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child labor in GhanaGhana, a small African country nestled between Togo and Ivory Coast, is one of the highest achieving nations in the sub-Saharan region. It is the world’s second-largest producer of both cocoa beans and gold, and this generative economy has propelled much of the Ghanaian population out of poverty.

While ahead in some regards, Ghanaian children are still subject to human trafficking. According to the United Nations’ International Labour Organization, over 152 million children around the world are forced into the workforce. Africa is among the worst offending areas, and as such, brings child labor in Ghana to international concern.

Child labor is a National Issue

Currently, one out of every six children is involved in child labor in Ghana. Offending sectors are numerous and widespread; 88 percent of children work in agriculture, typically harvesting cocoa beans, while 2.3 percent are fishermen. Others are subjected to domestic or sexual work.

Many Ghanaian children participate in child labor due to desperation and ignorance. While free public education is available in Ghana, many families cannot afford the uniforms and books required to enroll in school. Poverty is, therefore, cyclical in these circumstances – much more than cheap labor is being exchanged. A child is also selling his or her childhood, dignity and future potential to their traffickers.

Lake Volta Region

Lake Volta is the largest man-made lakes in the sub-Saharan region. It is notoriously known as an area where the worst forms of child labor prosper. Here, one-third of children between the ages of seven and 14 work full-time.

Children are valued workers on Lake Volta because their labor is affordable and efficient. Recently, the lake’s fish population has decreased considerably. Fishermen, therefore, do not have the financial means to accommodate other sources of labor. Furthermore, children provide the nimble fingers needed to untangle fish from the minuscule-sized holes in fishing nets.

Aside from posing as a serious human rights violation, work on Lake Volta is quite dangerous for Ghanaian children. Nets often get stuck on objects underneath the surface. This forces children to go diving in order to prevent tears in the nets. Drowning is a concern, as well as contracting several illnesses including bilharzia and guinea worm.

Government Effort

The central government made several, moderate efforts to control the unbridled child labor in Ghana. In 2017, the National Plan of Action for the Elimination of Human Trafficking was enacted. With it, the government identified itself as an entity against the exploitation of its young generation. Children working in mines are a specific concern for the government, as mercury poisoning is prevalent among workers in this sector. Feeding programs have also been instilled in schools and refugee camps in order to protect children from malnourishment.

These efforts, while well-intentioned, are not efficiently enforced in the country. This leaves many children in enslavement, or at risk of falling into this dark reality.

International Action

Child labor is a human rights violation to which the international community has responded with animosity and vigor. There are countless organizations working to end all forms of child labor and trafficking.

APPLE is just one NGO that specifically works to hinder the growth of child labor in Ghana. This organization has stationed itself in fishing villages around the Lake Volta region. Their efforts to eliminate child labor compromises of immediate and long-term solutions. The banning of nets with small holes is believed to decrease the value of children on the lake, and education is provided in order to warn families of the calamities that human trafficking inflicts.

While the sub-Saharan region is not the only area that violates international human rights laws, child labor in Ghana is on the rise. Efforts to protect the most innocent collection of the population need to be mobilized with the utmost zeal. These children need aid in order to liberate, educate and relocate those displaced by this practice.

– Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

Agri-tech innovations in AfricaAfrican agri-tech is in a major growth period, totaling $19 million in investment over the past two years, resulting in the number of start-ups to double. With 65 percent of the world’s remaining arable land located in Africa, many African countries have major potential to become not only agriculturally self-sufficient but also major food exporters.

In 2017, African countries spent over $65 billion importing food. Current and future agri-tech innovations in Africa will play a large roll in reducing this trade deficit and improving the lives of small scale farmers in the process.

A Boom in Agri-tech

Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana are leading agri-tech markets, accounting for over 60 percent of active startups in the sector. The agricultural industry has consistently been a crucial component of economic systems throughout Africa, but until recently has been untouched by technological innovation.

Over 80 percent of Nigerian farmers are smallholder farmers, producing 90 percent of domestic output. Nearly half of all working Nigerians are engaged in small-hold farming and account for the poorest 40 percent of the population. This level of poverty among smallholder farmers can be attributed to the low use of mechanized tools, inadequate market information, and lack of access to credit and financing options.

