Information and stories on social activism.

Ways to Improve Health in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s healthcare system is in need of reformation. Since 2000, approximately three million health workers have fled the nation, and the health of the society has suffered since then. Non-governmental organizations around the world are currently working together to improve healthcare in Zimbabwe.

NGOs are working hard to fix the issue of lack of adequate healthcare; here are ways to improve health in Zimbabwe.

Ways to Improve Health in Zimbabwe

  • Investing in disease treatment and prevention: Zimbabwe suffers from a lack of health workers; there are only about 1.23 health workers per 1,000 citizens. Because of this, it is difficult to treat epidemics of communicable diseases like cholera and HIV. A cholera outbreak in 2008 killed 4,000 people due to the small number of available doctors. USAID recognizes this as a problem, and every year, the organization donates nearly $100 million to disease treatment programs in Zimbabwe.  The prevalence of HIV has lowered from 14 percent to 13.3 percent in one year, but more can be done to treat other infectious diseases.
  • Improving clinics: Another way to improve healthcare in Zimbabwe is to invest in the advancement of medical clinics. Most clinics in Zimbabwe are overcrowded and undeveloped, but the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) plans to renovate 52 clinics in the region. The renovations include storage for crucial medications and space for sanitation and hygienic facilities. Additionally, UNDP’s Global Fund implemented a new health information system to hasten responses to outbreaks and epidemics. These positive changes have contributed to steady rates of health workers’ job retention.
  • Aiding expectant mothers: Pregnant women are one group that is most reliant on Zimbabwe’s healthcare system. Since 2014, World Bank’s Global Funding Facility has helped rebuild the deteriorated system. One revamping program, the Urban Voucher Program, provides free maternity care to women living in the bottom 40 percent of average annual income. Before the UVP, women would have to pay a $25 fee to visit a health clinic, and most of them were not able to afford it. After the implementation of the vouchers, family planning and neonatal services have strengthened in low-income communities, significantly reducing the amount of money that families spend on healthcare. While maternal mortality rate was 614 deaths per 100,000 births in 2014, it decreased to 443 deaths per 100,000 births during the first year of the UVP.

More can be done to improve healthcare in Zimbabwe. The success of these NGOs can mobilize others to join in on the efforts against disease and poverty.

– Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: Flickr

BeyGood Fellowship ProgramLast December, Beyoncé performed at the Global Citizen Festival in South Africa, a festival aimed at ending global poverty. The 2018 festival was in honor of Nelson Mandela, former South African president and activist who died in 2013. Over 90,000 people attended the festival, which raised $7.1 billion worldwide. The highly anticipated performance garnered high viewership and engagement worldwide, and parts of the performance were streamed online. However, this was not the beginning of Beyoncé’s charity work in South Africa. Her foundation, BeyGood, has spotlighted local organizations for years. Now, BeyGood plans to return to South Africa twice a year to help develop and execute its community outreach plan. In doing so, BeyGood created the BeyGood Fellowship Program.

BeyGood Fellowship Program in South Africa

The BeyGood Fellowship Program in South Africa is being executed in partnership with Global Citizen. The two organizations are working to empower local youth in helping end world poverty by 2030. Each youth fellow receives a paid, yearlong job opportunity and will focus on one of four pillars of activity from Global Citizen: creative, campaigns, rewards or marketing.

In late March 2019, the BeyGood foundation reviewed applications and returned from New York to Johannesburg, South Africa. Once there, BeyGood representatives met with four fellows who have been working on the project since the Global Citizen Festival in December. They also met with local partners to see how their work has been going and what is needed to ensure future success.

BeyGood Foundation Partnerships in South Africa

In addition to the organization’s work in South Africa, the BeyGood Foundation is partnering with UNICEF USA and Chime for Change on a campaign called Every Drop Counts, bringing clean water to Burundi. The BeyGood Foundation also works with an organization in Johannesburg, IkamvaYouth. This organization aims to pull children out of poverty through after-school tutoring. Founded in 2003, IkamvaYouth is youth-driven and offers career advice and psychological services. It impacts 5,000 youths per year across 15 branches.

