Fragility and Rule of Law in BelarusWhen the Soviet Union collapsed, Belarus’ neighbors, such as Poland, seemed to continue on the path of modernization and prosper over the years, having managed to grow strong ties with organizations such as the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Belarus on the other hand saw rampant inflation, organized crime and corruption under its first and only president since gaining independence from Russia. This has drawn attention to addressing the fragility and rule of law in Belarus.

Often referred to as Europe’s last dictator, Alexander Lukashenko has served as Belarus’ president since 1994. During Lukashenko’s election and subsequent early years in power, many in Belarus believed he was the man to return the nation to normality and prosperity. However, many of his pledges did not come to fruition after nearly three decades in charge and several suspected human rights violations, rigged elections and suppression of free speech.

Human Rights

According to Amnesty International, regarding Belarus in 2021: “the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly remained severely restricted.” The justice system in Belarus seems to continually suppress dissent, with protests in the nation often resulting in the arrest and torture of key dissenters.

Major critics of the Belarussian regime often end up prosecuted and imprisoned. Major websites and national and international media outlets often face bans due to ‘extremist’ views. Trends like this suggest that there is little room for freedom of expression in Belarus.

Limited freedom of association appears to be another issue in Belarus. People’s Embassies of Belarus suggest that there has been an escalation of measures that serve to repress independent trade union activities. The measures often involve intimidation and outright violence. There has been an effective ban on Freedom of assembly in Belarus. Protest participants usually have to pay hefty fines and face detention of up to 15 days.

The Right of Peaceful Assembly indicates that whereas there has been a change in the law toward a process for assemblies, law enforcement in Belarus still systematically prevents peaceful protests concerning the fragility and rule of law in Belarus with excessive force.

Torture and ill-treatment remain widely used measures to limit dissent in Belarus. Those who commit such dissent-related crimes have been on the receiving end of total impunity by Lukashenko’s government. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Belarussian security forces have methodically imperiled hundreds to torture. HRW reported on the brutality of the Belarussian police force.

The state of refugees’ and migrants’ rights in Belarus has attracted condemnation from critics. The European Commission has accused Belarus of luring migrants to the nation with a false promise that they would have entry to the EU. As a result, thousands of migrants became stranded along the border between Poland and Belarus. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) suggested that some migrants received clearance from Belarusian soldiers to move into neighboring country Poland. These soldiers cut through border fencing at night to allow migrants to cross.

Rigged Elections

In Belarus’ last election, Alexander Lukashenko appeared to win 80% of the vote. However, due to a lack of observers present and a landslide victory for Lukashenko, many claim the elections were rigged.

Considering “the election was held amid growing frustration at Lukashenko’s leadership” and questions regarding the fragility and rule of law in Belarus with rallies for opposition parties attracting large audiences around Belarus, it may have surprised some to see an overwhelming majority vote for the current government.

Miss Svetlana Tikhanovskaya (Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya), the main opposition to Lukashenko, actually entered the election in place of her husband who had been previously jailed. The election has been heavily criticized by much of the West, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent in congratulatory messages. Ties between Belarus and Russia have grown considerably due to the isolation of Belarus by Western Europe.

Looking Ahead

When the USSR collapsed, Belarus was one of the poorest countries in Europe. Around half of the population lived below the poverty line during this period. However, in 2013, less than 1% of people lived in poverty, representing a 60% drop from 2000.

Belarus went through a period of significant economic growth from 2005 to 2011, outpacing many in Europe. This time happened to be during the financial crisis when many other nations suffered hardship. This progress suggested that Belarus can be resilient during tough global economic times. Unemployment has also significantly dropped since the 90s.  Belarus’ unemployment sat at 4.7% in 2021 compared to 24.4% in 1996.

Poverty still exists in Belarus. However, the situation seems to have steadily improved in comparison to when Belarus first gained independence. While it appears there may not be a clear end in sight to the present regime in Belarus, NGO Explorer states that there are still up to 152 NGOs working in the nation.

– Josef Whitehead
Photo: Flickr

living conditions in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is a Central American country bordered by Honduras to the North, Panama to the South and the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans to the west and east, respectively. Though Nicaragua has made substantial progress toward ending poverty in recent decades by cutting the national poverty rate from 47.9% in 1997 to 24.9% in 2016, much of the population still lack adequate access to food, education, employment and clean water. Addressing these issues is key to ending poverty and improving the quality of life for Nicaraguan citizens. Here are four NGOs improving living conditions in Nicaragua.

