Information and stories on social activism.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Global ActivismPrince Harry and Meghan Markle, England’s Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are frequently in the news for their stance against paparazzi and their decision to step back from the British Royal Family in early 2020. But behind the scenes, this famous couple advocates for various matters. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s global activism expands beyond their home countries of the United States and the United Kingdom. They are frequent vocal supporters of global poverty issues, particularly those that affect children.

Meghan Markle’s Activism Before Becoming the Duchess of Sussex

Prior to her marriage to Prince Harry in 2018, Meghan Markle was an outspoken advocate of gender equality in developing countries. She became a U.N. Women’s Advocate for Women’s Political Participation and Leadership in 2015. The following year, Markle traveled to Rwanda and India as an ambassador for World Vision. World Vision is an organization that fights global poverty in children. The experience inspired her to write an op-ed in Time magazine about the effect stigma around menstruation can have on a girl’s future.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Activism

When she married Prince Harry and became a member of the royal family, Markle stepped down from these roles. However, this does not mean she stopped being a voice for those in need. Now, Harry and Meghan’s activism has launched programs and supported charities around the globe that fight to eradicate global poverty. Additionally, they inspire fans of the royals to become advocates themselves.

Their Trips and Projects in Africa

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, along with their young son Archie, took a 10-day tour of Africa. They visited South Africa, Botswana, Angola and Malawi in late September and early October of 2019. While there, the couple announced a variety of projects, including protecting forests, investing in technology and ridding the land of dangerous landmines. The Duchess of Sussex additionally announced grants and scholarships from the Association of Commonwealth Universities. This is an international organization that supports higher education and supports African girls in their journey to university and beyond.

During this same trip, Harry and Meghan met with members of the Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) Association. CAMFED is a group of women advocating for girls’ education and global poverty issues throughout Africa. The royal couple used their platform to support these women. In addition, they shared their work with their 10 million Instagram followers.

Activism Work on Social Media

This was not the first time that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s global activism could be seen on their social media accounts. In August of 2019, the official Instagram account for the pair, @sussexroyal, began a series entitled ‘Forces for Change.’ They highlighted 15 organizations that they found inspiring or noteworthy. These organizations include Children International and Plan International United Kingdom. These two groups care and advocate for children living under the poverty line around the world. The simple act of sharing these organizations online spread awareness of the fight against global poverty. It also prompted followers of the Duke and Duchess to support these incredibly important causes.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s global activism continues to inspire their followers and motivates them to take action just as the couple has done time and time again. In April of 2019, weeks before the birth of baby Archie, thousands of fans of the royal family donated to Meghan Markle’s favorite charities as a baby shower gift in what’s now known as the ‘Global Sussex Baby Shower.’ One of these charities is the aforementioned CAMFED. Additionally, this money directly supported global poverty and girls’ education initiatives in Africa.

In April of 2020, the couple announced their new non-profit: Archewell. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has stalled their plans to launch the organization. Once it launches, we can be sure that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will continue the global activism that has defined their two years as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Daryn Lenahan
Photo: Flickr

Casteism in Nepal
Casteism in Nepal is a centuries-old social class system. This system oppresses lower-caste communities and gives power to upper-caste, educated Nepalis. Historically, the caste system justified the subjugation of lower castes, allowing upper-caste Nepalis to use their status to gain security and power. Roughly 260 million people in South Asia are “Dalits,” or members of lower castes, and are therefore treated as ‘untouchable’ by their social superiors. Dalits in Nepal face social, economic, cultural and political marginalization and routinely fall victim to both institutional and structural discrimination. Despite legal provisions intended to eradicate caste discrimination in Nepal, hate crimes and acts of violence against the Dalit community are rampant. The discrimination and violence Dalits experience severely limit their access to equal education, employment and housing opportunities.

Inadequate Legal Protections

After the monarchy was overthrown, the Nepali constitution explicitly banned discrimination “on grounds of origin, religion, race, caste, tribe, sex, economic condition, language, region, ideology or on similar other grounds.” When the Civil Act 1963 emerged, its primary focus was to make caste-based discrimination a punishable offense. The Untouchability and Discrimination Act and the Constitution of Nepal both provide legal protections for Dalits. Yet, discrimination against marginalized communities in Nepal—particularly Dalit people—remains prevalent.