Moreover, BeyGood is partnered with 9-year-old arts organization Lalea, whose mission is to support youth through after-school art programs. The organization helps students manifest their dreams and think creatively to accomplish their goals. BeyGood’s visits to South Africa enabled them to check in with all of these programs and more. More importantly, it allowed BeyGood to ensure they are engaging the communities they serve and maintain and create future success.

Though the BeyGood fellowship program in South Africa is relatively new, the organization has continuously worked with various South African organizations to aid youth development. The program has executed on their promises to the community. Ultimately, BeyGood is an example of how to incorporate youth in the fight to end extreme poverty by 2030.

Ava Gambero
Photo: Google Images

Innovations in sub-Saharan Africa are emerging, aiming to improve sanitary conditions and facilitate access to medical care, directly combatting some of the region’s most prominent health crises. Due to health and sanitation concerns being a primary factor in high rates of illness and morbidity, advances in technology are progressively bettering the quality of life of many citizens in these regions.

7 Health Care Innovations in sub-Saharan Africa

  1. The Mamaope Jacket
    In Uganda, a leading cause of infant mortality is pneumonia. In its early stages, pneumonia can be difficult to distinguish from malaria. As a result, misdiagnosis is the leading cause of infant and toddler deaths attributed to pneumonia. One of the innovations of sub-Saharan Africa became the solution to reducing the impacted community. The Mamaope Jacket was created by a Ugandan engineer, Brian Turyabagye. This Mamope Jacket records audio of a child’s breathing via a modified stethoscope inserted into a vest. Analyzing this data aids in detecting key signs of pneumonia. It is estimated that the Mamaope Jacket’s diagnostic rate is three to four times faster than a traditional doctor, and also greatly reduces the risk of human error.
  2. SafariSeat
    Access to wheelchairs and other assisted mobility devices is severely limited in rural regions of developing nations. However, the SafariSeat is changing this; the SafariSeat is an inexpensive, durable wheelchair. This offers both a solution to individuals living with limited mobility in rural areas and is environmentally sustainable. SafariSeat is both produced and maintained using bicycle parts to create a wheelchair suitable for use in all terrain types.
  3. NIFTY Cup
    The NIFTY cup is lowering the rate of infant deaths from malnourishment by providing a cost-effective, convenient way to feed newborns unable to breastfeed. Some causes of not being able to breastfeed include birth defects such as a cleft palate or premature birth. Amongst the other innovations of Sub-Saharan Africa, the NIFTY cup funnels breast milk from the main cup into a small reservoir that a baby can sip from easily without choking or spilling. The creator, a mother herself, Trish Coffey, created the NIFTY cup after giving birth to her daughter prematurely. Manufacturing a NIFTY cup costs just $1, a viable alternative to breastfeeding for impoverished rural communities such as Tanzania and Malawi. In addition, it is reusable.
  4. Flo
    In developing African nations such as Kenya, on average, girls miss a week of school per month due to menstruating. This is because of the stigma associated with periods and limited sanitation resources. That being said, Flo is a reusable menstrual hygiene kit equipped. Within this kit, are reusable pads, a discreet carrying pouch, and a container used while washing clothes to avoid soiling other garments. This offers a cost-effective, environmentally friendly method for women lacking disposable alternatives. Flo opens the door for greater educational and occupational opportunities. It also lowers the rate of reproductive diseases resulting from poor menstrual hygiene.
  5. LifeStraw
    With more than 10 percent of the global population lacking access to sources of clean drinking water, diseases resulting from consuming contaminated water are a major contributor to high child mortality rates. Approximately, illnesses from drinking contaminated water kill a child every 90 seconds. The high temperatures and unpredictable climate shifts in the sub-Saharan region make potable water extremely valuable, but can also cause availability to fluctuate. Innovations in sub-Saharan African, such as LifeStraw is a simple, portable device that uses a mesh fiber to filter out bacteria and parasites commonly found in contaminated water. The LifeStraw corporation works with major humanitarian organizations such as World Health Organization and the United Nations to provide both individual LifeStraw filtration devices and larger filtration systems to developing communities in need.
  6. Speaking Books
    There is a lack of information about mental illness available to impoverished communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. As a result, there is a higher rate of suicide among younger populations. Just a decade ago, more than 15 percent of South Africans afflicted with mental illness had little to no access to any kind of treatment. Zane Wilson, the founder of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, created a range of free audio pamphlets on mental health. Innovations in sub-Saharan Africa like Speaking Books have a goal to combat the lack of access to treatment, which in many rural areas, also reflects high rates of illiteracy. The Speaking Books series now offers 48 different booklets explaining and destigmatizing mental health disorders. Furthermore, these pamphlets are available in 24 languages and distribution spans among 20 African countries.
  7. Tutu Tester Van
    Although HIV is a global epidemic, South Africa has especially high rates of infection. As a result, the country’s rate of tuberculosis has dramatically spiked over the last two decades. However, because of the stigma surrounding HIV, very few communities have access to effective counseling, testing and treatment methods. The Tutu Tester van, introduced by the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, is a fully-staffed clinic on wheels. They visit rural and impoverished communities to provide health screenings using modern equipment – including tests for HIV and TB. As a result, this reduces the stigma attached to these diseases, as patients retain anonymity once they enter the van. Globally, increasing availability to testing is a primary goal of the United Nation’s plan to eliminate the epidemic of HIV by 2030.

