Information and stories on social activism.

Scuba Diving Can Alleviate Poverty
Scuba diving is the practice of underwater diving with a SCUBA, an acronym for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. The United States Special Force’s frogmen initially used this during the Second World War. Through this technology, divers can go underwater without connecting to a surface oxygen supply. The main aim for many scuba divers today is dive tourism, with marine conservation trailing closely behind. It is through these conservation efforts and tourism businesses in coastal areas that plenty of communities have found themselves being alleviated from poverty. Scuba diving can alleviate poverty due to the new employment opportunities that arise through environmental efforts, as well as the work scuba diving training businesses provide.

Although the Earth’s equatorial belt possesses 75 percent of the world’s most productive and beautiful coral reefs, this area is home to over 275 million individuals living under poverty. These are individuals who depend directly on coral reefs, fish and marine resources for their food, security and income.

According to Judi Lowe, Ph.D. in Dive Tourism, these incredible bio-diverse coral reefs have immense potential for dive tourism. However, conflicts are currently present between dive operators and local communities due to a limited supply of essential resources. If businesses in the diving industry turned to greener practices and focused on indigenous local communities, they could achieve marine conservation, along with poverty alleviation.

Integrated Framework Coastal Management and Poverty Alleviation

Without a doubt, efforts to preserve the marine environment must include local communities to preserve the marine environment. By including people whose livelihoods are dependent on fisheries and aquaculture into recreational scuba diving, there will be greater benefits for the community and the environment. One of the pre-existing frameworks that ensure this mutual symbiosis is the integrated framework of coastal management.

Integrated framework coastal management is a tool that ensures a successful and profitable outcome for all parties involved in the use and conservation of marine resources. Through this model, locals integrate into the administration and the use of natural resources in several water-based industries. Supplemental payments and employment within other businesses create employment opportunities, should fish bans or similar legislative actions displace primary jobs. This has occurred in Northern Mozambique and Kenya.

Scuba Diving and Poverty Alleviation in Mozambique

Mozambique is a country with a history of the slave trade, colonization and 15 years of civil war. Nevertheless, it is a nation in the equatorial belt that has significant tourism potential. After the civil war, tourism was its quickest growing industry. Forty-five percent of the country’s population participates in the tourism industry.

Poverty is lowest in the province of Ponta do Ouro, located in the southern-most area of Mozambique. Ponta do Ouro is home to the greatest levels of marine tourism, where tourists and locals collaborate to participate in water-based activities such as scuba diving. The area particularly favors scuba diving due to the presence of bull sharks, tiger sharks and hammerheads. It also has year-round warm water and is home to humpback whales from August through November. As it holds pristine marine biodiversity, the area is a marine protected area (MPA).

Scuba activities in Ponta do Ouro mainly happen within scuba diving management areas that follow the diver code of conduct. Most diving in the area is done to maintain the biophysical environment through the monitoring and assessment of ecosystem health and management of marine pollution by maintaining low levels of plastic pollution that accumulates in the bays along the coastline.

Not only can scuba diving alleviate poverty through dive tourism, but MPAs have also been influential. For example, MPAs have helped promote and facilitate the involvement of Mozambicans to monitor their fisheries, map different user groups that can overlay with physical and biological data and conduct research. All of these actions help locals find employment and elevate their living standards.

In the future, a greater exploration of the Mozambican Indian Ocean should be explored and strategic planning to maintain the attractiveness of the area and avoid loss of biodiversity is imperative. This will open up greater possibilities for locals to set up dive sites and cultivate diving enterprises, conserve the biological species and obtain greater income.

SPACES, Diving and Poverty Alleviation in Kenya

The Sustainable Poverty Alleviation from Coastal Ecosystem Services (SPACES) Project is a collaborative initiative funded by the U.K. Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) and SwedBio. The project aims to uncover the scientific knowledge on the complex relationship between ecosystem services, poverty and human wellbeing. The project studies sites in Mozambique and Kenya.

