Information and news on advocacy.
A long-standing ally of the United States, Saudi Arabia is famous–some may say infamous–for the vast oil reserves in the country and the wealth and geopolitical clout that oil grants the nation of 32 million. Despite its fortunes, much of Saudi Arabia’s citizens live in an outdated system that oppresses and threatens the rights of both other nations in the region and its own people. Though their own nation may do far too little, how to help people in Saudi Arabia is a question well worth asking.
Domestically, Saudi Arabia still adheres to a system of male guardianship under which patriarchs control nearly all aspects of female family members’ lives, including who they marry, what opportunities for an education or career they can or cannot pursue, and even their ability to move about and interact in public. This guardianship system falls in line with the overarching sharia law that the nation as a whole is governed by, which is notorious for the abuses that can be carried out under its banner, such as vague and broad charges, lack of due process, censorship and corporal punishment, up to and including public execution.
Internationally, the Saudi government has used its influence to promote the spread of sharia law in the region, and funding for terrorist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda can be traced back to Saudi sources. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a conflict in Yemen in which they have conducted numerous unlawful airstrikes that have taken the lives of over 4,000 civilians.
The Saudi government and people have a lot of obstacles to overcome before their nation can enjoy the same freedom and rights of many Western nations. Here are some ways to get involved and how to help people in Saudi Arabia:
-Write to your representatives in Congress encouraging the U.S. to require more transparency from Saudi Arabia for it to receive U.S. aid. Currently, the country fails to meet the standards of financial transparency that are technically required, but continues to receive the money due to its importance as an ally in the region.
-Get involved with programs that advocate for women’s rights in nations like Saudi Arabia, such as the U.N. Women initiative and its subsidiary the Commission on the Status of Women, of which Saudi Arabia is a member. By backing the programs and campaigns of U.N. Women, the hope is to help the Saudi people and make their nation worthy of its seat on the Commission.
-Educate yourself on the issues affecting the Saudi people and the complex geopolitical situation the country is entangled in.
-Hold the U.S. accountable for continuing to support and sell billions of dollars in weaponry to a nation that treats people in the manner Saudi Arabia does.
-Spread information on social media about Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses and support of terrorism.
The quandary of how to help people in Saudi Arabia has no easy solution, and each viable method will take a long time and a lot of effort to see tangible change. But there are still valuable steps that can be taken to helping those who are suffering in Saudi Arabia.
– Erik Halberg
Chile is an elongated country in South America, located adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, as of June 2016 the population in Chile was 17,650,114, which is about 5.3 percent of the population of South America.
About 14 percent of this Spanish-speaking nation is below the poverty rate. Although the government has been working to improve conditions and livelihoods for Chile’s residents, the anti-poverty organizations currently in place have not been particularly helpful.
United Nations Special Rapporteur, Philip Alston, stated that Chile “continues to tolerate levels of poverty and inequality which are very high for a country belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).”
Chile needs support in the areas of education, income equality and human rights in order to prosper in today’s society. Here are just a few ways to help people in Chile:
In Chile, 99.5 percent of the population speaks Spanish, whereas 10.2 percent speak English. In a changing global society, Chile has realized that it is important to educate children in the English language so that they can be more communicative and productive in their future endeavors.
The English Open Doors Program is an organization that is looking for English teachers to volunteer four months of their time in Chile. Literacy rates in Chile are already very high – 96 percent – and therefore just need a little extra help to become extremely successful.
2. Equality For All
Gender inequality in the workforce is a huge issue in Chile. Alston says, “Women’s participation in the workforce needs to be facilitated by a range of measures that include better community care facilities, and better economic rewards for currently unpaid female care workers.”
To help eliminate this discrimination in the workforce, labor laws and reform programs are needed. If you’re wondering how to help people in Chile with this issue even though you live thousands of miles away, there is a simple solution: advocating. Even though you may not be able to picket on Chilean streets, you can raise awareness by posting signs around town, for instance, and getting people to talk about this issue.