Access to these health care innovations in sub-Saharan Africa is having numerous impactful effects: reducing mortality rates, advancing mental health awareness, contributing to greater longevity and improving quality of life for people in impoverished communities across the region. With improved healthcare and sanitation access,  communities have greater chances of reducing poverty and increasing economic and cultural growth.

– Emmitt Kussrow

Photo: Flickr

5 Facts About Women’s Rights in Togo
Togo is a small country in West Africa. Like other developing countries, many people in Togo have made the realization that gender equality and women’s rights would lead to a thriving, more prosperous community. Although recognizing the issue is a crucial and necessary step, actions are needed to see real change. This article examines 5 facts about women’s rights in Togo.

5 Facts About Women’s Rights in Togo

  1. In 2007, Togo adopted a law that prohibits sexual assault, early and forced marriage, exploitation, female genital mutilation and sexual harassment. Yet, women are still lacking in information and education when it comes to their rights, which means marital rape and domestic violence are still common in Togo regardless of the law.
  2. There is a 10-day national conference held every year in Togo called the Women’s Wellness and Empowerment Conference (WWEC). The conference brings women leaders from across Togo together. The Peace Corps’ goal for the WWEC is to empower women, advocate gender equality and education and encourage the community to engage with one another.
  3. For women, there is a substantial drop in literacy rates from primary education (72 percent) to secondary education (14 percent). One of the reasons for this extremely high drop-out rate is because of early pregnancies. The high number of early pregnancies is because sex education, contraceptives and family-planning are all non-existent in Togo, making it extremely difficult for women to take charge of their bodies and futures.
  4. According to the World Bank’s country report, women lack economic opportunities and are rarely represented in high-level positions. This hurts society as a whole. The International Labour Organization stated that more female participation in the workforce would result in faster economic growth. Although there is a law in Togo that constitutes equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, women’s rights activist Berthe Adjoavi Tatey stated that this law is not acted upon. She claimed that women continue to have inadequate access to financial services. Sophie Ekue, a journalist in Togo said, “women are the belt that holds men’s trousers. And it is high time that this changes–for the benefit of the whole society.”
  5. Women are becoming more involved politically. As of 2010, nine members of the National Assembly and seven ministers in the Cabinet were women. In 2012, Togolese women organized a week-long “sex-strike.” The goal of the strike was to pressure President Faure Gnassingbe to resign. Women who wanted to take part in the strike were asked to withhold sex from their husbands. The goal was to convince men to also take action against the president. Togolese women have also led two naked protests. The first was following the sex-strike in August 2012, and the second was in September 2017. The goal of the protests was the same as the sex-strike: mobilize men against the president.

With the uprise of gender equality laws, female-led protests and national women’s conferences, Togo is looking toward a better future as far as gender equality and women’s rights are concerned. These 5 facts about women’s rights in Togo show there is still room to improve. It is essential that Togo continues to focus on advancements for women so there can be political, educational and financial equality between both genders in Togo, creating a strong flourishing community.

