Ethical Fashion
Slow fashion, also called ethical fashion, has become more popular over the last several years. Surveys showed that shoppers were 10% more interested in knowing how manufacturers make their clothes in 2020 than they were two years before. Meanwhile, the surveys showed that around 66% considered sustainability when purchasing products. Slow fashion has countless benefits from alleviating environmental strain to stopping animal cruelty. Also, slow fashion can help end world poverty. By buying ethical fashion, consumers directly aid companies that care about their employees. These shoppers are also opening many new industries within world economies and providing the makers who sew their clothes a better quality of life.

Brands that Care

People who desire change in the fashion industry and better working conditions for garment makers have created many ethical fashion brands. These companies seek to spread awareness about harmful working practices. They want to give back to the communities that contribute to their work. They aim to show the public that customers can have beautiful clothes without exploiting people in the process. These brands strive to support garment workers who would, otherwise, be living in poverty.

One brand that recognizes that slow fashion can help end world poverty is Able. The brand started in Ethiopia in 2010 to give women who wanted to leave the sex industry a chance to find work. Since 2018, Able has started a movement called the “Accountable” and published its worker’s wages. The movement aimed to give its customers full transparency and educate the public on what a “living wage” includes and inspire them to demand the same for other brands.

Another example of an ethical fashion brand is Seza’ne. Starting in 2013, Seza’ne’s focus is on “helping the next generation.” This led it to start the nonprofit Demain (meaning “tomorrow” in French) in 2017, which is focusing on improving education access for disadvantaged children worldwide. Partnering with other education charities, Demain has started a monthly program named “The Call of the 21st.” This program includes donating 10% of the profit Seza’ne makes on the 21st of each month to its supported charities. It also ensures that Seza’ne releases a new design each month with the intent of donating 100% of the profit. Demain supported over 30,000 children and has collected over $3 million for its supported charities.

Buying Less

Since ethical fashion pieces are more expensive, customers receive encouragement to buy less. Besides considering the price, the clothes last much longer and thus buyers do not have to replace them as frequently. Buying less helps garment workers because they have less pressure to make more clothing in exploitive working conditions.

A typical fast-fashion brand expects to put out a new fashion line every two weeks. Garment workers often experience inhumane working days, working 11 hours or so with no breaks due to the high demand. To make the clothing cheap for customers, these companies pay their employees very little. Sometimes, they receive as little as 50 cents an hour. This system limits workers to poverty, as they have no time to find other sources of income.

Boosting the Economy

Perhaps it is counterintuitive that buying less clothing could have a positive impact on our economy. However, slow fashion opens up many new industries that do not exist under the fast fashion model, particularly through a system called “circular fashion.” This aims to use and restore clothing for as long as possible.

Because people throw most clothes away when they do not want them or when garments have damage, they lose more than $500 billion every year. Meanwhile, clothing from slow fashion brands tends to last longer and customers can wear them longer, which opens up many new industries to increase a garment’s life. Examples of possible industries include clothing repair, fixing damaged clothing as well as adjusting clothing sizes or altering clothes to fit new trends. Furthermore, one can also partake in clothing resale, selling clothes so people who want sustainable clothing on a smaller budget can purchase them second-hand. Lastly, people can utilize clothing rental, especially in the case of when they will use clothing for a short amount of time such as in the case of formal clothing for children.

Outside Fashion

Outside of the fashion industry, slow fashion can help end world poverty and boost the economy in the same way other industries can. Giving the people who make clothing a livable wage and helping them rise out of poverty allows them to purchase more U.S./European products.

Slow fashion can help alleviate world poverty because it allows the people behind these brands to continue carrying out their beneficial work. It demands that the people making clothing receive just pay and have safe working conditions. When garment workers obtain support, they are able to have access to resources for themselves and their families.

Mikayla Burton
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Dr. Angeli Achrekar
On January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden appointed Dr. Angeli Achrekar as the new U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy, which means she will be leading the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Who is Dr. Angeli Achrekar?

