Media Shift
There’s a classic tale in journalism about a reporter who asks her editor why their journal didn’t publish more pieces about domestic or global poverty. Her editor’s response: “Nobody wants to hear another story about how poor people are going to die in Africa. It’s depressing.” Opinions such as these have been common among nearly all media organizations for a good period of time. Now, however, a shift is occurring in poverty journalism; this shift is crucial to drawing attention to the important issue of extreme poverty.

The Problem With Traditional Media Methodology

Before this media shift, any focus on poverty was in its worst form. Of course, this is practical: news outlets need the audience to see what poverty looks like, and they’re more likely to pay attention to a drastic report. However, the problem with solely highlighting the depression and hopelessness of extreme poverty is that those emotions become the only messages portrayed in media depictions of underdevelopment. It doesn’t give audiences or influential individuals a chance to connect to those in need. It simply serves as an episodic report of foreign tragedy.

Moreover, an influx of these types of reports eventually becomes unappealing to audiences. They don’t want to see another situation they can do nothing about. Why should people care about an Asian village they’ve never seen or heard of and have no influence over? Before the media shift, poverty seemed like a perpetual problem that had nothing to do with the audience.

The effect that traditional media has had on audiences’ reactions to poverty reports is apparent; according to reports, less than 1% of stories from 52 major media outlets covered poverty as a result of declining interest and donations from viewership. Journalists and media organizations realized that there had to be a shift in the media portrayal of poverty if it was to get its fair share in the limelight.

The Shift

So what is changing in the media, and how is it helping to bring attention back to poverty? The answer: connection. Eschewing depressing messages in favor of hope and progress creates a connection between audiences and those in poverty. This media shift is creating a new age of poverty observation and understanding. According to Jurg Meyer, the problem with traditional media and its depictions of poverty was that it created caricatures of the less fortunate, leading to fear and aversion rather than a desire to help.

By redirecting focus toward facts and current events, this began to become less common. Rather than exclusively tragic stories, journalists now report facts and histories as well as practical solutions. This has helped to create a new wave of poverty journalism. The message of this new style of journalism attempts to convey that there are people living in the world who have no way to improve their own well-being or protect their rights. More importantly, this shift in journalism tells audiences they are more capable of helping than they realize.

Is The Shift Helping?

Perceptions of the media portrayal of poverty will always be divided. Before the 2008 financial crisis, many Americans held a negative opinion of the world’s poor, believing that it was a matter of personal responsibility. But after many Americans experienced sudden poverty firsthand in 2008, they became more sympathetic to the plight of the world’s poor. A media shift in tone and content led people to involve themselves in relief efforts. Keeping up the momentum of this shift in journalism can lead to a better future for millions in poverty worldwide.

Donovan McDonald
Photo: Unsplash

Top 5 Commercials Taking on Poverty

Advertising, a multibillion-dollar industry, is one of the most prominent ways to spread information. The average American watches 16 minutes of commercials in every hour of television watched. When commercials shine a light on global poverty, more viewers will aspire to help the cause. Here are 5 commercials taking on poverty:

Unsung Hero by Thai Life Insurance

Thailand requires all children within the country to enroll in school. However,  14% of secondary school-aged children are not enrolled in school. The story begins with a benevolent man who lives a humble life giving back. He donates money daily to a family begging for money to send their daughter to school and does random kind deeds for several members of his community. As the community’s happiness grows, the man realizes that the daughter of the family has gone. He soon comes to realize that, with his donations, she now can attend school. Thai Life Insurance is a Christian insurance company dedicated to making people happier.

Giving by TrueMove

The commercial follows the life of an owner of a street food stand. In the beginning, a poor boy gets caught stealing medicine from a neighboring stall. The street stand owner pays for his stolen goods and gives him a bag of soup for his sick mother. Decades later, the man passes out and is extremely ill. The hospital fee comes back and the family isn’t able to afford it. A few days later, the family finds out that the little boy from the beginning is now a neurosurgeon and paid all the hospital bills. Although Thailand provides its citizens with universal healthcare, low-income families still cannot afford some hospital treatment fees. TrueMove is one of the leading mobile providers in Thailand, spreading the message, “Giving is the best communication.”

If London Were Syria by Save the Children

Among the 70.8 million displaced people, 31 million are children. Conflicts force children out of their homes and into international waters in search of safety. With war, terrorists, human trafficking and the additional threat of racism, Syrians and other displaced people face many humanitarian issues everywhere. The award-winning advertisement by Save The Children has almost 65 million views on YouTube, spreading empathy into millions of hearts. The film follows a young girl throughout the span of a year, from comfortable living to displaced. She undergoes near-death experiences and the loss of members of her family, spotlighting the hardships of a refugee.

Make a Change by Hyundai Philippines

This commercial by Hyundai Philippines overviewed the life of a blind beggar. At first, the beggar did not receive many donations, and every passerby ignored him. A man came along and reworded the sign, raising the number of donations. After a while, the beggar asked the man what he changed to the board. The new quote said, “It’s a beautiful day, but I can’t see it.” The touching story raises awareness about 19.8% of people living under the poverty line in the Philippines.

You Can Save Her by Magic Bus

This commercial begins with one high-class girl seeing a girl in poverty. The poor girl was in worn-out clothes and barefoot, working intensive labor for her abusive father. She strolls around her village, introducing facts about Indian children in poverty. Although child marriage has been illegal since 1929, a quarter of girls in India are married off before the age of 18. India houses 30% of the world’s children living in extreme poverty. Magic Bus is an Indian organization sponsoring Indian children throughout their lives. They send children to school and help them integrate into society, preventing immoral marriages and abuse.

Through these commercials taking on poverty, viewers realize the impact of global poverty on the world, encouraging them to act on their emotions. With donations from millions of viewers, organizations can reduce the number of people in poverty.

 – Zoe Chao
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Big DataIt is impossible to remedy the causes of poverty without enough data to make accurate assessments for formulating solutions. There is little infrastructure in fragile countries and developing nations, making data collection difficult. Gaps in data can exist that are a decade wide. Infrequent studies conducted with only a single method of surveyal are inadequate. If there are not multiple methods of gathering data, the data will be skewed, because there will be no means of comparison for bias.

New methods have been developed to gather data remotely. These methods rely on finding signs of poverty in big data. Big data is a term for the massive amounts of data collected by computers. Poverty in big data can be detected by using self-learning artificial intelligence known as machine learning programs.

Cell Phone Data

While smartphones often remain out of reach for the impoverished, basic cell phones are a staple of life even for those living in developing nations. In fact, the greater part of sub-Saharan African countries own mobile phones. For example, in Tanzania, the country with the lowest reported number of phones, 75 percent of the population still owns a mobile device. In South Africa, the country with the highest reported number of phones, only nine percent of the population lives without a mobile phone. Another study on Rwandan households also found that mobile phones were more common than televisions or computers, ubiquitous items to the American household.
Because of these factors, there is an abundance of cell phone data (CPD) even in regions that typically lack data on poverty. According to a study done by the World Bank Group in Guatemala, CPD interpreted through machine learning can yield sufficiently accurate data of urban areas. CPD can be used to determine the location of a person’s home and how far they typically travel. With this data, researchers can see who is likely to travel to a location and who has a means of transportation for getting there.

Satellite Imagery

Civil unrest and harsh conditions can make it dangerous to gather data on poverty in some regions. These factors can disincentive data collection and cause years of gaps in survey data. A new remote method of analyzing public data on physical regions has helped demystify treacherous terrain. Satellite images of the Earth’s terrain, also known as Earth observations, display signals of wealth in a region. By measuring the luminosity of man-made light at night, researchers can make estimates of the economic status of an area. A proven correlation between illuminated areas, electric power consumption, and a country’s GDP justify these estimates. This is a fast and efficient method of obtaining data from a country that has seen natural disasters or civil war.

Social Media

The digital footprint of social media users, or lack thereof, can be useful in estimating data on the development of areas. According to the Pew Research Center, 53 percent of those in emerging nations use social media. Internet use correlates with the GDP per capita of a country, so the rising numbers of users are promising. However, sub-Saharan Africa and India are falling behind the rest of the world.

Finding poverty in big data through machine learning has proven to be informative and safe for researchers. The relatively unobtrusive nature of conducting studies in this manner makes sure that locals do not feel disturbed or angered. Remote and impersonal studies such as these also avoid issues such as under-reported poverty in illiterate households and over-reported poverty from those asked to recall their consumption.

– Nicholas Pirhalla
Photo: Flickr

Documentaries About PovertyDocumentaries are a form of film or television which take advantage of the entertainment platform to inform audiences of important issues through a more gripping means. They range in topics from technological innovation to the controversial beauty industry. Many documentaries have also focused on another major issue of today: global poverty. Below is a list of the top five documentaries about poverty as of 2019 and where to find them.

Top 5 Documentaries About Poverty and Where to Find Them

  1. The End of Poverty?: Directed by Philippe Diaz, who is well known within the genre, the documentary debuted in 2008 and became notorious for its unique historical perspective on global poverty. It highlighted the ways poverty has amassed through the years, beginning as early as the 16th century and concluding with present day. The film describes how poverty thrives in today’s world through interviews with historians, economists and impoverished families from around the world. This documentary can be viewed on Amazon Prime.
  2. Dilli: This 2011 documentary about the slums of Delhi focuses on the hardships of individuals in the area. Though relatively short, coming in just longer than 30 minutes, the film has a firm impact on the audience. Through interviews with citizens, ranging from old to young, directors Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas depict these daily trials. The film received critical acclaim, winning 1st place in the Short Documentary category of the Los Angeles Movie Awards. This documentary about poverty can be viewed now on Youtube.
  3. Poor No More: This 2010 documentary focuses on the poverty of Canada’s working-class by following the journey of native citizens. It puts Canada under a lens in comparison with Ireland and Sweden in terms of their respective job markets. The documentary takes a moment to focus on poverty within a different context—within the context of a country which is generally presumed as wealthy and well structured. The documentary can be viewed on Youtube.
  4. Hauling: This documentary, which premiered in 2010, follows the daily life of the Claudine family, a household of 27 children, whose income is dependent on the recycling system of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Every day, they collect the leftover wood, plastic and cardboard of the city in exchange for meager payment from the local recycling plant. The film brings forth the discussion of poverty in Brazil and the ways which their citizens persevere. The film can be viewed on Amazon Prime.
  5. The True Cost: This 2015 documentary focuses on the fashion industry and the way it uses impoverished nations to obtain cheap labor and goods. The film highlights the controversy of the fashion industry and the way it abuses the environment and ignores basic human rights. This documentary about poverty can be found on Netflix.

Art and media can become a platform for the voiceless. In these five documentaries about poverty, the lives of the underprivileged are documented for the rest of the world to face. If people want to help, but they don’t quite know where to start, then they must take the first step to get informed. Any of these documentaries could be a place to start.

– Eleanora Kamerow
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Corruption in Hungary

After several subsequent electoral successes, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party have been accused of corrupt activity by the European Union and opposition parties in Hungary. Today, Hungary is ranked as 64 out of 180 countries in terms of corruption, ranking it “among the most corrupt Member States” in the EU. In the text below are 10 facts about corruption in Hungary.

10 Facts About Corruption in Hungary

  1. Orbán, along with the Christian Democratic People’s Party, holds a super-majority of 66 percent in Parliament, which allows them to amend the country’s constitution. To date, several amendments have passed that cement the power of Fidesz. Most notably, changes made to the electoral process reduce the chances of opposition parties winning seats. A new amendment modified the process so that 93 of the 199 seats are awarded proportionally based on the percentage of votes a party receives in the national election. The remaining 106 seats are won by receiving a plurality of votes in a local election, meaning that Fidesz can get 40 percent of the vote and still win the seat. Because opposition parties are divided, it is difficult for them to win these local elections.
  2. In March, the European People’s Party discussed suspending the Fidesz party from its bloc in the European Parliament amidst corruption allegations. This is not the first time that Orbán has been threatened with expulsion. However, no actions were taken at that time.
  3. Hungary regularly engages in unannounced “negotiated procedures,” which allow the government to strike a deal without going through an open competition. This has led some to accuse the government of mishandling EU funds. The 2014-2020 EU budget allocates €28 billion to Hungary, but critics worry that much of it will end up in the hands of Orbán’s family, friends and party loyalists. Adding to their concern, the prime minister’s office has sole authority in determining disbursement of funds. Elios Innovatív, owned by Orbán’s son-in-law István Tiborcz, had won a €40 million contract with the government in 2015. Lőrinc Mészáros, a longtime political ally of Orbán’s, has seen his wealth triple since Orbán’s election. He has become the second richest man in Hungary, owning 203 companies and receiving 83 percent of his companies’ profits from EU funds.
  4. From 2013 to 2019, Hungary’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index dropped from 56 to 87 in the world. The dramatic shift occurred when 476 private media companies simultaneously transferred ownership, without compensation, to the Central European Press and Media Foundation. Allies of the Prime Minister head the company, including István Varga, a former Fidesz member of Parliament, and István Bajkai, Orbán’s personal lawyer.
  5. The Fidesz Party declined to sign an agreement that would allow Central European University (CEU) to remain in Budapest. The university will now be forced to move its campus to Austria. CEU has several anti-corruption research arms, including the Anti-Corruption Research Group and the Center for Integrity in Business and Government. At multiple points, their reports were critical of the Fidesz government and accused it of corrupt activity. For example, one CEU research report wrote that the party engaged in “a constitutional coup d’état against an established democracy.”
  6. Through gerrymandering, Fidesz effectively limits opposition party participation. Gerrymandering ensures victory in what would otherwise be competitive districts. One study found that an opposition party needs to receive around 300,000 more votes than the Fidesz party needs in order to win a majority in the parliament.
  7. A 2016 poll reported that two-thirds of Hungarians regard their government as corrupt with 60 percent believing that corruption in Hungary goes to the top levels of government, including Orbán. This reflects a strong need for change, but the power accumulated through corruption has allowed Fidesz to continue to govern.
  8. Amid growing corruption concerns, an opposition politician named Akos Hadhazy gathered 680,000 signatures demanding that Hungary join the EU’s new anti-corruption arm, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. Hadhazy specifies many of these 10 facts about corruption in Hungary, but he is especially concerned about the use of EU funds. Thus far, Fidesz refuses to join, citing concerns about overreach from Brussels. Hadhazy said, “Now it’s up to EU institutions to increase pressure on the Hungarian government unless they want European taxpayers to finance a regime that openly works against the EU.”
  9. Transparency International Hungary (TIH), an anti-corruption NGO, considers young people to be essential to combating corruption. According to TIH, 90 percent of Hungarians ages 15-29 believe that corruption is present in their politics. However, they also find that only 25 percent of young people believe that reporting government corruption will be taken seriously. TIH hopes to mobilize the youth in their fight against corruption.
  10. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee provides free legal assistance to detainees, victims of police brutality and jailed protestors or activists. The group helped more than 1,400 people in 2018. From 2008 to 2018, it trained more than 4,000 lawyers, judges and states officers. The NGO describes itself as “one of the few remaining voices that publicly oppose attacks on civil society and the further democratic backsliding of Hungary.” Hungarian tax laws allow its citizens to donate 1 percent of their income tax to a nonprofit of their choosing. NGOs, including the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, encourage donations in order to continue their work. Through this, Hungarians may express their support for organizations working to combat corruption in their country.

According to the World Bank, Hungary has a poverty rate of about 15 percent, meaning almost 1.5 million Hungarians live in poverty. These 10 facts about corruption in Hungary threaten academia, the media, NGOs and several democratic institutions. This, in turn, threatens the well-being of Hungarian civil society, which is trying its best to create a more equitable and just Hungary.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr

Podcasts for Perspective: Three Shows Raising Global Inequality Awareness Since podcasting began to take off, this audio medium has really carved out a significant space for itself in American media with its on-demand, radio-like content. According to Edison Research’s 2018 podcast statistic report, 26 percent of Americans (73 million people) listen to podcasts on a monthly basis. Podcasts are easily available online or through any smart device and target virtually every interest and topic, including global inequality awareness.

Whether someone is new to podcasts or a regular listener, they are a great way to learn new things, expand people’s interests and gain perspectives on different topics. Below, are three suggestions for globally-minded podcasts. Though each of these podcasts has a different focus, they all contribute to raising awareness for global inequality issues relating to poverty.

Hacking Hunger

Produced by World Food Program U.S.A., Hacking Hunger shares stories about hunger from around the globe. Hacking Hunger connects listeners to the voices of aid workers and families involved with the World Food Program. By highlighting direct experiences, this podcast helps listeners imagine the realities of hunger from refugee camps to conflict zones.

Rarely longer than 30 minutes, Hacking Hunger offers concise, yet poignant stories from the frontlines of countries combatting hunger. According to the M.J. Altman, editorial director at World Food Program U.S.A., Hacking Hunger is most successful when it moves and motivates its listeners. By bringing attention to hunger issues worldwide, Hacking Hunger both raises awareness about and generates support for hunger relief funds.

Circle of Blue Podcasts

Circle of Blue is a non-profit, resource advocacy group that focuses on sanitation and water. Circle of Blue’s podcast covers water issues in depth by looking at how water relates to energy production, food, health and environmental topics. Though Circle of Blue has several programs (among them H2O Hotspots and What’s Up with Water), they are combined under “Circle of Blue WaterNews” on various podcast provider platforms.

With news-like quality and tone, Circle of Blue updates listeners on water issues worldwide. This podcast combines case-specific stories with connections to larger trends over time. Circle of Blue is a good podcast for listeners who want to explore how access to water contributes to inequality worldwide. Keep an eye out especially for the H2O Hotspot episodes, which feature in-depth stories on areas in danger of water-related conflicts.

Global Dispatches

From the team of the U.N. Dispatch, Global Dispatches covers foreign policy issues and world affairs. The show highlights policy-makers, aid workers, development experts and global affairs leaders through in-depth interviews. The varying content promotes global inequality awareness in many fields. For example, recent topics have included the link between poverty and vaccines, political conflict in Haiti and “energy poverty” in developing countries.

Despite the diverse content, the editor of the U.N. Dispatch blog, Mark Leon Goldberg, hosts the podcast and gives it a consistent voice between episodes. Global Dispatches contextualizes the central topic of each episode very well, making it easy to understand without prior knowledge. Episodes are generally fewer than 45 minutes long and updated frequently. This podcast is ideal for listeners who want to keep up-to-date with a diverse range of foreign policy issues.

Podcasts are a great way to stay informed when it seems like there are not enough hours in the day because they can be listened to on a walk or in the car. Listening to these podcasts (and others like it) can help people stay updated on different aspects of global issues and poverty as well as increase their global inequality awareness.

Morgan Harden
Photo: Flickr

Radio Naf
At the start of 2017, the refugees of Rohingya fled in the thousands from Myanmar. Today, many of their lives are still in disarray as they search for family, look for new homes and deal with the trauma from the violence that drove them out of their country.

Rohingya refugees often lack the information to take the next steps towards these goals. The use of media within camps has been vital to dealing with the emergency and keeping refugees connected with each other and the outside world, so Rohingya refugee media has been given a new voice: Radio NAF.

Radio NAF: A Voice for the Voiceless

In times of crisis like this one, access to information is almost as vital as food, shelter, and water. Local media can and has been used as a platform to update refugees on the status of their hometowns, educate them on sanitary practices and guide them toward necessary resources. Moreover, media has been used as a platform for refugees to voice their experiences and call the rest of the world to action.

Radio NAF is a community-based radio station in the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh. The station serves the rural and underserved communities in the region, which also happens to be home to the largest Rohingya refugee settlement, Kutupalong. The station interviews refugees and discusses the issues that affect them.

Due to the poor radio reception in these areas, all of the shows are prerecorded and brought to the communities through seven “listener clubs.” While the population in the settlement has declined slightly, listenership and attendance have risen, indicating that this is an invaluable source of information for those that come to and remain at the settlement.

But, another reason for the influx in attendance could also be the station’s ability to provide a voice to the voiceless. The station’s interviews allow individuals and groups in the settlements to make statements and send messages that reach far beyond the Rohingya refugee community. Its programs also tackle important issues like violence against women, and it also provides entertainment of the children in among the refugee, who comprise more than half of the population.

British Broadcast Corporation Media Action

Radio Naf is backed by the British Broadcast Corporation (BBC). BBC’s international development charity, BBC Media Action, has worked in conjunction with local Radio Naf employees—some of whom are refugees themselves—to analyze the issues and needs of the Rohingya refugees as told by the Rohingya refugees themselves.

The charity focuses its efforts on alleviating these specific problems, but it also shares all of its information with the United Nations, NGOs and governments working to mitigate the crisis. Through Rohingya refugee media, the people have the ability to make their voices thoroughly heard and get the message out to these organizations for swift and proper actions.

BBC backed Radio Naf has uncovered sanitary, financial, linguistic and logistic issues that continue to persist in the Rohingya refugee camps while sharing crucial necessities and calls to action to key players in the relief, which has been the focus of Radio Naf and its interviews. But, in order to bring about progress, this hope must be met with an eagerness to hear their voices and act on those issues.

Rohingya refugee media is an essential component to connecting refugees and working to alleviate some of the pain and misfortune that they have lived through. It has developed a platform for the spread of hope. This hope, after even a year into the crisis, echoes from community to community, from settlement to settlement.

– Julius Long
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents Argentina
Most of the media coverage surrounding Argentina has dealt with the country’s economic struggles, its crime rate, and, following the recent World Cup, its soccer team. The misrepresentation of Argentina by the media is evident due to the fact that negative coverage far outweighs the positive, giving the public a one-dimensional perception of this South American country.

More than a Soccer Nation

Beyond the financial crisis, much of the recent media coverage regarding Argentina has centered around the country’s World Cup run. Soccer is an immense source of national pride and a beacon of hope for many Argentinian fans, particularly during hard economic times. But soccer, while deeply engrained within the national fabric and heavily covered by the media, represents just one aspect of the diverse nation.

Portraying Economic Crisis in the Country

Argentina’s economy has far from met the expectations associated with market-friendly President Mauricio Macri. The value of the Argentine peso plummeted in April, resulting in a $50 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. This, coupled with high inflation, has brought persistent economic hardship to the country and poses a serious threat to Macri’s “zero poverty” campaign promise.

Much of the media coverage surrounding Argentina has focused heavily on the economic crisis and the crime associated with it. While the crisis is prevalent and a resolution is much needed, the rampant and disproportionate coverage of the crisis goes to show just how the media misrepresents Argentina. In doing so, the media taint the perception of the country and fails to portray the true image of Argentina, one of an improving economic and social condition.

Economic and Social Progress

In 2017, poverty in Argentina decreased by 4.6 percent and is currently at 25.7 percent, according to official estimates. Prior to the Macri presidency, transparency about Argentina’s poverty was scarce. The publishing of official statistics only began in 2016, after being halted by the former populist government in 2013. Macri has not only strived for zero poverty, but he has established the proper balances to hold his administration accountable, something that was not the case for Argentina’s recent past.

Macri has faced the delicate task of reducing Argentina’s poverty rate while also working to alleviate a large budget deficit incurred by prior administrations. Macri’s administration has focused on reducing this deficit with the help of the International Monetary Fund and the implementation of public-private partnerships. With private companies financing long-term infrastructure contracts, Argentina expects to attract $26.5 billion in investment by 2022, reducing pressure on the budget but also contributing to the fall in poverty through the creation of thousands of steady jobs.

The citizens of Argentina have also exhibited a strong commitment to social progress, pushing landmark legislation to the floor of Congress, the Senate and the offices of President Macri. However, media coverage of these events is brief if existing at all, failing to show a highly positive dimension of Argentina.

Justina’s Law

News that the Chamber of Deputies (lower house of National Congress) passed a grassroots piece of legislation that makes 44 million citizens organ donors was seldom reported. The official increase in donors will depend on how many citizens choose to opt out, but this legislation will undoubtedly ensure the survival of thousands of patients that are in need of organ transplantation. With the approval of this law, also called the Justina’s Law, Argentina would join the ranks of France and Netherlands in this landmark legislation.

While it is typical to hear for the negative aspects of Argentina’s economy and crime, the work being done to solve these issues or the positive impacts that the Argentine people themselves are having on their country is rarely discussed.

Though it may seem that the misrepresentation of Argentina in the media has little effect on the country’s economic and social outlook, this is far from the truth. Macri’s plan for foreign investment depends heavily on the perception of Argentina as a viable place for growth. The current administration’s commitment to accountability and poverty reduction, as well as social progress, show the world that the country is trending in the right direction.

– Julius Long

Photo: Flickr

BelarusThe Republic of Belarus is an Eastern European nation that boasts a free and universal education system, required for ages 6-14. Belarusian youth attend primary school from ages 6-9 and secondary school from 10-14, most remaining an additional 1.4 years until graduation. In Belarus, education is as accessible to girls as it is to boys.

Gender Discrimination in Society

Despite its accessibility, girls’ education in Belarus does not guarantee that girls will have the same opportunities as boys in adulthood. In 2016, the National Statistics Committee of the Republic of Belarus reported that women earned only 76.2 percent of the salary of men. In addition, many of the nation’s most profitable professions, namely in manufacturing, experience horizontal segregation with a majority of leadership positions being held by men regardless of female employees’ qualifications. This encourages high-skilled women to enter into low-wage public service jobs like education and health care, which are occupied almost exclusively by women.

The Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) and the Office for European Expertise and Communications (OEEC) attribute gender discrimination in Belarus to traditional, patriarchal notions that are ubiquitous throughout Belarusian society. These notions portray childbirth and motherhood as women’s greatest value and devalue the importance of their professional success.

The media, aspects of the compulsory education system, politicians and other government officials all contribute to the perpetuation of gender stereotypes. In a 2014 analysis, the OEEC describes the media in Belarus as “gender non-sensitive” and lacks an understanding of ideas concerning gender issues that they put out into their society. The ADC echoed these concerns in its 2016 report, pointing out that media outlets often refuse to acknowledge misbehavior when criticized for producing gender-biased content.

Gender Discrimination in Education

Belarusian schools, private and public, are at the will of the state and considered political bodies. The Education Code of the Republic of Belarus requires instruction in “the role and purpose of men and women in contemporary society.” Boys and girls attend separate classes to teach them their respective roles in society, reinforcing stereotypes rather than promoting individual development. Girls are instructed in matters of homemaking and boys are taught activities such as woodworking and carpentry.

In 2009, Deputy Education Minister Tatsiana Kavalyova highlighted the importance of ideology in schools, calling it “the backbone” of Belarusian education. According to Kavalyova, every educational institution in the country has an ideology department. As of 2009, the government has continued banning teachers and democratic activists in opposition to the government.

Government agencies have failed to enforce anti-discrimination legislation despite having signed the United Nations Millennium Declaration, among other U.N. documents that commit the country to working toward gender equality. As of 2012, 68 percent of government officials and politicians in control of these policies are men.

The OEEC found in 2014 that 86.6 percent of the general public viewed women’s lack of representation in politics as either the natural order of things or as a necessary consequence of their primary roles as wives and mothers. Some men in government have publicly expressed the same sentiment, claiming that “gender equality is perverting society,” that women are “apolitical by nature” or that they should “sit at home and make borscht, not roam around squares.” Yet, in the face of these challenges, there is promise that more progress will be made.

Hope for Girls’ Education in Belarus

The data that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has published paints girls’ education in Belarus in a favorable light. In the organization’s most recent statistics, Belarusian girls have consistently, if only slightly, come to surpass Belarusian boys in academia:

  • In 2015 and 2016, Belarusian girls had higher net enrollment rates in primary and secondary education. Rates for both girls and boys have steadily climbed from the low to high nineties since 2008, and the difference between boys and girls is less than one percentage point.
  • The 2015 transition rate from primary to secondary education was 0.34 percent higher for girls at 98.25 percent.
  • As of 2009, girls 15-24 years old have a 99.85 percent literacy rate, compared to the boys’ rate of 99.8 percent.
  • In 2016, 6,747 girls and 7,654 boys were out of school. Although these numbers fluctuate, there have been more boys out of school each year since 2010.
  • According to ADC’s 2016 report, 56.1 percent of women, compared to 43.9 percent of men, had a higher education.

With girls’ education in Belarus set firmly in place, NGOs have been able to focus on gaining gender equality in other ways. These organizations are able to focus their efforts on both preventing domestic violence and human trafficking and helping victims. Their work has also led to the National Scientific Research Institute of Labor’s development of a concept of gender equality and a gender assessment of current legislation by the National Center of Legislation and Legal Research.

One such NGO is Gender Perspectives, established in 2010. Gender Perspectives offers social, psychological and legal help to victims of domestic violence in Belarus, either directly or by referring them to other organizations and institutions. The organization created a hotline for victims in 2012, which responded to over four thousand calls in 2012 and 2013 and provided 117 with direct assistance.

In 2012, 54 women were selected for the National Assembly in 2012, which consists of 174 total delegates. Although they comprise only 32 percent and their admission was a result of a quota, women’s presence in the government offers hope that the state, with the help of NGOs, will establish gender equality that reaches beyond the sphere of education.

– Ashley Wagner
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents MadagascarThe perpetual stereotype that surrounds Madagascar is that its population consists of very few people, an enormous number of animals and an increasing rate of poverty. In fact, the first page of a ‘Google Image’ search of Madagascar provides half a dozen photos of people and dozens of photos of lemurs and other animals. The ways the media misrepresents Madagascar creates a skewed image of this African country as a place populated mostly by animals and an increasing rate of poverty.

Pivot

Several organizations advocate for the population of Madagascar. One such organization, Pivot, has created a district in Madagascar called the Ifanadiana District, which focuses on providing health care benefits for Malagasy people. Its population is now 200,000.

The organization aims to transform Madagascar’s health system through rights-based care delivery, strengthened public systems and a new era of science guided by the needs of the poor. Before this organization was located in the Ifanadiana District, one in seven children died before age five. Patients also had to find and pay for all medicines and supplies before treatment.

However, there was a 19 percent decrease of under-five mortality after Pivot intervened. Pivot has built hospitals and provided vaccines and health care to enlighten the people of this impoverished country. Pivot has made an extraordinary difference to the country of Madagascar and will continue to do so until it’s health system has been completely transformed.

Halt Poverty

Halt Poverty is another organization working to reduce poverty in Madagascar. The group’s current crowdfunding campaign is to support the building of a provision of safe water in vulnerable households surrounding areas of Fianarantsoa, Madagascar. The endeavor will only cost $2,945 to serve 200 people safe water, or $14.98 per person.

Halt Poverty uses adventure tourism to advocate for the support of poverty reduction in Madagascar. By exploring the natural landscapes and villages of this country, people are able to see the nation as it truly is. These tourists will support the local economy, protect the environment, respect the local culture and participate in poverty reduction.

These programs offer a deeper cultural insight than the one offered by tourism. Over the course of the trip, tourists will get a deeper intercultural understanding of Madagascar and gain exposure to volunteer opportunities that reduce poverty.

Reality of Madagascar

The media misrepresents Madagascar by portraying the nation as an impoverished country lacking in aid from poverty-reduction organizations, but this is not the reality. Although Madagascar experiences immense poverty, the poverty rate has actually decreased in the past couple of years.

In fact, the poverty rate decreased from 77.6 percent to 72 percent between 2012 and 2018. The World Bank reported that the Malagasy economy has been gradually improving ever since the return to legal order in 2014. Since 2016, the economic growth rate in the nation exceeded 4 percent. With trends such as these, one can see that Madagascar is improving in terms of its economy and poverty at a fairly quick rate.

On the Horizon

Although Madagascar is misrepresented in the media, there is, in fact, a great deal being done to give Malagasy people a better life. However, the misrepresentation of this country in the media has caused its issues to remain predominantly unknown.

The combined efforts of organizations like Pivot and Halt Poverty suggest improvements in tourism, health systems, poverty reduction and ultimately, a brighter future for Madagascar, are on the horizon.

– Megan Maxwell
Photo: Pixabay