Nonprofit Organizations That Empower WomenThere are numerous international nonprofit organizations empowering women and girls around the world that are doing great work. They all focus on women and girls living in severe poverty who are experiencing barriers to their social and economic well-being. About 70% of all people living in poverty are women and girls. Cultural beliefs may restrict women’s access to basic education and other resources, which leads to profound economic inequality, financial illiteracy and financial dependency. Women around the world are also susceptible to experiencing high rates of sexual and gender-based violence including intimate partner or domestic violence. These experiences and the denial of basic rights contribute to the disempowerment of women. Here is some information about three nonprofit organizations that empower women and girls across the globe.

Women for Women International

Women for Women International serves poor and socially marginalized women in 14 conflict-affected countries. Some of these are Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Nigeria, Iraq and Rwanda. The organization’s broad goal is to support female survivors of war and conflict.

Women for Women International provides a 12-month program that invests in women’s skills and community rebuilding. The year-long program uses a “Gendered Graduation Approach,” which combines elements such as social protection, livelihood development and financial access.

Women for Women International is also empowering women by providing them with educational resources that they would otherwise not have exposure to. The program teaches new topics every two weeks, and these not only include traditional education like numeracy and literacy but also subjects that teach the value of women’s work, such as gender equality, women’s solidarity and networking, leadership, advocacy and health and wellness just to name a few. Educating women in financial literacy is also an essential pillar of the organization’s work. The program provides each participant with $10 per month over the course of 12 months; these cash transfers give women the important opportunity to be responsible for their own money. Upon graduating from the program, “79% more women reported being involved in household decisions about having more children, and 56% more reported being involved in financial decisions.”

Participants also report that their daily income more than doubled upon completion of the program, averaging $2 compared to $0.80 at the beginning of the year. Women for Women International also notes that the average savings for the women who participated increased from $13 to $88 by the end of the program.

The Maasai Girls Education Fund (MGEF)

The Maasai Girls Education Fund (MGEF) is empowering women and girls of the Maasai community in Kenya. It works in Kajiado County, “where two-thirds of Kenya’s Maasai population lives” and “only 48% of Maasai girls are enrolled in school.” Only 5% of those who are enrolled in school make it to the secondary level. Maasai girls living in poverty tend to drop out due to financial constraints and detrimental cultural norms such as early/child marriage or the belief that girls do not need to receive an education. The Maasi Girls Education Fund’s broad goals are “to increase enrollment of Maasai girls in Kenya, reduce the dropout rate and support every student until they have the knowledge and skills to enter the workforce in Kenya.”

The organization directly helps Massai girls by providing scholarships from primary school all the way through the university level. It has a network of volunteers who locate young Maasai girls that may not be able to obtain an education otherwise, obtain their parent’s permission and helps them enroll in boarding school.

Providing girls with the opportunity to attend boarding schools removes the physical and cultural barriers that contribute to girls’ low educational attainment. It can also eliminate physical barriers that girls may have to attend school, such as long walks. Boarding schools also provide girls with the space to pursue their education without impeding cultural pressures like early marriage. Educational opportunities for women and girls also result in improved literacy, health and economic independence metrics.

The organization also provides life skills workshops dedicated to educating the Maasai community (girls, boys, mothers, chiefs and elders) about HIV, female genital mutilation and “the social structure that makes girls vulnerable to teen pregnancy.” The program demonstrates to the community the economic value and other benefits of educating girls. The aim is to instill an acceptance of girls’ education within the community. Since 2000, the organization has helped more than 250 Maasai girls receive primary to post-secondary education.

Women’s Global Empowerment Fund

Founded in 2007, the Women’s Global Empowerment Fund is helping those in northern Uganda living in poverty through its programs that have political, social and economic focuses. Its programs provide women in poor and rural areas with microcredit services, leadership development, health initiatives and basic business and literacy education. The Women’s Global Empowerment Fund partners with local on-the-ground organizations so that the communities and cultures inform the programs.

The organization’s Credit Plus program has helped provide thousands of loans to women who “would normally not have access to traditional banking and lending institutions.” This supports women’s economic empowerment by promoting small-scale entrepreneurship. Additional programs include a healthy periods initiative, a literacy program, agricultural loans and training, leadership development programs and other training initiatives. Its programs provide women in “post-conflict northern Uganda” with space for activism.

The literacy program provides participants with materials such as books and pens, and the program includes classes over the course of six months. The organization has claimed that as of 2016, more than 1,400 women have participated in its literacy program.

Each of these nonprofit organizations uplifting women emphasizes the importance of education in the pursuit of women’s social empowerment and economic independence. The Women’s Global Empowerment Fund states that “It is through information and education that self-esteem and empowerment are facilitated, enabling women to stand up and lead themselves out of the vicious cycle of poverty that is often presented before them.”