4 NGOs Improving Living Conditions in Nicaragua

  1. SosteNica: SosteNica is a Nicaragua-based NGO that focuses on helping local farmers transition from subsistence farming to agro-entrepreneurship. While subsistence farmers produce the majority of food in Nicaragua, they often lack access to technology, training and opportunities that could allow them to expand their profits and yields. SosteNica recognizes these limitations and helps promote agricultural growth by introducing farmers to crops and practices that allow for year-round harvesting, connecting them to national markets, and providing modest investments to assist in expanding their operations. By helping local farmers, SosteNica increases food access and stimulates local economies, both of which transform living conditions for people in Nicaragua. One success story is local farmer Daniel Rocha, who “used to harvest 20 quintals (2000lbs) and now, with SosteNica’s support, (harvests) 50 to 60 quintals (5,000 – 6,000lbs) per manzana (1.7 acres).”
  2. Educo in Nicaragua: Educo is a global organization that aims to provide educational opportunities for children worldwide, operating in North and South America, Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania. Commencing its work in Nicaragua in 2004, Educo’s impact is an impressive positive force throughout the country. The organization has been instrumental in advancing education quality in 81 schools and leading projects that improve educational opportunities for more than 11,000 Nicaraguan citizens. While Educo works by training teachers, providing school supplies and expanding the reach of educational institutions, it also focuses on creating a befitting environment for students by providing schools with running water, electricity and overall clean facilities.
  3. El Porvenir: Operating since 1990, El Porvenir is an NGO that seeks to expand access to clean drinking water for the people of Nicaragua. It takes a comprehensive approach in order to fulfill this goal, emphasizing education on safe and sustainable water usage, providing better waste management techniques, working on reforestation efforts and assisting in building wells and irrigation systems. For example, El Porvenir not only helps construct household double pit latrines and community wash stations but also educates locals on the water cycle and environmental sustainability. In its time in Nicaragua, the organization has assisted 649 clean-water projects, constructed 14,311 latrines/toilets and improved living conditions for more than 240,000 Nicaraguans.
  4. Nicaragua Nonprofit Network: One of the more innovative NGOs improving living conditions in Nicaragua is the Nicaragua Nonprofit Network. Among local humanitarian organizations, there is often poor communication. Things like limited online presence, moving from place to place or only operating seasonally can cause organizations to overlap in their efforts or simply work less effectively than they otherwise could. Not only does this limit the opportunity for positive change to occur, but it can also be damaging to communities if organizations implement different strategies or technologies that do not work well together. Because of this, the Nicaragua Nonprofit Network is dedicated to cataloging all humanitarian nonprofits in Nicaragua and facilitating their communication and cooperation. By consolidating information and making it more readily accessible, organizations can more easily collaborate and complete their goals.

Looking Forward

Though recent developments in Nicaragua’s political situation make the fate of these NGOs uncertain, they have still done great work, and will hopefully continue to improve living conditions in Nicaragua.

– Xander Heiple
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Charities in SomaliaThe Somali state officially collapsed in 1991, and the country has been prone to violence and conflict ever since. In 2021 alone, political tensions prevented essential human rights reforms while conflict-related abuses, insecurity and humanitarian and health crises greatly affected civilians. Journalists faced extreme prosecution by federal and regional authorities. Additionally, there was no system in place to ensure the protection of human rights. An armed group, Al-Shabab, was responsible for hundreds of civilian attacks and deaths. The violence, according to the United Nations, has displaced between 60,000 and 100,000 Somali people.

Impacts of the Conflict

The conflict has also caused an increase in sexual and gender-based violence, especially towards women, which often results in death. The U.N. reported that the government interfered in investigating sexual violence incidents. Children are also facing great abuses; the conflict is so dire that children are becoming injured, experiencing recruitment as child soldiers or even dying.

According to the U.N., more than 2.6 million Somalis are internally displaced, mainly due to the conflict. Persistent drought, flooding, locust swarms and the COVID-19 pandemic have all contributed to the exacerbation of this crisis. Humanitarian agencies are facing serious challenges in accessing the people due to violence, deliberate attacks on aid workers and physical restrictions due to extreme weather.

