Period Poverty in BrazilPeriod poverty is defined as a lack of access to menstrual hygiene resources and education. This includes access to sanitary products, washing facilities and waste management services. Financial barriers exacerbate period poverty in Brazil. Menstrual products in Brazil are taxed because they are not categorized as essential. In fact, in São Paulo, taxes form 34% of the price of menstrual products. Individuals and organizations are dedicating efforts to addressing period poverty globally.

Period Poverty in Brazil

In Brazil, not only is access to period products an issue but females also have no or limited access to hygiene facilities. Roughly 39% of schools lack handwashing facilities. This inadequacy directly impacts girls’ school attendance because, during menstruation, girls need a bathroom facility to change their tampons or pads and wash their hands. Outside of school, roughly five million Brazilians live in places that do not have adequate bathroom facilities.

Menstrual Stigma

There are about 5,000 known euphemisms for the words “menstruation” or “period.” This simple fact illustrates the shame associated with menstruation. Cultural taboos, discrimination, lack of education and period poverty perpetuate menstrual stigma. The consequences are that girls miss school while menstruating due to stigmas and taboos as well as a lack of access to menstrual hygiene products. Missing school means falling behind on education and increases the likelihood of girls dropping out of school altogether. Without education, girls are at higher risk of child marriage, early pregnancy and violence. Lack of education continues the cycle of poverty, limiting the futures of girls. This clearly illustrates how period poverty affects overall poverty.

Helena Branco

Ordinary young Brazilians are taking action to address period poverty in Brazil. Helena Branco is an 18-year-old Brazilian inspiring change and finding solutions to period poverty. After learning that the Brazilian government did not view period products as an essential resource, she took action. Branco and her teammates are part of Girl Up, a global movement for gender equality created by the United Nations Foundation.

After extensive research, the team’s first step was to focus efforts on supplying menstrual products to people suffering from the financial impact of COVID-19. The team developed the campaign #AbsorventeUrgente (#UrgentPads) to encourage local communities to donate menstrual products to organizations supporting vulnerable people during COVID-19. A total of 16 girl-led gender equality clubs from seven different Brazilian states took part in this effort. Through the campaign, the team successfully distributed more than 60,000 period products, raised $3,200 and directly impacted more than 3,000 people.

Eliminating Global Period Poverty

Branco and her team are bringing attention to the issue of period poverty in Brazil, highlighting barriers such as menstrual product taxes that discriminate against women. It is vital to address issues of period poverty in order to eliminate stigma and normalize the idea of menstruation in all nations. Efforts to address period poverty are essentially efforts to address global poverty overall.

Rachel Wolf
Photo: Flickr

Meryl Streep's Humanitarian EffortsOften called one of the greatest living actresses, Meryl Streep is one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed stars. With a film career dating back to the 1970s, Streep has racked up an impressive resume, winning two Academy Awards, two Emmy Awards, and seven Golden Globes — among other awards and countless nominations.

Known for her impressive accent impressions and desire to perfect any role she plays, Streep is extremely dedicated to anything she finds passion in. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that when it comes to philanthropy and humanitarian work, Meryl Streep is dedicated to every cause she supports.

Girl Up

Girl Up is a massive organization that focuses on empowering young women and girls. Many influential people have supported the organization in various ways, including fashion photographer Nigel Barker, former NFL player Wade Davis, and Meryl Streep herself. One of Girl Up’s biggest priorities is girls’ education worldwide.

Through a collaboration with the organization, Meryl Streep co-narrated the film Girl Rising. The 2013 film highlights stories of nine girls from Sierra Leone, Haiti, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Peru, Egypt, Nepal, India, and Cambodia. The film highlights the various obstacles girls in underdeveloped and developing countries face to become educated. By lending her voice to a film with such an important message, Streep inevitably brings in an audience that may not have otherwise tuned in.

Gender Equality

Meryl Streep has also been involved with a variety of panels and events dedicated to gender equality. In 2015, she attended the sixth annual Women in the World Summit — an event started by journalist Tina Brown in an effort to make people “engage with the world and see beyond our own”. Meryl Streep was part of a “Three Great Women of Film” panel, in which she stressed the importance of empathy, telling the audience that nothing matters more than a film’s ability to make people feel what others feel.

