BORGEN http://www.borgenmagazine.com Humanity, Politics & You Sat, 22 Sep 2018 14:30:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 How Senegal’s Inclusive Agricultural Value Chains Fight Poverty http://www.borgenmagazine.com/senegals-inclusive-agricultural-value-chains/ Sat, 22 Sep 2018 14:30:39 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=129416 SEATTLE — Africa has a lot of potential to increase its agricultural production and become self-sufficient. As it is, Africa imports a great deal of its food, and the imports cost the continent money that could be directed toward development. Each year, African nations import more than $50 billion worth of food, and the massive [...]

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SEATTLE — Africa has a lot of potential to increase its agricultural production and become self-sufficient. As it is, Africa imports a great deal of its food, and the imports cost the continent money that could be directed toward development. Each year, African nations import more than $50 billion worth of food, and the massive food import bill is not sustainable.

Importing so much food eliminates opportunities for job creation and especially impacts rural women and children, who make up a large part of Africa’s informal agricultural workforce. Overall, gender inequality costs sub-Saharan Africa $95 billion a year, and “improving women’s positions in agricultural value chains is vital for Africa’s economic development,” according to the U.S. Department of State.

Integrating Women into Global Value Chains

Inclusive agricultural value chains, which aim to integrate women and poor small-scale farmers into global value chains, will give African women new opportunities to participate in the marketplace and strengthen their communities. Integrating women requires government agencies and organizations to make changes in different areas within value chains, such as removing legal and regulatory barriers or directly training female farmers.

As in many other economic sectors, women represent an untapped agricultural market opportunity in Africa and their inclusion will expand African economies. Investing in social goods, such as health and education, circulates money within a community and stimulates economic growth and prosperity. According to the U.S. Department of State, women are more likely to invest most of their earnings in social goods. Women are also more prone to hiring other women, so investing in one woman can create jobs for dozens more.

Senegal’s Inclusive Agricultural Value Chains

Half of Senegal’s food comes from imports, but Senegal is setting an example for other African countries by working toward inclusive agricultural value chains. Senegalese Ambassador to the U.S., H.E. Momar Diop, has reported that Senegal gathers gender-disaggregated data to inform its agricultural policies and help integrate female farmers by increasing their access to technology and production inputs.

Senegal’s government has also implemented a capacity-building program in its mango sector that focuses on female farmers. The program helps women harvest, collect and package their mangoes and increases the overall competitiveness of the sector in global markets.

In developing Senegal’s inclusive agricultural value chains, partnerships are key. Senegal’s government has partnered with the private sector, civil societies and international organizations, such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in order to achieve its goals.

In addition to the country’s own programs, the IFAD spent six years working on Senegal’s inclusive agricultural value chains from 2008 to 2014. IFAD’s Agricultural Value Chains Support Project (PAFA) focused efforts in Senegal’s groundnut basin, where rural poverty had been spreading due to declines in the global groundnut market. The basin had potential for agricultural diversification and PAFA was designed to help small-scale farmers take advantage of new markets.

PAFA aimed to integrate farmers into profitable value chains by helping small-scale producers. The project specifically targeted three groups: vulnerable small-scale farmers with limited resources, underemployed young people and women. PAFA also supported market operators who could help integrate the target groups into profitable value chains, as well as grassroots organizations that could get the targets groups involved at regional and national levels.

As of PAFA’s completion in 2014, the project had directly benefited 25,380 households, well over PAFA’s initial target number. PAFA helped form direct contracts between market operators and 18,910 households, with women representing 62 percent of beneficiaries. IFAD has made remarkable progress toward gender equality and reducing poverty by funding Senegal’s inclusive agricultural value chains.

– Kathryn Quelle
Photo: Flickr

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The United States: The Most Generous Humanitarian Country? http://www.borgenmagazine.com/most-generous-humanitarian-country/ Sat, 22 Sep 2018 08:30:25 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=129392 SEATTLE — The United States provides foreign assistance to 96 percent of the world to promote peace, security, provide humanitarian relief in crises and stimulate economic growth. Aid levels are at their highest since the period immediately following World War II. Despite the $18.6 billion budget cut requested by the Trump administration, funding for international [...]

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SEATTLE — The United States provides foreign assistance to 96 percent of the world to promote peace, security, provide humanitarian relief in crises and stimulate economic growth. Aid levels are at their highest since the period immediately following World War II. Despite the $18.6 billion budget cut requested by the Trump administration, funding for international affairs remains at $55.9 billion in 2018, compared to $59.1 billion the previous year. The World Economic Forum listed the U.S. as the most generous humanitarian country in the world, outspending any other OECD power by an average of $10 billion.

While this dollar amount is high, and the U.S. often carries the burden of taking action on the ground, the U.S. still only spends 0.18 percent of its gross national income (GNI), or less than 1 percent of the overall federal budget. The U.N. calls for economically advanced countries to spend at least 0.7 percent of GNI on aid. Sweden, who gives approximately 1.4 percent of its GNI, is the top humanitarian donor according to that measure. So long as this percentage remains low, the notion that the U.S. is the most generous humanitarian country on Earth remains in question. A deeper analysis of U.S. foreign aid reveals more about the wide-ranging impact of its assistance.