Despite the instituted legal provisions, cases of caste-based discrimination rarely make it to court, much less result in a conviction. In the rare case of a conviction, perpetrators often avoid jail and walk free after merely paying a small fine. “The discriminatory practice of excluding Dalits from all social practice is so deep-rooted that victims have not been able to speak up for their rights which has resulted in such a few numbers of cases in court,” says Durga Sob, President of the Feminist Dalit Organization.

Discrimination Exacerbated by COVID-19

Discrimination against Dalits is embedded in Nepal’s social fabric. COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown have only exacerbated incidents of violence and prejudice. A global crisis such as the pandemic not only exposes existing structural inequalities but also deepens their effects. The lockdown has not prevented violence against Dalits from taking place; there were at least 31 documented cases of physical violence against Dalits during the lockdown period. In particular, an incident on May 23rd in Soti Village, Rukum triggered a nationwide anti-caste movement against casteism in Nepal. The movement, called “Dalit Lives Matter,” is inspired by the “Black Lives Matter” movement in the United States. That day, Nabaraj BK, Tikaram Sunar and Ganesh Budha were murdered in Rukum–a hate crime committed out of caste-based prejudice.

Especially Vulnerable Groups

As previously established, state-imposed discriminatory practices are historically embedded in Nepal’s social fabric. As a result, marginalized communities including Dalits and Indigenous Nepalis bare much of the burden from the country’s political and economic turmoil. According to the Human Development Index, Dalits are the poorest community in Nepal. Over half of Dalits live below the poverty line and 45.5% struggle to make ends meet. Not only are Dalits much poorer than their upper-caste counterparts, but they also have life expectancies and literacy rates below the national average. Dalits routinely lack access to religious sites, face heavy resistance to inter-caste marriages, use separate water sources and suffer many additional forms of discrimination.

Among the Dalit community, women face more violence and marginalization than men. Females are deprived of control over resources such as land, housing, money or education. They are also extremely vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

The centuries-long egregious treatment of the Dalit community in Nepal incited nationwide protests and the “Dalit Lives Matter” movement. To effectively put an end to the violence and oppression of casteism in Nepal, beneficiaries of that system–wealthy upper-caste Hindus in Nepal–must use their privilege to uplift and liberate the Dalit community.

– Shreeya Sharma
Photo: Flickr

Student Philanthropy

While strolling through a college campus, one can expect to see bake sales and advertisements for fun runs or raffles, all aimed at raising money for causes the students care about. Global poverty alleviation is one of the many worthwhile causes students often support. Campus chapters of organizations such as Amnesty International and UNICEF rank among the most popular student philanthropy groups in the country. Additionally, many non-philanthropic clubs and campus organizations, including most sororities and fraternities, involve an element of giving back, thus showing that student philanthropy can fight global poverty.

Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Student Philanthropy

With many U.S. universities making difficult decisions about how to proceed with learning in light of the coronavirus pandemic, many students’ fundraising and philanthropic efforts will have to adapt. Some colleges have decided to operate entirely online, while others are offering a mixture of online and in-person classes.

Regardless of how a university chooses to deliver classes to its students, campus life will not carry on as usual. Clubs will likely have to meet virtually, forcing those with a philanthropic focus to find new ways to conduct their service and fundraising online. This change presents a unique challenge, but a unique opportunity as well.

Student Organizations and Nonprofit Organizations

Ashlyn Stone, a psychology major at Wake Forest University, told The Borgen Project about her efforts to alleviate global poverty. In the fall of 2019, she served as vice president of service in her university’s chapter of Alpha Phi Omega. One of her responsibilities in this role was to coordinate an international hunger relief event with Rise Against Hunger. This organization aligns itself with the United Nations’ Sustainable Goal #2 of Zero Hunger, which is to end world hunger by 2030.

In 2019, Rise Against Hunger packaged more than 538 million meals, serving countries around the world. Much of its focus was on vulnerable regions like Central America, sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. The efforts of Stone and her chapter resulted in 20,000 meals delivered to Nicaragua. Stone attributed her success to implementing “larger and smaller fundraisers throughout the semester to pay for enough food to be packaged.”

