global poverty reduction in 2022
As the year 2022 drew to a close recent data from the World Bank reveals that this is “the second-worst year” for global “poverty reduction in the past two decades.” The reasons for the “steep slowdown of the global economy” are many – the lingering effects of COVID-19, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, debt crises and many other sub-factors that exacerbate the situation. New projections show that 7% will still be living in extreme poverty by 2030 – considerably higher than the 3% goal. Global organizations such as Oxfam America, World Bank and its partners, have acknowledged the situation and launched various initiatives to support the poorest and most vulnerable.

The Global Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic had the biggest impact on the poorest people around the world. In comparison to pre-pandemic forecasts, the average income of those in the poorest 40% of the worldwide income distribution is 6.7% lower in 2021, while that of those in the top 40% is down almost 3%. The world’s poorest have not yet begun to make up for their revenue losses, worse yet the average income of the bottom 40% decreased by 2.2% between 2019 and 2021.

Due to the pandemic, an additional 163 million people live on less than $5.50 per day, bringing the world poverty rate from 7.8% to 9.1%. Moreover, an additional 97 million people live on less than $1.90 per day. The World Bank believes that three to four years’ worth of progress toward eradicating extreme poverty has been lost globally.

War in Ukraine

The ongoing war in Ukraine has also largely contributed to the rising cost of living and the slowdown of global poverty reduction in 2022. The repercussions of the war, the sanctions imposed on Russia, such as export bans, rose energy prices and caused huge supply-chain issues pushing 51 million people to fall into poverty according to UNDP.

The war has also led to 20 million people’s daily incomes in lower-middle-income countries falling below the poverty level of $3.20, increasing the percentage of the world’s poor to 9%.

Further data from UNICEF reveals that children carry the “heaviest burden of the economic crisis.” Children make up 25% of the world’s population and 40% of the further 10.4 million suffering from poverty in 2022. Estimates show that one in three children that grow up in poverty will continue to live in poverty for the rest of their adult life. According to UNICEF, children can benefit greatly from the introduction of poverty reduction methods, job initiatives and plans for economic growth.

Global Emergency Markets

Several causes, particularly the incredibly quick economic recovery following the epidemic, caused the energy markets to tighten up in 2021. But, once Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the situation quickly worsened and turned into a full-fledged global energy crisis. Natural gas prices hit record highs, which had an impact on electricity prices in several markets. The price of oil reached its highest point since 2008.

In addition to making families poorer, forcing some factories to reduce output or even close their doors and slowing economic growth to the point that some nations are in the midst of a severe recession, higher energy prices have also led to uncomfortably high inflation.

Spate of Debt Crises

During the past year, developing countries increased debt loans in order to keep up with the rising cost of living and aggravated the debt crisis. The World Bank calculations show that 60% of the world’s poorest countries are “either in debt distress or at risk of it.”

Debt-ridden countries are incapable of making high-return investments in education, research and development, and infrastructure projects, significantly slowing down their economic growth and exacerbating global poverty reduction efforts.

Future Outlook

In the face of all the crises and uncertainties that the past few years have brought to the world arena, organizations like the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) are stepping up to “ensure the poorest aren’t left behind.” Its new $93 billion IDA20 package, which will run from 2022 to 2025, aims to help developing countries get to grips with the global crisis the world can’t ignore, the World Bank reports.

IDA wishes to prioritize investment in education and health, reinforce food security, take action on the undeniable threat that is climate change, help countries struggling with conflict and development and improve debt sustainability.

Similarly, The United Nations Secretary-General has set up a Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance in the U.N. Secretariat. Its goal is to help the world’s poorest by “making reserves available to countries at risk of hunger and famine, accelerating the deployment of renewable energy and urging international financial institutions to increase liquidity and fiscal space.”

The year 2022 saw an insecure and uneven economic recovery where global development faced a crisis and poverty reduction efforts took a hard hit. However, many international organizations have united in the common goal to create an ecological, more resilient and sustainable future.

– Ralitsa Pashkuleva
Photo: Flickr

Malian Military Junta
Mali recently decided to ban all non-governmental organizations operating with funds or support from France. The decision came in response to France’s announcement to “suspend[]its official development assistance to Mali.” France cited the Malian junta’s alleged use of “the Russian paramilitary group Wagner” to combat jihadism as the reason for this disassociation. Wagner has a reputation for brutality, standing accused of such crimes as rape, abuse of human rights and massacres. The Malian military junta has denied accusations of using Wagner, with Colonel Maiga condemning the allegations as “fanciful allegations” and “subterfuge,” Africa News reported.

Despite the denial of these allegations, tensions have ratcheted and the Malian military junta has chosen to ban all NGOs related to France including organizations focused on providing humanitarian aid. France, similarly, has not accepted Mali’s denial and views the alleged participation of the Russian Wagner group as a “collaboration between the two countries.”

Effects of Aid Loss in Mali

The removal of aid could prove devastating for Mali, which has faced a variety of crises including extreme poverty, the spread of jihadism and massive civilian displacement. For instance, Action Against Hunger reported that, in Mali, almost 70% of the population lives in poverty. Worsening conditions related to conflict and recent droughts have led to many children suffering from severe malnutrition.

Many French NGOs are working in Mali on issues related to food security, health and access to education and French military aid withdrew in August 2022. Germany also made the decision to pull out of Mali and while the Malian military junta has appeared unconcerned, Souleymane Camara, president of the Malian human rights organization LNDH, has claimed, “The withdrawal of the forces of countries that came to help contain the advance of the Jihadists is very worrying because Mali does not have the means to deal with the situation.”

The Malian military junta’s vice president, Fousseynou Ouattara remarked that Mali is against “permanently expanding a foreign military presence on our territory.” However, Mali’s relationship with Germany has been much less tumultuous, with Germany electing to leave some troops in place in anticipation of the February elections and Mali and parliamentary secretary of Mali’s transitional government, Amadou Maiga, has expressed gratitude to Germany and voiced an interest in resuming their alliance in the future, stating, “I think that the cooperation will continue on other levels, like development and security. We thank them and we will face our destiny,” DW reported.

History of Tensions

Tensions with France are not a new conflict in Mali, which has a history that French interventionism has broadly defined. France colonized Mali in 1890, making it French Sudan. The conflict between France and Mali has continued to define the region, as France colonized various regions of West Africa, often with a complete lack of concern for the “local ethnic, religious and cultural dynamics” and “the political and cultural ecologies of the regions…” While this has led to internal conflict, France has also been guilty of more modern atrocities, such as supporting the Algerian government’s “repression of the democratic transition that began in 1988.”

This decision ultimately resulted in the formation of the Islamic Salvation Front which then took power as an oppressive and authoritarian regime with western backing. France also voiced support for Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2012, which lead to fallout and increased violence that endangered West Africa, according to Al Jazeera.

Potential Solutions

This history has made it difficult for Mali to conceptualize France’s presence as anything other than antagonistic, as it has seen the nation interfere with democracy in the past. One could broadly describe Mali’s military junta’s unease with French aid as a result of France’s own making in relation to this history of recent failures. This situation makes it particularly difficult to remedy, as Mali’s military junta is resistant to western aid. However, many France-dependent NGOs are advocating for their ability to work in Mali. CCFD Terre-Solidaire, Handicap International, Médecins du Monde and Oxfam have penned a letter to French President, Emmanuel Macron, claiming that ending aid in Mali would lead to “the cessation of essential, even vital activities (…) for the benefit of populations in situations of great fragility or poverty,” Africa News reported.

Despite fears of rising jihadism, Mali also remains hopeful, as Amadou Maiga claims military withdrawal from the west will “require a reorganization of our troops and maybe a little more logistics”, adding, “But we’ll deal with it. We’ve been expecting this,” according to DW. Hopefully, Mali can reroute its aid relations to nations with whom they have less tumultuous histories and defend against jihadist attacks in the meantime. Also, stabilization could possibly be restored after the German-supervised February 2024 elections.

