Women in Guatemala
Educational programs could support women in Guatemala struggling in multidimensional poverty by enhancing their knowledge, supporting health needs and creating more possibilities for economic growth. Closing the gender gap by giving women the opportunity to work and develop their education can support productivity and economic growth over generations in any and all countries. As Angel Gurria, the secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) noted, “Women are the most underutilized economic asset in the world’s economy.”

Guatemala’s Economy

Guatemala is a Central American country with a population of 17 million people and a GDP of $77.6 billion. According to the World Bank, it is the region’s leading economy. Yet despite these figures, poverty persists with Indigenous people experiencing a poverty rate of 79%.

There are nearly 4 million Indigenous women in Guatemala, however, the U.N. Women statistics show that only one in 10 Indigenous women works in the formal economy as many are unable to access educational opportunities. In rural areas where agriculture is the main source of work, reports show that women own only 7.8% of the land and also receive lower payment rates. If Indigenous women receive pay, their employers normally pay them 19% less than non-Indigenous women, according to the U.N. Women.

Native women are also the least likely to have literacy skills as 66.7% have the ability to read and write in comparison to 78% of non-Indigenous women and 78% of Indigenous men, the U.N. Women reported.

Casa Pa’nibal

The Borgen Project spoke with a Casa Pa’nibal’s volunteer Rodrigo Figueroa to learn more about efforts to help Indigenous women in Guatemala. Casa Pa’nibal is a small community center foundation just outside Antigua, one of Guatemala’s main cities. It began its work in 2014 as a foundation to support the education of Native women and girls within the country.

Figueroa stated that “the balance between men and women is complicated and many women leave school early due to other demands. We work with all Guatemalan women but a lot are from indigenous groups.”

The foundation has recently taken steps to focus on scholarships and further education. Figueroa expressed, “We want to focus more on their education programs so that we can help the women we support to get out of the situations that they are in and help their children too.”

In addition to Casa Pa’nibal, there are many small charities in Guatemala focusing on this line of work including such organizations as the Friendship Bridge, offering women a chance to gain microfinance, education and health services.

UNESCO Malala Fund

UNESCO Malala Fund for Girls’ Right to Education originated in 2012 to support girls and women in countries of conflict and disaster to have access to safe learning environments and better educational opportunities. In 2018, UNESCO came together with the Ministry of Education in Guatemala to open two UNESCO Malala centers in Guatemala. The aim of the centers has been to strengthen the education of women in Guatemala and provide tailor-made opportunities that are also gender-sensitive.

The UNESCO Malala Fund has reported helping more than 500 Indigenous women so far. It believes the project could have larger long-term effects by reaching more than 650,000 Indigenous women and 1 million female students.

There is clear evidence of the inequality between men and women in Guatemala in relation to education and economic opportunity, however, the country has been developing many projects both small and large to support these native women out of multidimensional poverty.

Through educational opportunities and micro-funding, the country could begin to close the gender and poverty gap supporting economic growth for these native women and the country as a whole.

– Amy Sergeant
Photo: Flickr

Guatemalan economy
In 2018, the Guatemalan economy produced one new job per every 15 workers joining the labor force. Furthermore, in 2018, 70% of the Guatemalan economy was informal, with workers severely challenged by low wages, low efficiency and a lack of access to economic opportunities. USAID has been in a partnership with Walmart Mexico and Walmart Central America since 2002 to increase economic opportunities in Guatemala and reduce poverty through “the empowerment of women-led small businesses.” This initiative is aimed at creating more jobs, expanding markets for goods produced in Guatemala and making business more inclusive and accessible to all people.

USAID’s Collective Focus in Guatemala

The initiative puts particular focus on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises that have the potential to eradicate poverty and transform the Guatemalan economy. This is especially true in emerging cities in Guatemala, where USAID helps provide vocational training to young and indigenous workers.

USAID’s work in Guatemala does not end with Guatemala’s economy. USAID has also partnered with the local government and local communities to fight food insecurity, chronic malnutrition, environmental protection and biodiversity initiatives. USAID believes that decentralizing key resources and services in Guatemala can be productive for its economy. Moreover, USAID has also tried to drive more civilian participation in decision-making processes and encouraged the people of Guatemala to hold their government accountable.

USAID Partnership With Walmart

Walmart is one of USAID’s top 40 corporate partners and USAID has worked with Walmart in Latin America and the Caribbean since 2002. Since joining forces, the organizations have provided training and granted financial support and market opportunities to small-scale farmers, women, at-risk youth and local entrepreneurs. Moreover, these organizations also launched the “Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative” in 2011 which focused on women and farmers.

