Activists Fighting World Poverty
Hunger is a prevalent issue that impacts children, families and individuals in countries across the globe. Despite the major scale of this issue, determined individuals can play major roles in providing food security to thousands. Sharing their ideas and resources on how to reduce hunger around the world, here are four activists fighting global poverty.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani education activist. The Taliban shot her in the head in 2012 for publicly advocating an end to gender discrimination in education. Since then, she has become a U.N. Messenger of Peace, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and the co-founder of the Malala Fund. Oftentimes, those in poverty cannot receive quality education which also limits social mobility. The Malala Fund is addressing world poverty by providing education to millions of girls. This organization created the Education Champion Network, which helps provide education to girls in Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey. The Malala Fund has partnered with Apple Inc. and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as individuals such as Angelina Jolie, to help support the 130 million girls being denied an education around the world.

Ernesto Sirolli

Ernesto Sirolli is a leading activist on economic development for those in poverty. Born in Italy, Sirolli worked for an Italian NGO in Zambia. This NGO taught Zambian communities how to grow Italian vegetables. There was resistance to the NGO’s efforts and, as a result, the organization paid wages to the Zambian communities working with them. Before the communities could harvest the vegetables, Sirolli witnessed a group of hippos rise out of the river and devour their new agriculture. Only then did he understand the true threat of local resistance.

From this experience, Sirolli discovered the issues that arise from what he calls “dead aid” from many Western countries. He questioned whether the more than $2 trillion from Western countries dedicated to developing communities was being used in a non-patronizing way. He noticed that NGOs rarely worked with local entrepreneurs on an individual level.

Sirolli developed a philosophy of economic aid for those in poverty in which the primary principle is respect. He created the Sirolli Institute International Enterprise Facilitation Inc., a network that gives local entrepreneurs an opportunity to develop their own ideas and benefit their own communities. Sirolli offers local people privacy, confidentiality, dedicated service and other essential components of entrepreneurship.

Louise Fresco

Louise Fresco is a Dutch researcher and activist who advocates for smart agriculture as the key to fighting world hunger. In 2000, she became the assistant-director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome and brought her ideas to an international scale. Fresco uses the evolution of bread as a metaphor to explain food’s role in the development of modern society.

Over time, bread has evolved from a staple to a cheap contributor to obesity. Additionally, Fresco discusses the large-scale production that has resulted in the mass destruction of landscapes. This negative association, combined with the negative environmental impacts of mass production, has created a counter-culture where people prefer to buy bread made from small-scale sellers. However, Fresco argues, buying from small-scale producers is a luxury solution for those who can afford it. People in poverty simply benefit from diverse, low-cost and safe bread.

Cheap bread symbolizes that food has become increasingly affordable. The human race currently has more available food than ever before, which allows people to focus on other activities. Humans have not had the luxury of ample food production until now when it has become so cheap compared to previous years. Fresco believes that to solve world hunger, countries must increase food production with subtle mechanization to avoid large-scale environmental destruction.

Melinda Gates

Along with her husband Bill, Melinda Gates is the co-founder of the world’s largest private charitable organization. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a $40 billion trust endowment that helps solve issues including global health, global development, global policy and global growth or opportunity.

Melinda Gates has used her position to focus on empowering women around the world. Specifically, Gates concentrates on family planning, maternal well-being and child health. She has spread awareness about “time poverty,” which is the idea that many women perform hours of unpaid work that can deprive them of their potential.

The Gates Foundation has donated to Mama Cash and Prospera, two prominent international women’s funds. Since 2012, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has put upwards of $560 million toward women’s health.

Each of these activists fighting world poverty is taking a different approach to eradicating global hunger. However, the culmination of these efforts is making a major impact around the world, one person at a time.

– Camryn Anthony
Photo: Pixabay

education in pakistan
Proper education is crucial to the development of any country. Countries with excellent education systems like Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden have populations that generally live longer and have less violent conflict and poverty. This is why investment in education is critical for a stable state. While the country has shown improvement over the past decade, education in Pakistan has a long way to go.

