homeless women in cornwallPeriod poverty means a woman or girl is unable to afford sanitary products to properly manage menstruation. In 2017, research showed that a tenth of girls in Britain could not afford period products. About 15% of girls struggled to afford period products, including homeless women. Period poverty complicates girls’ lives and denies girls many opportunities. In Cornwall, located in Southwest England, many homeless residents are women facing period poverty.

Period Poverty among Homeless Women

In the United Kingdom, about 280,000 people face homelessness. Within this figure, a sizable number are women who sleep in a visible and vulnerable place and struggle to access period products. According to research published by The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies, homeless women interviewed described their periods as “emotional” and “painful” and connected with poor mental health. Women who face homelessness require rest and privacy during their period and often find it highly challenging to meet these needs.

Women experiencing homelessness often face difficult choices. For instance, they often conceal and hide their periods and use toilet paper as a substitute for sanitary products. Other options include “survival shoplifting” in order to have necessary period products for the month. Another issue is that some homeless shelters do not offer period products regularly because these products are not seen as a basic necessity.

The Story of Bimini Love

At the age of 15, British teenager Bimini Love started the project Street Cramps in order to provide “sanitary products, clean underwear [and] heatpads” to homeless women in Cornwall. Bimini’s passion and efforts started when she recognized an alarming increase in the number of homeless women where she lived. She learned about the pain period poverty caused for homeless women. This issue started her research on period poverty among homeless women and the lack of basic sanitary needs. Period poverty for homeless women can be particularly difficult to address.

In response to this issue, she began Street Cramps. Bimini went online and started a fundraiser to get more money to pay for more products and raised more than £7,000 on Crowdfunder. She worked to get period products to homeless women in Cornwall. Her initiative led her to contact homeless shelters in her area to ensure homeless women in Cornwall had access to certain period products, expanding her efforts and outreach along the way. Today, Street Cramps projects are spreading to different cities as well.

Recognition and the Future

In 2019, Bimini won the Points of Light award and was acknowledged by the Prime Minister for improving the lives of many women facing period poverty. Bimini also spoke about period poverty among homeless women in Cornwall in her TedX Talk, “Street Cramps: a 15-year-old tackles period poverty.”

While Bimini raised a large sum of money and helped women in need, the fight continues. Street Cramps proves that homeless women do not have to endure period poverty without support. Moving forward, efforts like Bimini’s can alleviate both pain and suffering while deepening community ties.

Nyelah Mitchell
Photo: Unsplash

Girls’ orphanages in IndiaIndia’s people have long struggled with poverty as a developing country, despite being one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Coupling overpopulation with a lack of resources, poverty is a common sight on India’s streets. Circumstances of poverty particularly exacerbate the conditions of girls’ orphanages in India.

Poverty in India

According to a 2016 report from the World Bank, one in five Indians suffers from poverty, totaling 270 million people. These Indians have less access to water and sanitation, job opportunities and education in comparison to their wealthier counterparts. A ramification of this level of poverty is that there exists an entire untapped population of Indians who could be contributing to the economy and the country in several ways, but instead, are forced to live on the streets with their basic needs unmet.

In the last few years, India has made some progress in addressing one of its greatest issues. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reported that, from 2006 to 2016, India’s poverty rate almost halved from 55% to just 28%. Since then, India has been working toward lifting more people out of poverty and adding jobs to its economy.

However, COVID-19 has set the country back in its poverty alleviation efforts. As one of the countries particularly hard hit by the pandemic and the Delta variant, India has taken a step backward as more people descend into poverty.

Girls’ Orphanages in India

Because of gender-based cultural bias and economic pressures, the majority of orphans in India are girls. According to UNICEF, India is home to 31 million orphaned children. The Times of India reports that nine out of 10 abandoned children are girls. In some parts of India, parents view girls as burdens because, for one, their dowries for marriage are costly.

For this reason, some girls face abandonment and are put into orphanages, adding to the already high number of existing orphaned girls. Shockingly, “nurses have been known to accept bribes to exchange baby girls for baby boys.” Furthermore, activists draw attention “to eight million missing girls” — the estimated “number of female fetuses” possibly “aborted over the past decade due to their sex.” Due to the extensive number of orphaned girls, orphanages often do not have enough resources to adequately take care of the girls.

