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END7
END7, an international advocacy campaign, aims to end seven neglected tropical diseases (NTDS) by 2020. It is currently raising awareness of the seven most common NTDs, and the easy and cheap resources available to eliminate them.

Cheap is not an understatement — it takes only 50 cents to treat and protect one person against all seven NTDS.

While 2020 may seem like an overly optimistic date to have eliminated seven diseases, treatments for all NTDs exist — it’s just a matter of getting them to those in need. The seven diseases include Hookworm, Roundworm, Whipworm, Elephantiasis, Trachoma, River Blindness and Snail Fever.

Nearly one in six people worldwide, including over half a billion children, have these diseases living and breeding inside their bodies. The effects of these diseases can be devastating, causing blindness, massive swelling in limbs, severe malnutrition, pregnancy complications and anemia.

Apart from the horrific effects of NTDs, these diseases makes it increasingly difficult for affected families to lift themselves out of poverty. They prevent children from going to school.

In order to spread the word about their cause and the work being done to help victims of NTDs, END7 utilizes social media outlets, hoping to target young activists who will then share the word with others. The goal is to get the general public involved, not just doctors and health care professionals.

The campaign asks the community to donate to NTD prevention and treatment programs. These programs deliver the medications to schools and poor communities all over the globe.

How can it be so cheap? Drugs to treat NTDS are donated by pharmaceutical companies, allowing for the remaining cost to come only in distributing the drugs to those in need.

Bill Nighy, who provides a voice for many of the END7 videos, describes his astonishment in the opportunity at hand, stating, “I’m shocked by how much devastation these diseases cause. But what shocks me more is how simple the solution is.”

If pocket change can provide a cure for seven diseases, it seems that a cure in 2020 may not seem so far out of reach after all.

 — Caroline Logan

Sources: END7, TwitChange
Photo: Northeastern

child labor
Right now more than 168 million children ages 5 to 18 are victims of child labor practices. Of these children, 85 million work in conditions that endanger their health and many are exploited in varying ways.

It is these shocking truths that have motivated the likes of Travis Barker, Pharrell Williams, Mike Einziger of Incubus and world-renowned composer Hans Zimmer, to collaborate on a song titled, “Til Everyone Can See.” The song features Minh Dang, a survivor of child trafficking.

The inspiration for the anti-child labor tune originated from their visit with the International Labour Organization. The ILO is the oldest agency of the United Nations, and their child labor program is the largest in the world. Following the visit, the artists joined the ILO campaign, Red Card to Child Labour.

The campaign’s use of the red card is intentional, as the timing of the campaign lines up with one of the most highly viewed sporting events in the world; the FIFA World Cup. This global symbol of a red card is known for being synonymous with the concepts of wrong and stop, making it an ideal symbol for the campaign.

The song was released on June 12 of this week, which is also the World Day Against Child Labor. The music, written by Einziger of Incubus and the violinist, Ann Marie Simpson, has a global vibe. However, this is not the first time musicians have used such songs to take a stand against child labor.

Similar musical initiatives include Global Music against Child Labor, through which musicians of all genres have dedicated events and concerts to the movement. The awareness these artists raise undoubtedly plays a key part in ending child labor practices.

As the heartfelt song declares “no one can be free when there is slavery…its time to do our part, give children of the world a brand new start.”

— Christopher Kolezynski

Sources: ILO, Look To The Stars, Music For Good, USA Today
Photo: Flickr

How long has advocacy been around, where did it start and where does the word advocate come from?

There isn’t a lot known about the history of advocacy programs or where advocacy began.

Advocacy has not always been considered “advocacy.”A long time ago, back when homo sapiens had barely begun to dominate planet earth, advocacy was considered common courtesy. People lived in large groups and helped each other out when they could.

However, as societies advanced and technology came into the picture, helping others seemed like it required a little too much effort. There is no set “first” advocacy program, but many advocacy programs claim to be the first of their kind.

However, perhaps one of the oldest advocacy programs still alive today is The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army began in 1852 just before The Red Cross, who is a close second and began its work in 1881.

Even before these two giant programs, there were orphanages and safe houses and programs to feed the hungry. Helping one another can be traced back to the very first animals.

Perhaps these earlier instances of advocacy are a little less “public support” and a little more “helping your fellow man,” but humans often learn from their surroundings.

According to the Oxford English dictionary the word advocate was first recorded in the English language in the 1300s as a noun. The word stemmed from the French word avocat and before that the Latin word advocatus.

Advocatus means to be called to or summoned, or more specifically to come to someone’s aid in the courtroom. This could mean the very first public advocacy program in the world involved the beginning of law and lawyers.

However, before lawyers there were churches that fed the hungry and protected the weak. There were armies who helped protect the city people from outside harm. There were people who gave the homeless shelter and the needy possessions and all of them called on others to do the same.

These actions were not considered advocacy the way we know it today. When they first started, these instances were just the act of standing up for someone who could not stand up for nor protect themselves. To speak for someone whose voice was being ignored or could not be heard.

In the beginning, advocacy was not something that had to be bought, bartered or begged for. It was something people did because it was what was right, not because they needed volunteer experience.

Over the years advocacy has morphed into something much different. Today, it is more organized to provide more aid to more people throughout the world that do not have anyone with enough power to provide and aid them nearby. Advocacy has become a global responsibility rather than a local one and needs more funding, more political support and more power to become something even greater.

Now, advocacy makes it everyone’s responsibility to rise to the needs of serious global issues and to help in any way they can.

– Cara Morgan

Sources: Grammaphobia, Oxford English Dictionary, The Free Dictionary, The Red Cross, The Salvation Army

When Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon did a skit speaking only in hashtags, it became clear that the use of the hashtag had reached a unique place in our culture. Their skit, while satirical, also made it clear that hashtags have unique power in not only describing trends, but also in raising awareness around important issues.

The hashtag (#), which was first introduced in 2007, did not take long to become a mainstay in the Twitter world. The idea first originated with Chris Messina, who wondered if it would be useful to have a way for friends to organize their messages into meaningful groups.

Not long after, it became the leading way to describe emotions, world events, trends, activities and ideas through social media. And over time, as its presence has grown, so has the flexibility with which it is employed.

From the first true global usage in 2009, in the wake of the Iranian elections and the Occupy movements, to the more recent use in #BringBackOurGirls and #YesAllWomen, hashtag advocacy has emerged and has played a role in promoting awareness and giving people a chance to weigh in on larger conversations.

The largest use of hashtag advocacy began when Invisible Children raised awareness for the Kony 2012 Campaign – harnessing the power of social media to spread their message. The campaign quickly gained 2.4 million tweets with the “#Kony2012” tag in March alone of that year.

While the merits and ultimate effectiveness of the Kony campaign are debated and criticized, it is worth noting that the campaign led to a level of awareness about an issue not yet seen before. In fact, because of #Kony2012, the African Union sent a force of 5,000 – including 100 U.S. military advisors – to help end the surge of violence in Uganda at the time.

From the start, critics decried the use of the hashtag as “slacktivism,” the idea that by spreading a message, people could nominally support a cause without actually having to do any leg-work. Others have argued that using a hashtag to raise awareness is about as effective as writing a letter to Congress – which is to say, it isn’t.

However, employing a hashtag or writing to Congress does draw attention to important issues. Elected officials react to public opinion, and when the public is writing in about a topic frequently, they rightly determine that it is an issue that people care about.

As one of the newest forms of grassroots activism, hashtags have the ability to play an important role in advocacy, generating media coverage at no extra cost. While it is important to not overstate the importance of translating the hashtag usage into action, raising awareness about an issue is a useful way of spreading a message and employing the kind of diplomacy that often makes leaders think twice when they are making decisions – what affect the issue will have on their reputation.

The #BringBackOurGirls campaign has received its fair share of critics, but it has also brought the issue to the forefront of global discussion and has pressured the Nigerian government to act and accept assistance from other nations.

Just as the #YesAllWomen tag reached 1.2 million tweets in the span of four days, so can other tags be employed to raise issue awareness about development projects or the millennium development goals in fighting global poverty because ultimately, the more people who are able to be a part of the discussion, the greater the chance is that someone new will be moved to donate, to act, to volunteer or to dedicate themselves to the cause.

– Andrea Blinkhorn

Sources: Washington Post, Hashtags.org, The Guardian, Mashable
Photo: New Artist Model

international_justice_summit
International Justice Mission (IJM), a human rights agency headquartered in Washington, DC, will hold its annual Advocacy Summit on June 9-10, 2014. This event allows IJM supporters from around the nation to gather together for advocacy training and day of lobbying on behalf of anti human trafficking legislation.

Many IJM supporters are asking the question, “What else can I do to help IJM’s work overseas to free slaves and protect the vulnerable?” IJM’s advocacy program began in 2007 with a grant from Humanity United. The idea was to engage “ordinary Americans” in the fight against modern-day slavery by voicing their concerns to their elected officials.

This advocacy program began with postcards – hundreds of them – sent from constituents to their elected officials to voice their concerns for the enslaved and urge Congress to take action.

Two years later, the first Advocacy Summit was held in Washington, DC. Approximately 80 people were present for this first advocacy day in 2009, where “ordinary” citizens were trained and then sent out to meet with Representatives, Senators, and their staff to “give a voice to the voiceless” – a popular phrase when advocating for the world’s most vulnerable.

At the forefront of IJM’s policy agenda this year is the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act, H.R. 2283 and its “companion bill” in the Senate, S. 1249.

This legislation seeks to upgrade the US State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP) to the same level as other State Department regional bureaus that it regularly converses with on behalf of trafficking victims.

This legislation would effectively give the experts within J/TIP a “seat at the table” in foreign policy discussions surrounding Trafficking in Persons and give them the authority of a State Department Bureau.

This bill was introduced into the House last June by Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey and currently has 63 cosponsors. It was introduced in the Senate last June by Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and has 21 cosponsors.

IJM’s Advocacy Summit has grown each year, and IJM hopes to host 250 advocates this June 9-10. The event is empowering for people who have long supported IJM with their time and money, as the act of lobbying can often feel like a more tangible action on behalf of the poor.

“Everybody who participates in meetings with legislative staff on behalf of the poorest, most powerless people on earth—modern-day slaves— comes away feeling that they’ve made a significant contribution. Because they have,” says Holly Burkhalter, IJM’s Vice President for Government Relations and Advocacy.

– Madisson Barnett

Sources: IJM Campaign Blog, IJM Freedom Commons, Library of Congress, Library of Congress
Photo: Freedom Commons

raise_awareness
When confronted with the horrific suffering and abuse that many of the world’s poor endure on a daily basis, one is likely to feel the urge to “do something.” For those of us who are not development professionals, one of the main options for “doing something” tends to be along the lines of advocacy and raising awareness – making sure our sphere of influence is aware of a specific injustice in the world. But does raising awareness matter, and does it really make a difference for the poor?

Patty Stonesifer, former President and CEO and current senior adviser for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, thinks so. Stonesifer defines advocacy as, “efforts to bring about change through public awareness and activism and/or changes to public policy, public practice, or the law.” During her time as a top executive for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, she saw that a shortage in the availability of game-changing solutions for disease and broken educational systems was not the problem. The problem was that these resources were not being purchased and delivered by donors and governments.

Why? A lack of advocacy. The people these services would benefit – the very young or very old or very sick – did not have the ability to help or advocate for themselves. The people most desperate for healthcare or education did not have the political influence to determine the services they would receive.

Sandy Stonesifer, an advocate for issues related to adolescent girls’ health, states that while not all advocacy organizations are effective, history has proven the massive effects that a group of committed advocates can have on policy – the NAACP, March of Dimes and the National Organization for Women, to name a few. She suggests doing research to determine the organizational capacity and cost effectiveness of individual advocacy organizations to make an informed decision about which organizations to support.

Advocacy certainly accomplishes more than just “making noise.” Advocacy changes government agendas and can raise funds for on-the-ground NGOs to carry out their humanitarian efforts. Addressing issues only by funding direct services overlooks the importance of growing a movement – a group of supporters that will provide financial resources and lobbying efforts, thereby carrying the movement beyond its start-up momentum.

While no injustice will be eliminated simply by raising awareness that it exists, people must be aware in order to take the first step of action.

– Madisson Barnett

Sources: All for One, AECF, Abolishion
Photo: Project Theureka

lupita-advocate
All eyes are on Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o as her newfound fame thrusts her into the global center stage. Born in Mexico as the child of prominent Kenyan politicians before later moving to the United States for college and graduate school, Nyong’o has had a truly global life thus far. Her travels have been the best education of all, bestowing upon her a rare sense of worldly wisdom and care for humanity. Her compassion and her astute perspective on the world makes her performances that much more extraordinary and poignant.

Before her role as Patsey in “12 Years A Slave,” Nyong’o starred in several other socially conscious films, one a drama about HIV/AIDS and another a documentary drawing attention to the treatment of Kenya’s albino population. Although she has not been in the public spotlight for very long, she has already managed to voice some groundbreaking thoughts regarding race, gender, beauty and charity, making it clear that she is a burgeoning beacon of the philanthropic spirit and a trailblazer for human rights advocacy.

