Information and stories on social activism.

Facts about Albert EinsteinEinstein changed our scientific understanding of the universe. He was also and continues to be a palpable figure in the zeitgeist. After receiving global acclaim for his research, culminating with the Nobel Prize in 1922, Einstein put his newly acquired fame to good use. He used his platform on the world stage to promote and fight for causes of global development and unity. Below are 10 interesting facts about Albert Einstein.

10 Interesting Facts About Albert Einstein

  1. Einstein was a peacekeeper. Einstein was an ardent pacifist. While World War I raged across Europe, many of Einstein’s colleagues put forth a “Manifesto of Ninety-Three.” The document declared their unequivocal support for the war. Einstein attempted to put forth a counter-manifesto to no avail. Einstein continued to be a fervent ambassador for peace for the rest of his life.
  2. He understood the political turmoil that comes from world hunger. Einstein once observed, “An empty stomach is not a good political advisor.” The physicist was a witness to the effects of poverty. After his emigration from Nazi Germany, Einstein saw how the need for food and basic resources created instability within a country and had the potential to engulf the world in chaos.
  3. He believed in equality. Einstein also put his name, along with thousands of other signatories, on the Magnus Hirschfeld petition. This petition was a direct infringement of paragraph 175 of the German penal code which outlawed homosexuality in Germany.
  4. He didn’t claim any nationality. Einstein was the 20th century’s man without a country. In other words, he was a self-proclaimed “citizen of the world.” He was a passionate supporter of a world government, which is a far-reaching body that can rise above nationalist tendencies. As he wrote in his open letter to the United Nations General Assembly in 1947, Einstein was fearful that institutions such as the United Nations would be toothless bureaucracies. He advocated for a global, apolitical body that would be above all governments. Furthermore, he believed that it would broaden the U.N.’s powers above individual nations. This, in Einstein’s opinion, would be the surest way to prevent another world war and the use of newly acquired nuclear weapons.
  5. Einstein was a refugee. Another among this list of facts about Albert Einstein concerns how he was a refugee from Germany. Adolf Hitler’s regime threatened Jewish intellectuals like Einstein. Due to this, he was one of 125,000 Germans who immigrated to the U.S. to escape persecution in the years between 1933 and 1945.
  6. He was a supporter of his Jewish background. Following the atrocities against the Jewish population during the Nazi regime, Einstein became an outspoken supporter of the establishment of a Jewish state. While he supported the creation of Israel, Einstein was not sold on the necessary characteristics of a state. Some characteristics, for example, are borders or a standing army. So, while he would lobby for the support of such a nation, he never lost touch with his pacifist roots. Einstein was even offered the position of Israeli President in 1952. He declined the opportunity, stating: “I am deeply moved by the offer from our State of Israel, and at once saddened and ashamed that I cannot accept it.”
  7. He was a passionately curious person. Einstein was “passionately curious” his whole life. Therefore, access to education and information and general love for learning were close to his heart. He was aware of the threat that figures such as Senator Joseph McCarthy posed to the world. He condemned McCarthy’s tactics of public shaming as a “matter of using people as tools for the prosecution of others that one wants to label as ‘unorthodox.'” Einstein was keen to point out the dangers that McCarthy reflected blatant attacks on intellectualism and educational freedom and access.
  8. He fought for civil rights. Following the Second World War, Einstein could not help but notice some disheartening similarities between the treatment of German Jews with the institutional segregation and racism in America. Einstein infamously turned down engagements to speak at prestigious American universities. Instead, he opted to speak at the historically-black Lincoln University in 1946. He is quoted as saying, “The separation of the races is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. And I do not intend to be quiet about it.” This was quite controversial at the time.
  9. Einstein was a humanitarian. In 1927, Einstein was a participant and supporter of the League Against Imperialism in Brussels. This organization was a transnational anti-imperialist organization that pushed back against rampant colonialism and colonial power. Einstein and others felt that it would help countries that have been negatively impacted by the world’s colonial powers.
  10. He was a socialist. In order to promote a freer and fair society, Einstein was in favor of socialism over capitalism as the reigning social, political and economic ideology. In his article, “Why Socialism?” Einstein stated, “I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils…the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals.” Einstein felt that socialism would instill in people a sense of collective responsibility to one another, “in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.”

A Genius of Injustice

Einstein was nothing short of tenacious. He would continue to speak out against foreign and domestic injustices where he saw them. Near the end of his life, Einstein saw his voice as one of his greatest assets. He understood that those who can speak out also share an obligation to do so. This was, perhaps, the most important on this list of interesting facts about Albert Einstein.

