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Technology Gender Gap in Latin AmericaIn Latin America, information and communications technology (ICT) is emerging in many economies, therefore, the demand for trained individuals in the tech industry is rapidly increasing. At the same time, 30 million youths are not working, participating in school, or engaged in training programs. And 76 percent of them are women. The lack of digital skills among young women is troubling because less than 20 percent of women transition from studying to formal jobs. Fortunately, programs such as Laboratoria are taking initiative in bridging the technology gender gap in Latin America.

How Was Laboratoria Created?

Laboratoria, once known as Ayu in 2014, started as a web agency that built its own in-house tech team. Once the hiring process was over, the company realized that its tech team was 100 percent male. The issue did not lie in their hiring practices but rather in the availability of females with digital skills who the company could bring on board.

As a result, the company decided to spearhead an initiative to train women developers and then hire them once they were qualified. The company targeted women who were unable to attend tertiary school due to economic constraints. As the idea grew, the company saw that there was potential to increase female inclusion across as many emerging and existing tech teams in Latin America, not just their own.

How Does Laboratoria Work?

Laboratoria operates in three stages:

  1. Selection process – Any woman can apply to Laboratoria. However, there is an extensive interview process and Laboratoria to identify those who would benefit the most from the program. Those that are selected must take “exams, pre-work, and real class dynamics” as part of the selection process.

  2. Bootcamp training – Those selected are accepted into a six-month boot camp that beings with a “common core and finishes with two specializations” which are Front-End development and UX design. Developers learn JavaScript, HTML, CSS and “highly demanded tools as React framework” while UX Designers graduate with an “innovative profile that combines coding with UX skills.” They also learn team skills that they will be able to apply to group settings. More importantly, it shows them the importance of supporting each other because creating a family of women in their tech careers will help them succeed.

  3. Talent placement – After the six-month boot camp, students are connected with hiring companies through Laboratoria’s own TalentApp and Talent Fest hackathons. These hackathons give real challenges to the students and they must solve them in 36 hours. The companies then choose who they want to hire based on the results of the challenges. Only the students who get hired by the companies have to pay for the program.

How is Laboratoria Bridging the Gap in Tech in Latin America?

Here are the results Laboratoria has produced through its program.

  • In 3 years there have been over 1,000 graduates
  • Laboratoria has connected with over 400 hiring companies in the tech industry
  • The rate for job placement for 2017 was 80 percent
  • The average income increase among employed graduates has tripled

Laboratoria is one of many programs that is bridging the gap in tech in Latin America by providing young and adult women with the opportunity to access, develop and acquire digital skills. These digital skills will help them build confidence and experience, but more importantly, bring gender diversity into the tech industry.

– Jocelyn Aguilar
Photo: Unsplash

Cocoa Farmers in Latin AmericaThe world’s cocoa (cacao) market is enormous and lucrative, with a worth of over $100 billion and over 4.8 million metric tons of cocoa being produced in 2012 alone. The majority of the world’s cocoa comes from smallholder farmers in Africa, although 15 percent of the industry’s production comes out of Latin America. Yet, despite the size and wealth of the industry, the average cocoa farmer lives on less than $2 a day. Thi is largely due to its complex value chain, with various different middlemen involved that ultimately soak up the profits, causing the actual farmers themselves to be left solely with the economic scraps from the system.

This systemic exploitation of smallholder farmers has caused many to become deeply entrenched in the cycle of poverty while the middlemen profit immensely from the hard labor of the farmers. Farmers can expect to receive no more than 6 percent of the final value of a chocolate bar containing their cocoa, while middlemen like processors will receive 40 percent of the final value of the same bar. Consequently, the economic impact on smallholder farmers is catastrophic, and has ultimately been creating a global decrease in the number of cocoa farmers despite an increase in demand for the product.

In 2010, a local social enterprise in Belize called Maya Mountain Cacao was founded in order to fight this system of exploitation. Maya Mountain Cacao cuts out the middlemen, partnering over 300 smallholder cocoa farmers directly with the fine chocolate industry. They start by purchasing the cocoa beans directly from the farmers themselves, and they do so at a higher rate than the farmers could receive from a purchaser involved in the traditional cocoa supply chain. After that, Maya Mountain Cacao ferments and dries the beans, finishing the whole process by selling them directly to exporters that cater to the fine chocolate industry.