In 2016, the White House screened the CNN documentary We Will Rise, which highlights girls in the pursuit of education in Liberia and Morocco. Then-first lady Michelle Obama spoke about her travels to these two countries in Africa, and how she saw the troubles that many girls face concerning education. Meryl Streep, staying true to her passion for global girl’s’ education, accompanied Michelle Obama during these travels. Meryl Streep, therefore, was very supportive of the former first lady’s Let Girls Learn Initiative, an initiative that focused heavily on the reasons that girls are unable to receive an education.

Additionally, Meryl Streep has signed several letters and campaigns calling for gender equality. In 2015, the ONE Campaigned penned an open letter calling for women to be focused on in the UN summit; Streep signed this letter. She also signed another letter on International Women’s Day in 2016 in the name of gender equality.

Streep is a spokesperson for the National Women’s History Museum and has made various donations to the museum. She notably supports the Women in the World Foundation. First launched in 2011, the foundation uses the power of the Internet to determine which causes need which solutions — awarding grants as is seen fit. Streep also supports CHIME FOR CHANGE, which has successfully funded hundreds of projects in 80 countries in the name of health and justice for women and girls.

Silver Mountain Foundation for the Arts

In addition to independently supporting various organizations, Meryl Streep’s humanitarian efforts blossomed into her foundation. Based in New Jersey, USA, Silver Mountain Foundation for the Arts is Meryl Streep’s organization co-founded with her husband, sculptor Donald Gummer. Much of the funding goes towards arts-based organizations such as Mass MoCA, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the National Museum of Women’s History.

However, the Silver Mountain Foundation for the Arts has also made contributions to women’s and environmental organizations such as Women for Women International, the Women’s Refugee Commissions, the Rainforest Foundation, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Additional Support

Since its establishment in 1983, Streep has created a foundation that gives to a multitude of organizations. However, as highlighted previously, Meryl Streep’s humanitarian efforts don’t stop there. She also supports Artists for Peace and Justice, an organization that has donation 100 percent of its donated funds to Haiti in the aftermath of its disastrous earthquake.

Meryl Streep’s humanitarian efforts expand to alleviating hunger and poverty through her support for causes like Heifer International. This organization provides livestock as well as training to low-income families. By providing training, these families and communities can expand their livestock and become self-sufficient — which is the ultimate goal in poverty relief.

With a history of giving back almost as extensive as her film career, it’s clear that Meryl Streep’s humanitarian efforts are extremely important to her. Largely devoted to causes pushing for equality, Streep has served as an excellent role model for what a philanthropic celebrity looks like.

Emily Cormier
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Guatemala
Attending school in Guatemala presents many challenges. In a country where poverty and inequality are prevalent, indigenous females are the most disadvantaged and vulnerable group. With little protection of the rights of adolescent girls, many girls and women do not attend school and are forced into child labor. More than two million children in Guatemala are not attending school; the majority of these are indigenous girls living in rural areas.

Barriers to Education in Guatemala Affect Girls Most

The prevalence of child labor is higher in Guatemala than anywhere else in Latin America. With more than half the population living below the poverty line, many children can not afford the cost of school. Dropout rates for girls are high. According to the Cooperative for Education, a nonprofit organization providing educational resources and opportunities to indigenous Mayan schoolchildren, an indigenous Guatemalan woman stays in school for an average of 1.8 years. They often leave school early to help support their family, take care of siblings or get married.

Furthermore, more than half of the Guatemalan population is indigenous and less than 30 percent of poor, rural indigenous girls are enrolled in secondary education. By age 17, only 26 percent of indigenous girls are still enrolled in school.

Even for those who are able to attend school, particularly in rural schools and in indigenous communities, they find that they are poorly funded and do not have adequate books, curriculum guides, literacy materials and exam prep guides. Nine out of 10 schools in rural Guatemala lack books. Another problem, especially in rural areas, is a lack of proper training for teachers. This stems from the challenges of recruiting and retaining quality teachers in rural schools.

