Inflammation and stories on United Kingdom

Modern Day Slavery UK Government Freedom in Work
Although slavery has been abolished in the United States for around 150 years, slaves still exist in the world today. Currently, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates there are around 21 million people in slavery across the world.

What is modern day slavery?

  • Trafficking for sexual exploitation
  • Forced labor of children as domestic workers
  • Forced labor of girls in the garment industry
  • Unpaid agricultural work
  • Child marriage
  • Debt bondage
  • Forced labor
  • Descent-based slavery (born into slavery)

One young victim reflects on her experience as a slave:

“I was very afraid, but had no other option than to stay at my workplace. The house where I was sent as a housemaid was occupied by a large family. I was forced to work both in the house and in a shop. I had to work for 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. None of the people in the home were supportive, and I was tortured on many occasions and in different ways.”

5 important facts about slavery:

  1. 90 percent of slavery is exploitation done by individuals and companies, while the remaining 10 percent is through forced work by the state, rebel military groups or prisons.
  2. Although slavery exists within every country, more than half of today’s 21 million slaves are found in Asia.
  3. 55 percent of slaves are women and children, since these populations are vulnerable and easily exploited.
  4. Human trafficking ranks as the third most profitable global crime, behind drug and arms dealings. In 2005, illegal profits from forced labor amounted to more than $44 billion.
  5. Forced labor impedes economic development and perpetuates poverty. For example, people in forced labor lose at least $21 billion each year in unpaid wages and recruitment fees.

The United Kingdom (UK) government launched a program to combat slavery in July. The Work in Freedom program aims to prevent 100,000 girls and women across South Asia from entering into labor trafficking. Through the Department for International Development and the ILO, £9.75 million will be invested in the Work for Freedom program over five years.

How will the Work for Freedom program combat slavery?

Millions of men and women from poor communities in Asia migrate to find employment and to help their families financially. The Work for Freedom project aims to tackle known trafficking routes to prevent these men and women from being exploited.

Since most of the trafficking in Asia is related to labor, Work for Freedom will focus on providing women with necessary skills and vocational training to help them secure legal employment with a decent wage. The program will also educate vulnerable men and women of their rights, and help them organize collectively. Finally, the program will prevent child labor by helping children stay in school instead of migrating for work.

The UK’s Work for Freedom program will help reduce slavery, in turn empowering the world’s vulnerable and decreasing global poverty.

– Caressa Kruth

Sources: The Guardian, The Guardian: Modern Day Slavery Explainer, Gov.UK: Work in Freedom, Gov.UK
Photo: Gov.uk

Kingdom of the Sky
At first, it sounds like something straight out of a fairytale. The African country of Lesotho is nicknamed the ‘Kingdom of the Sky’ because of its stark and startling beauty – mountains of every sort, from lush green to snowcapped, jutting regally into a sparkling blue sky. To the outsider, its beauty is a wonder to behold.

For the inhabitants of Lesotho, however, and particularly the country’s children, this picturesque landscape hides many troubles. With a population of over 1.8 million, less than 30 percent of the men and women between the ages of 15 and 64 have salaried employment. Perhaps more troubling is the fact that Lesotho has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the world. Around 23 percent of the adults aged 15-49 are HIV positive. In a country plagued with disease, unemployment, environmental woes, and more, children are particularly vulnerable to fall victim to the effects of extreme poverty.

If life were a fairytale, this is the part of the story when the knight in shining armor would come riding in to save the day. Substitute two real-life princes for a knight, and reality is not that far off. Prince Seeiso, the younger brother of Lesotho’s king, and Prince Harry of England have collaborated to create a charity called Sentebale dedicated to protecting and promoting the welfare of Lesotho’s children. The charity focuses on three main issues: children living with HIV, limited access to education, and children in vulnerable positions.

