Esports Are Making an Impact on Global Poverty
For years, video games have had a bad reputation in the media, with critics citing problems such as increased laziness and aggressiveness in youth as a byproduct. However, video games have proven to be a useful resource and are beneficial to many across the globe. Here are some ways in which esports (electronic sports) impacts global poverty.

Tournaments for Charity

In response to the effects of COVID-19, several streamers and gaming tournaments have directed their profits toward charities. The recent Gamers Without Borders tournament was the largest esports charity event in history. The proceeds went toward various global organizations such as UNICEF and the International Medical Corps. Operating in more than 190 countries, UNICEF is an organization that has worked to minimize global poverty among youth for more than 75 years. Meanwhile, since 1984, the International Medical Corps has been providing medical aid to countries experiencing crises, including several impoverished nations. His Royal Highness Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan has even recognized Gamers Without Borders. He is also the chairman of the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS).

Games for Good

Popular games in the esports scene are also contributing to good causes. More than 50 million daily active users in China play the popular mobile game “Game For Peace.” The game helps raise awareness of underrepresented communities. Recently, the game introduced the Miao ethnic minority culture in Chongqing to the game. The annual per capita income of the village is just half of the national average. The game included the Miao people as a way of raising awareness about their livelihoods, such as their embroidery and farms. This could help alleviate poverty among the Miao people by creating a demand for their goods. Tourism has also contributed to the village’s economy, which more than tripled between 2012 and 2019.

Hope for Low-income Players

Another way in which esports impacts global poverty is by raising awareness of low-income groups. As the esports and video game industries grow, there is a demand for new jobs within these industries. In Brazil, the team Zero Gravity emerged, only hiring low-income players. Tournaments like the Favelas Cup and the Favelas Bowl occurred, providing those in need chances to win large money prizes. As the esports industry continues to grow in Brazil, many have the chance to escape poverty through careers, as displayed in this emerging industry. With millions of dollars of prize money on the line and average salaries of six figures, people have many financial incentives to join in.

Creating New Job Industries

In addition to Brazil, Cambodia, a nation still suffering from the effects of a civil war, is also tapping into this now billion-dollar esports industry. Cambodia had a poverty rate of 13.5% in 2014, with many of its citizens living in rural areas. However, the introduction of new technology has helped lessen the prevalence of poverty. Innovations such as smartphones and the internet have helped the country grow and improve its education system. As the country seeks to become more digitized, new sponsorship and career opportunities arise for video game players. These investments aim to help Cambodian gamers get more exposure at international tournaments, allowing this developing nation to break into the industry.

As the esports industry continues to grow, so do opportunities to aid the globally impoverished. Esports impacts global poverty by supporting gamers from around the world.

– Carly Johnson
Photo: Pixabay

improving women's rightsTanzania has struggled to effectively develop in the realm of women’s rights. Women and girls struggle with sexual harassment in schools, discrimination, violence and an everyday battle to have the same opportunities as men do. In Tanzania, 60% of women live in extreme poverty. This disparity arises partially because of “shrinking productivity in the agriculture sector,” where many women work. When women are not allowed access to work opportunities, higher poverty rates arise. This takes Tanzania further from its goal of ending domestic poverty and improving women’s rights.

The State of Affairs for Tanzanian Women

Almost two-thirds of Tanzanian farmers are women, but women lack the same opportunities to thrive as men. Women have less access to credit, fewer chances for skills development and less time to devote to their work. Women’s farms are often smaller than men’s, which directly correlates to agriculture output. Moreover, “gender norms” and a lack of legislative development limit women.

Another unavoidable issue Tanzania faces in the battle for gender equality is violence. Per the Tanzanian National Bureau of Statistics, 40% of women have faced physical violence, and a fifth of women report experience with sexual violence. Furthermore, “35% of women have faced physical or sexual intimate partner violence” and 40% of 15 to 49-year-old women have experienced physical violence since 15.

What is USAID?

USAID is the United States Agency for International Development, and it focuses on foreign aid and development assistance.  USAID focuses on building communities through economic growth, agricultural advancements, women empowerment, gender equality and much more.