  1. According to the most recent data published by UNICEF, the rate of youth literacy in Pakistan is a little over 60%. Meanwhile, the adult literacy rate is closer to 50% within the country.
  2. The number of terrorist attacks on educational institutions within Pakistan has increased in recent years. The Washington Post reports there were 82 attacks from 2000 to 2008, and 642 attacks from 2009 to 2013. The Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP), established in 2007, has taken credit for many of these attacks. In 2014, seven gunmen killed over 150 people in a public school in Peshawar. The individuals responsible were found to have ties to the TTP. Through fear, these extremist organizations discourage people from living in Pakistan from receiving an education.
  3. In Pakistan, over half of the adolescents not enrolled in school are female. Young girls face many barriers to education within Pakistan, but none as significant as the threats of violence. In 2012, Malala Yousafzai became the face of Pakistan’s female education problem after she was brutally attacked by a Taliban militant for speaking out against the oppressive regime.
  4. The Malala Fund, co-founded by Malala Yousafzai, is dedicated to helping girls receive an education. The organization helps to rebuild schools and increase female enrollment within vulnerable Pakistani and global communities.
  5. Pakistan’s constitution ensures the right to education for children between the ages of five and 16. However, government expenditure on education accounts for only two percent of the country’s total GDP according to the most recent data. Consequentially, schools are filled with unqualified teachers and crumbling infrastructure.
  6. Families living in poverty often rely on their children to contribute to the household’s income. Unfortunately, this responsibility can impede upon their ability to attend school.
  7. USAID has made a significant impact on education in Pakistan through its aid efforts. In addition to providing scholarships, the government agency has helped to repair over 1,000 schools and train thousands of teachers.

Pakistan continues to struggle with a variety of issues including poverty and national security. The country’s instability has taken a toll on its education system, but with the help of the international community, there is hope for substantial change within the country.

Saroja Koneru


z1 Syria flagJuly 12 marked the 18th birthday of the Pakistani education activist and youngest-ever Nobel Peace laureate, Malala Yousafzai. Considering her continued advocacy for children’s education despite being shot by the Taliban, it should be of no surprise that she celebrated her 18th birthday by opening a secondary school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, near Syria’s border.

The Malala Yousafzai All-Girls School is supported by the Malala Fund, Yousafzai’s nonprofit organization, which believes every girl should be able to achieve her dreams through education. The school will serve 200 Syrian girls between the ages of 14 and 18 living in refugee camps in the Bekaa Valley region along the Lebanese border. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, Lebanon hosts more than 1 million of Syria’s 4 million refugees.

According to the Malala Fund’s blog, the school’s curriculum allows students to receive baccalaureate or vocational degrees through the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education. It also gives students who cannot commit to the four-year baccalaureate the option to receive skills that will aid them in finding work and generating their own incomes.

At the inauguration of the Malala Yousafzai All-Girls School, Yousafzi said “I am honored to mark my 18th birthday with the brave and inspiring girls of Syria. I am here on behalf of the 28 million children who are kept from the classroom because of armed conflict. Their courage and dedication to continue their schooling in difficult conditions inspires people around the world and it is our duty to stand by them […] On this day, I have a message for the leaders of this country, this region and the world — you are failing the Syrian people, especially Syria’s children. This is a heartbreaking tragedy—the world’s worst refugee crisis in decades.”

Malala also called on world leaders to invest in “books not bullets.” She had previously asked world leaders to give an additional $39 billion each year to secure 12 years of free schooling for children around the world. According to the Malala Fund:

  • 62 million girls are not attending school around the world;
  • The poorest girls only spend an average of 3 years acquiring an education;
  • There are 70 countries where girls have faced violence for trying to go to school.

Isn’t it time we changed that so the world’s poor can have the opportunity for a better life?

Paula Acevedo

Sources: The Malala Fund, NPR, PBS

Fighting for one’s own education in this world is an honorable feat that many aspire for but sadly do not accomplish. At the age of seventeen Malala Yousafzai did just that. She is known for being the youngest person to receive a Nobel Peace Prize for her activism for right for women to have access to education.

Malala was born in 1997 in Mingora, Pakistan, where she was not banned from the opportunity to have an education. Yousafzai attended a school that her father founded. Once the Taliban began attacking their rights to education, she knew she had to say something about it. She gave a speech in 2008 entitled “How dare the Taliban take away my right to basic education?” This was just the start of her growing platform of writing and speeches in activism towards girl’s education.

In 2009, Yousafzai made her first BBC blog post that exposed the daily hardships that girls faced daily in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. Her posts were under a pseudonym that eventually was discovered. At the time the Taliban in the area was banning all girls from attending school, this did not stop Yousafzai from her protests. Even after her name was discovered, Yousafzai continued to post blogs about the daily violence, intimidation, ridicule and suffering that the girls faced.

As her popularity grew, the Taliban began to view Yousafzai as a threat. The uprisings built up and on October 2012, as Yousafzai was boarding her school bus, she was shot three times. The injury was so serious she was sent to Birmingham, England for further care. Even after the attempted assassination, Yousafzai continued to be an activist for women’s rights, especially education.

The United Nations petition for all children to have access to education by 2015, was inspired by Yousafzai. She has been honored with countless awards, including the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize along with Kailash Satyarthi of India, who is fighting against child slavery around the world. Both individuals were awarded because of their efforts towards “their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”

Malala Yousafzai is a perfect example that if you have a strong enough belief in something, you do have the power to enact change. She stood up for not only herself, but girls all across the world who were told that they would not be given an education.

