Language ExtinctionEndangered languages are classified by the Endangered Language Project as languages that are not spoken by many or any young people and whose native speakers are elderly or have passed away. When older speakers of a language do not or cannot teach that language to their children, that language eventually ceases to exist. The loss of language education and the loss or destruction of written records can endanger languages. Some languages have an ‘afterlife,’ like Latin, which is teachers teach in schools but people do not speak casually. Most dead languages, however, disappear without the possibility of an afterlife. Language extinction and poverty may seem completely unrelated, but this is not the case.

Language and Ethnicity

Professor Peter L. Patrick of the University of Essex writes in “Linguistic Human Rights: A Sociolinguistic Introduction” that linguistic human rights “[do] not at first blush appear to be the most pressing area of human rights to think about.” He’s right; threats to healthcare, voting rights, freedom of speech, gender equality and economic stability require more immediate attention. However, Patrick also correctly asserts that “the complex relations between language socialization, linguistic competence, and ethnic group membership” are relevant to human rights and therefore, global poverty.

Herman M. Batibo writes in “Language and Poverty” that the intersectionality between language and poverty has “long been recognized.” Poverty affects language survival, and language often helps determine economic status. Small communities that seek to preserve dying languages face obstacles directly relevant to poverty. Without the proper economic stability to train teachers, establish schools and publish books in the endangered language, communities must witness their native languages die. In 2013, it was estimated that a language dies about every two weeks and is then replaced with a major language. The death of a language is more than the loss of its words. Native speakers watch their songs, stories and poems disappear as well. There is music and beauty in every language, signed or spoken, that one cannot replicate through translation. Language extinction causes the world to lose a unique perspective.

Language Extinction

Professor Emily Manetta teaches Introduction to Syntax, Semantics, Linguistic Anthropology and Advanced Topics in Linguistics at the University of Vermont. In Linguistic Anthropology, Professor Manetta explores the concepts of language extinction and endangerment. When asked about how poverty restricts language development and preservation, Professor Manetta writes that it is important to “see language pressure and language endangerment in the context of a wider pattern of oppression of speakers and deprivations that are likely systemic.”

Impoverished communities, often facing extreme inequalities compared to dominant societies, are more likely to experience language loss for several reasons. Impoverished people often choose to move from rural settings to urban settings to improve their quality of life. Their new communities are more likely to speak dominant languages. With little use for their native languages, these individuals may abandon them completely and raise their children using only the language spoken by the majority. After just a generation or two, their native tongue dies. While this is not always the case, Manetta finds that this is “one possible way” in which poverty “create conditions in which language loss is accelerated.”

In discussing the consequences of language death, Manetta writes that it is “hard to say” for certain. She does note that the consequences of “human suffering, of profound inequality, of poverty and lack of opportunity, of racism and colonialism” are all related to language loss. She asserts that it is difficult to distinguish between the consequences of systematic oppression and the consequences of language loss. This is because oppressed communities are the most likely to experience language loss. Language loss, while tragic, does not compare to the “greater losses that accompany language loss.”

Saving Languages

How can people help prevent language extinction? Manetta writes that tackling systematic social problems like racism and other forms of oppression is the most important goal. Dismantling forms of oppression will allow communities to have the resources to educate their children about their native languages. This may seem like an overwhelming task; fortunately, there are smaller tasks that can also help save languages. Honoring and remembering dying languages can extend their lifespans. One can also encourage the use of non-dominant languages in legal, educational and institutional settings. Manetta does not advocate for the intrusion of small communities by larger communities. Rather, it is imperative to give members of small communities the resources to become educators, linguists and researchers to allow them to “preserve the language from within.”

Just as poverty relates to race, gender, sexuality, religion, status and education, poverty relates to language as well. Communities without the resources to preserve their languages often see them die as dominant languages crowd them out. While it is smart to learn more popular languages, they should not replace less-common languages altogether. It is important to remember that all languages connect people and preserve tradition, value and culture. To combat poverty is to combat the erasure of language, the beautiful code that allows human beings to connect with each other.

Levi Reyes
Photo: Unsplash

Ecotourism Alleviates Poverty in NepalNepal is a small country located between India and China, two of the world’s most powerful nations. Substantial foreign aid is allocated to fighting poverty in Nepal. However, inefficient governments prevent these benefits from reaching the people: one-fourth of Nepalis are living in poverty. Nepal, the birthplace of the Buddha and home to Mount Everest, also has 848 bird species, 600 plant families and over 100 ethnic groups speaking 90 languages. Despite its ineffective leadership, Nepal’s lush natural environment has created a flourishing ecotourism industry providing business and conservation to the region. By fostering this market, ecotourism alleviates poverty in Nepal and improves life for thousands of the country’s residents.

What is Ecotourism?

According to The International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism is defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people and involves interpretation and education.” This definition encompasses aspects from human-environment relationships to understanding landscapes, maintaining species and learning about local cultures.

Whether zoos are to be considered a form of ecotourism has been widely debated. Despite the potential for educational value, practices of capturing and confining wildlife are not considered ecotourism. Wildlife should not endure any suffering from human interactions, and the interest of the animals should be prioritized over humans. Ecotourism allows animals to live independently of human contact, a condition impossible to replicate in zoos.

Environmental Impact

Community-based ecotourism has been immensely successful in Nepal, especially for its rural areas. Due to sparse government regulations, the general tourism industry employs cheap yet harmful practices that have exacerbated poverty in Nepal. Thus, it has become necessary for the country to consider alternative methods of attracting revenue through tourism. With this goal in mind, Nepal has adopted the homestay model of ecotourism.

The primary goal of the homestay industry is to develop economic resilience in rural areas that can work with the environment rather than against it. This cooperation eliminates the need for large infrastructure to accommodate tourists as well as protects the environment from destruction. In a developing country like Nepal, the value of these outcomes is substantial. This system allows community members to become more involved in local tourism. Locals provide lodging, cultural education and history for compensation.

The ecotourism initiative has proven to be fruitful: of the 1.2 million tourists that visited Nepal in 2018, the majority explored natural areas. Across the country, 484 homestay houses are registered around natural sites like Chitwan National Park. These establishments also encourage the improvement of sanitation facilities like clean toilets, filtered water and pollution-free air, which are crucial to reducing poverty in Nepal.

From these homestays, tourists can travel to various nearby sites. At these sites, they can engage in activities including hiking, mountaineering, cultural immersion and rafting. These efforts propel afforestation projects and preserve biodiversity by preventing forest conversion. Community-based ecotourism has kept ancient cultures alive, protected the environment and provided economic and cultural stability to local communities.

Economic Impact

Oftentimes, the environment and the economy are thought of as mutually exclusive; however, ecotourism in Nepal has challenged this mindset. Ecotourism contributes to about 4% of Nepal’s total GDP and provides varying forms of employment to about 200,000 people. These opportunities are growing for people like Pratiksha Chaudhary, who runs a homestay in the village of Dalla near Bardia National Park.

The thirty-three-year-old reflects on her initially timid nature when she began hosting guests, concerned that her rooms were not clean enough or that her food was not good enough. However, after a decade in the business, Chaudhary has found confidence in herself and in her work. She can now afford home renovations and has added two bigger rooms, tiled flooring and hot water. These additions help her remain competitive in her village’s ecotourism industry, which has experienced a doubling of homestays in the last decade. Through the income she earns, Chaudhary can also provide her son a quality education and protect her natural environment.

Protected areas across the country have created a substantial decrease in inequality and poverty in Nepal. Studies found increasing the number of protected areas in Village Development Committees from 10% to 70% led to increased prosperity for those villages. Additionally, protected areas with high tourism rates reduced the overall poverty rate, demonstrating that ecotourism alleviates poverty in Nepal.

The social and economic benefits of ecotourism do not stop there. In a study of homestays operators in Nepal, 83% reported feeling empowered. Additionally, 88% reported improving their lifestyle after opening their business. The local and tourist support these owners receive has also enabled them to maintain their cultural identities, adding further intrinsic benefit to the homestay field. These positive outcomes challenge the assumption that ecotourism only benefits the elite: data shows that homestays offer potential paths out of poverty for even the most remote villages in Nepal.

The Future of Ecotourism in Nepal

Ecotourism provides great potential for entrepreneurship and economic resilience that will ultimately help combat poverty in Nepal, especially for women. Qualitative data from a 2017 study shows that women tend to be more self-confident, financially independent and better educated in family decision-making when involved in homestay businesses.

Ecotourism and homestays have proven to be effective steps in boosting local economies and involving remote villages. However, establishing completely eliminating poverty in Nepal will require assistance from governments through policy. By expanding the availability of tools for conservation efforts and using ecotourism as an aid for other sectors like agritourism and transportation, the government could boost the economy and reach more people sustainably. As an industry, ecotourism alleviates poverty in Nepal and serves as a role model for developing countries pursuing similar endeavors.

– Mizla Shrestha
Photo: NeedPix

innovations in poverty eradication in slovakiaIn 2008, 1.11 million Slovaks were at risk of poverty. Today, that number is closer to 872,000, while Slovakia’s steady economic growth is at almost 4%. However, uncertainty looms again as 70% of Slovakian employees are in danger of losing their jobs due to automation. Thankfully, innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia make poverty eradication possible.

Slovakia: The Heart of Europe

Entrepreneurs succeed in Slovakia because the country is a central hub enclosed by Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine and Hungary. This gives the country high exporting potential. For example, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and The Norwegian Barents Secretariat have signed agreements with Slovakia to continue cross-border cooperation with Ukraine to promote economic development.

Slovakia also has a rich cultural heritage, history and modern art. The country’s Culture Program aims to bring attention to these facets of Slovakian culture. Through this program, the Slovakian government hopes to increase income and jobs through art creation and performances. This is one of many innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia that would significantly reduce poverty in disadvantaged communities.

Partnerships Are the Key to Success

The Slovakian government also encourages partnerships between students and professionals to address poverty. These programs help those in need as well as provide experience to students. Overall, they focus on technological advancements, thus creating innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia.

One of these partnership programs is the Butterfly Effect. A digital start-up, this organization assists young, tech-savvy leaders of tomorrow by offering full-time courses geared toward developers and inventive leaders. Additionally, the program encourages students to innovate for the future of Slovakia in the ever-changing digital world. For example, students developed a ride-sharing app specifically for those traveling to and from work through this program.

Similarly, LEAF focuses on developmental programs for those just starting or those who are already in their career field. They help all those who hope to build a more successful Slovakia, regardless of personal finances. LEAF also has programs specialized for teachers and skill-based volunteering that focuses on living conditions. Additionally, LEAF offers paid internships to students committed to staying in Slovakia, thus providing guidance and job security to the next generation. These programs all abide by LEAF’s four core values: ethics, excellence, entrepreneurial leadership and civic engagement.

Investors Help Equality Progress

Fueling many innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia is the country’s influx of investors, creating a demand for skilled workers. To keep up, Slovakia is dedicated to improving educational and entrepreneurial opportunities to increase its ability to adapt to new technologies. International investors have the chance to network with Slovakian startups at Innovation Day, hosted by the German-Slovak Chamber of Industry and Commerce (GSCIC).

One such digital technology startup to watch on Innovation Day 2020 is Meet ‘n’ Learn. Meet ‘n’ Learn is an app allowing parents and students to find tutors in their neighborhood. They can arrange to meet up in person or virtually through the app for lessons. Additionally, the app provides a free option where students can post questions and receive replies from multiple instructors. This app has the potential to bridge the gap between children of different economic backgrounds. Slovakia is embracing these investors that are backing these innovative ideas to give everyone equal advantages.

The Future of Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Slovakia

To facilitate poverty reduction, Slovakia encourages citizens to welcome the technological and digital world through modernization and entrepreneurship. The country’s efforts have been rewarded with a historically low unemployment rate of 7%. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría says, “Living standards are gradually catching up with the higher-income …. [T]o ensure this growth is more inclusive, [we need to] move towards more sophisticated and innovative products and ensure that everyone has the skills and training for the jobs of tomorrow.” In doing so, innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia will continue to further the country’s progress on this front.

Sam Babka
Photo: Flickr

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