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women-deliver-2013-contraceptives
Women Deliver, a global advocacy organization that speaks for improved health and wellbeing for girls and women around the world, held a conference in Malaysia earlier this month called “Women Deliver 2013″. One of the most exciting strategies discussed at the conference involved access to contraception for women in developing countries. In 2012, global leaders pledged more than $2.6 billion to provide women and girls in developing countries with “voluntary access to contraceptive services, information, and supplies by 2020.”

Speakers at Women Deliver 2013 noted the importance of providing this kind of healthcare for women that have no access to it. Melinda Gates stated, “Putting women at the center of development and delivering solutions that meet their needs will result in huge improvements in health, prosperity, and quality of life.” She added, “When women have access to contraceptives they’re healthier, their children are healthier, and their families thrive.”

Many people do not recognize the significance of this issue, yet an estimated 150 million women worldwide do not have access to the contraceptives they desire. In developing countries, pregnancy can be very dangerous for women and lead to greater risks of death or injury of both the mother and her children in childbirth. In addition, women in developing countries face greater risk of death after bearing too many children, and often are not allowed the necessary time for healing in between pregnancies. By providing contraception to delay or prevent pregnancies, young women in developing countries can minimize the risks associated with childbirth, care for the other children they have, and even have new opportunities for education or supporting themselves through work.

Leaders from Senegal, Indonesia, and the Philippines, among others, have pledged to expand family planning programs and access. According to UNFPA (the United Nations Population Fund) Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, “These countries show that we can make an impact on women’s access to reproductive health if we rally the necessary political will and financial commitments.” He continues, “Expanding access to contraceptives is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to save lives and ensure the health and wellbeing of future generations.”

These strategies and investments could help to foster healthy populations, as well as allow women and girls to spend more time learning and becoming independent, instead of spending years of their lives raising and caring for their children.

– Sarah Rybak

Source: Ghana Business News
Photo: Facebook

IWU
Each year Illinois Wesleyan University students have the option to participate in a May Term course, which is a one-month course intended to give students an opportunity to explore areas they normally couldn’t in traditional fall and spring semesters. Along with the classes, there are several other opportunities for students to get involved and learn more about a specific theme.

This year, the May Term theme is making human rights real. Through a series of activities, students can learn more about the topic. One such activity is a poverty simulation workshop, which gives students a genuine view of how those in poverty and extreme poverty live each day and also encourages action by discussing solutions to community problems.

Another activity promoted during this term is a “Mini Course on Community Action,” which is led by community leaders to teach students the basics of founding a successful community action campaign, including how to overcome obstacles and encourage others to participate and give back to society.

May Term also offers many volunteer opportunities to give students a better sense of giving back, including the Adopt A Meal program to prepare meals for a local homeless shelter, and Titan2Titan, a program designed to allow current IWU students to work with retired university alums for a day of service.

While May Term is often considered the “play term” by students at the university, it has potential to change lives and encourage a lifetime of service by allowing students to experience new activities related to human rights and giving back.

Katie Brockman
Source: IWU

u-s-general-david-petraeus-smiles-as-he-prepares-to-testify-USAID_international_aid_opt
The United States Military takes a huge piece of the American Federal Budget, with 23% of spending allocated to defence. The armed forces are carrying a heavy responsibility in a time when national security is at the forefront of most citizens’ minds, with threats and responsibilities so numerous that the country has come to merit possessing the world’s most powerful army.

Taking this into consideration, it seems unlikely – and significant – that General David Petraeus, who had an illustrious career within the army – is outspokenly advocating the continued funding of foreign aid.  Petraeus recently wrote an impressive op-ed in Politico outlining the many potential benefits of continuing development work, as well as the moral and strategic importance of doing so. He offers the gentle reminder that America’s influence does not come solely from its military muscle but also from what he calls its ‘softer’ power, i.e. its generosity and ability to contribute to the betterment of other nations.

A strategist at heart, Petraeus’ argument is more sense than sentiment. Seen from a strategic standpoint, General Petraeus expounds on the benefits of past development work. He provides real life examples of how assistance has led to results in the past, such as the stabilization of the Latin American region, which has blossomed into new markets and is less threatened by instability. He points out the need for continued restructuring programs in the countries that have already seen US intervention, namely Afghanistan, where he emphasizes how the subsequent relief work is as important as the initial military intervention.

