In the fall of 2020, as the COVID-19 infection rate was peaking in Armenia, the country was rocked to its core by the outbreak of what has become known as the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War—which Armenia neither wanted nor was prepared for. By the time a ceasefire agreement was reached last November, with Armenian casualties in the thousands, the loss of strategic territory, the presence of Russian peacekeepers, and mass displacement of uprooted communities, few could take notice of another longstanding battle still underway—the fight for gender equality for Armenia’s women.
Among those on the front lines of this socio-economic reckoning are a group of women daring to take the uncertain post-war situation into their own hands, with financial emancipation as the first step in leveling the playing field in commerce and business, and, ultimately, gaining influence in shaping Armenia’s future at a pivotal historic moment.
“Substantive decisions about national security and economic viability over the next critical five years must have the entire population pulling its weight,” says Yevgenya Jenny Paturyan, Assistant Professor at the American University of Armenia, Political Science and International Affairs Program. “That includes Armenia’s women, whose resilience and ingenuity during a time of national crises and severe loss are nothing short of astounding. Armenian women always played key roles in the fate of the nation, more so in recent years and months. Women’s participation was instrumental in the peaceful Velvet Revolution of 2018. Women are overrepresented in the healthcare and service sectors, so they are, literally, taking care of the nation’s needs, wounds, hurts and losses right now. Women are struggling to keep COVID-19 at bay and are nursing the nation back to life, with hopes and dreams of a better future.”
It was a sunny afternoon as most days are in Ethiopia in April. I was taking an individual tour of a large hospital in the middle of Addis Ababa where I got to talk to doctors, nurses, and see waiting rooms and even patients who were recovering from care.
I distinctly remember the room of women who had recently had abortions or were awaiting one. The room was eerily silent despite the number of patients in the large recovery room with few windows and no air conditioning. Personal effects were on all of the beds: blankets, purses, food, extra clothes . Some of the women had female visitors, others did not. While the Ethiopian abortion law on the books is considered “semi-liberal” by African standards, there is some pushback on abortion services although in practice if a woman wants an abortion she can most likely get one. This is mostly to help decrease maternal mortality rates and to curb the rates of unsafe abortions.
As I concluded my tour, the last room I saw was where the abortions took place with all of its machines and lone hospital bed. At that moment I was glad that despite the law, these Ethiopian medical professionals along with the hospital’s policy allowed women to have a choice about their own bodies and reproductive rights.
In 1994, governments, advocates, health organizations, women’s and youth activists gathered in Cairo for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). There, women’s reproductive health and rights took center stage in national and global development efforts. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the ICPD and a renewed emphasis on reproductive health, women’s empowerment and equality will be discussed later this year in Nairobi as it pertains to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
At the recent High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Secretary General António Guterres said that there needs to be a ratcheting up of empowerment and gender equality in order to reach the 17 sustainable development goals. And, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed said, ” A recent report found that no country is on track to fully achieve Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals on gender equality by 2030. And despite some important progress, we are far short of attaining the elusive “gender balance” goal in leadership established in the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action.
We often think about poverty and how to fix it. There isn’t one magic bullet that moves people out of poverty. However, there are a few tenets about reducing poverty in families who live in underserved communities that work nearly every time and those are working directly with women and giving them financial tools to empower their lives and those around them.
Kiva, a leading lender in micro-loans financed by everyday people, is celebrating International Women’s Day by highlighting how they facilitate this year’s theme of “Balance of Better”. While women make up 40% of the world’s workers globally, 75% of them do not have access to credit, loans, and savings. To help women-owned businesses, you can give money to finance their businessesand today on International Women’s Day your donation will be matched to fund 10,000 businesswomen. Generous funders will match up to $1.5 million dollars today, March 8.
One woman who has been helped by Kiva, Regina, survived human trafficking – and now her clothing store is also a sanctuary for those affected by it
Regina Evans, Oakland resident, owns a store calledRegina’s Door, a theater and apparel shop that also serves as a community spot and a haven to those affected by human trafficking. In the past, she’s hired survivors of trafficking, and put on in-store programming for survivors including healing circles, improv, spoken word, and poetry. When Regina’s doors first swung open, she had no back stock, working with only 35 pieces of clothing and a 3-month lease. A month later, 193 Kiva lenders supported a $5,000 loan for Regina to purchase stock and buy simple necessities like hangers and an “open” sign. “That was like a million dollars to me,” Regina says of the loan.
Experts explained that the U.S. resistance, although extreme, was nothing new. The United States previously demonstrated its allegiance to the formula industry by refusing to sign on to the World Health Organization’s Ban on the Marketing of Breast Milk Alternatives.
This U.S. stance, like its intimidation of Ecuador, flew in the face of near universally accepted medical and scientific research proving that breastfeeding saves lives. Perhaps even more surprisingly, both acts perpetuate an alarming racial divide in breastfeeding rates that leads to significant racial health disparities. American support of the formula industry comes at the cost of the health and lives of Black and brown babies, at home and abroad.
Both the resolution and the U.S. opposition to it stemmed from a decline in formula sales in the United States. The industry has sought to make up for its considerable domestic losses on the global market. The racial aspects of this local-global dynamic are hidden in plain sight.