As the 2015 target date for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)  rapidly approaches, there is much discussion on the post-2015 MDGs. A coalition of charities and campaign groups plans to ask the leaders at this year’s UN General Assembly to take a holistic approach to ending global poverty.

This holistic approach targets those most vulnerable demographics: women and girls. The coalition argues that by empowering women and girls, the true root causes of poverty will be addressed.

There is concern that the current MDG goal of gender equality will be replaced with a watered-down goal addressing broader inequality concerns. However, the coalition believes that gender equality was a neglected MDG goal the first time around and, therefore, needs to be an area of focus in the post-2015 goals.

Countries with greater gender equality in education and employment have stronger economic growth and human development. Therefore, empowering women and girls creates a stronger country and world. Empowering women and girls will help end world poverty.

Empowering women and girls starts with their physical health. By providing accessible and affordable healthcare, core concerns such as maternal health, gender equality, and sexual and reproductive health and rights will be addressed. Currently, the main concerns include the lack of healthcare and sexual and reproductive health services for women, as well as the lack of medical care for their children.

Many women and girls die from inadequate healthcare. By addressing these vital needs, it is estimated that 79,000 maternal deaths, most of which occur in sub-Saharan Africa, would be prevented.

Recognizing that mothers sustain and create life, the coalition is urging the Member States to include a goal that focuses explicitly  on gender and equality. According to Tewodros Melesse, the Director General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), a world with gender equality is a “world of justice, choice, and well being for all.”

Working on the MDGs has provided the world with many lessons. Perhaps the most valuable of these is that progress is likely to be uneven – and at times reversed – if gender equality is not viewed and addressed as a vital goal.

– Caressa Kruth

Sources: News Afrique Informations, The Guardian
Photo: A Nation of Moms

Project Concern International (PCI) is an organization which seeks to to prevent disease, improve community health, and promote sustainable development worldwide. PCI was founded in 1961 by Dr. James Turpin after saving the lives of two children suffering from pneumonia while working in a Tijuana clinic. This experience inspired the young doctor to go on and forever change the lives of millions. PCI envisions a world in which resources are abundant and shared, communities are capable of providing for the basic health and well-being of its members, and children and families can achieve lives of hope, good health and self-sufficiency. PCI conducts its work through field offices in host countries where directors can live in the area and get an intimate understanding of local needs.

Working in 16 countries, PCI hopes to reach at least 5 million people per year with its services. Overtime, PCI has expanded its reach through increased funding: from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to government grants to the Starbucks foundation, PCI has a well rounded list of supporters. PCI’s ultimate goals include addressing the root causes of poverty and poor health; working with the community to leverage their assets, capabilities and goals to create community-inclusive solutions; implementing holistic solutions; cultivating long-standing relationships with community leaders, investors, and stakeholders to catalyze the impact of aid spent; and developing tools which measure the long-term success of such programs. PCI addresses poverty through programs focused on women’s empowerment & poverty, children’s health, disease prevention, food & water programs, and disaster relief & recovery. Between 2013-2016, PCI hopes to reach over 10 million people worldwide and become a leader in building community capacity, resilience and self-sufficiency.

In addition to its programs worldwide, PCI also has a series of initiatives to further promote its goals. These intiatives include: Women Empowered, Legacy, Who Cares? and SHE.

  • Women Empowered: Established in May of this year, Women Empowered is an initiative in support of women’s equality, human rights and success. PCI believes that women are the solution to poverty, poor health and vulnerability and that through WE, women can attain social and economic empowerment. WE programs are currently being implemented in Guatemala, Bolivia, Botswana, and Malawi. One such success story comes from Maweta in Zambia. After raising six children of her own, Maweta returned to parenthood to raise her grandchildren after their parents died from AIDS. Without a steady source of income, Maweta struggled to provide for her grandchildren. After attending a community orientation hosted by PCI, Maweta began mobilizing women in her community to form a self-help group. Nine months later, Maweta has learned how to read and write, perform basic accounting and save $60 by selling mangoes to her community. Maweta has since received a loan to start a small business. Maweta buys food in bulk, repackages it into smaller quantities and sells these to her village. Since starting the business, Maweta has been able to provide for her grandchildren’s basic needs and education.
  • Legacy: PCI’s Legacy Programs focus on maternal/child health and nutrition, as well as economic empowerment. As the name suggests, ‘Legacy’ for PCI means consistent and compassionate commitment to the communities involved. These programs include: Well Baby clinics, Ventanilla de Salud (VDS), Casa Materna, and the Street and Working Children Program. Ventanilla de Salud (VDS) targets at risk immigrant populations near the border, by providing basic health and community services, while these families are waiting for service at the Mexican consulate. VDS has reached more than 41,000 people with health education information and nearly 20,000 with HIV/AIDS prevention messages. However, the VDS program suffers from a lack of funding and has been scaled back by more than 25 percent.
  • Who Cares?: An online campaign which celebrates, recognizes and encourages those who are giving back to the greater good. Who Cares? provides volunteers with the opportunity to network, share stories, or just get motivated about a cause. Who Cares targets the youth and young adults because they believe that the ability of today’s youth to mobilize others is huge, yet largely untapped. In addition, Who Cares provides tools to help the youth mobilize others and make their efforts pay off.
  • SHE: SHE, which is short for Strong, Health and Empowered, is a group of ambassadors who dedicate their time to PCI’s projects across the globe. These ambassadors work within the community to promote women’s empowerment and find innovative solutions to ensure that women lead strong, healthy lives.

To learn more about PCI’s work, explore for more info.

– Kelsey Ziomek

Sources: PCI Global, The San Diego Foundation, Washington Global Health Alliance, Coronado Eagle

Poverty Prevention
Global poverty can seem to many to be an insurmountable task. However, much progress has already been made to lift people out of poverty. According to The Global Citizen organization, global poverty has effected 1.3 billion individuals, a number which is actually 52% lower than statistics in the 1980s.

Development practitioners recognize that global poverty can be minimized by addressing other areas including reproductive health, HIV prevention, education, women’s empowerment, and gender equality. UNFPA states that poverty is a multidimensional issue that deprives people of education, resources, services, opportunities, and economic opportunities. UNFPA states that investments to address global poverty should “…[empower] individual women and men with education, equal opportunities and the means to determine the number, timing and spacing of their children – [which] could create the conditions to allow the poor to break out of the poverty trap.”

Reproductive health and HIV prevention can both act as poverty prevention tactics. Reproductive health education, family planning resources, and widely accessible contraception can decrease fertility rates by providing families with the knowledge and tools to space out pregnancies. Furthermore, improved healthcare can reduce population growth because families recognize that they do not need to have as many children to ensure that at least 2 of them survive to adulthood.


HIV prevention is also an important poverty prevention tool because  helpful for when men and women know the dangers of HIV, they are able to use protection and are able to prevent the spread of the disease not only from partner to partner, but also from partners to undesired pregnancies and children. By learning how to protect oneself from HIV, individuals are able to prevent untimely deaths as well as preventing the disease to spread within a community, states The ONE organization. By lowering fertility rates through an education in reproductive health and by preventing the spread of HIV through an education in HIV prevention, communities will thrive due to a lower healthier population level.

The third poverty prevention tactic is education. Education is a very important factor in preventing global poverty, for providing an education to young boys and girls will help prevent undesired child marriage as well as early teen pregnancies which can lead to maternal death. An education helps boys and girls obtain the proper knowledge to keep themselves safe, healthy, and helps to plant the seeds of inspiration. Once obtaining an education, these individuals can create sustaining businesses which produce and return economic gains into their communities. By providing an education, individuals are able to thrive and break through the barriers of global poverty by creating strong businesses which will help the economy thrive and will lead to a stable community environment.

The fourth and fifth poverty prevention tactics are women empowerment and gender equality. Women empowerment is a positive prevention tactic because women who are encouraged to attend school and receive an education are more likely to defeat child marriage, are able to marry latter in life, and are able to have less children which lowers population rates. Women who have an education are more likely to work after receiving an education, which boosts the economy and provides a sustainable household for a family. Gender equality offers similar benefits, for if women are able to obtain an education and receive equal pay in employment, both the man and women are able to create a sustainable home for their children. By providing a sustainable environment, the child is able to attend school and is able to receive employment opportunities, continuing this positive cycle.

Through these five poverty prevention tactics, developing countries are able to defeat global poverty and are able to create sustainable economies, healthy environments, and equal opportunities.

– Grace Beal

Sources: Global Citizen, UN FPA, ONE Campaign
Photo: Ambergris Today

Malala Yousafzai is a young education rights campaigner from Pakistan. Malala will soon be celebrating her 16th birthday, a miracle after she was shot by extremists for her outspoken beliefs on education. Malala will celebrate her birthday by traveling to the United Nations where students from more than 80 countries will join her.

Malala and the other young activists will be assembled to call for global education for everyone in the world. She and the other young diplomats believe that education is a right for all – one of the Millennium Development Goals, and a vital component of the path to global citizenship. This belief is well founded in the fact that universal compulsory education represents a future that the world wants. Malala was the first person to sign on to a new worldwide petition calling for urgent action to ensure the right of every child to safely attend school. The petition serves as an initial step in focusing the UN agenda on education.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon supports Malala’s mission to bring education to the world. He states that education is an essential step in a world without poverty, violence, discrimination, and disease. He also recognizes that in order to achieve these objectives, the global society needs to continue pushing forward. The secretary general recognizes that we, as a global society, have made progress on this issue, however, there is much more work to be done. Ban expresses that no child or woman should have to consider going to school as an act of bravery.

Ban states that too many girls around the world are subjected to extremist threats for trying to obtain an education. The benefits of educating women in developing countries have been proven time and time again. Ban explains that when women and girls are educated, a society develops at a more rapid pace than without their education. Additionally, education increases future earnings for women, allowing them to provide their families with additional resources, over time, lifting them out of poverty.

If education is key to empowerment as the path to economic stability and development, why is it so widely contested in many developing countries? The answer lies in fear. If we as a global community continue to fear education for all, we will fail to grow as a global economy. More steps must be taken to ensure each child has access to education.

-Caitlin Zusy
Source: Huffington Post, UN News Center
Photo: Stanford Bookhaven

L'Occitane Supports Women's Fair TradeIn honor of International Women’s Day, L’Occitane has created a fair trade soap that supports women in their efforts to achieve economic independence. The soap is produced in Burkina Faso in a completely female-run factory, for which L’Occitane has provided support and training. The company has been working with women in Burkina Faso in efforts to achieve economic emancipation since 2006. By working with Aide et Action, they have helped put in place literacy centers throughout Burkina Faso, resulting in the strengthening of income-generating activity for women.

All proceeds made from the shea butter soap (that retails for just $8) will go towards building literacy programs and centers in Burkina Faso. Every soap bar sold can be considered as donating 3 bricks that will be utilized to build a new literacy center. From soap sales, L’Occitane, with its partners in Aide et Action and women in Burkina Faso, hopes to collect €63,000, which is equivalent to approximately $831,364.5, in the year 2013.

The soap can be seen as something that brings women together and helps empower them separately from their male counterparts. Since 2006, L’Occitane has helped almost 2,000 women become literate and even more (approximately 5,000 more) improve their literacy skills. With the building of even more literacy centers in Burkina Faso, these numbers can only go up.

If interested in buying a bar of soap in support of women achieving economic emancipation, visit L’Occitane’s website.

– Angela Hooks

Sources: L’Occitane Foundation, L’Occitane
Photo: L’Occitane

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day deals with ending violence against women. So did the theme in 2009 (“Ending impunity for violence against women and girls”) and in 2007 (“Women and men united to end violence against women in girls”). While International Women’s Day can choose a theme that highlights different issues plaguing women in rural and urban areas, the UN seems to keep going back to violence against women.


Violence against women is still a huge issue across the world and looking at Zimbabwe, how large of an issue it is becomes apparent. In Zimbabwe, women may be faced with abuse from their spouses, family members, and even their children. Reported cases of domestic violence have risen from 1,940 cases in 2008 to 10,351 cases in 2011, according to The number of domestic violence cases in 2012 are said to surpass even that number, showing that domestic violence is not going away and bringing attention to the issue, which the UN’s International Women’s Day is doing, as necessary.

Even though the country has taken great strides to end violence against women, a 2010-2011 Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey shows that 30 percent of women have experienced some form of domestic violence since the age of 15. This violence, most often, comes from the people that women should be able to trust, who are supposed to protect them. Women are asking questions now – “what has to happen for violence against women to end, what are the challenges, who will stand up and look straight in the eyes of perpetrators to say enough is enough?” – and demanding answers.

Women in Zimbabwe are using International Women’s Day to denounce all types of violence against women, and are coming together to demand answers.

– Angela Hooks 

Source: AllAfrica
Photo: AllAfrica