Information and stories addressing children.

Education in Guinea-BissauWith a population of 1.8 million, about 69% of people in Guinea-Bissau live below the poverty line and 25% experience chronic malnutrition. In addition to working toward reducing poverty, there is a focus to improve education in Guinea-Bissau, which faces many struggles, including low enrollment rates, limited financial support and gender inequality.

Education Statistics in Guinea-Bissau

In Guinea-Bissau, the literacy rate is around 53%. Only 30% of children begin school at the specified age of six. According to a study conducted by UNICEF, as a result of late enrollment, a significant proportion of children in lower primary grades are overage. As of 2010, 62% of children finished their basic education. About 14% of those in grade one end up completing grade 12. Additionally, out of the 55% of children who attend secondary school, about 22% complete it. As of 2014, the net primary school attendance was 62.4%. Lack of accessibility to school, especially in terms of secondary education outside of urban areas, contributes to these statistics.

Schools also receive insufficient funds for quality education and have to rely on families for support. Adequate standards for physical school buildings and textbooks are also lacking. Teachers tend to lack a proper level of competency in regard to the subject they teach and have insufficient teaching materials. According to a text published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “At a level corresponding to the fifth year of primary education, teachers fail to answer a quarter of the questions on Portuguese and under a half of those in mathematics arising from the syllabus for their pupils.” Furthermore, many schools fail to offer a full curriculum and 46% of teaching days from 2016 to 2017 were lost because of teacher strikes. More than 20% of students aged 7 to 14 years old reside over half an hour from a school and distance decreases their likelihood of attending. Furthermore, many students, the majority being girls, drop out of school due to early marriage and child labor.

Gender Inequality

A gender gap is prevalent within Guinea-Bissau’s education system. Of children aged 10 to 11 years old, 17.5% of boys are not attending school as opposed to 25.7% of girls. Among impoverished families, boys are 1.8 more likely to reach grade six than girls. In general, boys are 1.5 times more likely than girls to take part in General Secondary Education. Moreover, boys obtain 59% of public resources for education, while girls get 41%.

The gender inequality in Guinea-Bissau’s education system leads to consequences, such as child marriage among girls. About 54% of women without an education experienced child marriage, as opposed to the 9% of women who achieved secondary education or higher. The average age of a woman without education for the first delivery of a child is 18.2 years old as opposed to 21.4 years old for a woman who studied for 14 years. Women who received an education of 14 years have an average of about 1.2 kids. On the other hand, women without education have an average of 3.3 children.

Decreasing the gender gap in Guinea-Bissau’s education system would lead to benefits for not only women but the entirety of the population. Women who achieve higher education are 50% likely to vaccinate their children under the age of 5, whereas the likelihood for women without an education is 26%. Furthermore, the likelihood of women who did not attend school using a net to prevent malaria for their children under the age of 5 is 71%, as opposed to 81% among women who studied for at least six years.

The Quality Education for All Project

In July 2018, the World Bank developed the Quality Education for All Project in Guinea-Bissau. The goal of the Project is to improve the overall environment of schools for students from grade one to grade four. Through the Project, the World Bank aims to reduce teacher strikes by providing training. The World Bank also plans to update the curriculum taught as well as educational supplies and materials. Furthermore, the Project encourages greater community involvement in the management of schools.

UNICEF’s Educational Efforts

UNICEF aims to improve the quality of education in Guinea-Bissau, especially with regard to early childhood, through partnership and the rehabilitation of classrooms. Alongside PLAN international, Handicap International and Fundação Fé e Cooperação (FEC), UNICEF monitors schools by training 180 inspectors who are responsible for over 1,700 schools. The monitors focus on teacher attendance as well as the process in the classroom. In order to establish standards, such as National Quality Standards and Early Learning Development Standards, UNICEF also partnered with the Ministry of Education. UNICEF launched Campaign “6/6” to encourage the enrollment of children in school beginning at age 6 and maintaining their attendance throughout primary education.

Response to COVID-19

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE), which coordinates with UNICEF, allocated $3.5 million to Guinea-Bissau for a COVID-19 response from 2020 to 2021. Through its grant, GPE plans to achieve greater health standards in schools and training among community members to increase awareness of COVID-19 prevention. GPE also supports a radio distance education program as well as a distance program that addresses gender-based violence and the inclusion of children with disabilities. UNICEF broadcasts programs three times a day for radio distance learning. Additionally, GPE aims to assess preschool and primary age students to gather further information about learning loss and to create a program for children out of school.

– Zoë Nichols
Photo: Flickr

Deworming PillsThis July, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) published data from a longitudinal research study that looked at how deworming Kenyan children affected their economic outcomes. Youths took deworming medication under professional supervision and were revisited 20 years later by researchers. Economists used these findings to estimate the impact of deworming pills. They find an enormous effect: taking deworming pills during childhood boosts household income by as much as 13% in adulthood.

NBER Research

Deworming has a positive effect on children’s education; reducing absenteeism and dropping out of school. However, this study finds that in addition to, and perhaps as a result of improved education, deworming increases the likelihood of working in nonagricultural jobs with higher incomes. If students are healthier from a younger age and succeed in school, they have a higher chance of bettering their futures. However, it must be noted that the study only found this future income boost applied to men, suggesting that although deworming medicine increases better education, it does not improve economic mobility for women. Further research is necessary to study this gender gap and its causes.

Further Research

The World Health Organization (WHO) and The World Bank have been funding the distribution of deworming pills in Africa for many years now. In sub-Saharan Africa, there are high infection rates of intestinal worms, especially among school-age children. Worms stunt children’s development and affect their ability to function. Deworming kids is inexpensive, and it results in healthier individuals and communities. Additionally, when previous generations are treated, the current generations are shown to reap the benefits. With deworming programs having such clear positive results, many organizations such as the WHO support and supply school-based deworming in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as other developing countries.

Deworming pills cost less than a dollar per child treated, so the return on deworming programs is enormous. For instance, the NBER study predicts a 37% return on deworming investments. However, these researchers acknowledge that there is a low chance this effect is statistically significant. In other words, they may have vastly overstated the effect of deworming pills on future outcomes.

Deworm the World

Hassenfeld is the co-founder of GiveWell, a nonprofit dedicated to finding and rating giving opportunities for donors. GiveWell backs an initiative called “Deworm the World,” which they consider a “priority program” because of how cheap deworming is and how beneficial the outcome may be. GiveWell also hires and trains monitors to attend schools, conduct training sessions, and implement distributions of deworming pills to students to ensure program efficiency.

Deworm the World spent $2.2 million more dollars in 2018 on deworming than in 2017. However, the company is continually seeking funding because they hope to expand its programs in Kenya, India, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Concluding Thoughts

This study suggests that deworming may strengthen entire communities over time, raising people out of poverty and improving their countries’ GDP. One study cannot completely explain the financial impact of deworming; however, it is clear that further research is needed and that children’s lives are being changed for the better. Previous research has shown that supporting healthcare systems and eradicating illnesses in developing countries leads to their growth and success. Similarly, deworming programs may play a big role in alleviating poverty in countries affected by intestinal worms.

– Giulia Silver
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Taiwan 
Taiwan is an island off the coast of China. Globally, it has received praise for its exceptionally low household poverty rate, which is under 1%. While child poverty in Taiwan is rare, further reducing it is a priority for the Taiwanese government.

Measurement Methodology

Taiwan uses an absolute threshold to calculate the poverty rate. The country uses estimated monthly living expenses calculated in each province for its measurement. For example, residents in Taipei, a highly urbanized city, must earn over $337 for them to be over the poverty line. On the other hand, residents only need to earn above $171 monthly on the small island of Kinmen County. Such geographically-adjusted measures help ensure that Taiwanese families in expensive areas can afford basic necessities, including food, clothing and shelter.

Successful Tactics

Economic downturns do not render Taiwan helpless, such as the one in 2013. Instead, the Taiwanese government quickly raised welfare spending to help people who lost their jobs when factories relocated to China. Additionally, Taiwanese banks gave out microloans with extremely low-interest rates to help families start businesses. To this day, organizations outside of the government also participate in the fight against child poverty in Taiwan.

The Taiwan Fund for Children and Families (TFCF) is an NGO dedicated to eradicating child poverty in Taiwan. This fund sponsored 48,601 children in Taiwan, and 66, 417 children abroad. TFCF began helping children in Taiwan in 1964 by building orphanages. It has since introduced Family Helper Programs and other programs to deliver donations to families in need of assistance. Similarly, TFCF has provided thousands of families with cash, supplies, emergency relief, vocational training and house repairs or reconstruction. Already, the TFCF appears to have helped successfully alleviate child poverty in Taiwan.

The global community can learn from Taiwan’s anti-poverty programs, which have almost completely weeded out child poverty in Taiwan. A recent study found that only 6% of Taiwanese children living in poverty — an already smaller group comparatively — experienced persistent poverty compared to 13.8% in the U.K. and 15.9% in Canada.

Room for Improvement

Child poverty in Taiwan is incredibly low due to effective country policies. However, there are a few areas where the state could improve. One problem is that many citizens make just above the poverty rate and are struggling to get by. Some of these families could earn more if they found lower-paying jobs and went on welfare.

Another problem is that a lot of immigrant families, particularly Southeast Asian immigrant families, primarily find low-skilled jobs and experience persistent discrimination. Similarly, many Aboriginal Taiwanese are also victims of racism, which can make it difficult to find jobs. This led to an approximated 60% poverty rate for Indigenous peoples in Taiwan. Every country, Taiwan included, could improve its anti-poverty strategy. Fortunately, the Taiwanese government is actively trying to help many of the groups that experience high levels of poverty.

Taiwan is one of the few countries in the world that retains a low poverty rate, particularly such a low child poverty rate. Taiwan can implement further improvements, but the country is a model for the international community in eradicating poverty.

Madelynn Einhorn
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Kenya
Charitable organizations and the Kenyan government have long recognized child poverty as a dire issue. Due to this recognition, Kenyan child poverty rates have steadily reduced since 2008. Meanwhile, governmental policies and constitutional highlights, along with funding and research headed by establishments like UNICEF, have improved the lives of countless children within Kenyan communities. UNICEF has conducted extensive research on the main causes of child poverty in Kenya. Its hope is that this research will be a basis for a change in child poverty reduction. Here are some of the main contributors that UNICEF has identified as factors relating to child poverty rates in Kenya.

4 Major Definers of Child Poverty in Kenya

  1. Poor Sanitation: Children living in Kenya often do not have access to proper plumbing facilities. Over half of individuals under 18 still lack this basic resource.
  2. Lack of Clean Water: Children, especially those living in rural areas, have a lack of access to water that is clean enough to drink. There are also many schools throughout Kenya that do not have drinking water for their students, which creates a high health risk.
  3. Lack of Education: Around 25% of the children living in Kenya have not been able to gain a decent education as of 2014. Along with this, many children who were attending school were in a class at the wrong learning level.
  4. Insufficient Housing: Many children in Kenya live in housing that has no insulation or ventilation. Lack of ventilation, in particular, can cause harmful air pollution sourced from cooking appliances.

The Basic Education Act

The government of Kenya has fulfilled many efforts to help with the eradication of child poverty over the years. The 2010 Kenyan Constitution made a point to emphasize that children have the right to basic needs including shelter, health care and food. It further stated that children should have access to free education at the basic level. Since 2010, the Kenyan government endorsed programs along with the passing of the Basic Education Act in 2013, ensuring that educational equality will truly occur within the country. Due to this emphasis, the number of educated children rose 11% by the year 2014.

