tan_lejos_tan_cerca, January 11
Posted January 15
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This is a guest post by Dana J. Hyde, Chief Executive Officer at Millennium Challenge Corporation. It originally appeared on MCC.gov.
Internationally recognised development economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala served as Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and twice as Nigeria’s Finance Minister — the first woman to hold either post. She has held several key positions at the World Bank, and in 2014, Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Currently, Okonjo-Iweala is the Board Chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and Senior Advisor at the financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard.
During a recent visit to MCC, Okonjo-Iweala joined MCC CEO Dana J. Hyde for an engaging conversation about the challenges facing Africa, how to ensure inclusive economic growth, and what young women should keep in mind when choosing a workplace. Here are some of the highlights* from their conversation.
Dr. Ngozi, through your extensive experience, what have you learned about creating economic growth in developing countries?
What I’ve learned is how difficult it is, and that there are no easy answers. Those who say they have the magic wand to make inclusive growth and development happen are really not telling it as it is.
The first and foremost thing for growth and inclusive development is a stable macroeconomic environment. If you don’t have stability in your basic prices in the economy, the exchange rate is not well-aligned; if inflation is high, which taxes the poor; if your fiscal deficit is out of control — and you have not fixed all those, all the money you are pouring into securing development isn’t going to work.
I also learned that inclusivity for poor people means that they want jobs — they are not looking for handouts. So inclusive growth means the ability to create jobs.
What is the role of infrastructure in inclusive development?
The creation of jobs in many of our countries cannot really happen the way we would like without adequate infrastructure. I say to young men and women, “Don’t wait for the government or a company to give you a job, create a job first for yourself and then for six or more people.” To do that, you need infrastructure. You can’t do it if you don’t have power — that’s the most important thing. And power is what’s most lacking in African countries. So we need power, we need roads, we need ports, we need connectivity and infrastructure for information and communications technology, and I want to commend MCC for expending its resources on these.
What do donors get right, and what do they get wrong?
It’s also what countries get right, and what they get wrong. No country can develop just with donor support. If a country cannot set out its policies, its priorities, its strategies, then there is a problem. Because what you need is for donors to come behind those and support you — that’s the best way to operate. It’s also the hardest. It’s easier to come in, craft something and implement, but MCC should stick with its country-led approach.
MCC has a very special niche because you are an organisation that can do hard things like infrastructure. Grant money is powerful, and you have a portfolio of over $11 billion. I think MCC should use that leverage wisely for two things: one is to support countries, strongly insisting that they have a view, and they don’t just give into whatever you say; second is to leverage other donors and the private sector to put up more resources.
There is much commentary about the slowdown of economic growth in Africa. What makes you most hopeful about the continent?
There are two things that make me hopeful. First, it’s the young people — I get so excited when I meet them. Although they are frustrated with older generations for having messed things up in many ways, they are full of ideas and energy about what to do next. The second thing that gives me hope is that, for the most part, policymakers on the continent have learned that macroeconomic fundamentals like controlling inflation matter. This is the reason that Africa’s economic growth is a trend, not a fluke. The continent is experiencing a difficult period now, but if policymakers focus on good policies, there will be a turnaround.
You have been such an inspiration to young women around the world. What is your advice to young women?
When women get top posts, even in developed countries, people somehow think they have too much power. You will be judged more harshly, and people expect more of you as a woman. So it’s not easy, but does that mean that you should shy away from doing those tough things if the opportunity comes? The answer is no. But you have to be wise about it, you have to have principles.
I advise everybody, but women in particular, to try to work in places where they can quantify and measure what you are doing, so it doesn’t depend entirely on somebody’s judgement. The World Bank, where I started out in the Young Professionals Program, was good in that way. You were given a task and you produced it to quality, or you did not. Even if people did not like you — your gender, your colour or whatever — if you did a good project, a good report, a good result on the ground, it spoke for itself.
Finally, there’s no easy answer to balancing work and family. You need to do what you are comfortable with. I think the best thing I have done in my whole life are my children. All my other titles pale in contrast when I think of my children.
*This is an abridged and lightly edited version of their conversation at MCC.
Hundreds of thousands of families fleeing Boko Haram are now stranded in a remote and harsh border region, beyond the reach of humanitarian aid. Photojournalist Ashley Hamer documents the challenges facing the displaced who have found themselves in the Lake Chad Basin. This piece, originally published on Dec. 15, is part of a reporting partnership between ONE and Refugees Deeply.