Within two years, those farmers within the Maya Mountain Cacao network experienced an income increase of 20 percent, which allowed for an 85 percent increase in school attendance for their children. Maya Mountain Cacao had so much success that it ended up expanding its model to include nations outside of Belize, ultimately culminating in the creation of Uncommon Cacao, a transnational company serving smallholder cocoa farmers in Latin America.

Today, Uncommon Cacao farmers increase their income by over 100 percent, simply by eliminating the middlemen and connecting directly with the global fine chocolate industry. In an industry that is growing at an average of 3.1 percent per year, the need for sustainable value chain practices, such as those developed by Uncommon Cacao and its cocoa farmers in Latin America, is beyond significant; it is necessary.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Latin America
Hunger and poverty in Latin America, including Mexico, Central and South America, have decreased since the 1990s and early 2000s. However, hunger and malnourishment continue to be ongoing issues as a result of poverty.

In 2015, 28 percent of Latin Americans suffered from impoverished conditions, as compared to 44 percent in 2002. Although the numbers had improved since 2002, there was a stall in improvements in 2013.

As of 2017, studies show that 130 million people in South America are currently living in a state of poverty across various countries. These countries include Honduras, Venezuela, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.

One major cause of the poverty and instability suffered among individuals living in these countries is due to the disparity between socio-economic classes. According to the Huffington Post, some things that can be done to decrease the rate of poverty and increase the well-being of persons living in Latin America include “comprehensive poverty reduction programs” specifically directed at increasing labor incomes, improving social programs and configuring ways to “integrate early childhood development into the social development.”

Additionally, while Latin America was once a large producer of commodities, this changed after the recession in 2008. Countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela have faced greater economic losses over the past year. For example, Brazil faced severe economic hardship in 2016 due to failed policy-making strategies and an overall inadequate political environment, which led to higher inflation and lower income for businesses and families.

The economy in Venezuela has also left much to be desired. Last year, the country faced a free fall in oil production, which then led to heightened inflation and negative economic effects on the overall quality of life for Venezuelans.

Argentinian economist Raul Benitiz Manaut told Inter Press News Agency that the real problem surrounding hunger and poverty in Latin America is a “problem of access, not production.” Likewise, he has vocalized the importance of wealthier countries taking the initiative to reach out and help countries whose citizens are suffering from hunger and malnourishment.

In 2013, Harvard University conducted a study and offered some useful solutions that can help reduce poverty in Latin America. One solution offered by the university addressed the issue of low productivity in Latin countries and the need for the public and private sectors to work together to resolve this issue. For example, a project known as “Mundo Vex Tenda” was created in Brazil in 2010 and funded by the United States Inter-American Development Bank. The project focuses on providing individuals running small businesses in Brazil with the opportunity to learn effective business-related skills in areas such as financial literacy, marketing and food safety practices.

Additionally, Harvard researchers stated that “governments must root out violence and invest in specialized infrastructure; create transparent, accountable mechanisms that decentralize decision-making; and direct resources to reinvigorating the private sector, short of protecting it from competition.”

Lael Pierce

Photo: Flickr

palestinian_territories
El Salvador has been called the deadliest peace-time country in the world. It is plagued by violence from gang wars and a growing drug trade. It is estimated that there are 70,000 gang members within the country of six million.

In 2011, 69 people were killed for every 100,000. The country has not experienced this amount of carnage since 1979 when it underwent a 12 year-long civil war.

With all of this violence, El Salvadoran youth cannot help but feel its effects. Gangs have power in many aspects of society, including in the government, the police and schools. Just under 50 percent of kids drop out of school before grade six. This keeps them from attaining essential skills for climbing out of poverty.

In order to give children and teens a safe place off of El Salvador’s gang-filled streets, the U.S. Agency for International Development has created 140 outreach centers in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The hope is that these safe-spaces will serve as “second homes” for thousands of kids where they can learn useful skills and make steps toward favorable futures.

