Key articles and information on global poverty.

Indonesian Coffee Farming
Indonesia is not the world’s largest exporter of coffee, but its coffee industry is nothing to scoff at when it employs millions of coffee farmers annually. Coffee farming is a profitable industry in Indonesia. The Asian nation has an ideal climate for coffee bean growth and has had incredible coffee output, averaging the production of more than 600,000 tons of coffee or 4 million bags. International aid organizations are beginning new initiatives and investments to solidify economic stability, decrease poverty rates and end gender disparities.

Indonesia’s Gender Disparities and Poverty

Indonesia is notorious for its patriarchal attitudes and the U.N. has ranked Indonesia 85th out of 149 countries for its gender wage gaps. Its ranking is among the highest of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with women earning less than 60% of their male counterparts, despite often having the same levels of education.

Indonesia has widespread economic gender disparities, which could make women more likely to live in or fall into poverty than the male population. Data from the Central Statistics Agency recorded that in March 2022, at least 9% of Indonesia’s population lives in poverty. To combat the poverty rates that put women at a disadvantage in comparison to Indonesian men, women are seeking out jobs in sectors with greater chances for a steady and reliable income, mainly in agriculture.

According to a Springer Journal study, women lack access to training for sustainable farming practices, marketing and managing businesses connected to the agricultural sector. However, crop yields and production would likely increase by 2.5-4% if women were to integrate into the agricultural workforce. By 2018, 49% of Indonesia’s agricultural workforce consisted of women. Without them, agricultural stability would decrease, with the rural economy losing significant income and poverty rates increasing.

Indonesian Coffee Farming Practices

Agriculture is one of Indonesia’s three dominant business sectors. In 2021, it was responsible for 13% of the nation’s GDP. Agriculture has historically been one of the primary sources of income for Indonesians. Indonesia’s agriculture sector is a crucial global producer, with coffee as one of its critical exports. Since the 1960s, Indonesian coffee farming has steadily grown and expanded to offer more and more job opportunities for farmers nationwide.

Indonesian coffee farming occurs mainly on small shareholder farms. Small shareholder farms are beneficial as they safely sustain the economy of the rural populations, help with expanding markets and protect natural resources. Protecting natural resources is especially helpful as Indonesia relies on its agricultural systems.

This farming practice involves renting or not owning a great deal of land on which the coffee is grown. Coffee plantations cover 1.24 million hectares and small-shareholder farmers operate more than 90% of Indonesia’s coffee farming land, according to Indonesia Investments. Each farmer works on only one to two hectares. The small sizes of the farms might not seem impressive, but the reliability of the farms entices investors worldwide. Indonesia’s government works to revitalize the land at any sign of slowing output and international aid organizations work to keep Indonesian coffee farming a viable option for jobs, especially as women take more jobs in the sector to end the wage gaps.

Female Coffee Farmers Taking Indonesia By Storm

Women are integrating into the coffee workforce at an incredible rate and are working as small shareholder farmers. Even though female farmers lack formal training, in some regions of Indonesia, they are 80% of the coffee farming workforce. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) began working with Indonesia’s female coffee farmers to train them to improve their productivity and increase their income. Working on a flexible schedule, the IFC trained 1,600 women and helped open new loan businesses that cater to Indonesia’s coffee farming needs. The number of female coffee farmers trained rose to 27%, up from 16%, and productivity and income improved by 92% on average. Helping female coffee farmers improve their productivity and market profitability will bring them new economic opportunities to lift them out of poverty and improve local economies.

USAID announced its new program, Indonesia Coffee Enterprise Resilience Initiative (Resilient Coffee). The program creates partnerships with Keurig Dr. Pepper and Root Capital, a U.S.-based non-government organization. The program intends to provide credit for Indonesia’s rural agricultural businesses. USAID Indonesia Mission Director Jeff Cohen stated that the program, “expand[s] public-private capacity and commitment to strengthening and increasing inclusive economic growth, as well as prioritizing investment in women’s economic empowerment.” USAID’s new program will expand Indonesian coffee farming’s economic opportunities and “invest in women’s economic empowerment.” Empowering female coffee farmers will help end the gender wage gap and poverty struggles while bringing new economic opportunities to the region that benefit all involved.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Poverty With AI
With the rapid emergence of widely accessible Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbots, such as Chat GPT, it is getting easier for small organizations to leverage the power of AI in everyday use as technology becomes less expensive. Charities can now take advantage of the accessibility of AI to greatly benefit philanthropy and fundraising to effectively carry out their roles and aid in the fight against global poverty.