Association for India’s Development

One organization is doing the important work of helping India’s most impoverished. The Association for India’s Development (AID) has programs throughout different sectors in India, with a network of volunteers helping to uplift and empower Indians.

One of AID’s programs, in particular, surrounds helping girls’ orphanages in India. The Borgen Project spoke to AID’s Project Manager Sid Muralidhar to talk about his experience and how individuals, and the nation at large, can better address poverty in India. “A few of the biggest factors that contribute to India’s high poverty rate are social inequality and lack of access to quality education,” Muralidhar says. “There are very rigid class divides and remnants of the caste system still exist,” which limits social mobility. Without intervention or aid, an individual that is born in poverty is typically likely to remain in poverty.

As project manager, Muralidhar worked with an all-girls orphanage in the village of Badlapur to provide the girls with resources and raise money for the organization. He says the orphanage has suffered negatively from demonetization and the girls live in poor conditions because of the lack of resources.

Taking Action and Hope for the Future

When asked about what steps to take to address poverty and help girls’ orphanages in India, Muralidhar provides a comprehensive answer. “Poverty in India is a pernicious problem that requires broad-based and creative solutions.” Further, in spite of India’s status as “one of the fastest-growing global economies” before COVID-19, “the economic gains” are not “shared equally,” he says.

Muralidhar explains that the Indian “government can attempt to alleviate this widening gap by boosting social welfare programs as well as investing in public education.” He suggests that, in the meanwhile, “people interested in the issue and those who want to be conduits of progress should continue to educate themselves and others to grow the grassroots effort.”

Despite barriers to progress, Muralidhar adds that there is still hope. He said one of the most striking observations he made was the girls’ “extreme resiliency” and “eternal optimism” despite their situations. While COVID-19 has no doubt exacerbated the country’s poverty and negatively affected girls’ orphanages in India, AID exemplifies that there is still potential to continue previous progress made.

– Laya Neelakandan
Photo: Flickr

Made in China 2025Over the last few decades, the Chinese economic miracle has astounded pundits across the globe. When reforms began in 1978 under Deng Xiaoping, China accounted for about 5% of the world economy. In 2020, that figure was more than 17% and rising quickly, second only to the United States. During the same period, extreme poverty was effectively erased, down from a high of 90% in 1981. The Made in China 2025 initiative aims to reduce poverty even further and ignite economic growth so that China can avoid the middle-income trap.

Poverty and the Middle-Income Trap in China

In some ways, many of these figures paint an inaccurate picture of the Asian giant. China is wealthy but its population is enormous, meaning that average incomes remain relatively low. In the United States, GDP per capita is almost four times higher than China’s. Furthermore, Chinese economic growth is slowing. Ballooning levels of debt and an aging population create worry for Beijing, even as the Communist Party celebrates its 100th anniversary. Economists fear that China could fall into the middle-income trap, a situation where rising wages for developing countries erode their manufacturing advantage but their innovative sectors remain too small to compensate.

Radical Planning for a Radical Problem

In 2015, preempting these concerns, Chinese leadership announced the Made in China 2025 initiative, hoping to move the nation up the value chain. As Harvard University explains it, the strategy intends to “secure China’s position as a global powerhouse in high-tech industries.” Furthermore, “the aim is to reduce China’s reliance on foreign technology imports and invest heavily in its own innovations in order to create Chinese companies that can compete both domestically and globally.” If China succeeds, it will create a blueprint for other developing countries in Africa and Asia to bypass the middle-income trap and liberate their populations from the grips of poverty.

Made in China 2025 outlines 10 key industries that the nation must master if it seeks to move up the value chain.

  1. Information technology
  2. Robotics
  3. Aerospace equipment
  4. Pharmaceuticals
  5. Medical equipment
  6. Electrical equipment
  7. Farming
  8. Railway equipment
  9. New energy vehicles
  10. Ocean engineering

From artificial intelligence to quantum computing, China has poured billions into developing cutting-edge technology. The U.S. administration cast the effort as an attempt to displace U.S. technological leadership, sanctioning Chinese companies from doing business with their suppliers in the United States. In reality, much of the motivation behind the Chinese initiative stems from a more basic goal: lifting the nation out of poverty and inspiring other nations to do the same.

