Refugees in Calais France
Having fled armed conflict and political repression, the refugees who reach Calais, France find no end to their struggle to survive. Aided by charities on the ground, volunteers care for them, but still, their lives are far from comfortable. Martha Haslam, a former volunteer in Calais, spent six months working for the charity Care4Calais to improve the lives of refugees. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Haslam said that volunteers “help to prepare donations for distribution and run the services at unofficial settlements.” During her time in Calais, amid a harsh winter and COVID-19 restrictions, humanitarian resources were less readily available. However, the organization worked continually to support the refugees in Calais, France as much as possible.

About the Refugees in Calais, France

The top 10 refugee-producing countries have either an ongoing conflict or poor human rights records or both. In Syria, a country that produces the most refugees in the world, more than 80% of the remaining population lives in poverty. Meanwhile, much of Eritrea’s population is subject to “forced labor and conscription.”

Haslam specified that the refugees in Calais have fled “recruitment by extremist groups and warlords (in Afghanistan and Sudan), political persecution (in Iran and Iraq), forced conscription (in Eritrea) and war (in Syria, Yemen and Kurdistan).” So, despite the hostile conditions, Calais is preferable to refugees’ home countries, where pushback tactics and even migrant slave trades are in full force. Yet, Calais is usually only a temporary stop, as the majority of refugees dream of reaching the United Kingdom, but often, there is no safe nor legal passage to get there and many refugees risk their lives in the process.

Living Conditions in Calais

Charities such as Care4Calais do their best to provide jeans and coats for the refugees as Haslam told The Borgen Project that many have been “wearing the same set of clothes for weeks or even months straight while they have been traveling to Calais.” Various organizations are distributing provisions despite waning supplies and tightening government laws.

The living conditions in Calais also vary dramatically with the seasons. Commenting on the winter months, Haslam explained that she “frequently encountered people suffering from hypothermia” due to inadequate bedding and clothing. She also said that tap pipes containing the water supply from the French state froze for much of January 2021. Thankfully, this was not the only source of drinking water as charities also have reserves.

The Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically affects living conditions in Calais. Aid from charities has significantly dwindled as fewer volunteers and donations are able to reach organizations due to restrictions. Also, tents that usually come from U.K. festivals are scarce due to a lack of public events during COVID-19. Further obstacles, such as increased policing and a lack of easy access to PPE, serve as added difficulties for refugees.

The pandemic has raised concerns due to the health risks it poses in a place where social distancing is often virtually impossible. Yet, the health dimension is, comparatively, a small problem for the refugees. “They have other worries that are more of a priority to them,” Haslam explained, stating that the refugees “generally aren’t that worried of catching the virus themselves.” The safety of the refugees is nevertheless a top priority for charities like Care4Calais, with volunteers sterilizing equipment and wearing PPE while encouraging the refugees to socially distance themselves at distributions and giving protective masks to those in need.

Care4Calais and Other Organizations

Care4Calais distributes basic necessities such as food, clothes and camping equipment. On top of this, it provides extra services like hair cutting and hot drink stations. Haslam says that an important role of the volunteers is to talk to the refugees every day and “let them know that there are people who care about them.”

More than 1,000 refugees depend on Care4Calais for provisions, but due to shortages, distributions are often sporadic. Haslam says that, as a large charity, Care4Calais is, fortunately, able to help when someone is in particular need, but that regular and sufficient distributions are simply not possible. Haslam regrets that “there is never enough to adequately supply the guys with enough to make them comfortable in Calais.”

La Vie Active, a French state-funded organization, offers showers and emergency accommodation to minors when winter conditions get extreme. Various groups also provide firewood when the country reaches low temperatures to help improve the living conditions in Calais in harsher months. Additionally, First Aid Support Team (FAST) provides emergency first aid in both Calais and Dunkirk should refugees in those locations need it.

