Heroin Use in Seychelles
In 2019, the Republic of Seychelles had the world’s worst reported heroin usage rate per capita. About 10% of the working-age population, between 5,000 and 6,000 people, had an addiction to heroin. The archipelago’s total population in 2019 was only 94,000. Seychelles’ opioid use rates have also consistently been among the world’s highest rates. These have continued to rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Heroin use in Seychelles continues to be an epidemic, but some are implementing measures to combat it.

Why Seychelles is Suffering a Heroin Epidemic

Seychelles is a developing country in the Indian Ocean that includes more than 100 islands. The nature of Seychelles’ borders makes it difficult for law enforcement to intercept heroin arriving primarily from Afghanistan. Even during the pandemic, while lockdown measures were in place, the drug market continued to flourish in Seychelles with steady imports of illicit drugs as other markets struggled.

Heroin is so abundant that the cost of a line has dropped from about 1,000 Seychellois rupees to about 30 rupees. By 2020, the typical salary in Seychelles was $420 or approximately 5,400 rupees. With about 40% of the country’s population living in poverty, heroin has become an affordable option for drug users. People living in poverty are also more likely to use drugs like heroin and engage in drug-related crime than people who are financially better off. Additionally, impoverished people who are drug addicts tend to lack access to the addiction services and other forms of support they need to recover.

By 2011, the number of heroin users was about 1,200. The alarming and quickly rising number of users prompted the government to engage in a war on drugs. The war involved implementing strict enforcement on drug traffickers and addicts alike. However, the increase in users over the years accompanying the significant drop in the cost of heroin shows the ineffectiveness of cracking down on addicts. As a result, the government of Seychelles shifted its focus to drug prevention and rehabilitation.

Efforts to Curtail Heroin Use in Seychelles

In 2020, Seychelles’ government invested 75 million Seychellois rupees toward prevention and rehabilitation, nearly ten times what it invested in 2016. The Agency for the Prevention of Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation (APDAR) also emerged in 2017. Enrolled in its programs are more than 2,000 people, 68% of whom have gainful employment. The agency offers a high- and low-threshold program for addicts.

People who participate in the high-threshold program receive in-patient care and go through detoxification. Those registered for the low-threshold program primarily learn harm reduction strategies designed to reduce drug abuse’s negative impacts. APDAR also engages in prevention efforts, demand reduction and aftercare programs. In 2018, the agency designed a national plan to deal with heroin use in Seychelles. Included in the plan is a rehabilitation village offering residency to drug users and their families which began construction in 2020.

Seychelles has a notable lack of NGOs to provide support to people dealing with drug addiction. In 2012, an NGO called CARE launched a drug abuse education and awareness campaign targeting youths. Young people make up a large proportion of Seychelle’s heroin users. Therefore, education informing youths of the dangers of heroin is necessary to reduce the number of future addicts.

Stopping the Heroin Epidemic

The pandemic certainly has not helped to reduce heroin use in Seychelles. However, with complex and well-funded prevention and rehabilitation programs in place, heroin addicts and their families can get the help they need. Relapse is always a possibility for users as getting and staying clean is a difficult thing to achieve. However, with time, Seychelles can bring the number of users down to what it was in 2011, and then reduce the number even further.

– Nate Ritchie
Photo: Flickr

Women Waste Collectors
In developing countries where the most impoverished people live alongside garbage heaps and landfills, many earn livings as waste collectors. Although women waste collectors significantly outnumber male waste collectors, they face inequalities and disproportionate economic and health impacts in comparison to their male counterparts.

Plastic Waste Exports to Developing Countries

Wealthy countries often export their plastic waste to developing countries. The United States shipped close to “1.5 billion pounds of plastic waste to 95 countries” in 2019 alone. Developing countries welcome this waste as these nations receive trade incentives for accepting plastic waste exports from other countries. Plastic waste, therefore, stands as a source of income and a way to ease the suffering of a country’s most impoverished populations.

However, many developing countries lack the facilities and recycling programs to manage plastic waste effectively. The consequence is that the waste piles up and pollutes the surrounding environment. Individuals also resort to burning the waste, a practice that emits harmful dioxins into the air.