Mother of seven Mariam Mustafa, 35, fled an attack by Boko Haram in December 2015 with her family. (Photo credit: Ashley Hamer)
When Boko Haram militants attacked their village on an island on Lake Chad, 35-year-old Mariam Mustafa and her husband had to find the strength to pile their seven children into a canoe and paddle them toward safety.
Reaching a safe area on the mainland, secured by Chadian forces, was no easy feat. It was December 2015 and the family had escaped with no belongings. When they arrived at a displacement site near Bol, capital of the Lac region, they had to build their own shelter.
Women gather to collect aid at the Dar es Salaam refugee camp in Chad, close to the border to Niger. (Photo credit: Ashley Hamer)
High up on the northernmost tip of Lake Chad, close to the Niger border, families continue to flee attacks by Boko Haram, as well as military offensives by a regional task force trying to defeat them.
Since the insurgency spilled out from northern Nigeria into neighboring countries, it has wrought extraordinary suffering on this border region.
Displaced families in the Lake Chad area. (Photo credit: Ashley Hamer)
Some 2.6 million people have been displaced in the remote area that straddles the borders of four African countries – Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon. A million more are thought to be cut off from humanitarian aid.
This vast territory, known as the Lake Chad Basin, is an impenetrable swampland on the fringes of the Sahara at the meeting of the four borders.
Refugees stranded in the “red zone” near Chad’s border with Niger. (Photo credit: Ashley Hamer)
An estimated 21 million people live in areas affected by Boko Haram violence across the Lake Chad Basin. Many of these remote areas are often beyond the reach of humanitarian aid due to restricted access, militarization and security risks.
“Access for humanitarian aid is extremely difficult. There are hundreds of islands on Lake Chad where people are hiding and insecurity remains high,” said Issa Sanogo, deputy country director for the World Food Programme in Chad.
Chadian armed soldiers supervise aid distributions in the Lake Chad Basin. (Photo credit: Ashley Hamer)
The land around what remains of Lake Chad has been reduced to parched savannah and blistering sand. There are no paved roads, and access to the region for humanitarian groups opened up just this year.
Settlements for the displaced are scattered around the lake and along the border with Niger. One of the camps, called Dar es Salaam, is about 7.5 miles (12km) outside the town of Baga Sola and accommodates approximately 6,500 refugees from Nigeria and Niger. It is part of an area that is considered a “red zone,” where aid groups must travel with armed escorts.
Displaced families await fingerprinting and digital registration meant to keep track of the total numbers. (Photo credit: Ashley Hamer)
Chad, a leading contributor of military forces in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency, has managed to secure its shoreline.
Yet, Sanogo said, “Chad is extremely vulnerable and at 360 degrees surrounded by crisis – Libya, Sudan, Central African Republic and Boko Haram. We cannot allow the situation to get worse.”
Haje Fanta, 28, from Niger, is caring for two of her children at the refugee camp. (Photo credit: Ashley Hamer)
Seventy percent of those displaced by Boko Haram and seeking aid in Chad’s Lac region are women and children. Haje Fanta, 28, is among them. She was separated from her husband and two of her children during their escape from Niger. She is caring for her two other children alone and hasn’t heard from her husband in more than five months. The cash handouts she receives are just sufficient to buy food for her children for 20 days per month. She has to beg or borrow to cover the remaining days, or go hungry.
An infant is weighed at the Dar es Salaam refugee camp. (Photo credit: Ashley Hamer)
Displaced families receive cash handouts of 6,000 Central African francs (approximately $10) per person, per month, for all their needs – from food and clothing to shelter and medicine.
The emergency has been underreported due to difficulty accessing the area, while aid groups lack sufficient funds to assist civilians.
There are no paved roads in the area around Lake Chad. (Photo credit: Ashley Hamer)
Meanwhile, a spiraling economic crisis brought on by crashing oil prices in 2015 is crippling the Chadian government’s ability to respond to the refugee crisis. Trade union activists claim that the dwindling resources in the country are being channeled mainly into the armed forces.
As supplies dwindle and malnutrition rates among young children rise, the World Food Programme and other aid agencies are worried about providing the basics for civilians who are indefinitely stranded in this no-man’s land.
Via Global Citizen
More People Can Access a Cell Phone than a ToiletThis is not OK.
By Joe McCarthy|
Across every major preventable and premature mortality category — heart disease, cancer, stroke, unintentional injury and more — US citizens who live in rural areas are dying at higher rates than their urban peers.