The concept of ecosystem services (ES) that the project uses determined that humans derive great benefits from ecosystems. People can apply these benefits to environmental conservation, human well-being and poverty alleviation. People can also use them to inform and develop interventions. If people implement the integrated framework coastal management, there is a large possibility for ecosystem services to inform the development of ES interventions that contribute to poverty alleviation through entrepreneurial activities. If locals cultivate diving enterprises, these communities would reap the benefits of the cash-based livelihood that many diving businesses currently possess.

Lobster Diving in Honduras

In Honduras, diving has been a primary livelihood. In the Central American country that shares its borders with Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, lobster diving serves as a way of living, particularly in the indigenous community of Miskito. Mosquita is one of the most impoverished areas of Latin America.

Despite the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) setting safe standard diving techniques, one that calls for a gradual ascent to the surface and a limit to the number of dives a person can make in one day, the divers of Mosquita dive deeply, surface quickly and go back for more. They race to collect as much lobster as possible, fishing to take their families and themselves out of poverty. These conditions make them prone to nitrogen decompression sickness, a sickness that disabled over 1,200 Miskitos since 1980.

Nevertheless, a diver receives $3 for every pound of lobster they get and 28 cents for every sea cucumber. This is a significant amount of money for the area and for that reason, many take the risk. The boats where the divers spend their time between dives also only have rudimentary safety equipment, using aging tanks and masks. These divers need to do their jobs to raise themselves out of poverty. Until the government implements necessary training to divers, as well as health insurance provisions, divers will remain at risk. Lobster diving has great potential for promoting marine biodiversity, poverty alleviation and sustainable coastal development; however, health precautions must be a priority as well in order for lobster diving to be a truly sustainable solution.  

Looking Forward

Scuba diving can alleviate poverty with its safety practices and dedication for marine conservation, which opens up many opportunities for technological and economic advances through educational, conservation and entrepreneurship potential. Aside from igniting passion and dedication to fighting for the underwater environment, scuba diving urges divers to fight for their survival, their protection and their businesses as well. It is therefore understandable why many have come to value scuba diving as one of the most potent ways to educate society about environmental conservation, and with it, help increase living standards for coastal communities.

– Monique Santoso
Photo: Flickr

 

Feminine Product Companies that Give Back For people living in extreme poverty around the world, access to basic needs such as food, water, shelter and medical care is a daily struggle. In addition to this, women face another challenge — access to menstrual products like pads and tampons. In fact, 1 million women worldwide cannot afford sanitary products. This issue, called “period poverty,” is one that many people and organizations are trying to combat. Here are five feminine products that give back to women around the world.

5 Feminine Product Companies that Give Back to Women

  1. Cora – Cora is a company that sells organic tampons whose mission is to fight period poverty. Cora uses a portion of its monthly revenue to provide sustainable period management for women in India. The company also empowers women through employment and education opportunities. According to the company website, “with every Cora purchase, we provide pads and health education to a girl in need. We use the power of business to fight for gender equality and to provide products, education and jobs to girls and women in need in developing nations and right here at home.”
  2. Lunapads – Lunapads is a feminine product company that has been supporting menstrual and reproductive health as well as access to period education in the Global South since 2000 through an organization called Pads4Girls. Pads4Girls educates women about healthy and economically efficient period products, such as the use of washable cloth menstrual pads and underwear that can last for years. Pads4Girls has helped to supply 100,000+ reusable menstrual pads and period underwear to more than 17,000 menstruators in 18 different nations.
  3. Days for Girls – Days for Girls is an international organization whose mission is to address global issues surrounding period poverty and provide education and access to menstrual products to those living in poverty. The organization has been working to achieve this goal by developing global partnerships, cultivating social enterprises, mobilizing volunteers and innovating sustainable solutions that shatter stigmas and limitations for women and girls. To date, the Days for Girls movement has reached 1 million girls and counting.
  4. Bloody Good Period – Bloody Good Period is a period company based in the U.K. Gabby Edlin, the founder of the company, decided to do something about creating a sustainable flow of menstrual products for those who cannot afford them in the U.K. Bloody Good Period also sells merchandise and hosts events that highlight the stigmas around menstrual health and issues surrounding period poverty. The organization supplies 25 asylum seeker drop-in centers based in London and Leeds and supplies food banks and drop-in centers across the U.K. with period supplies.
  5. Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) – Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) is an organization whose main goal is to help women in Rwanda jumpstart locally owned franchises and businesses to manufacture and create affordable and eco-friendly pads. SHE works with local businesses to produce these pads with local farmers and manufacturing teams and works with these businesses on making pads affordable for those around the country. SHE also trains community health workers on how to provide education to boys and girls about puberty and menstrual hygiene. So far, SHE has allowed 60,101 girls and women living in poverty to have access to pads, and its mission has reached 4.3 million people through advocacy and social media.

Although the issue of period poverty continues to be a constant struggle for women and girls around the world, these were five feminine products that give back to women.

– Natalie Chen
Photo: Flickr

Art and African Poverty Reduction
In Africa, poverty is an immense issue as 43 percent of the nation’s people live below the international poverty line. Despite this painful reality, art is playing a large role in pulling many of the continent’s people out of the poverty they started life in. Thanks to organizations such as Bead for Life in Uganda and ASTEP in South Africa, creativity is providing these impoverished people with both a platform for self-expression and a means to fiscal independence. Here are some organizations that show the link between art and African poverty reduction.

Bead for Life

After meeting Millie, a poor Ugandan mother who had a passion for transforming objects into colorful handmade creations, Ginny Gordin, Torkin Wakefield and Devin Hibbard came up with an idea. Following this event in 2004, they founded Bead for Life, a nonprofit organization that supports female financial independence by providing African women with recycled paper that they can craft into jewelry and sell for profit. The organization also works to educate these impoverished women on how to run small-businesses through an initiative known as Street Business School. Since its founding, the 15-year-old organization now exists in 10 countries across Africa and is currently providing 52,000 African women with financial independence. The link between art and African poverty reduction is undeniable, making it a necessary step towards eradicating the poverty that rules too many African lives.

Artists Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP)

When ASTEP founder and Broadway Musical Director, Mary Mitchell Campbell, saw the power of art in cultivating the skills necessary to succeed at life, alongside the help of Juilliard students, Campbell founded Artists Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP), a nonprofit organization that works to heal poverty-stricken communities through art. When Evan Todd and Dick Scanlan recognized the link between art and African poverty reduction, they worked with the organization to establish artsINSIDEOUT in South Africa, a program that works to improve the lives of South Africa’s impoverished mothers and children who the AIDS epidemic strongly impacted. Through the help of ASTEP’s volunteer artists, the organization runs two-week-long art camps that not only foster storytelling and the visual arts for these South African people but also provides them with the tools necessary to lead successful future lives.

Gahaya Links

The Rwandan Genocide in 1994 caused thousands to become economically unstable and hit women the hardest. Thanks to the founders of Gahaya Links, Janet Nkubana and Joy Ndungste, however, basket-making is addressing Rwanda’s female economic instability. By holding workshops that teach impoverished women how to weave, Gahaya Links is able to provide its female weavers with a stable income, as the organization sells its finished baskets in the U.S. market, with top buyers being Macy’s and Fairwind’s Trading Inc.

The organization’s social impact has been astounding, as 100 percent of Gahaya Links female weavers can now afford health insurance, 10 percent have received a promotion to become community leaders and 80 percent have their own bank accounts. These women also now have access to clean water, are able to afford an education for their children and lead better lives overall. The organization has not only granted these women the economic stability they deserve but has also provided them with a pathway to fiscal independence.

The Amal Foundation

In North Africa, Libyan women do not receive encouragement to earn an income, and so when they become widowed or undergo a divorce, many become impoverished. Thanks to the Amal Foundation, however, these women are using embroidery as a means of attaining financial stability. Thanks to the Amal Foundation’s mandate to teach these women how to embroider and help them sell their work in local markets, these women are able to achieve financial independence. This organization’s work exemplifies the connection between art and African poverty reduction, as these women no longer endure the poverty that once dominated their lives.

Just One Africa

Through the initiative Beads for Water, Just One Africa is working in unique ways to provide impoverished African children with access to clean drinking water. The organization purchases handmade necklaces from African artists and then restrings them into bracelets that it sells in the U.S. market. Thanks to this organization, these African artisans are not only earning a stable income, but Africa’s poor children are also reaping the benefits, as a single Beads for Water bracelet provides 200,000 gallons of clean drinking water to Africa’s impoverished children.