The Many Accomplishments of U.S. Humanitarian Aid

The first U.S. aid program started after World War II, when Secretary of State George Marshall acted to aid Europe in rebuilding its infrastructure, stability and economies. Several foreign programs followed to build off of the success of the Marshall Plan. With the passage of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, U.S. foreign assistance programs underwent a metamorphosis, as the many organizations tasked with foreign assistance merged to become the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). From then on, long-term global economic and social development became a mainstay in U.S. policy. USAID continues to this day to serve as a reflection of American values of doing the right thing, with boxes and crates stamped “From The American People”.

As the largest single donor of foreign aid in the world, the U.S. is doing a lot. In 2017, the U.S. allocated $18.25 billion in economic aid to 92 countries and $18.23 billion in security aid to 143 countries. In supporting education programs in recent years, USAID programs have benefited more than 109 million learners. In 2016, $2.2 billion in food security funds were allocated across the world.

As the largest supporter of democratic societies abroad, the U.S. has helped countries emerge from dictatorships, poverty and civil conflict to become strong democracies where all voices are heard. Funding for human rights and governance, while composing only a small portion of the U.S. foreign aid budget ($2 billion annually), is designed to ensure that they are implemented by national and local institutions. According to USAID, in 1991, less than half of the world’s governments had democratic leadership. By 2006, that number had increased to 64 percent.

U.S. Considered Most Generous Humanitarian Country in Terms of Direct Assistance

As the most generous humanitarian country in the world, roughly 93 percent of U.S. foreign aid goes to official development assistance (ODA). While countries like China have spent whopping amounts in recent years on infrastructure projects, especially in regions like Africa, it is estimated that only 22 percent goes towards ODA. Without OECD certification, such projects are heavily criticized as self-serving and propping up undemocratic regimes. The U.S. consistently gives the most to direct assistance year after year as the most benevolent donor.

Through the work of USAID, the U.S. has made incredible strides to help people around the world fight poverty, hunger, health crises and dictatorships. Although U.S. foreign aid has not yet met the U.N. standards for GNI percentage, it has had a huge positive impact on the world, and by striving to reach this benchmark, the U.S. can truly become the world’s most generous humanitarian country.

– Joseph Ventura
Photo: Flickr

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Increased Use of Air Purifiers in India Bringing Relief to Polluted Cities http://www.borgenmagazine.com/air-purifiers-in-india/ Fri, 21 Sep 2018 14:30:19 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=129398 SEATTLE — The prevalence of air pollution in many parts of India has led to a surge in the sale of indoor air purifiers, not only in the metropolises but also in smaller towns. The rising level of awareness about the effects of air pollution and the health benefits of installing air purifiers, as well [...]

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SEATTLE — The prevalence of air pollution in many parts of India has led to a surge in the sale of indoor air purifiers, not only in the metropolises but also in smaller towns. The rising level of awareness about the effects of air pollution and the health benefits of installing air purifiers, as well as the increase in the average disposable income of the rising middle class have led to a great demand for this product. Air purifiers are devices which clean indoor air by removing impurities such as dust particles and smoke. Outdoor models, which are placed strategically at busy intersections where pollution levels are high, have not yet made their debut in India.

According to a TechSci Research report, sales of air purifiers in India are expected to grow 40 percent by 2020 and total $270.72 million by 2022; this market has grown at an unprecedented rate from almost nothing. Shuvendu Mazumar, national product manager at Sharp India, told Quartz India, “Once Indians start to realize the indoor pollution levels, this market has a potential to be as big as the water purification market in India.” The water purification industry is expected to reach $4.1 billion by 2024.

Growing Awareness of Air Purifiers in India

When U.S. President Barack Obama visited New Delhi in January 2015, the U.S. Embassy purchased 1,800 indoor air purifiers to protect the visiting officials from high levels of pollution in the city. This one event gave huge visibility to what was a relatively niche product in India. Now government institutions, offices and corporations are utilizing these products to create a healthy workplace for their employees.

The key players in the market are Philips, Sharp, Eureka Forbes, Daikin, Panasonic and Blueair, with new manufacturers entering the market each year. These companies are keen to keep production costs low in order to attract consumers. The involvement of such large multinationals fuels the growth of the sector and provides employment opportunities to Indians across the country; the demand for skilled as well as semiskilled workers at these companies is rising.

Many startups are making efforts to purify the air with innovative ideas, such as PerSapien, a New Delhi-based startup that has created a nasal air purification device to remove impurities from the air. The rising demand for air purification devices has encouraged the growth of many startups across the country, thus fueling innovation and employment.

Use of Air Purifiers Provides Benefits for Schools and Homes

Air pollution in Delhi can reach such dangerous levels, especially during the winter season, that more than 5,000 schools around the city were ordered by the government to be temporarily closed. Air purifier companies such as Philips are working with public and private schools to install their products at lower costs in an attempt to provide clean air. By installing more than 10,000 air purifiers in 200 public and private schools, the company is attempting to remove pollution from educational institutions.

Residential use of air purifiers is also increasing. In 2016, online sales of air purifiers in India registered a  sevenfold increase. The rise of India’s middle class has certainly contributed to this demand. Already, air purifiers are being installed in vehicles; the argument is rather compelling that the air quality is much worse on the motorways than in homes.

Air purifiers have been proven to be effective in improving air quality; however, it is important to note that they cannot be a quick fix for the larger issue of toxic air pollution. Environmentalists and healthcare professionals insist that improving air quality in cities on a systemic level is necessary for the benefit of people and the environment. In the interim, air purifiers offer much-needed relief to India’s citizens.

– Isha Kakar
Photo: Flickr

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Facts About Poverty in Nepal: Struggle and Progress http://www.borgenmagazine.com/facts-about-poverty-in-nepal/ Fri, 21 Sep 2018 08:30:16 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=129345 SEATTLE — Nepal is surrounded by two of Asia’s growing giants, India and China, and yet remains dwarfed by them economically. These facts about poverty in Nepal illustrate the different ways in which its people are affected by poverty. Facts About Poverty in Nepal Nepal is the fourth poorest country in Asia, with a GDP [...]

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SEATTLE — Nepal is surrounded by two of Asia’s growing giants, India and China, and yet remains dwarfed by them economically. These facts about poverty in Nepal illustrate the different ways in which its people are affected by poverty.

Facts About Poverty in Nepal

  1. Nepal is the fourth poorest country in Asia, with a GDP per capita of merely $2,573. This explains why 25 percent of Nepalis live below the poverty line in Nepal, which amounts to ₨19,261 per year for every person, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. This is around $225, meaning anyone who earns above $0.60 per day is above the poverty line and thus not considered “poor” in a Nepali context. This is far below the World Bank’s poverty line of $1.25 a day.
  2. The second of the facts about poverty in Nepal is that contrary to popular assumptions about urban poverty decreasing at the highest rate when a country develops, poverty in Nepal increased by 5.46 percentage points in 2010-11 compared to 2003-04. This complicates the government’s attempts to reduce poverty, as many of those who live in urban areas are involved in the informal sector of the economy, making it extremely difficult to provide them with social security.
  3. The country has experienced a long spell of political instability which hindered economic progress, such as the civil war between the government and insurgent Maoist rebels from 1994 to 2006. The war finally ended in November 2006, when Prime Minister Koirala and Maoist leader Prachanda signed a peace deal, with casualties of around 13,000. In 2008, economic growth was also disrupted by protests by the hill tribes.
  4. Nepal is heavily affected by natural disasters, such as the 2015 earthquake which affected not only infrastructure but also homes and economic growth. The effects of the earthquake were exacerbated by Nepal’s existing problems, such as persistent power shortages and underdevelopment of roads and transportation infrastructure. Fortunately, the earthquake triggered a swift international response to the crisis. Seventeen countries sent not only monetary aid but also military troops to aid the search and rescue efforts.
  5. Four-fifths of Nepal’s population still lives in rural areas, making it a largely agricultural economy. In 2017, agriculture made up 27 percent of the Himalayan country’s GDP, while services made up 51.5 percent, yet only 19 percent of the population is engaged in the service sector and 69 percent in agriculture.
  6. In 2017, Nepal experienced an economic growth rate of 7.5 percent in addition to producing 5.2 million tons of rice, the most ever recorded. This saw a marked reduction in poverty in Nepal as inflation rates were stabilized, helped by the significant amount of remittances sent by Nepali foreign workers.
  7. Education was traditionally restricted to members of the upper classes until 1951. Following this change, the Nepali government began expanding the development and reach of education in order to reduce poverty in Nepal. However, private education was introduced to Nepal, which widened the gap between rich and poor children. Poor children still have low rates of access to education, and one in four of the poorest children do not attend school. 
  8. Poverty in Nepal is also geographically segregated. Nepal is divided into three geographical regions; mountain, hill and Terai. The mountain region is rugged and the land is not conducive to agricultural activities. Due to this, the 42.27 of the local population lives in extreme poverty. This figure is 17 points higher than the national average.
  9. The caste system has a symbiotic relationship to poverty in Nepal. The Muslim and low-caste populations are among the poorest in the country. The Musahar community is a Hindu scheduled caste largely considered to be “untouchable”, and has the lowest education and literacy rates in the country. To reduce this, the government established a school in the community, but failed to follow through with high-quality teachers and sustained efforts.
  10. Poverty in Nepal is worsened by the fact that women are generally left illiterate. Only 5 percent of Nepali households with at least one girl or woman with education at grade 11 or higher are below the poverty line. Nonetheless, women’s education only has an impact on poverty if she has received an education above grade 5 and is not merely literate. 

