Information and stories on social activism.

 domestic violence in NicaraguaDomestic violence is a global issue affecting one in three women worldwide. The United Nations defines domestic violence as “a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.” Abuse can be sexual, emotional, physical, economic or psychological. In order to uphold women’s rights, it is important to combat domestic violence in Nicaragua.

Domestic Violence and Poverty

Data indicates that women living in poverty are at greater risk of abuse. Women who earn less than $10,000 a year experience domestic violence at a rate “five times greater” than women who earn more than $30,000 a year. This is because impoverished women are often financially dependent on their abusers and lack financial prospects, making them more vulnerable to abuse as perpetrators exploit this reliance knowing there are few options of escape.

In contrast, victims with enough resources to secure shelter and basic needs are more independent, and therefore, are significantly more likely to escape domestic violence circumstances. By this logic, a clear link exists between poverty and domestic violence. Although, even in wealthier countries such as the United States, domestic violence is prevalent, with almost a quarter of women in the U.S. experiencing domestic violence.

Since high poverty rates are usually associated with high rates of domestic violence, some would expect a domestic violence crisis in a low-income country such as Nicaragua. Nicaragua is the second-most impoverished country in the Americas, coming right after Haiti, with almost 30% of the Nicaraguan population living under the poverty line in 2014. Nicaragua’s domestic violence rate was 55% in 1995, but the country has made significant progress with domestic violence decreasing to 28% in 2016. Furthermore, “Nicaragua has the lowest rate of femicides in Central America (0.7/100,000) according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC).”

Actions to Reduce Domestic Violence

In 2007, new legislation mandated “equal representation ensuring that at least 50% of public offices be held by women.” As a result, Nicaragua has the highest rate “of women in Ministerial positions in Latin America” at 56.25% and women represent 46% of the legislature.

In addition to this, Nicaragua’s ongoing drives and campaigns aim to address cultures of violence against women in the nation. These campaigns also involve promoting men’s involvement in home and domestic chores, reducing societal masochistic cultures and empowering women to end “economic and social dependence on men” and stop cycles of domestic violence.

The program Zero Usury aims to empower women by granting them financial independence. To do this, the Nicaraguan “government has given low-interest loans to” more than “900,000 women over the last 14 years to enable them to start small businesses in urban areas.”

In 2012, Nicaragua passed the Comprehensive Act against Violence towards Women. The act mandated the creation of “the national inter-institutional commission to combat violence against women, children and adolescents, composed of 17 state institutions, with departmental and municipal branches.”

The Comprehensive Care Model for Women, also created in 2012, ensures every victim of domestic violence will have access to proper care and justice by carrying out proper investigations for every case and compensating victims. The mechanism aims to uphold children and women’s rights “to live with dignity and free from violence.”

Looking to the Future

Nicaragua is also part of the U.N. Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, with the aim of eradicating “violence against women by 2030.” To align with this goal, Nicaragua commits to implementing a “series of political, legislative and administrative actions to eradicate violence against women and girls,” among other efforts.

Nicaragua is a phenomenal example to the world when it comes to domestic violence as it shows that a country can decrease its rates of violence by investing in women’s empowerment programs and legislation that fights for gender equality and the protection of women.

– Noya Stessel
Photo: Flickr

Fight for Women's RightsWomen’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul has been a symbol of the fight for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia for the last several years. Al-Hathloul has been making moves to actively challenge aspects of the Saudi system and spark change in hopes of disrupting government narratives and dismantling gender discrimination.

Al-Hathloul’s History with Women’s Rights

Al-Hathloul has made her presence as a Saudi Arabian women’s rights activist known on more than one occasion with a series of bold actions opposing the Saudi government’s stances on certain issues. For example, al-Hathloul openly expressed her opinion on the nation’s driving ban for women in 2013. Shortly after, her father took a video of her while she was driving in Saudi Arabia that went viral. Al-Hathloul was arrested and held for more than 70 days as she tried to cross the border from the United Arab Emirates into Saudi Arabia while driving.

She also shaped a campaign against the male guardianship system, which she believes consistently limits the rights of women. Al-Hathloul was among 14,000 signers on a petition to abolish the male guardianship system and was also one of the first women to stand for municipal elections in Saudi Arabia. In March 2018, al-Hathloul and more than 10 other women’s rights activists were arrested for their efforts to oppose the Saudi government. The group faced imprisonment and the media denounced the women. About a month after al-Hathloul’s arrest, the Saudi government lifted the driving ban. However, she faced a sentence of nearly six years in prison under multiple charges.

