Information and news about discrimination

Causes of Poverty in BelgiumThe country of Belgium in northwestern Europe is not one that is especially burdened by poverty. its working class includes a small number of people who live below the poverty line; in 2007, it was reported that 7 percent of Belgium‘s population was classified as “poor.” Moreover, a mere 14.8 percent of Belgium‘s population is “at risk of poverty”, and so Belgium’s government has not implemented any sort of massive policy in order to protect its people that are of low socioeconomic status.

However, these rather low statistics should not indicate that the existing poverty rate in Belgium is unimportant or should be ignored. In fact, a wide variety of causes of poverty in Belgium exist, and these causes should be addressed so that the government may implement specific policies and improve the lives of the different groups of people most likely to be living in poverty.

Single-parent families
One of the major causes of poverty in Belgium is that many families that are headed by single parents suffer from an inadequate income. Single parents, especially those who work low-wage jobs, bring home less income than parents who share their total household incomes with their spouses.

Young people
According to a report published by the Belgian Resource Center for the Fight Against Poverty in 2006, young people are particularly susceptible to poverty due to the increased difficulty of finding work compared to older people.

Women are at a higher risk of being burdened by the effects of poverty for many reasons. Among those reasons, consistent with the aforementioned report, is the increased rate of discrimination that women face in the workplace.

Location is a determining factor of one’s likelihood to be affected by poverty, because location ultimately controls one’s access to various resources. For instance, certain areas may not provide workplaces that offer health insurance.

While Belgium may not be burdened by a large poverty rate, there are still many groups of Belgians that fall below the poverty line. These different groups of people may benefit from specific policies implemented by the government in order to address their individual, respective issues.

Emily Santora

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in SamoaAn island state in the South Pacific, Samoa makes up one of the westernmost islands of Polynesia. With just over 170,000 people, Samoa is a small country of great cultural indigenous history. Its government is a unitary parliamentary democracy and though there is little political strife, Samoa has struggled in recent years with its human rights.

According to a 2015 Human Rights Report on Samoa, the country did generally well keeping up with the code of conduct prescribed in the Samoan constitution. An executive summary reported that there were no unlawful government or police killings, torture or inhuman punishment, denial of fair trials or restrictions on academic, internet or speech freedoms. However, the report noted some breaches of the human rights standards in Samoa.

In 2015, conditions in men’s prisons were reported to be overcrowded and there was a lack of ventilation and lighting in cells; in fact, one cell at police headquarters in the city of Tuasivi was deemed unfit for human containment. There was also a general lack of security at prison centers, but authorities did properly investigate and monitor conditions.

The report also noted a violation of privacy of homes and families. Lack of privacy in some villages meant possibly granting officials access to homes without a warrant and there were several allegations of village councils banishing people from their villages. Those exiled by traditional government law were banished due to cases of rape, adultery, murder and unauthorized claims to land. There were some reports of government corruption in 2013, but elections were considered generally fair. Reported rape cases in 2015 were thoroughly investigated and had high conviction rates. Domestic violence is considered common criminal assault with a maximum penalty of one year imprisonment and offenders were generally only punished if the abuse was considered extreme.

In August 2017, a United Nations human rights panel released a report on Samoa’s handling of gender-based violence. The U.N. Working Group on discrimination against women noted that it is only once womens’ sexual and reproductive rights are met that laws regarding gender-based discrimination and violence in Samoa can be fully effective. In Samoa, gender-based violence is somewhat taboo and perceptions of discrimination against women are buried deep within the roots of Samoan culture. The goal of the 10-day delegation on Samoan laws was to open a dialogue about gender-based violence and to rally support from government leaders, stakeholders and men and women alike in order to make the necessary reforms to change misconceptions about violence and discrimination against women. Suggestions for new policies at the event included a state-sponsored welfare system, support for female victims of sexual violence and better funding for civil society groups.

The country, which is making several strides toward bettering human rights for all, has a history of ratifying treaties which work in favor of all Samoans and give people equal and humane treatment. Some include the 2016 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the 1994 Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the 2008 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. With continued pressure on leaders to make permanent changes to the human rights standards of the country, and with the participation and education of the public, human rights in Samoa are on their way to serious improvement.

Olivia Cyr

Photo: Flickr

Why Is Trinidad and Tobago PoorThe island nation of Trinidad and Tobago lies in the Caribbean Ocean off the coast of Venezuela. Built primarily around the oil and gas industries, Trinidad and Tobago‘s economy is one of the strongest in the Caribbean. Despite this, several factors have led to economic stagnation as well as relatively prevalent poverty. So, why is Trinidad and Tobago poor?

A lack of economic diversification and overdependence on petroleum and natural gas are some of the most important factors holding back Trinidad and Tobago‘s economy. With oil and gas constituting 80 percent of exports and about 40 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), the island nation has clearly devoted much of its economy to the sale and manufacturing of these natural resources. This leads to several problems.

Oil and gas prices have been in an overall decline over the past several years, so Trinidad and Tobago’s economy has suffered from job loss, reduced tax revenue and reduced development in human capital. These natural resources are also nonrenewable, meaning that they will eventually run out. Trinidad and Tobago’s government has done little to ensure that the country is ready to expand its economy beyond oil and gas once the underground reserves run dry. The overall lack of a business environment to stimulate entrepreneurs is one of the main answers to the question of why Trinidad and Tobago is poor.

Furthermore, the non-energy areas of the economy remain severely underdeveloped and continue to heavily depend on government subsidies. This lack of economic success in non-energy areas discourages potential foreign investors from investing in Trinidad and Tobago, despite the oil and gas sector’s success. Direct foreign investment is undeniably crucial for a country seeking economic diversification, as the inflow of money can help build a strong foundation for new sectors in the economy.

According to a review conducted by the Commonwealth Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank focused on public policy, over 20 percent of Trinidad and Tobago’s citizens currently live below the poverty line. The report also states that 11 percent of the population is undernourished. These unexpectedly high rates of poverty and malnutrition may be partly due to the considerable gender-wage gap present in Trinidad and Tobago.

A study conducted by the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago shows that women, on average, earn a staggering 35.3 percent less than men. While this may be partially due to a large portion of women taking low-income jobs, there is certainly a serious amount of gender-based discrimination in wages. It is easy to fall into complacency after the increase in the average woman’s wage – from $9,000 in 2012 to $12,000 in 2014. Despite this rise in pay, however, the wage gap has only been increasing. The average male wage was $18,000 in 2012, but has disproportionately increased to $30,000 in 2014.

Another issue presented by the gender-wage gap affects families with single parents. In Trinidad and Tobago, the children of single parents are six times more likely to live under the poverty line. With about 75 percent of single families headed by the mother, the issue of the gender-wage gap becomes truly alarming. It is illogical to expect single mothers to not only care for her children but also provide for them if she is working for significantly reduced wages and has no supplemental income.

This economic disparity between men and women has led to efforts in increasing the resources dedicated to educating and training women. With the number of women in the workforce steadily increasing over the past few years, women in Trinidad and Tobago have definitely seen improvements in their social and economic standing. Nevertheless, there is still much progress to be made. Passing legislation to eliminate the wage gap would be a substantial step toward promoting economic success in Trinidad and Tobago, in addition to the inherent benefits of working toward gender equality.

Answering the question “Why is Trinidad and Tobago poor?” requires a more convoluted response than expected. The nation of Trinidad and Tobago is undoubtedly one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean despite its deeply embedded economic flaws. While the country has made impressive progress by developing social programs to help the vulnerable, nurturing new businesses to encourage private sector growth and eradicating the gender-wage gap must be near the top of Trinidad and Tobago’s priorities for there to be long-term economic improvement.

Akhil Reddy

Photo: Flickr

Sexism in Poverty
Words associated with poverty tend to be hunger, disease or politics but rarely sexism. In 2015, over 80 prominent media figures, from Bono to Beyoncé, signed a letter petitioning to end sexism in poverty. The public letter received recognition from ONE, a campaigning and advocacy organization, and continues to accumulate attention in the media and raise awareness of how sexism is more abundant and destructive in impoverished regions.

ONE plans to decrease sexism in poverty by  improving education and healthcare systems. Over 130 million girls are not allowed to pursue education. In order for girls and women living in poverty to improve their standards of living, education is necessary.

According to ONE, educating women provides a more bountiful future because “every additional year of school that a girl completes increases her future earnings, which is good for her family, her community and her country.”