This is changing in recent years, following an increase of 121 percent in fundraising for agri-tech from 2016 to 2017. Nearly a third of all agri-tech startups are e-commerce agricultural focused platforms, connecting farmers with investors, markets, training and mechanized tools. These platforms help to lift many small scale farmers out of poverty while also mitigating food insecurity in local communities.

The Benefits of Crowdfunding

Given the massive potential for growth, crowdfunding has the possibility of ushering the African agricultural industry to the forefront of the world market. There is a public perception issue with smallholder farmers, as many people associate this brand of agriculture with poverty. Crowdfunding, however, can change how people throughout Africa look at farming.

The average age of a farmer is currently 60 years old. This in large part is due to younger people’s inability to secure financing for farming as well as a lack of willingness to participate in the sector. The rise of these crowdfunding agri-tech innovations in Africa is providing young Africans with financial support, technical training and improved mechanical tools needed succeed.

The Startups Making a Difference

Nigeria’s first digital platform for agricultural crowdfunding, Farmcrowdy, launched in September 2016. This platform connects Nigerian smallholder farmers with investors who select the farms they want to invest in. Farmcrowdy then uses the accrued funds to hire additional farmers, lease land, and provide valuable inputs to farms, such as fertilizer, seeds and technical support from sowing through harvest.

Agri-tech solutions such as Farmcrowdy have introduced Nigerians to a trusted platform used to pool resources and support small scale farmers in an effort to alleviate poverty and expand food production capacity. Farm supporters using the Farmcrowdy platform can invest in farms producing rice, maize, poultry, cassava and soya beans. The return on investment typically ranges anywhere from six percent to 25 percent. This allows urban Nigerians to invest directly in the livelihood of their fellow communities and the future of their food security.

Local farmers are appreciative of Farmcrowdy’s advanced training in modern farming practices and the use of mechanization to increase productivity. As a result of this training, many farmers have seen an increase in yield by over a third. These agricultural goods are even selling at a higher price due to access to more stable markets and reputable buyers.

Agri-tech innovations in Africa, such as the rise of crowdfunding, have linked different aspects of the agriculture value chain, improving efficiency and food security in local communities. This is just the beginning of what crowdfunding can do for the agriculture industry. African countries such as Nigeria have massive untapped potential when it comes to food production. The introduction of financing and new farming technologies to small scale farmers can unlock this potential and make a massive impact on the lives of impoverished farmers throughout Africa and potentially the world.

– Peter Trousdale
Photo: Flickr

Making of a Child SoldierAlthough using children as soldiers is horrifying and illegal, recruiters are employing children every day. In fact, as the war in the Middle East spreads, these recruiters are enlisting children more frequently than before. The extremist groups in Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia, to name a few, are breaking international war laws on a daily basis in using child soldiers. It is a constant battle for these children as they often have to choose between becoming a soldier and living or becoming another victim of the war.

The Making of a Child Soldier

In recent years, the number of children recruited to fight in the Middle East has doubled, which means more children are becoming being put in danger. Not only is there an emotional and physical battle for these children but also for the soldiers that are fighting against the extremist groups. With the war continuing in Iran, nearly 200 child soldiers have been killed in the last couple of years. In October 2018, there were still 19,000 children who were laying their lives on the line in South Sudan. Many of these children are in poverty and do not know where to turn next.

The making of a child soldier is complicated and influenced by the child’s circumstances. Since several African and Middle Eastern countries are in the middle of a war crisis, families are more likely to become displaced and slide deeper into poverty. Sudanese soldiers are offering families up to $10,000 to send their children to fight the war in Yemen although Saudi Arabia has denied their recruitment. That amount of money is huge to families that have been living on the streets. Several reports state that these Sudanese children fighters make 20 cents a day in the war.

Being poor, separated from their families and without access to education can all contribute to making a child soldier. Often, recruiters are more likely to employ children as soldiers due to the fact that they are more manageable, more obedient and easier manipulate than adults. Children who are forced to be soldiers are given jobs like spying, guarding low-security sites and detecting mines. People do not often see these children on the front line although they can be involved in attacks. In the first months of 2015, 21 children died in suicide attacks using explosive-packed vehicles.