Fighting Poverty with AI

Artificial Intelligence has already helped combat global poverty around the world. The founding director of the Sandford Poverty & Technology Lab, Elisabeth Mason, says that technology and the emergence of AI “puts us in a better position to solve issues we’ve never been able to solve.” While Mason claims that technology alone may not be able to fully eliminate poverty, the involvement of other factors such as low education levels, lack of workplace skills and unaffordable food and resources could help the world fight poverty with AI.

Some researchers are using AI to track impoverished zones most in need. One impactful example of how AI has helped combat global poverty is in 2020, when Marshall Burke, David Lobell and Stefano Ermon led a team of researchers at Stanford to develop a powerful tool that uses AI to track the development of poverty levels across villages in Africa. They managed to achieve this by combining AI with satellite imagery that is both free and accessible to the public, which allowed them to be able to predict poverty in these areas with an accuracy between 81% and 99%.

Another way scientists have integrated AI into techniques for combating poverty is by improving agriculture. According to the World Bank, almost 65% of working adults living in poverty rely on agriculture, as there is an intricate link between global poverty and agriculture. Sending aid and resources can only do so much for helping the world’s poor, and thus it is vital to invest in the agriculture sector to give farmers a way to elevate their financial status, as investments in the agricultural sector produce four times more effective results in poverty reduction than any other economic sector.

Agricultural development is a powerful poverty-reduction tool, and therefore, Carnegie Mellon University launched FarmView as a project to solve the global food crisis and fight poverty with AI. FarmView essentially uses robotics that AI powers to improve the agricultural yield of certain staple crops and plant breeding, especially sorghum. Sorghum is tolerant of both drought and heat, which is valuable in developing countries like Nigeria, India and Ethiopia as it thrives in famine-prone parts of the world.

Taking Advantage of AI

These new emerging techniques to fight poverty with AI could mean significant developments for charities that are advocating for the world’s poor. Here is a list of measures that charities may take to adopt AI into their battles against poverty and better improve their organization and techniques for fundraising and philanthropy:

  1. Targeted Outreach: As seen with the example from Stanford, charities can use AI to analyze past and current data on poverty levels to provide helpful information by identifying individuals and communities most in need and delivering services and necessities to the poor. This allows charities to target their efforts and reach a wider range of people living in poverty more effectively.
  2. Virtual Assistants and Chatbots: Charities can use AI-powered chatbots and other types of virtual assistants to aid in technical tasks that would make the operation of the charity smoother and more effective. For example, chatbots can help answer frequently asked questions, provide information on different services and collect donations.
  3. Predictive Modeling: Charities can help analyze poverty-related factors, including unemployment and rising costs of living, to predict future trends and needs. This can help with planning for future challenges and allow charities to allocate resources accordingly.
  4. Fraud Detection: Detecting fraud can be easier than ever, as accessible AI is able to analyze patterns of donations, identify suspicious activity and prevent charities from losing funds.
  5. Automation: Charities can also automate certain manual labor tasks to fortify the process of running a charity, including data entry, which allows charities to redirect funds and savings to other poverty-related efforts, and ensure the smooth operation of the charities.

The Beginning of a New Era

Charities have already begun adopting AI into their operations, and they will only continue to explore the possibilities technology can bring to fight poverty with AI. Tech giant IBM, for instance, has partnered up with the nonprofit organization St John’s Bread & Life to establish the Emergency Food Best Practice project. With the organization helping “serve more than 2,000 meals a day” in New York, IBM plans to develop a tool based on the data and distribution model of St. John’s Bread & Life and share it with other organizations to produce results benefiting those most in need.

– Noura Matalqa
Photo: Flickr

Organizations in India
In India, 52% of women and 42% of men consider it acceptable for a husband to physically abuse his wife. Additionally, according to U.N. Women, one in three women globally encounter physical or sexual assault, in most cases from their partner. However, there are many nonprofit organizations in India that help women and girls who faced violence. Here are five of the organizations in India.

