Fighting for the World's Poor with Slow FashionPrior to the rise of fast fashion, the latest runway designs slowly trickled their way into the masses, but the quickening and cheapening of clothing creation have forever changed the way people shop. This detrimental and exploitative process is mostly in vain since the clothes are so cheap that 85% of textiles end up in landfills each year. “Fast fashion” refers to cheap and trendy clothing that utilizes the rapid production of our globalized economy to produce items as quickly and inexpensively as possible. Although this might seem exciting, fast fashion as a phenomenon is often pointed to as one of the prime contributors to the waste and exploitation of the world’s poor that takes the glamour out of fashion.

Fast Fashion and Poverty

To make clothing cheaper, more dangerous and toxic chemicals are used in factories where workers make below living wages. Worldwide, one in six workers is employed by the fashion industry, and the majority of these workers are women. Many workers are also children as young as 10 years old.  Over the past few decades, factories have moved to low-income countries where workers’ union laws and human rights protections are less stringent. An Oxfam 2019 report found that 0% of Bangladeshi garment workers and 1% of Vietnamese garment workers earn a living wage. The culture of exploitation within the factories makes women vulnerable to abuse but they cannot report it for fear of losing income.

The millions of the world’s poor working in the bottom rung of the fashion ladder deserve better. One study found that a $20 shirt would only need to cost $0.20 more for Indian factory workers to earn a living wage. Another breakdown of a 29 £ T-shirt found that only 18 euro cents go to the worker’s pay.  As consumers of fashion, we can help combat this industry by participating in “slow fashion.” Slow fashion is the antidote to fast fashion which prioritizes quality clothing that is made ethically and sustainably built to last. Here are some ways to participate in this movement.

How to Participate in Slow Fashion

  1. Good On You: Good on You is a site dedicated to bringing slow fashion to consumers. Type a brand into their directory and they will provide you with an ethics and sustainability rating and a justification for their assessment. This is especially helpful if you are new to a brand.
  2. The Fashion Transparency Index: This is an assessment by experts of the 250 largest clothing retailers to provide you insight into their ethics and production.
  3. Online Thrifting: Although rifling through your local thrift store is a fun adventure, for those looking for specific secondhand clothing, online stores are a helpful tool. Thredup: This site has something for every budget and resells household brand items at varying prices and conditions. They also provide a clean-out kit for those who wish to sell or donate clothing. TheRealReal and Vestaire Collective: For lovers of luxury items, these sites are perfect and they authenticate items for you.
  4. The 30 Wears Test: Before purchasing a clothing item, ask yourself if you will wear it a minimum of 30 times. Take inventory of items you own that will pair well with the said item.
  5. Learn how to mend clothing: Not only can this come in handy in case of emergency, but instead of throwing away an item that is damaged, you will be more inclined to fix it.
  6. Quality over quantity: Critics of sustainable fashion argue that its prices are too high. Investing in staple clothes that are built to last is cheaper in the long term than constantly buying cheaper and trendier items.
  7. Fast fashion is tempting. The prices and designs are more attractive and accessible than many brands that source higher quality materials and pay their workforce more. But as more people demand sustainable fashion, creative and affordable solutions become available. Together, we can demand better for the world’s poor that create our clothing and transform the industry.

—Elizabeth Stankovits
Photo: Flickr

Food-Based ProgramsOn September 28, 2017, the World Bank published its report on what they named the “1.5 billion people question.” 1.5 billion people around the world receive help via food and voucher programs. The study examines how important food-based programs are for the world’s poor and offers insight into the effectiveness of food-based programs versus cash-based programs.

The 1.5 billion people question asks “how voucher programs, despite theory and evidence generally favoring cash, remain relevant, have evolved and, in most circumstances, have improved over time”.

Food-based programs are a method used to subsidize poverty by funding, in part, certain nutritional expenses. Each country that implements food-based programs in their policies does so by using one or many methods, such as supplementary feeding programs, food for work programs and food stamp programs. These programs fall under two broad categories that either enhance the food supply or influence the demand.