The current educational obstacles that influence sexism in poverty are poor infrastructure within the education system, cultural restraints that do not support female education and the need for women to remain in the household to ensure the survival of their children.

Another factor contributing to sexism in poverty is the lack of availability of healthcare for women. Impoverished women are especially susceptible to preventable diseases. According to Time, “women spend about twice as much time as men doing the unpaid work that makes life possible for everyone, like cooking, cleaning and caring. In developing countries, the gap is even bigger. As a result, women have no time to finish their education, learn new skills, open a business or even go to the doctor.”

Preventable diseases, such as tuberculosis, HIV and malaria, must be targeted by the governments of impoverished countries to counter the sexually unbalanced spread of disease.

If women succeed, the world succeeds. Neglecting the potential of half the world’s population due to societal and cultural limitations is irresponsible for the future.

Organizations like ONE are fighting to end sexism in poverty to guarantee a prosperous social, political and economic future for women who are not given the chance to thrive due to poverty.

Kaitlin Hocker

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in SurinameThe Republic of Suriname, bordered by Guyana and French Guiana, is home to approximately 566,000 people, 47 percent of whom live in poverty. Here are four issues contributing to poverty in Suriname:

  1. Child Labor
    Many children in Suriname are forced to work in order to help their families make ends meet. While the legal working age in Suriname is 14, eight percent of children between the ages of five and 14 are forced into work. The majority work on the streets, which is a safety risk, or in agriculture, handling toxic and dangerous materials. Since these children are working illegally, their wages are unregulated and they are often grossly underpaid.
  2. Health Issues
    The people of Suriname are especially susceptible to major infectious diseases. There are high instances of food or waterborne diseases, such as typhoid fever, and vector-borne diseases, such as malaria. AIDs has also become one of the main causes of death in children under five. Families in poverty struggle to get treatment for these diseases and are thus often impacted the most. Malnutrition is also a concern for many people living in Suriname. Undernourishment affects 8.4 percent of the population.
  3. Disparities Between Rural and Urban Populations
    There are clear differences between the living conditions in urban and rural areas. Only 61.4 percent of rural populations have access to sanitation facilities, while 88.4 percent of the urban population does. The quality of education, which affects future income, also depends on location. Rural areas have poorly trained teachers compared to urban areas, which puts rural children at a disadvantage. The rural Maroon population, for example, has lower educational attainment, higher malnutrition, and less access to resources like electricity, sanitation and healthcare than urban populations. Rural populations’ disadvantages are partly due to the fact that geographic isolation restricts their opportunities to participate in policymaking.
  4. Discrimination
    High rates of discrimination in Suriname have hurt the wellbeing of minority ethnic groups. Compared to majority groups, people in the ethnic minority have limited access to quality education, good healthcare and other public services. Children from minority ethnic groups are also more likely to be forced into labor or sexually exploited as they try to earn money.

While the country is facing difficult issues, there are a number of programs and government efforts in place working to reduce these inequalities and address the health and labor issues that contribute to poverty in Suriname.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr

U.S. Must Reverse President Trump's Refugee BanIn the continuing fight for the rights of refugees, The Borgen Project is committed to working to reverse President Trump’s refugee ban. The executive order signed on Friday afternoon barred all refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days, barred nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, and put a permanent ban on Syrian refugees.

President Trump’s refugee ban came as a surprise to diplomatic and airport staff in the U.S. and overseas, and many scrambled to respond with various interpretations. The executive order has caused protests and lawsuits and has drawn condemnation from dozens of diplomats and former President Barack Obama.

The current refugee crisis is unprecedented. The number of people displaced by conflict in 2016 was the highest since the end of the Second World War, at almost 60 million. Only joint solutions will credibly and effectively lessen the increasing suffering and social and political turmoil.

Therefore, labeling refugees fleeing conflict zones like Syria and other countries as terrorists has only made matters worse for these vulnerable individuals. A refugee is a person seeking shelter, a life of dignity, freedom and safety for themselves and their families. There is no excuse for treating other human beings who have come to the U.S. seeking these things with hostility, suspicion and intolerance.

About 30,000 Syrians have been evacuated from Aleppo, and 100,000 more are still fleeing violence in the area. Children continue to be massacred every day while the U.S., under this executive ban, is slamming its doors.

For all of the world’s refugees, do not look away. You can help change lives, not just for people in Syria, but for those in more than 90 countries who are fighting to overcome hunger, poverty and violence.

It is un-American to turn away those seeking safety and to discriminate against groups of people because of nationality and religion. Let us stand with refugees and not against them, in their hour of need. Remember that every refugee is someone’s mother, father, son, daughter, sister, brother or newborn baby.

You can call Congress and take action on this serious issue. Please stand with leaders from both parties to reverse President Trump’s refugee ban and welcome those in need of our help.


Photo: Geoff Livingston via photopin (license).

India Passes New Bill on HIV/AIDS Prevention & Control
As the number of global HIV/AIDS cases and deaths continues to drop year to year, the government of India has taken the role of accelerating these promising results, passing a bill focused on the prevention and control of the dreaded disease.

Approved and amended by the government’s cabinet on Oct. 5, 2016, the promising piece of legislation primarily addresses eliminating HIV- and AIDS-related discrimination throughout the country.

According to the officially-titled “HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill,” the denial or unfair treatment of people infected by HIV and AIDS with regard to employment, education, health care service, renting property and standing for public or private office is strictly prohibited.

This bill seeks to protect the rights of those directly affected with the disease by extending the freedom of choosing whether or not to disclose one’s HIV/AIDS status unless ordered by a court of law.

This right also spreads into the health care process by enhancing access to health care services through ensuring confidentiality and informed consent for HIV-related testing and treatment.

One of the most encouraging facts about the legislative measure is its lack of financial implications. Close to all the new established rights, freedoms and services declared in the bill have already been undertaken and integrated through helpful training and communication throughout India’s current systems of government.

From 2001 to 2012, the number of HIV infections was reduced by more than 50 percent in 26 countries, while 17 additional countries witnessed infections decline by between 25 and 49 percent. And India wasn’t absent.

According to The Gap Report of 2014, India too saw a 38 percent reduction in HIV infections among its citizens during this 12-year span. However, 2.1 million people were still newly infected in 2013 alone.

Looking to the future, the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Bill concludes with the ordering of both the Central and State governments of India to take immediate measures regarding the prevention and spread of the disease, the providing of anti-retroviral therapy and more.

Although cases of HIV/AIDS will continue to appear throughout the world, India undoubtedly took one step closer to eradicating the disease and eliminating needless judgment of others once and for all.

Jordan J. Phelan

Photo: Flickr

z1 Borgen Project
The United Nations recently accredited the nonprofit, Freedom Now, as an official Non-Governmental Organization, when only one month before, its application had been denied.

Freedom Now is an American nonprofit organization that works to help free those who have been imprisoned as a result of discrimination based on sex, race, gender and other criteria. This is an advocacy group, which not only provides legal advocacy to clients but also advocates in the public sphere to raise awareness of illegal detentions taking place around the world.

In the original vote, the application was denied by a United Nations committee, arguably because this organization seeks to undermine the country’s own system. One example of a country voting against Freedom Now to further its own agenda is China, which has a history of imprisoning people who disagree with the government. Currently, Freedom Now has a campaign to free a Chinese Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo, who is currently serving an 11-year sentence that began in 2009 for “undermining the state authorities,” according to the Nobel Prize website.

While some countries like China and Russia strongly opposed the accreditation, the United States made the final accreditation possible. Following the rejection, the issue was brought to the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council, or ECOSOC, which had the power to vote again on July 20.

With its NGO status, Freedom Now can continue to grow its work as a nonprofit helping those imprisoned based on their identity, but this process has also sparked controversy in the international political sphere. Now, perhaps the United Nations will seek to reform its accreditation system, in which countries that have not always met the UN’s human rights standards are still part of the forces deciding whether or not to give an organization a title of “U.N. NGO.” Freedom Now is teaching us about illegal detentions, but this situation has helped bring public attention to the corruption that allows these detentions to take place.

Rachelle Kredentser

Sources: India Times, Freedom Now, Nobel Prize, New York Times

In 1899, Rudyard Kipling published “The White Man’s Burden,” a poem that seemingly outlines the necessity for White help to countries that were not, in his eyes, as far along as those in Europe.

Although what initially spawned was colonialism—wherein the African continent was forced to be subject to European powers while living under deplorable conditions—the White Man’s Burden turned into something more: a white savior complex, the need to rescue people of color from what is assumed to be a horrid status.

Many have viewed Western celeb aid to developing countries as just that.

Since movie stars were famous, it has been a commonality for successful stars to go to Africa and Asia to ‘help’ the children and countries. Many see this as a win-win for the celebrities—they get a tax write-off for donating money, they get good press and they ease their conscience.

Celebrities in these countries also affect those in America. When people click on pictures showing celebs like Bono, Madonna and Audrey Hepburn, they admire their charity and the things they are doing.

However, when Americans see these faces among black and brown children in poverty, it can stimulate a savior complex. Although Kipling’s poem influenced the white man’s complex, it has turned into a Western savior complex.

Americans are no strangers to the ‘Africa the country’ phenomenon. Many assume most of Africa is an underdeveloped jungle full of natives who need help. When media only shows the parts of Africa that are in trouble coupled with the infrequency to learning about it in school, many Americans feel the need to save them from themselves and their conditions.

While this condescending attitude may seem harmless on a small scale, it is dangerous on a national scale.

When politicians are discussing sending aid and support, it is often times not done properly, sometimes worsening the situation. Earlier this summer, Pastor Rick Warren urged the Senate to have a different type of attitude towards those stuck in extreme poverty.

By changing the narrative and the education, aid can be properly and respectfully given to countries in Africa, developing mutually beneficial relationships between the U.S. and the East.

Erin Logan

Sources: History Matters, Newser, LA Times, Senate
Photo: The New Yorker

As with many of South Africa’s social ills, poverty in Johannesburg is rooted in the legacy of apartheid. But decades before the downfall of apartheid, seismic shifts in the South African economy ensured that poverty will remain a pressing concern in Johannesburg for years to come. Facing unemployment of Great Depression levels, Johannesburg’s poor blame immigrants instead of apartheid for their enduring misery.

Until 1994, the apartheid system was the defining socioeconomic force in South African life. Termed “separate development” by its apologists, apartheid sought to segregate South Africa’s four principal racial groups—blacks (native Africans), whites, coloreds (of mixed black and white descent) and Indians—in all domains of public and private life. Though the governments that enforced apartheid—which were elected exclusively by white voters—characterized it as a policy of “good neighborliness” between discrete groups, the system extended rights and privileges to whites that no other group could access.

In Johannesburg, the apartheid system entailed the division of the metropolitan area into eleven local authorities—seven for whites, four for blacks. Given the disadvantaged position of blacks in apartheid-era South Africa, local authorities for blacks could afford annual spending of 100 rand per capita, while local authorities for whites boasted annual spending of 600 rand per capita. These sorts of systemic inequalities relegated most blacks in Johannesburg to atrocious levels of poverty throughout the apartheid era.

Though the apartheid system set the stage for contemporary poverty in the city, other factors contribute the prevalence of poverty in Johannesburg today. Economic forces originating in the apartheid era and continuing today play a significant role. During the late 20th century, the South African economy grew at a sluggish pace: GDP growth averaged 1.6 percent between 1980 and 1995, a disappointing pace for a developing nation.

As a result, population growth has vastly outpaced job creation. This sluggish growth coincided with the decline of manufacturing industries in and around Johannesburg, leaving semiskilled and unskilled workers with dwindling employment prospects. These twin forces have raised unemployment to 30 percent in Johannesburg and 25 percent nationwide. As under apartheid, blacks suffer more than any other race group from these phenomena: 72 percent of Johannesburg’s poor are black, according to city authorities.

Faced with unemployment and a legacy of discrimination, the poor of Johannesburg often vent their frustration at a more tangible scapegoat: immigrants. Accused of stealing jobs from native South Africans, both legal and illegal immigrants are the targets of riots by poor citizens in the country’s largest cities. Illegal immigrants face additional persecution for abusing social services—“allocated on the basis of legal populations,” according to the Johannesburg government— that would otherwise benefit the native South Africans among Johannesburg’s poor.

Though the deleterious effects of immigration on South Africa are disputed, poverty in Johannesburg remains grim and unabating. Rooted in mass unemployment and historic discrimination, poverty will continue to wrack Johannesburg in the coming years.

– Leo Zucker

Sources: University of Johannesburg, City of Johannesburg, Environment and Urbanization, CNN
Photo: The Record