On July 15, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, the International Labour Organisation, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine announced the launch of a new slavery prevention program entitled “Work in Freedom.” This project includes a 9.75 million GBP commitment (over 15 million USD) with the purpose of protecting females in South Asia from labor trafficking.

Human trafficking stands out as a growing global issue, with approximately 21 million global citizens forced into labor or prostitution around the world. The majority of modern day slaves find themselves tricked into becoming part of one of these millions of trafficked people. Traffickers target very poor and often remote areas promising to help people find jobs, when in reality they are forced into slavery. The United Nations deemed human trafficking the third-largest global criminal industry.

The plan is to target the most heavily travelled human trafficking routes with access to South Asia, focusing on Bangladesh, Nepal, and some Gulf States. The Work in Freedom Project also plans to provide 50,000 women with technical skills and training to only help them find employment, and to enable them to recognize a trafficker’s ploys and secure legal work contracts guaranteeing proper wages.An additional 30,000 women will receive education to help them learn their rights and find employment as part of the Work in Freedom Project.

Other focuses of Britain’s international support involve child labor. The plan includes keeping girls under 16 years old in school and teaching women to recognize ‘recruitment fees’ and other unethical charges traffickers place as a burden on families in their ‘recruitment’ schemes.

The Work in Freedom Project also hopes to build momentum in governments, employer, and labor unions to cooperate in addressing the issues associated with human trafficking. It calls for employers in the private sector to step up their regulation to prevent hiring trafficked workers.

Work in Freedom demonstrates the United Kingdom’s commitment to international aid. Their new five year program tackles one of modern society’s biggest issues and provides assistance for thousands of women without a voice by giving them education, the power to stand up for themselves, and economic opportunities.

– Allison Meade

Sources: U.K. Government Press Release, Health Canal International Labor Organization
Photo: [email protected]

The water crisis in Africa is real. With close to 50 percent of Africans contracting a waterborne disease, the associated number of deaths contributed to either lack of water or improper water sanitation stands at an astounding 2 million lives lost each year. Even in 2013, in the glorious age of iPhones, internet and instant communication, 35 percent of the world’s population still lacks proper access to the most basic building block of life – water.

One standout organization works to change these statistics by creating a movement and igniting change across the continent. The African Water Facility (AWF) focuses on locating and using resources in the most efficient manner to spur water development initiatives across Africa. AWF is funded and hosted through the African Development Bank, which works through a variety of industries to promote its mission statement to “promote sustainable economic growth and reduce poverty in Africa.” One of its initiatives in accomplishing this goal is the African Water Facility, created by the African Development Bank in 2006 to address the health problems associated with inadequate water.

The African Water Foundation provides relief in multiple sectors, with the ultimate goal of reaching the United Nations Africa Water Vision by 2025 to create sustainable food and water sources for Africa’s entire population. The AWF offers support to both governments and regional organizations to increase water governance and to increase better tracking of water resources. This also helps to ensure cooperation between borders to share resources and work together to make a difference.

Another goal of the foundation is to attract investors to support African infrastructure and development to increase funding to the region. The plan is for these monetary investments to pump money into Africa, encouraging development and the accumulation of resources, including food, water, proper sanitation, and adequate regulations. The AWF plans to bring in investors through the development of innovative new technologies and invention of educational programs.

The AWF’s two current primary focuses include spreading “knowledge and information” in addition to following up with their projects through “monitoring and evaluation.” This spread of knowledge is aimed at informing citizens how to both evaluate the quality of water and learn low-cost methods of securing a safe water source through new technology. The plan for their second focus on evaluation includes completing assessments of each African nation, collecting data on water availability, and establishing management systems to encourage communication about the water.

Though the AWF has set ambitious goals for itself in providing sustainable access to food and water to the entire continent of Africa before 2025, its methodology and systemized organization just might be enough to maintain the focus on addressing the water crisis and make exciting changes.

Allison Meade

Sources: African Water Facility, Build Africa
Photo: EUWI

In December of 2012 a rebellion group formed under the name ‘Seleka’ marched through the Central African Republic, threatening to overthrow President François Bozizé for failing to follow through with the promises he made in 2007. Since then their reign has been one of terror and abduction, forcing people who are already living in the throes of poverty to adopt a life of fear and anticipation as well. Bozize has since been chased out of the country and the people of the Central African Republic are too afraid to take action against Seleka.

Translated the word Seleka simply means “coalition” in Sango. In January the group was estimated to have between 1,000 and 3,000 members. It is thought that they are made up of a collection of smaller groups allied together in opposition of the former president. However, government officials believe that the core of Seleka may be made up of a more varied cast of people, suggesting that the are harboring foreigners who wish to take control of the country’s mineral wealth. Some even believe that nationals from Chad, Nigeria, and Sudan are involved.

On March 24, 2013 Michel Djotodia marched into the capital Bangui with 5,000 Seleka fighters to seize control of the country. He immediately disbanded the parliament and suspended the constitution. And since then he and the Seleka fighters have waged a campaign of harassment and terror against the very people they claimed to protect. Unemployment has soared to 70% and the rebels take whatever they want, including computers used for education, solar panels, and even goats. Schools have shut down and electricity has become unavailable to the public.

Now the rebel group is no longer simply stealing from the people they claim to help, they are stealing the people as well. On a daily basis people disappear from their homes, schools, and the street itself. They are picked up by men in trucks and never seen again. If they are, they have been tortured or killed. The economy has collapsed entirely, most people are out of work, international aid workers have fled, and farmers are unable to tend to their fields because of all the violence. The country is on the verge of absolute disaster.

The self-proclaimed president of the country seems to be either unaware or uncaring of the reality of the situation. He is quoted in the New York Times as stating, “Peace has already returned to Bangui. When we came, it was like a miracle. It was God that willed it.” But the reality is that 173,000 people have been displaced from their homes since December. The Central African Republic has always been one of the poorest countries in the world and frequently fraught with conflict.

– Chelsea Evans

Sources: CNN, BBC, USA Today, New York Times
Photo: BBC

According to the Hunger Project, a non-profit organization that works to end global hunger, “malnutrition occurs when the variety or quality of food is insufficient to support proper development and health.”

Roughly 15 percent of babies born in developing countries are of low birth weight due to maternal malnutrition, and even those born at a healthy weight are at risk for malnutrition due to insufficient breastfeeding. Malnutrition causes one-third of global child deaths, perpetuated as undernourished women give birth in low-resource settings.

When a malnourished woman gives birth to a low-birth weight baby that has already been affected by her mother’s malnourishment, the child will suffer from a compromised immune system and will most likely stay malnourished, even when she reaches reproductive age. Her child, too, will be born malnourished, and the cycle of malnourishment will continue.

Seeking to break the cycle of malnourishment, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada is developing a daily microencapsulated micronutrient powder through its affiliate SickKids.

Called “Prenatal Sprinkles,” this powder contains iron, folic acid and calcium. Pregnant and lactating women in poor areas can simply sprinkle their food with this supplement in order to combat malnutrition.

Prenatal Sprinkles will help to combat anemia during pregnancy, which often leads to premature birth, and preeclampsia associated with hypertension, which often causes maternal and fetal death.

Prenatal Sprinkles can potentially lower maternal hypertensive disease related mortality by 20 percent and preterm birth by 24 percent. Previously, supplements could not contain both iron and calcium due to poor absorption, but Prenatal Sprinkles contain differential time-release nutrients that increase iron and calcium absorption and prevent calcium-iron interaction. They also have a smooth texture and a pleasant flavor, making them palatable for malnourished women.

The Hospital for Sick Children is partnering with companies in the private sector in order to finance the production of Prenatal Sprinkles, but the projected cost of mass production is very low for the supplement.

Though Prenatal Sprinkles are not yet in wide circulation, they offer a simple and cost effective solution to malnutrition, a problem that cannot be solved by food aid alone.

Katie Bandera

Sources: Sprinkles (R) 60mg Fe for Pregnant and Lactating Women, Issues: Malnutrition
Photo: Girls’ Globe

Last week, Washington welcomed 30 small and medium-sized female business owners from 27 countries in Africa, who are participants in the African Women’s Entrepreneur Program (AWEP). Every year, 30 female entrepreneurs are invited to the U.S. to attend professional development meetings and network with U.S. policy makers, companies, industry associations, nonprofit groups, and multilateral development organizations. For the past two weeks, the women have traveled throughout the U.S. to meet with scores of professionals in cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle.