USAID Partners with Guatemalan Ministry of Education

Despite these challenges, there are actions being taken by organizations to improve the quality of education. USAID works in partnership with the government of Guatemala to improve primary level reading skills and provide educational opportunities for out-of-school youth. These efforts have resulted in improvements to the education system in many ways, as the Ministry of Education has now developed strong K-9 national education standards.

USAID has also implemented an innovative assessment system for entry-level teachers using standardized testing in Spanish and nine Mayan languages to hire and place teachers. It was also through USAID support that the ministry improved its transparency and efficiency of its processes, which led to it receiving an international certification of its management system. The ministry is the first public institution to meet this standard.

Girl Up Gives Special Focus to Girls’ Education in Guatemala

The need for investment in girls’ education in Guatemala is crucial. Education can help fight the disadvantages indigenous girls in Guatemala face, such as limited schooling, early marriage, frequent childbearing and chronic poverty. Work supporting girls’ education in Guatemala is progressing. Girl Up supports adolescent girls in Guatemala by funding a United Nations joint program which delivers an integrated and comprehensive package of services in partnership with national partners and local implementing organizations. The programs address complex challenges which limit indigenous girls’ opportunities for success.

Girl Up has four strategic goals, including:

  • Providing an increase in social investments for adolescent girls
  • Increasing the legal age of marriage to 18
  • Reducing teenage pregnancy, sexual violence and trafficking
  • Supporting civil efforts that demand comprehensive sex education

It also works to strengthen government support and capacity with a specific focus on indigenous girls in rural areas with Guatemala’s Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and the National Institute of Statistics to support adolescent girls from around the country.

Building partnerships with local organizations is also a focus of Girl Up. Through this, it has implemented activities that have strengthened the social skills of hundreds of adolescent girls from rural communities. Girl Up supports U.N. programs in two of the most excluded and vulnerable regions of Guatemala, Totonicapán and Huehuetenango. This support has included providing educational materials in indigenous languages to make learning easier and giving girls forced to drop out of school a second chance.

Through these investments in girls’ education in Guatemala, lives will be changed. Girls will have the ability to achieve their goals, improve their futures and change their communities.

– Ashley Quigley
Photo: Flickr

Sydney Faler and Molly Foulkes of Dundee-Crown High School in Illinois started the Girl Up Dundee student club at their school with the hope of helping girls in need across the globe.

The club is a member of the U.N.’s Girl Up campaign which aims to help girls have access to education, health care, safe living conditions as well as social and economic opportunities. The U.N.’s program helps girls in Guatemala, India, Malawi, Liberia and Ethiopia, which are among the toughest places for girls to live.

In the beginning, Faler and Foulkes wanted to do something positive, but they were not sure how to make a difference. Inspired by Emma Watson’s U.N. speech on gender equality, they decided to start the club as a way to collect support and resources for girls.

Foulkes said, “It’s a way for me as a high school student, where I don’t really have that voice, to be able to impact something globally.”

Their sentiment proved to be a common one, as the club started with 35 members and has more people joining every week. In the digital age, students seem more aware of problems in the world and they wish to have a positive impact.

Foulkes said that “we’re becoming a more globalized nation and world. It’s important to realize there are so many more people out there than just our community.” With the planet becoming smaller due to everyone connecting through the internet and social media, issues that were previously unknown are now being brought to the forefront.

People everywhere are coming together to help each other, as evidenced by the growing popularity of the Girl Up student club, which is just one of 1,000 registered Girl Up clubs in the United States. The U.N.’s Girl Up club is also represented in 51 countries around the world.

So far this year, the Dundee-Crown chapter of the Girl Up student club has raised over $300 for girls in Guatemala. The funds will provide bicycles for girls in Guatemala, so they can get to school safely. With access to education, the girls will likely be healthier, more financially responsible and better qualified for good jobs.

Most Guatemalan girls in the Girl Up-supported regions only receive about three years of schooling. This lack of education means that most girls never learn to read and write. In addition, without access to education, girls are more at risk for early marriage and childbearing, thus continuing the cycle of poverty.

In order to help break the cycle, Faler and Foulkes also plan to host a gala event with local community members so they can spread their message. Foulkes said that “a lot of people don’t really understand what we’re doing.”

They believe that once they inform others, they will reach their goal of raising $500 to help more girls in need. These two high school students’ actions are having positive impacts for girls who desperately need it.

Andrew Wildes

Sources: Daily Herald, Girl Up
Photo: Cloud Front

shot@Life Provides Vaccinations for Impoverished Nations - BORGEN
The United Nations Foundation [email protected] aims to give everyone the shot they need to live a happy and healthy life.

The [email protected] campaign is almost exactly like it sounds. This campaign works with volunteers to provide much needed vaccinations to the extremely impoverished nations of the world through advocacy and donations.

[email protected] educates, connects and empowers the American people to support vaccines, and vaccinations are one of the most cost-effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries.

The campaign is basically a national call to action for a worthy global cause. The foundation rallies the American public and members of Congress to help them understand the fact that together they can save a child’s life every 20 seconds just by expanding access to vaccines.

The global foundation encourages the American public to learn about, advocate for and donate to provide vaccines. [email protected] aims to noticeably decrease vaccine-preventable childhood deaths and give every child a shot at a healthy life within the next 10 years.

This campaign began in 1998 as a U.S. public charity by philanthropist Ted Turner. The [email protected] campaign was created in order to build upon the U.N. Foundation’s 13-year legacy in global vaccine efforts as a leading partner in the Measles Initiative and Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

The [email protected] campaign draws on their core abilities through advocacy, community-building and communications in order to raise awareness for their cause.

There are a few causes in which they already have seen excellent success: the campaigns Nothing But Nets and Girl Up.

The Nothing But Nets campaign is dedicated to providing insecticide treated mosquito nets to impoverished peoples in order to prevent the spread of malaria from mosquito bites.

The Girl Up campaign was started in order to provide aid to young girls in poverty-laden nations. This campaign utilizes the help of teenage leaders in order to raise awareness about how young girls are being treated around the world.

[email protected] is also partnered with some of the largest names in fundraising, nonprofits and charities. They have received partnerships from UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Lions Club, to name a few.

This U.N. Foundation is uniquely positioned with in-house expertise and leadership to successfully bring [email protected] to the awareness of an American audience.

The nonprofit also utilizes social media in participation with news companies and webpages to give a portion of its advertising revenue on each company’s behalf for each like or share an article or blog post receives.

Providing vaccinations to the world’s poor is another huge step in the process to end global poverty. Getting vaccinations mean children will not die from diseases that are preventable such as smallpox, measles, polio and tuberculosis.

More children living into adulthood could potentially slow the birthrates and stabilize the life-expectancy of the people living in African nations as well as extremely impoverished parts of India.

The [email protected] campaign is dedicated to providing peace of mind to all the nations of the world.

– Cara Morgan

Sources: CDC, GirlUp, HuffPost 1, HufFPost 2, NothingButNets, [email protected]
Photo: Children’s Futures

In October 2012, the Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old girl, for speaking up about women’s rights and education. She survived the brutal attempt on her life and in response, became determined to help every child in the world receive an education. To help make this dream a reality, she started the Malala Fund.

The Malala Fund was created with the help of an already established non-profit, Vital Voices, which encourages women’s empowerment and leadership. The Malala Fund’s aim is to support education for children across the globe.

Since the attempt on her life, much of the world has stood up in support of Malala. She even had a song titled Ricochet (Malala’s Song) written about her by a girl named Samantha Anne Martin; all of the profit created from the song on iTunes will go towards the Malala Fund. On February 4th, Malala released a video stating that she was still alive and doing well after various surgeries, and that now she will dedicate her life to serving girls across the world who need her and need help attaining an education.

Malala’s father has told ABC that he believes his daughter should serve as an inspiration to the children of the world. Perhaps he is right, because despite the fact she almost died for supporting the right woman to receive an education, she has become even more committed to the cause following her recovery.

Two important organizations, The United Nations Foundation and Girl Up, have given their support to the Malala Fund and her cause. Some militants still wish to harm Malala but nonetheless, Malala has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and remains optimistic.

To donate to the Malala Fund, see the Democracy in Action webpage.

– Corina Balsamo

Sources: ABC News, Vital Voices, New York Times
Photo: The Daily Beast