3. Human Rights
Aside from the inequality in the workplace in Chile, discrimination in regards to human rights has also been a pressing issue. According to Alston, “There is a deep need for an entity with the responsibility, authority, funds and resources to coordinate government-wide human rights policies.”
Whether this is in regard to sexual education for young women or protection rights for the poorest in Chile, “Mr. Alston called for a specific, integrated plan to tackle both poverty and extreme poverty and for more effective coordination mechanisms.”
Chile’s government and reform programs have been working hard to reduce inequalities and human rights issues, but have so far proven to be insufficient. Are you wondering how to help people in Chile with these issues? The simplest way to work toward equality and peace in Chile is to raise awareness of these problems. Post signs on the walls of your local coffee shop, talk to your co-workers or even contact your congressional leaders about supplying aid to the Chilean people who need it most.
– Sydney Missigman
India is the second most populous country in the world and hosts one-third of the world’s extreme poor. It has the third highest number of people living with and dying from HIV/AIDS, and 60.4 percent of its population lives with unimproved sanitation facility access, mostly affecting Indians living in rural communities. Here are four ways to help the extreme poor in India.
According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), 47 percent of Indian girls are married by the age of 18. While it is illegal for girls in India to marry before the age of 18, many still do because their families live in poverty.
One method to combat child marriage is education. The non-profit Girls Not Brides, for example, is currently fundraising for Shadhika, an organization that pays tuition for at-risk Indian girls. Right now, they are $8,568 away from a $30,000 goal.
Donations to this cause enable more Indian girls living in extreme poverty to attend school and avoid underage marriage. By donating to this and other similar organizations, those who are not currently in India can still assist those in poverty.
For 2017, the U.S. government plans to spend $49.5 million of foreign aid on health in India. Half of this aid will be allocated for HIV/AIDS. To ensure the effectiveness of this aid, Congress is currently in the process of potentially passing the Global Health Innovation Act (H.R. 1660).
This act requires the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to give an annual report to Congress describing the “development and use of global health innovations” in their work.
Emailing or calling elected representatives will support this bill on top of promoting the use of health innovation to achieve an HIV/AIDS-free generation. Representatives need to know that their constituents are interested in a goal in order for it to get the attention it deserves.
Shopping is another way to help the extreme poor in India. Currently, about ten million Indian women are commercial sex workers–the Anchal Project wants to change that.
The Anchal Project employs Indian women, 85 percent of whom were once in the sex trade, to create and make original designs for ecologically sound clothing and fabrics (mainly scarves).
Shopping here will support women in their goal of earning full-time employment and leading change in their families and communities, in effect supporting the extreme poor in working their way out of poverty.
As most of the world’s poor live in India, the country is a great focus for The Borgen Project and other organizations working to fight poverty. Read up on current struggles and efforts to improve conditions for the poor in India to better learn how you can keep helping in the future.
While people are often told that they as an individual can change the world, it often seems that the change desired is too arduous to achieve. Nevertheless, a community of people can come together to end global poverty and help the extreme poor in India.
– Sean Newhouse
The bullhorn has sounded: implementing an effective foreign policy that reduces global poverty and food insecurities is part of creating the perfect future. Nonprofit organizations aren’t the only ones making this crucial argument; in fact, the World Bank made the same case in its 2017 Governance and the Law Report. These foreign policies should reflect the values of those in and out of power.
“Mechanisms that help give less powerful, diffuse interest groups, for example, a bigger say in the policy arena could help balance the influence of more powerful, narrow interest groups,” the World Bank noted in the report.
Part of the effort to strengthen the economies within developing nations through targeted foreign policy action can come from private interests. According to the World Bank, “Contemporary case studies suggest that business associations have helped government officials improve various dimensions of the business environment—such as secure property rights, fair enforcement of rules and the provision of public infrastructure—through lobbying efforts or better monitoring of public officials.”
In 2016, successful advocacy for a U.S. foreign policy that works towards reducing global poverty and food insecurities resulted in the passing of the Global Food Security Act, the Foreign Aid and Transparency Act and The Electrify Africa Act.
One important aspect of policy development and implementation is that citizens in part drive the process, not just lawmakers. Through elections, political organizations, participation and advocacy, citizens can influence the development of U.S. foreign policies that benefit marginalized communities globally.
“However, all citizens have access to multiple mechanisms of engagement that can help them overcome collective action problems—to coordinate and cooperate—by changing contestability, incentives, and preferences and beliefs,” the World Bank noted in the Governance and the Law Report.
This power underscores the importance of direct communication and advocacy between citizens and their representatives, both state and federal. The World Bank’s report outlined the ways that citizens and political organizations (such as ones built around the common goal of alleviating global poverty) are “associated with a higher likelihood of adopting and successfully implementing public sector reforms.”
There are currently at least eight foreign policy legislation in the congressional pipeline. These include the International Affairs Budget, the READ Act, the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act, the Economic Growth and Development Act, the Reach Every Mother and Child Act, the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act, the Digital Gap Act and the Global Health Innovation Act.
Citizens can visit The Borgen Project Action Center and join the foreign policymaking process.
– Hannah Pickering
Investing in women can cause multiple benefits for the economy, food security and healthcare. There are many organizations that have programs for women’s education and there are some that solely concentrate on getting women access to what they need. Two organizations that are dedicated to women are Womensphere and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). By supporting and helping women around the world, these organizations are creating growth in developing countries.
Womensphere was founded in 2007 by Analisa Balares, who is currently the chief executive. Balares started Womensphere with the goal of unleashing women’s potential to lead and transform the world. Womensphere does this by investing in programs that educate or help develop women and girls, mobilizing others to do the same and hosting its own conventions where women can collaborate and share their skills.
Womensphere is investing in women by hosting conventions that allow women to share their accomplishments. One of these conventions is an award ceremony for different organizations that are making a difference for female activism. One award recipient, Nicole Schwab, received the Luminary award for her Gender Equality Project. This project is working to close the global gender gap by developing a global standard assessment for companies that is non-gender based. This allows women to be included more and have opportunities at higher positions. So far the project tested their idea on seven companies and five countries and hope to use this assessment framework for companies globally. Womensphere also funds and develops different leadership projects that advance women as public, societal, or entrepreneurial leaders.
WILPF was established in 1915 that is dedicated to bringing women around the world together to end violence for peaceful political, societal, and economic climates for all. WILPF four main programs as of this year are disarmament, human rights, women, peace and security and lastly crisis program. All of these programs unite women around the world to solve common problems that are happening in multiple areas. To achieve this WILPF creates awareness on issues like women’s rights as well as financing initiatives that advocate against violence.
The Disarmament Program started in 1915 when the organization was established. In 1999, the Crisis Program was developed to coincide with it. These projects are decreasing violence that directly affects women and children. The programs do this through monitoring, advocacy and reporting military spending. These programs also work to control and decrease various weapon systems to disallow any unnecessary violence.
Both of these organizations see the importance of empowering women and are dedicated to bringing women together. According to the Global Citizen, there are plenty of reasons why supporting women has a positive impact on society. One of these reasons is that women can change the global economy. Studies show that 90 percent of what women earn goes back to their families. The more women work, the more they spend on their children’s needs, food and healthcare. Education and awareness of childbirth and sex can cause lower maternal deaths of young children and decrease the number of teen pregnancies.
There are many benefits to investing in women and Womensphere and WILPF are just two organizations that are helping empower women and giving women more opportunities.
– Deanna Wetmore
Award-winning Pretty Little Liars Actress Shay Mitchell has been very active outside of her role as Emily Fields, continuing to do much more with her travel experiences than simply finding new foods or relaxing by the beach.
Mitchell empowers women and children who live in oppressive and poverty-ridden countries by interacting with them and learning what it is that these people face every day in order to survive.
One company that Mitchell supports is an ethical fashion and lifestyle brand called Raven + Lily. In her channel’s official YouTube video about her 2015 trip to India, Mitchell explains how Raven + Lily helps fight poverty by giving women a sustainable income.
Mitchell endorses the company by showing her viewers each product that Raven + Lily produces, how the employed women make them and how purchasing from these women will help give them a life that they deserve.
“Women in this Muslim community are not allowed to work outside their home,” Mitchell explains. She continues to state that Raven + Lily allows these women to work from inside their homes, respecting their culture yet giving them a stable and secure income.
Mitchell ended her trip by attending a festival of love and color, which is a local tradition where the citizens covered her in organic colors as they all danced together. This is one of the many ways that Shay Mitchell empowers women and children by participating in events that allow her to relate to everyday citizens on a fundamental level.
Mitchell told In Style magazine that the most difficult part of the trip for her was seeing the extreme poverty in India. She goes on to say that while it is overwhelming, the most important thing to do is to focus on helping these people one person at a time because every struggling citizen matters.
In July of this year, Mitchell posted a photo with children she met while in Syria in the Azraq Syrian Refugee Camp. “Kids should be kids,” she said in a recent Facebook post, talking about how resilient the children are and talking about how much that she missed them already.
During this time, Care.org posted a photo of Mitchell visiting with Syrian children whose dreams are to attend film school. This is in support of CARE’s refugee film school at the Azraq camp.
With Snapchat stories filled with smiling kids, a personal YouTube video showing support for Raven + Lily and verbal support for women and children living in oppression and poverty, Shay Mitchell empowers women and children by being an active advocate for better treatment of struggling citizens around the world.
– Noel McDavid
One of every 500-750 children worldwide is born with a facial deformity known as a cleft lip or cleft palate. If left untreated, the condition can result in social isolation and serious health concerns, such as malnutrition and infection. There is a clear need for increasing surgical care for cleft conditions.
While cleft conditions can almost always be reversed, many impoverished and/or rural families are unable to access affordable care in order to get their children the necessary medical attention. Operation Smile believes that all patients deserve exceptional surgical care regardless of where they are born or how much money their families make.
Operation Smile has been executing life-saving surgical procedures to children around the world for over 35 years. Their advocacy efforts expounding the importance of increasing surgical care for cleft conditions have touched millions. Consequently, their donor base continues to grow. In the month of July, the organization has plans to execute several medical missions in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Tame, Columbia and Ambato, Ecuador, to name a few.
Beyond the numbers, Operation Smile prides itself on personable and compassionate care. CEO and founder Dr. Bill Magee asks of his donors, “What if this was your child who needed the surgery?” He notes how this consideration makes people realize that the work he does not only rewarding but absolutely necessary.
Adding to the personal nature of the organization, it focuses on individual stories of patients and their families both before and after the life-altering surgery.
The healing story of Siham, a young girl from Morroco, demonstrates just how difficult overcoming the social obstacles of looking different than your peers can be. Every time she left her house, people tormented her in the streets. After only a few weeks of school, Siham dropped out because of the bullying she had endured. Doctors informed her that surgery was possible, but Siham knew that her family would never be able to afford the travel expenses to reach the hospital, let alone the procedure itself.
Stories like Siham’s touch readers at a personal level and help increase the reach of the organization’s successes.
Powered by its compassionate donors and volunteers, Operation Smile has provided hundreds of thousands of free cleft condition surgeries for children and young adults in developing countries. This care has grown exponentially since its beginning in 1982. One element that makes this organization unique from many other medical nonprofits is that it works within the local community’s health providers and cultural norms rather than independently to provide comfortable care for their patients. Each mission is different. Some require importing medical equipment and others need local expertise.
While the root cause of cleft conditions is not yet clear, Operation Smile and other organizations are researching ways to prevent the deformity. For over 30 years, the nonprofit has grown its donor and volunteer bank exponentially. In addition, it has gained valuable experience in unique areas by teaming up with local medical programs in developing countries.
The success of Operation Smile in increasing surgical care for cleft conditions lies in its sustainable practices. They involve local community volunteers and emphasize the importance of donations to fund the services rather than charging patients. The organization benefits everyone involved and will likely continue to grow.
– Sarah Coiro
As more youth in Cambodia become politically aware, the country has seen significant strides by these individuals in advocating for change.
Such advocacy makes sense in light of changing technologies. As Ou Ritthy, the founder of a Cambodian discussion group, states: “Youth have two things: Information — from social media — and smartphones. They are more independent in terms of information.”
Not only has this allowed Cambodia’s youth to become more educated regarding governmental matters, but it has opened up opportunities for political networking. Through applications such as Facebook, these individuals can now unite through common interests. Together, they can plan rallies, organize volunteer efforts or simply instigate debate.
Furthermore, these efforts are having a bigger impact than ever before. As the New York Times reports, “Two-thirds of the population is under 30,” meaning youth in Cambodia now have the greatest capacity to bring about political change.
Student Thy Sovantha serves as one example. Sovantha created a Facebook page and posted Youtube videos supporting Sam Rainsy, the opposing candidate to Cambodia’s current prime minister Hun Sen, during the country’s 2013 elections. Her actions resulted in thousands of followers.
Sovantha is not the only one who opposes Sen, however. Youth protests were widespread during the 2013 elections, and efforts against his rule continue to this day. Cambodia’s elections later this year will be the final determinant of his power.
“The image of Cambodia in the international community has been damaged because they can see that…Cambodia is moving to dictatorship,” comments Ren Chanrith, a member of Cambodia’s Youth Resource Development Programme.
Regardless of Cambodia’s future regarding Sen, it is certain that youth in Cambodia will continue to have a big impact in what lies ahead for the country. This demographic change, combined with new technology, puts Cambodia’s youth at the forefront of politics.
– Genevieve DeLorenzo
Feeling down or uneasy? It could be time to donate to a worthy cause. A growing body of evidence shows a strong correlation between poverty and multiple forms of mental illness, including depression. The good news is that the inverse is also being proven true; reducing poverty improves mental health, not only for those receiving aid but also for those who provide it. Here are some of the most recent findings on how advocacy cures depression:
According to Spring.org, people in the U.S. have become 5 percent less happy over the past decade, despite average household earnings increasing in the same period of time. The same study determined that Norway and Denmark were the happiest countries, compared to America’s position as the 14th happiest.
“I don’t think Denmark has a monopoly on happiness. What works in the Nordic countries is a sense of community and understanding in the common good,” Meik Wiking, CEO of Copenhagen’s Happiness Research Institute stated by way of explanation. The effects of poverty on depression were shown to be quite clear: the unhappiest countries, which include Liberia, Yemen, Rwanda and Syria are all among the poorest on earth.
The implication of the study seems to add another line to the old adage: money may not be able to buy happiness, but it may be able to buy happiness for someone else in need. Science is discovering that the giver also benefits—one study of 846 people from the American Journal of Public Health found that the act of helping others creates an increased tolerance to stressful life events.
Altruistic acts, such as raising awareness for charitable causes, have been shown to result in numerous psychological and physical health benefits including reducing stress, maintaining a positive life perspective and even boosting longevity.
Crick Lund, University of Capetown psychologist and head of the international consortium called PRIME (Programme for Improving Mental Health Care), is another key researcher in determining how advocacy cures depression. He has dedicated his career to providing mental health treatment for people living in low-income and low-resource areas. His research on the link between poverty and depression is being conducted across five sub-Saharan countries in Africa and is expected to show early results by 2018.
The next time the blues hits, it may be worth considering getting the squad together to volunteer at the local shelter or make a donation to a nonprofit such as The Borgen Project. Since advocacy cures depression, not only will it make life better for someone who truly needs it, it will make the giver feel great too.
– Dan Krajewski