Dr. Achrekar is remarkably qualified for her position. She has earned her doctorate from UNC-Chapel Hill, a master’s degree from Yale and her bachelor’s degree from UCLA. In addition to her academic accomplishments, Dr. Achrekar has a career of public service under her belt, involving combating HIV/AIDS around the globe, public health development and women and girls’ health. She originally worked in India and with UNICEF. She then started working with the CDC starting in 2001, where she led the National Initiative to Improve Adolescent Health. This initiative spanned across multiple agencies and consisted of professionals from a variety of disciplines in more than 100 organizations.

Following her leadership of the National Initiative to Improve Adolescent Health, Dr. Achrekar started her work with PEPFAR to fight HIV/AIDS around the world in 2003. In working with PEPFAR, she traveled to South Africa. There, she coordinated with local governments to assess risk patterns that occur through drug use and among sex workers. Dr. Achrekar then became Senior Public Health Manager for the CDC in its Division of Global HIV/AIDS. Lastly, she started in 2011 with the U.S. State Department where she helped come up with and develop the Saving Mothers program, as well as the Giving Life program.

Developments Since Her Appointment

Since her appointment, Dr. Achrekar has already made strides in her position to fight AIDS and other diseases around the world. Notably, under her leadership, PEPFAR has been part of a joint effort with other organizations and agencies including USAID which will bring a new treatment to TB patients in Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Rather than patients needing to take a combination of drugs for treatment, the new treatment will combine two drugs so patients will be able to take fewer drugs in total. The new development is a big leap forward and Dr. Achrekar said, “The availability of a shorter, more easily tolerated, and safer regimen for TB prevention that is also affordable is critical for accelerating the fight against TB. The new development is big news as latent tuberculosis is said to affect up to a quarter of the world’s population.”

The Importance of Fighting AIDS in Relation to Global Poverty

PEPFAR’s work to fight AIDS holds much significance to the fight against global poverty because the two interconnect considerably. AIDS disproportionately affects those in poverty. Considering that the prevalence of AIDS has been commonly linked with poverty, a critical component of fighting the disease is fighting poverty. In his article “Is HIV/AIDS Epidemic Outcome of Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa?” Noel Dzimnenani Mbirimtengerenji wrote, “Unless and until poverty is reduced or alleviated, there will be little progress either with reducing transmission of the virus or an enhanced capacity to cope with its socio-economic consequences.”

Sean Kenney
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Blockchain in Southeast Asia
Early 2021 saw the formation of a new partnership between the San Diego-based blockchain platform, Solana, and the Vietnam-based investment firm, Coin98 Ventures. Together, they plan to provide a grant of $100,000 and technical, marketing and community support for Southeast Asian startups via the Solana platform. In total, the development fund will be worth $5 million. Solana’s development fund is among a trend of growing interest from private companies along with increasing government support across the region, now seeing supporting blockchain technology as a practical part of a development strategy. As a result, blockchain in Southeast Asia is increasing.

What is a Blockchain?

At its core, blockchain is an innovative database. Unlike the traditional form of storing data in a table format, blockchain operates as its name suggests: as a chain of blocks. Each block contains data, and each new inputted information adds a new block to the chain. When a new block is added, it undergoes time-stamping and encryption.

Essentially, blockchain software provides a secure and decentralized form of storing data, particularly financial data. The software operates on an algorithm to automatically record and encrypt transactions without a third party’s costly support. As a result, blockchain decentralizes financial transactions while also making them cheaper.

Blockchain: An Expanding Market

The blockchain market comprises one of the fastest-growing in the world. In 2020, the market size was $3 billion. The Markets and Markets firm predicts it to reach $39.7 billion by 2025. Moreover, its Compound Annual Growth Rate is a stunning 67.3%.

One can partly explain this growth rate by increasing access to the internet and e-commerce in the world. Access to the internet has increased rapidly. In 2000, about 413 million people had an internet connection; by 2016, this number jumped to 3.4 billion.

The Benefits of Blockchain

Billions of people still experience exclusion from financial tools and cannot use anything other than physical cash for transactions. As of 2017, 1.7 billion people across the globe remained unbanked. However, by sidestepping financial institutions, blockchain decentralizes banking and opens up possibilities for many locked out of traditional financial tools such as transferring and storing digital currency and investing.

Cutting out the middleman reduces the fees involved in transactions, which often run high. This is particularly important for migrant workers who pay high transaction rates to transfer money back home to their families. For example, in 2018, Western Union reported a $5.5 billion profit in fees from the money transfers in the same year.

Additionally, blockchain reduces the cost of doing business. It cuts overhead costs by lowering transaction fees, upgrading analytical tools to understand the market/customer needs and protecting and storing data more efficiently. For instance, by the year 2024, expectations have determined that blockchain will save the food industry $31 billion. And in early 2020, Cargill and Agrocorp and partners used a blockchain platform to shorten a U.S.-Indonesia wheat transaction from a month to a mere five days.

Blockchain in Southeast Asia

Perhaps more than any other region, Southeast Asia can benefit most from blockchain’s developmental potential. As a region, it has a high internet penetration rate of 58%. Moreover, it is an underbanked region with a shocking 73% of its population still unbanked in 2017. Additionally, Southeast Asia has a large migrant worker population around the globe who would benefit from blockchain. In 2017, the International Labor Organization estimated that of the migrant worker population, 20.2 million originate from Southeast Asia. Finally, as a manufacturing hub with a large e-commerce presence, blockchain technology plays an essential role in facilitating online shopping and supply-chain tracking and data storage.

Appropriately, Southeast Asian governments have supported this nascent technology. For starters, the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has embraced the technology in its Economic Community 2025 Strategic Action Plan for Financial Integration. The organization claims that it will “promote innovative financial inclusion via digital platforms.”

Likewise, countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines have invested in blockchain education programs to promote its development. Singapore, for instance, launched a $9 million program, the Singapore Blockchain Innovation Program, to facilitate and research blockchain applications. Vietnam, for its part, has transitioned the storage of government education records to blockchain technology and has plans to use block-chain infrastructure to transition Ho Chi Minh city to a smart city.

Southeast Asian Blockchain Companies

Through this support, hundreds of blockchain start-ups are rapidly growing across the region, utilizing blockchain in diverse ways that cut across different sectors. Some of the significant blockchain companies that illustrate its diversity are:

  • Electrify (Singapore): Founded in 2017 to introduce “trans-active energy platforms that will democratize access to clean energy across the Asia Pacific.”
  • Pundi-X (Indonesia): Partners with retailers worldwide to install its XPOS – a blockchain-powered point-of-sale device that allows retailers to accept cryptocurrency.
  • LuxTag (Malaysia): Utilizes blockchain to verify the authenticity of luxury items.
  • HARA (Indonesia): Founded in 2015, it relies on its blockchain software to provide data exchange for the food and agriculture sectors.

Blockchain’s potential as a developmental force is palpable. The growing blockchain market in Southeast Asia is vital for development in the region. It gives many people access to financial tools who otherwise would not have it while also easing business flow across industries. These factors have propelled blockchain in Southeast Asia as a critical tool in its development.

– Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Lead Poisoning in Children
For more than a century, the people of Kabwe, Zambia have lived with devastatingly high levels of lead exposure. In 1994, after 90 years, Kabwe’s lead mine shut down. More than 25 years later, the people of Kabwe still suffer the consequences of decades of unstable mining and nearly nonexistent clean-up efforts by mine owners. Environmental health authorities say Kabwe has unprecedented levels of lead contamination leading to lead poisoning in children.