The environmental and health consequences of plastic waste disproportionately impact people who live and work in or around plastic waste dumps. In many countries, the informal waste collecting industry goes unregulated because they do not recognize waste-collecting as official employment. Because of this, there are often no protocols in place to ensure that waste collectors conduct their jobs safely.

The situation intensified in 2018 upon China’s refusal to accept foreign plastic waste, prompting countries to divert waste to other nations in Asia and Africa. The world openly burns roughly “41% of waste,” however, in some cities in Africa, as much as 75% of waste disposal consists of burning rather than recycling.

Waste Collecting as a Livelihood

The low value of plastic waste means women waste collectors remain stuck in a cycle of extreme poverty. In Nakuru, Kenya, waste collectors average a daily income of less than $2 per day “before accounting for expenses such as storage or transportation.” In terms of plastic specifically, in Nairobi, Kenya, waste pickers receive less than $0.05 per kilogram of plastic.

Although informal industries such as waste-collecting are challenging to monitor, according to a study in Ghana of women waste collectors in the plastic value chain, women who work as plastic waste collectors typically earn less than men. These women also have less power in the workplace, compete with men for the most valuable recyclables and lack equipment such as pushcarts, storage facilities and personal protective equipment. In Ghana, 74% of women working in plastic waste facilities have the lowest-paying positions (such as washing and sorting) and only 7% of women work in positions that allow them to make decisions.

Chemicals in Plastics Disproportionately Harm Women

The chemicals added to plastics during manufacturing come with known human health risks and some that disproportionately harm women. Body fat is an ideal storage site for bioaccumulating and lipophilic chemicals, and because women’s bodies store more fat than men’s, exposure to these chemicals leads to higher concentrations of absorption in women, even when the exposure rate is the same.

Chemicals that cause endocrine disruption (a process that changes the body’s hormonal system) can cause cancers, congenital disabilities, immune disorders, reproductive disorders, neurological disorders and developmental problems in women, fetuses and children. Endocrine disruptors (EDCs) such as bisphenol A, phthalates, dioxins, lead and cadmium are present in plastics used for food packaging, electronics, textiles, cosmetics and more. EDCs are an urgent international health issue, especially for developing countries where people are unable to protect themselves against high levels of exposure.

WIEGO Empowers Women Waste Collectors

Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) is an international organization dedicated to improving the conditions of people (especially women) who work in informal industries, such as women waste collectors. WIEGO has formed a partnership with Latin American waste collector movements, as well as organizations and institutions, to form the Gender & Waste project, “a collaborative project involving waste pickers.”

The Gender & Waste project works to empower women by highlighting gender-related discrimination among waste collectors and addressing the needs of women who work in this role. The Gender & Waste project offers educational workshops, toolkits and videos to both raise awareness and empower women waste collectors. The Gender & Waste project has empowered women waste collectors in Latin America to “mobilize more collectively and demand that gender be a key issue on the agenda of the national movement.”

In areas of the world where the government recognizes and supports waste collecting, such as in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, waste collectors generally “have higher incomes than other informal workers.” By empowering women waste collectors to unionize, initiatives like the Gender & Waste project help to improve working conditions, promote personal safety and ensure higher incomes. Safer working environments and higher incomes for women waste collectors safeguard the health and well-being of women and empower them to rise out of poverty.

– Jenny Rice
Photo: Flickr

Higher Education in South Africa
Higher education can be the catalyst to reshape a struggling economy, lessen the unemployment rate and ultimately reduce poverty. Along with the country’s staggering poverty rate of 55.5%, higher education in South Africa is rife with inequalities lingering from Apartheid and the Bantu Education Act. These historical inequities have sparked student-led protests and movements to eliminate financial and cultural constraints in the education system.

Educational Disparities Remain Post-Apartheid

Earning the title as the most unequal country in the world, according to the World Bank, South Africa faces many challenges to recover from its Apartheid past. The racial disparities in education are apparent long before a student reaches higher education in South Africa. In 2018, nearly half of black and “colored” (biracial) South Africans did not complete secondary school, while more than 80% of white South Africans did.

Of the black students that completed secondary school, only 4.3% enrolled in a higher education institution and as of 2020, only 4.1% have a degree. The World Bank found that if the household head achieved some higher education in South Africa, the risk of poverty reduced by about 30% compared to household heads with no schooling. With the nation’s racially oppressive history, access to inclusive and affordable education is a key component for black South Africans to find a way out of poverty.

