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 Facts About Child Labor in Iraq

Iraq is one of the largest recipients of U.S. aid. It has been wracked by violence for decades. Children in Irag are particularly vulnerable to exploitation in this violent situation. These 10 facts about child labor in Iraq demonstrate just how dangerous it can be.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Iraq

  1. More than 575,000 children worked instead of going to school in Iraq in 2016. This is an increase of more than 250,000 since 1990 when the First Gulf War began and the ongoing violence within Iraq started. Approximately 75 percent of Iraqi children age 5 to 14 attend school, but attendance rates are unevenly distributed. In governates that have experienced violence, up to 90 percent of children are out of school.
  2. Children are coerced into various kinds of work. Some work in agriculture or industries such as construction, factory work and brick making. Children also work in the service industry and are involved in domestic work and street work, such as selling goods and pushing carts. It is estimated that 2 percent of children age 12-14 spend 28 hours or more a week on housework. The same number of children perform unpaid work for someone other than an immediate family member. About 12 percent work for their family’s businesses.
  3. Many children in Iraq are coerced into the “worst forms of child labor” as identified by the International Labour Organization (ILO). These include recruitment into armed conflict, use in illegal activities such as drug trafficking, forced begging, domestic work as a result of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Forces on both sides of the current conflict in Iraq have used child soldiers, one of the worst forms of child labor. In 2018, ISIL was responsible for recruiting 39 children and detaining more than 900.
  4. The Popular Mobilization Forces, a militia officially endorsed by the Iraqi state, has reportedly trained more than 200 children to join the fight against ISIS. Human Rights Watch has documented 38 cases of children being recruited into forces affiliated with the PKK, some as young as 12. On the other side of the conflict, ISIS has consistently used children as suicide bombers and soldiers. ISIS recruits children as they are easiest to indoctrinate. Sometimes they will pay impoverished families hundreds of dollars a month to send their children to military training camps.
  5. Although the minimum age requirement to work in Iraq is 15, laws are not evenly enforced. Additionally, while forced labor and sexual exploitation of children are prohibited, there are no laws prohibiting human trafficking. Adding to the problem, children are only required to be in school for six years. This would typically end their education at age 12. This makes children age 12 to 15 especially at risk for exploitation since they are often out of school but cannot work legally.
  6. Problems such as poverty, lack of education and a shortage of economic opportunities increase child labor. Children living in rural areas are more likely to work than those living in cities due to the stark divide in poverty levels. About 39 percent of people living in rural areas in Iraq live in poverty while only 16 percent of urban dwellers are impoverished. Poverty is a driving factor behind child labor, as impoverished parents often need income from their children so the family can get by.
  7. Sexual exploitation is also one of the worst forms of child labor. In some parts of Iraq, girls are used as “gifts” to settle disputes between tribes. Additionally, growing poverty has increased the number of parents force girls into marriages. At least 5 percent of girls in Iraq are married before the age of 15. In regions controlled by ISIS, the terrorist group runs markets in which captured girls and women are sold as sex slaves. Yezidi women and girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation, facing capture and trafficking by ISIS fighters. Gender-based discrimination also contributes to the problem of the sexual exploitation of young girls.
  8. The worst forms of child labor can have physical and psychological effects on children. Because children are still developing, children risk stunted growth and physical atrophy as well as behavioral issues from performing physical labor. Performing hard labor in industries such as agriculture also involves working with dangerous equipment, carrying overly heavy loads and working with dangerous chemicals and pesticides. Being exposed to violence and cruelty as a young child can also result in psychological problems. Spending time at work instead of with their peers can also result in delayed social development, depression and isolation.
  9. Iraq has made efforts to get rid of child labor. It has opened 80 schools in West Mosul and created educational opportunities for Syrian refuges children. This has resulted in 60,000 more children attending school. Iraq has also created new policies meant to address child labor through education and social services. These include the creation of informal education programs, subsidies for law oncome families so that children do not have to work and shelters for human trafficking victims.
  10. Organizations such as UNICEF have been working with the Iraqi government to protect children and keep them in school. UNICEF is striving to expand access to schools and increase the quality of education within Iraq. The agency has provided e-learning for children in areas without schools and assisted the Iraqi government with the Accelerated Learning Programme for children who have missed school. UNICEF continues to work with Iraq to improve the quality of education within the country. Together, they are making revisions to curriculums and materials and extended training for teachers. Additionally, the organization calls for the strengthening of institutions meant to protect children. It wants to increase case management and other services meant to serve children and combat social norms that prevent children and their families from seeking help.

The ILO has declared that the long-term solution to child labor “lies in sustained economic growth leading to social progress, in particular, poverty alleviation and universal education.” This means that the U.S. has an opportunity to end child labor in Iraq through poverty-reducing measures. Currently, 80 percent of U.S. aid to Iraq goes to military assistance, with only 20 percent used to address humanitarian needs.

