Information and stories on education.

Eight Facts About Education in Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the leaders in education within the European Union. With a national initiative to have accessible education to all of its citizens, the Swiss education system ranks number six on the Study E.U. education ranking of 2018. So what exactly is it that allows for such a praiseworthy education system? These eight facts about education in Switzerland show why the country is so successful in the education of its people.

8 Facts About Education in Switzerland

  1. Canton School Systems: Each canton – a Swiss state – has primary responsibility for how the schools in their area are run. Effectively each canton runs their own education system, though there is an overruling federal educational system: The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). Each canton can create its own structures such as school calendars and education plans. There is, however, an agreement among the cantons to keep a baseline level of continuity. This opens individuals up to the ability to shop the public schools that fit their own and their child’s needs.
  2. International Schools: Switzerland has a host of schools that cater to international families, operate bilingually or are privatized. This creates a smoother transition for English speaking individuals who can then benefit from education in Switzerland.
  3. Number of Schools: There are currently around 44 schools in Switzerland that specifically accommodate international students and are a part of the Swiss Group of International Schools (SGIS). This schooling goes from primary up to secondary and offers both day and boarding options. Many of the schools follow the Swiss canton curriculum, but many also provide curriculums based on the individual’s home country.
  4. Homeschooling: Homeschooling is not a common practice within Switzerland; some cantons have even outlawed it. In August 2019, the Swiss supreme court rejected a mother’s appeal to the right to homeschool her child. It declared “the right to private life does not confer any right to private home education.” The court also stated that the cantons have the right to decide what forms of schooling they will allow and are in the best interest of the children that reside within their districts. Only 1,000 children receive homeschooling throughout all of Switzerland, a country with more than 8.5 million citizens. Many are against homeschooling in Switzerland because they believe it to be a deprivation to the child’s social education. They believe that a child can only achieve this through daily peer interactions. Further, many believe that homeschooling causes inequality within society because not every family can afford its costs.
  5. Compulsory Education: Education in Switzerland is compulsory for all who reside in the country, regardless of legal residency status. Though it varies by canton, most children have mandatory education for 9 to 11 years. Children begin schooling anywhere from ages 4 to 6 and must stay in school until about the age of 15. Education is typically more sympathetic to the individual in Switzerland. Switzerland has adopted the idea that every child learns differently and requires different support structures within school.
  6. Formal, Vocational and Apprenticeship Training: After their compulsory education, children have the option to continue on with formal education or begin vocational and apprenticeship training. Even though attending a university is comparably more affordable in Switzerland than in other countries, many students opt for vocational and apprenticeship education. Apprenticeships and vocational training can last anywhere from two to four years and can equate to a bachelor’s or associate’s degree. This depends on the duration and weekly hours of involvement in the individual’s education.
  7. Specialized Education: Special education in Switzerland is a right. Specialized education professionals give individuals living with special needs free support until the age of 20. The cantons vary but typically offer special needs students access to both mainstream schools and special needs schools. The European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (EASIE) assesses children before entering the special education system. It does this in order to determine and advise parents on what may be best for their child. Switzerland joined the EASIE in 2000 in an attempt to better integrate its special needs citizens into mainstream society.
  8. Free Schooling: Schooling is free—kind of. Though compulsory education is free, it does equate to higher taxes for citizens. Further, schools often ask many parents to help with providing school utensils for the classrooms. Many argue that Switzerland’s excellent educational system is because of the country’s vast amount of wealth and higher tax rates. After all, in 2019, a global report listed Switzerland as the wealthiest country in the world, accounting for 2.3 percent of the world’s top 1 percent of global wealth.

Switzerland’s educational system is the ultimate goal for what education should be across the world. These eight facts about education in Switzerland show how the country is striving to create a more learned and prosperous future for its youth. Switzerland is a fantastic example of a country that has met the fourth goal on the global goals for sustainable development: quality education.

– Emma Hodge
Photo: Flickr

Books on PovertyListed below are four fiction and non-fiction books on poverty. The novels not only share interesting stories and plots, but they also demonstrate the injustice of poverty and remind the readers of the importance of fighting back and helping people overcome these odds.

4 Books on Poverty

  1. Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers
    Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a non-fiction novel by Katherine Boo — Pulitzer Prize winner and staff writer for The New Yorker. Her novel sheds light on families trying to better their lives in a makeshift settlement in Annawadi, while the rest of India begins to flourish. Boo spent three years in India personally gathering stories about the struggles these families faced. The novel begins by revealing the harsh truth of living in slum life; families make money by selling rich people’s garbage while facing adversity like wrongful imprisonment. Boo also shows how corruption in institutions like hospitals, charities and the education system threatens poor communities. Behind the Beautiful Forevers won the National Book award in 2012. The novel has been added to the common core and the teachings continue to be shared in high schools everywhere.