Though some of the ideas that Einstein promoted never came to be, he never stopped promoting global unity. These facts about Albert Einstein only scratch the surface of his work. However, the continued efforts of organizations such as the United Nations and UNICEF carry out the values he believed in. They have taken up the mantel to ensure global health, stability and development.

– Connor Dobson
Photo: Flickr


Nearly 63 percent of people living in Africa lack internet access. In contrast, 11 percent of North Americans, 13 percent of Europeans and 48 percent of Asians lack internet access. In response to this issue, Africa50, an infrastructure investment organization, has launched an innovation challenge asking for modern innovators to submit their original ideas on how to provide internet to under-served areas in Africa.

The Africa50 Innovation Challenge began May 14, after it was announced at the Transform Africa Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda the same month.

The submitted solutions will be piloted in Rwanda, which Africa50 CEO Alain Ebobissé said was the ideal place to implement and test the solutions.

Rwanda: A Country Evolving in ICT

Ebobissé described the country as having a thriving Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) sector. Cooperation between the challenge and the co-development of the Kigali Innovation City, a project Africa50 invested $400 million in 2018, is evidence of this ICT boom.

Rwanda has increased its internet access to 29 percent, as of 2019. The increase is a marked improvement compared to the less than 1 percent who had access in 2000. This development can, in part, be accredited to the National Information Communication Infrastructure (NICI) policy the country adopted in 2000.

The policy defines four separate stages of increasing internet and communication in Rwanda. The country has already prepared the ICT groundwork and is currently in the fourth and final stage; enhancing the infrastructure and improving the service delivery.

The goal of the final stage is to increase technological skills, develop the community and private sector and enhance the government’s use of the internet and cyber-security. The policy is planned to end in 2020.

The ideas will be implemented more broadly across the continent once the pilot phase in Rwanda is complete.

Winning Criteria and Perks

The judges will be looking for six main criteria in the proposals submitted to the Africa50 Innovation Challenge:

  • Innovation and originality
  • Ability to be implemented on a large scale
  • Affordability for both implementors and consumers
  • Sustainability for the environment
  • Readiness to be piloted in Rwanda
  • Adaptability of the solution for a variety of circumstances

The finalists will be announced mid-October and they will present their solutions at AfricaCom the following month.  Those selected will be announced at the 2020 Transform Africa Summit, but the organization does not specify how many winners will be chosen.

The winners will be awarded a cash prize or project development funding, connections to investors and exposure as an innovator.

If these solutions are implemented, economic growth and job creation are a few of the newfound benefits that may come to these countries. Companies can grow and have an improved role in the competitive market if they have access to the internet.  As a result, these solutions allow them to reach more consumers, labor pools and raw materials, according to a 2012 report by the International Telecommunication Union.

ICT Progress in Other African Countries

There will certainly be interesting proposals from this year’s Africa50 Innovation Challenge entries,  but there are already solutions that have worked in other African countries.

For example, Kenya has had a considerable jump in their internet speed and bandwidth — which increased 43 percent from 2016 to 2017. This increase can be attributed to the National Broadband Strategy for Kenya. Additionally, Nigeria has increased its number of internet users from 72 million in 2017, to 92 million in 2018.

Nigeria’s fiber network, 21st Century, is partnering with Google Station and anticipates the installation of 200 Wi-Fi hotspots by the end of 2019, according to Fortune.

Africa50 aims to spread high-speed internet and improve opportunities for those living in under-served communities, whatever the solution.

– Makenna Hall
Photo: Flickr

United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act
On July 15, 2019, the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act. The bill, announced by New York Representative Eliot L. Engel and Texas Representative Michael McCaul, seeks to provide greater safety and security for the Northern Triangle countries. The highest volume of immigrants from South America come from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. It is the hope of the United States Congress that increasing aid and promoting a stronger economy and sense of security in these nations will address the root causes of the current migration crisis. This bipartisan legislation outlines several ways the United States may assist the Northern Triangle nations.

Details About The Bill

Firstly, the bill details a five-year program which focuses on economic development, the strengthening of democratic institutions and anti-corruption efforts. Because the insecurity of these countries’ economies is driving so many to seek refuge in foreign nations, enhancing market-based internal solutions for Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala is a priority of this plan. Furthermore, it will implement institutions and programs that will allow these places to remain resilient in the wake of frequent natural disasters.

In order to support the integrity of the democratic institutions of the Northern Triangle, this bill intends to provide support to ensure free, fair elections and the continuation of an independent media. This measure is to prevent the spread of political propaganda and to make the democratic process accessible to all.

This bill includes many measures to support and fund anti-corruption efforts, which is so important when so many migrants from these countries are leaving to escape the prevalent gang violence. It provides support for such efforts as faith-based organizations for at-risk youth. Many young people have no choice but to engage in violent gang activities in order to protect themselves or their families.