Here are several thoughts from Nyong’o:

1. “You can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul.”

2. “As I look down on this Golden Statue, may it remind me and very little girls that no matter where you’re from your dreams are valid.”

3. “You have to allow for the impossible to be possible.”

4. “Human beings have an instinct for freedom.”

5. “Feel the validation for your beauty, but also get to the deeper business of feeling beautiful inside. There is no shade in that beauty.”

6. “I have phenomenal parents… to watch those two people do so much and mean so much to everyone but at the end of the day still have the humility to serve. I thank their example because at the end of the day I just feel it is my deeds that are more important than my fame.”

These words of wisdom from Nyong’o teach us that, above everything else, we are all equally deserving and capable of love, admiration, success and humanity. Beauty, in the sense of living a beautiful life of compassion and friendship, is something universally available and unhindered by the situations of one’s birth. May every person take Nyong’o’s message to heart, and begin to fully realize his or her amazingly valued position in the grand global community.

– Stefanie Doucette

Sources: The Independent, Huffington Post, Pinterest, The Root
Photo: The Advocate

wa-state-detention-center-hunger-strike
Thousands of immigrants in the state of Washington are demanding the attention of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by staging a large hunger strike at the Federal Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. Along with better food and safer work conditions, their campaign is directly aimed at immigration reform and U.S. President Barack Obama.

The strikers want Obama to sign an executive order that would halt all deportations, as well as provide alternatives to detention while immigrants in question await trial. Tacoma’s facility is owned by GEO Group, the largest provider of detention and correctional services in the country, who lobbied against these reforms in Congress last year. At the core of the argument is the economic fate of 11 million workers currently immobilized by investigations into their legality.

ICE reports that the strikes are comprised of 550 detainees. However, there are conflicting statistics from the Latino Advocacy Organization, which claims there are actually 1,200 immigrants involved. This means the majority of the detention facility’s 1,300 total inmates are involved. Additionally, these numbers do not even take into account the hundreds of advocates who have been joining outside every afternoon to display their support.

The Tacoma campaign is not an isolated event, either. Similar protests and strikes have been emerging in various immigrant detention centers across Arizona, Illinois, California and Virginia. It is also linked to a popular advocacy project, called “Not One More Deportation,” started by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network as a way to host events against unlawful deportation across the country. April 5 is expected to be a similar day of action, with sit-ins and strikes in front of the White House.

Immigration reform has become an increasingly contentious dilemma under the Obama Administration, whose efforts have been repeatedly stalled by GOP Congressional members. Lenient new measures are frequently criticized by the Republican Party as unnecessary “amnesty” at the expense of America’s well-being.

In response, Obama notes that the children of undocumented immigrants “study in our schools, play in our neighborhoods, befriend our kids, pledge allegiance to our flag. It makes no sense to expel talented young people who are, for all intents and purposes, Americans.”

In 2012, Obama declared an end to the deportation of young undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children. The order protects anyone under 30 years of age who came to the United States before they were 16, citing the improbability of their posing a security or criminal threat and the benefits they have provided for the military and work force. The same year, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act was approved, providing similar protections for the children of undocumented immigrants.

Protection over the human rights of immigrant families is increasingly necessary, as recent years prove. In 2011, 396,906 individuals were deported, the largest number in ICE history. This is even more shocking, considering a 2009 study proved that four million immigrants are inaccurately defined “illegal,” having been born here despite their parents’ having entered the country without proper documentation. This means that the majority of “illegal” immigrants are thus wrongfully and systematically denied access to the rights that other American citizens enjoy.

The participants of the hunger strike in Tacoma complain of experiences with this first hand. They allege that GEO Group only compensates them $1 per day for the janitorial and kitchen services they fulfill. Effectually, they are then earning almost no money while they await their trial, causing a severe financial burden for themselves and their families. The status of immigrant detainees is practically that of slave labor.

“Its just ironic that the government is detaining people for working without a social security number; meanwhile, they allow this company to exploit their labor,” states Latino Advocacy founder Maru Moro Villalpando.

The strikes began March 7 and are projected to continue until they receive congressional acknowledgement. Friday was chosen as the start purposefully to honor those who have already been deported, as that is the day of the week prison guards round up all those who will be sent back the following Monday morning.

– Stefanie Doucette

Sources: Al Jazeera, CNN, Huffington Post, Washington Times, Washington Post, Think Progress
Photo: Al Jazeera

social_justice
True strength can be found beyond the confines of its traditional definition, which focuses primarily on the physical. Strength of mind, instead, is the crucial virtue for any successful activist.