The EPA “defines a soil lead hazard as 400 parts per million (ppm) in play areas and a 1,200 ppm average for bare soil in the rest of the yard.” Black Mountain, a favorite place for Kabwe’s children to play, measures a staggering 30,000-60,000 ppm. The “mountain” is a massive heap of refuse. Adults often crawl through make-shift tunnels mining for lead, copper, manganese and zinc to sell. With more than half of Zambia’s population living below the poverty line, mineral scavenging provides vital income. Many people who venture beyond the “DANGER KEEP AWAY!” warning outside the mine site, say the risk of lead poisoning is a necessity if they want to feed their families.

Children at Risk

Lead poisoning in children is at a disproportionate rate due to children’s developing bodies and brains. Children absorb four to five times more lead than their parents. Lead exposure can result in skin rashes, poor appetite, weight loss, cough, stunted growth, learning disabilities and death. Often, lead poisoning goes undetected until it is too late. Many families will hide their lead-poisoned children because they fear stigma due to their child’s symptoms. In Zambia, 45.5% of children live in extreme poverty. As a result, they do not often have access to proper healthcare to treat lead poisoning.

The World Bank Project

The World Bank is funding a $65 million project, the Zambia Mining and Environment Remediation and Improvement Project (ZMERIP). The project aims to reduce environmental risks in lead hot spots. It also seeks to assist the Zambian government in addressing the dangers of lead exposure and implementing safety protocols, providing health intervention and engaging mining companies in expanding awareness of their environmental and social responsibilities.

In 2020, the ZMERIP began the largest health intervention to address blood lead levels (BLLs) in children in Zambia. More than 10,000 children received lead poison testing. The CDC recommends a BLL in children of no more than 5 µg/dl. Of the children tested, 2,500 had BLLs of 45 µg/dl or more. Chelation therapy, “which binds the lead into a compound that is filtered out through the kidneys”, is the preferred treatment for children who test 45 µg/dl or higher. Children who test lower, receive vitamin supplements, iron and protein as treatment.

The World Bank attempted another project similar to the ZMERIP in 2011 but achieved little progress. With lessons learned, the World Bank is hopeful this new project will be successful. If the project attains the goals it has set out to complete, more than 70,000 people including 30,000 children will benefit from the information. While some Zambians have yet to realize the risks of lead exposure, the World Bank reports mostly positive responses to their health advocacy.

The Future for Zambia

For the children of Kabwe, the ZMERIP offers hope of reducing lead poisoning in children. It offers hope that play is not a risk and a toddler’s appetite for a fistful of dirt is not a life sentence by lead poisoning. The key to the project’s success is continuing prevention practices, education, remediation and the Zambian government’s obligation to enforce safety regulations after the project’s completion expected in 2022. The ZMERIP’s commitment places focus on improving the lives and futures of Kabwe’s most vulnerable and valuable asset, its children, the country’s future.

Rachel Proctor
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

USAID programs in Kenya
Former U.S. President John F. Kennedy created the United States Agency for International Development in 1961. Kennedy’s goal was to spearhead the United States’ international development and humanitarian initiatives. Additionally, the highest executive position is the Administrator of the USAID. This position’s responsibilities include executing foreign aid programs under the guidance of the President. Furthermore, the Administrator of the USAID selects members of the President’s cabinet and the State Department. USAID coordinates with different levels of the United States government. As a result, this agency often works closely with the State Department to achieve common goals. USAID programs in Kenya also contribute to the global economy and aid in alleviating global poverty.

USAID’s mission statement is to dedicate itself to the promotion of democratic values in its works and advance freedom and prosperity. As such, USAID is well-integrated into the United States’ foreign policy vectors and gives perspective in improving the lives of many in the developing world.

Mark Green is the most recent non-acting Administrator for USAID since 2017. USAID’s agenda underwent reorientation and Administrator Mark Green’s tenure resulted in the reframing of its definition of foreign assistance. Journey to Self-reliance is a new policy that emerged to reforge all existing USAID policies and strategies.

USAID’s Program Cycle’s policies and decisions reinforced its initiatives. In addition, an evaluative set of processes regarding a structured cycle of self-examination, planning, implementation and re-examination of outcomes helps countries become more self-reliant.

USAID Today in Kenya

USAID programs in Kenya have been making a difference for more than 60 years. Kenya received $540 million in aid from USAID in the 2019 fiscal year. Thus, this ranks Kenya as the fourth most-funded African country. As a result, USAID programs in Kenya provide more than the average $144 million funding that these regions typically receive. The HIV/AIDS sector receives the greatest amount of aid from USAID. It contributes a total of $260 million.

Kenya’s performance scores of self-reliance lag behind the average low and middle-income countries. However, Kenya surges ahead in having an open and accountable government. Yet, Kenya’s safety and security rates at 33 points out of 100. This is significantly lower than the statistical average. Thus, the nation’s lowest-performing index is the poverty rate. Kenya’s poverty rate is a mere 14 out of 100, whereas the statistical average rests at 44.

USAID Programs’ Focuses

USAID programs in Kenya have three primary focuses. First, it aims to effectively implement governmental devolution. This requires devolving the powers of the central government to regional bodies. Second, it aims to strengthen the health and human capacities of Kenyans. Lastly, it has the goal of driving environmentally sustainable economic growth.

Kenya’s economy is the largest and most diverse economy in all of East Africa. It serves as an important trading hub for the African continent. However, agriculture makes up the backbone of Kenya’s economy today. Agriculture provides an obvious pathway for economic development and poverty reduction. Furthermore, agribusiness accounts for roughly 40% of Kenya’s overall workforce and roughly a quarter of its annual GDP.

As an example of the United States government’s integrated approach to foreign aid, USAID’s Feed the Future initiative is currently improving social, business and human health in Kenya by increasing productivity and income. Moreover, its greater agenda is to develop a more effective and sustainable agricultural future.

– Marshall Wu
Photo: Flickr

COVIS-19 vaccine distribution
Vaccines for the COVID-19 virus are emerging at an increasing rate around the world. The COVID-19 vaccine distribution is a primary challenge for political leaders. Ensuring that everyone has access to vaccines is imperative to achieving global recovery. In many countries, COVID-19 cases are still at large. National leaders put individual national laws in place to fight against the rising numbers. Though they have helped lower those rates, the number of cases has not yet begun to level out. The vaccines that nations have currently distributed should curb those numbers further. This will allow vaccinated individuals to resume their pre-pandemic daily routines slowly.

Inequal COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Some countries have priority access to vaccines, which is largely due to national wealth. This leads to poorer nations not having the ability to purchase vaccines. To combat this for the betterment of global health, France, in particular, has begun to put forth ideas and efforts with the intent to help such nations gain access to vaccines.

French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed that richer countries ought to transfer roughly 3-5% of their vaccines to countries in need. According to an interview with the Financial Times, he said, “This would have no impact on the rhythm of vaccine strategies (in rich countries). It won’t delay it by a single day given the way we use our doses.” According to Macron, German Chancellor Angela Markel has no problems with the initiative, and he hopes to convince the United States to share their vaccines as well.

African leaders have put forth the request for 13 million doses of vaccinations to help its population. The leaders plan to give a large portion of those to caretakers, allowing them to help patients in need. Currently, COVAX will be making accessible vaccinations available to African countries. However, the countries will use the vaccine only for emergencies. Thus, the calls for more vaccines are important.

France’s Plan for Vaccine Distribution

To help fight for better COVID-19 vaccine distribution in African countries, France has established a designated four-part plan to help affected communities efficiently. These steps include support of African healthcare systems, aiding African research and supporting humanitarian and economic efforts. The goal is for France to support various healthcare systems to ensure that patients and citizens receive the best treatment until a vaccine can be distributed. Until these countries have proper access to vaccines, the World Health Organization (WHO) will work with the financing they received from wealthier governments.

Many other countries worldwide are also working to help one another receive the help needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese scientists developed a vaccine that is currently in use in Hungary and Serbia. Beijing and Russia are selling and donating their own vaccines to nations abroad. If the number of cooperations increases in the upcoming months, there will be more vaccines available worldwide. Since the virus can still spread with mutations from other parts of the world, this is also crucial to rich nations’ national security.

– Seren Dere
Photo: Flickr

Digital Green Empowers Poor Farmers
World hunger is one of the biggest challenges to overcome in the journey to eradicate poverty. It is impossible for communities to advance into other sectors without access to food. Roughly 690 million people do not have adequate access to food today. However, if information can be readily available and accessible for rural farmers, they could help reduce this number. Digital Green is a company that began in 2006 and aims to reduce world hunger.

What is Digital Green?

Digital Green is an Indian-based company that aids smallholder farmers in implementing better farming practices. It uses a unique software that more conventional organizations do not utilize. However, company co-founder Rikin Gandhi did not always see himself in Digital Green. He graduated from college with knowledge in science and engineering in hopes of becoming an astronaut. Moreover, the way astronauts melded intelligence and courage inspired him.

Gandhi said that he ended up focusing on another group of people who meld intelligence and courage after experiencing rejection from astronaut programs. He focused on the smallholder farmer. Immediately, he knew he wanted to approach things differently. Thus, he teamed up with Microsoft to create Digital Green.

Community Videos

Gandhi believed that the best way for smallholder farmers to improve their practices was by learning tricks from other farmers in the area. However, there was a problem. Many smallholder farmers in India live far apart. As a result, he created a database called community videos. This database is a collection of videos from several farming communities to share their wealth and knowledge.

Community videos are different from YouTube because they specifically target smallholder farmers. Farmers can easily select their desired language and region, and ensure that they are watching content that someone they can identify with produced.

Digital Green has produced more than 6,000 videos relating to farming practices to date. Additionally, the company oversees every video’s production from start to finish, ensuring that the sequence makes sense and that communities find the information relevant. Certain crop yields have soared by as much as 74% after farmers began using community videos.

FarmStack

Digital Green also implemented FarmStack to empower farmers. FarmStack is a platform designed to connect government and non-governmental organizations to smallholder farmers. It allows both groups to upload and download relevant data such as soil conditions and food prices at local markets.

The platform allows for immediate communication and makes sure that farmers receive customized solutions for unusual predicaments. In addition, it ensures that farmers receive relevant data that will help them better manage productivity as well as finances. As a result of the program, farmers’ income has increased and crop failure has decreased.

What is Next for Digital Green?

Digital Green is currently working on projects primarily in India and Ethiopia. COVID-19 has posed new challenges for the organization, but it shows no signs of slowing down. Furthermore, Digital Green hopes to one day reach every smallholder farmer in need. Luckily, the organization has partnered with powerful organizations around the globe to accelerate the process. Some organizations currently partnered with Digital Green include Walmart, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UKAid and Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD).

Although smallholder farmers only support a small aspect of their community, Digital Green acknowledges that they hold the key to ending world hunger. If all of these small communities connected, knowledge would spread like a wildfire. Eventually, every smallholder farmer across the globe may see an uptick of even 5% in crop yield. This impact would be tremendous.

– Jake Hill
Photo: Flickr

Japan’s Emergency Grant Aid
Armenia primarily controls Nagorno-Karabakh, a portion of land in Azerbaijan. This area experienced a major war conflict. The war has plagued Armenia and Azerbaijan for the past three decades. Additionally, Armenia and Azerbaijan have struggled with humanitarian crises including food insecurity, repairs for local shelters and medical support since 1988. However, the U.S. granted $10 million to humanitarian crises to provide food, shelter and medical supplies to those the conflict heavily affected. Additionally, the European Union provided €3 million in aid for food, clothing for winter and medical supplies. In addition, Japan’s emergency grant aid has helped aid people in Azerbaijan.

According to BBC, Azerbaijan sought to suppress the separatist movement, while Armenia backed it. This led to ethnic clashes and after Armenia and Azerbaijan declared independence from Moscow, a full-scale war ensued. Nagorno-Karabakh remains part of Azerbaijan while still under Armenian control. However, a ceasefire occurred in September 2020 and Armenia and Azerbaijan received additional aid.

Aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan

A study that the country’s Statistical Committee conducted revealed that 23.5% of Armenia’s population was living below the poverty line as of 2018. While much of the population lives below the poverty line, only 1% of the population lives in extreme poverty. However, access to education, security, neglect and freedom of speech factor into what contributes to the impoverished cities in Armenia.

Aid to Armenia’s population can benefit from hospital supplies, winter clothing and food could begin the process of rebuilding Armenia and its people. As a result of the destruction caused by the conflict, many had to flee their homes. Countries provide emergency support to give Armenia humanitarian needs and basic supplies. Furthermore, it can spread awareness to help those in need in Armenia and Azerbaijan. The need for food, shelter and medical supplies is evident.

Japan’s Emergency Grant Aid

Japan implemented a $4.8 million emergency grant aid to help those in Armenia and Azerbaijan in February 2021. Armenia is receiving $3.6 million of Japan’s grant aid whereas the remaining $1.2 million is going towards Azerbaijan. This aid goes toward medical training in six hospitals and supplies medical equipment. Furthermore, there are new hand-washing stations in three elementary schools to ensure safe water access, hygiene kits, renovation repairs to evacuation centers, relief supplies for winter and educational supplies for 15 schools.

The Asian Development Bank states that 5% of Azerbaijan’s population lived under the poverty line in 2018. This country is a developing country facing many issues. Azerbaijan’s healthcare is among the top two priorities in efforts to maintain a well-rounded economy. Budgeting for healthcare has increased by 44.5% since 2019.

Japan’s emergency grant aid of $1.2 million to Azerbaijan goes toward medical equipment for one hospital, access to safe water, relief items for during their winter and food assistance for about 800 people.

– Vanessa Morales
Photo: Flickr

The Rwandan Genocide
Rwanda. 1994. 100 days. This was all it took for a band of Hutu extremists to commit the Rwandan Genocide, killing just under a million civilians. The 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda has prompted yearly remarks around the world. The United Nations sponsors these, discussing the horrific implications of the event. Survivors have come forth to tell their stories as they work to make impacts to prevent genocides in the future.

What Was The Rwandan Genocide?

Two neighboring castes lead Rwanda; the Tutsis and the Hutus. The 1994 Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi was a power struggle between these dividing castes. Although the Hutus largely outnumbered the Tutsis, with “about 85% of Rwandans,” the Tutsi had been in power for a long time. In 1959, the Hutus overthrew the Tutsi monarchy and civilians fled to neighboring countries. Rwanda remained under the Hutu dictatorship for many years following.

Long thereafter, a group of Tutsi exiles formed a rebel group known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). They stormed Rwanda in 1990 and fought until 1993 when both parties agreed upon a peace deal.

However, the peace agreement broke on April 6, 1994, when a plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana, a known Hutu, was shot down. Hutu extremists blamed the RPF for the killing. Soon thereafter started the mass genocide that resulted in the killing of over 800,000 people. Government troops backed up the Hutus, many of whom forced civilians and youths to fight and to exercise the slaughters. The RPF stormed the capital, Kigali, on July 4, 1994, to gain back power.

Help from The World Food Programme

The Rwandan genocide forced many civilians into starvation, often unable to provide for themselves or their families. The World Food Programme provided emergency food assistance to those in need, targeting the “fundamental role food plays for vulnerable communities fleeing from conflict.” One Rwandan that the WFP helped is Liberee Kayumba. A survivor of the genocide, she was only 12 when she lost both of her parents and brother, experiencing starvation following the conflict. Now working as a monitoring officer for the Mahama Refugee Camp organization, she helps others suffering from food insecurity.