Fighting Infrastructural Battles in Guatemala

Although these commitments have helped to improve Guatemala’s economy, there are still some structural difficulties that need addressing in the coming years. For instance, Guatemala’s population is predominantly young, with more than 60% of the population being below the age of 25. More than half of the local population lives in urban areas and the country continues to urbanize rapidly, however, there is a lack of infrastructure connecting cities.

In 2022, a large number of migrants traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Consequently, this has created a temporary vacuum in the labor market, but USAID and Walmart are working to strengthen their partnerships to help create more jobs and uplift the Guatemalan economy. In spite of these challenges, Guatemala is expected to see a 3.4% growth in GDP in 2022. Although this number is not drastic by any means, it shows that economic growth and poverty reduction are possible when countries commit to creating new jobs, expanding markets and investing in their youth. With the help of initiatives by USAID, Walmart Central America and numerous others, Guatemala’s economy will continue to steadily grow.

– Samyudha Rajesh
Photo: Unsplash

impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Guatemala
Despite the poverty rate in Guatemala rising from 45.6% to 47% in 2020, social protection programs have prevented a calamity as the implications of COVID-19 hit vulnerable households. UNICEF initiated financial and social programs to support households in Guatemala to ease the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Guatemala.

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Guatemala

The COVID- 19 pandemic devastated Guatemala as one of the most impoverished countries in Central America. The state suffered numerous losses as its already poor health system faces challenges in keeping up with the pandemic events. According to Alonzo et al. (2021), the pandemic complicated pre-pandemic stressors given that Guatemala is known for high rates of chronic malnutrition, poverty and inequality.

Poverty Rate in Guatemala

With increasing population rates, Guatemala is a country faced with crises that require humanitarian interventions. According to the World Bank, Guatemala’s poverty rate of 52.4% in 2020 has created vulnerabilities that harshly affect children. Chronic child malnutrition impacts 47% of children younger than 5 and 58% of Indigenous Guatemalan children.

Additionally, Hurricanes Eta and Iota led to devastation for numerous households, increasing the catastrophic implications of COVID-19 in November 2020. The IFRC reported that “at least 1.5 million people were displaced in Central America as a consequence of disasters, including Hurricanes Eta and Iota: 937,000 in Honduras, 339,000 in Guatemala and 232,000 in Nicaragua.” Such projections paint the true situation in Guatemala as poverty ravages the population.

Government Responses in Guatemala

Since 2018, Guatemala has introduced social and financial programs targeting poverty alleviation. The nation allocated 1.3% of its GDP to fund projects like Bono Social, the national cash transfer program, and Bono Familia, an emergency cash assistance program to support families during COVID-19.

According to Cejudo et al. (2020), Bono Familia provides a “temporal supplementary monthly income of $130 to vulnerable families with a monthly electricity consumption below 200 kWh (based on their electricity bill).” Combined with Bono Social, the national cash transfer scheme, the government supported vulnerable families, ensuring they received financial aid to boost their economic situation.

Other programs include Fondo de Protección al Empleo and Bono al Comercio Popular. The former establishes a temporary daily income for formal workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic. The latter targeted informal traders. However, the public criticized these government interventions due to poor execution. Additionally, the bureaucratic nature of the fund distribution made it difficult for the targeted families to receive financial assistance.

Role of UNICEF in Mitigating COVID-19’s Impact

The Ministry of Social Development (MIDES) and UNICEF have been working together to improve the administrative and managerial processes that support Guatemala’s interventions for poverty that the COVID-19 pandemic caused. With the support of the World Bank, UNICEF introduced initiatives to support Guatemala’s social protection frameworks. By launching an effective Management Information System (MIS), UNICEF initiated strategies to enhance children’s access to education and health services. As part of the Bono Social initiative, the goal was to fulfill the potential of young boys and girls through education.

Within three months of Bono Familia’s implementation, UNICEF and World Bank helped more than 2.6 million people across 340 municipalities in Guatemala through emergency cash transfers. Therefore, as families lost income through employment loss, the program boosted their financial support to protect vulnerable households.

Accessing Vulnerable Households

UNICEF faced difficulties reaching vulnerable households, especially since the organization lacked data on the social demographic of Guatemalans. To overcome this, the humanitarian organization introduced an innovative platform that enabled a social registry. Consequently, this ensured the Guatemalan government could enhance its cash transfer policies to meet the objectives of its social programs. Therefore, Guatemalans received cash injections that allowed payment in pharmacies, stores and gas stations.

Through technological solutions, UNICEF learned more about responding to Guatemala’s poverty. According to its report, most of the younger population supported the older generation, ensuring they received access to social programs. Additionally, the integrated platform has undergone establishment on a national grid, allowing better approaches for implementing future programs.

Eradicating Poverty in Guatemala

As Guatemala enhances its social protection programs to ensure every household can access them, eradicating poverty must follow strategic responses aligned to its economic and political framework. According to UNICEF, legal and political ideologies should support the vision of social protection programs, mainly targeting vulnerable households. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the challenge of poverty in Guatemala and responses must focus on addressing gaps in technology and information to better access vulnerable families.

Most importantly, engaging with humanitarian groups to increase contact points in social protection programs has enhanced the capabilities of the Guatemalan government in mitigating poverty. As more community stakeholders involve themselves in the implementation stages at local and national levels, organizational capacities to reduce poverty in Guatemala are more effective. With UNICEF offering support to “develop a consolidated social protection system which includes strengthening all child-focused social protection programs, enhancing access to services as well as early childhood programs and augmenting humanitarian support,” stakeholders can effectively mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Guatemala.

– Hanying Wang
Photo: Flickr

MujerProspera Challenge
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) introduced MujerProspera (WomanProsper) Challenge on January 13, 2022. The challenge encourages applicants to propose innovative ways to promote gender equality in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Overall, this project addresses the relationship between gender and poverty and forms part of a long list of ongoing USAID projects that bolster the opportunities of the world’s impoverished.

Gender and Poverty

Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras noted high levels of extreme poverty even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, although the spread of the virus prompted rises in poverty levels throughout the region. According to the Center for Strategic and Management Studies, the Northern Triangle, of which Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras form part, stands as “one of the [most impoverished] regions in the Western Hemisphere.” Migration patterns and environmental disasters also exacerbate the struggles of those living below the poverty line. As of August 12, 2021, USAID estimated that 8.3 million citizens across these three countries require humanitarian aid.

These facts do not exist in isolation of gender inequality. In fact, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras stand out as nations where gender and poverty intertwine. Data from the Gender Equality Observatory shows that extremely high percentages of women in Guatemala (51%), El Salvador (39.4%) and Honduras (43.5%) had no “incomes of their own.” All of these rates are higher than the regional average, which stood at 27.8% as of 2019.

Evidence proves that changing these statistics leads to positive change. A World Bank report on women’s role in Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) economies notes that “an increase in the number of women in paid work between 2000 and 2010 accounted for around 30% of the overall reduction in poverty and income inequality.” Women in these countries receive fewer opportunities and face more challenges than many men in the same social and economic situation. As such, U.S. efforts to combat global poverty must also combat global gender inequality.

Developments in Central American Women’s Rights

Local activists, politicians and international organizations in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras continue to make significant progress in women’s rights. One group, the IM-Defensoras, has launched several campaigns throughout Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras since 2016 to protect women and provide a cooperative network for female humanitarian activists.

In addition, the Regional Office of U.N. Women for LAC launched the Women, Local economy and Territories (WLEaT) program in 2018 with a specific focus on the Northern Triangle countries. WLEaT “contributes to the creation of new and better employment and income opportunities for women entrepreneurs and businesswomen” by strengthening their access to business services and promoting inclusive financial practices in the private sector. The program, therefore, contributes to multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as ending global poverty (SDG 1),  combating gender inequality (SDG 5) and promoting “decent work” and economic expansion (SDG 8).

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in June 2021, USAID and several partner organizations provided resources for women in need of humanitarian aid. This includes a total of $60 million spread across the three Northern Triangle countries to encourage employment, train Indigenous women for midwife careers, prevent gender-based violence and more. Most recently, on January 13, 2022, USAID introduced another important program: the MujerProspera Challenge.

What is the MujerProspera Challenge?

The MujerProspera Challenge stands as one of many U.S. programs pushing against multiple levels of inequality. The program’s official request for applications documents states that the project seeks to “advance women’s economic security, employment, and/or entrepreneurship” in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

The lofty document lists different types of solutions that draw from training initiatives in the private sector to the implementation of gender-inclusive legislation. However, overall, MujerProspera provides another way for women in these countries to protect their agency and independence.

Applicants can win funding awards ranging from $150,000 to $500,000 in value. Through these awards, applicants can fund necessary initiatives or solutions that acknowledge the relationship between gender and poverty and promote women’s involvement in the economic sector. The MujerProspera Challenge thus empowers women, local activists, entrepreneurs and organizations to develop solutions to improve situations of gender inequality and poverty in their home countries.

– Lauren Sung
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction in Guatemala
Many know Guatemala for its volcanic landscape, Mayan culture and the colonial city of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, Guatemala has regularly faced high rates of poverty and economic inequality with the effects of the COVID-19 exacerbating it. Fortunately, organizations are coming together to form sustainable poverty reduction initiatives in Guatemala which will protect the environment while creating opportunity within Guatemala. The number of people living in poverty in Guatemala is very high. In fact, according to World Bank data from 2020, 47% of individuals live in poverty. As a result, poverty reduction in Guatemala is very important and the emerging poverty reduction measures are vital to improving public health and improving quality of life.

Reducing Deforestation to Improve Economic Stability

Deforestation is a problem throughout Central America’s rainforests due to the high demand for lumber throughout the world. It has caused negative effects on the agricultural environment leading to challenges for farmers throughout Guatemala. Reaching Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while increasing job opportunities is vital to protecting agricultural commodities and decreasing poverty.

Enrique Samayoa, a farmer from El Jute, told Americas Quarterly that environmental challenges and deforestation have led to greater rainfall and flooding. Deforestation leads to this flooding, which trees and vegetation usually absorb, and causes soil erosion. This means that when a flood occurs, it washes away nutrients in the top layer of soil, creating a poor environment for agricultural workers.

Fortunately, organizations like Utz Che’ Community Forestry Association and Sustainable Harvest are leading the effort to create sustainable poverty reduction initiatives in Guatemala. Utz Che translates from the Mayan K’iche language to “Good Tree.” This organization is responsible for protecting more than 74,000 hectares of forest in the mountains of Guatemala.

It is increasing opportunities for Guatemalans by training thousands of families in better farming practices. As the forest provides livelihoods for villagers, Utz Che’ communities are planting trees to improve their lives. Poverty reduction in Guatemala is a key aspect of this Utz Che’s mission because, with a healthy environment, farmers’ livelihoods will flourish as well.

When soil erosion decreases the number of crops that farmers could produce, employees may lose their job which can lead to an increase in poverty. Sustainable Harvest and an organization called ASPROGUATE worked together in 2021 to help decrease gender inequities by focusing on women-owned and sustainably run farms.

Empowering Guatemala’s Youth

Reactiva Guate is a crowdfunding platform for young entrepreneurs which started in 2020. It creates opportunities for young people with business plans to help their communities after the pandemic greatly impacted the economy. This organization appeals to venture capital to invest in young peoples’ ideas to overcome the economic crisis and has successfully raised thousands of dollars.

According to Statista, “31.3% of the employees in Guatemala were active in the agricultural sector, 18.73% in industry and 49.98% in the service sector.” Providing alternative careers for Guatemalans that focus on decreasing the effects of environmental challenges will help improve the quality of life for people there.

A massive vaccination program began in February 2021. Since then, municipal workers have promoted vaccinations by going house to house to reach unvaccinated people. The Guatemala Ministry of Health said that 88.8% of the eligible residents of Guatemala City have received their first dose. These statistics are good news that could bring tourism back into the country. It could create more job opportunities for youth and impoverished individuals.

Revamping Transportation to Improve Accessibility

UNDP is working with Transmetro, a transportation program that began in 2008. It helps expand the bus system in Guatemala City from one bus line to seven. Improving the transit system is vital to creating accessibility to jobs within Guatemala City. Without an available mode of transportation, many individuals are unable to find work. This initiative will create greater access to jobs and education.

These sustainable poverty reduction initiatives in Guatemala are vital to improving the opportunities available to its citizens and while keeping the environment safe and sustainable. This could improve the situation in Guatemala and lead to poverty reduction in the country.

– Robert Moncayo
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Guatemala 
Between 1960 and 1996, Guatemala faced a civil war between the government of Guatemala and several leftist rebel groups, resulting in many deaths due to the destructive violence. This caused many mental health conditions to arise among the people residing in the country. Unfortunately, violence and public security continue to be a concern in Guatemala, which is deteriorating Guatemalan mental health.

The Importance of Mental Health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines mental health as one’s emotional, psychological and social well-being, which affects how one experiences and performs in daily life. To add, mental health can help determine how people cope with stress and make choices. Mental health has significant links to physical health because poor mental health can lead to diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Guatemalans Facing Mental Health Disorders

More than 3,250,000 people in Guatemala could experience a mental health illness in their lifetime. However, unfortunately, many of them do not seek the help they require. In fact, one in four people between the ages of 18 and 65 have suffered or continue to suffer from a mental health disorder, but only 2.3% took the initiative to consult a psychiatrist to address their mental health issues.

Many people are reluctant to talk about their mental health due to a lack of knowledge on mental health in general and the stigma surrounding mental health in Guatemala. Furthermore, Guatemala’s poverty rate increased from 45.6% to 47% in 2020. As a result, Guatemalans are at greater risk of developing mental health disorders because they endure more poverty-related stress and face many economic difficulties in their daily lives. The limited mental health sources available to them are insufficient to help alleviate the stress that socioeconomic disadvantages cause.

In the United States, most health care providers do not cover expenses for mental health care. Interestingly, Guatemala does not have a universal health care system, let alone dedicated mental health legislation. As a result, Guatemalans have difficulty seeking help because the nation has “0.54 psychiatrists available per 100,000 inhabitants,” according to the American Psychological Association, and only five of these mental health specialists are located outside of the main cities. Guatemala is a low-income country that does not have the resources to make mental health data available to the public, which is why there are few studies and limited public data regarding this issue.

Poor Mental Health Among Guatemalan Children

A study conducted by Rosalba Company-Cordoba and Diego Gomez-Baya analyzes the mental health of children in Guatemala. Interestingly, 50% of Guatemala’s total population is younger than 18 years old, meaning Guatemala is home to a significantly large portion of young people. A child’s mental health is valuable because mental health can have positive or negative long-lasting effects on development.

Unfortunately, Guatemala’s high poverty rate has led to increased levels of violence because of desperation and dire living conditions. Exposure to violence showed significant effects on a child’s mental health, such as depression and anxiety. Although childhood poverty is prevalent in many areas of Guatemala, the quality of life showed little significance in the study. These symptoms were more common in adolescents than in children because adolescents are more aware of their surroundings and environment. On the other hand, children exposed to low violence from urban areas with educated parents described higher qualities of life.

Violence rates have continued to increase with assaults, shootings, threats and robberies, causing many children to fear going to school. Almost 60% of Guatemalan students would prefer not to go to school due to fears of violence. Many students and teachers have received threats and experienced robberies or know victims of violence. Guatemala remains one of the most impoverished countries with high rates of violence, which poses a higher risk of a child developing mental health disorders.

Living in these socioeconomic disadvantaged areas can sway children to join gangs because there are few other options. The previously mentioned study showed the association between greater parental education level and higher income with lower food insecurity. However, many children do not attend higher education schooling because they have to work to help their families afford household essentials. The number of children living in urban areas is increasing, which leads to more children in unsanitary conditions and a high cost of living. Almost all children attend primary school, however, the completion rate is 15%, which leads to low enrollment rates for secondary school.

Solutions for Mental Health in Guatemala

Many people have taken action to improve the state of mental health in Guatemala, especially for children. First, many citizens are taking to the streets to protest against the continuation of violence. The implementation of the International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG) resulted in reductions in homicide rates. For example, there were fewer homicides per 100,000 people each year. The CICIG provided Guatemala with $150 million in international support to help reform its justice system, but President Jimmy Morales thought this violated Guatemalan authority. As a result, he removed the CICIG mandate in 2019, causing setbacks in progress.

Next, people are beginning to seek support for their mental health in Guatemala due to more specialized centers offering psycho-emotional support services to the public, such as Federico Mora National Hospital for Mental Health, for a low cost. According to the American Psychological Association, Guatemala has about seven psychologists for every 100,000 people, which is a number that continues to increase.

Lastly, schools are playing roles in fighting against gang violence to ensure the safety of children in Guatemala and other countries. With support from UNICEF and the Ministry of Education, schools created a Peace and Coexistence Committee. The idea is to promote an environment where schools do not tolerate violence, as Theirworld reported. The schools are trying to lead by example and show their students that violence is not the answer, noting fewer disputes among students.

Guatemala is working toward a better future by spreading awareness about mental health and fighting violent trends.