In the fight for social justice, activists are pitched into a wide array of situations that require them to serve as leaders, amplifying the voices of those most in need.  Activists must be prepared to take on a variety of roles that require a mix of strong leadership, writing, and organizing skills.

They must also have strong communication skills and be prepared to gracefully face the gamut of reactions and opponents that accompany the plethora of people they will meet along their journey to justice.

The skills required for a life of activism all thrive on one’s mental strength.  Such strength is developed through the way we allow our minds to perceive the world around us. In order to strengthen your mind, you must consciously change and adapt your thought process in a positive manner.

Research abounds correlating positive psychological principles with behaviors that lead to success and the strength to pursue one’s goals.  It has been discovered that positivity is associated with “increased success, better relationships, better jobs, more altruism, improved health, being more open-minded, and many other personality traits and behaviors that help us to achieve goals and meet the kind of people that are positive and influential in our lives.”

People often turn to quotes for motivation or inspiration to influence their mindset and gain the strength to pursue a certain path. Below is a list of ten quotes about strength and success, which both rest upon the underlying principle of having a positive attitude:

  1. “People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves, they have the first secret of success.” – Norman Vincent Peale
  2. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”- Thomas A. Edison
  3. “Don’t let the fear of losing be greater than the excitement of winning.” – Robert Kiyosaki
  4. “Pessimists may be right in the end, but an optimist has a much better time getting there.” – Samuel R Allen, CEO of Deere
  5. “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” – Henry Ford
  6. “You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader.” – Henry Ford
  7. “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” – David Brinkley
  8. “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Anonymous
  9. “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no help at all.” – Dale Carnegie
  10. “Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.” – Jimmy Carter

Becoming an advocate for social justice rests upon a strong conviction in the cause you are fighting for.  Such conviction is transformed into successful action through maintaining a positive outlook, which is the foundation of mental strength.  The fight against world poverty, in particular, takes enormous mental strength to work through the difficult economic, social, and political factors that all play a role in perpetuating the problem.

It is easy for activists to get discouraged by the many uphill battles they will face along their journey, but the above quotes about strength should help to serve as inspiration and a reminder that maintaining strength of mind and a positive outlook are the keys to success.

– Rifk Ebeid

Sources: Epreneur TV, Addicted2Success, Forbes, HuffPost “100 Motivational Quotes”, HuffPost “GPS Guide”, HuffPost “50 Awesome Quotes on Risk Taking”, Psychology Today
Photo: Chattablogs

David_Cicilline_congressman_Borgen_Project
On January 7, 2014 I was fortunate enough to have a meeting with the office of Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island to discuss the work of The Borgen Project.

Despite the fact Rhode Island is the smallest state in the United States, Cicilline still has a full load of work and engagements; his office made time to sit down and hear about the incredible work The Borgen Project is doing. Having been born in Rhode Island’s capital, Cicilline is very passionate about supporting his state and the needs of the U.S before reaching out to other areas of the world.  But through our meeting it was brought to their attention that helping others can help Rhode Island more than originally thought.

Cicilline is a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and has stated, “David believes that the United States cannot continue to spend $8 billion a month in Afghanistan while so many urgent needs go unaddressed in Rhode Island and America.  Rather than continuing to spend those funds building schools, bridges, and roads halfway around the world, we should be investing that money in our own country.”

In rebuttal to this it was discussed that these are not competing interests. The Borgen Project knows and wants others to know that our foreign policy should be focused on international poverty because it is in the project’s strategic interest.

The world’s poor are currently being viewed as the largest untapped market on earth. Through the eradication of poverty, people are able to transition from barely surviving into becoming consumers of goods and products. This process allows U.S. companies to gain new populations to which they can market their products.

Currently, Cicilline is making headlines in global news with the immigration rally he held along with U.S. Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL,) chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, on January 17 in Providence, Rhode Island. They acted together to push congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform. Though actions like this was the main reason I wanted to raise awareness of The Borgen Project to David Cicilline. He had Gutierrez travel to Rhode Island at his request because he knew that Gutierrez has visited states across the country building support for immigration reform legislation in congress.

These actions may seem relatively small, but every action matters when dealing with the eradication of global poverty. Now that The Borgen Project has been brought into the light, more work will be done in fighting this good fight against global poverty.

– Lindsey Lerner

Sources: House of Representatives, The Borgen Project, Providence Journal
Photo: The Washington Post