Posts

farmers
Female farmers working small plots of land to grow food may be a solution to ending world hunger according to international aid group CARE.  As leaders prepare talks for the Hunger Summit in London, advocates are reminding leaders to look to female farmers as a solution and answer to food insecurity. Around the world, 60 to 80 percent of food production in developing countries is grown by women. In stark contrast, only about 5 percent of training and resources ever get to these female farmers.

Julia Netwon-Howes, CARE Australia CEO, believes small-scale farmers are key in the fight against world hunger. Families around the world are being fed and sustained by women farming on small plots of land and their ability to increase the size and quality of their crops can lead to huge gains in fighting hunger. Studies show the world produces enough food for everyone, but the poor distribution and scarcity in some regions leads to millions still going hungry each day. To address the 1 in 8 still going to bed hungry, not only does production need to be addressed, but distribution must also be studied.

While action has been taken, small-scale farmers have been left out of the mainstream. With close to half of all agriculture being produced on small-scale farms, they must be taken into consideration as future plans are drawn to fight hunger. Assistance and government help must expand their focus to include both large and small-scale farms. This includes helping female farmers with better farming techniques, diversification of crops, and nutrition education. Farmers must be educated on the value of a variety of vegetables and food beyond the staple crops of sweet potato or maize grown every day. As they are educated and helped, hunger and malnutrition will continue to decline.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: ABC Radio Australia

Tragedy at Bangladesh Garment Factory

Until now, more than 1000 people are estimated to have been killed in the collapse of the Bangladesh garment factory. Statistics make this accident one of the worst garment factory disasters in modern history. As governments, organizations, and conscientious consumers look for solutions and ways to prevent another catastrophic loss of life, some are considering the role a company or consumer boycott of clothing made in Bangladesh would have. But how should consumers respond? Is pushing for a boycott of Bangladeshi products really the solution? Experts differ on the possible effects of such a move.

Professor Linda Scott at Oxford University says no:

The most obvious thing to do is to take away shopping dollars, and I do appreciate that stopping power, but I am just afraid that moves the problem someplace else. There is always another country that is happy to take on garment manufacturing. That is why it moves around so much. If the factories move elsewhere, it does not really solve the problem. It just moves misery somewhere else. And it takes away work from the people in Bangladesh.

Paul Collins of the British Anti-poverty Group War on Want also hesitates to endorse such a move:

We take our lead from our partner, the National Garment Workers’ Federation in Bangladesh, and they take their lead from the trade union members they support – mainly women – who say that these jobs should be decent jobs that are safe, pay a living wage and do not force them to work excessive hours. But they fear that a boycott campaign would mean they would lose their jobs. They come from rural areas and abject poverty, so they have not asked us to mount a boycott campaign.

Jamie Terzi, Bangladesh Country Director for CARE International, offered the following perspective:

I think for an incident of this magnitude to occur, we are talking about a systemic failure, where there are multiple responsibilities and, more strongly, culpabilities. It is not particularly helpful to pick one person or group, the problem is simply too large and too complex. It is absolutely the government; it is absolutely the people of Bangladesh calling on their government to be more accountable; it is up to the factory owners; it is up to the buyers and it absolutely is up to the consumers in Western countries.

Elizabeth L. Cline, author of Over-Dressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion emphasizes the same point made by Terzi:

Bangladesh is a very poor country so even if they wanted to implement changes there is not a lot of money to do so. We’re talking about a $500,000 (£320,000) investment per factory to get some of these changes implemented and the brands can afford it. The factories can’t. Consumers are ready for ethical fashion. They want to see fair labor standards implemented and abided by, and they would support it if the brands made headway on that.

For consumers, particularly those in the west, who decide to respond to the tragedy, all of these experts agree that there are a number of complex and interlocking issues to be considered here. Everyone, from governments to multi-nationals, to consumers will have a role to play in developing a solution to save lives in the future.

– Délice Williams

Source: BBC, CBS
Photo: CNN

Child Marriage: A Promise of Poverty

The average teenager worries about hanging out with friends, getting good grades, and fitting in with a group of people—not marrying a stranger and creating a home.

However, child marriage is a reality in the world’s 51 least-developed countries.  Half of all girls living in these countries are married before the age of 18, according to the United Nations. Parents arrange the marriage, and the groom can be more than twice the bride’s age.  Girls are ripped from their communities and forced into social isolation. These abrupt marriages sever a girl from her support network—a group of people necessary for helping the girl face the physical and emotional challenges of marriage.

Many cultures view girls as economic burdens, subservient individuals, or family mistakes. Marrying girls off as soon as possible alleviates the household expenses and restores the family’s reputation.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) established that the minimum age of marriage is 18 years old. This is considered the upper limit of childhood, and the individual is fit to decide whether to be married.  Many countries continue to practice child marriage despite proven physical and psychological effects.

World Vision reported that child marriages are increasing due to the increase in global poverty crises. 14 million girls under the age of 18 are married each year.  Child marriages are most prevalent in rural, poor areas and are associated with areas of low education and healthcare.  Polygamy is common, and these marriages are bargaining chips between two parties.

South Asia (46%) and Central Africa (41%) are the top areas for child marriages.  These regions do not monitor the age of spouses carefully.  Girls who live in countries with humanitarian crises are most likely to be subjected to child marriages. Fear of rape, unwanted pre-marital pregnancies, family shame, and hunger are the main motivators for child marriage. Poverty, weak legislation, gender discrimination, and lack of alternative opportunities reinforce these motivations.

Anti-poverty organizations, such as CARE, are working in various countries to combat child marriage.  According to CARE, “As levels of education and economic opportunities increase, so does the average age of marriage.”  CARE mobilizes community organizers, parents, and tribal and religious leaders to lobby against the child marriage law in Ethiopia. Leaders are constructing savings and loans groups to empower families financially. Though child marriage still exists, this will eliminate one major cause of child marriage. Community forums now focus on the elimination of bride price, bride abduction, and child marriage.

Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: NBC News