The US is one of the world’s largest contributors to foreign aid from a purely quantitative standpoint. Yet, in comparison to its economy, the US is somewhat conservative. Currently, the United States spends less than 0.19% of its GDP on foreign aid, less than some of the major European countries and falling significantly short of the UN’s goal of 0.7% of GDP. As Petraeus points out, “The State Department budget is still less than 5 percent of the military’s — and the number of Foreign Service officers worldwide is less than half the number of soldiers in a single Army division.”

In addition, General Petraeus highlights some of the past successes of investment in foreign aid. Not only that, he pinpoints areas that may need the US’s help in coming years, including Egypt, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and transitional governments such as Libya, Yemen and Mali.

Citizens and activists have long recognized the need for foreign aid; it is a heartening sign that figures as influential as Petraeus are adding their voice.

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Source: Politico
Photo: IBT

bono_activist_political_USAID_humanitarian_USAID_global_poverty_opt

Nowadays, Bono’s face is synonymous with activism. The lead singer of U2 is known as much for his humanitarian work as for his music, if not more. Known for his charisma and tirelessness, Bono has been championing causes such as poverty reduction and AIDS relief for decades. He is the celebrity face of activism, and has had incredible impact in garnering momentum for the movement of international aid.

Bono got his start in activism after he performed at Bob Geldorf’s groundbreaking fundraiser, Live Aid, in the late eighties. The performance spurred a month-long trip to Ethiopia with his wife, Ali Hewson, where they worked on a famine relief project. The two said they were stunned by the conditions, and Bono walked away determined to change what he’d seen. He repeatedly tells the story of the end of his visit, when a man asked the singer to take his son with him. As Bono explains, “He knew in Ireland that his son would live and in Ethiopia his son would die…In that moment, I became the worst thing of all; I became a rock star with a cause.”

After that, his humanitarian work began in earnest and has only increased in intensity and scale. The early 90s saw tours around Central America and campaigns with major organizations to rally support for development work. As U2’s fame grew, so did Bono’s influence. He is a key player in a number of powerful advocacy organizations including DATA (Debt, Aid, Trade, Africa), the ONE campaign and the Make Poverty History movement, as well as launching an ethical fashion campaign and promoting the RED campaign. He’s famous for using his celebrity star power to draw attention to emergency causes throughout the world, and has become a regular at political events. He’s been credited with the implementation of the US’s massive and incredible AIDS program in Africa, and been awarded honorary knighthood for his efforts.

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Sources: TED – Bono’s Call to Action for Africa
Photo: Andpop

how_to_call_congress_grassroot_movement_change_speak_voice_matters_political_engagement_initiative_government
Democracy is a wonderful thing. Any U.S. citizen, no matter their level of education, age, race, or social standing can call up their members of congress and request that they vote in favor of or against specific legislation or simply a topic they feel is important.

So why don’t more people contact their representatives? Excellent question. Skepticism? The intangibility of the benefits perhaps? Whatever the reason, it remains clear that not enough people are taking advantage of this excellent tool of democracy. We at The Borgen Project think that needs to change. And that change starts with you. So, to help you get started, here’s a breakdown of how the U.S Congress works.

So What Exactly Is Congress?

Congress is composed of two chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives. 100 senators make up the Senate, 2 from each state. The House of Representatives currently has 435 members and population determines the number of representatives per state. For example, Alaska has only 1 representative while the state of Texas has over 30.

This means that 3 people represent you in congress, 2 state senators and 1 representative.

And, There’s an App for That

Contacting your representatives seriously can’t get any easier if you have a smartphone. A free app is available for the iPhone called “Contact Congress”. Once you’ve downloaded the app, open it up and hit the “use my location button”. Your 3 representatives will pop up on your screen. You can call each one from the app without ever looking anything up or dialing the numbers. You can also share your activity on Facebook and Twitter so everyone will know how gosh darn cool you are for calling your reps. You know you want to.

If you don’t have an iPhone, never fear. Check out The Borgen Project website to find your representatives via your area code.

Once you’ve figured out who your reps are, Congratulations! You’ve taken the first step towards making sure those who represent you are in fact, representing how you feel about certain issues and bills.

Great, so now what?

Call them! Yes, pick up that thing that plays music and updates your twitter and….(gasp) dial some digits. (or tap on the faces if you have the app) It will feel strange to talk to a real human but don’t be dismayed. All you have to say is, “I’m a Borgen Project supporter. Please increase funding for USAID.” Or, “Please vote to increase funding for global poverty related legislation”. That’s it. You can call anytime you want, just be sure to leave a message if it’s after business hours.

The person taking the call will make note of your call. This is the important part! The aide will tally the number of calls on certain issues and often times the representative will decide how they vote based on the calls they get from people like you and me. If constituents don’t call requesting global poverty be on their radar, it probably won’t be, particularly in our current political environment. For example, some of the issues currently listed on my representatives web pages include the following- jobs, fiscal responsibility, immigration reform and healthcare. Not ONE mention of global poverty from any of my 3 reps. Where my BP supporters at?

Still not convinced? It’s simple. One 30-second phone call a week is the easiest way to make a difference in fighting global poverty. It takes almost no time and costs next to nothing (much less than donating to a cause or volunteering your time).

For more detailed information regarding your leaders in congress, this website is a pretty handy tool. You can look up your members of congress and their voting records as well as bills that are on the docket for the coming week. Stalk your congressional leaders with ease! And don’t forget to call them.





– Erin Ponsonby

Sources: The Borgen Project, U.S. Senate,
Photo:America Bikes

nelson-mandela-quotes
An advocate for peace, unity, and love from a very young age, Nelson Mandela is an integral part of the history of human rights. Through his involvement and eventual leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) and after being awarded the Noble Peace Prize for his efforts in ending the apartheid, Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1994. Since his retirement in 1999, Mandela continued with his advocacy of social and human rights and supporting the international Make Poverty History movement and the fight against AIDS. In recent years, Mandela’s birthday, July 18, has become a day of international good works.

Here are ten inspirational quotes by Mandela to motivate advocacy:

1. “Our single most important challenge is therefore to help establish a social order in which the freedom of the individual will truly mean the freedom of the individual”

2. “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

3. “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

4. “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

5. “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.”

6. “There is no such thing as part freedom.”

7. “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

8. “There is nothing I fear more than waking up without a program that will help me bring a little happiness to those with no resources, those who are poor, illiterate, and ridden with terminal disease.”

9. “If you are poor, you are not likely to live long.”

10. “Freedom would be meaningless without security in the home and in the streets.”

 – Kira Maixner

Source: Answer Africa, African American Registry

Afghanistan_first_female_president
Whether you identify as a feminist or not, no one can deny the courage of Fawzia Koofi, as she is running for the presidency in Afghanistan during the 2014 elections. President Karzai is set to reach his limit of two five-year terms in office and if Koofi succeeds, she will be Afghanistan’s first female president. As of now, Koofi chairs parliament’s women and human rights committee.

There is no doubt that Fawzia Koofi embodies the feminist movement and sends a clear message to the world; Afghanistan is progressing, despite the Taliban’s best efforts of terrifying women into suppression and out of politics. Seeing as Afghanistan was once known as the worst place in the world to be a woman, Koofi has managed to incite dramatic change in Afghanistan’s political climate.

After years of conflict, this potential change in leadership has restored faith in many of Afghanistan’s people. Afghanistan’s first female president would serve as a representation of endless opportunity and positive forward motion for the country’s youth. Koofi has said herself that there is a strong desire for change among young people and women throughout Afghanistan. Koofi emphasizes this in her new book, “Letters to my Daughters”.

“Being a woman in politics in Afghanistan and a woman who stands for what she believes in, there is always risk”, Koofi stated. Fawzia Koofi is well aware of the danger she is putting herself in, as her own father was a politician who was killed by assassination. However, she is determined, stating that “…change is possible; it’s just a matter of some political and moral support from our international friends.”

