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#ActForEqual
#ActForEqual has become popular on Twitter thanks to the recent Generation Equality Forum, which aims to push the progression of gender equality. Women of the U.N. created the Generation Equality Forum as a global gathering to discuss gender equality. The governments of Mexico and France co-hosted the forum, partnering with youth and civil society. Since the pandemic, existing gender inequalities have become worse. COVID-19 has intensified gender inequality in terms of violence, job loss, income, access to technology and more. The forum aims to confront these issues by “launching a series of concrete, ambitious and transformative actions.” It has set tangible goals for 2030.

Importance of the Hashtag

The Generation Equality Forum has used #ActForEqual to draw attention and bring about action. #ActforEqual allows people to show their support simply by posting the hashtag on social media. It is not only a hashtag but a call to action, urging people to do their part in raising awareness. It also calls attention to the fact that COVID-19 continues to worsen gender inequality globally.

COVID-19 and Gender Inequality

COVID-19 has affected people across the globe in many ways. However, it has disproportionately hurt women.

  • Job losses among women are 24% more likely than among men.
  • Women’s average income could fall by 50% more than men’s.
  • Statistically, one in every three women will face violence during her lifetime, a number that the pandemic has exacerbated.
  • Women are 10% less likely to have access to the internet than men.
  • Only 45% of women can make decisions about their bodily autonomy, including their sexual and reproductive health.

On top of these factors, Mckinsey and Company estimates that women’s job loss rates due to COVID-19 are about 1.8 times higher than men’s job loss rates globally. Furthermore, 4.5% of women’s work is at risk because of the pandemic, compared with 3.8% of men’s work. Through progressive action, the Generation Equality Forum aims to reduce these figures.

Taking Action Against Gender Equality

The Generation Equality Forum has created action coalitions that focus on the most critical areas of gender equality. These coalitions “catalyze collective action, spark global and local conversations among generations, drive increased public and private investment and deliver concrete, game-changing results.” Each focuses on a particular issue. The six coalitions aim to:

  • Promote feminist action in relation to climate.
  • Stop gender-based violence.
  • Boost feminist movements and leadership.
  • Promote economic justice and rights.
  • Guarantee women’s bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
  • Use technology and innovation to achieve gender equality.

By focusing on these areas, action coalition leaders plan to see concrete results over the next five years that will lead to lasting change regarding gender equality.

Despite the increased challenges regarding equality between men and women during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Generation Equality Forum is playing its part to raise awareness. These efforts have the potential to elevate women, placing them in an equal position to men across the globe.

– Ariel Dowdy
Photo: Flickr

Generation Equality Forum, Working Toward Gender Equality Around The WorldFrom June 30 to July 2, the United Nations Women held a global meeting in Paris consisting of representatives from around the world. This meeting was called the Generation Equality Forum and aimed to assess the progress the world has made in terms of gender equality.

What is the Generation Equality Forum?

The global meeting brought together the U.N. Women, the governments of Mexico and France and a total of 50,000 people in order to create an action plan for the immediate progress for global gender equality. The forum had some target areas that the representatives wanted to focus on discussing. These areas included gender violence, economic justice, autonomy, reproductive health, climate justice action taken by feminists and feminist leadership.

The Beijing Women’s Conference 1995

According to U.N. Women, the World Conference on Women in Beijing 25 years ago marked a “turning point for the global agenda for women’s equality,” as it resulted in the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This declaration set out goals for the advancement of women and gender equality and included a plan to meet again in 25 years to reassess. As a result, the main goal of the forum this year was to look at how far the world had come since 1995.

The 25-year review showed further global progress can be made to advance gender equality, especially amid COVID-19. In fact, studies found that countries will need to implement significant action to meet their gender equality goals by the target year of 2030. The main reason for this lack of progress: a corresponding lack of funding.

Why Decreasing the Gender Gap is Important

The COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting women. This has affected their education, employment and health. As a result, decreasing the gender gap is more important than ever today. By making women a focal point of economic recovery plans, the world can rebuild the economy equitably.