International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC)

International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC) began its journey in 2001 in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. It develops services to help female victims of assault. The organization offers emergency and long-term rehabilitation assistance. Additionally, it offers housing services for women and children, as well as counseling, financial assistance and opportunities for skill development and employment.

The organization has a Dhwani Crisis Hotline that works around the clock and provides instant help as well as follow-up and referral services that offer guidance at different phases of the healing and rehabilitation process. The number of calls to the Dhwani Hotline during the lockdown in March 2020 grew by three times. In 2020, the hotline got 1,275 crisis calls and 4,141 follow-up calls.

My Choices Foundation

Elca Grobler established the My Choices Foundation in Hyderabad, India, in 2012. The foundation strives to eliminate domestic abuse and stop sex trafficking in India. In the same year, it opened its first Operation PeaceMaker counseling center where local women offer support to domestic abuse victims. Now it operates in 10 states in more than 6,500 locations around India.

According to its 2021 report, in 2014, the foundation introduced its anti-sex trafficking wing – Operation Red Alert. Next year it created an anti-trafficking interference initiative – Safe Village Program which helps prevent trafficking from happening in villages and communities. Also, it opened India’s first national toll-free hotline to combat human trafficking. Other than that in 2018, it created Lotus Safe Home which offers protection to women and children who manage to flee from abuse. The following year it established a domestic violence helpline for women.

During the lockdown in 2020, the foundation delivered necessary supplies to more than 13,000 people which helped 5,169 families that the pandemic affected. By the end of 2022, the foundation trained 290 peacemakers, provided counseling to 14,971 families, educated 3,270,844 people on domestic abuse and 32,530,534 people on sex trafficking and got 71,548 calls through the sex trafficking helpline.

Sayodhya Home

A group of women activists who worked with at-risk children founded the nonprofit organization Sayodhya in Hyderabad in 2010. After seeing a rise in the number of incidents of abuse against women and children, activists decided to create this home. Sayodhya Home became a short-stay home (from one day to a month) for women and children who have faced physical abuse.

Since 2010 Sayodhya has given emergency shelter to more than 3,000 women and young girls. The organization also opened free family counseling centers in 10 urban slums in Hyderabad. Besides that Sayodhya enabled training in tailoring to 500 women, helped 600 students find jobs, provided legal and psychological counseling to 1,500 women and supported the education of 600 girls.

ActionAid Association India

Among other organizations in India that help women is ActionAid Association India which is a part of ActionAid International that operates in more than 40 countries worldwide. It focuses on issues like “Women’s and girls’ rights, Child Rights, Natural resources, Democracy and governance.” In India, it provides services across 25 states. Because of the organization’s work more than 1,180,500 families from underprivileged neighborhoods in 317 districts lead better lives.

According to its 2017-18 report, ActionAid Association India is running 22 one-stop crisis centers (OSCC) in cooperation with the government to address the abuse that women experience. These centers are working in four states: Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh. In Madhya Pradesh, OSCC got 39,000 calls and 11,000 of those were from women. The organization linked 214 women with the police, provided 94 women and children with support, gave a short-stay shelter to 108 women and linked 13 minor girls with education and 33 women with skill development training. In Uttar Pradesh, the organization rescued 171 women and 18 children, gave 100 women shelter and helped 249 women with legal support.

Majlis Law

The original members of Majlis were active in the early women’s movement in Mumbai. One of the founders is Flavia Agnes, a legal scholar on women’s rights. The organization got its registration as a Society and Public Trust in 1991.

It is an all-female team of attorneys and activists that offers legal and social help to victims (women and children) of domestic and sexual violence from underprivileged social groups. The team assists victims during investigation and trial and provides social support from counseling to shelter. Bombay High Crout approved the Maharashtra State Handbook on Domestic Violence that Majlis Law created. Its achievements include providing legal support to more than 80,000 victims, providing social support to more than 100,000 victims, conducting more than 150,000 training sessions and reaching more than 1,500 collaborations.

These five organizations in India are helping women survive and start their lives over. With more recognition and support, more women and girls should be able to lead better and happier lives in India.

– Elizaveta Medvedkina
Photo: Flickr

Artificial Intelligence in South African Schools
With driverless taxis hitting the streets of San Francisco last year, evidently, humanity’s trust in artificial intelligence (AI) has turned a significant corner. No longer is the idea of computers being able to evolve and learn reserved to the pages of science fiction novels or Steven Spielberg blockbusters. In fact, this automated, adaptive technology will soon be arriving in schools in developing nations across the African continent; helping to educate future generations and alleviate millions from the confines of entrenched poverty. 