The Syrian Democratic Forces and the Iran Government

Although these crimes are affecting the world’s most innocent and vulnerable population, several organizations are bringing hope to the children of the Middle East. Recently, the Syrian Democratic Forces have enforced a ban on using child soldiers in the war against the increasing extremist groups. The U.S. backed them on this movement. Additionally, the Treasury Department targeted ad networks of banks and businesses that have been supporting the funding of child soldiers.

Wars in the Middle East have raged for several years, and recruiters are taking advantage of the vulnerable population, but some are fighting back. Governments are undergoing initiatives and uniting together to help enforce protection for vulnerable children recruiters are most likely single out as child soldiers.

– Emme Chadwick
Photo: Flickr

town planning and poverty

Also known as city or urban planning, town planning is an interdisciplinary and dynamic field that seeks to understand how policies change in response to community needs, population growth, lifestyle changes and the needs of a changing population. Contemporary urban and regional planning techniques for survey, analysis, design and implementation developed from fields such as architecture, civil engineering, public health, economics and geography to further comprehend the welfare of people, control land use, design urban environments and enhance the natural environment. Urban areas will house 70 percent of the world’s population by 2050, getting town planning right is vital to ensuring that future areas are safe and resilient places, especially for the poorest of residents.

A Multi-Faceted Approach

Planning has and will play an important role in improving the quality of life in urban areas. It is also a critical support for tackling poverty. With its potential to expand accessible services and economic opportunities, informed city planning can help regenerate connection among persons, bring public health amenities and promote social justice. It should not be forgotten that the planning movement sprang from the public health movement and the Victorian slums in the 19th century. Planning went beyond the basic drive to deliver more homes in a sanitary environment to include community design and social separation. Thereby offering people a better way of life after both world wars.

Nevertheless, in order for planning to focus on poverty eradication, Kate Henderson, the chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association said, “Planners must have the skills and opportunity to increase their understanding of places and how their work affects how people live their lives.”

How Does Town Planning Eradicate Poverty?

Different factors contribute to determining poverty levels in deprived neighborhoods such as unemployment, high housing costs, low education, health inequalities and low level of participation in public life. Despite the social separation that the planning movement has brought about, proper planning policies have the ability to bring about the interconnectedness between municipalities and authorities to reduce the social and spatial differences between people and groups. For instance, by decreasing the distance at which rich and poor individuals live with one another, URBinlusion has shown that social stability can be increased as well as the competitive power of cities.

Town Planning in Calicut, India

In Calicut, India, a city with a population of 437 thousand, people depend on the city for employment, education, healthcare and commercial needs. Along with municipalities, the Asian Development Bank has identified poverty reduction as a key sector for development. With a shortage of land for low-cost housing, social exclusion of the poor from decision making and increasing incidences of crime, a poverty reduction program that focuses on sustainable city development was implemented. By 2020, Calicut will be slum-free.

Sustainable town planning is the backbone of poverty reduction through slum improvement in Calicut. They did so by improving basic infrastructure and services in all slums, improving shelter conditions and improving human resource capability of the urban poor. Interventions included expanded coverage of ongoing poverty alleviation programs and strengthening and capacity building of local NGOs.

Town Planning in Caloocan, Philippines

Similar can be said about Caloocan, Philippines, a city with a population of over 1 million. Of this total population, 23 percent is unemployed. In 2002, the city government, along with many urban planners, launched a City Without Slums (CWS) Program that aims to provide low and middle-income families an opportunity to acquire decent housing at affordable costs.

The CWS program was launched with the support of the World Bank and U.N.-Habitat. It has led to the expansion of resources for the urban poor by improving the coherence of effort among on-going urban programs in Caloocan. The program is committed to improving the living conditions of the urban poor by promoting City Development Strategies (CDS) and city-wide slum upgrading.

Town Planning in Da Nang, Vietnam

Da Nang is a key economic area of central Vietnam with a population of 740 thousand persons. 80 percent live in the urban area. Nevertheless, substandard housing penetrates through the city of Da Nang.