These 10 facts about child labor in Iraq demonstrate that an increase in aid focused on poverty-reduction and education could change the lives of thousands of children. By reducing poverty, there is a stronger chance of reducing child labor.

Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Famine in North Korea

North Korea is known as one of the world’s most economically isolated countries. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, North Korea’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was only $40 billion in 2015. North Korea also has an extremely negative track record of famine. The 1990s famine in North Korea is estimated to have killed between up to 1 million people from 1995 to 2000.

How Did North Korea Get to This Point?

After the conclusion of World War II, Korea was split between the Soviet Union and the United States along parallel 38. In 1950, the Korean War began after communist North Korea invaded democratic South Korea. The war went on until 1953 and ended in a stalemate. Ever since the Korean War, North and South Korea have been divided at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), and the two countries have still not signed an official peace agreement to date.

North Korea’s communist regime has committed numerous human rights violations and threatened the United States, Japan and South Korea with a war on a frequent basis. As a result, the United Nations and the United States have placed significant sanctions on North Korea that have seriously reduced economic growth in the country. In fact, North Korea’s economic situation is so poor that many experts believe that, without China as North Korea’s major ally and trading partner, the country would not be able to sustain itself.

There have been past attempts to negotiate with North Korea, particularly regarding their nuclear weapons program. In June 2018, President Trump became the first United States President to meet with North Korea’s tyrannical regime, headed by Kim Jong Un. While President Trump is attempting to negotiate with North Korea, there has not been any significant progress made so far regarding diplomacy. However, President Trump temporarily succeeded in stopping Kim Jung Un from testing ballistic missiles (as many as 12 tests were conducted in 2019) and was also able to negotiate bringing home the remains of 55 American soldiers who died during the Korean War.

Why Does North Korea Have Problems With Famine?

Since North Korea’s annual GDP is low, monetary resources are tight. Unfortunately, the Regime uses nearly 25 percent of its GDP towards military funding. It does not invest as much in basic services such as healthcare, clean water, roads and food. On top of that, North Korea is a rather small country with nearly 24 million people. Its land area is estimated to be the size of Mississippi. Most of the northern areas are mountainous, which makes agriculture very difficult.

The devastating 1990s famine in North Korea was caused by a variety of factors. Besides the major problems discussed above, an excess of floods brought on by El Nino in 1995 and 1996 caused devastation in North Korea. This devastated crops and destroyed already limited farmland. As grain resources decreased, the government reduced the supply to its people in order to preserve food resources for itself and the military.

Are Conditions in North Korea Improving?

Conditions in North Korea are very difficult to gauge because the country is extremely selective regarding who is allowed in and out of the country. Therefore, data is limited. However, most experts agree that famine in North Korea has not improved very much. While North Korea’s GDP is slowly growing at approximately 4 percent, there were still 1,137 defectors in 2018. Twenty percent of North Korea’s children are thought to be stunted, and 40 percent of North Korean residents are malnourished. All of these factors are signs that conditions are still poor throughout the country.

On a positive note, domestic agriculture has improved greatly. Grain production has almost doubled from the 1990s to about 5 million tons per year. Humanitarian aid to North Korea is now supplying nearly 30 percent of the country’s food supply. In 2016, the United Nations spent at least $8 million in foreign aid to help reduce malnutrition. In the meantime, North Korea’s upper class, which largely consists of government officials and military generals, has plentiful access to food. This is largely because they all live in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang. Unfortunately, smuggled photos out of North Korea show small villages with residents starving, and in extreme cases, eating grass.

Nearly half of North Korea’s population still lives in poverty. Human rights violations are common, and the military is considered a priority over infrastructure and agricultural production. Until North Korea develops normalized relations with the rest of the world and commits more resources to its people, it is highly doubtful that any major breakthrough against famine or poverty will be possible.

Kyle Arendas
Photo: Pixabay

Artists against PovertyHistorically, art is a concept too broad to comprehend on a simplistic term. It can reference painting, drawing, music, writing, sculpting, acting, most creative ventures tend to fall under the category of art. With such a wide scape, it is no surprise that art also covers a range of topics, from love to politics to recycling. Poverty is a matter which has not escaped the global creative community and artists all over the world use their work to either raise awareness or take action against poverty. There are hundreds of thousands of relevant artists and projects around the world, though a few have caught significant attention for their contributions to the problem. Though a small sample, this article features a few of these artists against poverty and shows how art can be more than a pretty picture.

Willie Baronet

Willie Baronet is an artist, advocate, professor, entrepreneur and creative director who has dabbled in various projects and industries throughout the years. According to SMU (Southern Methodist University), his career includes advertising and design for several graphic projects, such as Communication Art, New York Art Annual and Annual Report Design: A Historical Retrospective 1510-1990. Baronet was also named as an AIGA Fellow in 2013 for his work in establishing a higher standard of performance for the creative community. His significant work as one of the artists against poverty, however, started back in 1993 with a project called We Are All Homeless.

