Diarrheal Disease in South Asia
Diarrheal diseases such as cholera, rotavirus and E. coli cause intense episodes of diarrhea which depletes the body of water and electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium, etc.) and eventually can lead to death if not treated. Unsanitary water, poor waste management, coming into contact with fecal matter and a lack of access to health care often are causes of these diseases. While diarrheal diseases impact people all across the globe, one of the areas in which people suffer from them the most is South Asia.

5 Facts About Diarrheal Disease in South Asia

  1. A substantial number of worldwide diarrheal disease-related deaths happen in South Asia. According to 2016 reports, diarrheal diseases are the eighth highest cause of death globally among people of all ages. Even more, they are the fifth highest cause of death in children under 5. Diarrheal diseases also disproportionately affect South Asian countries such as India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. About 90% of deaths related to diarrheal disease worldwide occur in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
  2. Children in South Asia are much more likely to die from a diarrheal disease than anything else. A 2020 study that BMC Public Health conducted in India found that diarrheal diseases caused 50% of deaths in children aged 1 to 5, putting children at a higher risk when it comes to diarrheal diseases.
  3. Diarrheal diseases disproportionately affect areas in South Asia with poor access to health care, sanitation and clean water. Once again, a 2020 study that BMC Public Health conducted found that in India, factors such as improper stool disposal in the home, having a dirt floor, having a thatched roof and environmental issues all contributed to a person’s likelihood of contracting a diarrheal disease. Evidence showed that 46.5% of children in the study had no access to a toilet facility, and the children with toilets were 18% less likely to contract a diarrheal disease. Of the people in this study, 43% of the children lived in houses with dirt floors, and some also had thatched roofs. These people were 8% more likely to contract a diarrheal disease. These statistics show just how threatening diarrheal diseases are to people living in South Asia without basic human needs.
  4. Despite this grim data, the negative effect of diarrheal disease is lessening in South Asia. In response to this high amount of diarrheal disease-related deaths in South Asia, many groups, government and not, are making efforts to end this crisis. Between 1990 and 2010, diarrheal disease-related deaths decreased by 55%. One organization in particular, The Gates Foundation, focuses on the development and delivery of safe and affordable vaccines for many diarrheal diseases. This organization began working in South Asia in 2003, with the implementation of an HIV vaccine in India. Between 2003 and 2014, The Gates Foundation implemented more than 170 million vaccines in the region.

WHO and UNICEF Providing Help

In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF released a comprehensive plan in 2013 that will help lower diarrheal deaths worldwide, especially in high-risk places such as South Asia. This plan outlines many goals such as reducing mortality from diarrhea in children less than 5 years of age to fewer than one per 1,000 live births and 90% access to appropriate pneumonia and diarrhea case management by 2025. With these goals, the plan also lists steps that will be taken and that are being taken to achieve them such as administering vaccines, initiation of breastfeeding amongst new mothers and providing uncontaminated drinking water to areas that do not have access.

In conclusion, diarrheal diseases are very deadly to citizens of South Asia, especially children under 5, and people without access to proper waste disposal, health care and clean water. While these illnesses are very prevalent, they are also very preventable, and given the aid of organizations such as the Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization, South Asia is already lowering the number of deaths diarrheal diseases cause.

– Evelyn Breitbach
Photo: Unsplash

Tonle Sap’s Villagers in Cambodia
Cambodia, a Southeast Asian country with a rich historical past that attracts many tourists, had almost 18% of its population living below the national poverty line in 2019, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Among the various tourist attractions in Cambodia, the floating villages on Lake Tonle Sap are probably the most unique – villagers from there are mainly ethnic Vietnamese who are both poor and stateless. While Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and one of the world’s biggest inland fisheries, the villagers’ incomes are insecure. However, without Cambodian citizenship, it is difficult for those villagers to go elsewhere to look for other jobs. In many ways, most villagers would not choose to live on the water if they had another choice. Knowing the circumstances of the villagers, some volunteers have reached out. This article will look at three organizations that have taken steps to help Lake Tonle Sap’s villagers in Cambodia.

Conservation International (CI)

With offices set up throughout Asia-Pacific, CI works with local and national governments, the private sector and indigenous communities to achieve one of its main aims – to improve food security for needy communities. Therefore, in Cambodia’s case, the organization set its eyes on Lake Tonle Sap’s villagers, and more specifically, on female villagers.

