BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation ProgramOf the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the first one sets an ambitious target. To end poverty in all its forms, everywhere and to leave no one behind. One such organization embracing this challenge is Bangladesh’s BRAC. BRAC is one of the world’s largest nongovernmental development organizations founded in Bangladesh that has done a tremendous amount of work fighting extreme poverty in Bangladesh. BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation program has seen success globally.

Poverty Progress in Bangladesh

Nestled between India and Myanmar in South Asia, Bangladesh has made enormous strides in combating extreme poverty in a relatively short amount of time. In a little over a decade, 25 million people were lifted out of poverty. Between 2010 and 2016, eight million people were lifted out of poverty in Bangladesh.

Although poverty rates were seeing a steady decrease, those living in extreme poverty in Bangladesh still lacked basic safety nets and support from NGO services.

BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation (UPG) Program

In 2002, BRAC introduced the innovative Ultra-Poor Graduation (UPG) program in an attempt to apply innovative approaches to solve extreme poverty in Bangladesh and across the globe.

The UPG program aims to provide long-term holistic support for those in extreme poverty to lift themselves out of poverty and graduate to a more resilient and sustainable life. This is done by addressing the social, economic and health needs of poor families while empowering them to learn new skills and better financial management.

BRAC believes that while traditional government interventions such as food aid and cash transfers are impactful and have a role to play, these benefits, unfortunately, remain out of reach for many in extreme poverty and are certainly not a long-term solution.

BRAC’s UPG program sets to build skill sets and assets to ensure families are equipped to become food secure, independent and achieve economical sustainability.

The Success of UPG Programs Globally

The program has found success inside and outside Bangladesh and has received praise and acknowledgment in some of the world’s most impoverished regions.

Take for example the country of South Sudan. From 2013 to 2015 BRAC piloted a project involving 240 women. The program provided support for the women to receive food stipends, asset transfers and various skills training that included financial and basic savings skills.

Shortly after the women received training and support, the South Sudanese Civil War escalated, ravaging the country and causing inflation and food shortages.

Despite these shocks, 97% of the 240 women were still able to increase their consumption thanks to the resources, assets and skills they obtained during the program. Also, their children were 53% less likely to be underweight and malnourished, compared to those who had not been in the program.

More Success in Afghanistan and Other Countries

Another example comes from Afghanistan, where a widowed woman in the Bamiyan province received a flock of sheep and training from BRAC. Since then, she has been able to generate enough income to feed her family, send her grandchildren to school,  sell additional products and save for the future.

From 2007 to 2014, a large-scale UPG program across Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, India, Pakistan and Peru saw a 4.9% increase in household consumption, 13.6% increase in asset values and a 95.7% increase in savings pooled across all countries.

The success of BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation program can be clearly seen from the results. It is an innovative program that aims to end all poverty and leave no one behind and is successfully on its way to doing so.

– Andrew Eckas
Photo: Flickr

Digital Gap Act Benefits the U.S.The Digital Gap Act’s (H.R. 600) objective is primarily to foster greater internet access in developing countries in order to:

  1. Reduce poverty
  2. Improve education
  3. Empower women
  4. Advance U.S. interests

What the Digital Gap Act Will Do

Three billion people, that is 60 percent of the world’s population, lack internet access. As a result of that, those same three billion people are outside the radius of the free flow of information, innovations in health, education and commerce and are therefore lacking access to U.S. goods and services.

As the Digital Gap Act establishes internet access for these people, several features of the developing world would improve, while benefiting the U.S. simultaneously.

How the Digital Gap Act Benefits the U.S.

Bringing 500 million women online has the potential to add an additional $18 billion in GDP growth across 144 countries, which expands the global market for U.S. goods and services. The act also promotes democracy and good governance due to the transparency that follows the free flow of information on the Internet, instilling a favorable investment climate.

Furthermore, the Digital Gap Act could generate a possible $2.2 trillion in additional total GDP, which is a 72 percent increase in the GDP growth rate of developing countries. It would also spur job creation, up to 140 million jobs to be more precise, benefitting both the U.S. and developing countries, and would increase personal income gains to $600 per person in developing countries each year.

Lastly, the Digital Gap Act would lift 160 million people out of extreme poverty, all of whom would work their way into a growing market. This also means 2.5 million lives would be saved through improving healthcare.

Previous Advances Due to Greater Digital Access

Improved access to the internet has long been proven to advance the world as a whole. Eight million entrepreneurs in China now use e-commerce to sell goods, one-third of them being women. India reduced corruption and increased access to services by using digital identification. Africans with HIV were better reminded to take their medication through SMS messages.

The Digital Gap Act benefits the U.S. in a plethora of ways. Anywhere from cybersecurity to global political stability, global health to job availability and economic growth to cost-effective development practices, the developing world as well as the U.S. have much to reap from the gains in all these sectors. So today, U.S. taxpayers have a well-defined and remarkable reason to celebrate for the nation’s considerable contribution in the form of the Digital Gap Act.

– Roberto Carlos Ventura
Photo: Flickr

Justice for WomenThe United Nations estimates that there are currently four billion people excluded from the rule of law, with over 150 countries that have one or more laws that discriminate against women. To address this inequality and bring more women access to justice, the High-level Group on Justice for Women (HLG) had its inaugural meeting at the Hague from May 28-29, 2018.

What is the High-level Group on Justice for Women?

This group was started by U.N. Women along with the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO). Its members include experts on human rights, gender and justice from civil society organizations, governments, academics and intergovernmental organizations.

The main purpose of this group is to act as advocates for women’s access to justice during the High-level Political Forum in 2019 where the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be reviewed. In particular, the HLG is focused on SDG 16 with its stated goal being to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

One of the HLG’s main purposes is to ensure the implementation, monitoring and reporting of SDG 16 in the years to come. The group wishes to highlight the justice gaps that women and girls face around the world, ways to improve global access to justice and why this is a necessary cause to invest in. To address these issues, the HLG is focused on these approaches:

  • Reforming the legal and policy framework
  • Reforming justice institutions
  • Legally empowering women to access justice and claim rights
  • Addressing customary and informal justice

Why Justice for Women Matters

The HLG argues that ensuring justice for women is at the heart of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals because, without this measure, other SDGs such as education, equality, health and employment will not be realized. The SDGs are key to fighting global poverty, with the first goal being to end poverty in all its form everywhere. Equal justice is a means to recognizing and respecting women’s rights as it allows women to function as equal members of society who can contribute to development and ending poverty.

Beyond equality and respect for human rights, the HLG strongly believes that women’s access to justice is both a requirement and enabler of development. There has been more and more evidence that with greater gender equality comes greater economic development. For instance, when women are permitted to work and contribute to household incomes, studies have shown that more money is allocated for health, education, food and children. Improving justice for women gives social, economic and environmental benefits instead of continuing poverty, social exclusion, bad health, violence and crime.

Closing the Justice Gap

All of this work highlights the contrasts between what is promised in SDG 16 and what women are really experiencing and the contrasts between what women need and want when seeking justice and what they actually receive. In other words, this is known as the justice gap.

Around the world, 104 economies have laws preventing women from working specific jobs like manufacturing, construction, agriculture, water and transportation. Equally shocking, 45 countries have no laws on domestic violence and 59 economies have no laws about sexual harassment in the workplace.

This unequal justice and lack of respect for women’s rights is a hindrance to development and ending global poverty. The HLG is an important ally in the fight to end global poverty and its work to combat the justice gap will hopefully see great results in the years to come.

– Alexandra Eppenauer
Photo: Flickr

How to Stop Poverty
Even in the 21st century, nearly half of the world’s population, or three billion people, lives on $2.50 a day, and 80 percent of the world’s population lives on less than $10 a day. Focusing on how to stop poverty is very important, both in the ways that an individual can have an impact and on the wider changes that need to be made to bring an end to poverty.

How to Stop Poverty

  1. Create Awareness
    Social media has become an integral part of daily life, and now is the time to use it as a voice of social good. Sharing links on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms will allow people to learn more about global poverty and will increase the general consciousness of the issue.
  2. Take Action on Your Own
    There are a few simple ways we can help as individuals, such as funding a poor child’s education or by sponsoring a poor family and influencing others to do so. Raising money and donating it to a nonprofit can help as well.
  3. Donate
    Donations can help in so many ways. They do not always have to take the form of money. This can include donating books to a poor child or buying groceries for a poor family for a week to help fight hunger. Donating old clothes, furniture and toiletries can also help improve the well-being of the poor.
  4. Eliminate Gender Inequality
    With two-thirds of the world’s illiterate being female, the ratio of boys and girls should be made equal in primary, secondary and tertiary education. Girls that attend school are less likely to get married before age 18, thus decreasing child marriage rates by 64 percent worldwide. Similarly, literate women are less likely to spread diseases like HIV/AIDS due to a better knowledge of disease transmission, which helps to accelerate poverty reduction in the long run.
  5. Create Jobs Worldwide
    According to the International Labour Organization, 197 million people are without work worldwide. More employment options in a country mean more ways of how to stop poverty. To increase employment, non-literate people can be taught a few skills to make them employable.
  6. Increase Access to Proper Sanitation and Clean Water
    Access to clean water and sanitation directly affects health and education. Currently, 800 million people live without access to safe water and 2.5 billion live without adequate sanitation. Dirty bathrooms keep girls from attending schools, thus stopping them from receiving an education. Lack of clean water spreads diseases like diarrhea and cholera, which take the lives of more than one million children each year.
  7. Educate Everyone
    Education helps increase individual earnings for every member of a family. UNESCO points out that basic reading skills can lift 171 million people out of extreme poverty, ultimately reducing the world’s total poverty by 12 percent. UNESCO also mentions there are currently about one billion illiterate adults in the world.

Above are a few solutions about how to stop poverty, but first, it is important to understand the roots of the problems that cause poverty. Since different countries have different reasons for poverty, there will never be a single solution for all. However, these seven actions can do a lot to alleviate poverty anywhere.

– Shweta Roy

Photo: Flickr

quotes about povertyWhat is embodied in the word poverty? Based on the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation’s definition, poverty is “about not having enough money to meet basic needs including food, clothing, and shelter.” However, the connotation of poverty carries a much heavier burden. Billions of people have experienced poverty in their lifetimes, and many don’t escape its grasp.

These 15 quotes about poverty will develop a powerful image of what poverty looks and feels like. These quotes about poverty are also designed to leave a sense of hope because the fight towards a better future is still going.

  1. “I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil.” – Robert Kennedy
  1. “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality exist in the world, none of us can truly exist.” – Nelson Mandela
  1. “Extreme poverty anywhere is a threat to human security everywhere.” – Kofi Annan
  1. “Poverty is like punishment for a crime you didn’t commit.” – Eli Khamarov
  1. “Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.” – Aristotle
  1. “These days there is a lot of poverty in the world, and that’s a scandal when we have so many riches and resources to give to everyone. We all have to think about how we can become a little poorer.” – Pope Francis
  1. “You can’t get rid of poverty by giving people money.” – J. O’Rourke
  1. “There are many reasons why vulnerable young people join militant groups, but among them are poverty and ignorance…” – Muhammadu Buhari
  1. “Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.” – Muhammad Ali
  1. “We cannot afford to spend millions and millions over nuclear arms when there is poverty and unemployment all around us.” – Lal Bahadur Shastri
  1. “The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of poverty, and all forms of human life.”– John F. Kennedy
  1. “A rich, robust, well-resourced public education is one of the best routes out of poverty and a pathway to prosperity.” Randi Weingarten
  1. “The belief that the world is getting worse, that we can’t solve extreme poverty and disease, isn’t just mistaken. It is harmful.” – Bill Gates
  1. “Growing economies are critical; we will never be able to end poverty unless economies are growing. We also need to find ways of growing economies so that the growth creates good jobs, especially for young people, especially for women, especially for the poorest who have been excluded from the economic system.” – Jim Yong Kim
  1. “Poverty is a very complicated issue, but feeding a child isn’t.” – Jeff Bridges

A central point of these quotes about poverty is that poverty isn’t just a financial issue. It doesn’t just affect people who have no money. Poverty is a social problem that needs a social solution to be solved.

– Caysi Simpson

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Laos
Laos is a poor communist country — the result of a complicated history. Since declaring sovereignty in 1954 American contributions poignantly shape Laos’s physical landscape, albeit initially with bombs. More recent U.S. administrations, alongside international investors, have bequeathed the type of strategic investments in Laos that encourage economic development and social prosperity. Poverty in Laos is shifting.

The Lao people experienced a prolonged period of civil war and armed conflict immediately following independence. After years of abounding poverty, the economy writhed amid growing American anti-communist actions in neighboring Vietnam and Cambodia. The fighting soon leached across Laotian borders as part of a wider U.S. bombing campaign. While Laotians initially measured U.S. contributions only in terms of explosive tonnage, current administrations have retooled U.S. foreign policy in Laos to encourage growth. These efforts require a detailed understanding of Laos and its people.

Agrarianism dominates Laotian society. Rural farmers require an adequate road system to bring the agricultural goods market. In 2015, only 14 percent of all roadways in Laos were paved. Poverty in Laos exists predominantly in rural areas, the same locations growing crops with inadequate transportation infrastructure.

Transportation network improvements implemented in the late 1990s provided proof of a strong correlation between targeted infrastructure investment and rural poverty reduction. The Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (PDR) government conducts household surveys every fifth year, the Lao Expenditure and Consumption Survey, which enables the study of poverty rates. Peter Warr, a professor of agricultural economics at the Australian National University, compared the two surveys that bracket the late 90s improvements to imply, “about 13 percent (one-sixth) of the reduction in rural poverty incidence… can be attributed to wet season road access.”

Poverty in Laos and War

The combined impacts of civil war and a U.S. bombing campaign in Laos staunched civil progress and economic prosperity. In an effort to help improve impoverish conditions in the country, a U.S. State Department’s principal foreign policy objective regarding assistance to Laos is to help the country meet its development goals.

President Obama visited Laos in September 2016, marking the first trip by any U.S. president to the country. Likely his last Asian tour as president, Obama’s trip highlighted the U.S. strategy to rebalance Asia and the Pacific. In a speech to the people of Laos, the president alluded to the U.S.’s assumed role to end extreme poverty through “transformative investments.” Obama also discussed diplomatic efforts that resonated strongly with two U.S. national security interests: prosperity and international order.

The president pledged $90 million over the next three years to help Laotians clear American unexploded ordinance. “Over nine years—from 1964 to 1973—the U.S. dropped more than 2 million tons of bombs here in Laos—more than we dropped on Germany and Japan combined during all of World War II,” President Obama stated. The pledge enables Laotian health and prosperity within its borders and supports international order by strengthening Asia-Pacific alliances.

According to sources for Radio Free Asia, “Road construction and renovation in Laos are usually plagued by corruption with exorbitant costs.” Assistance simply does not end after the deposit. The U.S. must follow through, providing the appropriate accountability and oversight.

The takeaway reveals how detailed research, analysis and understanding allow the investor to achieve broader returns as well as dividends. Road investments and UXO removal, while altruistic to end poverty in Laos, stimulate Laotian autonomy and economic progress. An economically independent and prosperous Laos promotes the success of broader U.S. National Security Strategic goals.

Tim Devine

Photo: Flickr

grassroots campaignsIt is difficult to know how many people in Iran are living in poverty. As of January 2016, the World Bank has not listed this information. The CIA World Factbook last estimated in 2007 that 18.7 percent of Iran’s population lived below the poverty line; however, that information is nine years old. Thanks to social media we know two grassroots campaigns, Payane Kartonkhabi and “walls of kindness,” are trying to make life easier for impoverished Iranians.

Payane Kartonkhabi

Ali Heidari, an advertising manager in Tehran, told The Guardian about the tragedy he saw when he delivered meals to the homeless living in Harandi, a neighborhood in south Tehran, with his wife and son in May 2015.

Heidari simply asked friends and neighbors to donate meals for him to deliver, which grew into the formation of Payane Kartonkhabi, which means ending homelessness. The group still delivers meals, but as of October 2015, they began installing refrigerators to make nutritious food more easily accessible.

“The most necessary thing is nutrition,” Heidari said to The Guardian. “If a homeless person is well fed, he or she won’t so easily collapse and die.”

Payane Kartonkhabi took to social media using Facebook, Instagram and Telegram to spread awareness. The group is committed to ending homelessness, providing training workshops to help people find jobs and continuing their efforts to send recovering addicts to private treatment centers and covers the cost according to the Guardian.

“We are not doing anything special. We are just paying our debt to society,” Heidari told The Guardian. “If we have homeless people in Iran, it’s because at one point we were not caring enough toward our people. So now we are trying to compensate.”

Walls of Kindness

The first “wall of kindness” appeared in the north-eastern city of Mashhad with the saying, “If you don’t need it, leave it. If you need it, take it,” according to BBC News.

The man who created the “wall of kindness” in Mashhad wants to remain anonymous according to Hamshahri, a local Iranian newspaper. He told Hamshahri he was inspired by similar acts of kindness throughout the world and in Iran, like Payane Kartonkhabi’s refrigerator installations.

The creator of Mashhad’s wall of kindness has asked people on social media to continue giving, according to Hamshahri. “I’ve told them to bring clothes in small quantities so that those who come here know that clothes are always available,” the man told Hamshahri.

At least three more “walls of kindness” have sprung up across Iran since December according to Radio Free Europe.

Grassroots campaigns like these, with social media bringing people together, are helping to meet the immediate needs of the impoverished and homeless around the world.

Summer Jackson

Sources: BBC, CIA, World Bank, The Guardian, Instagram, RFERL
Photo: Real Iran

Chan_Zuckerberg_InitiativeMark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook, isn’t a stranger to making large donations. He and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, have already donated $1.6 billion to philanthropic causes.

But on Tuesday, Zuckerberg and Chan announced plans for something far greater.

In a Facebook post, the couple disclosed first the birth of their daughter Maxima, and then, more notably, a new project: the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

The new philanthropy is Zuckerberg’s pledge to donate 99 percent of his Facebook shares towards charitable donations over the course of his lifetime. It’s a stake that is currently valued at $45 billion.

According to Reuters, Zuckerberg said he intends to invest up to $1 billion of his shares each year over the next three years into the Initiative.

“Our initial areas of focus will be personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities,” wrote the couple. To date, however, they have not outlined specific organizations or causes they will fund.

Their drive in creating this Initiative came from the impending arrival of their new daughter. In a video, Zuckerberg stated, “Having this child has made us think about all of the things that should be improved in the world for her whole generation. The only way that we reach our full human potential is if we’re able to unlock the gifts of every person around the world.”

Overshadowing their intentions is the unique structure of the Initiative. Zuckerberg and Chan elected to create the Initiative as a limited liability company. That means, unlike a traditional charitable or philanthropic foundation, the Initiative can make political donations, lobby lawmakers, invest in businesses and recoup any profits from those investments.

According to Leslie Lenkowsky, professor of public affairs and philanthropy at Indiana University, “They are instead trying to achieve philanthropic purposes using a business model.”

Despite all this, Bill Gates, the wealthiest person in the world (with an estimated net worth of $85.2 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index) and his wife congratulated Zuckerberg and Chan.

“The example you’re setting today is an inspiration to us and the world,” they said. “We can be confident of this: Max and every child born today will grow up in a world that is better than the one we know now. As you say, ‘Seeds planted now will grow.’ Your work will bear fruit for many decades to come.”

Past donations made by Zuckerberg and Chan include a 2010 donation of $100 million for the improvement of Newark public schools, which met with some controversy. More recent donations include $20 million to EducationSuperHighway, which helps connect classrooms to the Internet, and a new acute care and trauma center at San Francisco General Hospital, where Chan works as a pediatrician.

Kara Buckley

Sources: BBC News, NY Times, Reuters 1, Reuters 2
Photo: Google Images

dev without borders
A 24-hour break poverty hackathon between Kenyans and Canadians aims to develop a solution to tackle rural poverty and to improve lives of Kenyans.

Developers Without Borders, a Canadian non-profit organization, hosted the hackathon. The non-profit runs an online platform connecting software developers worldwide with international development projects.

The hackathon took place in Nairobi and Toronto over Skype and provided an opportunity for more than 200 Canadian and Kenyan software developers to work together. The hackathon trained software developers to build SMS, hardware and mobile web solutions, which will improve health, education and agriculture to the people of rural Kenya.

Danielle Thé, founder of Developers Without Borders, said, “The core of Break Poverty Hackathons are to build cross-continental relationships between software developers in different countries. By listening to others before we build, hackathon attendees at Break Poverty will create technology that aren’t just cool, but immensely life changing for people living in poverty.”

Participants in Toronto spent part of the event learning about real issues on the ground in Kenya, then coming up with ideas that could improve conditions and issues people face on a daily basis. The developers worked together to create realistic solutions to education, business and farming problems. Some of the apps created could help residents in areas such as measuring the market prices of their agriculture or monitoring maternal health.

“The number one goal is increasing access to information,” Thé said.

The winning solutions from the Break Poverty hackathon will be implemented by Free the Children in some of Kenya’s most remote areas. Free the Children is an international charity and educational partner that works to free children and their families from poverty and exploitation.

Developers Without Borders believes that solutions to international development issues will not come about if people work in isolation. The non-profit wants to continue to tackle rural poverty around the world.

Jordan Connell

Sources: Development Diaries, Disrupt Africa, Free the Children, Metro News
Photo: Devs Without Borders

In South Africa, one company is tapping into an alternative yet ubiquitous source for drinking water—the air.

Water From Air is pioneering technology for use in domestic settings that allows clean, drinkable water to be harvested from the humidity in the air.

Even though the technology used in Water From Air’s machines is not new, the company’s CEO Ray de Vries told news24 that his company is the first to make home units available.

The machines operate according to the humidity in the air, drawing it in and cooling it to allow condensation to form in a collecting tank. The collected water is then disinfected with ultraviolet light and filtered to remove further impurities.

Since the water is drawn from the air rather than the ground, it is already cleaner and excludes contaminants more commonly found in terrestrial sources. The result is “100 percent pure and clean” water, according to de Vries.

The company manufactures different sized machines powered through solar, diesel or gas. The most popular machine is the AW3 model designed for domestic use in households and clinics. Depending on the humidity of the surrounding air, the AW3 model is capable of capturing 32 liters of water per day.

Models designed for larger scale use are estimated to be capable of producing up to 1,500 liters of water per day. The company estimates that in cities such as Cape Town where humidity averages approximately 75 percent, the device might be able to provide an average of between 25 and 28 liters of water every day.

Water From Air has sold upwards of 400 units since its debut earlier this year. As severe drought conditions persist in South Africa, the company is trying to keep pace with the growing demand for its units.

The main idea behind marketing the devices is to provide households in drier regions with a more secure supply of water, especially in times of water shortage or drought. The Water From Air devices enable users to directly harvest water from the surrounding air instead of transporting the precious resource from other areas of the country.

Unlike more expensive alternatives such as desalination, Water From Air also offers a cost-effective and novel approach geared towards sustainability.

The machines are manufactured in the company’s native South Africa, “made by South Africans for South Africans” according to de Vries. Water From Air expects to provide 300 initial jobs to South Africans and potentially add another 600 as the company’s operations continue to grow.

Jace White

Sources: Water From Air, Business Standard, News24
Photo: Flickr