Three Companies that Are Creating Equal Opportunities
Entrepreneurship, the process of taking what seems like a simple idea and transforming it into a sustainable business model, may seem like a linear, almost formulaic path on the surface. 
Find a need, conduct market research, tailor a solution to that need, market your product, and just like that, a startup is underway.

And while there may seem to be a linear path for entrepreneurship, founders of startups often have to wear multiple hats, one of them being the investor hat. Startups need funding and need to raise capital in order to expand their business models. However, historically, funding and advice had only been given out to people who are already wealthy. Recently, there has been a global movement to fund startups from people of all different diverse backgrounds and ages.

In this article, three companies that are allowing everyone to have equal opportunities of succeeding, including people in developing countries, are presented.

Pioneer

Pioneer aims to bridge the talent opportunity gap. Pioneer is an experimental fund that aims to identify and nurture high-potential people. The group, comprised of three people, aims to use internet tools such as global communication and crowdsourcing to find talented candidates from a diverse range of fields.

Founder, Daniel Gross, was an 18-year-old student in a military school in Israel who sent in an idea to Y Combinator on a whim. After being accepted into the accelerator program, he was able to grow his company and eventually sell it to Apple. Now, Daniel Gross launched Pioneer, to identify talented people across the world who may not have equal opportunities.

Pioneer allows people to submit projects and have other candidates vote for each others’ projects in a leaderboard manner. The winners of these tournaments receive grants and flights to San Francisco, where they can meet with advisors, venture capitalists, and other idea makers.

Y Combinator

A slightly more established program is an American seed accelerator- Y Combinator. Y Combinator selects 120 companies every year and provides them with a seed funding amount of $120,000, along with access to an accelerator program that includes mentorship opportunities with successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

Y Combinator provides seed funding to startups and nonprofits and has a special mission for social entrepreneurship. Additionally, Y Combinator is extending its global outreach, meeting with founders in Nigeria, Mexico, Israel, India and many other countries. Deemed as one of the world’s most powerful startup incubators, Y Combinator allows people from all over the world to bring their ideas to fruition.

The Thiel Foundation

Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and early Facebook investor, founded the Thiel Foundation to fund breakthrough technologies and nonprofits that engage with human affairs, government and technology.

Within the Thiel Foundation, there are three projects that provide people with equal opportunities in capitalistic society. The Thiel Fellowship offers $100,000 to students under the age of 20 to drop out of school and pursue their work, whether that be a social movement, startup, or scientific research. The second project, Imitatio, funds research and education on philosophical theories. Finally, the third project is titled Breakout Labs. Breakout Labs distributes grants to early-stage scientific research.

The underlying theme in all three projects is that there are funding opportunities for just ideas, even if they are not fully formulated or show tangible proof of concepts. Programs like the Thiel Fellowship and Breakout Labs provide a platform for visionary people who may have a world-changing idea but do not have the means to pursue it.

Opportunities like the Thiel Foundation, Y Combinator and Pioneer are using their global network to bring together people with high talent, exceptional ideas, and daring visions. Regardless of their socioeconomic background, people from all over the world can apply for these equal opportunities, making an impact not just in their community, but around the world as well. These companies can be especially useful and beneficial for people in developing countries, allowing them to compete fairly easily in a global market.

– Shefali Kumar

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

The island nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, often known as just Saint Vincent, has made an active effort to alleviate human rights infringements. However, residents are still subject to infractions of their basic rights. Women and children often bear the brunt of these infractions, but the government is working toward passing legislation to help the nation sustain its “free” status given by the Freedom House.

2015 in particular was a year of major violations in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The country’s political election elicited many peaceful protests that were met with brute force by the police. Media outlets reported that adversaries of certain politicians were harassed and physically abused. Some were even subject to misdemeanor charges or property confiscation. Once the election was finished, these rough and unreasonable acts by the police diminished.

Human rights in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines have been upheld as far as laws against sexual assault. According to precedent, the government has followed through on reports of rape, with a starting punishment of at least 10 years. Furthermore, spousal rape has been condemned and is considered an illegal act.  Unfortunately, some victims are paid off by perpetrators for not reporting the violations, thus hindering justice.

Sexual harassment, domestic violence and human trafficking are three major issues in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Both sexual harassment and domestic violence have yet to be criminalized by the government, and prostitution of girls under the age of 18 is rampant. Many young girls are forced into pursuing sexual relationships with tourists or older men by their mothers in order to make a contribution to the family income. After government effort, the nation was able to go from tier three to tier two on the Watch List for Human Trafficking.

Lastly, child labor is also a primary concern for residents of Saint Vincent. Children under the age of 18 have no legal restriction on the number of hours that they can work while enrolled in school. Furthermore, there are no restrictions about workplace environment and safety.

While Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are clearly in need of major overhauls regarding human rights, the government is indeed taking action. However, quicker and more severe punishments for violations of rights are necessary in order to make living conditions better for the nation’s inhabitants.

Tanvi Wattal
Photo: Flickr

A Look at Human Rights in St. Kitts and NevisSt. Kitts and Nevis is a state comprised of two islands located between the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea. Their system of government is a parliamentary democracy. For the most part, human rights in St. Kitts and Nevis are protected and not under threat, but the small island nation has faced several issues.

The national constitution prohibits torture and cruel and unusual punishment, but police in St. Kitts and Nevis can be aggressive. The police do not need a warrant to arrest someone. As a result, citizens will often not report crimes for fear of retribution. The lone prison in the country was built in 1840 and shows wear. It is overcrowded; a facility built for a capacity of 150 inmates currently holds around 270.

Despite this, conditions there are not necessarily inhumane. A U.S. State Departmentt report on human rights in St. Kitts and Nevis states that “prisoners and detainees had reasonable access to visitors, were permitted religious observances and had reasonable access to complaint mechanisms and the ability to request inquiry into conditions. The government investigated and monitored prison conditions, and the prison staff periodically received training in human rights.”

While arrest warrants are not necessary, the constitution does grant accused citizens the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair and public trial. There are no political prisoners in St. Kitts and Nevis.

The United Nations has identified rape and violence against women as an issue regarding human rights in St. Kitts and Nevis. Rape is a criminal offense, but spousal rape is not. Women can file rape claims, but may often be reluctant to do so. St. Kitts and Nevis passed the Domestic Violence Act of 2014 into law to address some of these issues.

Child abuse is a problem in St. Kitts and Nevis. Corporal punishment is legal here. Reports of sexual assault against children are not uncommon, despite such acts carrying a stiff criminal penalty.

The treatment of homosexuality is also a concern regarding human rights in St. Kitts and Nevis. Homosexual acts are still criminalized and carry a certain level of societal stigma. In its review of human rights in St. Kitts and Nevis, the United Nations called for the decriminalization of homosexuality on the islands.

The state of human rights in St. Kitts and Nevis is a mixed bag, but perhaps not an unoptimistic one, nor necessarily uncommon for developing democracies. Many of the human rights issues that do exist stem not from the law but from a failure to effectively implement and enforce it. The country has shown a desire to improve its ways, and time will tell whether or not it successfully follows the U.N.’s recommendations.

Andrew Revord

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in FinlandFinland has a population of about 5.5 million, and is seated next to Sweden and Norway. Human rights in Finland are ultimately made a priority by the country’s government, and this country is considered more progressive than most, although there are still a few areas that could be improved.

According to a report from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, the Nordic country strives to dedicate time and attention to minorities in the country, including the Roma, linguistic or religious minorities and other ethnic minorities. On the other hand, the report also states that residents who belong to multiple of these minority groups are typically “the most vulnerable to human rights violations.” Finland promotes openness in respect to human rights policy and works toward “effective empowerment of the civil society,” according to the same report.

Human rights in Finland are also supported by nongovernment organizations in the region. In addition, human rights defenders work with minority groups. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs states that, “the key message is to encourage and urge the Ministry’s entire staff to collaborate actively with human rights defenders.”

Finland prioritizes areas including women’s rights, the rights of persons with disabilities, the rights of sexual and gender minorities, the rights of indigenous peoples and economic, social and cultural rights, according to the report. Regarding the rights of sexual minorities, in March of this year, Finland became the 13th country in Europe to allow same-sex marriage, according to the Human Rights Watch.

While human rights in Finland are heavily prioritized, there are still areas in need of improvement.

The U.S. Department of the State reports that human rights problems in Finland include the failure of police to provide detainees with timely access to legal council, “questionable” donations and contributions to political campaigns and violence against women and members of the LGBT community.

The report also included information on issues surrounding the treatment of survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence. It stated that survivors seeking justice have encountered many obstacles with respect to their interactions with police and judicial officials. However, it also stated that police and government officials strongly encourage victims to report rapes through “various public awareness campaigns.”

While human rights in Finland have a few shortcomings, they are one of the more progressive nations in Europe, meaning that further progress is certainly possible.

Leah Potter

Photo: Flickr

Fighting for Women's Rights in Cambodia
While Cambodia is classified as a democratic nation, the country still struggles to combat human rights violations and gender inequality. The UN has pressured the Cambodian government to eliminate corruption, especially regarding women’s rights and sex trafficking. Government officials have taken steps to move forward in this process, but human rights violations have been far from eradicated. The fight for women’s rights in Cambodia is particularly difficult and securing gender equality faces substantial barriers.

While women may have the same rights as men under the law, the implementation of those rights is entirely inadequate. Culturally, many Cambodians view women as secondary human beings, as shown by the famous saying, “men are gold; women are cloth.” This cultural norm discourages women from being public participants in economic and political processes.

Cambodian women face significant challenges in pursuing jobs outside the home. Most of the opportunities readily available to them are in dangerous or inconsistent conditions, and women are also paid significantly less than men. In high-profit markets, men comprise almost all leadership positions.

Education for women in Cambodia can also be tricky, as families are not legally required to send their children to school, and if they do not have much money the boys will typically receive an education first. Child marriage also creates problems for young girls getting an education, as they are incredibly unlikely to return to school after becoming a bride.

The imbalance of social power between men and women can quickly turn into something not only unfair, but dangerous. Violence against women is common in Cambodia, and 20 percent of women over 15 have encountered some form of physical abuse from a man. Acts of sexual violence, including rape, also plagues Cambodia. The government does a terrible job of holding perpetrators of these crimes accountable, making equal rights for women in Cambodia less tangible.

Sex trafficking, often a result of living in deep poverty, is a huge problem in Cambodia. Women and children are particularly vulnerable, and many are sold by members of their own family. Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, is the home base of many sex trafficking rings.

While women’s rights in Cambodia are not ideal, many organizations are working towards gender equality. The government has adopted several policies that they hope will lead to a crackdown on sex trafficking. Action Aid – an organization that works to promote the lives of the oppressed – has a plan to increase female participation in politics and elevate the quality of women’s rights in Cambodia by 2018.

Women in Cambodia are living in harsh conditions and have yet to achieve gender equality in public or private spheres. While the struggle for equal rights is far from over, the spirit of change is working in the country. Through the efforts of the government and other organizations such as Action Aid, support for women’s rights in Cambodia should increase, and with it, gender equality should start to improve.

Julia Mccartney

Photo: Google

Human Rights in SwitzerlandHuman rights have always been a hot topic for the global community. Hence, when countries seem to get it right, we all can’t help but go to the old search bar to find out for ourselves whether human rights in Switzerland is that good.

Multiple internationally-acknowledged measures create a positive image of human rights in Switzerland. In 2016, Switzerland ranked third in the human development index, a composite index set up by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to measure human development according to life expectancy, access to education and gross national income.

They were ranked first in the gender inequality index (GII), another UNDP project, which looks at development from the view of gender inequality. It measures gender inequality by reproductive health(maternal mortality and adolescent birth rate); gender empowerment; the number of seats women hold in Parliament; female secondary education and female labor force participation.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly on the topic of human rights, Switzerland ranked second on the human freedom index. This index tries to be as comprehensive as possible, taking into account 79 clear indicators of personal and economic freedom in multiple areas such as the rule of law, religion, movement and expression.

The above information highlights the importance that the Swiss government and people place on human rights in Switzerland. A quote from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation(SDC) says, “sustainable development is only possible if fundamental human rights principles such as non-discrimination, participation, and the rule of law are respected. These rights form the basis of international cooperation. This fact is why the promotion of human rights is a critical issue for the SDC.”

Indeed, human rights in Switzerland exceeds the norm in several areas, but that does not mean it is perfect. For instance, in reaction to the influx of migrants going to Europe, the country provides asylum to a few thousand refugees, resettling them across the country. One town mayor boasted that his town was “safe and idyllic” and that this would continue because “no refugees were there.” The mayor went so far as to pay a $300,000 penalty than to accept the federal quota of eight refugees in a town of two thousand.

Furthermore, according to Amnesty International in September, the Lower Chamber of the federal Parliament adopted a bill to ban the use of full-face veils at the national level. At the end of the year, the bill was still pending. It all goes to show that while human rights in Switzerland in comparison to others may seem ideal, like many other things in life, nothing is perfect.

Finally, Switzerland is ranked fifth on the corruption perception index, where over two-thirds of countries out of 176 scored less than halfway on their scale: “no country gets close to a perfect score.”

Obinna Iwuji
Photo: Flickr

Why USAID Is Important and EssentialWhen the topic of foreign aid comes up it is common to see headlines such as “USAID brings relief to Haitians after the occurrence of Hurricane Matthew,” but what exactly is this acronym? USAID is a government-funded agency that works to make the lives of millions of people easier.

There are many reasons as to why USAID is important and essential. USAID stands for the United States Agency for International Development. Working side by side with the military, USAID uses its resources to encourage countries to resolve conflict and end violence, working to lessen the need to send soldiers to dangerous areas.

Not only does it help end conflict, but USAID also helps elevate the roles of women and girls, provides assistance in the event of a disaster, invests in agricultural productivity to help food production in other countries, promotes human rights, combats diseases and more.

One of the greatest things that USAID’s work contributes to is the ending of extreme poverty. USAID has come up with a plan entitled “Vision for Ending Global Poverty,” which recognizes what needs to be done in order to fix the commonalities that each country has that causes them to struggle with poverty.

Despite common misconceptions, USAID does more than contribute to countries outside the U.S. Not only is USAID beneficial to those struggling in other countries, but it is also a benefit to the U.S. as well.

In a recent interview, Bill Gates explains the dangers of cutting USAID by explaining that foreign aid projects keep the U.S. safe. “By promoting health, security and economic opportunity, they stabilize vulnerable parts of the world,” says Gates, promoting the truth that helping others is of benefit not only to them but to America as well.

He continues explaining that USAID helps to stop major diseases such as HIV and AIDS, create more U.S. jobs and protects military members. The money goes to contractors, companies and volunteer organizations, all going towards promoting each country’s own financial well-being. Out of USAID’s top recipients in 2011, Pakistan received $343,698,200, Haiti $133,601,639, and Indonesia $17,848,628.

Keeping in mind that USAID’s proposed budget for 2018 is $15.4 billion, the United States Agency for International Development is distributing its funds in ways that help those who need it the most.

This is what USAID is and why USAID is important and essential to the alleviation of global poverty. U.S. involvement in foreign aid is not only saving the lives of those who live in developing and impoverished countries, but it is also saving and bettering the lives of Americans and American soldiers.

Noel McDavid
Photo: Flickr

Closing the Gap in Global EducationDebates about education often center on the quality of public schools, diminishing budgets, scarce resources and technological provisions in the United States. While a focus on domestic educational issues is commendable and necessary, there is a grimmer picture across the world. According to the World Inequality Database on Education, fewer than 50 percent of the poorest children have completed primary school in 39 out of 88 countries. The economic productivity and social quality of life of any country depends on its educated population, and closing the gap in global education is the key to global prosperity, safety and stability.

Indeed, education can eliminate bigger problems such as poverty, inequality, insecurity and disease. Equal access to a quality education, including access to content and means of delivering instruction and following a set curriculum, remains an unrealized dream and a struggle for many.

The last two centuries have seen an exponential increase in the number of children attending primary school globally, from 2.3 million to 700 million today. What is troubling is that children in the poorest households of developing nations, those arguably most in need of educational opportunities, are four times as likely to be out of school as those in the wealthiest households.

It is going to take another 100 years for children in developing countries to reach the education level of their counterparts in developed countries.

Access to a quality education remains a basic building block to success. Current approaches to educational equity necessitate a fundamental rethinking in that they must take into account that many children are unable to go to school because schools simply do not exist in parts of developing countries.

If schools do exist, teachers may lack proper training and simply be incapable of handling the demands of a classroom setting. Furthermore, barriers inherent in certain areas, such as societal demands and expectations, can hamper learning outside the classroom.

Technological tools and resources ignite curiosity and promote more efficient, up-to-date learning. A huge growth in social media platforms can certainly be aligned with classroom activity and curriculum, establishing more innovative ways for students and teachers to learn about global issues.

Though technology makes learning opportunities more widely accessible by decreasing the significance of geographical boundaries, a lack of technological infrastructure means that many children are deprived of the digital educational resources taken for granted in developed nations. For these students, the difficulty of closing the gap in global education comes with an additional cost: loss of productivity.

In 2015, the United Nations heavily promoted the Millennium Development Goals to achieve free universal primary education for all children by the year’s end.

Although it was unfortunate that the pace of improvement by countries could not keep up with the desire to have universal primary education, the primary school net enrollment rate did reach over 90 percent, and the number of out-of-school children fell from 100 million in 2000 to 57 million in 2015 . Movement toward closing the gap in global education is signified by the fact that not a single country in the world today is completely without a schooling system.

Today’s economy is knowledge-based and highly competitive. Schools in developed nations are entrusted with students who lack neither skills nor talents, but educational opportunities.

Some factors are beyond students’ control, such as where they were born and what their financial means are. But with the recent advancements in educational models, global education disparity can meaningfully be addressed and mitigated.

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Flickr

Gender Discrimination Examples
The inception of the United Nations (U.N.) Millennium Goals spearheaded the push towards achieving more social progress by promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. Despite the fact that two-thirds of the developing world have achieved a level of parity, the problem still persists in the Middle East and North African countries. The lack of access to education, the right to marriage, ownership and custody rights are some very common and debilitating issues that contribute to gender discrimination. However, some of the following examples of gender discrimination shed light on the more uncommon and often overlooked examples of gender inequality.

8 Powerful Examples of Gender Discrimination

1. The Gender Gap
Developing and developed countries have faced this social issue, although to varying degrees. Women in developed countries still face social hindrances owing to the gender – wage gap – a phenomenon that will still take 188 years to even up, according to the World Economic Forum. Women also have fewer responsibilities and are given fewer rewards for their work.

2. Being Forbidden to Drive
Across many conservative communities in Saudi Arabia, women still face this major social bulwark. Despite it not being a law, women are still not allowed licenses and can only exercise the right to go out in public if accompanied by a chaperon. The Arab Spring in 2011 resulted in a deluge of rallies and protests among women. Even though society is becoming more progressive, especially with regards to allowing women to contribute to the labor force, it will take further social reform to overcome this hindrance.

3. Restrictions on Clothing
Upon the pretext that women should not ‘flaunt their beauty,’ women in many conservative communities have to wear the complete body burqa, coupled with loose-fitting clothes when they are out in public as an interpretative exegesis of the Sharia Law. Many world leaders like U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May have spoken against the issue which is very pervasive in Saudi Arabia, Gambia, Sudan and North Korea.

4. Not being Allowed to Travel
In some extreme cases, women are not allowed to leave the country without the consent of their husbands. Up until the age of 40, single women are required to ask their father for permission. For example, Niloufar Ardalan, the Captain of the Iranian Women’s Soccer team was banned from taking part in the Women’s Futsal Championship of Malaysia in 2015 by her husband as it was in violation of Islamic Law.

5. Honor Killing
This is a deplorable practice that revolves around the hidebound idea that girls have to uphold the supposed ‘cachet’ of their families and abide by the patriarchal demands of the society. Honor killing is largely attributed to the poor education system and ineffective government legislation among rural communities. Consequently, Qandeel Balcoh was killed by her brother Waseem Ali in 2016 because she had supposedly brought dishonor upon her family because of how she expressed herself on social media.

6. Female Genital Mutilation
This problem is prevalent in Sub-Saharan African countries, Egypt and other countries in South Asia due to lack of sex education and awareness. The practice stems from a fundamentalist cultural ideology still held by many traditional communities and based on ensuring a girl’s fidelity before marriage. It is one of the very dire examples of gender discrimination and is a human rights violation. It results in severe pain, difficulties in urination and spread of infection.

7. Female Infanticide
Unfortunately, this practice is rather prevalent among rural communities in India, Pakistan and China. For example, China’s one-child policy has contributed to this issue. Boys are thought to galvanize the financial security of the family, while women are treated as burdens and often seen only as child-bearers and caretakers of the household. In some regions, there are as low as 300 girls for every 1,000 boys. Moreover, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save Girls, Teach Girls) in India, is a social reform initiative that is cracking down on related issues like child marriage.

8. Lack of Legal Rights
This form of gender discrimination is ubiquitous in many countries. From child custody and rape laws, this broad term encompasses many aspects where women are not given enough legal counsel. Spousal rape is not criminalized in many countries and complaints lodged with the police never materialize. In many countries in the Middle East, divorce laws are very weak. The evidence is often not admissible in court and eyewitnesses are always required for cases to be considered.

The progress made over the decade to combat gender discrimination is truly remarkable. Historically pivotal revolutions like the Suffrage movement have been the foundation for women’s rights activism today. Both modern and classical feminism are becoming widespread concepts that many in the international community are adopting. The steady momentum of human rights organizations like Amnesty International, the International Alliance for women, U.N. Women and other local non-governmental organizations have already made a big difference.

Achieving women’s rights is an effective way to crumble ramparts made by society. Female participation greatly helps bolster the economy and catalyze social development in the long run.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Techno Girls: Guiding and Empowering Young South Africans
South Africa has made huge strides for fostering a more egalitarian society through addressing gender-based violence and combating gender stereotypes. An initiative called Techno Girls has offered up its hand in minimizing gender gaps, addressing the gender disparities head-on in the educational and career sector.

Techno Girls is an initiative started in 2005 by UNICEF in partnership with South Africa’s Department of Education, the Ministry in the Presidency: Women, the Department of Education, the State Information Technology Agency and Uweso Consulting.

The program provides opportunities for girls who prove academic merit between the ages of 15 and 18, and who come from disadvantaged communities to begin exploring career avenues in traditionally under-represented sectors — math, science, technology and engineering.

According to Statistics South Africa, in 2012, the percentage of women in non-agricultural employment increased slightly from 43 percent in 1996 to 45 percent.

Moreover, in the results for the National Senior Certificate Examinations in 2010, it was reported that 52 percent of boys passed in comparison to 44 percent of girls. For Physical Science, 50 percent of boys passed while 46 percent of girls did the same.

Although gender equality has improved over the years, more work needs to be done to balance out gender ratios within STEM subject matter and career sectors. Girls are often discouraged from pursuing a career in engineering or science and Techno Girls is working to change that.

For instance, Techno Girls provides mentorship, shadowing experiences and skills development initiatives where girls can gain insights and leadership skills in the public and private sectors.

Previous opportunities have included shadowing at the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), INVESTEC, and the Johannesburg Roads Agency.

As of 2016, over 5000 girls have benefited from the program and have moved on to receive university or college scholarships. The Techno Girls Alumni Program also provides support to ensure a higher completion rate at tertiary level schooling, and in securing job opportunities in their chosen fields of study.

Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, said that she wanted Techno Girls to run the economy to show that, “the struggle by women in 1956 was not in vain.”

“Whatever degree you take, it opens doors – it is a key. It gives you the ability to use logic, the ability to analyze any situation and the ability to think scientifically,” Xingwana explained.

With the program’s success and popularity, the Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities identified Techno Girls as a key government program in furthering goals for gender equity.

Moreover, Techno Girls has been expanded to all nine provinces of South Africa. Women’s empowerment and potential in STEM sectors are on its way in South Africa.

Priscilla Son

Photo: Flickr