– Ashley Kim
Photo: Flickr

Tijuana’s Poor
Casas de Luz is an organization based in Solana Beach, California. It builds homes and community centers primarily in Tijuana, Mexico through the help of volunteers and donations. Volunteers stay overnight in the Mexican city during their two-day build period helping Tijuana’s poor. Building teams drive around in caravans to ensure they are safe.

Poverty in Tijuana

Tijuana is a city in the state of Baja California, Mexico. As of 2020, it had a population of around 2 million. There are an estimated 100,000 homeless people in Tijuana. Around 22% of the population live in moderate poverty and 1.84% live in extreme poverty. Around 3.3% of the population lacks access to water. These statistics give way to organizations like Casas de Luz to lend a helping hand to Tijuana’s poorer residents.

Although crime rates in Tijuana have decreased over the past five years, the city remains somewhat dangerous. It scores 72.22 on the crime index and 27.78 on the safety index. Ensuring that Tijuana’s poor have a home to sleep in at night leaves fewer people susceptible to criminals.

Casas de Luz’s Process

The only things volunteers need to do to be part of a building trip are signing a liability form, paying a builder fee and packing for the weekend. All the necessary building tools will be available on sight. The organization encourages volunteers to bring donations of furniture and any other household items for the family whose house they will be constructing.

Every week, volunteers cross the Mexican border and head to Tijuana, driving in a caravan. Drivers have to purchase Mexican liability insurance for the weekend. They first meet at the building site, where the foundation of the house already exists. Master carpenters guide and lead volunteers throughout the entire process. The family who will live in the house typically helps in construction. Children typically work on painting the walls before the builders put them up. The goal for the first day of construction is to have the roof attached in case of rain. As a personal touch, builders write well wishes hidden inside of a house’s walls.

When the building team finishes work for the day, they all drive to either Casa Hogar de los Niños, an orphanage that is empty during the weekends, or Faro de Luz, Casas de Luz’s community center. Casa Hogar has a security system and always has a security guard on duty. At Faro de Luz, a security guard will watch the cars the whole night.

People interested in building for Casas de Luz can sign up at their website. A $50 builder fee is necessary and covers any vital essentials throughout the weekend (including two lunches, a dinner and a breakfast).

Casas de Luz Achievements

Since Kathy Faller, Gersom Ayala and Amada Ayala founded Casas de Luz in 2005, the social justice action program has built more than 150 homes throughout San Diego County and Tijuana. They have also aided in constructing two community centers in Mexico, Faro de Luz (Lighthouse) and Peña de Horeb (Horeb’s Rock). Additionally, Casas de Luz has transferred and administers more than 900 truckloads of donations.

Faro de Luz serves as a church in addition to being a community center. During the COVID-19 pandemic, children have gone to Faro de Luz and attended classes through the community center’s TV. Casas de Luz’s Feed the Future program takes $5 donations that provide one week’s worth of lunches for one child.

At Peña de Horeb, another community center and church, children are eligible to receive breakfast five days a week, work on their homework after school and access food and water before their classes start. In 2013, builders added a kitchen and dining area to the center. In 2016, construction began on a two-story building containing four classrooms and a church with the help of Lazarian world homes.

Thanks to the number of donations Casas de Luz receives, Gerson and Amada Ayala no longer fund it solely. Communities have grown able to sustain themselves and Tijuana’s poor have significantly benefited from the program.

– Sophie Buibas
Photo: Flickr

NGOs in Turkey
Turkey has the largest refugee population in the world, hosting more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees and about 320,000 refugees from other countries. With mass amounts of people migrating to Turkey, there are several complications that must be accounted for, one being the issue of accessible education for those entering the country. Listed below are three NGOs in Turkey that have been helping refugees and local students access educational resources.

Darussafaka Society

Five young male scholars founded the Darussafaka Society in 1863 with the aim of providing quality education and resources to those in need. The Darussafaka Society provides scholarships and academic opportunities to children in need of financial aid or children who have lost a parent. Each year, 120 students receive opportunities from the Darussafaka Society. Its aim is to present equality of opportunity in education to its students, even though its students do not come from financially stable households. Darussafaka alumni have found successful careers in both the public and private sectors in Turkey. Many others have taken the opportunity to study and work abroad. As the Darussafaka Society boasts more than 155 years of experience, it is currently working to provide online learning options due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including international programs, through a virtual format.

Turkish Educational Foundation

The Turkish Educational Foundation (TEF) is one of the oldest educational philanthropic NGOs in Turkey, as it has been in service for about 51 years. Unique to the other NGOs, TEF is based in Berkeley, CA, allowing it to have more international connections and resources than foundations solely based in Turkey. TEF’s primary objective is to provide accessible education to those in need regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds. Each year, TEF supports 1,000 Turkish students with their programs. It offers several unique programs for international volunteers including a Youth Group which works to fundraise and communicate their message, and an English Learning Program where students can learn from English-speaking volunteers from around the world. TEF is currently working with its Youth Group to maintain the program’s success throughout the COVID-19 pandemic via virtual fundraisers and events.