Additionally, women become affected by poverty at much higher rates than men. For example, women do almost three times the amount of unpaid work than men do, which usually involves childcare and housework. Moreover, 62% of women worldwide are active in the workforce compared to 93% of men. As a result, women from the age range 25-34 are 25% more likely to live in extreme poverty. If the world were to close this gap, the global GDP could increase by 35% on average. Helping women around the world and improving gender equality works to help all people around the world.

Looking to the Future

The Generation Equality Forum created a five-year action plan to stimulate change going forward at a quicker rate than before. This involved $40 billion of investments and commitments from various governments and organizations. Some of these commitments include:

  • U.S. government’s commitment of $175 million to prevent and address gender violence
  • Malala Fund’s commitment of $20 million for girls education activists
  • Open Society Foundation’s commitment of $100 million over five years for feminist political mobilization
  • Government of Bangladesh’s commitment to increase women participation in technology to 25% by 2026
  • Implementation of free care for pregnant women in Burkina Faso

The Generation Equality Forum helped countries, agencies and organizational renew global commitments to gender equality goals. While there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equality around the world, the forum has made progress in setting specific, concrete goals for countries to strive toward.

Closing the gender gap will help to raise women around the world above the poverty line and stimulate economies around the globe. It is pertinent that the world continues to fight for equality and make progress as they have with this forum.

Alessandra Heitmann
Photo: Flickr

Child Refugees in MexicoIn recent years, Mexico has become an increasingly significant place of asylum. More than 70,000 refugees have submitted asylum applications in 2019, and despite an initial drop in applications in 2020 due to the pandemic, COVID-19 claims for asylum in December 2020 hit a record high. The well-being of child refugees in Mexico is of particular concern.

Child Refugees in Mexico

People are arriving in Mexico from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela in search of safety, local integration, Mexican residency and a pathway to U.S. citizenship. In 2020, one in five refugees were children. With such alarming demographics, it has been essential for Mexico to address its overwhelming influx of asylum-seekers and find solutions to protect those vulnerable, especially children.

COVID-19 has heightened poverty among child migrants. Child refugees in Mexico are escaping forced recruitment, gang violence and crime that is a daily reality in their Central American countries. This has resulted in displacement, food scarcity and poverty. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, levels of insecurity amongst these children have only increased, with about 5,000 children (60% unaccompanied) returning to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

COVID-19 has devastated children and families as extended lockdowns, school closures, stalled essential economic activities, neglected migrant reparations and rising violence has escalated vulnerability. Children seeking asylum are most affected by the virus due to the lack of access to safe water, sanitation and other essential services. Restricted access to international protection and regular migration pathways are other obstacles they are facing as they search for safety.

UNICEF has responded with efforts guided by the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action that focus on providing 2.3 million children and their families, including children affected by human mobility,  protection from the exposure of COVID-19.

Trump Policy Endangers Child Refugees

Since the Trump administration’s 2019 Remain-in-Mexico program, 70,000 non-Mexican refugees have been waiting in asylum camps for their U.S. court hearings in northern Mexico. Within this group, 700 children have crossed the U.S. border alone as their parents wanted them to escape the terrible camp conditions and show themselves to U.S. border officials since unaccompanied minors cannot be returned to Mexico under U.S. policy and law.

CBS News reported that the Office of Refugee Resettlement has been able to house all children who had left their parents in Mexico and 643 of them have been released to family members in the U.S. Although this is good news, the Justice Action Center has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for its plan to deport children with circumstances like these, threatening their safety if they go back to their home country. The NGO, Human Rights First, has complied more than 1,300 reports of murder, rape, kidnapping, torture and assault against migrants returned by the U.S.

Mexico Enlists Reforms to Protect Child Refugees

As of November 2020, Mexico has approved reforms that apply to children in all migration contexts, accompanied or not. The reform will put an end to immigration detention centers for boys and girls and instead will be referred to alternative accommodation. It will also allow international protection and eligibility for temporary humanitarian visas to prevent deportation or return until the migrant child’s best interest can be resolved.

The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is collaborating with associated government agencies, U.N. sister agencies and civil society organizations to certify that referral procedures and appropriate shelter capacity are arranged.