This might seem surprising since cities often have higher levels of air pollution, and air pollution contributes to millions of premature deaths around the world each year.
Read More: Air Pollution Is Killing 6.5 million People Each Year
But new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that this factor is not as hazardous as those affecting people in rural regions. In fact, the gap in health outcomes between people living in surrounded by tall buildings and those living in places with more grass is only growing.
The reasons for this are many and are often tied to income levels and availability of health resources.
For example, people living in rural areas are 50% more likely to die from unintentional injuries than people living in urban environments because health facilities are more dispersed, according to the CDC.
Also, the country’s opioid epidemic is concentrated in these regions. The US is facing a full-fledged opioid epidemic, with overdose deaths more than quadrupling since 1999. More than 15,000 people died in 2015 from opioid overdoses and each day, more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for abuse of prescriptions.
The CDC also believes that chronic lung diseases occur at higher rates in rural areas because people are smoking more often. The states with the higher smoking rates are Kentucky, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Mississippi, while the states with the lowest rates are Idaho, California, and Utah.
US citizens living in cities have a higher median household income, but cities also have higher levels of poverty.
Read More: What The Panama Papers Have to Say About Inequality and Poverty
Since these variables would seem to cancel each other out, the key difference in overall health outcomes could be the prevalence of social services — cities tend to have broader social safety nets.
But if you were to look at health outcomes based on income levels within cities, the numbers would show a large disparity.
All across the world, geography is predictor of health. People who live in rural areas of sub-saharan Africa, for example, are more likely to die from premature or preventable causes than those living in cities. This difference is most pronounced when it comes to infant mortality. In rural areas, inadequate water and sanitation are a primary driver of premature death.
Read More: What You Need to Know About Water and Sanitation
However, just like within the US, cities harbor great differences in health outcomes when you look at income levels. The world’s urban poor live much shorter lives than the world’s urban rich.
This kind of inequality doesn’t have to exist. Simple interventions such as improved water sources, more widely available and robust healthcare, and access to contraceptives can close the gaps found within and between habitats.
Written by Joe McCarthy
Joe McCarthy is a Content Creator at Global Citizen. He believes apathy is the biggest threat to creating a more just world and tries his hardest to stay open-minded and curious. Living in New York keeps him aware of how interconnected our world is, how every action has ripples.
By Colleen Curry|
Brought to you by: CHIME FOR CHANGE
In a small room at the police forensic center in Kabul, Afghanistan, a black cloth covers the only window, allowing what goes on inside to remain secret.
There, when girls and women are the victims of “moral crimes” including rape, sexual assault, or premarital sex, is where they are taken to undergo “virginity tests,” in which police look for signs that they were previously sexually active, according to a new report in the New York Times.
The invasive and unscientific vaginal and rectal exams — in which investigators look for signs that the hymen is broken — are a longstanding practice in the country, though President Ashraf Ghani promised last year to end them.
Read More: Nepali Teen Dies in Menstruation Hut After Starting Fire to Stay Warm
A girls’ hymen can be broken for many reasons besides sex, but in a culture where sexual purity is prized, girls and women have begun paying as much as $1,500 to have their hymen allegedly “repaired,” according to the report.
“It is a big deal in Afghanistan,” one woman told the paper. “If your hymen is broken, it is finished — you fall into hell.”
One girl in northern Afghanistan was jailed for three months after being arrested for running away with a young man and forced to undergo an exam that showed her hymen had been damaged. A second exam then allegedly verified her virginity and she was released.
Human rights activists have long protested the exams as a method of police investigation.
Read More: Egypt Cracks Down on Female Genital Mutilation Practitioners With New Law
“The circumstances of virginity test are never humane,” Soraya Sobhrang, a commissioner at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, told the Times. “In conducting virginity tests, no one asks for the consent of the victim or the suspect — 99% of the virginity tests are conducted by force and without considerations of its legality.”
And yet since Ghani made his promise, dozens of exams have still been carried out by police.
In July, a teen girl and a young man accused of adultery were attacked by an angry mob in the streets of Kabul. The car they were found in was set on fire, and when police responded, they chased down the girl and arrested her rather than the arsonists. She was taken for a virginity test, according to the New York Times.
There were 42 virginity tests in the first half of 2016, on pace to match the year before.
“The virginity test has been banned. However, it’s a long-lasting practice used wrongly by law enforcement authorities, especially police,” Ghani said in a statement to the paper. “However wrong, it is going to take some time to entirely be stopped and removed. But we are determined to change this practice.”