Looking to the Future

Stone noted that wide-scale fundraisers like the one she organized will change if students are not on campus. She admitted, “It’s easier to plan these efforts in person. Communication will be harder. We won’t be able to have as many fundraisers. But I’m hoping there are ways that we can still raise money even if we can’t do the hands-on work.” A key component of continuing the fight against global poverty will be raising awareness and organizing fundraisers online.

In this regard, Stone expressed hope and optimism for the future of online student philanthropy: “Our generation is unique because we have the power of communication at our fingertips and we don’t have to go out of our way to make a statement. We don’t want to just sit back and watch the world change, we want to make a difference.”

Addison Collins
Photo: Unsplash

Women's Rights in TurkeyTurkey is located in the Mediterranean between Europe and the Middle East. Once part of the Ottoman Empire, this transcontinental country became autonomous in 1923 and is formally named the Republic of Turkey. After achieving sovereignty, the Turkish government immediately enacted legislation to ensure equality for men and women within politics and society. Despite these reforms, women’s rights in Turkey could still see improvement.

A Brief History of Women’s Rights in Turkey

Women’s rights in Turkey have come a long way since initial equality legislation in 1923. By the 1980s, women’s rights movements had gained more momentum when the Turkish government responded to protests regarding violence against women. In 1985, Turkey ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), thus giving women’s rights issues the political focus they deserve. Through the 1990s, the passage of laws to protect domestic violence survivors granted more fundamental rights to women. However, the Turkish government did not stop there in their fight for women’s rights.

In 2011, the Republic of Turkey—along with many other European countries—drafted and signed a resolution known as the Istanbul Convention to further solidify and protect women’s rights. This resolution provided strict legal action against those who committed violence towards women.  The status of women’s rights in Turkey has improved significantly since 1923, but the existence of said rights are currently at stake.

Women’s Rights Today

On August 13, 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated the government’s plans to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention altogether. Erdoğan explained that the convention’s resolution, “puts a dynamite on the foundation of the family” and is “not legitimate”. His decision has sparked outrage among women’s rights supporters in Turkey as this convention was a major milestone for women’s equality not only in Europe but across the world. Many have taken to the streets to protest Erdoğan’s declaration, but this has not reversed his proposal.

Turkey’s femicide rates have also increased in recent years. Femicide is known broadly as the murder of women and girls, and more specifically is the intentional killing of women simply because they are women. In 2019, 417 women were killed in domestic violence incidents and in 2020, 207 women were killed in homicides. This rise in femicide rates is attributable to both domestic violence and “honor killings”. Honor killings are when relatives or partners kill a loved one if they feel they’ve dishonored them in some way. Turkey has seen an increased rise in honor killings since 2018.

Won’t Back Down

Worldwide domestic violence against women has increased significantly amidst the COVID-19 pandemic—and Turkey is no exception. The recent femicide of 27-year-old college student Pınar Gültekin sparked outrage among women’s rights advocates in Turkey. Many have taken to the streets to call attention to rising femicide rates and domestic violence against women. Protests against President Erdoğan’s decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention have also reignited in the aftermath of Gültekin’s murder.

Today, activists in Turkey are continuing to support organizations and campaigns working to strengthen and protect women’s rights. There is still much work to do to ensure to protect women’s rights in Turkey.

– Sadat Tashin
Photo: Flickr

Women's Month in South AfricaIn August 2020, South African women celebrated their 65th Women’s Month. The 30-day event originally celebrated for one day on August 9, 2020, commemorates the 1956 march of approximately 20,000 women who protested against the newly enacted laws. These laws required black, South Africans to carry an internal passport and they are part of the legacy of Women’s Month in South Africa.

The legislation, known as the Population Registration Act, perpetuated apartheid by controlling urbanization and maintaining population segregation. Girls and women across the country came together in Pretoria, non-violently congregating in its Union buildings for 30 minutes of silent protest. They also brought a petition against the law, which included 100,000 signatures. This powerful display of strength and unity continues to inspire South African women. Here are a few highlights from this year’s Women’s Month in South Africa.

“This is Gold” Awareness Campaign

Several South African gold producers, including AngloGold Ashanti and Sibanye-Stillwater, used Women’s Month to pivot attention to the key role women play in the mining industry. Specifically, they called for an end to gender-based violence and sexism. The lockdowns caused by the spread of COVID-19 have increased violence against women, an issue already prevalent in South Africa. For instance, sexual assault increased by 10% in 2019 alone and national femicide rates ranked five times the world’s average.

The gold-mining companies sought to help alleviate these issues by appointing more women to higher job positions. Also by demanding accountability from male leadership in their treatment of women and establishing a Women in Mining forum. This forum’s purpose would be to encourage interested women to join the industry. Lastly, these companies called on their stakeholders to use their funds to take action against gender-based violence by reporting these incidents.

Girls Skate South Africa

The organization Girls Skate South Africa hosted an event in Johannesburg, one of the nation’s largest cities. More than 30 girls attended, engaging in activities such as skating and skateboarding at Tighy Park. Because skating is typically considered a masculine sport, Girls Skate South Africa aimed to acknowledge skating’s growing popularity among girls. In this way, they aim to break gender norms by organizing a girls’ skating day during Women’s Month.

Nubian Music Festival

Bonang Matheba, a premier South African television personality, partnered with the Nubian Music Festival to host a virtual concert for Women’s Month. Hosted by Matheba, the event featured a group of talented female performers in the country, including jazz singer Judith Sephuma and singer Lady Zamar. The show was broadcasted live from Sun City a city within Matheba’s home province — and fans could stream it online. Mpho Mathope, the founder of the Nubian Music Festival, praised the event for promoting social unity to a broad audience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All-Female Shakespeare Festival

James Ncgobo, the artistic director of the famous Market Theatre in Johannesburg, enacted an all-female theater event. He noted that COVID-19 did not stifle theater, but simply adjusted it. He chose to highlight speeches by Shakespeare originally meant for male actors but called upon women to perform them. The 44-year-old theater, with more than 300 awards, is famous for producing work that centralizes African voices. This recent production was dubbed “Chilling with the Bard,” and is available on YouTube.

In 1956, thousands of South African women rallied against an unjust law, armed with staggering amounts of signatures and sheer will. Decades later, women in the nation continue to channel their strength, talent and resilience to honor Women’s Month in South Africa and the legacy of generations past.

– Faven Woldetatyos
Photo: Wikimedia

beirut explosionOn Aug. 4th, 2020, an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the port in Beirut, Lebanon. This disaster killed more than 180 people, injured over 5,000 and displaced more than 250,000 people. The Beirut explosion also led to more than $10 billion  in damage in the surrounding areas. After the deadly Beirut explosion, countless celebrities shared tributes. Many also donated or directed their followers to donate to various relief efforts. Here are 10 celebrities who helped Beirut after the August explosion.

10 Celebrities Who Helped After the Beirut Explosion

  1. George and Amal Clooney: The power couple donated $100,000 to three charities helping with relief efforts. These included the Lebanese Red Cross, Impact Lebanon and Baytna Baytak. The latter organization aimed to provide relief to Lebanese people in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, after the explosion, the group became more focused on finding shelter for people made homeless or dislocated. In an online statement referencing this organization, the Clooneys said, “We’re both deeply concerned for the people of Beirut and the devastation they’ve faced in the last few days. We will be donating to these charities $100,000 and hope that others will help in any way they can.”
  2. Madonna: The pop singer and two of her children, David Banda and Mercy James, hosted an art sale and donated the proceeds to Impact Lebanon. The organization works with the Lebanese Red Cross to provide aid to victims affected by the blast. Madonna and her family made tie-dye shirts and paintings to raise money, which the singer posted on Instagram.
  3. Rihanna: The singer and businesswoman took to Twitter to persuade her followers to donate to four charities helping with relief in the aftermath of the Beirut explosion. These included Impact Lebanon, Save The Children, the Sadalsuud Foundation and Preemptive Love. Save The Children helps children and families displaced and injured by the disaster. Rihanna’s support for the Sadalsuud Foundation will help it foster community strength and growth through education and baking. Finally, Preemptive Love is a peacemaking and peacebuilding coalition designed to bring an end to violence and war and affect people affected by disasters.
  4. Bella Hadid: The model, whose father is from Lebanon, donated to 13 charities in the aftermath of the Beirut explosion. These included the Lebanese Red Cross, Offre Joie, Impact Lebanon, Bank To School, Arc En Ciel, Bassma, Sesobel and Nusaned. Previously, Hadid has donated to Save The Children, Preemptive Love, UNICEF, International Medical Corps and the Lebanese Food Bank. She also directed her Instagram followers to donate, urging them toward local charities to help pinpoint community needs. Lastly, Hadid has vowed to continue donating.
  5. The Weeknd: The singer donated $300,000 to Global Aid for Lebanon, which supports the World Food Programme, the Lebanese Red Cross and the Children’s Cancer Centre Lebanon. The Weeknd’s donation comes after his manager, Wassim Slaiby, and Slaiby’s wife, Rima Fakih, led efforts for donations. On Instagram, Slaiby thanked The Weeknd for his donation. She also thanked Live Nation, including CEO Michael Rapino, for donating $50,000 to relief efforts.
  6. Rima Fahik and Wassim “Sal” Slaiby: The former Miss USA and her business manager husband, both from Lebanon, launched a campaign with Global Citizen to help in the aftermath of the Beirut Explosion. The fund supports Red Cross Lebanon, the United Nations World Food Programme and the Children’s Cancer Center of Lebanon. The couple kicked off the initiative by donating $250,000.
  7. Russell Crowe: The actor donated $5,000 to the destroyed restaurant Le Chef, which had resided in the Gemmayze neighborhood of Beirut since 1967. On his Twitter page, Crowe said he donated to this restaurant in honor of his late friend, Anthony Bordain. While Bordain was filming his show “No Reservations” in 2006, he visited the restaurant.
  8. Jose Andres: The World Central Kitchen founder and celebrity chef mobilized a team in Beirut and partnered with chef Kamal Mouzawak. Together, they gave out over 800 sandwiches and meals to healthcare workers, first responders and elderly citizens. The organization states that its efforts provided thousands of additional meals to those in need in Beirut. Lastly, it hoped to give people what they needed to stimulate the local economy once again.
  9. Mia Khalifa: The media personality, sports commentator and former adult actress auctioned the trademark glasses that she wore in her adult films to support Lebanon after the explosion. She donated all proceeds to the Lebanese Red Cross. The bidding ended on Aug. 16, with the top bid at $100,000.
  10. Harry Styles: The former One Direction member donated to Impact Lebanon, directing his Twitter followers to do the same. He then tweeted out a link through the crowdfunding site JustGiving. Style’s fundraising effort has so far raised close to $8.1 million for people impacted by the disaster.

While the damage and casualties in Beirut were extensive, celebrities and figures from around the world came together to help after the Beirut explosion. Moreover, many of these celebrities are helping Beirut continue to come together for not only economic but also personal reasons.

– Bryan Boggiano
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

gap year programs fighting poverty in ecuadorRoughly the size of Colorado, Ecuador is a South American country rich in cultural and ethnic diversity. However, poverty in Ecuador is rampant, with 21 % of Ecuadorians living below the poverty line. Poverty also disproportionately affects Indigenous populations, who have less access to resources like clean water and healthcare. Fortunately, many gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador let students get involved in the cause while allowing them to experience Ecuadorian culture. Here are three gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador:

3 Gap Year Programs Fighting Poverty in Ecuador

  1. YanaPuma Foundation: The first of these gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador is the YanaPuma Foundation, an NGO established in 2006. Its main initiative is promoting Ecuador’s community development by focusing on six principles. These principles include sustainability, social justice, respect, freedom, transparency and professionalism. With YanaPuma, students can get involved in various initiatives, ranging from teaching English in the Andes to building natural infrastructure for the Shuar ethnic group in the Amazon. Another of YanaPuma’s ongoing projects is the “Edible Forest Restoration” project. This project aims to provide crops that provide economic and nutritional advantages to the Indigenous population of Tsa’chila. To further this initiative in 2019, the organization planted 2,500 saplings.
  2. United Planet: United Planet aims to create an interconnected global community by providing people the opportunity to immerse themselves in new cultures. Through its programs, participants work with children to enrich their education by tutoring them and teaching them English. Additionally, volunteers work with impoverished children in Ecuador to support human rights developmental programs that help disadvantaged, disabled and orphaned children. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has expanded its program to include the option to virtually volunteer in Ecuador.
  3. CIS Abroad: CIS Abroad provides students the opportunity to study abroad in many countries. Like United Planet, it aims to promote global awareness and help people become international citizens while bridging the gap between cultures. CIS Abroad currently has eight gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador. These programs allow students to serve in various ways, from teaching at-risk Ecuadorian children to creating a service project in a local Ecuadorian community in need. This program is a unique opportunity, because it connects participants to local organizations already working to have specific impacts on the community.

Firsthand Experience

Jeffery Fishman is a rising sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania. Fishman took a gap year to live in Ecuador for eight months and help with poverty alleviation efforts there.

Fishman says, “While living in the Imbabura Province of Northern Ecuador as a Global Citizen Year fellow, I worked at Fundación Arupo, an Ibarra-based therapy center for children with special needs. Fundación Arupo is a unique therapy center in that it provides physical, speech, occupational, psychological and psycho-pedagogical therapy all in one location. In the mornings, I worked to organize monthly events for students in local school districts to teach them about special needs and to encourage an inclusive learning environment. In the afternoons, I helped out the therapists during therapy sessions with the children. Additionally, I lived with an Indigenous host family who introduced me to the Kichwa culture.”

Fishman explains that while living in San Vincent, an agrarian society, he saw poverty firsthand. He says, “Most community members were agrarian workers, who lived off the day-to-day income they earned through selling their crops at markets. As a result, salaries in the community were often unstable and variable depending on the season and product demand. Even so, the community was very tight-knit and was able to band together to help each other out when they fell upon hard times. In terms of infrastructure, the community faced frequent water shortages that could last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.”

Poverty Alleviation and Cultural Immersion

While Fishman engaged in much rewarding anti-poverty work, he was also able to experience Ecuadorian culture. “My favorite Ecuadorian food was llapingachos, which are these fried potato pancakes cooked in achiote and are super crispy and delicious,” he says. “I loved conversations with my host family, where we shared aspects of our lives. Our nights together were filled with laughter and smiles until our cheeks were sore, and no matter how my day was going, I knew dinner would always cheer me up!”

Fishmans’ experience, along with these three gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador, highlight the enriching experience of volunteering abroad. Not only can students who take a gap year immerse themselves in a new culture, but they can also actively work to help fight poverty in Ecuador and elsewhere around the globe.

– Kira Lucas
Photo: Flickr

Activists Fighting World Poverty
Hunger is a prevalent issue that impacts children, families and individuals in countries across the globe. Despite the major scale of this issue, determined individuals can play major roles in providing food security to thousands. Sharing their ideas and resources on how to reduce hunger around the world, here are four activists fighting global poverty.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani education activist. The Taliban shot her in the head in 2012 for publicly advocating an end to gender discrimination in education. Since then, she has become a U.N. Messenger of Peace, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and the co-founder of the Malala Fund. Oftentimes, those in poverty cannot receive quality education which also limits social mobility. The Malala Fund is addressing world poverty by providing education to millions of girls. This organization created the Education Champion Network, which helps provide education to girls in Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey. The Malala Fund has partnered with Apple Inc. and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as individuals such as Angelina Jolie, to help support the 130 million girls being denied an education around the world.

Ernesto Sirolli

Ernesto Sirolli is a leading activist on economic development for those in poverty. Born in Italy, Sirolli worked for an Italian NGO in Zambia. This NGO taught Zambian communities how to grow Italian vegetables. There was resistance to the NGO’s efforts and, as a result, the organization paid wages to the Zambian communities working with them. Before the communities could harvest the vegetables, Sirolli witnessed a group of hippos rise out of the river and devour their new agriculture. Only then did he understand the true threat of local resistance.

From this experience, Sirolli discovered the issues that arise from what he calls “dead aid” from many Western countries. He questioned whether the more than $2 trillion from Western countries dedicated to developing communities was being used in a non-patronizing way. He noticed that NGOs rarely worked with local entrepreneurs on an individual level.

Sirolli developed a philosophy of economic aid for those in poverty in which the primary principle is respect. He created the Sirolli Institute International Enterprise Facilitation Inc., a network that gives local entrepreneurs an opportunity to develop their own ideas and benefit their own communities. Sirolli offers local people privacy, confidentiality, dedicated service and other essential components of entrepreneurship.

Louise Fresco

Louise Fresco is a Dutch researcher and activist who advocates for smart agriculture as the key to fighting world hunger. In 2000, she became the assistant-director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome and brought her ideas to an international scale. Fresco uses the evolution of bread as a metaphor to explain food’s role in the development of modern society.

Over time, bread has evolved from a staple to a cheap contributor to obesity. Additionally, Fresco discusses the large-scale production that has resulted in the mass destruction of landscapes. This negative association, combined with the negative environmental impacts of mass production, has created a counter-culture where people prefer to buy bread made from small-scale sellers. However, Fresco argues, buying from small-scale producers is a luxury solution for those who can afford it. People in poverty simply benefit from diverse, low-cost and safe bread.

Cheap bread symbolizes that food has become increasingly affordable. The human race currently has more available food than ever before, which allows people to focus on other activities. Humans have not had the luxury of ample food production until now when it has become so cheap compared to previous years. Fresco believes that to solve world hunger, countries must increase food production with subtle mechanization to avoid large-scale environmental destruction.

Melinda Gates

Along with her husband Bill, Melinda Gates is the co-founder of the world’s largest private charitable organization. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a $40 billion trust endowment that helps solve issues including global health, global development, global policy and global growth or opportunity.

Melinda Gates has used her position to focus on empowering women around the world. Specifically, Gates concentrates on family planning, maternal well-being and child health. She has spread awareness about “time poverty,” which is the idea that many women perform hours of unpaid work that can deprive them of their potential.

The Gates Foundation has donated to Mama Cash and Prospera, two prominent international women’s funds. Since 2012, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has put upwards of $560 million toward women’s health.

Each of these activists fighting world poverty is taking a different approach to eradicating global hunger. However, the culmination of these efforts is making a major impact around the world, one person at a time.

– Camryn Anthony
Photo: Pixabay

Saudi women empowermentThe Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has struggled with issues regarding women’s rights for a long time. Saudi Arabia ranked 146 out of 153 in the 2020 Global Gender Gap Index. The country also did not allow women to drive until the government lifted the driving ban in 2018. In 2017, the country allowed women to apply for passports and allowed women above the age of 21 to travel independently without permission from male guardians. Saudi women even gained the right to vote and run for public office in 2015. Saudi Arabian women celebrate women’s empowerment due to the country’s recent progress toward gender equality.

Challenges Women Still Face

While Saudi Arabia is making progress, the country is not without its issues. The country still requires male guardians, usually fathers or brothers, to make decisions for Saudi women. To this day, the government also limits women when it comes to choosing whom to marry or initiating a divorce. This caused some Saudi women, such as Rahaf Alqunun, to flee because of the strict male guardianship system.

Additionally, several women’s rights activists, such as Loujain al-Hathloul, have been arrested by Saudi officials for encouraging Saudi women empowerment. Al-Hathloul posted videos of herself driving during the driving ban with her hair uncovered. She also ran for office but her name was never added to the official ballot.  Al-Hathloul was arrested in 2018 with 11 other activists on charges of promoting women’s rights and collaborating with foreign organizations and media. However, her trial was indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Loosening Restrictions: Women Moving Forward

Saudi Arabia made the largest improvement globally in women’s rights at work, according to The World Bank. The strides are credited to greater freedom of movement for women and reforms for women at work. The country criminalized sexual harassment and established work protection to prohibit employers from firing pregnant women. Saudi Arabia also equalized the retirement age for both men and women at 60, which allows for more financial freedom. Finally, the country outlawed gender-based discrimination in financial services to increase female entrepreneurship.

These reforms were a part of the Saudi government’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims to diversify the economy by promoting the private sector. The plan also includes increasing women’s labor force participation from 22% to 30%.

Street Style and Women’s Empowerment

Marriam Mossali, a Saudi entrepreneur, launched her second edition of “Under the Abaya: Street Style from Saudi Arabia” celebrating Saudi women empowerment on June 24. The book, a partnership with LUX Arabia and Niche Arabia, exposes the kingdom’s unknown fashion scene. The first edition introduced progressive Saudi women while this second edition exposed the challenges these women face.