Therefore, the Asian Development Bank along with the government and city planners aim to develop new infrastructure and upgrade their water supply system to promote stable urban management. Apart from this, they have launched programs focusing on poverty reduction and hunger eradication, through more jobs and appropriate solutions to pressing social concerns such as subpar health services. The city is currently facing budget constraints on their development, however, it is certain that their urban areas will be free from slums and promote social good for its citizens.

These examples of town planning and poverty display the benefits of a positive relationship between these two social factors. Town planning done right can contribute significantly to the worldwide fight against poverty.

Monique Santoso
Photo: Flickr

7 facts about living conditions in australia
In 2015, Australia was ranked as the second-best country in the world in terms of quality of life. This report was based on a number of living condition factors, including financial indicators, like average income, and health standards, education and life expectancy. The following 7 facts about living conditions in Australia further illustrate what life is like in the Land Down Under. Many of these facts are based upon data retrieved from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), comprised of 36 member countries and founded to stimulate world trade.

7 Facts About Living Conditions in Australia

  1. Children Are an Impoverished Group: As of 2018, 13.2 percent of Australians (around three million people) were living below the poverty line, 730,000 of which are children under the age of 15. According to the Poverty in Australia 2018 report, a large reason for the overwhelming number of impoverished children is the high poverty rate among single-parent families relying on a single income. In terms of money, living below the poverty line in Australia translates to earning $433 per week for a single adult, or $909 per week for a married couple with two children. Most individuals experiencing poverty in Australia rely on Government allowance payments, like Youth Allowance and Newstart.
  2. Sanitation is Good: The percentage of homes in Australia that have access to an indoor flushing toilet is more than 95.6 percent, which is the OECD average. Additionally, more than 90% of Australians report satisfaction with their water quality. Access to running water and the high quality of water makes Australia above average in relation to the other 36 OECD member countries.
  3. A Wage Gap Exists: The gap in income between the rich and poor in Australia is quite large; the wealthiest 20 percent of Australians earn almost six times as much as the poorest 20 percent of Australians. This income inequality has been steadily rising since the mid-1990’s. One attempt to remedy income inequality in Australia is a progressive system of income tax, meaning that as an individual’s income increases, they will pay a higher amount of their income in tax. Additionally, social welfare payments account for around 35 percent of the Australian government’s budget. In 2017-2018, this translated to a $164 billion budget for social security and welfare.
  4. Australians Are Staying Employed: Seventy-three percent of Australians aged 15 to 64 have paid jobs, while the percentage of Australians who have been unemployed for one year or longer is 1.3 percent. The percentage of employed Australians is higher than the OECD average. Though the Australian job market thrives, Australians have a below-average ranking in work-life balance.
  5. Strong Education: The average Australian citizen will receive 21 years of education between the ages of 5 and 39, which is the highest amount of education in the OECD. Roughly 64 percent of children in Australia attend public schools, while 34 percent attend private or Catholic schools. Additionally, not only is the education system strong for Australian citizens, but international education offered to foreign students is Australia’s third largest export, valued at $19.9 billion.
  6. Rising Crime Rates: Over the past 2 decades, the number of reported crimes has risen dramatically; for example, from 1977-1978, the number of reported break-ins was 880 per thousand. From 1997-1998, this number rose to 2,125 per thousand. In the same period, assaults have risen from 90 to 689 per thousand of population and robberies have risen from 23 to 113 per thousand. While many of these 7 facts about living conditions in Australia indicate increasing quality of life for citizens, rising crime rates affect feelings of security, which has a negative effect on standards of living in Australia.
  7. Improving Health Standards: Health standards in Australia have risen substantially since 1947. From 1947 to 1989, the life expectancy of women increased by 10.9 years, while the life expectancy of men has risen by 9.8 years. Since 1990, life expectancy has risen even more, increasing by another 1.4 years for women and 2 years for men.

With one of the strongest performing economies in the world, Australians experience thriving, stable financial conditions. The education system is well organized and accessible, and health standards have increased and driven the life expectancies of Australians up over the last 70 years.

Yet, despite the tremendous growth and development in Australia, there are areas in standards of living that demand improvement. Perhaps most importantly, income inequality in Australia is alarmingly high, and poverty rates of citizens, and especially children, plagues the strength of Australian society. These 7 facts about living conditions in Australia indicate a thriving and desirable country with a need for concentrated focus on income inequality to eradicate staggering poverty in the lower class.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr

brickyards in nepal
In Nepal, where the world-renowned Himalayas are located, poverty continues to plague rural populations. The poverty rate in these regions is still around 35%. Due to a struggling agricultural industry, many are pushed to the cities, where they find jobs in less than desirable work conditions, such as the brickyards of Kathmandu.

The Brickyards in Nepal

During half the year, from late fall to early spring, laborers build thousands of bricks from the clay deposits found in Kathmandu. Many of the laborers are children, teenagers, women, and even the elderly. Whole families move into the brickyards in order to make a few dollars. The work is physically demanding and becomes dangerous near the kilns, where smokestacks bake the bricks and spew toxic chemicals into the air.

An estimated 750 brick factories are in operation in Nepal, but only a little over half of them are registered with the government. Due to lack of funds to enforce child labor laws, brickyards around Nepal still employ approximately 13,530 children in Kathmandu valley. Even more unfortunate, most families depend on their children to work in order to cover all of their expenses.

The Economic Angle

Several economic factors keep both the brickyards in operation and the families in bonded labor. First, construction remains one of the largest industries in Nepal, contributing NPR $55121 Million in 2018 to Nepal’s GDP. Brickyards in Nepal directly fuel this industry, and the government lacks legislative potency in order to reform brickyards’ working conditions. Second, middlemen often entice families to labor in brickyards with the false promise of good pay to get them through a dry season in the job market. In reality, families receive low pay for their work, which makes them unable to pay off their debts and forces them to stay in the brickyard, for years or possibly even generations.

Breaking the Cycle

The brickyards in Nepal present a raw picture of the cycle of poverty that still exists worldwide and exposes the structures and factors that keep families in economic bondage. While hopes of alleviating the situation seem dire, there are a variety of ways that nonprofit and activist organizations are mobilizing to alleviate the suffering in the brickyards in Nepal:

  1. Humanitarian: Ceramic Water Filter Solution is a company whose mission is to bring safe water home. One of their projects started in 2015 and 2016, has been to provide clean water to families working in brickyards in Nepal, where water is scarce. They provide many ways to volunteer, donate, and support their work on their website:
  2. Medical: Terres des Hommes collaborate with local partners to establish healthcare camps to provide aid, particularly to women and children. They have set up facilities in 20 brickyards in the districts of Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. This initiative supports workers by monitoring children’s diets and checking on workplace health conditions. To help with these programs in Nepal, there are a variety of options for people to donate and to volunteer on their website.
  3. Technical: For brickyard owners, one initiative, the Global Fairness’s Better Brick Nepal (BBN) program, could, at a minimum, improve the working conditions of their brickyards. The program aims at providing technical assistance to make brickmaking safer and more efficient. In 2017, the BBN project has extended to 40 kilns in 14 districts. Ultimately, those who have started the BBN hope to enforce standards that brickyard owners must comply with in order to operate profitable businesses.
  4. Political: A research and activist group, BloodBricks seeks to end the “modern slavery-climate change nexus” of the construction industry in countries like Cambodia, Nepal, and Pakistan. Their studies trace the injustice of the “booming” construction industry in these countries and seek to fight these issues through further advocacy and discussion.

Deep-Rooted Issues

There are many different ways organizations are placing pressure on the system of brickyards in Nepal. While the issue is complex, involving deep-rooted economic and political structures, this situation is worth fighting, as one way to combat poverty and suffering in Nepal. Additionally, solving this issue has broader implications for economic bondage in brickyards in other countries and bringing this issue to light has wide impacts in terms of advocacy and awareness.

Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

Flooding in AfghanistanAfter suffering through an extreme drought for months, Afghanistan now faces a new crisis: severe flash floods. As many as 112,000 people have been affected by the flooding in Afghanistan and entire homes or villages have been swept away. In light of both droughts and conflict, the U.N. has estimated that 6.3 million people will need humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan in 2019. The country has faced extreme adversity and is in desperate need of crucial and life-saving aid.