In the villages, fishing is the main occupation for both men and women. However, women are also responsible for smoking fish or turning the fish into Cambodia’s popular condiment, prahok. Yet, they do not receive sufficient income for such labor-intensive jobs.

To improve the livelihood of women and their efficiency in processing fish, CI offers training sessions on marketing skills and packaging techniques. Moreover, the organization also provides fuel-efficient stoves for the villagers, lessening their time smoking fish. With CI’s help, women’s incomes have increased notably, changing the conventional perceptions of women’s contributions to their communities within the villages.

Osmose

Osmose has the objective of improving the livelihood of Lake Tonle Sap’s residents through the conservation of the area. For instance, the organization has developed ecotourism in one of the floating villages, Prek Toal. Riding on boats, tourists can visit a bird sanctuary in flooded forests guided by bird guides and fish and crocodile rising farms. There are also on-site accommodations for tourists who want to stay overnight. Since Prek Toal’s villagers are in charge of the different services and activities, this generates direct income for the locals. Therefore, with the help of Osmose, the villagers can have a more secure livelihood.

In addition, profits generated from ecotourism can help the locals in another way – to enhance the development of Prek Toal. For example, Osmose can build more essential facilities in the village, such as water filters and schools.

Global Nature Fund (GNF)

Like Osmose, GNF understands the importance of ecotourism for Lake Tonle Sap’s villagers. Unlike Osmose, GNF focuses on the water supply and hygiene of the area. According to GNF’s website, villagers do not have safe water to drink. Consequently, they need to drink polluted lake water or purchase drinking water from the mainland.

To ensure local inhabitants have a clean water supply, the organization builds a floating water kiosk with an ultrafiltration system. Meanwhile, GNF also forms a local water committee to manage the water infrastructure.

With the new water infrastructure, not only can local villagers have better health, but they also can have an alternative job and income other than fishing. According to GNF, seven people are now working at the water kiosk.

Overall, the floating villages on Lake Tonle Sap are unique places in Cambodia. For many villagers, living on the water is not easy, and many are financially insecure. Fortunately, organizations such as CI, Osmose and GNF have taken the lead in helping the local inhabitants. Gradually, the lives of Tonle Sap’s villagers in Cambodia have improved.

– Mimosa Ngai

Photo: Flickr

Energy Poverty in Myanmar
Located in Southeast Asia, Myanmar stands as one of the least developed countries and has the “lowest electrification rate” on the continent. According to the Myanmar Information Management Unit (MIMU) in 2022, “80[%]of rural people have no access to grid electricity.” Considering the importance of electricity for sustainable growth, access to electricity is vital for poverty reduction. Inadequate electrification in Myanmar is a prolonged problem, recently aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the February 2021 coup. Myanmar needs more sustainable approaches to reduce energy poverty in Myanmar and promote economic growth.

Overview of Energy Poverty in Myanmar

Due to the lack of access to grid electricity in the rural areas of Myanmar, most of the rural population depend on “candles, kerosene, batteries and power generators” to go about their daily activities, according to the International Trade Administration.

According to the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, approximately 26% of the population in Myanmar lived in poverty in 2020. Furthermore, poverty rates in rural areas are double that of Myanmar’s urban areas. The lack of affordable and reliable access to electricity has hindered the economic growth of these areas especially.

According to the Miller Center, “Universal access to energy [can] provide an enormous boost to economic development, job creation and infrastructure improvements, particularly in rural communities.” Myanmar has set a target to expand access to electricity to 100% by 2030. However, the February 2021 coup “has thrown Myanmar into an economic crisis and put its electrification plans in peril,” The Globe and Mail reported.

Impact of the Military Regime in Myanmar

In February 2021, General Min Aung Hlaing and his junta overthrew the democratically elected government. The military takeover has led to halted cash flows, a devaluation of the currency and increasing costs for fuel and food. In addition, citizens face blackouts and “prolonged power cuts.” Not only does this impact households but it also detrimentally impacts businesses and students’ education.

When the coup occurred, many energy sector investors retracted from projects entirely or placed projects on pause. As a result, the military-run Ministry of Electricity and Energy “struggled to operate its infrastructure, honor contractual obligations, cover costs or follow through on projects,” The Globe and Mail reported.

The International Trade Administration confirmed this, stating that “Energy projects approved before the military takeover have been suspended due to the political and economic turmoil in the country.” As such, Myanmar is in dire need of foreign funding and investment in the power sector.

Actions to Address Energy Poverty in Myanmar

According to the Ministry of Electric Power (MOEP), the annual demand for power in Myanmar is rising annually from 15% to 17%. With the goal of providing “nationwide electricity access by the year 2030,” the government of Myanmar is planning to introduce a sustainable energy mix of “hydropower, natural gas, coal and renewable energy” to supply electricity to about 10 million homes in Myanmar under the National Electrification Plan (NEP).

Because of numerous electricity blackouts due to power decline since early 2022, the energy ministry in Myanmar started to focus on “damage control” and “attracting new foreign investment.”

In fact, Myanmar has an abundance of renewable energy resources to meet its energy needs. For instance, from 2016 to 2020, under the NEP plan, the Department of Rural Development (DRD) implemented “off-grid electrification” by using mini-grids and solar systems in rural communities. More than 430,000 households in 8,568 rural villages received these benefits, which provided electrical access to more than 2.1 million people. This success has encouraged Myanmar to expand off-grid renewable systems.

Nevertheless, political and economic turmoil under the military regime in Myanmar is causing power outages that directly impact the population, especially in rural areas. Also, “unsettled political and economic policies, unclear rules and guidelines and a shortage of skilled labor” as well as “corruption, lack of transparency in the tender and procurement process and banking issues” pose barriers for potential investors, the International Trade Administration said.

More investment in off-grid renewable energy sources can increase the accessibility of electricity in Myanmar. Because the national grid infrastructure in Myanmar is not well established, rural communities will benefit from the development of renewable mini-grids. The development of further off-grid renewable electrification systems will decrease energy poverty in Myanmar.

– Youngwook Chun
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in South Korea
In 2020, the South Korean
 Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) introduced the 9th Basic Plan for Long-Term Electricity Demand and Supply 2020-2034. In this plan, MOTIE sets a goal for renewable energy in South Korea to account for around 40% of the energy mix by 2034. Impressively, 100% of all South Koreans have access to electricity, however, most of the nation’s energy comes from non-renewable sources, which are not only expensive but are also unsustainable. 

Statistics on Energy in South Korea

In 2021, South Korea’s price of electricity increased “for the first time in around eight years” due to global fuel spikes. In June 2021, South Korea’s cost for energy for its citizens stood at $0.103 ( KRW123.02) per kWh (kilowatt-hour). On September 23, 2021, MOTIE announced that the Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) intends to raise the rate per kWh to KRW3 by October 2021, meaning citizens can expect to pay another $0.88 (KRW1,050) monthly per household.

In comparison, in the United States, energy rates for households in November 2021 stood at $0.1412 per kWh. While South Korea’s energy rates per hour are cheaper, taking into account the vast number of people in Korea and the proportion of the population earning low wages, these rates are still costly. Energy rates could become more affordable with the use of renewable energy.

In 2020, crude oil was responsible for most of South Korea’s energy requirements, covering 35% of the country’s energy demands while coal covered 25% of energy requirements. Renewable energy in South Korea made up 1% of energy in 2020, with gas and nuclear covering the remaining energy needs at 17% and 16% respectively.

South Korea’s Poverty Rates

Between 2018 and 2019, South Korea’s poverty rate stood as the “fourth-highest” across 39 Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member states. This 16.7% poverty rate equates to one in every six Koreans living in relative poverty,  according to the Korean Herald. Korea’s unemployment rates are low, however, many employed citizens do not earn adequate incomes. This, combined with an aging society, contributes to the impoverished circumstances of many households and individuals.

How Renewable Energy Can Reduce Poverty

In 2015, South Korea’s capital city of Seoul implemented the Energy Welfare Public-Private Partnership Program to address issues of energy poverty among impoverished city dwellers. The project constructed a virtual power plant “through which 17 municipal buildings and 16 universities save electricity consumption during peak hours and donate profits from saved power back to the program to finance energy welfare.” The virtual power plant has led to “annual profits of more than $180,000,” which goes to the Seoul Energy Welfare Civic Fund. With this funding, more than 2,000 low-income households received retrofitting of “LED light bulbs, energy-efficient windows and solar panels” to reduce energy costs and harmful greenhouse emissions. The Seoul Energy Welfare Civic Fund also prioritized training the unemployed as community energy consultants, which led to 180 new employment opportunities.

Why Renewable Energy is Important

Renewable energy could increase access to energy for those living in poverty and reduce production costs and the selling price of electricity.

According to the World Economic Forum, in 2020, renewable energy stood as the most affordable energy source and the costs of renewable energy technology continue to reduce each year. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), “emerging economies will save up to $156 billion over the lifespan of the renewable projects added in 2020 alone,” which would help to significantly reduce global poverty.

With South Korea as the “ninth-largest energy consumer in 2019,” the use of renewable energy can reduce the price of energy for citizens living in poverty.

Future of Renewable Energy in South Korea

Renewable energy can make electricity more affordable for all citizens, allowing them to focus finances on other basic necessities, investments and welfare programs. With the future increase of renewable energy, a decrease in air pollution and carbon emissions is also a significant positive benefit.

– Kyle Swingle
Photo: Flickr

Water Quality In China
Water quality in China poses challenges as water is generally unsafe for residents to drink. However, a clean and safer future lies ahead with the promise of reduced pollution, increased filtration and clean drinking water.

Current State of China’s Water

As of July 2021, 70% of China’s rivers and lakes were not safe for human utilization. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic restricted movement and led to lockdowns during 2020, water quality in China has seen significant improvements. For example, PH levels increased from mid-March to early May 2020.

Economic Impact of Water Systems

Unsafe water systems negatively impact the fishing and marine business inside of China. Pollution can decrease PH levels and make water toxic for fish and other sea life, which is essential for a strong marine business. Fifty-three coastal cities in China provided data from the years 1994 to 2018, describing the damage that pollution caused in agriculture and industrial businesses in China.

“As the main source of high-quality proteins in China, the yield of seawater cultured products reached 20.65 million tons in 2019, accounting for about 31.8% of the total aquatic products. Meanwhile, the proportion of seawater fishing products has decreased to about 18.7%,” according to the study.

Water is essential to the survival of an entire country. Low PH, pollution and other dangerous contaminants can damage ecosystems. This causes a ripple effect that impacts the livelihood of citizens, wildlife and the overall economic structure of a country. Fishermen need a safe work environment to catch and sell fish. The marine economy plays an important role in the nation’s growth and clean drinking water is necessary for the health of a nation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “safe and readily available water is important for public health, whether it is used for drinking, domestic use, food production or recreational purposes. Improved water supply and sanitation and better management of water resources, can boost countries’ economic growth and can contribute greatly to poverty reduction.”

Plans to Improve China’s Water Quality

In December 2021, the World Bank approved a $400 million loan for decontamination and removal of pollutants in China’s Yangtze River Basin. This, along with $6 billion of China’s own resources will go toward water treatment for the 19 provinces in China and almost 600 million people who receive water from this basin.

The Yangtze River Protection and Ecological Restoration Program aims to improve water quality in China. This will support agriculture, livestock and waste management for townships. Approved in 2022, the latest update shows the beginning of a groundbreaking project.

Public participation in the management of water is beneficial. The University of California wrote an article showing a decrease of 19% in pollutant levels in quarterly reports that became possible with the help of Chinese citizens. Citizens collected data twice a month.

The Future of China’s Water

Water quality in China may not be at its best right now, but the positive feedback shows early signs of improvement inside the country. Baiyangdian, North China’s largest freshwater lake, received an upgrade to Class III in 2021, meaning that its surface water is of good quality. This is the lake’s best condition since the initial monitoring in 1988, with the classes ranging from a scale of between one and five.

Water has a significant place in the economy of China. Clean water is essential to promoting a steady marine market, economy and livelihood for all citizens in China.

– Kyle Swingle
Photo: Px Here

Inclusive Education Programs
UNICEF is working alongside NGO Zhan, a software development company and a youth center to help children in Kazakhstan who have visual impairments gain more out of online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program teaches children with visual impairments how to access useful learning resources and maximize the benefits of technology. Inclusive education programs are particularly valuable in developing countries where many often stigmatize disabilities and those with disabilities do not receive accommodation from schools. The COVID-19 pandemic has made inclusive education even more essential due to an expansive surge in digital learning, which is rarely accessible to children with disabilities.

