John Coonrod Empowers Poor People
John Coonrod is the Executive Vice President of The Hunger Project — a non-profit organization that helps give poor people the means to lift themselves out of poverty. As part of this organization’s leadership, John Coonrod empowers poor people to lift themselves out of poverty by placing special emphasis on female farmers, who are among the poorest people in the world.

Origins

Coonrod has been advocating for social justice for a very long time. While he was training as a physicist at Stanford and the University of California-Berkeley, he was an active member of local civil rights and anti-war movements. When The Hunger Project was first founded in March of 1977, John Coonrod was its first volunteer and he continued to volunteer while he worked at Princeton University from 1978 to 1984.

In 1985, he became an official member of The Hunger Project’s staff. In addition to meeting his future wife while working at The Hunger Project, Coonrod used — and still uses — his expertise to help poor people in developing countries. To this day, John Coonrod empowers poor people to lift themselves out of poverty.

The Hunger Project

The Hunger Project is a non-profit organization that seeks to end poverty and world hunger by pioneering grassroots movements. While it believes that everyone should be free of poverty and hunger, they place a special focus on women and gender equality. The reason for this is that women are typically in charge of meeting a family’s needs, but are often denied the means and resources to do so by their society.

The Hunger Project currently works with organizations in 11 countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal, Uganda, Bangladesh, India and Mexico. Between these countries, they have helped more than 85 organizations start 2,900 projects. In addition, they have chapters and investors in Australia, the U.S., Canada, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Peru, Switzerland and the U.K.

In all of the countries where they work, The Hunger Project seeks to empower women, mobilize communities and engage local governments. In India, for example, their main focus is on helping women get elected into local governments. The organization has done this in nearly 2,000 panchayants (clusters of villages) across 6 states, and the women they have helped now lead 9 million people.

In Africa, The Hunger Project helps turn clusters of villages into epicenters where up to 15,000 people can band together to help their communities thrive. These epicenters, in turn, create their own development programs, which reach more than 1.6 million people across the continent. In Bangladesh, local volunteers, especially women and children, are mobilized to reach 185 sustainable development goals in their communities, reaching 5 million people. Finally, in Mexico, community development focuses on indigenous women and children, helping to improve childhood and maternal nutrition; this admirable work reaches 21,000 people.

Partners A-Plenty

The Hunger Project has numerous partners in the countries where they work. One of these partners is Rotary International, a global organization in which 1.2 million people work in sustainable projects to improve life in general across the globe. This includes fighting diseases, providing water, supporting educations, saving mothers and children, growing local economies and promoting peace. The Hunger Project mainly works with Rotary International in Ethiopia, where Rotary International uses vocational training to teach doctors how to resuscitate newborns.

In India, SKL International is a major partner of The Hunger Project. SKL International is a Swedish organization that uses the model of Sweden’s extensive local governments as a baseline to help developing countries achieve democracy. Like The Hunger Project, SKL International’s main goal in India is getting local women elected.

In Mexico, The Hunger Project works with Water For Humans — a non-profit organization that uses sustainable technology to bring clean water to those who need it, especially in Mexico. The organization is currently working on helping indigenous people build eco-cookstoves which require less wood than traditional stoves, need only one fire to work in multiple burners at once, and keeps coffee warm every day — as is culturally preferred.

Local Empowerment

All in all, John Coonrod empowers poor people to lift themselves out of poverty by helping to create and promote local movements, especially women-centric movements, that promote community welfare and engage with local governments. By working with several partners in various countries around the world, John Coonrod and The Hunger Project make lives better for women and other people across the globe.

– Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Albania
Albania is one of the poorest of the European nations. Recently, the Albanian Government has been making strides towards economic growth, but it has only now come to realize the importance of empowering and supporting women in the country. The government is empowering women in Albania by taking a stance against violence towards women, encouraging girls’ education and increasing access for women in the workforce.