The visit marks three years of success for AWEP, which was launched by the U.S. Department of State in July 2010. The program is an outreach, education, and engagement initiative that works with African women entrepreneurs in several main focus areas. AWEP supports the Presidential Policy Directive on U.S. strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa by operating on two parallels: it spurs economic growth and trade by involving female entrepreneurs in the sector, and promotes opportunity and development throughout the continent for women and youth.

The Department of State acknowledges that supporting growth in Africa is economically and politically vital; doing so opens up trade to U.S. markets and creates positive business environments both at home and abroad. In addition, AWEP helps to empower women in their respective countries; in Africa, women are the backbone of communities, and by enabling them to utilize their economic power, the program is helping to reduce the gender gap in education and improve health, political participation and economic inclusion.

The women in the program include Mame Diene from Senegal, whose organic cosmetics and nutraceuticals company, Bioessence Laboratories, employs almost 4,000 people. The visit to Washington enabled Ms. Diene and her peers to discuss business growth and female empowerment in Africa. When the women return to their countries, they join AWEP chapters where they can connect with other successful businesswomen; by building networks, the initiative is enabling these women to become voices for social advocacy in their communities.

AWEP is a prime example of U.S. commitment to foreign investment in developing regions. Globally, women constitute 50% of the global population and 40% of the global workforce, yet they own just 1% of the world’s wealth. By providing a platform from which women can effectively run their own businesses, AWEP is resulting in positive economic, social and political changes that are beneficial for the U.S. both abroad and at home.

– Chloe Isacke
Sources: DipNote, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State


Ermira Babamusta, Ph.D is a guest writer and a Regional Director for The Borgen Project.

World Humanitarian Day is an opportunity to recognize those people around the world often in dangerous and difficult circumstances. This year I would like to pause and remember the tragic events in Kosovo and the humanitarian catastrophe of ethnic Albanians being killed, expelled and persecuted in their own land. The ethnic cleaning campaigns led by Slobodan Milosevic and the Yugoslav and Serb forces against Albanian civilians shall forever be recorded as dark years in the history of Albania and Kosova.

This August 19, 2013 as the world commemorates the fight against genocide, it is important to reflect on the historical aspects of genocide against ethnic Albanians. I dedicate this day to the Families of those who were harmed during the Kosovo Genocide.

As I witnessed the injustice being inflicted on the Kosovar refugees in 2007 and on the genocide survivors in 2012, I was reminded of their struggle to hang on and lead a normal life despite the horrible trauma they experienced. Today, I think about those who are still missing and their families who have no answers.

We have a great opportunity to learn from the past, become united and encourage leaders to build a better future. It is essential to peace, diplomacy and prosperity to ground our efforts on the four pillars of democracy: justice, good governance, economic development and social welfare.

I applaud America for leading the way in this effort of peace and democracy building. I had the chance to visit and meet with great leaders and US Congress members like Senator Harry Reid, Senator Tom Harkin, former US Secretary Colin Powel, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, all of who share my commitment to peace, human rights and democracy. I applaud the brave actions and the extraordinary efforts of President Bill Clinton, former US Secretary Hillary Clinton, President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Dr. Jill Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama for staying at the forefront of building and strengthening democracy in US and around the world and promoting human rights.

As J. F. Kennedy stated, “the world is very different now, for man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty, and all forms of human life.” This is the time to start the movement for global equality, promote human rights, improve governance and deliver justice around the world. I am proud that Albania and Kosovo are great successful models of such moral and democratic principles.

Ermira Babamusta, Ph.D

The Economist once labeled Africa “The Hopeless Continent.” The magazine determined that the widespread effects of disease, poverty, conflict and corruption rendered the continent economically unfavorable. That was in 2000, the same year that President Clinton signed into law the African Growth and Opportunity Act (“AGOA”). Today, the continent—and particularly sub-Saharan Africa—is home to several of the world’s fastest growing economies. In 2011, The Economist revised its moniker, referring to Africa as the “The Rising Continent.”

Many economists view AGOA as an integral element of growth in sub-Saharan Africa. The primary objective of AGOA is to expand the volume and variety of trade and investment between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa. According to government sources, AGOA’s trade provisions are responsible for 350,000 direct and 1 million indirect jobs in Africa as well as 100,000 jobs in the United States. Since the program’s inception, exports from AGOA nations to the U.S. have risen more than 300 percent.

