Updates on SDG Goal 10 in ArgentinaIn Argentina, the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic unrest has stalled efforts to close the inequality gap. Before the pandemic hit, Argentina was making progress on a series of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is a framework of global objectives created by the United Nations, designed as a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all” by 2030. The country was “well-positioned” compared to its Latin American counterparts, according to the Argentine Network for International Cooperation (RACI). The onset of COVID-19 has impacted updates on SDG Goal 10 in Argentina.

Achieving SDG 10: Reducing Inequality

Argentina had been struggling to achieve SDG 10, which focuses on reducing inequalities within a county’s population and among different countries around the world. To measure inequality, the SDGs use a scale of 0 to 100. The lower the score, the closer the country is to achieving economic equality. The goal is to achieve a ranking of 30 or lower by 2030. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Argentina had a ranking of 51. The pandemic has siphoned resources out of the government and stalled updates on SDG Goal 10 in Argentina and other progressive reforms. On top of that, millions of Argentinians have lost their jobs and inequality is expanding as a result.

President Alberto Fernández

In December 2019, President Alberto Fernández won the presidential election over conservative incumbent, Mauricio Macri. President Fernández’s political style is that of his mentor, former president, Néstor Kirchner. However, “the COVID-19 pandemic might very well shatter the center-left president’s dreams of following in his mentor’s footsteps and bringing social progress and economic growth to Argentina,” writes Hugo Goeury.

Despite Fernandez’s progressive goals for his administration, reforms have all been put on the back burner since the arrival of COVID-19 in Argentina.

Poverty, Unemployment and the Wealth Gap

In the first half of 2020 alone, the poverty rate among Argentinians increased to almost 41%, the Americas Society/Council of the Americas reported, nearly a 5% increase from the previous year. The Central Bank is also predicting the GDP to contract by nearly 11%.

With almost a third of Argentine workers facing unemployment, President Fernandez is scrambling to financially support his unemployed constituents, while also negotiating the country’s debt owed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

According to the World Inequality Database, as of 2019, the top 10% wealthiest Argentinians controlled nearly 40% of the country’s income, while the bottom 50% only possessed 17.9% of the nation’s income.

Better Days Ahead for Argentina

Even though updates on SDG Goal 10 in Argentina seem especially challenging right now, Argentinians are still
pushing forward to make their country more equitable for everyone. The U.N. says, “In the post-pandemic world, Argentina must strengthen its productive apparatus and continue to eliminate inherited social inequities and those aggravated by COVID-19.”

– Laney Pope
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Women in EgyptEgypt has a long way to go when it comes to equality for women in nearly any aspect of life. According to the 2020 Global Gender Gap Report (pg. 149), women in Egypt consist of just 26% of the labor force. Their literacy rate is similarly low at 65%. This predisposes girls and women to life in poverty, especially if they are unmarried. The report ranks Egypt 134 out of 153 countries based on the disparities in gender gaps.

Women in Egypt Experience Inequality

The country’s traditional society not only allows for this inequality, but encourages it. Human Rights Watch reported that female social media influencers were targeted and jailed by their own government for “undermining values.” For example, in April 2020, Hanin Hossum, 20, was arrested for “indecent” photos and videos of her singing and dancing fully-clothed. The Prosecutor’s primary evidence to charge Hossum: suggesting to her women followers that they should earn money posting videos on Likee, an app similar to TikTok. Cairo’s Economic Court sentenced her to two years in prison. It also charged her 300,000 Egyptian Pounds, the near-equivalent of $19,000.

Women in Egypt must also worry about walking down the street. For example, Arab Barometer’s 2019 survey showed that 90% of women aged 18 to 29 experienced some form of sexual harassment in a twelve-month period. Cairo was ranked the most dangerous city for women in a 2017 Thomson-Reuters Survey, in addition to being third-worst when it came to sexual violence.

With all these problems, several non-profit organizations have stepped in to empower women in Egypt.

HarassMap

Founded in 2010 by four local women’s rights activists, HarassMap is a non-profit volunteer organization with a goal to end sexual harassment and foster a zero-tolerance society in Egypt.

The initiative’s website displays a world map dotted with reports of sexual harassment made by anonymous volunteers who are encouraged to intervene on the survivor’s behalf if possible. Other activities include educating others on the myths surrounding harassment through film and literature and conducting studies based on the data collected. Along with normalizing public discourse on the subject, HarassMap has influenced policies in Egypt as well. Due to the organization’s efforts, Cairo University adopted its first anti-sexual harassment law in 2014. It influenced Uber Cairo to tighten its harassment policies, making the company a safer alternative to city taxis.

HarassMap has even assisted the development of other tracking websites in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

USAID

The U.S. Agency for International Development is an independent government agency that has focused on committing resources towards eliminating poverty and inequality around the world since 1961.

The USAID works directly with the Egyptian government to address the gender gap and empower women living there. The agency awarded scholarships for Master’s degrees in STEM-based fields through the U.S.-Egypt Higher Education Initiative. As of 2014, USAID granted over 600 scholarships to STEM-focused undergraduate and graduate women as well. Its programs have also provided pathways for women to launch businesses and enter male-dominated industries like agribusiness.

USAID influenced policy, starting with its help drafting a 2010 framework for Egypt’s National Strategy to Combat Violence Against Women. In coordination with NGOs, the agency worked to influence Egypt to regard sexual harassment as a crime in 2014. In October 2020, USAID committed to providing Egypt with $28.2 million to support economic governance and women’s empowerment.

ADEW

The Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women (ADEW) was first formed in 1987 with the expressed purpose of serving Egypt’s female heads of households and their families with regard to economic and social standing. ADEW specifically focuses on impoverished communities in cities, towns and villages.

It utilizes a wide variety of projects in the areas of health, employment, law awareness, education, financial assistance and more. One such initiative is the Micro-Credit Program, which provides small loans to women to start their own businesses. Through peer lending, groups of women guarantee their own loans without being forced to depend on a male guarantor. The program has yielded great success, boasting a loan repayment rate of 99%. ADEW has helped 500,000 individuals in its 33 years of fieldwork.

Women in Egypt often struggle to live dignified lives. There are limitations imposed by both the government and by society at large with regards to financial stability, privacy or even the freedom to walk down a street without being harassed. However, with the increase in awareness and activism surrounding women’s empowerment, life in Egypt may soon change.

Zachary Sherry
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in PanamaPanama — the narrow bridge of land that connects North and South America. The tropical country is renowned for its natural beauty and diverse plant, animal and bird life. Yet, all that sparkles, is not glitter. Panama’s economy is highly unequal and there’s a wide gap between the rich and the poor. Poverty in Panama is as much of a prominent feature of the country as its landscape.

Rural Poverty

Ethnicity and geographic location determine one’s poverty in Panama. Panamanians who live in rural areas do not have adequate access to resources, such as hospitals and schools. This is a result of the lack of professional doctors and teachers or mentors in rural areas.

Panama is the second worst in income distribution in Latin America, which leads to sector-specific poverty. Unpaved roads in the country make it are especially difficult for farmers. Accordingly, they do not end up selling their crops in big cities where they can earn a large income. Thus, begins a chain of poverty in Panama that devolves into poor hygiene, sanitation, child labor, malnutrition and eventually yet another generation submerged in loans.

Child Poverty

About 27.7% of Panamanian children live in poverty and 12% experience malnutrition. Failure to register children at birth causes many to go without citizenship. Thus, the government is ignorant on its exact child population and cannot justly allocate money to the “nonexistent.”

Around 15% of children are victims to early marriages. The legal age to marry in Panama is 16 for boys and 14 for girls. However, most of these children are not registered with the government, so kids are married off at ages as young as 10.

The minimum age for working in Panama is 15. Even with this being the case, 5-year-old children can be seen carrying bricks in construction sites. Severally underage workers — child laborers — even appear in big cities like Panama City and Tocumen. To earn a few dollars more, families force their children to work. However, it’s at the cost of children being mentally and physically exploited.

The Rays of Light

Panama has done much to fight poverty. From 2015-2017, poverty in Panama declined from 15.4%  to 14.1%. In the same time span, extreme poverty decreased from 6.7% to 6.6%. Additionally, there are currently multiple NGOs working to help poverty and other problems in Panama. One is to Educate Women in Panama. The organization’s goal is to help lower poverty in the future through more women and girls getting their education. Education will help these women find jobs easier, lowering the poverty rate.

The country, with aid of NGOs and the government, has the potential to bridge the income inequality gap and make itself an equitable society for all, regardless of class, region or ethnicity. Panama can be as bright and colorful as its beaches for not only the urbanites but also the rurals.

Riddhi Bhattacharya
Photo: Flickr

How the Caste System Affects People in IndiaIndia has its own form of racism. We refer to it as “Casteism.” India’s caste system was formed based on socio-economic factors or ideological factors. In 1500 BC, Aryans arrived in India and disregarded local groups. They formed three groups, namely warriors, priests and farmers. Warriors and priests fought for the leadership role. Out of which priests emerged victorious to supreme their power over India. In the end, farmers, craftsmen, warriors and locals were led by Brahamans or priests. Like many societies, a son will inherit his father’s job in India. This inheritance continued for a long time and it ended up as a community, jaati or a caste in the Indian system. Brahamans encouraged socialism only within their respective groups that created inequality in this diversified country. A caste looking down on the other is a common occurrence and it is publicly accepted. People who clean drainage are aligned to the “Scheduled Caste” and they are termed as “untouchables.” Those who live in forests as tribes are aligned to “Scheduled Tribes.”

The caste system is a significant social system in India. One’s caste affects their options regarding marriage, employment, education, economies, mobility, housing and politics, among others.

How the Caste System Affects Citizens

  • Marriages: Most Indian marriages are arranged by parents. Several factors were considered by them for finding the ideal spouse. Out of which, one’s caste is a significant factor. People do not want their son or their daughter to marry a person from another caste. Just like the word “untouchables” suggests, a Brahmin would never marry a person from an SC or ST caste.
  • Education: Public universities have caste-based reservations for students coming from underprivileged backgrounds. A person from this background can secure a seat in a top tier college with par or below par academic scores based on reservation. However, impoverished Brahmans are disadvantaged with this reservation system. For example, a Brahman has to score 100% on certain exams to get into a top tier university. While the lower caste applicant can even bypass the exam for getting a seat in the university.
  • Jobs: A significant amount of public sector jobs are allocated based on caste reservation. Impoverished communities from Brahman backgrounds get affected significantly because of this reservation.

It is just as Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar said, “Caste will stand in your way for political and economical reforms within India.” According to him, eradicating such a strong foundation is extremely difficult yet doable. However, the path to reform has many roadblocks in it.

How Can the Government Solve this Caste Issue?

The government has come to the conclusion that segregating people across castes and aligning them to a particular caste by offering special quotas will solve the caste problem. In fact, the Indian government provides incentives to people of lower caste to make them feel better about their poor inheritance. However, the caste system still lurks in the minds of Indian citizens.
According to Ambedkar, the annihilation of the caste system can be done by supporting these actions:

  1. Intercaste Marriage: Cross caste marriage can possibly eradicate the upper and lower caste mentality. Around 5% of marriages in India are between different castes. Around a quarter of the population on matrimonial sites are open to intercaste marriages at the moment.
  2. Intercaste Dining: Addressing caste-related issues at large public events can contribute to diversity and inclusion efforts. Several dining events were organized by local state governments to incorporate people from all around the country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political agenda includes caste elimination from the country. India has improved to some extent in this 21st century on several fronts. However, there is still lots of room to grow. The Indian government has an effective plan of bringing people together from all walks of life. Yet, certain inherent ideological contradictions will stand in the way while solving this issue. Regardless, that should not deter our hope in escaping the shackles of casteism.

– Narasinga Moorthy
Photo: Flickr

Infertility in Developing CountriesAn estimated 49 million to 180 million couples  suffer from infertility, globally. Moreover, the majority of those affected live in developing countries. The most common cause of infertility in developing countries are STDs and pregnancy-related infections. With the focus of most poverty reduction efforts aimed at lowering overpopulation the health concern of infertility is often overlooked. Women who suffer from infertility in developing countries often face ostracization and struggle to get the healthcare they need. Thankfully, there has been an emergence of programs to help these women.

Causes of Infertility in Developing Countries

The most common cause of infertility in developing countries is untreated STDs since treatment is often unavailable or costly. In Africa, more than 85% of women’s infertility resulted from an untreated infection compared with 33% of women, worldwide. The most common STDs involved are chlamydia and gonorrhea. Other risk factors increasing the chance of infertility are poor education, poverty, negative cultural attitudes towards women. Finally, a lack of access to contraception is a huge risk factor.

The Sexist Effects of Infertility

The burden of infertility in developing countries falls on women although male infertility is the cause in 50% of cases. When a woman is unable to conceive, her husband will often divorce her or take another wife if permitted in the country. Women who are deemed infertile also suffer discrimination from the community.  In some cultures, society views these women as having a “bad eye”, which can pass on infertility from person to person. This results in infertile women missing important events such as weddings and other social gatherings since they receive no invitations.

Combating Infertility in Developing Countries

A campaign initiated by the Merck Foundation, “Merck More than a Mother,” seeks to heighten access to education and change the stigma for infertile women in developing countries. The program has provided training for fertility specialists and endocrinologists with more than 109 specialists trained since 2016.

Also, the foundation has created music videos, songs and fashion shows in African countries to send the message that women should not be blamed if they cannot have a child. More than 14 songs have featured singers from Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

Women Deliver

In 2016, women’s infertility was a topic of discussion at Women Deliver — the world’s largest women’s health and rights conference held in Copenhagen. There were more than 5,500 conference participants, including government ministers, policymakers, business leaders, NGOs and activists. The WHO brought the topic to the conference, with the Director of Reproductive Health and Research giving a speech about the detrimental effects of infertility.

The WHO and Women Deliver, along with the International Committee Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics have partnered to increase global advocacy for infertility in developing countries. The partnership aims to achieve this through advancing education and research in the field.

Hopefully, with these increased advocacy efforts, the world will start to recognize the health concern of infertility in developing countries.

Rae Brozovich
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Women's Rights in IndonesiaWomen in Indonesia are working hard and fighting for their rights. Recently, Indonesia ranked second in the most dangerous countries for women in the Asia-Pacific. Violence against women can happen anywhere from the slums to the richest neighborhoods. However, this has not stopped the women of Indonesia, as they continue to march — closing the inequality gap. Importantly, women’s rights in Indonesia have fierce advocates.

Child Marriage

Concerning Indonesian girls, 14% marry before their 18th birthday. This is in part, due to their society’s view of women and discriminating legislation. The Marriage Law, established in 1974, states that parents can marry their daughter off as young as 16 years old. In April of 2018, Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, came forth and said that he was drafting a presidential decree that would ban child marriage. However, there has been no timeline set for the decree to be passed. Child marriage indirectly takes away a girl’s future and exposes them to a greater chance of being a victim of sexual violence. This can be directly related to the percentage of women in the workforce (51%) and the percentage of women experiencing sexual violence in their lifetime (33%).

UN Women

U.N. Women give girls and women in Indonesia the voice they deserve. This organization advocates for an end to the violence wrought against women while actively pursuing partners to respond to it. U.N. Women do so much for the women of Indonesia, from giving them access to entrepreneurship classes to directly fighting the government. This, in an attempt to hold authorities accountable for women’s rights in Indonesia. In the mix of their many programs, there is WeLearn and WeEmpower Asia, which both give women resources to integrate into the workforce. WeLearn’s goal is to improve equal learning opportunities and empower women to start their businesses. Where WeLearn encourages women into the workplace, WeEmpower Asia aims to achieve a business environment that empowers women and urges companies to adopt the Women’s Empowerment Principles.

Women Making Progress

Women’s rights in Indonesia have come a long way. Women in Indonesia now march freely in their opposition to the rights they have (or lack, rather). As backstory, the reason that this big (yet slowly closing gender gap) exists is because of the country’s second dictator, Suharto. He ruled for 32 years and widened the gap exorbitantly. However, most notably, he put the mindset in place that women and men garner different treatments. Now, the gap is closing and for the better. In political parties, 30% of the cabinet must be comprised of women. Further, as mentioned above, President Joko Widodo has the highest number of women in his cabinet in the country’s history. Now, those women in the cabinet are pushing for bills like the Sexual Violence Bill, to be passed.

Thanks to Suharto, the women in Indonesia have a lot of work to do. Fighting for women’s rights is not an easy battle. As for the support of men, Gitika Bhardwaj says that “I do think there are a large number of men who are supporting gender equality in the country but unfortunately there have not been enough high-level public awareness campaigns.” In the next few years, these women leaders hope to see the inequality gap as not a tangible thing, but a thing of the past.

Bailey Sparks
Photo: Flickr

Young creatives
Without a doubt, the surge of the internet has created many waves in the way that people live their everyday lives. From ride-sharing apps to Instagram stories to trendy Tiktok dances, it seems like social media has overwhelmed every aspect of modern life, working particularly hard to keep people connected through an unprecedented time of social distancing. However, it is not just the mundane that has changed with the dawn of the online age; young creatives have used the internet to completely reimagine modern activism.

The Age of Digital Activism

Digital activism, defined as the use of digital tools (i.e. the internet, mobile phones, social media, etc.) for bringing about social and/or political change, is hardly a new phenomenon. As of 2018, the Pew Research Center found that around half of all Americans had engaged in some form of political or social activism via social media over the past year. They also found the majority of Americans believed that social media was a good tool for bringing important global issues to the attention of lawmakers. It is more than likely that these statistics have grown over the past several years, particularly in the culmination of movements such as the March for our Lives, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. It does not take very long to come up with countless examples of online activism.

More recently, however, a new trend has grown popular among young creatives on Instagram: zines. Zines are self-published, non-commercial print works that are typically produced and distributed in small batches by artists looking to share their work. While they have been a part of youth pop culture for many years now, a group of young women have taken it into their own hands to shift that paradigm.

The Birth of More Color Media

In early June of 2020, Aissata Sall, a recent high school graduate, single-handedly launched her independent publication, More Color Media. From the very beginning, Sall wanted this project to be different from what had been done already; she wanted to tell the stories that were not already being told. Within just 10 short weeks, the small project gained nearly 5,000 followers across multiple platforms and exploded into a team of nearly 100 creatives, all using their talents from photography to poetry to bring global issues of poverty, education and inequality to light in a new, innovative way.

“We have team members from Estonia, France, North Africa — everywhere!” Sall said in an interview with The Borgen Project on August 14th of 2020. “It’s just been amazing to see how many people we’ve reached and how many people have reached out to us to tell us how happy they are with the space and the platform we’ve created. That’s the biggest accomplishment in our eyes.”

This new platform has created a unique way for young creatives to share information, with eye-catching graphics and stunning photography all utilized to draw attention to global issues from Venezuela to Lebanon to Serbia. Many of these posts include thorough factsheets and sources, allowing viewers to digest news from around the world and quickly find resources to help. By just sharing informational posts, fund pages and petitions to lawmakers regarding specific issues, More Color Media has reportedly reached over 30,000 individual audience members across all of their platforms.

“We want to provide more platforms for us to be able to support people in our communities and in the global community,” explained Diana Sinclair, the co-Editor-in-Chief of More Color Media. “We’ve already been using our platform to highlight individual funds to help reach people’s needs. We’ve also talked a lot about opening up other platforms like a podcast to help give a greater voice to the communities we want to support.”

A New Generation of Activists

While they continue to grow, More Color Media may very well represent the future of digital activism, serving to show that there is no limit on who can make a difference. According to RESET, an organization working to help advance the next generation into the digital age, one of the biggest benefits of digital activism is the ability to connect with a large community and globalize a campaign’s goals. More Color Media is doing just that. More Color Media’s first print issue is fast approaching, with a release date tentatively in late September, and both Sall and Sinclair are waiting eagerly with bated breath.

To learn more about More Color Media, visit their website, www.morecolormedia.com, or check them out on Instagram at @MoreColorMedia.

– Angie Bittar
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

SDG 10 in China
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 targets intended to combat poverty on a global level and create a more sustainable future. All United Nations Member States adopted them in 2015. Major challenges still remain to reach SDG 10 in China, which targets the reduction of inequalities across the world.

The Gini coefficient, which is an indicator used to measure wealth and income inequality within a nation, typically measures inequality levels. The United Nations has set the warning value of this indicator as any value over 40. China’s Gini index peaked in 2008 at 49, and has since experienced a slight decline to 46.8 in 2018, and then to 46.5 in 2019.

Causes of Inequality

One of the primary hindrances to progress in SDG 10 in China is its rural-urban gap. There are major differences in lifestyle, education level, income and access to financial services between urban and rural areas in China, which exacerbates the increase in inequalities across the country.

High levels of inequality in China began to surge in the 1980s when the country experienced one of the most rapid periods of macroeconomic growth and urbanization. While poverty levels overall lowered substantially in China over this time period, and income levels increased among poorer groups, inequality increased drastically. This is largely due to the income of the most wealthy upper two deciles (most of whom live in urban areas) nearly doubling between 2002 and 2007. This, coupled with the creation of private property, all led to a severe widening of the wealth gap. Private ownership of property led to a growth of asset income in urban areas. In 2002, experts found that assets contributed to 8% to 10% of national income inequality in China, and in 2007, this figure grew from 13% to 19%.

China’s Urbanization Plan

Since 2008, there has been some slight advancement in SDG 10 in China but continued levels of rapidly increasing urbanization will cause China to largely depend on policy reform to continue to moderate and lower its high levels of inequality. These initiatives should include a focus on targeting the rural-urban gap.

As a way to target the rural-urban gap, which experts see as a main cause of inequality, China announced an urbanization plan in 2014, which targets moving about 100 million more current rural residents into cities by 2020. The urban population in China has since increased from a proportion of 54.77% of the population in 2014 to a proportion of 59.58% of the population in 2018. A criticism of this plan notes that as this does not address the underlying issues causing inequalities between rural and urban areas, it could simply lead to a shift to an urban-urban wealth gap.

The New Rural Cooperative Medical Scheme

China has also expanded the New Rural Cooperative Medical Scheme since 2005, which is a health insurance program that emerged in the late 1990s. It also created the New Rural Pension Scheme in about 2010. These two programs expanded the rural social protection system, which previously did not cover all people in rural areas. Access to health insurance for rural populations has indirect effects on rural incomes. The rapidly aging population of China has also been a contributor to inequality levels, which the pension program helps to address.

Other Initiatives

Several other policy initiatives that aid the progress of SDG 10 in China include personal tax income reform, labor market policies, pro-farmer policies, social security, regional development strategy and fiscal transfer policies, poverty alleviation policies and financial inclusion. The country also added an exemption from agricultural fees and taxes for rural households in 2006. These had historically been a financial burden for rural citizens. China has also established the Dibao program, which is a cash transfer program that guarantees a minimum income for low-income households. It started in urban areas in the mid-1990s and expanded to include rural areas after 1999. In 2016, more than 60 million people were beneficiaries of the Dibao program.

Further fiscal policy reforms are crucial to improve the status of SDG 10 in China. Without these, projected structural trends predict rising inequality levels. These policies will likely have to focus on tax reforms, an increase in public spending on education, health and social assistance and on targeting the provincial and regional inequalities that contribute to the rural-urban gap.

– Katherine Musgrave
Photo: Flickr

Hurricanes amplify poverty in the Bahamas
On September 1, 2019, a massive Category 5 hurricane hit the Bahamas, bringing mass destruction and devastation to the people living there. The storm, named Dorian, took the lives of 70 people and left thousands homeless. A storm of this magnitude impacts all people in its path, yet those hit hardest are the ones living in poverty. During the hurricane season between June and November, hurricanes amplify poverty in the Bahamas by increasing the unemployment rate, exacerbating socioeconomic inequalities and leaving many without access to food, water and shelter.

Unemployment Rates Rise

The Bahamas relies heavily on tourism from resorts, casinos and cruise lines to support its economy. Bahamians living in poverty-stricken conditions depend upon employment from these resorts to support their families. A large storm like Dorian often reduces these resorts and casinos to rubble, leaving thousands unemployed.

Before the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian, the unemployment rate stood at 10.9%; however, after the storm, the unemployment rate rose to a staggering 50%. With a fractured economy, an abundance of destroyed homes and limited food and water, survivors of these massive storms are forced to leave their homes and families to seek employment elsewhere.

Poverty-Stricken Neighborhoods Are Left Helpless

Of those missing and pronounced dead following Dorian, many were Bahamians living in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. The Mudd, a neighborhood well-known for its high levels of poverty, is just one of many that have been leveled by major hurricanes. Thousands of Haitian immigrants seek refuge in unstable wooden homes, which are no match for hurricane-force winds. 185 mph winds blown these neighborhoods to pieces.

In an interview conducted with Dorval Darlier, the chargé d’affaires of the Haitian Embassy in the Bahamas, Darlier described the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in The Mudd. He stated, “It looked like a bomb just exploded. It is completely destroyed. Not even a piece of wood stands up in The Mudd. If someone was not evacuated, they have to be dead.” Approximately 3,500 Haitian immigrants live in The Mudd and other poverty-stricken neighborhoods.

The devastation left by a hurricane increases public health risks, particularly for the poor. Bahamians living in poverty tend to take refuge in the most vulnerable areas. When a storm threatens the island, they are the least able to afford to evacuate and are often forced to stay in life-threatening conditions. Bahamian officials are required to visit these neighborhoods and urge residents to evacuate; however, many refuse to leave because they either have no place to go or are living in the Bahamas illegally.

Hurricanes Expose Inequality

In the past, hurricanes like Dorian have been known to expose the severity of inequality in the Bahamas. People living in poverty-stricken conditions, primarily Haitian immigrants, are left without homes. Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis vowed not to rebuild immigrant neighborhoods like The Mudd: he mandated that those left without homes after a storm are to be deported.

Shella Monestime, a Haitian evacuee and resident of one of these neighborhoods, spoke out following the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian and the Prime Minister’s response. She stated, “We just lost everything. We have no clothes, no home, no money. We have to start all over again. People died, and all they are talking about is people getting deported.”

Relief workers in the country have emphasized the drastic nature of this social inequality. A lack of legal papers and uncertain statuses prevent immigrants from receiving assistance after a hurricane. Fear of arrest and deportation has forced the Haitian community into hiding. The Bahamian government has instructed relief workers not to provide assistance to Haitians without proper documentation.As a result, they are often left homeless and helpless after massive storms ravage the area.

Hurricane Aid Provides Hope

The American Red Cross is just one organization that helps rebuild and aid people impacted by hurricanes. In response to Hurricane Dorian, the American Red Cross provided food, shelter, clean water and emergency supplies to thousands of families displaced by the storm. As of June 30, 2020, the Red Cross had distributed over $11 million in cash to over 3,000 Bahamian families. This funding has helped families recover financially and overcome many challenges brought on by Dorian.

In partnerships with Mercy Corps, World Central Kitchen and CORE, the American Red Cross is able to continue providing thousands of gallons of clean drinking water, cash grants to business owners, fresh meals, rent payment assistance and physical aid in rebuilding homes. More than 50 disaster respondents have been deployed to the Bahamas, each with specializations in varying categories including IT/Telecommunications, relief distributions, cash-as-aid, information management, communications, shelter and finance.

 

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has already been extremely active, with 11 storms as of August 6 and a prediction of 10 more named storms to be added to the list by the end of the year. Although hurricanes amplify poverty in the Bahamas, aid from organizations like the American Red Cross provides hope to those affected. Despite past destruction, the island continually recovers and proves its resilience as a country.

– Jacey Reece
Photo: Pixabay

The Work of Global Pearls
Global Pearls, a nonprofit organization that emerged in 2016, aims to tackle the root causes of poverty in some of the world’s most marginalized communities. With projects spanning across Latin America, Africa and Asia, Global Pearls addresses issues such as inaccessibility to education, income inequality and violence prevention in developing countries. With 100% of every dollar donated going directly to programs, each project maximizes the positive impact it makes toward helping the world’s poor. Keep reading to learn more about the work of Global Pearls.

The Mission

Global Pearls seeks to reduce “suffering among marginalized populations in developing countries by empowering changemakers from within.” To empower such changemakers, Global Pearls supports and funds leaders in developing communities ready to tackle issues and bring about positive change.

Lack of Access to Education in Guatemala

In a country like Guatemala, where the poor are unable to access essential healthcare services, many children are abandoned or left on the streets. With more than 58% of Guatemalan children aged 7-14 working in the agriculture industry, many do not have access to funds for schooling, books and uniforms.

As a result, 18.5% of the population aged over 15 are unable to read or write. Children living on the street in Guatemala are also at a higher risk of engaging in physical violence to survive due to poverty, abuse and social exclusion.

Global Pearls Creates Change

Recognizing that over 10% of children ages 7-14 are unable to receive an education, the work of Global Pearls has extended to helping Sandra Alonzo Pac establish an educational scholarship program for children in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala called Estudia Con Amor. The program supports children who need additional funding from middle school through university. Street children involved in the program are also receiving help with clothing, food and medical costs. Because families living below the poverty line are more likely to keep their children out of school, children without education have a higher chance of living in poverty. Programs like Estudia Con Amor are essential in ending the cycle of poverty for struggling individuals.

Maria, a participant in the Estudia Con Amor scholarship program, discussed how she was unable to attend school with her mom working multiple jobs daily to support the family. She described her sadness when she saw the other children in the village walking to school with their backpacks, wishing that she could be one of them. With the help of the Estudia Con Amor Scholarship through Global Pearls, she began her studies, hoping to one day become a doctor.

Income Inequality in Honduras

Like Guatemala, attending traditional schools in Honduras is very difficult for children who travel long distances on foot to school. With Honduras holding the third-highest illiteracy rate in Central America due to income inequality, youth struggles to afford school and find job opportunities.

How Community Leaders in Honduras are Helping

Due to the cost of $100 a year to supply students with the textbooks and supplies they need for schooling, many poor students are unable to attend. With the help of Global Pearls, Sor Marta established a high school scholarship program for children who want to continue their education but cannot afford the cost.

Global Pearls Founder, Lisa Spader, embraces the idea that “you are capable of making your community better; you don’t need other people to make your community better.” Because of this, Spader urges the program participants to dream about what they want their future to look like and how that dream can become a reality with hard work and the right resources.

John, a 14-year old boy in the Honduras program, talked about how the Caja rural project has impacted his life: “I will not forget the day you arrived […] It was a rainy evening, and I was trembling with cold, but you hugged me, and I felt warmer. In that conversation, the idea of the Caja rural project became real […] Soon, I began leading my colleagues. This project has made a mark on my life in ways I could never have imagined […] You helped me find my life purpose. […] I know that starting a project changes the lives of those who start them. I know because I’m a living example.”

As a result of the program, John began the Caja rural project, which lends money to people to invest in microenterprises. He is now an active supporter in assisting others in finding their ways to better their community.

Prevalence of Violence in Honduras

People know gangs such as the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 in Honduras for utilizing violence and threats to establish authority. As a result, Honduras is one of the world’s most violent places, with an average of 13 people murdered each day. With limited opportunity for youth, many young Hondurans resort to gang participation to protect welfare and identity.

Giving Resources to Youth

Recognizing the prevalence of this issue, community leader, Jeremias Vobada, who grew up in an orphanage on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula, founded a soccer program for over 100 youth with Global Pearls. The program helps to give them a safe space to grow and develop. He has also partnered with a local contractor to provide children interested in the electrical field the experience and skills necessary to construct solar panels. This necessary resource allows electricity to run in remote communities.

Looking Forward

In a continually evolving world, it is more important than ever to address pressing issues that face marginalized communities. Global Pearls recognizes empowered leaders who have a passion for changing their community but do not receive marketing worldwide. By funding and engaging in projects with these leaders, more children can attend school and make their future dreams a reality.

To learn more about the impactful work of Global Pearls and its projects, click here: https://globalpearls.org/.

– Erica Fealtman
Photo: Flickr