However, there are several organizations in Somalia that are working, despite these violent conditions, to provide relief and aid to the Somali people. Here are five charities in Somalia.

5 Charities in Somalia

  1. OXFAM International: OXFAM has been in Somalia for more than 40 years. It works with local communities and authorities, as well as civil society, to provide humanitarian assistance and implement long-term development initiatives. OXFAM specifically focuses on providing water, sanitation access, hygiene supplies and ensuring food access. The organization’s goal is to meet immediate needs, while also setting the foundation for long-term recovery and resilience efforts. By constructing water sources and water trucking to remote communities, OXFAM hopes to improve water access. Additionally, the organization is constructing latrines and funding cash grants for the communities to use. Finally, OXFAM advocates for Somali debt cancellation, as well as more inclusive gender and youth-related policies.
  2. ActionAid International Somaliland: Another one of the many organizations in Somalia is Actionaid International Somaliland — a global justice federation that works to promote social justice, gender equality and the eradication of poverty in Somaliland, a northern and independent region of Somalia. Somalia’s independence has never received formal recognition, meaning it is prone to conflict. In this area, Actionaid International fights for basic rights to food, land, education and life security. For several years, the organization has worked to promote increased food security. Its main objective is to “contribute to the improvement of living conditions of [the] most poor and marginalized communities in Somaliland” and “to improve food security and promote endogenous development in 21 villages, through the improvement of agricultural production, the development of new commercialization channels and the promotion of women’s entrepreneurship.” The organization hopes to increase agricultural and food production, improve the capacities and marketing skills of farmers for agricultural and nonagricultural products, improve the living standards of women and sustainably manage the use of natural resources.
  3. Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Somalia: ADRA is an organization in Somalia that works to promote well-being in four specific areas: WASH, Education, Livelihoods and Emergency. In the WASH area, ADRA improves access to safe, potable water for vulnerable communities. In the “Education” section, ADRA works to increase access to education for students of all levels. This also entails strengthening educational structures and resources for the efficient delivery of educational services. The “Livelihoods” section involves building community assets and establishing safety nets so that civilians can better withstand recurring disasters. Finally, the “Emergency” section entails providing immediate, multi-sectoral assistance to people experiencing crisis and humanitarian emergencies.
  4. MercyCorps Somalia: MercyCorps Somalia, another one of the key organizations in Somalia, has been providing relief in Somalia since 2005 but especially increased efforts given the recent COVID-19 pandemic and increasing violence in the country. The organization focuses on five main areas: humanitarian response and resilience, quality basic services, inclusive economic growth, youth civic and economic engagement and participation/trust/accountability. In the humanitarian area, MercyCorps helps Somalia prepare for and respond to crises by addressing needs like food, sanitation, water access and shelter. In the “quality basic services” area, the organization improves well functioning and other water facilities. To promote economic growth, MercyCorps develops and manages savings groups for displaced youth and women. The organization promotes youth civic and economic engagement by providing vocational training and supporting small businesses. This helps mitigate issues of poverty and unemployment. Finally, MercyCorps strives to improve communication between communities and the government.
  5. Somali Youth for Peace and Development (SYPD): Somali Youth for Peace and Development (SYPD) is a nonprofit, humanitarian organization based in Somalia. It works to promote sustainable development and peaceful co-existence. It works with three core objectives: peace-building, development and humanitarian action. SYPD resolves injustice with nonviolence, establishes projects to promote sustainable development, and provides emergency humanitarian relief. Its initiatives have occurred in 71 Somali districts, and it has successfully organized and implemented more than 100 projects. Additionally, SYPD has reached more than 1 million Somali people.

Despite the challenges that Somalia has been facing, these five organizations have had a significant impact. Through their work to aid Somalia, life has improved for many Somali people.

– Shiloh Harrill
Photo: Flickr

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

NGOs in UkraineUkraine has a long history of political turmoil and foreign interference since it achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. From the annexation of Crimea in 2014 to Russia’s covert war in the Donbas, Russia has consistently engaged in undermining the territorial and political integrity of Ukraine. Remaining in line with these actions, on February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladamir Putin authorized a military invasion, or what he dubs a “special military operation,” against neighboring Ukraine. During the first week of the invasion, 1 million refugees fled the destruction and warfare taking place in Ukraine. In light of the destruction that the Russian invasion caused, NGOs in Ukraine are trying to funnel much-needed aid from international donors to Ukrainians.