Giving impoverished African space where they can profit from their self-expression is a wonderful poverty-fighting strategy whether they are making baskets or jewelry. Art’s ability to grant financial stability to these poverty-stricken citizens exemplifies the immense power of human creativity and its connection between art and African poverty reduction. Thanks to organizations such as The Amal Foundation and Gahaya Links, Africa’s impoverished people are not only rising out of poverty, but they are getting to do it in a fun and meaningful way.

– Candace Fernandez
Photo: Flickr

the eldersIn 2007, Richard Branson and musician Peter Gabriel discussed an idea: what if former leaders of the world used their previous experience and influence to establish a non-profit tackling pressing modern issues? The Elders, an independent organization led by global leaders who no longer hold public office and are independent of any government affiliation, was born.

Who Are The Elders?

The first and founding member of the organization was Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa, who dedicated his life to ending apartheid. Like Mandela, peace makers, peace builders, social revolutionaries, and pioneering women comprise this group of influential individuals. The current Chair of the Elders is Mary Robinson, the first female Prime Minister of Ireland. Former Presidents of Mexico, Chile, and Liberia are also among the elite group. Currently, 11 individuals comprise the organization, while there are an additional five leaders considered “Elder Emeritus,” including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Focuses of The Elders

The Elders focus on six programming areas. Firstly, the organization works to support international cooperation in solving issues that threaten all global citizens. For example, The Elders believe that nuclear weapons are a threat to all humans on Earth and are working on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. The organization believes that the only way to achieve this, and many other overarching goals, is through practical steps and global cooperation. The Elders also use their experience in peace making and building to aid in securing peaceful solutions to conflicts throughout the world. Specific priorities of the Elders include tension and conflict in the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East, and Zimbabwe.

Through global and country-level lobbying and activity, the Elders aim to build support for the importance of universal health coverage. Through keynote speeches and visits to countries in need of healthcare, the Elders are committed to achieving universal health coverage. The organization also believes that global complacency in climate change is one of the largest injustices in human history. To combat climate change, the organization is seeking to ease the transition to a low carbon economy and encourage creative solutions to keeping the planet sustainable.

In response to the number of migrants and refugees, The Elders works to keep struggles of these individuals at the forefront of the news and the minds of the public. Lastly, the group works with governments and countries to ensure that access to justice remains an important human right.

This esteemed group of individuals has massive impacts in unstable regions of the world, from Israel and Palestine to Sudan and South Sudan. Using its six programming focuses, the organization tackles a massive variety of issues, challenging injustice and praising and supporting strong governments and ethical leadership.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr

People who Fight Poverty
Poverty is a global issue that affects at least 80 percent of the world’s population. The number seems frightening and can intimidate any person who might want to help. Some come together to fight as a united front and tackle the worldwide issue due to the sheer magnitude of the dilemma. Either way, every solution starts with a single person and a single idea. Below describes the top five people who fight poverty today, who they are and what they do (or did) to combat poverty.

Top Five People Who Fight Poverty

  1. Suzanna Mayo Frindt Empowers Rural Communities
    She is the current President and Chief of Staff of The Hunger Project, a nonprofit organization which aids countries in South Asia, Latin America and Africa. The organization provides aid through the establishment of self-reliance within the community. The Hunger Project begins by encouraging women to take active roles within the locale by training them to obtain leadership positions. Then, it enforces self-reliance. It does this by having individuals mobilize their peers through local government to take action and improve the conditions of the area. Finally, The Hunger Project works closely with these governments to ensure it is aiding the people. This system helps bring entire communities out of poverty. As President, Frindt is in a powerful position to fight poverty. She earned her position through 25 years of experience in the field as she worked in impoverished areas, like Peru. Additionally, she co-founded the firm, 2130 Partners. The firm is another organization that dedicates itself to guidance and education. Though these are just a few of her accomplishments, these key points showcase why Frindt is one of the top five people who fight poverty.
  2. Ellen Gustafson Feeds the Hungry
    This woman is an entrepreneur, activist, author and speaker whose primary cause is to work to eliminate world hunger. She focuses on hunger of particularly impoverished areas where the problem is most prominent. Gustafson co-founded FEED Projects, a charity which provides food for people around the world. As of 2019, it has provided 60 million meals to schools around the world. She has also tackled the issue of obesity through educational activism. Overall, Ellen Gustafason’s goals may center around food, but her work has improved the lives of impoverished people in places where they often need help the most.
  3. Bono Advocates Against Poverty
    He is an American musician and frontman of the popular music group, U2. Bono’s infamy stems not only from his musical persona but also from his philanthropic efforts. The singer is the founder of ONE, an advocacy organization that works to raise awareness of poverty and fight against the issue. Similar to The Borgen Project, ONE addresses its cause through legislation and lobbying of governments. ONE focuses on reducing poverty in Africa’s poorest areas. It is just one of the few organizations Bono supports with a target against poverty. This fact showcases the musician’s dedication to both his art and beliefs.
  4. Anthony Lake Leads UNICEF in the Fight Against Poverty
    He has been the director of UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) since 2010. He earned his role through a longstanding career as a foreign policy advisor to various presidential candidates and officers of the United States. During the office of President Bill Clinton, Lake served as National Security Advisor. His political career prepared him well to undertake the leadership position of UNICEF, the organization responsible for a significant amount of the world’s humanitarian aid. Specifically, it focuses on the needs of children in over 190 countries. As Lake has taken directorship, his prominence in the fight against poverty has risen immensely.
  5. Bill Gates Shares His Financial Success with Developing Countries
    People primarily know Bill Gates as a technological innovator and a record-breaking billionaire. Through the creation of Microsoft, he has amassed substantial financial benefits. People also know Gates as an impressive philanthropist who gears his saving towards aid programs. Specifically, he has established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a joint project between him and his wife. The program receives a significant amount of his donations. Since its establishment in 2000, the foundation has “spent more than $36 billion to fund work in global health, emergency relief, education, [and] poverty,” as reported by Business Insider. The organization is using some of that money to fight malaria and ebola outbreaks in developing countries.

From political professionals to celebrities, these five people who fight poverty show that stepping up for the world’s poor does not require a designated hero. Anyone, with the right drive and ambition, can make a change for the better. The list features only a few prominent people who fight poverty, though it does not have to end there.

– Eleanora Kamerow
Photo: Flickr

Nelson Mandela Quotes on Love

As the first democratically elected president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela put persistent effort in dismantling the apartheid that divided the nation for 46 years. His peaceful protests against the racist legislation of the South African government exemplified legendary courage and leadership. These Nelson Mandela quotes on love reflect that through social activism and philanthropy, a passion for the betterment of humankind can change the world.

Nelson Mandela continuously inspires liberation movements across the world. His prison sentence of 27 years for the political offense of organizing and supporting the anti-apartheid movement lives on as a principle of a true hero. After being released from prison, Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize. Then in 1994, he became the nation’s first democratically elected President. Inspiration for any oppressed group of people can be found in Mandela’s quotes about love for others and love of justice.

Ten Nelson Mandela Quotes on Love

  1. “The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.”
  2. “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
  3. “You will achieve more in this world through acts of mercy than you will through acts of retribution.”
  4. “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
  5. “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”
  6. “As long as many of our people still live in utter poverty, as long as children still live under plastic covers, as long as many of our people are still without jobs, no South African should rest and wallow in the joy of freedom.”
  7. “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”
  8. “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
  9. “It is not our diversity which divides us; it is not our ethnicity or religion or culture that divides us. Since we have achieved our freedom, there can only be one division amongst us: between those who cherish democracy and those who do not.”
  10. “Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.”

These Nelson Mandela quotes on love depict the ways in which he witnessed the world, and sought to change it. With love for oneself, others and one’s country, anything is possible.

– Nia Coleman
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

sustainable energy in africaSustainable energy has become one of the most significant challenges and focuses worldwide over the past several decades. As most of the world begins to shift away from traditional biofuels, like coal and gasoline, other sources of energy, such as wind, solar and hydropower, have taken up a more significant share of the world’s energy production. The share of traditional sources has decreased from its peak of 81 percent in 2000 to roughly 65 percent by 2016; meanwhile, the share of wind energy has increased from 0.2 percent in 2000 to closer to 6 percent. Though this is a slow rate of progression, it demonstrates that most of the world is steadily moving further towards renewable energy sources. Sustainable energy in Africa is growing as governments push for more sustainable energy and is helping impoverished communities by increasing employment.

Pushing for Sustainability

Sustainable energy in Africa has seen significant boosts in recent years. One country making particularly significant strides in sustainable energy in Africa is Kenya. With a renewable energy rate of about 73 percent, Kenya is making efforts to retain sustainability. In fact, the largest wind farm in Africa just recently completed construction in Lake Turkana, Kenya. The facility has been under construction since 2014, and with a total of 365 wind turbines, it will mark a significant boost toward sustainable energy both in Kenya and in Africa as a whole.

In fact, Kenya is making an official, concerted effort towards becoming 100 percent green energy powered by 2020. Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, has made clear his commitment to expanding renewable energy in Kenya and has gained support from other developed nations to help invest in those projects in Kenya. Investments have led to increases in wind, solar and hydroelectric power projects over the past 10 to 15 years, with many such facilities doubling in number. Reliance on low-emission geothermal energy has also risen sharply, with Kenya ranking ninth in the world in how much power it generates from geothermal energy.

Sustainable Energy and Fighting Poverty

Aside from being environmentally conscious, renewable energy facilities also markedly increase employment. More sustainable energy in Africa can help people out of poverty. Kenya’s pushes towards wind and solar energy have led to the direct employment of 10,000 workers. Not only that, but access to electricity from these projects has also allowed some 65,000 additional people to seek out and obtain jobs elsewhere, which they could not have found without the use of electricity. The number of workers employed in the sustainable energy sector is also expected to increase by 70 percent by 2022-2023. Similarly, in Nigeria, it is expected that sustainable energy will create 52,000 jobs by that same timeframe.

It is evident that sustainable energy in Africa will drive the future of countries like Kenya and Nigeria, and assist with uplifting people both directly via increased employment and indirectly due to expanded access to clean electricity. These industries will increase not only sustainable sources of energy, but will create a sustainable economy and a sustainable population that will not succumb to the negative impacts of unemployment and poverty.

– Jade Follette
Photo: Flickr

Live in For Women
Where in the world do women have the most opportunities? One must consider many factors when evaluating a country’s appeal to women. Gender equality, women’s rights, equal pay, the poverty rate for women, the rate of education for women and more specific issues like paid parental leave all play a significant role in building an egalitarian society. The following five countries are the best countries to live in for women.

Sweden

The Swedish government has declared itself a feminist government, setting forth a nation-wide standard of gender equality. Gender equality in Sweden goes beyond equality of opportunities and extends into ensuring equal qualities of life to ensure a positive future for Sweden. Workplace gender discrimination has been illegal beginning in 1980 and Swedish legislation further developed gender equality when the Swedish Discrimination Act passed in 2009. This law states that all employers and businesses must take active steps to ensure the existence of equality between women and men and the absence of harassment in the workplace. In 2017, the law expanded to include the prevention of all harassment, not only harassment on the basis of gender. Notably, Sweden’s legislation prevents discrimination against individuals seeking to take parental leave, the absence of which causes a major financial burden on families worldwide. These policies ensure that women, whether single or married, mothers or not, receive protection against all major forms of harassment. A telling fact of the extent of gender equality in Sweden is the percentage of women comprising Swedish parliament and cabinet – 46 and 50 percent, respectively.

Denmark

Women in Denmark integrate incredibly into the workplace, as women generally maintain jobs outside of their homes. With a generous parental leave policy, women are able to raise families while working without worrying about maintaining income. Similar to women in Sweden, Danish women have respect and can participate in government affairs, with 40 percent of Swedish parliament being female. According to a 2016 survey that the U.S. News and World Report conducted, Denmark is the number one country in the world for women to live in. Respondents considered five factors including safety, progressiveness, income equality and gender inequality.