– Braden Hampton
Photo: Flickr

Gender-Based AsylumGender-based violence plagues every country in the world. In some places, gender-based violence is a cultural norm. It is a deeply rooted way of life in which women, particularly, are subjected to physical and structural violence, with less access to economic opportunity and education. The dichotomy between gender-based violence as a private versus a public issue harms many refugees fleeing gender-based violence. Women are vulnerable to danger in their home country, along the migratory path and once they arrive in a destination country. Given that gender is not a standalone category for asylum in the U.S., women refugees are at great risk of being denied entry. The Movement for Gender-Based Asylum Justice is a collection of organizations and nonprofits whose goal is to solidify safety for refugees who are victims of gender-based violence.

Gender-Based Violence and Migration

In many countries, gender-based violence is so prevalent that it is the main cause of migration for women seeking asylum. The Northern Triangle made up of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador is a prime example of this. These three countries have some of the highest rates of feticide in the world and this violence is a primary cause for seeking asylum. The Weill Cornell Center for Human Rights evaluated over 200 women’s asylum claims and found that 91% reported fleeing unyielding abuse from individuals that their government was “unwilling or unable to control.” Those fleeing gender-based violence have more to face in the asylum-seeking process than other clear-cut asylum cases, such as religious minorities who are targeted directly and publicly. There are various ways for women to apply for asylum due to violence, but the U.S. asylum laws do not explicitly define these paths.

The Movement for Gender-Asylum Justice

The Movement for Gender-Asylum Justice believes that gender should be clearly defined as a category for asylum, similar to the protections offered based on race and religion. Made up of partnerships between Oxfam, the Tahirih Justice Center, the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project and more, the collective reaches across specializations to holistically defend women refugees and their rights to asylum. The Movement has many publications focusing on research and media outreach, such as its report from “survivors, pro bono attorneys, refugee health care providers, and a former immigration judge” as to why gender should be considered an asylum category.

Looking Ahead

While there is some hope for the future of gender-based asylum with organizations like the U.N. claiming that gender is a valid category for requesting asylum, on the whole, women refugees are not fully protected. The decision to grant asylum on the basis of gender is still contested and inconsistent in the U.S. For women to be empowered to seek safety outside of their home country, the threat of being sent back cannot be as unpredictable and devastating as it is presently. The Movement for Gender-Asylum Justice is pushing for what has long been recognized as a need for the protection of women and girls to become standard.

– Hannah Yonas

Photo: Flickr

Alergia is one of the largest countries in North Africa, both by size and population. Like any other country, Alergia is not perfect, as the upper middle-income nation has a poverty rate of 14.6%. That high rate can be connected to issues such as femicide, stagnant economic growth, a decline in the hydrocarbon sector and a private sector struggling to energize the economy. However, a number of charities in Algeria are working to address poverty conditions among the most vulnerable groups.

4 Poverty-Fighting Charities in Algeria

  1. Oxfam in Algeria: Oxfam is an international charity that focuses on alleviating global poverty. While the nonprofit functions around the world, its focus in Alegria has been on Alegria’s Sahrawi refugee camps. Since 1975 Sahrawi refugees have remained dependent on humanitarian aid to provide basic necessities. Oxfam works to combat poverty for those living in the camp by improving food security through increasing access to fresh produce. Importantly, it is also teaching Sahrawi refugees to develop and run small-scale agroecological farms. Since most Sahrawi families lack access to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) recommended 20 liters of fresh water a day, Oxfam concentrates on improving family water storage tanks, installing strong hosepipes to homes and other similar technical upgrades for water access and capacity enhancements. Because a number of highly-educated young women and men in the camp become frustrated with their lack of socioeconomic opportunities, Oxfam also focuses on community engagement for these young adults.
  2. World Food Programme: The World Food Programme (WFP) helps tackle the issue of malnourishment which is a problem, especially for Sahrawi refugees in Algeria. Luckily, in 2021 alone, the WFP supported 138,421 people in Algeria and provided nearly a million dollars worth of cash-based food assistance. Targeting anemia, stunting and malnutrition, the WFP runs 29 nutrition centers that offer both treatment and prevention strategies. The WFP also provides daily school snacks to nearly 40,000 children to encourage them to enroll in school. Finally, the WFP focuses on resilience-building projects like low-tech hydroponics and fish farms.
  3. Algeria UNAIDS: The United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) UNAIDS is leading efforts to reduce AIDS from a public health threat by 2030. UNAIDS attempts to increase awareness and decrease the stigma of HIV around the world and Algeria is no exception. As of 2021, 21,000 Algerian adults and children live with HIV. Unfortunately, this number is on the rise. UNAIDS in Algeria is focusing on the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission. It is also specifically investing in programs that promote support in terms of education, rights and leadership for women, girls and young people.
  4. SOS Children’s Village: SOS Children’s Village is a global charity that operates in Algeria. Human rights organizations have criticized Algeria’s “Family Code” which severely limits rights for women. Underage marriage is prevalent and women who do want to marry face strict guardianship rules. Thousands of children wander the streets without parents or without support from their families.  SOS Children’s Village focuses on protecting children without parents or who come from abusive families. Specifically, SOS provides daycare and medical care. Also, SOS mothers provide support for suffering children in SOS families.

These charities in Algeria are not only helping to eradicate poverty, but they are also changing the overall landscape of the country for the better.

– Luke Sherrill
Photo: Flickr

Shea Butter Plant in GhanaShea butter, known as “women’s gold,” supports female empowerment, backs many U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), enhances the global supply chain and promotes self-sufficient development in Southeastern Ghana. To make the most of this versatile nut, Bunge Loders Croklaan (BLC), “the specialty oils and fats business of [U.S.-based] Bunge Limited,” opened Africa’s first and largest shea butter plant in Ghana, in 2019. Bunge’s example portrays how capitalizing on a burgeoning international market is mutually beneficial for the United States and the world’s impoverished, especially women.

Bunge’s Global Partnerships

As an international industry headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, Bunge’s purpose is to “connect farmers to consumers to deliver essential food, feed and fuel to the world.” Bunge serves more than 70,000 farmers and consumers by “sourcing, processing and supplying oilseed and grain products and ingredients.”

The BLC sector specializes in delivering oils and fats to farmers and industries within and across borders. Reaping benefits since the opening of the shea plant in Tema, Ghana, Aaron Buettner, a president of BLC, said that the “latest investment in Ghana plays a critical role in strengthening BLC’s global infrastructure for processing and supplying high-quality shea products to our customers around the world, while also bolstering the entire ecosystem of regional crushers and local shea collectors in the West African region.”

BLC’s Shea Butter Plant opens Financial Opportunities in Ghana

Bunge’s global network increases employment and enhances the self-sustainable development of the local shea community in Ghana. About 16 million families in Africa rely on the shea industry to financially sustain their households. In late 2020, Tema’s shea butter plant provided jobs for 73 people, mostly residents and individuals around the community. Currently, in 2022, Ghana has met the unemployment rate indicator under the SDG “decent work and economic growth” at a value of 4.52.

Celebrating Ghanaian Women’s Empowerment

Women represent most of the shea butter plant industry in Ghana. With “skills passed on from mother to daughter,” women pick, process and sell shea nuts and their components. Women leave their homes at dawn and travel to the shea parklands to generate income for their families.

Autonomy in labor helps to raise the status of women. The gender equality goal of the Sustainable Development Report displays a value of 89.68 in 2020 for the ratio of female-to-male labor participation rate, indicating that Ghana is maintaining an egalitarian workforce.

Shortcomings to Women’s Rights in Ghana

Still, gender inequality remains a prevalent issue. Despite employment data that often only captures the world from its surface, women in Ghana generally have fewer assets and are more impoverished than men. In fact, according to Oxfam, about 94% of the wealthiest people in Ghana are men.

Women are even disadvantaged in the shea business due to their absence in key stages of the supply chain. Illiteracy and lack of skills prevent many women from maximizing their wealth and industries’ production. In fact, “significant challenges remain” in the ratio of female-to-male mean years of education received.

How BLC Helps Females in Ghana

The Where Life Grows campaign, connected with BLC, committed itself to “empower shea collecting women, create socio-economic value in their communities and conserve and regenerate the shea landscape.” The campaign builds the capacity of women through training and by providing innovative resources. For example, during the off-season, women working with the Where Life Goes program organize, plan and discuss their needs with colleagues and receive loans. The women use the borrowed money to rent land, buy fertilizer, hire tractors to plow the soil and more.

Furthermore, BLC and the campaign implement solutions to alleviate stagnated access to sustainable clean energy in Ghana that impedes on shea production. BLC’s management designs efforts that provide energy-efficient pots and stoves that “use 60% less wood,” emit less smoke and decrease nut boiling time. These newly improved tools improve working conditions, sanitation and efficiency. By investing in local skills development overseas, the Missouri-based company attains a more efficient and sustainable production process while accounting for humanitarian needs.

Bunge’s partnerships supply training, tools, farming activities and direct sourcing to women in Tema, ultimately strengthening both ends of the value chain. Global businesses, namely BLC, operate with a multitude of incentives, such as strengthening the independence of women in Ghana and creating jobs in the United States. The international shea business improves Ghanaian individual and economic wealth and works to close the gender gap.

– Anna Zawistowski
Photo: WikiCommons


Oxfam Addresses Poverty in ZimbabweThe country of Zimbabwe has a population of 14.86 million people as of 2020. Zimbabwe’s poverty rate stood at 38.3% in 2019, increasing at a yearly percentage of 10.32%. Due to a high prevalence of poverty in the nation, Oxfam addresses poverty in Zimbabwe to improve the lives of citizens. Across the world, Oxfam is lowering poverty rates in developing nations through initiatives that combat hunger, strengthen livelihoods and supply water and sanitation services, among other efforts. With Oxfam’s help, Zimbabwe may be able to target and reduce poverty across the nation.

Combating Hunger and Improving Farming

In June 2020, Oxfam reported that more than 17 million individuals “across Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa” faced food insecurity as a consequence of the impacts of the severe 2019 drought on agriculture. In the same month, Oxfam warned that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic could intensify circumstances of food insecurity for more than 40 million individuals in Southern Africa. The food insecurity situation is so extreme that Zimbabweans are crossing the Kafwambila border into Zambia “to exchange their goats and cows for a small bag of maize flour.”

Oxfam is able to help people in need of dependable sources of food. Oxfam addresses poverty in Zimbabwe by working with local leaders to deliver clean water and food to citizens in need. In emergency situations, Oxfam provides cash transfers so that people can purchase food according to their needs and preferences.

The Benefits of Agricultural Productivity

A 2011 OECD study analyzed poverty reduction successes between 1980-2005 across 25 nations. The study’s specific in-depth analysis of poverty reduction in Ghana, Indonesia, Vietnam and Ethiopia found that more than 50% of poverty reduction relates to “growth in agricultural incomes.” This shows that agriculture plays a crucial role in global poverty reduction.

Increased agricultural productivity can increase farmers’ incomes and food production in a country and reduce the costs of food overall while providing job opportunities. According to a 2014 Africa Renewal article, Zimbabwe requires 1.8 million tons of maize annually to adequately provide for the country’s people and livestock. However, during the 2012/2013 agricultural year, Zimbabwe produced less than 800,000 tons of maize.

The agricultural sector in the country depends on factors such as optimal weather conditions and adequate rain to grow quality crops. Due to the significance of agriculture in poverty reduction, Oxfam helps nations like Zimbabwe to improve agricultural productivity by introducing new farming techniques to farmers and by providing supplies such as seeds and tools so that people can cultivate their own food.

How Oxfam Addresses Poverty in Zimbabwe Through Hygiene and Health Care

In Zimbabwe, outbreaks of diseases such as cholera stem from poor water, hygiene and sanitation facilities. In 2018, one of the most severe outbreaks of the disease in Zimbabwe stemmed from sewage pipes that burst and contaminated drinking water supplies. Oxfam provides countries with clean water, soap and toilet facilities to avoid water contamination and promote proper hygiene.

Oxfam also recognizes pressing issues that come during sudden disasters. When Cyclone Idai struck Africa in 2019, nations faced water contamination due to “extensive damage to water supplies and sanitation infrastructure.” Oxfam initially worked to provide up to 500,000 individuals in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe with water treatment kits, hygiene kits and clean water.

Looking Ahead

Oxfam is taking many steps to address poverty in Zimbabwe by assisting in the areas of food security, agricultural development and water, sanitation and hygiene. The organization’s efforts have and will continue to positively impact the lives of those facing poverty across the globe.

– Katelyn Rogers
Photo: Flickr

School Enrollment Rates for Girls in Malawi
Malawi’s average literacy rate for adults 15 and older stood at 62% in 2015, according to the latest available World Bank data, which is lower than its neighboring countries. According to the latest estimates, Tanzania’s literacy rate stands at 78% and Mozambique’s literacy rate equates to 61%. In addition, the average literacy rate across sub-Saharan Africa stands at 66%. In 2014, Malawi noted a male adult literacy rate of 75% in comparison to 55% for females of the same group. Due to these gender disparities in literacy rates, several initiatives are working to improve school enrollment rates for girls in Malawi.

Reasons for Female School Dropout Rates in Malawi

In sub-Saharan Africa in general, roughly 33% of school-aged children do not attend school. Furthermore, for every 100 male sub-Saharan African students out of primary school, there are 123 female sub-Saharan African students not attending primary school. In Malawi particularly, research shows that female students are more likely to drop out of school than male Malawian students. Data indicates that “Malawi has one of the highest school dropout rates in Southern Africa.” Among females particularly, “three in every [20]” Malawian girls leave primary school “between Standard 5 and 8.”

According to a 2018 Malawi Government’s Education Management and Information Systems (EMIS) survey, girls in Malawi drop out of school for several reasons. Among these reasons are circumstances of poverty, child marriage, early pregnancy, “parents’ negative attitudes toward the education of girls” and household responsibilities. According to the survey, about 7% of female students abandoned their education due to marriage and 5% due to pregnancy.

Another factor is poor academic performance, which links to low quality of education. Living far away from schools also plays a role — 82% of Malawians live in rural areas, which often have few schools in close proximity. A lack of female teachers in schools means female students do not have female role models within the education sector. A 2015 study noted that “female teachers who also act as role models” to female students help keep girls in school. Poverty plays a significant role too as many impoverished families cannot afford school expenses and tend to prioritize the education of male children over female children due to societal perceptions.

Programs to Improve School Enrollment Rates for Girls in Malawi

In 1994, the Malawian government made primary education free to increase enrollment rates, especially among girls. The issue arises with secondary education, which is dominated by boys because many girls drop out before fully completing high school. Girls’ completion of secondary education is one of the most effective ways to combat other problems in Malawi, such as child marriages and early pregnancies.

The Improving Secondary Education in Malawi (ISEM) program is a four-year initiative running from 2017 to 2021, “which is supported by the European Union and implemented by GENET in partnership with OXFAM.” ISEM aims to improve secondary school enrollment rates for girls in Malawi, among other goals.

The program has funded school attire and learning supplies as well as bursaries. For rural students who walk long distances to reach school, sometimes more than two hours, ISEM donates bicycles as a transportation method. By eliminating these long travel times to school, ISEM aimed to improve the energy levels of students, increase punctuality and improve school performance while maintaining students’ interest in attending school. Fifty-one girls at Chibanzi Community Day Secondary School received these benefits through ISEM’s provision of bicycles. In the Golong’ozi Community Day Secondary School, the program has helped 177 girls who, thanks to this project, are able to continue their secondary education.

ASPIRE Project

Save the Children created the Girls’ Empowerment through Education and Health Activity (ASPIRE) project in 2015 with support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In Malawi, the ASPIRE project seeks to improve literacy levels and reduce school dropout rates while improving school enrollment rates for girls in Malawi. ASPIRE achieves this by teaching mothers the importance of girls’ education. By doing this, mothers prioritize girls’ education more and are less likely to force their daughters into early marriages. Mothers are also then more likely to encourage girls to go back to school after pregnancy. Data shows that, in 2015 and 2016, 786 students re-enrolled in schools in three particular districts that the ASPIRE project covered, “suggesting an impact from the ASPIRE project.” Female students accounted for 504 of these students.

Education is not only a fundamental right but is also a proven pathway out of poverty. For this reason, several organizations are committing to improving school enrollment rates for girls in Malawi, recognizing that education is the basis of global development and gender equality.

– Ander Moreno
Photo: Flickr

Fair Fashion Industry
In 2019, an Oxfam report exposed the conditions of workers who were making clothes for the Australian fashion industry. The report showed that these workers, predominantly women in Bangladesh and Vietnam, were making wages as little as 51 cents per hour. Oxfam is taking action to spread awareness, create a fair fashion industry and ensure that these women receive a living wage.

Poor Wages for Workers

The 2019 report interviewed nearly 500 women making clothes for the Australian fashion industry. It concluded that they often do not make enough money to meet their basic needs. Nine of 10 workers in Bangladesh cannot afford to feed themselves and three quarters cannot afford medical treatment.

In Vietnam, more than half of workers cannot afford medical treatment and three-quarters of workers cannot afford to make ends meet in general. The report found that the workers are making clothing for major brands that Australians enjoy wearing.

Oxfam’s Initiatives

As a result, Oxfam is campaigning to create a fair fashion industry. The nonprofit’s campaign, What She Makes, has taken several steps to secure appropriate living wages for those workers making some of the continent’s most beloved brands.

Oxfam Australia spreads awareness by publishing reports detailing the relationship between major brands and their underpaid workers overseas. There have been four reports since 2017. The most recent one is Shopping for a Bargain, which anyone can download for free. It outlines price negotiation, poor management of orders and other practices to help keep wages low.

Another way Oxfam is campaigning to create a fair fashion industry is by publishing its Naughty or Nice List. The list shows how different brands have fared in regards to paying workers. It ranks companies in order, using a sliding scale ranging from being transparent, making a commitment, separating labor costs and ultimately paying a living wage.

The Naughty or Nice List did not list any companies as paying a living wage. However, a number of companies, including fashion giant H&M, have separated labor costs. Even more brands such as Target, Kmart and Cotton On have made commitments to fair pay while others such as Zara have yet to make a commitment.

Oxfam is campaigning to create a fair fashion industry by appealing to private citizens. While the nonprofit does not advocate for boycotting any specific brands, Oxfam involves people by asking them to sign a pledge. This demands that Australia’s major brands pay workers making their products a living wage. The nonprofit reports that because of the public’s push for transparency, 14 major brands have published their factory locations online in the past three years.

Signs of Progress

Oxfam’s campaign is not without adversity. COVID-19 has slowed the global supply chain, cutting employment and leaving many workers without severance pay. However, many companies have made clear commitments to pay workers living wages. In January 2021, H&M’s regional manager for Bangladesh made an argument to increase workers’ minimum wage and stated that the Swedish retailer had paid more for garment items the increase of wages.

In the past, protests over low wages in Bangladesh have resulted in retaliatory dismissals, blacklists and even criminal charges. However, Oxfam’s campaign to create a fair fashion industry, coupled with other nonprofit work and public opinion may be a step in a different direction.

– Richard J. Vieira
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Poverty in Hong Kong
Hong Kong features one of the world’s largest concentrations of wealth. It includes a thriving economy as well as a large number of billionaires. However, Hong Kong has an underbelly. Its Sham Shui Po District is located within the city and is one of Hong Kong’s underprivileged areas. It is a stark contrast to the severe poverty in Hong Kong and shows the provenance ugly side.

Living Arrangements

Among Hong Kong’s expensive residences and trendy retail complexes are dozens of minuscule, unnoticed dwellings. Old apartment complexes have fragmented rooms so small that some have dubbed them “coffin houses.” These accommodations house up to 24 people, yet many are crowded with their belongings shoved into compact boxes.

People must cook and dine in the same room where they use the bathroom due to their constrained arrangements. The bedrooms fit the size of a twin mattress, with just enough space to sit up. Some people are unable to completely stretch their legs in bed due to their belongings taking up too much room. Poverty in Hong Kong emphasizes the government’s prioritization of commercial aims over human interests.

Issues in Hong Kong

A foundation of socioeconomic issues has fed the emergence of societal dissatisfaction. Throughout 2019 and 2020, several Hong Kong residents flocked to the streets to protest inequality, showing their dissatisfaction with the imbalance and disproportionate concentration of wealth.

Hong Kong’s economic condition, like that of other developed capitalist nations, has become more stratified in recent years. In 2016, it became among the nation’s most inequitable metropolitan areas. Housing prices in Hong Kong continue to be notoriously astronomical. It is extremely difficult to reap the rewards of wealth unless one has the fiscal resources to be a significant participant in the property or financial markets.

