activists in many parts of Africa. Not only does this practice have constant effects on the well-being of women, it is a clear view of the inequalities that they suffer in their society. FGM is more than just demeaning to women as equals, it is also a large part of health concerns for them. It can leave permanent scarring, which can lead to inability to bear children, along with infection and disease. Only recently has this been determined to be a violation of their rights and although there is public outcry against it, it is still an issue in many areas. Additionally, many women are abused both sexually and physically by their husbands and other men in their societies. These issues are a large part of women’s problems with equality in Africa and leads to them still being considered lesser than men by these cultures. Only through educating the affected societies of the dangers and facts can women hope to receive equal treatment.

Fortunately, many governments and activists groups have shown great strides in ending these struggles for women. By enacting new laws punishing those involved, the governments of these African countries are beginning to curb both domestic violence and help those who have been affected by it. Activists groups have been both educating and training locals on how to get involved and make a difference with action. Because of this social reform, women are able to reach out for aid from those that can help. They are realizing that they are the victims and deserve better treatment. By helping these innocent women that they aren’t in the wrong by defying these acts, they have helped them reach closer to both ending violence towards women and equalizing gender inequality.

Educated Women Chasing Equality

Throughout history, women and men have always been considered different – men are the strong, able workers, who provide for the family, while women are the homemakers, who care for children and provide comfort for their husbands. While men were out advancing their skills, learning, and being given chances to improve themselves, women were always confined to their single role, as a mother and a wife. Because of these ancient gender roles, women haven’t  been given fair chances at employment as men have. These gender roles are prevalent even in our time, as women are still considered in many cultures to be the one who cooks, cleans, and nurtures children. Luckily, many cultures have realized that their gender roles are archaic and outdated, and women are being given chances to prove themselves as exceptional workers and leaders.

Global Unemployment and Underemployment by Gender

Many countries have passed laws that help women find adequate pay and a place in the workforce and they are aided by non-profit groups that are determined to close this gender gap once and for all. The most successful way that they are helping women advance is by helping them obtain an adequate education as a basis to work from. By providing ways for these women and young girls to better themselves, they are opening up pathways for them to work their way up in the workforce and show that they are equals in this regard. Many programs are helping by giving loans to allow them to attend school or creating specially formulated opportunities for women to learn the necessary tools to advance. By addressing common issues such as literacy and family planning, they are able to give these women the chance they deserve to finally find equality and carve their own path through life.

However, there are still many obstacles to overcome. Although women in these areas are showing to be more educated than ever before, they still make up under 25% of the workforce in North Africa. Even though these women are educated and prepared to work, social and legal barriers still stand between them and adequate employment. Additionally, many women lack the skills that are currently in demand, lowering the chance that they will be able to find a place to use their education. These obstacles have been noted by the governments and directors of programs for this cause and they feel that in the nearby future, these inequalities can be undone with policy and legal changes. The education of these women alone has shown great changes and if the governments can aid them, we could see great strides in equality in the coming years.

Working Women: Breaking Stereotypes

Throughout history, woman and men have had very different roles in their societies. As we can see by looking at most ancient (and some modern) cultures, men typically are the ones who are involved in the workforce, the ones who leave every morning to make money or bring goods home to the family. They stay at their employment for long hours, working their hands to the bone to attempt to make a living for their family. Conversely, the women are the homemakers, the part of the couple that stays home with the children, many times pregnant, cleaning the house and cooking for their husband and family. She is the one who brings children into the world so their man can have a legacy, while the man attempts to keep them alive by working. In our modern society, this archaic outline for a family has limited women from becoming something more than a homemaker, keeping them in a role that is in some cases no longer necessary with societies’ advances. These unfortunate custom is hard for women to overcome, many times keeping them from reaching their real potential as a businessperson or leader. It is apparent when we look at the workforce that women aren’t being allowed the same chances as men to make a difference in their societies, for they aren’t able to escape this cliche of what each gender should do.

In many countries, women are not only underrepresented in the workforce – they are paid less solely because they are women. In areas that suffer from extreme poverty, this is an issue. These women are perfectly able to leave the home and work but due to the stereotypes of what they should be doing, they aren’t given a fair chance. In some cases, women aren’t even paid for their labor, chalking it up to more “homemaking” and preparation for the family. When they are paid a share for their work, it’s anything but equal to what the men make. Additionally, women aren’t taken seriously when they attempt to deviate from the norm and make a real difference in their societies. They are constantly being taken advantage of and even sexually harassed by the male-dominated workforce. Very rarely does a woman make a fair salary when compared to a man with the same position and often they have little to no chance at advancement in their place of work anyways. Not only does this keep women from moving up in society, it keeps them from trying to kill the stereotype in the first place.

Naledi Pandor, South African Minister of Home Affairs

There are many people who are attempting to help women break their way onto the workforce, and although they have seen some success, there is much to be done before women can truly feel equal as partners. South African Minister of Home Affairs, Naledi Pandor, is confident in their future, even if the effects haven’t set in yet: “There are a number of sectors in which we seem to be making excellent progress, such as the access of women to university education, but the movement has not been shaped by a change in attitude — it is primarily shaped by the constitution and the new laws enacted post-democracy.” However, Pandor speaks about how as long as the workforce is structured for and around men, it will be difficult to find a place for women. Additionally, because of this gender discrimination, men are typically more confident and are able to obtain promotions and better positions with more ease. However, advancements in education is helping to lead to more knowledgeable women entering the workforce and there is hope for the near future to see changes in these ancient gender stereotypes.

Women in Kenya

For our final group project, our group is focusing on the 5 areas that Jeffrey Sachs says countries need to invest in to eradicate poverty. These areas are agricultural inputs, basic health, education, power, transport, and communication services, and safe drinking water and sanitation. I’m focusing on Kenya’s development and investment in these five areas and the progress it is making through government and private involvement.

One of the most interesting, yet disheartening, areas I’ve encountered is Kenya’s struggle with proper sanitation.
According to water.org, 17 million people in Kenya don’t have safe drinking water. 28 million have no sanitation services, and half of the country lives in poverty. The infant mortality rate is also over 4%. Because there is a lack of sanitation, diarrhea is one of the leading causes of death of children. Water and sanitation related illnesses are also the leading cause of hospitalization for young children.

One of water.org’s programs is called Water Day. For a donation of $25, you can help give a local community access to clean drinking water. This is called their water day, the first day they have access to safe water. You can learn more about Water Day in this video:

For me, the most rewarding part of my research is seeing the progress the country is making. While it still faces many challenges, there is definite progress being made in Kenya. Private organizations are doing great work, and the government is stepping in to help its residents. With government and private involvement, we can make a difference and change the living conditions of millions of people. Better sanitation can lead to better productivity and longer lives, overall helping improve the economy of the country.