All of the book’s proceeds go toward scholarships for women to pursue higher education. To Mossali, the book is a celebration of Saudi women empowerment because it allows women to share their own stories. The book has a forward by Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, the country’s first female ambassador to the U.S. Al-Saud told Arab News that the book tells stories and embodies the principle of women supporting women.

“Our participation in the #WomenSupportingWomen movement is much more than just a hashtag,” the book’s website says. “We believe in giving voice to these talented women in Saudi and the opportunity to pursue their aspirations.”

The first edition of the book fundraised enough to award five aspiring photographers a yearlong scholarship to Future Academy in Jeddah. The second edition aims to award women aspiring to pursue a Bachelor’s in fashion design.

Despite strides made in women’s empowerment, women in the kingdom still face many challenges. However, Saudi women continue to fight for change and equality. From filming videos to photographing street fashion, Saudi women are taking a stand for gender equality and celebrating women’s empowerment.

– Grethel Aguila
Photo: Flickr

Young creatives
Without a doubt, the surge of the internet has created many waves in the way that people live their everyday lives. From ride-sharing apps to Instagram stories to trendy Tiktok dances, it seems like social media has overwhelmed every aspect of modern life, working particularly hard to keep people connected through an unprecedented time of social distancing. However, it is not just the mundane that has changed with the dawn of the online age; young creatives have used the internet to completely reimagine modern activism.

The Age of Digital Activism

Digital activism, defined as the use of digital tools (i.e. the internet, mobile phones, social media, etc.) for bringing about social and/or political change, is hardly a new phenomenon. As of 2018, the Pew Research Center found that around half of all Americans had engaged in some form of political or social activism via social media over the past year. They also found the majority of Americans believed that social media was a good tool for bringing important global issues to the attention of lawmakers. It is more than likely that these statistics have grown over the past several years, particularly in the culmination of movements such as the March for our Lives, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. It does not take very long to come up with countless examples of online activism.

More recently, however, a new trend has grown popular among young creatives on Instagram: zines. Zines are self-published, non-commercial print works that are typically produced and distributed in small batches by artists looking to share their work. While they have been a part of youth pop culture for many years now, a group of young women have taken it into their own hands to shift that paradigm.

The Birth of More Color Media

In early June of 2020, Aissata Sall, a recent high school graduate, single-handedly launched her independent publication, More Color Media. From the very beginning, Sall wanted this project to be different from what had been done already; she wanted to tell the stories that were not already being told. Within just 10 short weeks, the small project gained nearly 5,000 followers across multiple platforms and exploded into a team of nearly 100 creatives, all using their talents from photography to poetry to bring global issues of poverty, education and inequality to light in a new, innovative way.

“We have team members from Estonia, France, North Africa — everywhere!” Sall said in an interview with The Borgen Project on August 14th of 2020. “It’s just been amazing to see how many people we’ve reached and how many people have reached out to us to tell us how happy they are with the space and the platform we’ve created. That’s the biggest accomplishment in our eyes.”

This new platform has created a unique way for young creatives to share information, with eye-catching graphics and stunning photography all utilized to draw attention to global issues from Venezuela to Lebanon to Serbia. Many of these posts include thorough factsheets and sources, allowing viewers to digest news from around the world and quickly find resources to help. By just sharing informational posts, fund pages and petitions to lawmakers regarding specific issues, More Color Media has reportedly reached over 30,000 individual audience members across all of their platforms.

“We want to provide more platforms for us to be able to support people in our communities and in the global community,” explained Diana Sinclair, the co-Editor-in-Chief of More Color Media. “We’ve already been using our platform to highlight individual funds to help reach people’s needs. We’ve also talked a lot about opening up other platforms like a podcast to help give a greater voice to the communities we want to support.”

A New Generation of Activists

While they continue to grow, More Color Media may very well represent the future of digital activism, serving to show that there is no limit on who can make a difference. According to RESET, an organization working to help advance the next generation into the digital age, one of the biggest benefits of digital activism is the ability to connect with a large community and globalize a campaign’s goals. More Color Media is doing just that. More Color Media’s first print issue is fast approaching, with a release date tentatively in late September, and both Sall and Sinclair are waiting eagerly with bated breath.

To learn more about More Color Media, visit their website, www.morecolormedia.com, or check them out on Instagram at @MoreColorMedia.

– Angie Bittar
Photo: Wikimedia Commons