  2. NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names
    We Need New Names
    is a fictional novel written by Zimbabwean author, NoViolet Bulawayo. Bulawayo’s novel is about a young girl’s journey out of Zimbabwe and into the United States. The book focuses on life in Zimbabwe in the early 2000s. At that time, the country was in a political upheaval; the young girl and her family were forced to move to a new village after their home was bulldozed by the government. The book tells of the obstacles of living in a poverty-stricken country, and the family’s need to get out and start a new life.

  3. Robert D. Kaplan’s Surrender or Starve: Travels in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea
    Kaplan’s Surrender or Starve: Travels in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea is a non-fiction novel that explores the ethnic, religious and class conflicts of people in Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea in the 1980s. Kaplan studies the reasons for famine in the region and offers both a forward and afterward, which explains how the region has developed since the famine in the 80s.

  4. Nicholas D. Kristof’s and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
    Half the Sky is a non-fiction novel about the oppression of women and girls in the developing world. The novel introduces struggling women throughout Africa and Asia, some of which share their tragic experiences of being sold into sex slavery and suffering dangerous injuries during childbirth. The novel also gives hope to the audience by sharing how these women overcame the obstacles of living as a woman in poverty to lead fulfilled, successful lives.

Not only do these four books on poverty entertain their readers with interesting stories, but they also emphasize the importance of fighting back and helping to end poverty by sharing the harsh reality of living in a poverty-stricken community.

– Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr

Education in VietnamSince the late 1980s, Vietnam has taken various steps to make good on its constitutional promises of free, quality education for all. However, there is still much work to be done for the southeast Asian country to ensure that every citizen has an opportunity to earn a quality education. These seven facts demonstrate the challenges and improvements made in regards to education in Vietnam.

7 Facts About Education in Vietnam

  1. In recent years, the Vietnamese government prioritized quality education nationwide. According to UNESCO, in 2010, the government spent 19.8 percent of its state budget on education alone. This number is significantly higher than the 13.7 percent spent on education across all of East Asia. However, Mitsue Uemura, chief of UNICEF Vietnam’s education section, calls for the government to ensure they are spending their education budget in the most efficient ways possible in order to reach the most vulnerable.
  2. About 95 percent of Vietnamese children are enrolled in primary school by the age of six. However, only 88.2 percent of those children complete their primary education. Historically, primary schools would often charge parents fees for textbooks, sanitation, traffic guards and even building maintenance. These fees made it near impossible for children in disadvantaged and rural communities to stay enrolled long enough to complete primary school. According to a CIA World Factbook evaluation, in 2001, only two-thirds of children were able to complete the fifth grade due to monetary challenges.
  3. Vietnam is successfully closing the enrollment gap between rural and urban regions. Specifically, the Central Highlands and the Mekong Delta areas increased their net elementary intake of 58 and 80 percent in 2000 to 99 and 94 percent in 2012. In the same 12-year span, the intake rates for lower-secondary education in these areas grew from 69.5 percent to 92 percent.
  4. Despite various challenges, the percentage of children pursuing a secondary education in Vietnam has grown considerably over the years. In the early 1990s, only 1.7 percent of students 15 years of age and older completed at least a junior college education. That number increased to 4.4 percent within two decades.
  5. The number of students enrolled in institutions of higher education in Vietnam, such as universities, colleges and vocational schools, is increasing. In 2015, 2.12 million students were enrolled in these institutions, a large increase when stacked against 133,000 student enrollments in 1987. 
  6. Literacy among young adults in Vietnam is on a steady upswing. In 1989, Vietnam’s literacy rate for students aged 15 and older was 87.2 percent, and by 2015, the literacy rate for the same demographic was 94.5 percent.
  7. In 2012, Vietnam participated in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) for the first time. The results demonstrated that education in Vietnam has a strong focus on instilling basic cognitive skills in its students, such as numeracy and literacy. Vietnamese students not only performed with the same success as countries like Austria and Germany, but they also outperformed two-thirds of the other countries who participated in PISA that year, ranking 17th out 65 countries. 

Educational reform, closing enrollment gaps, active teaching practices and the like have played major roles in the evolution of Vietnam’s education system over the last two decades. While there is still work to be done, Vietnam has taken large steps in recent years to prove its willingness to make quality education for all a top priority. 

– Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Land Management PracticesRoughly 2 billion people across the globe rely on agriculture to make a living. However, due to unprecedented amounts of soil degradation (nearly a quarter of the world’s productive land is degraded), the livelihoods of farmers around the world are being threatened. Out of which, 40 percent of these degraded areas are located in extremely impoverished areas.  The UN-supported project “Sustainable Land Management Practices to Address Land Degradation and Mitigate Effects of Drought” (SLM Project) is attempting to teach farmers around the world sustainable farming practices that will reverse soil degradation and increase productivity.

The Problem

As previously mentioned, many small subsistence farmers are unknowingly contributing to the degradation of their own soil. This not only leads to less productivity for their farms, endangering their livelihoods but also contributes to deforestation which has massive effects on our whole environment. In the Philippines, the past 100 years has seen a near 50 percent drop in their forest cover and a massive spike in degraded lands, affecting around 33 million Filipinos. The farmers who are contributing to soil degradation and poor land health should not be blamed for their practices. Instead, we should follow the lead of the SLM Project and attempt to teach farmers sustainable farming practices that will protect their soil.

The Solution

Partnering with the Philippino Government’s Bureau of Soils and Water Management, the SLM Project has undergone the task of teaching countless Filipino farmers tactics to reverse soil degradation. Rosita Adalim, a Filipino farmer from the Bukidnon Province, is a perfect example of SLM’s preferred solution to the soil degradation problem. According to her, “Seminars on SLM helped improve my farming practices. I learned to adapt contour farming to prevent soil erosion especially in slope lands similar to my farm, which also restores soil fertility.”

After she was taught the science of soil degradation, Rosita became a “farmer-cooperator” or a local farmer taught by the SLM project who spreads the information she learned to the farmers in her community. Farmers like Lorenzo Caca have claimed that implementing the sustainable farming practices taught to him by the SLM project has led to his farm yield doubling.

These success stories make it clear that the SLM project has discovered a successful approach to protecting soil fertility while benefiting local farmers

The Implications

Reports from the United Nations’ Convention to Combat Desertification have concluded that “Land restoration is the cheapest solution to climate change and biodiversity loss.”  The World Wildlife Fund claims that increased soil erosion and degradation will likely lead to increased pollution, increased vulnerability to flooding and a myriad of other negative effects. There is considerable evidence that the declining productivity of farms due to soil degradation is also exacerbating poverty for subsistence farmers around the world.

If the global community follows the SLM Project’s lead, it will empower hundreds of millions of farmers by teaching them Sustainable Farming Practices. This will not only curtail soil degradation and increase food production, but these practices will likely lead to millions of impoverished farmers seeing improvements in their living conditions.

Myles McBride Roach
Photo: Flickr

 

Bacha Posh girls Afghanistan’s patriarchal society forces parents to make tough decisions as daughters are viewed as a burden while sons can earn money, care for their aging parents, and carry on the family legacy. To counter economic dependency on males and social stigma surrounding daughters, some Afghan families practice “bacha posh,” a centuries-old tradition reassigning their daughter’s gender at birth, which allows girls to experience the same freedom as boys.

Bacha posh girls are raised as sons. They dress in boys’ clothes and may go outside alone, bring their siblings from school, go shopping, and play a sport. These girls act as sons and do what the sons would do. While the roots of the tradition are unknown, it is becoming increasingly practiced.

Life For Girls In Afghanistan

Afghanistan is one of the most challenging countries to live in as a woman. Eighty-five percent of Afghan women have no formal education or are illiterate, 50 percent are married or engaged by the age of 12 and 60 percent are married by 16. Three decades of war have led to increased risk of rape and kidnapping of females which has prompted families to force child marriage. Some are forced into marriage to settle a dispute or repay a debt. Many men were killed in armed conflict, leaving the child brides as widows. Most young widows have four children to support and are often forced to beg or participate in prostitution. Child marriage increases the risk of health problems and death because of childbirth in the teenage years. Young wives are also more likely to be abused by their older husbands. Females also have lower legal standing and fewer economic opportunities. Women are hidden from society unless accompanied by a male relative and fully covered.

Widespread poverty encourages families to get their daughters married to avoid having to care for them. Afghanistan is one of the poorest nations in the world with 42 percent of both urban and rural populations living below the national poverty line. An additional 20 percent are at risk of falling into poverty.

Bacha Posh Girls

In poverty-stricken families, bacha posh becomes a normal thing to do. Because boys have a higher status, they are more desirable. The tradition allows families to avoid social stigma affiliated with not having any male children by enabling their daughters to take on the role of a boy in society.

Life for bacha posh girls becomes difficult as puberty reveals their biological gender. The girls often face harassment, risks to their safety, humiliation, and separation from their communities. Others call them transsexuals and Anti-Islamic. Some girls even stop going to school because of the harassment. Families also want their girls to start dressing and behaving like women during puberty, but bacha posh girls do not want to live as a woman in a country that gives them little possibility after experiencing the freedom of males.

Women for Afghan Women, an Afghanistan advocacy group, sees at least two bacha posh girls’ cases at its women shelters throughout the country each year. Most girls, between the ages of 14 – 18, are struggling emotionally, mentally and financially.

NGOs and Government Organizations Leading the Fight

USAID has had direct involvement in Afghanistan’s moves toward gender equality. While the problem of gender inequality remains, there have been positive strides in women’s health and education. Over the past 15 years, the life expectancy for a female in the Middle Eastern nation has “increased from 47 years old to over 60.” Female education has also seen a spike as 3.5 million girls are in school, and 100,000 attend university. USAID aims to continue to develop gender equality by assisting Afghan girls through programs offering support for survivors of sex trafficking, increasing educational opportunities, assisting female entrepreneurs with economic growth and infrastructure, and partnering with the Afghan government to focus on women’s rights.

Mullahs and volunteers from the United Nations have partnered together to travel throughout Afghanistan to conquer cultural and social norms to work towards gender equality in both rural and urban regions. The advocacy groups travel around the country in hopes to eliminate violence against women, increase female access to healthcare and education, and economic equality for women. Volunteers from the UN are working to strengthen the Enhancing Gender Equality and Mainstreaming in Afghanistan which hopes to bolster the Ministry of Women Affairs.

– Gwen Shemm
Photo: Flickr


In the poorer regions of Africa, children are unable to go to school. Developing and post-conflict countries struggle to obtain basic necessities and are sometimes unable to provide children with an education. The result of this is an illiterate generation that will eventually turn to violence in revolt against their continued dependence on aid. MindLeaps is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that seeks to break that cycle, and in fact had successes, by offering these children dance lessons.

The Situation

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 32 percent of the youth do not receive an education and are illiterate. Usually, people blame this on a lack of access to schooling; however, this claim is inaccurate. MindLeaps discovered that the underlying causes are unstable homes and living conditions, education fees while schools propose free education and even apathy towards children. In some cases, children who do have the means to attend school drop out before completing their education, believing employment and a bright future for themselves is impossible. This belief stems from their lack of a supportive home life and struggles for basic necessities, as well as the influence of crime, prostitution and drugs of the elder generations. Aware of this, MindLeaps saves children by reaching out to them with a means to improve their academic situation through dance lessons.

The Program

Studies showed that dancing and movement are important in the development of learning skills, creativity and self-esteem, as well as the improvement of memory and cognitive thinking. With this research, MindLeaps developed a dance curriculum for at-risk youths in Africa, focusing on both cognitive and non-cognitive skills that they would not have developed otherwise. Students who graduated from MindLeaps have in fact shown significant cognitive and behavioral development in functions such as memorization, language, discipline and teamwork. Once dancing strengthens their minds, the children are then able to move on academically, earning sponsorships and scholarships from the organization and the dance instructors.

The Misty Copeland Scholarship

One of these instructors is Misty Copeland, a well-renowned American ballerina who came from poverty, as well. Copeland works with MindLeaps as an advisor, ambassador and dance teacher, as well as participating in their scholarship program, the International Artists Fund. In 2015, she traveled to Rwanda to help MindLeaps launch its girls’ program and established the Misty Copeland Scholarship, which provides a top dance student the opportunity to attend boarding school. Three years later, Misty returned to Rwanda and found that a student who had received that scholarship, a boy named Ali, had gone to achieve major academic success.

MindLeaps’ Achievements

Ali was not the only one to achieve success through MindLeaps. In January 2017, the organization reintegrated over 50 students into formal education in Rwanda. In March of that same year, more than half of those students ranked in the top 10 positions of their respective classes. MindLeaps’ dance lessons saved more than 600 at-risk children from illiteracy and potentially violent futures in 2017 alone. More than 3,500 children have completed the MindLeaps’ program across six different countries since 2014. The organization has seen a 0 percent drop-out rate for students whom it helped move on to formal education.

In short, Mindleaps saves children in slums and homeless children in underground tunnels thanks to dance lessons. Dance lessons offers them an opportunity to lead a life away from poverty. Developing their cognitive skills and earning their educations, enables these children to help and provide for their families, which in turn spares the next generation from illiteracy and hardship.

– Yael Litenatsky
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

10 Facts about Human Trafficking in Bangladesh  
Bangladesh is a country in South Asia that faces many hardships due to poverty. Many residents are struggling to survive, and in turn, crime follows. A crime like human trafficking is detrimental to Bangladesh and the millions of victims it affects. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Bangladesh to broaden the scope of what effects poverty has on human trafficking.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Bangladesh

  1. Bangladesh is a hub for trafficking. The geography of Bangladesh plays a major role in its human trafficking issues. It is located near the Gulf region that links to South Asia. Traffickers transport people on boats to one of the 20 specific drop-off zones in any of the 16 districts in the area. Traffickers could also transport victims to many other South-East Asian countries. There were around 25,000 trafficking victims from January to April 2015 and the drop-off zones were in Maheshkhali, Cox’s Bazar Sadar, Teknaf and Ukhia. Bangladesh’s Coast Guard also reported the rescue of 116 people between the ages of 16 and 25 from the Bay of Bengal in June 2015. Using boats as the main vessels of transportation started in 2003 and caused an increase in human trafficking.
  2. Limited available jobs can lead to vulnerability. Bangladesh is not only a hub because of its geography, but also its limited jobs and resources. Someone can easily become deceived into becoming a human trafficking victim because they would like to obtain a job. The unemployment rate is 4.30 percent with an average salary of $60 a month. There are 27 million in Bangladesh facing extreme poverty and 31 percent living in chronic poverty in less developed areas. Within these circumstances, people in poverty to this degree are willing to take any job opportunities they can find. Human traffickers use this to their advantage and lure unknowing people into job scams; the traffickers promise a good career in another country, but in reality, they will use desperate people for any number of torture, prostitution and labor schemes. Giving way to more economic growth would reduce the number of people who fall victim to human trafficking substantially.
  3. Women are especially prone to human trafficking. Among the 10 facts about human trafficking in Bangladesh is that women make up the most trafficking victims and they have little protection. Reports determined that Pakistan was a transit location for two million women and that Cox’s Bazar had trafficked 3,500 young girls in a matter of 10 years. Women are susceptible to forced prostitution and face abuse, rape and possibly murder. Traffickers traffick 400 women a month in Bangladesh. This trafficking has become a larger-scale operation and around 200,000 women, some as young as 9, have gone to different countries unwillingly.
  4. Sex trafficking is a rising form of human trafficking. There are different forms of trafficking and sex trafficking is one of the most profitable. This kind of trafficking makes up for half of all trafficking profit and only accounts for 5 percent of victims. The victims often suffer in this industry for years and it becomes a lifestyle. Since prostitution became legal in 2000, workers receive little protection. An estimated total of 100,000 women and young girls are working as prostitutes, but less than 10 percent are working voluntarily. Forced sex work is an issue affecting women and girls all over Bangladesh, but the country rarely criminalizes it. Out of 6,000 people that authorities arrest for sex trafficking-related crimes, only 25 people received a conviction.
  5. The BNWLA advocates for progress in women’s safety. The Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) is an organization that emerged to protect women. The BNWLA formed in 1979 focusing specifically on the legality of human trafficking. It advocates for new laws, fights for prevention and protection, and supports local woman lawyers to make a change. The BNWLA successfully advocated for a Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection Act) that eventually passed in 2010. This act was a huge feat and protected women and children against four kinds of abuse.
  6. Organized crime and gang violence tactics are ever-changing. When there is a large population of people living in a country where there is extreme poverty, organized crime is highly likely to occur. Gang leaders (better known as mastaans) are always looking for new ways to get some fast money. Manipulation of children to aid gangs in human trafficking is a tactic that is especially heartless but has shown to be successful. Organized crime involving children is becoming alarmingly popular; estimates determine that there are 1.7 million children with crime exposure crime and that number is rising. Mastaans take advantage of how vulnerable children are in poverty and use them merely as another means of profit. Legislation has made some progress to reduce the risk of children’s exposure to the life of organized crime or human trafficking with the New Children’s Act, but there is little consistency with enforcement.
  7. Lack of education is another factor in human trafficking. Education in Bangladesh lacks a proper structure for children 14-18. The dropout rate for that age group was 65 percent and over half of household heads do not have any education. Seventeen percent of these household heads were on the low end of literacy. Since it is not a requirement for children to attend school, they have to find ways to keep occupied. They do not have anyone closely watching them like children in school and it makes them vulnerable to human trafficking.
  8. Consequences and laws against trafficking are at a minimum. Bangladesh has made progress in its strides towards ending global poverty with the emergence of The Human Trafficking Deterrence and Suppression Act in 2012. While any progress is good, there are many gaps in the enforcement of legislation. In 2017, there were 778 reports of human trafficking with a single conviction. Numbers like these are astounding and show a huge lack of governmental support in ending human trafficking. Protection services in Bangladesh receive limited support as well; services for victims of human trafficking have proven to not thoroughly address the needs of the victim, nor do they include adult men at all. Major governmental reform is necessary to stop human trafficking.
  9. Local organizations are pushing for better treatment. The Thengamara Mohila Sabuj Sangha (TMSS) is a woman-focused, local nonprofit organization founded in 1986 that aids survivors of human trafficking to start new lives. The goal for TMSS is to create businesses and jobs and give any extra support to those struggling to live in Bangladesh. TMSS has many departments within the organization including finance, events/training, market research and development.  Little access to health care is a huge issue that TMSS addresses with a growing number of immunizations, pre and post-natal care and overall education. From 2004-2009, tetanus immunizations in women aged 15-49 grew from just 335 to 1,231 women. The health education from 2004-2009 grew from 13,248 to 55,440. TMSS has been a huge benefit to Bangladesh by providing these potentially life-saving immunizations and education.
  10. The United Nations Global Initiative. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is reaching out to strengthen Bangladesh’s ability to fight trafficking on a legal and financial level. Mr. Syed Muazzem Ali, the High Commissioner of Bangladesh to India, works with the UNODC regional office for South Asia. Mr. Ali notes that there have been tremendous amounts of progress in Bangladesh including improvements in life expectancy, total fertility rate and infant mortality rate. Human trafficking became a topic of interest for the UNODC in March 2007 with The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking. Within this initiative, the UNODC listed Bangladesh as a country especially in need of change against human trafficking. Through this initiate, countries like Bangladesh had to hold more accountability for human trafficking and acquire education on factors that aid trafficking.

These 10 facts about human trafficking in Bangladesh determine that it and the many forms it takes is a serious issue that puts the lives of men, women and children in grave danger. The life of extreme poverty in Bangladesh increases both the risk becoming a victim of human trafficking and becoming involved in organized crime. Weak consequences for trafficking clearly leads to little change, and governmental actions must happen to make these changes. Optimistically, organizations locally and internationally (like TMSS and UNODC) are putting their best effort forward to give the people of Bangladesh access to health care, education and funding to end human trafficking.

Kat Fries
Photo: Flickr

Books for the World's Poor
Globally, approximately 10 percent of men and 17 percent of women over the age of 15 cannot read or write. However, through book donations, many organizations are bringing literature to communities in developing countries as a way to help improve literacy rates. These donations are helping children have a higher quality education and making it easier for adults to learn new skills. Here are three organizations focused on providing books for the world’s poor.

3 Organizations Providing Books for the World’s Poor

  1. Book Aid International
    In 2018, Book Aid International delivered 1.28 million books to people all over the world. They sent books to public and community libraries, university libraries, refugee camps, medical libraries, primary and secondary schools and prisons. As poverty affects people of all ages, genders and ethnicities, Book Aid International focuses on bringing books to all people. They have provided literature to communities where girls are prevented from entering classrooms and libraries, as well as to schools where children have no choice but to share old and torn up textbooks. They believe that without literacy skills the world’s poor will be unable to break away from the cycle of poverty. Thanks to this organization, around 21.4 million people had access to books in 2018.
  2. Brother’s Brother Foundation
    Brother’s Brother Foundation is an organization that promotes international health and education. Founded in 1958, their efforts have provided books for the world’s poor, along with medical, agricultural and educational resources. Their main objective is to bring good health care, education and nutrition to those in the world that lack it. To accomplish this, they work with local agencies in 149 countries. Some of the local agencies they partner with include hospitals, universities, health care departments, schools and religious organizations. With additional support from the United States and other countries, they have provided over $4 trillion in goods and services to the world’s poor. By bringing books to these nations, they have been able to provide some of the tools that the world’s poor need to believe in a better future. The textbooks donated are educating not only children but adults around the world.
  3. Bibliotheques Sans Frontieres (Libraries Without Borders)
    This French-based organization provides books for the world’s poor in over 50 countries. They work in 24 languages and have selected more than 30,000 pieces of literature that will help educate the world’s poor on the major issues of the world. Much of the literature they provide centers around education, health, employment, citizenship, disability and digital knowledge. Since 2007, Libraries Without Borders has touched the lives of more than 2 million people. One of the ways they have been able to reach so many people is through their Ideas Boxes, media library kits that are easily transportable. First designed for refugee camps, they are now found in neighborhoods and rural areas as well. Filled with books, tablets and mobile videos, Ideas Boxes provide vulnerable communities with content that is well adapted to meet their needs and in their own language. Libraries Without Borders has provided Ideas Boxes for more than 850,000 refugees and intends to continue growing this program.

Books and literature are a tool that many of the world’s poor do not have access to but these influential organizations are working to provide books for the world’s most vulnerable people. Due to their donations, more people have access to books that allow them to gain knowledge and new skills.

The next time you are thinking about getting rid of some books in your own library at home, consider donating them to one of these organizations. Help bring joy, knowledge and power to the people who need them the most.

Jannette Aguirre
Photo: Flickr

 

Child Labor in Pakistan
Child labor defines as the employment of children who are younger than a legally specified age. However, some child domestic workers in Pakistan are still working under the worst form of child labor which deprives them of education. A lack of education contributes to the prevalence of poverty, which could otherwise help them change their socioeconomic standing. This article sheds light on child labor in Pakistan.

Top 10 Facts About Child Labor in Pakistan

  1. Child Labor: In Sindh Province, 21.5 percent of children ages 5 to 14 are working. About 11 million children in Pakistan perform domestic tasks and work in agriculture. Other children work alongside their families as bonded laborers in the brick industry. The use of this type of forced child labor in Pakistan happens in the brick, carpet and coal industries.
  2. Child Labor Laws: Regardless of Pakistan’s introduction of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1992, bonded labor still exists due to the country not having enough resources to enforce child labor laws. In 2018, labor law agencies have acted against child labor in Pakistan and are still working toward closing gaps that allow child labor to exist. According to the law, employers who use bonded labor risk punishment of imprisonment for a term of at least two years and a maximum of five years, or a fine of at least PKR 50,000 or both.
  3. Hazardous Work: Pakistan still has the worst form of child labor which includes hazardous work that can damage children’s health and development, or worse, put their lives at risk. Children working in carpet factories sometimes work up to 20 hours a day, seven days a week, and often sleep and eat at their place of work. Many children end up with eyesight and lung issues due to the amounts of dust they come in contact with on a daily basis.
  4. The Carpet Industry: UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) believes that children aged 4 to 14 make up to 90 percent of the carpet industry’s workforce. Workshop owners manipulate parents into believing that their children will learn new skills that outweigh any knowledge gained at school. Such manufacturers target children because they can pay them significantly less than adult weavers which allows them to compete with other companies by offering a quality product at a lesser price.
  5. The Employment of Children Act: To combat the worst form of child labor in Pakistan, more provinces are enforcing laws. The Employment of Children Act states that a child or adolescent cannot work more than seven hours a day which includes one hour of rest during that time. A child also cannot work between the hours of 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. The minimum age for hazardous work is 14 years in Balochistan and ICT, and 18 years in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh.
  6. Education: According to UNICEF, Pakistan has the world’s second-highest number of children who do not attend school. Only 60.6 percent of children in Sindh Province between the ages of 5 to 14 attend school with 11.6 percent combining work and school. However, UNICEF is working on improving the number of children who attend school through studies, supporting provincial sector plan development, development of review of non-formal education policy and direct program implementation.
  7. The Sex Trade: Due to the prevalence of poverty, approximately 90 percent of the 170,000 street children in Pakistan work in the sex trade, an extreme form of child labor. The federal government in Pakistan convicted its first child pornography case after passing the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act in 2018. Pakistan has also approved the Prevention of Smuggling Migrants Act 2018 in order to protect victims who traffickers have smuggled to other countries.
  8. The ILO’s Child Labor Program: The ILO (International Labour Organization) is working through its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, by assisting the government of Pakistan in the elimination of child labor. Pakistan has agreed to enforce laws based on the conventions of the ILO which include the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999. The ILO’s child labor program has carried out many successful initiatives that have helped rehabilitate child laborers by providing formal and non-formal education.
  9. Labor Inspectors: Data from 2017 shows that the number of active labor inspectors is likely less than what is necessary to review the entirety of Pakistan’s roughly 64 million workers. In 2018, the provincial government made efforts to increase the number of inspectors to better enforce child labor laws in Pakistan. With the ILO’s Strengthening Labor Inspection Systems in Pakistan project, labor inspectors in Punjab Province received training to help them with the enforcement of laws. Between January and August 2018, the Punjab Labor and Welfare Department found over 98 cases of child labor during inspections. Of those inspections, 63 of those child labor cases were in brick kiln establishments.
  10. Minimum Age Standards: At a federal level, the minimum age for hazardous work in Pakistan still does not meet international standards. However, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh provinces meet the minimum age standards, above 18. Punjab Province also put a law into effect in early 2019 that bans domestic work for children under the age of 15.

Many children in Pakistan must work in order to pay off their familial debt or contribute to the familial monthly expenses, but the main cause for concern is that even after many advancements in 2018, the worst form of child labor still exists. With more resources to enforce child labor laws and consistency on a federal level, the world could see an end to the worst form of child labor in Pakistan.

– Lisa Di Nuzzo
Photo: Flickr

Inequality in Nigeria

The severe inequality in Nigeria is a giant paradox. As the economy has grown to be the biggest in Africa and one of the fastest-growing in the world, poverty remains rampant. The oil-dependent country harbors the largest population of impoverished people in the world according to the Brookings Institute. As of 2018, 87 million people were living in extreme poverty in Nigeria. A sad reality for a country that, according to the African Development Bank, makes up a whopping 20 percent of the continent’s GDP.

Meanwhile, it would take the richest man in Nigeria, Aliko Dangote, 42 years to spend all of his wealth if he were to spend $1 million every day. According to Oxfam, Dangote earns around 8,000 times more per day than the bottom 10 percent of the population combined spends on basic needs annually. This is a stunning statistic for someone residing in a country ranked 157 out of 189 countries on the U.N. Human Development Index.

The Causes of Poverty

There are a few different factors driving poverty and inequality in Nigeria. Government corruption, greed and cronyism are arguably the biggest:

  • Transparency International ranked Nigeria 144 out of 180 countries on the corruption perception index in 2018.
  • The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission found that from 1960 to 2005 around $20 trillion was stolen from the Nigerian treasury by public officeholders.
  • According to Oxfam, lawmakers in Nigeria make $118,000 annually, one of the highest salaries in the world for public officials.
  • An estimated $2.9 billion is lost in tax revenue annually due to crooked and regressive tax policies, according to Oxfam. An example of these policies is the tax holiday given to companies in the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Project that results in around $3.9 billion in lost tax revenues. On top of this, the fragmented government revenue that is collected is inefficiently managed and unfairly allocated.

It is also worth mentioning that the share of the budget dedicated to public well-being is among the lowest in the region. In 2012, only 6.5 percent of the budget went to education, 3.5 percent went to health care and just 6.7 percent went to social protection. On top of this, around 57 million people lack access to clean water and more than 130 million do not have access to proper sanitation.

Gender Discrimination

Another main factor driving inequality in Nigeria is gender discrimination. Women are at a massive socio-economic disadvantage and Nigeria ranked 125 out of 154 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index in 2015. According to Save the Children Federation, 50 percent of girls aged 15 and older are illiterate. Land ownership and income are two aspects that show major gender inequality in Nigerian culture. For example, according to Oxfam, women make up 60 to 79 percent of the rural labor force but men are still five times as likely to own land, and the non-rural labor force is made up of only 21 percent women.

At the same time, more organizations are taking up the mantle to ensure that tackling gender inequality in Nigeria is more of a priority. For instance, Kudirat Initiative for Democracy or KIND for short, is a nonprofit based in Lagos that focuses on reducing barriers for women’s public participation in social, economic and political development. The initiative also concentrates its efforts on bringing an end to gender-based violence in Nigeria.

Children’s Suffering

Children are hit especially hard by the side effects of inequality in Nigeria. Around 32 percent of school-aged children are out of school and 51 percent are driven to child labor. Every 104 out of 1,000 children die before the age of five. The Save the Children Federation is working hard to alleviate some of the challenges of impoverished children. The nonprofit organization has made some impressive progress in helping Nigerian kids. According to Save the Kids website the foundation has:

  • Protected 296,132 children from harm
  • Supported 186,315 children in times of crisis
  • Provided 5,471,422 children with a healthy start in life
  • Provided 5,266,326 children vital nourishment
  • Supported 296,394 parents to provide for their children’s basic needs

The organization also runs a stabilization center for malnourished children and is working to provide adequate maternal health for Nigerians.

To Be Continued

Inequality in Nigeria is a multi-variant problem. Due to government and economic corruption and gender discrimination, Africa’s largest economy is off-limits for over half of the Nigerian population. Oxfam states that for Nigeria to substantially improve inequality and poverty, public policy, gender inequality and tax policies need a complete transformation. Until then, the good work being done by organizations like Save the Children Federation provide a positive but temporary solution. Confronting the issues and creating real reform from the inside out is the only way to halt the unacceptable poverty and inequality in Nigeria.

– Zach Brown
Photo: Flickr