What is Adaptive Learning Technology?

Adaptive learning is a concept that has been around for decades and depicts a method whereby teachers try to suit the unique requirements of individual students by customizing activities specifically for them. By having students work on computers with adaptive learning technology software installed, individual pupils can receive hints and tips on how to solve problems separately from their peers, who may not require the extra help. This boosts confidence in struggling students and ensures they do not end up behind. 

Who is Behind It?

Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, South Africa’s Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies announced the establishment of an Artificial Intelligence Institute at the G20 Digital Economy Ministers Meeting in Bali in September 2022. Ntshavheni stated that it was crucial that South Africa invests significantly to provide its youth with “access to modern training, skill sets and formal education.” To achieve this, the Department of Basic Education has introduced robotics and coding to the countrys school curriculum for Grades R to 3 and Grade 7 for the year 2023. This desire to introduce artificial intelligence in South African schools has come just months after Kenya became the first African country to teach coding as a school subject in March 2022. 

Which Companies are Pioneering the Software?

The ADvTech Group, a Johannesburg-based company that operates within the education industry, has become the first initiative to roll out its own artificial intelligence in South African schools. The new digital learning platform ADvLEARN aims to “enhance learning in Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Mathematical Literacy.” MathU, a “software as a service (SaaS)” company based in Pretoria that specializes in adaptive learning technology and software engineering is creating this technology. The ambition is to create “personalized learning pathways” which will fill in any gaps in students learning, providing each pupil with the equivalent of a one-on-one tutor. 

Who is Benefitting From AI?

Daniel Makina, writing in the SA Financial Markets Journal, notes the boom in AI agricultural start-ups such as Aerobotics, MySmartFarm and DroneClouds, which are “spurring the technological revolution” in South Africa. The employment of AI in the agricultural sector has led to significant and permanent changes that will have lasting implications. In helping to identify diseases and enable the monitoring of soil health without the need for laboratory testing infrastructure, AI will allow future farmers to broker better prices with suppliers. Similarly, the introduction of artificial intelligence in South African schoolswill help educate the next generation, and not just the brightest students but all those who would otherwise end up behind by a lack of customized tuition in large classrooms. 

Ultimately, those that wish to see a prosperous South Africa will welcome the increased involvement of adaptive technology in classrooms. The capacity to provide more support for students who may otherwise slip under the radar could have long-term benefits for future generations. Education is one of the key components in alleviating whole generations from the spiral of poverty and the introduction of artificial intelligence in South African schools may well serve as a catalyst in improving the lives of many of the nation’s poorest.

– Max Edmund
Photo: Flickr

Stigma Against Refugees
“The Swimmers” is a 2022 Netflix production telling the remarkable true story of two sisters, Sara and Yusra Mardini, as they flee the war in their hometown of Damascus, Syria, in search of a better life in Germany. Inspired by true events, the movie captures the harrowing journey refugees undertake in their pursuit of safety and a brighter future, and in doing so, fights stigma against refugees by allowing the audience to empathize and relate to the characters.

The characters first journey to the Greek island of Lesbos, risking their lives in the open sea on an overcrowded boat. To prevent the boat from sinking, Sara and Yusra jump into the water and swim for the remainder of the journey. What follows is their arrival in Berlin and the path that led Yusra to compete for the refugee team in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

The Realities Refugees Face

A strong script and good production capture the journey and realities that the refugees face across the sea and once in Europe. The contrast between friendship and life in Damascus with a near-death experience in open sea creates enduring empathy and humanizes the characters involved as the audience witnesses them separate from their families and the place they once called home.

The detail of the account makes the film an educational experience, outlining the process involved in accommodating such numbers of people and the lengthy bureaucratic procedures necessary to obtain official documentation. The scenes after the refugees’ arrival in Berlin are hauntingly endearing. The movie also highlights the susceptibility of refugees to exploitation and abuse along the journey.

The German government under Angela Merkel admitted more than 1 million refugees into the country in 2015. The movie depicts this once the sisters and their cousin process their photos and fingerprints, after which authorities separate them into male and female shelters. The identical dorms are scattered across a massive floor plan of what appears to be a warehouse, offering beds and storage space, but little to no privacy and personal space for the people inside. A beautiful scene, in the recognition of the government’s investment and efforts to accommodate the asylum seekers, with the somber aftertaste of realizing that many refugee needs still go unmet.

The Refugee Journey

As much as the story focuses on the journey and relationship of Sara and Yusra Mardini, the movie has a split dynamic, dancing on the line that separates the collective from the individual. This cleft dynamic is a central theme. The plot follows the story of the two sisters and is set against the backdrop of millions who have undertaken the same treacherous journey, with continuous reminders of the fortune of those who survived and succeeded in obtaining refuge.

According to data by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of mid-2022, there were more than 100 million forcibly displaced people globally, 32.5 million of which are refugees, with 6.8 million having fled Syria.

The outcome of the split approach the movie adopts highlights the collective plight of refugees and the far-reaching impacts of mass forced displacement while emphasizing the individuality of every person undertaking the difficult journey in search of refuge.

Changing Perceptions Through Information and Education

The efficacy of movies in conveying complex issues and situations is irrefutable. Sensory targeting of the auditory and visual imaginations transports the audience into the character’s shoes, creating empathy and understanding. Yusra emphasizes the importance of the education system in addressing the stigma against refugees by disseminating information and dispelling myths. Yusra, since her appearance at two back-to-back Olympic Games, has become a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and states that the movie will have a strong impact on fighting the stigma against refugees, enabling people to discuss displacement more openly and gain a better understanding of it.

This is a crucial step to take in addressing the stigma against refugees. The prerequisite to changing perceptions of refugees is understanding and acknowledging their struggles and their human need for safety and a stable future. People flee from war and poverty in search of better conditions to live their life. The harsh reality is that for many, conditions do not improve much. Globally refugees struggle to meet their basic requirements for health care, education and sustenance. UNHCR data outlines that four in five Syrian refugees in Jordan lived below the national poverty line prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the movie, Yusra struggled with being unable to represent her birth country, Syria, at the Olympic games. Initially fearing earning her Olympic place due to pity, her experiences eventually amalgamate into a sense of pride at representing the Refugee Olympic Team and turn her into a voice of inspiration and advocacy for all those experiencing what she went through.

Effectively capturing the plight of refugees in a movie fights the stigma against refugees by providing the foundation for this education to begin. This is a story of struggle, hardship and love, the intensities of which many cannot hope to fathom, condensed into a runtime of two hours and 15 minutes.

– Bojan Ivancic
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in Angola
Angola is a country where 68% of the population lives below the poverty line despite being one of Africa’s biggest exporters of oil. Before its 27-year civil war, Angola used to be self-sustainable in key crops and even an exporter of a few cash crops. Angola’s civil war caused a mass exodus from rural farming areas and many of its citizens are wary of moving back because of weak infrastructure and the threat of unexploded landmines. Angola’s government, along with NGOs, nonprofits and international organizations, are finding innovative solutions to have agriculture in Angola blooming once again.

The Mines Advisory Group (MAG)

Angola’s biggest threat to economic and agricultural success is the landmine sites that are still active 11 years after their civil war. The Mines Advisory Group (MAG) is an NGO working out of the U.K. that is actively removing Angola’s active landmine sites. MAG is the only all-woman weapons and ammunition management team, and so far, it has cleared 10 million square miles of Angola’s rural areas. MAG’s work is allowing people to move back to their hometowns, like the village of Lucusee, which was once deserted and is now home to more than 21,000 residents. The group is making it possible for land that was once treacherous and deserted to be safe and capable of being used for home building and developing agriculture in Angola.

Projects from the FAO

The Angolan government, because of the help from MAG and other NGOs, is now able to hit the ground running on development projects for its agricultural sector. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a sub-organization of the U.N., is implementing a project across multiple countries in Africa called Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation Systems (CDAIS). CDAIS is being put to work in many countries, but specifically in Angola, the FAO is trying to make use of Angola’s resource-rich farmlands. Angola’s farmers have only cultivated 7% of the country’s arable lands.

The project has several target areas to help farmers develop the rest of these fertile lands. CDAIS aims to provide agricultural education, and pathways for communicative efforts between agricultural entrepreneurs and has its own system for sharing technical information called the Agricultural Innovation System (AIS-CDAIS). The FAO, through these methods, will improve the production of seeds, the integrity of rice crops and the Commonwealth of agricultural information and advancements.

The World Bank Angola 

The World Bank is funding big projects in Angola’s agricultural sector. The World Bank is one of many organizations to have realized Angola’s untapped agricultural power, but they have also realized the threats to a growing agricultural industry posed by the worst drought that Angola has seen in 40 years. The World Bank has tackled both of these issues by funding two key projects to develop agriculture in Angola. The World Bank in conjunction with the French Agency for Development has developed the Angola Commercial Agriculture Project (ACAP), which focuses on increasing productivity and access to foreign markets and commercialized farms.

ACAP aims to accomplish these goals by promoting agriculture in Angola to investors who will put money into agricultural development. So far, they have helped Angola’s farmers finalize 25 business plans which have amounted to a total of $7.7 million USD. The World Bank is also spearheading a project named the Smallholder Agricultural Transformation Project (SATP), which is trying to transition agriculture in Angola from smallholder sustenance farming to a more weather-resistant form of farming. SATP aims to accomplish this by:

  • Increasing Angolan farmers’ production rates so that they have excess crops to sell.
  • Expanding farmers’ access to agricultural information through established Farmer Field Schools.
  • Supporting smallholder farms financially so they can adopt more climate-resilient and nutrition-smart agriculture.
  • Increasing access to contemporary and improved production technologies.

The World Bank is just one of the many global organizations banding together to support growth in the agricultural sector of Angola.

Looking Ahead

Angola is a country that has faced colonization, civil war, a depressed economy and now the worst drought the country has seen in 40 years. The Angolan government is pooling its resources and working tirelessly with other organizations despite these despairing conditions. Farmers in Angola can ease their anxieties by seeing how hard their government and the international community are working to bring innovative solutions to transform their industry as they know it. Agriculture in Angola can count on a bright future because of the work that multiple supportive and creatively innovative groups of people are doing.

– Alexandra Curry
Photo: Flickr

State of Poverty in India
As India is on track to become the most populated country in the world by the end of the year, many eyes are on the South Asian country in regard to its progress in eliminating poverty. Despite having suffered from chronic poverty for much of its modern history, India has made much progress in raising its poorest over the past few decades. Though factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic have complicated things, India continues to make great strides in its bid to eliminate poverty within its borders.

This Century’s Progress

In the past few decades specifically, the fight against poverty in India has come a long way. Since 2005, an estimated 415 million people have risen out of poverty in India – an impressive feat, considering that the country has a total population of 1.4 billion today. It has a diverse economy, which includes industries such as agriculture and handicrafts. Thanks to a well-educated population of English speakers, India has gained a global foothold in massive modern sectors such as information technology services and software workers. This increase in economic prosperity has given many of India’s poorest opportunities to rise out of poverty.

Old and New Challenges

Despite this amazing progress over the past 20 years, several hurdles remain in the fight against poverty in India. There are 229 million Indians who still live in poverty, which is the largest number of poor people in a single country anywhere in the world. In addition to this, the urban-rural divide of poverty remains very pronounced; as many as 21.2% of India’s rural-living citizens live in poverty, which contrasts with the much smaller 5.5% of impoverished urban dwellers. To put it into perspective, 205 million of India’s 229 million impoverished citizens live in rural areas, according to Mint. When developing strategies to fight poverty in any location, considering the rural-urban divide is a must.

Though India’s economy has remained steadily robust, COVID-19 had a strong impact on the country – particularly on those living in poverty. The pandemic caused India’s economy to contract by a hefty 6.6% in the fiscal year 2020-21. Particularly, COVID-19 hit hard the informal sector which employs 90% of Indians. The dampening effect on India’s economy has made a significant impact on the country’s most poor and vulnerable households especially.

Looking Forward

Thankfully, even with the challenges that COVID-19 and chronic economic equality still pose today, the fight against poverty in India continues its upward momentum. Much of this is thanks to its economic growth; in 2022, it overtook the U.K. to become the fifth-largest economy in the world. According to other reports, it could also overtake Germany and Japan by 2029 to become the third-largest economy in the world. As the country’s economy continues to grow and stabilize, more opportunities will arise for its poorest residents to climb the economic ladder and rise out of poverty.

Despite many challenges, both institutional and from outside forces, poverty in India has been decreasing at a steady rate, thanks to the country’s booming economy and a continued global awareness of the need to end poverty. As it stands, the current state of poverty in India shows several more hurdles remain in ending its impoverishment, but the horizon looks hopeful for India’s poorest.

– Elijah Beglyakov
Photo: Flickr

EdTech Companies in Bangladesh
Bangladesh has been heavily relying on coaching centers as after-school education resources. According to the Education Household Survey 2014 by BBS, around one-third of educational costs are spent on coaching centers or private tutoring. In addition to in-person tutoring, EdTech companies in Bangladesh are currently gaining popularity due to their wide range of access and quality learning experiences. With the rise of internet and technology users, EdTech companies are expanding their content and services to meet the student’s needs.

Post-Covid Situation

Back in March 2022, all educational institutions in Bangladesh had to shut down because of a governmental mandate implemented because of the pandemic. As a result, many students and teachers opted for online platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet to conduct regular classes. Additionally, teachers have used online submissions and clouds to store and grade materials.

Ten Minute School

Ten Minute School is a pioneer of EdTech Companies in Bangladesh. Ayman Sadiq launched the company in 2015 as a YouTube channel. Within a few months, it skyrocketed in popularity and turned into the most popular EdTech company in Bangladesh. That channel currently has 2.52 million subscribers. Teaching materials include educational videos, training programs, English language courses and more. The company has a broad targeted audience including students in K-12 and those preparing for university entrance exams, IELTS, GRE Prep, etc.

Technical-Training Companies

In addition to educational lessons, many companies also provide skills training ranging from social media marketing, graphic designing, web designing, software building and more. Some of the technical training and skill-based EdTech companies in Bangladesh include Upskill, BYLCx and CodersTrust. Besides courses in core academic subjects, Upskill also provides corporate training to employees in specific industries. Similarly, BYLCx has training programs in fields such as entrepreneurship, leadership, digital marketing and personal development in hopes of producing more young change-makers in their communities. On the other hand, CodersTrust is more focused on technology, coding classes and training for the digital economy.

According to Digital Mahbub, the Bangladesh EdTech industry can grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15% from 2019-2024. However, due to its somewhat new industry, there is not a wide variety of data related to the industry or its statistical benefits. With an increasing number of internet users, more and more students are opting for EdTech companies as a supplemental method of studying. Not only does it create more job opportunities for recent graduates, but it also provides students with a quality education from the comfort of their homes. Moreover, EdTech companies in Bangladesh are more suitable options for low-income students as these classes are sometimes free or cheaper than traditional coaching centers. Bangladesh is set to graduate from its status as a Least Developed Country in 2026 and EdTech companies will continue to play integral roles in improving literacy and educational outcomes among the population.

– Zahin Tasnin
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa
Period poverty is defined as a “lack of access to menstrual products, education, hygiene facilities [and/or] waste management.” The World Bank says that each day, more than 300 million females menstruate and about 500 million menstruating females experience period poverty. In impoverished areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, the issue is more pronounced. The impacts of period poverty in sub-Saharan Africa are far-reaching.

3 Facts About Period Poverty in sub-Saharan Africa

  1. Inaccessible Menstrual Products. The prices of menstrual products like sanitary pads range between $0.96 in Ghana and $2 in Zimbabwe. These high costs mean basic menstrual essentials are unaffordable for impoverished girls and women. As such menstruating females sometimes resort to using unhygienic alternatives such as newspapers, rags, cow dung and leaves, which increases the risk of infections.
  2. Menstrual Stigma and Misinformation. Due to a lack of information and misconceptions, in sub-Saharan Africa, menstrual stigma is common and worsens cases of period poverty in sub-Saharan Africa as girls who are period-poor hesitate to reach out for help due to embarrassment. Also, because of stigma, taboos and myths, girls are usually isolated and sometimes restricted from activities during their menstrual cycle. For example, in Asembo, Kenya, many people believe “menstruating girls should not sleep in their mother’s house” because menstruation is considered an “unclean” process.
  3. Period Poverty Affects Education. According to UNESCO in 2014, because of period poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, 10% of girls miss out on education while menstruating. This equates to losing about 20% of a school year. Girls without menstrual supplies to properly manage their periods fear embarrassment or humiliation at school. When a girl completes school, she has higher job prospects, learns more about her health and helps her family, community and country at large. Period poverty raises the chances of dropping out of school entirely, which makes girls more vulnerable to poverty.

FemConnect by Asonele Kotu

Asonele Kotu is a South African entrepreneur who founded FemConnect. In alignment with SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being) and SDG 5 (Gender Equality), FemConnect is a startup focusing on developing technological solutions to address period poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

The BBC explained that the “platform allows users to access sexual and reproductive telemedicine with no stigma or discrimination as well as feminine hygiene products and contraceptives.” The focus is on underserved, marginalized girls. Girls can reach the website privately for assistance and advice pertaining to their menstrual health.

With the #WegotuGirl campaign to end period poverty in Africa, Kotu also advocates and garners support for the distribution of menstrual products like pads, menstrual cups and tampons to less privileged women and girls living in rural communities. “Collaborating with schools and local organizations to uplift women, Kotu has expanded her initiative to Nigeria,” Sowetan Live reports.

With platforms such as FemConnect, girls in sub-Saharan Africa can now seek menstrual guidance and easily access menstrual products, which helps to reduce the number of girls missing school during their menstruation. By addressing period poverty, poverty as a whole reduces because more girls gain an education.

– Oluwagbohunmi Bajela
Photo: Flickr

Crisis in Haiti
Haiti has been engulfed in political, economic and social conflict since the assassination of former president Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. The parliament has been ineffective as it struggles to govern amidst the recent earthquake and the prominence of gang violence. The crisis in Haiti does not only include one issue but rather multiple crises at once. The three most predominant crises are gang violence, the cholera outbreak and the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in August 2021.

Gang Violence

The number of gangs in Haiti has been growing for the past five years. With around 95 gangs occupying large portions of Port-au-Prince bay, the crisis in Haiti has accelerated into deeper chaos.

Organized crime disproportionally affects vulnerable communities, especially children. UNICEF’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean has warned that women and children have become targets of gangs, stating that “more and more incidents of gang violence have involved children and women in the past few weeks and months,” referring to kidnapping, rapes and killings.

Gangs developing strong political and economic footing have only made the crisis in Haiti worse by making gangs “mercenary partners of politicians and administrators,” according to the Global Initiative Report.

Recently, gangs seized Haiti’s fuel terminal, the country’s main source of energy, which sent the country into an economic and health crisis. Many schools and hospitals have no power and small businesses have shut down completely. The Inter-American Foundation (IAF) has increased funding for 22 grassroots organizations focused on helping Haitians adapt to the various political, economic and environmental collapses. The fuel crisis has prevented more than three-quarters of hospitals from operating and the IAF has been able to supply the country with community clinics and ambulances to meet the pressing need for medical care in the midst of the cholera outbreak.

In terms of suppressing gang violence, there is disagreement on which strategy is the best. The U.N. has issued $5 million to help those that the violence affected, as humanitarians try to negotiate with the gangs. Other experts and Haitians suggest that intervention may be a more plausible step as a large portion of money meant for more diplomatic relations has been relatively ineffective.

Cholera Outbreak and Environmental Concerns

Cholera outbreak and environmental shock: “more than a quarter of all suspected cholera cases are children under 9.” Children are much more likely to contract cholera, according to the Health Ministry. Between October and December 2022, there were 13,672 cases of cholera, with 86% of hospitalizations within these cases. From 2010 to 2019, there were 820,000 cholera cases in Haiti.

U.N. agencies and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), along with local organizations, have distributed medicines and treatments throughout the country. They have also established some clean water centers free of cholera, while pushing for the vaccine development for Haiti, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

There are also environmental concerns for Haiti, as a 7.2 magnitude earthquake shook the country in August 2021, leaving around 650,000 people in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. The earthquake destroyed 70% of schools. UNICEF is continuing to provide water, food and shelter to vulnerable populations.

As violence extends outwards from the capital and inflation rises, the crisis in Haiti will require more aid and assistance to help rebuild and develop a more resilient political and economic order. Organizations within Haiti and around the world have already begun to provide relief, but more must happen to ensure vulnerable peoples are safe.

– Anna Richardson
Photo: Flickr