Mexico’s Solidarity Plants Seeds for Progress

For a country that has been overwhelmed by the influx of migrants desperately seeking asylum, Mexico has responded with compassion and an assertion to reform its immigration policy. This combined with other humanitarian efforts will provide monumental aid and help eradicate the suffering of child refugees in Mexico.

– Alyssa McGrail
Photo: Flickr

Tourism in Latin America ReducesLatin America is a vast region with diverse weather, geography, culture and foods. Each year, millions of tourists flock to Latin America to enjoy its natural beauty. A vacation haven, tourism in Latin America is a driving force for economic development in the region. Furthermore, tourism in Latin America reduces poverty.

Tourism in Latin America

From the beaches of Cuba to the Andes mountains in Peru, any traveler can find a destination of their preference. The most visited countries in Latin America are Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. According to the World Bank, more than 113 million tourists traveled to Latin America in 2018, bringing $103 billion worth of revenue. Tourism in Latin America has created more than 15 million jobs, which accounts for 7.6% of all employment. Furthermore, international tourism contributes roughly $348 billion to the GDP of the countries in the region.

Ecotourism in Costa Rica

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Central America saw a 7.3% growth in its tourism sector, the biggest subregional growth in Latin America. Moreover, the country of Costa Rica has attracted millions of international visitors thanks to its ecotourism. Costa Rica is a leader in preserving its environment while attracting millions to come and enjoy its natural beauty. Beaches, rainforests, volcanoes and wildlife attract tourists which contributes to the economic development of the nation. A study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences correlates ecotourism with improving the lives of Costa Ricans. The study found those living near protected areas and parks saw a 16% reduction in poverty. Furthermore, tourism in the country accounts for 5% of the GDP.

Poverty Reduction in the Dominican Republic

Punta Cana is the dream destination for many, with captivating views of the ocean and exciting nightlife, the beach town welcomes 60% of all Dominican Republic’s tourists. Moreover, the country has benefited more from international tourism than any other Latin American nation. The tourism industry contributes to 9.5% of the island nation’s GDP. Even though poverty is still an issue for the country, extreme poverty decreased to 1.6% of the population in 2018. Furthermore, malnourishment has also decreased and life expectancy has increased. Tourism has steadily contributed to the well-being of Dominicans.

COVID-19 and Mexico

Mexico’s tourism is very important for its economy. Mexico is dependent on its tourism sector since it accounts for 16.1% of its GDP and employs nearly nine million people. Destinations such as Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo are very popular for tourists to visit. Furthermore, Mexico’s tourism was thriving until the COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges to the country. The pandemic brought a halt to tourism and hurt the economy of Mexico. Nonetheless, Mexico still manages to keep the industry alive. Mexico began to limit hotel and restaurant capacity to curtail the virus. Mexico is also working with the CDC to ensure U.S. travelers going back to the United States are returning uninfected. Even though tourism has decreased because of the pandemic, flights to the state of Quintana Roo, where Cancun and Tulum are located, were averaging 460 air arrivals compared to an average of 500 pre-pandemic.

Tourism and the Future

Tourism in Latin America has positively impacted many lives across the region. The U.N. acknowledges that tourism is a way for a developing country to economically sustain itself. Moreover, tourism in Latin America reduces poverty. Challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic put a setback to the growing tourism sector. Regardless, Latin America has an abundance of beauty and adventure, thus ensuring tourism will be kept alive once the pandemic is over.

– Andy Calderon Lanza
Photo: Flickr

Blockchain Startup in MexicoAs internet connectivity expands around the globe so do the benefits of blockchain technology and its potential to better the lives of those living in poverty. In Mexico, accessible financial services and insurance programs are vital to the improvement of the quality of life of Mexicans living below the poverty line. Saldo.mx, a blockchain startup in Mexico, helps facilitate this access.

Blockchain Startup in Mexico

A blockchain startup in Mexico has utilized the security of blockchain technology to meet the needs of Mexicans living in poverty. Saldo.mx offers Mexicans a secure and easy-to-use platform on which they can pay their bills using remittance money from abroad.

This is a significant development in the Mexican fintech market as Mexico receives billions of dollars in remittances from the United States each year, with $10.6 billion reaching Mexico in the third quarter of 2020 alone.

Especially during a time of economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to securely receive timely remittances is crucial for the financial security of Mexicans who rely on remittance payments for their survival.

Saldo’s services have the capacity to reach millions of Mexican customers, as it has been estimated that by the end of 2020, upwards of 81 million Mexicans will have internet access and thus the ability to quickly receive and utilize much-needed cash without having to wait for physical cash to arrive from abroad.

Consuelo: Access to Affordable Insurance Plans

One of Saldo’s newer services is Consuelo, which allows users to find fixed health and life insurance policies. Consuelo uses blockchain technology to connect its users to an insurance plan with a “smart contract,” which eliminates the need for a claim adjuster and gives the users direct access to affordable plans.

By removing a costly middleman and lessening the financial bureaucratic burden on customers, Consuelo gives its users a chance at obtaining health and life insurance and decreases long-term financial insecurity concerns.

Consuelo also helps uninsured Mexicans bypass the bureaucratic messiness of the national public healthcare system, which is supported by numerous uncoordinated social security institutes. This allows for better continuity of care by allowing Mexicans to remain with the same doctor by staying on their plan provided by Consuelo rather than facing the possibility of having to switch to another doctor through the national system after losing their jobs.

The Diverse Applications of Blockchain Technology

Innovation is not confined to affluent areas of developed countries. Especially in the age of the internet, new solutions can be developed and rapidly disseminated from any part of the world and can impact the lives of millions. In Mexico, receiving international transfers of money and gaining access to affordable health and life insurance plans can be difficult for the unbanked and those without stable employment. Startups like Saldo exemplify the potential of internet entrepreneurship and blockchain technology in helping lift the global poor out of poverty.

– John Andrikos
Photo: Flickr

mexican avocadosMexico is the second-largest nation in Latin America with over 130 million residents. Mexico exports an abundance of fruits and vegetables but its number one export crop is avocados. Not too long ago, avocados were not the number one crop being exported from Mexico. Today, the economic impact of Mexican avocados has helped many people escape poverty.

Poverty in Mexico

According to the World Bank, in 2018 almost 42% of Mexicans lived in poverty, with the rural population being the most impacted. Moreover, around 62% of Mexican children make it to high school and only 45% graduate. To reduce poverty, Mexico has increased its social spending to help those in need. The Mexican government has implemented programs such as cash transfers, farmland subsidies, scholarships and subsidized medicine. These programs are put into place in the hope of reducing poverty in Mexico.

The Mexican state of Michoacan is one of the poorest in the country. A whole 46% of people in the state lived in poverty in 2018.  However, Michoacan is rich in agriculture. In fact, around 20% of the land is used for agriculture and the industry employs 34% of the population. Moreover, Michoacan’s most popular crop is the avocado.

The Avocado Industry Boom

Michoacan is the top producer of avocados not only for Mexico but for the entire world. Increased demand for avocados has created an economic boom in the country. Mexican avocados make up 82% of all U.S. avocado sales. Furthermore, Mexican avocados have created more than 30,000 U.S. jobs and have an economic output of $6.5 billion. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, avocado sales were flourishing.

The United States had banned the import of Mexican avocados in 1914 due to fears of insect infestation. In 1994, The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)  implemented between Mexico, Canada and the United States resulted in the ban being lifted. The agreement led to the free flow of Mexican avocados into the U.S. The company Avocados From Mexico (AFM) has sold 2.1 pounds of avocados in 2020 and expects 2.3 pounds to be sold in 2021. Mexican avocados have had such a great economic impact that they are called “green gold” by the locals.

Impact of Mexican Avocados

The increased demand for Mexican avocados has led to less migration of Mexicans into the United States. The competitive wages avocado farming has produced has meant many more Mexicans are willing to stay in their home country. The popularity of avocados has led to the creation of thousands of jobs in Mexico. Due to this fact, families do not feel the need to migrate to the United States for employment.

The demand for Mexican avocados has led to employment opportunities, less migration and closer economic ties to the United States. The Mexican avocado industry is playing a part in reducing global poverty.