These centers are all parts of the El Salvador Crime and Violence Prevention Project, which is supported by USAID, as well as the El Salvadoran government and some private sector collaborators. Salvadorian youth living in at-risk neighborhoods are able to participate in engaging programs like English classes, computer training, life skills support, tutoring sessions, job training and volunteer opportunities.

Coordinators of the centers explain that when they open up in the morning, “all the children are already knocking on the door because they enjoy the environment in the center and like to participate in the games and lessons we prepare for them.”

Rather than getting involved with the ugly parts of their communities, kids are exposed to beneficial opportunities such as community construction projects. These hands-on programs inspire teamwork, a good work ethic and valuable experience. It also promotes a positive image for kids within their neighborhoods.

The 75 centers within El Salvador are run by volunteers who coordinate activities and create important bonds with each child. Many of them are in their late teens or early 20s and understand the threats that kids coming into the centers are coping with.

“I am always going to listen to them. I am always there for my beneficiaries,” says Karla Portillo. She is a coordinator in La Unión. “This center’s doors are always open for them. They already know this is their second home. For many of them this is their first home.”

Communities in El Salvador are dealing with incredibly high homicide and immigration levels, as people choose to flee the violence and poverty, and young people are dealing with missing parents and family members. Yet even if parents are still at home, they may not be present in the lives of their children.

The centers can make lasting change for the country too. Elder Monie is a community leader of one of El Salvador’s municipalities. She says, “The outreach center is a place where youth can learn and change the reality of the streets.” More children are finishing school, finding good jobs and staying off of the dangerous streets.

Mark Fierstein is an associate administrator for USAID. He says, “one of the things we most focused on is getting at the underlying factors that are promoting the illegal immigration. And that is to create jobs, to reduce poverty, and reduce crime.”

Lillian Sickler

Sources: Creative Associates International 1, Creative Associates International 2, PBS, Youth Build, Insight Crime, CBS News, Huffington Post
Photo: USAID

Songs-in-Spanish-About-Poverty

There are plenty of Latin songs from different countries such as Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Colombia that address the poverty and hunger situations that the countries are going through.

Many of these songs, more than only addressing a situation of poverty, address political disadvantages and the corruption that some of the Spanish speaking countries face.

These songs vary from sad ballads to rhythmic rap songs. Depending on the topic, some of these songs can have rude language to express frustration in regards to poverty and/or government corruption.

Here are some more examples of songs in Spanish about poverty.

1. “Casas De Cartónby Marco Antonio Solís

Que triste se oye la lluvia

en los techos de carton

que triste vive mi gente

en las casas de carton

 

Viene bajando el obrero

casi arrastrando sus pasos

por el peso del sufrir

mira que es mucho sufrir

mira que pesa el sufrir 

The lyrics of this song portray the situation of poverty that many people live under. Phrases like “que triste vive mi gente en las casas de carton” (how sad my people live in cardboard houses) and “viene bajando el obrero casi arrastrando sus pasos por el peso del sufrir” (the laborer is coming down dragging his feet because of the weight of his suffering) give a strong meaning to this song.

2. “La Carenciaby Panteón Rococó

Por la avenida va circulando

el alma obrera de mi ciudad

gente que siempre esta trabajando

y su descanso lo ocupa pá soñar

This is a ska song by a Mexican band that talks about the working class and how hard it is to make a living with a minimum wage and long hours of work. “Gente que siempre esta trabajando y su descanso lo ocupa pá soñar” (People that is always working and use their free time to dream) is a reference to the working class and their condition.

3. “Baile De Los Pobresby Calle 13

Tú eres clase alta, yo clase baja

Tú vistes de seda, y yo de paja

Nos complementamos como novios

Tú tomas agua destilada, yo agua con microbios

Tú la vives fácil, y yo me fajo

Tú sudas perfume, yo sudo trabajo

Tú tienes chofer, yo camino a patas

Tus comes filete, y yo carne de lata

In this song, Calle 13 compares both upper and mid-upper classes to poor and working class people. “Tú sudas perfume, y yo sudo trabajo” (you sweat perfume and I sweat work) is one of the references that the song makes to mark the differences among the social classes. He puts himself in the shoes of a working class man to find the differences with upper classes.

4. “El Pobre” by Attaque 77

Y andas perdido entre las marcas de tus manos

miras tu ropa y la que usan los demás

miras la chica que nunca podrás tener

y el chico que aspira el tren mientras viaja en Poxiran.

Tal vez pueda ser, lo que te rodea lo que quieras lo escuchas

Un poco de suerte para el pobre

“El Pobre” (The Poor) is a song from the perspective of the poor. “Miras tu ropa y la que usan los demás” (you see your clothes and the one that the others wear) gives the listeners an insight to what “El Pobre” is wearing and how his clothes are different from those of the middle class.

5. “Gimme Tha Power” by Molotov

Que nos guachan los puestos del gobierno

Hay personas que se están enriqueciendo

Gente que vive en la pobreza

Nadie hace nada

Porque a nadie le interesa

This is mainly a protest song by the Mexican band Molotov against the government corruption and the situation of poverty. “Gente que vive en la pobreza, nadie hace nada por que a nadie le interesa” (People that live in poverty, no one makes anything because nobody cares) protests the conditions in which poor people are living and how the government is doing little to resolve this problem.

6. Que Canten Los Niños” by Jose Luis Perales

Que canten los niños que viven en paz

y aquellos que sufren dolor

que canten por esos que no cantaran

porque han apagado su voz.

This is a song of hope that references children singing about hope and gives a voice to those who cannot speak. “Que canten por esos que no cantaran porque han apagado su voz” (May they sing for those who won’t sing because they have silence their voice) is a way for the song to express the desire to give a voice to those who are silenced.

7. “El Baile De Los Que Sobran” by Los Prisioneros

Bajo los zapatos

Barro más cemento

El futuro no es ninguno

De los prometidos en los 12 juegos

A otros le enseñaron

Secretos que a ti no

A otros dieron de verdad esa cosa llamada educación

Ellos pedían esfuerzo ellos pedían dedicación

Y para qué

Para terminar bailando y pateando piedras

This song has a political meaning and references social inequality topics in Chile. “A otros dieron de verdad esa cosa llamada educación” (They really gave to others that thing called education) is a phrase of the song that marks the difference of social classes and social inequality by portraying the opportunities that some people have over others.

– Diana Fernanda Leon

Sources: SinEmbargo, 5 Canciones Sobre, 20 Minutos, Proyecto 100 Canciones
Photo: Domingo

Ups_and_downs_of_latin_american_economy
The Latin American economy has experienced a period of great fluctuation since 2010. Whenever there is good news, there seems to be an equal and opposite force of bad news applied. Constant fluctuation has curbed poverty and opened the door to the middle class, only to have that door slam close. There are several key points to consider as to why this is.

In the past decade, nearly 50 percent of those in poverty have risen above the poverty ranking. But many are still struggling to enter the middle class. Around 200 million, or over two-thirds of the population, are at a high risk of falling back into poverty.

To fully understand this, it is necessary to know how economic divisions are classed in Latin America. Twenty-five percent of Latin Americans are earning less than $4 USD per day and this is considered living in poverty.  Some 34 percent  earn between $10 and $50 USD per day and these individuals are judged to be middle class. When someone earns between $4 and $10 USD, they are part of the vulnerable class. This final group accounts for 38 percent of the population.

The UNDP disclosed this information in the 2014 Human Development Report; a report that uses data as recent as August 24 of the same year.

But not all news is bad.

The middle class of the combined Latin America and Caribbean grew from 21 percent to 34 percent equaling 81 million individuals in the time period form 2000-2012. The vulnerable population grew from 35 percent to 38 percent. The UNDP recognized poverty dropping from 42 percent to 25 percent over that same time period as a significant regional achievement.

Now, Jessica Faieta, the UNDP Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, says the good news might be running out unless a change is made.

“It is very clear that using the same policies will not provide the same results,” said Faieta. “More than ever, the region must invest in universal social protection, particularly in the most critical phases of life, as is the case with children, the elderly and youth entering the labor market.”

Other analysts agree with her conclusion. The region lacks critical social protection, a defense that has been pinpointed as crucial to long-term economic growth. Nearly 50 percent of the country lacks access to medical services, a retirement pension or a labor contract. If this is not amended, the region cannot be expected to grow at the same rate indefinitely.

– Andrew Rywak

Sources: UNDP, The Economist, BBC