Violence at Home

The National Strategy for Gender Equality campaign was launched in 2016 to help the Albania Government implement a policy to help women achieve real equality. As it stands now, most of the women are working in agriculture on family farms, often without pay. According to the U.N., almost 60 percent of Albanian women have direct experience with in-home violence.

A woman named Tone from a village in north Albania shared her story of endurance after being in a 10-year arranged marriage full of abuse. Her family had suggested she stay with her husband in spite of the abuse because there were no support systems available for Tone and her children if they left their abusive home. When she finally had had enough, she reported the violence and, to her surprise, the police were timely, responsive and positive. They referred her to the National Centre for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of the Victims of Domestic Abuse The Centre is up and coming and is currently aiding around 100 women victims annually.

Tome’s story is just one of several stories of women’s suppression in this poverty-riddled nation. In fact, one in two women are victims of abuse in Albania. For those that have not found a helping hand and been able to escape the harsh realities of inequality, the story acts as a cycle. Children who come from uneducated mothers are less likely to complete schooling if it is even available to them in the first place. The influences of home life, such as violence, inadequate funds, illness, excessive children in the home or lack of transportation, make it hard for children to succeed in school.

Promoting Education for Empowering Women in Albania

Because children from these homes require more support to make it through school without the heightened risk of drop-out, UNICEF has joined forces with the Albanian Government to promote Child-Friendly Schools (CFS).  These CFCs encompass a holistic education based on the needs of children who need the most help, especially girls. The projected outcome of the CFS plan is to make education in Albania more readily available by increasing the country’s GDP budget towards education up from 3.27 percent to 5 percent. The hope is that, with education and proper emotional support, these girls will grow up better educated and better equipped to enter the workforce.

Sociologists are quickly realizing that empowering women through education is crucial for national growth in any developing country. In 2006, Albania joined the Global Partnership for Education and has since implemented strategies for equality such as gender quotas that will make girls’ education in Albania more accessible and better equipped to serve these young ladies. The program has already seen an increase in primary and secondary school completion rates.

Many girls in Albania don’t have the same access to education due to conflict or crisis, poverty or because so many young girls are married. With access to primary and secondary education that is made more available by USAID and other activists, women will be empowered and, therefore, be able to make better choices that support their individual needs and dreams.

Improving the Future for Women in Albania

Women make up half of the Earth’s population, which equates to half of the human capital. Rigid gender roles and cultural tradition have delayed the realization of equality for some women in countries like Albania, but as change happens, government officials are seeing the benefits of humanity and equality along with the need to act. Together with the Government of Sweden, U.N. Women is raising awareness of women’s rights across each of the 10 municipalities in Albania. The good news is that in 2014 there was a 51 percent increase in female participation in the labor market.

The majority of Foreign and Domestic aid for Albanian women is geared toward equality as a whole, which means progress for women and girls in Albania. Escaping violence, becoming educated and empowered and gaining access to the workforce are all necessary for achieving equality and truly empowering women in Albania.

– Heather Benton
Photo: Flickr

Migrant Workers in Qatar When one thinks of the Gulf state of Qatar, sky-high skyscrapers, double-decker airplanes and sprawling shopping malls come to mind. Ever since the discovery of oil in the region in 1939, the Qatari economy has seen rapid growth. In 2018, the CIA World Factbook ranked Qatar as second highest for GDP per capita, making it one of the wealthiest nations in the world. But this also makes it important for people to learn about the state of migrant workers in Qatar.

Migrant Workers in Qatar

The progress in Qatar has its drawbacks. When FIFA selected Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar was brought to the spotlight. A research brief from the UK Parliament found that Qatar has 1.5 million migrant workers or 90 percent of its total labor force comprises migrant workers.

While foreign workers continue to report incidents of exploitation and segregation, Qatar has made substantial improvements to its labor laws and is cooperating with organizations like Amnesty International and the International Labor Organization in the process.