– Kayla De Alba
Photo: Unsplash

how-small-town-rotary-clubs-fight-global-poverty
The rotary sign is a common sight alongside the parks and roads that rotary clubs maintain. However, what many people may not realize is that even the smallest rotary clubs are part of an international organization that unites 1.2 million Rotarians across 35,000 clubs worldwide. These rotary clubs contribute to Rotary International’s efforts to serve communities, beginning more than 110 years ago. Small-town rotary clubs fight global poverty by supporting international service programs, such as Rotary Community Corps, Rotaract and Rotary Peace Fellows. These programs teach leadership skills and address global humanitarian issues. As a result, small-town rotary clubs’ service activities promote world peace, fight diseases, protect the environment, provide clean water, support women and children and grow developing economies. Here is how three small-town rotary clubs are fighting global poverty.

How 3 Small-Town Rotary Clubs are Fighting Global Poverty

  1. Rotary Club of Nome. Supporting its townspeople for 75 years, the Rotary Club of Nome sets a rugged example of how small-town rotary clubs fight global poverty. The club’s humanitarian activities include a 2014 collaboration with the Rotary Club of Central Tandag to provide medical supplies, hygiene supplies, clothing and food to 49 indigenous families living in a remote village in Surigao Del Sur, Philippines. The club also contributes yearly to ShelterBox, an international disaster relief charity established in 2000 that provides emergency aid to families that disaster or conflict displaced. ShelterBox aid includes emergency shelter kits containing materials such as tarps, mortar and tent pegs as well as cooking tools, solar lights and learning games for children. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Nome Rotary Club President Adam R. Lust told The Borgen Project that the club is working on a proposal to fund a month of food resources for the village of Masai Mara, Kenya. Lust hopes the project is just the beginning and that it will lead to a more extensive, sustainable program in the future.
  2. Rotary Club of Boothbay Harbor. This club has 70 active community leaders committed to humanitarianism, with 15% of the club’s fundraising efforts going toward supporting international projects. The Boothbay Haborclub is a long-standing supporter of Safe Passage, a nonprofit school that creates educational opportunities for children and families who live and work at the Guatemala City dump in Guatemala. The club also helps to support Thai Daughters, an organization that “provides education, safe shelter and emotional support to girls” in Northern Thailand who are at risk of becoming sex trafficking victims. The club also supports Healthy Kids/Brighter Future, a program that Communities Without Borders runs. It provides access to education to Zambian children, with teachers who have training in first-line medical care. In addition, the Rotary Club of Boothbay Harbor provides support to Partners in World Health, PolioPlus and Crutches4Africa, among other organizations.
  3. Rotary Club of Crested Butte. This club puts an emphasis on benefiting youth. The club’s international outreach activities include supplying “English and Khmer language books” to Cambodian children to improve literacy rates. Additionally, the club sent “learning toys & games to Burmese refugee centers in Mae Sot, Thailand” to improve refugee children’s education in a stimulating way.

How to Help Small-Town Rotary Clubs Fight Global Poverty

One of the ways to help small-town rotary clubs fight global poverty is to become a member. Rotary membership is “by invitation only.” An individual can receive an invitation to join a club by someone who is already a member or one can attend a meeting as a guest and fill out a membership application form. If one is unsure of which club to join, Rotary International’s membership page has a questionnaire to assist in this regard.

However, one does not have to become a Rotary member to support a local rotary club. There are many opportunities to volunteer services, from canned food drives and park maintenance to tax preparation and building houses. Rotary International is part of a searchable database that helps potential volunteers find projects within their respective locations.

Whether one becomes a member, volunteers locally or travels abroad for one of rotary’s many international service activities, it is important to remember that every humanitarian effort of a rotary club contributes to reducing global poverty and empowering the most disadvantaged people at every corner of the globe. Every individual can help small-town rotary clubs fight global poverty simply by involving themselves in their initiatives.

– Jenny Rice
Photo: Flickr

Global Dental Relief is Improving Accessibility
Dental insurance operates differently around the world. A lack of proper dental care can result in serious health issues that have lasting impacts. In developing countries, where dental care may not be as accessible, the money to afford treatment may be difficult to obtain. However, Global Dental Relief (GDR) is improving accessibility to dental care.

How Global Dental Relief is Improving Accessibility to Dental Care

Global Dental Relief started as the Himalayan Dental Relief Project. Former Director of the Colorado State Parks Laurie Mathews and dentist Andrew Holacek are the founders of the organization. After the pair traveled to Nepal together, they noticed the dental crisis present in the country. Nepal had 120 dentists for a population of nearly 24 million people. In 2001, they began their project to bring free dental care and oral hygiene education to the people of Nepal. With the knowledge that the organization could change the lives of children and adults across the nation, Mathews and Holacek dedicated themselves fully to their cause.