This leads to the question of how this political shift would impact the United States, particularly in the realm of national security. Koofi herself has asked that the United States continue its support for Afghan women’s rights, even after the withdrawal of troops in 2014. Her concern is that gains made for women’s rights in Afghanistan will be eradicated if the new president enters into reconciliation talks with conservatives, including Taliban insurgents. There is great concern among women in Afghanistan, as this settlement could lead to the Taliban sharing in power. Koofi sees this threat even now, stating that “Talibanisation is a process, people within government are already promoting Taliban ideology and Taliban thinking”.

Rebekah Russo

Source:Al Arabiya News

world_hunger_statistics_2
For the fourth year, more than 200 Ottawa Township High School students became part of the solution to world hunger.

Each year, students in the school’s Freshman Academy have been asked to come up with solutions to the problems of world hunger and limited access to clean drinking water, said teacher Pamela Cronkright.

“Students research local and international organizations and then choose which one they want to help,” she said. They sometimes raise funds for the organization; often they volunteer at a local organization or “create and present a public service announcement”encouraging others to get involved.

Preliminary totals show this year the students raised more than $12,000, volunteered more than 250 hours, and created public service announcements seen by thousands, Cronkright said.

Students can select from a list of organizations, or suggest one, to send the money they have raised.

Triplets Sam, Matt and Emily Poundstone, of Marseilles, with the help of their family, held a pancake breakfast that brought in $565 for the Marseilles Food Pantry.

Officially, it was Sam and Matt’s project. Emily and a friend saved their lunch money to raise $50 more in contributions.

Silver Young, Bethany Crum, Shelby Leonard and Sarah Lyons held a bake sale outside Handy Foods. Rachel Thrush and another student sold candy bars, which raised $150.

Cronkright said one non-auditory special needs student programmed a presentation into a speech machine and went homeroom to homeroom and gave his “talk” while his aide held his poster. He collected $83.

Students decided to send most of their funds to charity: Water, a global nonprofit organization, builds wells to provide drinking water in developing nations, and Heifer International, another global nonprofit, provides livestock, seeds, and trees to those in need.

Locally, in addition to the Marseilles Food Pantry, students volunteered or raised money for the Community Food Basket, Illinois Valley Public Action To Deliver Shelter, and the Ottawa YMCA.

Tom Hart, another Freshman Academy faculty member, also led this year’s World Hunger Awareness Project, but shifted the credit to Cronkright.

“She was the one who came up with this idea,” Hart said. “I’m just following along.”

Katie Brockman

Source My Web Times
Photo The Wild

HeroesOfAdvocacy

Every wrong in the world has been addressed and corrected through some kind of advocacy, the most prominent kind of which is social advocacy. Well-known leaders throughout time from all over the world have led social movements, revolutions, and non-violent protests all in the face of injustice. Here are some of the most influential social leaders; the heroes of advocacy:

1. Mahatma Gandhi

Named “Mahatma” by one of India’s best-known writers, Tagore; the title ‘Mahatma’ stood for ‘Great Soul.’ It was in South Africa, while serving as an Indian businessman’s legal adviser, that he became aware of European racism and injustice. While in South Africa, Gandhi found himself “politically awakened” and began to use non-violent strategies to fight injustice. He wrote a book about the Indians’ struggles to claim their rights in South Africa. He returned to India in 1915 and found himself involved in several local struggles involving workers and working conditions. He then went on to initiate the non-cooperation movement, advising Indians to be self-reliant and withdraw from British institutions. In February 1922, when Indian policemen were killed by a crowd, Gandhi was arrested, and the movement was suspended. At his ‘Great Trial,’ where he was tried for sedition, he delivered a powerful indictment of British rule. After his release from prison, he worked hard towards maintaining relations between Hindus and Muslims in India. Gandhi was the most prominent figure in his engagement in the constructive reform of Indian society. Gandhi used “satyagraha,” systems of non-violence, to try and make the oppressor and the oppressed identify with one another as humans.

Gandhi recognized that “freedom is only freedom when it is indivisible.”

2. Nelson Mandela

Born in Transkei, South Africa, Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1944 and engaged in resistance against the racist apartheid government of the ruling National Party. The African National Congress sought to create democratic political change in South Africa. In 1956, he was tried for treason. It was during his time in prison on Robben Island, from 1964 to 1982, that Mandela’s reputation became more famous.

