Information and news about discrimination

Sudanese RefugeesMany refugees in Sudan fled on foot to Egypt to escape violent and impoverished conditions in Sudan. About 3.8 million Sudanese refugees currently live in neighboring Egypt, which is a popular destination for Sudanese refugees because the country is accessible on foot and the refugees are still able to receive help from relatives. Egypt is a close destination and for some, it is a stopping point before they attempt to flee to Europe, which is an even more dangerous route. Although they may flee to Egypt, however, many face adversities of discrimination and poverty once there.

Sudanese Refugees

Many Sudanese flee their home country to other regions of Africa due to political conflict and economic turmoil. Refugees in Sudan escape their country on foot to neighboring countries. When the first civil war started about 60 years ago in southern Sudan, Sudanese refugees began to flee to Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Many individuals have fled for different reasons; some flee to obtain better rights, but in particular, many flee to escape religious persecutions. One Sudanese man was targeted due to his Christian faith and the police told him to renounce his faith. The Muslim faith is prominent and individuals who practice the Christian faith have suffered persecution. Since he continued to believe in his religion, the man went to jail where he faced beatings and torture. After spending weeks in jail, the Sudanese man fled to Cairo, Egypt.

Sudanese Refugees Face Discrimination in Egypt

Many refugees in Sudan flee to Egypt resulting in a burden on resources. Overall, Egypt hosts millions of refugees who flee their country’s terrible conditions, only to face racism in Egypt. Some Egyptians will call Sudanese refugees slaves and other ethnic slurs. Some have faced harassment that brings up traumatic memories and flashbacks of violent conditions they experienced in Sudan, including torture and rape. Sudanese children are sometimes bullied in school. Egyptians and even refugees from other countries exhibit this behavior.

Some individuals in Egypt recognize there is a problem and acknowledge that Sudanese refugees are negatively treated. The president of Egypt, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi calls for his citizens to take action and to not mistreat Sudanese refugees. In 2018, an Egyptian court sentenced a man to seven years in prison for harassing, beating and killing a South Sudanese teacher who worked with refugees in Cairo.

Sudanese Refugees Face Poverty in Egypt

More than 5 million refugees in Sudan left their country to escape poverty but have subsequently faced financial hardships in Egypt. Sudanese refugees in Egypt are provided with 1,500 Egyptian pounds (LE) for every child from the United Nations through the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), with no additional assistance from the state. Thus, it is difficult for the refugees to pay for schools and other expenses. At the same time, it is difficult for a Sudanese refugee to find work in Egypt, even for those with higher education, since the residence permit does not allow work. Many who do find jobs work by cleaning houses and shops.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many refugees in Sudan have faced an increased level of previous hardships. A fifth of foreigners were vulnerable and lost their jobs from the COVID-19 lockdowns in Egypt. In addition, many Egyptians have lost their jobs and in return have been forced to let go of migrant workers from Africa and Asia.

A Sudanese charity has financially helped more than 500 struggling families whose breadwinners have lost their jobs. Eviction has been a major problem for Sudanese refugees in Egypt, some of whom are attempting to return home.

Many Sudanese refugees escape their home country, only to face similar problems. Impoverished conditions continue to follow them within Egypt, although many strive to work harder in the new country. Organizations within Egypt need to help to eliminate discrimination against Sudanese refugees to alleviate their added struggles.

Ann Ciancia
Photo: Flickr

colorism in IndiaImagine, for a moment, that you’re a five-year-old girl growing up in India. All around you, the standards for beauty are pretty, light-skinned Indians: they’re in all of the movies, splashed across billboards and magazines, on promoted ads and videos. Every drug store sells multiple brands of skin-lightening creams, and your favorite actors all endorse skin-lightening products. Your family members tell you not to spend too much time in the sun, just so you won’t get too tan. That’s what colorism in India was like for Rajitha Pulivarthy, now 20 years old and living in the United States.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced [colorism] myself, because I’m more on the lighter-skinned side, but I definitely adopted a colorist attitude when I was younger,” she said, recalling her experiences with colorism. “I wanted myself to look lighter or not get tanned in the summer.” Even with supportive parents who rarely mentioned colorism and told her to stay away from skin-lightening products, colorism still shaped Pulivarthy’s worldview growing up and even after moving to America. Sadly, Pulivarthy’s story is just one of millions. For many women growing up in India, this is the norm.

What is Colorism?

Colorism occurs when some people are discriminated against more than others of the same race, simply due to the shade of their skin. It is very prevalent in India, and it’s a gendered phenomenon, affecting Indian women more than men. Sometimes, colorism is obvious, but often it manifests in more subtle ways, like in everyday behavior. Something like commenting on how someone is “beautiful and fair-skinned” is commonplace in India. While those comments don’t necessarily insult those who have darker skin, they do show society’s preference for those with lighter skin.

Colorism in India

Colorism is so ingrained in everyday life and society, in fact, that skin-lightening products make up a multi-billion dollar industry in India. Bollywood, India’s movie industry, casts predominately light-skinned actors, which perpetuates beauty as light-skinned. Many Bollywood actors also endorse skin-lightening creams.

While the media plays a large role in these notions of lighter skin aligning with beauty, colorism in India can trace its roots all the way back to British colonization. The British ruled many South Asian countries, including India, for over 200 years. Their colonization embedded the idea that fair skin people were the ruling class, and darker-skinned people were the subjects. British rulers treated lighter-skinned Indians more favorably than their dark-skinned counterparts. They gave light-skinned Indians access to government jobs, while constantly demeaning dark-skinned Indians. This discrimination also bled into India’s caste system, where people perceived higher castes as fairer and superior and lower castes as darker and inferior. As such, these lasting colonial legacies mean that skin color still affects the socioeconomic status of Indians today.

How Colorism Affects Poverty

Poverty and colorism in India go hand-in-hand. Because the caste system still affects socioeconomic status, people with darker skin tend to be lower in socioeconomic status as well. Colorism makes social mobility harder for Indians in general. There is systemic discrimination against dark-skinned people in education systems and the labor market. Educators and employers still prefer light-skinned Indians over dark-skinned Indians, which plays greatly into the opportunities for social mobility that darker-skinned Indians do and do not have.

A basic link between poverty and colorism in India is that impoverished people are not able to take care of their appearance and diet. Though they don’t have access to skin-lightening products, they are seen as “dirty” and “dark.” Over time, these connotations begin to blur, and socioeconomic status and skin tone become connected to social and financial status.

One of the most unique effects of colorism in India is how arranged marriages, common in India, discriminate against dark-skinned people. Marriage ads allow people to filter out women on every condition under the sun, including skin color. A study done at the University of New Delhi, India found that dark-skinned men and women were consistently rated lower on marriage ads. This demonstrates yet another way that colorism in India inhibits social mobility, which makes it harder for impoverished people to change their circumstances.

Combatting Colorism in India

Anti-blackness and anti-darkness together ultimately create discriminatory systems that disenfranchise dark-skinned people in India and across South Asia. However, protests over summer of 2020 in the U.S. have prompted calls for equity and justice around the world, especially in India. In particular, there has been a new wave of conversations surrounding colorism in India and how to fight it.

Many Indians are asking themselves and their family members how they can continue to support “Black Lives Matter” while also perpetuating harmful colorism within their own communities. Some people are starting the fight against colorism by talking to their friends, families and community members about colorism. Others are using social media to create movements, like #UnfairAndLovely, which takes the name of a popular lightening cream and uses it to brand positivity posts for dark-skinned Indians. Still others are calling for accountability from notable Indian celebrities like Priyanka Chopra, who has promoted skin-lightening products in the past.

No matter the level of activism, combatting colorism in India needs the work of all of society to make India equitable for all Indians, regardless of skin color. Fighting colorism in India also helps fight poverty, and vice versa. Ultimately, colorism in India shows us that the fight for poverty is not just a fight for living wages, but a fight for global human rights.

Hannah Daniel
Photo: Flickr

Everything You Need to Know About the Protests in India
People in India gathered on December 19, 2019, to protest the government’s intensified religious discrimination. Around 25,000 people filled the streets of Mumbai and 10s of thousands more protested other major cities in India. On Dec. 11, the Indian government passed a new Citizenship Amendment Act. This act makes religion a qualification to gain citizenship. As the people continue to disagree with the actions of the state, here is everything that people should know about the protests in India.

Reasons for the Protests

The Citizenship Amendment Act promises to expedite the citizenship statuses of people of religious minorities in the countries neighboring India. This includes Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and many more, however, it excludes Muslims. Many of the protestors view the bill as an anti-Muslim sentiment in India, coming to a legislative light under Prime Minister Modi, even though Islam is the second-largest religion in India. It also sparks the fear that the 200 million Muslims with citizenship currently living in India could have their status called into question in the future.

Who are the Protestors?

Most of the protestors at the forefront are students from some of India’s most acclaimed universities, like Jamia Milia Islamia University (JMIU) in New Delhi, Tata Institute of Social Sciences and IIT-Bombay. The first protest at JMIU turned violent. In addition, there was rampant police brutality against Muslim students. Consequently, this sparks other universities to stand in solidarity against police brutality. Police officers threw tear gas into the library and hit some nonviolent students with batons.

Violence in the protest

The protests in India as a whole have resulted in the arrests of thousands of people, of which authorities arrested around 5,000 “preventatively” and 23 died. Six people alone died in Uttar Pradesh, a city in the north. However, the police chief of the area, Prakash Singh, claimed that the police did not fire any bullets and that they used only tear gas and batons on peaceful protestors. Despite these claims, the causes of death have yet to receive a public release. The most recent wave of peaceful protests in India has been in violation of an act temporarily preventing gatherings of more than four people at a time, heavily restricting the right to protest at a time of mass civil unrest.

Internet and Cellular Service Shut Downs

The internet and cellular services shut down in parts of the country, specifically the state of Uttar Pradesh. Prior to the cut, authorities arrested over 100 people. As of the end of 2019, there were inflammatory or inciting posts on social media regarding the CAA. Additionally, the police chief backs this move as a means to prevent the circulation of fake news and to stop the apparent fear-mongering of the CAA opposition.

The scale of the public outcry against the Citizenship Amendment Act shows that the fight to maintain India’s position as a secular state is far from over, although the authorities have stopped protestors. Protestors have had international support as well. On December 18, 2019, many people protested outside of the Indian consulate buildings in New York City, Chicago and San Francisco. As the protests in India rage on, the country remains torn over the discriminatory nature of this new law, and what it means for its democracy as a whole.

Anna Sarah Langlois
Photo: UN Multimedia

Poverty in China’s Xinjiang ProvinceXinjiang is a remote autonomous region in northwest China. While Xinjiang had periods of independence, the province became part of communist China in 1949. There are 40 different ethnic groups in Xinjiang, but the Uighurs, who are the traditional inhabitants of the area, and the Hans Chinese compose the ethnic majority of the region. While the economic disparity between the Hans and Uighurs gave rise to a certain amount of ethnic tension, the Chinese government’s recent treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang led to many human rights violations and poverty in Xinjiang.

Poverty in China’s Xinjiang Province

The historic racial tension between the Uighurs and Hans seems to be the root cause of poverty in Xinjiang. The Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking Sunni Muslim minority in China. In general, the Hans Chinese and the Uighurs disagree on who has the historic claim to Xinjiang. Since 1949, and centuries before, the Uighurs resisted the Chinese control over Xinjiang. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, there was a surge of support for the Uighur separatist groups within Xinjiang. The Chinese government feared that this Uighur support for separatism might lead to the region declaring itself as a separate state called the East Turkestan. Due to this fear, the Chinese government started to characterize the Muslim traditions, practices and activities of the Uighurs as a national security threat.

The Chinese government’s hostile stance against the Uighurs had a wide-reaching effect throughout Chinese society. After years of the Chinese government’s repression of Uighurs’ religious practices and culture, it has presented the Uighurs as terrorist sympathizers to the general Chinese public. This perception of the Uighurs is a further cause of poverty in Xinjiang. According to The Guardian’s reporter Gene A. Bunin, it is common for businesses to deny service to a Uighur person. Due to the Chinese government’s crackdown on the Uighurs, many Uighurs are losing their rights, livelihoods and potentially their lives. Bunin reported that Uighur restaurants in inner-China are the only ones on their street that Chinese flags and posters about the determined struggle against terrorism cover.

China’s Strike Hard Campaign

In 2014, the Chinese government launched the Strike Hard campaign, which aimed to quell these Uighur separatist sentiments. While the government presented this campaign as a campaign to eradicate terrorism within China, the Strike Hard campaign justified the establishment of political reeducation camps throughout Xinjiang. An estimated 800,000 to 2 million detainees are Uighurs and other Muslims. Reports suggest that Chinese authorities arrested these detainees for trivial reasons such as traveling to a Muslim country, attending services at mosques and sending texts containing Quranic verses. While official reports about the detention camps are scarce, some have made allegations against the Chinese government for torture, sexual abuse and mistreatment of the detainees.

The Xinjiang Economy

While Xinjiang’s economy largely depends on agriculture, there is a recent push to develop the region’s mineral resource harvesting and heavy industries. The recent growth in China’s energy needs further increased the importance of the region to the Chinese government. Some estimations state that Xinjiang has 38 percent of coal reserves, 30 percent of crude oil output and 30 percent of natural gas output in China. During China’s economic boom in the 1990s, the Chinese government invested heavily in Xinjiang’s industrial and energy projects. This, however, meant the mass migration of the Hans Chinese into Xinjiang. The Chinese government stated that this mass migration of the Hans to Xinjiang happens in the name of national unity and inter-ethnic mingling. However, many Uighurs protested that the Hans Chinese were taking their jobs, making it difficult for the Uighurs to support themselves.

In 2018, the Chinese government launched a three-year plan to eradicate poverty in Xinjiang. While people do not know the exact amount of money the Chinese government will spend on its poverty relief program, the $960 million the Chinese government spent in 2017 gives hope to many people in Xinjiang. In addition, many think that the forced detention of the Uighurs, which caused poverty in Xinjiang, is the result of the Chinese government’s desire to secure Xinjiang in its Belt and Road Initiative. Since Xinjiang will play a big part in the project, many think that the Chinese government is trying to eradicate any possibility of separatist activity in Xinjiang.

Poverty in Xinjiang presents a bleak picture. More specifically, poverty in Xinjiang is the story of the Uighurs. The picture of Uighurs forcefully detained against their will is reminiscent of the Orwellian dystopia that many are familiar with. While the Chinese government’s heavy investment in Xinjiang might have improved the economic conditions in the region, many are still doubtful that this improved economy is benefiting the already marginalized Uighurs. The international community still looks to China, hoping that China will improve its human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

North Korean Defectors
Stories of North Korean defection to South Korea are making headlines in recent years. The brutal stories of defection, whether it be running from the guards at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) or escaping capture in transit countries, every North Korean defector has impactful stories of their escape from the hermit kingdom. In 2018 alone, a total of 1,137 North Korean defectors entered South Korea. Eighty-five percent of these defectors were women. These North Korean women are especially vulnerable to human traffickers who aim to sell these women as brides. 

North Korean Defectors’ Arrival in South Korea

The stories of the defectors who succeed in escaping to South Korea do not quite end there. Many defectors who arrive in South Korea face economic, mental and cultural difficulties. While the South Korean government has programs and plans dedicated to helping these defectors, there is still room for improvement.

South Korea’s primary method of assistance includes screening and reeducating North Korean defectors in the Hanawon Resettlement Center. Hanawon’s primary purpose is to educate the defectors about living in capitalist South Korea. Hanawon’s education programs range from everyday activities, such as opening bank accounts or taking the subway, to more practical vocational training.

However, the limited education that the North Korean defectors had in North Korea presents a large knowledge gap in comparison to their South Korean counterparts. Many defectors also say that Hanawon’s programs are not adequate enough to remedy the psychological and physical traumas that many defectors experienced during their escapes. After 12 weeks at Hanawon, defectors can settle into South Korean society. Upon exiting Hanawon, the defectors receive a stipend of around 8 million won, or approximately $6,450 USD, to ease difficulties in resettlement.

Further Improvement Needed in the Resettlement Program

While South Korea is making valiant efforts to curb the challenges of defection, there is potential for improvement. For example, a defector who is a single mother will usually resort to short-term, part-time jobs to support her children.

Defectors face additional difficulties after moving to South Korea. Since Korea’s separation in 1953, both North and South Korea developed a radically different culture and government. For the North Korean defectors, South Korea’s democratic, capitalist society proves to be a great challenge to their resettlement.

The challenge of securing stable employment comes from a variety of factors. If a defector had limited education in North Korea, they are likely to have limited literacy. This not only makes securing employment challenging, but it also makes it harder for them to apply for additional financial aid to the South Korean government.

Discrimination Against North Korean Defectors

South Korean discrimination against defectors further exasperates this particular struggle of securing employment. Son Jung-Hun, a North Koran defector who Vice Media interviewed, shared his challenges when South Korean employers would not hire him after hearing his North Korean accent and seeing his small stature.

In 2019, the death of two North Korean defectors in South Korea made international news. Apartment management staff found Han Song Ok, a 42-year-old North Korean defector, and her 6-year-old son Kim Dong-Jin dead in their Seoul apartment. The coroner’s report suggested that both the mother and the child were dead for at least two months. The investigators found no food in their apartment and Han’s bank account was also completely empty. The coroner found determining the cause of death difficult, although many believe that it is likely they starved to death. Han’s acquaintances told the interviewer that Han had been applying for welfare benefits since the winter of 2018. However, because she could not provide proof of her divorce with her husband in China, the South Korean government continued to refuse her request. 

Clearly, discrimination against defectors is a large factor making it difficult for them to resettle in South Korea. More specifically, many North Korean defectors in South Korea suffer from the feeling of isolation and alienation. For the defectors who left their families in North Korea, the feeling of separation is immense.

The Guardian’s interview with Kim Ryon Hui, a North Korean defector who wishes to return to North Korea, shines a light on the feeling of alienation that many defectors feel in South Korea. Kim told the Guardian that “no matter how affluent you are if you can’t share that with your family, it would be meaningless.” She also added that South Korea considers North Korean defectors second-class citizens, reaffirming the idea of North Korean discrimination.

Poverty in South Korea of North Korean Defectors

Furthermore, North Koreans’ poverty in South Korea is a complicated issue that demands improvements. While organizations such as the Hanawon are assisting the North Korean defectors, it is still not enough. North Korean defectors desire, and need, further assistance and protection from the South Korean government. Considering the journey the North Korean defectors had to take to arrive in South Korea, improving the economic realities for these defectors should be a priority for the South Korean government.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

 

examples of human rights violations
A human rights violation is the disallowance of the freedom of thought and movement to which all humans legally have a right. While individuals can violate these rights, the leadership or government of civilization most often belittles marginalized persons. This, in turn, places these people in the cycle of poverty and oppression. Individuals who approach life with the attitude that not all human lives are of equal value then perpetuate this cycle. This article will explore examples of human rights violations, and what people can do about this phenomenon.

A Brief History

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights emerged in 1948. Of the 56 members of the United Nations at that time, eight of them did not vote in favor of equal human rights. Since then, international human rights have made monumental progress. This does not mean, however, that some do not violate these rights every single day.

The development of human rights advocacy is not a linear process; the last two decades have shown that human rights advancements have remained stagnant or declined in some parts of the world. Socially disadvantaged groups of society are especially susceptible to discrimination. This includes women, children, ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, refugees, indigenous peoples and people living in poverty.

Discrimination

The ramifications of human rights violations disproportionately affect those living in developing nations due to compounding factors and difficulties. The marginalization of groups based on gender identity and sexual orientation has become a prevalent issue of the 21st century. Although there are exceptionally progressive parts of the world that have made advances toward the inclusion of the LGBTQIAPK (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, queer, intersex, asexual, pansexual/polyamorous, kink) community, stigmatization remains a dilemma that lacks a clear resolution. Other stigmatized cases include persons living with HIV/AIDS and victims of rape or other forms of gender-based violence.

Abuse of the Death Penalty

There are countless examples of human rights violations. One example that is especially heartbreaking is the Islamic Republic’s execution of children. The United Nations special investigator of human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehmen, stated in his report to the U.N. General Assembly in October 2019 that the use of the death penalty continues to be at the top of global charts. This is despite significant progress in the two years prior.

Iran has a long way to go. This is considering that religious and ethnic minorities still face high levels of discrimination. Rehmen described the recent maltreatment of human rights activists: “[they] have been intimidated, harassed, arrested and detained.” Rehmen goes on to inform the assembly that between the months of September 2018 and July 2019, eight well-respected human rights defense attorneys were arrested and sentenced to an extended time in prison.

New Wave of Human Rights Violations

Those living in the least developed nations experience some of the worst human rights violations. The U.N. General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Right to Development in 1986 to address this issue specifically. The declaration is radical in the sense that it acknowledges development as a right for all humans. This is something that people clearly do not enforce, although it is a legal right. This provides an understanding that development is a crucial component in reaching equality and protecting human rights.

Prisoners of war and torture victims are also examples of human rights violations. The War on Terror sparked a new influx of human rights abuse acts that has continued over the last two decades and supported the destabilization of international human rights. In order to recover this lost sense of humanity, a common understanding of the rights of human beings is essential.

The western mindset, which takes these rights and freedoms for granted, contributes to this issue as a whole. The question is how can leaders with limited resources enforce the protection of the people’s rights?

The Solutions

Achieving a sustainable, practical and effective method of protecting human rights around the globe that also allows local values and culture to remain intact is a difficult ambition. Humans must recognize the beauty of individual differences and attempt to understand each other before a change can happen. Starting with the smaller steps, like understanding victims of rape, violence and discrimination instead of perpetuating a victim-blaming culture, might be more influential than viewing the situation through such an expansive lens. Only then will these examples of human rights violations turn into examples of human kindness.

– Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr

aboriginal homelessness in canada
In 2017, the Reputation Institution ranked Canada the most reputable country in the world in its Reptrak survey. In fact, in the prior six years that the institution conducted the RepTrak survey, Canada never ranked worse than second. Many know the country for its welcoming disposition, health care and welfare programs. Unfortunately, Aboriginal homelessness in Canada proves that the quality of life is very poor for one particular minority group.

The Problem

Every country, no matter the reputation, faces its own set of problems. For Canada, a key problem is the under-representation of Aboriginal voices in government and the over-representation of Aboriginals living in the streets. Indeed, one of the most reputable countries in the world contains an impoverished indigenous population, a remnant of the atrocious treatment of aboriginals since colonial times.

Caryl Patrick, a York University researcher finds that “Aboriginal homelessness in Canada is a crisis that should be considered an epidemic.” He attributes this to the disproportionate native representation in homeless populations. In major urban zones, Aboriginals account for between 11 percent to almost 100 percent of the homeless population, even though only 4 percent of the Canadian population is native. In Yellowknife, the Northwest Territories, 95 percent of the homeless population is native.

A study by the Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia found that aboriginal Canadians face a different set of challenges than non-Aboriginals. On the issue of homelessness, these inequalities are very evident.

Aboriginal people in Canada are 10 times more likely than non-Aboriginal people to become homeless. Although homeless people all have similar challenges, Aboriginal homeless people have to deal with the additional issues of racism and discrimination. Exclusionary practices in treatment programs that should address everyone equitably exacerbate the problem.

Reports state that Inuit populations in Montreal avoid using shelters and charitable organizations because they experience discrimination from not only the non-native workers that serve them but from non-native homeless people as well. In addition, Aboriginal homeless people are more likely to be younger and completely homeless rather than in a shelter. It is clear that the Aboriginal homeless in Canada face more difficult challenges than non-native homeless.

Cause of Aboriginal Homelessness

Aboriginal homelessness in Canada is part of the larger issue of homelessness, housing inadequacy and poverty in Canada. Moreover, Aboriginal homelessness intricately connects to their history with the Canadian government. The aforementioned exclusionary practices which only perpetuate the racism and poverty in Canada are a symptom of a failure to provide culturally appropriate services that take into consideration the scars of intergenerational trauma. In any case, when a service does not tailor to its users, it is less effective.

There are general pathways to homelessness, but for the native population, there are many more. Beyond the broader context of increasing income inequality and decreasing availability of affordable housing across Canada, Aboriginal people must cope with unresolved historical and cultural trauma and discriminatory community systems and services.

Solutions

Like any other systemic, structural problem, the Canadian government has made funding commitments toward the housing and well-being of both reserve and urban-dwelling Aboriginal people. In 1999, the federal government allocated $753 million toward resolving homelessness across the country. The government devoted $59 million to addressing urban Aboriginal homelessness, and it continues to replenish the budget as the problem continues. However, money alone cannot solve the problem.

Some Aboriginal-specific healing strategies have proven effective. In order to successfully reverse historical and cultural trauma, people must apply culturally appropriate and responsive methods. An example of this approach on a local level is the Lu’Ma Native Housing Society in Vancouver, BC. The program provides 300 culturally-appropriate and affordable housing units for low-income Aboriginal peoples and offers culturally-relevant programs like ceremonial activities and traditional clothing and jewelry making courses.

Additionally, the Society ensures Aboriginal representation at employee, management and board levels. Culturally responsive programs like these decrease Aboriginal homelessness in urban centers and combat discriminatory practices.

On a national level, the Canadian government has launched Reaching Home, a strategy that aims to prevent and reduce homelessness by doubling support for at-risk communities. Communities involved in Reaching Home are attempting to reduce chronic homelessness by 50 percent. In 2016, the government doubled its investment in reducing indigenous homelessness. Reaching Home played a key role by supporting the delivery of culturally appropriate responses to the needs of Aboriginals in vulnerable conditions, including women, youth and mothers.

Looking Ahead

People often overlook Aboriginal homelessness in Canada, even though the country has a top-tier reputation. It is a complex aspect of poverty that intricately connects the larger issue of homelessness to the nuanced history and culture of Aboriginal peoples. Although only 4 percent of the population is native, the over-representation of indigenous peoples living on the streets is a startling statistic. It illustrates the magnitude of the issue and the need for resolution. Hopefully, through local and nationwide efforts that fund and support communities in need through culturally appropriate approaches, perhaps every person living on the streets can find not just shelter, but a home.

Andrew Yang
Photo: Flickr

 

Poverty Among the Roma Population

Out of the many ethnic minorities that live in Eastern Europe, the Roma population often faces discrimination. While progress has been made to limit this discrimination and better integrate the people, there has still been little success. Here are eight facts about poverty among the Roma population in Romania and what is being done to solve the problem.

8 Facts About Poverty Among the Roma Population in Romania

  1. Romania‘s Roma population consists of 2.5 million people out of a total population of 19 million. The Roma are the biggest ethnic minority in Romania and at least 90 percent live on or below the poverty line.
  2. Roma people often have trouble finding housing. The housing problem stems from cities like Bucharest not having enough housing for low income families. With the fall of the Soviet Union, many of the social housing programs that provided housing for the Roma went down with the communist regime, leaving many Roma homeless, especially in Bucharest. Many other Roma families that have lived in large cities have also found themselves being evicted due to unsanitary or unsafe conditions.
  3. Only one in five Roma children attend school. Poor financial situations and a lack of support leave Roma children malnourished, wearing dirty clothing and lacking school supplies, making them unfit to go to school, which contributes to the discrimination.
  4. Most Roma families live in homes without any drinking water or heating. In addition, half of Roma families live off of 3.3 euros per day. However, the Romanian government is taking steps to amend this issue by pushing forward a 100 million euro plan to better integrate the Roma community within the rest of the population and thus reduce poverty as a whole by 2020.
  5. The European Commission is making it their goal to better integrate the Roma community with the rest of the population by continuing a long term project that started in 2010. The program targets all Romanians in Europe works to solve issues with housing segregation, education levels, health improvement and general discrimination.
  6. The E.U. reportedly allocated 10 billion euros on regional development to be spent between 2014 and 2020 with a portion dedicated to assist the the Roma community. Despite this, the situation for the Roma community has yet to have any sufficient changes partially due to insufficient checks by the E.U. on how the Romanian government is using this money.
  7. Of the 10,000 or more street children that live in the Romanian capital Bucharest, about 80 percent of these children are Roma, which further contributes to discrimination. A lot of this is due to the overhaul of the social work and family advocacy systems with the fall of the Soviet Union and communist regime led to a poor or lacking systems that help homeless children and broken families in need of aid.
  8. There are programs at work that seem to be more efficient in leveling the playing field for the Roma community on a level playing field. The Fundația Secretariatul Romilor (FSR), after forming in 2009, has taken steps to help Romania’s Roma community by pushing an awareness campaign to bring outsider attention to the Roma situation, as well as improving the community’s public image through social inclusion programs. Despite doing their best to make headway, the government of Romania has shown resistance to some of their solutions, even with the FSR going as far as to work with NGOs.

These eight facts about poverty among the Roma population in Romania show how poverty seriously affects not just Roma in Romania, but in all of Eastern Europe. While it’s clear that outside influencers are seeking to improve the Roma situation, the main government within Romania seems resistant in solving the problem. With awareness, time and successful government programs, Romania can really help the Roma community.

– Collin Williams
Photo: Flickr

Romani People in BulgariaIn the 1400s, Romani people migrated from Northern India to Eastern Europe. Upon first arriving, Eastern European natives supposed they came from Egypt, thus calling them “Gypsies.” While the term “Gypsy” refers to a single ethnic minority, the Romani people came from numerous tribes. They lived as nomads and traditionally worked as craftsmen.

During this time, Eastern Europeans commonly used “Gypsy” as a derogatory term. They discriminated against Romani people, treating them as less than. Due to this history, the term “Gypsy” is avoided today for its negative connotation.

Romani People in Bulgaria

However, in some Eastern European countries like Bulgaria, citizens still discriminate against the Romani people. This discrimination results in poverty among Romani people in Bulgaria. As a result, they are isolated into ghetto-like neighborhoods that are covered in trash and lack clean drinking water. Additionally, the infrastructures and sewage systems of these neighborhoods are in need of repair. In Bulgaria, 40 percent of Romani people live below the poverty line.

The schools in the Romani neighborhoods of Bulgaria are of low quality, both in the quality of curriculum and resources. Because of this, many Romani parents view school as pointless and instead keep their children home. Other parents keep their children home to work for extra income. Some parents need older children to watch their younger siblings during the day. If possible, some Romani parents send their children overseas to school, in hopes they can achieve a better future.

This lack of high-quality education among Romani people in Bulgaria has led to:

  • 22 percent of Romani people in Bulgaria being illiterate.
  • 91 percent not receiving a secondary education.
  • a direct link between the lack of schooling and teen pregnancy, resulting in 6,000 babies being born to underage Romani mothers in 2016.
  • many being unable to speak Bulgarian.

Forming the Set Free Foundation

After acknowledging discrimination against Romani people in Bulgaria not only causes poverty but also makes it nearly impossible to escape, the Set Free Foundation was created. Established in 2000, this nonprofit works to fight for Romani rights in Bulgaria. Their vision is to create a system integrating Romani people into Bulgarian society. In doing so, Romani people would become functioning members of Bulgarian society and receive the same rights and opportunities as Bulgarians.

In order to accomplish this successfully, the Set Free Foundation has created the Renascence Programme which consists of the following components:

  • a 14- to 30-day program that transitions Romani people who have migrated to other parts of Europe back to Bulgaria,
  • a space for Romani people to rest and reflect,
  • assistance for Romani people seeking permanent housing and a job,
  • teaching Romani people how to budget finances, and
  • training for Romani women to ensure they have the necessary skills to enter the job market.

The Set Free Foundation Helps Romani People in Bulgaria

Beyond implementing the Renascence Programme, the Set Free Foundation has accomplished numerous projects to help end poverty among Romani people in Bulgaria. For example, they have built a house in Bulgaria called the Liberty House. This house temporarily houses Romani families in financial crises in need of housing. It consists of three working toilets, three showers and three water basins. The Liberty House can shelter four to six families at a time. And the Set Free Foundation hopes this house is the first of many.

The Set Free Foundation has also partnered with Valley Church to build a garden outside the Liberty House. The garden provides guests with fresh produce during their stay. In addition, Valley Church has donated numerous suitcases full of feminine hygiene products to the Set Free Foundation for Romani women.

The Set Free Foundation encourages supporters to spread the word about poverty among Romani people in Bulgaria. It also welcomes donations to help continue their work. Donations help Romani people gain access to better education and enter the workforce, ultimately resulting in their ability to leave poverty and lead more fulfilling lives.

– Emily Turner
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

10 facts Ukraine

Ukraine is a beautiful country nestled between Russia to the east and the European Union to the west. This precarious location has led to conflict and hardship for the people of Ukraine, but there are programs in place now to improve the lives of the citizens living in these conflicted regions. In order to evaluate the best course of action to better the lives of the Ukrainian people, it is important to understand these top 10 facts about living conditions in Ukraine.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Ukraine

  1. In 2014, the Euromaidan movement erupted in eastern Ukraine when President Viktor Yanukovych decided not to sign an agreement with the European Union, thus bringing Ukraine a step further away from joining the EU. Yanukovych was removed from the presidency in 2014, followed by political unrest, the annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014 and the outbreak of fighting between Ukrainian nationalists and Russian forces in the Donbass region of Ukraine. This conflict has resulted in more than 10,000 deaths.

  2. The conflict in Ukraine has resulted in 1.5 million internally displaced persons, according to the Ukrainian government. Despite this enormous challenge, the UNHCR is working to provide aid, including blankets, cooking supplies, clothing and other supplies to help these people survive the harsh winter. Understanding the top 10 facts about living conditions in Ukraine can help shed light on what more needs to be done to aid these displaced people.

  3. In the immediate aftermath of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, hunger and food shortages became pressing issues. The United Nations Food Programme responded by increasing its presence in Ukraine to provide food to the 190,000 people deemed vulnerable due to conflict or the inability to leave the conflict zone. The World Food Progamme has also provided food supplies to the region in case further violence and displacement ensue.

  4. The Roma minority in Ukraine are continuing to face discrimination without much aid from the government. This discrimination has culminated in violent attacks against Roma communities. For example, in April 2018, a nationalist group called C14 attacked a Roma community by throwing rocks, spraying pepper spray and tearing down tents. None of the members of C14 were arrested despite the fact that the group filmed their attack and posted it to the internet. Instead of punishing the group, the government awarded them with grants to hold “patriotic education” meetings in rent-free auditoriums. Further attacks continued, resulting in the murder of a Roma man and the robbing of 150 Roma families in Slovyansk.

  5. Anti-Semitism has become a devastating problem that is quite prevalent in Ukraine since the conflict with Russia began. After a Passover service in a synagogue in Donetsk, masked members of the Donetsk People’s Republic, a pro-Russian group that “claims to represent ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine,” handed out leaflets to the members of the synagogue that read that all Jewish Ukrainians should register with the government, leave the country or pay a fine. When confronted about the issue, the Donetsk People’s Republic denied they were involved and in turn claimed the Ukrainian government was guilty of anti-Semitism.

  6. Unemployment in Ukraine decreased from 8.30 percent in the second quarter of 2018 to 8 percent by the third quarter; although, the rate did increase again up to 9.3 percent. Although the Ukrainian economy grew by 3 percent last year, which is positive, it should be growing at a rate closer to 5 or 6 percent annually. In fact, the Ukrainian finance minister stated that, at this current rate, it would take Ukraine up to 50 years to reach the economic growth of its neighbor, Poland.

  7. Gender equality has a ways to go in Ukraine in the political, economic and social spheres. The Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum ranks Ukraine at 64 in terms of women’s income, 22 in terms of women’s education and 119 in terms of political representation. Women make up 55 percent of the unemployed population in Ukraine. Women make up only 9.4 percent of the Ukrainian parliament. However, the Ukrainian government does recognize this issue and is taking steps to promote gender equality. There is a new state program to reduce the wage gap through efforts to increase the hiring of women in better-paying positions and “combating gender stereotypes about female and male professionals.” Equal pay will also be a focus in order to reduce the wage gap.

  8. One major issue around in Ukraine is child marriage. According to UNICEF, 9 percent of Ukrainian girls are married before the age of 18. The issue is more prevalent in poorer, rural areas of the country where 15 percent of women in poorer households were married before the age of 18 compared to 10 percent in the wealthier families in Ukraine. According to the organization Girls Not Brides, “Patriarchal attitudes still maintain that a Ukrainian woman’s main role is to be a wife and mother. Some young girls and families support early marriage as it leads to the ‘right path’ in life.” However, the government has recognized this issue and has signed several U.N. resolutions to eliminate child marriage.

  9. Education attendance rates are high in Ukraine, although there are several institutional issues. According to the World Bank, there is very little gender disparity in primary school attendance. In 2014, 92 percent of boys and 93 percent of girls attended primary school. However, the World Bank also reported that “unofficial payments are common in education. […] schools collect money from parents for classroom remodeling and flowers or gifts for teachers.” The Ukrainian government has taken steps to designate 7 percent of its annual GDP to improving education throughout the country.

  10. Despite the devastation the conflict in Ukraine has caused for citizens, there are NGOs in the region attempting to provide aid to those affected by the violence. Hope for Ukraine is an organization that delivers aid packages to the frontline in the Donbass region. It has volunteers visit wounded soldiers in hospitals and holds after-school English lessons for Ukrainian school children through its Children’s Rescue Center.

The issues in Ukraine will not be easily solved, but hopefully, these top 10 facts about living conditions in Ukraine highlight the successes that several organizations have brought about and what still needs to be done to improve the lives of Ukrainian citizens.

Alina Patrick
Photo: Flickr