The Kafala System

Gulf states—including Qatar—use the kafala (Arabic for sponsorship) system as an employment framework to recruit migrant laborers from abroad to work in low-paying jobs.

Under the kafala system in Qatar, migrant workers have documented a range of abuses, among them, are delayed and unpaid wages, excessive working hours, confiscation of passports, inaccessibility to healthcare and justice, sexual violence as well as deception in the recruitment process. In short, the kafala system binds a migrant worker into an exploitative employer-employee relationship.

By giving an employer control over a migrant worker’s job and residential status, the kafala system encourages workplace abuses. With over 95 percent of Qatari families employing at least one housemaid, some migrants choose to become domestic workers in the homes of Qatari nationals, where they are often subjected to sexual violence.

Furthermore, The Guardian reported in October 2013 that many Nepalese workers have died since the beginning of construction projects for future World Cup sites. These Nepalese workers live in segregated labor camps outside Doha where they endure unsanitary conditions and scant water supplies.

Labor Laws in Qatar

Under pressure from international nonprofits, Qatar has implemented a series of labor laws to improve working conditions for workers. In December 2016, a new law allowed migrant workers to return to Qatar within two years if they had previously left without their employer’s permission. It also increased the penalty for employers found guilty of confiscating their employees’ passports and created a committee to review workers’ requests to leave Qatar.

While this made no reference to the kafala system, the law fell short of addressing kafala’s main shortcoming, i.e. workers still need permission from their employers to switch jobs.

In order to help domestic workers who are often victims of forced prostitution, Qatar introduced a domestic workers law in August 2017. Instating legal protections for over 173,000 migrant domestic workers, the law sets a limit of 10 hours for a workday and mandates 24 consecutive hours off every week, as well as three weeks of annual paid leave. Though in its early stages, the law promises to alleviate the alienation and abuse of domestic workers, some of whom work up to 100 hours per week.

The Qatari government is gradually repealing the kafala system. In October 2017, the government expanded the Wage Protection System and mandated payment of wages by electronic transfer.

On September 5, 2018, an Amnesty International press release reported that the Emir of Qatar issued Law No. 13, which bans employers from preventing migrant workers from leaving the country.

Conclusion

Qatar’s World Cup bid may have been a blessing in disguise. Qatar started its stadium projects using slave-like labor, and now it has slowly opened up to the critiques and suggestions from external nonprofit organizations. As an example, the International Labor Organization has forged a technical cooperation agreement with Qatar and together they have worked to unravel the kafala system. These changes will turn this wealthy country into a more equitable one.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

 

The Pele Foundation and the Empowerment of the Disenfranchised Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known widely by the moniker Pelé, is arguably the most popular Brazilian football player and had led his team to trebled triumph in the World Cup. But Pelé doesn’t have a one-track mind: he has one leg in the sports pool and the other leg in the social activism pool.

Previously, Pelé worked with FIFA as an ambassador against racism as well as with UNICEF to advocate children’s rights. He has moved on to inaugurating his own organization called The Pelé Foundation to empower impoverished, disenfranchised children around the world.

The Pelé Foundation

When first announcing the launch of his foundation Pelé said, “In 2018, I am launching The Pelé Foundation, a new charitable endeavor that will benefit organizations around the world and their dedicated efforts to empower children, specifically around poverty and education.”

Having grown up poor, Pelé developed an affinity for charity work. In the past, he had supported a multitude of different organizations including 46664, ABC Trust, FC Harlem, Great Ormond Street Hospital, Prince’s Rainforests Project and The Littlest Lamb.

In the future, Pelé’s organization plans to expand and cover issues such as gender equality and will eventually birth offshoot programs, not unlike other organizations of its nature.

Partner Organizations

Pelé isn’t alone in this endeavor. During the initial announcement, Pelé blazoned that he would be partnering with both charity:water and Pencils of Promise to fulfill his goals.

Founded in October 2008, Pencils of Promise (PoP) is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the state of education for children in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Ghana and Laos. Besides improving the quality of education, PoP also constructs schools and educational facilities, trains faculty, champions scholarships and supports sanitary programs. Backed by big names such as Justin Bieber and Scooter Braun, PoP is a big name itself in the humanitarian space.

Established in 2006 and having funded 24,537 different projects, charity:water is spearheaded by Scott Harrison. charity: water gives all donations to projects working to end the current water crises. Harrison said, “We’re excited to partner with The Pelé Foundation to bring clean water to thousands of people in the years to come. Having access to clean water not only saves hours of wasted time, but it also provides safety, health and hygiene. It directly impacts the future of children, and we believe it’s the first step out of poverty for rural communities all over the world.”

– Jordan De La Fuente
Photo: Flickr

 

South AfricaWomen in South Africa are not treated in the way that they wish and need to be treated. This fact was stated throughout August, International Women’s Month when protests have been taking place in order to raise awareness of violence against women. There are several organizations facilitating female empowerment in South Africa to help South African women to be the best version of themselves. Despite the fact women are told to “know their place,” these organizations are fighting against this and ensuring female empowerment in South Africa by making their voice heard.

Women’s Empowerment Foundation for Southern Africa 

This is an information-based organization whose goal is to strengthen women’s voices, give means to women to speak out, empower women with information to change their lives and advocate for a gender-sensitive representation of women in the media. This organization also prioritizes empowering rural women in Zimbabwe with information in order to gain economic independence to meet their own basic needs. Through information about women empowerment, the question of how to give women their voices make them use them has been answered. The practice of eliminating challenges that women face, such as hunger and sanitary needs leads them to realize their economic and social rights and therefore causes them to eventually speak up about this injustice in their communities. Women’s Empowerment Foundation for Southern Africa work in a way that it firstly help women gain their voices, and then it facilitates their expression through communities and the government, as well as working to change society’s negative picture of women through the media.

Thuthuzela Care Centre

This network provides support for women across South Africa who have been victims of rape and sexual assault. It gives these women a support so that they do not experience tributary trauma while pursuing justice, counseling and medical treatment. By late 2014, 56 of these centers have been established. These centers provide emergency medical care, post-exposure prophylaxis, counseling, court preparation as well as many other services. Thuthuzela turns victims into survivors. USAID supports a public awareness campaign to inform the public of South Africa about these centers, the services that they provide and how to access them. Grants are also given to NGOs for after-hours care, HIV related care, as well as giving support to sexual offenses courts.

United Nations Development Programme

The purpose of this programme is to support the Government of South Africa in order to achieve gender equality and promote women’s empowerment in economic and social circles. This program currently has two areas in focus: women economic empowerment and closing the gap between policy and implementation. There is a study presently occurring that is striving to identify hindrances of women-owned enterprises from accessing loans and is determined to come up with recommendations for removing these barriers. The goal of this study is to expand women’s access to financial services and investing differently in women. The United Nations Development Programme has worked with numerous organizations in order to achieve the goal of women being able to be the main subject in their own lives.

Female empowerment in South Africa still has a long way to go, but these three organizations have pushed this effort past the starting gate, which will cause more and more people to get involved. The hope is that these organizations will slowly close the gender gap in South Africa and allow women to use their voices in positions of power, rather than succumb to the voices and the money of their husbands. This can happen with the help of the people who recognize that there needs to be something done in order to achieve women’s equality in South Africa.

Megan Maxwell
Photo: Flickr

female empowerment in Uganda
One proven way to fight poverty is through entrepreneurship and empowerment, specifically among women. In Uganda, where poverty is still prevalent, there are various jewelry companies working locally to employ women and teach them skills they need to escape poverty. Through female empowerment in Uganda, along with education and financial security, these five jewelry brands are making substantial efforts to eradicate poverty locally, and engage businesses globally.

Projects Have Hope

Projects Have Hope is a certified non-profit organization promoting female empowerment in Uganda, specifically the Acholi Quarter region. In 2006, Projects Have Hope began buying locally made paper-bead jewelry from the Acholi women. Women, in turn, received compensation, which created a steady source of income in these vulnerable regions.

Beyond financial security, the program has an educational aspect. In 2007, the adult literacy program was created. Currently, there are 32 students enrolled in the program, women aged 18 to 45. New sessions are constantly conducted in the hopes of improving the literacy rate amongst women in the country, which is 71.5 percent.

Vocational training also occurs so that women can expand their professional skills in a variety of ways: “catering, hairstyling and salon management, tailoring, knitting, computer and general office skills studies, and driver’s education.” All these efforts can help increase women’s ability to combat poverty in their lives.

Akola

Akola is a company that ensures 100 percent of its revenue generated from jewelry sales returns to the mission of fighting poverty amongst women in Uganda. Women are employed to make jewelry from paper, cow horns, leather, glass, bone, metals, gemstones and textiles. All materials are sourced ethically and all training for the jewelry making is provided by Akola.

Akola also provides various tiers beyond jewelry-making, including economic employment and social services such as wellness training and educational programs. All are meant to help vulnerable women achieve security in life through female empowerment in Uganda.

Bead For Life

Developed in 2004, Bead For Life is based entirely on female empowerment in Uganda. The company trains women locally on entrepreneurial skills and paper-bead production.

In addition to jewelry, the company created a school called the Street Business School. Thus far, 52 thousand Ugandans have been impacted through the program. Eighty-nine percent of graduates have a business within two years of graduation and the average increase in income is 211 percent. Participating women often live below the national poverty line before attendance so the skills they learn greatly impact their future.

31 Bits

The force behind 31 Bits is generating a cycle of support: women support women by buying jewelry they want to wear. Female empowerment in Uganda is achieved as the company employs women with dignified jobs for their artisanal skills. The company has seen great success and many endorsements from celebrities like Sophia Bush, Jessica Alba and Candace Cameron Bure.

Business, along with physical and mental health, are all aspects taken seriously by the company; in fact, they provide training and educational programs for both. Profound progress against fighting poverty often means elevating these factors.

Tuli

Tuli recognizes sustainable change as being linked to long-term solutions, such as job growth. Their work connects women to a larger market of buyers, which ensures that participating communities will have consistent access to a global economy.

In addition to financially compensating the artists for their work, Tuli reinvests their profits back into Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. As more people migrate to the cities, the capital is becoming an important center of development in the country. Tuli gives back in the form of social projects within the city.

Tuli is a registered social purpose corporation, which allows them to take social or environmental issues into consideration during its decision-making processes instead of just focusing on profit-maximizing efforts. As a result, female empowerment in Uganda is a focus of their work.

Local and Global Success

The World Bank reports that Uganda, as a Sub-Saharan African country, is one of the fastest to reduce its amount of the population living below the $1.90 a day poverty line. In 2013, they reduced their population living below the national poverty line to 19.7 percent — a momentous accomplishment.

As women work locally, crafting their jewelry, their ability to sell globally is having tremendous effects on their ability to become financially secure and escape poverty.

– Taylor Jennings
Photo: Google

Labour Behind the Label
The Clean Clothes Campaign’s United Kingdom-based nonprofit, Labour Behind the Label, is taking action to improve the deplorable work conditions found in factories across the world and provide support to workers in the garment industry. The organization promotes ethical clothing and collaborates with brands and trade unions to push for the reform of systemic problems found in the clothing business.

Change Your Shoes and Labor Rights

Recently, Labour Behind the Label held campaigns to uphold worker rights, such as the “Change Your Shoes” campaign, a project that called for shoe brands to provide greater transparency in their production process. Through its tireless efforts, Labour Behind the Label is working to amend the garment industry, combatting low wages, unsafe working conditions and abusive treatment, thereby holding brands accountable.

According to the organization, Labour Behind the Label is the United Kingdom’s only campaign group dedicated solely to labor rights in the worldwide garment industry. Past activity has included urging retailers to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, pushing for living wages for Cambodian garment workers, and bringing victims of the Rana Plaza factory disaster compensation.

Clean Clothes and Living Wages

The nonprofit was founded in 2001 as part of the Clean Clothes Campaign, the garment industry’s most prominent alliance of labor unions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Labour Behind the Label’s endeavors include raising awareness and putting pressure on companies to support workers’ rights, as well as lobbying governments and policymakers.

The group is currently advancing programs such as the “Living Wage” campaign, working with the Asia Floor Wage Alliance to demand a living wage in Asian garment producing countries. The campaign would help provide garment workers, 80 percent of whom are women, with living wages to cover their basic needs.

Worker Safety and the Shoe Industry

The organization is also holding a “Worker Safety” campaign,” providing compensation for victims of Pakistan’s 2012 Ali Enterprises factory fire. In addition, it has led actions such as a weeklong initiative to lobby brands to ban dangerous practices such as the sandblasting of jeans.

Labour Behind the Label launched the “Change Your Shoes” campaign to look specifically at the operations of the shoe industry. Twenty-four billion pairs of shoes were produced in the year 2013, with 87 percent of them manufactured in Asia. The program has called upon leading shoe brands in the United Kingdom, as well as brands such as Prada, Birkenstock and Camper, to provide information pertaining to their production processes.

The program also asks members of the shoe industry to publish the names and addresses of suppliers, report on steps taken to move away from dangerous chemicals and demonstrate that the companies are providing fair wages and safe working conditions. The campaign has led research and investigations into the manufacturing processes of major shoe brands, observing that the system involves high-intensity labor, short deadlines and worsening living conditions of exploited workers.

Ending Fear and Silence

In many countries, there is a climate of fear and silence in the production chains. The project acknowledges that some companies, such as Nike and Adidas, have already begun to publish information about its processes and will hand its petition to brands to promote change.

Through projects such as the “Change Your Shoes” campaign, Labour Behind the Label is taking action to bring about fairer conditions in the garment industry worldwide. The organization is working to hold companies more accountable and create transparency in the industry, demanding living wages and calling for safer work environments in the clothing manufacturing business.

Ongoing Positive Change and Accountability

Labour Behind the Label’s activism has led to the creation of “codes of conduct” for companies, as well as “ethical trading” initiatives, which have promoted the annual inspection of factories. Labour Behind the Label acknowledges that sweatshop abuses are an elusive and deeply ingrained problem, as there are no easy solutions. But through its advocacy, campaigning, and research, Labour Behind the Label is taking steps to galvanize change in the clothing business on an international scale.

– Shira Laucharoen
Photo: Flickr

empowering Sierra Leonean women
Sierra Leone is considered one of the worst places to be a girl, but the nonprofit OneGirl is revolutionizing this status by empowering Sierra Leonean women through its program LaunchPad.

Women’s rights are a profound issue in Sierra Leone — poor conditions and social norms create immense vulnerability for girls and often inhibit them from choosing their own path. As a result, a girl’s fate is typically determined by three things: being sold into marriage, having an early or forced pregnancy and poverty.

 

Marriage and Pregnancy

In Sierra Leone, 44 percent of girls are married off to an older man by the time they are 18 years old. They are essentially owned by their husbands, and this often inhibits them from continuing their education. UNICEF reports that 68 percent of sexually active teenage girls in Sierra Leone become pregnant. Considered a nation-wide problem, early and forced pregnancies are the main reason why girls in Sierra Leone stop attending school; these pregnancies can occur as a result of rape, prostitution and not using contraceptives.

 

Poverty in Sierra Leone

More than 70 percent of Sierra Leoneans live in extreme poverty, managing to survive on less than two dollars a day. Consequently, education is not a top priority for families — if a family can afford to educate a child, it is almost always a boy.

After meeting Brenda — an African girl trying to escape a fate of poverty and lack of schooling by collecting 40 dollars to attend school — the founders Chantelle Baxter and David Dixon became inspired to create OneGirl. OneGirl is based in Australia and has big plans: to send 1 million girls to school.

 

OneGirl’s Impact

OneGirl’s LaunchPad program is making big strides toward empowering Sierra Leonean women to stay in school and educating them about business opportunities. They are accomplishing this in an amazing way — selling feminine hygiene products. The company has already sold more than 17,400 boxes of pads, and although selling pads may seem minuscule, it has had profound impacts.

To understand why this is so impactful, it is important to know the cultural perceptions surrounding menstrual cycles in Sierra Leone. Girls primarily use a cloth to soak up menstrual blood; when cleaning these, girls typically do not have access to sanitary water. Further, girls cannot dry their cloth properly because there is a taboo surrounding menstrual blood in Sierra Leone. Ultimately, this results in girls developing rashes, infections and diseases. OneGirl states that menstrual complications can result in a girl missing up to 12 weeks of school, but thankfully, LaunchPad solves this problem.

 

LaunchPad

LaunchPad makes it possible for women to have cheap access to sanitary biodegradable products, while also keeping in mind of cultural considerations. For instance, the company does not sell reusable cloths or tampons because clean water is limited and female genital mutilation makes tampon-use painful.

LaunchPad has made more than just health and educational strides — the organization has opened a new market in which Sierra Leonean women can participate. LaunchPad has worked with Restless Development Sierra Leone to train female community leaders across the country to sell their product; these women are known as LaunchPad Champions.

LaunchPad champions earn a profit from their work, and because of their service, women across Sierra Leone are more educated about their menstrual health and have higher chances of staying in school.

 

Female Champions

One LaunchPad champion named N’Mah Fofonah went above and beyond her call of duty by involving her neighboring community in LaunchPad’s efforts. The two groups of women joined together in their endeavors to put all their profits toward helping their community members.

Efforts such as those accomplished by OneGirl demonstrate the lengths of positivity and change that can occur by empowering Sierra Leonean women. Sierra Leone is just another example that when you empower women, they empower others.

– Mary McCarthy

Photo: Flickr

empower young leaders
Over the years, international organizations have taken tremendous strides in their universal effort to combat global poverty. In 2015, the United Nations launched the Sustainable Development Goals in an effort to end hunger and promote sustainability. There has been great advancement from countries such as Costa Rica and India, which have both made incredible achievements in meeting specific targets.

Furthermore, companies such as Volvo have also done their part by committing themselves to promoting a clean environment. Public-private partnerships are now becoming more common, as they offer opportunities for countries in the global south, who face immense challenges.

For these reasons amongst others, the U.N. recently launched a new initiative geared towards empowering young leaders in the global south.

Youth for the South

The project is officially known as ‘Scaling Up Southern Solutions for Sustainable Development Through Advanced Youth Leadership,’ or ‘Youth for the South.’ It will offer interactive sessions, on-site and on-the-job training, and distance learning for leaders of developing countries. Furthermore, it will provide an opportunity to younger generations to sit at the table, have their voices heard and come up with innovative solutions towards job creations.

The Global South-South Development Expo 2017 in Antalya, Turkey, delivered this initiative in November 2017, as part of their six-publication launch. The initiative is designed as a partnership between the U.N. Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), among others.

The crux of this project is to empower young leaders “to promote transformational change in their communities and countries, and to identify and adapt successful solutions.” Additionally, one of the major focal points is to enhance leadership development programs that will meaningfully impact the youth population across various sectors.

Part of this process will feature rigorous training by 30 to 60 young leaders selected by UNFPA from six developing countries. The trainees will not only possess the qualifications needed, but they will also maintain a strong personality, as they are most likely to influence their communities when they return.

Their performance will be monitored by representatives and staff of various U.N. agencies.

The Global Stage

The majority of the poverty that exists across the world is in the global south, which is why the development of this project should be effective to create universally meaningful change. This initiative will feature numerous phases tailored to meet the needs of those who lack basic training. The first phase will include agriculture and rural development, social protection, sustainable energy and youth employment.

UNOSSC urged the importance of working with the youth, as some 85 percent of the world’s youth are now residing in the global south. UNFPA Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Alanna Armitage, emphatically spoke of the advantages that the youth will gain as part of this project launched to empower young leaders.

The initiative will help make important gains “at a personal level, really strengthen young people’s leadership by providing them with the skills and opportunities to build their own personal leadership.”

Improving Global Participation

Despite the strong contribution that developed nations provide in direct foreign assistance towards developing countries, the majority of them still do not meet the U.N.’s expectations. The irony is that countries like Turkey, who do not account for much of the world’s economy, are the second largest of humanitarian donors, spending $6 billion on humanitarian assistance.

One high-level U.N. representative noted that the 2030 agenda’s central promise to leave no one behind will “be elusive if [these] 91 countries … remain at the bottom of the development ladder.”

To empower young leaders is to empower our world. How this initiative will impact countries’ progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is yet to be determined; however, seeking to assist young leaders from developing nations by allocating the means to allow people to flourish comes at a vital time if we are to eradicate world hunger.

– Alexandre Dumouza

Photo: Flickr

Women’s Empowerment in Sri LankaOn November 2, the World Economic Forum released the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report. The report did not reflect well on the state of women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka.

The Global Gender Gap Report grades 144 countries on their progress toward attaining gender equality in four areas: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political Empowerment. Sri Lanka has been declining from its position in the top 20 since 2010. The country slipped from closing 74.6 percent of the gender gap in 2010 to 66.9 percent this year.

The country’s gap in Economic Participation and Opportunity increased because it failed to improve conditions of wage inequality for similar work. Additionally, Sri Lanka now ranks 86th among 144 countries in the gender gap in Educational Attainment.

In Political Empowerment, Sri Lanka ranked 65th. The country compensated for low scores on the Women in Parliament and Women in Ministerial Positions indicators with high marks on the Years with a Female Head of State indicator. Sri Lanka has had a female head of state for 21 out of the last 50 years.

Despite these discouraging statistics, efforts to advance the state of women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka persist. Aitken Spence PLC, Jetwing Hotels Ltd., MAS Holdings (Pvt.) Ltd. and the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (Pvt.) Ltd. have signed on as partners of Women’s Empowerment Principles.

Developed through a partnership between U.N. Women and the United Nations Global Compact, the two organizations designed the principles to help companies review existing policies and practices and establish new strategies to promote women’s empowerment.

The principles include:

  • Establishing high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
  • Treating all women and men equitably at work by respecting and supporting human rights and non-discrimination
  • Securing the health, safety and well-being of all female and male workers
  • Promoting education, training and professional development for women
  • Implementing enterprise development and employing supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
  • Nurturing equality through community initiatives and advocacy

Participating companies must measure and publicly report their progress toward achieving gender parity.

In addition to economic measures, non-government organizations are implementing social programs to enhance women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka. Emerge Centre for Reintegration is the newest program sponsored by the Emerge Lanka Foundation, which supports survivors of sexual abuse aged 10-18. For 12 years, the foundation has helped countless exploited young women by providing training in life, financial and professional skills. Now, through the Centre for Reintegration, it offers assistance to young women who are over 18 as they face the challenging transition stage from living in shelters to thriving on their own.

Enabling women to participate fully in communities builds stronger economies, helps attain internationally agreed upon objectives for development and sustainability and improves the quality of life for women, men, families and communities. The work being done in Sri Lanka can help counter its decreasing rankings and ensure empowerment for all women.

– Heather Hopkins

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