Drought and Flooding

The extreme drought the country has been facing has made it more difficult for the soil to absorb water, which makes flooding more likely. The El Niño weather phenomenon is also largely responsible for the extreme amounts of rainfall experienced by Afghanistan. Some forecasters have predicted that due to this chaotic weather pattern, rainfall could increase by 40 to 50 percent through May. These chaotic changes in weather have had disastrous effects on Afghanistan and its neighbors. Although the rain has stopped, many in Afghanistan fear that even worse flooding is yet to come. The region is often hit by flash floods due to its rocky terrain, but many claim this is the worst flooding the country has seen in years.

Humanitarian Aid

The International Federation of the Red Cross requested an emergency appeal of 7 million Swiss francs, which they mean to use to support up to 650,000 people affected by the flooding in Afghanistan who need immediate relief. The IFRC wants to use this money to support the Afghan Red Crescent Society, in providing shelter, health care, water and sanitation to those affected by both extreme drought and flooding. Recently, USAID with support of the Department of Defense airlifted over 200 metric tons of relief items regions in Afghanistan. The U.S. also announced that they would be providing an additional $61 million in aid relief funds to provide food assistance, hygiene and safe water.

World Disaster Report

Every year the IFRC conducts a World Disaster Report in order to provide more insight into the causes and effects of disaster situations. The IFRC, in partnership with ARC, launched a campaign last year to research natural disasters in Afghanistan. The report’s findings found that not enough money was being invested in risk prevention and a majority of financial aid was being spent after disasters rather than before. It concluded that building resilience and preparedness within communities before disaster strikes is one of the most important factors in reducing the effects of natural disasters.

Extreme drought and severe flooding in Afghanistan have left its people in a state of emergency. The flooding has also begun to hit Afghanistan’s neighbors, Iran and Pakistan, and is causing the same kind of destruction and displacement. Thousands have been displaced and even more are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. Both U.N. organizations and IFRC are providing crucial aid to combat the aftermath of the flooding in Afghanistan.

– Olivia Halliburton
Photo: Flickr

Latin American Drug Cartels Target Impoverished Children

Drug cartels are a rising problem everywhere, especially for those that are in poverty. Children, specifically children in poverty, are generally the most vulnerable population anywhere in the world. Latin American drug cartels target impoverished children specifically due to their innocence and willingness to obey. Although this situation seems unfixable, people are uniting together against Latin American drug cartels, providing much needed hope.

The Situation

In Latin America, 43 percent of children live in poverty. These children’s come from families with no money for food, clothing or shelter. Cartels know the struggles of these children, so they offer them work. Because many feel they have no choice but to accept work from Latin American drug cartels, 80 percent of children under 25 agree to work for them.

Young children in Mexico and other Latin American countries draw less suspicion than older individuals and are willing to work for little money. As a result, the cartels use them in every way possible. Cartels often send children unaccompanied to push drugs across borders. Subsequently, border security will help unaccompanied children, thus enabling drug traffickers to smuggle drugs across borders.

How Countries Combat Drug Cartels

Luckily for these children, countries are taking steps to eliminate cartels. Recently, Mexico initiated a joint investigative team with the U.S. to fight against drug cartels. The U.S. and Mexico have worked together to combat cartels since the 1970s. For instance, one program, the Merida Initiative, worked to stop the flow of illegal weapons from the U.S. into Mexico and, subsequently, Latin American cartels. Similarly, the U.S. and Mexico offer amnesty to drug dealers in exchange for information.

This new joint investigative team is based in Chicago and directly targets cartel finances. Cartels survive by distributing goods to suppliers and laundering money. Therefore, disrupting their finances and cracking down on money laundering will drastically slow their production. In doing so, the team intends to weaken and ultimately stop Latin American drug cartels.

How Nonprofit Organizations and KIND Help

Nonprofit organizations band together to help the children that drug smugglers employed previously. One organization in particular, KIND, is dedicated to offering such help. KIND protects children’s rights when unaccompanied children are detained by the U.S. and when they are on the move. KIND ensures detained children receive necessary legal aid, especially as these children are burdened with an immigration system they do not understand.

With the U.S. and Mexico targeting drug cartels’ financial assets and nonprofit organizations providing the necessary help, there is hope to eliminate drug cartels and keep vulnerable children safe. The U.S. and Mexico, along with nonprofit organizations, are executing solutions to keep drug cartels away from children and shut them down altogether.

– Emme Chadwick
Photo: Pixabay

Martial Arts in Brazil
Brazil’s strength lies in its globalization: soccer and its telenovelas, for instance, are instantly recognizable to the international gaze as part of the country’s cultural brand. The same can be said for martial arts. The practice of martial arts in Brazil has existed since the 16th century, but the nation didn’t globally influence the field until the 20th century. Today, martial arts is a tangible and widely known element to Brazil’s landscape that is steadily being used to empower the upcoming generation.

Martial Arts

Martial arts is not just a combat sport; it is a codified system that permits the individual to learn more about oneself internally and externally. Many, if not all, forms of martial arts strive to improve the body, mind and spirit in equal precedence. Its cultural eminence and exploration of one’s limits make martial arts an excellent teaching enhancement for children in Brazil.

This is doubly true for those born in favelas – Brazilian slums where youth options are often limited to criminality, drug trafficking and sex trade. Families are increasingly enrolling their children in martial arts classes to keep them off the violent and poverty-ridden streets. The safe and controlled practicum of martial arts provides a fresh approach to life; children that would have otherwise continued to churn the cycle of poverty are able to build trust, strength and companionship while training with others.

Fight for Peace

Located in Complexo da Maré, a dangerous complex of favelas in Rio de Janeiro’s North Zone, is the organization Fight for Peace. The organization’s mission is upheld by their Five Pillars methodology. The First Pillar is to teach boxing and martial arts to local youth in order to boost self-esteem, discipline and respectful camaraderie. The other Four Pillars are education, employability, support services and youth leadership. These include opportunities such as vocational courses, home visits, education for those with learning difficulties and individual mentoring.

Children are encouraged to maintain an education and thereby continue their martial arts training until at least the age of schooling. By employing a multi-disciplinary approach that starts with martial arts in Brazil, Fight for Peace emboldens young individuals in disadvantaged communities to realize and pursue their potential.

Jose Aldo Fight School

Another valuable resource in Maré is the Jose Aldo Fight School, founded by UFC Featherweight Champion, Jose Aldo. As someone who came from an impoverished background with limited opportunities, Aldo has turned his success into a platform that paves the way for others.

So far, Aldo’s school has trained 534 students between the ages of 6 and 22 in judo, jiu-jitsu and boxing. The school aims to provide a strong and supportive community where children won’t feel that their only option out of hardship is to resort to crime.

Empowering the Youth

“Here, we replace a gun for a kimono,” says Marcelo Negrão, a jiu-jitsu teacher at Jose Aldo Fight School. Martial arts in Brazil have enabled its impoverished youth to harness the formative power of sport and use that confidence to create new paths for themselves.

Going forward, this medium of empowerment will hopefully continue to gain traction within the nation and as a global practice.

– Yumi Wilson
Photo: Huffington Post

poverty and dictatorship
Among the 10 dictatorship countries profiled, poverty is endemic. Poverty alleviation in these 10 dictatorship countries is in some cases associated with human rights abuses, violent crackdowns on the political opposition and indigenous people. In the last two decades, however, some of these countries have moved towards embracing democracy, which has brought an influx of government institutions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and foreign investment working to promulgate poverty alleviation.