– Andy Calderon Lanza
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in MexicoMexico struggles with multiple food-related health issues that range from malnutrition to obesity. Many families do not have access to the proper nutrients that their bodies need. However, this is not because of a lack of resources but rather because they cannot afford the food that is available. Approximately 7% of Mexico’s population survives on less than $2 a day, making it difficult to afford nutritious food. This makes hunger in Mexico a huge problem for the country since many simply cannot afford to meet their basic needs.

National Crusade Against Hunger

In January 2013, President Peña Nieto created the National Crusade Against Hunger (CNCH). President Nieto designed the program to not only fight poverty and hunger in Mexico but completely eradicate it. He centered the program around five main objectives. The five objectives were to achieve zero hunger through adequate food provisions, improve child nutrition rates, increase monetary income and food production for rural farmers, minimize food loss during transportation and promote internal community awareness. The CNCH allowed Mexicans in local communities to choose what objectives they wanted to focus on. The hope was for the program to address the diverse needs of varying regions.

The Struggle Remains

Unfortunately, Mexico continues to struggle with poverty and hunger. Of the 126 million inhabitants, over 20 million Mexican citizens still do not have access to food. Two years after the CNCH began, Mexico’s National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy observed that CNCH made no substantial progress towards the five listed goals. Additionally, the Federal Auditor’s Office found that the program only covered approximately 60% of the population. Moreover, those that the program did cover failed to report adequate data on the aid received. After advising that the program be shut down in 2018, the Federal Auditor’s Office labeled CNCH a failure.

Other Solutions

What has been done to improve poverty rates and hunger in Mexico since then? The Hunger Project (THP) has been a long-time supporter of the cause, having worked with the people of Mexico for over 30 years. By providing training, education and monetary support, THP aims to teach communities how to take care of themselves long-term.

In addition, food banks in the Mexican cities of Monterrey and Torreon also received grants from The Global FoodBanking Network in 2017. With this money, the Monterrey Food Bank was able to afford new equipment to store, process and sort fresh produce. Similarly, the Torreon Food Bank was able to purchase a large refrigerated truck, allowing for the transportation and protection of perishable food. Both food banks have since partnered with several companies and universities in order to help expand programs in order to assist more people.

The failure of a program such as CNCH can be disheartening. Even so, there are still many people and organizations that are actively working to make a difference. Hunger in Mexico is still a large problem but Mexico has immense potential to improve the situation. With the help of foreign aid, NGOs and a commitment from the Mexican government, hunger in Mexico can be alleviated.

Nicolette Schneiderman
Photo: Flickr

Ecovillage ProjectsEcovillages focus on the regeneration of the social, cultural, ecological and economic aspects of communities around the world. It is an approach that aims to achieve sustainable development goals by eradicating poverty. Every Ecovillage is conceived and planned by the people living within the community; therefore, each development fits the area’s unique circumstances, customs, traditions and values. Ecovillage projects are constantly operating and developing as they seek to rehabilitate the environment and reconstruct communities’ very conceptions of social interaction.

Global Ecovillage Network

Founded in 1995, the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) is an alliance of communities and individuals committed to sustainability and eco-restoration. Through this network, Ecovillages and those working on Ecovillage projects exchange education, technology, information and plans. Although GEN has multiple goals, all of its initiatives are centered around restoration through interactions with people and the environment.

Some of GEN’s main focus areas include human rights, global interaction, cultural inclusion, local influence and the shift to restoration and sustainability. Ecovillages are centered around community action, and GEN is committed to helping members of those communities become influential decision-makers in the issues that affect them.

3 Ecovillage Projects Changing the Face of Poverty

Many villages have developed to represent the diverse circumstances under which an Ecovillage lifestyle can thrive. In fact, some have even earned titles as recipients of the Hildur Jackson Award. This recognition is named after one of the founders of GEN, and provides $3,000 in recognition of Ecovillage projects that have been especially influential in their impact, permanence and scope. Here are three such Ecovillage projects changing the face of poverty.