“He consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom.”

Upon his release from prison in 1990, he dedicated himself to achieve the goals that were sought after four decades earlier. In 1991, he was elected President of the African National Congress (ANC). He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for his work for the “peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa” – Official Nobel Prize Website

3. Martin Luther King Jr.

Known for boycotts, demonstrations, and civil movements to express civil disobedience, King was the symbol of a nonviolent civil rights revolution. He changed politics. According to The King Center, African Americans achieved “more genuine racial equality” under the leadership of Dr. King with the American Civil Rights Movement than they did before him.  King was heavily influenced by his Christian faith and the teachings of Gandhi, both which guided him to lead nonviolent movements in the 1950s and ’60s to achieve African American equality in the United States. Martin Luther King was quoted during his delivery of the “I Have a Dream” speech, saying that African Americans were still not free, that they still lived in poverty and segregation, that they are exiles, and so now they had to “dramatize a shameful condition.” This is precisely what the Borgen Project is doing by fighting global poverty.

4. César Chávez

The Mexican-American who brought on agricultural reform and whose works led to the creation of the National Farm Workers Association, later named the United Farm Workers. He witnessed the harsh labor conditions that farmers had to endure and the employers’ exploitation of workers: they were unpaid, had poor living conditions in return for their services, and had no medical or basic privileges. He organized marches, boycotts, and strikes, forcing employers to provide adequate payment/wages to workers and provide them with benefits. Chávez was recognized for his commitment to social justice and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 

There are many more social activists who dedicated their lives to social reform and political change by fighting for people’s rights and freedoms. The activists listed above were a few of the most prominent and most influential throughout history.

Today, we’re fighting for a different kind of freedom, although it is not any less important: we’re fighting to end global poverty, and free people from the shackles of poverty. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” during his fight for equal rights for colored people in the United States.

With advocacy, we deliver information and vital knowledge to the masses, thereby engaging them and mobilizing them to stand up for an issue and demand justice.

– Leen Abdallah

Sources: Gandhi, Nelson Mandela: Biography, Mandela: Nobel Peace Prize, The King Center, I Have a Dream, Nobel Peace Laureates
Photo: Daily Good

Super Bowl Sex Trafficking_opt
Human trafficking is one of the most prevalent, discerning issues of our time. The fact of the matter, which has been professed by organization after organization for years now, is that there are more slaves now than there have ever been in the history of mankind. In the US alone, The Huffington Post has estimated that the industry brings in over $9.5 billion annually.

While this truth is distressing, there is a silver lining. At no point in mankind has there ever been so much support against human trafficking, nor the technology or infrastructural support to combat it, as there is now.

Human trafficking generally implies either forced labor or sex trafficking, the latter occurring in higher frequency around large gatherings of people, where there may be a larger pool of potential clients. An example of such a situation was the Super Bowl XLVII, which passed on February 3rd.

Fionna Agomuoh of The International Business Times writes that there was an “estimated 10,000 women and minors that were trafficked in the Miami area during the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., according to the Florida Commission Against Human Trafficking.” One can only assume that the issue of trafficking around this annual event has only increased in the four years since then.

In anticipation for sex trafficking at Super Bowl XLVII, local businesses, advocacy groups, and law enforcement agencies joined together in a public campaign to support victims and make themselves available to individuals looking to escape the sex work industry by raising awareness in the form of “handing out pamphlets to local clubs and bars detailing how to spot and what to do if sex trafficking is suspected, as well as distributing bars of soap to hotels with hotline numbers etched on them to aid victims looking to escape.”

USA Today also posted a full-page ad against human trafficking prior to the Super Bowl and the “A 21 Campaign, established in 2008, released several Super Bowl-related info-graphics about human trafficking this year.”

Awareness will breed more advocacy on the issue, of course, so while sex trafficking is one of the largest understated issues of American life, much like poverty, arming ourselves and our communities with knowledge and facts about the issue is definitely a step in the right direction.

– Nina Narang

Source: International Business Times
Photo: ChicagoNow