The State of Poverty in 10 Dictatorship Countries

  1. Cambodia – In June of 2018, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was officially qualified as a military dictator by Human Rights Watch. Through an environment of fear, Cambodia has been littered with human rights abuses, crackdowns on the opposition, coercion and repression of the media. In September of 2018, the United Nations Development Program stated that 35 percent of all Cambodians are still poor regardless of the decline in the Multidimensional Poverty Index. In 2006, the Ministry of Planning established the IDPoor Programme to guide government services and NGOs to provide target services and assistance to the poorest households. As of December 2017, The IDPoor Programme has assisted 13 million people and has covered 90 percent of Cambodians.
  2. Cameroon – Current Prime Minister, Paul Biya, seized control of Cameroon from his fellow despotic predecessor in 1982. Biya has since ruled the central African country with an iron fist. In 2014, 37.5 percent of the people were living in poverty. However, a development NGO called Heifer Cameroon has been playing a positive role in alleviating the strains of poverty for Cameroon’s most poor and vulnerable communities. Heifer Cameroon has assisted 30,000 families by spurring job creation among the rural poor through focusing on the dairy industry along with other livestock.
  3. Eritrea – Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993. The President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, took power after its independence and has since entrapped his citizens in a cloud of fear. Furthermore, the nation was rocked by internal war, drought and famine. According to estimates of The World Bank, 69 percent of Eritrea’s population lives below the poverty line. Despite these conditions, Eritrea has drastically improved its public health conditions. Indeed since its liberation, life expectancy has increased by 14 years to 63 years. And over 70 percent of the population now has access to clean water, compared to just 15 percent in 1993.
  4. Ethiopia – In 2000, Ethiopia had one of the highest rates of poverty in the world, but by 2011, the poverty rate had fallen by 14 percent. In 2018, Ethiopia became Africa’s fastest growing economy in the sub-Saharan African region. However, some of the country’s development schemes have been wildly unpopular, such as the mass land-grab that is displacing Ethiopians so the government can lease out the land to foreign investors. On the other hand, some developments have actually made improvements in average household health, education and living standards.
  5. Madagascar – Madagascar has experienced a long period of political instability since its independence in the 1960s. Current President Hery Rajaonarimampianina was democratically elected in 2014. Rajaonarimampianina has prioritized recovering Madagascar’s relationship with foreign investment agencies, like The World Bank, IMF and The African Union. Unfortunately, in 2018, 75 percent of Madagascar’s population are still living under the poverty line.
  6. Myanmar – From 1966 to 2016, Myanmar existed under a military dictatorship that bore multiple wars spurred out of hatred and persecution of Rohingya Muslims and Christians. The crackdown and ethnic cleansing created a major refugee crisis. Today, Myanmar is reportedly inching towards democracy, but the military, headed by Gen. Than Shwe, still has major sway. In 2015, 35 percent of the population of Myanmar lived in poverty.
  7. Rwanda – Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s regime is often associated with maintaining peace and stability since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. However, critics of Kagame cite numerous human rights abuses and fear that the President is leading the country towards dictatorship. Still, Rwanda has taken major strides in addressing and decreasing the poverty rate. Between 2000 and 2010, the poverty rate declined by 23.8 percent. Recent economic growth within the country has been evenly distributed and pro-poor, with the majority of the Rwandan population benefiting from this economic growth.
  8. Sudan – President al-Bashir came to power in 1989 and reigned with a brutal dictatorship in Sudan until his exile in 2015. Poverty in Sudan is endemic. In 2018, 2.8 million were in need of humanitarian aid and 4.8 million were food insecure. Such high rates of poverty engender low literacy levels, crumbling infrastructure, little to no access to health services and high rates of food insecurity.
  9. Tunisia – President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali headed Tunisia’s dictatorship until 2011 when he was ousted by a people’s revolution. However, that stability was maintained by the military, which performed countless human rights abuses. However, poverty reduction strategies have rung successful as the poverty rate in Tunisia fell by 10 percent from 2000 to 2015.
  10. Zimbabwe – Robert Mugabe, who was the President of Zimbabwe for 37 years until 2017, had long been seen as a dictator and is attributed by The Economist as “ruining” Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s policies led to hyperinflation and an infrastructure system in disrepair. Build Zimbabwe Alliance claims that 72 percent of the population still lives under the poverty line. The main causes of poverty in Zimbabwe are the economic recession of 2008 and global warming’s impact on agriculture.

These 10 dictatorship countries have taken strides in increasing access to education, healthcare and economic growth. Such programs have been most successful in regards to pro-poor poverty reduction. The political outlook of some of these countries is improving, but there is still a lot of work needed to improve poverty in all of the countries listed.

– Sasha Kramer

Photo: Flickr