  1. Colombia. The Nashira Ecovillage in rural Colombia is a matriarchal society composed of many families. Born from victims of domestic violence and displacement, the members of Nashira Ecovillage have eradicated crime and violence by removing all male violators and creating an environment concentrated on support and combined effort. Each member of the community is appointed into one of eight units that contribute to the daily life and welfare of their environments and the people living within them. These units take on tasks such as cultivating local organic crops or working in solar-powered kitchens. The village is equipped with a recycling center, bike-powered showers and composting toilets, and leisure time is spent enjoying sustainable activities like pottery.
  2. Mexico. Bioreconstruye, one Ecovillage in Mexico, prioritizes collective interests and participation from local communities to respond to post-disaster hardships such as the 2017 Puebla Earthquake that damaged families and homes. This initiative reconstructs communities by implementing building techniques with minimal environmental impact to provide strong and resilient homes, whether they be temporary or permanent. Community centers are also a large focus of development for Bioreconstruye: in addition to providing workshops for the community, these facilities serve as a temporary shelter for refugees.
  3. Kenya. The Organic Technology Extension and Promotion of Initiative Centre (OTEPIC) implemented an Ecovillage project aiming to reduce maternal deaths in Sabwani, Kenya. This initiative helps build birth centers that provide a financially accessible and safe method of giving birth. At-home births remain high-risk, and some women face impeding accessibility barriers when considering hospital wards. The community’s Ecovillage project has enabled women to give birth in the presence of a midwife while surrounded by their loved ones. OTEPIC also provides special pre- and post-natal training, such as safe food preparation for mother and child.

The Global Ecovillage Network poses the question “How can we live high quality, low impact, lifestyles that heal and restore, rather than destroy our environment?” As demonstrated by the Ecovillage projects in these three countries, communities worldwide have already taken steps to answer this question and are providing hope for a poverty-free, resilient and sustainable world.

– Amy Schlagel
Photo: Flickr

Women-Owned BusinessesNonprofit organization Mary’s Pence is working towards a world of empowered women making changes in their communities. To get there, Mary’s Pence partners with grassroots organizations in Canada, the U.S. and Central America to provide funding and development programs for women-owned businesses.

Executive director Katherine Wojtan believes Mary’s Pence is different from other nonprofits because the organization not only cares for the individual women, but also oversees the sustainment of their small businesses. Mary’s Pence also values the idea of “accompaniment,” explained by Wojtan as utilizing the abilities of everyone to accomplish a long-term shared vision. This concept is applied to the organization’s execution of both the programs in the states and in Central America, focusing on improving the whole rather than the individual.

ESPERA

The program in Central America called ESPERA, or Economical Systems Providing Equitable Resources for All, was created almost 12 years ago. “Espera” is the Spanish word for hope, a fitting name for the life-changing program working with women in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

“This is very intentional, it is not about making individual women rich, but about ensuring all women have access to resources and skills to make their way in the world and earn what they need for a good life,” Wojtan said.

ESPERA aids women who were victims of domestic or gang violence or are single mothers struggling to make ends meet. By giving grants to grassroots organizations in struggling communities, Mary’s Pence creates community-lending pools which women can take loans from to start local women-owned businesses that generate income. To ensure success, the staff of Mary’s Pence teach the community loan management and help elect leaders to track the lending.

Gilda Larios, ESPERA team lead, grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico and worked with Central American refugees before starting work with Mary’s Pence. ESPERA funding gives back to the whole community, not just the women receiving aid. Instead of focusing on building credit, women realize the importance of circulating money and products.

“Their confidence grew – first they asked for a very small loan, and over time they asked for larger loans and grew their businesses,” Larios told The Borgen Project. “With their strength, they are role models for new leadership in the community.”

ESPERA and COVID-19

ESPERA has helped develop many small women-owned businesses that create jobs for their communities and generate income for struggling women. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic put many of these businesses at risk as workers feared for their lives, but the ESPERA team responded fast, changing their focus from long-term development to responding immediately to the needs of the women.

As some women panicked about their businesses and the effects of the pandemic, the ESPERA team responded with a 12-week emotional wellness series, delivered via WhatsApp, and supported stores so they could keep reasonable prices for the communities. For women in the midst of paying back loans to the community-lending pool, their status is put on hold until they have the income to continue their payment.

Despite the support network ESPERA provides, the pandemic revealed some gaps in the system. It was challenging to ensure the safety of women experiencing domestic violence. The lack of access to phones and the internet made communication between communities and ESPERA leaders challenging. However, this time of crisis also brought the communities closer and proved the importance of working together through local businesses.

In her interview with The Borgen Project, Larios told of a woman named Aminta, who is in the ESPERA program in San Salvador, El Salvador. She transitioned from working in a “maquila,” or factory, to starting her own business sewing uniforms for local sports teams. During COVID-19, she also began sewing masks to help keep her community healthy. Success stories of women-owned businesses like this one propel communities into further financial security and empower other women to do the same.

Confidence and Creating Futures

Above all, ESPERA and Mary’s Pence hope to give women confidence in their own abilities to create the future they want for themselves and for their families. For Larios, the most rewarding part of working with ESPERA women is the “feeling of satisfaction and joy to see them embrace their possibilities and capacities that before they thought they didn’t have.”

Through ESPERA and their role in the creation of women-owned businesses, Mary’s Pence continues to change women’s lives by showing them the power they already had within themselves.

– Kiyomi Kishaba
Photo: Google Images

Cool Roofs

First researched in the 1980s, cool roofs only became a reality around 2001. This cooling technology naturally cools the house, while being cheaper and more energy-efficient than traditional roofs, prompting many parts of the world to consider shifting towards them. The world will benefit financially, environmentally and even comfort-wise from the addition of cool roofs.

The Problem

Over 1 billion people in developing countries face significant risks from extreme heat, with no access to electricity for cooling. Another 2.3 billion can only afford inefficient, unhealthy air conditioning models that use HFC gases that are thousands of times more polluting than carbon dioxide. The energy demand from developing countries is predicted to climb more than 33-fold by 2100. Americans alone consume the same amount of electricity for air conditioning as the total electricity used for all the needs of 1.1 billion people in Africa. The introduction of cool roofs, though a seemingly insignificant change, would not only help people in developing nations but those in developed countries as well.

How it Works

Cool roofs are created by using cool roof coatings, which are thick, white or reflective paint applied to the roof, it covers or shingles to protect the roof from UV light, chemical and water damage, maintaining and restoring the roof itself, making it last longer than traditional roofs. The paint reflects the sunlight, keeping the house cooler than can a traditional roof, which absorbs the sunlight instead. In so doing, cool roofs can reduce indoor temperatures by 3.6-5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (2-3 degrees Celsius) and can reduce the internal temperatures of individual rooms by 20 percent. As for urban heat island effects, they can reduce urban temperatures up to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius).

Benefits

In addition to reducing cooling costs and increasing roof life, cool roofs are environmentally friendlier than traditional roofs. They reduce air temperature, retard smog formation and decrease power plant emissions (carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, mercury) and reduce electricity demand in the summer. When the house itself is already cool during the summer, people do not need to use as much air conditioning, thus reducing the usual strain on the electricity grid.

The people who would likely benefit first from the addition of cool roofs are the estimated 630 million people that may already have access to electricity, but have poor quality housing and may not be able to afford a fan or the money to run it. Regions with the highest population of these people are China, India, Nigeria, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sudan and Iraq.

Regions That Are Shifting To Cool Roofs

Mexico is participating in the Global Superior Energy Performance Partnership (GSEP) and is working towards installing more cool roofs. Mexican authorities are not yet aware of the advantages of cool roofs, thus the goal is to communicate the impact on energy efficiency, economy, health and comfort that cool roofs will have on the population. This technology saves energy and saves money on air conditioning as well.

South Africa is also part of the GSEP and has begun a Cool Surfaces Project, a collaborative agreement between the American and South African Departments of Energy. People in South Africa need technology that will provide them with the benefits that cool roofs provide (fire retardancy, passive-energy usage, waterproofing, low cost, low maintenance, cooling), making it a perfect fit for them. This project will save them a lot of money and energy, as well as influencing nearby regions to follow suit. Kheis, a rural community of about 15,000 in South Africa, is one of the leaders in developing this cool roof approach to provide a respite from the heat.

Globally, when less money and energy is devoted towards air conditioning either in the first or the third world, more can be done to confront other problems. The installation of cool roofs creates jobs, reduces the strain on electricity grids, naturally cools buildings and even lowers the net temperature of local areas.

Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr