Human Trafficking in Mozambique
The exploitation of human beings for labor and sex reduces individuals to property and demands that governments address these trafficking monopolies through policy and prosecution. Typically, the nation of Mozambique struggles to castigate the human trafficking rings within its borders; however, both international groups, as well as the national government itself, recognized significant improvement within 2020. According to the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report, the government in Mozambique significantly expanded the effort to combat human trafficking through national awareness and new education standards.

The Situation

Human trafficking involves the movement of victims across borders and forced labor–particularly child labor. Without parental support to protect them, orphaned children frequently live in constant fear of exploitation. According to UNICEF, the orphan population in Mozambique numbers roughly 2 million children, and another 700,000 children live fearing abandonment due to a variety of causes. Even in light of its substantial progress, Mozambican society consists of historically rooted gender roles. Thus, orphaned girls live with the highest levels of instability, vulnerable to forced marriages or transactional sex at young ages. Most of the young victims of human trafficking in Mozambique work in agriculture, mining or forced domestic work. Traffickers lure children from rural areas with promises of education and employment enticing families to send children away with hope in the opportunities available in urban life.

The U.S. Department of State recognizes Mozambique as a “source, transit, and destination” for trafficked victims with the city of Maputo linked to rings reaching South Africa. In addition to the orphaned population, individuals with albinism identify as the most threatened population.

Unfortunately, weak infrastructure overshadows any successes the country made within 2020. While an action plan against human trafficking in Mozambique has emerged, the implementation of this policy generally fails to meet international standards and decrease the number of victims trafficked. However, 2020 witnessed an improvement in the prosecution of trafficking crimes and increased training for designated front-line workers to recognize and work on such cases. National awareness campaigns continue to bring this issue to light, exposing the presence of trafficking rings and highlighting the government’s goals to implement better policy.

Improving Education Standards

One government strategy involves developing new education standards, which requires a transformation of national infrastructure and policy. From 2014-2015, around 46.1% of the population lived in extreme poverty, an improvement from 2003 with 58.6% impoverished. Yet after two major tropical cyclones in 2019, UNFP reported that the economic situation had worsened considerably. Furthermore, the lack of economic security often results in the utilization of child labor to increase profits. While the solution to this issue is multifaceted, the nation is developing new ways to address it.

As the World Bank noted, Mozambique has begun a results-based approach to finance improvements with the intention of enhancing education and health through workforce development and the extension of education. Ideally, this will incentivize cities to implement these new educational strategies to send their children to school and equip them for the future. By providing Mozambican children with education and encouraging them to recognize that they are capable of more, they will have the ability to evade the common lures of human traffickers. When children attend school, they are less likely to feel forced into accepting any form of employment for survival and thus become less vulnerable targets for human trafficking rings.

Child Labor

In 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor stated that 22.5% of Mozambique’s population between the ages of 5 to 14 are working, while only 69.5% of children within this age group attend school. Of this 69.5%, only 52% complete their education. While the government has enacted policies such as the Prohibition of Child Trafficking in the most recent Penal Code that Mozambique enacted in June 2020 to push back against the predatory nature of human trafficking, the country has consistently struggled to adapt the infrastructure necessary to enforce these policies. The lack of manpower in the justice system limits its effectiveness and leaves a gap in Mozambique’s ability to prevent further trafficking.

Since child labor policies repeatedly fail to meet international standards, Mozambique has raised the legal working age to 15 years old to encourage children under this age to attend school. However, this gesture has proven ineffectual, as the lack of significant literacy improvement has shown — likely a result of an insufficient number of labor inspectors in ratio to the number of people in the workforce. As of October 2020, the Global Education Monitoring Report launched a program implementing new national and international education goals in Mozambique. These goals emphasize accountability measures to improve the availability and quality of education. “Inclusion and education: all without expectation” is a common theme throughout this report, signaling a desire to not only change the educational institutions but the social expectations.

Improving Female Education

Expanding education for women is one promising method of inclusion that has the potential to increase literacy. The disparity between the opportunities that men and women receive often leaves women vulnerable and void of choices regarding the direction of their lives. As many in Mozambique still consider child marriage a socially accepted practice, Girls often marry between the ages of 15 and 18, and after marriage, education is no longer an option. To encourage more consistent female enrollment in schools, the government must address child marriages and protect the rights of women to pursue academic careers. According to UNESCO, educating women builds lasting change because they can invest the money they earn into their children and prepare them for a more prosperous future.

The government in Mozambique must continue working to provide more effective means of identifying and protecting victims of human trafficking. However, the improvements already beginning in education signal the achievability of change and expanded hope for a bright future within Mozambique.

– Katherine Lucht
Photo: Unsplash

Human Trafficking In Egypt 
Child labor, sexual abuse of minors, the selling of human organs as well as different forms of prostitution are part of human trafficking in Egypt. For social scientists, police, law enforcement agencies and recovery facilities, human trafficking in Egypt is a major concern.

Targets

Human trafficking in Egypt has involved traffickers targeting domestic and international victims in recent years. About 32.5% of people in Egypt are living below the poverty line due to limited education and economic opportunity. This, in turn, is leading parents to sell their children, particularly girls. Child sex tourism is mainly taking place in Cairo, Alexandria and Luxor. People from the Arabian Gulf like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia purchase Egyptian women to use them as sex slaves.

In prostitution and forced begging, approximately 200,000 to 1 million street children in Egypt, both boys and girls, experience abuse and local gangs sometimes exploit these children. Egyptian children frequently end up working in intensive agricultural work, experiencing circumstances that suggest forced servitude, such as mobility limits, non-payment and sexual and physical abuse.

International Victims In Egypt

Human Trafficking in Egypt is also targeting men and women from Southeast Asia and other parts of the world. Ethiopians, Sudanese, Indonesians and Filipino women voluntarily relocate to Egypt and experience domestic forced labor. Several of the conditions they encounter include no holidays off, emotional harassment and income preservation.

Government Control

Egypt has regulations in place to prevent trafficking that prohibit foreigners from marrying an Egyptian woman if there is a gap in age of more than 10 years. However, marriage dealers have managed to find a way around this by altering birth certificates to ensure the girls look older and the men younger.

In 2010, the Egyptian government established a law to criminalize sex and labor traffickers and instituted punishments ranging from three to 15 years imprisonment and fines that were reasonably severe and justifiable. The punishment was for serious offenses such as rape with regard to sex trafficking.

In February 2020, 154 investigations into labor trafficking and alleged sex crimes occurred along with 22 sex trafficking cases. Among those 154 investigations that the media reported, the authorities arrested and detained four members of the crime organization that illegally sold Egyptian girls into marriages with wealthy Arab men. In the investigation of three other suspected cases of trafficking, the government also demanded judicial assistance from foreign countries, but it did not report any further information.

Child Labor in Egypt

Agricultural cooperatives in Egypt employ over 1 million children between the ages of 7 and 12 to manage cotton pests. Working for the Agriculture Ministry in Egypt, most are far below the minimum age of 12-years-old for agricultural work. They serve 11 hours a day with only a one to two-hour rest. About 1.15 million children work in rural areas, mainly in farming. However, they also work in local jobs or at industrial factories and frequently under hazardous conditions.

Children have also worked in the lighting industry and aluminum factories, as well as in building sites and for car repair service providers. The number of street children in Cairo has continued to increase in the presence of declining economic conditions according to government and media reports.

The Association of Egyptian Female Lawyers in Egypt

With a 130,864 EUR budget, The Association of Egyptian Female lawyers in Egypt has been trying to decrease the trafficking of women and children. It also focuses on providing women and children with support along with an escape to current and future victims in affected districts. It has built a network of trained attorneys, social workers and counselors to partner with NGOs and provide victims with recovery assistance and protection. The organization holds seminars to educate the public about the danger of human trafficking and how traffickers frequently target victims. It aims to provide abused women with legal support, grant them political and legal rights and combat all unjust laws and laws against women. The project receives funding from the Development Fund for African Women.

The Association of Egyptian Female lawyers in Egypt also significantly supports and empowers Egyptian women to participate in everyday civil life. In carrying out this project, the Association aims to carry out activities calling for fair gender opportunities. It also intends to eliminate the barriers that women face in achieving their social, political and economic rights.

Overall, human trafficking in Egypt requires attention in order to reduce it. If more organizations like The Association of Egyptian Female Lawyers in Egypt provide aid, they could save many lives and raise awareness.

– Rand Lateef
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in JamaicaA whole 2.8 million people live in poverty in Jamaica. The strain of poverty is heavy on all people, however, for children, it is more severe. Jamaica is yet to tackle the many factors impacting child poverty.

Facts About Child Poverty in Jamaica

  1. At least 25% of Jamaican children live under the poverty line. With the struggling economic state in Jamaica, it is difficult for the government to prioritize increasing investment in children. Instead, a large amount of the country’s national budget is dedicated to debt repayment. Because poverty is most widespread in rural Jamaica, hidden from the eyes of tourists, issues impacting children are rarely addressed.
  1. Jamaica does not have equal access to education. Minors living in rural areas may not have the option to attend school at all. While primary school is free, secondary and higher education is not, meaning that schooling beyond the primary level is often too expensive for underprivileged families. Beyond accessibility, Jamaican schools often lack resources for proper learning which means children are not able to thrive in an educational setting.
  1. Jamaica has a high incidence of HIV/AIDS affliction. This contributes to an overall high child mortality rate. In numbers, 10% of Jamaicans who have HIV/AIDS are under the age of 18, often as a result of mother-to-child transmission. In addition, AIDS deaths in adults result in many children becoming orphaned.
  1. High unemployment rates lead to unstable socio-economic conditions. Without a way to earn a stable income, many in Jamaica turn to gang activity and crime to survive. Exposure to extreme violence is common for Jamaican children, and because of high poverty levels, many young boys often join gangs themselves. In addition, many unemployed residents are forced to live without access to running water and proper sanitation which means children and families live in unacceptable conditions.
  1. Child labor is widespread and often essential for a family’s survival. With high poverty rates across Jamaica’s rural communities, some families must send their children to work, purely out of desperation. In cities, children are often seen selling merchandise, washing car windshields and begging for money. For many, living the life of a child is an unaffordable luxury.

The Jamaican Childcare and Protection Act

Jamaica still has some work to do in terms of protecting its children from the harsh realities of poverty. However, the country has progressed in this regard, by implementing crucial legislation for the protection of children. The Jamaican Childcare and Protection Act was passed in 2004 and promotes the safety and best interests of children in the country. The Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) and the Children’s Register was established under this Act. The OCA was established with the purpose of protecting and enforcing the rights of children and the Children’s Register consists of the information reported regarding suspected ill-treatment of a child. Child labor is also specifically addressed in the Act.

While child poverty in Jamaica is still a significant concern, the country has made progress and will continue to do so in the future as key issues affecting the country’s most vulnerable populations are addressed.

– Natasha Cornelissen
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in Madagascar
Madagascar is among the developing countries experiencing high rates of poverty. Child poverty in Madagascar remains a pressing issue as the living conditions continue to push children into taking on work. Below are a few facts about how child poverty leads to child labor and what initiatives some have taken to eliminate both child labor and child poverty in Madagascar.

Child Poverty Overview

According to the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2020 (MPI), estimates have determined that 70.7% of the Malagasy population is living under the national poverty line. Malagasy children under the age of 18 suffer the most from multidimensional poverty.

Also concluded in the MPI 2020 report, of the 75 countries measured, 60 experienced a reduction in multidimensional poverty which includes Madagascar. However, child poverty in Madagascar showed the slowest reduction compared to other age groups in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Child Poverty Normalizes Child Labor

As a consequence of widespread poverty, Malagasy children must work to support their families. With limited access to education and other social services, the families and children have little choice other than work.

As the Bureau of International Labor Affairs reported, 32% of children between the ages of 5 and 17 work in hazardous conditions. The data also indicates that 68.8% of children aged 5 to 14 attend school and 38.8% of children attending school are also working. The three main sectors in which Malagasy children work are agriculture, mining industry and services such as domestic work and market vending.

According to recent studies, many end up working in agriculture or in mining and brick-making. In the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2020 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor, Madagascar goods appear four times including vanilla, sapphire, stone and mica. Mica first emerged on this list in 2020. The U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) estimates that 10,800 children work in mica mining and sorting.

Solutions

In terms of policy and regulation, Madagascar has met all international standards on child labor since 2018. Extensive policies such as the National Action Plan to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor noted the government efforts. Although this is the case, enforcement of such laws and regulations remains weak. The Madagascar Ministry of Mines expressed that it was aware of the problem but lacked the resources for better regulation.

How the International Community Helps Reduce Child Labor

To counteract the lack of resources and weak enforcement, international organization and governments have implemented social programs addressing child labor in Madagascar and other effects of multidimensional poverty throughout the country.

Some notable programs include the Social Support and Reintegration Centers and the UNICEF Country Program. International organizations like the ILO, UNICEF and the World Bank support these projects.

SAVABE

Powerful countries like the U.S. also hold important roles in some of these projects. For example, USDOL funds a $4 million ILO project called Supporting Sustainable and Child Labor Free Vanilla-Growing Communities in the Sava region (SAVABE). SAVABE aims to reduce child labor in the production of vanilla.

To achieve its objectives, the project works with vanilla exporters to implement anti-child labor policies. In addition, the project trains local authorities to enforce child labor laws and develop a child labor database. The community outreach part of the project creates child protection committees to provide educational services. To improve child poverty in Madagascar, the project also provides vocational training programs targeting 15,000 impoverished households.

According to the 2019 SAVABE Project Interim Evaluation, the vocational programs extended to 9,893 households. The programs had 140 children aged 14 to 17 enrolled. Along with collaboration with local authorities on formulating and enforcing child labor policies, SAVABE also implemented local enforcement training, which had 48 participants in 2018.

The evaluation report concluded that the project had insufficient evidence to indicate improvement in living conditions due to incomplete implementation. However, there are enough indications to show that continued effort and complete implementation can lead to a reduction of child labor in Madagascar.

Looking Ahead

Continued support at the international front is evidently critical to the successful implementation of policy and social projects. For example, the operation and continuation of the SAVABE project depend on U.S. foreign aid which demonstrates the importance of funding to global poverty initiatives. International efforts like SAVABE contribute to protection from child exploitation and ultimately toward total eradication of child poverty in Madagascar.

To ensure the continuation of these projects, email Congress now in support of protection of the International Affairs Budget.

– Malala Raharisoa Lin
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in ArgentinaPrior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many children in Argentina had been living in poverty. The pandemic has caused numbers to soar due to its many negative effects. When considering the long-term presence and future impacts caused by poverty, it is all the more critical to help the children in this country, and around the world. This article highlights facts about child poverty in Argentina, as well as some organizations on the ground helping such children.

The Current Situation

There has never been a more critical time for action than now. UNICEF estimates that 63% of Argentinian children will be living in poverty by the end of 2020, due to COVID-19. In August of 2019, child poverty reached over 50%, with 13% of children in a state of hunger. As compared to the year prior, this is an 11% increase. UNICEF estimates that at the end of 2020, there will be an increase of 18.7% in extreme poverty among children and teenagers.

Stats

The above figures depict that one in every two Argentinian children lives in poverty, which amounts to five million children. One million of these children are homeless. Those who do have homes often deal with rough home lives. Many children are subject to child labor, which includes work as domestics or “house slaves.” These children end up working in illegal textile workshops, mining, construction, or agriculture. The exploitation of child labor is commonly related to sexual exploitation. In response, Argentina has passed laws and social programs to end child labor and sexual exploitation. However, the fight to end these practices must continue.

When not at home, (only a few) children received a formal education. As of 2017, nearly 20% of Argentinian children do not attend school. After the collapse of the economy nearly 20 years ago, funding for education was heavily reduced. Children living in poverty were the first to be affected, as they had to work in order to provide for their families. There are also issues with violence occurring in schools. Bodily punishment still takes place when young school children misbehave, which can develop into behavioral problems and the belief that violence is the norm.

As compared to the rest of the population, Native children are at high risk for poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment. For example, in the province of Tucumán, the Indigenous children and families live well below the poverty line and have also suffered illegal evictions from their ancestral lands. Additionally, these children are exposed to violence, malnutrition, disease, and a lack of proper education.

Aid

Child poverty in Argentina seems rather defeating based on these statistics. However, there are multiple organizations that are on the ground fighting for the human rights, safety, health, and happiness of Argentinian children.

One is Mensajeros de la Paz, a temporary home for vulnerable girls. Another is the Sumando Manos Foundation, which extends pediatric visits out to more than 7,000 at-risk children and their communities. The foundation also supplies food, provides critical medical and dental attention, and teaches fundamental health care. There is also Fundacion Oportunidad. This organization increases opportunities for economic and social integration of young Argentinian women in a situation of social vulnerability. Involvement in these organizations, as well as donation opportunities, are endless.

There are five dimensions of well-being that are vital to the success of childhood development. They are adequate nutrition, education, safe areas to live and play, access to health services, and financial stability. The fight cannot stop until there is an end to child poverty in Argentina and until each child has access to a self, healthy life.

Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

Ending Child Labor in cocoaGhana and Côte d’Ivoire are responsible for collecting around 70% of the world’s supply of cocoa beans and the industry as a whole is worth over $100 billion. However, despite the economic importance of cocoa farming for these nations, there has been controversy surrounding the people doing the farming. A large proportion of those working at these cocoa farms are children, some as young as 5 years old. These children are subjected to health and safety hazards in the form of unsafe pesticides and dangerous tools. They are also exploited and paid less than adults doing the same job. Additionally, this practice pulls children away from possible education. In a broad sense, this issue of child labor in cocoa production has gone unsolved and ignored by the governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire as well as the companies profiting off of the work. The World Cocoa Foundation has asserted its commitment to ending child labor in cocoa production.

Child Labor in Cocoa Farms

According to a recent study done by NORC, the number of children working in cocoa farms has not been improving and could possibly have increased in the past few years. It found that nearly 45% of children living in agricultural homes of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire work in cocoa production. This adds up to about  1.5 million children. The same study found that in the last decade, the proportion of child labor in cocoa production has increased from 31% to 45%. As the cocoa industry continues to rapidly grow, there are no signs that child labor will decrease unless there is immediate and substantial intervention.

Past attempts to eradicate child labor in cocoa production have been poorly implemented. In 2001, a number of the largest producers of African cocoa agreed to end 70% of child labor by 2020. Significant progress toward this goal has not been achieved. A similar pledge was made in 2010 but has seen the same shortcomings. When asked of past failures in these areas, the president of the World Cocoa Foundation, Richard Scobey, said that targets were set “without fully understanding the complexity and scale” of issues of poverty and child labor in these African countries. With studies by the NORC and other groups, it seems as though the issues are better understood now than they were in past decades.

Response by the World Cocoa Foundation

In October 2020, the World Cocoa Foundation responded to the situation of child labor in cocoa farming. The Foundation came out strongly against the practice of child labor in cocoa production and set new goals to deal with the issue. Focused on Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, the first goal set is an increase in the availability of anti-child labor monitoring to 100% of locations and farms by 2025.

The World Cocoa Foundation has also announced other efforts to combat child labor that include efforts from companies, the governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and other stakeholders. Firstly, the Living Income Differential pricing policy is expected to provide $1.2 billion in additional revenue for cocoa farmers. For children specifically, the government of Côte d’Ivoire will launch a $120 million pooled funding facility for primary education that aims to reach five million children, with $25 million expected from the cocoa industry. Additionally, to boost household incomes and yields, leading companies will supply training, coaching or farm development plans to local farmers.

The Road Ahead

Past attempts to end child labor show that the situation in the cocoa industry is severe and complicated and therefore must be prioritized. As the World Cocoa Foundation recommits to ending child labor in cocoa production, collaboration and commitment will serve as important factors for the success of the endeavor.

– Matthew McKee
Photo: Flickr

The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to nations all over the world, but especially in the global south. India, for example, has an enormous population of 1.3 billion people, with labor forces large enough to create the world’s fifth largest economy. However, as of September 3rd, total confirmed cases across the country had reached 3.85 million, with 67,376 total deaths. As COVID-19 spreads throughout India, it leaves behind long-term effects on issues from medical resources to economic scarcity. 

Income and Unemployment

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic in India, economic disparity existed in many forms. In 2019, the average per capita monthly income was approximately 10,534 Indian Rupees. To put this in perspective, 10,534 Indian Rupees equals $143.42 USD, meaning the annual income of the average Indian citizen was just $1,721.04. Over the past 5 years, India’s unemployment rate has been increasing steadily, but in April 2020, skyrocketed to 23.5%. Factories and construction sites, known for housing and feeding temporary employees, threw their workers onto the streets. 95% percent of employed women worked in informal positions, many let go as households and businesses determined outside workers were too dangerous. As restrictions are slowly lifting across the country, frightened people return to work, since the fear of starvation holds more weight than fear of infection. 

Lack of Medical Resources

For those in need of COVID-19 medical care, options for help are slim. According to reports from the New York Times, public hospitals are so immensely overwhelmed that doctors have to treat patients in the hallways. For those with non-COVID related medical needs, options are almost nonexistent. On March 24th, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that to “save India”, a nationwide lockdown on all nonessential surgeries was necessary. For Ravindra Nath Singh, a 76-year-old man with Parkinson’s, this meant being discharged from the ICU in a hospital in Lucknow, just minutes after becoming stable on a catheter and feeding tube. For a young woman in New Delhi, this meant eight hospitals turning her away while in labor for 15 hours, only to die in the back of an ambulance.

Child Labor and Education

The spread of COVID-19 in India forced schools to shut down, proving unhelpful to their already existing struggle for attendance. According to a study in 2018 by DHL International GmBH, India hosts the highest population of uneducated children with an intimidating 56 million children not in school. As restrictions across the country lift, one of the biggest hurdles will be encouraging enrollment, especially with uncertain learning conditions. Enrollment hesitation enables another widespread issue in India: child labor. Experts claim the biggest spike in child labor is yet to come, as immense economic losses will compel large corporations to seek cheap labor.  

The lack of in-person education has also proven to have a significant impact on child mental health. 12-year-old Ashwini Pawar once dreamt of being a teacher, but now must reconsider her life’s ambition. In an interview with TIME magazine, she considers her family financial burdens, “even when [school] reopens I don’t think I will be able to go back…”. This mentality pushes concerns of economic inequality, as this pandemic might destroy great strides made over the past decade.         

Deaths and Infection Rates

In very little time, India has become the new epicenter of the Coronavirus. The daily number of confirmed cases shot from about 40,000 to 80,000 in just a few weeks. Unlike most of the world, this virus is heavily affecting the workforce demographic. More than 50% of COVID-19 deaths in India have occurred between the ages of 40 – 64, an interesting contrast to developed countries where 70% of deaths have occurred in age groups 70 and older. According to Sanjay Mohanty, a lead scientific author from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, this contrast is due to India’s age distribution. Mohanty states, “the median age in the country is 24 years and therefore more younger people are available for virus transmission…”. Unfortunately, the road to recovery is a long one, as millions of people are still susceptible to infection. 

The Good News

Despite the seemingly daunting situation, there are many reasons to have hope for India. Well-known charities such as Unicef and Give2Asia have focused aid on India, pushing their needs into the limelight. Newly-risen charities are also making impressive strides on the ground. Snehalaya ‘Home of Love’ is a charity based out of Ahmadnagar dedicated to feeding poor families during the pandemic. In Ahmadnagar’s 17 official slums, Snehalaya has fed over 17,000 families and raised over $80,000 of aid in just 6 months.

Hope also goes beyond organized help. As seen in various reports, neighbors are sharing all types of resources, from food to hygiene products. Global pandemic or not, India’s path to healing is futile without charity aid and attention.

—Amanda J Godfrey
Photo: Flickr

Future of the Garment Industry
Khadi Oaxaca is a small nonprofit with a big goal: community-based sustainable development. Comprising more than 400 families in Oaxaca, Mexico, this fabric and clothing producer is both contributing to local progress and taking part in a larger movement challenging what the future of the garment industry will look like. Seeking inspiration from the past, this avant-garde project has surprising roots in a tradition from across the globe.

Mahatma Gandhi’s Khadi Movement

Khadi refers to hand-spun, hand-woven Indian cloth. In 1918, Mahatma Gandhi began promoting khadi production as a means for impoverished individuals living in rural India to achieve economic self-sufficiency and consequently, liberation from dependence on British textiles. Khadi soon became a symbol of Indian national pride and the Indian independence movement at large.

Khadi Makes its Way to Mexico

Three decades after India gained its independence, Mark “Marcos” Brown—the man who co-founded the Khadi Oaxaca project—visited San Sebastián Río Hondo in Oaxaca. He subsequently traveled to India, where he lived in the Gandhi ashram for two years, learning about both the history of khadi and how to spin and weave the cloth. When he returned to Oaxaca in the 1990s, he brought with him a Gandhian spinning wheel and began teaching the other villagers, including the Ramírez family, how to use it.

In 2010, Brown, his wife Kalindi Attar and the Ramírez family laid the foundations of what would become Khadi Oaxaca. Together, they built what they hoped could be an alternative to conventional production for the future of the garment industry. They hosted a cotton-spinning workshop with more than 30 women from the town. In 2014, members of the group began designing clothing and using plant-based dyes. Today, the affiliation consists of spinners, weavers and embroiderers, as well as growers along the Oaxaca coast who supply cotton to these artisans.

Farm-to-Garment Economics

Khadi Oaxaca’s farm-to-garment model provides crucial income to indigenous Zapotec families living in the agrarian villages of Oaxaca. Though recent data is difficult to come by, Sedesol, the department of the Mexican Secretary of Social Development, reported in 2010 that more than 55% of the population of San Sebastián Río Hondo was living in extreme poverty. By promoting a “thread standard,” Khadi Oaxaca managers raised the market value of a kilogram of thread from 400 pesos ($18 USD) in 2010 to 1,500 pesos ($70 USD) today, enough to meet spinners’ basic needs of survival and incentivize the practice of spinning. The integrated supply chain offers autonomy and provides a reliable source of revenue that has only become increasingly important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More Than Just Cloth: An Ethical, Sustainable Alternative

However, Khadi Oaxaca is about more than just business. The company aims to provide an example of cottage industry production as an alternative to today’s fashion industry, which is too-often exploitative of both natural and human resources. The fashion industry is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply and produces 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions. Moreover, the equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second, amounting to 85% of textiles ending up in landfills every year. Furthermore, human rights abuses within the garment industry are rampant.

Fast fashion–inexpensive clothing produced rapidly in response to fleeting trends–is possible only through the employment of low-paid factory workers, a workforce that includes mostly females and may employ 16.7 million children in South Asia alone. Child labor is a major issue in Mexico as well, with several nonprofits currently working to eradicate its presence specifically from the fashion supply chain.

Weaving Sustainable Development

 Khadi Oaxaca believes that garment producers and consumers can and should do better. The company sources its organic cotton from local farmers along the Oaxaca coast and uses plant-based, regionally harvested dyes–never chemicals. While the project remains a small-scale one, it hopes to function as an archetype for what the future of the garment industry could be: an environmentally-friendly industry that supports the livelihood of its workers and delivers beautiful, high-quality clothing to consumers.

– Margot Seidel
Photo: Pixabay

Ikea’s Second-Hand Furniture
Starting November 27, 2020, Swedish furniture giant IKEA will start its unique buy-back scheme. The idea is to allow customers to return IKEA products, receive a voucher in return for the exchange, then resell the furniture pieces at 50% of the original price. Spanning across 27 different countries, IKEA is trying to take a stand against the excessive consumption trends that Black Friday promotes. This scheme displays a prime example of how IKEA has increasingly involved itself in the humanitarian sector, and actively fights against environmental challenges, poverty and unsustainable living practices. IKEA’s second-hand furniture store initiative is just one example of these efforts.

How IKEA’s Second-Hand Furniture Store Initiative Works

IKEA plans on taking back unmodified, clean upholstery products. It will then resell these products in the AS-IS department or it will recycle them if it deems them unsellable. In late 2020, IKEA’s first entirely second-hand furniture opened in Eskilstuna, Sweden; the overarching purpose of the buy-back scheme and the second-hand store in Sweden is to push toward the company’s goal of becoming a completely circular and climate-positive business by 2030. Not only do these initiatives help the environment, but they also benefit people around the world in poverty. The staggering price drop on repurposed furniture will greatly benefit those who typically could not afford furniture pieces. Considering the great range of this global initiative, lower socioeconomic classes will greatly benefit from this second-hand furniture scheme.

IKEA’s Humanitarian Work

IKEA has been gradually increasing its presence in the humanitarian sector, from its support of organizations such as UNICEF and Save the Children to the opening of its own advocacy humanitarian organization called the IKEA Foundation. Grounded in the IKEA Foundation Ethical Framework, the company prioritizes cost-consciousness, responsibility, leadership, renewability and caring for people and the planet. The IKEA Foundation strongly supports many causes, such as:

  • The Environment: IKEA is calling on governments, corporations and philanthropic groups to help reverse the damage that people have done to the environment.
  • Agricultural Livelihoods: IKEA values planet-positive approaches to agriculture that regenerates resources, enhances biodiversity and improves farmers’ incomes.
  • Renewable Energy: IKEA invests in renewable energy programs in parts of Africa and Asia that center their work around people living in poverty.
  • Special Initiatives & Emergency Responses: The corporation provides unrestricted emergency funding to its partner organizations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
  • Employment and Entrepreneurship: IKEA invests in programs that aid youth, women and refugees who face employment barriers in East Africa and South Asia. It also supports the expansion of existing and growing businesses.

Preventing Child Labor

One particularly inspiring cause of the IKEA Foundation is to eliminate and prevent child labor across the world. The IKEA Foundation contributed to the efforts of Save the Children and UNICEF to reach children in 25,000 villages in Pakistan and India, and as a result, was able to help 16 million at-risk children in 2017. Another example of IKEA’s passion for helping the less fortunate was in 2009 when it donated $48 million to UNICEF to promote the survival of India’s most vulnerable populations of women and children. It raised this large sum through an IKEA Social Initiative, which fights for every at-risk child’s right to a healthy childhood and secure education.

IKEA has shown its ability to generate substantial results through its various humanitarian initiatives. With a variety of motivations behind its advocacy actions, ranging from climate sustainability to child poverty, the furniture company has shown that it is using its corporate success to aid in global issues. The buy-back scheme is yet another example of the company utilizing its global presence; while the initiative spans 27 countries, many people of lower socioeconomic classes, as well as the environment, will benefit from IKEA’s second-hand furniture scheme.

– Hope Shourd
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is among one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere. In fact, child poverty in Nicaragua impacts one out of two children. Nicaragua’s population is young; out of 6 million people, 2 million are school-age children. To tackle the issue of child poverty, the Nicaraguan government has promised to create more access to education, sanitation and food security.

Nicaragua has a long history of chronic poverty. For much of the 20th century, the country was under a dictatorship. A revolution beginning in the late 1970s further decimated the well-being of many throughout the 1980s. The revolution ended with thousands dead and a need for Nicaragua to rebuild itself.

Child Poverty in Nicaragua

Child poverty in Nicaragua remains a critical issue. According to UNICEF, 50% of Nicaraguan children live in poverty, with 19% of them in extreme poverty. Furthermore, child poverty is much more prevalent on the Atlantic coast of the country. About 58% of children on the Atlantic coast had completed six years of primary education as opposed to 72% for the country as a whole. Moreover, 500,000 Nicaraguan children do not attend school at all, mainly because of the cost of education and the need to support their families.

When families need financial support, many children and adolescents have no choice but to enter the workforce. An estimated 250,000 to 320,000 Nicaraguans are child laborers. Some children work in sugar cane fields and mines, creating a dangerous work environment for them. In addition to child labor, human trafficking is a growing issue impacting young girls.

Preventing Child Labor

To curtail child poverty, the Nicaraguan government has signed agreements to make sure companies do not hire child workers. In 2019, the Nicaraguan government and private employers have signed 6,129 cooperative agreements that prevent the hiring of children laborers. The U.S. Department of Labor has found that the Nicaraguan government has done little to actually reduce young children in the workforce. However, the international community has been pressuring the country to be more aggressive in diminishing child labor.

Improving Education

An area of increased government involvement is in educational spending. Accepting the help of supranational organizations, such as The World Bank, the country has invested in education. The Alliance for Education Quality Project for Nicaragua has helped fund the training of primary school teachers and the construction of forty schools. Over 1,250 teachers received mentoring and more than 9,000 pre-school teachers obtained training. Additionally, the project supplied materials and equipment for the staff and students. Construction of most of the schools occurred in rural areas, improving these communities’ access to education.

Reducing the Infant Mortality Rate

The infant mortality rate is high, with child poverty in Nicaragua being the culprit. According to UNICEF, 74% of Nicaraguans use standard sanitation services and 52% have access to clean drinking water. Furthermore, 40% of children under 5 are malnourished. The Nicaraguan government and The World Bank have created strategies to tackle these issues. The Sustainable Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (WSS) Sector Project (PROSASR), provided rural communities with adequate infrastructure for sanitation. Furthermore, access to food and clean drinking water has also seen improvements. The Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast Food Security Project has invested in agricultural and fishery techniques for farmers and improved socio-environmental practices. Impacting mostly rural communities, food security increased with 33% of beneficiaries being the youth.

Political and economic instability, stemming from the civil war, has created chronic child poverty in Nicaragua. Nonetheless, Nicaragua has implemented changes, with the help of the World Bank, to decrease the child poverty rate.

– Andy Calderon
Photo: Unsplash