To address the former, the charity began the Mamohato Network and Camps program, which provides life-skills education and psychological resources to children living with HIV. These camps, which run several times a year throughout Lesotho, focus on improving the children’s knowledge of their disease and on reducing the feelings of stigmatization that surround and HIV positive diagnosis. Given the fact that there are currently over 37,000 children in Lesotho under the age of 14 who are living with HIV, such a support network is desperately needed.

As with many of the world’s most impoverished countries, education in Lesotho is rarely a priority for families who are struggling to afford such necessities as food and water. Though primary education is technically compulsory, about 60 percent of males and females over the age of 15 have not completed school. There are many factors that contribute to this, such as rural isolation and family situations where children are responsible for caring for themselves and their younger siblings. To help counteract this, Sentebale is actively establishing schools around the country that provide an education to these groups of children who otherwise might not have the opportunity to learn in a formal setting.

One such group is the country’s shepherd boys. For these boys as young as five, the mountains represent not a place of beauty but rather a means of income. In the most rural parts of the country, becoming a shepherd is considered a cultural obligation. These boys often must leave their families for months or years on end to tend livestock alone in the mountains, just to provide a meager income or a bit of food. Sentebale established the Herd Boys Education program to provide these young men with an education while they are working; additionally, the schools give the boys warm meals and supplies to help them survive the harsh winters.

Sentebale’s third area of focus, caring for vulnerable children, is achieved in a slightly less direct manner. The children of Lesotho are considered vulnerable because of their lack of access to basic needs. Many of the children have been orphaned due to their parents dying of HIV or are suffering from the disease themselves. The country is suffering a food shortage because of climate change, meaning that access to food is becoming increasingly difficult. Furthermore, the widespread poverty means that necessities like warm clothes and a home to sleep in are not always readily available.

Sentebale’s work in promoting education and providing healthcare awareness certainly helps to counteract this, but to do so more effectively they are engaging the local community. Grants are awarded to grassroots organizations, health clinics, and other programs that are dedicated to providing care for these children who so desperately need it. They also work with these organizations to help them become more self-sufficient so as to better serve the economy of the community.

The two Princes have created a charity marked by its diversity in order to meet one common goal: to help fill the gap in care for children all throughout Lesotho. Though these children will face hardships throughout their lives that many cannot even imagine, Sentebale is doing its best to provide them with the ‘happily ever after’ that every child deserves.

– Rebecca Beyer

Sources: Sentebale, CNN, UNAIDS
Photo: Sentebale

family planning
This past July, Family Planning 2020, an initiative aiming to increase accessibility to family planning services in developing countries, celebrated its one-year anniversary. Sponsored by the United Kingdom, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Family Planning 2020, or FP2020, is working with governments around the globe to ensure that 120 million more women in the world have access to family planning aid by 2020. Convening at the London Summit for Family Planning last year, governments, sponsors, donors, civil societies, and private sector representatives laid out a goal-based timeline for success.

FP2020 targets the poorest countries in the world. Today, more than 200 million of women in developing countries want to avoid pregnancy but lack access to family planning and contraceptives. What FP2020 aims to do for these women is provide much needed information, services, and mechanisms for family planning. Over 20 governments worldwide are committed to the initiative, among them the governments of India, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, and Kenya.

As July 11th – World Population Day as well as the anniversary date of the London Summit – approached, FP2020 partners were applauded for their progress and were encouraged to keep moving forward. Since the FP2020 London Summit last year, Zambia has seen the promising creation of a national strategy that has brought religious, tribal, and community leaders into the conversation of improving family planning services and accessibility to contraceptives in all areas of the country. In Sierra Leone, the government has funneled significant funds towards its health and family planning sectors. In Nigeria, FP2020 partners are working to open clinics in strategic areas that will serve people within a 12-mile radius, improving accessibility to family planning services. Other partner nations are undertaking similar initiatives.

The future of FP2020 gleams with the hope of improving lives for millions of women in the developing world. In the words of the director of the FP2020 project, Valerie DeFillipo, “The global community is recommitted and re-energized. We as individuals have the power to ensure that women’s autonomy over health-related decisions is a fundamental right, not a privilege.”