The Imece Initiative

The Imece Initiative, one of the most prominent NGOs in Turkey, has been working since 2014 to provide education services specifically to Syrian refugees in Turkey. One of the Imece Initiative’s primary beliefs is that education should not undergo distribution based on a child’s ethnic background, but that education should be accessible to everyone. “We wanted to create a community free of political and religious considerations,” stated founder Ali Güray Yalvaçlı. “To give the opportunity for anyone, regardless of their background, to contribute with their skills and time to help those in need.” One of its most notable projects is The Solar Age Project, which supports women refugees in Turkey by teaching them life skills that help them in finding employment once they undergo establishment in the country.

With organizations like these, it is easy to see that there are lots of opportunities for both refugee and native students in Turkey to receive the best education possible. Though it can be easy to lose oneself in the negative effects of poverty in the world, organizations like the ones introduced above provide hope for a better future of education for all.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Flickr

Empowering Women in Vietnam
Like in many emerging economies around the world, women in Vietnam form the majority of the working poor, often earning less than men and having fewer high-income opportunities. In Vietnam, many disparities between men and women result from gender-based discrimination and the social acceptance of inequity. These can manifest in educational discrimination and pay discrimination.

Without equal resources and support, young girls lack the necessary skills and acceptance for their futures to move beyond vulnerable positions or “invisible” jobs such as homeworking and street vending. However, many organizations are working to promote equity for women in Vietnam, whether through government lobbying or independent support. Here are three NGOs empowering women in Vietnam.

The Asia Foundation

Working throughout the continent, The Asia Foundation has worked in Vietnam specifically for more than 25 years, partnering with local NGOs and governments to improve women’s livelihoods. This organization seeks to strengthen and improve women’s and girls’ economic opportunities and autonomy. It has advocated for more inclusive political atmospheres and worked to expand women’s rights. To expand women’s economic opportunities, it partnered with the Vietnam Women Entrepreneurs Council to increase women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises.

With funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The Asia Foundation facilitated a mobile banking platform aimed toward low-income populations in Vietnam. In 2017, The Asia Foundation provided 333 girls with secondary schooling scholarships, school supplies, books, uniforms and bicycles. Through its expansive and integrated approach to empowering women in Vietnam, The Asia Foundation provides the tools necessary to help create an equitable future for women and girls.

Women’s Empowerment and Voice (WEAV)

This organization is unique among the three as it consists of Vietnamese Americans, including general members and leadership. Members’ work focuses on the improvement and inclusion of impoverished girls and women in a complete education. By providing the opportunities necessary to complete a college education, WEAV enables the potential for higher-paying careers and a wider variety of employment options.

In Vietnam, “[o]nly boys can expect to be educated at the primary and secondary levels,” according to the organization.” As a result, this organization funds scholarships for girls needing financial support to stay in school. Women’s Empowerment and Voice supports more than 100 women attending four different colleges in the Mekong Delta. Since WEAV launched in 2011, it had its first college graduate in 2015.

Additionally, it continues to increase the number of scholarships with each passing year. Its dedication to uplifting women in poverty or in financial need supports women and their families, lifting overwhelming economic burdens. WEAV provides futures by breaking down barriers of discrimination and socioeconomic disadvantages to empower women in Vietnam, allowing bright minds to shine.

CARE

In covering a wide variety of circumstances, CARE’s programs in Vietnam work to enhance women’s economic growth and prevent gender-based violence, including workplace sexual assault. Since its work in Vietnam began in 1989, eliminating gender-based discrimination and mapping strategies to eliminate poverty have helped underprivileged communities. A recent program that CARE formed called “Ignite” seeks to boost women-led entrepreneurship in Vietnam, placing these businesses at the forefront of their fields.

Despite the growth in women-owned businesses, numbers remain low and often unseen. Ignite hopes to improve visibility and support entrepreneurs in maintaining businesses. The program seeks to accelerate the growth of 50,000 enterprises and positively impact at least 340,000 entrepreneurs, of which at least 70% would be women. In order to stand against social norms disassociating women from business, CARE provides access to resources and support organizations ready to assist women, allowing for more equitable opportunities both within and outside of the workplace.

Looking Forward

Despite Vietnam’s economic growth and development over recent decades, social norms and financial inequality leave women with fewer opportunities and lower incomes than men. However, these three NGOs empowering women in Vietnam lay the groundwork for effective positive change.

