Learn more about specific causes in French Guiana that you can get involved in.
EnvironmentA part of the Guianan Shield geological area, French Guiana is home to over 1,000 different forms of plant life.1 This area only became more densely populated in the last century, which has caused tension on the ecosystem. However, because of low levels of industrialization and a small population size, pollution levels are low and the environment is still in almost pristine condition. 95% of French Guiana is covered in forests, and nearly half of these forests are protected by the government.2 The biggest environmental concern is illegal gold mining, and this uncontrolled mining requires deforestation and mercury to be deposited in the water which is killing parts of the largest continuous tropical rainforest area in the world.3
FamilyDue to their history as a penal colony of France, there is a large variety of ethnic groups living in French Guiana. The majority of people are Creole, Haitian, Chinese or French and speak a combination of Creole, French, and indigenous languages in their homes.1 Like many developing areas, the population is concentrated around the capital city of Cayenne with the interior forest areas sparsely populated.2 As in many South American cultures, family is extremely important with many relatives living with or nearby each other. Although it is illegal to discriminate based on gender, most women tend to stay home to care for the house and children while men are expected to work.3 The average family size is on the decline, currently around five people.3 Show Less
Human RightsThe French government releases very little data specifically on the human rights situation in Guiana.1 However, there is a sex trafficking hub in French Guiana with many women and children being lured from neighboring Brazil and Suriname under the false pretense of employment opportunities.2
EducationThe school system is the same as in the French mainland, and the literacy rate is over 80%.1 There is criticism of this system of schooling, however, because French language and European history are compulsory while children have little opportunities to learn the history of their own people backround and land.1 Despite having several accredited universities, less than 10% of the population holds degrees of higher education, and most of these degrees are received from universities in France or other European countries.2
PovertyBecause French Guiana has a small population and is a part of France, very little attention is given to researching and addressing issues of poverty specifically in French Guiana. Studies have shown that between 20-30% of Guianas live below the poverty line, and this has led to disputes with the French government for only funding welfare programs in mainland France.1
ReligionBecause of its French colonial roots, Christianity, particularly Roman Catholicism, is the most practiced religion with over 80% of the population identifying as Christians.1 Carnival, the celebration before the Lenten season of Christianity, is celebrated in French Guiana with eating, parades, parties, and music. The French Guianan version of Carnival specifically has a heavy African influence with elaborate costumes and puppets to pacify evil spirits.2 In the more rural areas and immigrant communities of French Guiana, traditional local religions and Buddhism are popular.2
Clean Water30% of the population does not have access to clean water, with most of these people living in rural areas.1 Rural areas in the rainforest rely on natural water sources that are growing increasingly polluted.1 In Cayenne and other major cities, the water storage dam on the Comte River provides 90% of the drinking water for the city, but this source has periodic shortages during the dry season.2
EconomyStill a developing economy, Guiana relies heavily on assistance, subsidies, and basic imports from the French government. Prices in French Guiana are 12% more expensive than those in mainland France even though the average household GDP is significantly lower, and the unemployment rate is 20%—twice as high as mainland France.1 Guiana’s economy survives on a rocket launch station that accounts for a quarter of the GDP and is used by the European Space Agency to launch satellites into space.2 Agriculture is not a significant contributor to the GDP as many families rely on subsistence farming. Inland French Guiana is covered in forests which are used for minor manufacturing and exporting, but their imports are more greater than their exports which makes the economy unbalanced.3
GovernmentFrench Guiana is a territory administered under France with its official language being French and currency being the euro.1 Still a remnant from colonial times, Guianas often feel tension between themselves and their governing state, and this has caused protests calling for more assistance and care by the French government.2 Of particular concern, because of French compliance to E.U. immigration rules, French Guiana has received an influx of immigrants causing local unrest.2 Although a local prefect and 51 member national assembly are elected, all state matters are handled through the French National Assembly and Senate to which Guiana sends representatives.3
HealthThe life expectancy is 75 and the infant mortality rate is 1%.1 Even with these high numbers, there is only 1 hospital in the country which explains French Guiana’s history of inadequate access to medical care and avoidable death.2 In most areas, there is no access to trained medical professionals or medical equipment. However, recently the French government announced an increase in funding to be sent to the hospital in Cayenne.3
ChildrenEducation is required for ages 6-16 under French law. Youth unemployment rose to 46% and caused massive protests and uprisings in French Guiana calling on the French government to better care for them.1
AnimalsFrench Guiana is the home base for Leatherback Turtles, one of the oldest animal species on earth.1 Populations of sea turtles have been decreasing worldwide due to pollution and population increases, which makes this remote shoreline even more important as a safe haven for the turtles. There are over 200 mammal and 1,000 bird species in French Guiana, but 65 species are in endangered of becoming extinct.2
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