5 Social Issues Dividing NigeriaNigeria, one of the biggest exporters of oil and the most populated country in Africa, is living through severe poverty. In one day, Nigeria can produce 2.5 million barrels of crude oil. Starting at only $30 per barrel, Nigeria is battling high production costs with extremely low oil costs. With oil prices falling, high unemployment rates and rampant poverty, Nigeria stands divided. As of 2019, the National Bureau of Statistics shows that 40% of the population in Nigeria is living below the poverty line. But poverty is not the only thing halting Nigeria’s progress, social issues also stand in the way of furthering the country. Organizations such as Global Giving, a nonprofit that gives people a chance to fundraise globally for up and coming charity projects, is targeting some of Nigeria’s social issues.

5 Social Issues Dividing Nigeria

  1. Poverty — Even though Nigeria is one of the top crude oil producers in Africa, its government has neglected to spread the wealth into rural communities. Instead of funding necessities such as proper infrastructure, much of oil producers’ revenue is given to the “rich elite.” With a population of 195 million people, 40% are living below the poverty line. To live below the poverty line means that families in Nigeria make less than 137,430 Naira per year. This is equivalent to $381.75.
  2. Unemployment — Currently Nigeria’s unemployment rate is at an all-time high, with 27.1% of the population left without a job. This accounts for every one in two people. According to Quartz Africa, 27.1 million people are out of work in Nigeria. This is due to the government struggling to create new jobs to boost the economy. According to the World Bank, “Given that the economy is expected to grow more slowly than the population, living standards are expected to worsen.”
  3. Corruption — Transparency International has declared Nigeria one of Africa’s most corrupt countries as of 2016. Listed 146 out of 180 countries, corruption in Nigeria is a significant factor holding its people back from raising themselves out of poverty. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, bribery, nepotism and voter buying and three other factors all contribute to the corruption and poverty in Nigeria. “Some of the Nigerian politicians and people in ruling offices in just one year make as much as other citizens would make in 65 years,” states Effecting Change In Nigeria in its platform.
  4. Education — In Nigeria, education inequality is a major issue. Due to gender-based biases, girls’ education is not valued as much as boys. Additionally, Muslim girls receive favor over Christian girls when it comes to receiving a proper education. What region you live in also plays an important factor in education. Girls living in the northeast are more likely to get an education than those living in the northwest although the numbers are not that far from each other. According to UNICEF, 47.7% of girls are out of school in the northeast compared to 47.3% of girls in the northwest. This is almost half of all girls in Nigeria.
  5. Terrorism — Boko Haram, meaning “western education is forbidden,” is a terrorist group in Nigeria. Boko Haram is against adopting western culture; this includes voting, dressing differently and secular education. Since 2011 this terrorist group has killed more than 35,000 people and continues to attack villages, police stations and religious or political groups. The group gained national attention in 2014 when they kidnapped more than 200 girls from a local school.

Global Giving

Global Giving is an organization that connects other nonprofits with potential donors. It works with individual donors, other nonprofits and companies to help them safely donate anywhere in the world. Since 2002, Global Giving has assisted in raising $526 million for causes around the globe. So far, 27,941 projects are in place in 170 different countries.

One project Global Giving is helping with is the Empowering Victims of Boko Haram Violence in Nigeria project. The Center for Sustainable Development and Education In Africa started this project to help victims of Boko Haram. The project aims to build a “skills acquisition center” in North-Eastern Nigeria to give support to rape victims, widows and others the terrorist group affected. In two years, the project raised $28,500.

The CSDEA has another project called Save Street Children in Nigeria. The goal of this project is to help 1.5 million homeless children get off the streets. If the project raises $25,000 then 10,000 children can go to school and receive food and shelter. In the past two years, the cause has collected $1,055. One can make donations at Global Giving’s projects.

– Jessica LaVopa
Photo: Flickr 

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

Greta Thunberg

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

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

Millie Bobby Brown

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

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

Amandla Stenberg

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

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

Yara Shahidi

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

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

Zendaya

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

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

Natalie Whitmeyer
Photo: Flickr

Business Fights Poverty
Business Fights Poverty began in 2005 with the goal of providing a network for businesses, organizations and other professionals. This organization believes in the principle of purposeful collaboration and aims to unite influential businesses to add social change to the list of successes across the world. The poverty-fighting organization also recognizes the underlying potential of uniting worldwide businesses to battle social issues such as poverty. Its actions have been influential during 2020. Here are four impressive examples of actions Business Fights Poverty has taken to combat global poverty.