Medical Assistance

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to an abysmal shortage of necessary medical supplies. Ukraine is “facing shortages of zeolite,” a necessary material for the manufacturing of medical oxygen, and by March 1, 2022, UNAIDS announced that Ukraine has “less than a month’s” supply of HIV/AIDS medication. In addition, Ukraine has had to abruptly pause efforts to contain Polio “as health authorities shift to emergency care.”

With the lack of medical supplies, NGOs in Ukraine, including Doctors Without Borders and Project HOPE, have been funneling medical aid to alleviate the critical medical shortages in Ukraine. Doctors Without Borders is organizing kits of both medicine and medical equipment to alleviate Ukraine’s medical shortages from Doctors Without Borders’ logistical bases in Bordeaux and Brussels. To increase the supply capacity for medical assistance, Doctors Without Borders is also establishing warehouses in Western Ukraine.

Project HOPE, with more emphasis on supporting Ukrainian refugees, is operating in Eastern Europe to deliver crucial medical supplies to fleeing Ukrainians in coordination with government agencies. In Moldova, Project HOPE has been coordinating with Moldova’s Ministry of Health to deliver medical supplies for Ukrainian refugees, which includes an Interagency Emergency Health Kit designed to assist 10,000 individuals for a span of three months. The Interagency Emergency Health Kit consists of one ton of medical resources, such as medical supplies, topical treatments, oral therapeutics and medical devices.

Refugee Assistance

Aside from NGOs in Ukraine delivering medical assistance, NGOs are also operating outside of Ukraine in Eastern Europe to support refugees. In particular, “CARE’s partner organization” is operating with aid workers on the Slovak-Ukrainian borders to establish heated tents for people to rest as well as sanitation facilities and portable toilets. For refugees, emergency relief teams are also providing “crisis intervention and psychosocial assistance” services.

The organization People in Need is also providing heated tents, designed to provide a space for Ukrainian refugees to rest, capable of holding up to 200 individuals. The organization is also providing water, hygiene items, food and SIM cards for communication on the Slovak-Ukrainian border. Furthermore, People in Need has also established facilities for Ukrainians waiting for border control near Velky Berezny to vet them.

The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is critical: the U.N. estimates that an additional 4 million individuals “may flee Ukraine.” While the Russian invasion of Ukraine is dim, there is hope as NGOs in Ukraine are providing aid and local organizations are working to alleviate the refugee flow from Ukraine into Eastern Europe.

– Alexander Richter
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in DelhiIndia is one of the fastest-growing economies, with a population of more than 1.2 billion people, 30.7 million of whom live in the capital city of Delhi. People frequently view Delhi as an exceptionally wealthy area due to its abundance of posh communities like Vasant Vihar, Jor Bagh and Green Park. However, within India, in its own capital city, people are battling to survive without bare necessities. In Delhi, impoverished people are isolated from the rich. Opulent retail centers and cafés surround slums and some slums are wedged between rich neighborhoods. Poverty in Delhi, concealed in the cracks of luxury, is vastly different from the overall picture of the city as a whole.

Delhi’s Dichotomy

Delhi is one of India’s most economically prosperous cities with an estimated GDP of approximately $293.6 billion. The typical Delhi resident “earns three times more than the average Indian.” Within one of the most affluent communities in Delhi, Vasant Vihar, however, is Kusumpur Pahari, a quagmire of poverty and home to 10,000 slums. Its inhabitants cram themselves into close quarters, deprived of the necessary elements of a stable life. Only miles away is Delhi’s biggest shopping mall and its 102-meter-high civic center. This lopsided situation leaves slum residents working tirelessly to survive as servants to the rich residents of Vasant Vihar. Poverty in Delhi is visible within the city’s slums.

Delhi’s Slums: Kusumpur Pahari and Madanpur Khadar

Kusumpur Pahari is home to mostly migrants from “UP, Bihar, Orissa and Assam.” Slum-dwellers labor as drivers, gardeners and housekeepers for their wealthy neighbors. Kusumpur Pahari residents often live in one-room shacks that have no running water. However, circumstances have substantially advanced in the previous decade as a result of hard work by a women’s association. In 2016, there was no flowing water in Kusumpur Pahari, but owing to the efforts of the women ‘s association, a truck now brings freshwater to the neighborhood every several days.