On the WFP’s Website, Liberee tells her story. She says that the memories from the genocide helped motivate her to want to help people in need. Liberee remembers how food availability was the main problem after the genocide for her and other survivors. Therefore, she has exact memories of the meals the WFP distributed, which she thinks saved her life.

The United Nations Conducts The International Day of Reflection

The U.N. has mandated an information and educational outreach programme to help survivors and others cope with the ramifications of the Rwandan Genocide and their resulting losses. This program emerged in 2005 with the main themes of preventing genocide and supporting survivors. Around the world, events such as “roundtable discussions, film screenings, exhibits and debates” occur yearly.

The slogan of 2020’s event was International Day of Reflection. It marked the 26th anniversary of the genocide, with a virtual observance for all to join in on. Multiple officials and survivors made sure to show up, including Jacqueline Murekatete. She is a lawyer, human rights activist and founder of the nonprofit organization Genocide Survivors Foundation. Murekatete lost her entire family in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide when she was only 9 years old.

The U.N.’s yearly observance reminds us to reflect on past events and recount what we can do to promote resilience and growth among countries facing hardships. Those this horrific event impacted have the chance to mourn and reflect, looking toward the greater good as individuals strive to create a better future for all.

– Natalie Whitmeyer
Photo: Flickr

Female leaders in India
In 2020, Priya Periyasmy became the leader of her village council in Tamil Nadu, a South Indian state that 68 million people populated. Despite gender quota laws in village council elections, female leaders in India are the vast minority and women must fight to do their jobs in a hostile work environment. Additionally, women who run for office often face sexual harassment and slanderous attacks. Following Periyasmy’s brave example, 15 female village council leaders in Tamil Nadu state have filed complaints about discrimination in the past six months.

Village Councilwomen Fight Discrimination

Periyasmy tolerated daily annoyances, with other council members not greeting her and asking her to sit on the floor during meetings. She initially ignored the discrimination, but the abuse she faced interfered with her ability to work. The panchayat vice-president regularly threatened her and once attacked her for sitting on a chair at work. Periyasmy went on strike and organized a sit-in protest with her husband. She and 15 other Dalit women in the same situation are demanding action under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Dalit female leaders in India face heightened discrimination. They belong to the lowest caste in India’s social hierarchy.

In another village in Tamil Nadu called Attupakan, V. Sasikumar quit his factory job to support his mother when she became the first female Dalit village council president. After other members stopped her from talking at meetings and hoisting the flag on Independence Day, she asked the Madras High Court to protect her family.

Sasikumar points out the daily wage earner status of his parents. After the struggle of getting into a leading position, his mother now faces discrimination. Other council members would not allow her to do her job. Still, she has the full support of her family.

India reserves half of each state’s village council posts for women, resulting in the election of 1 million female village councilors. However, proposals for similar legislation for state and federal elections exist for 20 years already. The bills did not pass yet. The bipartisan Girls LEAD Act challenges this, increasing global female participation in democracy, human rights and governance.

Girls LEAD Act

About 132 million girls between 6-17 years old are not enrolled in school and only 24% of all national parliamentarians are women, which are two highly connected problems. Women largely have underrepresentation in politics, allowing men to sway important decisions, many of which only women. Through U.S. foreign assistance initiatives, the Girls LEAD Act identifies and addresses barriers to female political participation, providing support for civil society organizations that women lead. The act ensures that each foreign organization engages girls under 18, introducing them to political leadership early.

Promoting girls’ education and political engagement will reduce violence against women and transform more societies into democracies. Women’s leadership supports democracy through cooperation between parties and the understanding of citizens’ needs. According to research, female inclusion in peace negotiations decreases corruption. Additionally, the likelihood of childhood marriage will decrease by 5% for each year of a girl’s continued secondary schooling.

Normalizing women’s leadership in politics will break the stigma and negative cultural attitudes behind it, which is the root of the bigotry that Periyasmy faces. Passing the Girls LEAD Act would protect marginalized politicians, including the 16 female leaders in India who actively fight discrimination.

– Rebecca Pomerantz
Photo: Flickr