Information and stories on social activism.

Female Genital Mutilation in the Middle EastFemale genital mutilation, or FGM, is a practice that is most common in cultures with strict patriarchial structures. Many people believe that the ritual is only performed in Africa, but in actuality, thousands of girls undergo female genital mutilation in the Middle East every year. Though many claim the procedure is done for religious reasons, researchers have found that it predates Christianity and Islam. In fact, female Egyptian mummies have been found with FGM. This is a deep-rooted and harmful practice that still continues today. The United Nations formally recognizes FGM as a form of torture that oppresses women.

Female Genital Mutilation in the Middle East

  1. Where does FGM occur? FGM was previously believed to only occur in Africa, however, recent advocacy efforts revealed that the practice extends to many other countries, especially in the Middle East. In the Middle East, FGM is mostly concentrated in Southern Jordan, Iraq and Northern Saudi Arabia. There have also been cases of FGM in Qatar, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. The practice most often occurs in small ethnic enclaves where the ritual is considered tradition. It is important to recognize that FGM occurs in many places outside of Africa in order to stop the practice completely.
  2. Who is most impacted by FGM? In Egypt, about 87% of girls are affected by FGM. According to a UNICEF study from 2013, many of them are traumatized by the experience before the age of 14. In many other Middle Eastern and African countries, the majority of girls are cut before the age of 15. Current rates are certainly improving, but it is likely that one in three girls in Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan and Djibouti will experience FGM by 2030. In the United Arab Emirates, 34% of the women surveyed said they had experienced FGM. Twenty percent of women surveyed in Saudi Arabia are subject to the practice.
  3. What are the impacts of FGM? This practice has severe short-term and long-term negative impacts on women who undergo the procedure. Young girls are held and tied down while a local village cutter, usually not a licensed medical professional, performs the procedure with little or no anesthetic. In short, FGM can cause death, infections, hemorrhage and severe pain. In Egypt, there was a public outcry after a doctor performed FGM on a 12-year-old girl who then bled to death. The doctor was arrested, but the practice is extremely traumatizing and can cause severe psychological damage in the long run. It can lead to chronic infections and trouble with childbirth. Girls who undergo FGM are also more likely to drop out of school and become child brides.
  4. Steps are being made to reduce FGM. As information becomes more readily available, more and more people are speaking out against the procedure. It is finally being recognized as a violation of human rights. Though FGM is most common in Egypt, the country has made the most progress in the past 30 years, according to UNICEF. FGM is completely banned in Egypt and doctors can go to jail if they perform it. It has also been banned in Sudan. In Yemen, FGM can no longer be performed in medical facilities, but it has not been banned at home.
  5. FGM rates are decreasing. As can be inferred, many women are now against the practice of FGM. However, some more traditional cultures still advocate for the circumcision of women. In Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Iraq and Djibouti, 70% of all women were affected by FGM 30 years ago. Today, half of all girls in those five countries undergo FGM. Although FGM is still allowed in Iraq, it is illegal in Iraqi Kurdistan. Many people against the practice explain that law is not enough and there needs to be stricter enforcement to ensure the end of female circumcision.
  6. A call to action: According to UNICEF, there has been a massive movement to end FGM in the last 25 years. There are many organizations, like the Orchid Project, that campaign against the traditional cutting in the Middle East and Asia. In 2013, UNICEF formally recognized that FGM is a problem that extends to areas outside of Africa. In addition, the United Nations celebrates International End FGM day every February 6, which is a huge step forward in spreading awareness. The U.N. also made it a goal to stop FGM in all countries by 2030.
FGM is a way to oppress women and makes girls feel like their body is a sin. It is a horrible practice that leaves long-lasting wounds in our global society. Not only is it a form of torture, but it strips women from basic human rights. Thankfully, more people are becoming familiar with female genital mutilation in the Middle East and elsewhere. Allies around the world are working hard to bring an end to the practice.

Karin Filipova
Photo: Flickr

Recognized as one of the top-selling artists in history, Sir Elton John has continued to have an enormous impact on the music industry and pop culture. However, his influence goes beyond music. Over the years, John has used his platform to raise awareness for several charitable organizations. Here is a glimpse of Elton John’s impact through his efforts with five organizations.

