STAND Women: 2019 in Review

STAND Women: 2019 in Review

Women make up roughly 50% of our global population but still face significant human rights challenges, including some which are less visible but equally damaging such as gender bias in institutions like the media. Cassie, our Women’s Section Editor, reminds us of the women’s rights issues that were important to us in 2019.

2019 Global Humanitarian Overview: Part 1

2019 Global Humanitarian Overview: Part 1

On 4 December 2018, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released the 2019 Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO). The document intends to outline the outcome of 2018 global humanitarian efforts and put forward goals and financial expectations for the upcoming year. The full document can be found here.

The overall sentiment towards humanitarian aid in 2018 has been a positive one. Global humanitarian funding has reached a new high of $22 billion, surpassing the $21.5 billion raised in 2017.

Between 2008 and 2015, the number of people living in extreme poverty fell from 1.2 billion to 736 million, a marked difference showing that despite conflict and continuing need for assistance, there are achievements being made to combat global suffering.

“Despite the challenges, the humanitarian system is more effective and impactful than it has ever been. We are better at identifying different groups’ specific needs in crises and quicker to respond when disasters strike. Response plans are more inclusive, comprehensive, innovative and prioritized. We have a better picture of needs and vulnerabilities. And we have dedicated networks in more than 20 countries to protect people from sexual exploitation and abuse. All of these factors allow us to design effective responses that save lives and protect livelihoods.” –United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock

In 2018 it became apparent that crises are lasting longer on average than ever before, with the average crisis being measured at 9.3 years. Crises are also becoming more diverse in cause, with a multitude of factors interacting as we saw in 2018. A combination of natural hazards, armed conflict and human vulnerability prove to be the main drivers of global humanitarian crises today.

Populations in conflict areas are also younger than ever, and rapid growth to urban density can amplify the impacts of disasters and conflicts. Climate-related disasters (floods, storms, droughts) now account for more than 90% of the world’s disasters and affect the greatest number of people.

Food insecurity continues to be a growing issue for humanitarian aid organizations. Countries with the highest levels of undernourishment tend to be those recently or currently experiencing violent conflict, which disrupts food production and undermines agricultural development. From 2017 to 2018, the combination of conflict, drought and acute food insecurity left more than 20 million people facing or on the brink of famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

Attacks on aid workers remain an ongoing issue that prevents aid from being delivered to areas critically requiring humanitarian assistance. Between 2014 and 2017 there were 660 attacks recorded, with nearly 90% of victims national aid workers. Attacks are also becoming more violent, with an increased number resulting in death.

In 2018, 1 in every 70 people was impacted by ongoing crises, and will require humanitarian aid heading into the 2019 year. The 2019 GHO data shows us that the humanitarian community is continuing to deliver where needs are highest, reaching tens of millions of people in 41 countries in 2018. These needs will not subside into 2019. Catch Part 2 of this article for a summary of humanitarian aid plans in 2019 as outlined by the year’s Global Humanitarian Overview.


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Photo courtesy of UNHCR/F. Noy via Flickr


Greater female literacy: a core benefit to society

Greater female literacy: a core benefit to society

Avril Marren looks at the benefits that would come with improved female literacy in India, Kenya and Zambia. 


Startling parallels appear between India, Kenya and Zambia when looking at women’s literacy rates. The International Journal of Population Research identifies the crucial role that female literacy plays globally. It indicates that improving literacy amongst girls and women is key to decreasing maternal and child mortality, stabilising population growth, ensuring the provision, and use, of quality healthcare, and empowering women and their communities. Studies like this are striking, but when we look at these nations closely, we fully recognise the world-changing power of reading, writing and counting.

Achieving universal primary education was a UN Millennium Development Goal for 2015. Data gathered by UNICEF about education in India, shows that 99.9% of females (as a percentage of males) were enrolled in primary school between 2008 – 2012. Despite this intervention from the Indian government, The Hindu reports that of the number of Indian females who study until Class 2nd (when they are roughly 7 years old), only 15% are able to read a sentence. Moreover, of the females who reach Class 5th, only 48% are literate. This highlights the poor quality of schooling available to Indian women and suggests that students are being moved on to the next grade without having acquired the necessary skills. In a 2016 article for Social Change, Shiv Prakash Katiyar predicts that ‘at the current rate of progress, India will attain total female literacy only in 2051′. This lack of drive in teaching women persists despite indications in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care that the promotion of education and gender equality leads to better health outcomes, lower population growth, and higher incomes in India and worldwide.

The same research found that ‘the effect of female literacy [in terms of population stabilisation and infant health] exists independently of male literacy’ and that, in Kenya, a mother’s education had a far greater effect on decreasing infant mortality than that of a father’s. UNICEF statistics affirm that Kenyan education is being expanded to include a greater number of women. However, like in India, there are still concerns about the quality of this education, and the disparity between literacy in urban and arid areas of Kenya. The Daily Nation reported in September last year, that despite an overall decline in enrolment, more Kenyan women are participating in literacy programs than ever before and outperforming their male counterparts. The major obstacles to capitalising on this female surge in literacy are lack of resources and infrastructure.

A sustainable model for overcoming this may be found in Camfed’s work in Zambia. Zambia has the same background of increased youth participation in education, and a growing overall literacy rate, as India and Kenya. And like these two nations, Zambia has also yet to see significant results from this when it comes to female literacy. Camfed Zambia has 1,138 partner schools and is working apolitically with governments to dismantle female exclusion from education, protect children, prevent child marriage and promote gender equality. By actively encouraging female education and enterprise, the schoolgirls Camfed supports go on to lead systemic change and improve the prospects of the next generation of women in education. The links and co-operation created by the Camfed network in Sub-Saharan Africa is an impressive example of the power of female literacy. Their goals of addressing child and maternal mortality, tackling poverty, accelerating economic development, and helping communities deal with climate change, show us how addressing gender inequality in literacy will have a knock on effect in the most urgent issues that our world faces.


If you would like to get involved or volunteer in either India, Kenya or Zambia, click here to for more information.


Photo by Jamie Taylor on Unsplash

Volunteer Perspectives

Volunteer Perspectives

To celebrate International Volunteer Day, Mary Coogan hears the perspectives of just a few of the many volunteers who are giving their time, energy and skills to make a difference in communities in Ireland and around the world.

Eleftheria Papamichali, who is originally from Greece, is an EVS volunteer on placement with IDEA

I work for IDEA (Irish Development Education Association) and my role is to help in the implementation of a development education programme called “Challenging the Crisis”. It’s held by seven NGOs from the six countries of EU that have been most hit by austerity. My role is project support, and some of my tasks include contact with the volunteers and the partners, presentation of the project and editing our project’s newsletter.

I always liked the idea of volunteering but I got more involved after the crisis. I had plenty of time and a need to be more active as a citizen. I didn’t want to focus only on the problems of my country because I know that in other places there are people with more problems than us because of the exploitation and lack of justice. So I decided to volunteer for Fair Trade Hellas.

When you volunteer you always get much more than you give. It’s an invaluable experience. I think volunteering is important on both a personal and social level because people learn how to collaborate and help without wanting something in return. They gain confidence and fulfillment, important ingredients for building a better world.

Martina Ryan Doyle, an accountant from County Limerick, has been volunteering since December 2014 in the Northern Province of Zambia.

I was one of four volunteers on an Irish Aid funded programme with VSO (Volunteer Services Overseas), the core objective of which is to strengthen the governance capacity of local authorities.

I guess I have always had the desire to do this, not in the Florence nightingale sense, rather a desire to use my skills, knowledge and experience in a completely different cultural context. It was just something I wanted to try and the circumstances were right at that time to put the “desire” into action. My only criteria was to volunteer using my skills which is what the VSO model is designed around.

One of my biggest learnings is that you have to be open to learning within oneself. Personally and professionally I believe undertaking an assignment such as this will either bring out the best in you or the worst in you, as it challenges you in ways you have never experienced before.

Volunteering provides the individual with a unique opportunity for professional growth and to broaden and enlighten their mind. We don’t need to travel far to be a volunteer, I am sitting in the local library as I write this and I see people volunteering their time in many ways here. Volunteers have an enormous impact on the well-being of communities worldwide.

I had some funny instances when I first arrived in Zambia when it came to different interpretations. The traffic lights were referred to locally as “robots” which for weeks I understood as “rowboats”. Zambia is a landlocked country so it did cross my mind that having rowboats was a bit strange! All directions focused on either go right or left at the “Robots” (which I could never find as I was looking for something completely different).In the end I had to ask for clarification…..but it did take me a few weeks!

Lassane Ouedraogo, originally from Burkina Faso, is involved with various different volunteer roles in Ireland

I have volunteered with a number of organisation since my arrival in Ireland which include the Irish Refugee Council (IRC). I also volunteer with Sport Against Racism Ireland (SARI) which uses sporting and cultural events to bring together people from different cultures and backgrounds, and with other organisations such as Irish Cancer Society, Dublin Age Action, Camara, Comhlámh, to only mention a few.

I work to build relationships based on trust and solidarity with asylum seekers and refugees. I intended to build active participation of asylum seekers with the work of the IRC and empower them for their integration and participation in Irish society.