So-called virginity tests are one way that women in Afghanistan fail to have equal protection under Afghan law. Global Citizen and CHIME FOR CHANGE are campaigning for all countries around the world to #LevelTheLaw this year, to strike discriminatory laws from their books and ensure women are given full protection in their countries.
In Afghanistan, President Ghani should help #LeveltheLaw and ban virginity tests once and for all.
Written by Colleen Curry
Colleen Curry is a senior editor at Global Citizen. She has covered domestic and international news for outlets including ABC News, VICE News, and The New York Times, with a particular focus on women's issues, criminal justice, and LGBT rights. She is also pursuing her Master's in Creative Writing, and has had nonfiction published by Sports Illustrated and Marie Claire.
Expiration dates are like bad Tinder dates – you should just forget about them (for the most part).
We're already on the countdown to our next #happyheart "Flying Doctors" Cardiac Mission with Novick Cardiac Alliance.
These missions sees teams of internationally renowned cardiac surgeons fly to Eastern Ukraine, on a voluntary basis, up to 6 times a year to carry out life-saving ‘open-heart’ operations on the most critically ill children.
During each trip, the surgical teams are able to save the lives of dozens of children with congenital heart defects such as ‘Chernobyl Heart’. Without the intervention of our Cardiac Programme, most of them would die before they reach their sixth birthday. To support our next Cardiac Mission visithttp://www.chernobyl-international.com/donate
Via Chernobyl Children International
Thanks to the ease of email, sitting down and hand-writing an actual letter has fallen out of style. But we have to admit there’s something truly powerful about putting pen to paper in an effort to change the world. Below you’ll find a list of some of our favorite correspondences and open letters… and one we hope you’ll add your name to, too!
1. Nellie Bly
Photo credit: Public domain/Wikimedia Commons
“Nellie Bly” was a pioneer of investigative journalism who would go on to write about the plight of working women, as well as a famous exposé on the brutal conditions at a New York women’s asylum. But Elizabeth Cochrane began her career under a different pseudonym: In response to a misogynistic article titled “What Girls Are Good For” in her local paper, Elizabeth sent in a blistering rebuttal under the name “Lonely Orphan Girl.” The paper’s editor was impressed and ran an ad trying to find her. When Cochrane arrived at the office and owned her letter, she was offered her first writing job.
2. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A vital text of the Civil Rights Movement, this open letter was written by Martin Luther King, Jr. during his time in a Birmingham jail in 1963. He wrote it in the margins of a newspaper — the only paper he had available — and gave bits and pieces of it to his lawyers to take back to the movement’s headquarters to assemble. The letter defends nonviolent resistance to racism and includes the famous line, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
3. Nelson Mandela
Photo credit: Mark Davey/Oxfam
During his more than 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela wrote many letters. Some, such as a call to arms against apartheid in 1980, were read aloud in public. Others were meant just for his family, such as the many letters to his wife and children. Mandela was released from prison in 1990, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, and was inaugurated as the first democratically elected president of South Africa in 1994. You can read many of his letters, as well as journal entries and collected doodlings, in his book, Conversations with Myself.
4. Eva Tolage
Eva Tolage, right, reads her letter to the Tanzanian government to her District Commissioner. (Photo credit: Restless Development)
When we first met Tanzanian teen Eva Tolage, she had just written a letter to President Obama. Eva wrote about the challenge of hunger, water, electricity, and corruption. She wrote about the challenges of being a girl. At the UN Summit later that year, President Obama actually responded to Eva, saying “Today, I say to Eva and hundreds of millions like you, we see you. We hear you. I’ve read your letter and we commit ourselves as nations as one world to the urgent work that must be done.” But Eva didn’t stop there: She rallied her classmates at Mlowa school to write a letter to their local leaders last year, asking for water and sanitation facilities to be provided at their school. (And she’s even written another letter to President Obama!) What an amazing example for students and activists everywhere!
Photo credit: Mike Turner/ONE
And now we have a letter that we’d like you to sign. It’s an open letter to world leaders, asking them to prioritize girls’ education. 130 million girls around the world are out of school — that is unacceptable. When girls get an education, they are less likely to become child brides, less likely to contract HIV, and they have greater economic opportunities for the rest of their lives — which is good for everyone. On March 8, ONE members will deliver this open letter to their representatives and senators to let them know we want them to prioritize girls’ education. Stand with ONE and add your name here.
By Cindy Dyer, Board Member at Kenya Connect
Have you ever thought about the power of the sun and how its energy potential could impact literacy and education? I had never really connected the sun to reading prior to my trip to Kenya this summer, probably because I live in a part of the world that has adequate access to electricity.
What I came to learn on my trip is that the power and potential of the sun can be harnessed to help develop an entire generation of children in rural Kenya into thinkers and leaders who will positively impact their country and the world. This epiphany came about thanks to the SunKing products of Greenlight Planet and the efforts of Kenya Connect.
During a brief meeting at the Nairobi office of Greenlight Planet, I learned about their solar lights, which seemed to have been designed almost perfectly for the needs of the families and children of rural Kenya. The products were durable, lightweight, simple to use, long-lasting, and inexpensive. Many of the children in rural Kenya don’t have electricity at home. If they had access to these lights, they might have a better chance at success.
Especially excited by that prospect was my colleague, Kenya Connect Field Director James Musyoka. During his childhood in Kenya, James was one of ten kids. His family couldn’t afford for him to board at school, so each day, he would run five kilometers to and from school.
Daily chores and working on the family farm left James with precious little daylight hours to study:
“At night, I would use a kerosene lump to study for between two to three hours before retiring to bed,” he said. “Sometimes there was no kerosene to light the home and I would have to go to bed without reading or doing my homework. At such times, I would wake up much earlier the next day and report to school much earlier so I would have a chance to finish my work. I was so determined to make good grades and my hope was to make it to university.”
He made it—and of the 120 students who sat for the university exam at his school, he was among the eight who qualified, and the only one not in boarding school. After university, James felt strongly about returning to a rural community and working to help improve the state of education there. One of his goals was to increase the number of rural students that went on to attend secondary schools and universities.
So as we left Greenlight Planet that day, he thought about how access to these lights would help the children with their studies. When compared to the kerosene lamps that James had used as a rural student, the lights provided a healthier, more reliable, and higher quality source of light, in addition to being less expensive.
That’s why Kenya Connect is starting a new initiative that focuses on the affordable distribution of solar lights to the families we work with in the rural areas of Kenya. The program James has started in rural areas is a monthly payment program. Each family that wants a light, pays the equivalent of $1 (USD) per month for eight months. They own the light after eight months. After four months of this program, not one family has missed a payment. They are finding it cheaper and more effective than the kerosene they had come to rely on.
“This solar light produces very clear light, unlike the kerosene lamp,” said Lilian, a student in the area. “Therefore I enjoy reading at night more than before. I always complete my homework because I can now study in the evening and also early in the morning.”
Kenya Connect has distributed over 880 SunKing Pico lights to families in the rural area of Wamunyu, Kenya. With the money that the families pay monthly, we purchase more lights to distribute to other schools and families in rural areas.
Our goal, quite simply, is to provide greater access to light for families so their children can read and study at night. It’s amazing that such a simple and affordable product has the potential to have a dramatic impact on education for so many.Cindy Dyer has been an active member of the board of Kenya Connect for more than two years. She has traveled to Kenya three times to work with the project site. Cindy is also a mediator with the Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center of Howard Community College (MCRC). She has spent more than 15 years working directly with youth in many aspects.
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Posted January 16
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Can you remember the last time you had to go to a friend’s house to use their wi-fi because yours was down? The last time you weren’t able to check your route to a job interview because you’d run out of data? The last time you missed some big news because you couldn’t get online?
Chances are, some or all of these things have happened to us at some point in our lives. But for billions of people—53 percent of the world’s population—these scenarios occur daily, and can often lead to a much bigger problem than being a little inconvenienced. They can directly affect a person’s ability to thrive.
There are significant benefits to improving internet access, but as we now know, this digital utopia is not available to everyone, with nearly half of our planet not having a connection.
Did you know that in the world’s poorest countries, only 15 percent of the population are connected to the internet, compared with 81 percent of people living in developed countries? That’s a huge disparity, and one that needs to be addressed.
There are many ways that lack of access to the internet can have a negative impact on people’s lives – this is especially true for girls and women – but the urgency of this issue can sometimes get overlooked. ONE’s new report, Making the Connection, estimates that by 2020, the digital gender divide across Africa could rise to 26 percent, leaving millions of girls and women out of the digital revolution. Because of this, we tasked our incredible policy team here at ONE to come up with 4 areas that MUST be prioritized if we’re to achieve the 2020 goal of connecting the world—not just the most developed countries—to the World Wide Web:
1. KICKSTART A DIGITAL SKILLS REVOLUTION: Today, approximately 263 million children and youth around the world are not in school, and more than 114 million young adults cannot read. Education combined with the knowledge that the internet brings to boost their potential dramatically.