With their support, women can hold more political autonomy and economic power, while other organizations and programs focus on alleviating financial burdens on families to allow girls a comprehensive education. As the Australian government partnered with The Asia Foundation, the United States and other economic powers have the opportunity to reflect such a partnership and increase funding toward poverty elimination and gender equity worldwide.

– Mikey Redding
Photo: Flickr

health care in the drc

While the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is abundant with natural resources and a thriving ecosystem, decades of armed violence have left the nation impoverished. Currently, health care in the DRC suffers from understaffing and underfunding concerns. Moreover, it is only readily available in certain regions of the country. To better understand this issue, here are four facts about health care in the Congo.

  1. Health care exists in a pyramid structure. The DRC government, aided by several NGOs, funds and controls the public health care system in a four-level model. The first level of health care in the DRC is community health centers. These are open for basic treatment and utilizes nurses for care. The next level contains centers where general physicians practice. The third level pertains to regional hospitals, where citizens can receive more specialized treatment. The fourth and highest level is university hospitals. At all levels, appointments are needed to see physicians, and as they also only see clients on certain days of the week, wait times can be long. This prompts patients who require specialist treatment to often see community nurses instead. In addition, USAID currently provides health care services to more than 12 million people in almost 2,000 facilities.
  2. The country lacks health care workers. Health care in the DRC is limited. Statistically, there are only 0.28 doctors and 1.19 nurses and midwives for every 10,000 people. Furthermore, access to health care in the Congo’s rural regions is extremely low due to the remote state of many villages. The northern rural areas of the DRC hold less than 3.0% of the nation’s physicians while Brazzaville, the capital and the most heavily populated city, holds 66% of all physicians. This is despite the fact that the capital only holds 37% of the Congolese population.
  3. Health care funding in the DRC, though low, steadily rises. The government of the DRC has made noticeable progress in increasing funds for health care. Between 2016 and 2018, the proportion of the national budget dedicated to health care increased from 7% to 8.5%. While this increase in funding is life-changing for many, it still pales in comparison to the budgets of many other countries. The U.S. currently allocates 17.7% of its GDP toward health care. The DRC, however, is on an upward trajectory. It seeks to reach a target of 10% allocation of the national budget for health care by 2022.
  4. The DRC’s vaccination rates are improving. In 2018, the government of the DRC implemented The Emergency Plan for the Revitalization of Immunization. The plan aimed to vaccinate more than 200,000 children for life-threatening diseases in a year and a half. While the outbreak of COVID-19 in the nation has been a major setback to the plan, the Mashako Plan, as it is referred to, was responsible for a 50% rise in vaccinations since 2018. This rise occurred in “vulnerable areas” and brings countless more children immunity for potentially deadly diseases.

Despite a lack of health care workers and resources, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is making steady improvements to its health care system. Efforts to make vaccinations a priority and allocate more of the country’s budget to health care each year already yield results. Organizations such as USAID aid these improvements. The combination of NGOs and the government’s new emphasis on health care provide an optimistic outlook for the future of health care in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Caroline Bersch

Photo: Unsplash

Integrating Technology
In 2010, Toshi Nakamura and Ewa Wojkowska created Kopernik, an NGO dedicated to providing proper living standards by integrating technology within rural villages. Toshi and Ewa were former UN workers who researched tribes existing within Thailand, Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. The organization currently has four divisions that coordinate donations, financial consulting and technology. Each section is divided between locations in New York, Indonesia and Japan. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kopernik continued its pre-planned projects for tribes in financial distress. This shows how lucrative and dedicated the organization has become.

Partnerships and Projects

Kopernik realizes that changing the world requires collaboration, and proudly announces partnerships whenever a new project undergoes initiation. In March 2020, Kopernik and the Malaysian Administrative Modernization and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU), collaborated to introduce Cirebon, Indonesia to digital resources. A businesswoman named Kurian, who owns a 12-person furniture manufacturing business in Cirebon, received help from Kopernik and MAMPU to reach more lucrative digital markets and develop her online marketing skills; Kurian was able to double her profits and reach markets as far as Mexico. MAMPU and Kopernik have historically helped many women-owned micro-businesses develop, despite poverty-stricken circumstances. Kopernik’s Indonesia headquarters runs a Wonder Woman program that empowers female entrepreneurs to learn about business strategies and cleantech resources. The organization trains local women on the technical use of solar panels, mobile phone chargers and biomass stoves that are a low price.

The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI)

In February 2021, the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) partnered with the ecstatic Kopernik. They collaborated on the development of “the Waste for Water: Creating A Community-Led Water Desalination Business to Provide Clean Drinking Water to Coastal Villages in Indonesia” project. In 2016, Kopernik flirted with a similar idea by selling the Carocell 3000 water purifier. It tested the experiment within Likotuden, East Flores. The purifier was able to produce 10 liters of freshwater per day, and safely distilled seawater, groundwater and overall contaminated/polluted liquids from local reservoirs. However, the project showed that 10 liters were not enough to provide for the community.

The two NGOs decided to start their project of integrating technology in the coastal villages within Nusa Penida, Bali and partnered with Wujudkan. They wanted to create a community-operated desalination plant that produced up to 3,000 liters daily. The last part of the project is an information campaign that shared guidelines for safe drinking water, water purification and the importance of preserving and sustaining water management.

Technology

Kopernik’s biggest achievement has been integrating solar technology in Indonesia’s “last mile.” By the end of 2020, Kopernik fostered funding support from the Abu Dhabi government to provide 3,600 solar lanterns and 1,000 mobile charging solar lanterns to the southeastern of Borneo. D.Light, a U.S.-based technology company that sells products for as low as $7, develops the solar lanterns. It also develops solar systems that people can purchase through micropayments.

Kopernik also paired with Greenlight Planet, which offers 6kW solar system installation to people in Sumba for $3.60 per month for a three-year period; Sumba Sustainable Solutions (3S) is a company that partnered with Kopernik to enact similar strategies and resources for solar solutions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sumba faced a financial hit from the decreasing tourism industry. 3S devised solutions for boosting revenue in Sumba’s agriculture section. 3S provided a solar-powered corn and rice mill to help farmers create higher sales prices within the crop market. Also, 3S founder Sarah Hobgen claimed that “[instead] of grinding corn manually with stones or pounding rice in a wooden tube, we lend them the mills for just IDR 500, or $0.03 per kilogram.” Both Kopernik and 3S have received international prizes for their support.

Agricultural Work

In September 2020, Kopernik initiated the Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) program in Papua. The program intended to teach agricultural regulations through interactive modules, videos and field practices. This GAP program helped farmers in Papua develop enhanced skills in farm production and post-production. It taught safe techniques to harvest food and agriculture products while including economic, social and environmental sustainability. GAP had farmers focus on the production of cacao, a plant used to make chocolate and cacao butter, by focusing attention on proper plant drying techniques. Kopernik introduced the idea for a solar dryer, which the organization has been blueprinting since 2016.

Kopernik and Papua farmers finalized the dryer within a remote village called Berab. Building a solar dryer involves ventilation and space between the cacao plant. In previous designs, racks were 12.5 cm apart. However, the on-site production showed that 30 cm enabled more ventilation and space for farmers to stir the beans. Due to limited resources, UV plastics replaced the polycarbonate feature, which captures solar light transmission, to capture the right amount of light energy. Additionally, instead of using iron for the framing, the farmers insisted on wood because of familiarity with the resource. Despite the challenges, the farmers finished construction within five days. The device cut the drying process from five days to three.

The Future of Kopernik

Kopernik continues to develop innovative projects, bring together lucrative business partners and work toward integrating technology. The year 2021 is seeing more digital solutions within the company as support for ending poverty increases for Kopernik.

Matthew Martinez
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa has a direct impact on poverty in the region. When adults are too ill to work, they and their children can quickly fall into extreme poverty, which leads to hunger and malnutrition. Around 46% of Africa’s population lives on less than $1 a day; an even larger proportion than was the case 15 years ago. Despite these challenges, organizations like Wild4Life are working to expand the reach of healthcare into these underserved communities.

Poverty and Health Care in sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region in the continent. Close to 60 million children under the age of 17 work instead of attending school in an effort to help their families rise out of poverty. Every fifth child is forced into child labor. This effectively means that when grown, that person will lack education and most likely remain in poverty. This social plight creates a vicious cycle in which chronic malnutrition, growth disorders and physical and mental underdevelopment occur. These health issues further limit an individual’s opportunity to earn a living later in life. In addition, 25 million Africans are infected with HIV, including almost 3 million children — the highest rate of infection in the world. Many of these children have lost one or both parents and are living on the streets.

Government expenditure on healthcare in Africa is very low; typically about $6 per person. This means that medical workers experience huge pressures, operating with little-to-no equipment or means to reach rural populations, Such challenges make healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa difficult to provide.

Good News about Health Care in Rural Communities

The good news is that organizations such as Wild4Life are working to reverse these disturbing healthcare trends. The NGO’s mission is to expand the reach of health services to underserved remote, rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa that have limited or no access to healthcare. To achieve this goal, Wild4Life has developed an incredibly innovative service delivery model. The aim of this model is to reach more people than previously would have been possible. Wild4Life works to establish the basic building blocks of a healthcare system. It believes that a well-functioning system has a lasting effect on a community’s overall health and longevity.

Expansion to Twelve African Countries

The Wild4Life model involves partnering with organizations that are already established in remote locations, and that have put together links with people in the local community. This approach leverages the existing infrastructure, social ties and knowledge bank in cooperation with Wild4Life’s network of health providers. This allows support and treatment to impact some of the hardest-to-reach people and places on earth.

Wild4Life began as an HIV/AIDS program in Zimbabwe, but it has expanded throughout sub-Saharan Africa.  Now operating in twelve countries — Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe —the organization delivers extremely low-cost healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa and provides interventions that are scalable yet sustainable.

Community Partnerships to Improve Health Care

The goals of the NGO include assessing the needs of rural populations and targeting the health issues that most affect them. It also seeks to build clinics in remote areas; strengthen rural healthcare networks; provide quality healthcare and improve community partnerships so that creative ways to address problems become permanent solutions. For example, Wild4Life trains community leaders to mobilize local demands for healthcare services and advocate for quality care from clinic staff and maintain facilities. This results in significant infrastructure improvements. The NGO also organizes events around such topics as improving healthy behaviors and coming up with strategies for the best way to use clinic funds.

Five Clinics in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe alone, Wild4Life has a network of five clinics. These clinics have achieved remarkable results, including hundreds of lives saved by new diagnosis and treatment of HIV as well as other preventable diseases. The organization believes that there is not one single technology or innovation that will create a lasting impact on the health of people living in rural communities. Instead, it partners with all levels of the healthcare system to locate the gaps in the extant setup. By doing this, it hopes to leave behind a resilient, local healthcare system for those who need it most.

During comprehensive clinical mentoring, well-trained, multi-disciplinary teams composed of six specialists comprehensively mentor clinic staffs on primary care conditions. These conditions include HIV, TB, Integrated Management of Childhood Illness and testing for anemia. Such services also aid in labor and delivery. This process also covers monitoring and evaluation of data quality, pharmacy management and clinic management over a two-year period.

Scaling Up to Improve Healthcare in Africa

Wild4Life has significantly scaled up since its inception, through government, nonprofit and for-profit connections. It has gone from delivering care to remote areas, to building healthcare networks in rural populations. As a result of its expansion plan, 70,000 more people will have access to high-quality health services in their communities. By training clinicians and community members in the most up-to-date medical care delivery, the NGO is changing the way that rural healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa is delivered.

Sarah Betuel

Photo: Flickr

Oceania's Isolated Families
The diverse cultures inhabiting the plethora of Oceanic islands in the Pacific Ocean interest people across the world. With over 12 million people combined living on these islands (every country excluding Australia and New Zealand), Oceania has developed small isolated farming communities into cultures that primarily thrive off mineral exports, tourism and agricultural goods. However, these communities are having difficulties providing health care to Oceania’s isolated families.

Getting By

Many typically consider Oceania’s island countries to be poorer nations, dependent on trade from larger nations; yet this sentiment is misleading. Despite some country’s struggling, Melanesia and Micronesia both boast low unemployment rates. Moreover, Fiji has had a 5% unemployment rate as of 2017. However, these rates of unemployment do not tell the full story.

The employment opportunities in these countries vary between the islands, although government employment typically supports most citizens. However, most of the islands have hardly any people employed in the health sector. Isolated island chains, such as the archipelago Kiribati, have smaller islands with no doctors at all. When considering that even the most remote islands have populations exceeding 50, the problem is evident; how will these people receive medical treatment?

A Rooted Problem

This problem generates a cycle for the isolated populations living on the islands. Their unhealthy diets, which primarily consists of imported non-perishables for many islanders, leave them potentially overweight and susceptible to diseases and infections. In worse news, the islands seldom have medicine available. These cultures depend on shipments from larger countries to provide medicine to their people, which usually only come every few months (or not at all).

This creates an ever-lasting problem for the native island populations because they are susceptible to infections, yet have little to no available treatment. When matters reach life-threatening circumstances, some families have no choice but to fly their loved ones off the island to a larger nation, typically New Zealand or Australia, and opt for life-saving surgery. This leads to massive medical bills which many of the poorer families on the islands may never pay off.

The NGO Solution

Community development and government action will spur the islands’ long-term change, but for now, NGOs are lending their efforts to the cause. One organization, called Sea Mercy, approaches island poverty in multiple ways, but one initiative, called FHCC, funds a two-week trip aboard a boat for volunteer physicians of various fields to sail to isolated islands and provide medical care for the people living there.

Many other NGOs, such as Pacific Islands Medical Aid, operate under similar parameters of sending volunteer physicians to the islands, providing health care, sending shipments of medicines and even teaching tactics to local nurses. Even though their stay is limited, these physicians save countless lives annually just by their timely presence. This shows that even with a small amount of available medical professionals, many Pacific Islands would have much less difficulty providing health care to Oceania’s isolated families.