The Food and Nutrition Policy

In 2011, the Food and Nutrition Policy emerged in Kenya with the objective of creating food equity for all citizens. This policy has helped improve food access within the country by making it more abundant and making sure that Kenyan citizens received education about proper food consumption. For infants, the nutrition policy targeted the reduction of women’s workload so that they could be more available to breastfeed their children. Breast milk substitutes also experienced more marketing because of this policy. For children in school, the 2011 policy ensured that government-run educational facilities provided meals and integrated them into school days. This policy also established programs for young women in need of nutrient supplementation before pregnancy.

Kenya’s National Nutrition Action Plan

Kenya’s National Nutrition Action Plan occurred from 2012 to 2017. This plan focused on the education of governmental policymakers by emphasizing the correlation between food security and the many factors that contribute to child poverty in Kenya. It also highlighted nutrition as a fundamental and constitutional human right.

One key initiative that the National Nutrition Plan promoted was the increased awareness of the benefits of lobbying for greater nutritional funding. This plan included 11 key elements, all of which highlighted the improvement of nutritional status and education on proper nutrition for women and children in Kenya. This plan further ensured that each of its key elements received implementation and support through various agencies, with government planning and budgeting processes accounting for each agency. A result of these implemented strategies included a raise from 39% to 67% of children eating three or more food groups in a day.

Save the Children’s Efforts

Save the Children is a program that has worked toward the direct relief of child poverty in Kenya since around 1950. Along with a variety of resources providing services, this organization has worked to establish and grow women and youth programs in Kenya. These programs directly improve income within households, job prospects for children’s futures and overall nutrition in children. Save the Children has also worked to help improve livestock conditions. The prosperity of livestock has a large correlation with sustainable incomes for many households in Kenya. These households have thus been able to provide stability for their developing children.

Sustainable Development Objectives

While a lot of work has already occurred to help solve child poverty in Kenya, organizations like the UN are working to support 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to help eradicate almost all child resource injustices by 2030. Most of the UN’s funding is going towards a movement towards ending hunger/poverty while providing a decent health care system for all citizens. Through the utilization of the strengths of many countries and their leaders, the UN is hopeful that it will be able to tackle its goal of making Kenya a more holistic country in which to grow.

– Olivia Bay
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Ghana
Human trafficking is a wicked global business that involves kidnapping people for slavery, forced labor or exploitation, robbing millions of people (largely women and kids) of their homes. Many children experience human trafficking in Ghana.

Human Trafficking in Ghana

Human trafficking in Ghana is a nationwide affair but is more prominent in the Volta region and the oil-producing Western region. Research from August 2016 reported that 35.2% of households consisted of trafficked children with 18% working in the fishing industry, 10% in domestic servitude and a few reports of early and forced marriage.

Since 2002, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), along with several NGOs and international organizations, has aimed to combat human trafficking in Ghana. These organizations mainly work towards rescuing, sheltering and rehabilitating victims.

The Importance of Community Outreach and Education

International Organization for Migration (IOM) organizes programs in the Volta, Central, Greater Accra and Brong-Ahafo Regions of Ghana to strengthen the ties between communities to effectively condemn and prosecute traffickers, provide intensive care for distressed victims and prevent trafficking altogether. The programs intend to educate the villagers about the dangers of child trafficking, international and national legislation on child rights and human trafficking as a culpable offense.

Traffickers do not always realize the immorality of keeping the kids away from their parents and schools. “For instance, Benjamin Tornye, a fisherman for 15 years, used to visit parents and ask them if their children could help him with his work. As he said, “children are good fishers.” He would teach them how to use the boat, swim and dive, and he believed he was doing the right thing.”

Therefore, rescuing trafficked children is much more than just freeing them from the clasps of exploitation. To make a real impact, the authorities must sensitize and educate people about human-trafficking; and create and maintain a peaceful environment for the well-being of the children.

Rehabilitation and Reintegration

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and APPLE, a Ghanaian NGO founded in 1977, both rescue children from trafficking and bring them back to their families. Rescued children first go to a government-run shelter for up to three months before they reunite with their parents. At the shelter, they receive medical checks, health treatment, psychological counseling and basic education.

Additionally, a clinical psychologist inspects the victims to identify the ill-treatment that they have experienced which informs the creation of a personalized plan for rehabilitation. Next, the children attend school or undertake an apprenticeship with the necessary supplies. Otherwise, if they are fortunate enough, they go back home to their parents.

The children who return to their parents get to fulfill the fundamental right of all the children in this world: to grow up with a family. The authorities organize a background test and a compatibility test to ensure that the caretakers are suitable before handing over the child.

The development of the kids –in the family environment, school and apprenticeship– receives monitoring over a period of 2.5 years to ensure the safety and well-being of the child. Further, watchdog groups and surveillance teams have merged to prevent re-trafficking of children. Parents also receive livelihood assistance upon the homecoming of the children.

International Organization for Migration (IOM) educates the locals, national government officials, and the traffickers about the appalling effects of human-trafficking on a child. Further, it raises awareness on the issue and encourages a shift in the mindset of the people.

Accomplishments

With these wonderful initiatives and generous donations by people and organizations from all over the world, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), along with its partner NGOs, has been able to help victims of human trafficking in small ways.

As of now, IOM has rescued 732 trafficked children in Ghana and rehabilitated and reintegrated them into their respective communities. Additionally, of these children, 690 have been able to attend school with 20 graduating high school. Moreover, 10 have completed apprenticeships and are supporting themselves now, while 191 children have been able to reintegrate due to the sponsorship of private donors.

Beyond the apparent benefits to child victims of human trafficking, IOM has aided in other ways as well. In fact, it has granted education regarding trafficking to 130 communities and 48,533 community members. It has also benefitted 468 parents/guardians of trafficked children with micro-business assistance.

Finally, IOM has offered training to 50 social workers in the rehabilitation of child and adult victims of trafficking. It has also provided technical assistance in capacity-building on human trafficking issues to 150 government officials from the Police, Immigration, Naval and Judicial Services.

Government Support

The Government of Ghana introduced several policies, legislation and programs to address the main grounds of human trafficking. Consequently, to set up an all-inclusive approach, the government devised the Human Trafficking Act, 2005 (Act 694), providing a robust authorized framework to prevent human trafficking, prosecute the perpetrators and protect the victims.

The government of Ghana and the NGOs have had a modest impact in curbing the enormity of human trafficking by implementing preventive strategies. The government successfully established a capable board and conducting training sessions for law enforcement, immigration officials and the citizenry. Despite the best efforts to eradicate human trafficking and persecute domestic and international offenders, the number of human trafficking cases remains disappointingly high.

– Prathamesh Mantri
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in HaitiHaiti, a small country that borders the Dominican Republic on the Hispaniola island, suffers greatly from poverty. Natural disasters, systemic inequality and diminishing economic opportunities create a dire state of extreme poverty. Specifically, child poverty in Haiti is the major poverty crisis.

Over half of Haiti’s 11.2 million population live on less than $3 a day, and malnutrition affects 65,000 children under five. Many children under 14 — over a third of Haiti’s population — do not have ready access to health care, clean water, food security or the right to fair and decent work. The question stands: What does child poverty in Haiti look like today, and what obstacles persist in ending it?

It’s easy to forget that statistics reflect the experience of real, living people. Please keep this in mind. Considering this, here are five facts about child poverty in Haiti.

The Statistical Perspective

  1.  Caloric and nutritive malnutrition affects nearly a third of children in Haiti. Out of every five children, one child is malnourished and one out of 10 is acutely malnourished. Before the age of five, one child out of 14 will die. Those who live deal with the effects of inadequate food supplies. Poor access to vital nutrients means that children are subject to poor health, growth and development.
  2. Despite Haiti’s free publication education, only half of elementary-aged children are enrolled in school. Millions of disadvantaged parents have very few with little resources to secure education for their children. This is a result of Haiti privatizing 92% of schools.
  3.  Nearly half a million children are orphaned in Haiti. A significant proportion of these “lost” children are exploited for labor in dangerous conditions. “Host households” take in children whose families cannot provide for them. Many of these children — known colloquially as “restaveks” — end up as victims of human trafficking.
  4.  Adequate health care is hard to come by in Haiti. Child immunization has stagnated at 41%. The proportion of children who die before their first birthday has risen by 2% in the last year – from 57% to 59%. HIV, tuberculosis, and a variety of other chronic, crippling diseases ail an estimated 20,000 children in Haiti, and treatment is increasingly difficult to obtain.

COVID-19

Haiti is particularly prone to natural disasters, in large part due to its geographical situation in the Bermuda. A magnitude 7.0 earthquake ravaged the island of Hispaniola in 2010. A slew of tropical storms, hurricanes and additional earthquakes further compromised Haiti. Nearly 10 years later, Haiti still struggles with recovering from its 2010 earthquake and hurricane Matthew alongside dealing with recent social unrest and COVID-19.

Humanitarian aid efforts are nearing an all-time high for the country, but the efficacy of these programs and endeavors has been questioned. The threats of COVID-19 aren’t the only ones Haiti must face. The future is increasingly uncertain for millions of Haitians and their children, due to equipment shortages, lack of qualified health care professionals and a worsening economic climate.

Ways to Help

What is there to do? Explore The Borgen Project’s homepage. From there, it’s easy to email and call representatives and leaders. There is the option to donate to the cause. For free, one can create momentum on social media to raise awareness about the dire situation in Haiti. A number of ways exist to combat child poverty in Haiti; it just takes action.

Henry Comes-Pritchett
Photo: Flickr

 

Open Heart OrphanageIn the midst of COVID-19 sweeping through Uganda, six children at Open Heart Orphanage have died. However, it was not the virus that claimed their lives. The tragic deaths were a result of hunger and fever, collateral effects of the pandemic.

Food Struggles During the Pandemic

The people of Uganda must fight to stay healthy during the pandemic as well as combat food insecurity. The issue of food affordability is not only an organic result of the pandemic. Back in April, four Ugandan government officials were arrested for conspiring to inflate COVID-19 relief food prices. The effects are far-reaching. According to UNICEF, 6.7 million children under the age of five could suffer from life-threatening malnutrition in 2020.

The Hidden Victims

Uganda has consistently ranked among the countries with the greatest number of orphaned children in the world, and it has not gone without its controversy. Last year, VICE reported that there are at least 300 “children’s homes” operating without government oversight. Four out of five of these orphans have at least one living parent. Questions arise over the exploitation of these children and the quality of the care they receive. During the coronavirus pandemic, the children are even more vulnerable. Orphans are oftentimes the faces of Facebook scams targeting donors from Western countries.

Children are the “hidden victims” of the virus. They are not particularly susceptible to contracting the disease, but they will be the ones to bear its effects on the social and economic systems. Domestic struggles within the family, surging food prices and a shortage of available medical care have led to malnutrition and displacement, especially in developing countries like Uganda. The result is many children are being left in orphanages.

Open Heart Orphanage

The Borgen Project interviewed Hassan Mubiru, a pastor at Open Heart Orphanage in Bulenga, Kampala, Uganda. Its mission is to help orphans experience a full and productive life. Currently, the organization serves 175 “needy” or orphaned children. The Christian nonprofit aims to provide these children with education, medical assistance, housing, clothing, food and water and the love of God. Due to the pandemic, there have been some obstacles in achieving these goals.

“Coronavirus has crippled most of our activities because we were absolutely unprepared when the lockdown was announced,” said Mubiru. The pastor explains that the organization has always worked below its budget and did not store supplies ahead of time. When COVID-19 hit, they did not have enough resources to sustain themselves.

Even more challenging was the shortage of volunteers. Mubiru stated, “Those who used to individually help are no longer helping. We cannot guarantee salary or their payments.” Unstable payments met with mandates to stay in quarantine have deterred many volunteers from coming to Open Heart Orphanage.

Mubiru says that the biggest issue for Open Heart Orphanage is the lack of available food. “It is extremely difficult or impossible to get food as prices went higher and almost nothing was coming into us. We have so far lost six children due to hunger and fever since the pandemic started. These are things we would have prevented if we had enough food and means of getting treatment in time.”

Open Heart Orphanage strives to help children reach their fullest potential. The nonprofit is a stepping stone for the children and not a final destination. Mubiru believes that children are better off in a home than an orphanage, especially in these times. Mubiru emphasized, “We encourage families to adopt even if this is another crisis because the law governing adoption is tough and high fees.”

Miska Salemann
Photo: Flickr

The United Kingdom is known for being a popular city for tourists with sites, such as Big Ben, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace. However, what may not be as well-known is the fact that the UK struggles with a significant class difference. It has an ever-widening gap between the poor and the affluent, which leads to high rates of poverty in the UK, specifically for children.

Child Poverty

Child poverty is one of the most notable effects of overall poverty in the UK. This poverty crisis struck Britain hard in 1999. Its child poverty proportion became the highest out of all of the western European countries.

In 2016-17, poverty impacted nearly 30% of children — 4.1 million — in the UK. In the following year — 2018-19, the number of children in poverty in the UK increased by 100,000. The trend is on an upward spike rather than its 2003 downward rate when child poverty was made a priority. Poverty in the UK needs to be addressed, especially among the youth. It leads to increased hardships in life from education to mental and physical health to employment and so much more.

Use of the Film Industry

Films produce major results in ending poverty. The film industry has positively impacted poverty in the UK in many ways. For one, the film industry creates many job opportunities. In 2009, the core UK film industry created or impacted nearly 100,000 jobs relating to film production, sales and tourism. Furthermore, portrayals of the UK in films contribute heavily to tourism and yearly account for about £1.9 billion. That brings the total UK film industry contribution in 2009 to raising the GDP by more than £4.5 billion.

The improved economy can be a promising solution for aiding the UK’s children out of poverty. The country can use the funds to help out the struggling citizens, focusing specifically on the poor. In this way, films pose as a promising solution for poverty aid in other countries as well.

“Poor Kids”

The amount of money and the impact the film industry has on the UK is astounding and a promising solution for poverty. However, the impact one film made for children in poverty is even more remarkable.

The film, “Poor Kids,” has made great strides toward improving the lives of impoverished UK children. The film illustrates the living situations of three families in poverty through the lens of the children. Courtney (age 8), Paige (age 10) and Sam (age 11) give detailed and heart-wrenching accounts of their experiences growing up in poverty. The film received much acclaim. It was a Broadcast Best Documentary Nominee, a Learning on Screen Nominee, a Televisual Bulldog Best Documentary Nominee and received the Chicago Film Festival Gold Plaque for Social and Political Documentary in 2012.

Films awards aside, “Poor Kids” sparked change in the community. Make Lunch is a program that began after Poor Kids debuted as a direct result of the film. The program contributes free meals to children during the times when school is not in session and when children could potentially go for a long period without food. In the summer of 2012, as many as 13 lunch kitchens were providing the free lunches.

And That’s A Wrap

The effects of poverty in the UK are prevalent, notably in the large number of impoverished children. The worsening situation provides a sense of sorrow to the country, but a solution presents itself. Films not only contribute to the wealth of a country, but they provide jobs as well. Both of these aspects could be potential resources to utilize when fighting poverty.

Additionally, films bring about emotion, and that creates change. The inspiration that “Poor Kids” ignited contributed to a charity that helps the children in poverty. With results, such as the Make Lunch program, films can yield great benefits for poverty in the UK and the world.

Hailee Shores
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