– Malena Larsen
Photo: Flickr

Calling CongressThe First Amendment gives Americans a handful of freedoms, one of the most important being the freedom of speech. But, with freedom of speech comes a more nuanced and focused right- the right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” In simpler terms, this grants Americans the right to make a complaint to or seek help from their government without fear of repercussion. People often wonder whether calling Congress makes a difference. It has been shown that there is a difference between emailing and calling your representative. It is helpful to understand why it is so important to call Congress.

Why It Is So Important To Call Congress

For starters, calls speak much louder than emails do. It is much more personable to place a phone call as the person must take the time and effort in their busy day to do so. Furthermore, one is more likely to get a response that is not automated, so the call will not get lost in the masses as an email could.

When constituents call their Senators and urge them to co-sponsor a bill or vote in favor of a specific proposal, that request gets tallied. When there are enough tallies to get the attention of the Senator, it is not uncommon for them to vote in the way their constituents had pleaded. If the call is in favor of a more intense partisan issue, there may be a lower success rate for the constituents, but still, their voice is heard and their request is noted.

If enough people call about a similar issue, that has the power to halt the office and bring that issue to the top of an agenda. Demands in such high volumes are impossible to ignore and force a Senator to address them. The power to change the agenda in a congressional office is among the many reasons why it is so important to call Congress.

The Problem with Calling Congress

There is, of course, one major flaw in this system. While there is no cap on the number of emails that can be received at any given time, the same can not be said about phone calls. Even if a congressional staff fielded calls for an entire business day with no breaks and with all-hands-on-deck, they could still only take around 4,000 calls. Because there are so many more constituents than available phone lines, many people can get sent to voicemail. These voicemails are, however, listened to, and if a request for a vote is made over the line, the extra effort and desire to be heard is noted by the staffers and their plea still goes towards the tallies.

With so much on the plates of the leaders in Washington, it can become challenging to remain personable and in touch with the individual needs and desires of constituents. When people call their leaders, it bridges the them-and-us gap. It allows for congressmen and women to connect with their constituents and hear their stories; in turn, it allows them to better advocate for and represent these people and empathize with their concerns. Sharing a personal story and emotionally moving the staffer can have a huge impact, even if it is just one person.

Placing a phone call is somewhat of a lost art, but it still holds so much power. It is a form of communication that simply cannot be ignored, and thus, is far more likely to hold ground and achieve the desired result. While, yes, it is easy to send an email, it takes bravery and effort to place a phone call and explain to the people representing you how it is you would like to be represented. This is the power of a phone call, and it explains why it is so important to call Congress.

Charlotte M. Kriftcher

Photo: Flickr

Ecosia
As of 2015, less than one-third of our planet’s surface contains forests, and that percentage continues to decrease. According to the World Wildlife Fund, approximately 18.7 million acres of forest are destroyed annually. But a search engine called Ecosia is on a mission to help.

The Problem With Deforestation

Deforestation rates have slowed down somewhat since peak levels in the 1990s. Nevertheless, the Earth continues to lose this ecosystem at an alarming rate. Forests are home to an estimated 80 percent of the world’s non-aquatic species. The Amazon rainforest alone shelters an estimated 2,000 animal species and 40,000 plant species. As the world’s forests are gradually destroyed, millions of plants and animals lose their habitats. It is possible that, due to deforestation, countless species have gone extinct before they were ever discovered by humans.

In addition, forests play a number of roles in maintaining a safe and habitable environment. Forests are carbon sinks, meaning that they absorb large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, thereby helping to maintain a balanced and habitable climate. The loss of forests is responsible for at least 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to rising temperatures, extreme weather conditions and an increasing number of dangerous storms. These changes have the potential to make human life more difficult and dangerous, and people in impoverished countries often face the greatest risks.

What is Ecosia?

Ecosia is a web search engine founded in 2009 and based in Berlin, Germany. The brainchild of Christian Kroll, Ecosia was created as a “social business” with the primary objective of helping the world. For most businesses, profit comes first and service projects second. Ecosia has turned this order on its head.

Like other search engines, Ecosia makes money off of ads in internet searches. But unlike other engines, 80 percent of Ecosia’s revenue is used to plant trees in countries suffering from heavy deforestation and to fund reforestation projects. The search page also comes with a tree counter, allowing users to see how many trees their searches have planted so far.

As of 2018, Ecosia is contributing to reforestation efforts in 15 countries across Asia, Europe, and South America. Its projects target biodiversity hotspots containing a high number of plants and animals without alternative habitats. Many of these areas are at risk of disappearing. By reforesting these areas, Ecosia’s efforts are preventing countless species from going extinct.

Agricultural Benefits of Reforestation

Forests are vital to the health and safety of agriculture. Apart from maintaining a healthy climate and biodiversity, trees prevent erosion by holding soil. Without this protection from erosion, good soil is lost, and agriculture becomes significantly more difficult.

Trees also shield smaller crops from violent storms and channel nutrients to surrounding plants. They provide habitats for bees and other pollinators, facilitating natural fertilization of crops and plants. Perhaps most importantly, trees aid in precipitation. By drawing groundwater through their roots and evaporating it through their leaves, the water can return as rain. Not long after the reforestation project in Burkina Faso commenced, rainfall became more frequent in the semi-desertic area.

By setting the groundwork to create better and more sustainable conditions for agriculture, Ecosia is helping rural communities around the world improve their livelihoods.

Community Benefits of Reforestation

While reforestation efforts are inherently beneficial to the environment, Ecosia also ensures that local communities benefit from their projects. Many of the company’s efforts focus on planting trees that are useful to local farmers. One example is Ecosia’s project in Ghana, where more than 900,000 trees were planted along the Daka River. Most of these trees were fruit or nut trees. These trees not only helped restore and maintain the water level of the river but provided local people with food. Through the harvesting and selling of shea nuts, the plants also created new economic opportunities.

Finally, Ecosia projects bring communities out of poverty by employing locals to plant trees. The company provides a stable source of income for people in areas where jobs and money are scarce.

How to Help

Ecosia can be downloaded for free as an extension for browsers including Safari, Firefox and Google Chrome. It is also offered as an app on iOS or Android. So far, nearly 6 million people have begun using Ecosia, leading to the planting of more than 40 million trees. By 2020, the company hopes to have planted at least 1 billion, reviving broken habitats and contributing to a sustainable future.

Keira Charles
Photo: Flickr

Meghan MarkleMeghan Markle, now known as the Duchess of Sussex, began humanitarian work long before she joined the royal family. When she was 11 years old, she was so struck by a clearly sexist ad for dish soap that was targeting women, she wrote a letter to elected officials, to which she received a written response from Hillary Clinton. She has famously cited this story in her speech at the U.N. Women gathering in 2015 as the starting point to her activism. She utilized the fame she garnered from starring on the popular USA Network TV show “Suits” to increase her humanitarian efforts.

Since becoming Duchess of Sussex, she has traveled throughout the Commonwealth discussing humanitarian issues that affect the countries the royals represent. Here are the 10 best humanitarian quotes by Meghan Markle, Dutchess of Sussex.

The 10 Best Humanitarian Quotes by Meghan Markle

  1. “One hundred and thirteen million adolescent girls between the ages of 12-14 in India alone are at risk of dropping out of school because of the stigma surrounding menstrual health […] these factors perpetuate the cycle of poverty and stunt a young girl’s dream for a more prolific future.” In her 2016 visit to Delhi and Mumbai, India, Markle was prompted to write an open letter, featured in Time magazine, calling for action against menstrual stigmas that keep Indian girls from school and from being equal participants in society.
  2. “I think there’s a misconception that access to clean water is just about clean drinking water. Access to clean water in a community keeps young girls in school because they aren’t walking hours each day to source water for their families. It allows women to invest in their own businesses and community. It promotes grassroots leadership, and, of course, it reinforces the health and wellness of children and adults. Every single piece of it is so interconnected, and clean water, this one life source, is the key to it all.” Also in 2016, Markle traveled to Rwanda as a global ambassador with World Vision, a humanitarian agency who seeks to impact the lives of young children by eliminating the root causes of poverty. It is one of the largest international charity organizations for children.
  3. “Women’s suffrage is about feminism, but feminism is about fairness.” In celebration of the 125 year anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand in late 2018, Markle gave a speech about feminism. New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women’s suffrage. In her speech she also quoted suffragette Kate Sheppard, reiterating that “All that separates, whether race, class, creed or sex, is inhuman and must be overcome.”
  4. “Women don’t need to find their voice, they need to be empowered to use it and people need to be urged to listen.” In February 2018, in her first public appearance alongside Prince Harry, Kate and Prince William, Markle voiced her support of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, which focus on eliminating sexual misconduct against all people and supporting victims of assault while promoting gender equality across all industries.
  5. “Don’t give it five minutes if you’re not going to give it five years.” When delivering the keynote speech at the Create & Cultivate Conference in 2016, Markle brought to light the importance of prioritizing and making commitments. She demonstrated the importance of utilizing skills for long-term solutions and goals and to focus attention and energy only on things that can be cultivated and maintained in the long run. She also emphasized pursuing passions and planning on working towards it for years to come.
  6. “We just need to be kinder to ourselves. If we treated ourselves the way we treated our best friend, can you imagine how much better off we would be? … Yes, you can have questions and self-doubt, that’s going to come up, that’s human.” Markle puts the “human” in humanitarian. She shows it is important not only to show up for others but to show up for yourself in order to make a lasting impact and to be able to maintain your best self in the process.
  7. “With fame comes opportunity, but it also includes responsibility – to advocate and share, to focus less on glass slippers and more on pushing through glass ceilings. And, if I’m lucky enough, to inspire.” In an interview with Elle Magazine, Markle talked about the things that inspired her when she was young and her experiences going from working on a TV series to helping in Rwanda.
  8. “Everyone should be afforded the opportunity to receive the education they want, but more importantly the education they have the right to receive.” In October 2018 in Fiji, Markle gave a speech on the importance of women’s education and cited the ways scholarships and financial aid funded her education and how worthwhile it was for her as an adult.
  9. “Because when girls are given the right tools to succeed, they can create incredible futures, not only for themselves but also for those around them.” The trip to Fiji and Markle’s speech were used to announce two grants that were awarded to Fiji National University and the University of the South Pacific to provide workshops for the women faculty at the universities to allow more women to be a part of decision-making at the schools.
  10. “I am proud to be a woman and a feminist.” Markle began her speech at the U.N. on International Women’s Day 2015 with this line. It was the same speech where she told the story of her 11-year-old self prompting advertisers to change their sexist dish soap advertisement.

Meghan Markle started her activism at the early age of 11 and didn’t look back. Her career as a successful actress gave her the platform to share her causes with the rest of the world. Clearly, the Duchess of Sussex has been a humanitarian long before being thrust into the global stage, and the top 10 best humanitarian quotes by Meghan Markle prove it.

Ava Gambero

Photo: Mark Tantrum

Matt Damon and WASH
Matt Damon is an academy award winning actor, screenwriter, producer and humanitarian. Inspired by his trips to Mexico and Guatemala as a youth, Matt has been devoted to ending the struggle for basic human needs. He learned about the immense challenges of accessing and retrieving clean water and sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa and this inspired him to create the H20 Africa Foundation.

The Foundation of WASH Program

Later on, he teamed up with Gary White to merge into one foundation and launched the WASH program with the official website water.org. The WASH is an abbreviation from Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. Matt Damon works with the WASH program by doing active organization work. He visits multiple countries to strategize on how to improve water condition and meets with high-level organizations like the World Economic Forum and the World Bank. This hands-on activity has positioned him as one of the world’s experts on water and sanitation issues.

Matt Damon knows water is a basic human need. In many areas around the world, women and children walk miles on a daily basis to the nearest source of clean water for cooking, drinking and bathing. Having to go so far for water every day takes people away from education and their families and Matt believes this robs people of their potential. As Matt says it himself: “Access to clean water is access to education, access to work, access-above all- to the kind of future we want for our own families, and all the member of the human family.”

The Effects of Water Crisis

The water crisis around the globe has been an ongoing battle for many countries. More people die from unsafe water than from any form of violence, due to the waterborne diseases. These diseases kill more children than malaria, measles and HIV/AIDS combined. Over 100 million families are in a constant cycle of disease and lack of opportunities to improve lifestyle. One in three families lacks access to a clean toilet, increasing the chance of disease. With the journey to get decent water being so long, 443 million school days are wasted, just because families do not have clean water. Time spent gathering water also affects the economy as well as nearly $24 billion is lost annually. Even with these setbacks, every dollar donated to improve clean water and sanitation increases economic activity by eight dollars.

The Work of WASH Program

For more than 25 years, Matt Damon has been working closely with the WASH program to bring clean, accessible water to people in poverty around the world. With the WASH program, safe water has the power to turn problems into potential. The potential for health, education and economic prosperity lie in the power of clean water and sanitation. Gary and co-founder Matt are out there making this happen. So far, they have brought clean water and sanitation stations to over 16 million people. Charity alone is not a permanent or not even long-term solution. Through government and economic outreach, they can raise money with percentages from products sold and government funding. Another way the organization is tackling the ongoing water crisis is with its own type of credit called water credit. Water credits are small loans families can apply for in order to have proper sanitation systems built. The payback on these loans has been high, with a 97 to 99 percent payback rate.

Wash Program Super Bowl Ad

In an attempt to reach out to the masses of people, Matt Damon took the WASH program and put it in a Super Bowl ad. The ad states that, although the water is available at the turn of the knob, for roughly two billion people around the world, water is difficult to access. This includes 750 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and 63 million people in India that lack access to clean water. For example, conflict in Yemen has completely cut off the supply for clean water. At least half a million of those people are infected by waterborne diarrheal diseases. To take action, Matt urges governments and businesses to invest in clean water and toilets. The commercial promotes the sale for Stella glasses. This company has dedicated a portion of 300,000 sales that will go towards water projects correlated with the WASH program. Getting clean water to people globally will require donations, but most importantly companies that will invest in this program.

With millions of people affected by the water crisis, there is no one size fits all solution. Matt Damon and the WASH program are using their influence and are utilizing all their resources to bring people water, a basic survival need, straight to their homes.

– Kayla Cammarota
Photo: Flickr

Activism's Impact on Poverty Around the World
A lot of this world’s success in bridging social and economic gaps between people can be accredited to the activists and advocates all around the world. Every day, there are millions of people working endlessly to improve societies by bringing awareness to global issues by educating, protesting and speaking out.

According to The American Press Institute, activists are more likely to be successful in their careers and personal lives because they are more engaged with the news and they use social media to stay informed and take action. Activism is a necessity in not only improving society but improving our social lives as well; without social connections, activism becomes harder to achieve. To learn more about the significance of activism, below are three occasions that activism has had an impact on poverty.

Three Times Activism Has Had an Impact on Poverty

ONE. Cofounded by Bono, Bobby Shriver and many other activists, ONE is a campaign with nearly nine million people from around the globe fighting extreme poverty and treatable diseases. ONE stands against poverty through various actions, including lobbying world leaders, creating grassroots campaigns, protesting and educating people all around the world, making ONE one of the most successful campaigns worldwide. To top it off, ONE is operated almost entirely on foundations, individual philanthropists and businesses instead of using government and public funding.

ONE’s impact on poverty:

  • It has raised $37.5 billion to fight health initiatives and diseases such as AIDS, TB and Malaria.
  • It has secured legislation in The U.S., E.U. and Canada to fight corruption and assure that money from oil and gas revenues be used towards fighting poverty.
  • It has increased advocacy and developmental assistance globally by $35.7 billion between 2005 and 2014.
  • It helped pass U.S. legislation on the Electricity Africa Act of 2016 by having hundreds of thousands of ONE members email and call Congress as well as sign petitions and write letters for four months.

Global Giving. Global Giving is the largest crowdfunding community in the world, bringing together nonprofit organizations, donors and companies in all around the world to help people everywhere access the right tools they need to be successful. Global Giving aims to help other organizations that also fight poverty and such by allowing donors to use the Global Giving site to donate to other charities.

In February 2000, Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle, founders of Global Giving, gathered together more than 300 participants from different backgrounds with a mutual goal of changing the world for the better. 

Global Giving’s impact on poverty:

  • In 2002, Global Giving created a new funding platform that resulted in 763,640 donors, $324 million in donations to charities and 19,368 projects funded across 170 countries.
  • It has improved funding for more than 69 percent of Global Giving’s partners.
  • In the last year, Global Giving provided an extra $13.6 million in funds to its partners that had made improvements.

Poor People’s Campaign. Organized by Martin Luther King Jr. and carried out by Ralph Abernathy after King’s assassination, the main focus of The Poor People’s Campaign was to have economic justice in America, giving everyone what they need to survive.

After King’s death, thousands traveled to and built “Resurrection City,” made up of 3,000 wooden tents where they camped out until they were evicted after 42 days. Resurrection City was intended to focus on fighting poverty and bridging social and economic gaps between “The People.” According to The Smithsonian, although the camp was eventually shut down, the camp brought awareness to global issues and had a significant impact on America.

Poor People’s Campaign’s impact on poverty:

  • Food programs were started in 1,000 counties.
  • A food program for mothers and children had been put in process by the end of the year.
  • Congress devoted $243 million to expand and improve school lunches for poor children.

Make A Change

Activism is vital in making social and economic changes because it requires people to act. Without acting and being the change in the world that we want to see, very little is accomplished. It all starts within. As Michael Jackson said, “if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.”

– Kristen Uedoi
Photo: Flickr

President Barack Obama Nelson Mandela
On July 18, 2018, Nelson Mandela Day, former U.S. President Barack Obama gave a speech in honor of the late Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and his legacy that continues in today’s world. The day marked 100 years since his birth and led to Obama speaking about the progress made in that time span. Despite the many people still oppressed by corrupt political systems, Obama suggested tactics that could promote a bright future.

Nelson Mandela Day

Nelson Mandela Day was made official on November 10, 2009. The United Nations General Assembly declared that the humanitarian’s birthday, July 18, would be internationally recognized to honor his achievements and philosophy. The General Assembly deemed it necessary to acknowledge Mandela’s peaceful methods of conflict resolution every year.

Mandela witnessed South Africa’s former apartheid take away human rights from the black race. This led to his advocacy work for blacks and impoverished communities along with his subsequent role of the first democratically-elected president of South Africa.

Key Points in Obama’s Speech

In his speech, Obama made parallels between the political turmoil in Mandela’s lifetime and that which still exists today. He said that advancements in technology, poverty reduction, health and international trade have led to more peace. However, there’s a danger in prioritizing innovation and business interests over human needs. New machines can increase efficiency and production, but this hurts the common worker by eliminating jobs. If political leaders worked to raise people out of poverty, it would promote democracy in their government.

Obama went on to stress the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Advancements in the economy just provide those in power the chance to widen the disparity between themselves and the poor. People living in the top one percent do not need every penny they have to spend on luxuries since they have an excess of money. Even a small amount of that excess could help people in need. In other words, people do not have to commit themselves to a life of poverty in order to help lift others out of poverty.

Since his speech was in honor of Nelson Mandela Day, he brought up the philosophies Mandela wanted to see in future generations. When he became president, his declarations were not drafted for the sole use of South Africa. He believed in human rights for people all over the world.

Obama outlined what a democracy needs in order to be successful, including open-minded people and transparency. Decision makers must be receptive to opposing viewpoints. Even though a country might uphold a democratic system, that doesn’t mean those in power always base their actions on that philosophy. Instead of spreading lies and propaganda that only serve their personal interests, political leaders must be honest with their citizens.

Continuing the Legacy of Nelson Mandela

Organizations based in South Africa are continuing work beyond Nelson Mandela Day. Rebecca’s Well is an organization that supports women on their journeys to become contributing members of society by offering to help fund their education and by providing counseling services after a divorce. Much like the activism done by Mandela, these actions ensure that a marginalized group of people receive a fair chance of fulfilling their potential.

In terms of Obama’s message about global progress, the New Voices Fellowship casts the spotlight on innovative minds from developing countries. The most effective way to help tackle poverty is by consulting with those experiencing it. With that in mind, the organization proposes solutions for how to generate income, increase access to medical services and invent technology that helps the lives of people in need.

Obama said that no one, not even Mandela during his presidency, is immune to the dangerous lure of power. Mandela recognized that truth, which is why he brought democracy to South Africa. Governments need to be reminded of it to ensure that people are free to express their opinions about how their government is being run. Citizens have power too.

Sabrina Dubbert
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