Her Family’s Plea and Her Ordeal

Notably charged under “Saudi counter-terrorism law,” Al-Hathloul attempted to appeal her initial guilty verdict. Al-Hathloul’s sister Lina has consistently advocated for Al-Hathloul’s case. Lina informed the public, together with several supportive organizations, of the torture, sexual assault and solitary confinement al-Hathloul underwent in prison. The Saudi authorities have rejected accusations of torture or wrongdoing. Al-Hathloul even went on a hunger strike to protest the conditions she and the other reformers were subject to because she did not want to endure such conditions anymore.

Lina has pleaded to the international community for support. Organizations call for reform in Saudi Arabia and for the involvement of Saudi Arabia’s allies. The Saudi government’s connections to the international community could lead to reform. Lina has called for the release of the reformers and has said, “I have no choice but to speak out and use my voice because my sister cannot. Our silence will not keep them safe.”

Where the Situation Stands

After approximately three years imprisoned, Saudi Arabia released al-Hathloul with limitations. Due to the kingdom’s human rights records, President Biden’s administration took stances that reflected a reconsideration of the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Al-Hathloul’s release has been perceived as a strategic diplomatic action by the Saudi government to relieve international pressures to improve conditions for women.

Today, improvements like the driving ban’s fall speak to the impact of al-Hathloul and other women like her. Though the situation remains challenging for al-Hathloul and her family, renewed international support gives hope for the future. As the fight for women’s rights continues, Saudi Arabia stands as a critical example of slow but deliberate change led by women.

Annamarie Perez
Photo: Flickr

Connecticut SenatorsConnecticut Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have long been advocates for aid-based foreign policy. Frequently, they try to increase the presence of the United States on the global stage. As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Murphy has a clear vision of progressive U.S. foreign policy, while Blumenthal has a similar vision of foreign involvement and humanitarian assistance.

5 Ways Connecticut Senators Fight for Foreign Aid

  1. Increasing the International Affairs Budget: In March 2021, Murphy, among other senators, proposed a $12 billion increase to the U.S. International Affairs Budget. Protecting the International Affairs Budget is unquestionably essential to mitigating global poverty. As of 2021, however, foreign aid constitutes less than 1% of the U.S. budget. As one of the most powerful countries in the world, the U.S. has the capacity to increase aid exponentially. Through this proposal, called “Investing in 21st Century Diplomacy,” Murphy has shown a strong commitment toward maintaining diplomatic ties and providing aid to other countries.
  2. Requesting Funding for Refugee Programs: In March 2018, Blumenthal, with 24 other senators, wrote a letter to Senate appropriators calling for complete funding for particular refugee programs. Amid a time when the International Affairs Budget was in danger of reducing, Blumenthal led a letter advocating for refugee programs. In this proposal, Blumenthal recognized the national security benefits of increased foreign aid as well as the commitment of the U.S. to provide aid. Primarily, the letter responded to the Trump administration’s proposed elimination of the ERMA account, a source of funding for unforeseen humanitarian crises.
  3. Introducing the Global Health Security Act: Murphy, along with Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) introduced the Global Health Security Act in April 2020, a bill that focuses on implementing the Global Health Security Agenda by appointing two different entities: The United States Coordinator for Global Health Security and the Global Health Security Interagency Review Council. The Global Health Security Act focuses on preventing infectious diseases across the globe. Its central goal is to achieve the Global Health Security Agenda, a 2014 initiative similarly targeted toward stemming infectious diseases.
  4. Recognizing COVID-19 in India: In May 2021, Blumenthal recognized the severe COVID-19 crisis in India and the need for immediate foreign aid. While at an event in Middletown, Connecticut, Blumenthal advocated the need for various medical supplies to go to India. While visiting a local Hindu temple, Blumenthal spoke about the issue and the need for immediate U.S. action.
  5. Advocating for Humanitarian Assistance: Murphy furthermore advocates for humanitarian assistance to fight hunger and poverty, two issues that impact extremism. As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Murphy has recently advocated for humanitarian aid in Yemen, a country struggling with famine and poverty. In May 2021, Murphy, with three other senators, wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The letter thanked him for his recent involvement in fighting the crisis in Yemen and urged the Biden administration to take a more active role in encouraging other countries to do the same thing.

Committing to a Progressive Foreign Policy

Actively solving issues like hunger and infectious diseases tie directly into fighting global hunger. Hence, Connecticut Senators Murphy and Blumenthal remain committed to a progressive foreign policy. They have shown their commitment through public statements, letters to other senators and legislation like the Global Health Security Act. Ultimately, the Connecticut Senators want the U.S. to be an active member of a global community. The country would, accordingly, use its power to alleviate global inequalities and stem poverty.

– Samuel Weinmann
Photo: Flickr

introvert's guide to fighting global povertyThere is a common misconception that activism with a physical presence, like attending protests or lobbying, is the only kind that can make a difference. While these are effective ways to influence legislation, there are many other ways to create change and contribute to the fight against global poverty. An ordinary individual can play a role in creating global change by taking action online, without ever needing to leave their home. An introvert’s guide to fighting global poverty shows that anyone can contribute to addressing global issues regardless of personality type.

Fighting Poverty by Influencing Legislation

One of the most effective ways to help in the fight against poverty is to influence legislation. While lobbying is an effective way to do this, most U.S. congresspersons give their constituents the option to contact them by calling or emailing their offices. With the option to contact Congress in this way, constituents can voice their concerns easily and effectively.

Grassroot efforts such as calling and emailing Congress as well as advocacy helped pass integral pieces of legislation such as the Global Fragility Act and the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act. For an easy way to contact Congress about poverty-based legislation, interested persons can access a pre-filled email template from The Borgen Project.

Fighting Poverty Through Apps

Apps and social media movements can also be very effective tools in the fight against poverty. The World Food Programme (WFP) recognizes this and has created various apps through which users can help mitigate hunger in their spare time. With the Freerice app, users can earn rice for those in need just by answering trivia questions. The app earnings are supported by “in-house sponsors.” According to the WFP, Freerice has raised and donated 210 billion grains of rice since 2010.

Additionally, the WFP has created an app called ShareTheMeal. The meal donation app aims to improve food security throughout the world. With a click of a button, an ordinary individual can contribute to a day’s worth of meals for a child at the cost of just $0.80. Through ShareTheMeal, more than 115 million meals have been provided to those in need as of July 16, 2021.

Knowing the Facts

While it may not seem like the most effective form of activism, one of the easiest ways to spread awareness about an issue is to talk about it within one’s social network. But, in order to effectively discuss global issues, an individual should familiarize themself with the facts.

Some of the most well-known humanitarian organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization, offer educational resources about hunger, health and poverty. To expand awareness into one’s social network, it is important to know these facts and statistics.

Every year, the WHO publishes a World Health Statistics report. In the 2021 report, the WHO describes the connection between exacerbated poverty and COVID-19 as well as the way that diseases like tuberculosis can impact poverty due to a lack of healthcare.

By understanding the nuances of global poverty, one can become a more informed advocate for a global issue, increasing the power of influence and the likelihood of persuading friends and family to support legislation.

Looking Forward: Advocacy, Education and Mobilization

With these methods in mind, one of the most effective ways to be an activist from home is to mobilize within one’s own social network. By ensuring that friends and family are also advocating for a cause, one can effectively create a much larger web of support for a cause.

An introvert’s guide to fighting global poverty shows that there are vast ways to support global issues without needing to step out of one’s comfort zone. Whether one is voicing support for particular pieces of legislation or whether an individual uses one of the many apps that help alleviate hunger, garnering more supporters will ultimately help sustain a grassroots effort and fight global poverty.

– Samuel Weinmann
Photo: Unsplash

Period Poverty in Kenya
For many young girls in Kenya, properly managing a menstrual cycle with adequate sanitary products is a luxury. Roughly one million Kenyan girls miss out on education each month because they are unable to afford menstrual products. Girls and women are unable to work or participate in education for days at a time, placing them at a disadvantage in comparison to their male peers. Some girls even resort to sharing menstrual products in a desperate attempt to find a solution to period poverty in Kenya. Though access to menstrual products is a multi-faceted issue in Kenya, activists are making it possible for girls to properly manage their periods and continue with life as usual.

Period Poverty in Kenya

Research shows that 65% of Kenyan women and girls are unable to afford basic sanitary pads. As a consequence, girls often rely on the men in their lives for period products and some girls engage in transactional sex in order to secure sanitary products, perpetuating a patriarchal cycle of reliance and exploitation.

Milcah Hadida

Menstrual hygiene ambassador Milcah Hadida is combating period poverty in an innovative way. Hadida collects sanitary products from donors and delivers the products to vulnerable girls in Kenya via bicycle. Through her efforts, she has reached 2,300 girls in just five months.

For her mobilization against period poverty in Kenya’s Tana River County, Hadida recently received the prestigious Florence Nightingale Medal. This award “recognizes exemplary service in the areas of public health and nursing education.” In addition to delivering period products to girls in rural Kenya, she has also called on the health administration of the county to develop policies to address period poverty.

Megan White Mukuria

Megan White Mukuria is the founder of ZanaAfrica, a social enterprise founded in 2007 with its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. ZanaAfrica combats period poverty through a hybrid model of feminine products and education. ZanaAfrica manufactures and distributes high-quality, low-cost menstrual products through the Kenyan marketplace. The enterprise couples the distribution of sanitary products with sexual and reproductive health education.

Through this combination, Mukuria and her team build a safe ecosystem where girls can navigate their adolescence in a safe and healthy manner. They also frame the period products through an aspirational lens, “creating safe spaces to learn about health and reclaim dignity.” Since 2011, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has supported ZanaAfrica with several grants. Between 2013 and 2018, ZanaAfrica impacted almost 50,000 girls in Kenya.

Emmie Erondanga

Emmie Erondanga is the director of Miss Koch Kenya (MKK) women’s advocacy NGO, founded in 2001 with the aim of addressing the vulnerability of young girls in the Korogocho slum in Nairobi, Kenya. MKK intervenes against socio-economic issues that contribute to the disempowerment of young women in Kenya and provides free pads to girls in slums, when possible.

MKK’s work has been increasingly relevant with the impacts of COVID-19 as thousands of girls struggle to access sanitary products in lockdown. Because government pads are only accessible at school, Erondanga’s mobilization has helped fill gaps in the Kenyan government-funded sanitary towel program. Erondanga has been instrumental in advocating for reproductive health education in Kenya, aiming to reduce the stigma around periods and puberty.

When girls and women have adequate access to menstrual products, they are able to continue with their school and work endeavors. Overall, a world without period poverty means girls and women can contribute to economic growth in a more significant way, thus reducing global poverty.

– Alysha Mohamed
Photo: Flickr

 Aicha ChennaAicha Chenna, nicknamed “the Moroccan Mother Teresa,” is an important figure in Moroccan society. She devoted her life to fighting for women’s rights. She highlights the issue of single mothers in particular, which many consider taboo in Morocco. Within the country, many regard having kids outside of wedlock as an act of ignominy and dishonor to the family and society as a whole. It receives so much stigma that it can also lead to jail in some cases. To combat this, Aicha Chenna devoted her life to aiding single mothers and helping them become independent women.

Aicha Chenna’s Beginning

The activist Aicha Chenna began her journey as a state nurse and a social worker in the 1960s. As an employee at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Aicha Chenna witnessed single mothers having to abandon their babies for adoption, sometimes against their will. Aicha Chenna recounted, “In my office sat a young woman who was nursing her baby. She was about to sign the adoption papers and took the baby away from her breast to do so. The little one screamed and cried. That was the moment when it clicked for me. I had just had a baby myself and had recently returned from maternity leave. That night, I couldn’t sleep. The story kept going around and around in my head.” It was then that Aicha Chenna vowed to help single mothers.

Association Solidarité Feminine

Aicha Chenna established Association Solidarité Feminine (ASF) in 1985 in Casablanca. The goal of the association is to stand in solidarity with single mothers. The organization aims to help unmarried mothers stay united with their children and be able to be part of society. ASF offers single mothers a place to stay, literacy classes and job training. Further, the association has now added therapy counseling, cuisine and pastries training, sewing and accounting classes, fitness services and medicinal training. All of these services include daily childcare options and legal support. In this way, these single mothers gain the ability and support needed to reenter society.

The organization started modestly with two kitchens and some kiosks to aid 12 mothers. Since then, ASF has expanded into three separate locations. The Ain Sebaa center in Casablanca has dedicated itself to mothers in need of mental and emotional support. It provides educational services as well, including literacy classes. After women complete six months at the center, they meet with a social worker and a psychologist to discuss work options and training, including the restaurant or spa industry.

Progress For Moroccan Mothers

The activist Aicha Chenna, the Moroccan Mother Teresa, made strides in Moroccan society. Both Chenna and ASF received recognition and support from the Moroccan royal family. As such, the family laws underwent modification in 2004. The new laws state that extramarital sex is no longer a crime. Additionally, there are now paternity tests and new developments regarding the legal handling of children born outside of marriage. Thanks to the efforts of this daring activist, the chains of the societal taboos broke. Chenna’s work has saved the lives of thousands of single mothers and their children. These empowered mothers and their kids are able to rise out of poverty, decrease the number of social pressures they carry and lead full lives.

Zineb Williams
Photo: Flickr

The ActivistToday’s youth continue to make headlines by showing their passion for global activism. The increase in mass action against global injustices amplifies awareness of some of the world’s most pressing matters. The top five areas of concern for Gen Z youth are mental health, disease and famine, environmental issues, unemployment and education. According to a survey done in 2020, 20% of Gen Z youth often “donate or volunteer time to a cause.” The increased interest in global activism has captured the attention of major television networks, including CBS. The network plans to bring activism to primetime in fall 2021 with its new competition series, “The Activist.”

The Premise

The new show will center around six enthusiastic activists who will be split into three teams. A high-profile public figure will lead each team. The teams will compete to improve one of three critical global issues: education, health or the environment. The teams will receive judgment on how well they successfully campaign for their causes. The objective of each team is to establish influential movements that will publicize their message, spur action and propel the teams to the G20 Summit in Rome, Italy. From there, the activists must gain funding and support from world leaders. During the season finale, the team with the most support will be crowned the winner. Some of the world’s most noteworthy musicians will also perform at the finale. The series is produced by Global Citizen, a “movement of engaged citizens who are using their collective voice to end extreme poverty by 2030.”

Relevance to Global Poverty

One of the issues participants in “The Activist” seek to address is education. In 2016, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported that roughly one out of five children do not attend school worldwide. The “upper-secondary out-of-school rate” is highest in low-income countries at almost 60%.

The show will also tackle public health issues. Governments in low-income countries spend an average of $23 per person per year on health. This is extremely low when compared to the staggering rate of $3,860 per person spent by the U.S. government. Furthermore, child mortality rates in low-income nations are more than 10 times higher than in wealthy nations.

Lastly, “The Activist” plans to emphasize environmental issues. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that climate change will cause more than 250,000 deaths by 2030 due to heat stress, malaria and malnutrition. Climate change is especially troubling for low-income countries because of their susceptible geographical locations and their weakened ability to survive damage caused by extreme weather and elevating sea levels.

Inspiring Action

“The Activist” will be a platform to educate viewers on these imperative global issues and motivate the global population to support laws and policies beneficial to improving conditions in developing countries. By showcasing the hard work and commitment of Gen Z activists, others will hopefully be inspired to take action themselves. In all global issues, the commitment and activism of the youth will certainly have a marked impact.

Tiara Tyson
Photo: Flickr

Diamantes Na Cozinha
Joao Diamante, a Brazilian chef who trained in Paris under world-renowned chef Alain Duccard, decided to go back home to Rio de Janeiro, a large city in Brazil. In 2016, he began his social project Diamantes Na Cozinha (Diamonds in the Kitchen) in Rio de Janeiro. This project has received a lot of attention from national and international press due to its unique and philanthropic vision.

Who is Joao Diamante?

Diamante himself benefited from social programs in Bahia, Brazil when he was a teenager. His experiences eventually helped him become a chef overseas. Because of his belief in these youth programs, he decided to fund his own. Diamantes Na Cozinha creates cooking, nutrition and hospitality workshops for young people in vulnerable situations living in favelas in Rio de Janeiro. Favelas are low-income neighborhoods in Brazil.

Diamante himself lost a dear friend due to the violence taking place in the favelas, and he believes that teenagers must receive protection from organized crime and drug addiction. Unfortunately, addiction and crime are all too common in these impoverished populations.

About the Workshops

Kids as young as 16 enroll in the courses through Diamantes Na Cozinha, resulting in them learning skills that can land them a job later on. But, the program is also to help kids find their purpose in life. It distracts them from the harsh realities of living in a favela. Through this, Diamante is not only helping individuals emerge from impoverished situations, but also propelling the Brazilian economy.

Diamante currently teaches various courses. Each course contains up to 25 students who can sign up free of charge. There is a wide variety of courses such as hospitality, high cuisine, food anthropology and cocktail-making. During training, students have the opportunity to serve at catering events. This serves not only as an opportunity for students to receive an evaluation but also as a means for them to start making an income. When training is over, Diamante selects his best students to work a the Na Minha Casa restaurant permanently.

Currently, the Diamantes Na Cozinha headquarters includes an archive with more than 200 volumes, a fully equipped kitchen and a media library. The project has gathered international attention, most notoriously in its feature in the Netflix food show “Feed Phil,” where the host visited Diamantes Na Cozinha and presented the foundation’s story. Through this and many other features, the project has gained momentum and donations from businesses and individuals alike.

“We use Gastronomy as a tool for social and professional transformation,” said Diamante. “We don’t just want good professionals, we want our students to evolve as human beings.”

– Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

Chakabars ClarkeEntrepreneur Chakabars Clarke runs an uplifting and particularly active Instagram feed based in Ghana. His account @chakabars produces content on pan-Africanism, spirituality and education, millennial humor and vegan lifestyle. His content also includes his own first-hand contributions to improving the lives of under-resourced global communities. Although one million Instagram users follow his posts, Clarke asserts that his mission is not about fame or money, and, the sustainable changes he is making prove so. In an interview with Black Entertainment Television (BET), he maintained that his primary objective in creating a media presence was to achieve social justice. Clarke stated, “My overall goal is to try and create as many economies based on abundance, rather than economies that are based on scarcity.” He says further, “I want to get back to us not just trying to build a large Instagram following or building a big business to make money but, rather, build the future of humans.”

5 Successes of Influencer-Activist Chakabars Clarke

  1. Spartanfam. Clarke started Spartanfam after he served four years of active military duty in Iraq. The fitness program aims to promote bodyweight training that gets you fit without the use of expensive equipment. Similar to the content on Clarke’s Instagram account, the site promotes a 100% plant-based lifestyle.
  2. IHeartAfrica. IHeartAfrica is an organization created by Clarke in 2016. Its work is “centered on the promotion of holistic self-sustainable development that creates an environment that is optimal in establishing a thriving community.” IHeartAfrica currently works with schools, orphanages, medical clinics and voluntary organizations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jamaica and Ghana. The organization raises funds that go toward sustainable construction and medical supplies as well as educational, recreational and vocational programs and materials.
  3. Building an Ecovillage. One of Clarke’s projects in progress is the construction of an ecovillage for orphaned children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo living in inadequate conditions in orphanages. On the fundraising page for the ecovillage, Clarke describes how the project was born out of leftover funds raised by IHeartAfrica. He also explains that he bought six acres of land for an ecovillage that will house children from an orphanage and people in the surrounding area.  He states that the orphaned children will eventually inherit the land and the village. Clarke is consistent in his transparency with the allocation of his projects’ funds.
  4. The 2019 Global Good Award. Clarke won BET’s Global Good Award in 2019. The nomination is a recognition of “public figures who use their platform for social responsibility and goodness while demonstrating a commitment to the welfare of the global Black community.” The award is a major achievement for Clarke as it puts him among the ranks of celebrities such as Akon who won the award in 2017.
  5. Fruits n’ Rootz. Clarke started Fruits n’ Rootz with the aim of delivering healthy produce while creating funds for his volunteer projects. The company sources high-quality, sustainably harvested, natural products. Most of the items sold on the online shop are fruits, although, sea mosses and detox teas are also for sale at fruitsnrootz.com. The company also provides nutritional education such as the best fruits for women’s health and the benefits of sea moss. A share of 20% of the company’s profits goes toward IHeartAfrica’s actionable causes.

Clarke’s various contributions and entrepreneurial projects show that he is not just about making a name for himself. Clarke is committed to safeguarding the future of low-income and historically neglected people across the globe. By working to preserve schools and orphanages, build medical centers and improve the lives of people in low-income communities in Africa and elsewhere, Chakabars Clarke proves that being an activist is so much more than just having an online presence.

Eliza Kirk
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in BrazilHuman rights in Brazil are under attack by the country’s own presidential administration. Having campaigned on his famous “anti-human-rights rhetoric,” President Jair Bolsonaro is now turning his words into concrete actions that affect millions of Brazilians. Activists in Brazil are not backing down, relentlessly fighting for the human rights of the Brazilian people.

Human Rights Concerns in Brazil

  • Bolstering of police impunity for use of illegal force
  • Government complicity with torture in detention facilities and the systematic disassembly of government monitoring programs tasked with preventing torture
  • Funding cuts to environmental protection programs, approval of new pesticides for use without proper monitoring of toxicity levels in rural communities, minimization of consequences for illegal logging and ignoring reports of increased deaths of forest defenders
  • Civil and property rights of indigenous people, quilombolas, women and LGBTQI communities
  • Limiting the independence of nongovernmental agencies and restricting access to government information and public records

Despite the wave of policy change threatening human rights in Brazil, there is an equally powerful movement rising to meet it; real people and organizations dedicated to the fight for all humans and their right to exist freely in a peaceful, healthy and safe country.

Damião Braga

At 54 years old, Damião Braga is an experienced activist. He is the leader of Pedra do Sal, a community of African slave descendants in Rio de Janeiro called quilombolas. For 30 years, Braga has been in a judicial struggle over land in a historical part of Rio because he believes it should belong to his people whose ancestors arrived there as slaves.

This land is currently owned by the state and claimed by the Catholic Church, two formidable opponents. Braga says granting quilombolas the property rights is an essential step in making reparations for these descendants of slaves. Because slaves freed in Rio were never given property to live on in the first place, forcing them to settle in the margins of the city that became known as favelas, many believe it is time the government makes amends.

It is not only important for the quilombolas to fight against racism and systematic marginalization but it is also important for them to fight for the right to have a place of their own. Here they can build a future in a land they did not arrive at willingly but now call home.

The Guardians of the Forest

This group, formally established in 2013, is made up of around 120 indigenous activists in the Araribóia Indigenous Reserve. Located in the Brazilian state of Maranhão, this reserve is one of the regions most at risk of illegal logging. Emboldened by the relaxing of consequences for illegal loggers by the Bolsonaro administration, violence is increasing and the local people are taking matters into their own hands.

At first, most of the group’s work entailed destroying the camps of illegal loggers, using guerilla tactics to make them feel unwelcome. The Guardians are now working to set up an NGO and website in order to raise awareness and donations to help fund a more organized resistance.

It is indeed dangerous work. In 2019, the Indigenous Missionary Council released a report saying that violence against the indigenous peoples of the Amazon went up 23% from 2017 to 2018, making for a total of 135 people murdered in 2018 alone. Thus, the Guardians take this work very seriously. Most of them are Guajajara, the indigenous people of the area, therefore, they see it as a sacred duty to protect the land they have lived on for centuries. “We will continue to confront the wrongs committed by the Brazilian system of justice against the lives of Brazilians.”

Marielle Franco

Born to a very poor family who immigrated to Rio, Franco grew up in the favela Maré. Because she was exposed to the injustice of police brutality at a young age, Franco’s experiences fuelled her political career.

In 2016, she became a councilwoman for the Socialism and Liberty Party, officially enlisting in the fight for human rights in Brazil. She worked hard in this position to improve the situations of women and people living in favelas.

The councilwoman proposed 16 bills but only two were approved while she was alive. Another five would pass after her death, a small comfort to those who saw her as a leader.

In March of 2018, a now-charged man shot the 38-year-old Rio councilwoman in an alleged assassination. Now, after her death, her life is celebrated by supporters wearing shirts that read, “Fight like Marielle” and her name is the inspiration and strength people need to keep fighting for their rights.

Inspiring Activism in Brazil

The danger of these and thousands of other activists fighting for human rights in Brazil is tangible and constant. Thus, the courage to continue this work even in the face of such great risk shows the world their commitment to stand up against an authoritarian government.

Kari Millstein
Photo: Flickr