Avoiding the Middle-Income Trap

The middle-income trap that confronts China is daunting as only a few countries have ever escaped its grasp. Most prominent were the Asian Tigers — South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore — economies that defied the odds and delivered decades of sustained growth. But, many have failed to replicate the Asian Tigers’ success. Nations like Brazil and South Africa became mired in the middle-income trap, unable to escape the hard ceiling.

The danger for developing countries around the world is a run-in with the same fate. Before COVID-19, African nations were fast-growing. The World Bank predicted that many would reach middle-income status by 2025. But, upon achieving this milestone, they would encounter the same middle-income trap that Brazil and South Africa once faced. If this occurred, the region could be forever stuck in a grey zone, one where poverty would be reduced but not eliminated.

Looking to China

China offers a solution. If nations can move up the value chain with enough speed, they can escape the middle-income trap. Governments can help. The Communist Party has poured billions of dollars into research and development for Made in China 2025, creating some of the world’s largest technology companies in the process. African and Asian nations can do the same on their path to development.

Of course, investment has its downsides. Corruption takes a significant toll on the ability of a government to distribute funds in an appropriate manner. Tackling this problem will not be easy or simple, but a roadmap to success has been laid. With the rise of Asia and Africa in the decades ahead, countries have a chance to crush poverty and increase welfare for billions of people.

– Zachary Lee
Photo: Flickr

the effects of the Olympic gamesThe ancient Olympic Games took place centuries ago on a relatively small scale. Today, the games bring together the world’s best athletes to compete on behalf of their respective countries. To a serious athlete, there is no greater goal and accomplishment than to come home with an Olympic medal. Countries each take turns hosting the Olympic Games and often spend billions of dollars preparing for and running the event. For athletes and viewers, the Olympic Games creates a time of elite competition; however, the event often has different effects on the host nation’s impoverished.

Effects on a Host City’s Impoverished

The effects of the Olympic Games on the impoverished do not receive high recognition while the grandeur of the event remains highly publicized. While the Olympic Games can provide a sense of awe for those with a stable income and fulfilled basic needs, this is not always the case for people living in poverty. Impoverished people worldwide face eviction and a large diaspora every four years as host cities evict them to use the land for Olympic stadiums and parking lots.

The Washington Post writes that in 1988 “720,000 people were forcibly moved [in Seoul].” The impoverished people of Seoul were not alone in this experience as 1.5 million impoverished Chinese citizens were forcibly relocated before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. In addition, the impoverished of London, Rio and many other host countries have been relocated to make way for Olympic stadiums as well. In Rio, the effects of the Olympic Games translated into whole towns and communities giving way to media centers and Olympic pools.

Effects on a Host Country’s Economy

The Olympic Games forcibly removes the impoverished from their homes but also requires public taxpayer money for new or revamped venues. On average, budgets for the setup and running of the Olympics cost well into the billions. Activists and those in poverty sometimes express frustration over this fact. Though estimates range widely, some research estimates that it costs less than $10 a year to end “world hunger and undernutrition.” The 2021 Tokyo Olympics is said to have cost $15.4 billion. Many Japanese citizens expressed outrage as the country is still trying to recover from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A U.S. News and World Report article estimates that these funds could have built 1,200 Japanese elementary schools.

The 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games faced an unusually high amount of controversy as the COVID-19 pandemic significantly lowered any potential revenue. The effects of the Olympic games also limit a city in a different sense. The New York Times highlighted this: “[T]he city has been reduced to a mere vessel for a megaevent that has demanded much but provided little in return.”

Pandemic Impacts

Furthermore, the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games has caused backlash as the event risked the health of Japanese citizens. The number of COVID-19 cases seen in Japan has already skyrocketed after the Olympics. The spread of COVID-19 also disproportionately affects the impoverished who lose potential benefits from money spent on the games instead of social welfare programs. Furthermore, the impoverished worldwide have already suffered greatly from the pandemic as they face greater hardships upon contracting the COVID-19 virus. This is due to the fact that severely impoverished people often lack sufficient health insurance and the financial resources required to pay for treatment.

Benefits of Hosting the Olympics

While the Olympic Games puts burdens on host countries, the event also has positive impacts. The Olympics leads to the following:

  1. An increase in jobs supporting the event.
  2. A rise in tourism and hospitality services (during non-pandemic years).
  3. An increase in trade, which can yield an increase in foreign investment.
  4. Improvement to infrastructure.
  5. Improvement to transportation systems.

During non-pandemic years, host cities often see an influx of foreign dollars as tourism and increased travel send more money into the local economy. Furthermore, the effects of the Olympic Games can be positive for host communities through job creation as the event requires massive support staff to prepare for and run the games. The Beijing Olympic Games allowed for the creation of nearly two million jobs to facilitate the event. While this influx in job creation benefits the Olympic Games host cities, it is often temporary and only lasts for the duration of the Olympics. Furthermore, this creation of jobs does not necessarily benefit the nation’s impoverished as many jobs require certain skills like a background in construction, IT or security.

While the event does have some positive impacts on host cities, the negative impacts disproportionately affect the impoverished. The sporting event is a time of celebration and patriotism for those fortunate enough to have the resources to enjoy it, but this is not the case for all. Moving forward, greater recognition of this fact is crucial. With this and real long-term change, the Olympics could bring both international athleticism and significant poverty reduction to a host city.

Lily Vassalo
Photo: Unsplash

Fighting Poverty in Fashion, Brands That Give BackWorking conditions in the fashion industry are often less than ideal. Despite providing job opportunities for workers in impoverished countries, many of these employees make 42% to 55% under a living wage. When fighting poverty in fashion, improving workers’ rights is paramount to helping better the industry. Donations through third-party charities are a common way organizations have provided their support for changing the fashion industry. However, this charitable work is often criticized for its lack of actual change seen by the workers. As such, three companies have found a more productive way to help increase transparency, sustainability and worker’s rights. In an effort to change the fashion industry, Lucy and Yak, Girlfriend Collective and ABLE  have all shown creative solutions and fast success as clothing corporations in developing countries around the world.

Lucy and Yak

Lucy and Yak started in New Zealand. Chris Tenwick and Lucy Greenwood began their journey traveling the world, creating tobacco pouches, which they sold to travelers visiting the country. The couple headed back to the U.K., where they sold vintage clothing and homemade overalls out of their van, named Yak. They traveled to China, India and Thailand looking for a production company and landed on three tailors in Rajasthan, India. In Rajasthan, nearly 15% of the population lives below the poverty line. One of the biggest components of GDP growth for Rajasthan is industry, making Lucy and Yak’s choice of location a profitable and impactful one.

Since 2018, the team of three grew into 50, opening job opportunities for many. A new, climate-controlled and ethically sustainable factory stands to produce Lucy and Yak products in the rural region of Rajasthan. With this factory, the company can provide compensation higher than the minimum wage for the area and support their workers’ individual needs. Greenwood and Tenwick often visit the team in India as oversight for production and to catch up with their old friends from the van days. Overall, when fighting poverty in fashion, Lucky and Yak pave the way for a standard of ethical production.

Girlfriend Collective

Girlfriend Collective is an activewear company based out of Seattle, Washington. Bottles, cotton industry scraps, recycled nylon and polyester all make up Girlfriend Collective’s clothes. The company currently sources its recycled materials from Taiwan and its core production comes from Hanoi, Vietnam. The Hanoi factory in the Phu Tho province is an area dedicated to sustainable poverty reduction. It is also an SA8000-certified facility, meaning the factory is held to a sustainable and ethical standard of fair wages and safe worker’s conditions.

Moreover, Girlfriend Collective supplies its workers with free lunch and dinner, guided exercise breaks and health checkups every six months at the factory. Worldwide, Girlfriend Collective has been acknowledged for its success. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organization have applauded Girlfriend Collective for its efforts. Thus, with its mission to ensure health and safety for its employees, Girlfriend Collective has made its mark in fighting poverty in fashion.

ABLE

ABLE is a women-owned fashion company that dedicates itself to the advancement of women worldwide. Its international employment program began in Ethiopia with the production of scarves. Since 2019, the company has expanded similar programs in Mexico, India and Brazil. One of the company’s overall goals is to educate its consumers on wage inequities. Around the world, 98% of people making clothing cannot make a living wage. Women comprise 75% of this figure. ABLE has also solidified its own evaluation system called Accountable. With this system, ABLE can hold itself accountable and continue making a positive impact on its company.

The Future for Fighting Poverty in Fashion

In efforts to alleviate poverty around the world, these three companies are taking the lead. Their oversight has impacted impoverished communities in Vietnam, Ethiopia and India in a new and positive light. Overall, by ensuring living wages, safe working conditions and women empowerment, Lucy and Yak, Girlfriend and ABLE are helping to fight poverty in fashion.

– Julia Fadanelli
Photo: Flickr

Albania’s bunkersFrom the 1960s to the 1980s, Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha fortified Albania by building more than 750,000 bunkers in anticipation of an invasion from the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Greece and NATO. In the event of an invasion, rather than relying on the services of the army, Hoxha believed that citizens should take up arms and seek refuge in the bunkers scattered across the entire country. The invasion did not occur and Albania’s bunkers, serving no purpose, faced abandonment and decay. Four decades later, Albanians have found a new purpose for them. In addition to individuals using the bunkers for personal needs, the growing tourism industry would facilitate a new use for the abandoned structures.

Albanian Tourism

From 1946 to 1992, Albania was under the rule of a strict communist regime that barred the country from international tourism. Albania’s past significantly tainted the international community’s image of the country. However, in the past two decades, the Albanian government has managed to improve the attractiveness of the country as reflected by the increase in tourists.

Between 2007 and 2017, the number of tourists to Albania increased fivefold from about 1.1 million annual visitors to about 5.2 million annual visitors. The increase was stimulated by direct actions from the government such as fiscal incentives for constructing new hotels in the country as well as concrete development plans advertising the geographic location of the country and its rich cultural heritage. While in 2002 the poverty rate stood at 49.7%, the country made major strides with a poverty rate of 33.8% in 2017.

Revitalization of Albania’s Bunkers

To earn an income, many Albanians turn to tourism for work. In particular, the free-standing historic bunkers are undergoing refurbishing to serve as house tattoo studios, cafes, restaurants and even accommodations for tourists. In 2012, professors and students from the POLIS University and FH-Mainz in Germany embarked on the Bed & Bunker project to repurpose Albania’s bunkers as bed and breakfast hostels for tourists. The group began this project with the mission of preserving Albania’s heritage, succeeding in raising awareness for this cause.

Albanian-Canadian architect, Elian Stefa, has come up with further step-by-step guides and proposals for revitalizing the bunkers. In other words, people are recognizing the bunkers’ value and transformative plans have already come to fruition while other repurposing plans will soon occur.

Economic Growth

The demand for Albania’s bunkers as hotels and service amenities for tourists is growing. Bunkers, as displays of the country’s convoluted but rich history, has helped bring down the unemployment rate and stimulate economic growth in Albania. Between 2014 and 2020, the unemployment rate almost halved, decreasing from 18.06% to 11.7%. Furthermore, the GDP has risen as well with growth from about $12 billion in 2010 to roughly $15.3 billion in 2019. With more people working, Albania was able to decrease its poverty rate to 33.8% in 2017. Furthermore, since the bunkers are scattered throughout the country, the economic growth is not only limited to urban centers, with communities in the countryside also benefiting.

Using History to Serve the Present

Built in the 20th century, Albania’s bunkers were abandoned as the anticipated war they were built for did not manifest. This, however, did not discourage individuals from revitalizing Albania’s bunkers to serve the growing tourism sector. This growth had a positive effect, incentivizing individuals to ensure the preservation of the bunkers and uphold the rich Albanian heritage. Moreover, the resulting increase in revenue from tourism has created new jobs, reducing the poverty rate by 16% in 15 years.