Madanpur Khadar is another slum in the suburbs of Delhi. With narrow streets and a sewage line that runs right through it, these slums’ residents suffer.  In 2000, the government chose it as the area for relocating vast numbers of slum families from other locations of the city. The bulk of the people that live in Madanpur Khadar collect and sell rags. Inhabitants suffer from polluted drinking water and sanitation issues. Though they experience less than desirable conditions, NGOs have taken notice of this area. Madanpur Khadar’s women and HIV-affected dwellers are receiving help from these organizations, as reported by So City. Additionally, the slum is now on the map after 15 female residents collaborated with local nonprofit organizations in 2018 to help their community benefit from increased internet visibility of their location.

Sangam Vihar, Kathputli Colony and Seemapuri Slum

Sangam Vihar is a slum community that houses people moving from surrounding states, primarily Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, according to So City. It has no freshwater access and a lack of community toilets, which leads to exposed defecation, producing sanitary concerns in the area. Poverty in Delhi and water shortages have transformed Sangam Vihar into a refuge for thieves and brought rise to gangs whose members are willing to murder for water. Fights and killings are commonplace in Sangam Vihar, where water is limited.

Kathputli Colony is the most interesting slum in Delhi with illusionists, puppet masters and many different types of entertainers living in the area, according to So City. People recognize Kathputli Colony for its colorful buildings and roads bustling with street performers. Due to the prevalence of poverty in Delhi, India tries to hide its slums. However, whenever it wants to demonstrate its cultural prowess, India showcases this particular slum. Though a sluggish source of money and transformation, slum walk tours through Kathputli Colony appear to be creating more financial opportunities for the dwellers. Slum walk tours are helping to fund a school and provide the residents with a quality of better life.

Seemapuri slum is home to around “800 of the locality’s 1,700-odd residents.” The slum-dwellers battle to secure basic sanitation, water and electricity because the area is an unofficial community that is cut off from the city’s essential utilities. According to So City, Seemapuri serves as an example of poverty in Delhi with exposed sewers where women fetch contaminated drinking water and reside in mud dwellings where it is normal for seven to eight people to occupy only one small room.

Addressing the Problems of the Slums

Dr. Kiran Martin, the founder of the Asha India organization, is a well-known name in the domain of poverty reduction. Asha’s programs aid more than 700,000 people in more than 91 Delhi slum colonies. Martin’s efforts have earned her the Padma Shri, one of the country’s highest civilian honors. The Asha India organization dedicates its time to reducing poverty in Delhi, particularly within the slums. It aims to empower residents, provide better health care, increase educational opportunities and make environmental improvements. In 2018, the organization celebrated its 30th birthday and continues to push toward its goals today.

With the ongoing efforts of organizations, hope is on the horizon for the divide between the wealthy and the impoverished in Delhi to one day come to a close.

– Tiffany Lewallyn
Photo: Flickr

The Developmental Sector
Activists are urging politicians and development agencies to reform foreign aid and humanitarian work on the ground. Critics of the developmental sector tie it to colonialism, and actors within foreign aid are thinking about improving the quality of life for people around the globe while also moving away from colonial ideologies. Outreach International is one of the organizations helping to change the realities of the developmental sector.

The Relationship Between Colonialism and the Developmental Sector

The foreign aid sector has received criticism for being a neocolonial agent. The arguments are that Western countries impose their cultures on non-Western cultures through development programs and that the Global North portrays the Global South as helpless.

In the history of development programs, Western countries have imposed their values on non-Western countries and have touted modernization. Prominent Western officials, who were unaware of the Global South’s everyday realities, designed the programs without input from the actual citizens. The West brought values and practices to non-Western countries that were not necessarily important or even helpful for the people in these countries, as these experts mainly were from non-aid countries.

Additionally, some have portrayed foreign aid recipients as helpless. The foreign aid sector has not historically given agency to people in recipient countries to decide what they want for their futures and how they wish to achieve it. A mentality developed that the Global North could “save” the Global South from misery and poverty even though the Global South was not asking for anyone to save it.

The developmental sector receives criticism, but it has also helped people around the world. For instance, from 1990 to 2019, extreme poverty has substantially decreased from 36% of the global population to 8% of the worldwide population, maternal and infant mortality rates have reduced by 50% and smallpox cases no longer exist.

Neocolonialist criticisms invite the developmental sector to reflect on its history and current practices. The inclusion of voices from aid-recipient countries in creating and implementing development programs can produce sustainable poverty reduction.

Prioritizing Community Voices: Outreach International

Outreach International is a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the challenges of global poverty. The organization partners with nine locally-registered nonprofits that operate in nine countries spanning from Africa to Latin America to Asia, and the organization has been in operation for 42 years. Outreach International’s program interventions focus on organizational, capacity and leadership development. The organization, alongside its program and community partners, has worked on 541 community issues, and 62,724 people benefit from the organization’s work.

Collaboration with local communities in poverty-reduction work is the cornerstone of Outreach International’s programming. In fact, The Borgen Project spoke with Dr. Elene Cloete, Director of Research and Advocacy for Outreach International, and she shared that, “We [Outreach International] believe that you can support people in obtaining greater social, economic health…. They [locals] are in [EC1] and should be in the driving seat of their community-led development.”

The Participatory Human Development Process (PHDP), Outreach International’s own methodology, creates sustainable improvements to everyday life. Through the PHDP, the organization and its program partners facilitate discussion among community groups so that locals are the ones who identify the poverty-related problems that are most salient to them and so that local communities can create their own solutions. The PHDP enables communities to plan their futures.

Outreach International’s On-the-Ground Success in the Philippines

Rural communities often face high rice prices in the Philippines. Rural communities also rely on wage labor in the agricultural sector, and rural Filipinos can only work during the planting and harvesting seasons. Between these seasons, many rural Filipinos are out of a job. Combined with high rice prices, rural Filipinos struggle to feed their families.

Outreach International, its program partner, Outreach Philippines, Inc. and rural Filipino communities have worked together to establish a program that allows rural communities to access rice from their own community-based organizations at very low interest, especially in comparison to the other options that rural Filipinos have. The community groups implement rice loan projects through which they buy rice at an affordable price because they purchase the rice in bulk. The interest rate powers the growth of the local community groups by increasing the number of people who can take part in them.

Rural communities own and run the rice loan project, and the program’s rice and money remain in the communities, giving agency to rural Filipinos and allowing them to access a more sustainable source of food. Dr. Cloete sums the program up beautifully; “That’s the beauty of it. Because the project is owned, managed, driven by the community, they have ownership over the project. And they can decide what issue they want to address next. We have this beautiful cyclical thing that takes place.”

Activists and organizations within the developmental sector are encouraging it to veer away from neocolonialism and instead make local voices heard. Outreach International is a crucial example of championing sustainable poverty reduction through the empowerment of local communities. The organization is contributing to changing the developmental sector, and it will be exciting to see Outreach International’s growth and impact over the coming years.

– Anna Ryu
Photo: Unsplash

Women's Rights in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, with a population of 6.6 million inhabitants. Women in Nicaragua face many challenges such as increased poverty and violence. The following will present several areas where women’s rights in Nicaragua require improvement.

Violence Against Women

In Nicaragua, violence against women in the form of abuse is one of the most serious social issues that the country faces. Among married women in Nicaragua, 52% have reported cases of spousal abuse, with a median duration of five years. Additionally, 21% of these women reported an overlap between both emotional and sexual violence, with 31% of these women being sexually and/or violently abused during their pregnancy.

Needless to say, these statistics are disheartening and scary. With such high rates of abuse around the country, there seems to be little or no hope for Nicaraguan women to escape this abusive cycle. However, there are several organizations that have contributed to the decrease of sexual abuse in southern countries, such as Self-Help International. It is the largest global organization that works to prevent torture and abuse of all sorts by educating and empowering women in developing countries. Misinformation about abusive relationships is very common among Nicaraguan women. Organizations like this allow women to escape this kind of relationship.

The Gender Gap

The Human Development Report has ranked Nicaragua 124 out of 189 countries based on Gender Equality Index in 2017. Additionally, women are more likely to face poverty in Nicaragua than men. With facts like these, it is evident that there is a disparity between men and women in Nicaragua.

Family members are often the ones who push women in Nicaragua to the sex trafficking industry. Additionally, 28% of Nicaraguan women give birth before they are 18, which is mostly due to sexual violence. This is the issue of society not discouraging violence against women.

Women’s Rights and Poverty

The 2016 poverty rate in Nicaragua was 24.9% with an average salary being $265. A large number of women in Nicaragua experience pregnancy at a young age. They usually stay at home and care for their children rather than working and garnering an income. However, the income that their male counterparts provide for their families is frequently insufficient. In fact, about 78% of households in Nicaragua live in ‘substandard’ conditions, the highest rate in all of Latin America.

This problem returns to the roots of the gender gap and women’s treatment in Nicaragua. It means that the cycle of women having children at a young age and caring for them with a low household income will only continue across the years, even affecting future generations. This means that one of the most important places to start with solving this problem is encouraging education about abuse.


Though there are certain difficult cases that prevent the maximum execution of women’s rights in Nicaragua, hope still exists for the country. With a declining number of abuse cases due to the exposure of organizations like Self-Help International, women’s rights in Nicaragua are beginning to solidify. Self-Help has been working to solve global issues like hunger and poverty since 1999, and it provides education and opportunities for women in these countries. In 2019, Self-Help was able to offer clean drinking water to 3,600 Nicaraguan residents in nine communities. With this preceding success, it is likely that Self-Help’s initiative to alleviate the women’s rights issues in Nicaragua will quickly gain traction.

Self-Help is currently working on a project to educate and empower 200 Nicaraguan women through workshops and microloans. This could lead to a reduction in young women entering and staying in abusive relationships. It is the success of the organizations like this one that can bring hope to women and influence the policymakers when spreading awareness about women’s rights.

Though Nicaragua’s statistics regarding women’s rights and abuse are not yet within positive measures, the work of NGOs should result in the improvement of conditions for women in Nicaragua over the next decades.

– Andra Fofuca
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

Child Poverty in Austria
The Republic of Austria is a landlocked nation located in Central Europe. With its rich history and picturesque mountain views, Austria is a well-traveled country in the European Union (EU). Nevertheless, child poverty in Austria is a topic of discussion for many officials and leaders in the Central European nation. In 2019, approximately 372,000 Austrian children and youth younger than 20 years old lived in households vulnerable to social exclusion and poverty. These children, in particular, are more likely to be deprived of opportunities and basic needs in comparison to wealthier households. As such, organizations aim to address child poverty in Austria.

4 Facts About Child Poverty in Austria

  1. Roughly 6.2% of Austrian children live in conditions of relative poverty. About 33% of Austrian children “live with at least one person” who is a migrant. In this case, it is notable that poverty disproportionately affects the migrant population. Other children in impoverished conditions come from large families or single-parent households.
  2. Austria has a particularly high number of child refugees. In Austria, “1,751 unaccompanied migrant children applied for asylum in 2017.” Austria takes in many migrant children from the Middle East and from other war-torn areas of the world. Vienna, the capital of Austria, funded a program for unaccompanied minors coming to Austria, particularly trafficking victims.
  3. Child trafficking is rife. The United States Department of State’s 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report for Austria specified that a Vienna-based program offered legal, psychological, social, language and medical assistance to victims, including child trafficking victims. Though this program did not work in practice, it still aided NGOs and other organizations that advocate for children, migrants and asylum seekers to better identify trafficking victims. Therefore, this initiative still aided the overall global human trafficking crisis, with a particular focus on children.
  4. Rising child poverty rates. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which began in Paris, France, is an organization with various member countries that have commitments to world trade and overall economic progress. It reported that children from Austria are relatively better off when looking at the organization’s average poverty numbers, though these numbers are deceptive. Despite this fact, in 2015, the OECD reported an increase in the number of Austrian children living in relative poverty, even though the country is performing relatively well according to OECD standards.

SOS Children’s Villages

Several organizations aim to address child poverty in Austria. One such NGO is SOS Children’s Villages. The organization’s founder, Hermann Gmeiner, was an Austrian citizen. Gmeiner established the organization in the Austrian town of Imst, Tyrol, in response to the growing number of children suffering “without parental care in post-war Austria.” The organization works with children and families to tackle child poverty worldwide. SOS Children’s Villages has a large presence in Austria, with various initiatives like family strengthening programs, support for children who do not have adequate parental care and accommodation for refugee children. Over the last seven decades, SOS Children’s Villages has improved the lives of more than 4 million children worldwide.

With organizations committing to reducing child poverty in Austria, there is hope for Austrian children to look to a better and brighter tomorrow.

– Rebecca Fontana
Photo: Flickr