The issues contributing to these facts about poverty in Nepal are many, but progress is being made as well. The country’s poverty rate has seen significant improvement over the past two decades, and recent economic successes should continue that trend, leading to better quality of life for more and more Nepalis.

– Maneesha Khalae
Photo: Flickr

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BanQu Gives an Identity to the Unbanked http://www.borgenmagazine.com/banqu-gives-an-identity-to-the-unbanked/ Thu, 20 Sep 2018 14:30:39 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=129404 SEATTLE — BanQu is providing a permanent identity-based solution for the unbanked through a ground-breaking initiative. The blockchain-as-a-service software company aims to address the issue of global poverty by identifying those who have remained anonymous in vulnerable situations. Jointly founded in 2016 by Ashish Ghadnis and Hamse Warfa (himself a refugee from Somalia), BanQu gives [...]

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SEATTLE — BanQu is providing a permanent identity-based solution for the unbanked through a ground-breaking initiative. The blockchain-as-a-service software company aims to address the issue of global poverty by identifying those who have remained anonymous in vulnerable situations. Jointly founded in 2016 by Ashish Ghadnis and Hamse Warfa (himself a refugee from Somalia), BanQu gives an identity to the unbanked by equipping the unverified with an economic and transactional identity so that they can participate equally in the global economy.

How BanQu Gives an Identity to the Unbanked

About 2.5 billion people worldwide have little to no access to credit and banking services, which categorizes them as unbanked/underbanked individuals. People in this category often include refugees, internally displaced persons and the world’s poorest, who remain excluded from the global economy and have no record of their education, financial history, past employment or other information needed to access banks and credit services.

BanQu gives an identity to the unbanked by allowing them to create a secure online profile through simple SMS-enabled phones, as people living in extreme poverty may not have access to a smartphone. The user keeps track of everything from educational qualifications to transaction history like harvest information, which is critical for farmers, thereby gradually building a credit history. With this information, they can open bank accounts, apply for microloans, own property and even access healthcare and other basic services. Integrating with modern services allows the unbanked to become part of the global economy.

Through the initiative, BanQu gives an identity to the unbanked by aiming to attain several of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and creating business models that are not only a commercial success but also have a positive social impact in developing and underdeveloped regions.

Achieving Sustainable Development Goals Through Services

  • Good Health and Well Being: The company runs on the principle that every human deserves a health record for timely care. Unleashing the power of blockchain technology, it provides protection of the individual’s privacy. It is looking to provide accurate and real-time information on birth registrations, vaccinations, HIV and other medical supplies and early warning of outbreaks of infectious diseases. These are extremely helpful for those who have been hit the hardest during times of conflict, natural disasters and forced migration.
  • Quality Education: The company’s certified education platform (vocational or otherwise) allows youth to be recognized in order to gain employment, building economic resilience for themselves and the communities. A certified education record coupled with a training history is critical for vulnerable youths that are left out of the global economy.
  • Gender Equality: A reality in the developing world is that women (especially farmers and micro-entrepreneurs) are more likely to remain in poverty in comparison to men due to unequal access to paid work, education and property. Due to their lack of access to financial services, they are unable to provide their basic history of harvest, crops/goods pricing and land/asset rights. BanQu gives an identity to the unbanked so as to solve the issue of gender inequality for women farmers and micro, small and mid-sized enterprises in emerging markets. By connecting them to global supply chains, the firm plans on creating transactional records that can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
  • Life on Land: BanQu’s platform seeks to provide traceability in the agricultural supply chains. This adds end-to-end transparency from manufacturer to farmer. The company is piloting small-plot farmer land mapping with a focus on women farmers in Latin America. This could pave way for cases where farmers had difficulty in getting either due to outdated property registries or lack of land rights.
  • Partnerships for the Goals: In June 2018, BanQu partnered with the world’s leading brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, to connect as many as 2,000 Zambian farmers to a mobile platform as they harvest and sell a projected 2,000 tons of cassava. This tech-driven approach could help the farmers yield high-quality starch used in beer by the end of Zambia’s growing season in August.

Through the app, BanQu gives an identity to the unbanked and has so far linked more than 15,000 last-mile farmers, displaced persons and refugees to the platform in eight countries. Additionally, the company aims to help lift 100 million people out of extreme poverty through the use of blockchain technology by the year 2028.

– Deena Zaidi
Photo: Flickr

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Facts About Living Conditions in North Korea Illustrate Its People’s Struggles http://www.borgenmagazine.com/facts-about-living-conditions-in-north-korea/ Wed, 19 Sep 2018 14:30:10 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=129379 SEATTLE — At the end of World War II, the Korean Peninsula was split in two, with the northern half falling under the control of an oppressive communist regime. After failing to take control of South Korea in 1953, North Korean leader Kim Il-sung adopted a policy of economic and diplomatic isolationism meant to minimize [...]

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SEATTLE — At the end of World War II, the Korean Peninsula was split in two, with the northern half falling under the control of an oppressive communist regime. After failing to take control of South Korea in 1953, North Korean leader Kim Il-sung adopted a policy of economic and diplomatic isolationism meant to minimize outside influence. This policy has since greatly contributed to substandard living conditions for the nation’s people.

Facts About Living Conditions in North Korea

  1. North Koreans regularly fall victim to food shortages, which result as much from a lack of resources and poor farming practices as they do environmental factors. The latest information from the World Food Programme (WFP) deems a third of North Korean children as chronically malnourished to the point of stunting. The WFP also reports that 68 percent of the population is dependent on government-distributed food rations, which have decreased in recent years. This has led to people to rely on the black market for food.
  2. Failure to maintain water and sanitation systems has left many of them in disrepair. Census data showed that, in 2008, 30 percent of the rural population and 18 percent of the urban population were forced to retrieve water from outside of their homes. Rudimentary sanitation systems fail to keep human waste from contaminating the environment, and the wells that people are forced to construct in order to gain access to water are often vulnerable to contamination, giving rise to waterborne illness.
  3. By 1960, North Korea had developed a comprehensive healthcare system that was free for all citizens. The system began to collapse in the 1980s due to the government’s inability to provide hospitals with basic medicine and equipment. Many North Koreans were consequently forced to buy medicine for high prices on the black market and pay doctors for informal consultations. This practice still continues today, with much of the population harboring distrust against the ill-equipped, state-run healthcare system.
  4. About 18.4 of the 25 million people who live in North Korea go without electricity. According to 2013 data, 41 percent of the urban population had access to electricity, compared to only 13 percent of the rural population. Even for these people, access is intermittent, as power outages are common and often long-lasting.
  5. While North Korea has an adequate telephone system, much of the population does not have access to it. According to estimates from July 2016, only 14 percent of North Koreans had mobile cellular service. At around 5 percent, even less had subscriptions to fixed lines.
  6. Although there is no data regarding the percentage of people who fall below the poverty line, unemployment rates in 2013 were at an estimated 25.6 percent. The CIA World Factbook estimates that the country has one of the lowest GDPs in the world.
  7. Freedom of information is virtually nonexistent in North Korea. Although North Koreans do have access to the internet, it is highly controlled by the state, and they need government permission to own a computer. The state owns all of the country’s media outlets, and must sanction any content that those outlets put out to the masses. Viewing, reading or listening to any unauthorized content is considered a crime against the state.
  8. Freedom of expression is equally oppressed. North Korea’s official religion, Juche, is centered around communist ideals and Korean nationalism. Those found practicing Christianity, which is considered a Western religion, risk imprisonment in one of the nation’s labor camps. Assembly, organized political opposition and any action that challenges government authority are also forbidden.
  9. The North Korean government uses a system called songbun to classify people into one of three categories: loyal, wavering or hostile. This classification figures into a person’s employment opportunities, residence and education. Family members may also face discrimination due to association.
  10. Forced labor is a possible reality for many North Koreans. As many as 100,000 people are held in prison camps, forced to work 12-hour days, seven days a week. Immediate family members may be deemed guilty by association and held in these camps for up to three generations. According to the CIA World Factbook, North Korea has been known to contract citizens to work in Russia and China, with no power to decide the work they are assigned or change their work assignments. In its 2018 report, Human Rights Watch likewise cited allegations of the government forcing children to participate in unpaid labor.

The state of affairs goes beyond what these facts about living conditions in North Korea can begin to cover. In light of this, the U.N. Security Council has for the past several years made it a priority to address the country’s human rights violations. And, on March 24, 2017, the Human Rights Council took the first steps toward prosecution of the leaders and officials responsible for these violations. If the current situation is bleak, the outlook for the future, at least, is better.

– Ashley Wagner
Photo: Flickr

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Peace Through Education: Helping the Girls of Kashmir http://www.borgenmagazine.com/girls-of-kashmir/ Wed, 19 Sep 2018 08:30:37 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=129429 SEATTLE — Ever since the lines of partition were drawn in 1947, Kashmir has been the epicenter of conflict between two nuclear powers: Pakistan and India. Here, Kashmiris have witnessed decades of struggle between Indian, Pakistani, Chinese and local separatist groups vying for control of the valley. From these clashes, the girls of Kashmir have [...]

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SEATTLE — Ever since the lines of partition were drawn in 1947, Kashmir has been the epicenter of conflict between two nuclear powers: Pakistan and India. Here, Kashmiris have witnessed decades of struggle between Indian, Pakistani, Chinese and local separatist groups vying for control of the valley. From these clashes, the girls of Kashmir have suffered immensely.

How Instability Affects the Girls of Kashmir

Violence in the region has prevented these girls from pursuing their goals and aspirations. It has been reported that of the 2,000 killed between 2011 and 2016, 69 percent have been civilians and 88 percent of these causalities occurred in populated areas such as schools, hospitals and villages.

In addition to this, the girls of Kashmir are disproportionately affected by sexual crimes. This is especially true when examining the militarized atmosphere of the region. There are an estimated 500,000 Indian soldiers (not including Pakistani, Chinese or separatist troops) currently stationed in Kashmir; equal to about 81 troops per square mile. Moreover, a Columbia University survey from 2013 projected that 80 percent of schools located within the valley were within one kilometer of a military base. Of these, some schools were recorded as being directly bordered, or occupied, by military forces.

Due to this constant state of conflict and tension, in 2017 the U.S. State Department released a statement explaining that Kashmiri girls and women were especially vulnerable to sexual violence. Rape and other abuses by armed forces have seriously deteriorated the security of girls and women alike.

The continuous war in Kashmir has not only impacted the physical well-being of young girls, but it has also brought down the educational system around them. Throughout 2016, upwards of 300 schools at a time were shut down in the regions of Kashmir and Jammu due to artillery barrages and border skirmishes. In Indian territory, these disruptions ultimately led to schools only being able to teach for a total of four months during the 2017 school year. Many classes had learned less than 50 percent of the required curriculum for the academic year.

The continual threat of sexual violence and destruction of infrastructure has led to a 67 percent decrease in girls’ enrollment in school from 2013-14 (296,535) to 2015-16 (96,896). However, the girls of Kashmir are not alone anymore. U.S. nonprofits and their partners have increasingly stepped up for these girls where local and foreign governments have failed to do so.

Kashmir Education Initiative

The Kashmir Education Initiative (KEI) is perhaps one of the largest nonprofits aiding the girls of Kashmir. KEI is a joint operation between two differing entities: KEI USA and KEI Kashmir. KEI USA sponsors projects while KEI Kashmir executes them on the ground level. Since 2007, they have achieved remarkable success:

  • High School Scholarships Program (HSSP): HSSP can be considered the flagship program of KEI. According to their success report of 2017, 600 youth (including around 300 girls) were awarded $140,000 in scholarships in order to pursue coursework after high school. This is especially significant when the average household from this group survives on less than $2 a day.
  • Undergraduate Scholarship Program (UGS): UGS has sponsored 45 college-level students through schooling that focuses on engineering, medical and agricultural programs. These programs were specifically selected in order to train future leaders for building a new Kashmir free from violence and poverty.
  • Self-Study Pilot: This project began in 2017 by giving 100 laptops to 11th and 12th graders. These laptops are loaded with educational materials and lectures in order to lessen the burden of disruptions caused by the conflict.
  • To date, 3,012 scholarships have been awarded, totaling to $645,656. In addition to this, $859,810 has been raised through donations, with 82 percent of the sponsored youth graduating high school with high distinction.

Miracle Corners of the World

Miracle Corners of the World (MCW) is a U.S. nonprofit that focuses on improving education, health and economic security by empowering current and future leaders through programs and summits. MCW has established a strong bond with KEI in order to empower the girls of Kashmir to become advocates for peace and change.

In 2017, Aiman Bradley and Bazila Ajaz (both KEI scholars) were selected to participate in the MCW Young Leaders Access Program. This program lasts about a year and it brings together young advocates and leaders from all over the world to deliberate on how to better their communities. From this experience, Aiman and Bazila discovered their respective interests in empowering female expression and making sure women’s voices are spoken, heard and valued in Kashmir.

Kashmir Family Aid

Kashmir Family Aid is a nonprofit that was founded in Oregon with the goal of improving education in Kashmir and Jammu. It has built and sustained schools in multiple rural communities throughout Pakistan-controlled territory. Kashmir Family Aid also partners with local Oregon businesses in order to construct new schools, supply chairs and other materials and support information exchange between children in Kashmir and those in Oregon.

These are but a tiny fraction of nonprofits helping the girls of Kashmir. They share a common vision that if these young girls are protected and given a chance to learn and become leaders, peace is possible through education. Or in the words of Ifat Idris (former Capacity Development Specialist for the Asian Development Bank): “Denial of education opportunities often means denial of future for young people–thereby perpetuating the negative effects of conflict.”

– Tanner Helem
Photo: Flickr

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A Look at the Most Common Types of Human Trafficking http://www.borgenmagazine.com/common-types-of-human-trafficking/ Wed, 19 Sep 2018 08:30:33 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=129356 SEATTLE — Human trafficking has become a common topic of issue in the human rights and global poverty conversation. There are multiple elements of human trafficking to be aware of, such as what is done, how it is done and why it is done that all combine to create trafficking. The act involves recruitment, transport, harboring and [...]

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SEATTLE — Human trafficking has become a common topic of issue in the human rights and global poverty conversation. There are multiple elements of human trafficking to be aware of, such as what is done, how it is done and why it is done that all combine to create trafficking. The act involves recruitment, transport, harboring and receipt of people. The means include the threat or use of force, coercion, abductions, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability and giving payments or benefits. The purpose of human trafficking is exploitation, including prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery or similar practices, removal of organs and other types of exploitation. It is important to be able to recognize the common types of human trafficking in order to prevent exploitation.

The Human Rights Commission proposed three common forms of human trafficking: sex trafficking, forced labor and debt bondage. Knowing these types is the first step in the prevention of future human trafficking events.

Sex Trafficking

When thinking of human trafficking, sex trafficking is the first form that typically comes to mind. This type of trafficking affects women and children more than any other subsection of society. It involves forced participation in commercial sex acts. According to the Human Rights Commission, “In the United States, any child under the age of 18 who has been involved in a commercial sex act is considered a trafficking victim.” This is despite the presence of coercion. Women and children account for 80 percent of those who are trafficked between countries. It is important to note that forced prostitution is only one aspect of human trafficking. Also, many believe that women and girls are the only victims of sexual trafficking, but men are also perpetrated against in this form of trafficking.

Forced Labor

Another common type of human trafficking is forced labor. The Human Rights Commission gave an example of situations that lead to forced labor: “A family gives up a child to an adoption agent in Nepal because they cannot afford to care for him. He is then, in turn, sold to a sweatshop owner who forces the child to learn to sew garments without pay for hours each day. The child receives minimal nutrition and does not attend school.” Forced labor may come in the forms of domestic servitude, agricultural work, manufacturing, janitorial services, hotel services, construction, health and elder care or hair and nail salon work. Although this form of human trafficking is vastly different from sex trafficking, it is very common. Forced labor is often a cause of poverty, since they are being forced to work for little or no pay.

Debt Bondage

Lastly, debt bondage is a common form of human trafficking that occurs worldwide. The U.S. State Department describes debt bondage as “the use of a bond, or debt, to keep a person under subjugation. … Many workers around the world fall victim to debt bondage when traffickers or recruiters unlawfully exploit an initial debt the worker assumed as part of the terms of employment, or when workers inherit debt in more traditional systems of bonded labor.” This form of human trafficking is crucial to address since it is directly linked to an individual’s financial success. When a person is being exploited for a debt, they become trapped in a cycle of poverty.

Signs of Common Types of Human Trafficking

While being educated in the common types of human trafficking is important, it is more crucial to be aware of the signs of human trafficking in order to stop trafficking in its tracks. As the Human Rights Commission explains, “a person who has been trafficked may show signs that their movement is controlled, have false identity or travel documents, not know their home or work address, have no access to their earnings, be unable to negotiate working conditions, work excessively long hours over long periods, have limited or no social interaction, have limited contact with their families or with people outside of their immediate environment and think that they are bonded by debt.” Recognizing these signs of human trafficking and being aware of the common types of human trafficking are crucial first steps in eradicating these harmful occurrences in society.

– Jenna Walmer
Photo: Flickr

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Rising Awareness of Maternal Care for Indigenous Women in Guatemala http://www.borgenmagazine.com/maternal-care-for-indigenous-women/ Tue, 18 Sep 2018 14:30:43 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=129389 SEATTLE — Historically, indigenous people, particularly women, have been the object of discrimination and violence in Guatemala. Indigenous people in rural regions of the country are exempt from the healthcare systems provided to those in urban areas. This type of disproportional access has devastating effects on maternal care for indigenous women in Guatemala. Poverty Among [...]

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SEATTLE — Historically, indigenous people, particularly women, have been the object of discrimination and violence in Guatemala. Indigenous people in rural regions of the country are exempt from the healthcare systems provided to those in urban areas. This type of disproportional access has devastating effects on maternal care for indigenous women in Guatemala.

Poverty Among Indigenous Populations

In Guatemala, around 41 percent of the population identifies as indigenous; this equates to around 5.9 million people. This population is the largest in the Americas after Mexico, Peru and Bolivia. In the country, 53 percent of the population is poor, yet 74 percent of Guatemalans living in poverty identify as indigenous.

Statistically, the maternal mortality rate for indigenous women is three times that of non-indigenous women. Problems arise when births are not attended by skilled medical personnel, and in 37 percent of rural Guatemala, this is the case.

Comadronas a Key Part of Maternal Care for Indigenous Women

In indigenous communities, the use of a comadrona, or an indigenous midwife, is still prevalent in 85 percent of Guatemala. Comadronas are hired by the families and help through each stage of the pregnancy process, even the weeks after birth. Their role is like that of a doula. They help deliver babies, perform massages before and after labor and use plants to lessen the pain of childbirth.

Comadronas serve important roles in the community and are crucial for the implementation of better maternal care for indigenous women in Guatemala. Comadronas have access to difficult to reach areas of the country, where most indigenous populations live. In these secluded areas, it can take hours to get to the nearest hospital by foot or car.

Social Development Act

In 2001, the Guatemalan Congress enacted the Social Development Act after recognizing the unequal access to healthcare in the country. The act establishes the lives and health of women and children as a public welfare concern and made maternal healthcare a national priority.

Presently, the Ministry of Health conducts monthly training on maternal care for indigenous women, specifically for comadronas. At these training sessions, comadronas are taught how to detect early danger signs for pregnancy, such as a baby in breech position. In such cases, the comadronas are encouraged to immediately take their patients to the nearest healthcare center.

Health Poverty Action

Various organizations exist to aid the government’s battle to strengthen healthcare throughout rural Guatemala. In 1994, Health Poverty Action began to implement maternal healthcare for indigenous women in Guatemala. Partnering with Asociacion Nuevos Horizontes, the two organizations are working to increase access to and ownership of health services in the highlands of Guatemala.

Barriers such as language, distance and discrimination are being addressed through culturally appropriate maternal and neonatal services. Health Poverty Action is training workers at the Ministry of Health facilities in vertical birth, which is the traditional position Mayan women prefer to give birth in. The program is redefining communication for mothers who speak different languages by developing translation devices for Spanish-speaking medical staff.

The empowerment of comadronas is helping to ensure that their cultural role is recognized. This means that comadronas are now able to attend births at hospitals, which previously was not allowed.

Successes of the Programs

After the adoption of these programs, statistics for maternal and child mortality rates have fallen in Guatemala. The World Bank reports that the ratio of maternal mortality of indigenous to non-indigenous women fell from 3.2 percent in June 2006 to 1.24 percent in December 2012. Additionally, the percentage of institutional deliveries increased from 22.3 percent in 2006 to 42 percent in 2012.

The infant and maternal mortality rates have significantly decreased in Guatemala since 2000. In 2000, there were 47.03 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, and in 2017, the rate dropped by about 50 percent to 21.3. Since 2005, the maternal mortality ratio has declined by 27 percent, decreasing from 120 per 100,000 births to 88.

These successes are largely the product of education throughout the country on safe practices around childbirth. Since 2009, the United Nations Population Fund has trained more than 35,000 midwives in Guatemala.

Projections show that the maternal mortality rate will continue to drop in the coming years. As knowledge of maternal care for indigenous women in Guatemala continues to spread, and facilities continue to open, more mothers and children will survive and thrive.

– Taylor Jennings
Photo: Flickr

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Audrey Hepburn’s Humanitarian Legacy http://www.borgenmagazine.com/audrey-hepburns-humanitarian-legacy/ Tue, 18 Sep 2018 08:30:11 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=129365 SEATTLE — Audrey Hepburn is known best for her work as an actress during the Golden Age of Hollywood. She excelled in the field of acting and is one of few stars to have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award. Hepburn is remembered for her grace and beauty, especially the iconic [...]

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SEATTLE — Audrey Hepburn is known best for her work as an actress during the Golden Age of Hollywood. She excelled in the field of acting and is one of few stars to have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award. Hepburn is remembered for her grace and beauty, especially the iconic look she presented in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. However, Hepburn was also a well-known advocate for humanitarian causes. She spent the later part of her life participating in different programs with UNICEF. Her help in countries such as Ethiopia and Sudan is an important part of Audrey Hepburn’s humanitarian legacy.

Hepburn’s Second Career Allowed Her to Give Back to Others

Towards the end of the 1980s, Hepburn was wrapping up her film career. Instead of spending the last years of her life at a comfortable estate, she became a Special Ambassador for UNICEF. She wanted to help UNICEF provide aid to those in need because, as a starving child in the Netherlands during World War II, she benefited from UNICEF’s aid when they brought much-needed food and medicine to her country. Another factor that pushed Hepburn to pursue a role with UNICEF was her love for children. She has been quoted as saying, “When I was little, I used to embarrass my mother by trying to pick babies out of prams at the market. The one thing I dreamed of in my life was to have children of my own. It always boils down to the same thing–of not only receiving love but wanting desperately to give it.”

Audrey Hepburn’s Humanitarian Legacy Made an Impact on the Impoverished

Shortly after becoming a Special Ambassador, Hepburn’s humanitarian legacy began with a trip to Ethiopia. During this time, Ethiopia was one of the poorest countries in the world, and its people were subject to a terrible famine due to a long-lasting drought. The purpose of the trip was to call attention to the horrible living conditions; Hepburn visited areas with no water, heating or sanitation. Hepburn wanted to use her name and status to show the world what was happening in Ethiopia, explaining, “My first big mission for UNICEF in Ethiopia was just to attract attention, before it was too late, to conditions which threatened the whole country. My role was to inform the world, to make sure that the people of Ethiopia were not forgotten.”

In an additional trip with UNICEF, Hepburn went to Sudan in April 1989. This time, the goal was to implement a new program called Operation Lifeline. The relief effort’s objective was to transport food and supplies to southern Sudan, which was cut off completely from aid because of the civil war. During her time in Sudan with UNICEF, Hepburn visited many refugee camps in the area that is now South Sudan. She was able to observe relief being provided to those who were sick, including vaccinations and distribution of food bags.

Audrey Hepburn’s humanitarian legacy should be acknowledged as often as her work as an actress. She is forever remembered for consistently encompassing a kind spirit and a giving heart. Even when her days of making movies were behind her, Hepburn continued to use her status to advocate for people in developing countries for many years.

– Alyssa Hannam
Photo: Wikimedia

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