Funding From The United States

The United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act is allotting $577 million dollars in monetary aid to these three countries for the 2020 fiscal year but includes strong conditions as to how the countries must use the funding.

The bill also includes measures to protect the safety of not only those native to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador but also the many American people who have concerns regarding immigration into the United States. The act calls for visa bans and asset freezes for corrupt individuals in an effort to halt some of the corruption in government and drug trafficking which are making these nations unsafe.

This bipartisan legislation will also provide increased support for development efforts in southern Mexico. The hope is that there will be more peaceful relations between Mexico and the Northern Triangle nations to diminish some of the reasons for the mass exodus from these countries.

Lastly, Congress has mandated that the State Department and USAID provide reports regarding the root causes of migration in the Northern Triangle countries after the implementation of the United States’ aid. The bill mentions some of the root causes including drug trafficking, human trafficking, extortion, corruption, gender-based violence, gang activities and the forcible recruitment of children into gang activities. These reports will allow Congress to determine how aid from the United States and the implementation of social services has altered the social and political climate of the Northern Triangle.

A Promising Victory

With so much ever-heightening concern regarding the immigration crisis, the unanimous, bipartisan passing of the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act, which the Borgen Project supports, is a victory for the current state of poverty amongst immigrants. If this bill officially becomes law, it is the hope of Congress that the United States’ assistance and aid to the Northern Triangle countries will target the many causes of immigration and allow people to remain in their homes with a sense of security.

– Gina Beviglia
Photo: Flickr

Brown and UNICEFOn World Children’s Day in 2018, “Stranger Things” actress Millie Bobby Brown was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, making her the youngest to hold the title at 14 years old. UNICEF, which stands for United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, is a nonprofit organization that has sought to provide aid for underprivileged children and protect their rights across 190 countries and territories since 1946. Brown’s role with UNICEF as an ambassador is to use her global platform to raise awareness of issues that affect youth around the world, such as lack of education, violence, poverty and bullying.

Children Taking Over for UNICEF

Before being named ambassador in 2018, Brown and UNICEF partnered in 2016 when the actress co-hosted the organization’s 70th anniversary event at the United Nations headquarters. The anniversary celebration was deemed a “children’s takeover” because it was hosted by Brown and other young celebrities who have been involved with UNICEF as well as young people who have directly benefited from the organization’s efforts. While co-hosting the event as a representative for the future of UNICEF, Brown interviewed soccer star David Beckham about his philanthropic efforts with UNICEF in his 11 years as an ambassador.

Millie Bobby Brown in Denmark

In Jan. 2019, Brown and UNICEF travelled together for the first time when the actress went to
visit the global supply headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark. There, she assisted in assembling
early childhood development kits, which offer children in disastrous and contentious areas and living conditions a way to play and learn. The kits include art supplies, puzzles, games, books and puppets, and are given to caregivers helping in these areas. The kits are designed to be utilized by up to 50 children who are experiencing trauma and stress, and assist in creating a safe learning environment for them.

Brown also toured UNICEF’s supply and kit packing warehouse, the largest humanitarian warehouse in the world. Hundreds of necessities such as clothing and school supplies are sent from the warehouse every day to children and families in need around the world. In 2017 alone, $3.46 billion worth of supplies were sent to 150 countries in areas by UNICEF.

Collaboration Kits for a Cause

Representatives from Moncler, an Italian apparel and lifestyle brand, also accompanied Brown and UNICEF during the trip. In 2017 the Warmly Moncler project was launched in light of the collaboration between UNICEF and Moncler. The initiative provides winter survival kits containing hats, gloves, scarves, shoes, thermal blankets, socks and fuel to heat homes and schools to disadvantaged children and families in areas with harsh winter conditions worldwide. Since the collaboration was launched, over 38,000 families who live in some of the coldest countries in the world have benefited from the project.

For the future, Brown can be expected to continue to use her platform as an ambassador for
UNICEF to meet with as many children as she can, hear their stories and advocate and speak
out on their behalf.

– Cydni Payton
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

10 Interesting Facts About Mahatma Gandhi
Revered as a Mahatma, or “great soul,” by the poet Tagore, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an activist who changed India forever. Known for dressing in only a loincloth and a shawl, Gandhi became a leading figure in gaining India’s independence from Great Britain. Here are 10 interesting facts about Mahatma Gandhi.

10 Interesting Facts About Mahatma Gandhi

  1. Gandhi’s birthday, Oct. 2, is commemorated as the International Day of Non-Violence. Gandhi believed that the highest degree of consciousness was sacrifice. To purify, Gandhi would fast. Satyagraha, meaning “holding on to truth,” or the “truth force” was what Gandhi developed as a form of passive, civil resistance.
  2. Gandhi’s activism began in South Africa. In 1893, he was in Natal under a one-year contract, where he was subjected to racism by white South Africans. Gandhi specifically recounts being removed from a first-class railway compartment as his earliest experience in South Africa. Despite having a first-class ticket, he was thrown off a train. From that point onward, Gandhi decided to oppose the unjust treatment of Indians.
  3. Gandhi and Russian author, Leo Tolstoy, wrote letters to each other. The author and the activist both came from backgrounds leaning toward aristocracy and they both advocated for social equality. Gandhi’s first letter explained the religious duties and state laws experienced by Indians living in the South African province of Transvaal, and he asked Tolstoy to express his views on morality. Gandhi read Tolstoy’s works during his jail time in 1909. But he was most influenced by Tolstoy’s “The Kingdom of God is Within You,” which urged his search for religious truth in Hinduism. Afterward, Gandhi purchased a farm near Johannesburg and named it Tolstoy Farm. Bringing in about 80 residents, Gandhi experimented with a communal lifestyle he witnessed at a Trappist monastery.
  4. Gandhi was arrested more than once for opposing the mistreatment of Indian people. At 24, Gandhi started the Natal Indian Congress in order to fight discrimination against Indians in South Africa. In 1906, Gandhi and his followers protested the British policemen for profiling. He was jailed for seven years. Between 1921 and 1923, he was imprisoned for promoting civil rebellion. In 1930, he returned to jail in India for one year after illegally producing salt from saltwater and leading the Salt March, which he did to protest the government’s heavy tax on salt in India.
  5. When Gandhi returned to his birthplace in the Gujarat province, he worked against poverty by cleaning the area and building new schools and hospitals. During this time, he earned the nickname “Bapu,” meaning father. Gandhi advocated for better systems of education, and the offering of more consistent employment by the rich instead of small charities. Gandhi worked to feed millions of poor Indians, stating “You and I have no right to anything that we really have until these 3 million are clothed and fed better.”
  6. Gandhi’s method of charkha, or the spinning wheel, represented interdependence, self-sufficiency and a quiet revolution against British control of indigenous industries. Used to make textiles, the wheel is a staple of cotton growers and weavers. It gave employment to millions of Indians. It also makes up the “sun” in Gandhi’s Constructive Programme, a system for carrying out a struggle through community. Gandhi was a master of spinning himself. He encouraged his fellow Indians to make homespun cloth instead of purchasing overtaxed British goods.
  7. Gandhi demanded fair treatment for people in lower castes known as Dalits or the ‘untouchables,’ who he referred to as Harijans, or the children of God. Now, the term Harijan is considered offensive. Until the Indian Constitution of 1949, Dalits made up 15 to 20 percent of India’s population. Since then, many Dalits have gained political power, such as K.R. Narayanan who served as India’s president from 1997 to 2003. Dalits now make up 20 percent of Nepal’s population. Although caste discrimination is outlawed, they are still restricted from many public services. Gandhi tried to inform Indians about the evils of untouchability and the old caste system. Moreover, he conceptualized the ideas of cooperation and sharing between classes.
  8. Gandhi wrote two letters to Adolf Hitler, addressing him as “Dear Friend” and imploring him to stop the war. As tensions mounted in Europe after Germany occupied Czechoslovakia, Gandhi wrote a clear plea to Hitler. However, it never reached Hitler due to an intervention by the British government. One month after, Germany invaded Poland. Gandhi sent a second letter, explaining his own approach to British Imperialism. He asserted that Hitler and himself had both taken very different routes in protest—that of violence and nonviolence respectively.
  9. Gandhi believed in a unified India. In 1947, leaders chose to divide anyway, resulting in a Hindu India and a Muslim Pakistan. On Aug. 15, an outbreak of bloody violence erupted across the land, with many crossing the borders into India or Pakistan. Gandhi responded by fasting until all communities reunited. He became very sick during this time until Hindu and Muslim leaders came and pledged peace. Days later, Jan. 30, 1948, Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu extremist while on a vigil in New Delhi.
  10. Gandhi was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times but he never won. As one the strongest symbol of nonviolence in the 20th century, later members of the Nobel Committee publicly regretted this. He was nominated in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947, and a few days before his assassination in 1948. Up until 1960, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded almost exclusively to Europeans and Americans.

In 1948, a crowd of nearly 1 million people lined Gandhi’s funeral procession along the Yamuna River. These 10 interesting facts about Mahatma Gandhi show why he became the father of India. Although he never lived to see a united India, Gandhi’s teachings influenced the world with powers of nonviolence and love.

Isadora Savage
Photo: Google Images

Top 10 Interesting Facts About Teddy RooseveltTheodore Roosevelt, also known as Teddy Roosevelt, is one of the most renowned presidents in United States history. He is popular due to his ruthless foreign affairs policies and his love of nature and teddy bears. Here are the top 10 interesting facts about Teddy Roosevelt and his lasting impact on the environment and poverty.

Top 10 Interesting Facts About Teddy Roosevelt

  1. Conservation was one of Theodore Roosevelt’s main concerns during his presidency. The United States Forest Service (USFS) and 150 national forests were established under the 1906 American Antiquities Act. It has created the national parks enjoyed today while reducing pollution and extinction rates to native animals. During his presidency, Roosevelt protected approximately 230 million acres of public land. While many consider the natural resources from the Earth to be inexhaustible, Roosevelt stated, “What will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted”. Throughout his life, Roosevelt was a popular advocate for environmental concerns and conservation.
  2. In his early years in the New York State Assembly, Roosevelt was a major proponent for the health conditions of businesses. He fought for a ban on homemade cigars after witnessing entire families suffering from prolonged exposure to raw tobacco. Although he was against government interference in business, Roosevelt fought for the health and well-being of Americans.
  3. Roosevelt made use of his power with presidential commissions to create changes, many which benefited the environmental, economic, and public health domains. For example, the Inland Waterways Commission established in 1907 to manage bodies of water and utilize them for transportation networks. While the commission had economic objectives, the plan included measures for flood control, soil reclamation and reduction of pollution, all which benefited public
  4. During his presidency, Roosevelt established the White House conference. In 1908, there was a conference focusing on conservation, and almost every governor present went on to form conservation commissions at the state level. This was a huge victory for conservation and public health in the interest of all Americans.
  5. Although Roosevelt’s foreign policy was militaristic, he was also capable of diplomacy and peacemaking. When Japan and Russia fought for control of Korea and Manchuria in 1905, Roosevelt arbitrated the conflict. In doing so, Roosevelt became the first American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and more importantly, mitigated conflict in Asia and the Pacific. In this way, Roosevelt’s diplomatic efforts have impacted America’s development on a global level.
  6. A popular fashion trend in the late 1800s was women’s hats to be decorated with bird feathers. To meet this need, poachers hunted species of exotic birds near to extinction. In response, Roosevelt made Pelican Island, Florida a federal bird reserve in 1903. Many other protected areas followed and the National Wildlife Refuge System was born. These initiatives help develop and preserve America’s ecosystems and reduce pollution that would otherwise contribute to poverty in some areas.
  7. In 1902, Theodore Roosevelt established the Reclamation Service, an agency that creates arable land for agriculture through the use of dams and irrigation. This service converted many dry areas into plots of land that could produce food. This service brought millions of acres of farmland into service and set precedent for success in America’s agricultural industry in years to come.
  8. Even after his presidency, Roosevelt continued to lobby for progressive policies. His strong advocacy for old-age pensions, unemployment insurance, child labor laws and women’s suffrage are the foundations for the future federal government. In fact, his distant cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt would go on to create policies that supported these same causes. These efforts were all aiming towards the betterment of American peoples and an effort to alleviate poverty.
  9. Roosevelt was heavily involved in the construction of the Panama Canal. He took on the project when the original French construction company failed to complete it. In a speech in Congress, Roosevelt notes that “No single great material work which remains to be undertaken on this continent is as of such consequence to the American people.” Today, the Panama Canal is an important trading route connecting the Pacific to the Atlantic. It also fosters important trade between all countries in the Americas. Furthermore, the Panama Canal secures partnerships between the U.S. and Panama.
  10. Roosevelt reformed the basis of government-business relations. Initially, there were business titans that existed en par with the federal government. However, Roosevelt believed that the government’s role is to regulate big businesses. This is to prevent their actions from affecting the general public.

These top 10 interesting facts about Teddy Roosevelt provide some insight into one of America’s well-known presidents. His strong advocacy for wildlife conservation has resulted in millions of acres of federally protected lands and countless national parks and monuments. His foreign policy and peacemaking initiatives have set a high standard for U.S. foreign affairs in mitigating conflict and alleviating poverty.

– Andrew Yang
Photo: Google Images

Impact Investing in RefugeesImpact investing, otherwise known as socially responsible investing, refers to investment aiming to create a positive social or environmental impact while also generating a financial return. Some subsets of impact investing intend to control the power of private investments. Here, these investors are only addressing the concerns of particular groups.

For example, “gender lens investing” encourages investment in companies that are led by women. Additionally, it promotes investment in companies that create products or services seeking to improve women’s’ lives and wellbeing.

However, an unprecedented rise in the number of refugees and displaced people globally is creating the need for a new type of impact investment, specifically addressing their needs. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, a record 70.8 million people around the world are either internally displaced, have become refugees, or are seeking asylum due to natural disasters or violent civil conflicts. Here are 3 organizations that are leading the charge in the new field of impact investing in refugees.

3 Leading Organizations Focused on Impact Investing in Refugees

  1. Refugee Investment Network
    The Refugee Investment Network (RIN) is one of the leading organizations in the emerging field of impact investing in refugees. At the Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) conference in San Diego in October of 2018, RIN was launched. RIN serves as an information hub connecting investors to projects that benefit refugees. To help investors address this group of individuals, RIN has created the Refugee Lens, which guides investors on how to most effectively seek out and invest in organizations benefitting refugees. One of RIN’s goals is to challenge the misconception that refugees are an economic burden. Instead, RIN promotes the idea that impact investing in refugees can stimulate economic growth, and presents evidence of this in a report, titled “Paradigm Shift.” The report points out that entrepreneurs comprise 13 percent of the refugee population in the U.S. This means that refugees have a higher percentage of entrepreneurs than both the non-immigrant refugee population and the native-born population in the U.S.
  2. Epimonia
    Epimonia is a fashion company that promotes awareness of refugee issues in the U.S. The company was founded by Mohamed Malim, a Somali-American entrepreneur and former refugee who fled Somalia’s civil war. Initially, he had relocated to Kenya, but then again to the U.S. Among other products, Epimonia sells bracelets made from life vests that were once worn by refugees, known as “embracelets.” The Greek island of Lesbos provides these life vests since they have a high population of refugees. Additionally, Epimonia works with the nonprofit organization Refugees4Refugees to acquire these life vests, which then become embracelets. Refugee workers in the Netherlands make the bracelets, which then sell throughout the U.S. Malim has sold almost 1,500 embraclets, and has visited 20 college campuses to spread awareness of refugee issues. Epimonia invests 50 percent of its profits into initiatives that benefit refugee communities in the U.S. The organization has given $1,500 to the Dream Refugee Mentorship Program. They provide current and former refugees with professional mentorship and scholarship aid. Additionally, it provides them with a network of connections to help them succeed in the workforce after college.
  3. Kiva Refugee Investment Fund
    In 2017, the microfinance company Kiva launched the Kiva Refugee Investment Fund (KRIF) to help extend financial services to refugees and provide loans to those looking to start businesses. Unlike other nonprofits that operate on the basis of donations, KRIF utilizes crowdfunding to channel money into loans. These are then given to refugees, which are later paid back. This means that individuals who contribute to loans not only get to aid in refugee entrepreneurs launching their businesses but also get to share in the successes that those businesses create. KRIF challenges the idea that refugees are too risky to invest in, and has supporting data. According to its website, KRIF currently has a rate of repayment on its loans of 95.5, percent. Additionally, they have effectively crowdfunded $12.5 million in loans to 15,873 refugee borrowers. In total, KRIF aims to reach 200,000 borrowers.

Multiple organizations are beginning the way for investment in refugees. Impact investing in refugees has proven to be far less risky than naysayers have claimed. In fact, it is incredibly effective at both generating a financial return to investors and uplifting refugee communities around the world.

– Andrew Bryant
Photo: Flickr

Uterine Balloon TamponadeThe Every Second Matters Uterine Balloon Tamponade (ESM-UBT), a device designed by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) to stop postpartum hemorrhaging (PPH), is a condom that is attached to a Foley catheter. When a mother experiences profuse bleeding which cannot be stopped through other means, the condom is placed within the uterine cavity and filled with water using a syringe and a one-way valve. Within minutes, the bleeding is expected to stop. This device has been effective in preventing fatalities associated with pregnancy and childbirth.

The device is easy to use and requires minimal training. Since the training of more than 850 South Sudanese health workers in 2010 and 2011, MGH began using and researching the usage of the device in the countries of India, South Sudan, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia, Peru, Honduras, Uganda and Nepal.

The Beginning Stages

Training of 46 health providers from 12 health centers to use the device began in Kenya in August 2012. During the first year after training, twenty-six ESM-UBTs were used. The patients who required the device were either unconscious or in an unstable mental state as a result of the severe bleeding they were experiencing. In each case, once the device was put into place, the bleeding was stopped, and the patients were saved. As a result of these successful interventions, the Kenyan Ministry of Health has formally integrated the program into the national policy for PPH.

The ESM-UBT’s Potential

A study was published in 2013 that predicted how many lives could potentially be saved by the use of a uterine balloon tamponade in the year 2018.  These predictions were made based on the availability, use, and efficiency of technologies in health care centers that provide maternal and neonatal services. The model estimated that when the use of a uterine balloon tamponade is implemented, 6,547 lives can be saved, which is an eleven percent decrease in maternal deaths, 10,823 surgeries can be prevented and 634 severe anemia cases can be avoided in sub-Saharan Africa every year.

In 2018, there was a case that involved complex vaginal lacerations which may have resulted in death, but the ESM-UBT was used to control the bleeding. The 26-year-old woman, who was 39 weeks pregnant, went to the Muhimbili National Referral Hospital in Tanzania to deliver her baby. Although she was in good health, she began experiencing significant blood loss. After uterine massage, administration of oxytocin and removal of the placenta, the patient was still bleeding and became unconscious.

Upon examining her pelvis, doctors discovered second degree bilateral vaginal sulcal lacerations. They attempted to suture the lacerations, but the bleeding persisted, so they decided to insert an ESM-UBT device, which was inflated with 300 cc of water. Finally, the bleeding stopped. After forty-eight hours, the device was removed, with no more need for repair. The mother left the hospital two days after giving birth and had fully recovered by her six-week postpartum visit.

As of now, over 670 ESM-UBT devices have been used. MGH has plans of distributing these devices to 350 health centers in South Sudan and Kenya. In addition, technology has been developed to allow for the tracking of referrals of this device as well as the results of its use. The ESM-UBT device has great potential to reduce the number of maternal deaths in developing nations.

– Sareen Mekhitarian
Photo: Unsplash

Emerging Social Activists
There are many people around the globe who are standing up and advocating for themselves and the human rights of the people around them. Whether their countries allow them to speak freely about their oppression or try to silence them, these social activists are making an impact. These are some of the top emerging social activists from around the world.

Shamma bint Suhail Faris Mazrui – United Arab Emirates

The youngest government minister in the world, Shamma bint Suhail Faris Mazrui became Minister of State for Youth Affairs in the UAE in 2016. One of her main views on what youths can add to public affairs and relations is resourcefulness, arguing, “Hopelessness results when youth are not seen as resources, and apathy results they’re not seen as assets.”

Mazrui’s vision is to bring more youths into the private sectors of the UAE and not just into public affairs. She believes that the change of a nation starts with the investment of the youth. Ultimately, her goal is to set a vision into the youth’s eyes that there is something more important than living solely for yourself.

Majandra Rodriguez Acha – Peru

In 2009, the government of Peru released its jungles from protection and opened them for scavenging and oil extraction. That year, nineteen-year-old Majandra Rodriguez Acha decided she would not stand for her jungles to be exploited. A group of activists including Ahca chanted “La selva no se vende, la selva se defiende.” In English, “You don’t sell the jungles, you defend them.”

Since then, Acha has formed a group called TierrActiva Perú. The group advocates for the voice of the jungle. It reconciles urban youth groups to indigenous youth groups in Peru directly affected by the exploitation of the jungles.

In 2014, Acha organized a conference that brought together over 100 indigenous and urban youths, mainly under 30 years old. Acha says, “We believe that people are experts of their own reality” and the conference was one of little convention. The people were free to come up to the stage, write on a whiteboard, and express their own emotions and ideas towards bettering Peru.

Li Maizi – China

China has been under the rule of the communist party for sixty-six years. The country runs on the traditional principles of efficient work and a conventional, stable family-core. However, in 2015, emerging social activists like Li Maizi challenged these values.

China has no laws or allowance for activism which does not conform to the structure of society within the country. Maizi and others handed out stickers on International Women’s Day in 2015. They were protesting and raising awareness of sexual abuse and harassment. These women were detained and interrogated. Maizi herself was imprisoned for over thirty-five days but was released after being labeled a spy.

Four other women were detained alongside Maizi. All either queer or labeled as free-women, meaning they do not wish to have children, they have been called the Feminist Five. The group realize public rallies in their country are not possible. To succeed in fighting against the oppression of women,  they have to formulate different tactics to raise awareness.

Maizi believes that the U.S. is a breeding ground for social activism. She believes it has the right political and social atmosphere to transcend borders and empower China. “If we don’t set up this group in the U.S., China’s feminist movement will become too passive. The position of our core activists is extremely fragile and we don’t know when the police will come and arrest someone again—it could be today or tomorrow,” she says.

Alioune Tine – Chad

The government of Chad has cracked down on social activism and freedom of speech within the last two years. It has also banned peaceful protests within the country. Alioune Tine is the Amnesty International West and Central Africa Director. He has said that officials have made criticism of their government something that cannot be voiced or acted upon.

Many of the known political and social activists in Chad have reached out to Amnesty International, stating that they have received phone calls and harassment. They allege that the calls include interrogatory questions which leave them afraid and confused.

Tine says that Chad is at a crossroads. It must choose between muzzling citizens and critics of its government or to walk in the promises made by the president during his election.

These emerging social activists are just a few among many around the world who are standing up and speaking out despite opposition. As Acha said, “people are experts to their own reality.” These experts believe people have a right to be heard.

– Hannah Vaughn
Photo: Flickr

informal economy in South AfricaIf you walk down a busy street in any of South Africa’s major cities, you are bound to witness some type of informal economic activity. Whether it be a fruit stand, street-hawker selling earphones or an informal car wash business, the informal economy in South Africa is a crucial part of life for many of its residents.

The Importance of Informal Trade

Informal trade refers to any unregulated, unregistered, unprotected and untaxed activities, enterprises, or transactions. Informal jobs are an essential source of income for many poor South Africans—18 percent of working citizens work in the informal sector—a total of over three million workers. Additionally, the sector accounts for 18 percent of South Africa’s GDP. While these numbers are smaller than those of other developing countries, they emphasize the importance of informal trade in an economy with stark unemployment rates—26.6 percent as of 2016. Informal markets, like Durban’s Warwick Markets, provide jobs for those who are unable to find formal employment. Thousands depend on these markets for produce, cooked meals and clothing at affordable prices. Furthermore, the informal workforce in South Africa is overwhelmingly poor, young females. In fact, the poverty level in an area correlates positively with the proportion of people working in the informal economy.

The government recognizes the informal economy in South Africa as a viable and important form of employment and enabler of economic mobility for the country’s poor. Experience in the informal sector can help untrained people acquire skills, potentially aiding future integration into the formal sector. According to economist Loane Sharp, the informal economy in South Africa is growing faster than its formal counterpart. This prompts the government to pass policy encouraging and protecting the sector. The National Informal Business Upliftment Strategy of 2014 set up a framework of government assistance with skills development, marketing, technical support, infrastructure improvements and management training. This “inclusive growth” strategy focuses on enabling South Africa’s poor to participate in the economy rather than merely redistributing wealth through social welfare programs.

Non-governmental organizations are also working to improve conditions for informal traders. Asiye eTafuleni is an NGO in Durban that works with local government officials and vendors in the informal sector (particularly the Warwick Markets) to assist in developing infrastructure, consultations for urban planning and advocacy for informal workers. The organization also directs tourism to the Warwick Markets, educating foreigners and visitors on the functions and importance of the markets, and bringing the vendors eager customers. Asiya eTufuleni is a member of the Inclusive Cities mission, which focuses on uplifting and strengthening groups of working poor in the informal economy. The Inclusive Cities project aims to support the urban poor through lobbying, policy planning, and research. One of the ways the project does this is by advocating for “waste pickers’ rights,” the legal right of individuals to collect garbage to recycle into sellable goods. These rights are under threat by the privatization of solid waste management in many cities across Africa. Inclusive Cities also conducts research and analysis of the informal economy to support future endeavors and activism.

A Struggle for Informal Business Owners

There are many downsides to informal trade which make its participants particularly vulnerable. Informal business owners are often deterred from registering their enterprises by high taxes and strict regulations. Informal working conditions are unregulated by nature and therefore often poor. Dangerous locations, limited book-keeping skills and lack of insurance put informal traders at constant risk of losing their livelihoods. Average earnings for informal workers are less than half of what the formally employed earn. And although recent policies are attempting to expand this sector of the economy, informal workers still face significant intimidation and harassment by local law enforcement.

In July 2018, hundreds of informal traders protested by-laws which would prohibit trading in certain areas. These potentially harmful by-laws would allow law enforcement to confiscate the goods of traders without permits. The leader of the activist group responsible for organizing a march on Durban City Hall complained that the traders themselves were not included in the creation of these laws. The permit allocation procedure, he says, is corrupt, with officials soliciting bribes in exchange for permits.

It is clear that despite efforts by the government and NGOs, conditions of the informal sector have remained unsatisfactory. The disconnect between national policy, like the National Informal Business Upliftment Strategy, and local municipalities is one obstacle in the way of a safer, healthier informal sector. The informal economy in South Africa provides crucial wages for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable populations; resources should be channeled to encourage and protect laborers and merchants in the sector.

– Nicollet Laframboise

Photo: Flickr