Elton John’s Involvement

  1. Elton John AIDS Foundation – Elton John founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) in the U.S. in 1992 and a separate entity in the U.K. in 1993. This organization aims to fund programs that alleviate the financial, emotional and physical pain caused by HIV/AIDS. EJAF fights to raise awareness, educate, treat and prevent HIV/AIDS. In 2018, it enabled 235,000 adolescents to receive HIV testing and connected more than 68,000 patients to treatment programs. Since 2010, the organization has reached and over 11.5 million people and has raised $125 million to support similar programs around the globe.
  2. Riders for Health – In 2008, Elton John donated 120 motorcycles to healthcare workers in Lesotho. The bikes enable doctors and nurses to reach patients in remote areas of Lesotho, where many suffer from HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Lesotho has the second highest number of individuals infected by HIV, and the second highest number of cases in tuberculosis.  Additionally, almost 73 percent of patients infected with tuberculosis are simultaneously infected with HIV. John made the donation in partnership with the Lesotho Ministry of Health and Riders for Health. Founded in 1996, Riders for Health is an international nonprofit dedicated to increasing accessibility and efficiency of healthcare in Africa. The organization manages motorcycles, ambulances and other vehicles that provide healthcare to seven countries in Africa.
  3. Breast Cancer Research Foundation – Through his performances and donations, Elton John has supported the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) for over 15 years. BCRF provides essential funding to cancer research worldwide and is the highest-rated breast cancer organization in the U.S. At the NYC Hot Pink Party in 2016, BCRF honored John with a research grant in his name due to his dedication to the organization. He capped off the night with a performance. This event alone raised over $6.8 million for breast cancer research.
  4. Starkey Hearing Foundation – In 2012, Elton John and spouse David Furnish joined the Starkey Hearing Foundation on a trip to Manila to help fit more than 400 children and adults with hearing aids. The Starkey Hearing Foundation is committed to raising awareness, education and protection of hearing care. The organization provides more than 100,000 hearing aids annually and has reached over 100 countries. Additionally, John has previously preformed at the So the World May Hear Awards Gala to raise funds and awareness for hearing accessibility.
  5. The Elton John Sports Fund – Elton John’s impact is also present through the Elton John Sports Fund. Rocket Sports started the Elton John Sports Fund in 2014 in partnership with SportsAid. This partnership supports young athletes by providing money to travel, to get necessary equipment and to decrease the overall financial strains of a given sport. The recipients of the Elton John Sports Fund are promising athletes who come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and sports interests.

Throughout his career, Elton John has championed numerous causes, earning him awards such as the Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2017 and the BAMBI Award in 2004. John has performed at countless benefit concerts, raising awareness for organizations that range from rainforest conservation to supporting first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Elton John has made a lasting impact on the world, using his star-studded platform for good.

Megan McKeough

Photo: Flickr

Durian Fruit Will Transform ElectricityAround the world, millions rise with sunlight and go to bed with the moonlight, not because of preference, but because of lack of choice. In 2016, 13 percent of people around the world did not have electricity. Lack of electricity hampers the development of impoverished nations around the world. Developed nations’ sustainability relies on electricity. According to the World Bank, lack of electricity hampers developments in healthcare, education, gender equality and occupations. However, many third world nations may not see electricity in their neighborhoods for many years to come. With approximately 940 million people living without electricity, a significant gap has developed between the haves and the have-nots. Upon observation of the gap, it was important for scientists to figure out how durian fruit will transform electricity everywhere.

What Is Durian?

Durian is a valued fruit native to tropical regions around the world, but most commonly found in Southern Asia in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Durian is most widely known as the smelliest fruit in the world, but it is also very nutritious. In fact, in many countries, different places have restrictions on where this fruit can and cannot go. Many South Asian cultures value durian fruit, but have no need of the skin; it is simply thrown away. Excitingly, experts figured out how durian fruit will transform electricity everywhere. Scientists discovered that durian fruit’s surface is transformable into something called aerogels—a part commonly used inside batteries.

According to Sydney University, the method is entirely non-toxic. The aerogels can replace parts of a standard phone battery. They perform much more efficiently than modern-day batteries do. While this non-toxic method will allow smartphones to charge at astonishing rates more consistently, it also opens up possibilities to provide impoverished communities with low-cost electricity initiatives.

This method differs from any others because of its convenience. Communities that value durian are already throwing out the skin. This means there is a cost-effective way to provide materials and a non-toxic manner of production, resulting in low-cost access to energy.

Benefits Of Electricity

With electricity, communities develop communication services. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), this allows people to build their quality of living rapidly. If there is a lack of supplies or an important governmental initiative, communication services allow for this information and materials to be accessed much quicker than traditional methods. Along with communication services, electricity allows people to preserve goods for longer.

With the ability to produce low-cost energy, impoverished communities are more capable of accessing electricity into their daily lives. The implementation of electricity into underprivileged communities allows them to develop their quality of life.The durian may be the key to cheaper and more readily available electricity. This could provide people in developing countries with lower-cost electricity for everyday items. With objects such as refrigerators and freezers, underprivileged people can stock up on food, thus helping to diminish high rates of starvation. Furthermore, cleaner forms of electricity can provide light, heat and easier cooking.

– Cleveland Lewis

Photo: Unsplash

Women’s and Children’s health
In 2000, all 191 members of the United Nations officially ratified the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which are eight, interdependent goals to improve the modern world. One of these goals included “promot[ing] gender equality and empower women; to reduce child mortality; [and] to improve maternal health,” emphasizing the need for increased focus on women’s and children’s health across the globe. In 2015, the Millennium Development Goals ended and the U.N. published a comprehensive report detailing the success of the MDGs. The report concluded that, during the length of the program, women’s employment increased dramatically, childhood mortality decreased by half and maternal mortality declined by nearly 45 percent.

Such success is, in part, due to another initiative, the 2010 Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, that aimed to intensify efforts to improve women’s and children’s health. Upon conclusion, the U.N. began developing a new program, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which includes 17 interconnected goals. Expanding on the success of the MDGs, the U.N. aims to tackle each goal by 2030. Similar to supportive programming to the MDGs, the U.N. has created another push for women’s and children’s health by establishing the 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health.

The Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health

The 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health tackles a variety of critical global issues including maternal and childhood death, women’s workforce participation, women’s and children’s health care coverage, childhood development and childhood education. Being more robust, the 2016 Global Strategy is distinguished from the previous program as it “is much broader, more ambitious and more focused on equity than [the 2010] predecessor,” according to a U.N. report. The 2016 Global Strategy specifically addresses adolescents with the objective of encouraging youth to recognize personal potential and three human rights of health, education and participation within society.

Initiatives Supporting the SDGs

Many anticipate that achieving these global objectives will be a complex challenge. Therefore, the U.N. has established two groups to address women’s, children’s and adolescent’s health advancement: The High-level Steering Group for Every Woman Every Child and The Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents.

The U.N. Secretary-General created the High-level Steering Group for Every Woman and Every Child in 2015. Seven areas of focus within the 2016 Global Strategy define the overall aim of this group. These include early child development, adolescent health, quality, equity, dignity in health services, sexual and reproductive health and rights, empowerment, financing, humanitarian and fragile settings.

The World Health Organization and the U.N. Human Rights Council created the Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents in 2016, and it delivered recommendations to improve methods to achieving the 2016 Global Strategy. The group provides insight to “better operationalize” the human rights goals of the Steering Group in the report. 

In conjunction, these groups have accelerated and promoted the effectiveness of the 2016 Global Strategy. These groups effectively outline the idea that it is crucial to work as a team to tackle some of the world’s most complex problems concerning global poverty and health. U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, believes these programs and groups will guide individuals and societies to claim human rights, create substantial change and hold leaders accountable.

Benefiting the Global Community

While the objective of the 2016 Global Strategy is to provide women, children and adolescents with essential resources and opportunities, the benefits of this integrated approach reach far beyond these groups. Developing strategic interventions produces a high return on resource investment. The reduction of poverty and increased public health leads to stimulated economic growth, thus increasing productivity and job creation.

Further, projections determine that the 2016 Global Strategy’s investments in the health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents will procure a 10-fold return by 2030, yielding roughly $100 billion in demographic dividends.

These high returns provide a powerful impetus for program support by local communities and government officials. Projected financial return can shed light on the global benefits of localized poverty reduction efforts. While the aim of poverty reduction should be in the interest of those most affected, understanding that such programs can provide a country with increased long-term growth is a major factor in the success of such initiatives, specifically in women’s and children’s health. 

The 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health is indispensable during a time when women and children are providing the world with new innovations and perspectives. Each day, women across the world promote cooperation, peace and conversations within communities. Children will come to define the wellbeing of our world in the future. The success of U.N. programs today is a new reality for the world tomorrow.

Aly Hill
Photo: Flickr

Venezuelan Humanitarian Crisis
Venezuela has been marred by a humanitarian crisis for several years, and the situation persists. As policy forum the Wilson Center explains, more than four million Venezuelans have left the country, most since 2015. This makes Venezuela the second most common country of origin for displaced people worldwide, behind only Syria.

In breaking down the crisis, the Wilson Center says Venezuela has “widespread poverty and chronic shortages of food, medicine, and other basic necessities,” and as The Borgen Project reported last year, cases of malnutrition and disease are rampant. These issues come as a consequence of economic mismanagement, official corruption and decreasing oil prices between 2013 and 2016.

An example of that purported corruption — and perhaps the most public element of Venezuela’s overall state — is that Venezuela’s current President Nicolás Maduro won a second term in the 2018 election, despite being largely blamed for helping further the once-wealthy nation’s free fall that began under Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chávez. Much of the world believes Maduro’s re-election was falsely won through corrupt tactics, and instead back key opposition entity the Lima Group’s leader Juan Guaido. The group seeks to install Guaido in Maduro’s place, but has as yet been unsuccessful.

Still, as dire as the situation remains for Venezuela, several efforts have been launched and entities mobilized to help the Venezuelan people. Here are seven organizations or initiatives aimed at assuaging the long-standing and growing Venezuelan humanitarian crisis.

7 Venezuelan Humanitarian Crisis Aid Efforts

  1. Future of Venezuela Initiative (FVI): Created by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, this initiative aims to “shed light on the unprecedented humanitarian, economic, and political crisis in Venezuela, and its impact in the Americas,” with an emphasis on the role of the United States and the international community in limiting Venezuelan suffering. FVI will leverage research to generate awareness and ideas on challenges facing Venezuelans and solutions to those challenges.
  2. BetterTogether Challenge: The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Inter-American Development Bank partnered to launch this initiative in October 2019. The initiative aims to crowdsource, fund and scale innovative solutions from Venezuelans and other innovators worldwide to support individuals displaced by the crisis in the country. It also calls on people to help elevate Venezuelan voices, develop solutions for the problems facing Venezuela and grow a network to host and support displaced Venezuelans.
  3. United States government: Since 2017, the United States has provided over $656 million in aid to the Venezuelan crisis, according to a report from the U.S. Department of State. Of that amount, nearly $473 million went toward humanitarian assistance for Venezuelans forced to flee the country.
  4. Giving Children Hope: The California-based faith-driven nonprofit Giving Children Hope, which provides wellness programs and disaster response services locally, domestically and abroad, established a program specifically to address the Venezuela crisis. With the help of various partnerships, it feeds more than 8,000 Venezuelans every week. Last year it launched a campaign with a goal of serving 1 million meals to Venezuelans in need.
  5. The European Commission: The European Commission (EC) has been sending humanitarian aid to Venezuela since 2016. The EC announced last year a new commitment of 50 million euros, bringing the total amount the European Union has contributed to alleviating the crisis since 2018 to 117.6 million euros.
  6. The United Nations: The U.N. has distributed funds and a variety of health, food and other supplies and services to Venezuela. In the first half of 2019 alone, the UN sent 55 tons of health supplies to the country, distributing them across 25 hospitals in five states. Contributions include nine million doses of the diphtheria vaccine, 176,000 doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and 260 education kits for 150,000 children in public schools. The UN also provided 400,000 people with access to safe drinking water.
  7. Action Against Hunger: This France-founded, globally-operating organization set up boots-on-the-ground teams in Venezuela in 2018 to help aid those impacted by the humanitarian crisis. Its work has focused on providing nutritional and related support for schoolchildren across six Venezuelan states. The organization has helped 3,685 Venezuelans to date.

There is much that must be done to end the crisis that has resulted in many citizens fleeing the country. However, the situation has not gone completely ignored. Entities big and small, public and private across the globe are working to make a difference.

– Amanda Ostuni
Photo: Flickr

World Problems To Write About
Across the world, many disasters have left poor legacies for many to deal with. Currently, organizations such as UNICEF and the United Nations Foundation are making efforts to eliminate global problems like climate change and global poverty. With this being said, many individuals are not aware of the full extent of these issues. It is time for journalists and writers to focus on today’s most prevalent issues to educate the public to take action. Here are five world problems to write about.

5 World Problems to Write About

  1. Climate Crisis: Right now, many news publications have been reporting on one of today’s most known issues: climate change. Affecting millions of individuals around the world,  the current climate crisis is a problem that many activists and scientists are trying to solve. Some people like Greta Thunberg have made it their mission to educate the public on what is going on and how to involve themselves. First, it is important to write about this issue because it has drastic consequences on human lives. For example, studies show that climate change will displace about 200 million people by 2050, leaving them with no home. Second, climate change also has repercussions on the planet itself. Sea levels have risen approximately eight inches in the past century, and the Earth’s surface temperature has risen almost 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit as well.
  2. Food Security: Quite a lot of today’s agriculture relies heavily on quick and easy access to water; however, access to natural resources such as water has grown limited due to its exploitation for other purposes. The lack of food security has contributed to the sharp increases in world hunger as people are not meeting their dietary needs. According to the United Nations, approximately 925 million people around the world go hungry either because they cannot afford food or because it is just too scarce. People need education about food security from the news, as many personal choices, such as wasting food, contribute to the problem.
  3. Lack of Education: Another important issue to write about is the lack of education that is so persistent in many low-income areas. Currently, more than 759 million adults are illiterate and do not properly understand the consequences of lacking education. Not only does it limit the number of job opportunities available in the future, but it also has drastic effects on future generations. Many organizations such as the Association for Childhood Education International have identified the source of the issue and are determined to alienate it in the coming years. By empowering children and adults to pursue an education, it hopes to shed light on its importance and help individuals grow.
  4. Gender Inequality: As the world progresses, it is important for society to acknowledge the age-old issue of gender inequality. Consequences such as wage discrepancies and stereotypical gender roles have limited many women across the world from achieving their full potential. According to the World Economic Forum, it will take almost 108 years to fully solve this issue; however, it is important that people write about gender inequality more often and educate the public to speed up that time. By understanding the full scope of the problem, men and women everywhere will have the empowerment to take action and fight for equality.
  5. Global Poverty: Finally, one of the largest world problems around the world is global poverty, affecting almost half of the world’s population. Global poverty, in general, has economic and social consequences. Not only can it be very dangerous for one’s health, but it also has dire effects on the environment and physical landscape. To add, poverty can negatively affect economic growth by limiting the amount of money available to invest and increasing crime rates. The Borgen Project has been a key player in writing on this issue, raising money and spreading awareness globally. It has also been very active in legislature, advocating for certain bills to alleviate global poverty. Writing on this issue can increase its urgency and push for more individuals to involve themselves.

It is important for writers and journalists across the world to report on these world problems that are most prevalent in today’s society. The world problems to write about above are some of the most urgent problems to address, affecting many politically, economically and socially. By reporting on these topics more frequently, people have the education and empowerment to take action. After all, action can only happen after awareness.

– Srihita Adabala
Photo: Flickr

Supporting Entrepreneurs in Developing CountriesFrom 2002 to 2012, the World Bank invested around 9 billion dollars in skills training programs for aspiring entrepreneurs in developing countries. The hope was to counteract the shortage of schools worldwide. However, because these programs suffered from low participation and high dropout rates, they seldom lasted long enough to make any real impact. After doing a cost and benefits analysis of these programs, the World Bank found that they were not successful in increasing participant income. Consequently, the World Bank has started to withdraw its support from these programs, citing that there are several problems with the initiatives.

With the failure of such programs, aspiring entrepreneurs in developing countries need a more efficient system to support them. Currently, more than two billion workers in these countries are unable to meet the requirements of possible employers, including necessary literacy skills. There are now about 420 million incapable workers below the age of 25. As a country’s economy evolves, locals need to adapt to changing needs. However, an overwhelming amount of people do not have the skill sets to do so.

Possible Solutions

One solution to this problem has been introducing programs that cultivate entrepreneurship in Africa’s youth and women. There have been several programs already instituted to work towards this goal, including the Pan-African Youth Entrepreneur Development (paid), BeniBiz, Apoio e Geração e Incremento de Renda (AGIR), Impulsa Tu Empresa 2.0 (ITE 2.0) and Crece Tu Empresa (CRECE). 

These programs offer content and training in creating and maintaining businesses. They also offer lessons on accounting, management and finance. Some cater to individuals, while others cater to business owners. Graduation programs, which are now in the works, also intend to provide entrepreneurship learning services for lower prices. Overall, there are many options for aspiring entrepreneurs in developing countries. Two programs that especially stand out are the Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) graduation program and Business Lab Africa (BLA).

Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB)

The International Labor Organization created Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) in 1977. It offers vocational training that has shown concrete results. People can use the locally relevant knowledge they gain from this program to work jobs that are in-demand and make a living for themselves and their families. The program also offers business management training. It teaches skills in accounting, finance, creating and maintaining business and management practices. Thus far, this program has more than 15 million users and is still growing. 

SIYB has been able to change the lives of many of its users. In 2011, the program conducted a SIYB Global Tracer Study that examined the effects of the program on users’ lives. About one-third of users who had no prior experience in business before receiving SIYB training were able to generate an average of three new jobs following its curriculum. SIYB is continuing to update its technology. In fact, a new version of its web-based monitoring platform (SIYB Gateway) is expected to launch in 2020.

Business Lab Africa (BLA)

The Business Lab Africa program (BLA) works to help African entrepreneurs succeed in business areas. The program itself is subscription-based and provides quality entrepreneurship training at inexpensive price points. This makes it easily accessible to entrepreneurs in developing countries. The program’s services can be accessed via mobile or web.

BLA “offers practical, qualitative and locally relevant” knowledge around marketing, sales, global expansion, business structure, processes and business models. Teachers in this program are distinguished business experts who teach relevant skills that entrepreneurs in developing countries can use to support themselves. Thus far, it has trained more than one million entrepreneurs both online and in person. By 2022, BLA estimates that its user base will increase to at least 100,000 people.

These programs are generally tailored to fit the needs of underprivileged individuals, offering both asset transfer and training. Additionally, they do not require repayment of initial grants, which would usually create an insurmountable barrier to student success and self-sustainability. With these programs, people living in underdeveloped countries will have the opportunity to access the educational tools needed to succeed despite staggering economic situations. 

Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous Minority Languages 

Approximately half of the world’s 7,000 distinct spoken languages are at risk of extinction within this century as a result of market globalization. Generational language loss emerges from the prioritization of dominant languages over minority languages. Yet, online communications technology expands outlets for the promotion and preservation of endangered indigenous minority languages. 

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) recognizes 56 ethnic minority groups, of which 55 have indigenous languages, numbering approximately 130. Indigenous peoples consisting of 1,000 or fewer people speak at least 20 of those languages. Out of 11 million ethnic Manchus, fewer than 100 have conversational fluency, a symptom of Standard Mandarin supplanting the Manchu language. The Hezhen, Tatar and She languages face circumstances like Manchu, while the Jinuo, Nu, Pumi and Yilao languages risk losing their conversational status.  

Historic Policies for Preserving China’s Indigenous Minority Languages

The PRC Ministry of Education has implemented policies for the preservation of indigenous minority languages. These policies rest on the premise of the legal equality of all ethnicities and autonomous governments in the nation. Hence, minority ethnicities have considerable self-government in the form of five autonomous regions, 30 autonomous prefectures, 120 autonomous counties and 1,256 autonomous communities. Autonomous ethnic minority areas comprise 64 percent of China‘s total landmass, governing 75 percent of the ethnic minority population.

The law guarantees the provision of language interpreters for ethnic minority representatives in the PRC’s parliamentary assemblies. Likewise, official bodies translate all laws, regulations and major political documents into indigenous minority languages. Autonomous governments conduct their affairs in these languages. Standard Mandarin and minority languages coexist on autonomous government seals, identity cards and in the commercial sector.  

Plaintiffs may file lawsuits in indigenous minority languages, and defendants without fluency in Standard Mandarin may request translators. Courts may conduct trials in native languages for the sake of convenience and efficiency, while the translation of court documents into many languages occurs in multilingual regions.  

Autonomous regions receive latitude in structuring education in many languages. But such schools must also ensure skill in Standard Mandarin. As of 2012, bilingual education existed in 21 autonomous regions and 13 provinces, encompassing approximately 10,000 schools.

Policies incentivize minority authors and translators to write and publish in their native tongues. No cap exists on the quantity of minority language writings permitted, while the free provision of stripe codes further facilitates publication. State proposals to fund minority language magazines and journals raise questions of integrity and autonomous development.  

Kazakh, Korean, Mongolian, Tibetan, Uyghur, Zhuang and Yi are among the sixteen indigenous minority languages in which CCTV has broadcast since May 22, 1950. The national radio has broadcast in more than 20 minority languages, compared with local radio broadcasting encompassing 30-plus languages.

The Increased Role of Digital Technology in Present-Day Language Preservation Measures

As a supplement to these earlier measures, authorities now explore the opportunities afforded by technology for moving language preservation into a globalized digital world. In 2010, the PRC began developing a vocal database of the nation’s officially-recognized languages and dialects. Xinjiang-based ethnic Kazakh university professor Akbar Majit notes that as of 2010, online communication had already made inroads in minority communities. In 2010, the PRC began developing a vocal database of the nation’s officially-recognized languages and dialects. Majit notes that as of 2010, online communication had already made inroads in minority communities.

An event held in September 2018 in Hunan province showcased technological options, such as the comprehensive recording of endangered languages. Among the advanced technologies discussed as language preservation tools were AI speech recognition and synthesis.

Conclusion

Tibetan monk and software developer Lobsang Monlam notes that even small inroads of digital technology on Tibet make a considerable impact. Internet, word processing and other adaptations of the Tibetan language currently exist. From grammar, character and spell-check programs to optical character recognition, speech-to-text and translation software, digital technology may substantially assist minority language preservation and promotion throughout China. Building upon the policies of the past with the technology of the present and future, justification exists for optimism about the future of China’s minority languages. 

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Everystockphoto

Kelvin Beachum

As an offensive tackle in American Football, Kelvin Beachum is accustomed to being in tough circumstances. But as a child, he remained unaware of the harsh reality of food insecurity that his hardworking parents struggled with. His family grew up poor but his parents always found a way to provide, sometimes having to rely on government programs like food stamps or WIC (Women, Infants and Children) to put food on the table. Now, the football player does his part by giving back to ensure that fewer families have to worry about where their next meal will come from.

Beachum and World Vision

There are 795 million hungry people throughout the world, and malnutrition is the cause of almost half of all deaths of children under the age of 5. These sobering facts have inspired Beachum to take his cause for food security international. In the summer of 2016, he traveled to Honduras with World Vision, a global Christian humanitarian organization, to witness how another country deals with the issue of childhood hunger. He was surprised to discover that finding a source of clean water is just as difficult as finding food within the country.

During his travels, he visited a rural school where he witnessed a water tank system that is part of a World Vision water project and will eventually provide access to clean water for more than 200,000 people. In another community he visited, World Vision facilitated the growth of an economic empowerment project, which provides clean drinking water for the entire community as well as water for agricultural irrigation.

Beachum and World Food Day

Beachum also advocates for World Food Day, which is celebrated every year on October 16th to honor the founding of the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945. For World Food Day 2018, he created a match challenge for five food banks throughout the U.S. His plan entailed donating $5,000 to each food bank and doubling his donation if members of the community matched his contribution.  Eventually, he reached his goal of $70,000, which provided 327,000 meals for hungry individuals throughout the U.S.

“It allows me to keep things in perspective,” Beachum states. “I was…on food stamps growing up…We had people who helped us out. So, for me, that keeps me grounded, honestly, because I was there.”

Kelvin Beachum and Feed the Future

His advocacy extends Feed the Future (FTF), the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. FTF works with partner countries to break the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger by developing their agricultural sectors and working to sustainably grow enough food to feed their people. They are also leading the implementation of the Global Food Security Act of 2016, which promotes global food security, resilience and nutrition. FTF draws on resources and expertise from multiple U.S. federal departments and agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The progress speaks for itself; it is projected that 23.4 million more people are living above the poverty line, 3.4 million more children are living free of stunting, and 5.2 million more families do not go hungry within the countries that FTF partners with. The Global Food Reauthorization Act, signed by President Donald J. Trump in 2018, ensures that funding continues for FTF so the assistance they provide for hungry individuals around the world will persist.

Conclusion

Through his advocacy and partnership with organizations such as FTF, Kelvin Beachum is breaking the mold of the stereotypical football player. His interest in humanitarian issues all started with a canned food drive in college and has blossomed into global efforts that are making real change. His hope is to inspire others to take action through advocacy, donations, and volunteering. “The world is going through a lot right now,” Beachum writes. “Anything [one] can do to bring light to it—that’s impactful.”

– Rachel Baum
Photo: Flickr

4 Instagrammers showcasing Africa

Social media is a definitive way people connect with parts of the world they will never see in person. The image sharing site of Instagram is an example, garnering over 1 billion monthly users as of June 2018. Instagram has also been an effective method for users across the continent of Africa to broadcast their rich lives and careers. BBC author Adora Mba in October 2019 made a case for Instagram being beneficial for Africa as a way to challenge stereotypes, particularly in the countries of Ethiopia and Ghana. With the main focus on these countries, this article will highlight four Instagrammers showcasing Africa, and how they’re making a difference.

4 Instagrammers showcasing Africa

  1. Everyday Africa: An Instagram that describes itself as a “collective of photographers looking to broaden the perception of Africa beyond the headlines.” With 404K followers on Instagram, Everyday Africa uses its large platform to display African life and highlight positive actions being taken. On Oct 21st, 2019, Everyday Africa posted about environmental activist Modou Fall from Dakar in Senegal. With a goal to raise awareness about plastic waste in Senegal, Fall travels through Dakar in a costume made out of recycled plastic to invite conversation. This Instagram also posts about sporting events, such as a Uganda vs. Nigeria basketball game held in Kampala, Uganda on September 9th, 2019. Through the Everyday Projects part of Every Africa’s site, photographers are also hired within their community to accurately portray life in their countries; another positive aspect of the Instagram account. Everyday Africa is a noteworthy part of the 4 Instgrammars showcasing Africa because of all the organization publicizes.
  1. Prince Gyasi: The Ghanain Instagrammer has 82.6K followers and uses his platform to highlight the stories from marginalized communities in his home city of Accra. Gyasi uses his Instagram platform to advertise for the nonprofit BoxedKids that he is a co-founder of. Boxedkids is a campaign that seeks to provide education to children in the district of Jamestown in Accra, Ghana. Gyasi will mainly use his account to highlight ordinary people in his community, such as a photo showcasing the “mothers of Jamestown” posted on February 17th, 2019. As part of the Boxedkids series, Gyasi posted two children fishing in Jamestown in November 2018. Prince Gyasi recently did an interview with BBC News to expose others to his work, making him a prominent one of the 4 Instagrammers showcasing Africa.
  1. Nana Kofi Acquah: With the username “Africashowboy”, Acquah has 9.5K followers on Instagram. Acquah uses his platform to highlight life in Ghana, such as the Jamestown fishery life photo posted on August 15th, 2019. The popular Instagrammer will also use his platform to highlight societal issues going on in the country of Ghana: such as men working in illegal mining operations, women who are surviving Obstetric Fistula during childbirth, or birthing traditions for Ghanaian women. Acquah’s account will vary from urgent posts about child labor in the fishery industry to one’s about weddings in Ghana. Acquah’s variety of content that always includes a story of text with each photograph makes him a significant Instagram influencer for Ghana.
  1. Eyerusalem Jiregna: An Ethiopian photographer with almost 9,000 followers, Jiregna is a feminist addition to these 4 Instagrammers showcasing Africa.  Primarily focused in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, Jiregna’s The City of Saints 2017 photography series highlights the women in her area. In a 2019 interview with Whitewall Art, the Instagram artist describes her main focus of photography as: “architecture, fashion, culture, and history.” Examples of this include a photo posted on Nov 8th, 2019, depicting women in the Addis Merkato (marketplace). She also spotlights mothers with their children under a hashtag of #motherhood to give credit to mothers in Ethiopia and their livelihoods. Another very prominent part of Jiregna’s photography is to highlight religious celebrations for Christians in her country.

The power of photography can give insight into the culture of a people. The use of images has been a significant way people in the African countries of Ghana and Ethiopia have been expressing themselves to the world, and these 4 Instagrammers showcasing Africa are just a few examples of them. Advocacy can be done through people telling their own stories, and the platform of Instagram has been a way to introduce African life to the world in the 21st century.

– Natalie Casaburi
Photo: Flickr