UNICEF’s Approach

UNICEF and NGO Zhan program taught children how to navigate smartphones, computers, web resources and messenger and navigation apps. The children also learned the basics of programming and became familiar with several software programs, as UNICEF reported.

Children who participated in the program ended up with heightened abilities to communicate with their teachers, peers and families, both inside and outside of school. Children with visual impairments who learn technological skills like computer programming have better chances of finding stable jobs later in life. Inclusive education programs like UNICEF’s help provide opportunities to children with disabilities who may otherwise lack access to education altogether, especially in developing countries.

Educational Benefits

Children with disabilities are often marginalized within educational systems, which makes it difficult to find career opportunities as adults. Children with disabilities face disproportionate amounts of exclusion in low-income areas, according to the World Bank. Educational programs that provide learning resources for children with disabilities help put them on level playing fields with their classmates.

Teachers in developing countries often lack the training and resources to assist children with disabilities, so outside organizations like UNICEF can help make schools more inclusive. According to the World Bank, inclusive education programs may involve teacher training, removing physical barriers for students and obtaining accessible learning materials. These resources allow children with disabilities the opportunity to learn the same material as their classmates without falling behind in school or missing out on job opportunities in the future.

Socioeconomic Benefits

Around the world, 57 million children lack access to primary education. While many children with disabilities struggle to keep up in school without accommodations, others lack access to education altogether. Educational disparities in low-income areas are particularly common among young girls.

Inclusive education programs and policies can improve child literacy, gender equality and educational opportunities at large for children with disabilities. When more children have access to positive educational experiences, more children can enter the workforce and contribute to their local and national economies.

UNICEF’s program for children with visual impairments is a prime example of how inclusive education can benefit children’s education and social lives. Inclusive education accepts and embraces all children, allowing them to succeed in school and pursue their ambitions for the future.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

Period Poverty in India
Period poverty is a serious concern in many countries, specifically India. Period poverty involves a lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual education and hygiene and sanitation facilities necessary to properly manage menstruation. Because the impacts of period poverty are far-reaching, several organizations are aiming to address period poverty in India.

Period Poverty in India

According to Feminism India, those who cannot afford menstrual products resort to unsafe alternatives such as “rags, hay, sand and ash,” which can lead to infections. Period poverty is a continuing issue in India due to the cultural stigma surrounding menstruation. Many people consider menstruation a taboo topic that they should not discuss. In India, research has indicated that 71% of girls do not have “knowledge of menstruation before their first period.” This lack of knowledge and stigma surrounding menstruation has led to one out of every five female students dropping out of school once menstruation begins. In addition, more than 40% of female students in India choose not to attend school during their menstrual cycle due to the inability to access menstrual products to properly manage their menstruation coupled with the social stigma menstruating girls face at schools.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Period Poverty in India

Since the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, the pandemic has only intensified period poverty in India. Many organizations that are trying to address period poverty in India by providing menstrual education and free sanitary products are facing difficulties providing either. This is because COVID-19 led to school shutdowns, creating a barrier to free menstrual products and educational workshops that organizations provide to schools. In addition, organizations that were providing free menstrual products could not obtain products due to supply chain disruptions. In rural areas of India, where households struggled to afford basic groceries even before the onset of COVID-19, people do not consider menstrual products as essential.

The Desai Foundation

Samir A. Desai and Nilima Desai founded The Desai Foundation in 1997. The Desai Foundation aims to help people in both the U.S. and India through more than 25 programs covering issues such as “health and hygiene,” period poverty, entrepreneurship and vocational training. In India, the Desai Foundation works to uplift “women and children through community programming to elevate health and livelihood” in more than 568 villages. To address period poverty in India, the Foundation established the Asani Sanitary Napkin Program, which has “created economic empowerment, provided hygiene education, increased community awareness and cultivated dignity for numerous women in the region.”

The Asani Sanitary Napkin Program teaches local Indian women to produce and distribute affordable yet high-quality sanitary pads across three regions in India, with the aim of expanding to more areas. The program has created job opportunities for more than 2,000 local women who have produced more than 2.3 million sanitary pads in four manufacturing units. The Desai Foundation distributed more than 445,000 of these pads without any charge. So far, the program has positively impacted more than 270,000 girls and women.

The Onset of COVID-19

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Desai Foundation was able to adapt its programs to adhere to COVID-19 protocols. In response to the pandemic, the Desai Foundation gave employment to local village women who previously attended the organization’s sewing program. The Desai Foundation paid the women to sew two-layer protective face masks from their homes, leading to the creation of “350 COVID-safe jobs.” The women produced more than a million masks for local villagers. In the wake of COVID-19, the Desai Foundation also handed out “1 million pads to local communities, hospitals, COVID care centers and rural women” to address period poverty.

Through the ongoing commitments to address period poverty in India, girls and women are one step closer to living productive and prosperous lives.

– Sierrah Martin
Photo: Flickr

Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan, formally the Kyrgyz Republic, is a country in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan has a population of approximately 6.5 million people, with more than 60% of the population living in rural areas. A practice of the Kyrgyz people, most prevalent in the country’s poor rural areas, is bride kidnapping, which occurs when men abduct women and force them into marriage with or without the consent of the woman’s family. Kyrgyzstan’s government and USAID are working to tackle this issue. However, one of the most effective ways to combat the practice of bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan is addressing poverty in rural Kyrgyzstan.

The Connection Between Poverty and Bride Kidnapping

Because some of Kyrgyzstan’s population regard bride kidnapping as a traditional and romantic practice, men may “kidnap” brides with consent from the bride and her family. This is known as consensual bride kidnapping. However, bride kidnappings that occur without the bride’s knowledge or agreement are non-consensual bride kidnapping. The U.N. has condemned this practice of forced marriage as a violation of human rights.

Poverty and unemployment in recent years provide a source of frustration for young men in rural Kyrgyzstan seeking to marry. One characteristic of traditional Kyrgyz marriage is kalym, or the “bride price,” by which a man seeking to marry must pay the bride’s family in cash and livestock.

Poor men in rural Kyrgyzstan often do not have the money or resources to pay this price. Additionally, these men face pressure from their communities to marry before they reach a certain age. Thus, the quickest and cheapest way to do so is to kidnap a bride.

Other Factors in Bride Kidnapping

Aside from poverty, many other factors can also help explain why bride kidnappings occur. One reason why a man may kidnap a bride is simply that he cannot otherwise obtain her consent or because he is worried she may marry someone else.

Another factor that explains bride kidnapping is the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Once the Soviet Union collapsed and Kyrgyzstan gained its independence, the young country sought to assert its nationalist dignity and separate its identity from the Soviet Union by reviving traditional practices, such as bride kidnapping.

The U.N. estimates that one in five marriages in Kyrgyzstan is the result of bride kidnapping. Poverty is one factor that incentivizes bride kidnapping. However, bride kidnapping can also cause further poverty, particularly for the few women who manage to escape their marriages. Often uprooted in the middle of their pursuit of education or professional opportunity, these women return to a society where they lack the skills they need to support themselves and their children.

Additionally, the state does not register marriages that are a product of bride kidnapping, as Girls Not Brides reported. Therefore, these women are not entitled to any assets or support they might have otherwise received in the case of legal divorce. Along with driving women further into poverty, negative effects of bride kidnapping on women also include domestic abuse, denial of educational or economic opportunities, high rates of depression and suicide.

What is the Government Doing About It?

In 2013, Kyrgyzstan’s government increased the prison sentence for bride kidnapping from a maximum of three years to a maximum of 10 years. The state also set forth a Criminal Code that prohibits bride kidnapping and forced kidnapping.

The government’s efforts to criminalize bride kidnapping are worth noting and encouraging further. Still, it needs to more consistently and effectively enforce laws that address bride kidnapping. Women who manage to file a complaint against their kidnappers often find that the crime remains unprosecuted. Additionally, the government does not yet sufficiently fund services for survivors of bride kidnappings and the domestic abuse that can result from such a practice.

The Five-Year Enterprise Competitiveness Project

However, the state is not alone in its efforts. Several USAID projects focus on helping the poorest regions of Kyrgyzstan by supporting job creation and economic growth. Since poverty is one factor that can potentially motivate bride kidnapping, efforts to relieve poverty may translate into deterrence from bride kidnapping.

For example, in 2018 USAID started the five-year Enterprise Competitiveness Project. It focuses on growing sectors that can quickly create more jobs such as the agricultural, manufacturing and apparel sectors. The project provides businesses in regions with high levels of poverty and unemployment with grants and technical advice, funds research and creates partnerships with financial institutions. USAID expects the project to create 19,000 new jobs.

The USAID Business Growth Initiative

USAID also works to support and empower the women of Kyrgyzstan in a variety of ways. The USAID Business Growth Initiative supports women-owned businesses in sectors such as tourism and apparel. Thus far, the project has provided 2,000 women with new technical skills.

USAID also provides professional training for female Members of Parliament. The agency sponsors conferences between these women and political activists. It is fostering connections that strengthen support for legislation that combats bride kidnapping and prioritizes women’s rights. Furthermore, USAID partners with civil society organizations to raise awareness about criminal liability for bride kidnapping. It also advocates for laws protecting women from domestic violence.

Thus, providing greater economic opportunity for men in rural Kyrgyzstan is one way to decrease the risk of bride kidnapping. Men who are more secure in their finances and assured of their employment will have less incentive to kidnap brides.

Additionally, providing greater state protections and services for victims of bride kidnapping as well as a greater guarantee for prosecution can also serve to deter this practice and rehabilitate the victims of this human rights violation. Finally, raising awareness for women’s rights could help dismantle traditional, misogynistic practices such as bride kidnapping.

– Savannah Algu
Photo: Flickr

Expo 2020 Dubai
Expo 2020 Dubai is a gathering of 192 countries each presenting and offering an opportunity to experience their culture, food and innovations. It is the latest of a World Expo tradition that began in London in 1851 as the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations. Expo 2020 is taking place from October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022, showcasing and promoting different solutions and opportunities that may improve the lives of people around the world. Projects aim to accomplish this by “promoting alternative employment and income opportunities, women in the workplace, competitive products and services and improved market access.”

Overview

Expo 2020 Dubai is the latest of the world’s fairs with the official theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” plus different sub-theming of sustainability, mobility and opportunity. The Expo 2020 is taking place in the Middle East for the first time. Until construction began at the site of the expo, the Expo occurred in an area of empty desert. The layout of the Expo is a vast 1,000-acre site comprising different zones in the shape of petals focusing on the sub-themes of sustainability, mobility and opportunity.

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions in place, individuals must comply with strict precautions, including mask and vaccination requirements and occupancy limitations on the number of people present at the Expo. One of the other crucial aspects of the Expo 2020 Dubai is that there is a record 191 countries participating and each nation has its own area or pavilion. The Expo is partnering with the United Nations, which has its own pavilion that focuses on its future goals, including sustainability. Once the expo ends at the close of March 2022, “around 80% of the built Expo will transition into residential, business and commercial developments.”

Expo 2020 Dubai Addresses Global Poverty

At the Kenya pavilion, some innovators show their solutions to the country’s problems of “unemployment, poverty and food shortages” through “home farming” using basic hydroponic systems. Dr. Peter Chege Gichuku established Hydroponics Africa Limited in Kenya in 2015 with the purpose and goals of eliminating “the root cause of poverty and food insecurity.” The company is hoping to “provide cost-effective sustainable farming methods without the use of soil and an 80% reduction in water.”

WaterAid provides an example of social development commitments. In Nepal, WaterAid promotes good hygiene practices by using Nepal’s routine immunization program as a “point of contact” to reach mothers and children. The Nepal Ministry of Health and Population leads the initiative with the “financial and technical support” of WaterAid. The project has a dual purpose of “[strengthening] Nepal’s routine immunization system by improving immunization coverage and people’s trust in immunization services” while simultaneously improving hygiene practices to prevent diseases stemming from poor hygiene practices.

