Entomophagy Reducing PovertyEntomophagy is the practice of eating insects. Throughout history and across geographical areas, adopting this diet has been a common and beneficial practice. Approximately 2 billion people across at least 99 countries regularly eat insects for protein, vitamins, minerals and fat content compared to meat or fish. There are about 1,900 edible insect species, from which humans eat eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. Insects of choice include bees, wasps, beetles, moths, caterpillars, crickets and grasshoppers. In recent years, researchers have explored this avenue and begun to consider the means by which entomophagy can reduce poverty.

Health Benefit

For years, insects have been viewed as a delicacy around the world. People eat boiled larvae with a nutty flavor and snack on crunchy beetles like popcorn. But bugs are also beneficial for their nutritional content: cooked grasshoppers, for example, can have up to three times the amount of protein and one-third the amount of fat compared to a hamburger. In low-income areas, insects are easily accessible from nature. People living in poverty could benefit significantly from this availability by either consuming them to prevent undernutrition or selling them at local markets to generate income.

Environmental Benefit

According to the UC Riverside Center for Invasive Species Research, insects are up to 20 times more efficient in converting food into edible tissue than cattle. Additionally, insects require far fewer resources and development to cultivate than other animals, which enables faster production (though this varies depending on the type of insect). Consuming insects offers a way to reduce crop-disrupting bugs without toxic or expensive insecticides. There is also little waste compared to cattle or other western proteins, which have to be processed and are only 40-50% edible. In contrast, people usually eat the entire insect.

Carbon emissions are lower in comparison to livestock. According to the Nutrition Bulletin from the Journal of the British Nutrition Foundation, the CO2 equivalent for beef is 2,058g/kg of mass gain, while insects have a CO2 equivalent of 68g/kg of mass gain. Many individual insect species leave an even smaller footprint.

Economic Benefit

The insect industry is diverse and can contribute to many markets. Silkworms are often used for fabrics and food, for instance, and weaver ants deter pests. The Chinese company HaoCheng Mealworm Inc. sells mealworms as flour, candy, condiments and instant noodles for human consumption. Also, this venture processes the worms into pet food for dogs, cats, birds and goldfish. Entomophagy provides economic contributions anywhere from street food businesses to commercialized companies.

Insect farming provides many employment opportunities for those living in rural areas of developing countries. Sericulturethe production and processing of silkwormsdemands 11 workdays per kilogram of raw silk, a higher employment rate than any other industry. The majority of insect farming and gathering is performed on a relatively small scale through family-owned businesses, often in rural areas where employment and income are desperately needed.

Trading these insect-produced goods is essential for developing countries as well. Zimbabwe deals with countries including South Africa, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia. Many countries in Africa, Asia and South America export insects for food. Even Europe and the United States have begun importing these products despite the relative lack of consumption in Western countries.

Thailand has a particularly prominent market for insect consumption, with imports estimated at $10/kilogram. For comparison, beef is $3.03/kilogram, and glutinous rice is $0.82/kilogram. Additionally, Thailand’s imports of these products total $1.14 million per year.

Regulations and Compliance of the Emerging Insect Market

National and international organizations play a crucial role in regulating the insect market. The Dutch Insect Farmers Association has been vital in lobbying to promote legislation and policies designed to improve quality standards, compliance and legal trading of these products.

While most of the Western paradigm does not consider insects to be a tasty snack or gourmet meal, continuing to research and develop this emerging market could prove essential in fully utilizing entomophagy to reduce poverty in rural areas.

– Sydney Bazilian
Photo: Wikipedia

Homelessness in JapanHomelessness in Japan is currently a significant issue. While the number of homeless people in Japan is in steady decline, Japan’s national survey still found there were 5,534 homeless people in 2017. What makes homelessness in Japan unique is its low visibility. This poses a distinct challenge for those trying to reduce the number of homeless in the nation.

History of Homelessness in Japan

There are many causes of homelessness in Japan. While more recently, many have become homeless due to failed loan payments or corporate restructuring, in the 1990s, significant changes in the economy led to a rise in homelessness.

After the conclusion of the Second World War, there was a demand for informal day-laborers. Under this system, men would come to day-labor neighborhoods in the early morning. There, job brokers from construction companies would then hire them as manual laborers for a day.

As Japan’s economy matured and diversified, this custom fell out of favor, leaving many without work. Furthermore, the Japanese economy’s shift to the service industry, an influx of young foreign workers and the advancing age of these early laborers all served to push these men to homelessness.

Homelessness and Japanese Culture

Homelessness in Japan divides into visible and invisible. Both groups, however, are less visible to outsiders compared to the homeless in other counties. Part of this low visibility seems to be rooted in the Japanese culture’s emphasis on politeness. Based on Confucian values, there is a significant focus on loyalty, justice, shame, refined manners, modesty and honor.

For the homeless people of Japan, these cultural emphases often make them feel ashamed of themselves. Visitors to Japan, for example, often observe that the homeless of Japan rarely ask for money from pedestrians. In addition, the Japanese culture’s emphasis on politeness also means the homeless try to stay out of everyone’s way. Oftentimes, the homeless will set up their shelters along remote locations such as riverbanks. If the homeless have shelter in crowded areas like subway stations, they will remove themselves during peak hours. However, there are homeless populations in Japan even less visible than this.

Internet Café Refugees

Many nonprofit and advocacy organizations in Japan claim that the Japanese government’s count of the homeless population is under-researched. These organizations claim the government’s figure doesn’t account for the Japanese homeless who live in fast-food restaurants and internet cafés. The term “internet café refugees” refers to a group of homeless who spend their nights at internet cafés because they do not have a stable residence.

The metropolitan government survey in 2018 revealed there were an estimated 15,000 people who stayed at these cafés every day during the week. Approximately 4,000 of these people were homeless. In addition, 3,000 of these people did not have stable jobs. For these irregular workers, there are internet cafés that offer amenities such as private booths, showers and laundry services. A Japanese worker named Fumiya said it costs him about $750 a month to live in an Internet café.

Alleviation of Homelessness

There are many organizations in Japan that are actively trying to alleviate the current state of homelessness in the country. Tsukuroi Tokyo Fund, for example, aims to provide housing, employment and a place of belonging to the homeless of Japan.

Tsukuroi House, a shelter run by Tsukuroi Tokyo Fund, turns abandoned, vacant homes and rooms into shelters for the homeless. Tsuyoshi Inaba, the director of the organization, claimed about 40 to 50 people used these housing facilities in 2017. He further claimed that these formerly homeless people were able to start living on their own afterward.

The organization also established “Shio no Michi,” a café run by the organization. The café hires numerous homeless people, with or without mental or physical ailments, to work the shop.

Moving Forward

The current state of homelessness in Japan is characterized by the low-visibility of the homeless. While efforts by organizations like Tsukuroi Tokyo Fund are having a significant impact, more needs to be done to bring this issue into the spotlight. Moving forward, the Japanese government and other humanitarian organizations need to prioritize finding solutions to the economic and financial issues that cause homelessness in the nation.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Traditional Cham Script
Vietnam is a multiethnic state, home to a myriad of indigenous peoples in addition to the dominant Vietnamese (or Kinh) ethnic group. Centuries of conflict and cooperation, from Han Chinese domination, Vietnamese southward imperial expansion, Mongol invasions, French conquest and American intervention, molded the complex dynamics between these various groups. The Cham, inheritors of an ancient civilization with a culture and language all their own, are one of the unique groups of people within Vietnam.

The Marginalization of a Culture

Now diminished to a small minority in their central Vietnamese homeland, with much of the population diasporic, the Cham people seek preservation of their unique culture. Their cultural heritage includes their traditional script, an integral aspect of their cultural heritage and their link to the wider Indian Ocean sphere. The Eastern Cham, residing along the coast of present-day central Vietnam, preserved the traditional Brahmic alphasyllabary-based Cham script despite centuries of foreign domination. Unfortunately, decades of pedagogy neglected the classic script in favor of a simplified but less logical, modified one. However, efforts are underway to ensure the predominance of the traditional Cham script through digital means.

While the annexation of the northern Cham lands by Nguyen Vietnam in 1471 diminished Champa’s sovereignty, Cham culture persisted in the still unconquered regions to the south. Po Rome, a 17th century King of Champa, established a uniform version of Cham script. Originally developed for bureaucratic communications, the traditional script came into regular use in the everyday lives of the Cham people, particularly the Western Cham of present-day Vietnam.

Opponents of a Modified Script

Now, modified Cham script in educational institutions threatens the survival of the former script. Though both traditional and modified Cham scripts derive from the Brahmic alphasyllabary, the modified form introduces characters not present in the traditional script, creating substantial differences between the two. The Cham Textbook Compiling Committee, the organization responsible for developing the modified Cham script, seeks to improve primary school education through the use of the script, but in doing so precipitates pedagogical neglect of the traditional Cham script. Standing athwart the Cham Textbook Compiling Committee’s preference for the modified Cham script is a cross-section of the Western Cham, ranging from elders to students and intellectuals.

Opponents of the modified script’s ascendancy over the traditional script insist that favoring the former and marginalizing the latter will hinder the transmission of Cham customs and values from the older to younger generations. In turn, assimilation of the Cham minority into the hegemonic Vietnamese majority will accelerate. Defenders of the traditional script fear that loss of the traditional script may lead to the physical destruction of precious historical documents, as functional illiteracy will plague students taught the modified script. Moreover, traditional script proponents emphasize that the traditional script is more stable when one compares it to the less rule-bound character of the modified script. Continued relegation of the traditional script will compromise the Cham cultural identity and sever the people’s links with its history, all while replacing a rational system with an arbitrary one. Yet cause for optimism exists, thanks to multinational initiatives aimed at restoring the traditional Cham script’s predominance through the script’s integration into digital interfaces.

Digitizing the Traditional Cham Script

The USAID-backed SPICE program, with the company BREOGAN, made significant strides in promoting the use of the traditional Cham script in Cambodia through the development of digital technology. This initiative emerged from a policy seeking to secure at-risk languages by providing an easily-accessible online communications medium. In the case of Eastern Cham, the SPICE program designed a downloadable keyboard based on the traditional script, resolving the failure of earlier systems to reproduce all Cham phonemes with success.

With the increasing prevalence of online communication, even in more remote parts of the world, the creation of a digital access medium in an accurate rendering of the traditional Cham script will, through continual use, encourage greater use of it. The language’s classic script could undergo a revival and replace the modified script that dominates Cham schools in Vietnam. An open-access license for the font and keyboard further facilitates the SPICE program’s mission to revive the traditional script.

USAID is not alone in its efforts to restore the use of traditional script to daily Cham life. In 2015, the Faculty of Education of the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, designed a process to convert Cham in Latin script to traditional Cham script with minimal errors. Although traditional script fonts already exist in Vietnam, flaws beset these fonts. Moreover, before the completion of this study, no process existed in Vietnam to convert Cham Latin font to traditional Cham script font. The digital font conversion that the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia team developed accounts for the intricacies of vocabulary, grammar and semantics in traditional Cham script. Testing the accuracy of the process by converting the fonts of three poems, the study’s authors found 100 percent accuracy for two poems and 99.88 percent accuracy for the last. Many expect that the study will vastly improve the odds of traditional script preservation.

Developing methods that facilitate accurate online communication in the traditional Cham script promises to undo decades of the script’s marginalization. The future of the Cham people and their culture lies with their ability to communicate across the diaspora in their ancestral language. Before, the use of a modified script limited the exposure of the Cham youth to their written language. Now more opportunities exist for the younger generations to internalize the traditional written language. This progress will ensure that the link to their ancient cultural heritage lives on.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Culture Affects Poverty
Poverty is a universal issue. It affects people of every nation, religion and culture. Though global inequality has been decreasing in recent decades, many countries still stand at an advantage over others, and in many cases, are in a better position to help.

It is difficult to guarantee effectiveness in a foreign country by virtue of it being foreign. The way the government or people behave will differ. Even the general mindset toward poverty can vary—and these are important differences to note. Culture impacts poverty’s manifestation and means of escape.

These cultural differences continue to exist on an international scale. Culture affects poverty both directly in the way it interacts with poverty, and indirectly, with the conditions that stimulate or prevent poverty. Many of the critical factors focus on a culture’s standard for family structure.

Children are More Likely to Live in Poverty

Children are most likely to live in poverty. If approached per capita, children below 11-years-old in developing countries are nearly 10 percent more likely to live in poverty than the international average. In contrast, the elderly are 10 percent less likely to live in poverty.

There are similar numbers across the globe. In Sub-Saharan Africa, where the poverty rate averages 54.6 percent, children between six and 11-years-old are 62.7 percent likely to live in poverty, while those of 65-years-old stands at 47.9 percent.

The Middle East and Northern Africa have the lowest rates of child poverty. Mirza Izmagilov Makhmutov, former Minister of Education of Tatarstan, describes Eastern culture as being more family-oriented with a focus on upholding history and tradition, compared to Western culture, which places emphasis on science and the individual. Though she describes this rule as unattractive to most young people, it may hold ground in lessening child and elderly poverty in the Middle East.

This is not to dismiss economic factors. Poverty rates drop with even moderate economies of scale—that is, the more production in a country, the more efficiently its society runs. Countries with economies of scale tend to have fewer children in a household.

Single Parents are at a Disadvantage

Though it is difficult to isolate the causes of single parents’ likeliness to live in poverty, as they are often closely entangled with a lesser education and intergenerational poverty, single parents are more likely to live in poverty than their married or cohabiting counterparts. In the U.K., a child’s likelihood of being in the bottom quintile of income is 21 percent for married parents, 31 percent for cohabiting families and 81 percent for single parents.

While the U.K’.s rate of single parents has grown over the last few decades, as the gap in poverty between single and married parents decreases, people still largely look down on single parenthood in Asia.

Globally in 2012, 13.7 percent of children below 15 lived in single-parent households. In Japan and Korea, 12.3 percent and 8.9 percent of children respectively lived in single-parent households, compared to in the U.K. and the U.S., with a respective 20.7 percent and 16.7 percent.

On average, 15 percent of children in Japan live in poverty. For children of single mothers, this increases to 55 percent. Yukiko Tokumaru, who runs Child Action Poverty Osaka, a non-governmental organization, describes Japan as having a culture that places women below men, making it difficult for a woman to have a job after a child.

Yasuko Kawabe, who runs the Nishinari Kids Dining Hall in Osaka, describes the children as needing more than food when they come to her center. At school, the children often find themselves isolated from their peers because their peers consider them to be from a “bad house.” Mothers, too, do not receive pressure to look wealthy at the Hall. According to Junko Terauchi, head of the Osaka Social Welfare Promotional Council, there is massive pressure on single or poor mothers, with women going so far as to hide separations from their partners from friends and coworkers.

Though hope often feels far away for these Japanese women, change seems to be on the horizon. Japanese President Abe Shinzo aims to provide work for women, especially those returning to the workforce after giving birth. Daycare centers in Osaka and other cities offer free meals and playtime for children.

Globally, there is increasing aid for single parents, and there is decreasing global inequality. Culture and wealth gradually exchange. There are no clear-cut means of determining if any culture is more effective at dealing with poverty than another. Rather, culture affects poverty by determining the behavior of poverty in a nation. Culture affects poverty on many levels—in determining government support, in the way it changes the standard family structure and in wealthy treatment of the poor.

– Katie Hwang
Photo: Flickr

Menstrual Hygiene in South Asia
Globally, access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is on the rise, especially in South Asia. According to UNICEF, in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, the percentage of people practicing open defecation—a leading cause of child malnutrition, disease and death—fell from 65 percent to 34 percent. While these WASH initiatives have seen success, they often neglect one important aspect of hygiene that pertains to women, menstruation. The ability for women to menstruate hygienically and with dignity is vital to their empowerment. Here are five facts about menstrual hygiene in South Asia.

5 Facts About Menstrual Hygiene in South Asia

  1. There is a culture of silence around menstruation; discussing it is often treated as taboo. Females on their periods are often excluded from society because they are seen as impure. One study in Nepal found that 89 percent of respondents practiced some form of exclusion or restriction during a menstrual cycle. However, organizations such as WaterAid are working to break the silence through female-led self-help groups. When just a few women came forward to speak, it inspired others to share their experiences and start breaking the taboo.
  2. Many girls do not understand their periods. Because the topic is taboo, it is often ignored in schools. As such, 10 percent of girls in India thought menstruation was a disease, and 66 percent of girls in South Asia do not know anything about periods before their first menstruation. A study of 160 girls in West Bengal found that, though 67.5 percent knew what a period was before their first, 97.5 percent did not know where menstrual bleeding comes from. While schools often neglect to teach about reproductive health, this is beginning to change. UK Aid is creating audiobooks for girls dispelling myths and teaching them about their periods, and non-government organizations are creating extracurricular activities that teach about menstrual hygiene in South Asia.
  3. Menstrual hygiene in South Asia is vital for keeping girls in schools. According to WaterAid, a study done in South India found half the girls in school were pulled out at the time of their first period, often to be married. The girls who stayed in school beyond their first period reported poor performance due to anxiety that the boys in the class would find out they were menstruating.
  4. Access to feminine hygiene products is expensive. According to WaterAid, in a West Bengal study, only 11.25 percent of girls used disposable feminine hygiene products. The most common obstacles to obtaining them are a lack of awareness about them, the high cost, the lack of availability and the need for disposal facilities. Focus group discussions indicated that girls would prefer sanitary pads because they were more comfortable, discreet, and easier to use and carry. WaterAid is working to make low cost disposable sanitary pads as well as facilities to dispose of them. In the meantime, most women and girls rely on reusable cloth, which comes with its own problems.
  5. Maintaining menstrual hygiene in South Asia requires improved sanitation. One of the biggest obstacles to menstrual health is a lack of sanitation practices and infrastructure. Most South Asian women and girls rely on reusable cloth. To sanitize them though, they need to wash them in clean water and dry them in sunlight. However, cultural taboos around menstruation often pressure women and girls to try to dry them in dark places, potentially leading to infection. For those who might have access to disposable sanitary pads, they often lack the facilities to get rid of them. This is especially a problem for girls in schools. However, WaterAid and its partners are working on implementing WASH facilities that are lockable and gender-separated, with at least one toilet or washroom with an opening leading to an incinerator or dustbin for feminine hygiene products.

While countries in the region are making great strides in sanitation, there is still much to be done to improve menstrual hygiene in South Asia. It is vital they do so because the ability for women and girls to menstruate with privacy and dignity empowers them to pursue work, education and gives them the opportunity to have a voice in society.

– Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr

Epilepsy, Indigenous
Epilepsy represents an important public health issue, particularly in low-income communities where significant disparities are present in the care available to patients with epilepsy.

Where there is annually between 30 to 50 per 100 thousand people in the general population in high-income countries who suffer from epilepsy, this figure could be two times higher in low- and middle-income countries. Up to 80 percent of people with epilepsy live in low- and middle-income communities.

Due to the higher incidence of psychological stress, nutritional deficiencies and missed medication, poverty-stricken countries are prompted with greater seizure triggers, situations that precipitate seizures. Mortality associated with epilepsy in low-income countries is substantially higher because of untreated epileptic seizures.

According to a study by The World Bank, indigenous peoples are more likely to be poor as opposed to the general population due to their likelihood of living in rural areas and lack of education. Therefore, what can be said about their epilepsy rates?

Epilepsy in Indigenous Populations

Within the indigenous populations of Bolivia, the prevalence of this non-communicable disease is 12.3 persons out of 1000. This prevalence is also reflected within Canada’s First Nations, wherein 122 per 100,000 persons were found to have epilepsy, twice more than the non-indigenous populations. The numbers were even greater among the Australian Aboriginals, with over 44 percent of patients who were admitted to hospitals identifying as indigenous.

Despite the similarity in epilepsy syndromes among the indigenous and non-indigenous populations, the former presents with more serious degrees of the disease when diagnosed. Research has stated this is related to the inequitable access of healthcare resulting from geographic isolation and cultural issues to treatment.

Geographic Isolation and Epilepsy

The Bolivian Guaraní live in the Bolivian Chaco, a hot and semi-arid region of the Río de la Plata Basin. This area is sparsely populated, but of the 49 percent of indigenous persons, 68.9 percent of them live in conditions of poverty, with everyday issues of energy and sanitation.

Nevertheless, in 2012, an educational campaign directed to the Bolivian Guaraní has been implemented by general practitioners to teach the population about the main causes of epilepsy, its diagnosis, treatment and first aid. They also target the social stigma that exists around the disease.

With the help of programs like Bono Juana Azurduy, Programa Mi Salud, Ley de Gratuidad and Seguros Departamentales, there has been an increase in the social security and improvement in the treatment for epilepsy among the geographically isolated community.

Cultural Issues

Apart from geographic isolation, indigenous populations such as the Aboriginals of Australia also have traditional health beliefs about the causes of epilepsy. For instance, environmental factors like the moon are seen as an epileptic precursor. They also associate a connection with the supernatural due to transgressions as causes of the diseases, making it more difficult to find treatment for the neurological condition.

When such cultural issues arise due to a difference in beliefs, it is important for general practitioners and patients to find a suitable course of treatment that is acceptable for both parties. Various clinics in Far North Queensland, where many Aboriginals reside, have assessed and managed the situation through gathering as much information as possible about the person’s original function and the impact of the disease on them.

They also advise other hospitals treating Aboriginal people to identify and implement strategies, whether they be medication, behavioral, environmental or social, to be developed in conjunction with the patient, their families and communities. In time, it is believed that this will lead to the best interim solution for all parties in the support network and the patient themselves.

Within the Aboriginals living in Canada, the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) has also successfully delivered treatment for epilepsy patients by working as a liaison between service agencies and clients to find the best possible treatment. Their services extend to alleviate anxiety from patients who have previously had negative experiences with healthcare.

Moving Forward

Knowing that epilepsy is a neurological condition that receives substantial stigma in indigenous communities, there is a barrier for patients to have access to biomedical treatment and have it become integrated within the society they live in. Therefore, in order to reduce the burden of epilepsy in poor regions of the world, and especially within indigenous populations, hospitals, non-governmental organizations and the government have much to do. Aid can come in the form of risk factor prevention, offering check-up clinics in rural areas, stigma-reducing educational programs, improving access to biomedical diagnosis and treatment as well as providing a continuous supply of good quality anti-epileptic drugs to patients who need it, irrespective of their background.

– Monique Santoso
Photo: Pixabay

Living Conditions in GuadeloupeSoutheast of Puerto Rico and north of Dominica lie the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe. France is a parent of this archipelago, providing systems to manage the islands’ legislation, health and education.

Top Ten Facts About Living Conditions in Guadeloupe

  1. Guadeloupe’s government runs under the French Constitution and executes authority with the French legal system. With France as the head of state, this country has no military of its own, rather it relies on their overseas French parliament to defend their borders. Ironically, the most recent conflict was the riots of 2009 which revealed the French government’s inability to deflate the cost of living on the island.
  2. The construction of new housing and low-cost residence funded by tax plans created the availability of living spaces. This is a good start to addressing the issues of living costs challenged in 2009. However, in 2011, the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies of France (INSEE) reported that 19 percent of households in Guadeloupe are still living in poverty.
  3. With an unemployment rate of 26.9 percent, the Regional Council of Guadeloupe decided to improve the job market through its Regional Scheme for Economic Development (SRDE). Their plan is to optimize access to employment through work placement programs. Satisfying Guadeloupe’s population with opportunities for wealth will feed into the country’s economy.
  4. As arable land decreases, so does Guadeloupe’s agriculture. This affects the industry which inputs 6 percent of the region’s GDP and employs 12 percent of its workers. The production can’t feed the population alone. In fact, the country imports 90 percent of its food for consumption.
  5. The urbanization rate is at an alarming 98 percent. This means, by 2030, 1,500 hectares (approximately 3,700 acres) will be needed for the construction of 19,000 units to house 50,000 dwellers. The unbalanced spread of the population creates congested urban centers.
  6. The annual expenditure on health care and medical products per habitant is 1,800 euros (approximately $2,000). Funding comes from partnerships and programs for EU members, so Guadeloupe doesn’t receive aid from international organizations such as the World Bank and U.N. entities. As a security system, laboratories, like Guadeloupe’s Pasteur Institute in Pointe-à-Pitre, report threatening cases of diseases like dengue which had a fatality ratio of 0.06 percent during the 2012-2013 outbreak. Public health authorities watch and respond to potential threats as a means to establish early warning systems.
  7. The country also follows the French education system with primary schooling from age six to 11 followed by a four-year middle school. At 15 years of age, students may take a leaving examination and begin working. Those seeking to attend a university continue into secondary school with an additional three years.
  8. The country’s history brought together a diverse ethnic culture. It is a mixture of European, Indian, African and Caribbean. As such, the people celebrate Carnival. Beyond this traditional music and dance jubilation, the Creole culture is displayed through the celebration of literature. In fact, Guadeloupe hosts the International Congress for Caribbean Writers, showcasing such work.
  9. Though French is the official language, Creole is also taught in schools to keep the country’s heritage alive. History lives in the buildings as well. Colonial sugar, banana and coffee plantations still remain. Their slave houses, also known, in Creole, as “cases,” hold presence and display the country’s roots.
  10. Travelers can visit this island via French, U.S., Canadian, British and Dutch airlines connecting to Pole Caraïbes International Airport or the other small airports on the surrounding islands. A ferry provides passage between Guadeloupe’s associated islands. The bus system services main routes but becomes scarce on Sundays in secondary routes.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Guadeloupe depict more than French colonial power. The archipelago distinguished itself from simply taking on the French way of life. The islands have a culture of their own which is the catalyst in their tourist economy.

Crystal Tabares
Photo: Pixabay

Female genital mutilation in Egypt

Female genital mutilation has impacted at least 200 million women and girls worldwide, though the exact number is unknown. The practice is most common in western, central and northern Africa, though it also occurs in a few countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Egypt has one of the highest rates of female genital mutilation in the world, with 87 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 having undergone the procedure as of 2016. Some progress has been made over the past few decades, thanks to efforts by the Egyptian government and international organizations, but the cultural preference for female genital mutilation in Egypt prevails, and there is much work that needs to be done.

Egypt has the fourth highest rate of female genital mutilation, tied with Sudan. Only Somalia, Guinea and Djibouti are higher, all with at least 90 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 having undergone female genital mutilation. In Somalia, the procedure is nearly universal, at 98 percent.

According to the World Health Organization, there are four main types of female genital mutilation, otherwise known as FGM. These types vary based on what parts of the female genitalia are removed or altered. In Egypt, the most common procedure is Type 1, which includes the partial or full removal of the clitoris.

FGM is condemned internationally for a number of reasons. It has no health benefits, can lead to infections, severe bleeding, infertility and other serious medical problems, is a violation of the rights of women and can result in psychological trauma.

Prevailing Cultural Beliefs

Female genital mutilation in Egypt was banned in 2008 and criminalized in 2016; however, these laws have had little impact on the prevalence of the practice. FGM is seen as an important rite of passage within many communities. It’s viewed as a way to promote female chastity and purity, and many view it as essential for a young woman to get married. According to some Egyptian villagers, husbands will require their brides to undergo the procedure before the wedding ceremony.

It is not only men, however, who support the procedure. While opinions about FGM vary among women, many women do adhere to this cultural tradition and support it being done to their children and grandchildren. According to UNICEF data, only 38 percent of Egyptian women who know about FGM think the practice should end. Egyptian woman Mona Mohamed remembers being tied down to get the procedure when she was ten, her mother and grandmother each holding one of her arms.

Slow Progress

In 2000, for married women, the rate of female genital mutilation in Egypt was 97 percent. Between then and 2014, there was little progress, as the 2014 health survey found that 92 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 had gone through FGM. There has been more significant progress between 2014 and 2018, however, as the rate has been reduced to 87 percent.

While this represents a higher rate of reduction, if progress continues at this rate, it will take more than 34 years to end the practice entirely. Success in ending FGM relies on working at a community level to change cultural perceptions.

Efforts by International Organizations

In 2008, UNICEF and UNFPA created a joint program targeting FGM in the countries where it is the most prevalent. Their program focuses on law reform, research, training medical personnel and fieldworkers, and engaging directly with religious leaders and local communities.

Both Muslim and Christian communities are known to support female genital mutilation in Egypt, so the program works with leaders from both religions to educate them on the realities of FGM. If religious leaders come to agree with international views on FGM, the program then provides resources to help them spread this knowledge in their communities through sermons and family counseling.

To better reach girls and women, the program also launched a national television campaign. By far their most innovative solution for community outreach, however, is an interactive street theatre show on female genital mutilation. The play provides a depiction of FGM and its impact on girls, and afterward, the audience is encouraged to be involved in an open community discussion.

Despite being a culturally-driven practice, FGM is often performed by licensed doctors. The 2014 health survey found that 72 percent of FGM procedures in Egypt was done by a doctor. As a result, it is important to also focus efforts on medical professionals. Beginning in 2013, UNFPA held workshops for the medical staff at hospitals to disseminate accurate knowledge about FGM and provide doctors and nurses with the resources they need to counsel their patients and argue against FGM.

Additionally, UNFPA is working on a legal front to address the lack of legal repercussions for those who perform FGM, in spite of it being criminalized. This involves working with law enforcement personnel and prosecutors to ensure that individuals aren’t able to exploit legal loopholes to avoid conviction.

Hopefully, the efforts of UNFPA, UNICEF and other international and regional partners will continue to have an impact on the prevalence of female genital mutilation in Egypt, protecting the human rights of thousands of women and girls.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Pixabay

creativity, innovation and poverty
Mainstream thinking revolves around the idea that emerging nations need the industrialized world to bring innovation to them, since they lack the resources to innovate themselves. Silicon Valley and their cohort have proven themselves to be masters of advancing and solving first-world issues, but they do little to solve the very real problems that exist in the developing world. Their hearts lie in the right place, but, having grown up in a different world with a vastly different life, they tend to lack the knowledge to fully understand what will and won’t work.

The true innovators of our time are those who live within the borders of developing countries, as they are the ones who truly comprehend the complex relationship between creativity, innovation and poverty.

Creativity and Poverty

In an interview with Innovations Online, a technology and entrepreneurial digital magazine, Marcelo Giugale, a senior economic advisor at the World Bank, stated that “innovation is not the same as invention. Innovation is the actual application of an invention.”

According to Ken Burns, an Ashoka fellow in a similar interview with Innovations, the minds in first world countries often innovate for the sake of innovating. When people live in dire situations and are consistently faced with constrained resources, they may be driven to solve problems and create in ways that can fundamentally change their daily lives.

The creativity that comes from the people who live in extreme poverty has the potential to instate meaningful and large-scale change that can improve the lives of millions, and not just those in the middle and upper middle class seen in developed countries. The link between creativity, innovation and poverty is being acted upon within the minds of several talented individuals living in emerging countries.

Map Kibera and Insiders4Good

In 2009, young Kiberans of the Kibera division in Nairobi, Kenya, created Map Kibera, the first open and free digital map of their own community. Until then, it was just a blank spot on the map. The primary goal of Map Kibera was “to find a new solution to an old problem: the lack of participatory democracy in Kibera.” The platform aims to address the omission of Nairobi’s citizens from policy decisions, mass communications and city representation.

The site utilizes the digital age to allow the region’s inhabitants to bypass the traditional gatekeepers of data and information. They no longer must rely on the common methodologies of NGOs to learn the facts about HIV, gender, malaria, sanitation and other important health facts in their own community – they can now research the information themselves. Map Kibera has recently grown into a full interactive community project and has expanded to Mathare and Mukura.

Insiders4Good East Africa Fellowship is a training program that, in 2017, brought together 20 young entrepreneurs from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania who had innovative business ideas that have the potential to improve their communities. The program consists of six months of technical and strategic mentorship from international and local leaders.

Mensa Healthcare and Worknasi.com

Many of these young entrepreneurs utilized the cross-section between creativity, innovation and poverty to address and solve many critical local problems. Using artificial intelligence, Peter Aketch’s Mensa Healthcare provides actionable data to pharmaceutical companies, public health organizations and governmental agencies.

The necessity for such an innovation is vital due to the healthcare system’s lack of comprehensive and efficient digital record keeping. This innovation will decrease the possibility of misdiagnosis and allow for a more robust collection of public health data.

Eighty percent of graduates in Tanzania struggle to find jobs. This has led to an increase in crime, extremism, drug abuse, and violence. Edgar Mwampinge’s Worknasi.com aims to help these youths by making it easier for start-ups and freelancers to succeed.

His goal is to make shared office space available by connecting these youths with business and office owners who wish to share their workspaces.

IV Drip Alert and Lyon Analytics

In Rwanda, Ange Uwambajimana’s IV Drip Alert enables nurses to more easily manage intravenous fluids through its wireless system. This creative innovation was in response to problems such as embolism which can occur if the medical observer forgets to change the IV at the right time.

And Kenya’s John Mugendi developed a breast cancer prediction system. He proposes that his Lyon Analytics will track the progression from onset to late stages.

2015 Website

2015 is a site that launched in the Middle East. It invites users to submit their own creations that help bring awareness to social issues such as poverty in the Arab region. The relationship between creativity, innovation and poverty is front and center on the site as it showcases images and videos of hunger, the vulnerable and of poverty.

This “movement,” as some have come to call it, was born out of a reaction to the promise made by the nearly 200 world leaders at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000. They pledged to eradicate extreme poverty by the year 2015; however, as of 2012, the number of people still living in extreme poverty checked in at 3 billion.

The creative mind brings wonderous elements to the world — whether that be in new technological advances in the medical field, social satire, digital communications or a site dedicated to awareness. As long as ambition and goodwill prevail, there will always be a relationship that exists between creativity, innovation and poverty. The 2015 slogan reads, “Art changes perceptions, perceptions change people, people change the world,” and its mantra could not be more right.

– Aaron Stein
Photo: Flickr

the Media Misrepresents Lebanon
Lebanon is a sovereign state that lies on the western coast of the Mediterranean sea. With over six million inhabitants, this small country shares a long border with Syria, a country that is currently facing a multi-year civil war that has been the cause of hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and intense human suffering.

Due to Lebanon’s close proximity to Syria, it naturally has faced some conflict in recent years with the overflow of refugees and military conflict on Lebanese soil. The Syrian war has already rendered and continues to produce much devastation for Syrian people, mainly through a lack of human rights.  

Because of this, the media has associated countries in the surrounding area with this chaotic state. There has been a very distinct picture painted of Lebanon, characterized as unsafe and disorganized. However, everything the public is being told is not exactly true, and the way the media misrepresents Lebanon has a major impact on how we categorize and make assumptions about this beautiful, culturally-rich state.

The main implication behind the way the media misrepresents Lebanon is the fact that the media industry survives off public opinion, meaning that headlines and article content are often edited and revised to fit a style that will capture a reader’s attention. Due to this, it is not uncommon for the media to misrepresent situations and give inflated facts to attract more coverage. This is one of the biggest factors of how the media misrepresents Lebanon and, more specifically, the country’s stability.

While certain parts of Lebanon have faced overflow from the Syrian war–for instance, there have been minor security incidents that have occurred in smaller cities like Baalbek and Sidon–these incidents have been both sporadic and uncommon. The way in which the media covers these topics often paints Lebanon as an unsafe environment for travelers, which is not entirely true.

While there are places to avoid, such as the smaller cities that lie on the Lebanon-Syrian border, larger cities like Beirut have remained nearly untouched and are still safe for tourism. In fact, sources like the New York Times and ABC News have published pro-Beirut pieces that highlight the beauty of Beirut culture. Specifically, the New York Times article touched on the Beirut art scene and the various cultures weaved throughout the city’s architecture and cuisine.

In addition to Beirut, other Lebanese cities like Byblos and Zahlé have also been marked safe for tourism in recent years, with standard travel-safety procedures. The truth is that these Lebanese cities are very similar to any other major city; it is simply a large metropolitan area with general security issues like pickpocketing, scamming and robbery. These problems exist in all major cities throughout the globe.

However, when visiting Lebanon, it is important not to ignore the struggle the country faces with border safety and its ongoing rubbish crisis, in which large amounts of trash continue to cover the state’s shoreline. While tourism helps the Lebanese economy, it is vital that tourists do not contribute to the country’s main issues such as littering.

Although it faces a few security concerns, Lebanon is a beautiful country. Cities like Beirut, Byblos and Zahle have enriching cultures and histories alike, and it is important not to let the way the media misrepresents Lebanon take away from the nation’s true colors.

– Alexandra Dennis

Photo: Flickr