The impromptu public uprising illustrates economic disparities in Hong Kong. Existing capitalistic models show how inequity has contributed to increased social discontent for those facing poverty in Hong Kong.

The Work of Oxfam

Though few, some organizations have recognized the crippling poverty in Hong Kong and are trying to help. One of them is Oxfam. This organization aims to aid disadvantaged groups to help them overcome poverty. It feels that structural issues such as unfair policies contribute to poverty in Hong Kong.

To help, Oxfam made an effort to develop street markets as a viable alternative source of income for low-income individuals. It instituted a meal program throughout the pandemic to help provide nutritious foods to those in the coffin houses. It also carried out home maintenance projects in partitioned flats that low-income groups inhabited.

In the 1970s, the nongovernmental organization began with volunteers in Hong Kong and has subsequently extended to assist people in other impoverished areas.

Despite their marginalization, Hong Kong residents have remained resilient. Their demonstrations illustrate their persistence. People relatively overlook poverty in Hong Kong. However, with the help of more nongovernmental organizations and a greater emphasis on poverty in Hong Kong, the people could certainly persevere.

– Tiffany Lewallyn
Photo: Flickr

Taking a Feminist Approach to Foreign PolicyOn March 8, 2021, Rep. Jackie Speier [D-CA-14], a well-known advocate for women’s rights, introduced H.Res.196: Expressing the importance of taking a feminist approach to all aspects of foreign policy. The bill’s focus is to close the gender gap between men and women globally by taking a feminist approach to foreign policy. The resolution has 43 co-sponsors with an array of male and female representatives supporting the resolution, several of whom serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Global Gender Equality Issues

The inequalities among men and women exist in a myriad of forms, several of which are intersecting issues. One of the most prevalent inequalities exists in the workforce. Globally, women earn 24% less than men. This gap is so large that the current rate of progress would see 170 years pass before the gender pay gap is closed. Women often work longer than men when accounting for unpaid work such as household duties and child care. Despite this fact, women still earn less money by a considerable margin. According to Oxfam, women do double the amount of unpaid care work as men, sometimes even 10 times as much. The estimated monetary value of the unpaid work women do is, at minimum, $10.8 trillion.

Also, the fundamental reason women have waned behind men is that women have fewer rights. Worldwide, women have only three-fourths of the rights that men have. The lack of rights means women are not able to progress and develop at the same rate as men despite being disproportionately affected by poverty. Unfortunately, gender inequality impacts developing countries the most, mainly because an annual amount of $9 trillion is lost due to inequality. This significant amount of money could instead uplift economies and reduce poverty in communities.

Sustainable Development Goals

Goal 5 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals relates to achieving gender equality. Taking a feminist approach to foreign policy would help achieve this goal due to the influence the approach would have on promoting and supporting global adoptions of policies that directly improve gender equality. More so, achieving gender equality would help accomplish several other Sustainable Development Goals such as fair and equal employment for all and ending poverty.

Rep. Jackie Speier

Rep. Jackie Speier has advocated for women’s rights throughout her tenure in Congress. Newsweek nominated Speier as one of the 150 most “Fearless Women” in the world. Rep. Speier was also considered one of the 50 most influential people in U.S. politics for introducing the Me Too movement to Congress. Rep. Speier and Sen. Gillibrand introduced the ME TOO Congress Act in 2017, which formed the fundamental part of the Congressional Accountability Act (CAA) Reform Act.


H.Res.196 provides solutions to the global problem of gender inequality. The focus is on recognizing all examples of inequality and attempting to end them accordingly. The priority is to advocate peacefully and methodically for women’s rights worldwide. H.Res. 196 works with clear and precise objectives to address gender equality. The policy goals are reached by allocating more money to support worldwide efforts in increasing women’s rights. The feminist approach to foreign policy not only benefits women who have suffered from inequality but serves for the betterment of the entire world.

H.Res.196 profoundly expresses how a feminist approach to foreign policy can help solve several intersecting issues worldwide. Supplying foreign aid and support would bring the world closer to achieving several Sustainable Development Goals. Adding a feminist focus to this will accelerate global development efforts to end poverty worldwide.

– James Van Bramer
Photo: Flickr