Global Network

Business Fights Poverty created a network of over 28,000 businesses and organizations fighting poverty: In addition to its staff and content creators spanning across the globe, this organization has a long list of partners with global influence. Among these partners are Walmart, Nestlé, the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth and Visa. The poverty-fighting organization has also partnered with content creating organizations to expand the reach of its content and increase collaboration among organizations fighting for social change. This extensive network of partners allows Business Fights Poverty to collaborate their views of organizations with different business goals and different content creators to increase awareness surrounding global poverty.

Educator on Social Inequality and Poverty

The organization also holds free online conferences with influential leaders in business to educate on collaborative impact. Easily accessible from its website, Business Fights Poverty releases a weekly calendar of live-streamed conferences and webinars. A major perk here is that if one is unable to watch these conferences in real-time, they are recorded and uploaded to the website. Previous conferences include discussions with business professors from Harvard University and the University of Oxford about the relation between social inequality and poverty. Future talks include discussions with members of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. Therefore, these free conferences provide an accessible way for people across the globe to educate themselves and learn from influential leaders in business and education.

Individual Contribution Opportunities

The global network also offers opportunities for individuals to contribute to its site through content creation or on discussion forums. The idea of collaboration spans further than collaboration among worldwide businesses. Business Fights Poverty offers numerous ways for any individual to collaborate, such as the ability to apply for freelance work and online forums of open discussion with experts in different fields. This again serves as a way for individuals to educate themselves through discussion with professionals. It also allows them to delve deeper into becoming involved with the organization. The organizations also makes its purposeful collaboration accessible through a few clicks on its websites.

Progress in SDGs

The company also motivates contributors and partners to move towards Sustainable Development Goals. The U.N. developed the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to foster a more sustainable global future. Two of these goals include no poverty and zero hunger. Business Fights Poverty considers one of its challenges as advancing toward a world that reaches these goals. By advocating for this change, the organization is able to contribute to a global plan to combat poverty and hunger. The Sustainable Development Goals remain a focus in the conversation and content present on Business Fights Poverty’s website.

Outcomes

The major outcomes of Business Fights Poverty have reflected in the businesses and corporations it has collaborated with. For example, since its involvement with Business Fights Poverty, Walmart paid its full-time workers $3 above what people consider to be a living wage of an adult in the U.S. in 2019 and has the goal of training millions of employees in career growth strategies by 2025. Since 2015, Visa has assisted over 160,000 lower-income individuals in creating accounts and becoming involved in the financial system. Business Fights Poverty has created a network of awareness. The actions of these major corporations set a positive example for customers and smaller businesses to improve their strategies to assist those battling poverty.

In conclusion, Business Fights Poverty recognizes the impact that large scale businesses and corporations can have on battling the poverty crisis. Through education, collaboration and progress towards a common goal, this organization has dedicated itself to making a social change. As the network continues to grow, businesses can find success in assisting the fight to combat world hunger and poverty. As for individuals, this organization’s website offers many ways to get involved that are worth exploring.

Evan Coleman
Photo: Flickr

Microfinance on Gender Inequality
Many women around the world struggle to stay afloat and support their families. However, the effects of microfinance on gender inequality are significant in that a loan could help women start businesses to financially support themselves.

The Story of Nicolasa

At the age of 4, Nicolasa’s mother died, leaving her in the care of her father and older sister. Though Nicolasa’s father did his best to provide for his daughters, they both had to abandon their education in order to keep the family afloat. Nicolasa and her sister worked on the streets of San Antonio Palopó, Guatemala selling a variety of food items.

As Nicolasa grew up and married, she vowed that her child would not live the same life as hers. She wanted to be present for her children, yet the only place she had worked was far from home. To care for her children both physically and financially, Nicolasa decided she would start her own weaving business from home. With no capital or collateral, and no banks to borrow from in her small town, Nicolasa faced an immense obstacle.

Microfinance

Nicolasa’s problem is one that many women in Guatemala and other developing nations face every day. Guatemalan women want to become financially independent but often have nowhere to obtain even a small loan. Without the aid of a financial institution, these women have minimal opportunity to start a business, make small investments or simply support their families.

In 1976, Muhammad Yunus recognized the difficulties these women face and started the first modern run microfinancing bank. His goal was to lend small amounts to those in developing countries who did not have access to banks or had little collateral to support their endeavors. A microloan as small as $60 could now go to a woman opening a fruit stand, for example. Microloans may not cover large purchases, but just a small amount of money can go a long way for women in developing nations. A successful loan may help a woman jump-start her business and become financially independent. Therefore, the effect of microfinance on gender inequality could be very significant.

The Effect of Microfinance on Gender Inequality

Studies have proven microfinance to be a great tool for economic development and the promotion of gender equality. When women are financially independent, they often meet with greater decision making power within their households. Gender equality within households often results in women taking a more prominent stance on societal issues, which in turn, further promotes equality around the world.

Gender equality can also create a healthier and more robust global economy. A study that the McKinsey Global Institute conducted claims that if each country had equal opportunity for women, the global GDP would increase by $28 trillion, or 26% by 2025. From individual households to the global economy, gender equality results in a healthier balance of power across developing nations.

Criticism

Not everyone agrees with the impact that microfinance could have on gender equality. Many critics claim that a country’s cultural disapproval of women who work can minimize the positive effects of microfinance and prevent women from obtaining microloans. To combat these cultural norms and their negative effects on gender equality, many microfinance banks offer loans to women who are hoping to start a business from home. Nicolasa is one of these women.

Nicolasa Now

Nicolasa obtained a loan of $400 from the Foundation for International Community Assistance. She used the money to buy a loom, from which her success was significant enough to seek investment for a second loom. She currently weaves fabric and rents out her other loom to women from her village. Nicolasa is now proudly saving to send her daughter to college.

Nicolasa is one of many women in developing countries experiencing the positive effects of microfinance. She has provided herself with a sustainable income and is giving her daughter the wonderful gifts of higher education and financial support. If one small loan can change a woman’s life for the better, it is easy to see how microfinance is providing the same benefits to women across the world.

– Aiden Farr
Photo: Flickr

 

Homelessness in RussiaLike many social issues, the homelessness crises around the world has a multitude of underlying factors. To be homeless is not just about having no physical home. Being homeless is about economic, social, familial, poverty, mental health and community factors. Like many countries, homelessness in Russia has been perpetuated for decades by the historical stigma which has prevented transitional change since Russia’s move to a market economy.

Historical Ties

Homelessness in the Russian Federation dates back centuries, but the inception of its modern homelessness can be traced back to the fall of the Soviet Union in December of 1991. After this, the Russian Federation was formed and communism was replaced with a market economy. Five years after the transition, roughly 1.5 million of Russia’s 147.2 million population found themselves homeless.

In communist Russia, vagrancy and begging were punished with a minimum two-year prison sentence so many homeless were classified as felons. In addition, the state government would aggravate the problem by revoking residency permits, so many felons would assume transient lifestyles after leaving prison. After Soviet-era vagrancy laws were repealed in 1992, major cities experienced an influx of homeless populations. The new market economy saw major disparities in wealth, driving people from their traditional roles and into the streets.

The implementation of the registration system in Russia worsened the homeless crisis. The registration system required those without housing to either acquire sponsorship from a relative who already had adequate living space or to purchase real estate. This system, coupled with the new market economy, lead to widespread real estate crime. Individuals with little to no knowledge of the real estate market were easily manipulated and scammed out of affordable long-term housing.

Homelessness Today

Today, homelessness in the Russian Federation is the problem everyone knows about but no one wants to address. According to Rosstat, the government organization responsible for tracking homelessness in the Russian Federation, there are 64,000 homeless people in Russia. However, the organization has not compiled new data since 2010.  The real number is estimated to be roughly 5 million, approximately 3.5 percent of Russia’s population.  These estimates correspond with reported numbers on Russians living below the poverty line. Out of Russia’s 144.5 million population, 13.3% live below the poverty line.

One of the most common issues that the homeless in Russia face is the loss of legal documents, such as passports and residency permits. Once Russian citizens lose these documents, they are no longer eligible to receive free social or medical care and have no path to recovering these benefits.  Compounding the problem is the widespread exploitation of those without legal documents. Companies who rely on homeless populations for inexpensive labor often do not follow through on paying wages. When homeless workers are paid, they face scrutiny and exploitation from the police who are at liberty to take advantage of undocumented people.

Social Stigma

The unofficial mantra of the Russian Federation in regard to homelessness is, “out of sight, out of mind”. Although there are more homeless shelters in Russia today than in the past, they are sparse and inaccessible, many times located in the outskirts of districts. The Lyublino shelter has served as the primary center tackling the homelessness crisis for the last ten years. The shelter provides much-needed aid such as food, shelter, clothing, legal and medical services to its patrons. There are currently six shelters on the outskirts of Moscow including the largest, Lyublino, and five smaller ones. Plans for a homeless shelter in the city center were scrapped after widespread backlash from city residents. Instead, 30 vans patrol the city, picking up homeless and driving them to shelters nearly 15 kilometers outside the city center. Although these shelters are proof of progress, the societal response to ignore the issue prevents a head-on approach to tackling homelessness.

Other cities in the Russian Federation are addressing both the issue of homelessness and social stigma. In St. Petersburg, the Nochlezhka NGO feeds, counsels and shelters homeless populations. Funded mostly by donations, the crown jewel of the organization is a four-story rehabilitation center that houses roughly 50 people.  In 2017, The Moscow Times reported that 145 people passed through the shelter and 51% now live in permanent homes. In 2018, in addition to their rehabilitation program, the organization provided food, shelter and legal services to 9,000 homeless in St. Petersburg. The organization also helps to educate Russian citizens on how people become homeless and what can be done to help. Through educational efforts, they hope to eliminate the decades-old stigma of homelessness. The organization’s work has been largely successful in St. Petersburg; however, the homeless stigma still persists in Moscow where an estimated 100,000 people are homeless. Nochlezhka hopes to employ the same measures that worked in St. Petersburg to Moscow.

Unraveling the decades-long homeless crisis in the Russian Federation cannot be done overnight. The largest challenge is not just overcoming homelessness itself by providing more shelters, but eliminating the stigma associated with it. As mindsets change, organizations educate and the Russian state government stops pushing homelessness out of sight, the state can ultimately overcome one of its most trying challenges.

– Max Lang
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Social Change
Social change is an instance in which people reform the conventions of society. The behavior and attitudes of people determine the direction and significance of change, while the environment or society influence these behaviors. Here are 10 facts about social change.