Baronet began collecting signs from the homeless in an effort to raise awareness of the issue and try to understand their situation better. The project touches on both the moral challenge of those in a higher socio-economic position, as well as the more obvious subject of those in need. The work has won several awards and been exhibited all over the country, proving to be a powerful piece in the global conversation of poverty. Baronet’s contributes to such discussion establishes him as a powerful advocate for the homeless and leading voice in the fight against poverty.

Caitlin Beidler

Caitlin Beidler has taken advocacy to new heights with her art career. Back in 2006, she launched Redemption Art, a business that works to “free people through art,” according to the official website. The project has allowed this artist against poverty to directly interact with those in need by fostering a healthier community through small projects, such as murals with local children and live art events. Beidler has also taken global action by going to Haiti to paint murals with the children there in an effort to boost local morale. The work in Haiti has been done primarily through her sister’s non-profit, Growing Roots, an organization that works to help local communities in Haiti through direct action.

Beidler is a founding member of Growing Roots and helps oversee its four primary branches: Camp Hope, Community Mural Projects, the Planting Project and Mercy Relief. Each project touches on a different aspect of daily life for the Haitian people. Camp Hope is a day camp for local children, the Community Mural Projects are an artistic outlet (as previously mentioned), the Planting Project provides education and Mercy Relief provides aid during crisis periods. The work Beidler as done showcases the important facets of an artist’s life, they can both promote creativity while still contributing to the community. Art is both a means of emotional and practical support.

Michael Rakowitz

Michael Rakowitz is one of the artists against poverty who has taken direct action in fighting for the underdog. His career has spanned decades, with work being featured in such prominent venues as MoMA. Rakowitz is famous for its pieces with multiple purposes outside the artistic realm. In 2013, he opened a restaurant in Dubai called Dar Al Sulh. The art project doubled as nourishment for others as it told the history of the Jewish community in Iraq through the cuisine, showcasing the downfall of an entire people. Additionally, Rakowitz has been working on a long-term project since 1998 in which he turns art into a shelter.

The project, entitled paraSITE, utilizes the heat emitting from ventilation systems to create tent-like structures on the sides of buildings. These temporary homes often look like parasitic insects due to their bulbus form and positioning in the city. They have double lining as space between fills with air to inflate the structure while also heating the area inside for the homeless to sit in. The work—still ongoing today—has garnered mass attention for both its versatility and creative representation in the community. Rakowitz (throughout his career and with paraSITE in specific) proves art isn’t just for viewing or experience; it is an active part of life that can truly help others.

Conclusion

A common misconception about artists is that they are only a voice, they cannot contribute physically to the modern world. Art, however, has been evolving with the times the same way every other industry has for centuries. Artists have adapted to today’s fast-paced, efficiency-focused mindset. They raise the topic to eager ears, find creative ways to asses the problem and act as emotional and mental support to those in need all the while.

– Eleanora Kamerow
Photo: Flickr

Technology and PovertyTechnology advancements have made it easier than ever to participate in global poverty reduction efforts. From smartphone apps to browser extensions and charitable websites, keep reading to learn the easiest ways to help fight global poverty.

Apps That Help Fight Poverty

Smartphone apps may be the easiest form of providing assistance. Most people carry a cellphone with them wherever they go, so the ability to connect and help others is literally right at their fingertips. The five apps listed below are just a few examples of how technology can help to reduce poverty.

  • OLIO – OLIO is a food-sharing app based in the U.K. that allows people and local businesses to post food items nearing their best-by or sell-by date for other people to pick up. To date, over 1 million people have joined the app and 1.8 million portions of food have been shared. To post items, download the app, add a picture and description of the item, list when and where it can be picked up and wait for someone to claim it. To request items, scroll through the local listings, request what is needed and arrange to pick up through a private message.
  • ChowberryChowberry is an online Nigeria-based app, similar to OLIO, that has the goal of “reach[ing] millions of food-deprived individuals with affordable nutrition through innovation and enabling technologies”. Chowberry works with orphanages and faith-based organizations, as well as everyday customers to deliver soon-expiring food products to those most in need.
  • Share the Meal – Share the Meal was created by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). The WFP helps 80 million people with food assistance and is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting against hunger. Download the app, donate 50 cents (or more) in a few seconds and feed a child for the day. You can even check the app to see where the meals will be distributed.
  • WeFarm – WeFarm is a farmer-to-farmer digital network that allows farmers to connect to other farmers in various parts of the world, without the use of the Internet. More than 1 million farmers have been helped using WeFarm and over 40,000 questions and answers are sent in each day. Farmers can text their local WeFarm number a question they have, and other connected farmers can respond with their answers and suggestions.
  • Donate a Photo – Donate a Photo is an app created by Johnson & Johnson that allows users to “donate” a photo for a cause. Simply take a picture of any subject, choose what cause to donate it to and upload it. For every photo donated, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 to a certain charity. So far, there have been more than 4.5 million photo donations benefiting more than 200 causes including Save the Children, RED (fight for AIDS) and A Leg to Stand On.

Browser Extensions That Help Fight Poverty

Browser extensions are another easy way to help others. Unlike apps, which require a little effort to use, extensions require none other than downloading them. Although there are several extensions to choose from, Tab for a Cause is probably the most well known. As creator Alex Groth says, this is a way “where everyone can be giving to charity regardless of your monetary worth at that time.”

Tab for a CauseTab for a Cause is a web app/browser extension that works off of opening new tabs. Each time a new tab is opened, the page displays blogs and articles related to various issues to help raise awareness and education as well as ads to help generate revenue which is then donated to different organizations and charities. Tab for a Cause has partnered with Water.org, Room to Read, Human Rights Watch, Conservation International, International Peace Institute and Save the Children. To date, Tab for a Cause has raised $791,766 for various charities.

Websites That Help Fight Poverty

The following sites offer ways to help fight global poverty in the easiest ways possible in many cases at no additional cost to the website user.

  • FreeRice – FreeRice is a website that allows users to essentially play a game to donate food and money to those in need. Each question answered correctly refreshes the page and provides a new sponsored ad which in turn generates money donated to the World Food Programme. Although most donations go towards providing grain for vulnerable families, the company also provides other types of food assistance, “depending on where needs are greatest.” So far the organization has donated the equivalent 202 billion grains of rice to families experiencing hunger.
  • The Hunger Site – The Hunger Site is a partner of GreaterGood, an organization that raises money through online auctions for charities around the world. Although The Hunger Site works like a store with items available for purchase with proceeds being donated, they have a quick, easy and free way to help as well. At the top of their page, they have a “Click to Give” button. Clicking this button donates a specific amount of money from sponsored advertisers to provide food for areas in need, and since 1999 the organization has funded more than 714 billion cups of food. GreaterGood has several offshoots of this campaign, with similar sites for breast cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes research, literacy awareness, animal shelter donations and a few others. Overall, since 1999 and through the use of these websites and their online auctions, GreaterGood has raised and donated over $50 million to charities around the world.
  • Amazon SmileAmazon Smile is a project of Amazon that works exactly the same and offers the same products. The difference is that when shopping through Amazon Smile a portion of the proceeds will be donated to a charity of the shopper’s choice, without any additional cost to the shopper. As of 2018, Amazon had announced that it had made over $100 million in charitable donations since the Amazon Smiles program was launched in 2013.

– Jessica Winarski
Photo: Flickr

Social Justice Helps to Fight Social ChallengesAccording to the Pachamama Alliance, social justice is defined as “equal access to wealth, opportunities and privileges within a society.” Social challenges are defined as “an issue that relates to society’s perception of people’s personal lives. Different societies have different perceptions and what may be “normal” behavior in one society may be a significant social issue in another society.”

After defining terms, now the question raised must be addressed: how can social justice helps to fight social challenges? Social justice can help to fight social challenges by providing society with equal opportunities to overcome its problems.

Social justice and education

For instance, poverty is considered a social challenge because it relates to how society views people’s lives. One way to help reduce poverty is to provide greater and more equal education opportunities since many find themselves living in poverty due to a lack of education. From the years of 2002 to 2007, about 40 million more children around the world were able to attend school, due largely in part to the lowering of costs and the increase in investment. Programs like these are examples of social justice and the impact it can have on addressing social problems like global poverty.

Social justice and access to clean water

Another factor that influences poverty rates is a lack of access to clean potable water and nutritious foods. Although having access to these resources is a basic human right, many people around the world do not have access to clean water and food. To be more specific, according to The Water Project one in nine people worldwide do not have access to clean and safe drinking water, as a result, people find themselves without the ability to “grow food, build housing, stay healthy, stay in school, and keep a job.” By implementing programs such as building wells in rural communities and bringing access to potable water within a half-mile of villages across the globe, social justice in the form of providing people with equal access to privileges within a society, the social challenge of global poverty is being addressed.

Social justice and job development

Another important aspect is the economy and how job development can help to eradicate poverty. In China, 700 million people have been raised out of poverty due to several different programs being put in place by the government, one of which is its focus on the creation of jobs and the economic development of rural areas. Additionally, by providing underdeveloped areas with officers to regulate the poverty-alleviation programs, Chinese citizens were able to rise up out of the inhumane living conditions they were surviving in.  Through the government’s efforts in the job and economic development, China’s poor population has been given the same opportunities to achieve wealth and change their situation, which just goes to show that social justice can make a difference in how social challenges are addressed.

In conclusion, in terms of how social justice can help to fight social challenges, one could say that through the implementation of programs that offer the same opportunities to the underprivileged, social justice helps to fight social issues like global poverty.

Laura Rogers
Photo: Flickr

China's Contribution to Global Poverty Reduction
China has lifted 82.39 million rural poor out of poverty over the past six years. Additionally, recent data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that the proportion of people living below the poverty line dropped from 10.2 to 1.7 percent in the same period. The population living below the current poverty line in the rural areas was 16.6 million by the end of 2018, down 13.86 million from the previous year. The poverty rate in 2018 was also down by 1.4 percent points from 2017. A lot has happened on the way for China‘s contribution to global poverty reduction, though.

China’s History

In 1958, Mao’s Communist Party introduced the Great Leap Forward, a failed effort to achieve rapid industrialization, and which, by its end in 1962, left as many as 45 million people dead as food output plunged and a famine wreaked havoc. The decade-long Cultural Revolution, which brought disaster to the country, only ended with Mao’s death in 1976. Because of such campaigns, China basically stood still as the rest of the world moved ahead.

Today, China’s huge strides over 70 years seem impressive but those gains occurred in the 40 years after Mr. Deng launched China on the road to economic reform after taking over from Mao’s chosen successor. Deng Xiaoping paved the way for how China contributes to global poverty reduction.

Poverty Alleviation in China

According to statistics that the World Bank released, over the past 40 years, the number of people in China living below the international poverty line has dropped by more than 850 million. This represents 70 percent of the total world figure. With the highest number of people moving out of poverty, China was the first developing country to realize the UN Millennium Development Goal for poverty reduction.

Indeed, poverty across the globe has seriously hindered the fulfillment and enjoyment of human rights for many. As such, many see reducing and eliminating poverty as the major element of human rights protection for governments across the world. It is really encouraging that, over the years, poverty eradication has always remained a goal for the Chinese government in its pursuit of a happy life for its people.

China’s Efforts to Alleviate Poverty Around the World

In the meantime, China’s poverty alleviation results are benefiting other countries and their peoples. China, with an aim to build a community with a shared future for humanity, is actively responding to the UN Millennium Development Goal and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is conducting broad international collaboration on poverty reduction. Some examples of China contributing to global poverty reduction are the implementation of the China-Africa cooperation plan for poverty reduction and people’s livelihood and the 200 initiatives of the Happy Life Project.

Over the past 70 years, China provided financial aid of over 400 billion yuan to nearly 170 countries and international organizations, and carried out over 5,000 assistance projects overseas and helped over 120 developing countries to realize the Millennium Development Goal, a glorious example of how China’s contribution to global poverty reduction.

China plans to eliminate absolute poverty by 2020. The plan is not only a key step for the country to realize the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, but also a significant and glorious cause in the human history of poverty reduction.

Andrea Viera
Photo: Flickr

 

Sports Programs Alleviating Poverty
Sports are not an easy ticket out of poverty, but sports programs for impoverished youth can provide skills, support and guidance that can strengthen individuals and communities. Developing physical, social and emotional health are just a few of the benefits that children can reap from participation in quality sports programs. Below are five youth sports programs alleviating poverty worldwide.

Five Youth Sports Programs Alleviating Poverty Worldwide

  1. Tiempo de Juego: Tiempo de Juego in Colombia considers the game of soccer to be a tool capable of transforming communities, developing the skills of boys and girls and inspiring them to become agents of change. Tiempo de Juego takes an academic approach to the game of soccer, identifying three areas of development: technical skills, psychosocial development and a pedagogical foundation. Through the common bond of soccer, Tiempo de Juego allies with seven local schools as well as families to bring positive social opportunities to the lives of community members. It even supports small business endeavors of families who provide goods and services such as screen-printed t-shirts and vending for soccer events.
  2. Line Up, Live Up: Line Up, Live Up is a life skill curriculum with various sports from martial arts to volleyball. The Youth Crime Prevention through Sports Initiative sprang from the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declarative and is taking roots in Palestine and Central Asia. In addition to physical exercise and teamwork, Line Up, Live Up helps kids learn life skills for resisting social pressures of drug use and delinquency. It also helps students with issues such as anxiety and communication with peers. Line Up, Live Up forms its basis from empirical research from the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime and also the understanding that risk factors in the lives of youth can be reduced through meaningful intervention. The belief that actual changes in attitudes and behaviors can take place drives the organization.
  3. Love Fútbol:  Love Fútbol emerged in 2006 after Drew Chafetz founded it on the platform that community-driven energy toward social change could happen on a universal passion for soccer. An avid soccer player who traveled widely, Drew noticed the unsafe and unsupervised conditions in which impoverished kids often played. Drew developed the philosophy that every child has the right to play soccer and he built that dream into fruition in a collaborative way.The first program started in Guatemala before expanding to Brazil. Each place Love Fútbol goes, the community plays a vital role in building the field and creating the program, thereby instilling their ownership in the process. Partnering with global sponsors, Love Fútbol provides funding for raw materials. In Colombia, Love Fútbol partnered with Tiempo de Juego that had the experience and the vision of implementing soccer programs in its own community but lacked the budget. Love Fútbol was able to help make its dreams a reality. The whole community built the field with the help of over 100 volunteers and 1,500 hours of labor. In another location in Mexico, the organization constructed a soccer field on the former site of a factory, bringing revitalization to the community. With well-maintained fields and supervised programs, impoverished participants can build healthier and more productive lives. Love Fútbol programs are growing throughout Latin America and these sports programs are alleviating poverty successfully.
  4. Waves for Change: Waves for Change is a unique program on this list, as it does not involve a ball game. Waves for Change is a surfing program for youth that face poor infrastructure, violence and poverty in Capetown, South Africa. Tim Conibear founded it in 2009 because he recognized that surfing was a great way to reach at-risk youth who would not otherwise have access to such activities. Primarily a mental health foundation, the program addresses the psychological and emotional well-being of kids who often experience trauma. Waves for Change teams with mental health professionals to address the issues of child mental health. Program leaders note an improvement in self-care and participation in school for those who take part in the program. Kids who grow up in gang culture are looking for risk and surfing can fulfill that need in a positive way. The organization is able to employ over 40 coaches who are former participants in the program. The activity instills pride, personal responsibility and a sense of self-worth.
  5. Cricket Program: Daniel Juarez, an accomplished cricket player in Argentina, founded Cricket Program. He established this program for the youth living in the most dangerous and impoverished slums of Argentina. Caacupe Community Center offers the cricket program. Pope Francis, formerly cardinal to Buenos Aires, is a benefactor as well as Rev. Pepe Di Paola who people know for his anti-crime work in area slums. Through the sport, kids receive an education and learn values. Some participants have developed their skills to such a high level as to qualify for national-level youth cricket teams. The organizers believe cricket provides a foundation that participants can carry with them throughout life. It even received a Best Spirit Award from the International Cricket Council.

Children worldwide have a natural drive and passion to play sports and these five sports programs are alleviating poverty worldwide. Poverty can inhibit access to good equipment, safe fields and quality instruction, but through innovative programs that engage community members and provide structure and funding, kids can experience the joy of play as well as build valuable life skills. The confidence gained can nurture lives and empower families in their rise from poverty.

Susan Niz
Photo: Flickr

Best Poverty Reduction Programs
In the global fight against poverty, there have been countless programs to effectively downsize this issue. Poverty reduction programs are an important part of the fight against poverty and because of this, countries should be able to cooperate and learn from one another. Thankfully, with the help of the U.N., the world has been making progress in terms of cooperating to implement good poverty reduction programs. In no particular order, these are the five countries with some of the best poverty reduction programs.

Five Countries with the Best Poverty Reduction Programs

1. China

For the Middle Kingdom, poverty reduction is a key contributing factor to its rapidly growing economy. China has helped reduce the global rate of poverty by over 70 percent, and according to the $1.90 poverty line, China has lifted a total of 850 million people out of poverty between 1981 and 2013. With this, the percentage of people living under $1.90 in China dropped from 88 percent to less than 2 percent in 32 years. China’s poverty reduction programs have also benefitted people on a global scale by setting up assistance funds for developing countries and providing thousands of opportunities and scholarships for people in developing countries to receive an education in China.

2. Brazil

Brazil has taken great steps in reducing poverty and income inequality. Brazil has implemented programs such as the Bolsa Familia Program (Family Grant Program) and Continuous Cash Benefit. Researchers have said that the Family Grant Program has greatly reduced income disparity and poverty, thanks to its efforts of ensuring that more children go to school. They have also said that beneficiaries of this program are less likely to repeat a school year. Meanwhile, the Continuous Cash Benefit involves an income transfer that targets the elderly and the disabled.

3. Canada

Canada has implemented poverty reduction programs such as the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the National Housing Strategy. The Guaranteed Income Supplement is a monthly benefit for low-income senior citizens. This program helped nearly 2 million people in 2017 alone. Meanwhile, the National Housing Strategy in an investment plan for affordable housing that intends to help the elderly, people fleeing from domestic violence and Indigenous people. With its poverty reduction programs in place, Canada reportedly hopes to cut poverty in half by 2030.

4. United States

Although the United States has a long way to go when it comes to battling poverty, it does still have its poverty reduction programs that have proven to be effective. According to the Los Angeles Times, programs such as Social Security, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps have all helped to reduce deep poverty. In particular, people consider the Earned Income Tax Credit to be helpful for families that earn roughly 150 percent of the poverty line, approximately $25,100 for a four-person family. Social Security could help reduce poverty among the elderly by 75 percent.

5. Denmark

Denmark has a social welfare system that provides benefits to the unemployed, the disabled and the elderly, among others. People in Denmark are generally in good health and have low infant mortality rates. Denmark also has public access to free education, with most of its adult population being literate.

It should be stressed that none of these countries are completely devoid of poverty, but they do provide some good examples of how governments can go about reducing this issue. With the help of organizations like the USAID, it is clear that this is an issue many take seriously.

Adam Abuelheiga
Photo: Flickr

Smoking in Developing Countries
Smoking rates among adults and children in developing countries have been increasing for years. In developed nations, such as the United States, people have implemented certain policies in order to increase taxes and therefore reduce tobacco consumption, successfully. Such policies have not yet enacted in areas of extreme poverty around the world. In fact, tobacco companies have responded by flooding low-income areas with reduced-priced cigarettes, tons of advertisements and an excessive number of liquor stores and smoke shops. It is time to have a conversation about smoking rates in developing countries and whether or not tobacco control policies are the best approach long-term, worldwide. Here are the top 6 facts about smoking in developing countries.

Top 6 Facts About Smoking in Developing Countries

  1. Smoking affects populations living in extreme poverty differently than it does those in wealthy areas. Stress is a harmful symptom of poverty and contributes to smoking rates in low-income areas. Oftentimes living in poverty also means living in an overcrowded, polluted area with high crime and violence rates and a serious lack of government or social support. Stress and smoking are rampant in these areas for a reason. It is also important to note that smoking wards off hunger signals to the brain which makes it useful for individuals to maintain their mental health of sorts if food is not an option.
  2. Smoking rates are much higher among men than women across the globe. While the relative statistics vary from country to country, smoking rates among women are very low in most parts of Africa and Asia but there is hardly any disparity in smoking rates between men and women in wealthy countries such as Denmark and Sweden. The pattern of high smoking rates among men remains prevalent worldwide. One can equally attribute this to two factors that go hand-in-hand: the oppression of women and the stress that men receive to provide with their families.
  3. The increase in smoking rates in developing countries also means an outstanding number of diseases and death. The good news is that countries have succeeded in reducing consumption by raising taxes on the product. Price, specifically in the form of higher taxes, seems to be one of the only successful options in terms of cessation. Legislation banning smoking in certain public spaces is one example of an effort that places a bandaid on the problem instead of addressing the root cause. There is no data that shows a direct correlation between non-smoking areas and quitting rates among tobacco users.
  4. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports an estimated 6 million deaths per year which one can attribute to smoking tobacco products. It also estimates that there will be about another 1 billion deaths by the end of this century. Eighty percent of these deaths land in low-income countries. The problem at hand is determining how this part of the cycle of poverty can change when it has been operating in favor of the upper class for so long.
  5. Within developing countries, tobacco ranks ninth as a risk factor for mortality in those with high mortality and only ranks third in those with low mortality. This means that there are still countries where other risk factors for disease and death are still more prominent than tobacco use, but that does not mean that tobacco is not a serious health concern all over the world. Of these developing countries, tobacco accounts for up to 16 percent of the burden of disease (measured in years).
  6. China has a higher smoking rate than the other four countries ranked highest for tobacco use combined. The government sells tobacco and accounts for nearly 10 percent of central government revenue. In China, over 50 percent of the men smoke, whereas this is only true for 2 percent of women. China’s latest Five-Year Plan (2011 – 2015) called for more smoke-free public spaces in an attempt to increase life expectancy. A pack of Marlboro cigarettes in Beijing goes for 22元, which is equivalent to $3. This is far cheaper than what developed countries charge with taxes. This continual enablement is a prime example of why smoking rates in developing countries are such a problem. While many people mistake China for a developed nation because it has the world’s second-largest economy and third-largest military, it is still a developing country.

In countries like China where smoking rates are booming and death tolls sailing, tobacco control policies may not be the best solution. While raising taxes to reduce consumption may seem like a simple concept, when applied to real communities, a huge percentage of people living in poverty with this addiction will either be spending more money on tobacco products or suffering from withdrawals. While it might be easy for many people to ignore the suffering of the other, in this case, a lower-class cigarette smoker, one cannot forget how the cycle of poverty and addiction and oppression has influenced their path in life.

Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Violent Extremism
Addressing violent extremism requires going beyond a strictly military approach to address the root causes of radicalization. While many have argued that poverty is a leading factor behind radicalization, the relationship between poverty and violent extremism is complex. Poverty by itself does not necessarily lead to a rise in violent extremism. However, societal exclusion and marginalization, which poverty links to, have a significant capacity to propel people to violence.

