UNICEF Calls for Innovation

Screenshot 2015-11-12 at 4.08.31 PMThis year’s State of the World’s Children Report has been published and it is calling for innovation. While it is a fact that remarkable progress has been done towards the protection and promotion of children’s rights, an unfortunate amount of children still exist whose rights are continuously violated and are regularly experiencing the tragic repercussion of poverty and malnutrition. The State of the World’s Children Report – Reimagine the future: Innovation for every child, expresses the need for cooperation from the global community to find advanced and unconventional ways to address the age-old problem that is still affecting the lives of the innocent children all over the world, which is poverty and malnutrition.

(See table at the bottom of this post with a quick summary of statistics in Hunger Project program countries.)

Poverty begins prior to the birth of the child, increases across the life course and onto the succeeding generation. It is a cycle of deprivation. A child living in poverty does not only mean being deprived from an access to material goods, it is also a deprivation of life, health, cognitive development, education and opportunities. While an adult may experience poverty temporarily, for children, the consequence can last a lifetime.

Poverty is associated with malnutrition. According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report, the poorest 20 per cent of the world’s children are twice as likely as the richest 20 per cent to be stunted by poor nutrition and to die before their fifth birthday. Stunting is one of the many manifestations of malnutrition. It is a form of growth failure. Stunting commence prior to the birth of a child. Poor maternal nutrition, inadequate feeding practices, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, non-exclusive breastfeeding and clinical and subclinical infections or diseases are causative agents of stunting. Not only poverty has an awful repercussion to a child’s health, it also deprives a child’s fundamental right to life.

Poverty also plays a huge role when it comes to a child’s cognitive development. Children living in poverty are most likely to encounter learning disabilities and developmental delays. According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report, nearly 9 in 10 children from the wealthiest 20 per cent of households in the world’s least developed countries attend primary school – compared to only about 6 in 10 from the poorest households. Children who are stunted are most likely to have poor performance in school and have higher chances of dropping out. They are unable to reach their full potential because of the procured learning impediment. Some children choose to drop out of school and prefer to start working at a very young age for the reason that they are able to contribute to their family’s income.

Poverty persists to be a driving force of child marriage. Seldom families get their daughters to marry before 18 because it reduces the family expenses. Many communities also practice economic transactions like “bride price,” where the family receives money or livestock in exchange for their daughter. This practice often results to girls not being able to obtain an education. UNICEF reported that for every 100 boys in secondary school, only 76 girls are enrolled. The cycle of poverty is an often product of child marriage. Because of early marriage and pregnancy, girls are forced to drop out of school, making it harder for them to escape the awful consequences of poverty.

The Hunger Project recognizes the significance of nutrition for the eradication of world hunger and poverty. At the Hunger Project’s epicenters, health care professionals explain the basics of nutrition for both children and mothers and the importance of pre- and postnatal care to women. Women also have access to antenatal care services in the epicenter and children also have access to the epicenter nursery schools and are guaranteed to a full nutritious meal every day they are in attendance. The Hunger Project also partners with more than 100 organizations representative of governments, civil society, the private sector, philanthropic foundations and the research community dedicated to the eradication of malnutrition and poverty.

Others fail to see the correlation between nutrition and poverty. To some, it is mere financial inequity. They fail to see the bigger picture of how one factor leads to the other. Children who are living in poverty are much more likely to be in poverty later in life and is likely to shepherd the next generation to go through the same vicious way of life. Not unless the cycle is being cut, helpless and innocent children are relentlessly punished of this deprivation.

According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report, all children must have an equal chance to make the most of their potential. The report features people across the world who went the extra mile and applied unorthodox approaches to further the progress. The global community must prioritize the children and fully dismantle the numerous hindrances to achieve innovation and ultimately achieve a future in which children from all corners of the world can enjoy their rights.

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Women and the Role of Husbandry for Stronger Community-led Development

THP-Burkina Faso’s Director,  Evariste Lebende Yaogho, with program participant.

We live in a world where women still continue to fight for equal rights. They are not given the option to make decisions and their needs are only secondary to men. According to the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), women comprise an average of 43 percent of the agricultural labour force of developing countries up to almost 50 percent in Eastern and Southeastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Women produce more than half of all the food that is grown but ironically, a greater number of the world’s hungry are women.

In many rural communities, women are not granted the freedom to generate their own income or even leave the confines of their home. A huge number of them are illiterate because they are denied to receive an education. They are mandated to spend most of their days care-giving and perform other household responsibilities. They have to face different challenges on the road in order to achieve literacy. When they grow up, their daughters go through the same oppression: a cycle of poverty. It can be very difficult to break that cycle given that a girl’s future is determined by the time she takes her first breath.

The Hunger Project believes that development requires gender equality. This begins with empowering women. When women join the working sector there is an increase in economic productivity. One of the Hunger Project’s most recent initiatives, “Projet d’appui à la production animale dans les Communes de Arbollé et de Kirsi (PAPA/AK),” is a twelve month project funded by FAO that attempts to break the cycle of poverty through livestock husbandry. Fifty have chosen 3 rams during a community fair, each benefiting from the inclusion of monthly health monitored for each animal.

Educating whole communities, including men, about the benefits of empowering women can affect a critical social mindset shift to improve household income and bring families out of poverty. This can also lead to different possibilities and opportunities for women to build greater agency and roles within her community.  Women empowerment does not equal to male inferiority. Women empowerment seeks the closure of gender-gaps that consequently results to development and betterment of the lives of women, men, families and communities.

Heifer International, co-founder of the Movement for Community-led Development with The Hunger Project, also aims to empower citizens and communities at the grassroots level to become agents of change for the eradication of world hunger and poverty. They strengthen local economies by distributing livestock and leading husbandry trainings to help families become self reliant. Heifer also provides veterinary services to project participants to maximize benefits and reduce livestock mortality rates.

According to the U.N. Development Programme, “when women have equal access to education, and go to participate fully in business and economic decision-making, they are a key driving force against poverty.” A community cannot meet full development unless women receive the same treatment and opportunities as men. Women posses the essential skills for development, they just need the transition to reach that goal.

The Hunger Project’s recent animal donation project with FAO places particular priority on women, as it empowers them to become financial providers for their family. It generates opportunities for women to cut the cycle of poverty and hunger, and an opportunity for them to participate to fostering equality and breaking the norms of inferiority. They become the key agents of their own development and the innovator their community needs.

Launch of I Am Malala: A Resource Guide for Educators, with Ziauddin Yousafzai

cvrart_I-Am-Malala_220x342On November 13, 2014, the George Washington University’s Global Women’s Institute launched I Am Malala: A Resource Guide for Educators in Washington, DC. The event included keynote speaker Ziauddin Yousafzai, the father of 17-year-old Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai and a co-founder and chairperson of the Malala Fund. Malala and her father are Pakistani activists for girls’ education and human rights, and their cause was propelled to the international stage after Malala was shot in the face by a Taliban gunman in 2012 for openly supporting education for girls. When asked recently if she considered herself a feminist, Malala responded, “If feminism means equality for all people, then yes, I am a feminist.”

There were two panels at the launch, which included prominent guests such as Catherine Russell, US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Ahmad Shah, the founder and president of the Global Peace Council Pakistan (GPCP), Jahan Zeb, an advisor to the chair of the Malala Fund and a member of the UN Inter-Agency Network on Youth Participation in Peacebuilding, several George Washington University professors, and a George Washington University first year student.

I Am Malala: A Resource Guide for Educators is a free, online teaching guide targeted at high school, college, and university students both in the United States and internationally. Its purpose is to highlight and explain complex issues of politics, history, religion, and human rights by using lessons based on eight different themes from Malala Yousafzai’s memoir I Am Malala. This project was created through collaboration between the George Washington University’s Global Women’s Institute, Little, Brown and Company, and the Malala Fund.

In Mr. Yousafzai’s keynote address, he emphasized the pressing need for international advocacy and efforts for girls’ education. He argued that men’s involvement is crucial in changing social norms and oppressive practices towards women in patriarchal societies. He further advocated for fathers and brothers to lead this effort, stating that “some say you need courage to speak out. I say you are a coward not to speak out.” Mr. Yousafzai praised the resource guide for its ability to connect people around the world across the divisions of North, South, East, and West communities. He insisted that the book does not have political agenda, and is only to spread “the love of humanity” through Malala’s story.

The first panel with Ambassador Russell and Mr. Yousafzai focused on the policy challenges of ensuring quality education for girls worldwide. Ambassador Russell argued for a holistic approach to these obstacles, which include the safety of girls while attending school, traditional social attitudes towards girls’ education, child marriage, inadequate school facilities and resources, and various other context-specific concerns. Mr. Yousafzai and Ambassador Russell both pushed for a focus on women and girls’ empowerment efforts in conflict zones, where these challenges are intensified. Mr. Yousafzai and Ambassador Russell also emphasized the value that empowered and educated women provide to their societies because they are able to contribute monetarily to their families. Lastly, the Ambassador stated President Obama’s commitment to education for girls worldwide and highlighted that girls’ education and freedom from forced marriage not only create more vibrant, stable states, but are also internationally recognized human rights.

The second panel described the details of the resource guide and its purpose in classrooms. The authors of the guide hope that Malala’s story will fuel a broader movement for girls’ education and empowerment, and that it will foster further dialogue between the youth in Western and developing countries. Mr. Yousafzai cautioned that this movement must focus on ensuring quality education; he highlighted how easily education can be manipulated to allow indoctrination, using the Taliban as an example. However with quality education, “nations can do anything.” Overall the panelists expressed optimism in the launch of the resource guide and in transforming Malala’s story from a media phenomenon into an effective and powerful international development tool for human rights.

You can learn more about the resource guide here!