10 Facts About Social Change

  1. Modernization and Technology: Social change is a combination of many factors. Different events, technologies or people can affect the behavior or norms within society. Modernization and technology have been two of the largest driving forces of social change throughout history. The Industrial Revolution in many countries forced governments to become more liberal as their citizenry became more valuable and leveraged for more rights at work.
  2. Social Order and Coordination: Social norms are central in social order or social coordination. Social norms are informal laws that dictate a group’s or society’s behaviors. A social norm can range from wearing a suit to work or holding the door for someone behind you to voting in the presidential election. Social change does not occur without a significant number of people coming together and changing the traditional behavior within a society.
  3. Social Justice: Social change often looks to change social norms that negatively affect social justice. Social justice is the idea that every aspect of society can achieve justice and equity rather than in only certain cases or for some individuals.
  4. Causes of Social Change: There are different types of social changes. Since social changes are whenever a group changes social behavior and consciousness, many factors can cause such an outcome. War, protests, strikes and nonviolent demonstrations are all ways social change comes about.
  5. Negative Social Change: Social change is not always a positive form of change. An extreme example is the Nazi regime and its persecution of the Jewish population that occurred because of a change to Germany’s social norms. It is up to people to choose which form of change is worth pursuing.
  6. Length of Time to Instigate Social Change: Often change takes place over many generations. The breaking down of social norms requires time to turn new ideas from fringe to conventional. Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela and Gandhi are prominent social figures. These men exemplify the multiple generation struggle, as all of them inherited a society in need of change and utilized the time to achieve social justice.
  7. Importance of Nonprofits: Nonprofits are vital in social change. Nonprofits are often the driver of awareness, bringing solutions to communities affected by a lack of progress. Groups like Oxfam International strive to uplift the poverty-stricken and decrease poverty around the world. By working in more than 90 countries, the organization has affected millions of people. The group looks to provide clean water and food to those without such necessities and diminish the effects of climate change in developing countries. In many of its efforts, it also looks to increase the economic well-being of developing countries to ensure their citizens are provided with enough resources to live and flourish.
  8. Theories About Social Change: Sociologists and anthropologists have studied social change and social norms extensively. These significant studies have led to many different theories of the causes and reasons for social change. Many see Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber as the most influential sociological thinkers, each offering differing theories on the progression of society. All three focused on the division of labor and how that affected social progress. Durkheim argued that with an increase in population, there is more competition for resources. To obtain social harmony as opposed to constant competition, people will look to specialize their skills and find new ways to make a living. Marx also analyzed the division of labor and the effect of work on people and society. Marx, however, believed that people often look to meet their human needs, and are in a constant struggle with the market or their owners of production to obtain financial security to live. Marx believed that life was a constant struggle between classes and that social change emerges from this struggle. While Marx believed that class solidarity would lead to social change, Weber believed that society required a charismatic leader to spark such change. Weber emphasized a transition to rational thought, and because rationality usually comes with collaboration, Weber believed bureaucracy would be essential to change.
  9. Difficulty to Instigate Social Change: Traditions are often difficult to change and violence is a common response to social movements. People in power often do not want to relinquish their power and the traditional system often provides the parameters and rules for those people to rise to that position. As a result, they see a change to the system as a threat to their status. What started as peaceful protests against an extradition bill has turned into months of clashes between protestors in Hong Kong. Pro-democracy activists began protesting in March 2019 against a bill that would extradite citizens of Hong Kong to Beijing. Activists saw this bill as an encroachment on their autonomy and held demonstrations to voice their opposition. After multiple peaceful demonstrations, police responded with force against protestors, and this use of force caused protestors to increase the intensity of their protests. Since the beginning of these protests, there have been constant clashes between protestors and police, including batons, rubber bullets, tear gas and even the shooting of multiple protestors with live rounds. Protestors have attacked businesses and police. Awareness and pressure are powerful deterrents to violence on both sides.
  10. Nonprofits for Peaceful Change: There are groups all around the world working for peaceful change. The Borgen Project is just one among many groups that look to uplift the impoverished and oppressed peoples of the world. Bill Gates, the former CEO of Microsoft, started the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to promote public health around the world. Bill and his wife Melinda look to provide millions around the world with resources and education to live healthily. The Foundation strives to reduce inequities in healthy by providing resources and education to countries with insufficient health care programs.

These 10 facts about social change show that change is constant within society and that with the level of technological advancement, the rate of societal change will only increase. With so many groups working for social justice and their ability to reach more people with their message, the time is right for societies around the world to become more inclusive. Inspired by social justice figures of the past, there has been an emphasis recently on the peaceful pursuit of social change. The number of groups striving for social justice around the world encourages people to live without conflict, without injustice or prejudice and to receive the necessary resources to live a healthy, fulfilling life. With technology as a spark for social change and the technological advances of today, there is the possibility of creating a world where uplifting those in need, even in different countries, is the norm.

– Jared Hynes
Photo: Flickr

Social Justice Helps to Fight Social ChallengesAccording to the Pachamama Alliance, social justice is defined as “equal access to wealth, opportunities and privileges within a society.” Social challenges are defined as “an issue that relates to society’s perception of people’s personal lives. Different societies have different perceptions and what may be “normal” behavior in one society may be a significant social issue in another society.”

After defining terms, now the question raised must be addressed: how can social justice helps to fight social challenges? Social justice can help to fight social challenges by providing society with equal opportunities to overcome its problems.

Social justice and education

For instance, poverty is considered a social challenge because it relates to how society views people’s lives. One way to help reduce poverty is to provide greater and more equal education opportunities since many find themselves living in poverty due to a lack of education. From the years of 2002 to 2007, about 40 million more children around the world were able to attend school, due largely in part to the lowering of costs and the increase in investment. Programs like these are examples of social justice and the impact it can have on addressing social problems like global poverty.