Government Failure

A more accurate way of determining the relationship between poverty and violent extremism is to examine not just individual cases of poverty, but entire structures that lead to deprivation and exclusion. A variety of societal factors can drive people to extremism. Firstly, a failure of state governments to provide social services not only results in poverty but allows extremist groups to fill the service gap. Secondly, distinct economic inequality between social groups can lead to grievances and disillusionment which makes extremist viewpoints more attractive. Connected to this form of inequality is social exclusion, in which society relegates one group to its outskirts. Without an ability to fully participate in the community and take part in the political process, people may become desperate for a sense of belonging and empowerment, two things which extremist groups promise.

Feelings of abandonment and resentment are prone to occur in weak states which are unable to provide their citizens with security and basic services. This not only heightens inequality, but it also means that impoverished people may come to rely on terrorist groups to provide services. By filling this role of a social service provider, extremist groups can ingratiate themselves with the community and gradually recruit. Multiple terrorist groups have succeeded in proliferating through this welfare terrorism strategy.

Hezbollah, for instance, has established schools, medical centers and agricultural programs among Shiite populations in Lebanon, while Hamas has made similar investments in education, health and cultural establishments in the West Bank. The Taliban and Al Qaeda have both established religious schools which are sometimes the only educational option available in poor regions, leaving parents with little choice but to send their children to schools that can teach violent ideologies. The failure of governments to provide education, health and social services aids this phenomenon. When terrorist groups provide these services, it not only encourages the population to accept extremists into their community, it also delegitimizes the state and political system.

Inequality and Discrimination

Additionally, it is necessary to evaluate poverty in context within a country in order to determine its relationship to violent extremism. Relative poverty tends to be more of a factor than absolute poverty in radicalizing someone towards violence. In other words, while poverty on an individual level is unlikely to prompt someone to become an extremist, the existence of societal poverty or marked inequality between social groups, can have that effect. People know inequality between groups, in which one group has privilege over the other, as horizontal inequality and it is particularly likely to lead to grievances and the perception of injustice.

One can find an example of horizontal inequality in Syria, where significant disparities have existed for decades between Sunni and Shia Arabs. Under the Al-Assad regime, Sunnis, who make up the majority of the population, have faced economic hardship and discrimination in favor of Alawite elites. Syria is one of the most economically unequal countries in the region with a GINI coefficient of 38.8, and regions of the country have experienced development in a very uneven way. Terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda have been able to exploit Sunni anger at the state to recruit in Syria.

Social Exclusion

Social exclusion is also a crucial factor in driving people towards violent extremism. The U.N. defines social exclusion as a “lack of participation in decision-making processes in civil, socio-economic and cultural life” and the institutionalized withholding of rights which make it impossible to fully integrate with the broader community. When whole social groups receive systematic alienation, group members can become desperate for a sense of belonging and autonomy. This makes them ripe targets for recruitment into terrorist groups, which offer a sense of inclusion and identity.

As one young man in Kenya describes it, “poverty feeds terrorism by eroding a basic human need: the need to belong… Poor people have no stake in nations and economies that ignore them.”As he points out, a lack of economic resources means people are denied the chance to fully participate in and contribute to society. Instead, they spend all their time merely trying to survive. When young people are unable to find productive work and feelings of alienation and deprivation overwhelm them, it can tempt them to join gangs and terrorist networks. These provide not only money but a sense of belonging and utility. Additionally, an inability to enact change through undemocratic political systems may prompt people to turn to violence as an attempt to restore justice.

Activists in marginalized communities have worked to combat this problem through programs which provide not just economic assistance, but a sense of community. For instance, Shining Hope for New Communities (SHOFCO), works in Kibera and Mathare. The organization runs a school for girls that provides tuition-free learning as well as free nutrition and health services for students and their families. The organization also issues microloans which allow people to start small businesses and gain financial stability. Crucially, SHOFCO also works to provide a sense of community for residents through theater, soccer programs and employment advice sessions.

The Role of Foreign Aid to Reduce Violent Extremism

Beyond programs like these, foreign aid has significant potential to reduce the circumstances which can drive people to violent extremism. It is important that aid goes beyond economic assistance to address the sources of grievances which can lead to radicalization. Multiple studies have found that high levels of civil liberties and a strong rule of law correlate with a low number of domestic terrorist attacks. Repression and weak rule of law not only delegitimize the state, but they also deny citizens appropriate channels for addressing grievances through the political system, leading some to take up violent means. With this in mind, foreign aid which focuses on good governance and promoting civil society has the potential to reduce extremism.

One study which examined the number of terrorist attacks in countries from 1997 to 2020 found that governance and civil society assistance results in fewer terrorist attacks in countries that were not experiencing a civil war. As this study shows, investment in foreign aid has the ability to reduce violent extremism, which is one of the key priorities of U.S. national security policy. If U.S. policymakers want to stop the spread of violent extremism, they should support programs that promote providing people with basic needs, economic equality and give people a stake in their community.

Clarissa Cooney
Photo: Flickr