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

social justice and economic justice
There is an enduring and powerful relationship between social justice and economic justice. Social justice has many definitions. 
The most common definition, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is: “Justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities and privileges within a society.”

The definitions that are most applicable to alleviating poverty, however, are:

  • The idea that every person should have equal rights to basic liberties and needs, and inequalities should be arranged to the greatest benefit for those considered lowest in society.
  • From the Huffington Post: “…promoting a just society by challenging injustice and valuing diversity. It exists when all people share a common humanity and therefore have a right to equitable treatment, support for their human rights and a fair allocation of community resources.”

However, the current functioning of global society violates each of these definitions almost completely, and therefore expresses the lack of and need for social justice in all areas of the world, especially developing nations.

The United Nations Development Programme reports shocking statistics from poverty elimination research, detailing that as of 2000, there were 323 million people living on less than $1 a day, 185 million people who were undernourished and 273 million people without access to improved water sources in sub-Saharan Africa, the most impoverished region overall.

These harrowing numbers from sub-Saharan Africa were accompanied by information stating that 44 million primary age children were not in school, 23 million primary age girls were not in school, five million children under five years old were dying each year and 299 million people were without access to adequate sanitation. These statistics demonstrate that simple economic failure and injustice is not an isolated issue, but rather closely parallelled by social failure and injustice as well.

In contrast, the statistics from central and eastern Europe are staggeringly different. Only 21 million people were living on less than on $1 a day, only 33 million people were undernourished, only 29 million people were without access to improved water sources, only three million primary age children were not in school, only one million primary age girls were not in school, less than a million children under five years old were dying each year and an insignificant amount of people were without access to adequate sanitation as of 2000, so low that it was not even reported numerically.

As can be clearly seen, there is a direct correlation between social justice and economic justice, and a very large gap between developed nations and impoverished countries. The more economically impoverished a nation remains, the more social injustice thrives and prevails. The greater the poverty, the fewer people are given fair and equal access to basic needs and rights.  

To start fighting such global, national and statistical chasms and deprivations, the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals have started targeting social justice, specifically to help achieve the goals of:

  • Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger
  • Promoting gender equality and empowering women
  • Ensuring environmental sustainability

The hope is that the new information and educational awareness of the relationship between social justice and economic justice will kickstart the alleviation of poverty by focusing on the social injustices in each region and developing country to foster a new approach for decreasing poverty overall.

– Lydia Lamm

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

American Jewish World Service
As an organization dedicated to promoting human rights through advocacy, American Jewish World Service aims to “advance the health and human rights of women, girls, and the LGBT community, to promote recovery from conflict and oppression, to defend access to food, land, and livelihood, and to aid communities after disasters.”

The organization endeavors to uphold the Jewish value of “tikkun olam” which literally translates as fixing the world. Much like The Borgen Project, American Jewish World Service understands the enormous impact U.S. legislation can have on the developing world, and therefore, spends much of their efforts on urging representatives to support both economic and social justice in these regions.

American Jewish World Service focuses their work primarily on the Americas, Africa and Asia, and collaborates with other like-minded organizations in order to best promote their cause. Some partners include the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Rights, which provides a rapid response to areas that are experiencing increased violence against women, The Disability Rights Fund, which aims to support people that are disabled, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, which helps support rights for the LGBT community and the International Network for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which supports grassroots organizations by helping facilitate communication between various organizations.

American Jewish World Service’s most recent efforts, however, are aimed at pressuring the Senate to pass IVAWA (the International Violence Against Women Act), S.2307. Passing this act would secure an effective portion of foreign aid toward ending the struggle against gender-based violence. The act itself aims to put programs into action that will do the following: work with women to combat violence while also working to reduce the violence committed against women, stop violence so girls and women can go to school, work and collect food without fear of sexual and all forms of harassment and establishes fighting violence against women as a main concern of U.S. foreign policy.

