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The Action Thread Part Two

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT Meet the homeless man who went from building baskets to building children’s futures

 

25 November 2016 2:53PM UTC  | By: GUEST BLOGGER
JOIN Join the fight against Extreme Poverty
 
  

“We bring them in, enable them to earn sufficient wealth, then graduate them out.”

That’s Blessing Basket founder and CEO Theresa Carrington talking about her organisation, which allows artisans to earn significantly higher than fair trade wages for their products during the time they are in the program. Their model creates a cycle of entrepreneur-driven growth that results in financial independence for the artisan.

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Some of the handmade crafts at Blessing Basket. (Photo credit: Blessing Basket)

Blessing Basket finds entrepreneurial-minded artisans and gives them market access and financial assistance in starting a small business. Through that model, the artisan will be independent and ready to graduate from the Blessing Basket program in three years.

This model makes conducting business more difficult for Blessing Basket because they have to continually find and train new artisans—but the organisation believes helping each individual eventually stand on their own two feet and lift themselves out of poverty is worth it.

Just ask Azoko.

At 23, Azoko was homeless, out of school, and weaving baskets on the streets of Accra, Ghana. After a representative from Blessing Basket found him and enrolled him into the program, Azoko was able to sell his wares, return to his village, and put himself through school.

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Azoko used his wages to put himself through school. (Photo credit: Blessing Basket)

“I felt I had a fruitless life because I missed a lot of opportunities in school,” says Azoko. “Blessing Basket made it possible for me to return home.”

“We created the opportunity,” Theresa says, “but he had to do the work.”

Each year, Blessing Basket puts on a graduation ceremony for the artisans who are ready to leave the program and become independent business owners. During the ceremony, each graduate is given a badge and certificate—these items can be used as a means of proving business acumen and potential to local banks and lending programs so that they can continue to grow their businesses.

“I felt happy and excited when I graduated. My friends and family were all jubilating and congratulating me,” says Azoko.

Earlier this year, Blessing Basket was honored by the United Nations for its innovative Artisan&You program. When you purchase a Blessing Basket product, you’ll find a unique ID number that allows you to connect and exchange letters with the artisan who created your handicraft. This allows customers to understand how their purchase is helping in the fight against poverty, and enables an intercultural connection between individuals who may be oceans apart.

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Azoko is now a teacher in the village where he grew up. (Photo credit: Blessing Basket)

Today, Azoko is a teacher in the very village where he once had to drop out of school. He teaches seven different subjects at a local girls’ school—his best and favorite subject is mathematics.

“His is a story that should inspire others never, ever, to give up,” says Theresa.

“I will come into contact with pupils who may have similar problems I faced,” Azoko says. “I am using my past experience to motivate pupils never to give up, no matter the situation they go through, because perseverance brings success.”

Learn more about Blessing Basket here, and join ONE today to be part of the fight against extreme poverty.

 

Via ONE

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Via Global Citizen

 
FINANCE & INNOVATION 8 Men Own as Much as the Poorest 3.6 Billion People on the Planet

By Joe McCarthy|

 Jan. 17, 2017

Income inequality doesn’t happen by accident and it’s certainly not inevitable. It happens when economies and governments are structured to benefit a few people over everyone else.

Today, income inequality is soaring all around the world. Multinational industries are consolidating, tax havens are teeming, and corruption seems to be everywhere.

In perhaps the most jarring illustration of this imbalance yet, Oxfam recently showed that the world’s eight richest men own more wealth than the poorest half of humanity.

Together these men have a combined wealth of $426.2 billion, with an average wealth of $53.275 billion. The 3.6 billion poorest, meanwhile, have an average wealth of around $118.  

Read More: Are Tax Havens Economically Justifiable? Not According to 300 Leading Economists

This comparison draws on data from Credit Suisse’s study of the world’s poor and Forbes’ annual list of the world’s wealthiest, both of which are based on publicly available information. But it’s likely that a lot of data concerning global wealth is either hidden or unobtainable, so the problem could be much more dire. As money flows around the world, financial manipulation and concealment are common. And, on the flip side, much of the world’s poor live outside of officially monitored areas.

Six of the richest men are US citizens — Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Lawrence Ellison, and Michael Bloomberg. Carlos Slim is from Mexico and Amancio Ortega Gaona is from Spain.

Read More: What The Panama Papers Have to Say About Inequality and Poverty

The US has the most billionaires in the world, followed by China, Germany, Russia, and the UK.  

Meanwhile, the US has a poverty rate of 14.3%, which is more than 43 million people. China has a poverty rate of around 30%, or 400 million people.

The World Economic Forum recently found that average incomes are falling in the world’s richest nations, and income growth has stalled in developing nations. That doesn’t mean economies are shrinking, it just means wealth is being distributed unevenly.