Social justice and access to clean water

Another factor that influences poverty rates is a lack of access to clean potable water and nutritious foods. Although having access to these resources is a basic human right, many people around the world do not have access to clean water and food. To be more specific, according to The Water Project one in nine people worldwide do not have access to clean and safe drinking water, as a result, people find themselves without the ability to “grow food, build housing, stay healthy, stay in school, and keep a job.” By implementing programs such as building wells in rural communities and bringing access to potable water within a half-mile of villages across the globe, social justice in the form of providing people with equal access to privileges within a society, the social challenge of global poverty is being addressed.

Social justice and job development

Another important aspect is the economy and how job development can help to eradicate poverty. In China, 700 million people have been raised out of poverty due to several different programs being put in place by the government, one of which is its focus on the creation of jobs and the economic development of rural areas. Additionally, by providing underdeveloped areas with officers to regulate the poverty-alleviation programs, Chinese citizens were able to rise up out of the inhumane living conditions they were surviving in.  Through the government’s efforts in the job and economic development, China’s poor population has been given the same opportunities to achieve wealth and change their situation, which just goes to show that social justice can make a difference in how social challenges are addressed.

In conclusion, in terms of how social justice can help to fight social challenges, one could say that through the implementation of programs that offer the same opportunities to the underprivileged, social justice helps to fight social issues like global poverty.

Laura Rogers
Photo: Flickr

MIT's J-PAL LabOn a busy street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an unassuming brick building houses the North American headquarters of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). Inside MIT’s J-PAL Lab, researchers analyze the results of randomly-designed experiments and the generalizability of their findings. Their test subjects? Social programs.

J-PAL and its Research

Anti-poverty work can take many forms: vocational training, credit access, education and the list goes on. Programs of various types can be valuable and worth funding, but because donors and organizations have limited amounts of funding, the relevant question is often not whether to support anti-poverty work, but how to support it. What programs are making the biggest difference? Where will a donation do the most good?

J-PAL co-founder Abhijit Banerjee puts it best in an interview with The Wire: “you have to basically focus on: where is the lever? That’s what we do, try to help find the lever, and then if you push the lever you go fast. But what [policy-makers] do is often… just hit everything and then some things hit the lever, some things hit the wall.” The strategy of “hitting anything” is certainly not useless, but to maximize impact, a person should concentrate on the mechanisms that maximize impact. J-PAL’s work is in locating the policy levers that will make a difference and encouraging policy-makers to use them.

MIT professors Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Sendhil Mullainathan founded J-PAL in 2003 and it has grown quickly. As of 2019, J-PAL has a network of 181 affiliated professors around the world. A truly global organization, J-PAL has offices in Capetown, South Africa; Paris, France; Santiago, Chile; New Delhi, India; and Jakarta, India. J-PAL’s work focuses on researching the results of different cases of anti-poverty action to evaluate what is most effective and advise policymakers accordingly, and educating people about how and when to evaluate social programs.

J-PAL’s Approach

At its base, J-PAL’s approach is simple. Any case of policy-making has results, and by tracking actions and results in a large number of cases, one can determine which are successful and which are not, and therefore which to support in order to produce a maximum impact. Using this data, one can also attempt to predict the policies whose results could potentially be reproduced elsewhere. J-PAL’s methods also emphasize focusing on the mechanisms behind policies and not on specific details of a single scenario. Particular details vary from case to case, but human behavior does show certain patterns; in similar circumstances, policies that have worked before can work again.

J-PAL and its affiliated professors have performed over 900 evaluations and have developed a selection of case studies and other teaching resources to educate people about the analysis of social programs. Every year, J-PAL runs Evaluating Social Programs, a five-day course for policymakers, researchers and nonprofit workers that covers the basics of organizing scientifically sound evaluations and interpreting their results. Close to 50 people attended the 2018 course, which took place at MIT. J-PAL has also made the content of the course available online for free through the online education platform edX, allowing people around the globe to learn from J-PAL’s work. The case studies discussed in the course are also available on J-PAL’s website.

Moving Forward

MIT’s J-PAL Lab has encouraged the scaling up of policies ranging from remedial education in India, deworming in Kenya and community block grants in Indonesia. It also continues to study policy and advocate for effective social policies. The training that it provides for policy-makers allows them to maximize their impact in an economically efficient way. As J-PAL continues to grow, its affiliates will continue to find those levers.

– Meredith Charney
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