Jobs and Poverty

The proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has decreased significantly since 2012, with 767 million people, or 10.7 percent of the population, now living below the international poverty line, which is $1.90 per person per day. Despite the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, the world poverty rate has steadily declined over the past decade. To have any hope of escaping poverty, income from stable work is essential.

According to Annette Dixon, World Bank South Asia Region Vice President, jobs are necessary to push people out of poverty. A flourishing private sector can help with job creation, while investments in education, healthcare and social protection can ensure that people are credentialed appropriately for those jobs. Investing in women’s education is also imperative if countries are to pull themselves out of poverty. In fact, a woman’s earning potential increases by 20 percent with every year of schooling she receives.

A recent study conducted by the World Bank on factors affecting poverty found a strong correlation between better jobs and poverty reduction. The study, which was conducted in Cambodia, Mongolia, Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam, found that a steady income was the largest contributor to poverty reduction. With the exception of the Philippines, incomes from jobs explained 40 percent of the observable reduction in poverty. On the other hand, in Timor-Leste, the loss of labor income between 2001 and 2007, during a period of civil conflicts, explained almost all of the increase in poverty.

The type of labor income plays an important role when discussing better jobs and poverty reduction initiatives. While work in agriculture was a major driver of poverty reduction in the 1980s and 1990s, more recently this has been replaced by wage incomes. Wage incomes explain 50 percent of poverty reduction in countries like Vietnam, the Philippines and Cambodia. In this respect, a flourishing private sector and employment-related training can help bridge the gap between skilled labor and targeted jobs.

The bottom line is that ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity hinge on creating better labor market conditions for the poor. In other words, steady income through better jobs and poverty reduction go hand in hand. Job creation, higher productivity and growth in real wages at the bottom of the distribution are the main mechanisms to achieve sustained poverty reduction.

Jagriti Misra

Photo: Google

Energy in TanzaniaAlong the coast of eastern Africa sits Tanzania, home to the continent’s tallest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro. Beside Kilimanjaro resides a population of 45 million people; the majority of them live in a rural setting- a full 74 percent. Yet, despite this rural majority, only two percent of rural residents have access to electricity – an issue which has contributed both to the rise of environmental issues and the cementation of cyclical rural poverty. A disconcerting 93.6 percent of rural residents are forced to use wood as fuel for cooking, which is a time-consuming necessity that has enabled deforestation and robbed individuals of time that could be spent in other ways had there been a different and viable energy option. Consequently, the issue of energy in Tanzania is one which requires efficient and diverse solutions.

Into this scenario walks a Dutch energy company called Devergy, whose innovative approach makes clean energy accessible to rural Tanzanians across the nation. Devergy works on a pay-as-you-go model, relying on mobile banking – a financial practice which is already widely used across many African nations.

This model allows consumers to control their energy consumption and their financials; one uses as much or as little as necessary based on his or her need and financial situation. It is a financially accessible option – energy “credits” cost as much as phone credits and less than kerosene lighting – that gives the consumer complete control. This ultimately empowers individuals by giving them the (literal) power to light their homes and businesses as much or as little as they need, all within the confines of their personally-dictated financial arena.

Importantly, the energy provided is also clean. Most rural areas do not have access to electrical grids, and the cost of expanding those grids is currently not economically feasible, which is why 90 percent of all energy consumption comes from biomass materials such as wood. Instead of trying to create access to the general energy grids already in place, the company instead installs solar micro-grids in villages. These micro-grids generate renewable energy, which is connected to homes by locally-trained technicians and accessed by the village inhabitants through the aforementioned model.

In the last two years, more than 150,000 lives have been impacted by implementing these micro-grids across the nation. Though there is still much work to be done to solve the energy issue in Tanzania, the future is looking bright as Devergy paves the way by providing clean, efficient energy to citizens of the country.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Flickr

Uganda's Som Chess Academy
With a single chess board and a heart for change, Robert Katende launched Uganda’s Som Chess Academy in the Katwe slums of Kampala in 2004. Thirteen years later, the program boasts 13 different centers in varying parts of Uganda (one which focuses on children with disabilities), an impending expansion into neighboring Kenya, an estimated participant count of 1,400 and a world-class chess player in Phiona Mutesi.

The most attention has been gifted to the incredible story of Ms. Mutesi, whose rise from the slums of Katwe to the international chess arena has been featured in ESPN Magazine and Disney’s Queen of Katwe film. And understandably so—Phiona has been honored in various capacities, most notably as one of three “Women of Impact” at the 2013 Women of the World Summit. Her story is especially significant considering the relatively limited role of women in Ugandan society. Such a role ensures that the literacy rate for girls 15 years of age and older is cemented at 65 percent—a rate which is a full 18 percent lower than that of their male peers. Consequentially, Phiona’s success has paved the way for other women to also strive for their goals and meet their potential in spite of traditional gender barriers like minimized education.

However, the everyday successes of Uganda’s Som Chess Academy demand recognition as well. The program is completely free for its participants and provides tangible perks, such as meals, but it also provides something arguably more important: intangible perks, such as personal empowerment, something that is so incredibly significant for children who have very few opportunities to know their strength.

The program operates under the guidance of about 40 peer coaches who aim to not only teach chess but to teach it well—in 2015, Som Academy placed seventh in the national chess league—but to also teach life skills that focus on character development, goal-creation and leadership skills, too. Chess is only a vessel with which to facilitate these understandings; the strategy, mental discipline and adaptation required to play the game is translated into real-life usage as well.

Furthermore, the program actually enrolls participants in school and supports them throughout their academic endeavors, with several of the program’s graduates going on to higher education levels that would have otherwise been inaccessible to children entrapped in the cycle of slum poverty. In an environment where 31 percent of urban children aged 13 to 18 are not attending secondary school, a free program that empowers and ultimately pushes such children into the educational system is truly an incredible gift to a deserving community.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Canada

Up until 1960, recognizing human rights in Canada as a pertinent protectorate of the Canadian Constitution did not occur. Under Prime Minister Jeff Diefenbacker, the Canadian government passed its Bill of Rights, which started Canada’s journey of becoming a leader in human rights among developed countries. Although human rights in Canada have had a fairly stunted legislative origin, ever since the 1980s the Canadian government has been putting forth great efforts in fortifying its anti-discrimination laws.

Passed by Parliament in 1977, the Canadian Human Rights Act was set in motion to prevent businesses from discriminating. While it has been effective in preventing the violation of human rights in Canada within the workforce, the Act does not cover individual institutions such as education, religion or culture. On the other hand, it specifies guidelines and procedures when handling cases of discrimination regarding disability, race, color, age, sex, martial status or family status.

While the Canadian Bill of Rights and the CHRA prevent discrimination in several areas of jurisdiction, there is still work to be done to ensure human rights for all of Canada’s citizens. This fact is particularly a concern for indigenous people (particularly women) living in Canada.

According to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Canada has committed a “grave violation” when it comes to eliminating violence against indigenous women. Also, indigenous people lack sufficient living standards for water, health care and education.

Although Canada’s history of actively protecting human rights through effective legislation has been brief, improvement is under way under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau brought to light that while Canada has made strides in strengthening its human rights legislation, in his recent statement during Human Rights Day in Canada, Trudeau said, “There is still an enormous amount of work to do to ensure that all people are treated equally and with respect, including women and girls, members of LGBTQ2 communities, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities and refugees, among others.”

Kaitlin Hocker

Photo: Flickr

Health Care in Cuba

Due to the dwindling trade restrictions between Cuba and the United States during the Obama administration, people around the world are getting a look into a country that has been closed off from much of the world for many years. While the country is known for its slow wealth creation and high levels of state control, healthcare in Cuba has made massive strides since the country’s revolution in 1959.

Cuba’s healthcare is recognized as being among the world’s most efficient and high quality systems. Former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that the country’s healthcare system should be used as a model for many developing countries.

Since the 1959 revolution, when Fidel Castro gained power in Cuba, the socialist ideology emphasized that access to healthcare is a fundamental human right. With this belief inscribed in Cuba’s constitution, the country focuses on preventative approaches to medicine. From providing annual, mandatory checkups to the most complex surgeries, healthcare in Cuba remains free of charge.

With this high level of accessibility, the country has made many health improvements since the beginning of the Castro regime. These include:

  • A 98 percent full immunization record by the age of 2 that protect children from 13 illnesses.
  • Low infant mortality rates. Cuba’s rate is extremely close to that of the United States’ with less than 5 deaths per 1000 births. This statistic makes Cuba the best performer in the developing world.
  • High life expectancies, with men living an average of 77 years and women living an average of 81. These expectancies are almost identical to those in the United States.
  • Record doctor to patient ratios that surpass many developed nations. Every doctor cares for around 150 patients.
  • A well-educated public regarding individual health. Family doctors, who make mandatory visits annually, discuss issues such as smoking, eating and exercising with patients while also providing tailored recommendations to remain healthy.
  • World leading medical schools. Former U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that Cuba’s medical education system is the world’s most advanced. In 2014, over 11,000 students from over 120 nations pursued a career in medicine at the Cuban Institution.
  • A significant focus on research and development. The focus on innovation has been attributed to the U.S. embargo that prohibited trade in medicines for Cuba. This made investing in medical sciences a necessity to provide quality health care.