Between 2009 and 2013 in the US, for example, more than 95% of newly generated wealth accrued to the top 1% of earners.

Read More: 1.1B People Have Risen From Extreme Poverty Since 1990, World Bank Says

As a result, the WEF calls for a rejection of the Growth Domestic Product as the universal measurement of an economy’s welfare, because it gives a skewed portrait of economic health. Instead, they call for using the Inclusive Development Index to better reflect how economies are working for the majority of people.

 

In the US, over the last 30 years the bottom 50% has seen zero income growth. Zero. Meanwhile, incomes of the top 1% have grown by 300%.

Since 2015, the richest top 1% has owned more wealth than the bottom 99% of the world's population.

 
 

 

This growing split between has caused unrest in the US, arguably leading to the populist insurgencies of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. But in a dark irony of that rage against the status quo, Donald Trump recently assembled the wealthiest cabinet in US history, and has essentially promised to deregulate Wall Street, which is a chief driver of inequality.

Looking beyond the US, 700 million people live on less than $1.90 a day. People everywhere are being displaced by economic, geopolitical, and environmental shifts. As automation rises around the world, wealth could concentrate even further.

Read More: 11 Times President Obama Spoke to Global Citizens in His Farewell Address

Oftentimes, wealth inequality is treated as a harsh but unavoidable reality of capitalism or “market forces.” But this is false. Extreme wealth inequality is both detrimental to an economy as a whole because it suppresses the economic potential of the vast majority of citizens and morally wrong as it unnecessarily subjects people to suffering.

In sketching a global picture of inequality, the World Economic Forum recommended a few commonsense reforms that would make economies work for more people.

These include (1) a progressive tax system and robust social safety net; (2) fair wages and job security; (3) supporting small business; (4) improving access to financial systems for regular people; (5) enforcing rules against corruption; (6) improving public infrastructure both physical and digital; (7) and investing in education and skills-training programs.  

In their idealism, these goals will obviously butt up against the status quo of many countries, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be pursued. When a handful of men have as much wealth — and power — as the bottom half of the world, change has to be insisted upon everywhere.  

After all, the wealth of these men is not a sign of extreme talent; it’s a sign of profound political failure.

 
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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.

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TECHNOLOGY Mark Zuckerberg urges world leaders to respond to ONE and Facebook’s connectivity campaign

 

January 4 2017  | By: SAMANTHA URBAN
JOIN Join the fight against Extreme Poverty
 
  

Today, more than half of the world is still unconnected to the internet—and where someone lives makes a huge difference. Almost 75% of Africa’s population is offline compared with 19% of people in developed countries.

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Photo credit: Megan Iacobini de Fazio

Hit harder by this lack of connectivity are women and girls. Women living in the poorest countries are a third less likely than their male counterparts to be connected and the gap is increasing; if trends continue, in 2020 over 75% will be unconnected. Without connecting these women and girls to the internet, barriers for women to access education, lifesaving health information, and job opportunities will continue to perpetuate dire gender inequalities in these regions.

In the Making the Connection report, ONE calls for an action plan to connect 350 million women and girls in the poorest countries by 2020, resulting in spin-off benefits for everyone.

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Lima, Peru, on November 19, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg used our report as the basis for his policy recommendations.

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In his address, Zuckerberg talked about the role that internet access can play in helping communities lift themselves out of poverty, as well as improving global health and education. He also pushed for more world leaders to sign the Connectivity Declaration, a joint petition started by ONE and Facebook to promote universal internet access. (Add your name at connecttheworld.one.org.)

After the summit, the official APEC leaders’ communique reflected these amazing efforts, stating that they “believe that the development of ICT (information and communications technology) plays a vitally important role in human development and we reaffirm our willingness to achieve next-generation broadband by 2020… We will collaborate to unleash the potential of the digital economy and strongly support an accessible, open, interoperable, reliable and secure ICT environment as an essential foundation for economic growth and prosperity.”

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We offer our thanks to Mark Zuckerberg and our partners at Facebook for helping share this message. We hope that more and more world leaders realize that internet access is essential for achieving humanity’s potential.

Access to the internet isn’t a luxury… it’s life-changing: Take action now for a connected world.

 

Via ONE

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We have built strong links with schools throughout Ireland who undertake various fundraising activities for CCI. If you know a school that would like to get involved in organising a fundraiser to raise money for one of our vital programmes this year, contact us on 021-4558774 or visit our website
http://www.chernobyl-international.com/get-involved/

 

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Via Chernobyl Children International

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Via ONE

30
EDUCATION Author and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg stands up for girls’ education

 

January 13 2017  | By: SAMANTHA URBAN
IF YOU CARE, ACT. ADD YOUR NAME TODAY International Womens Day 2017
 
  

Right now, 130 million girls are out of school. You wouldn’t be where you are today without an education — and it’s in your power RIGHT NOW to help these girls get access to an education.

That’s why ONE is organizing people around the world to take action and urge world leaders to prioritize girls’ education. And author, activist, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is standing with us!

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Photo credit: Drew Altizer/Wikimedia Commons

On Thursday, Jan. 12, she wrote:

“Education is everything — but in the poorest countries girls are denied it far more often than boys. If the number of girls who are out of school formed a country, it would be the tenth largest on the planet.

When girls receive an education, it opens up a life full of choice and opportunity. We must not squander the potential of 130 million girls to cure diseases, end wars, invent brilliant technology or revolutionize an industry — or to bring us closer to an equal world. Girls can’t afford to miss out on the opportunities that come with an education, and the world can’t afford to miss out on their great ideas.

As Malala has said, “One child, one book, and one pen can change the world.” We can all come together to ensure that every girl has a chance to go to school and receives a quality education once she’s there. That’s why I’ve signed my name to ONE’s campaign letter which will be delivered to world leaders on International Women’s Day this spring.”

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Sheryl: Thanks for standing with ONE and with girls around the world!

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Via Global Citizen

 
EDUCATION With Pick of Betsy DeVos, Does Donald Trump Want to Kill Public Schools?

By Phineas Rueckert|

 Dec. 2, 2016
trump-devos-education-ap_1.jpg__1500x670AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Betsy DeVos never attended public school. She has no teaching or education policy experience. She sent all four of her kids to private school. And now she is slated to become the next Secretary of Education of the United States of America. 

An advocate of “school choice,” private school vouchers for low-income students, and funneling public money into privately-run charter schools, DeVos has the potential to turn the US public education system on its head. She’s a fitting choice for president-elect Donald Trump, who has said he wants to allocate $20 billion toward school choice by “reprioritizing federal dollars” away from public schools.

Trump has also said he wants to “establish the national goal of providing school choice to every one of the 11 million school aged children living in poverty.”

Currently 50 million students attend US public elementary and secondary schools, in comparison with just 5 million who are at private schools. About 2.5 million students attend public charter schools, up from 800,000 just ten years ago. A recent study by the Southern Education Foundation found that one in two public school students qualify for free- and reduced-price lunches, which according to the Washington Post, is a “rough proxy for poverty.” 

Read more: As Trump Becomes President, Republicans Win Total Control of Congress, Too

What might a Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos-led Department of Education mean for students living in poverty in the US? 

Global Citizen spoke with four education policy experts to get the scoop on Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education. 

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Who is Betsy DeVos? 

DeVos is the chairperson of the Windquest Group, an investment management firm in Michigan, and formerly the head of the American Federation for Children, a national pro-school-choice organization. 

She’s married to Dick DeVos, son of Amway co-founder Richard DeVos. The DeVos family, much like the Koch family, has funneled large amounts of money into the Republican establishment and toward conservative causes — at least $200 million, according to Mother Jones.

This includes a 2004 donation of $200,000 toward a Michigan effort to ban same sex marriage in that state. 

As head of the American Federation for Children, DeVos was in charge of the nation’s most powerful pro-school-choice organization. She has also supported school choice in her home state of Michigan, and lobbied for legislation to bring more charter schools to the state. 

Eighty percent of Michigan charter schools are run by private companies, according to Chalkbeat, and “the DeVos influence is one reason that Michigan’s charter sector is among the least regulated in the country.” 

According to her website, DeVos’ education policy will give parents more educational choices for their kids and “fix America’s broken education system.” 

Read more: U.S. House of Representatives Just Voted to Provide Education for All!

This would be done mostly through school vouchers that give money to low-income students to enroll in private schools. Along with supporting school choice initiatives, which are popular among some centrist Democrats and many Republicans, DeVos has previously supported for-profit private schools and vouchers for online classes. 

DeVos does not support the Common Core program — a set of federally defined college- and career-readiness standards — but had to clarify that stance in a tweet after receiving criticism from the right, including Breitbart News, which believed she had not been outspoken enough on this matter. 

Many of you are asking about Common Core. To clarify, I am not a supporter—period. Read my full stance, here: http://betsydevos.com/qa/ 

 
 

She has also donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Clinton Foundation and was critical of Trump’s campaign early on, the Root reports

What is “school choice”? What would it mean for the poorest students? 

Broadly speaking, school choice is the idea that parents should be able to decide whether they want to send their children to private or public schools. But for low-income parents who can’t afford private school education, this would mean federal- or state-funded vouchers toward a private school education. 

Private school vouchers do not typically account for transportation costs or free and reduced lunches. Furthermore, the value of these vouchers varies from state to state. They are a controversial tool that many on the left fear disfranchise the low-income students they are supposed to protect. 

“It’s very threatening, especially for low-income kids who rely on public education to a very high degree,” Catherine Brown, the vice president of education policy at the Center for American Progress, told Global Citizen. 

“This type of program only works in highly concentrated areas where there are a lot of schools to choose from,” she said. 

Read more: 7 myths about private and public education unlocked

Lindsay Wagner, an education specialist at the AJ Fletcher Foundation, a non-profit education foundation, has studied the effect of voucher programs on North Carolina students. 

“Voucher schools are held to very little in the lay of transparency and accountability,” she said. 

Private schools in North Carolina, she said, are not generally required to report academic achievement — as public schools must. They are overwhelmingly religious, and are “free to discriminate,” meaning that students who identify as LGBTQ or do not identify as Christian may be put at risk. 

Furthermore, the vouchers given to low-income students in North Carolina are often not enough to afford a high-quality, private school education.

“You have a scenario where currently vouchers are $3,200 annually, but the price of high quality private school education can be anywhere from $4,000 to $40,000,” she said. 

What about charter schools? 

Along with championing school choice and vouchers, DeVos has advocated strongly for an increase in charter schools. Her state, Michigan, has been on the front lines of the charter school movement — and has benefited from funding and advocacy from the DeVos family. 

Unlike school choice, which tends to break along ideological lines, charter schools have drawn mixed reviews from conservatives and liberals alike. 

“Not all charter systems are created the same,” David Kirkland, director of the Metro Center at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, told Global Citizen. 

Kirkland grew up in Detroit, and is intimately familiar with the education system that DeVos has worked so hard to influence.

Detroit has pushed charter schools for more than 20 years as a solution to its struggling public school system. The New York Times has reported that Michigan “has nearly 220,000 fewer students than it did in 2003, but more than 100 new charter schools.”

vacant-school-detroit.jpg__3000x2000_q85Image: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

But despite having more school choice, the results have been largely disappointing. As the Times reports: “A federal review of a grant application for Michigan charter schools found an ‘unreasonably high’ number of charters among the worst-performing 5 percent of public schools statewide.”

For Max Eden, a Senior Fellow at the center-right Manhattan Institute, the backlash to school choice and the negative coverage of Detroit’s charter schools has not been warranted. 

Read more: Lots of US Schools Are Broken. These Educators Are Trying to Fix Them

One widely cited study on Detroit schools, Eden said, which has been used by people on the left to criticize charter school performance, “actually shows that half of charters are as good [as public schools] and half are significantly better.” 

“To me, that’s a huge step up,” he said.

Wagner, from the AJ Fletcher Foundation, argued that charter schools are regulated better than private schools, but perhaps still suffer from a lack of oversight. 

“The charters schools in North Carolina are held to a much higher standard [than private schools] but still not as high as regular public schools,” Wagner said. “It’s easy for them to hide how they spend their tax dollars.” 

Are LGBT, non-gender conforming, non-Christian, and undocumented students at risk? 

A major concern from education policy experts on the left when it comes to the potential nomination of Betsy DeVos is her family’s history of donating to groups that promote conversion therapy and anti-LGBT legislation. 

She could use her position as Secretary of Education to roll back protections — such as Title IX and anti-bullying initiatives — for student populations that are already marginalized.  

“I’m extremely concerned about that piece of her past and the whole religious ideology that surrounds that wing of education,” NYU’s David Kirkland said.  

“It’s a problem and it’s a question in an administration that doesn’t necessarily represent the diversity of US classrooms.”

Brown, from Center for American Progress, echoed this sentiment: “We’re going to have one of the major organizations that was responsible for protecting [LGBT students] likely to become extremely weak.” 

So, what will Trump’s education policy look like under DeVos? 

DeVos still has to be confirmed by Congress, but with Republicans in control of the House and the Senate, this is almost ensured. 

The selection of DeVos, Eden said, “shows that [Trump] is more serious about the campaign promises that he made than I think many people would assume he would be.” 

But he noted that there are more questions than answers. 

“When Trump says, ‘I want to use $20 billion [in federal funds] to spur school-choice across the country, and [at the same time] abolish the department of education and ensure the sanctity of local control,’ there’s a pretty clear tension between those two promises, and it will be interesting to see what happens,” Eden said.  

Under Trump, who just last week settled a lawsuit on Trump University for $25 million, the public education system will most definitely see an increase in privatization. 

“Schools will be modeled after businesses,” Kirkland said. 

With that in mind, it will not be a cakewalk for the Trump administration to do this. In order for Trump to enact an education policy that prioritizes vouchers and charter schools, Slate reports, he will have to reopen the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This could present a major political challenge, as ESSA was passed with bipartisan congressional support. 

“The administration might have to recognize that education in the United States is a very, complex concept,” Kirkland said. “We have systems of education for a reason. We have a diverse population of students, we have a diverse population of abilities.” 

“I’m rooting for this administration to do right by Americans because if they do right by all Americans we all win,” he said.  

 
 
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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.

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