If you would like to take action in combating violence against women, you can use the following link to email your senator to encourage Congress to pass the IVAWA.

Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: AJWS, Congress, Futures Without Violence, UN Women
Photo: KeyD Media

Social change does not happen over night, nor does it happen without a mobilized mission and steadfast support. From civil rights and women’s suffrage to anti-apartheid and Occupy Wall Street, each social movement represents a cause founded upon principles of freedom and equality. However, while these initiatives share many common ideas and aims, no two movements are alike. Every social movement experiences varying degrees of success and failure. So what distinguished successful social action from the unsuccessful efforts?

Movement Action Plan (MAP)

According to American journalist and social change activist Bill Moyer social movements take time and years of planning. While this may seem like an obvious observation, many movements are all too quickly deemed ineffective before given the chance to flourish. Just because a movement does not reach its long-term goals during the first outbreak of social opposition does not mean the movement as a whole has failed. In fact, highly successful action builds momentum over time and continues to do so even after social objectives are met. In the 1970s, Moyer developed the MAP based on his analysis of numerous successful social movements. From these case studies, Moyer established eight distinct stages that help activists create effective tactics and strategies in hopes of building successful initiatives.

8 Steps to Success

1. Identify a social problem
2. Demonstrate institutional failures
3. Prepare nonviolent grassroots
4. Educate the public
5. Acknowledge opposition
6. Dedicate to long-term goals
7. Recognize success
8. Retain success

On the other hand, there are many noble causes with passionate supporters that simply lack the political organization and focus to get off the ground and make a serious impact on popular opinion. A CNN article, ‘Why Some Movements Work and Others Wilt,’ highlights some of the common errors of failed social initiatives, such as the Occupy Wall Street movement.

4 Things to Avoid

1. Do not be deceived by spontaneity
2. Do not just take it to the streets
3. Do not underestimate silent suffering
4. Do not fight the Man; work with him

The article sheds light on common misconceptions and stereotypes placed on social movements. Not all action has to be radical, aggressive, and impulsive. On the contrary, successful initiatives tend to be slow, deliberate, and subtle. “Successful movements just don’t take it to the streets. They elect candidates, pass laws, set up institutions to raise money, train people and produce leaders.” Likewise, rarely is there one event that sparks outright revolution, but rather, the “steady build up” of social discontent and degradation eventually leads to action.

Equally important to the success of a social movement is its leaders’ ability to work with, not against, governmental institutions. The political and economic support of influential elites provides legitimization for many social causes. “A movement, though, can’t appeal to the altruism of elites to get their support. Elites help movements when they feel their own interests are threatened.”

The Borgen Project finds much success in mitigating global poverty due, in great part, to its determined collaboration with United States congressional leaders. Not only does the campaign emphasize all the ways alleviating global poverty works in the best interest of the U.S., but The Borgen Project also uses legislation to support effective policies in order to combat global poverty.

The successes are numerous, as the campaign continues to improve the lives of people all over the world. “Over the past 20 years, the number of the world’s chronically undernourished has been reduced by 50 percent.” The mission is by no means complete, but in order to retain success, The Borgen Project continues to educate and advocate in the fight against global injustices.

– Gloria Kostadinova

Sources: CNN, The Borgen Project
Photo: Occupy

The famous Chicago Bean and the steps of Chicago’s Art Institute were filled with a group of demonstrators called UltraViolet who teamed up with Chicago’s own Overpass Light Brigade to show giant lit signs that read “Stand with Women.” The activists are sending a message to legislators in the midst of a debate over women’s rights and allowing business owners to refuse to provide birth control based on the owner’s religious stance. The demonstrators corresponded together to light up Chicago in favor of women’s rights and access to birth control.

The demonstrations were held nationwide to promote awareness of this hot topic. UltraViolet is a new growing group of men and women in the United States committed to stopping sexism and expanding women’s rights. The group works with politics, government, media and pop culture to spread the message and speak out against these issues.

UltraViolet members spoke out on social media when Rapper Rick Ross who was sponsored by Reebok released a single promoting the use of drugs used to rape a woman. UltraViolet teamed up with Facebook to speak out against this issue for women and rape issues. Facebook used ads on the website to promote the cause. Reebok later ended the relationship with the rapper thus causing Rick Ross to issue an apology for the lyrics.

UltraViolet educates hundreds of thousands of women about health care issues to rape culture awareness and even spreads the word about women’s pay inequality. The co-founders, Nita Chaudhary and Shaunna Thomas, have rallied together over 350,000 members through campaigns and social media websites to get their voices heard. UltraViolet also brought to light issues with anti-women lawmakers in the political realm, like lawmaker Paul Ryan.

Bringing this type of awareness globally could help empower millions of women and help reduce issues like global poverty. Women make up an absurd amount of the world’s poor and need activist groups to get the voices of the excluded women in these societies heard. Issues like rape and domestic violence can be highlighted globally through a women’s perspective and stop issues like human trafficking.

More is being done to stop the trafficking for illegally pirated DVDs than there is with the trafficking of young girls in Taiwan with border security. An issue like this which takes the lives of millions of young girls every year and could be fought by using social media outreach similar to UltraViolet’s method. Ultraviolet’s outreach can spread globally and empower women from all corners of the world to fight for women’s rights and gain access to society in ways that was not possible before.

– Rachel Cannon

Sources: Chicagoist, New York Times
Photo: Chicagoist

According to the 2011 census, more than 70% of India’s enormous population is under the age of 35. By the year 2020, India will likely be the youngest country in the world, with a median age of just 29 years old.

While for years this youth population growth has been considered a point of contention for the country, the time has come for a conceptual transformation. Rather than be burdened with malnutrition, a severe lack of education and overcrowded villages, the youth in India are taking a stand for political change.

With elections coming up in May, the nation’s younger generation is pushing for an agenda that directly addresses their concerns for development, employment, educational opportunities and increased inclusion in the political sphere.

Indians have catapulted their political system into a throng of idealism in which people with great ideas yet no background in government enter the political realm through the Aam Aadmi Party. The party is an offshoot of an anti-corruption campaign that came to popularity in 2011 and 2012. Fueled by an enthusiastic and expectant youth, the Aam Aadmi Party gives hope to the masses looking for change and agency to those willing to make that change happen.

Intense loyalty to the responsibility of social justice and inclusion augments the Indian population’s surge to the polls. The Times of India, for example, has initiated the I Lead India campaign to encourage youngsters to vote and to create a Youth Manifesto. The campaign stresses accountability of politicians and promotes activism among Indian citizens.

If all goes well, such strong desires and opinions could bring about extensive successful alterations in Indian politics and social life. But the risk is not to be discounted.

The large numbers of these young Indian individuals rising up to have a say puts great pressure on the future of India’s political system. And the youth are not extremely patient. Lofty expectations and an inability to patiently await the change that will, as all change does, inevitably take time, threatens the optimism this youthful group has inspired.

– Jaclyn Stutz

Sources: New York Times, Times of India
Photo: Aam Aadmi Party

True strength can be found beyond the confines of its traditional definition, which focuses primarily on the physical. Strength of mind, instead, is the crucial virtue for any successful activist.

In the fight for social justice, activists are pitched into a wide array of situations that require them to serve as leaders, amplifying the voices of those most in need.  Activists must be prepared to take on a variety of roles that require a mix of strong leadership, writing, and organizing skills.

They must also have strong communication skills and be prepared to gracefully face the gamut of reactions and opponents that accompany the plethora of people they will meet along their journey to justice.

The skills required for a life of activism all thrive on one’s mental strength.  Such strength is developed through the way we allow our minds to perceive the world around us. In order to strengthen your mind, you must consciously change and adapt your thought process in a positive manner.

Research abounds correlating positive psychological principles with behaviors that lead to success and the strength to pursue one’s goals.  It has been discovered that positivity is associated with “increased success, better relationships, better jobs, more altruism, improved health, being more open-minded, and many other personality traits and behaviors that help us to achieve goals and meet the kind of people that are positive and influential in our lives.”

People often turn to quotes for motivation or inspiration to influence their mindset and gain the strength to pursue a certain path. Below is a list of ten quotes about strength and success, which both rest upon the underlying principle of having a positive attitude:

  1. “People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves, they have the first secret of success.” – Norman Vincent Peale
  2. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”- Thomas A. Edison
  3. “Don’t let the fear of losing be greater than the excitement of winning.” – Robert Kiyosaki
  4. “Pessimists may be right in the end, but an optimist has a much better time getting there.” – Samuel R Allen, CEO of Deere
  5. “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” – Henry Ford
  6. “You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader.” – Henry Ford
  7. “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” – David Brinkley
  8. “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Anonymous
  9. “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no help at all.” – Dale Carnegie
  10. “Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.” – Jimmy Carter

Becoming an advocate for social justice rests upon a strong conviction in the cause you are fighting for.  Such conviction is transformed into successful action through maintaining a positive outlook, which is the foundation of mental strength.  The fight against world poverty, in particular, takes enormous mental strength to work through the difficult economic, social, and political factors that all play a role in perpetuating the problem.

It is easy for activists to get discouraged by the many uphill battles they will face along their journey, but the above quotes about strength should help to serve as inspiration and a reminder that maintaining strength of mind and a positive outlook are the keys to success.

– Rifk Ebeid

Sources: Epreneur TV, Addicted2Success, Forbes, HuffPost “100 Motivational Quotes”, HuffPost “GPS Guide”, HuffPost “50 Awesome Quotes on Risk Taking”, Psychology Today
Photo: Chattablogs

The population of Guatemala is 14.7 million and is ranked at 131 out of 187 in the United Nations Human Development Index. Also, the Gross National Income per capita in Guatemala is $2,740 and the Gini Index of Guatemala is 53.7, making this country one of the most unequal in the entire world.

There are 36 countries in the world that account for 90 percent of growth stunting and Guatemala is one of them.  This is because the chronic undernourishment rate for Guatemalan children is 49.8 percent (about 2.5 million children,) the fourth highest in the world and the highest in the region.

Chronic undernourishment in the indigenous areas is at 69.5 percent; 53 percent of the population lives in poverty with 13 percent being in extreme poverty.  Indigenous boys, girls, and women that live in the highlands are the most vulnerable groups to impoverished living conditions.  The illiteracy rate in Guatemala is 31.1 percent in women that are 15 years of age and older, but that reaches as high as 59 percent among older indigenous women.

In the last few decades of the 20th century, Guatemala had multiple civilian and military governments which led to guerilla war.  In 1998, its government signed a peace agreement that ended the conflict with nearly one million refugees and 200,000 deceased.  Guatemala was able to get a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council in January 2012.  The country’s being in an extended drought is now met with the food insecurity and economic crisis.

The government’s unemployment and budget deficit has been increasing because of the global economic crisis reducing exports, revenue from tourism and foreign investment.  Impoverished and food-insecure families are already struggling, but the combination of all these issues together restricts these families even more.

Unfortunately, the regularly occurring natural disasters in Guatemala do not make matters better for those living in poverty.  They are prone to earthquakes, landslides, droughts, hurricanes and floods, which can severely damage the indigenous population, since they are almost completely unprotected.

Guatemala is full of social conflict right now, with NGOs and indigenous groups protesting to get equality.  They are currently trying to block off the very mines that the government sees as essential to the country’s development because the indigenous see them as a threat to their safety since there have been massacres of hundreds of natives just to get certain resources from their land.

Also, people are trying to nationalize the electricity system, since poor households are unable to pay to keep their electricity due to the rising prices employed by private companies.  Children are even being forced to assemble fireworks without any safety equipment because they cannot find any other way of making money.  The Guatemalan people are pleading with the government to raise minimum wage by 47 percent simply so they can get enough money to cover the quickly rising prices of basic goods.

All of this injustice the Guatemalan government and private corporations are committing against their own people is leading to a lot of civil unrest.  If someone wants to be safe in Guatemala, they must pay to be safe, and the only ones that can pay are the rich.  It is clearly observable in most of the tourist destinations of Guatemala that there are uniformed guards in stores, hotels, and plazas to protect the outsiders/rich insiders; that is never a good sign.

There are actually seven private security officers for every public police officer.  The non-rich Guatemalan people are unhappy and cannot protect themselves from those that are hurting them, so action needs to be taken to achieve social justice.

Kenneth W. Kliesner

Sources: World Food Programme, CIA, The Guardian, IOL News
Photo: The Guardian

Interesting Facts About Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela was a Nobel Prize winner, icon of modern South Africa, and one of the most  respected world leaders of the 20th century. Below are interesting facts about Nelson Mandela.


5 Interesting Facts About Nelson Mandela


1) Nelson Mandela was born as Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela. He was given the name Nelson by a school teacher, and is sometimes called Madiba.

2) Mandela graduated from the University of South Africa with a law degree in 1942 and is known as “the worlds most famous political prisoner” and “South Africa’s Great Black Hope.”

3) Mandela has been married three times. He was married to his first wife Evelyn from 1944-1958, his second wife, Winnie from 1958-1966, and his third wife, Graca, from 1998 to present day. The marriages have resulted in six children.

4) Mandela has established the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The Foundation was established in 1999 and focuses on three areas of work including the Life and Time of Nelson Mandela, Dialogue for Social Justice, and Nelson Mandela International Day.

5) Nelson Mandela has an international day named in his honor.  The day is celebrated every year on June 25th and is dedicated to his life’s work and that of his charitable organizations, helping to ensure his legacy continues. The day serves as a call to action for individuals to take responsibility for changing the world into a better place.

– Caitlin Zusy 
Sources CNN, Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
Photo Guardian

Landesa Helps People Gain Property Rights

Landesa is a rural development institute devoted to securing land for the world’s poor.  The company “partners with developing country governments to design and implement laws, policies, and programs.”  These various partnerships work to provide opportunities for economic growth and social justice.

Landesa’s ultimate goal is to live in a world free of poverty.  There are many facets of poverty.  The institute focuses on property rights.  According to Landesa, “Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas where land is a key asset.”  Poverty cycles persist because people lack legal rights to land they use.

The company was the world’s first non-governmental organization designed specifically for land rights disputes.  Then known as the Rural Development Institute (RDI), the institute was the first to focus exclusively on the world’s poor.

Roy Prosterman founded the company out of a deep passion for global development.  Prosterman is a law professor at the University of Washington and a renown land-rights advocate.  He began his lifelong devotion to property rights after stumbling upon a troublesome article.  In 1966, he read a law review article “that promoted land confiscation as a tool for land reform in Latin America.”  Prosterman recognized the policy’s ills immediately.   He quickly authored his own articles on how land acquisitions must involve full compensation.

These articles led him to the floor of Congress and eventually the fields of Vietnam.  Prosterman helped provide land rights to one million Vietnamese farmers during the later part of the Vietnam War.  The New York Times claimed that his land reform law was “probably the most ambitious and progressive non-Communist land reform of the 20th century.”

Prosterman traveled the world to deliver pro-poor land laws and programs.  His most notable work was in Latin America, the Philippines, and Pakistan before founding the institute.  Today, Landesa focuses mostly on China, India, and Uganda.

He aims to “elevate the world’s poorest people without instigating violence.”  The company negotiates land deals with the government and landowners who received market rates.  Landesa helps people gain property rights, so people can focus on health and education efforts instead.

Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: The Seattle Times