Follow @FP2020Global on Twitter to learn more.

-Lina Saud

Sources: The Interdependent, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, LFPS, LFPS
Photo: Path

work-in-freedom-slavery-prevention
On July 15, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, the International Labour Organisation, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine announced the launch of a new slavery prevention program entitled “Work in Freedom.” This project includes a 9.75 million GBP commitment (over 15 million USD) with the purpose of protecting females in South Asia from labor trafficking.

Human trafficking stands out as a growing global issue, with approximately 21 million global citizens forced into labor or prostitution around the world. The majority of modern day slaves find themselves tricked into becoming part of one of these millions of trafficked people. Traffickers target very poor and often remote areas promising to help people find jobs, when in reality they are forced into slavery. The United Nations deemed human trafficking the third-largest global criminal industry.

The plan is to target the most heavily travelled human trafficking routes with access to South Asia, focusing on Bangladesh, Nepal, and some Gulf States. The Work in Freedom Project also plans to provide 50,000 women with technical skills and training to only help them find employment, and to enable them to recognize a trafficker’s ploys and secure legal work contracts guaranteeing proper wages.An additional 30,000 women will receive education to help them learn their rights and find employment as part of the Work in Freedom Project.

Other focuses of Britain’s international support involve child labor. The plan includes keeping girls under 16 years old in school and teaching women to recognize ‘recruitment fees’ and other unethical charges traffickers place as a burden on families in their ‘recruitment’ schemes.

The Work in Freedom Project also hopes to build momentum in governments, employer, and labor unions to cooperate in addressing the issues associated with human trafficking. It calls for employers in the private sector to step up their regulation to prevent hiring trafficked workers.

Work in Freedom demonstrates the United Kingdom’s commitment to international aid. Their new five year program tackles one of modern society’s biggest issues and provides assistance for thousands of women without a voice by giving them education, the power to stand up for themselves, and economic opportunities.

– Allison Meade

Sources: U.K. Government Press Release, Health Canal International Labor Organization
Photo: [email protected]

Comic_Relief_UK
Laughter is fr universal language, and comedy is a much broader medium, than given credit for. Laughing is disarming, warm, enjoyable, and can help unite people. It isn’t a stretch to imagine that comedy can also connect and rally people to fight intractable problems. Humor can indeed be a powerful weapon against the scourge of something like global poverty and the absences of technology and education in communities. This is the very idea behind Comic Relief, an organization operating in the United Kingdom and abroad that stands up to poverty.

Existing officially as both a company and charity in the UK, Comic Relief began in 1985 during Christmas season at a Sudanese refugee camp. Renowned and well-meaning British comedians hoped to raise awareness of the Sudanese plight and the Ethiopian famine going on. The success of that first event spawned more live comedic appearances in Sudan and gave way to Red Nose Day in 1988, which brought much needed attention and money to the region that went directly to relief. Since that time, Comic Relief has grown in size and scope, spreading laughter and awareness of numerous other initiatives.

One of those other initiatives is Send My Friend to School (http://www.sendmyfriend.org/), a nonprofit movement in the UK working to make the Millennium Development Goal of education for all children a reality by 2015. A member of the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), the initiative boasts UK membership of over 10,000 schools and youth groups. Another initiative Comic Relief supports is the intrepid See Africa Differently (http://www.seeafricadifferently.com/) campaign, aimed at changing the world’s perception of the continent and sharing stories of real people there that aren’t covered in major news. For example, the London art scene has recently been enthralled with the works of West African artists.

A very personal and striking account of Comic Relief in action is the story of teen sisters Hazel and Hiayisani in Tembisa, South Africa. Orphaned after their mother’s sudden illness and death, older sister Hazel was now in the position of caring for herself and her sister. Poor and completely exposed to the worst of society, they were at risk of being split up by Social Services, falling into a life of crime or the world of sexual slavery. However, after finding the Bishop Simeon Trust, a Comic Relief partner in Tembisa, the girls were able to join other orphans. They now receive a stipend and care packages from the trust to live on, free education, and enjoy time at the Bishop Simeon facility with other teenagers.

Comic Relief is best known for its initial and ongoing fundraiser, Red Nose Day. Happening every few years, this international event is celebrated mainly in the UK and Africa. For those who participate, the objective is to put on a red nose and be ridiculous. Proceeds from the event go directly to initiatives like the ones mentioned above, aimed at education and the changing of negative international typecasts.

Comic Relief has shown that maybe laughter is the best medicine for social ails.

David Smith
Sources: Comic Relief –History, Send My Friend –About, West African Art Pops Up in London, Comic Relief –Hazel and Hiayisani, Africa, Red Nose Day –What Is It?
Photo: BBC

 

Child Poverty in the United States
Today, when most people think of poverty they do not think of nations like the United States and the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, these two countries face serious problems regarding child poverty. Up to 20% of children in the U.S. live in poverty, while the United Kingdom faces some of the world’s highest child poverty rates. In spite of being two of the world’s wealthiest nations, both nations are struggling to address the causes of child poverty.

 

Leading Causes of Child Poverty

 

Of the many root causes of child poverty, most sources point to an absence of one parent, particularly the father, as having the greatest impact on a child’s future. In the U.K., 23% of children in two parent families live in poverty, while over 40% of children in single parent households fall into the same category. As women generally earn less in the same professions as men, children in single parent households where the father is absent face an even higher rate of poverty.

Children living with only their mother are

  • 5 times more likely to live in poverty
  • 9 times more likely to drop out of school
  • 37% more likely to abuse drugs
  • 2 times more likely to be incarcerated
  • 2.5 times more likely to become a teen parent
  • 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders
  • 32 times more likely to run away

Ethnicity has also been linked to higher child poverty rates in both the U.S. and the U.K. Part of the reason for the correlation between ethnicity and child poverty in the U.S. is due to the level of crime in minority communities. Not only are families in these communities more likely to be the victims of crime, but they are also more likely to have a parent, more often the father, incarcerated than families in areas with less crime. A child whose father has been incarcerated is five to seven times more likely to be incarcerated in their lifetime.

Although unemployment is a major contributor to child poverty, it is not the only problem. In any economy, poor adults often find they are forced to take dead-end jobs, without advancement opportunities, while middle management and other placements are given to college graduates whose families could afford higher education. In these situations, the wage-earning adult from a poor family is only offered part-time work or the position they currently occupy pays too low a salary and the family suffers.

Clearly, the issues related to child poverty are not limited only to less developed nations. Indeed, child poverty rates are surprisingly high in the world’s most developed nations, including the U.S. and the U.K. If we are unable to address these issues in our own countries, how are we to act as role models for the rest of the world?

– Herman Watson

Sources: Child Poverty Action Group, The Future of Children, Fight Poverty, The Guardian, Barnardo’s

food_opt
Chronic hunger is not just an issue that plagues the developing world.

Food poverty has become a huge problem in Ireland and throughout the European Union EU. The Irish Department of Social Protection recently reported that 10% of the Irish population, or nearly 450,000 people were victims of food poverty.

The Irish Food Poverty and Policy Report defines food poverty as “the inability to access a nutritionally adequate diet and the related impacts on health, culture, and social participation.” The deprivation indicators include the inability to access a source of adequate protein at least every other day, as well as the inability to afford a substantial meal on one or more days during a two-week span.

BBC One recently featured an exposé in which three famous chefs lived with a U.K. family for a week and recommend simple ways to shop for and cook nutritious meals on a tight budget. One chef reported that his host family of five lived on the equivalent of $2.50 per day.

Almost all of the families revealed consistently empty refrigerators and pantries. The few items they had consisted of ready-to-heat, pre-packaged meals, as the families reported that natural ingredients were too expensive to purchase and too complicated to prepare.

This phenomenon has led to food poverty’s ultimate paradox: that those experience food poverty in the developed world are more likely to be overweight or obese than those reporting chronic hunger in developing countries.

What accounts for this difference? In developed countries, people who cannot regularly afford food are often drawn to fast food and pre-packaged supermarket meals that boast the lowest prices. The food poverty problem worsens when the most readily available food is cheap, energy-dense, and nutrient poor.

And even though food poverty only affects a minority of Irish and EU citizens, it has implications that spread throughout society as a whole. The Irish Institute for Public Health concludes that high food prices and decreased access to healthy ingredients could cause food riots and geopolitical tension, among other consequences.

The biggest problem with food poverty may be finding a viable solution. Government and health officials have repeatedly turned a blind eye to the issue. The Irish Department of Health and Children recently established a framework for improving the health and wellbeing of the Irish population, yet failed to reference food poverty as a pressing issue.

If the EU truly wishes to uphold its reputation as a leader in developmental aid, it must first address its own developmental issues and assure the wellbeing of its own population. The EU may continue to “sleepwalk into a crisis” until it fully addresses this different kind of food poverty issues that plagues the developed world.

– Alexandra Bruschi

Sources: The Irish Times, EU SafeFood, Healthy Food For All, Combat Poverty Agency

The question of whether the food we eat should be engineered by scientists, and sold to farmers by tremendously wealthy corporations is a controversial topic. Owen Paterson, an MP and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from the United Kingdom has recently pleaded his case for supporting GM crops: “The farmer benefits. The consumer benefits. The environment benefits.”

The top chemical industries and their vocal supporters are proposing that the use of GM crops could produce more food for the world, thus ending world hunger. Can genetically modified crops revolutionize farming worldwide and end global hunger?

In the short term, revamping farms to produce high yielding GM crops could result in more food. However, GM crops require long term reliance on pesticides and machinery, which might be too expensive for an african farmer living on less than a dollar a day. Not only that, but the seed itself can be very expensive, since GM companies have made it illegal to save seeds to plant next season. That means that farmers in Africa, 80% of whom currently save their seeds, would need to start paying for them. Esther Bett, a Kenyan farmer, also points out that “farmers in America can only make a living from GM crops if they have big farms, covering hundreds of hectares.” She also informs us that in Kenya “we can feed hundreds of families off the same area of land using our own seed and techniques, and many different crops.”

When addressing the needs of the world’s poor, it is important to listen to what they have to say. Africans already have traditional methods of farming that have been developed over generations. Over the course of thousands of years, a variety of seeds has been bred to thrive in diverse environments, and to resist the regional blights that are unique to Africa. The genetically modified crops that have been developed so far are actually quite limited in the kinds of pests that they are resistant to. There are different farming practices to suit different environments, and crops that thrive in certain regions may not fare so well in others. According to a long term study, farmers in Ethiopia who conserved their soil and water by farming on compost-treated land were more food secure than their neighbors who relied on imported seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides. It was not genetic engineering, but ingenious breeding techniques that have resulted in new strains of hardy plants like drought tolerant corn, which is used by thousands of African farmers who enjoy 30% higher yields.

What if entire continents were to replace their heirloom seed stock with a single strain of GM crop? Such heavy reliance on one type of crop could be a disaster waiting to happen, if that crop were to fail due to blight or climate change. A new study from Food and Water Watch, an NGO focused on food and water safety and sustainability, has recently discovered that over time the widespread use of herbicides on GM crops has caused weeds to develop tolerance. The last thing that impoverished farmers need are superweeds! As of now, the only thing that can be done about herbicide resistant weeds is to use more herbicide.

– Jennifer Bills

Sources: Express, The Borgen Project, The Guardian, Co Exist, Third World Network, The Guardian