Canada

Canadians have ample legislation to preserve the presence of equality for women and men. Previously, Canadian women did not experience such egalitarianism, and the government of Canada has made tremendous strides in bettering the country for women. In 2015, Justin Trudeau famously appointed an equal number of males and females to his cabinet, setting forth a precedent for his time in office. Canadian women receive protection from discrimination through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Women are, on average, more educated than men in Canada, indicating definite equality when it comes to educational opportunities. However, Candian women still experience the wage gap and income inequalities in the workplace. Canadians claim that these issues are the largest and greatest obstacles standing in the way of true equality in Canada.

Norway

In 2014, the Constitution of Norway expanded to include more human rights, including the Equality and Anti-Discriminatory Act. This act improved the status and rights of women and minorities and was necessary due to violence against women and the segregation of men and women in the workplace. In 2016, the Government of Norway signed a new plan into action that would take steps to further women’s rights and gender inequality. The Action Plan for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in Foreign and Development Policy focused on five different goals, including equal participation for men and women in politics, full economic rights for women to participate in the labor workforce and inclusive education programs for all children, male or female. These policies contribute to why Norway is on the list for top countries for women to live in.

The Netherlands

Prior to 1956, women in the Netherlands automatically lost their job as soon as they married. This fact is hard to fathom when compared to the state of women’s rights and gender equality of the Scandinavian country today. Dutch law legally prevents discrimination and explicitly bans any type of inequality in men’s rights and women’s rights. However, a closer look into the Netherlands reveals that the country is not exactly a perfect place to live for women. For example, though men and women have close to equal levels of education, there still exists a gap in the comparison of individuals doing paid versus unpaid labor. In terms of safety, 45 percent of Dutch women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. Governments in countries like the Netherlands have had to implement new platforms and legislation to ensure that citizens feel safer in favor of true gender equality.

These best countries for women to live in concentrate in North America and Scandinavia. The top 10 list also includes Finland, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and Germany, expanding the geographic regions outward. The United States of America ranks at around number 16, appearing lower on the list due to crippling income inequality. Additionally, some regions in the world provide very dangerous environments for women, including the Middle East and Asia in countries such as Afghanistan and India.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in IndiaIndia is home to more than one billion citizens. According to a 2015 World Health Organization (WHO) report, of that billion, 56 million suffer from depression and 38 million have anxiety disorders. When adjusted for population size, India is the country with the greatest burden of mental and behavioral disorders, leading some to call the lack of mental health care in India a burgeoning crisis.

Although India is working to improve the mental health of its citizens, initiatives have been slow going. Some roadblocks to improving mental health are the social stigma, its low priority in the healthcare budget and a shortage of mental health professionals.

Stigma

One major barrier to improving mental health in India is the social stigma around mental illness. According to a survey by the Live Laugh Love Foundation, of the 3,556 respondents, 47 percent could be considered judgmental of people with mental illnesses while 26 percent were categorized as being afraid of the mentally ill. This study looked at people between the ages of 18 and 45 from different socio-economic backgrounds. Surprisingly, most of the respondents in those categories were well educated and from higher social classes. When asked to describe the mentally ill, many used derogatory terms or harmful stereotypes.

However, 26 percent of the respondents were categorized as supportive of people with mental illnesses. These respondents tended to be younger—between the ages of 18 and 24—and from a relatively lower educational and socio-economic background.

Advocates and activists are also working to destigmatize mental health in India. Recently, India passed the Mental Health Care Act of 2017, which protects the rights of people with mental illnesses so that they are treated without discrimination.

Low Priority

According to a 2015-16 survey by the Bengaluru-based National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience, 150 million Indians are in need of mental health care, but only 30 million have access to the care they need. Although India began implementing its National Mental Health Program in 1982 with the goal of integrating mental health care with general care, the rollout has been slow. As of 2015, only 27 percent of the 630 districts intended to have a mental health program had created one. The District Mental Health programs have also struggled with inaccessible funding and administrative issues like an inability to fulfill the required number of professionals for each district.

While this program has struggled, the government has been working on other means of improving mental health in India. In 2014, it began implementing its first National Mental Health Policy, which aims to increase funding for training mental health professionals and universal access to mental healthcare.

A Need for Mental Health Professionals

Perhaps one of the biggest roadblocks to improving mental health, though, is the extreme shortage of mental health professionals. In 2014, the WHO found that there is on average only one mental health professional for every 100,000 citizens. These doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists tend to be overworked leading to misdiagnoses in too many cases.

One way the government of Karnataka in southwest India has been trying to fill in the gap is with community health workers called accredited social health activists or ASHA workers. Though they usually are women who council other women in their communities on pregnancy, breastfeeding and parenting, in 2016, they began training these workers to identify and deal with mental health issues. While ASHA workers can help fill some of the gaps, there remains a need for more specialized care. India’s National Mental Healthcare Policy and District Mental Healthcare Policy is a good start, but for it to be successful, the Indian Government has to be proactive in training mental health professionals.

While people with mental illnesses are still struggling, the topic of mental health in India is gaining traction. Activists are working to destigmatize and protect people with mental illness while the government is working to increase accessibility to mental health professionals.

– Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr

NGOs aiming to end poverty
Hunger and poverty are problems millions of people face around the globe. According to The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, 815 million people were chronically undernourished in 2016. However, in the past few decades, the world has made major progress in terms of alleviating hunger and poverty overall. Between 1990-92 and 2012-14, the global undernourished population reduced by 42 percent. There are several non-governmental and nonprofit organizations continuing on that trend to eradicate world hunger and poverty through several different methods. Below are five NGOs aiming to end poverty and hunger.

Akshaya Patra

Akshaya Patra is a nonprofit organization that began in Bengaluru, India. Since the year 2000, the organization has been providing poor children with fresh and nutritious meals at schools. The aim of the organization is to eliminate malnutrition in children, as well as support the right to education for children whose families cannot afford it. When the organization started out, it was a very small-scale project that focused on local schools in rural regions. Initially, the organization began with feeding 1,500 children locally. Today, Akshaya Patra partners with the Indian government and multiple state governments. Additionally, it feeds 1.7 million children across the country. This makes it the largest mid-day meal program in the world and one of the most successful nationwide NGOs aiming to end poverty.

Green Shoots Foundation

Green Shoots is an organization that emerged in 2010. The organization approaches poverty through microfinance, sustainable development and holistic programs. The main aim of the organization is to improve access to education and access to medical aid in developing Asian and African countries. There are multiple programs that the foundation has implemented based on the specific needs of each region. Some of these programs include Education Loans and Social Entrepreneurship (ELSE), Food Agriculture and Social Entrepreneurship (FASE) and Medical Assistance and Medical Education (MAME). Countries that the Green Shoots Foundation has worked in include Cambodia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam and Kyrgyzstan.

Action Against Hunger

Action Against Hunger is an organization that focuses on ending hunger around the globe. The organization focuses on families with young children. So far, Action Against Hunger has contributed to providing aid in over 45 countries to over 21 million people. Its main aim is to double the number of children it is aiding by 2020, due to the fact that millions of children around the globe still remain undernourished. The organization deals with problems that stem from or worsen hunger as well, including nutrition and health, water and sanitation, food security and livelihoods and emergency response.

BRAC

BRAC is a non-governmental organization from Bangladesh. The organization mainly aims to end poverty but also focuses on several other issues that people living in rural or poor communities face. Its main social development goals include eliminating extreme poverty, increasing financial opportunities and choices, developing skills for employment and investing in education. BRAC emerged in 1972, and has since positively impacted the lives of over 100 million people globally. The program focuses on developing and improving conditions in 11 major countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Today, BRAC is the largest development organization in the world.

Water School

Water School is an organization with the aim to provide clean water and make it easily accessible to rural and poor communities in Uganda. It also educates such communities on sanitary practices involving water, health and education. Water school believes that health and education go hand in hand, and therefore focusses on improving conditions for both issues in poor communities.

Hunger and poverty are extremely large scale global issues that will take time, global effort and multiple solutions to solve. The examples of the non-governmental and nonprofit organizations above show that though progress is slow, it is steadily progressing.

These five NGOs aiming to end poverty have made significant progress on their own. Several similar organizations across the globe are working towards meeting multiple hunger and poverty goals as well.

– Nupur Vachharajani
Photo: Flickr