American ExportsThroughout the past several decades, nations in Southeast Asia have seen significant declines in extreme poverty rates. As poverty has fallen and these nations have developed economically, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has become the United States’ fourth-largest trading partner. While the United States does rely heavily on this region for imports, trade with ASEAN also supports American exports and bolsters nearly 346,000 American jobs. The following five countries in Southeast Asia are critical trading partners and demonstrate the economic benefits that can coincide with a decrease in extreme poverty:

1. Malaysia

Malaysia has been extremely successful in reducing poverty throughout the past several decades. According to the United Nations, “… in 1970, 49.3% of Malaysian households were below the poverty line.” As of 2015, the figure had fallen to 0.4%. As poverty has fallen, Malaysia has also grown economically, developing profitable manufacturing, petroleum and natural gas industries.

As the country has reduced poverty and developed economically, it has become an important trading partner to the United States. The United States imports electrical machinery, tropical oils and rubber from Malaysia. It also exports soybeans, cotton and aircraft to the nation. In total, the trade between the two nations totals around $57.8 billion each year and supports nearly 73,000 American jobs.

2. Thailand

Thailand is another country that has seen impressive levels of poverty reduction in recent decades. According to The World Bank, poverty rates fell from around 65% in 1988 to under 10% in 2018. The nation has also evolved economically, developing large automotive and tourism industries as poverty rates have fallen.

Trade between the United States and Thailand has steadily grown, totaling $48.9 billion in 2018. When analyzing imports, the United States relied on Thailand for machinery, rice and precious metals. In terms of exports, the United States provided the nation with electrical machinery, mineral fuels and soybeans. In total, the exports to the nation supported nearly 72,000 American jobs. Additionally, exports to Thailand have been increasing in recent years, growing nearly 14.5% from 2017 to 2018.

3. Vietnam

Vietnam is perhaps one of the most astounding examples of poverty reduction and economic development. The World Bank reports that “the poverty headcount in Vietnam fell from nearly 60% to 20.7% in the past 20 years.” As it has done so, the nation developed one of the most rapidly growing middle classes in Southeast Asia, became a center for foreign investment and developed key industries in electronics, footwear and textiles.

While the United States has come to heavily rely on Vietnamese imports, Vietnam is also a rapidly growing market for American exports. In fact, American exports of goods to Vietnam increased by 246.9%, and American exports of services to the nation increased 110% since 2008. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, “U.S. exports of Goods and Services to Vietnam supported an estimated 54,000 American jobs in 2015.”

4. Indonesia

Though the nation still has significant progress to make, Indonesia is another nation that has seen a reduction in extreme poverty rates. Since 1990, the nation has managed to half its poverty rate and make significant economic advancements. Currently the largest economy in Southeast Asia, the nation has developed notable industries in petroleum, natural gas, textiles and mining.

Trade with the nation totaled around $32.9 billion in 2019. While the United States imported apparel and footwear from the nation, it also exported soybeans, aircraft and fuels to Indonesia. In total, American exports to Indonesia are growing, increasing 19.1% from 2017 to 2018 and supporting nearly 56,000 American jobs.

5. Philippines

While poverty is still an issue in the Philippines, it has seen significant declines in recent years. According to the World Bank, poverty fell from 26.6% to 21.6% from 2006 to 2015. The nation has also made significant improvements in developing industries outside of agriculture. While agriculture composed nearly one-third of the nation’s GDP in the 1970s, it currently represents 9.3%, split between an emerging industrial and service sector.

Trade with the nation currently provides $29.6 billion each year, and exports to the Philippines grew 3% from 2017 to 2018. Mainly, the Philippines relies on American exports for electrical machinery, soybean meal, and wheat. Overall, exports to the Philippines support an estimated 58,000 American jobs.

Affecting nearly one in five American jobs, international trade is a critical part of the American economy. As demonstrated by Southeast Asia, a reduction in global poverty rates not only contributes to global economic development but also supports the export industry and American jobs.

– Michael Messina
Photo: Pexels

sustainable development in the philippines
The Federation of Peoples Sustainable Development Cooperative (FPSDC) is a group of 154 cooperatives and civil society organizations in the Philippines — focused on improving the lives of marginalized people. They provide financial support, technical training and partnership opportunities to local business enterprises to promote self-reliant, sustainable and peaceful communities.

Origins of the FPSDC

The FPSDC grew out of the Partnership for Development Assistance in the Philippines Incorporated (PDAP) and its Central Loan Fund (CLF). Filipino and Canadian NGOs established the PDAP in 1986 to aid local organizations in the development of autonomous communities of marginalized peoples in the Philippines. The CLF facilitated financial assistance relationships among PDAP member organizations. In 1998, 21 PDAP NGOs and cooperatives expanded the CLF to create the FPSDC.