By the mid-1980s, Cuba developed the world’s first Meningitis B vaccine. In 2012, Cuban doctors developed Cimavax, the first therapeutic cancer vaccine. Additionally, The World Health Organization (WHO) recognized the country as being the first to eliminate HIV transmission between mothers and their children in 2015. These outcomes are found to be a direct result of the huge investments made in Cuba’s biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.

Healthcare in Cuba has benefited more than just the citizens of its country. Every year, Cuba sends around 50,000 health professionals abroad, providing care to developing countries. In only one decade, Cuba’s contribution to Mission Miracle, a program supporting people with sight impairments, has restored around 3.5 million individuals’ vision. Many of these contributions are made in Latin America, where 165 Cuban institutions maintain 49 ophthalmological centers and 82 surgical units in 14 countries.

However, Cuba’s support reaches beyond its own continent and into Africa. The Cuban chemical and biopharmaceutical research institute LABIOFAM launched a vaccination campaign against malaria in 2014 in more than 15 West African nations. Additionally, during the recent Sierra Leone Ebola crisis, over 100 Cuban doctors and nurses were of assistance.

Castro was an advocate for providing international health support, as he believed by assisting developing countries, Cuba was preventing the expansion of epidemics that could spread to its own nation if not handled correctly. In addition to the philanthropy aspect, Cuban doctors and nurses working in over 77 countries generate $8 billion a year, which makes international health services the country’s largest export.

While the country’s GDP per capita is ranked 137th in the world, healthcare in Cuba has demonstrated that a poor country can create dramatic developments in its population’s quality of life for the long term. Castro’s form of leadership, while questioned in many other areas, has improved the living standards for Cuba’s poorest with regard to medical needs.

The WHO stresses that Cuba provides a prime example of a developing nation with limited resources that can provide an efficient health care system to all of its population. However, for such an outcome, the political institutions of the country must make human beings the center of their policies and not their own wallets.

Tess Hinteregger
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate in the United Kingdom

A recent study from the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown that the poverty rate in the United Kingdom fell slightly between 2014 and 2015, dropping from 16.8 percent to 16.7 percent. This rate puts the U.K. roughly in the middle of all E.U. member countries, and just below the E.U. average of 17.3 percent.

The report of a fall in the overall poverty rate in the United Kingdom also came with a reported rise in the persistent poverty rate. The persistent poverty rate is defined as being below the poverty line in the current year, as well as in 2 of the previous 3 years. The persistent poverty rate jumped from 6.5 percent in 2014 to 7.3 percent in 2015. The jump means that 700,000 more people were persistently poor in 2015 than 2014. However, this rate ties for the fifth-lowest in the E.U. and is well below the E.U. average of 10.9 percent.

The rise in the persistent poverty rate did lead to concern from different parties. Justin Watson, the head of the Oxfam U.K. Programme, welcomed the relatively low persistent poverty rate compared to the rest of the E.U. while expressing concern about the 4.6 million people experiencing persistent poverty. Others expressed concern about rising child poverty rates and a disparity between male and female persistent poverty rates.

Addressing the U.K.poverty rate will require more than employment expansion. Median earnings are down 5 percent in the U.K. since the 2008 global recession, even while employment is up 1.5 percent in that same period, hitting a record high in July 2017. A government official cited multiple steps being taken in addition to employment in the attempt to address the overall U.K. poverty rate. In fact, the government spends £90 billion a year  on working age benefits, the National Living Wage is rising and income tax is being lowered or eliminated for millions of people.

Erik Beck

Development Through Economic StabilityThe U.S. currently sends more than half of its exports to developing countries. Supporting development through economic stability in these nations, as well as at home, has become crucial.  With more of these exports going to developing countries, supporting economic development in these struggling areas is symbiotic, as reducing poverty creates opportunities for all.

Fostering development and reducing poverty in these countries can go hand-in-hand with supporting business domestically. Thus, the action both in the U.S. business and political communities has begun.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce staunchly supports an international affairs budget known as the “Function 150” account. This account, representing less than 1 percent of the U.S. federal budget, funds diplomatic advocacy for policies that open markets to foreign and U.S. business.

The Effect Of International Aid

This form of aid works to stabilize foreign economies through trade. It allows the U.S. to provide not only funding for global development, but also an incorporation of these developing countries into the U.S. market.

By relying more on the U.N. and NGOs for health, education and humanitarian programs, USAID can focus on multilateral development banks to foster structural economic programs. Diplomatic support for these programs in developing nations, which consume more than 50 percent of U.S. exports, will help sustain the U.S. economy as well as stabilize struggling foreign economies.

Economic stability is a vital piece of the development and sustainability agenda that Congress has been putting into place for years now. Although it is not the only solution, funding international economic stability can reduce poverty by promoting business and providing jobs both internationally and domestically.

The Plan For The Future

On March 13, 2017, an executive order for a Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing gave the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 360 days to present a plan to the president.

By June 30, all federal agencies were to submit a drafted plan to the OMB and by the fall to include such plans in their 2019 budget submissions.

A reorganization of the national budget allows for the creation of an independent cabinet-level department for the international budget that would emphasize multilateral development banks as one of the vital aspects of international sustainable development. This department would allow funding to be allocated in whatever direction the donor wanted.

By supporting development through domestic and international reform and reorganization can not only promote global economic and trade opportunities, but also reduce poverty through economic business trade. It is the promotion of development through economic stability.

Tucker Hallowell
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Violence Against WomenGender-based violence is a human rights violation. The use of violence against women (VAW) and children as a war tactic is inhumane and a way for extremist men to keep women “in their place”. Activists fighting for human rights often face considerable hostility, and many VAW activists recognize that creative activism along with a proclivity for affecting change from within goes a long way towards raising awareness of gender-based violence. While an innumerable number of people work tirelessly to bring positive changes to women’s lives, these eight campaigns are creatively fighting violence against women.

  1. Maps4Aid – India

India ranks eighth on WondersList’s ten worst countries for women. The statistics are mind-numbing. Around 70 percent of women in India are victims of domestic violence. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a woman is a victim of crime every three minutes, a woman is raped every 15 minutes, a dowry death occurs every 77 minutes and around 100 million women and girls are estimated to be victim of human trafficking. In a country with such staggering crime rates, P. Sheemer created the Maps4Aid app, which uses SMS and email to submit reports of any crime committed against women. This data helps map out the areas that are the most unsafe for women to travel in. Eventually, this data will be used to map out the most dangerous streets and areas across India and to press authorities to provide extra security measures in these areas.

  1. MenEngage Alliance – Kenya

MenEngage Alliance is an initiative of international NGOs to involve men and boys in promoting gender equality. Gender equality cannot be achieved in isolation; men need to be a part of the solution. The campaign aims to educate and work with men and boys around the world to change their perceptions of masculinity and to learn healthier ways to relate to each other. In addition, the campaign also aims to advocate for newer and better laws to end VAW, including female genital mutilation.

  1. The Burka Avenger – Pakistan

Creating alternative narratives in line with popular culture can be a powerful tool to reach a wider audience with maximum impact. This is one of the reasons why countries like India and Pakistan are using comic strips as tools to reach its younger generation. The Peabody Award-winning “Burka Avenger” is a children’s cartoon series about a good-natured female Pakistani school teacher with secret martial arts training who dons a burka to tackle a range of issues, from discrimination against women to environmental protection to fighting polio.

  1. Fathers’ club – Haiti

Most gender-based violence campaigns exclude men. In Haiti, Rorny Amile, a father from Haiti, started a fathers’ club to initiate a conversation on issues like meaningful consent and the importance of not using violence. The members receive training from CARE, an international organization with a mission to save lives, defeat poverty and achieve social justice. The organization spreads its message by going door-to-door in their community to talk to men about violence against women. According to Amile, “children see their fathers beating their mothers and some carry on the cycle of violence when they grow up. We’re trying to show other fathers it’s not okay to do that”.

  1. Bead Game – Worldwide

The international organization CARE is creatively fighting violence against women by designing innovative games that challenge societal taboos. The Bead Game is designed by CARE to address issues related to the age-old blame that women take on if they are unable to produce a boy. With the help of two colored beads representing the X and Y chromosomes, the game demonstrates how the father determines the sex of a child. These domestic and cultural misunderstandings often result in gender-based violence, a problem CARE is committed to ending through community outreach, education and simple activities like the bead game.

  1. Paradise – Norway

Photographer Walter Astrada is known the world over for using photography as a tool to fight VAW. Recently, he took his fight to Norway to show the world that gender-based violence is not just a third-world problem; it occurs even in a country with an impeccable reputation as one of the wealthiest, safest, well- educated and most democratic countries in the world.

  1. Affordable Wood-Fired Stoves – Sudan

Zam Zam camp in North Darfur is home to 200,000 refugees fleeing the civil war in Sudan. The women of Zam Zam risk rape by Sudanese militiamen every time they leave the camp to collect wood for their cooking fires. If they chose otherwise, they would have to spend scarce money on firewood. Ashok Gadgil worked with Darfuri women and other engineers to create an affordable wood-fired stove that uses less wood. The stove reduced assaults, saved families money and made the homes of thousands of refugees healthier by considerably reducing carbon emissions.

