- Zambia's founding president, Kenneth Kaunda, says most African countries will not be able to meet their Millennium Development Goals (MDG) targets, particularly poverty eradication and the fight against HIV/AIDS because of a lack of education.
Speaking at the launch of the literary competition at Orkney, North West, Kaunda, pointed out that, "If we are going to be moving at this pace, we will not meet those challenges. We must improve on the speed that we are moving now to bring about the necessary qualities and quantities of education."
The competition is the brainchild of the Dr. Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality and it is aimed encouraging residents to start using libraries and read books as a tool of empowerment.
To read the article titled, “Kaunda says African countries unlikely to meet MDGs,” click here.
- Debate on the MDGs has recently intensified in both the public and policy sectors. With less than five years to go until its deadline of 2015, and the majority of the Goals seemingly out of reach, many are questioning the design and implementation of the MDGs, as well as the commitment from the international community. A recent summit in New York, attended by the world’s leaders, seems to have done little to provide the direction and clarity so clearly needed at this crucial juncture.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in conjunction with the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Information Centre in Pretoria, is pleased to invite you to its Humanitarian Diplomacy Dialogue panel discussion on the MDGs beyond 2015.
- Prof. Ogude, Wits University;
- Mr. Pooven Moodley, Oxfam Regional Advisor for Southern Africa;
- Dr. Osten Chulu, UNDP;
- Ina Mentz, Deputy Director, Strategic Planning and Policy Monitoring, Department of Social Development, South African govt.
Time: 10:30 am – 1 pm
RSVP: Nooshin, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org by 29 November 2010Event start date:02/12/2010Event venue:IFRC offices (44 Wierda Road West, Wierda Valley, Sandton)
- The United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, says strong political support is needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Addressing the G20 summit in South Korea, Ban said that despite widespread skepticism, he believes the goals are still achievable before the 2015 deadline.
“...I believe that with strong political leadership and good policies targeted towards the right people, right areas and smart investment and adequate financial resources, I am sure that this is achievable," he explained.
To read the article titled, “Strong political support needed to achieve MDG's,” click here.
- The United Nations Foundation board of directors is holding a Board meeting in Ghana and will meet with government and NGO leaders to learn and share strategies for advancing progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The meeting comes at the culmination of a year-long effort by the UN Foundation to raise awareness about the need for innovative partnerships between governments, civil society, and the private sector with the UN to address global challenges.
The meeting in Ghana builds on the positive momentum generated during the recent high-level UN Summit in New York that showcased how the UN is achieving progress in Africa and must be accelerated around the world.
To read the article titled, “UN Foundation to Observe Progress Made on MDGs,” click here.
- Minister in the Presidency, Trevor Manuel, criticises developed countries for failing to act on the big commitments they have been making, to help developing countries.
Manuel, who is also accusing developed nations of ignoring these commitments, adds that, “This has led to a breakdown of trust and a high degree of cynicism about rich countries’ efforts to help tackle issues like poverty.”
He further states that the challenge in removing global economic imbalances and inequality is in relation to ethics of governance.
To read the article titled, “Developed countries fail on own commitments: Manuel,” click here.
Towards Universal Primary Education: Africa’s Progress in meeting the 2nd Millennium Development GoalThe Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were formulated at the United Nations (UN) Leaders Summit in 2000.(2) The MDGs are eight internationally recognised targets that aim to reduce poverty, hunger, maternal and child deaths, disease, inadequate shelter, gender inequality and environmental degradation by 2015.(3)
Since their inception, the MDGs have occupied the attention of numerous agencies like the UN, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and many bilateral organisations, all of which support the notion of having standardised parameters of development, with the end goal of improving the quality of political, social and economic spheres across the globe. To this end, Africa has tailored many governmental, regional and continental policies aimed at attaining the MDGs.
According to a report launched by the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), entitled ‘Assessing Progress in Africa Toward the Millennium Development Goals’, Africa has made steady progress on the MDGs.(4) The report gives evidence of this, reporting that as of 2009, Rwanda was ranked first in the world, with over 50 percent women’s representation in the national Parliament. In addition, Angola, Burundi, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda have more than a quarter women representatives in Parliament. Also, Mali, Senegal and Togo are on track on the HIV and AIDS target, while in 2008, Botswana, Comoros, Mauritius, Namibia and South Africa reached over 90 percent coverage for access to safe drinking water.(5)
In the words of Helen Clark, the administrator of UNDP, the evidence speaks for itself, “when the right policies are in place, scores can be lifted out of poverty rapidly, which means quite simply better lives for millions of Africans”.(6)
Few global goals have been as consistently and deeply supported as the notion that every child in every country should have the chance to complete at least a primary education.(7) A completed primary education is a basic human right and is necessary for enjoying many other rights. It is transformative and empowering, and a means for accessing broad economic, social, political and cultural benefits.(8) As such, African governments have been especially dedicated to meeting MDG number 2, whose target is to ensure that by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.(9)
It is the aim of this paper to assess the progress that Africa has made at attaining this target. The paper will first outline the importance of this particular MDG, then give an overview of Africa’s progress with regards to this goal and end by exploring the obstacles that would potentially impede Africa’s chance of reaching this goal by 2015. It will become apparent that contrary to the rhetoric that ‘‘Africa. . .is the only continent not on track to meet any of the goals of the Millennium Declaration by 2015”,(10) the continent has made significant strides in ensuring that all children will have access to primary education within the required timeframe.
The case for education
As the popular saying goes, ‘knowledge is power’ and this is especially true in Africa. As a continent that is composed entirely of developing states, it is imperative that Africa makes a concerted effort at empowering its people. Education is one of the most significant avenues through which this aspiration can be realised. Studies have shown that more equitable distribution of education is correlated with lower poverty and inequality and faster economic growth. Education, and particularly primary education is a powerful driver of progress toward the other MDGs.
Greater education for girls has strong positive impacts on the health of infants and children, immunisation rates, family nutrition, and the next generation’s schooling attainment. New data from Africa shows that education for girls and boys may be the single most effective preventive weapon against HIV and AIDS. Primary education also contributes to better natural resource management, including conservation of the tropical rain forest.(11)
Investment in education has many long-term advantages. Combined with sound macroeconomic policies, education is fundamental for the construction of globally competitive economies and democratic societies. Education is key to creating, applying, and spreading new ideas and technologies that in turn are critical for sustained growth; where it augments cognitive and other skills, which in turn increases labour productivity. The expansion of educational opportunity is a “win-win” strategy that in most societies is far easier to implement than the redistribution of other assets such as land or capital.(12)
Ultimately, education builds on what Amartya Sen calls ‘human capabilities’ - the essential and individual power to reflect, make choices, seek a voice in society, and enjoy a better life.(13) In short, education is one of the most powerful instruments known for reducing poverty and inequality and for laying the basis for sustained economic growth, sound governance, and effective institutions.(14)
This is not to say that education is the ‘holy grail’ of poverty alleviation and development. However, the outcomes of investing in education are multiple-fold. While giving food aid only alleviates hunger, investing in education has a ripple effect; influencing numerous spheres of development, and in effect furthering the progress in attaining all the MDG targets. To further support this claim, findings from the Education for All Global Monitoring Report show that:
• 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty if all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills - that is equivalent to a 12 percent drop in the number of people living on less than US$1.25 a day (MDG 1-Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger);
- In Kenya, if women farmers are given the same education opportunities as their male peers, their yields for maize, beans and cowpeas increase by up to 22 percent (MDG 3-Promote gender equality and empower women);
- A child born to a mother who can read is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of five, and in sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 1.8 million children’s lives could have been saved in 2008 if their mothers had at least secondary education (MDG 4-Reduce child mortality);
- In Burkina Faso, mothers with secondary education are twice as likely to give birth more safely in health facilities as those with no education (MDG 5-Improve maternal health); and
- In Malawi, the share of women who know that HIV transmission risks can be reduced by taking drugs during pregnancy is only 27 percent for women without any education, but rises to 59 percent for women with secondary education (MDG 6-Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases).(15)
The progress Africa has made has been gradual, but significant nonetheless. The continent has made tremendous strides in achieving universal education with 76 percent net enrolment in primary education in 2008, up from 58 percent in 1999. There were close to 91 girls per 100 boys in schools in 2008, up from 85 in 1999, and this is a tremendous achievement in a continent whose societies are stratified along gender lines.
There are two main indicators used to measure progress in education, the first is net enrolment in primary education. African countries have continued to show overall progress in net enrolment in primary education. Of the 27 countries with data for 1991 and 2007, seven countries: Ethiopia, Guinea, Malawi, Mali, Madagascar, Mauritania, and Morocco, scored a significant improvement of 30 to 50 percentage points. Burkina Faso, Burundi, Djibouti, The Gambia, Ghana, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Swaziland, and Togo also succeeded in improving primary net enrolment by some 10 to 30 percentage points during this period. Increasing primary education expenditure is critical for raising the primary enrolment rate. It has been shown that countries that allocate at least 50 percent of their education budget to primary education have the fastest rate of progress in education.
The second marker is the primary completion rate. This is a measure of how many students remain in school till the end of their primary school career.(17) This measure is imperative, as it is a fuller indication of how many children have received primary education and are eligible to continue to secondary school. While MDG 2 is specific to primary education, its proposal does have long-term education goals that aim at increasing the number of students enrolled at secondary and tertiary institutions on the continent. Moreover, this marker is helpful when lobbying for the scaling-up of investments - both public and private. The allocation of more funds to education is more clearly justified when the children enrolled at school stay on to complete their studies.(18)
The first of Africa’s challenges is with regards to retention. While it is vital to get children into school, to receive the full benefits of this education, children must remain in school. In half the countries in sub-Saharan Africa with data available, more than 30 percent of primary school students drop out before reaching the final grade.(19)
Current statistics show that about 38 million children drop out of school each year in Africa alone.(20) The inability to provide universal primary education and to subsequently keep those students in school has had adverse effects on youth and adult literacy rates across the world. According to figures for 2000-2007, approximately 125 million youth and around 760 million adults are illiterate. One-third of youth illiterates and one-fifth of adult illiterates are in sub-Saharan Africa, with two-thirds of these being African women.(21)
The second challenge is that of the quality of education. According to the Deprivation and Marginalisation in Education (DME) data, while the vast majority of adults in rich countries will have accumulated 10 to 15 years of education, nearly one out of three in the 22 countries covered by the DME have fewer than four years of education. In eleven of these countries, the figure rises to 50 percent. In 26 countries, 20 percent or more of those aged 17 to 22 have fewer than two years of schooling. Marginalised individuals and groups do not just accumulate fewer years of education, but often receive a poor-quality education that results in low levels of learning achievement.(22)
This challenge is directly influenced by the third challenge - lack of financing and poverty. Given that nearly 1.4 billion people live on less than US$1.25 a day, household poverty is one of the strongest and most persistent factors contributing to educational marginalisation and, therefore, a formidable barrier to reach the MDG 2. Furthermore, group-based identities such as ethnicity, race, language and culture are also among the deepest fault lines in education, and are often reflected in human geography.
People living in slums, remote rural areas or conflict-affected zones are typically among the poorest and most vulnerable in any society, and are underserved in education. The marginalisation of specific groups in educational systems is underpinned by the lack of finances. When the resources to provide primary education to the whole nation are limited, political and social prejudices skew the distribution of quality education. This is to the detriment of less privileged minorities, women and disabled individuals.
Indeed, Africa has made great strides in ensuring that MDG 2 is reached. Making sure that all children have access to primary education by 2015 has multiple advantages. Not only does it enrich the lives of the individuals concerned, it empowers people in the universal fight against poverty. While the progress to attaining the MDGs has been slow, evidence shows that Africa is gradually climbing the ladder of development.
The Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Abdoulie Janneh, has commented that, “There are strong indications that the MDGs are achievable, provided African countries and their development partners can redouble their efforts to achieve the goals.”(23) This is further asserted by Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank Group, “given the encouraging achievements made, international support for the MDGs in Africa remains high but it must be scaled up if we are to achieve wide-ranging success.”(24)
These calls for increased efforts must be taken up by African Governments. In order to combat the above-mentioned challenges, Africa must implement more strategic policies at the national, regional and continental levels. The most important determinant in the acceleration of achieving universal primary education is political will. Governments must be mobilised to prioritise education above other political issues. Without governmental support, effective policies will not be implemented.
Good governance is also imperative, as greater accountability, participation and transparency can improve the efficiency with which available resources, financial and otherwise, are allocated and used. Such efforts, together with adequate aid, will accelerate Africa’s quest in attaining the MDGs.
While 2015 is not as far as was envisioned when the MDGs were proposed, hope cannot be lost now. Even if Africa does not meet 100 percent completion of all the MDGs, no sober mind would discount the development it has achieved in such a short amount of time.
(1) Contact Shingirai Maparura through Consultancy Africa Intelligence's Africa Watch Unit ( email@example.com ).
(2) United Nations website, http://www.un.org.
(3) Emmanuela Citterio, ‘Africa: Steady Progress on the MDGs’, Afronline, 21 September 2010, http://www.afronline.org.
(4) ‘Assessing Progress in Africa Toward the Millennium Development Goals’, African Union, 21 September 2010
(7) Bruns. B. Mingat. A & Rakotomalala. R. Achieving Universal Primary Education by 2015: A Chance for Every Child. World Bank Report, 2003.
(8) United Nations Development Group, Thematic Paper on MDG2: Achieve Universal Primary Education, 2010, http://www.undg.org.
(10) Easterly W, How the Millennium Development Goals are Unfair to Africa. World Development. 37(1). Pp. 26-35, 2009.
(11) World Bank website, http://www.worldbank.org.
(13) Alexander J, Republican Freedom and Amartya Sen’s Theory of Capabilities. Human Development and Capability Association conference Ideas Changing History, 17 – 20 September 2007, New School, New York.
(15) ‘World leaders and experts meet to raise the profile of education on the development agenda’, UNICEF, 21 September 2010, http://www.unicef.org.
(16) ‘New UNICEF study shows MDGs for children can be reached faster with focus on most disadvantaged’, UNICEF, 7 September 2010, http://www.unicef.org.
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- The attainment of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on poverty, hunger, education, maternal and child deaths and climate change would remain elusive to poor countries without the support of developed countries. That’s according to the Tanzanian foreign affairs and international cooperation minister, Bernard Membe.
Membe argues that with only five years away from the deadline, there are serious gaps in the realisation of commitments on MDG 4 and 5 on the part of developing countries, including Tanzania.
Membe calls for concerted efforts by developed countries to assist poor countries to meet their commitments, adding that, “The funding gap on commitments by developed countries to Africa alone is over US$16 billion.”
To read the article titled, “MDGs unattainable in poor countries if rich nations do not help, says Membe,” click here.
- In recent months, South Africa has witnessed series of social unrest, many of which ended in violence by very poor communities who allege poor delivery of basic goods and services. The majority of South African citizens are poor and pervasive inequality exists between men and women and between black and white peoples of the country. Thus far, the poverty alleviation strategies of Government seem unable to reduce inequalities and the consequences of poverty among women in rural areas.
Many of the existing policies deal mostly with the formal sector, to the detriment of the informal, non-remunerative roles rural women perform. Most of these policies are furthermore not well implemented and hence do not benefit the maximum number of citizens. This brief examines the challenges to eradicating poverty amongst rural South African women with a view to offer a sustainable model of social justice and development.
Women and poverty in South Africa
In 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, poverty was identified as one of the challenges facing humanity. It was therefore imperative for governments to implement strategies aimed at eradicating poverty.
According to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BDPFA) point 16, “Eradication of poverty based on sustained economic growth, social development and social justice requires the involvement of women as agents and also beneficiaries of people-centred sustainable development.” It is noteworthy that, 15 years after the establishment of this Platform for Action, most South African women still live in poor conditions with meagre salaries, with few skills, poor sanitation and inadequate basic necessities. According to official data from Statistics South Africa, more than 25 million of the country’s 48 million citizens are women,(2) but this fact has not improved their status in any way. Social development and social justice still lack efforts to improve the status of women.
Despite large-scale urban migration, most women live in rural areas where the incidence of poverty is much higher than in urban areas. About 59.3 percent of poor individuals are rural dwellers and the highest prevalence of poor rural dwellers is found in the female population between the ages of 25-49.(3) South Africa is also rated as the 12th most inequitable country on earth.(4) In line with global commitment to eradicate extreme poverty by 2015 in terms of the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG),(5) South Africa has made specific achievements in reducing income poverty and poverty amongst those living under the international rate of less than US$1 a day.
From April 1994 - March 2004, social grants have been increased from R10 billion to R37.1 billion (around US$5 billion). During the same period, the Government has been able to provide over 435 000 homes with electricity, sanitation and safe drinking water.(6) Despite these achievements, the extent of inequality between rich and poor is so great that it is impossible to bridge the gap by 2015 with current efforts. Such inequalities are defined by several factors such as race, gender and class. This is why poverty is mostly noted among the rural, poor and black communities.
Several factors contribute to poverty amongst rural women, including gender disparities in economic power-sharing and changes in family structures caused by migration and/or ill-health. All of these factors have placed additional burdens on women, particularly those who provide for several dependants. The feminisation of poverty in South Africa has a rural and a racial dimension, to the extent that it obstructs the well-being of women and sustainable development.(7)
Manifestations of poverty include limited or no access to education, increasing mortality and morbidity from illness, chronic ill-health, homelessness and inadequate housing, and unsafe environment. Inadequate housing and homelessness significantly affects poor women, erodes their dignity and undermines social justice and development. Adequate housing (or ‘human settlement’ as it is now referred to in South Africa) for women is imperative to sustainable development.
Dignified living for women in South Africa
In 2009, the Jacob Zuma Government created the Department for Women, Children and People with Disability (DWCPD) with the mandate to “Emphasise the need for equity and access to development opportunities for vulnerable groups in our society.”(8) In other words, the Department of Women, Children and Persons with Disability was established to empower women, particularly the rural poor; to ensure that they have access to basic necessities in their communities regardless of class and status. This policy is supposed to ensure social justice and development for women, especially for the rural poor, who are most vulnerable.
In addition, Government presented the Ministry of Human Settlements with a new mandate to include sanitation as a necessary condition for human settlement. Government emphasised the fact that housing is not just about physical structures, but that it should encompass other aspects aimed at ensuring the over-all wellbeing of individuals. The Ministry still has a backlog of about 2.1 million housing units which accounts for 12 million South Africans still in need of shelter.(9)
The absence of basic shelter for women exposes them to other vulnerabilities like violence and disease. The fact that women are not provided with access to the necessities guaranteed by socio-economic rights and justice is therefore at the root of many of the issues they face. The need to harness the rights of women with appropriate developmental policies to promote social justice is certainly urgent and deserves more attention and resources.
Poverty and the legal right not to be poor
For the greater part of 2009, many townships in South Africa were literally burning up with mass protests against poor service delivery and the slow pace of development in their communities. The people were angry with Government for not fulfilling most of the promises made to them during election campaigns. Why has poverty remained so prevalent amongst South Africans of colour sixteen years into democracy? Why have at least 47.1 percent of South Africa’s population consumed less than the ‘lower-bound’ poverty line as according to Statistics South Africa in 2007?
47.1 percent of citizens could not afford R322 (about US$43) for essential food and non-food items.(10) Do the protesters have the right not to be poor? They have managed to claim the right to demonstrate and picket as provided for in the Constitution.(11) The violence that followed these demonstrations underscores the depth of indignity faced by the poor, most of whom are rural women.
The South African Constitution’s Bill of Rights provides everyone the right “to have access to housing, health care services, sufficient food and water and social security.”(12) Government can only provide for these rights to the extent of available resources, however. Adopting legislation to give effect to these rights is one of the means to their realisation. Several claims have also been made in the Constitutional Court to assert these rights.(13) The legal right not to be poor is advocated especially for Africans,(14) but the content of the right is indeterminable. How do the women in the remote parts of the Eastern Cape hold the Government accountable for living in squalor and for not being able to gain employment to put food on the table?
Expanded social assistance and other grants by the Department of Social Development have greatly improved the lives of millions of beneficiaries, including women and children. Government increased grants from 1.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2000/01 to about 3.3 percent in 2007/08 and the number of beneficiaries rapidly grew from three million to 12.4 million.(15) This change in social grants policy decreased the incidence of poverty amongst individuals by at least 15 percent.(16) Despite these progressive changes in the living standards of some individuals, many continue to live in shacks and informal dwellings strewn across all cities in the country, in sharp contrast to the vibrant and bustling economic hub usually seen from across the street or town. The nature of this marked difference underscores the question of the legal right not to be poor.
Violent protests by communities are an indication of the extent of indignity and outrage experienced by the poor. In fact, the situation highlights the importance of going beyond policies and regarding non-poverty a right to be claimed by individuals and that demands accountability from Government, civil society and the international community at large.
The logical inference to be drawn from the programmes of Government is that they seem to be inextricably linked to the right to development which is seen as a claim to the legal right not to be poor. Although the right to development is a controversial topic at the global level, the United Nations (UN) supports the idea of such a right.(17) The controversy arises from the notion that the nature and content of the right is unclear. On the African continent, however, such controversies seem to have been dealt with as explicitly provided in the African charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights when it became the first legally-binding instrument to accord recognition to development as a right.(18) Academics and scholars have tried to pin the right to development as a legal right against poverty which is an affront against humanity and thus demands the narrowing of the gap between the haves and the have-nots.(19)
South Africa has made great strides in granting right of access to healthcare, housing and social security. Considering the situational analysis, it is not clear whether South Africa complies with the ideals of this right. It seems that there is a great need to align poverty alleviation policies with housing, education, health and labour matters.
Engendering social justice and development in South Africa
President Zuma said that “Programmes put in place by Government must aim at restoring the dignity of the people. This can only be achieved through investment in habitable and decent settlement which would promote human dignity and stability in our communities.”(20) He highlighted the fact that the “pervasive poverty experienced by majority of the people in South Africa today is as a result of the various Bantustan stands with no plan to develop roads, transport, sanitation, or any other infrastructure.”
In order to address the vulnerability that women face under these circumstances, the DWCPD is well poised to specifically deal with empowering women and other vulnerable groups, thereby promoting social justice and development. This can only be achieved through a Departmental socio-economic development model which adequately utilises gender budgeting and addresses critical areas of women’s needs, such as housing, health, education and employment. Unless these critical areas are managed by the DWCPD through proper mainstreaming, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation, endemic and pervasive poverty will remain and women will continue being the face of South African poverty.
- Rita Ozoemena, Consultancy Africa Intelligence's Gender Issues Unit (firstname.lastname@example.org). The September 2010 edition of the CAI Gender Issues Newsletter is republished here with permission from Consultancy Africa Intelligence (CAI), a South African-based research and strategy firm with a focus on social, health, political and economic trends and developments in Africa. For more information, see http://www.consultancyafrica.com or http://www.ngopulse.org/press-release/consultancy-africa-intelligence. Alternatively, click here to take advantage of CAI’s free, no obligation, 1-month trial to the company’s Standard Report Series.
In addition to topical discussion papers and tailored research services, CAI releases a number of fortnightly and monthly publications, examining the latest developments in Africa, across a wide range of interest areas. Interested parties can click here to take advantage of CAI’s free, no obligation, 1-month trial to any/all of the CAI publications.
For more information, see http://www.consultancyafrica.com or http://www.ngopulse.org/press-release/consultancy-africa-intelligence.
(1) Contact Rita Ozoemena through Consultancy Africa Intelligence's Gender Issues Unit (email@example.com).
(2) The Republic of South Africa’s Narrative Report on the Implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on the 15th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Its Platform for Action in 2010, submitted to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa by the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD).
(3) Armstrong, P, Lekezwe, B, Siebrits, K. 2010. ‘Poverty Remains the Priority for SA.’ http://www.ngopulse.org.
(4) P, Leite, T, Mckinkley and R, Osorio. 2006. “The post-apartheid evolution of earning inequality in South Africa.” Poverty Centre working paper. Page 25.
(5) The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted in 2000 by countries of the world to commit themselves to dealing with core development problems of the peoples of the world. Goal 1 is to ‘Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.’ www.undp.org.za.
(6) T. Modisane & D. Masango, ‘SA on track for Millennium Goals,’ 6 September, 2005. http://www.southafrica.info.
(7) African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). 2007. Report on South Africa, quoted in Republic of South Africa’s Narrative Report on the Implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on the 15th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Its Platform for Action in 2010, submitted to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa by the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD). Page 4.
(8) South Africa’s Narrative Report submitted to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa on the 15th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Its Platform for Action in 2010. Page 5. www.dwcpd.gov.za.
(9) Parliamentary Monitoring Group of the Department of Human Settlements Strategic Plan, 2009-2014. http://www.pmg.org.za.
(10) Armstrong, P, Lekezwa, B, Siebrits, K, 2010. ‘Poverty Remains the Priority for SA,’ http://www.ngopulse.org.
(11) Section 17 of the Constitution. Act 108 of 1996.
(12) Sections 26 (1), 27 (1) (a), (b), (c) of the Constitution. Act 108 of 1996.
(13) Soobramoney v Minister of Health, Kwa Zulu Natal, 1998 (1) SA 765 (CC), dealt with the right of access to health care and emergency treatment in terms of section 27 (3) of the Constitution; Government of South Africa & Others v Grootboom & Others 2001 (1) SA 46 (CC) dealt with right of access to adequate housing. Soobramoney and Grootboom died without realising these rights despite the urgent need. Other cases include Minister of Health & Others v Treatment Action Campaign & Others, (N0 2 ) 2002 (5) SA 721 (CC), which dealt with right of access to health care to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV for pregnant HIV positive mothers-to-be; and Khoza & Others v Minister of Social Development & Others 2004 (6) SA 504 (CC).
(14) Udombana, N, 1993. “The Third World and Right to Development.” in Human Rights Quarterly, 589.
(15) Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhon further increased the social grant in the 2010 budget.
(16) Armstrong, P, Lekezwe, B, Siebrits, K, ‘Poverty Remains the Priority for SA,’ NGO Pulse, http://www.ngopulse.org.
(17) United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Right to Development was adopted by the General Assembly in 1986.
(18) The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights was adopted on 27 June 1981 and it entered into force on 21 October 1986. Article 22 provides that “all peoples shall have the right to their economic, social and cultural development with due regard to their freedom and identity and in the equal enjoyment of the common heritage of mankind, states shall the duty, individually or collectively, to ensure the exercise of the right to development.”
(19) Hansungule, M. 2006. ‘The Right to Development.’ Centre for Human Rights University of Pretoria, p 7.
(20) Zuma, J, ‘Good Human Settlement makes good future,’ Independent Online, 18 May 2010, www.iol.co.za.
- With only five years remaining until governments are to meet the targets set out by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the sub-Saharan Africa region continues to have the highest poverty rates in the world, with millions of people living on less than US$1 per day.
Certain countries, like Ghana, Cameroon and Uganda, have shown great progress towards decreasing poverty levels, while the rest of the region continues to lag behind on the 2015 deliverables.
However, among a range of seemingly futile poverty reduction strategies, some initiatives, including women-led microfinance projects, show promise and have returned positive results.
After emerging in the early 1990s, microfinance Institutions (MFIs) have increased in sub-Saharan Africa in recent years, with current records from the 2009 Africa Microfinance Analysis and Benchmarking Report showing that more than 195 active MFIs exist throughout the region.
In Malawi, some MFIs have made concerted efforts to target women. These goals are in line with MDG3 which focuses on achieving "female empowerment, gender equality and control of resources, such as money," with the end goal of reducing vulnerability, eliminating discrimination, providing freedom from patriarchal constraints and providing women with economic stability.