Programs that enhance the food supply are primarily applied to the agriculture and farming industry by either influencing supply chain costs or incentivizing production. Programs that influence demand are known as “food-oriented social assistance” (FOSA). In the United States, these programs take the form of food vouchers, the Women, Infants and Children Program and the school lunch program.

The World Bank report analyzes how countries around the world have historically implemented FOSA as empirical evidence of the importance of food-based programs. It specifically looks at case studies of the United States, Mexico, Indonesia, India, Egypt and Sri Lanka. These countries represent key FOSA programs that have made significant efforts to enhance the quality of life for the participating households and have benefited nearly one billion people collectively.

While these countries are primarily high or middle-income, their studies can be applied to low-income countries as well. Food is about 61 percent of costs for the poor and represents a large stressor for households who are struggling to afford these expenses. FOSA programs such as food distribution programs and food subsidies influence more of the population than unconditional cash transfers (UCF). “Based on administrative data from programs in 108 countries, food and vouchers programs cover 20.4 percent of low and middle-income populations, 13 percent more than UCFs.” Although cash-based programs may be preferred, when food-based programs are enacted using the right specifications and safeguarding, many can benefit. When contemplating humanitarian assistance, large-scale international movements should consider food-based programs as a serious contender.

UCFs generally offer more freedom of choice compared to food or voucher programs that may only apply to certain foods or brands. On the other hand, governments lean towards food and voucher programs because they can reflect the interests of the country as a whole and protect purchasing power at vulnerable economic moments. Most large-scale food programs intertwine multiple sectors of the government, representing multiple industries such as agriculture and food retail. The implementation of food-based programs, therefore, relies on the cooperation of multiple political parties and an argumentative benefit to multiple economic sectors.

The link between poverty and food security has encouraged many countries to focus on developing social protection programs aimed at poverty reduction. By stabilizing the prices of food, governments have found ways to maintain a low cost of living and encourage international developments. Advancements in technology also promote new methods of poverty reduction and social assistance programs. In Indonesia, for example, the “social protection card allows access not only to the food subsidy but also to their cash-based and education-related programs.”

Food is a necessary commodity in daily life. Its relevance to health, economic and social indicators elevates the political significance of food-assistance programs. The six countries in this report have commonly overcome leaking or ineffective FOSA programs by maintaining a flexible dialogue. Technological advancements have reduced the costs of redeeming vouchers and transferring cash, and they have also allowed governments to implement and manage new programs with ease. In analyzing the successes and failures of specific programs, this report exemplifies the benefit of policy adjustability in determining the best solution to augment food security.

Eliza Gresh

Photo: Flickr

Ways to Help the World's Poor

Ways to Help the World’s Poor

Do you want to know some easy ways to help the world’s poor? Well, here are 10 simple ways to help the world’s poor, which can often be done without even having to leave your home!


1. Donate

One of the quickest and most obvious ways to help the world’s poor is to donate to charity. Click here to donate to The Borgen Project.


2. Call Congress

This way to help the world’s poor is surprisingly simple. Every person in the United States has 3 representatives in Congress (2 Senators and 1 Representative in the House). By calling these 3 peoples’ offices each week, individuals can show the Congressmen the issues that they care about. Calling your Congressmen is a simple process. Generally, an intern will answer the phone, or you can leave a message after hours.

The message you need to say is simple: “My name is ___, I live in ___, and I want to raise the funding for helping the world’s poor,” or something similar. As few as 7 people calling in can make a Congressman change his mind on a bill: Congressmen want those they are serving in the U.S. to be happy so if you let them know what you want, they are more likely to listen. Go here for more detailed instructions.


3. Inform Yourself

This is one of the simplest ways to help the world’s poor, and also it helps you to do the other things more effectively. Basically, all you need to do is stay informed on the issues. Pay attention to what is happening in Congress and read up on current poverty-related events. It may surprise you to find out that poverty has made some great strides in the past few years. Indeed, in the past 20 years, the world’s undernourished has decreased by 50%. Life expectancy has also increased by 1/3.

(Browse The Borgen Project to find out more interesting facts about poverty).


4. Build Buzz/Raise Awareness

Now that you’ve done your research, you can use your new information as tools to build buzz or to raise the awareness of those around you. If you care about the world’s poor, you can be sure that other people do too, but may just be unaware of how they can help. You can share info on different poverty-fighting organizations with your colleagues, family, and friends (see 1. Donate for ideas). You can also call into radio shows, write to editors, speak locally about the cause, send ideas to the media, or anything else that may bring the idea of helping the world’s poor to the forefront of people’s vision and thoughts.


5. Social Media

Recently, social media has become one of the most fantastical ways a person can help the world’s poor (among other ventures). This is perhaps the easiest way to help, as well. Many Congressional leaders (your members of Congress) have Facebook pages, Twitters, or websites. All you need to do is either post on their pages to bring up the idea of helping the world’s poor, or post on your own about the various issues. Also, you can easily follow many different organizations, including The Borgen Project, and retweet them or post about them on Facebook or other websites. Overall, your voice will be heard. (The Social Media of Congress can be found here and here). (Also, follow us on Twitter!)


6. Get Political

Although you can call Congress or post on their Facebook pages, there are other ways to help the world’s poor and to “get political.” If you are willing, you can always arrange a meeting with Congressional staffers to tell them what issues (like reducing global poverty) you are interested in. You can also mobilize those around you; just one person calling into Congress will make a difference, but if multiple people in an area call Congress about the same issue and around the same time, there will be a bigger effect. Finally, you can “bird dog” Congress, which means to go to where a legislator is speaking, and ask them publicly about poverty (For example, “What are you doing to help poverty?” or “Will you support helping reduce global poverty?”, etc).


7. Fundraising

Another one of the ways to help the world’s poor is fundraising. Contact people about various organizations to donate to, or use sites like Crowd Rise to start a campaign. You can also run marathons or accomplish other feats as a way to raise money, as long as you ask people to be your sponsor. You can also ask for donations to different charities rather than receiving gifts for your birthdays, weddings, or other events.


8. Be a Consumer with a Cause

One of the surprising ways to help the world’s poor is simply by being a consumer, or something who buys things. This can be done by buying products from websites that donate a portion of their proceeds to charity, or from nonprofit organizations that sell shirts or other merchandise to help the cause. The Borgen Project even has a Visa Card that has no annual fee, and some unique card designs. Basically, when possible, buy from places that will help the cause.


9. Arrange Events

One of the harder ways to help the world’s poor is arranging events. Of course, this does not need to be too difficult: you could host parties (or movie/TV show marathons with your friends!) and have a $5 (suggested donation) to get in. This can be done by living your life as normal, but adding in charity donation so that everyone can get involved. On the other hand, you can also host poverty-based events or parties with the pure purpose of raising awareness on poverty and discussing its issues. Finally, you can have a “non-event” event, where instead of going out that night, everyone donates a certain amount and stays in.


10. Volunteer

Finally, one of the most difficult (but, arguably, most rewarding) ways to help the world’s poor is through volunteering. This can encompass many different things: volunteer for a political campaign, volunteer for a nonprofit organization, volunteer for a movement to fight poverty or grab an internship. Personally, I am an intern writing for The Borgen Project; I do not get paid, but it helps get the message out to the world. Overall, you can find volunteer opportunities online (for example, through Idealist), but there are also local opportunities that may be available if you ask around.

To see even more easy ways to help the world’s poor, look here.

– Corina Balsamo

Source: The Borgen Project
Photo: Flickr

Yoga and Poverty Reduction
The health benefits, both physical and mental, of yoga are fairly well known. However, the ancient practice is now being used to benefit the poor. The Africa Yoga Project is using yoga as a means to improve the well-being of impoverished communities while also giving its members steady streams of income.

Founded in 2007 by long-time yoga instructor Paige Elenson, the group aims to instruct youth, most of whom come from some of the poorest areas in Kenya, in becoming yoga instructors.

As yoga instructors, these young people not only have a new means of income and economic empowerment, but they also become leaders in their community promoting healthy living. Eighty percent of Kenya’s unemployed population is made up of young people. Africa Yoga Project seeks to shrink that statistic.

“Some AYP teachers have moved from living in what they referred to as slums to new homes, starting families, supporting family members with school fees, and working on new income-generating projects,” Elenson says.

Applicants to the program must be 18 to 35 years old, they must be African, and according to Elenson, “be committed to becoming a yoga teacher and serving communities.”

Once accepted, teachers in training earn a stipend of $100 USD per month and are employed as private for-hire instructors by Africa Yoga Project upon completion of their 200-hour training. The project sends its teachers out to hospitals, orphanages, HIV centers and even jails.

Through the course of running the program, administrators found that some applicants did not end up enjoying teaching yoga or did not view it as a long-term career.

It is for this reason that the project is expanding its services to help instructors and applicants alike. Africa Yoga Project is now offering career counseling services and other mentorship opportunities within the communities it services. The project has proved so successful in Kenya, that it is expanding operations to South Africa, Uganda, and Rwanda.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: Takepart, Africa Yoga Project
Photo: One

multidimensional_povertyA new study from the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) has found 1.6 billion people living in multidimensional poverty. That’s hundreds of millions more than reported by the World Bank, which uses income-based methods.

The Global Multidimensional Poverty Index released by Oxford examined 101 countries and 5.2 billion people. It went beyond the typical measures of poverty to get the more complete picture.

Traditionally, many organizations use income-based measures to determine the extent of global poverty. The World Bank, for instance, uses a threshold of $1.25 per day.

The researchers at OPHI use a more comprehensive metric that looks at health, education and living standards to determine not only the extent of global poverty but also where the poor tend to live.

That has produced a few interesting results. The World Bank estimates just over one billion people live on less than $1.25 a day, placing them under the threshold of global poverty. However, using the multidimensional poverty measure, over 1.6 billion would be considered poor.

Another interesting result is that most of the world’s poor live in so-called “middle-income countries” and many live in countries considered to have high or medium development. Most of the world’s poor do not live in failed states, either.

In several countries, including Egypt, Sudan, Niger and Pakistan, there are more than twice as many poor people as would be reported using the $1.25-a-day threshold.

Most of the world’s poor live in South Asia (54 percent) and sub-Saharan Africa (31 percent), according to the report.

The Global Multidimensional Poverty Index looks at a wide variety of development issues, including nutrition, child mortality, years spent in school, sanitation and water. It is a sobering view of global poverty that shows that life can still be difficult for those earning more than $1.25 a day.

In a press release, OPHI director Sabina Alkire said, “This analysis highlights how MPI and monetary poverty measures can complement each other to ensure no one is overlooked.”

The report should provide better insight into the extent of global poverty to allow development agencies to more specifically target those in need.

– Kevin McLaughlin

Sources: Humanosphere, Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative, World Bank
Photo: The Telegraph

The World’s Poorest Live in Sub-Saharan Africa
Global poverty dynamics have drastically changed since the 1980s. China once had the highest extreme poverty rates in the world at 80 percent, followed by India at 60 percent. These numbers have dropped from 1981 to about 10 percent in China and 30 percent in India. The “Developing World” has also seen decreases in its poverty levels by almost half over three decades.

The only region of the world that has increased its extreme poverty rate is Sub-Saharan Africa. The region experienced a slight decrease in poverty levels in 2010, but even this decrease is only three percent less than in 1980. This part of the world currently has a population where about 48 percent of the people live in extreme poverty, the highest percentage in the world.

Since 1980, global poverty has decreased from 1.9 billion people to 1.2 billion people, even with a 60 percent increase in population in third world countries. This means that 30 percent fewer people in developing countries live on less than $1.25 a day. With all of these advancements, Sub-Saharan Africa continues to struggle to reduce its poverty rates.

According to the World Bank, the main factor pulling people out of poverty is urbanization. Countries like China focused on switching from a rural to urban society in order to reduce its poverty levels by 60 percent. In 2010, about 75 percent of the world’s poor lived in rural areas. Urbanization, however, can be difficult to achieve in a region that is conflict-prone and often lacks humanitarian rights. The fact that Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing decreases in poverty, no matter how minimal, is reason to be optimistic.

– Mary Penn

Source: WSJ
Photo: The Borgen Project