AGOA is scheduled to expire in 2015, but President Obama has initiated an early campaign to extend the trade agreement. While praising the success of the program the President explained that, “The economies of sub-Saharan Africa are among the world’s fastest-growing, and this economic expansion, partly a result of our long-standing investment in Africa, provides an opportunity to lift millions out of poverty and foster long-term stability.”

Though oil and gas exports comprise more than 90 percent of African exports under the program, leaders hope to expand investment in other industries such as textile and apparel exports. Economists have stressed the importance of diversifying exports in trying to achieve long-term development and sustainable growth.

This month, leaders from the United States and participating African nations will meet in Ethiopia for the AGOA Forum. The theme of the event is Sustainable Transformation Through Trade and Technology. African representatives are hoping for a long-term extension of the trade agreement. Jas Bedi, chairman of the African Cotton and Textile Industries Federation, explained it simply, “You can’t do a $200 million deal if you don’t know what’s going to happen in three year’s time.”

Renewal of AGOA is crucial if the United States hopes to keep pace with China, which has recently overtaken the United States as sub-Saharan Africa’s largest trading partner. A recent report from the Brookings Institute criticizes the American business community for failing to capitalize on the continent’s emerging markets. As the region continues to grow, the United States hopes to accelerate trade and investment with its African partners. The renewal of AGOA will certainly be a good start.

– Daniel Bonasso

Sources: Financial Times, AGOA, Brookings Institute
Photo: It News Africa

Landesa Center for Women’s Land Rights, a capacity building organization, has recently launched LandWise, a free online searchable database and tool. LandWise provides important information and practical applications that may be used for capacity building and technological assistance for strengthening women’s land rights across the globe.

In many places across the world, women’s land tenure is not recognized or is consistently undermined. Without rights to their land, women lack the ability to use, control, and transfer this asset. In some areas, men may have sole control of land that is owned by their wife. The absence of legal land ownership by women is recognized as a constraint for overcoming rural poverty. Without legal ownership of this valuable asset, women are placed in a precarious position where they may lose their family’s only form of income.

There are many facets to women’s rights to land that must be addressed. The country’s legal codes, cultural norms, and administration all play a part in this problem, since these factors can often be very complex and difficult to determine. Landesa’s LandWise seeks to organize this information in an easily searchable database that practitioners may access. While LandWise is not intended to take the place of field work, it will help with the initial research, since the legal codes that govern land rights are often difficult to uncover. The issue of land rights is often bound up with family and marriage law as well as property law. LandWise organizes these laws in an easily searchable database.

Sometimes, rural women are unaware of the rights they have under law. In these cases, practitioners can use the research gathered to engage women in clinics or information sessions. In areas where women’s land rights are not legally codified practitioners may use advocacy to engage civil society and government officials and promote policy recommendations.

LandWise also provides Practice Guides. The Practice Guides help practitioners use the information provided on the database. The Guides include checklists that help analyze the issues that may affect women and men differently in regards to property rights. In addition to the legal codes provided on LandWise, users also receive information regarding how the law is in fact carried out and cultural norms that may affect its implementation.

LandWise is overseen by a full-time librarian. Practitioners in the field are encouraged to submit information that they may come across to LandWise in order to help expand its database.

Callie D. Coleman

Sources: IFAD, LandWise, Landesa Center for Women’s Land Rights
Photo: Landesa

Project Concern International (PCI) is an organization which seeks to to prevent disease, improve community health, and promote sustainable development worldwide. PCI was founded in 1961 by Dr. James Turpin after saving the lives of two children suffering from pneumonia while working in a Tijuana clinic. This experience inspired the young doctor to go on and forever change the lives of millions. PCI envisions a world in which resources are abundant and shared, communities are capable of providing for the basic health and well-being of its members, and children and families can achieve lives of hope, good health and self-sufficiency. PCI conducts its work through field offices in host countries where directors can live in the area and get an intimate understanding of local needs.

Working in 16 countries, PCI hopes to reach at least 5 million people per year with its services. Overtime, PCI has expanded its reach through increased funding: from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to government grants to the Starbucks foundation, PCI has a well rounded list of supporters. PCI’s ultimate goals include addressing the root causes of poverty and poor health; working with the community to leverage their assets, capabilities and goals to create community-inclusive solutions; implementing holistic solutions; cultivating long-standing relationships with community leaders, investors, and stakeholders to catalyze the impact of aid spent; and developing tools which measure the long-term success of such programs. PCI addresses poverty through programs focused on women’s empowerment & poverty, children’s health, disease prevention, food & water programs, and disaster relief & recovery. Between 2013-2016, PCI hopes to reach over 10 million people worldwide and become a leader in building community capacity, resilience and self-sufficiency.

In addition to its programs worldwide, PCI also has a series of initiatives to further promote its goals. These intiatives include: Women Empowered, Legacy, Who Cares? and SHE.

  • Women Empowered: Established in May of this year, Women Empowered is an initiative in support of women’s equality, human rights and success. PCI believes that women are the solution to poverty, poor health and vulnerability and that through WE, women can attain social and economic empowerment. WE programs are currently being implemented in Guatemala, Bolivia, Botswana, and Malawi. One such success story comes from Maweta in Zambia. After raising six children of her own, Maweta returned to parenthood to raise her grandchildren after their parents died from AIDS. Without a steady source of income, Maweta struggled to provide for her grandchildren. After attending a community orientation hosted by PCI, Maweta began mobilizing women in her community to form a self-help group. Nine months later, Maweta has learned how to read and write, perform basic accounting and save $60 by selling mangoes to her community. Maweta has since received a loan to start a small business. Maweta buys food in bulk, repackages it into smaller quantities and sells these to her village. Since starting the business, Maweta has been able to provide for her grandchildren’s basic needs and education.
  • Legacy: PCI’s Legacy Programs focus on maternal/child health and nutrition, as well as economic empowerment. As the name suggests, ‘Legacy’ for PCI means consistent and compassionate commitment to the communities involved. These programs include: Well Baby clinics, Ventanilla de Salud (VDS), Casa Materna, and the Street and Working Children Program. Ventanilla de Salud (VDS) targets at risk immigrant populations near the border, by providing basic health and community services, while these families are waiting for service at the Mexican consulate. VDS has reached more than 41,000 people with health education information and nearly 20,000 with HIV/AIDS prevention messages. However, the VDS program suffers from a lack of funding and has been scaled back by more than 25 percent.
  • Who Cares?: An online campaign which celebrates, recognizes and encourages those who are giving back to the greater good. Who Cares? provides volunteers with the opportunity to network, share stories, or just get motivated about a cause. Who Cares targets the youth and young adults because they believe that the ability of today’s youth to mobilize others is huge, yet largely untapped. In addition, Who Cares provides tools to help the youth mobilize others and make their efforts pay off.
  • SHE: SHE, which is short for Strong, Health and Empowered, is a group of ambassadors who dedicate their time to PCI’s projects across the globe. These ambassadors work within the community to promote women’s empowerment and find innovative solutions to ensure that women lead strong, healthy lives.

To learn more about PCI’s work, explore for more info.

– Kelsey Ziomek

Sources: PCI Global, The San Diego Foundation, Washington Global Health Alliance, Coronado Eagle

Although there are many international aid organizations, few exist that focuses all their resources on one specific region of the world. AmericasRelief Team is one of the exceptions. This organization is devoted to providing immediate, as well as sustainable, humanitarian and educational aid for people in the Americas experiencing some form of disaster.

The group works to provide such assistance by creating a three-part process: disaster preparedness, disaster response and aid and humanitarian assistance. However, like any effective international organization, AmericasRelief Team does not work alone. It partners with other international groups, local groups, nonprofits, emergency centers, corporate donors, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and other independent experts to ensure that it is able to help as many people as possible.

AmericasRelief Team has many success stories to solidify its position as a key source of aid to the Americas during disasters. In 2005, the AmericasRelief Teams provided vital assistance to the Florida State Government after Tropical Storm Jeanne devastated the Caribbean region. More recently, in 2010, the group organized the distribution and utilized of 20 million pounds in humanitarian aid money and worked with the United Nations to quickly respond to the earthquake in Haiti.

In addition to monetary aid, the AmericasRelief Team provides clothing, household items and transportation for victims of disasters. Also, the group works with local news and media teams to spread information about the disaster and ways to avoid further complications. Overall, the group is one of the first responders to disasters in the Americas and one of the most effective organizations to provide vital services to those affected by any tragedies.

Mary Penn

Sources: AmericasRelief Team, InterAction