2. BRIDGE THE INTERNET ADOPTION GAP: In the poorest the internet costs more in real terms than in Europe or the US – 70 percent of people cannot afford a basic broadband plan. We need to cut costs, make sure that we develop content that is useful and relevant, and break down cultural barriers than mean boys are more likely to use the internet than girls.
3 . INVEST IN OPEN DATA ON CONNECTIVITY: Only two out of 48 LDCs report internet use broken down by gender – and it is next to impossible to find out who is connected and who isn’t at the local level. If resources are to be allocated and implemented in the most effective way, we must know and understand where unconnected women and girls live and find out what their needs are.
4. BUILD AFFORDABLE INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE DIGITAL FUTURE: We need to lay cables and provide better coverage in remote areas. When a road is being build, an internet cable should be underneath it.
By Phineas Rueckert|
Michele Threefoot, a third-grader from Columbia, Maryland, fulfilled the childhood dream of many this past week: she received a handwritten letter from her superhero.
About a month ago, the 8-year-old dressed as pioneering Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her school’s Superhero Day.
Read more: 10 Reasons Why Investing in Women and Girls Is So Vital
Her mom snapped a photo and posted it to Facebook, where it’s been shared more than 1,700 times.
“Girls who read really are dangerous, to unfairness and outmoded inequalities,” her mother Krista Wujek Threefoot wrote in the accompanying Facebook post.
Threefoot’s interest in Ginsburg was inspired by the book, “I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark.”
Read more: Baller Kid Saves $300 for an XBox, Buys a Well for an Indian Village Instead
Ginsburg encouraged Threefoot to continue to focus on education.
“May you continue to thrive on reading and learning,” Ginsburg wrote in the letter.
Clearly, the young girl has taken Ginsburg’s words to heart. She’s now on to reading about pioneering Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, Yahoo reports.
Written by Phineas Rueckert
Phineas Rueckert is a writer at Global Citizen. He graduated from Macalester College with a degree in Political Science and International Studies, and spent the past year teaching English in Toulouse, France. He is originally from Brooklyn, New York.
By Zack Fowler, Development Director for WISER International
“I really didn’t know if I would make it.”
The region where Margaret is from in Kenya is a difficult place to be a young woman. In a community where many families live on less than $1 a day, transactional sex is common — more than 50 percent of sexually active adolescents in the region report having transactional sex in order to pay for basic needs. And this happens in an area where as many as 1 in 3 people are HIV positive. The reality, for many girls, is that they risk their health to stay in school. These barriers, among others, are the reasons why, before Margaret’s WISER class, no girl from a school in Muhuru Bay had ever reached college.
Margaret faced similar challenges. She lost two siblings and her mother to disease. With little money, and no precedent of any girl being successful in school, Margaret’s education could have been over.
That is, until Margaret became a WISER Girl.
Margaret. (Photo credit: WISER)
Today, Margaret sits in an office at the WISER school in Muhuru Bay and smiles. For her, the campus symbolises something that was once impossible, and is now the reason she feels more confident than ever that her story will have a happy ending.
“I know now that you can help others regardless of the challenges you face,” she says.
For six years, WISER, a Kenya-based NGO, has provided education, health, and leadership opportunities to girls in Western Kenya. As a school, WISER provides a fully-funded residential secondary education with dedicated teachers. As a community centre, it provides health fairs, agricultural education, and clean water to more than 5,000 people.
Across all of WISER’s efforts, from education to clean water, we are proud to champion girls and comprehensively address 11 of the 17 UN Global Goals in one program.
In 2013, Margaret was a part of the first WISER graduating class, and quickly became an ambassador for WISER’s most powerful belief: empowering girls through education and health builds not only individuals, but entire regions.
As Margaret puts it, “WISER has given me everything. But more than giving me items, they made me a valued person that feels prepared to face any challenge.”
While at WISER, Margaret found a passion for community health, and immediately looked to improve the health of her hometown. “I realised I wanted to deal with the health of people…to help those around me, and I knew others might not have the courage to handle patients in such a difficult situation. I’m able to handle it.”
She’s the first in her family to finish high school. She’s the first in her region to attend university. Having just finished her second year of a nursing degree, she’s happy and confident, and if she has her way, she’ll be the first person to return to Muhuru to work as a full-time nurse.
The most exciting thing about Margaret’s story is that it is becoming more and more common for other young women.
In the past three years, 72 WISER Girls have begun post-secondary education and become role models in their communities. And almost all of them have the same goal of raising their communities up.
Muhuru Bay now has a large group of driven, developing professionals that not only have a hunger for success, but a deep-seated sense of responsibility to their hometown. In the five years following the program, WISER Girls will become more than symbols of hope for young girls. They will become the nurses, agricultural economists, bankers, and teachers that have an active role in the development of their communities. They will address the poverty, hunger, gender inequity, and other targets that have been highlighted by the UN to build a better world.
Years ago, girls in Muhuru Bay were readily left by the wayside. There are millions of girls like Margaret all over the world. And in helping them change their lives, we can change the course of the future.
In January of 2015 we introduced you to the superstar ONE member Eva Tolage when she was just 14 years old and already calling out world leaders to adopt the Global Goals. Now, she’s 16, and has made it her mission to make sure world leaders are being held accountable by demanding that clean water should be provided to her village.
Eva’s story mobilised over 150,000 people to sign a letter asking Tanzanian leaders to supply the Malinzanga village with clean water – even President Obama heard and responded to her plea! Check out the video below!
This was a huge moment for Eva and for her campaign with Restless Development & ONE, but, despite all of this action, Eva is still waiting for her well.
Around the world girls like Eva make an impossible choice every day: risk their personal safety to get water or go without. This won’t change until world leaders take action and deliver a plan to provide all households with easy access to safe drinking water. That’s why Eva is asking President Obama to lend his voice once again to help amplify and remind other world leaders of why achieving the Global Goals is so important.
You can read Eva’s letter to Obama below:
HONOURABLE PRESIDENT OBAMA
I am grateful that you were able to read my letter. It made my heart so happy and joyous to hear your reply at the UN General Assembly in which the presidents agreed to end poverty, climate change and gender inequality. My village leaders and neighbours were very shocked to hear that the President of United States of America was telling a 15 year old girl from Tanzania these words, “Eva and millions of other girls like you, we have heard your plea and we see you.”
I wrote my letter to you because my friends and I usually walk 7 km every day to search for clean water in dangerous environments. We face the possibility of being raped by men that we don’t know who have bad habits or even getting eaten by wild animals on our way. We need a well so that my village can get access to clean and safe water, and so that we get enough time to study at school, because we often come late to school. We found out that the Global Goals commit to providing clean and safe water and quality education to everyone, so we asked for those promises to be fulfilled in my village called Malinzanga.
After you replied to my letter, my friends and I started campaigning in my village for access to clean and safe water. At the same time, we shared a global petition through social media. I hope that one day my village will be able to access clean and safe water because many people in my country and globally support this campaign from Tanzania. We managed to get 150,000 signatures from different people in just 4 months.
Before this petition, I never had the opportunity to go to our national parliament, but through my campaign, I travelled to Dodoma, our country’s capital city. I felt very happy and privileged to be there and to present my petition. The environment there is good, so I enjoyed myself a lot. I wish to become a member of parliament someday. I presented my petition in front of the Prime Minister of Tanzania and other young people from Tanzania joined hands with me.
I am still campaigning for my village to get a well, which will give us clean and safe water and quality education. I realised that every young person I met during my campaign needed the same thing; that the promises made by our leaders and presidents need to be fulfilled, especially those which sit within the Global Goals.
Thank you very much for answering my letter and I have a few more questions to ask you and presidents from other nations – Can you help young people like me to remind world leaders, like our President in Tanzania and the next President of the USA, of the promises they have made to achieve the Global Goals? Can you support us to amplify our voices when asking world leaders to deliver on these promises?
Thank you for reading my letter,
It’s me, Eva Tolage
By Caroline Dollman|
Friday, December 18th was International Migrants Day, a day to “reaffirm our commitment to shape diverse and open societies that provide opportunities and dignity for all migrants.”
Well, these words could not be a truer statement of what Europe needs right now. Over 1 million migrants and refugees have arrived in Europe this year - thousands of miles from home, terrified, after facing ordeals worse than most people could possibly imagine. It’s the biggest movement of people in Europe since World War II and as winter begins to hit, the situation is worsening.
While this is a huge and complex issue to resolve, it isn’t going to go away without action. So what, why and where is this happening, and what do we need to do to resolve it?
To put it simply, because people are fleeing bullets, bombs and torture in war torn countries in the Middle East and North Africa. At the moment, the vast majority are fleeing the ongoing bloodshed in Syria.
Since 2011, when a group of teenagers were arrested for spray painting anti-government graffiti on the wall of a school building, a very complicated civil war has been raging in Syria (you can read more about what’s happening in Syria here). The conflict has escalated to unimaginable levels, and the violence and human rights violations have forced 9 million Syrians out of their homes and killed over 200,000 people. While a large part of the refugee influx is due to the worsening war in Syria, there are also people desperately fleeing Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, Somalia – and numerous other countries. There has been much unhelpful rhetoric branding many of them as ‘economic migrants’ (a designation that means nations would not have to take them in) but the vast majority are fleeing situations of war, widespread conflict and insecurity or highly repressive governments. It is safe to say this is overwhelmingly a refugee crisis.
Image: Mohamed Azakir/World Bank
Most refugees from will first flee to a neighbouring or nearby country. For those fleeing Syria this means Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. But these countries are unable to deal with the heavy influxes of people and don’t have the basic infrastructure and services to support them to lead decent and dignified lives. Without access to basics like work and education, many decide to continue on to Europe in search of a better life. Italy and Greece are the main entry points into Europe, via dangerous boat journeys. It’s estimated that over 3,000 people have died at sea this year in attempts to reach safer shores - a huge proportion of these fatalities are children.
Once there, refugees must be registered before they can continue their onward journey. A few of them might be eligible for the EU’s new relocation scheme to move people arriving on Europe’s shores to one of Europe’s member states. But in reality, most are forced to make the journey on their own – travelling from Greece and then onwards through Macedonia (FYROM), Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia until they reach their destination country. The journey is long, dangerous and there are inadequate services and support systems available to those making the trip.
Right now, there’s a ton of divergence between European countries on their responsibilities and how to respond to the thousands of people in desperate need of a safe home. The UK, Ireland, Denmark, Germany and Sweden are among the destination countries for these refugees, however in the recent weeks, European member states are increasing their border control (made worse by the Paris attacks), meaning the process of relocation is taking even longer, and there is growing concern that EU nations won’t be able to take in as many people as there are arriving.
The European Council has also started to focus their discussions on curbing the flow of refugees, a new border enforcement mechanism, proposals around the detention of refugees for up to 18 months for screening purposes, and even encouraging the use of ‘force’ to make sure they are fingerprinted. The narrative and rhetoric is worrisome, and ultimately harmful to those making the journey.
The answer to this is complex, however there are three key steps that urgently need to be addressed:
1) Less divisive politics and more coordination. The EU needs to urgently turn its attention to the emergency situation on Europe's shores, and coordinate humanitarian assistance, especially as winter approaches. The harsh fact is that as winter worsens, people will die without adequate shelter, housing and sanitation.
2) Member States need to keep their humanitarian obligation and accept their fair share of refugees. This is both in terms of meeting their quotas for the relocation scheme, as well as stepping up the number of those they are willing to resettle from refugee camps near conflict zones, which are already grossly overstretched.
3) Member States also need to do more to ensure safer passages across to Europe and North America to stop the tragedy of thousands dying in the Mediterranean, including providing safe and legal routes into Europe so people don’t feel they need to make the dangerous journey to find protection.
The world needs the EU and all member states to respond to this crisis as human beings, and not ignore the needs of the planet's most desperate people this Christmas. Erecting fences and deploying border forces will not stop those desperately fleeing for their lives and seeking a safe home.
This Christmas, Save the Children is asking global citizens to play their part in making refugees feel at home this Christmas. Teaming up with educational publisher Pearson, they’re providing a brand new book to refugee children arriving in the UK. However, these are no ordinary books, as they’re designed for a personal touch - which is where you come in. You can write your own personal message to a refugee child to be included in one of these books and help them feel at home in the UK.
Go to TAKE ACTION NOW to add your own note and make a refugee child welcome.
Written by Caroline Dollman
Caroline is the UK Campaigns Manager for Global Poverty Project. She previously worked in the campaigns team at Save the Children, and lived in Bangalore, project managing a start up social enterprise. Outside the world of GPP, Caroline moonlights as a drummer in a band, has a crippling fear of clowns, and deeply regrets not learning how to break dance at a younger age.
Not too hot, not too cold – juuuuust right.
ICYMI: You can walk the red carpet with some of our favorite #GlobalCitizens at the People's Choice Awards . Here's how: http://glblctzn.me/2j4Dd7O
Our leaders MUST fix this.If you care, ACT.
4. Hamburg banned plastic coffee pods
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