It further believes that a country’s ability to reach its full potential significantly comes from equitable access to education, free speech and opportunity. Women, men, girls and boys all need to have equal resources and control over the community and land to prosper as a whole. Almost 200 “gender advisors and points of contact” work toward the common goal of providing every human equal chances through gender equality. USAID continues the work of improving women’s rights and has a great impact on gender equality development in many countries, including Tanzania.

USAID’s Impact

USAID has had a great impact on improving women’s rights in Tanzania. In 2017, it launched the “Let Them Learn” campaign, which allows for girls out of school to pursue their passions. The campaign also empowers girls to speak up about gender equality and the restraints that stop girls from excelling in school. USAID has been working to empower the female community in Tanzania in order to help women and girls obtain rights and deserved opportunities.

For example, USAID has been working with Women in Law and Development in Africa to connect survivors with services. This effort has helped more than 18,000 victims of sexual and physical violence. In order to improve the work conditions for women in Tanzania, USAID has also helped launch numerous programs that allow women to explore what fields their futures are in.

Whether in agriculture, the building of entrepreneurship skills or learning more about business development services, USAID has made it a mission for women’s voices to be heard and for women to have the chance at a prosperous future.

Haleigh Kierman
Photo: Unsplash

Education in KenyaThe World Bank reported in 2015 that 36.8% of people in Kenya lived below the international poverty line, set at $1.90 per day. Estimates from April 2020 predicted that this level would continue to follow a slow downward trend to approximately 33.1% in 2020 and 32.4% in 2021. These recent statistics tend to vary across sources, however. For example, Statista reports that in 2020, 27.3% of Kenyans lived in poverty. Ultimately, sources seem to broadly agree that more than a quarter of the population in Kenya lives under the international poverty line. However, poverty rates could reduce by increasing opportunities for education in Kenya. The potential of education in Kenya reflects in the country’s successes over the years.

Poverty Reduction Progress in Kenya

Though the number of Kenyan citizens in poverty is undoubtedly high, Kenya has made great progress in reducing poverty in the last 15 years. In 2005, the World Bank found 46.8% of people living in poverty. This means that according to the World Bank statistics, poverty in Kenya has decreased by more than 10% in slightly more than 15 years. However, there is still a significant need for further poverty reduction progress in Kenya.

Eliminating poverty is crucial for a number of reasons as poverty has an irrefutable impact on other areas of life. One of these impacted areas is education. Global Citizen argues that poverty is the greatest barrier to education for children. Families living on less than $1.90 a day often cannot afford to send their children to school, whether that be due to high attendance fees, the cost of school materials or the need for the child to contribute to the family farm or business. Hence, addressing education is intertwined with addressing poverty in countries such as Kenya.

Educational Success: Free Primary School

Located in East Africa, Kenya is part of a region where harsh climate, violence and general instability lead to high poverty rates and limited access to education. Yet, in the education spectrum, the country has made great progress in recent years, showing the overall potential of education in Kenya. One successful initiative began in 2003, when the Kenyan government rolled out the Free Primary Education (FPE) program, waiving all primary school fees for students. As a result, Olympic Primary School in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi reported that enrollment nearly tripled. This growth in attendance seems to have occurred nationwide as UNICEF reports that before the COVID-19 pandemic closed many schools in early 2020, primary school enrollment in Kenya stood at 99%.

World Bank statistics show Kenya’s successes in improving education through FPE and other programs, with the most recent data from 2018 showing a literacy rate of almost 82% for people older than 15. This is up significantly from 72.16% in 2007 and 78.73% in 2014. Yet, despite these improvements in literacy and primary school enrollment rates, Kenya still struggles to provide high-quality education and see children through to secondary school. Though nearly all children in Kenya attend primary school at some point, many of them drop out to supplement the family income. In 2017, the Kenya Climate Innovation Center reported a 27% dropout rate in primary school.

Even if students complete primary school, very few of them go on to any further education. Statista reports that in 2019, 10.1 million children attended primary school in Kenya. However, only 3.26 million children enrolled in secondary school the same year and only 509,000 Kenyan students attended college in 2019. More recent data is not available due to widespread school closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Potential of Education in Kenya

Getting students into primary schools was the first step to improving education in Kenya. But, while the most recent World Bank data states that, in 2018, the Kenyan government spent 5.3% of the country’s GDP on education, schools are still short on resources and teachers. In some classrooms, the teacher-to-student ratio exceeds 1:100, leaving teachers overworked and overwhelmed. The government is working hard to increase the percentage of students who transition to secondary school but requires more resources to employ enough teachers and support high-quality education for students.

Overall, education in Kenya has seen a vast improvement in the number of students attending primary school in the last 20 years as a result of FPE and other work. Now, Kenya must look to improve in other areas of education in order to fully empower students with the tools and knowledge to rise out of poverty.

– Julia Welp
Photo: Flickr

South Africa Introduces Solar-Powered BusesEvery year, the talk of rising carbon emissions and how to combat rising carbon emissions surfaces. Many organizations have proposed various solutions; however, alternative solutions to fossil fuels are never viable due to the financial impact on consumers. Combating carbon emissions will require everyone, from the average consumer to companies, to make small changes in order to make the world a better place. Golden Arrow, a South African bus company based in Cape Town, is working to make a difference by introducing solar-powered buses, which make transport affordable while helping the environment.

South Africa and Bus Transportation

Currently, nearly 21.1% of all South African households rely on buses for transportation. Additionally, nearly one million South Africans use the bus to get to and from work. However, there are numerous problems plaguing the bus transportation system in South Africa currently.

Right now, rural South Africans do not get access to bus transportation because buses do not cover certain routes. As such, these groups are required to walk long distances to reach their destinations. In contrast, bus transportation in South Africa is generally considered safer than other modes of transportation such as trains and minibus taxis. This may mean that consumers will often compromise on areas such as reliability and efficiency as bus transportation will often take very long periods of time to go to and from a destination.

Additionally, many of the buses are worn down and poorly maintained. In addition, fuel costs are very high to maintain for public busing. Access to affordable fuel or alternatives to fossil fuels must be necessary in order for bus transportation in South Africa to be reliable. Typically, fuel for buses often costs 10% to even 40% of total operating costs.

The Procedure of Launching the Electric Buses

In July 2021, Golden Arrow launched two solar panel-powered buses that will be fully functional. Golden Arrow designed the buses to carry passengers like any other fossil fuel-powered bus.

As part of its three-step plan, Golden Arrow installed a small-scale solar power system at their depot to power the bus. The second and third parts of the program involved expanding the solar power system by adding another 2,500 solar panels on another Golden Arrow depot. Next, the uYilo e-mobility program funded the electric bus testing. The trial runs showed that the buses could run for 300 kilometers without recharging. This would potentially help many rural passengers gain access to the public bus transportation system. It ran two buses, one with no passengers and another with sandbags equivalent to the weight of 44 people.

However, the experiment itself was a great success, showing there is much to learn about solar-powered buses. This includes electricity usage under different conditions, charge time between trips, maintenance needs and battery degradation.

Golden Arrow’s History in Cape Town

Golden Arrow transports 250,000 passengers every day. These two electric buses will help transport many lower-income constituents, as the Metro in the local Cape Town area stopped functioning. This will help many people get to and from their jobs and will also be environmentally friendly.

Overall, Golden Arrow’s solar-powered buses program has found a balance between making environmentally friendly transportation options that have positive impacts on the environment while making it affordable for the average everyday worker in Cape Town.

– Matthew Port Louis
Photo: Flickr

Resource rushes impact global povertyIn June 2021, impoverished South Africans in the province of KwaZulu-Natal flocked to the town of KwaHlathi after reports of diamonds in the area, the most modern example of a resource rush. Many people hoped this could be their key out of poverty in a country with a 32.6% unemployment rate and a stagnating GDP per capita. Unfortunately, the gems were actually quartz, a common crystal found across the globe, dashing the hopes of these amateur miners. In the developed world, the resource rushes once common in the 19th century have now largely faded away, replaced by institutionalized mining companies. However, the developing world still struggles with informal mining and its environmental, economic and political consequences. Because of this, resource rushes impact global poverty both directly and indirectly.

What is a Resource Rush?

Resource rushes occur when a natural resource is discovered and many people move to participate in its extraction. In the 19th and 20th centuries, resource rushes for gold and diamonds led to the colonization and settlement of many parts of South Africa, Australia and the Western United States. Modern-day resource rushes do not drive the same levels of migration. However, they still carry large impacts on the economies of developing countries.

Why is it Important?

In the 21st century, resource rushes create both opportunities and conflicts. Currently, more than 15 million small-scale “artisanal” miners operate in resource-rich areas, many times informally. Nearly 100 million people rely on the income that artisanal mining brings. Artisanal miners usually have to sell their goods below market price as there is usually only one large local buyer. While an important source of income, the extraction process is largely inefficient due to the small scale of these artisanal mining operations. This creates an opportunity to develop single or multi-person mining operations by increasing the efficiency of artisanal miners and connecting them to global markets.

On the other hand, resource discoveries commonly drive violent conflicts and human rights abuses. Large resource discoveries, combined with access to arms from previous conflicts, have driven wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone. Many times, the armed groups extracting these resources use them to fund their operations, drawing the label of “conflict minerals.”

Resource rushes also lead to migration. Mineral deposits, largely in rural or environmentally preserved areas, attract large numbers of settlers who heighten the human impact on these areas. These impacts create environmental strain, leading to deforestation, lower standards of temporary informal housing and chemical pollution.

Building a Better Mining Industry

Artisanal and small-scale mining ventures offer many opportunities for growth around the world. While problems of health hazards and political conflicts exist, many actions by national, international and NGO stakeholders are working to overcome these challenges.

One project involving the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) partnered with the Peruvian government to improve the environmental impacts and working conditions of small-scale mining. This project utilized technical assistance, working with national governments to create system-wide change. This resulted in the implementation of mercury-reducing technologies in Peruvian mines. Other initiatives in the continent have sought to organize small-scale mines to sell their products on the international market, avoiding price-setting middlemen.

Another project in Central Africa by PACT, an NGO that focuses on mining issues, works to create a verification system so that consumers can choose responsibly sourced raw materials. This verification system includes 54,836 miners spread across 727 mines with 672 government officials tasked with implementing the system. By verifying raw materials and helping consumers gain access to raw material markets, PACT has made a large impact on raw material extraction in Central Africa.

These projects aim to reduce the impacts of informal mining at the local level, but national governments of importing countries can also implement policies toward the same goal. In 2012, the U.S. launched the Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Mineral Trade, a multi-sector task force aimed at implementing measures to stop imports of conflict minerals.

Looking to the Future

Resource rushes impact global poverty by fueling conflicts, migration and creating substandard mining industries that further contribute to deforestation and various forms of pollution. However, through projects such as PACT’s, organizations are working to improve the conditions of small-scale ventures so that workers and their dependents can sell their products on the international market. In this way, impoverished people have the opportunity to improve their lives and rise out of poverty.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

7 FundDavid Beckham is a father, former professional soccer player, a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) ambassador and a philanthropist. While Beckham played for the Manchester United Football Club he was also supporting UNICEF. In 2005, Beckham was appointed as the new ambassador for UNICEF. The former soccer player is supporting and advocating for the well-being of children globally. In 2015, to commemorate 10 years of supporting UNICEF, UNICEF and Beckham partnered to start the 7 Fund.

The 7 Fund

The 7 Fund aims to empower vulnerable children in nations across the world, including Indonesia, Nepal, Uganda and El Salvador, by addressing issues such as “bullying, violence, child marriage and missed education.” Within the initial three years of its establishment, the 7 Fund had already made a significant difference in children’s lives.

Child Marriage in Nepal

According to the 7 Fund, “Nepal has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Asia.” Girls who marry young often drop out of school, leaving them uneducated and unable to break cycles of poverty. The 7 Fund tackles child marriage in Nepal by ensuring that girls receive the support needed to stay in school or return to school to fulfill their full potential. In addition to helping “build life skills” for both boys and girls, the organization also supports the provision of mental health services for these children. Importantly, the 7 Fund educates parents and communities at large on the detrimental impacts of child marriage in order to reduce its prevalence.

The Story of Rashida Khatun

On its website, the 7 Fund showcases the inspiring story of Rashida Khatun, a 14-year-old girl in Nepal. Child marriage is common in Khatun’s community. Despite her yearning to receive an education, she could not due to her family’s impoverished circumstances. Her parents prioritized the education of her three brothers while she and her sisters had to shoulder household chores. Her four older sisters were “married as teenagers” and she was next in line.

Khatun’s world changed when she joined a “UNICEF-supported non-formal education program for girls” in her area, with permission from her father. The nine-month-long Girls’ Access to Education (GATE) program focused on empowering “out-of-school adolescent girls by giving them basic numeracy and literacy lessons and useful life skills.” Khatun told UNICEF Nepal that when she initially started the classes, she was not aware “that children had rights, or that child marriage was a violation of those rights or that it was actually illegal.”

Through the GATE program, Khatun was educated about the dangers of child marriage and decided against it. Khatun and a GATE class facilitator eventually managed to convince her parents to cancel her marriage, allowing her to continue to pursue an education that would one day help her rise out of poverty. The story of Khatun is an illustration of the importance of 7 Fund efforts to address child marriage in Nepal. Roughly 10,000 Nepali girls are now part of “a return to school” program.

Tackling Malnutrition in Papua New Guinea

In Papua New Guinea, one out of 13 children dies before reaching the age of 5, mostly due to malnutrition. The 7 Fund looks to reduce child malnutrition in Papua New Guinea through lifesaving programs. In a 2015 press release by UNICEF, Beckham says, “I feel very proud to be in Papua New Guinea to see for the first time how the money raised is helping to keep children healthy and safe, by providing life-saving therapeutic food for children suffering from malnutrition.”

Addressing Bullying in Indonesia

The 7 Fund acknowledges that the effects of bullying can stay with an individual for life. With one in five Indonesian children between 13 and 15 experiencing bullying, the issue is important to address as bullying diminishes self-esteem and negatively impacts mental health. The 7 Fund is supporting anti-bullying initiatives in Indonesian schools, focusing on “training teachers and helping schools put safeguarding plans in place, helping to reduce rates of school dropout and child marriage and creating a safer school environment to enable children to thrive.” Due to these efforts, incidences of bullying have reduced by almost a third.

Prioritizing Girls’ Education in Uganda

Within Uganda, nearly 60% of the girls are unable to go to secondary school due to violence in school and pressure to stay home to help manage the household. To ensure girls stay in or return to school, the 7 Fund is supporting “teacher training and creating protection systems to track and report violence.” The Fund is also focusing on educating parents and communities on the lifelong benefits of girls’ education for both the girls and their families.

Beckham’s 7 Fund is a prime example of using a celebrity platform to make a difference. Overall, the 7 Fund protects and empowers children with the knowledge and tools to rise out of poverty.

– Carolina Reyes 
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in IcelandAs the world continues to modernize, there are still several regions with no access to energy and no chance for development. Finding solutions for the inadequate and unequal distribution of energy is more urgent than ever. Amid a global pandemic, 25% of hospitals in “Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal, Kenya, Ethiopia and Niger” have no electricity. Electricity is essential in fighting this crisis (or any other). Taking a closer look at the struggles of energy poverty, renewable energy in Iceland provides an example of a nation that overcame these issues.

The Importance of Energy

The United Nations recognizes the importance of energy for development with SDG 7: “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.” Reliable energy systems benefit all sectors, including businesses, medicine, education and agriculture. Inadequate electricity creates obstacles in situations that citizens of developed countries take for granted. For example, without electricity, clinics cannot store vaccines and students cannot do homework at night. SDG 7 states that affordable and clean energy is necessary to raise any developing nation out of poverty.

Energy Poverty and Off-Grid Energy Systems

The World Economic Forum defines energy poverty as conditions that “lack of adequate, affordable, reliable, quality, safe and environmentally sound energy services to support development.” Currently, 13% of the world’s population (one billion people) lack access to electricity. The vast majority live in Africa and South Asia while 57% of the sub-Saharan African population (600 million people) live without electricity. Any form of sustainable development requires access to energy. Nations suffering from energy poverty cannot afford the energy that could propel them out of poverty. This locks them in the cycle of poverty.

Geography stands as one of SDG 7’s biggest obstacles. The countries in the most need typically cannot access grid electricity. In developing countries, expanding the electricity grid is neither financially nor logistically realistic. These rural areas need off-grid or stand-alone solutions to their energy problems. Renewable energy can provide off-grid energy and “give developing countries the opportunity to erase the electricity gap without passing through a phase of fossil fuels, that would be hard to sustain in terms of cost, natural resources and global environment.”

The Success Story of Iceland

At the beginning of the 20th century, Iceland was ranked as a developing country. In 1970, the largest share of Iceland’s energy consumption was derived from imported fossil fuels and the United Nations Development Program labeled the nation as a developing country. As of 2018, Iceland was the fifth most prosperous nation in Europe, acquires nearly 100% of consumed electricity from renewable energy.

Iceland has always been very spread out, making an interconnected energy grid too costly. This combined with fluctuating and unsustainable oil prices drove the Icelandic government to seek alternative energy systems. Through government funding and incentive programs, geothermal and hydropower energy systems took over the Icelandic economy.

The link between energy and poverty reduction is evident and undeniable. Renewable energy in Iceland transformed an impoverished, developing nation, dependent on imported coal and local peat into a prosperous, green energy leader. Many people believe the green energy movement is exclusive to wealthy nations, businesses and individuals. This is understandable considering the price of electric cars and solar panels. However, Iceland proves this idea wrong. Iceland completely transformed into a green economy as a small, developing nation.

One might argue that Iceland is a unique and unrepeatable example because of its proximity to renewable resources; however, this is far from the truth. Iceland overcame the two biggest obstacles that every energy-poor nation faces: poor funding and excessive off-grid populations. Iceland’s success does not provide a one-size-fits-all solution for every nation facing an energy crisis; however, developing countries around the world should gain hope and inspiration from renewable energy in Iceland.

Ella LeRoy
Photo: Flickr

Mental health awarenessMental health is an issue that, until recently, people shied away from talking about. While it can be a sensitive topic for people, it is one that society needs to talk about. By discussing mental health, people can help raise awareness of the issue. Celebrities are known to have an influence on their fans, so when they speak about a cause they care about, people tend to listen. Here are a few celebrities who are known mental health awareness advocates.

5 Celebrities Advocating for Mental Health Awareness

  1. Demi Lovato. Actor and singer Demi Lovato has frequently spoken about their struggles with mental illness. Lovato has been a mental health activist since 2015 when they revealed they were diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Wanting to help others struggling with mental illness, Lovato started the Mental Health Fund, which provides people with free counseling during the COVID-19 pandemic. In society, asking for help can be seen as a weakness. Lovato believes otherwise. In an interview with Deseret News, Lovato said, “The strongest thing someone can do is take that first step in getting help, whatever shape or form that is.” This charity raises money for the Crisis Text Line and crisis counseling options in Canada and the United Kingdom. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the public’s mental health so organizations like these have a significant impact on society.
  2. Kristen Bell. Actress Kristen Bell is a longtime and well-known advocate of mental health awareness. Fighting the stigma that surrounds mental illness, Bell believes mental health check-ins should be as common as going to the dentist or doctor. Bell has struggled with depression and has spoken about why mental health screenings should be taken more seriously. There are often stereotypes surrounding depression, but like Bell said in an interview with NAMI, “You can’t tell someone has depression just by looking at them, especially since it’s such an internal battle.” With celebrities like Bell speaking about their own struggles with mental illness, fans will better see that there is no shame in asking for help.
  3. Simone Biles. Simone Biles is the most awarded gymnast in history. The Olympian also has her own battles with mental illness. Biles goes to therapy on a regular basis and takes anxiety medication. These revelations arose after Biles stood up as a survivor of Larry Nassar’s abuse. Victims of sexual assault have an increased risk of developing PTSD, depression and anxiety. In 2017, Biles partnered with the #BeUnderstood campaign, which advocated for learning disabilities and ADHD awareness during the month of October. Biles has also spoken out about her experience with ADHD.
  4. Chyler Leigh. Chyler Leigh, known for her roles on Grey’s Anatomy and Supergirl, has not shied away from sharing her experiences with bipolar disorder. As the new face for the Be Vocal: Speak Up campaign, Leigh shared her experiences of growing up without a diagnosis. Leigh says that she did not have an environment where she could speak up, so she kept quiet. She also spoke about self-medicating with alcohol and the struggle she went through with getting help. Joining Be Vocal was a way of opening up to the public. By sharing her story, Leigh hoped for people to hear her experience and relate, knowing that they are not alone in feeling that way.
  5. Justin Bieber. In his YouTube docuseries “Seasons,” Justin Bieber gave his fans an inside look at his struggles with addiction and mental health challenges. His addiction to marijuana became so serious that he became dependent on it. He also spoke about his use of stronger substances like MDMA or hallucinogenic mushrooms. Bieber got help and replaced illegal substances with antidepressants. In his efforts to help advocate for mental health, Bieber gave a fan $100,000 to support her career in social work. Part of the donation helped the fan attend grad school while the rest of it went to Active Minds, an organization that raises mental health awareness for college students.

Global Mental Health

Though raising mental health awareness domestically is essential, there are many people without access to proper mental healthcare globally. As of 2016, high-income nations spent around 5% of their health budgets on mental health. For lower-middle-class nations, that number fell to less than 2%. There are fewer trained psychiatrists in developing countries, which makes it hard to address everyone’s illnesses.

In Indonesia, there was one psychiatrist for every 350,000 people. Haiti, a country with roughly 10 million people, has only about “10 licensed psychiatrists.” Without the proper funding, developing countries struggle to make mental health a priority.

Spreading Awareness

Mental health issues are very common in society, but they often do not spark the necessary discussion. Part of this reason is because of the stigma surrounding mental illness. Everyone is capable of contributing to mental health awareness. By posting about mental health on social media, donating to mental health organizations or supporting people with resources, an ordinary individual can contribute to improving mental health globally.

– Ariel Dowdy
Photo: Flickr

Decreasing Poverty

With all the bad news about the pandemic over the past eighteen months, it’s easy to get dispirited about the future of the world. And indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many to slide into poverty across the globe. However, over the past half-century, the world has achieved miracles in decreasing poverty. The pandemic’s setbacks come nowhere near to erasing the progress of past years.

Examining the Larger Context

The World Bank recently estimated the COVID-19 could push as many as 150 million people into extreme poverty. This means that the current situation would force millions more to live on less than $1.90 a day. This is an enormous shift to fight, acknowledge and remain aware of. Yet, even that number pales in a larger context to the amount the world has achieved in reducing extreme poverty.

In 1981, 41% of most of the developing world’s population lived in extreme poverty. Over the last four decades, an incredible international effort has reduced that number to 25% in 2008. On average, millions upon millions rose out of poverty because of annual global efforts focused on decreasing poverty. A similar trend is visible in literacy rates since literacy and education are one of the best ways to reduce extreme poverty. Due to the pandemic, school closure and slashed budgets, an estimated 100 million more children may be unable to achieve sufficient skills in reading.

Paradoxically, global literacy has never been higher. Two centuries ago, global illiteracy rates hovered around 90%. By 1970, world literacy stood at almost 70%. Today, thanks to even more steady improvement, literacy is almost 90%. The worrying effects of the pandemic remain priorities, but the hundreds of millions lifted out of illiteracy, even in only a few decades, cannot be obscured.

Perception and Action

Despite positive trends, public perception remains negative. A 2017 survey found that a majority of Americans believe that worldwide extreme poverty rates have increased over the past twenty years. Perhaps news coverage and dismal portrayals of the situation overall have contributed to this perception. Furthermore, COVID-19 has led more people to believe that poverty is growing more desperate, but in reality, the pandemic stands as one tiny step back in a marathon of progress.

How has the world achieved such an impressive reduction in extreme poverty in just a few short decades? Though complex, part of the answer centers on the fact that much recent economic growth has taken place in populous, less-developed countries, such as China and India. These countries deserve much credit for progress in reducing poverty, yet wealthy countries like the United States have also helped by giving many countries access to the wealth of global trade, as well as spending billions annually on developmental aid.

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has dragged millions into poverty around the world, but a broader evaluation gives a reason for hope. In just forty years, the way countless people live has transformed, turning poverty into the exception, rather than the norm. If this effort continues, there’s no telling how much more progress the world will make in decreasing poverty.

Thomas Brodey
Photo: Unsplash

Period Poverty in Romania
Periods can be uncomfortable, embarrassing and expensive. One box of 32 tampons in Bucharest, Romania, costs 15 lei or approximately $3.61. Although this may seem like a small price to pay, the typical female “uses 20 regular tampons per cycle – and therefore 240 per year,” meaning that the average woman spends an estimated $27 per year on menstrual products, a hefty sum for families living in poverty. For this reason, period poverty in Romania is significant.

Period Poverty in Romania

According to period poverty hero and activist Irina Vasilescu, “in Romania, menstruation is a big taboo but at the same time very subtle.” There are many myths surrounding periods and much secrecy regarding what type of products women and girls should use to prevent visible bleeding. Vasilescu recalled the many instances where she educated youth on menstruation, mentioning that parents often asked for the curriculum to remove demonstrations on how to use pads and tampons from the curriculum. Parents wanted their children to know what a period is but not how to utilize the very methods designed to prevent the shame that many people associate with getting a period.

Effects of Period Poverty

Despite many misconceptions, the inability to afford menstrual products is not the only definition of period poverty. Lack of access to period products such as tampons, pads and wet wipes is also a significant part of the problem. Regarding period poverty in Romania, many homeless women or low-income families struggle to afford menstrual products and turn to old rags such as cut-up socks, underwear or t-shirts to prevent blood from seeping through their clothing. When many girls in Romania first get their periods, they simply abstain from attending school for fear of experiencing public ridicule. This is problematic because young girls are forfeiting their education due to a lack of access to feminine hygiene products. After all, it is no secret that generations of societal shame have indirectly taught women and girls to feel disgusted by a natural process of their bodies.

Pe Stop Addresses Period Poverty in Romania

Pe Stop is a Romanian NGO that emerged to provide women and girls with feminine hygiene products as well as accurate information regarding menstruation to reduce common misconceptions surrounding periods, including the idea that utilizing tampons can take away girls’ virginity. Volunteers run Pe Stop, managing “packaging, acquisition, distribution” and “field trips for fundraising campaigns.” The packages that those suffering from period poverty in Romania receive contain masks, menstrual pads, disinfectant gel and sometimes wet wipes, condoms, underwear and dry wipes. Again, since this NGO runs on a volunteer basis, Pe Stop depends heavily on funding and donations to survive and provide for the public.

Pe Stop has managed to sustain itself through its “education first” initiative. Conducting classes to teach women and girls about proper menstrual care leaves them with a lasting knowledge on the subject that they can continue to pass on from generation to generation. Vasilescu mentions that even if funding were to dry up, “no one can take the information on how to take care of yourself properly in any situation. If you receive the information once, it stays with you.”

Concluding Thoughts

Although it can be uncomfortable to discuss, menstruation signifies womanhood. Thankfully, organizations such as Pe Stop recognize the issue and are aiding period poverty in Romania through education. As more people become aware of the myths of menstruation and learn the tools necessary to make the transition to womanhood as seamless as possible, knowledge surrounding periods will become normalized and the negative stigma that many people associate with periods will evaporate.

– Sara Jordan Ruttert
Photo: Flickr