Looking Ahead

Many more organizations are participating in Expo 2020 Dubai. They are promoting their solutions and putting forward ideas to address issues of global poverty. The Expo presents an ideal opportunity to present these new innovations to governments of all nations and their citizens. Global events such as Expo 2020 Dubai unite nations across the world with the understanding that global collaboration is necessary to address concerns of a global scale.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Flickr

The Developmental Sector
Activists are urging politicians and development agencies to reform foreign aid and humanitarian work on the ground. Critics of the developmental sector tie it to colonialism, and actors within foreign aid are thinking about improving the quality of life for people around the globe while also moving away from colonial ideologies. Outreach International is one of the organizations helping to change the realities of the developmental sector.

The Relationship Between Colonialism and the Developmental Sector

The foreign aid sector has received criticism for being a neocolonial agent. The arguments are that Western countries impose their cultures on non-Western cultures through development programs and that the Global North portrays the Global South as helpless.

In the history of development programs, Western countries have imposed their values on non-Western countries and have touted modernization. Prominent Western officials, who were unaware of the Global South’s everyday realities, designed the programs without input from the actual citizens. The West brought values and practices to non-Western countries that were not necessarily important or even helpful for the people in these countries, as these experts mainly were from non-aid countries.

Additionally, some have portrayed foreign aid recipients as helpless. The foreign aid sector has not historically given agency to people in recipient countries to decide what they want for their futures and how they wish to achieve it. A mentality developed that the Global North could “save” the Global South from misery and poverty even though the Global South was not asking for anyone to save it.

The developmental sector receives criticism, but it has also helped people around the world. For instance, from 1990 to 2019, extreme poverty has substantially decreased from 36% of the global population to 8% of the worldwide population, maternal and infant mortality rates have reduced by 50% and smallpox cases no longer exist.

Neocolonialist criticisms invite the developmental sector to reflect on its history and current practices. The inclusion of voices from aid-recipient countries in creating and implementing development programs can produce sustainable poverty reduction.

Prioritizing Community Voices: Outreach International

Outreach International is a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the challenges of global poverty. The organization partners with nine locally-registered nonprofits that operate in nine countries spanning from Africa to Latin America to Asia, and the organization has been in operation for 42 years. Outreach International’s program interventions focus on organizational, capacity and leadership development. The organization, alongside its program and community partners, has worked on 541 community issues, and 62,724 people benefit from the organization’s work.

Collaboration with local communities in poverty-reduction work is the cornerstone of Outreach International’s programming. In fact, The Borgen Project spoke with Dr. Elene Cloete, Director of Research and Advocacy for Outreach International, and she shared that, “We [Outreach International] believe that you can support people in obtaining greater social, economic health…. They [locals] are in [EC1] and should be in the driving seat of their community-led development.”

The Participatory Human Development Process (PHDP), Outreach International’s own methodology, creates sustainable improvements to everyday life. Through the PHDP, the organization and its program partners facilitate discussion among community groups so that locals are the ones who identify the poverty-related problems that are most salient to them and so that local communities can create their own solutions. The PHDP enables communities to plan their futures.

Outreach International’s On-the-Ground Success in the Philippines

Rural communities often face high rice prices in the Philippines. Rural communities also rely on wage labor in the agricultural sector, and rural Filipinos can only work during the planting and harvesting seasons. Between these seasons, many rural Filipinos are out of a job. Combined with high rice prices, rural Filipinos struggle to feed their families.

Outreach International, its program partner, Outreach Philippines, Inc. and rural Filipino communities have worked together to establish a program that allows rural communities to access rice from their own community-based organizations at very low interest, especially in comparison to the other options that rural Filipinos have. The community groups implement rice loan projects through which they buy rice at an affordable price because they purchase the rice in bulk. The interest rate powers the growth of the local community groups by increasing the number of people who can take part in them.

Rural communities own and run the rice loan project, and the program’s rice and money remain in the communities, giving agency to rural Filipinos and allowing them to access a more sustainable source of food. Dr. Cloete sums the program up beautifully; “That’s the beauty of it. Because the project is owned, managed, driven by the community, they have ownership over the project. And they can decide what issue they want to address next. We have this beautiful cyclical thing that takes place.”

Activists and organizations within the developmental sector are encouraging it to veer away from neocolonialism and instead make local voices heard. Outreach International is a crucial example of championing sustainable poverty reduction through the empowerment of local communities. The organization is contributing to changing the developmental sector, and it will be exciting to see Outreach International’s growth and impact over the coming years.

– Anna Ryu
Photo: Unsplash