Looking Forward

Although safer than many other countries, the living conditions in the French city of Calais are still challenging and refugees do not intend to stay long. There is hope, however, that with the warmer months and the easing of pandemic restrictions, conditions will improve and more help will become available in the form of supplies and volunteers. There are many organizations that work hard to improve the lives of refugees and to show them that people care. Although the lives of these refugees in Calais, France are full of uncertainty and suffering, their temporary stay in Calais does not need to be the same.

– Hope Browne
Photo: Flickr

Green Financing in Vietnam with a Big Help From France
The French Development Agency (AFD) announced a $100 million concessional credit line to the Bank of Investment and Development in Vietnam (BDIV) and technical assistance to help establish green financing in Vietnam. As Vietnam continues its rapid development while disproportionately dealing with the adverse effects of environmental challenges, it is searching to develop green financing to underpin a sustainable, efficient renewable energy system. The BDIV plays a crucial role in that transition and the assistance from the AFD is a significant first step in the transition to green financing in Vietnam.

Development in Vietnam

In 1986, a set of economic reforms would fundamentally shift the role of markets in Vietnam. By encouraging private ownership, overturning its policy on forced collective farming and recognizing private land rights, the Doi Moi reforms provided a central role for markets as the primary resource allocation mechanism.

The results have been astounding for economic development and poverty reduction in Vietnam. In the last three decades, the poverty rate reduced from 70% to 6%, and the GDP per capita increased by 2.7 times. In total, more than 45 million people were able to leave poverty. Today, Vietnam is the fastest-growing economy in Southeast Asia.

A component of this development was a shift away from an agriculture-based economy to a more industrial economy. In 1988, agriculture constituted 46% of the GDP. Fast forward to 2014, and agriculture as a share of the GDP had contracted to only 17%, while the service sector and industrial sector accounted for 44% and 39%, respectively.

Economic Consequences

Nevertheless, similar to other nations with experienced industrialization and remarkable growth and in a truncated period, Vietnam struggles to manage the environmental consequences. It logically flows as the more dynamic an economy becomes, the more energy it requires to power it. Likewise, the quicker the development, the more demand for energy will outpace the supply. Vietnam is no exception; on average, its energy demands increase by 10% every year.

Naturally, when demand rapidly outpaces supply, countries search for cheap, quick options to increase supply. Therefore, fossil fuels, a historically abundant and cheap energy source, have primarily fueled Vietnamese development. As of 2019, 84.7% of Vietnam’s energy came from fossil fuels, primarily in the form of coal (50.25%) but also in oil (25.92%) and gas (8.61%).

This Faustian pact with the cheaper, more abundant resources – along with other trappings of middle-income status – comes with environmental consequences. In 1989, Vietnam contributed 0.26 tons of carbon emissions per capita to the globe. By 2017, this number jumped to 1.93 tons. As a result of the severe air pollution, 50,000 people a year die. Although significant inroads have occurred, access to clean water in Vietnam remains a problem as 9,000 people die a year from polluted water.

Environmental Consequences

In addition to medical costs, environmental deterioration has a profound economic cost. Air pollution causes a financial cost of around 5% of GDP per year.

As with most unintended consequences, the most impoverished bear the brunt of it. The most poverty-stricken members of society are the most exposed, susceptible and resource-poor to adapt to the deteriorating environment. However, as the U.N. noted that it also creates a “…vicious cycle, whereby initial inequality makes disadvantaged groups suffer disproportionate loss of their income and assets, resulting in greater subsequent inequality” that threatens the economic development Vietnam has achieved over the last three decades.

On the flip side then, the poor benefit the most from green financing. For example, some researchers investigated this connection by studying 25 Chinese provinces over 13 years and found a high correlation between the two variables. The group argues that through a strong absorption capacity, long industrial chains and a high degree of relevance, green financing has a “pulling effect on economic development and can effectively alleviate poverty.”

Green Financing

Vietnam has recognized this dynamic and has set out to reverse the trend. The government has made significant inroads in providing cleaner development through creating cleaner transportation infrastructure, safer water and shifting to renewables. However, Vietnam achieved these inroads through government financing. According to the Asian Development Bank Institute, to supply energy demand with renewable energy, 50% of total investment in renewable energy development must come from private green financing. Yet, due to a lack of capacity and infrastructure, Vietnam banks cannot get near the 50% number.