– Max Sidorovitch
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Investment Through the Prosper Africa CampaignForeign assistance helps people living in poverty while also benefiting the donor nations. Foreign aid helps domestic business interests because investment abroad in emerging markets opens the doors for more consumers. Furthermore, it stimulates demand for those domestic goods and services.

A new U.S. government initiative, called the Prosper Africa Build Together Campaign, is aiming to do just that by encouraging investment in Africa. The campaign promises development for recipients and new opportunities in key emerging markets for donors.

Africa’s Emerging Markets

Across the continent, income levels are rising. Some predict that by 2030 global household consumption will reach well over $2 trillion. Opportunities abound with urbanization in countries such as Nigeria, which holds seven cities with populations of more than a million people. By 2030, a fifth of the world’s consumers will live in Africa — with an increasing number of people breaking into the middle class. As GDP per capita continues to rise, so will the buying power for consumers across the continent. Additionally, Africa’s citizens will look to purchase more goods, including luxury goods. Already, Africa is the fastest-growing market for telecommunications and the second biggest market for mobile phones.

Prosper Africa Build Together Campaign

The Biden Administration promises to “elevate and energize” trade and investment across Africa. The Prosper Africa Build Together Campaign is the vehicle to accomplish that task. The goal is to get U.S. government agencies, African governments and the private sector to coordinate together in order to invest in development projects.

USAID states priorities for projects include “clean energy and climate smart solutions, health, and digital technology.” The private sector is key in this campaign as U.S. relationships with African countries start to shift while these nations continue to develop. More and more, relationships will evolve from being focused on aid to relationships focused on trade and investment.

The Prosper Africa Build Together Campaign is one mechanism of the Build Back Better World Initiative. The campaign encourages private sector investment which can help “on a scale that could never be matched on foreign aid alone.”

Prosper Africa Early Results

So far, the two-pronged approach of facilitating transactions and shaping future opportunities seems to be working. Prosper Africa fostered 800 deals, spurring more than $50 billion in exports and investments in over 40 countries across Africa.

For example, one success story comes from Ghana. An investment saved Global Mamas, a small firm that sells unique handcrafted products. Because of the economic hardship associated with COVID-19, Global Mamas saw its domestic revenue decline by 90% and lost almost 50% of its global revenue. USAID’s West Africa Trade and Investment Hub helped to secure $2 million of private funding to save the company. Furthermore, it set Global Mamas up for a sustainable future post-pandemic with projections of over $1 million in exports. The investment will save more than 250 jobs and establish 85 new jobs within one year. Additionally, the jobs go primarily to women who will be the primary earners of their household.

Looking Forward

Fighting global poverty is not only the right thing to do, it has benefits for domestic interests. Investing in key emerging markets helps to grow new consumer bases and in the end, everyone can prosper together. The Prosper Africa Build Together Campaign imagines such a world where we can fight global poverty by encouraging sustainable growth. But, it also supports the investor’s economy at home and improves the domestic industry.

– Alex Muckenfuss
Photo: Flickr

Inside the International Visitors Leadership ProgramThe International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) was launched in 1940. Since then, it has helped the U.S. maintain and improve its relationship with other countries. Foreign leaders visit U.S. public and private sector organizations correlating to the project’s theme while partaking in cultural and social activities.

How it Works

Each year about 5,000 foreign leaders come to the United States. In addition, 200,000 international visitors come to interact with Americans through the International Visitor Leadership Program. They have the opportunity to meet more than 500 former or current chiefs of state or heads of government.

The brief visit usually lasts more than three weeks, taking place in four U.S. communities. But the themes the Embassy requests and other factors determine how long a program lasts. So, how does someone get to participate in the International Visitor Leadership Program? You can not simply apply for the position. A visitor must be nominated then selected by the U.S. Embassies global staff. To better understand how much of an impact the International Leadership Program has on foreign leaders, Here is the story of one woman who was allowed to travel for further development of her cause.

Inside the International Visitors Leadership Program

Angela Benedicto is a known civil society activist back in her country Mwanza, Tanzania. The International Leadership Program approved Benedicto to travel to Kalamazoo, Michigan, back in 2013. Although excited to get an American perspective of youth development, she had no idea what to expect on this journey. However, Benedicto knew that she wanted to build a community of people passionate about youth development. A passion that stems from her personal experience of being a child domestic worker. This sparked Benedicto’s nonprofit organization, Wotesawa Domestic Worker, to improve the rights of domestic workers. The International Visitors Leadership Program not only impacted Angela Benedicto’s life but nearly 5,000 international leaders each year.

Building Relationships

With the help of the International Visitor Leadership Program, Angela Benedicto was able to contact other nonprofit organizations generating professional U.S. connections. She gives her opinion of what makes the International Visitor Leadership Program project great saying, “It was the people!”

Benedicto highlighted her relationship with Global Ties Kalamazoo, a citizen diplomacy network located in Michigan. The network seeks to establish trust with world leaders and their communities at home. The nonprofit organization allows participants to visit the homes of local families as part of its programs.

For example, Benedicto ate dinner with the Potratz family who she met through Global Ties Kalamazoo connections. Quickly, they built a long-lasting relationship after talks about youth development. Later, this singular visit led to the Potratz family and Benedicto collaborating on a “Test of The World” auction, a project to raise funds for Tanzanian girls to receive scholarships. Items sold in this auction included handmade products and donated goods provided by local businesses.

COVID-19 and The International Leadership Program

COVID-19 did not stop the International Visitors Leadership Program members from continuing their work. Although the pandemic limited physical activity and travel, members like Angela Benedicto use zoom to connect with Kalamazoo and Tanzania organizations. The International Visitor Leadership Program allowed Benedicto to produce a team of leaders on a global scale to help youth development even during a pandemic.

The International Visitor Leadership Program creates a bridge for foreign leaders and American citizens to cross. It allows them to meet, discuss and develop new perspectives and solutions for a common interest on particular issues. Thus, making it easier for the international community to grow globally and keeping the U.S. involved with counterpart countries.

– Alexis Jones
Photo: Flickr

Beirut BlastOn August 4, 2020, a horrific explosion took place in Beirut, Lebanon, killing at least 214 people and injuring thousands of civilians. The Beirut blast “was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history” as it tore through the city. Estimations indicate that roughly “552 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded” at the port of Beirut. Since the explosion, Lebanon has experienced heightened civil unrest, economic hardship, increasing poverty and political deadlock.

In the face of the tragedy and adversity that continues to plague Lebanon, young people in Beirut are innovatively working to rebuild the Lebanese capital. Cash 4 Work, a program mobilized by UNICEF, is a youth network focused on helping reconnect homes to municipal and private water supplies along with prioritizing the cleaning and rehabilitation of Beirut.

Economic Impacts of the Beirut Blast

Lebanon was facing a severe economic crisis even before the Beirut blast. After the explosion, poverty levels rose further and the Lebanese economy essentially collapsed. According to the World Bank, the country’s GDP has decreased by a staggering 40% with more than 50% of the population pushed into the depths of poverty. Job prospects for youth are increasingly difficult to come by, placing young professionals in a tough position as they attempt to secure their futures amid a failing economy.

Participants of the recent UNICEF Cash 4 Work program are primarily the most vulnerable and impoverished youth who understand first-hand what living in poverty looks and feels like. According to UNICEF, “Cash 4 Work programs create earning opportunities that can temporarily stabilize people’s incomes following a disaster or a crisis.” Participants learn valuable skills, knowledge and training to improve their economic status and their ability to provide for their families. Furthermore, with the tools to positively impact their country, youth participants are able to use their skills to rebuild the nation and lift others out poverty.

The Role of the Youth

Immediately after the explosion, the youth of Beirut were among the first to pick up the pieces and start rebuilding their communities. At the time, UNICEF staff were on the ground working with more than 1,170 youth volunteers to sweep up debris, perform household repairs and deliver food and cloth masks to affected citizens. In an interview with Forbes, a teenager working on the ground said, “We will not lose hope. We are staying here on the ground.”