The 4Ps

The FPSDC names “People, Planet, Prosperity and Peace” as the canons of sustainable development in the Philippines. Their efforts focus on providing local businesses fair market access and sustainable growth opportunities to promote local prosperity and instigate social change — which in turn, engenders peaceful communities and inter-community relationships. The FPSDC gives member organizations the tools to develop self-reliant economic and social support within marginalized communities in the Philippines.

FPSDC Services & Digital Presence

FPSDC offers five unique services. The cooperative housing service promotes sustainable development in the Philippines through the construction of affordable and environmentally-conscious homes, in food-secure communities.  The product distribution and marketing service helps local businesses enter competitive markets and encourages their commitment to environmental and social consciousness. The federation places particular emphasis on expanding opportunities for farms like Farms and Cottages, which the FPSDC helped to introduce to 457 supermarkets in Manila.

The socialized credit service offers a variety of loans to help businesses committed to job creation and sustainable development in the Philippines generate and reinvest money. The investment facility service manages organizations’ investments in marginalized communities. Their main goal is to help optimize wealth generation for both the financiers and the communities.  Finally, the institution-building service helps FPSDC organizations expand their institutions and their influence in marginalized Filipino communities.

In conjunction with the RedRoot Artists Cooperative and the Cooperative Development Authority, the FPSDC created a website to disseminate products made by cooperatives in the Philippines. E-cooptrade.coop, for example, markets primarily locally produced and organic products. The website also promotes local social organizations.

FPSDC Co-op Ville

The FPSDC continues to build a cooperative housing development in Barangay Mambuaya Cagayan de Oro City as a resettlement community for victims of Typhoon Sendong. A massive typhoon struck the Philippines in 2011 from December 16 to 18 — killing more than 1,200 people and leaving more than 60,000 homeless. The FPSDC Co-op Ville houses 130 families on 2.5 hectares of land in addition to a multipurpose hall, courtyard, health center and education center. The federation is now building a bed and breakfast in the village to serve as a self-reliant business opportunity for the community.

Empowering Communities to Prosper

The FPSDC organizes, connects and offers financial and marketing support to enterprises committed to the sustainable development of marginalized communities, in the Philippines. The opportunities provided by the federation put power in the hands of the people it serves. These opportunities then foster independent, prosperous and sustainable communities among the most disadvantaged people in the Philippines.

– Avery Saklad
Photo: Flickr

Natural Disasters in the Philippines
Every year, hundreds of natural disasters are reported worldwide. In 2019, 409 natural disasters occurred, many in the Asian Pacific region. Natural disasters in the Philippines are quite common and they pose great difficulties for islands with large populations and vulnerable infrastructure.

Geography of the Philippines

The Philippines is one of highest-risk countries for natural disasters. The nation’s location exposes it to storms that lead to floods, mudslides and typhoons. Additionally, the presence of offshore trenches such as the Manila Trench puts the Philippines at risk for tsunamis. Unfortunately, the list does not end there. The Philippines is also on top of the Ring of Fire, a path in the basin of the Pacific Ocean where there is a high risk for earthquakes and active volcanoes.

Infrastructure

The Philippines is made up of 7,107 islands, which poses many challenges to improving infrastructure. Natural disasters also disproportionately impact infrastructure in poverty-stricken areas. That being said, in the past decade, the Filipino government made strides to improve infrastructure and make the nation more disaster-ready.

In 2020, nearly a quarter of the Filipino government’s budget was allocated for infrastructure. President Rodrigo Duterte hopes to allocate 6% of the nation’s GDP to infrastructure by 2022. His “Build, Build, Build” program has played a large role in this increase of funds, which will be allocated to projects such as the Manila subway and other modes of transportation, water resources and energy.

The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) has outlined $2.5 million in funds being used for infrastructure projects in the Philippines. GFDRR focuses on understanding and reducing disaster risk, strengthening governance and improving recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction. GFDRR currently has three active projects in the Philippines. First, the “Support to the Sustainable, Inclusive, and Resilient Tourism Project” is set to be complete in June 2021. The second project is “Philippines Disaster Risk Financing,” scheduled to be complete in August 2020. Finally, the “Support to the Earthquake-Resilient Greater Metro Manila Program” is set to be complete in September 2021.

Poverty Reduction

According to the World Bank’s October 2019 report, the Philippines is expected to sustain its progress in poverty reduction. The Philippines’ GDP growth was roughly 5.8% in 2019 and is expected to reach 6.2% by 2021. Many believe this growth is tied to transportation infrastructure among the Filipino islands. According to the 2013 Philippines Human Development Report, economic integration will be key to creating sustainable growth throughout all of the Filipino islands and reducing poverty in rural areas.

The main production sectors in the Philippines are electronics assembly, garments, footwear, pharmaceuticals, food processing, petroleum refining and fishing. Agriculture is also a significant sector; however, self-employed farmers are the most susceptible to geographic hardships from natural disasters. Additionally, many farmers struggle due to a lack of insurance, inadequate post-harvest facilities, inadequate irrigation techniques and limited access to the market as a result of poor transportation services.

To address these problems, the Philippine Development Plan for 2017-2022 plans to expand economic opportunities for those engaged in the agricultural sector, especially small farmers. This plan aims to get rid of irrigation fees for small farmers, pass the National Land Use Act to protect important natural lands, implement the Agrarian Reform Program to distribute land to landless farmers.

Conclusion

The Philippines is still considered at third world country according to its GDP, human development index, life expectancy and infant mortality rate. However, while the Philippines still has many structural issues inhibiting its growth, its progress over the last decade has been momentous. Equipping islands to handle natural disasters in the Philippines and supporting farmers are two key ways the country can reduce poverty and improve livelihoods.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: Flickr

Migrant Domestic Workers
In high-income countries, many households rely on dual-income earnings, creating a market hungry for domestic labor to help with childcare and housekeeping. To fill these roles affordably, families rely on the low wage labor of women from developing countries. Many of these domestic workers come from the Philippines and emigrate to wealthier countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. A significant portion finds work in the United States as well, making up 15% of American domestic workers. This labor export has become extremely vital to the Philippine economy, accounting for about 9% of the country’s total GNP. Although this model has remedied economic hardships for many Filipino families, the human sacrifices of this work are undeniable. Many of the Philippines’ migrant domestic workers must part with their children, endure grueling professional demands and become vulnerable to exploitation in their host countries.

Demand for Migrant Labor

While Filipino men tend to migrate for jobs in construction and transportation, women often work as caretakers and domestics. On average, the remittances of male migrants are double those of female migrants, who frequently fill lower-paying positions. However, working abroad is an opportunity accessible mostly to Filipinos with some preexisting class privilege. Some of the Philippines’ migrant domestic workers leave behind high-level jobs in their native country, their skills and education making them more attractive to foreign employers. Even so, the wages at more menial jobs abroad dwarf the women’s earning potential at home.

Benefits to the Philippines

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration reports that 1.2 million migrants work abroad each year and sent home $27 billion in remittances in 2014. This inflow of remittances is the third highest in the world, only ranking below India and China. When the capital from these remittances enters the national economy, families often invest in natural disaster relief, education and real estate. Exporting labor has also helped narrow the wealth gap, growing a more prosperous middle class. Nationalist rhetoric celebrates foreign labor and individuals who work abroad are praised as “new heroes.” The Philippine government even presents awards like the Model OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) Family of the Year Award to honor the sacrifices of specially dedicated migrant workers.

Personal Sacrifices and Children Left Behind

Despite the earning potential and social honor of working abroad, there is often a heavy emotional cost. Ironically, many Filipino women who leave home to provide childcare in the developed world must leave their own children behind. In the words of Manuela Peña, chief of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, “It is quite easy to become a successful overseas Filipino worker in terms of economic achievement, but we found out it is difficult to maintain family relations and turn (the life of a migrant worker) into success.”

Migrants frequently leave children with family members and childcare workers who do not have the means to work abroad. For workers who are undocumented in their host countries, shuffling back to the Philippines for regular visits is impossible and family separation can last for years. After returning for retirement, many workers spend their retirement caring for children of relatives who work abroad, so that the next generation of mothers and fathers might provide for their families through remittances.

Exploitation and Fair Treatment

Many of the Philippines’ migrant domestic workers are vulnerable to scams and exploitation. Recruiters can charge exorbitant fees, employers can provide poor working conditions and workers can receive unfair payment. The Philippine government has made some infrastructural and policy changes to grapple with these issues. Protections require that employers use standardized employment contracts, cap recruitment fees at reasonable rates and ban deployment to countries with records of poor migrant treatment. In 2012, the Philippines negotiated a groundbreaking $400 monthly minimum wage for Filipino domestic workers in Saudi Arabia.

NGOs like Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation, Inc. help migrants maximize their savings through entrepreneurship, providing microloans and financial literacy education. This model of social entrepreneurship stimulates local economies, promotes community development and provides a lucrative alternative to migration.

The loans that the Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation distributes range from ₱3000 to ₱1 million. Borrowers have used the loans to expand their small businesses by employing additional staff, investing in newer machinery and buying vehicles. As of the 2017 annual report, the organization held multiple training events in Davao City and Butuan City, educating participants on family rights, entrepreneurship and business management.

In Conclusion

The Philippines’ labor export model has done much to lift families to comfortable middle-class lives. Many Filipinos now have greater access to capital and education because of the remittances that family members send. However, sacrifice and family separation remain as harsh byproducts. Fortunately, the government has put regulations in place to improve fairness and quality of life for the Philippines’ migrant domestic workers.

– Stefanie Grodman
Photo: Flickr

 

Philippines Incarceration System
In 2018, the Philippines held the sixth-highest prison population out of 21 Asian countries. As of 2019, the Philippines’ population rested at 108.31 million people, and 215,000 of those people were incarcerated. Therefore, the Philippines has an incarceration rate of about 200 per 100,000 citizens. There are 933 prisons running in the Philippines. Unfortunately, they are mismanaged and overcrowded. Below are five important facts about the incarceration system in the Philippines.

5 Facts About the Philippines’ Incarceration System

  1. Severe overcrowding – Rodrigo Duterte won the presidential election in 2016. He promised to end crime within six months. This promise also included the killing of 10s of thousands of criminals. Duterte’s election led to the infamous war on drugs and eventually, overcrowded prisons. Manila City Jail, the largest jail in the Philippines, is split into dorms that safely house 170 inmates. Currently, these dorms house around 500 people. Similarly, a room designated for 30 people holds about 130 in the Quezon City Jail. This severe overcrowding in prisons leads to illness and death tolls in the thousands.
  2. Pre-trial detainees – According to The World Prison Brief, 75.1% of incarcerations within the Philippines’ incarceration system are pre-trial. In 2018, 141,422 of 188,278 prisoners were pre-trial detainees. Unfortunately, many people are serving sentences without conviction. Pre-trial detention is found in judicial systems all over the world. In countries like the Philippines, people may serve time that outweighs their crimes. On average, prisoners in the Philippines are detained for nine months without being sentenced.
  3. High death tolls – About 5,200 inmates die annually at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP). According to Ernesto Tamayo, the hospital medical chief, these deaths are due to overcrowding, dirty living conditions and inmate violence. At a 2019 Philippines Senate hearing, Tamayo said that there were “uncontrollable outbreaks of pulmonary tuberculosis.” In addition to overcrowding, poor living conditions and inmate violence, NBP lacks nutritional food and basic healthcare. On account of these living conditions, Tamayo reports that at least one prisoner dies at NBP each day. Thankfully, politicians and prison employees are working to reduce overcrowding in the Philippines’ prisons. Human rights advocates have also called for the release of vulnerable inmates, hoping to protect them from poor living conditions.
  4. Vigilante justice – Duterte’s war on drugs escalated during his presidency. Jobless citizens were recruited to kill anyone suspected of dealing, buying or using drugs. This was one of few ways for some people to make money; many homeless and impoverished people joined the vigilante teams. In 2016, Duterte told the public, “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself.” Together, the Philippines’ police force and unidentified gunmen have killed 7,000 known drug dealers and users since Duterte’s presidency in 2016. The Philippines’ war on drugs has created the belief that extrajudicial violence and murder are necessary to fight crime. But, the Human Rights Watch has turned the narrative around on Duterte; they are publicizing information about the vigilante justice in the Philippines.
  5. Corruption – In August 2018, the public learned a former mayor may have been released from prison for good behavior. He was originally charged for rape and homicide in 1993. Similar stories of corruption in the Philippines’ prisons continued to emerge. In September 2018, the public learned that a woman was told her husband’s sentence would be shortened if she paid 50,000 pesos ($970). Later that year, senators stated that inmates could “live like kings” for a fee. This information led to further allegations: prison workers and officials were taking bribes to bring and distribute contraband to inmates. The contraband in question included cigarettes, cellphones and televisions. Supposedly, inmates can also pay for personal cooks and nurses. Inmates who cannot afford a better life within the prison are stuck in overcrowded and dirty rooms; these inmates have a higher rate of becoming ill and of death. Now that the corruption has been unearthed, officials are taking steps to weed it out, one prison at a time.

Possible Fix

With increased awareness of the Philippines’ prison system, there is hope that conditions will be improved and vigilante justice will end. It will take time to fix the Philippines’ judicial and incarceration systems. However, with the help of advocacy groups like the Human Rights Watch, a change could come sooner than expected.

Marlee Ingram
Photo: Flickr

Five Examples of Police Brutality InternationallyProtests in the United States are bringing light to a troubling issue which has taken lives for generations: police brutality. However, police brutality affects almost every country in the world. Wherever there is a police force, there is the potential for police brutality. Here are five examples that demonstrate police brutality internationally.

5 Examples of Police Brutality Internationally

  1. Kenya: Police officers in Kenya often accept bribes. Not only that, but police often accuse, imprison or even kill those who cannot offer a bribe. Police officers demanding bribes disproportionately affect poor Kenyans. Kenyans in poverty are often unable to pay police and can experience detainment without probable cause for an indefinite period of time. Additionally, police frequently get away with assaulting or murdering citizens without suffering legal repercussions themselves. On June 8, 2020, citizens took to the streets of Nairobi, Kenya, to protest the police brutality that police employed when enforcing curfews during the COVID-19-related lockdown.
  2. Hong Kong: During the protests for democracy in 2019, widespread human rights violations occurred at the hands of the Hong Kong police, largely without repercussions. The brutality included improper use of rubber bullets, which have a design so that police can fire them at the ground before they bounce and hit people. Also, there was a misuse of bean bag rounds, the physical beating of nonviolent protesters, misuse of tear gas and pepper spray and the use of water canons. In some cases, detained protesters experienced subjection to severe beatings that amounted to torture. As a result, there has been a call for an inquiry into the police’s use of violence from an impartial and independent source as opposed to an internal investigation.
  3. Philippines: Since 2016, the drug war that Philippine Director General Oscar Albayalde waged has resulted in thousands of deaths. The killers, including police and independent gangs of men on motorcycles reportedly affiliated with the police, have not experienced legal action. Law enforcement killed more than 12,000 people during the drug war, and Human Rights Watch has urged Albayabe to consider the rights of the population. Frequently, police executions of citizens result from drugs that police plant on citizens, compounding the injustice. Some have called the drug war in the Philippines a “war on the poor” because it discriminates against the urban poor. Robberies often follow police killings of the urban poor. By targeting vulnerable populations, crooked police are able to commit extrajudicial crimes.
  4. Pakistan: Police brutality also affects the people of Pakistan. A particularly unjust example of this is the death of Salahuddin Ayabi, a person with mental disabilities, who went into police custody for an armed robbery. The police severely tortured him and ended his life. In Pakistan, police have killed hundreds of detained people by means of torture. The police often produce false testimonies and plant evidence on people before detaining them and sometimes murdering them. The Punjabi government has proposed legislative reform. However, some argue that the problem is not the legislation itself but the lack of proper implementation to hold police accountable. Impoverished Pakistanis are a targeted demographic, experiencing subjection to extrajudicial killings, detainment and police torture.
  5. El Salvador: Between 2014 and 2018 in El Salvador, police killed at least 116 people. To put this in perspective, El Salvador’s population is 6.421 million, about three-fourths of New York City population. Raquel Caballero described these killings as “brutal assassinations” in an interview with Reuters. The brutal actions of the police seem to correlate to the gang violence which plagues El Salvador, as many victims are gang members. Of the 48 cases of extrajudicial murders committed by police, only 19 officers experienced prosection and only two received convictions. El Salvador’s murder rate is one of the highest in the world, but some argue that should not excuse police officers to act in such a brutal manner. Additionally, women from high-poverty areas suffer from police brutality as a result of scant reproductive rights. For instance, women who seek abortions, even for obstetric emergencies, often suffer prosecution.

The examination of police brutality internationally by groups like the U.N., Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International is crucial in maintaining awareness of the pervasiveness of this problem. Perhaps the organizations which prosecute guilty police officers worldwide will emerge victorious in their efforts. Police need to meet the same standards as the populations they serve.

Elise Ghitman
Photo: Flickr

Education in the PhilippinesIn the Philippines, education has grown continuously over the years. However, the country continues to need improvement and educational reform throughout the provinces. Only half of children 3 to 4 years old are enrolled in daycare, and only 78% actually complete basic education. Only 13 out of 100 who enter Grade 1 complete their education, and less than 1% of Grade 6 children are academically ready for high school. The number of children out of school in the Philippines has reached 2.8 million. Furthermore, 40,000 teachers are sorely needed in the country.

These numbers show that there is still room for improvement. Educational access is vital for every child, and providing that for Filipino youth is a mission that many nonprofit organizations have taken up. Here are four organizations that are working to equalize and encourage education in the Philippines.

Education Foundation of the Philippines

Education Foundation of the Philippines has sponsored many elementary schools throughout the Philippines through its projects and has provided various resources to hundreds of students and teachers in the area. It has worked with Calapacuan Elementary, Batiawan Integrated School and Salvasion Elementary, and has also partnered with other organizations in the country to provide for the students. The resources it has provided are science materials that are used by all grades, math and reading materials and general school supplies.

The organizations it has worked with are God’s Little Lambs, Child Evangelism Fellowship and Quezon Hill Community Church. These partnerships work to provide their respective communities with adequate resources to help students succeed in their educational paths. They also advocate and raise awareness for the needs of school children in the Philippines. Together, they help to provide better education in the Philippines.

Teach for the Philippines

Teach for the Philippines believes in providing access to adequate education for Filipino children through enlisting young leaders as teachers in public schools. The country has a shortage of teachers, with 40,000 teachers needed in the Philippines. They focus on improving the quality of teachers and addressing systematic educational challenges. Teach for the Philippines uses a three core program to create teachers who improve student learning and spark the reform needed to transform public schools.

Teach for the Philippines has engaged over 300 leaders working toward expanding educational access and fostering change for education in the Philippines. Through its fellowship program, in place since 2013, over 10,000 public school students are reached annually. Its work has enabled children across the country to have better educational outcomes and access to previously inaccessible opportunities.

Room to Read

Room to Read reaches students all across Asia and Africa, with over 18 million children helped in 16 countries. It is an organization that focuses on children’s literacy and girls’ education. With the goal of encouraging learning and ending illiteracy, one way they have reached students is by distributing books. The group has recently published books in its 36th language, Filipino.

Room to Read provides books in Filipino to encourage Filipino children to develop reading skills and have confidence. The organization unveiled 20 new books at an event with the Department for Education, publishers, authors and more. These books share themes of personal challenge, inclusion and gender inequality. Room to Read has impacted children across the country and helps to reduce illiteracy through accessible books, helping education in the Philippines to flourish.

Save the Children

Save the Children has been working in the Philippines for over 30 years better children’s lives through access to equality education. They work with the government to develop policies and plans to ensure access and protection of children’s rights.

Sace the Children creates mother tongue books that have developmentally appropriate and culturally sensitive content. It established a Book Development Review Committee (BDRC), which ensures the process of choosing topics and languages includes tribal chieftains, community leaders. It also advocates and spreads awareness for educational issues, reaching over 145,000 people on its platforms. This organization also helps with other areas such as health and sanitation and natural disaster aid. Their programs have helped access to education in the Philippines.

In Conclusion

These four organizations show various ways people are working towards education equality in the Philippines. While the work they are doing is admirable, education equality for Filipino youth is an area that requires more aid and effort. Education in the Philippines will grow more robust and accessible as more organizations are created and  equalize the playing field for elementary and high schools students throughout the country.

Kiana Powers
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Electronic Voting in Developing CountriesIn an increasingly digital world, reducing paper consumption and productions seems like a good option. However, cutting out paper is not always just an issue of sustainability. Electronic voting in developing countries is a means of preserving democracy.

Electronic voting (e-voting) in developing countries is quickly gaining traction to replace paper-based voting. The technology is flexible. Citizens are able to vote remotely via the internet or use a variety of electronic kiosks. Developing countries’ reasonings behind making this switch lie in various prevailing issues around the world. These include election corruption and ballot cheating, low voter turnout or political violence.

Many developing countries historically experience rigged or unsuccessful elections. However, electronic voting in developing countries may hold the key to not only average but high voting rates. If implemented efficiently, it could appeal to youth voters and encourage marginalized people to vote. In addition, it could allow voting in different languages with instant translation features (a major advantage in countries with multiple native languages). There has been much success in the endeavors of electronic voting in developing countries.

India

India boasts a population of over 1.3 billion. Despite this, the country’s transition to e-voting is often hailed as an example of successful political technology. Experimentally implemented in 1998, India’s e-voting has skyrocketed to success in recent years. India’s main motivation for pursuing e-voting stemmed from the recurring high costs of paper-based elections and to “strengthen the electoral process” in general. This optimistic goal proved largely successful.

According to a 2017 study by Brookings, “the introduction of EVMs [Electric Voting Machines] led to (i) a significant decline in electoral fraud, (ii) strengthening the weaker and vulnerable sections of the society and (iii) a more competitive electoral process.”

Three major issues in previous Indian elections prompted these necessary solutions. Citizens would stuff ballot boxes, which led to untraceable fraud. Women, disabled citizens and lower castes were discouraged to vote since their ballots would often be deliberately uncounted by human talliers. Finally, as a result of years of voting fraud, politicians did not have much competition because fraudulent elections created a monopoly around the majority candidate.

E-voting largely solved these issues. The machines only register five votes each minute to combat virtual ballot stuffing. Marginalized groups are encouraged to vote since their vote will not be counted by a biased and politically motivated person. More candidates have a better shot at being elected due to the higher representation of all voices.

Philippines

Electronic voting in developing countries, such as the Philippines, also serves as a model of success. After implementing e-voting through the British company Smartmatic, the country’s 2016 election brought 81% of the Philippines’ 100 million people to the polls in a record turnout. At the time, the election stood as “the largest electronic vote-counting project in history.”

Aside from the high turnout, the election also broke a record for the fastest voting count. The e-voting machines immediately tracked and published the results online as votes came in. The technology was also carefully surveilled preceding and during the election with the aid of more than 200,000 citizen volunteers to prevent crashes.

After the election, Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica lauded the victory, calling it “a landmark in electoral automation with the largest ever manufacture and deployment of Vote Counting Machines making this a truly historic moment.”

While the Vote Counting Machines experienced widespread technical difficulties in the country’s 2019 midterm election, Filipinos are working to get their machines up and running in order to produce another smooth election like in 2016.

Nigeria

Nigeria looked to implement e-voting in the 1990s due to concerns that plague many African nations. It is among many countries in the continent that consistently report election violence, ballot stuffing, government-manipulated results and voter suppression as pressing issues in elections.

Nigeria formed the Independent National Electoral Commission to integrate Electronic Voting Systems into their elections. The group plotted out polling locations across the country. They used a Geographic Information System technology to map out the country’s population density to more accurately monitor the votes coming in from all areas.

While e-voting is still in its infancy in Nigeria, “it has been considered a necessity and as the only solution for credible elections.” The initial instating of e-voting proved largely unsuccessful in Nigeria. However, technology is seen as a promising means to curb the overflow of political violence and issues rampant in the country’s elections in the future.

Problems with and the Future of Electronic Voting in Developing Countries

While electronic voting in developing countries has promoted healthy, democratic elections in many instances, it is not without its problems. Technology, especially the type being sent to developing countries, has an easy tendency to glitch and lend itself to user errors for those unfamiliar with the technology.

Furthermore, many countries have used e-voting to combat top-down corruption. However, the technology would still be under the jurisdiction of the government. Therefore, it carries the potential to be just as rigged and produce more fraudulent, difficult-to-trace results. E-voting also makes recounting virtually impossible due to the lack of a paper trail.

However, many developing countries have nonetheless used this technology to their advantage. They are in the process of making e-voting a dependable reality. Namibia, Ghana and Khazakstan are in the early stages of e-voting and hoping to solely run elections with e-voting soon. With the aid of continuing technological advancement, e-voting can hopefully plant a successful footing in developing countries.

Grace Ganz
Photo: Flickr

 

Buengo Reduces Poverty
There are a few sounds die-hard baseball fans know well: the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” the chorus of crunching sunflower seeds, the crack of a boiled peanut shell and spilling hot, salty water on the stadium floor. Unfortunately, people did not hear these familiar sounds and many others during the spring of 2020 as the global pandemic stretched to all four corners of the world. Concerts, festivals and graduation ceremonies experienced silence, but one thing rang true: spring cleaning. True to course, rusted pots and pans clattered inharmoniously as they found their new home in a garbage bag, tattered sweaters and last seasons boots ricocheted off closet floors and scooters rattled on the way out of the garage. An abundance of black and white trash bags with toys, household items and clothes lined the streets in the early spring days, landfill-bound. However, thanks to new-age technology, there is an alternate path for spring cleaners to take that can help eradicate global poverty: Buengo. Here is some information about how Buengo reduces poverty.

How Buengo Reduces Poverty and Benefits Charities

Buengo is a marketplace application that encourages users to take their second-hand clothes, gadgets and home goods to Buengo rather than the landfill. This application, which debuted on the App Store and Google Play in March 2018, not only reduces environmental waste but also helps the world’s poor. Items that people sell on Buengo go directly from the seller to the buyer’s hands. The money, however, takes a different route. When the seller markets an item, they choose a campaign or charity for the profit to go towards. All of these “good causes” are in the U.K., but they have a global influence.

One organization that benefits from how Buengo reduces poverty is Poverty Child, which helps children in Payatas, the Philippines reach their fullest potential through educational programs, therapeutic endeavors, promotion of general well-being and security provision. Another nonprofit that reaps from Buengo is The Origin Charity. This organization works with indigenous people in Ethiopia to educate, equip and train the next generation of leaders. The Origin Charity also teaches marketable skills to vulnerable women, who are often the sole providers of their families. Any U.K. based charity or nonprofit can register their organization. However, Buengo is working to expand its industry to other countries so that everyone can follow the company’s motto and “sell it for good.”

The Good of Buengo

How much “good” do nonprofits and charities receive? The answer is 95% of all sales. Buengo says that “This covers the cost of what goes on behind the scenes: development of Buengo, continual support for all Buengo users, operational costs and overheads. We’re essentially offering the same service as a charity shop, but online. In physical locations, the amount taken from sales can be as much as 20%, so when you support a cause through Buengo, more of your money actually goes to the charity.”

As one wades through the pool of shirts that they no longer wear and trips over pants one size too small, there is another option instead of throwing unused items away. Instead of tossing unworn clothing in a trash bin, downloading Buengo and giving it to a global cause could be a good option.

– Chatham Kennedy
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Philippines
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the estimated poverty rate was 16.6% in 2018 and 17.6 million people faced extreme poverty. Hunger is one of the critical problems stemming from poverty in the Philippines, with 64% of the population suffering from chronic food insecurity.

According to the World Food Programme, factors such as climate issues and political challenges have contributed to the food insecurity that Filipinos continuously face. The Mindanao region has endured four decades of armed conflict that resulted in more than 40% of families displaced between 2000 and 2010, thus deteriorating food security. Natural disasters like typhoons are a typical experience in the Philippines, at a rate of about 20 per year. In fact, the country ranks third out of 171 countries in the 2015 World Risk Index and fourth out of 188 countries in the 2016 Global Climate Risk Index.

In response, many organizations have shown interest in improving the conditions in the Philippines through various programs and projects. Here are five organizations that have stepped up to address hunger in the Philippines.

Action Against Hunger

Action Against Hunger is an organization that has worked in the Philippines since 2000. Since then, it has aided a total of 302,014 Filipinos in poverty to improve various aspects of their daily lives.

In particular, the organization has reached 2,000 people with nutrition and health, 221,820 people with water and sanitation and 73,207 people with food security and livelihood programs. Action Against Hunger also focuses on community-led initiatives within the areas affected by armed conflicts and natural disasters.

World Food Programme

World Food Programme (WFP) tackles hunger in the Philippines with an emphasis on rebuilding communities. For example, its food and cash assistance programs provide aid in exchange for participation in vocational skill training and asset creation activities.

One major program of the WFP is Fill the Nutrient Gap, which aims to address malnutrition among children which can cause health issues like stunted growth. In the Philippines, 33% of children aged 5 or younger, which amounts to 4 million children, are less likely to reach their full mental and physical potential due to stunted growth. To address these issues, Fill the Nutrient Gap has helped identify and prioritize certain policies and program packages. Its goal is to improve nutrient intake for target groups through increased availability of nutritious food. The program resulted in various recommendations on health, social welfare and food processing policies for the country.

The organization also provides school meals to more than 60,000 children in the areas of Maguindanao, Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur in the Philippines. In addition, WFP deals with early childhood nutrition. WFP encourages certain products like micronutrient powder for children aged 6 months to 23 months and fortified food for those under 3 years old.

Feed the Children

Feed the Children has battled hunger in the Philippines since 1984. Its programs have positively influenced more than 283,000 people in 38 communities. Through the use of Child-Focused Community Development (CFCD), the organization helps children overcome both short-term and long-term hunger issues.

The CFCD approach works with vulnerable and at-risk children as well as their caregivers and communities. Through this program, Feed the Children has provided caregivers with necessary training and resource provisions required to feed families, build clean communities and increase access to education.  As a result, it was able to achieve the goal of cultivating appropriate conditions required for thriving, specifically in terms of food and nutrition security.

FEED aids Filipinos in many areas, such as improving childhood nutrition and development or training on water and sanitation. It also utilizes the idea of child-managed savings groups to teach financial management to children and allow them to develop savings for food and family use.

Rise Against Hunger Philippines

Rise Against Hunger Philippines is an international organization focused on the distribution of food and relief aid. Its primary goal is to provide packaged meals and facilitate shipments of donated products like medical supplies, water and food. Numerous volunteers contribute by packaging meals that contain an array of micronutrients vital for human growth and sustainability. So far, the organization was able to supply 20.75 million meals to the Philippines, saving 1.4 million lives.

Rise Against Hunger Philippines also provides relief aid for natural disasters and political conflicts through vast networks that work to address various needs. Additionally, it has created safety net programs that provide nutrition and vocational skill training for the poor to transition out of poverty.

Food for the Hungry

Food for the Hungry (FH) has been active in the Philippines since 1978. Beginning with helping refugees, the organization has expanded its efforts to other developmental programs which include the issue of hunger. It has reached 23 different communities and sponsored 6,565 children in the Philippines.

With a significant portion of the Filipino population under the poverty line, FH has focused on long-term developmental programs. These are to create opportunities for improved nutrition and poverty reduction. To create foundations for self-sufficiency, FH employs a four-phase community development plan in Filipino communities.

Phase One begins with discovering the risks and needs of the people, especially in regards to the children. Phase Two is where local government and community leaders come together with FH. From there, they develop action plans that would create livelihood programs and training for future leaders. Subsequently, Phase Three promotes these development projects, handles solutions for health and reduces disaster-related risks. The main goal in this phase is to reduce food insecurity in the event of natural disasters or political conflicts. Finally, Phase Four evaluates how people’s needs were properly addressed and how the community gained a sense of independence in food provision.

These five organizations are just a glimpse of the work that some are doing to help reduce hunger in the Philippines. They have implemented a wide variety of plans to help reduce poverty and provide nutritional meals to the poor. Furthermore, there have been additional efforts in helping people maintain a healthy lifestyle. Nonetheless, even with the progress, more aid would help combat the ever-imminent issue of hunger in the Philippines.

Kiana Powers
Photo: USAID