Nevertheless, the AFD concessional loan is a significant first step in establishing green financing in Vietnam. As noted, the AFD provided a $100 million concessional loan to BDIV. BDIV is one of the leading financial institutions in Vietnam. It has over 1,100 banks worldwide and assets totaling VND1.56 quadrillion to promote green financing. The credit line will also mark the first green finance fund AFD has set up in Vietnam. Notably, AFD and BDIV earmarked $366,000 of the loan for technical assistance to support the transition.

AFD is valuable and experienced. It has more than 90 projects worldwide worth over 2.3 billion Euros. In addition, it has experience supporting green development in various sectors such as transport, infrastructure, agriculture and energy.

Taking Action

The CEO of BDIV, Le Ngoc Lam, hinted at three critical takeaways for Vietnam and BDIV in particular. First, it will assist BDIV in improving its operational efficiency in financing Vietnam’s green development. Second, it will establish a partnership between BDIV and AFD for future green development loans or projects. Finally, it signals to international partners Vietnam’s willingness to participate in green development projects or financial partnerships.

Put another way, the loan provides significant financing, technical assistance and establishes a partnership that can lead to other green financing opportunities. Therefore, it is essential to establish green financing in Vietnam and, accordingly, sustaining its development and further alleviating poverty.

– Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Women’s rights in FranceWith the rise of women’s rights movements in recent years, French citizens have mobilized to address gender issues, especially the prevalence of femicide and domestic violence. France has made much progress in the realm of gender equality, including the establishment of policies and programs promoting women’s rights in France under the Macron administration. However, there is still much to be done to reach true equality and to end gender-based violence.

Violence Against Women

In France, femicides —  the killing of women by a relative or significant other — have been a significant reason for protest in recent years. La Fondation des Femmes, or the Women’s Foundation, is one protest group that has formed around the issue as it believes government efforts to curb the violence are not enough to keep citizens safe. In a recent article from the BBC, the Women’s Foundation criticized the lack of adequate gun policy as firearms are one of the most common weapons used in femicides.

Additionally, pandemic-induced lockdowns have forced many women to be confined in the same space as abusers, resulting in a 30% increase in domestic violence reports, according to France24. Due to its continued prevalence, gender violence is a central concern for activists advocating for women’s rights in France.

The #MeToo movement also gained traction in France in 2017 under the French name #BalanceTonPorc. Though there were no significant convictions or resignations of perpetrators of sexual violence at first, the rise in protests and social media movements greatly increased the visibility of victims in 2020.

Efforts to Combat Gender-Based Violence

President Emmanuel Macron’s emphasis on gender equality provided much hope for feminist voters during his 2017 presidential campaign. As part of his pledge to support women’s rights in France, Macron implemented protective policies for women and has established the position of Secretariat of Equality between Women and Men, a role currently held by Marlène Schiappa. Under Macron’s administration, France scored 75.1% in 2020 in terms of the Gender Equality Index, ranking third-best among all members of the EU.

In response to protests and the advocacy of groups such as the Women’s Foundation, the French government implemented several pieces of legislation addressing gender violence. According to the BBC, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe held a domestic violence conference in 2019, during which he pledged to increase the number of temporary shelters for victims, improve the procedures of domestic violence cases and contribute more than $6 million to the cause. French parliament added to these measures by approving a law permitting doctors to reveal the identity of a patient if domestic violence is putting the patient’s life at risk.

Women’s Rights Progress

There has been some improvement as between 2019 and 2020 the number of domestic murders of women decreased from 146 to 90, a historically low number that the government believes to be a result of the work of its policies and law enforcement.

Despite government efforts to decrease gender violence, many individuals are still concerned by the alarming numbers of femicides. Protest groups in France are creating street collages highlighting femicide and sexual harassment. Caroline De Haas, the founder of the feminist movement NousToutes, told the Guardian that “nearly 100 deaths is no reason to celebrate.”

There are several hopeful developments for gender equality in France. However, despite an explicit government commitment to equality, the government must take additional steps to conquer disparities in female employment and leadership, gender violence, harassment and wage gaps. The continued protests asserting an end to violence against women demonstrate the need for more policy and execution of legislation for women’s rights in France.

Sarah Stolar
Photo: pixabay

Commitment to Development IndexThe Center for Global Development (CGD) releases the Commitment to Development Index (CDI) annually. The CGD analyzes the policies of the 40 most powerful countries in the world on their dedication to contributing to the development of low-income nations. It rates the countries based on performance in three overall categories and seven subcategories: development finance, exchange (including investment, migration and trade) and global public goods (including environment, security and technology). After scoring these sections individually for each country, the CGD then assigns each country an overall grade. The organization ranks the countries on the CDI based on these overall scores. In 2020, the top three countries were Sweden, France and Norway.

Sweden

Sweden ranks first on the Commitment to Development Index, with an overall score of 100%. Sweden received more than a 90% rating on development finance, migration, environment and security. The country scores well on all categories except technology, where it ranks 20th.

  • Development Finance. Sweden received a score of 93% because it spends 0.83% of its gross national income (GNI) on development finance. This is more than twice the average. Sweden also has proper transparency when it comes to spending. The country even has its own development finance institution called Swedfund. The institution’s goal is to alleviate poverty by investing in and helping to develop sustainable businesses in struggling and formidable markets.
  • Migration. Sweden received a score of 100% in this category because it has the most inclusive migrant policies compared to all the other countries on the CDI. Sweden has tightened its legislation since 2015 when it received 160,000 asylum seekers. The aim is to ensure that it can sufficiently take care of the people already in the country without being overburdened. Nevertheless, the country still welcomes more migrants than any other country on the CDI.
  • Security. Sweden received a 93% in security because it “contributes an above-average level of troops and finance to global peacekeeping missions.” Sweden also helps contribute to global health initiatives. Sweden has worked with the U.N. peacekeeping missions since 1948 and has sent more than 80,000 Swedish people to help.

France

France came second on the Commitment to Development Index with an overall score of 81%. France received more than a 90% score on investment, environment and security. France also scored well on trade.

  • Investment. France received a 91% in this category because it performs well with regard to business and human rights criteria. France created “The National Plan for the Implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.” The plan “is a universal road map for implementing the standards aimed at holding businesses accountable with regard to human rights.”
  • Environment. France received a 97% in the environment category because it signed every necessary environmental treaty and produces few fossil fuels.
  • Security. France has a 93% in this category because of its peacekeeping commitments. It provides 0.066% of its GNI to peacekeeping, which is twice the average. For 2020-2021, France budgeted $6.58 billion for peacekeeping efforts.

Norway

Norway ranks third on the Commitment to Development Index, with an overall score of 78%, mostly because of its high rating on development finance. It ranks well on investment and security too.

  • Development Finance. Norway received a 96% in this category because it provides 0.89% of its GNI to development finance. It is also first in transparency for development financing reporting. The country is well known for its commitment to “development co-operation” because it “has a primary focus on promoting equality for all, especially for the most vulnerable, marginalized and less privileged ones in least developed countries (LDCs) and sub-Saharan Africa.”
  • Investment. Norway has an 81% in investment. This is because Norway implements the OECD’s Anti-bribery Convention and has a strong history of upholding human and business rights. Norway works closely with the Human Rights Watch, an organization working to expose abuse and improve human rights throughout the world.
  • Security. Norway received an 88% on security partly because it ranks well in health security. The country utilizes significant monitoring and surveillance methods for antimicrobial resistance. This work is important because it can help lower global health hazards.

Reducing Global Poverty

For 2020, the Commitment to Development Index ranked Sweden, France and Norway as the top three countries. These countries are significantly contributing to global development, and in turn, are contributing to global poverty reduction.

Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

COVIS-19 vaccine distribution
Vaccines for the COVID-19 virus are emerging at an increasing rate around the world. The COVID-19 vaccine distribution is a primary challenge for political leaders. Ensuring that everyone has access to vaccines is imperative to achieving global recovery. In many countries, COVID-19 cases are still at large. National leaders put individual national laws in place to fight against the rising numbers. Though they have helped lower those rates, the number of cases has not yet begun to level out. The vaccines that nations have currently distributed should curb those numbers further. This will allow vaccinated individuals to resume their pre-pandemic daily routines slowly.

Inequal COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Some countries have priority access to vaccines, which is largely due to national wealth. This leads to poorer nations not having the ability to purchase vaccines. To combat this for the betterment of global health, France, in particular, has begun to put forth ideas and efforts with the intent to help such nations gain access to vaccines.

French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed that richer countries ought to transfer roughly 3-5% of their vaccines to countries in need. According to an interview with the Financial Times, he said, “This would have no impact on the rhythm of vaccine strategies (in rich countries). It won’t delay it by a single day given the way we use our doses.” According to Macron, German Chancellor Angela Markel has no problems with the initiative, and he hopes to convince the United States to share their vaccines as well.

African leaders have put forth the request for 13 million doses of vaccinations to help its population. The leaders plan to give a large portion of those to caretakers, allowing them to help patients in need. Currently, COVAX will be making accessible vaccinations available to African countries. However, the countries will use the vaccine only for emergencies. Thus, the calls for more vaccines are important.

France’s Plan for Vaccine Distribution

To help fight for better COVID-19 vaccine distribution in African countries, France has established a designated four-part plan to help affected communities efficiently. These steps include support of African healthcare systems, aiding African research and supporting humanitarian and economic efforts. The goal is for France to support various healthcare systems to ensure that patients and citizens receive the best treatment until a vaccine can be distributed. Until these countries have proper access to vaccines, the World Health Organization (WHO) will work with the financing they received from wealthier governments.

Many other countries worldwide are also working to help one another receive the help needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese scientists developed a vaccine that is currently in use in Hungary and Serbia. Beijing and Russia are selling and donating their own vaccines to nations abroad. If the number of cooperations increases in the upcoming months, there will be more vaccines available worldwide. Since the virus can still spread with mutations from other parts of the world, this is also crucial to rich nations’ national security.

– Seren Dere
Photo: Flickr

Examining Disability and Poverty in FranceDisability is affecting 12 million people in France. Limited mobility and sensation not only prevents disabled people from normal daily and professional life but they also lead to a higher risk of poverty. According to Eurostat, disability and poverty in France go hand in hand. In 2018, 21% of the French population over 16 years old with a disability were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, compared with less than 15% of those with no limitation. This considerable gap exists across the European Union, although the proportion of each member state varies significantly. On average, the possibility for a disabled EU citizen to suffer from poverty is about 10% greater than that of their counterparts.

Governmental Policies

In 2018, the French government rolled out a comprehensive and interministerial policy to increase resources available to the disabled population and to improve their living conditions. This policy embraced housing, health, education, work, transport as well as access to culture, sport and recreational activities. In the following five years, the government determined to provide disabled people with a preferential allocation of social housing for rent, develop health prevention among disabled people and enhance the status of healthcare workers and reduce the gap between the unemployment rate among citizens with disabilities and non-disabled people.

Allowance for Disabled Adults (AAH)

Regarding the correlation between disability and poverty in France, the French government has already achieved its 2019 goal of increasing the Allowance for disabled adults (Allocation aux adultes handicapés/ AAH) to €900 per month. AAH is a minimum-income awarded to people over 20 years old with severe disabilities rated by the Committee for the Rights and Self-dependency of Disabled Persons (CDAPH).

A French resident with a disability severity rating of at least 80% can benefit from AAH for a period of one to 10 years, depending on each particular case. For those rated between 50% and 79% with a substantial reduction of access to employment, they are eligible for AAH for one to five years. As of 2020, the maximum AAH is €902.70 per month, with annual income ceilings of around €11,000 for a person living alone and around €20,000 for a couple.

Facilities and Mobilities

French law requires that all new buildings and existing public buildings must be adapted and accessible to people with disabilities. The transformations have to take some time, yet large cities such as Paris and Lyon and some popular touristic regions have become much more accessible in recent years. For example, all buses in Paris are now equipped with platforms facilitating passengers with limited ability to get on and off more easily. Additionally, any disabled resident of France can request a carte mobilité inclusion (CMI) that grants them priority access to seating in public transport and free parking.

Although the government and social organizations are taking various actions to improve the well-being of people with disabilities and poverty in France, the current situation is hardly satisfying. Joncour, a 19-year-old university student and non-verbal autistic, complains that the departmental home for people with disabilities (MDPH) can only grant him three hours a day of subsidized personal assistance. The remaining hours cost the family about €1,000 per month so that he can go to class and have a normal life like his peers. This expense has enormously impacted the daily life of the family and sadly drove them to a precarious position. There is still a long way to go to improve the living standards of those with disabilities and poverty in France. Hopefully, after the five-year term of the new policies, the living conditions of disabled people will significantly improve in France.

Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

Z EventEven though the world is more connected than ever, poverty remains a large problem as many people are left behind. Fortunately, the internet has been used as a platform for change, resulting in unprecedented awareness of global poverty. One example of this is Z Event, a French charity project hosted annually on the live streaming website Twitch. Z Event started with just two people who wanted global change. The video gaming event has been shattering world records and raising millions of dollars for charity.

Twitch Live Stream Platform

Z Event would not have been possible without the rise of the Twitch platform. Twitch is a website that people can use for live streaming. This means that whatever viewers are watching is happening in real-time. This creates a new world of interactivity. While Twitch was originally created for live streaming video games, the website has now expanded into other genres like art, music and chess. Twitch now has a massive following, with over 140 million monthly users.

It was only a matter of time before content creators used Twitch as a platform to raise money for charity. In July 2013, Summer Games Done Quick raised $257,181 for Doctors Without Borders in a charity stream on Twitch. As Twitch started growing in popularity, charity streams became even more popular. In 2019, Twitch streamer “DrLupo”, raised more than $2.3 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 24 hours.

Video Gaming: Z Event

With the success of charity streams in the past and the increasing global presence of Twitch, the time was right for Z Event. In March 2016, a charity stream called “Avengers Project” raised 170,000 euros for Save the Children. The goal of the project was to gather every popular French streamer to raise awareness for certain issues. While the project started small, the annual event grew considerably. In 2017, the now named “Z Event” raised 500,000 euros. Z Event is the annual charity event by French streamers ZeratoR and Dach. As the project grew larger, more popular French streamers joined the event. In 2020, 41 Twitch streamers participated in the event.

Video Gaming for a Cause

While each individual streamer is popular on their own, their platform increases exponentially when combined. In 2020, the event had an average of 248 thousand viewers with a peak of nearly 700 thousand viewers. This large amount of awareness led to large sums of money raised for charity. In 2019, Z Event hit the world record for most money raised in a charity stream on Twitch, over 3.5 million euros. In 2020, Z Event shattered its own record, raising over 5.7 million euros, which is approximately $6.7 million.

Each year, the event raises money for a different cause. The money raised in 2019 was for the Pasteur Institute, a nonprofit organization that researches diseases. In 2020, Z Event raised money for Amnesty International, an organization focused on global human rights.

Video Gamers Uniting for Charity

These efforts have been applauded by many. Mark Hamill supported Z Event on Twitter and President of France, Emmanuel Macron has also commended the project.

While poverty remains a problem in the world today, the growing platform of the internet along with websites like Twitch show significant promise. Millions of dollars have been raised for charity to fight poverty. France’s Z Event shows that when people come together, the impact is substantial.

– Evan Weber
Photo: Flickr

France is helping to protect the Amazon
One of the organizations making a large difference in protecting the Amazon is the Agence Française de Développement (AFD). This agency is a public financial institution that operates based on policy given by the French government. Its main objective is to fight poverty and promote sustainable development. Here are five ways France is helping to protect the Amazon.

5 Ways France is Helping to Protect the Amazon

  1. Contribution through Grants: Since 2019, AFD gave 15.5 million euros in grants to Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. These grants aim to help the local population and governments increase protective measures for the environment. To make these grants possible, AFD combined efforts with other public development banks, including the Inter-American Development Bank. The Inter-American Development Bank aims to promote biodiversity in the Amazon, which is one of the AFD’s objectives as well.
  2. TerrAmaz Program: Another way that France and the AFD are protecting the Amazon is by giving money to the TerrAmaz program. This program is located at five different sites in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. TerrAmaz is working on new models of large-scale ecosystem conservation with a focus on low-carbon economic development. Additionally, TerrAmaz monitors deforestation at each local site and promotes sustainable agricultural practices to lower deforestation effects. The grant given to TerrAmaz from AFD is worth 9.5 million euros.
  3. Supporting Indigenous Tribes: The third way AFD is helping to protect the Amazon region is by supporting the local tribes that inhabit the land. AFD gave one million euros to help the Kayapo and Kapoto tribes in Brazil. Indigenous communities in the Amazon face tremendous pressure from those looking to seize and deforest the land. In response, AFD supports tribes to prevent that from happening. This project is led by Conservation International with the help of other local organizations that support the indigenous community. These organizations will help rehabilitate the land after fires, create a monitoring system for fires and introduce new sustainable agricultural activities to the tribes.
  4. Sustainable Cocoa Production: AFD, along with the French Facility for Global Environment, is giving a total of 7.5 million euros to support sustainable cocoa production. The project is focused specifically on the production of cocoa in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Conservation International has partnered with Agronomes et Vétérinaires Sans Frontières and Kaoka, an organic fair trade chocolate company. The aim of the project is to increase cocoa sales, while also preserving the biodiversity in the area. One method is to combine the farming of cocoa with tree planting.
  5. Political Pressure: The final way that France is helping to protect the Amazon is not on the ground but in the political sphere. President Emmanuel Macron of France has openly criticized the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, over his lack of effort and action towards protecting the Amazon rainforest after the devastating forest fires. President Macron committed France to a $500 million package to save the Amazon, which includes other South American and European countries, but not Brazil. Macron would like to work with Brazil, but is determined to help save the Amazon regardless of an agreement between the two nations.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily paused some of the work that AFD has funded, it is nonetheless a major step for a big European power to support the Amazon. France and the AFD have set an example for the rest of the world through its work to protect the Amazon. Hopefully, other countries will also make saving the Amazon rainforest a priority of their efforts.

Claire Brady
Photo: Flickr

Top 6 Facts about Child Poverty in FranceChildren are among the first victims of poverty. Even in France, one of the world’s most affluent countries, child poverty is still a serious issue today, if not an increasingly urgent emergency. Here are six facts about child poverty in France.

6 Things to Know about Child Poverty in France

  1. According to a 2015 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one out of five children under 18 years old in France live below the poverty line. This means that more than three million children in France suffer from their parents’ financial weakness and live on less than about €1000 per month, with many of them actually living on much less. This statistic is astonishing especially considering that the total population of poverty in France was 8.8 million in 2017.
  2. In France, 20% of households have difficulties paying for their children’s meals at the school canteen. To cope with this problem, French President Emmanuel Macron announced an €8 billion national anti-poverty plan in September 2018. As a result of this plan, primary schools provided free breakfast to the poorest students as well as subsidized lunches for €1 each in the school canteen.
  3. Child poverty in France is closely related to single-parent families who usually lack financial sources than the rest of the population. One-third of impoverished children live in single-parent families, especially those made up of single women and children. As of 2018, single mothers are among the most affected by poverty in France, before immigrants and elderly people. The fraught financial situation and high educational expenses have sadly led some young women to pay for their children’s studies through prostitution. The students’ union SUD Etudient estimated in 2006 that the number of single mothers struggling to pay for their children’s’ education was around 40,000 and continues to rise.
  4. The impoverished family background may reproduce further inequalities in education and employment. According to the 2015 UNICEF report, 140,000 children were dropping out of school each year. UNICEF also criticized France’s educational system, in which children from unprivileged families have less chance to enter universities, for failing to gear up social mobility and widening the gap between the rich and the poor instead. It estimated that it takes six generations for children born in impoverished families to attain an average income in France.
  5. There are about 30,000 children in France who are homeless and 9,000 who live in slums, many of whom are foreigners without legal status. The charitable organization Secours Catholique, which helps more than 67,000 impecunious people in need in France, claims that more than 40% of the families they assisted are immigrants, and only less than half of them have legal status in France. As a result, they do not have the right to work or benefit from social welfare.
  6. Nevertheless, thanks to its social service and healthcare, France remains one of the countries with the lowest child mortality rates despite its issue of child poverty. In fact, the 4% rate of child mortality in France is the same as that in Germany, Spain and Italy, lower than 6% in Canada and 8% in the United States.

These six facts about child poverty in France shed light on the growing poverty problem in a country that is as wealthy as France. However, by shedding light on child poverty in France the government and charity organizations will work to alleviate youth poverty in its early stages.

Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr 

Period Poverty in FranceMenstruation shame and period poverty have become hot topics in France in recent years. Monthly tampons, pads and menstrual pain medications can be a heavy financial burden for an impoverished woman. As Règles élémentaires, a leading charitable association fighting against period poverty in France estimates, a woman has to spend around €10,000 to €20,000 on menstrual products in her lifetime.

Multiple campaigns took place in the early 2010s to appeal for more affordable sanitary products, mainly by calling for the lowering of the tampon tax. At the time, tampons were taxed as a luxury item, at 20%. In 2016, France became the first country in Europe to reduce the tampon tax to 5.5%. This brought menstrual products in line with other primary-need products such as shampoo or toilet paper.

The Labour Code in France states that an employer must “provide workers with the means to ensure their individual cleanliness.” However, according to the French Institute for Public Opinion (IFOP), there are still 1.7 million French women suffering from period poverty in 2019.

Feminist Organizations

Règles élémentaires has been collecting hygiene products for impoverished women in need since 2015. It is the first French association that fights against period poverty as well as menstrual taboo. The success of this association soon inspired many more initiatives in France to address period poverty. For instance, a grocery store at Paris-Diderot University offers sanitary products at only 10% of the selling price to students with economic difficulties.

The student health insurance company, La Mutuelle Des Étudiants (LMDE) started to include sanitary protection reimbursement for up to €20-25 per year. A women’s health charity, ADSF, distributes sanitary kits to women in need. This especially targets homeless shelters where women are often too reluctant to ask for them. “We now know that sanitary pads must be included in the kits distributed at shelters – and not just razors, as used to be the case when people associated homelessness with males only,” the group explains.

Government Policies

The feminist organizations and their activities gradually brought period poverty to the government’s attention. Two members of France’s National Assembly drafted a 107-page report on how to lift menstrual taboos and alleviate period poverty. After the report, Gender Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa and her colleague Christelle Dubos announced in early 2020 that the French government will carry out a one-year trial of free distribution of hygienic products for women in schools, hospitals, shelters and prisons. The budget will be €1 million. The initiative will start in the Île-de-France region as soon as the end of October 2020. In the first phase of the experiment, the region has chosen 31 high schools based on their overall percentage of female students and scholarship recipients. The regional government will provide these chosen schools free organic sanitary products and dispensers.

French menstrual activists are still advocating that social security should cover all menstrual products, as it does for condoms. They have also devised a plan of vouchers and pre-paid cards for women in need to make their own intimate choices, rather than the government deciding which product they should receive.  While great strides have been made to alleviate the financial burden and social stigma as it pertains to periods, there is much more to do to further alleviate period poverty in France.

Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr