Information and stories on social activism.

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

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

Women's Rights in Pakistan
A lot of progress has occurred to achieve women’s rights in Pakistan. However, gender inequality still remains a prominent issue. According to the World Economic Forum, the Global Gender Index Report ranks Pakistan second to last in domestic violence.

Fortunately, the government has taken significant action. In December 2020, Pakistan instilled a new anti-rape law to speed up convictions and toughen sentences. According to White Ribbon Pakistan, an estimated 4,734 women faced sexual violence between 2004 and 2016. Furthermore, there were over 15,000 cases of registered honor crimes and more than 1,800 cases of domestic violence. However, conviction rates remain low. Only 2.5% of all cases result in convictions. The new law requires sex offenders to be nationally registered. Additionally, the courts will protect the identity of victims.

Domestic Abuse

Pakistan ranks as the sixth most dangerous country for women in regards to domestic violence. Patriarchal and cultural norms greatly impact women’s rights in Pakistan.

Honor killings and violence within the home are prevalent. Recently, social media model and activist Qandeel Baloch’s brother strangled her to death. According to her brother, she had ruined the family’s image and honor. Fortunately, Pakistan has made progress to prevent violence within the household. For instance, the court denied Baloch’s parents’ wishes and convicted Baloch’s brother of murder. Additionally, more than 1,000 domestic violence cases appeared in court in June 2019.

Furthermore, Ms. Quandeel wrote, “I wonder how long it will take us to recognize that we shouldn’t let ourselves off the hook, that our social structure is rotten and works against people like #Qandeel who wish to make something of themselves on their own terms.” The death of Qandeel Baloch generated a movement for gender equality in Pakistan.

The Good News

The good news is that Pakistani women are fighting back. Since 2018, women have demanded economic and environmental justice, reproductive rights and better access to public spaces. On International Women’s Day, thousands took to the streets to demonstrate their commitment to bettering women’s rights in Pakistan. However, conservative groups criticized the movement and labeled it as a “western campaign.”

One of the main slogans of the march was “mera jism, meri marzi” (my body, my choice). Many said it was a promiscuous demand that did not empower women. Yet, women continue to defend their objectives, raise awareness against sexual harassment and gender-based violence and promote bodily autonomy.

Additionally, women began riding bikes in order to accentuate their presence in public spaces. Girls at Dhabas organized a bike ride to promote certification in all public events and fight against restrictions that prohibit women. One cyclist said, “We have an advantage with this lockdown and corona and all. The cycling has become really common among the girls in Islamabad.”

Various organizations are spreading awareness of domestic violence. Additionally, the government continues to implement new laws to protect women. Although women’s rights in Pakistan are lacking in many ways, the government and organizations continue to strive for gender equality.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr

7 Organizations that Fight for Gender Equality
In order to alleviate global poverty, it is imperative to fight for gender equality. The President of the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development said, “When you invest in a man, you invest in an individual. When you invest in a woman, you invest in a community.” Women all over the world continue to struggle for equality in the workplace. Additionally, women often bear the burden of completing domestic responsibilities and unpaid labor.

Poverty Among Women

Poverty affects women especially. Women do not have the same opportunities as men in receiving a quality education, work and owning property. Thus, their ability to be productive citizens often has severe limits. Many young girls learn to prioritize domestic responsibilities over education. Consequently, women are often illiterate and unable to find employment. This hinders the fight for gender equality and the economic development of a country as well. Moreover, global poverty will prevail until the world achieves gender equality.

Fortunately, many organizations fight for gender equality within their respective countries. Here are seven organizations that strive to empower women and alleviate poverty.

7 Organizations that Fight for Gender Equality

  1. The Korea Women’s Associations United: This is an umbrella organization that aims to achieve gender equality, democracy and peaceful reunification in the Korean peninsula by facilitating solidarity and collectivism. It played an important role in establishing the “basic framework for government policies on women, including the creation of the Ministry of Gender Equality and the adoption of a [gender-responsive] budget.”
  2. The Akshara Foundation: This Foundation works to improve access to education and enhance social consciousness in India by providing scholarships and capacity-building workshops to disadvantaged young women. Its main objective is to break the cycle of gender equality and poverty. Additionally, its Youth for Change program teaches young men and women the importance of gender equality for all.
  3. The Women for Peace & Gender Equality Initiative: This organization fights for gender equality by empowering young women in Nigeria via a uniform platform of advocacy. The platform resolves social issues and eradicates inequalities at grass root levels for policy-level changes. Furthermore, it provides skill and leadership training for adolescent boys and girls. Additionally, the Women for Peace & Gender Equality Initiative conducts research on gender-based violence.
  4. The Foundation for Studies and Research on Women: This Argentina-based Foundation has developed programs, projects and other activities concerning political participation, leadership, teenage pregnancy, violence against women and comprehensive sex education. The Foundation for Studies and Research on Women partners with local municipalities, universities and other NGOs to promote and teach its research through its extensive programs.
  5. The Pratthanadee Foundation: This Foundation provides mentoring and career guidance in Thailand. It successfully reaches over 3,000 undereducated and economically underprivileged women and girls in central Bangkok and rural Ubon Ratchathani each year. The Pratthanadee Foundation aims to build confidence in young women from low-income regions across Thailand. Additionally, the organization recently launched a new program to teach young women how to create and act upon their future aspirations.
  6. The Network of Young People for Gender Equality: This Portuguese nonprofit fights for gender equality and promotes women’s rights through informational activities, education, lobbying and research. Furthermore, this organization falls under the Support, Advanced Learning and Training Opportunities for Youth (SALTO-YOUTH). It is also a part of the European Commission’s Training Strategy.
  7. Voices Against Violence: This organization is an informal learning program for boys and girls in Australia. The United Nations and the World Association of Girls Guides and Girl Scouts developed this program. Additionally, the initiative works to help young people understand violence, abuse and relationships. Voices Against Violence works in Australia under Girl Guides Australia to empower young women to be confident and responsible community members.

Looking Ahead

These seven organizations strive to empower women, fight for gender equality and improve the economic development of countries. Providing girls and women with tools to succeed will improve work productivity and decrease education gaps and gender-based violence.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr

Private Sector BusinessesThe U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to be met by 2030, are 17 goals aimed at increasing environmental and socially sustainable solutions to poverty, inequality and injustice, among other things. The goals are both ambitious and achievable but funding gaps hamper the progress of these goals. Through conscious investments toward SDGs, private sector businesses could close this gap. The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres calls on business leaders to use their positions of power, finance and influence to help meet the SDGs, to the benefit of the entire globe.

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, the U.N. created 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030. The overarching aim of the SDGs is, “peace and prosperity for people and the planet.”

The goals principally involve less discrimination worldwide, eliminating poverty, giving more individuals more economic and educational success, increased justice, prioritizing the environment, improving global health and more.

The SDGs are meant for everyone to tackle, from the average person to national governments and major corporations such as private sector businesses.

The Need for SDG Funding

Reaching all 17 SDGs by 2030 will cost between $5-7 trillion per year, according to the United Nations. Although in 2016, development assistance funds hit a high of $142.6 billion, there is still a need for a much greater infusion of funds and a significant need for the support of private sector businesses.

The lack of available funds from the public sector, specifically, is the main reason why there has not been more progress toward the SDGs. Public sector sources of funding are predominantly national governments and government organizations.

Referencing this lack of funding, Guterres lamented the lack of progress made toward the SDGs and urged business leaders in the private sector to step up. “We need business leaders to use their enormous influence to push for inclusive growth and opportunities,” states Guterres. “No one business can afford to ignore this effort and there is no global goal that cannot benefit from private sector investment.”

Businesses Leading Change Through SDGs

Because there is an apparent need for more corporations to invest in SDGs, it is important to recognize those businesses fighting poverty through a commitment to achieving the SDGs.

The U.N. and 30 leaders of multinational companies created the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance in September 2019. They immediately began supporting initiatives for clean energy in Latin America, Africa and Asia, among other goals.

The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative drafted the Principles for Responsible Banking to serve as guidelines for banks to commit themselves to the SDGs. Worldwide, more than 200 banks have committed to these principles. This figure represents more than one-third of the global banking industry. The signatory banks must report on their achievements, goals and growth regarding the principles. They must also accomplish all principle requirements within a set timeline. This ensures tangible strides toward actualizing the SDGs.

The company, PepsiCo, is also making good strides with the SDGs. It is committed to multiple projects in agreement with specific SDGs. The company established a “Green Bond” worth $1 billion in 2019 to do so.

A notable project is the company’s aspiration to restore 100% of the water it uses for manufacturing to areas that are “high water risk.” It aims to do this by water reuse and recycling initiatives, supplying smallholder farmworkers with “water-saving technologies” and sustainable agricultural techniques. PepsiCo cites SDG 6, “Clean Water and Sanitation,” SDG 15, “Life on Land” and SDG 12, “Responsible Consumption and Production,” as aligning with this particular objective.

The Contribution of Foundations

Private sector businesses fighting poverty go beyond business transactions and profitable decisions. Many companies commit to progressing the SDGs by supporting foundations. Top contributing foundations include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund and Gothic Corporation. Total global funding for the SDGs from foundations is upwards of $216 billion.

All these examples of private sector businesses committing to the SDGs prove it is a worthwhile endeavor that needs support on a broad scale. In the words of Guterres, “Corporate leadership can make all the difference to creating a future of peace, stability and prosperity on a healthy planet.”

Claire Kirchner
Photo: Flickr

International Women of Courage AwardThe United States Secretary of State presents the International Women of Courage Award to women who have “demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk and sacrifice.” Now running for its 15th year, since its beginning in 2007, more than 155 women have received this award in more than 75 countries.

The International Women of Courage Award

The Secretary of State and First Lady of the United States host a gala ceremony on or around International Women’s Day (March 8), to present the award. The recipients then travel across the U.S. to participate in specially designed International Visitor Leadership Programs (IVLP) experiences. American Women for International Understanding (AWIU) hosts a celebratory dinner for the awardees. AWIU also awards grants so the women can continue their work in their home countries. The 2021 events were virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fatima Natasha Khalil

Born an Afghan refugee in Pakistan, Fatima Natasha Khalil lived her whole life bravely. In an interview with the New York Times, her sister Lima describes how the midwife walked out halfway through Khalil’s birth. The midwife was furious that the family of refugees could not pay her full fee and so Khalil’s mother had to cut the umbilical cord herself.

Khalil was an excellent student growing up and graduated from the American University of Central Asia with a double major in human rights studies and anthropology in 2019. After graduating she applied for a job at the Afghan Independent Commission of Human Rights (AIHRC) in Kabul, Afghanistan. Khalil’s boss, Shaharzad Akbar explained the difficulty of the line of work. Akbar was reforming the entire organization to rid it of corruption and thus recenter its focus. Additionally, Akbar told Khalil that she might not receive a salary for many months. Khalil gladly accepted the job as donor coordinator for the AIHRC.

The 2020 Explosion

On June 27, 2020, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded under the car that Khalil and AIHRC driver, Jawid Folad, were traveling in.

“You took one of my sisters,” reads Lima’s Twitter profile. “I have one more and four brothers. You can’t cultivate hate in my heart if you even take all of us.”

While no person or group has come forward to claim responsibility for the explosion, similar incidents claim dozens of lives every day in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan.

Assassinated Afghan Women Honored

The Department of State awarded the International Women of Courage Award to a group of phenomenal women from around the globe. It also included an honorary award for seven women leaders and activists from Afghanistan who were assassinated for their commitment to bettering the lives of their communities. Khalil was one of the women honored because of her courage, bravery and dedication.

The International Women of Courage Award recipients have performed extraordinary work in their fields. From police officers to lawyers and nurses, these women are changing the world, starting with their communities.

Holly Dorman
Photo: Flickr

Zendaya, One of the 5 Influential Young Female CelebritiesHistorical events have underlined the importance people have made when advocating for change. This is especially true with celebrities who have such big platforms to speak up for those unable to. Moreover, female celebrities’ fight for social justice is setting the stage for what has not been said in the past. Here are five mega-influential young female celebrities that have been at the forefront of social justice and activism causes.

Greta Thunberg

Ever since she first skipped school to protest in front of the Swedish Parliament Building, Greta Thunberg continuously inspires an international movement to fight climate change. At just 15 years old, she missed lessons every Friday to go on strike. Greta urged young people around the world to join her cause and strive “to make similar demands in their own countries.”

By December 2018, more than 20,000 students around the world joined her movement. She would continue to embark on other strikes around the world, choosing to travel by train to limit her carbon impact. In September 2019, the U.N. Climate Conference hosted her stop in New York where she spoke on issues regarding climate change and how world leaders needed to do more. Greta has received a multitude of support and was even named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2019.

Millie Bobby Brown

Brown is best known for her role as Eleven in Netflix’s hit show “Stranger Things,” and appears in the new film “Enola Holmes.” In 2018, UNICEF announced the 14-year-old as the youngest-ever Goodwill Ambassador, highlighting her passions regarding social justice issues.

Earlier that year, TIME magazine featured her as one of TIME’s 100 most influential people, making her the youngest person on the list. Her platform gives her the chance to inspire change and lead by example for the younger generation.

Amandla Stenberg

Amandla Stenberg’s activism has been a prominent influence on her acting decisions, coupled with her early rise to fame at age 12. She first appeared as Rue in the hit film “The Hunger Games,” and has also been active on her social media platforms.

Amandla has spoken out about cultural appropriation with a school project Tumblr video, “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows.” She also frequently advocates for human rights, female empowerment and LGBTQ visibility. She received the 2019 Human Rights Campaign Visibility Award and was named TIME’s “Next Generation Leader.”

Yara Shahidi

Starring in ABC’s comedy “Black-ish” and its spinoff “Grown-ish,” Yara Shahidi quickly gained momentum with her stellar performances. She also received prime recognition in the film adaptation of the novel “The Sun is Also a Star.” While accumulating a large social platform, Yara uses her voice to advocate for social change, including feminism and STEM awareness.

In high school, she started her own club that partnered with the Young Women’s Leadership Network, “which provides online mentorship with the goal of ending poverty through education.” Her enrollment to Harvard in 2018, with the goal of double majoring in sociology and African-American studies, garnered Michelle Obama’s support who praised Yara for her social justice advocacy efforts.

Zendaya

Zendaya, a prominent actress who stars on HBO’s hit show “Euphoria,” was recently recognized for her work in the fashion world regarding cultural representation. When working with Tommy Hilfiger to launch Tommy X Zendaya in 2019, Zendaya made it her mission to include more diversity and representation. Zendaya pointed out that, “Everyone needs to be seen and like they are a part of the fashion world. It is much more diverse now, but there can still be more in terms of different shapes, sizes and cultures.”

Whether through film or advocacy, these influential young female celebrities are making the most out of their fame by speaking out against the many injustices that plague society. Their platforms allow them to voice concerns and advocate for the less fortunate. These women may be young, but their voices are anything but small. Watch out for their names, because it goes to show that we will be hearing a lot more from them in years to come.

Natalie Whitmeyer
Photo: Flickr

Domestic Violence in TongaDomestic violence in Tonga, specifically against women, has become the leading type of law infringement. The most prevalent instance occurs in the home, which is especially alarming during a pandemic forcing everyone inside. However, Tonga is taking measures to fight this issue. One way is through the Women and Children Crisis Center (WCCC).

Domestic Violence in Tonga

The amount of reported cases of domestic violence in Tonga has risen over the past five years. Between January and June of 2020, there were about 537 domestic violence reports and 117 issued police safety orders. Out of those, only 99 assaulters faced prosecution.

Tongan women report experiencing physical coercion and control, sexual assault, emotional abuse and physical assault. Police officials state that the chief problem is related to a cultural belief. Tongan men believe they are in a position of power at home and can act however they please because of this entitlement. As a result, women are often scared to report their abuse cases. This is particularly true when husbands, brothers or sons are the perpetrators, as is typical.

Pacific Women reports that three out of four women in Tonga have experienced physical and sexual violence. Relationships can involve abuse as early as day one and continue on for decades, which women often endure. Furthermore, about 85% of women who have suffered from domestic violence are likely to return to the same environments as their attacks. To combat this, the WCCC in Tonga offers an escape for the abused to ensure women are given the protection they need from abusers.

The Women and Children Crisis Center in Tonga

The WCCC was established in 2009 by Director Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki with a group of women and male supporters. The aim was to help those who have suffered from violence. In turn, they gave free counseling and support to victims of domestic violence in Tonga. Further, the WCCC provides 24 hours of free housing to both women and children in the Mo’ui Fiefia Safe House.

When a woman reports her case to WCCC, the volunteers at the organization help guide the victim through the legal process. They explain the amount of time it will take for the victim’s case to reach court and provide information about how and when the police will contact the victim for testimonies. They also educate the victim on the importance of having a medical record when reporting cases like rape. If the woman is willing, the WCCC offers her a platform to voice her experience. The organization focuses on sharing the stories of victims who have used WCCC’s services and how they have benefitted from those services.

Male Advocacy Training

Violence prevention was another main reason for WCCC’s founding. In 2017, the WCCC launched male advocacy training to end violence against women and children and encourage gender equality. The purpose of the training is to educate men on three key ideas: men have control over how they behave in a sexual manner, all sexual activity can only be performed after there is consent on both sides and men are equally responsible for the transmission of sexually active diseases.

The men receive many lessons from knowledgeable speakers to help end the domestic violence in Tonga. Director Guttenbeil-Likiliki said, “In a situation where a woman does not want to have sex but you continue to persist and persuade her to have sex, this is a high-risk situation, as it is considered to be sexual assault or rape.” Melkie Anton, a lead trainer, explains proper relationship roles to male participants. Anton states, “Women are often used as sexual objects,” and when a woman is in a relationship, she must follow all of her partner’s orders. As a result, the man ends up controlling the relationship and may treat the woman’s feelings with disregard. Another learning directive is toxic masculinity. WCCC members detail how issues, such as proving masculinity and competing with other men encourage domestic violence.

Looking to the Future

WCCC members are working toward expanding their organization’s influence throughout Tonga,  particularly through collaboration. The WCCC has partnered with other organizations, such as the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre and the Vanuatu Women’s Crisis Centre. The organization even reaches out to Tongan government agencies, including the Ministry of Education. The work of the WCCC, from aiding victims to education to advocacy, is a step in the right direction. With continued efforts, there can be an end to domestic violence in Tonga.

Sudiksha Kochi
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in HaitiHaiti, a small country that borders the Dominican Republic on the Hispaniola island, suffers greatly from poverty. Natural disasters, systemic inequality and diminishing economic opportunities create a dire state of extreme poverty. Specifically, child poverty in Haiti is the major poverty crisis.

Over half of Haiti’s 11.2 million population live on less than $3 a day, and malnutrition affects 65,000 children under five. Many children under 14 — over a third of Haiti’s population — do not have ready access to health care, clean water, food security or the right to fair and decent work. The question stands: What does child poverty in Haiti look like today, and what obstacles persist in ending it?

It’s easy to forget that statistics reflect the experience of real, living people. Please keep this in mind. Considering this, here are five facts about child poverty in Haiti.

The Statistical Perspective

  1.  Caloric and nutritive malnutrition affects nearly a third of children in Haiti. Out of every five children, one child is malnourished and one out of 10 is acutely malnourished. Before the age of five, one child out of 14 will die. Those who live deal with the effects of inadequate food supplies. Poor access to vital nutrients means that children are subject to poor health, growth and development.
  2. Despite Haiti’s free publication education, only half of elementary-aged children are enrolled in school. Millions of disadvantaged parents have very few with little resources to secure education for their children. This is a result of Haiti privatizing 92% of schools.
  3.  Nearly half a million children are orphaned in Haiti. A significant proportion of these “lost” children are exploited for labor in dangerous conditions. “Host households” take in children whose families cannot provide for them. Many of these children — known colloquially as “restaveks” — end up as victims of human trafficking.
  4.  Adequate health care is hard to come by in Haiti. Child immunization has stagnated at 41%. The proportion of children who die before their first birthday has risen by 2% in the last year – from 57% to 59%. HIV, tuberculosis, and a variety of other chronic, crippling diseases ail an estimated 20,000 children in Haiti, and treatment is increasingly difficult to obtain.

COVID-19

Haiti is particularly prone to natural disasters, in large part due to its geographical situation in the Bermuda. A magnitude 7.0 earthquake ravaged the island of Hispaniola in 2010. A slew of tropical storms, hurricanes and additional earthquakes further compromised Haiti. Nearly 10 years later, Haiti still struggles with recovering from its 2010 earthquake and hurricane Matthew alongside dealing with recent social unrest and COVID-19.

Humanitarian aid efforts are nearing an all-time high for the country, but the efficacy of these programs and endeavors has been questioned. The threats of COVID-19 aren’t the only ones Haiti must face. The future is increasingly uncertain for millions of Haitians and their children, due to equipment shortages, lack of qualified health care professionals and a worsening economic climate.

Ways to Help

What is there to do? Explore The Borgen Project’s homepage. From there, it’s easy to email and call representatives and leaders. There is the option to donate to the cause. For free, one can create momentum on social media to raise awareness about the dire situation in Haiti. A number of ways exist to combat child poverty in Haiti; it just takes action.

Henry Comes-Pritchett
Photo: Flickr

 

Period poverty in ChinaThe monthly cost of purchasing menstrual sanitary products is not a small amount for females worldwide. “Period Poverty” refers to the inability to afford access to pads, tampons, or liners to manage menstrual bleeding. A campaign in China, is working on addressing period poverty for its girls and women. However, it still remains a women’s rights issue globally.

The General Problem

The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) reports that around 10% of young women around the world are now unable to afford period protection. FIGO also found that 12% of women have to improvise with devices that are potentially ineffective and unsafe. According to UNICEF, there are more than 500 million females that lack a proper place to change their sanitary protection during their period. Period poverty causes long-term impacts of health and hygiene for girls and women. Time management, the chance of receiving education and employment are also affected by period poverty. All of these factors influence a woman’s lifelong development and wellbeing.

Period Poverty in China

The situation of period poverty in China is not much different. Many women and young girls, especially in rural areas, cannot afford feminine hygiene products. Instead of sanitary pads, impoverished women have to use toilet paper or old cloth. Any available yet unsafe materials on hand — even bark for some women in extreme poverty — are substituted to get through the period. Unfortunately, the lack of basic menstrual knowledge and the common menstruation taboo in China only worsen the situation. It is difficult and embarrassing to practice optimal hygiene with dignity in China. As a result, many girls in rural China skip classes or even leave school once they start menstruating.

Campaign for a lower tampon tax

In recent years, the Chinese public is growing more aware of period poverty in China. They are calling for more affordable sanitary products. Additionally, the public advocates for more humanitarian public health policies that take women’s biological needs into accounts. As of 2020, the Chinese government regulates a 13% sales tax on feminine sanitary products. That is 4% higher than the 9% tax for essential daily necessities such as grain, water and contraceptives.

Many other countries, including India and Malaysia, have either exempted or reduced the tax on sanitary products. They have done so for the sake of gender equality. In response, a couple of online campaigns emerged in China in the past few years. The campaigns appeal for a lower tampon tax in the country.

The “Stand by Her” Project

Before the national public health policy can ameliorate, some philanthropists and social organizations have jumped to the cause. They have stood up first to help the low-income women in underdeveloped regions. So far, the “Stand by Her” is one of the most well-known and large-scale projects that deal with period poverty in China.

Liang Yu Stacey, a 24-year-old Chinese feminist activist, initiated the “Reassurance for Sisters Fighting the Virus” online campaign in early 2020. She aimed to raise money to provide feminine sanitary products for the health care workers fighting against COVID-19. The project then extended to a broader scale and evolved into “Stand by Her.”

“Stand by Her” is a voluntary foundation that coordinates donation, procurement and distribution of hygiene products to under-age girls in impoverished provinces. The foundation regularly sends sanitary pads to women around China. In addition, the project also hands out brochures and holds lectures in middle schools to popularize menstruation and sex education. In the first phase of 2020-2021, the team continues to plan to help more than 6,000 girls from 33 schools across China. Within 3 days of opening the donation portals, “Stand by Her” raised 368,700 RMB (54,500 USD).

The online conversations, campaigns and donations display some positive signals in the area of menstruation. Feminine hygiene is gradually breaking away from the conventional social taboo. Reducing tax on women’s menstrual products would be a win for women’s rights in China.

– Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr