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The gender and poverty connection
Extreme poverty disproportionately affects women as they do not have the same opportunities as men to receive an education, work, or own property. Without the means to break out of poverty, the cycle continues, limiting the opportunities for their children.
Achieving gender equality through the empowerment of girls and women benefits everyone, which is why it’s a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG 5).
As an organisation working towards a brighter future for all, Intouch Global Foundation is committed to tackling discrimination and meeting the goal of gender quality by creating better education and health systems for boys and girls, men and women.
Why gender equality matters
Gender equality studies tell the same story: the only way to sustainably alleviate poverty is to focus on initiatives to help women empower themselves.
In many countries, a woman cannot own land or inherit money, has no legal protection from domestic abuse, is prohibited from taking a job if her husband opposes the decision, and can only get access to credit, own a business, or apply for a passport if a male relative signs off.
Girls start missing out on opportunities to reach their full potential at a young age. Families living in poverty often decide to send their boys to school instead of their girls or allow their daughters to enter into child marriages. Once consigned to the home, women then miss out on the opportunity to earn their own money.
Menstruation is another barrier that prevents girls from attending school if they do not have access to adequate information about their periods, safe water and sanitation, or menstrual products. Girls are also more vulnerable to gender-based violence, conflict and trafficking.
Central to empowerment initiatives are education and employment. By providing a better education for young girls, we equip them with the skill sets to access job opportunities. More employment options translate into increased independence and income, enabling women to be the agents of change in their own lives.
Increasing women's economic equality would reduce poverty for everyone
Turning women into earners not only builds self-esteem but improves their standing in the community, enabling them to pool resources and improve infrastructure. Research shows that women will reinvest up to 90% of their income on health, nutrition, and education for their families, improving the next generation’s quality of life and prospects.
Gender equality has been proven time and time again to stimulate economic growth, which is crucial for low-income countries. UN Women report that in developed countries, half of the economic growth over the past 50 years is attributed to girls having better access to education, as well as increases in the number of years of schooling between girls and boys.
We cannot hope to end extreme poverty without first tackling gender equality. To achieve this, we need a human economy that works for women and men alike.
Our partners in the Craniofacial Centre, Nepal, conducted an outreach camp in Majhra Village, situated 17km outside of Janakpur. Over the course of a day, almost 80 patients were examined after queuing patiently while social distancing. As well as providing basic treatments and organising referrals to the Craniofacial Centre, medical staff counselled patients about the adverse effects of smoking on oral and dental health.
The importance of good oral hygiene cannot be overlooked: oral health greatly influences the quality of life and all too often people live in pain, miss school or work and, in extreme cases, develop life-threatening infections as a result of what are largely preventable conditions.
Poverty has a direct link to poor oral health, and a lack of access to timely, appropriate and affordable dental care continues to be a crisis. Outreach camps like this one provide an opportunity to not only treat, but also educate communities about teeth function, and the importance of maintaining oral care, healthy food habits, and proper brushing technique.
On the afternoon of Tuesday 4 August, a colossal explosion sent a mushroom cloud into the air and a supersonic blast wave radiated through the city of Beirut, Lebanon.
Communities impacted by the blast now face a triple emergency as they struggle to recover from the impact of the explosion and to prevent the spread of coronavirus amid the worst global economic crisis in decades.
Reports indicate that the explosion has killed over 200 people and wounded more than 5000 - 1000 of them children. At least 60 people are missing and over 300,000 have been displaced from their homes. An already overwhelmed health system is now being stretched to breaking point.
This week, Intouch Global Foundation donated £10,000 to the International Rescue Committee to help contribute to the urgent support they are providing to the people most affected by the crisis – including refugees, women, children, and people with special needs.
Staff on the ground are working with emergency response specialists to coordinate with the Lebanese government, UN agencies, and local and international NGOs in addressing immediate protection needs such as debris clearing, psychological support, dignity kits and emergency case management. The IGF is privileged to be contributing toward their efforts, and will keep up updated with further developments as they happen.
Our partners in Janakpur, Nepal, have made great strides over the past few weeks and have now been officially recognised by the Nepalese government! Oral and maxillofacial surgeon, Mr Sunil Sah, who co-founded the Craniofacial Centre in 2017, has given the organisation well-deserved publicity as a result of the interview he did on Nepal's largest national TV network last week. During the 30-minute long broadcast, Mr Sah discussed the incredible work done by Future Faces, which is the only facility of its kind in the region to deliver all acute dental, craniofacial, and trauma treatment. Pictured is a health worker equipped with PPE funded by the IGF and the Nepalese government, enabling crucial work to continue despite social distancing measures.
On Friday 8 May, the Intouch Gambia team led by Michael Mendy, distributed relief parcels to the families of 252 children who are pupils at Jan Jan Bureh nursery. For the remaining 12 children, parcels were delivered to their homes the following day. Each child was given a 6kg bag of rice, a bottle of cooking oil, and a bottle of liquid soap. These basic essentials will go a long way in easing the burden created by the loss of income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Intouch Gambia will monitor the situation of the pupils and their families. The IGF continues to pay the salaries of teachers while the school remains closed.
Intouch Global Foundation continues to contribute to efforts around the world to aid those who are vulnerable as the spread of COVID-19 continues. In Janakpur, Nepal, medical staff and volunteers from the Craniofacial Centre have been distributing face masks, gloves, and sanitser to the local community, with those waiting following social distancing measures and forming queues two metres apart.
We were delighted to see that our long time partner, Mr Sunil Shah was interviewed on Appan TV - Nepal's leading private TV station. Mr Shah set up the Craniofacial Centre in his home city of Janakpur, Nepal, in 2017 and spent the duration of the broadcast discussing the work they do to improve the lives of those who have been born with craniofacial abnormalities. This has given publicity to the Craniofacial Centre, and serves to highlight the extraordinary work they do for those in the community. For anyone who wants to brush up on their Maithili, click to watch the full video here!
On Monday 27th April, the Intouch Gambia team delivered a relief package to 20 families in Janjanbureh, eastern Gambia, as an urgent response to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in the area.
The team conducted a survey of the local community to identify families with the most immediate needs. Of the 20 families, half of them are headed by widowed mothers who now face a drastically reduced income in the wake of worldwide isolation. The little proceeds they relied on before have now ceased entirely as they can no longer sell fruit and vegetables in the local market.
The team successfully delivered to each household a package consisting of a gallon of cooking oil, a 50kg sack of rice, an 18kg sack of onions, and a pack of 20 bars of soap, funded by Intouch Global Foundation.
Intouch Gambia's Executive Director, Michael Mendy, reflects on the impact of this support: "The good thing out of this predicament is that the world has come together to combat a common enemy. In our quest to relieve poverty, Intouch Gambia deemed it necessary to contribute her quota in rendering social services to people. The team successfully supported 20 needy families, and as an entity, we hope to render support to more families."
They will continue to monitor the situation as the pandemic progresses, and work to assist those who are most vulnerable in the region.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has forced many charities to drastically alter how they usually operate, and Intouch Global Foundation has spent the last few weeks focusing efforts on how best to support our projects during this pandemic, tailoring relief to meet immediate needs during the worldwide sanctioning of self-isolation.
The first step was to evaluate how each individual organisation has been affected, and to evaluate the needs of those in their communities. Self-isolation has stopped how the majority of our charities provide their normal services, for example, classrooms are no longer in operation, libraries are temporarily closed, and clinics are limited to treating patients in urgent cases only.
The impact of this pandemic will have wide-ranging effects for a long time to come, not only on a health level but also on an economic one. For now, IGF are focusing on addressing immediate needs.
Read below to see the status of some of the organisations we support:
• In Gambia, as with the UK, schools have been temporarily closed. Michael Mende of Switched On-Gambia has identified some 50 of the most vulnerable of families in the region and will deliver food packages which include rice, vegetables, cooking oil, as well as sanitising products. Jan Jan Bureh Nursery is closed, but the IGF will continue the provision of teachers’ salaries.
• The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) have stopped all field missions and non-essential good entering Kakuma, Kenya, to try and prevent COVID-19 spreading into the camp. Plans for solar lamps and books to be delivered are on hold for now.
• Peru began social quarantining a week earlier than the UK, and have been in complete lockdown since March 15. The region of Cusco where Project Añañau is based have seen normal life come to complete stand still, with strict measures and a curfew in place. Unfortunately, the project has had to close temporarily. Staff and volunteers have issued children with advice about the importance of washing hands, keeping distance, and other important precautions, and are in daily contact with those who possess mobile phones. Ellen and other members of staff are organising relief packages for families who are now without a source of income.
• Renovations on Al-Hamzah School in Taiz, Yemen, have been put on hold as entry into the village has been blocked. Once restrictions are lifted, materials such as cement can be brought in, and building can resume once more.
• In Janakpur, Nepal, The Craniofacial Centre is closed for all routine non-urgent procedures. However, staff are present as the outpatient department remains open to provide limited services for screening, counselling, scheduling of new cleft patients, emergency trauma and office work.
• In Cambodia, Flame classrooms have been closed, and offices are being operated by skeleton staff. The impact of these closures are far-reaching; children who attend lessons at Flame are fed daily and are now without. The focus for now is on providing relief packages made up of 1000kg of rice, and other basic essentials have been organised and distributed to families who have been identified as being most at risk.
• Franche Community Church, based in Kidderminster, is still open and operating, and have seen the numbers of their food deliveries triple as they extend donations to those considered vulnerable, including those who are ill or elderly. Volunteers and drivers continue to practice social distancing and have been provided with gloves and sanitiser.
• Wyre Forest NightStop have been dealing with specific needs via remote means such as making applications, signposting to other agencies, and giving advice and information over the telephone. Support for mental wellbeing is in place through conversation, reassurance and signposting to other resources. The provision of practical support such as help with shopping and collecting medication has also been implemented.
• Living Springs, Stourbridge, has been identified as a key service, so are open and continue to support three families onsite.
Intouch Global Foundation supports Future Faces, a charity dedicated to training and supporting surgeons and associated health professionals to care for people with craniofacial deformities such as cleft lip and palate, trauma, and other problems in the head and neck region.
Without medical intervention, the consequences of such defects can be dramatic, ranging from social exclusion and stigmatisation to death as babies often may not be able to eat properly. Future Faces seek to deliver the best support and treatment for those in local communities, thereby changing the future for otherwise disadvantaged children.
In 2017, the IGF contributed to the establishment of the Craniofacial Centre, built on the site of Janakpur Trauma and Orthopaedic Hospital, Nepal. IGF funded the upgrade of the operating theatre by equipping it with state-of-the-art facilities, enabling basic but essential surgery to be performed.
Thanks to our partnership with Book Aid International, the Centre now has a medical library! Book Aid provided specialist textbooks, journals, and papers, with transport and delivery facilitated by IGF. The Gangadhar Medical Library gives local health professionals access to crucial and up-to-date medical and health information so that they can continue their work.
Intouch Gambia has just received a shipment of 8,000 brand new books from Book Aid International! In a feat of cross-country collaboration, non-profit organisation Riders for Health transported the shipment to Intouch Gambia coordinator Michael Mendy who is now able to distribute the books - alongside solar lamps - thanks to his new pickup truck.
The books for children include picture books, phonics books, young adult fiction and non-fictional education such as English as a Second Language texts. The diversity of age-appropriate books provided for young readers ensure that the children have the books they need for every stage of learning.
As well as the acquisition of a new vehicle, Intouch Gambia is currently in the process of recruiting two additional field workers to assist with operations as the organisation grows and continues to help more families and communities in the Central River Region of The Gambia!
This blog is to show the progress and activities of Intouch Global Foundation, and the charities it supports.