Looking at the Future

While these islands slowly continue to grow, increased job diversification will continue, reaching each independent land, optimistically leading to more health specialists for Oceania’s isolated families. For now, NGOs provide excellent service, saving lives and setting a global standard. With the brilliant cultural diversity of Oceania, preserving the health of these nations should sit as a top global priority.

– Joe Clark
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Guar InitiativeGuar is a bean that South Asian farmers have cultivated for centuries. The grain is the source of guar gum, a key ingredient in many products, ranging from condiments to cosmetics. The Sustainable Guar Initiative was launched in 2015 with the goal of improving the livelihoods and incomes of smallholder guar farmers in the Bikaner region, India.

The Sustainable Guar Initiative

The NGO TechnoServe leads the initiative’s on-the-ground implementation. Solvay, L’Oreal, Henkel and HiChem serve as partners of the program.

The initiative benefits more than 7,000 guar-farming households in Bikaner and operates across 36 villages. TechnoServe has facilitated the launch of a farmer producer company, which helps connect guar farmers with potential buyers. The initiative has built a traceable supply chain, which ensures that everyone from the farmers to their crops’ consumers benefits from the exchange.

Additionally, the initiative features social programs aimed at improving the well-being of farming households. One way the initiative achieves this is by educating the families on growing kitchen gardens.

The Impact of COVID-19

As of July 30, India has seen over 1,600,000 people tested positive for COVID-19. Over 40,000 people have tested positive in the state of Rajasthan and, just in the city of Bikaner, over 1,900 contracted the disease.

The Indian government declared a national lockdown on March 25 given the complexity of the situation. Since then, life has changed significantly for smallholder guar farmers in Bikaner and for the people working to support them through the Sustainable Guar Initiative.

TechnoServe’s team in India told The Borgen Project that guar farmers now face various challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many farmers can no longer sell their crops, disrupting the incomes they rely on. Lockdown measures also prevent farmers from finding daily wage labor to supplement their incomes. These farmers face a shortage of resources necessary to continue growing guar, like tractors, seeds, laborers and working capital.

These challenges could pose a real threat to Bikaner’s farmers. Though Rajasthan, the state where Bikaner is located, has made progress toward reducing poverty compared to India’s other low-income states, 15% of Rajasthan’s population still lived below the poverty line in 2012. With their incomes stagnating, guar farmers and others throughout the state could fall into (or deeper into) poverty as the COVID-19 crisis drags on.

Virtual Engagement

TechnoServe and their partners are working to keep smallholder guar farmers from this unpleasant fate. To do so without spreading the virus, TechnoServe has been engaging virtually with farming households since March 2020.

As the TechnoServe team in India told The Borgen Project, the virtual engagement strategy involves multiple communication methods. The team uses text messages, audio calls, video calls and conference audiovisual calls to communicate with households. Local personnel delivers training through digital platforms. Guar farmers who have both good communication skills and access to smartphones are then tasked with disseminating the training information throughout the villages.

Since May 2020, the TechnoServe team has reached approximately 4,959 male farmers and 1,238 female farmers through phone calls alone. The team reported technical difficulties in the switch to virtual engagement but they have been able to work around these challenges and develop closer ties with the farmers through one-on-one virtual interactions.

The TechnoServe team said that after six months, they will review the efficacy and efficiency of these virtual engagement strategies and their impact. The team will also evaluate the state of the COVID-19 outbreak. Based on these two areas of concern, the team will decide whether to continue with virtual engagement through the end of the fiscal year (ending April 2021) or to adjust training methods.

Supporting Farmers

TechnoServe and its partners are also taking larger steps to further the goals of the Sustainable Guar Initiative amid the pandemic. Here are five ways that the initiative is supporting the farmers in the longer term:

  1. Kitchen Gardens: Solvay and L’Oreal established a COVID-19 relief fund. TechnoServe identified over 534 farming families whom the COVID-19 pandemic has made vulnerable. Tapping into the relief fund, the TechnoServe team has facilitated the distribution of seeds to these families. The families can plant these seeds in kitchen gardens, which provide them with more diverse food options and give them a potential second source of income. Growing food at home also allows women to avoid shopping in crowded markets, where they could become infected with COVID-19.
  2. Farming Equipment: TechnoServe is providing 534 vulnerable farming families with weeding, plowing and hoeing equipment for the approaching monsoon season. This equipment will enable the families to continue growing guar once the season starts.
  3. Protection Against COVID-19: TechnoServe is raising awareness about social distancing and safety protocols while providing the smallholder farmers with ways to protect themselves against the virus. The TechnoServe team said they plan to provide Sanitary Protection Equipment to the 534 vulnerable farming households.
  4. Guar Sales: To help farmers who cannot sell their crops during the pandemic, the partners of the Sustainable Guar Initiative have worked together to help peasants sell their guar above the local market price. This allows farmers to pay for daily expenses and invest in another year of crop cultivation.
  5. Price Floor Implementation: Solvay and L’Oreal proposed implementing a price floor for guar. This means that farmers would be guaranteed a reasonable price for their crops. While the initiative’s partners work out the arrangement’s details, Solvay has been offering a price for the farmers’ guar above the market rate.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so do challenges for the smallholder guar farmers of Bikaner. But thanks to TechnoServe and their partners, the Sustainable Guar Initiative persevered through the crisis. The initiative provides needed support for a vulnerable population during unstable times.

Emily Dexter
Photo: Flickr

Argentia's slums, Buenos Aires slums
Argentina is the fifth-highest country with the most COVID-19 cases in South America, with 111,000 recorded cases by mid-July. Moreover, Argentina’s COVID-19 related death toll has nearly doubled since June, surpassing 5,000 cases. Confirmed illnesses continue to be on the rise, with more than half concentrated in the urban hotspot of Buenos Aires City. Approximately 88% of all cases in Argentina are reported from within Buenos Aires, its impoverished slums or its surrounding regions.

COVID-19 in Argentina

While the federal government acted early to contain the virus, including imposing a strict nightly curfew since March, Argentina’s most impoverished remain extremely susceptible to COVID-19 and its dire economic consequences. For example, within Buenos Aires’ slums, families often have to sell their homes to afford meals for their families.

Nearly half of all Buenos Aires cases were estimated to be in its slums in late May. In some instances, outbreaks became so alarming that the government would enforce security and fences around these neighborhoods to ensure residents do not spread the virus—at the expense of residents’ increased impoverishment.

Regional non-governmental organizations (NGOs) within Argentina recognized these hardships faced by low-income Argentinians and are currently working to mitigate the health and economic consequences. Here are five NGOs battling COVID-19 in Argentina’s slums.

5 NGOs Fighting COVID-19 in Argentina’s Slums

  1. Chequeado, Spanish for “Checked,” is an online journalism platform that fact-checks public information on Argentinian politics and society. The organization’s website has recently launched a new COVID-19 section to keep citizens informed about the fact-based science behind the virus. The section also covers COVID-19 cases and newly implanted preventative measures. Headlines range from the effectiveness of spraying items with alcohol to the evidence surrounding the transmission of COVID-19 by air. Given the growing number of slum residents having access to the internet due to Argentina’s globalization efforts, this news outlet is accessible to slum residents who would not have access to the information otherwise.
  2. International Organization for Migration, or IOM, works with state and non-state actors to assist migrants through various means, ranging from counter-trafficking to resettlement support. During the COVID-19 pandemic, IOM is working with the Argentine Red Cross to provide food and cleaning supplies to vulnerable migrants. The organization is also ensuring all migrants understand COVID-19 precautions, translating public information to French for migrants from Haiti and Senegal, as well as English for migrants from Jamaica.
  3. Pequeños Pasos, translating to “small steps,” aims to bring sustainable development to the lives of Argentina’s impoverished. While the NGO focuses on missions ranging from education to employment, health and nutrition have been at the forefront of its efforts. Given the looming issue of extreme food insecurity due to COVID-19, Pequeños Pasos has launched an emergency food project to feed more than 12,500 people at risk of hunger in Buenos Aires slums. For a year, the NGO will provide monthly emergency food bags to vulnerable families.
  4. Asociación Civil Ingeniería sin Fronteras Argentina is a civil engineering organization that has taken on the project to quadruple the capacity of ventilators in Argentine hospitals. This solution aims to alleviate the possibility of ICU units reaching over-capacity and providing a sufficient number of ventilators for COVID-19 patients. The project aims to raise $7,015 to expand Argentina’s existing ventilator capacity, potentially saving thousands of Argentine lives. As a disproportionate number of slum-dwellers are contracting the virus, this aid will help them overcome the effects of COVID-19.
  5. Las Tunas is an education-based NGO that offers children and adolescents various educational resources, including scholarships and arts empowerment classes. In light of the socio-economic effects of COVID-19, the organization has expanded its efforts to help families remain economically stable. New website resources include a “Monitoring, Accompaniment and Early Detections” program that helps set up productive quarantine routines for families. The NGO also has a unique “Economic Development” program, which provides families with business strategies and training materials to increase household incomes. Original educational programs for youth are now also delivered online.

Looking Ahead

While COVID-19 cases in Argentina have overwhelmingly affected the country’s impoverished populations, diverse civil society organizations are working to combat the effects of COVID-19 in Argentina’s slums. Whether through economic empowerment or preventing misinformation on COVID-19, these five NGOs aim to stabilize Argentina’s most marginalized’s living conditions during the pandemic.

—Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr