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Kenyan women are empowering themselves through informal banking

6 November 2018 12:44PM UTC | By: WOMEN'S ADVANCEMENT DEEPLY


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In Part 1 of a two-part report on the informal banks that help women secure financial stability, Women’s Advancement Deeply looks at a savings group in Kenya that grants independence to the women who join it. 

Orge Konchora always wanted her children to go to school, but her husband could not raise all the fees from his small salary as a driver, and she knew she had to help out. Although the family also had some livestock, the animals were owned entirely by her husband and most died during a drought. This meant the couple had to make an extra effort to pay their children’s school fees and meet their household expenses.

This was not easy for the 53-year-old mother of two because in the Gabra community from which she hails – as in many of the pastoralist communities that inhabit Kenya’s dry north – a woman is not allowed to own any property, be it land or livestock.

So Konchora joined one of the savings groups started by some of the women from her village, and from other nearby villages, to help them take control of their income; these have been the women’s only source of income for decades. As a result, both of her children are now at university in Nairobi, the nation’s capital.

“Life was tough. I was lucky to be living near the highway, so I could make and sell tea and bread to the Chinese constructors who were building the Nairobi-Moyale highway. But that came and went. Now I am always in business and can pay my children’s school fees even when my husband is struggling financially,” Konchora says.

When they started the group, the women were taught basic literacy and business skills, including record keeping, for two years by a group mentor. When the two years were up, the women were left to stand on their own and run their businesses.

Some 20% of Kenya’s population does not have access to a financial institution or a mobile money provider; two-thirds of these are women.

Generally, however, the picture is improving. The 2017 World Bank Global Findex database shows that 1.2 billion adults have obtained an account since 2011, 515 million of them since 2014. Between 2014 and 2017, the share of adults who have an account with a financial institution or through a mobile money service rose globally from 62% to 69%. In developing economies, the share rose from 54 to 63%. Yet women in developing economies remain 9 percentage points less likely than men to have a bank account. The database indicates the reasons why financial access remains difficult for rural women: illiteracy, lower levels of education, lack of land ownership, and sociocultural restrictions on agency and mobility.

In the scheme for which Konchora signed up, women come together as a group; they agree to a maximum 15 members, three of whom form a core group to start the business, which they run as a partnership. The 15 women then start saving money and can borrow for any emergency or to expand their own individual businesses. They agree to return any borrowed money with 10% interest within three months. In addition, the women contribute monthly to buy shares within the savings group.

This ensures the women, most of whom are unbanked, can enjoy a financial service managed by themselves. They are also able to own property and have access to money of their own without having to depend on their husbands or travel hundreds of miles to the formal banks in the town of Marsabit.

Each group also has a constitution. Any delay in loan repayment attracts a penalty. If someone is caught talking during a meeting, they are fined 20 shillings ($0.20). According to Bordakhane Sujo, the chairwoman of the Bakaal Savings Group in the village of Loglogo, this ensures discipline and commitment among the members. There are also two money counters in every group who are responsible for confirming the amount of money in their savings before a meeting starts.

Meshack Omarre, the regional manager at BOMA Project, an NGO that works to empower women and girls throughout the northern dry lands of Kenya and part of Uganda, says these would usually be the poorest and least empowered women in the region due to the strong cultural beliefs held by the communities, But, he says, these informal community banks are changing that, slowly but surely.

“Here, a woman is likened to a sheep, regarded as not knowing anything. You will also find in remote areas that they even agree with the men who call them that,” says Omarre. “But this is gradually changing. Men are accepting that they cannot meet the daily cost of running the family alone and they need their wives.”

In Part 2 of this report, Women’s Advancement Deeply look at the canny methods these informal banking groups use to make sure their money is safe yet always accessible.

ONE welcomes the contributions of guest bloggers but does not necessarily endorse the views, programs, or organisations highlighted.

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7 things you didn’t know about the Peace Bell

21 September 2018 2:06PM UTC | By: ROBYN DETORO


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Every year the world recognises International Day of Peace, an occasion dedicated to strengthening the ideals of peace across all nations and between all people. To inaugurate the special ceremony – attended by officials of the UN Secretariat and Representatives of Permanent Missions – the Peace Bell is rung by the UN Secretary-General.

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Happy #PeaceDay! Today, #PeaceBell Ceremony was held @UN to commemorate #InternationalDayOfPeace, where @antonioguterres & @UN_PGA rang the bell to remind us to continue to strive for world peace! UN Messengers of #Peace @hrhprincesshaya & Michael Douglas were also in attendance.

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Here are 7 things you need to know about the Peace Bell:

  • The Peace Bell was gifted to the UN from the United Nations Association of Japan in 1954.
  • The bell is massive! It stands over 3 feet tall and weighs in at 256 pounds.
  • Traditionally it is only rung twice a year. On the first day of Spring to symbolise the harmony of nature and rededicate the world’s commitment to peace and care of the Earth. Then again, exactly six months later, on the 21st of September to celebrate the International Day of Peace.
  • Representatives from UN Member States and people from over 60 nations around the world (including the Pope and children!) donated coins and medals from which the bell was cast.
  • Inscribed on the bell is a message written in Japanese characters: “Long live absolute world peace.”
  • When the bell is tolled, it is meant to send a message to all of humanity: “Peace is precious. It is not enough to yearn for peace. Peace requires work — long, hard, difficult work.”
  • The bell tower is modelled after the Hanamido and is symbolic of the place Buddha was born in.

Happy International Day of Peace, everyone! Celebrate by joining ONE today.

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Ethiopia appoints first female Supreme Court president



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This story was originally reported by Aaron Maasho and edited by John Stonestreet for the Thomson Reuters Foundation


Meaza at the End Child Marriage Summit in Lusaka, with campaigner Josephine, who had rescued 1000 girls from forced marriage. Photo Credit: @MeazaAshenafi

On Thursday, November 1st, Ethiopia’s parliament swore in the country’s first female supreme court president, Meaza Ashenafi, building on efforts by reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to achieve gender parity in government.

The appointment of Meaza Ashenafi comes two weeks after Abiy named 10 female ministers to make Ethiopia the third country in Africa — after Rwanda and Seychelles — to have its cabinet split equally between men and women.

A prominent rights campaigner, Meaza recently served as an adviser on women’s rights at the Addis Ababa-based United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

Naming her as his pick to head the Supreme Court, Abiy told lawmakers the court system needed improved capacities “to successfully implement demands made with regards to justice, democracy and change in our country.

“I have made the nomination with the firm belief that she has the capacity required, with her vast international experience in mind.”

Parliament unanimously approved Abiy’s choice.

Under Ethiopia’s constitution, the court system operates independently of government.

Last week the Horn of Africa country named Sahle-Work Zewde as president, also the first woman to hold that post.

Since his appointment in April, Abiy has presided over a series of reforms that have included the pardoning of dissidents long outlawed by the government and diplomatic overtures to long-term enemy Eritrea.

But they have so far failed to curtail unrest with over two million people displaced this year due to clashes – many pitting different ethnic groups against each other – in several parts of the country.

ONE welcomes the contributions of guest bloggers but does not necessarily endorse the views, programs, or organisations highlighted.

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Sobreviviente de ataque con ácido en Colombia pide ayudar a otras víctimas

Cada año se reportan alrededor de 1,500 ataques con ácido, principalmente contra mujeres.


Por Anastasia Moloney.
Traducción Erica Sánchez.

LONDRES, 15 de noviembre (Fundación Thomson Reuters) - Después de 35 operaciones para reconstruir su rostro quemado tras un ataque con ácido hace cuatro años, la colombiana Natalia Ponce de León ha superado su enojo y está decidida a presionar por mayor justicia para ayudar al creciente número de mujeres víctimas de ataques en su país y en el mundo.

Ponce fue víctima de un acosador fuera de su casa en Bogotá que la atacó con ácido y la dejó con quemaduras severas en una cuarta parte de su cuerpo. Ella se repuso y lo que sucedió la determinó a hacer algo para detener la aceptación generalizada de la violencia contra las mujeres en su país de origen.

En Colombia, una mujer es asesinada en promedio cada tres, a menudo por sus esposos, novios o familiares, y se reportan a diario 55 casos de violencia sexual, según el Instituto Nacional de Medicina Legal y Ciencias Forenses.

Ponce dijo que la cantidad de ataques con ácido contra mujeres está aumentando en Colombia, que tiene una de las tasas más altas de ataques con ácido per cápita, según informó la Organización Internacional con sede en Londres Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI).

Ponce explicó que en 2017 se registraron 53 casos, en comparación con 33 en 2016, la mayoría contra mujeres. El trabajo fuerte de su campaña dio lugar a una nueva ley en 2016, que lleva su nombre, lo que aumentó la pena máxima de cárcel por ataques con ácido a 50 años.

"Se nos arroja ácido y estamos quemadas por el hecho de que somos mujeres. Lo que me pasó a mí le puede pasar a cualquiera", dijo Ponce, cuando se presentó como oradora en la Conferencia de Confianza anual de la Fundación Thomson Reuters sobre esclavitud y los derechos humanos realizada recientemente.

"El atacante piensa: si no eres mía, entonces no puedes estar con nadie más. No pretenden matarte, directamente te dan una sentencia de muerte".

Ponce, de 38 años, dijo que el dolor del ataque siempre la acompañará, pero que se decidió “ a convertir lo negativo en positivo” y ayudar a otras víctimas a hacer lo mismo.

Los ataques aumentan globalmente

ASTI informó que cada año se reportan alrededor de 1,500 ataques con ácido en todo el mundo, principalmente contra mujeres. Aunque el número real probablemente haya sido mucho más alto y la mayoría de las víctimas estén aún demasiado asustadas para hablar.

Si bien los ataques con ácido son más comunes en el sur de Asia, también ocurren en el Medio Oriente y en Europa, con Gran Bretaña e Italia reportando un aumento en los ataques en los últimos años, según informó ASTI.

A principios de este mes, una activista ucraniana contra la corrupción, Kateryna Handzyuk, de 33 años, murió tres meses después de ser atacada con ácido que quemó más del 40% de su cuerpo. Ponce estableció una fundación en 2015 para brindar apoyo a las víctimas del ácido y presionar a Colombia para que introduzca una ley con sentencias más severas para los delincuentes y atención médica estatal gratuita para las víctimas.

Pero Ponce dijo que su trabajo dista mucho de haber sido realizado, ya que muy pocas víctimas de ataques con ácido, particularmente en áreas rurales, obtienen la atención médica especializada a la que tienen derecho según la ley, como la de terapia psicológica a largo plazo y la cirugía reconstructiva.

Luego del ataque Ponce se sometió a diversas cirugías reconstructivas. Las operaciones han incluido el uso de piel artificial de los Países Bajos para reconstruir su rostro que había sido severamente quemado.

"Muchos sobrevivientes de ataques con ácido aún no conocen sus derechos", dijo, quien también hace campaña para garantizar que más hospitales públicos tengan unidades especializadas en quemaduras.

El atacante de Ponce está tras las rejas y cumple una condena de 20 años, pero la justicia sigue siendo difícil de alcanzar para muchos sobrevivientes de ataques con ácido, ya que la mayoría de los delitos de violencia contra las mujeres quedan impunes. “Muchas mujeres se niegan a presentarse y denunciar los ataques”, dijo Ponce.

Con frecuencia, los ataques con ácido en Colombia involucran a mujeres con antecedentes de violencia doméstica, y son cometidos por novios, maridos o ex parejas.

"El sistema judicial y los jueces en Colombia aún culpan a las mujeres por la violencia que se les inflige. Se critica por qué una mujer estuvo fuera en ese momento o qué vestía", dijo Ponce.

Ella explicó que está enfocada en ser más resistente y "abrazar la adversidad", y no al hombre que destruyó su identidad.

"No podemos permanecer como víctimas. No podemos vivir en una prisión. El odio y la ira son una prisión. Tenía mucha ira. Pero aprendí a deshacerme de la ira para poder respirar de nuevo", dijo.

Más información en http://news.trust.org

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This Woman and Her Grandmother Just Graduated From the Same College at the Same Time

More proof that it’s never too late to get an education.


Grandmother and granddaughter graduate together at Chicago state university. Belinda Berry 62 Karea Berry 25

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Belinda and Karea Berry may be separated in age by 37 years, but when it comes to getting an education they’re on the same page. 

Karea, 25, celebrated her college graduation in a special way on Thursday when she walked the same aisle as her 62-year-old grandmother Belinda to receive her diploma from Chicago State University, ABC 7 reports. This is the first time in the university’s 150-year history that a grandmother and granddaughter graduated in the same class. 

“It was never planned, we both enrolled in school and we didn't know we were going to finish together because I was full-time and she was part-time, and it just worked out that way,” Karea said. 

Take Action: Tell Sweden's Deputy Prime Minister That Education Cannot Wait




Belinda, the grandmother, graduated top of her class and now plans to pursue a master’s degree in business, according to the report. 

Her granddaughter Karea also plans to pursue a master’s degree, but in the field of mental health counseling. 

"I just feel so thankful to the Lord,” Belinda said in a press release. “I’ve been sick over the last two years. Still I managed to take care of my 86-year-old uncle and, I also still managed to study and finish college. It’s just a blessing.”


INSPIRING: They may have been born almost four decades apart, but this grandmother and granddaughter are now part of the same graduating class at Chicago State University. http://abcn.ws/2AJZ7H9 

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The Global Goals for Sustainable Development enshrine quality education as one of 17 requisites for ending extreme poverty by 2030, and call for “equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university.” You can join us and take action on this issue here

Read More: Over 50 Years Later, This 83-Year-Old Woman Finally Earned Her High School Diploma

The number of adults above the age of 35 who are enrolled in US degree programs has increased significantly since 1970, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In 1970, just 767,000 adults aged 35 and over were enrolled in a degree-granting postsecondary institution. By 2013, that number had increased to over 3 million. 

Other statistics show that nearly two in five students enrolled in higher education are above the age of 25. 

Older students require a different set of services than younger ones, including the option of taking accelerated classes, weekend and night classes, and financial aid assistance, according to a 2009 study, “Hindsight, Insight, Foresight: Understanding Adult Learning Trends to Predict Future Opportunities,” that appeared in the journal EducationDynamics.  

Read More: 80-Year-Old Women Playing Basketball Is the Greatest Thing You'll See Today

But students like Belinda are showing that making this happen can be possible, no matter what your age is. 

“I have always stressed that education is power,” she said. “I am very honored to be a role model and I hope that I am an inspiration to the young as well as the old, because it is never too late to pursue an education.” 

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This 8-Year-Old Mexican Girl Won a Prize for Making a Solar Heater From Recycled Objects

She’s been an inventor since age four.


#SafeLiveAlertNews Ella es 👧🏽 Xóchitl Guadalupe Cruz López, tiene 8 años y ganó el Premio 🥇 de Ciencia Nuclear de la @UNAM_MX, al crear su propio calentador de agua 🚿#Talentojoven

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She’s dedicated half of her life to her craft — and now, she’s finally getting recognition. But for 8-year-old Xóchitl Guadalupe Cruz López, half of her life is four years, and the prize she won is one that’s usually reserved for adults. 

Last week, Cruz López became the first child to win a prestigious science prize from Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM), El Universal reports

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She was awarded the prize, which recognizes women’s accomplishments in science, for her solar water heater made entirely from discarded objects — including hoses, glass panels from a former construction site, and logs

She constructed the heater on her family’s rooftop, with a little bit of help from her dad. 

She said that the project was aimed at slowing climate change by reducing the need for low-income people in her rural community to cut down trees for firewood. 

“These are low-income people who don’t have the possibility to buy these heaters, so what they do is cut the trees to get firewood, which affects the world through climate change,” Cruz López said in a video for El Universal. “So, what I did is make this project, this heater, from recycled objects that don’t hurt the environment.” 

Read More: 32 Posters of Badass Women in Science to Inspire Girls Today

Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, and climate action is goal number 13. You can join us and call on the US Department of the Interior to protect public lands from oil drilling here

Along with saving the environment, the young entrepreneur from the southern Mexican state of Chiapas is showing that women and girls can succeed in a male-dominated field. 

The number of women and girls in science is on the rise — and girls like Cruz López are showing just how important this is.

Embedded video

Xóchitl Guadalupe Cruz López, de apenas ocho años ganó un galardón del Instituto de Ciencias Nucleares de la UNAM.

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Read More: Malala Says Educating Girls Is Key to Slowing Climate Change

According to statistics from Mexico’s national agency for science and technology, Conacyt, 36% of people in the country’s scientific register were women, which is a 65% increase over 2012. 

This still lags behind the proportion of female scientists in Latin America generally, where 45% of scientific researchers are women, according to UNESCO, but is well-above the proportion of women in science in other regions, including Europe (34%) and Asia (18.9%). 

Not only did Cruz-López impress the panel at UNAM, but she also made her parents and third-grade teacher proud. 

“It’s a great honor to know all that she has done,” her mother, Alma Lopez Gomez, said in an interview with Univision. 

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10-Year-Old Boy Had to 'Prove Disability' Before a Flight

His mother was left devastated by the “inhumane” treatment.

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Stigma and discrimination are still daily realities for people with disabilities all over the world, as the Johnson family’s experience helps demonstrate. But until everyone is actively working to break the stigma, we won’t be able to drive change. You can take action here to support the UN’s Global Goals, which call for equal rights for everyone, regardless of disability, age, race, gender, ethnicity, or any other status.

A 10-year-old boy who uses a mobility scooter was asked to prove he has a disability, according to his mother. 

Alex Johnson, whose son Jack has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, wrote a blog post detailing how her son was treated “inhumanely” before boarding a Jet2 flight from Croatia to Leeds-Bradford Airport. 

The family, from Wigan, Greater Manchester, were at Split Airport on Tuesday when an airline administrative error almost prevented them getting their flight and “humiliated” Jack, reported the BBC


I can honestly say we have never experienced anything as shambolic and as humiliating for our son as our flight home from Split with @jet2tweets
I want lessons to be learnt from the way he was treated so it never happens to anyone again.https://joiningjack.org/the-situation/parents-diaries/do-you-have-proof-your-son-is-disabled/ 

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Johnson and her husband Andy, who previously played for the rugby league team Wigan Warriors, have set up a charity called Joining Jack, which funds research into a cure for the condition. Johnson published her account of what happened on the charity’s website

“As a family we need and love our holidays because of the underlying heartbreak we live with every day as we watch our son’s muscles waste away,” she wrote. “Eventually it will be impossible for us to take Jack on holiday and make the precious memories we cherish with him.”

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But the holiday was “ruined” by their experience on the return flight.  

While there was no issue on the outbound flight, she said, staff at Split Airport didn't seem to have a record of Jack’s disability. 

Johnson said in her post that from what she could see on the airline’s website, her family “did everything we should have done” to prepare the airline and inform them about Jack being on the flight, including calling the airline’s disability assistance line as soon as they booked, explaining about Jack’s condition, and giving the details about the disability scooter he uses.  

“I didn’t want us to run into any problems as Jack hates people staring and attention being drawn to him,” she wrote. “It’s hard for him being a kid that is different.

“When we arrived at Split airport and attempted to check in, we were told by a clearly stressed check-in desk operative that they had no records of Jack, his disability, or his requirements,” she continued. 

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“The operative then informed us that two days’ notice is required to be able to put a motorised wheelchair or scooter on the aircraft and that we might not be able to fly,” she wrote.

“By this time the packed departures area was getting busier and people were getting frustrated with waiting,” she said. “We felt as though we were a huge burden.” 

According to Johnson, they were then asked for proof that her son has a disability. 

“I didn’t know whether to be sarcastic and say, ‘No, he loves to ride a disability scooter and pretends to be disabled for fun,’ or to cry and shout he has a bloody terminal muscle-wasting condition,” she wrote. 

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“The only reason I kept my cool was that I could see the embarrassment and anxiety rising in Jack,” she said. “The indignity of the situation was awful.” 

Johnson described how they “painfully” had to talk about the full extent of Jack’s condition in front of him, and show his blue badge to prove his disability. 

“As a mother, my job is to protect and nurture my child,” she wrote. “Yesterday, I had to stand by and watch as he was completely humiliated. You have left him demoralised.

“I want lessons to be learned and all staff to get training to ensure this never happens again to another disabled person,” she said. “They should be treated with dignity.” 

A spokesperson for Jet2 said the firm was “extremely sorry” for the “distressing experience.” 

“Although this is an isolated incident, we have learnt a number of lessons and we are urgently reviewing all our procedures to ensure that this does not happen again,” they said. 

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