I decided to volunteer because of my passion for human rights and social justice. I wanted to keep myself active and busy while being denied any education, work or basic rights as an Asylum Seeker. I also wanted to figure out the purpose of my life. I wanted to help vulnerable people, even though I was one of them, to integrate in Irish society.  I therefore wanted to make a change in the life of newcomers to Irish society.

Volunteering has taught me a lot about social justice and human rights issues, about sustainability, and it has given me an awareness of how I live and how to be more active and engaged with the community.

Volunteering is very important because you learn a lot from others. By volunteering you meet new people and gain more experience which not only help you in your future career but also in your personal life. It gives you the opportunity to learn how to help others and also be part of a gateway workforce.

Maud Verstappen, from the Netherlands, is a volunteer with the Solas Project in Dublin 8

I’m am doing an internship with the Solas Project in the Junior Afterschool Club. This internship is part of my education in The Netherlands, where I study Social Work. I’m at Solas Project everyday during the week. In the morning I’m doing different things, like preparing for the club or going to a school for Solas College. In the afternoon I work in the Junior Afterschool Club. This is a club for children from 6 – 8 years old. Together with the group leader, interns and volunteers we have dinner with the kids, do homework with them and do an activity. This can be craft, baking or sports for example. But the most important thing is to just have fun with the kids.

This is part of my education, so I hope I will learn how to be a professional. That’s the main reason why I’m here. But it’s also to be there for the kids and to help them where I can.

In the beginning it was hard for me to see the use of what I was doing. I didn’t see much progress. I thought about this and after a while I learned that being there for the kids means more than I realised. So the thing I’ve learned is that you may not always see the use you are for people/children, but that you are still important.

I think volunteering is important because some people just need a little extra help. Volunteers can give that extra help by being there for those people who need it. A volunteer can give another person an opportunity.

Claire Nic Gabhann from Ireland was a volunteer quality teaching facilitator with SVO in Bukoba, Tanzania

VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) are a great organisation that predominantly use skilled volunteers to make a difference. They invest in volunteers to work with schools, communities and hospitals and the results are more sustainable. In my position I worked with 12 school. I trained 12 teachers and 12 head teachers to up-skill them in better teaching methodologies. In turn I would support them as they trained teams of teachers in one another’s school. That means the work I was doing reached close to 200 teachers. I worked as part of a project team of volunteers so we were helping to up skill teachers, empower students to give them a voice and help school management teams to become more efficient. The overall approach was very successful, we even had local schools who weren’t on the project asking the schools in our project to give them workshops. I like that VSO use the volunteers and empower the people rather than providing resources which may run out in the long term.

I have always been interested in helping others and had volunteered on and off for years with different groups. I felt like I needed a change to refresh myself from my career and so began the search. As soon as I started searching I remembered VSO. I had come across them when I was younger but I didn’t have the required experience but now I had. When I met the staff and did more research I knew I would go with them. At first you think it’s a big and scary step to go long term volunteering but nothing will prepare you for how rewarding it can be.

I have learned how to gain people’s trust, more patience than I ever thought I had, problem solving skills, how to positively motivate others, better public speaking skills, leadership skills, a new language, how to understand, overcome and deal with cultural barriers. I have learned that I have more mental strength than I believed I had. I have learned how to change direction when things are not going according to plan and how to roll with it when they are going better than you had planned. I have learned how to juggle working with many different personalities and I have learned the joy of giving.

I have always thought that volunteering is a great thing to do and not for the reason most would think. In all of my time volunteering I know the recipient is benefitting but I know I am too. I have found that volunteering gives me an even bigger sense of gratitude for all the blessings I have in my life. It awakens a sharp awareness of how much you have or know and how you can share that with others. We can all volunteer at a local club, a school, a shelter or with one of the bigger organisations. I have yet to meet a volunteer who regrets volunteering!!

Masha Buldakova, from Russia, is an EVS volunteer with VSI

I am an EVS volunteer for Voluntary Service International (VSI) an organization that works for peace, social justice and inclusion, through volunteering and informal and non-formal education. My role is to recruit volunteers from Ireland and abroad for our international volunteering projects that take place in Ireland and abroad with our branches around the world.

I’ve learned that even a small input can bring wonderful changes in someone’s life. I think that this small input has motivated me to volunteer, I feel that this is a useful contribution that I have made.

I have gained so much knowledge about different things during the last year and met so many different people. I would say that now I am more aware about equality. Thanks to my position in VSI, I had a unique chance to visit so many places in Ireland. Volunteering in VSI has for me meant personal growth and priceless experience.


Photo credit: Suas: Orna Nicholl with schoolchildren from DAS, Development Action Society in Kolkata