The power of one voice is truly strong enough to rattle the world.

Charisma Thapa

Sources: Optimist World, A&E, USA Today

Photo: Flickr

By the age of 17, if a teenager has secured a part-time job, a driver’s license and takes home a good report card, they typically feel pretty accomplished. But 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai has already experienced and accomplished more than most do in a lifetime. On October 10, she added another accomplishment to her list: the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Kailash Satyarthi, “for their struggle against oppression of young people and children and children’s right to education,” Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Thorbjorn Jagland said.

To get to this monumental point in her life, Yousafzai has been through incomprehensible trials, including threats against her life. But through it all, this young girl has been a beacon to the girls in undeveloped countries, in particular Pakistan.

Yousafzai’s story began in 2009, when the young girl took to a blog to transcribe her thoughts and feelings of the world around her, in her native home of Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan. The Taliban announced an edict that no girls were to be educated. Yousafzai, whose father is a schoolteacher, knew the value of education and chose to attend school, even after the edict was issued.

While journaling her days online, Yousafzai started to receive death threats from the Taliban. On Oct. 9, 2012, the threats came to life.

CNN reported of her attack, “[Gunmen] halted the van…demanded the other girls in the vehicle to identify her…she was pointed out. At least one gunman opened fire, wounding three girls.” The two girls survived the shooting and Malala sustained shots to the head and neck.

Malala underwent a surgery to remove the bullets, and doctors had to remove a part of her skull to reduce brain swelling. She was eventually taken to Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital in the U.K. via helicopter. This young girl who fought for her right to be educated now was fighting to recover from what could have been life-ending injuries. After close to three months, Malala was released from the hospital to rehabilitate in her family’s new home.

Word spread globally of the young heroine, resulting in the United Nations creating a global education campaign entitled, “I am Malala,” even proclaiming November 10 to be Malala Day, focusing on “’Malala and the 32 million girls like Malala not in school.”

Yousafzai recovered from her wounds and returned to school at Edgbaston High School for Girls in Birmingham, England. Since the ordeal, she has become a light for girls all over the world.

Yousafzai has created the Malala Fund, which focuses on educating girls in Pakistan, Kenya, Nigeria and the girls who are Syrian refugees in Jordan. She has also published a book entitled “I am Malala.”

This advocate for education and most recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize still has work cut out for her. A CNN infographic from 2012 showed over 4.5 million girls are still out of school in Pakistan.

Even though the statistic is staggering, Yousafzai’s influence can be seen in young girls in her home country. Ahmad Shah, who was an aide to Yousafzai’s father and an educator himself, asked a young girl what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her reply? “I want to become Malala Yousafzai to work for education and peace,” Shah recalled.

The world has its eyes on Malala Yousafzai for now and for the foreseeable future because she is sure to change the world, one little girl at a time.

– Kori Withers

Sources: CNN, CNN 2, The Washington Post, Nobel Prize
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Pakistan has allowed the Taliban to flourish.  By promising food security, shelter, protection, and education, the Taliban has been able to gain support in this region. But the Taliban’s presence has had a detrimental effect on Pakistani schools, a strategy that has kept the region impoverished and under Taliban control.  “Education is a prerequisite for development,” said Shakil Ahmad, author of “The Taliban and Girl’s Education in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Education is also the key to releasing Pakistan from the grips of the Taliban. When a population does not understand basic politics or economics, it is easy to manipulate them. As a result, most Pakistani schools have either been bombed or taken over by Taliban members, who turn the schools into recruitment programs, where students are taught extremism and trained for terrorism.

For women, the Taliban’s crusade against education is especially damaging. Taliban rule means a strict interpretation of Islamic and Pashtun customary law, which states that women are not allowed to work outside the home, go unveiled, or leave the house without a male family member.  Religious police roam the streets, handing out harsh punishments for anyone in violation of Pashtun.  All girls’ schools were outlawed in January 2009, and  the Taliban threatened that anyone caught educating a girl or any girl receiving an education would be blown up or attacked with acid.

By now, most of the world knows of Malala Yousafazi, the teenage girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban while on her way to school.  This was not a random incident; she was targeted for speaking out in favor of girls’ education.  Today she has fully recovered, and now leads the Malala Fund, an organization to improve education for girls in the developing world.  The mission is a simple one with seemingly insurmountable challenges—educate girls where education is outlawed.  However, Malala believes in taking small steps: her mantra is “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”

Stephanie Lamm

Sources: Lund University Department of Sociology, Malala Fund
Photo: Center for Economic Research in Pakistan