  1. Orange Day – United Nations

In light of the recent barrage of cases of gender-based violence, the United Nations designated the 25th of every month as “Orange Day.” The UNiTE campaign, started by the United Nations Secretary-General’s, is dedicated to raising awareness and ending VAW. Orange Day is creatively fighting violence against women by calling upon everyone to mobilize people and highlighting issues relevant to preventing and ending VAW every month.

Jagriti Misra

Photo: Flickr

Education in Singapore Good
Education in Singapore has been receiving a lot of praise. When Singapore gained independence from the British, it was a low skill labor-driven market. However, over a period of 50 years, the government managed to create an incredibly advanced education system, where graduates went on into highly skilled jobs. How did this happen?

A Success Story: Education in Singapore

In 2015, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rated Singapore as having the best education system in the world. OECD director Andreas Schleicher says that students in Singapore are especially proficient in math and the sciences. In English, the average Singaporean 15-year-old student is 10 months ahead of students in western countries and is 20 months ahead in math. Singaporean students also score among the best in the world on international exams.

Education in Singapore is superior because the classes are focused on teaching the students specific problem solving skills and subjects. The classroom is highly scripted and the curriculum is focused on teaching students practical skills that will help them solve problems in the real world. Exams are extremely important and classes are tightly oriented around them.

Authorities in Singapore are also constantly trying to reevaluate and improve the education system. Recently, many students have reported rising levels of overstress and psychological problems brought on by academic rigor. In response, Singapore has stopped listing the top-scoring student on the national exam in order to ease some of the pressure students may feel. The country has also incorporated a strategy called Teach Less, Learn More, which encourages teachers to focus on the quality of education, not the quantity.

Another reason the education in Singapore is so excellent is simply the Singaporean culture. Parents play a crucial role in their child’s education. The “talent myth,” which states that some kids are naturally smarter than others, is non-existent in Singapore. A local newspaper, The Straits, reported that 70 percent of parents sign their children up for extra classes outside of their regular school hours. In local bookstores, over half of the store is dedicated to educational material.

The education system in Singapore is, in many ways, superior to the education system in the Western world. This is largely due to the country’s culture and first-rate educational leadership. Singapore has a lot to teach the rest of the world; if other countries would adopt some of Singapore’s strategies, there would surely be improvement in education around the globe.

Bruce Edwin Ayres Truax

Photo: Google

Education System in GhanaThe education system in Ghana is well known for maintaining the ignorant practice of marginalizing children, especially disabled children, from getting an education. Children who are girls, disabled, of an ethnic minority, and/or of the lower class are consistently neglected by the education system. Approximately 100,000 Ghanaian kids aged six to 14 have a disability. More than 30 percent, or 16,000, of those 100,000 kids are not getting an education.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Ministry of Education, and the Ghana Education Service have created a 45-page document called the Inclusive Education Policy. Launched to combat special education discrimination, its mission statement is straightforward, saying: “inclusive schools must recognize and respond to the diverse needs of their students, accommodating both different styles, rates of learning and ensuring quality education to all through appropriate curricula, organizational arrangements, teaching strategies, resource use and in partnerships with their communities.”

Among other documents, the Inclusive Education Policy is anchored in the 1992 constitution of the Republic of Ghana, the Disability Act and the Education Act and will be reviewed every five years. The Inclusive Education Policy calls on parents, teachers, community leaders, government officials and the wider Ghanaian society to reevaluate deep-rooted, misguided ideas. It aims to change systems, create mechanisms, equip schools and perpetuate the beliefs that all children can learn, have a right to learn and learn differently. The education system in Ghana is working to ensure that children with and without disabilities have an encouraging physical, social, emotional and psychological environment to learn in. Despite the Inclusive Education Policy, kids with disabilities are still at risk of stigma, misunderstanding and discrimination in their local communities.

Under the Ghana Education Service, the Special Education Division started implementing Inclusive Education Policy fundamentals in the Greater Central Accra and Eastern Regions. In 2011, the policy covered 529 schools in 34 Ghanaian districts. In the summer of the following year, UNICEF implemented the policy in 14 more schools. In early 2017, UNICEF and the United States Agency for International Development provided 21 kindergartens across 11 districts with child-sized wheelchairs, crutches, complete spectacles, hearing aids, Snellen charts, tossing rings, tennis balls, basic screening materials, drums and assistive devices for assessment centers and schools.

Tiffany Santos

Photo: Flickr