In 2003, Mathews and Holacek joined forces with travel adventure expert Kim Troggio. With Troggio’s expertise, the team sought to help both native families and international travelers. They also aimed to connect with the local communities they aimed to help to make their cause more personal. A large portion of the organization’s funding in 2003 came from travelers who visited impoverished nations. After seeing the lack of care and with the Global Dental Relief’s support, donations became plentiful. Since then, Global Dental Relief has made a huge impact. The organization has accumulated over 2,600 volunteers. In addition, Mathews and Holacek have provided over $35 million in donated care to more than 170,000 children.

Trips Around the World

Global Dental Relief offers trips to Appalachia, Cambodia, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Mexico and Nepal. Dental hygienist Nour Shehadeh recently took a trip to Cambodia, where she treated more than 1,000 children with first-time dental care. These children had never seen a dentist before, making the experience life-changing. Shehadeh realized the immense power that a bright smile could have on a person’s confidence.

On another trip in 2018, several dentists and dental hygienists from Aspen Dental practices took a relief trip to Guatemala. During this time, they performed 1,500 dental procedures on the children of Antigua. These included 126 root planing and scaling procedures, and 596 fillings. By the end of the mission, dental professionals completed 488 fluoride varnishes and 195 extractions, showing how Global Dental Relief is improving accessibility to dental care.

How to Volunteer

Those who have participated in a trip described the experience as life-changing. Dentist Savannah Reynolds of Greenville, South Carolina explained that the experience was not only eye-opening but also intrinsically rewarding. Anyone is able to volunteer with the Global Dental Relief organization, as no prior dental experience is necessary. Global Dental Relief is also in need of non-dental volunteers to manage records, teach oral hygiene, manage the clinic flow and assist both dentists and dental hygienists. Applications to register to be a volunteer for Global Dental Relief are available on the organization’s website.

– Jessica Li
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous fashionFast fashion is fashion that producers make cheaply and price low to catch up with current trends. However, indigenous people are trying to change this. With their unique patterns and colorful designs, many indigenous people are using their culture and skills to allow indigenous culture to live forever, especially in the fashion world. More importantly, indigenous people are investing their skills and resources into creating sustainable fashion to combat poverty. Indigenous communities, while representing roughly 5% of the world’s population, also represent much of the world’s impoverished. Through indigenous fashion, the number of indigenous people in poverty may soon decrease.

History Behind the Pattern

Indigenous people, specifically the indigenous people of Guatemala, have a specific reason for choosing their patterns and distinctive colors. Color and design are deeply integrated into their everlasting culture and history. According to an ancient Mayan myth, the Mayan goddess Ixchel first developed this type of design, called loom weaving. People know her as the goddess of love, the moon, medicine and textile arts. Loom weavers utilize her practices to create fashionable crossbody bags. Whether they work with a company or by themselves, weavers are benefitting from the popularity of their culture’s patterns.

Weaving has henceforth become more than just a means for indigenous women to provide for their families. These women have important roles in their communities and these skills are teaching them to push for more self-reliance within themselves.

Mama Tierra

Indigenous Guatemalans are not the only ones taking advantage of this development in indigenous fashion. A nonprofit organization called Mama Tierra (which translates to “Mother Earth” in Spanish) is helping advance self-reliance in the Wayuu community through fashion. Founded in 2014, Mama Tierra assists the Wayuu community of La Guajira in several ways. It works to:

  • Make sure that women making bags (which comprise sustainable materials such as organic cotton, recycled bottles and pineapple leaves) receive proper pay.
  • Teach women how to make soap to keep their families healthier.
  • Provide Wayuu people with accessible solar energy and nutrition programs.
  • Promote indigenous women’s commercial activities around Colombia.

The Wayuu community greatly needs and appreciates Mama Tierra’s work. Consisting of 600,000 people, many in the Wayuu community do not have electricity or running water. Environmental changes make their land less suitable for growing food. Additionally, 50 Wayuu children younger than 5 die each month in La Guajira due to malnutrition and related causes. These families display their humanity through the bags they produce: each bag comes with a tag with a picture of the maker and their children. With the help of organizations like Mama Tierra, the Wayuu people are improving their lives and changing their futures.

Moving Forward

Indigenous women are now turning their skills and culture into something that will pay off in the long run. Apart from providing for their families, the women are making something of themselves, putting their names on something that they created. Organizations like Mama Tierra have also created trading routes for this community, displaying their artistic skills to the fashion world. By doing this, indigenous communities’ work is becoming commercialized for a broader market to see. With skillful weaving and vivid colors, the women make their own indigenous fashion and show the larger industry they are here to stay.

– Maria Garcia
Photo: Flickr

genetically modified seedsMany countries in Central and South America are home to strong agricultural economies. Since the 1990s, the growing use of genetically modified seeds has challenged traditional forms of agriculture. Companies such as DuPont, Syngenta and Bater sent these seeds to Latin America. Since this introduction, Latin American agribusiness has become largely dependent on genetically modified seeds. Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay are home to roughly 120 million acres of genetically modified crops. Promises of greater yields and less work fuel this upsurge. To understand the effects of genetically modified seeds and how farmers are gaining support, The Borgen Project spoke to Aimee Code, the pesticide program director at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Seeds Endanger Farmers’ Prosperity

Two key factors explain the effect of genetically modified seeds on poverty. The first is dependence. Code explains that “many GMO seeds are intrinsically linked with pesticide use.” Code explains further that pesticide dependence can be dangerous as “this traps farmers in a cycle of needing the pesticides and needing these seeds… it becomes more and more expensive and uncomfortable.”

The difference between this cycle of seed use and traditional methods is stark as genetically modified seeds require the user to buy new seeds each year rather than harvesting and using older seeds from past harvests as is traditional. Farmers are unable to reuse genetically modified seeds and plants because they do not own them; the seeds belong to the company that sells them.

Not only do crops themselves threaten farmers’ prosperity, but the system of genetically modified agriculture also fuels poverty. With the introduction of genetically modified seeds came the promotion of farm consolidation, meaning that fewer farmers are necessary. As a result of this farm consolidation, around 200,000 agricultural producers in South America “have lost their livelihoods” in the last two decades.

Seeds Endanger Farmers’ Health

“The amount of data is woefully inadequate on the health effects experienced by these farmers out in the fields,” shares Code on the issue of health in Latin America. However, even ordinary individuals can draw conclusions just from the nature of these practices. The link between genetically modified seeds and health is best explained by the pesticide use required for these crops.

Because farmers must store pesticides in the crops’ area, the pesticides constantly endanger people living around farms. To highlight the commonality of these exposures, Code reflects on her experience working in Honduras. She says, “A young man offered me water to drink out of an old pesticide bottle.” She explains the link to poor health by concluding that “these are exposures that shouldn’t be happening.”

Along with pesticides sprayed on crops, Code explains that “the seeds are often coated with pesticides, making the seeds themselves dangerous depending on the handling practices.” Unfortunately, many farmers cannot access ample personal protective equipment to protect themselves from dangerous chemicals.

Exposure to the seeds and pesticides is grave as long-term effects can include respiratory problems, memory disorders, skin conditions, depression, miscarriages, birth defects, cancer and neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. In the short term, these pesticides can result in nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, dizziness, anxiety and cognitive harm.

Solving the Problem

The effects of genetically modified seeds remain prominent in the lives of many Latin Americans. However, ongoing solutions aim to mitigate the effects. Code explains that the two most important ways to reduce the spread of genetically modified seeds and crops are education and regulation. As the pesticide program director for the Xerces Society, she works with farmers to implement more sustainable practices.

The Xerces Society is not the only organization working to spread awareness of the value of non-GMO crops. Civil society and social movements throughout Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Honduras and Guatemala have mobilized people to protect seeds and the heritage of agricultural practices. These movements are vital for boosting confidence in traditional practices, challenging narratives created by genetically modified seed companies.

Governments from across Latin America have also stepped up to help reduce the use of these seeds. Countries such as Guatemala and Ecuador have implemented full and partial bans on genetically modified seeds. Most recently, Mexico passed legislation to ban the use of transgenic corn and phase out glyphosate by 2024. These mark positive steps as government regulation can stop the trend of high-risk genetically modified seeds that have trapped many farmers. Such legislation will protect food sovereignty and the health of farmers in Mexico.

More legislative measures and actions are required to eliminate the effects of genetically modified seeds in Latin America. However, recent years have seen immense progress in efforts to reduce the seeds’ prevalence through policy action and awareness.

– Haylee Ann Ramsey-Code
Photo: Flickr