For instance, The Hunger Project (THP), an international non-profit organisation committed to ending world hunger in Africa, Asia and Latin America, currently reaches more than 110 000 people in 190 villages in Malawi, and is providing women with new skills in small business management and agricultural development to help them ‘lead lives of self-reliance’.
Delifa Zulu, a mother of five from Nancholi, an impoverished district on the outskirts of Blantyre's city centre, sells vegetables in the market thanks to a loan from THP. "When I am here I can feed for my family," she says with a smile. "And my children are all able to go to school."
Women who choose to partake in the project's agricultural initiatives receive the loan as a group and are required to pay back the full amount with interest every month after receiving the loan.
"I now feel more powerful," says Zulu. "I don't have to beg my husband to send my kids to school. I can still manage my family."
According to a 2009 Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX) report, sub-Saharan Africa reached 6.5 million borrowers by the end of 2008, which is higher than Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Women made up 57 percent of all microfinance borrowers.
Finley Kandaya, operations manager for Malawi's Finance Trust for the Self Employed (FISE) says his organisation, a branch of World Vision International, has been able to assist about 13 000 Malawians.
"Currently the membership that we have is in excess of 3 000, in which 60 percent of those are women," he says.
Before FISE grants an individual credit, they have to provide collateral savings of 20 percent of the requested loan, with a set interest rate of four percent.
"The repayment rate for women is quite interesting, it's so good," says Kandaya. "Since most women take loans as groups, they use a strategy known as peer pressure, so they are paying really well. If a member fails to pay back a loan, it's in the group policy to follow-up. We do not directly confiscate property."
Similarly, a grassroots organisation based in Chirimba, in southern Malawi, called Women for Fair Development (WOFAD), emerged in 2005 after a group of women - mostly widows infected with or affected by HIV and AIDS - decided to do something to improve the living standard of their community, 85 percent of whom were affected by HIV and AIDS.
With money provided by the United States Embassy, the director, Linnah Matanya, distributes grants to more than 55 women across three rural villages, who then opt to take part in a bursary programme, operate small businesses, or buy livestock.
Matanya says these projects "reduce stigma and discrimination in the community because the women can stand on their own. They have a free mind now."
WOFAD trains 20 women in small business management for the timber project - a profession often dominated by men - and afterwards, the women have the skills needed to train another 20 women, ensuring sustainability.
In the past, most women involved in the timber industry barely made five dollars a month and now they bring home approximately US$400: more than enough to support themselves and their families.
However, vice-president of the New York-based MicroFinance Transparency, Alexandra Fiorillo, outlines certain concerns over lending.
In a September article in The Nation, one of Malawi's national newspapers, Fiorillo said there is a definite "need for increased transparency on interest rates and charges levied by micro-finance institutions" in order to ensure customers make informed decisions when taking loans.
She urged the Malawi microfinance industry to "start practicing transparent pricing for their long-term survival, growth and relevance in the financial industry."
Addressing poverty is not cut and dry. With deeply embedded hierarchical corruption so often prevalent in developing countries, it remains to be seen if microfinancing institutions can bridge the gap between the extreme rich and the poor.
Yet for women like Zulu who must support a family of five, microfinance has been a lifesaver. "Without THP, people were really finding it difficult to move forward. Since they came to our village it has changed our lives for the better."
- Andrea Lynett is a Canadian journalist based in Malawi with Journalists for Human Rights (JHR). This article is part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service.
- The Treatment Action Campaign and other activists have called on rich nations to double their pledges to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria. They say the Fund ‘desperately needs more money if the world is to meet the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
The activists have also voiced fears that a new campaign to tackle needless deaths among women and children launched at the recent MDG summit in New York might divert money and attention from the Global Fund.
TAC general-secretary, Vuyiseka Dubula, maintains that, "The goal of universal access to (HIV/AIDS) treatment won't be met without more money and human resources. The Global Fund has been the most successful funding international mechanism (for such programmes)."
To read the article titled, “More Money Needed to Fight Aids, TB,” click here.