UNICEF staff “reconnected more than 60 buildings to the public water system” and handed out emergency supplies “including 1,600 hygiene kits and 400 baby kits to families in need.” UNICEF also helped “reunite children with their families” and supported child counseling efforts to address the trauma of the Beirut blast.

Exactly one year after the Beirut blast, youth mobilization continues with the support of UNICEF’s new Cash 4 Work program, which ensures new job opportunities in Lebanon. Cash 4 Work is not only playing an active role in shaping the job market for young professionals but it is also connecting people with the goal of shaping a more positive future for Beirut. A 24-year-old Cash 4 Work participant, Mohammad, describes his experience with the program. He tells UNICEF, “I am happy that I gained a skill and I am still learning. To work on my future and achieve my goals, especially in these difficult times, is something special.”

Programs and initiatives from humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF bring hope to a devastated country, allowing citizens a chance to continue to rebuild and recover more than a year after the Beirut blast.

– Alysha Mohamed
Photo: Flickr

Vaccinating Maré's favelasDespite Brazil’s largely successful vaccine program, it is only now that Maré, Rio de Janeiro’s largest complex of favelas, is experiencing mass vaccination against COVID-19. One thousand professionals vaccinated a significant portion of the population. In schools, “health centers” and other sites, these professionals look to vaccinate upwards of 30,000 people between 18 and 34 throughout the community. Organizer planned to give community members the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was produced by the Fiocruz institute.

Why the Vaccination Drive?

This effort is not permanent and cannot indefinitely supply vaccines. A primary goal of the effort is to conduct a study on the effects of mass vaccinations in such a large complex, which is home to widespread “poverty and violence” and often does not reap the same benefits as wealthier areas of Rio. In Maré, which contains 16 favelas, more than half of the inhabitants are under 30.

Maré has seen about 350 deaths since the pandemic began, but reporting difficulties in many other favelas often means that even official counts are artificially low. The study will utilize genomic sequencing to track variants and will seek to understand vaccine efficacy in the face of the virus evolving. Vaccinating Maré’s favelas stands as a novel move. The study’s uniqueness stems from its size, its target population and its location. Since rapid spreading can lead to a rise in variants, using a favela, rather than a hospital or health unit, is beneficial to research into variants.

Maré’s Social Mobilisation

Along with the program, Maré’s greatest strength in responding to the pandemic has been its social mobilization. Campaigns to reduce the number of deaths work through local media, social networks and word of mouth. The NGO Redes da Maré and the Mare Mobilization Front both work to inform and educate the public.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the COVID-19 in Favelas Unified Dashboard recorded nearly 7,000 COVID-19-related deaths from nearly 100,000 cases. The dashboard focuses on the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. However, cases and deaths are both underreported, and the Unified Dashboard does not cover every favela, meaning that the actual death toll is doubtlessly much greater. For these reasons and more, vaccinating Maré’s favelas remains a key priority.

Understanding the Dashboard

The dashboard began in April 2020 “when grassroots organizations participating in projects organized by Catalytic Communities (CatComm) began to report cases and deaths in virtual meetings of the Sustainable Favela Network (SFN).” CatComm began a reporting initiative through newspapers and word of mouth from community groups themselves. Other methods included individual outreach for data collection, outreach to local health clinics or through WhatsApp, and analysis of available data when accessible.

The initiative gained traction because of a catalyzing unwillingness by the government to “survey favelas.” The dashboard was officially launched on July 7, 2020, according to its website, and has grown with each new press conference surrounding its progress. Campaigns like #VacinaPraFavelaJá have arisen to promote vaccination and have even enlisted figures like cartoonist Carlos Latuff.

Looking Forward

While the initiation of the vaccine process is a welcome one to many inhabitants of Maré, it has begun only after countless deaths and governmental neglect. The widespread nature and varied methods of the Unified Dashboard have meanwhile shown how collective action can keep communities afloat even in the absence of sufficient governmental intervention. Moreover, with strong community engagement and growing governmental support, vaccinating Maré’s favelas could lead to a more secure and safe future in due time.

Augustus Bambridge-Sutton
Photo: Unsplash