Educational Barriers

The Bantu Education Act of 1953 segregated schools by race and the lesser-known Extension of University Act of 1959 prohibited non-whites from attending formerly “open” universities.

White supremacy ideology exists in many top universities. While many black students enroll in these universities they struggle to find belonging. A documentary by Stellenbosch University students, “Luister,” which means “listen” in Afrikaans, examines 32 students’ experiences with racism and the absence of helpful provisions for a diverse, multilingual body of students.

South Africa has 11 official languages, yet many universities use English as the primary language for instruction. A myriad of students faces frustrations because they are ill-prepared to learn in an environment where their studies are not taught in their primary language. The Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, developed a language policy to promote multilingualism and provide access to the linguistic needs of each university’s students.

The Digital Divide

The COVID-19 pandemic forced higher education in South Africa to move to remote learning. While more South Africans below the poverty level are attending universities at greater frequency, a large percentage do not have access to the internet or digital devices in their households. This relatively new form of disparity is digital inequality and the pandemic has exacerbated the issue for students. As of 2019, a study estimated that only 10.4% of South African homes have access to the internet.

In addition, a 2020 survey report found that only 60% of students own a laptop. More than half of the students reported not having a quiet place to study. Students who received funding through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), a program for students below the poverty line, were disproportionately affected. Therefore, 90% of students claimed that the only device they own is a smartphone.

Student Protests

The deadly Soweto Uprising of 1976, which protested Afrikaans as the language of instruction in South African schools, was the first of many student-led movements to raise awareness of the inequalities in education.

Since then, students have continued to demand that higher education in South Africa be affordable, accessible and decolonized. In 2015, the Rhodes Must Fall movement at The University of Cape Town was a campaign for the removal of a Cecil Rhodes statue, a figure symbolic of South Africa’s Apartheid past and the colonization that prevails in the university.

The Fees Must Fall Movement

In the same year, the Fees Must Fall movement ignited when the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg declared a tuition increase of more than 10% for the following year, along with other institutions expected to follow suit. The movement was successful because former president Jacob Zuma decided to eliminate tuition increases in 2016, according to Global Citizen.

The movement reignited that same year when The Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training asserted that fees would continue in 2017. President Zuma announced that education would be free through NSFAS to those whose annual household income was less than R350,000 ($22,456).

In 2019, students protested against historical debt, the cost of tuition that NSFAS does not pay for, as well as the “missing middle” class that do not qualify for aid but cannot afford tuition.

The Wits Asinamali Movement

The latest movement in 2021, Wits Asinamali, which translates to “we do not have money,” occurred when minister Blade Nzimande announced that due to a decrease in funding first-year students could not benefit from NSFAS. Many students with historical debt were unable to register as well.

The students managed to raise R4 million to aid those who cannot afford tuition at Witwatersrand University and the university allowed those with historical debt to still register for classes.

Despite the low enrollment of black students, higher education in South Africa has failed to meet the needs of the expanding prospect of new students. However, students are holding policymakers and universities accountable by demanding that their education be affordable, accessible and inclusive. Countless students have been met with adversity, but they have made strides in advocating for a more equitable higher education system.

– Amy Helmendach
Photo: Flickr

Child Displacement
Child displacement impacts children across all sectors and nations. As of 2020, more than 33 million children are living in forced displacement. This includes 11.8 million child refugees, 1.3 million asylum-seeking children, 20.4 million children displaced within their own country and 2.9 million children living in internal displacement as a result of natural disasters. Here is some information about child displacement in developing nations.

The Types of Child Displacement

A few types of child displacement exist. These include:

  • Internal Displacement: According to the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the definition of an internally displaced individual is “persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters and who have not crossed an internationally recognized border.”
  • Displacement on a Large Scale: An example of this is the Palestinian exodus in 1948 which resulted in the displacement of more than 750,000 people.
  • Separation From Family: This type of displacement uniquely relates to children in developing nations. When children are working away from family, they are susceptible to kidnapping, human trafficking and violence. For example, there are 10.1 million child laborers in India and one child is declared missing every 8 minutes.

Cognitive Harm

A study that Child Development published tested executive functions, which are the higher-order cognitive skills needed for decision making and complex thought, among Syrian refugees. The study found that the burden of house poverty affected displaced children’s working memory. This has a long-term impact on the ability to succeed in school and make correct decisions. These findings align and have a serious impact on the refugee crisis in Syria where 45% of Syrian refugees are children with more than a third without access to education.

Child Labor and Violence

Children comprise 25% of all human trafficking victims and are at higher risk for forced labor. After displacement, they can experience separation from family and traffickers can force them to work in fields such as agriculture, domestic services or factories. To date, an estimated 168 million children are in forced labor and more than 50% complete dangerous work.

Children who do not have access to safe and regular migration pathways often turn to irregular and dangerous routes, which further puts them at risk for violence and exploitation. According to the U.N., “around 1,600 migrant children between 2016 and 2018 were reported dead or missing, an average of almost one a day.”

A Lack of Data on Child Displacement

There is simply not enough data on child displacement which translates to inadequate information on the causes and long-term effects. For example, only 20% of countries with data on conflict-related internally displaced persons (IDP) break the statistics down by age.

Data disaggregation by age, sex and origin are essential as it will inform policymakers in the regions most directly impacted by child displacement on how severe the issue is. This will allow them to begin to construct resources to support all children. For example, children who cross borders may not receive services such as education and health care because the statistics regarding how many children are out of school and the long-lasting impact on child displacement are insufficient.

The Global Refugee Compact

In December 2018, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Global Refugee Compact. This is an international agreement amongst nonprofits, the private sector and international organizations to provide objectives to better include refugees in national systems, societies and economies and provide equal opportunity for them to contribute to communities. Through updated guidelines, the U.N. and partner organizations can craft effective modern solutions.

One of the unique features is the digital platform where partners and practitioners can share effective techniques, or Good Practices, to allow others to implement them in another location. The platform also builds a repository of overcoming humanitarian crises through good work that can be studied and implemented across a multitude of sectors.

There are various good practices targeting child displacement shared on the platform. For example, The BrightBox Initiative by the Simbi Foundation began in Uganda in July 2019 with the goal “to enhance access to education for students in UNHCR refugee settlements.” It transforms shipping containers into solar-powered classrooms to“provide access to literacy resources for a community of 6,000 simultaneous learners.” These types of resources are essential as Uganda hosts the largest number of refugees in Africa at about 1.5 million. Additionally, 60% of them are children.

Child displacement across the world exists for various humanitarian issues all rooted in poverty and are detrimental to the well-being of the world’s most vulnerable population. However, through large-scale global action, the world can address the causes of child displacement and begin crafting effective solutions.

– Imaan Chaudry
Photo: Flickr

Let Our Girls Succeed
As Kenya moves closer to its goal of becoming an upper-middle-income country, many girls still lack educational opportunities, leading to gender disparities as the country develops. Girls living in urban slums and “arid and semi-arid lands” (ASALs) are particularly at risk of poverty. To address these issues, U.K. Aid developed a program, which will run from May 2017 to March 2023, called Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu, Swahili for “let our girls succeed,” as part of the Girls’ Education Challenge.

The Let Our Girls Succeed Program

The Education Development Trust has implemented the Let Our Girls Succeed program in “eight counties in [ASALs] and urban slums” in Kenya. The program targets 72,000 marginalized primary school girls, providing assistance for them to finish their current level of education with optimal outcomes and advance to the next phase of learning. The program builds on the original Wasichana Wote Wasome program, meaning “let all girls learn,” which began in 2013. The Let All Girls Learn program aimed to improve “enrolment, retention, attendance and learning.” Overall, the Let All Girls Learn program saw success, benefiting 88,921 girls.

Program Methodologies

The program uses several methods to help girls succeed:

  • Let Our Girls Succeed Considers Girls in All Contexts: The program addresses the needs of girls on an individual level as well as the needs of the girl in her household, in her school and within the community. Intervention at each of these levels allows for “a holistic approach” to confront issues acting as barriers to the girl’s success.
  • In-School Coaching for Teachers: The average primary school class size in Kenya is around 40 pupils. With this large class size, it is imperative that Education Development Trust offers gender-sensitive training to teachers so that they can teach in a way that supports girls, ensuring they feel comfortable and confident enough to return to class. As such, “more than 2,300” educators have received training on improved methodology and models, including gender inclusivity skills.
  • The Deployment of Community Health Workers to the Girls’ Homes: The Ministry of Health sends community health workers to households to talk to girls and their families about the importance of school. From 2013-2017, these workers made more than 15,000 visits to homes, leading to a rising rate of girls’ enrollment. In 2020, during the school closures due to COVID-19, community health workers were “the only education point of contact” for most marginalized girls in Kenya.
  • Community Education and Involvement: The program appeals to community leaders by seeking their involvement in girls’ education. The previous project saw success in this regard. At the beginning of the Let All Girls Learn project, 43% of community leaders did not agree that “vulnerable girls in [the] community should attend school.” At the end of the project, only 16% disagreed.
  • Implementing Catch-Up Centers: The centers allow girls who have dropped out of school to come back and catch up to their classmates. Rasol dropped out of school due to pregnancy but is now attending the catch-up center so she can re-enroll in primary school. The center focuses on girls aged 10-15 mostly. Typically, girls spend between six and 12 months in catch-up centers. By 2019, the center saw more than 650 girls attending these classes.
  • Cash Transfer Program Aids Underserved Households: More than 3,200 “households have received monthly cash transfers” to allow households to secure their basic needs and fund the costs of girls’ education.
  • Alternative Pathways: Let Our Girls Succeed pushes girls to attend secondary school or TVET (technical and vocational education and training) after primary school. Fatuma and her sister finished primary school in 2018, both with the prospect of attending secondary school. However, Fatuma’s parents could only afford the cost of one girl’s education. Fatuma’s sister attended secondary school and Fatuma chose to attend a TVET center to complete a dressmaking course. However, her parents still could not afford these costs. The program gave her a bursary for this course as well as “a start-up kit to enable her to start a business.” The program has given bursaries to more than 3,700 girls for secondary school and vocational training.

Looking Ahead

The Let our Girls Succeed program plays a crucial role in providing a pathway for marginalized girls in Kenya to gain an education so that they can lift themselves out of poverty. With an education, girls are more likely to have access to higher-paying jobs, gaining the ability to support themselves and their families.

– Amy Helmendach
Photo: Flickr

Refugees from Afghanistan
After 20 years out of power, in August 2021, the Taliban seized the capital of Kabul after the collapse of the Afghan government. With many Afghans opting to flee the country in search of safer and more stable pastures, the nation’s neighboring countries are experiencing an increase in refugees from Afghanistan. Although the reign of the Taliban brings increased instability to the country, Afghans were already fleeing the nation years prior. In fact, apart from fearing that “[the Taliban] will impose harsh rule, neglect to provide basic services and abuse human rights, “many Afghans are leaving due to the severe humanitarian crisis in the nation. Due to these worsening conditions, countries and organizations are trying to assist vulnerable Afghans.

Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan

In October 2021, Afghanistan’s poverty rate stood at 72%, but the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) expects this rate to increase to a staggering 98% by the middle of 2022. Moreover, about 19 million Afghans are suffering from acute levels of food insecurity. Because of these conditions, people are fleeing Afghanistan in search of a better life. According to the UNHCR, almost 6 million Afghans face forced displacement. Estimates indicate that there are about 3.5 million internally displaced Afghans and roughly 2.6 million Afghan refugees residing in other nations. Compounding issues further, Afghanistan is facing a severe drought that has already led to the malnourishment of 50% of Afghan children.

The Taliban Takeover

The Taliban is a group of religious students from Afghanistan who aim to seize power to “restore peace and security and enforce their own austere version of Sharia, or Islamic law.” The Taliban began taking over parts of Afghanistan in 1994. In 1996, the group took over the capital of Kabul, and by 1998, had garnered control “over most of the country.”

During its time in power, the Taliban imposed harsh laws “forbidding most women from working, banning girls from education and carrying out punishments including beatings, amputations and public executions,” among other horrific punishments and restrictions. In 2001, a United States-led invasion is able to remove the Taliban from power. Unfortunately, “the Taliban reemerge” in 2006. In April 2021, after “President Biden announces the withdrawal” of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of September 2021, the Taliban gains traction taking over more areas. By August 2021, the Taliban seizes the capital of Kabul.

Halting Aid to Afghanistan

With the Taliban in power, Afghanistan is facing a colossal economic crisis. Afghanistan was heavily dependant on international aid even before the Taliban takeover — 40% of its GDP comes from foreign aid. The World Bank has stated that “about 75% of public finances were supplied by grants from the U.S. and other countries.” Now, the Afghani currency has lost all its value.

In August 2021, when it became apparent that the Taliban would seize Afghanistan, global powers, such as the United States, chose to halt foreign assistance to Afghanistan, as did the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Furthermore, before, families relied on money from family members outside of the country. However, Western Union and MoneyGram removed their assistance and services in Afghanistan, causing the deprivation of money from families abroad.

Evacuating Afghans

Days after the Taliban took over Afghanistan, the United States began the evacuation process of Afghans. In truth, the United States helped evacuate about 125,000 people for relocation. Unfortunately, thousands of Afghans who hoped to leave the country did not have the opportunity to evacuate, even some with passports. Many of the evacuees received special visas for “their service alongside coalition military forces” or their work “with foreign-funded programs.” A more minimal number of evacuees able to board the planes as refugees from Afghanistan were “Afghans seeking visas or asylum based on their fear of persecution due to their identity.”

Refugees from Afghanistan Receive Assistance

Due to the influx of refugees from Afghanistan, the United Nations has requested that countries nearby “keep their borders open.” In September 2021, several governments pledged to “resettle refugees from Afghanistan,” including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Mexico and Costa Rica. The countries specify maximum intake numbers, with some only accepting Afghans who fall into a specific vulnerable group or who hold specific jobs. The U.S. also pledged to take in 62,500 Afghans by the end of September 2021.

Amid a crumbling nation and citizens facing dire conditions, the international community is giving hope to Afghans for a better future with several countries willing to assist in the relocation of refugees from Afghanistan.

– Kayla De Alba
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Hong Kong
Hong Kong features one of the world’s largest concentrations of wealth. It includes a thriving economy as well as a large number of billionaires. However, Hong Kong has an underbelly. Its Sham Shui Po District is located within the city and is one of Hong Kong’s underprivileged areas. It is a stark contrast to the severe poverty in Hong Kong and shows the provenance ugly side.

Living Arrangements

Among Hong Kong’s expensive residences and trendy retail complexes are dozens of minuscule, unnoticed dwellings. Old apartment complexes have fragmented rooms so small that some have dubbed them “coffin houses.” These accommodations house up to 24 people, yet many are crowded with their belongings shoved into compact boxes.

People must cook and dine in the same room where they use the bathroom due to their constrained arrangements. The bedrooms fit the size of a twin mattress, with just enough space to sit up. Some people are unable to completely stretch their legs in bed due to their belongings taking up too much room. Poverty in Hong Kong emphasizes the government’s prioritization of commercial aims over human interests.

Issues in Hong Kong

A foundation of socioeconomic issues has fed the emergence of societal dissatisfaction. Throughout 2019 and 2020, several Hong Kong residents flocked to the streets to protest inequality, showing their dissatisfaction with the imbalance and disproportionate concentration of wealth.

Hong Kong’s economic condition, like that of other developed capitalist nations, has become more stratified in recent years. In 2016, it became among the nation’s most inequitable metropolitan areas. Housing prices in Hong Kong continue to be notoriously astronomical. It is extremely difficult to reap the rewards of wealth unless one has the fiscal resources to be a significant participant in the property or financial markets.

The impromptu public uprising illustrates economic disparities in Hong Kong. Existing capitalistic models show how inequity has contributed to increased social discontent for those facing poverty in Hong Kong.

The Work of Oxfam

Though few, some organizations have recognized the crippling poverty in Hong Kong and are trying to help. One of them is Oxfam. This organization aims to aid disadvantaged groups to help them overcome poverty. It feels that structural issues such as unfair policies contribute to poverty in Hong Kong.

To help, Oxfam made an effort to develop street markets as a viable alternative source of income for low-income individuals. It instituted a meal program throughout the pandemic to help provide nutritious foods to those in the coffin houses. It also carried out home maintenance projects in partitioned flats that low-income groups inhabited.

In the 1970s, the nongovernmental organization began with volunteers in Hong Kong and has subsequently extended to assist people in other impoverished areas.

Despite their marginalization, Hong Kong residents have remained resilient. Their demonstrations illustrate their persistence. People relatively overlook poverty in Hong Kong. However, with the help of more nongovernmental organizations and a greater emphasis on poverty in Hong Kong, the people could certainly persevere.

– Tiffany Lewallyn
Photo: Flickr

Empowering Women in India
India has become “the fastest-growing major economy in the world” with growth expected to continue upward over the next decade. However, despite India’s recent economic development, women and girls find themselves at the tail end of this progress. With a population of more than a billion, a National Family and Health Survey between 2019 and 2021 points out that there are more women in India than men — “1,020 women for every 1,000 men.” Despite women constituting a majority of the population, women in India face challenges that largely stem from societal perceptions of gender roles. The impacts of this discrimination and gender inequality are far-reaching. To address this issue, organizations are dedicating efforts to empowering women in India.

The Current State of Gender Equality

On the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index of 2021, India ranks 140th among 153 nations, “becoming the third-worst performer in South Asia.” India fell 28 places from its 2020 rank of 112th. The report cites several reasons for this fall. In terms of political empowerment, the number of female ministers declined from about 23% in 2019 to just 9% in 2021. The female workforce participation rate also decreased “from 24.8% to 22.3%.”

Additionally, the “share of women in senior and managerial positions also remains low.” The report also indicates that women in India earn just one-fifth of what men earn. Furthermore, “one in four women” endure “intimate violence” at least once in their lifetime. Although India has achieved gender parity with regard to educational attainment, illiteracy rates among women remain high. The report indicates that just 65.8% of women in India are literate in 2021 in comparison to 82.4% of men.

Women also endure inequality with regard to land and property rights. A 2016 UNICEF report noted that only 12.7% of properties in India “are in the names of women” despite 77% of women in India depending on agricultural work as a core source of income.

Benefits of Empowering Women in India

As the majority of India’s population, women represent a significant portion of the nation’s untapped economic potential. As such, empowering women in India through equal opportunities would allow them to contribute to the economy as productive citizens. With higher literacy rates and equal pay for equal work, women are able to thrive economically and rise out of poverty.

Protecting women and girls from violence and abuse while challenging the stigmas against reporting crimes would overall create a much safer society. Improving the female political representation rate would enable more women to serve as role models for young girls and allow a platform to bring awareness to the issues affecting women in India. Overall, gender equality allows for women to live a better quality of life, allowing them to determine their futures beyond traditional expectations.

Women Of Worth (WOW)

According to its website, “Women Of Worth exists for the growth, empowerment and safety of girls and women” standing “for justice, equality and change.” WOW began in 2008, created by a group of women who longed for change in a society rife with gender discriminatory practices. Its ultimate vision is “to see women and girls live up to their fullest potential.” With a mission of empowering women in India, the organization has three focal areas:

  • Advocacy Work: WOW utilizes social media platforms to raise awareness on gender inequality and “change attitudes and behavior.”
  • Training and Health Services: WOW provides training to both men and women in schools, tertiary institutions and companies on women’s safety and rights. It also presents lectures and “keynote addresses” on the topic. Furthermore, WOW provides counseling sessions to improve mental health.
  • Rehabilitation and Restoration: WOW offers “counseling, life skills training and therapy” to children and women who are victims of abuse, neglect and trafficking.

WOW’s efforts have seen success. The organization helped to rescue 200 girls from abusive backgrounds, providing them with rehabilitation services. WOW also gave 11 girls scholarships to continue their education. WOW provided training on gender equality to about 800 working people and “1500 students” along with “200 parents” and 300 educators.

Gender equality is a crucial cornerstone in the advancement of any society or nation as it affects all areas of society from economic growth to education, health and quality of life. Gender inequality in India is a deep-rooted, complex and multi-layered issue but it is also an essential battle to overcome to see the fullest potential of the nation.

– Owen Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr

Childhood Cancer
Cancer is a disease that has gripped the nation for decades. Given its aggressive nature and ability to target anyone, the illness has earned significant public attention and resources. In the United States alone, approximately 10,500 children aged 15 or younger were diagnosed with cancer in 2021. Thankfully, the survival rate for children diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. is about 80%. Yet in low- and medium-income countries (LMIC), where this disease is even more prominent, the survival rate is less than 30%. That is why the World Health Organization (WHO) and St. Jude Research Hospital are teaming up to target LMIC with high childhood cancer rates and poor access to cancer medication.

Moreover, pediatric cancer has substantially increased since the 1970s. Since 1975, the cancer rate in children under 19 has increased by 27%. Less mentioned is that 85%-90% of childhood cancer cases occur in LMIC countries that possess less than 5% of the world’s resources.

St. Jude Research Hospital and WHO Partnership

On December 13, 2021, WHO and St. Jude announced the Global Platform for Access to Childhood Cancer Medicines, their partnership to fight cancer in LMICs. St. Jude is a research center and hospital that seeks cures and prevention for diseases that target children. The team pledged $200 million for use between 2022 and 2027. The two-year pilot phase will target 12 countries and after that, the program will expand to 50 LMICs. In addition to aiding countries in need obtain cancer medication, this process includes consolidating and shaping global markets, setting new treatment standards and improving the information systems used to track innovations. While St. Jude and WHO have not yet selected the countries, all will be countries with high rates of childhood cancers and limited access to available treatments.

Program Launch to Raise Awareness

WHO has used this program to shed light on the difficulties that developing countries face when addressing the health of young children. A WHO Noncommunicable Disease Country Capacity survey published in 2020 reported that of all low-income countries, only 29% reported availability of cancer medications within their populations. Contrastingly, 96% of developed countries attested to having consistent and reliable access to cancer treatments.

A Symbol of Hope

The next few years will serve as a pilot period for testing the new program and its distribution methods on a global scale. Childhood cancer rates require a diligent focus given the widespread nature of the disease. Nevertheless, St. Jude Research Hospital and WHO are making history through their dedicated partnership addressing global health needs. The wide scale of the program, although it still has a long way to go, presents significant hope in the long battle against childhood cancer in developing countries.

– Chloé D’Hers
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

solar farms on brownfields
Brownfields are areas of land that are vacant due to contamination. In recent years, solar firms have built hundreds of solar farms on brownfields to utilize the empty space. Brownfields are often located near low-income communities that lack affordable access to power. Installing solar farms on brownfields promotes environmental sustainability and can provide cheap, clean power access to local communities.

Jobs and Access to Power

Building solar farms on brownfields can create jobs and transform abandoned land into an economic and environmental asset for low-income communities. Both site owners and local communities have saved millions in energy costs from transforming brownfields into hotspots of renewable energy, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Affordable access to electricity can help alleviate “energy poverty” in low-income communities that surround brownfields. Energy poverty is the phenomenon in which people experiencing poverty have the least access to power. Therefore, they are more likely to remain impoverished, according to the World Bank. Installing solar farms in brownfields could help provide electricity to the 1.1 billion people worldwide who lack access to it. Transforming brownfields into solar farms is a sustainable method of providing affordable energy to low-income communities.

Land Reuse and Protection

Installing solar farms on brownfields often involves land restoration, reuse and protection, which all serve nearby communities. For example, solar panels can sit atop a landfill without digging into the ground and damaging the land’s foundation, creating unwanted pathways for stormwater or puncturing the top of the landfill. Solar panels can also have a design that complements the pre-existing materials on the brownfield, like mill tailings, without further damaging or contaminating the land. Additionally, solar firms often avoid disrupting the soil as much as they can by mindfully designing, installing and operating their solar farms. Transforming brownfields into solar farms is a non-disruptive, and often even protective, method of utilizing vacant land while simultaneously providing clean, affordable energy to low-income communities.

Benefits of Sustainable Energy

Brownfields can offer solar power as a main source of energy to low-income communities, and renewable energy has a variety of social benefits. For one, renewable energy can be less expensive than non-renewable energy, especially when it comes from a local source. It can also minimize low-income families’ reliance on public utilities to provide them with energy. Solar energy is a reliable source of power that essentially will not run out. Renewable energy also reduces pollution, which creates a healthier environment, especially in places with brownfields and ample contamination. A healthier environment can often lead to a healthier population, both mentally and physically. Additionally, solar farms require people to build, operate and maintain the equipment. Therefore, building solar farms on brownfields can employ people in surrounding communities and help them support their families while also preserving the environment.

Creating solar farms out of brownfields has social, economic and environmental benefits. Countries around the world can utilize vacant, contaminated land to preserve the environment and help lift low-income communities out of poverty. Turning brownfields into “brightfields” could be the next great step in reducing energy poverty.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr