Where it is Best and Worst in the World to be a Child

Save the Children, the world’s leading independent organization for children, has released the second annual End of Childhood Index in honor of International Children’s Day, a day to celebrate and raise awareness on children’s rights and wellbeing around the world. Save the Children’s annual End of Childhood Index ranks 175 countries based on eight childhood “ender” events that jeopardize children’s chance of a happy, healthy and safe childhood. While the report shows that the majority of countries have made progress for children since last year (95 out of 175 countries), conditions in about 40 countries appear significantly worse and are not improving fast enough.

No country is on track to meet the 2030 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) for children.  Over 1 billion children around the world live in countries plagued by poverty and it is not just a developing world problem. In the 2018 report, the United States didn’t rank in the top 10 or top 25. Instead, the U.S. shockingly ranked 36th place smack between Belarus and Russia. The growing urban and rural child poverty rate within the United States continues to widen.  The results of the report may surprise you.

This year’s report has two components: “The Many Faces of Exclusion” and “Growing Up in Rural America”, a new U.S. complement that offers first-of-its kind analysis of rural child poverty rates across America as well as state by state ranking of where childhood is most and least threatened. In advance of the report’s release, I listened in on a telebriefing by Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children to get some of the key highlights of the report and a call to action by governments around the world.

Here are some of the key findings worldwide and in America.

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Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi: An Adventure Gear Company that is changing the world

“Cotopaxi strongly believes in the power of business to drive social change and the power of adventure to connect the world”. 

As an avid hiker and adventurer who is passionate about giving back, I’m always on the lookout for innovative, unique companies that create amazing products while also giving back. Cotopaxi is a company that creates outdoor adventure products while also funding sustainable poverty alleviation around the world and inspiring people to be adventurous and do good.

Founded in 2013 by Davis Smith and Stephan Jacob, Cotopaxi was inspired by Davis’ childhood growing up at the foot of Cotopaxi in Ecuador where he spent his youth hiking and exploring his magnificent environment. He also saw the devastating impact poverty had on communities and people. After years of running several successful eCommerce websites in South America, Davis wanted to start something different that would incorporate his passion for adventure along with his desire to give back and make meaningful strides towards reducing global poverty. Together with fellow Wharton business-school graduate Stephan Jacob, Cotopaxi was born.

Cotopaxi is unique because it is the first company to incorporate as a “Benefit Corporation” and then receive venture funding. Benefit Corporations are a new type of business that allows for-profit entities to pursue social and environmental goals while also focusing on maximizing profits. Receiving venture capital from investors demonstrates the strong belief that this is a company that can make both a profit and a difference.

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100 Under $100: One Hundred Tools for Empowering Global Women

book-cover-100-Under-100- copyAs part of Mom Blogger’s for Social Good (a global coalition of over 3,000 mom bloggers), I have received an advance copy of the inspiring new book by Betsy Teutsch called “100 Under $100: One Hundred Tools for Empowering Global Women”, for review. All opinions below are my own take on the book. 

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Desmond Tutu

In the field of international development, it is a well-known fact that women are powerful agents of change and development, and it is only by empowering women and girls that the world will be lifted out of extreme poverty. Yet despite this easy assertion women and girls continue to be the most impoverished, most vulnerable and most neglected human beings in the world.

There are many reasons why women and girls continue to suffer the most. Cultural beliefs and norms, war and violence, poverty, lack of infrastructure and education continue to play a significant role in women’s empowerment and rights. However, despite some of these challenging, long-held beliefs, traditions and obstacles, there are proven, cost-effective ways to change the lives of billions of women and girls living in extreme poverty.

Two young girls pose for me during a visit to one of Delhi's many unauthorized slums.

Two young girls pose for me during a visit to one of Delhi’s many unauthorized slums. Despite their poverty, they were enrolled in a program sponsored by Save the Children to improve their lives.

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Project Mercy’s Community Development Model is Improving Lives in Rural Ethiopia

“In order to fight against poverty, you have to attack it from many different directions and then pluck it out, ” said Marta, co-founder of Project Mercy, as she described their Community Development Model. “We cannot educate children if the only outcome is to make them discontented with the limited job opportunities currently available.”

Project Mercy Yetebon Ethiopia

A beautiful flower within the gardens at Project Mercy

Back in June, when I was in Ethiopia as a fellow with the International Reporting Project I spent my last full day there visiting Project Mercy. Project Mercy is a special not-for-profit organization as it was created in 1993 by two Ethiopian exiles, husband and wife team Demeke (Deme) Tekle-Wold and Marta Gabre-Tsadick. Deme and Marta left Ethiopia and repatriated to the United States during the heart of Ethiopia’s repressive government. Wanting to help their fellow countrymen at home, they established Project Mercy as a way to help Ethiopians rebuild and lift themselves out of poverty.

Today, Project Mercy is run by Desalegne “Lali” Demeke , Marta and Deme’s son who manages the 52- acre compound that houses a school, a home for orphans, volunteer housing, a hospital, a new Health Science College and agricultural, cattle breeding and handicraft training services, to help empower the local community and improve their lives. Project Mercy is an incredible organization and I was excited to visit it in person.

Getting to Project Mercy was half the fun and required a land cruiser, a driver and a full day of adventure. We left Addis Ababa early in the morning heading for about three hours south into the heart of the Yetebon to arrive at the bumpy, gravel road that brought us to Project Mercy.

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Yetebon community Ethiopia

The Long Walk to Deliver

On one of my last days in Ethiopia as a fellow with the International Reporting Project we visited Project Mercy, a not-for-profit relief and development agency that provides services to help alleviate human suffering and overcome systemic poverty in Southern Ethiopia. The visit ended up being one of the most enlightening moments of our entire trip.

In order to combat Ethiopia’s high maternal and newborn mortality rates, Project Mercy opened a “Lie and Wait” home for rural woman to come to stay before delivering their child at a nearby hospital. In a country in which an estimated 90% of women deliver at home with little or no trained birth assistance, a Lie and Wait house ensures women from the far away, remote villages will come to wait to stay and deliver at a hospital with a trained midwife or doctor. Lie and Wait houses have saved many lives of both mother and child.

Many of these expectant mothers walk miles on foot on various terrains and topographies to reach a Lie and Wait house. At Project Mercy in the Yetebon community of Southern Ethiopia, pregnant women can walk hours through rugged, mountainous terrain to reach the Lie and Wait home. It is a true test of endurance to walk on foot carrying almost a full term baby.

Yetebon community Ethiopia

Reaching the Yetebon community on rough gravel roads that end when they hit the mountains where most of the population live.

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Rural Ethiopian Girl

Frayed Clothes and the Blue Sweater

When I arrived in Ethiopia, it was impossible not to notice the frayed clothing worn by most rural Ethiopians. As an avid reader on global issues and extreme poverty, I couldn’t seem to get the fabulous non-fiction book “The Blue Sweater” by Jacqueline Novogratz out of my head. One of the unforgettable moments in Jacqueline’s life was when she was living in Rwanda and saw a young boy wearing her blue sweater that she had donated eleven years ago to a local American charity. Somehow that sweater with her initials still written clearly inside, made it all the way to Africa and was still being worn despite being tattered and frayed. It made Norogratz, a successful investment banker, think about how our world is interconnected, and it steered her life towards philanthropy.

Driving throughout the rural countryside of Ethiopia where over 90% of Ethiopia’s 90 million people live, frayed clothing is an omnipresent reminder of the high level of poverty in this part of the world. I saw toddlers wearing no bottoms, little boys wearing pink jackets, girls and women in a pell-mell of skirts, tops and dresses, and men wearing worn-out, patched up trousers. Shoes were rarely present especially on children. If shoes were worn, they were either too big, too small or torn.

I thought about my own children, comfortably back at home in Minnesota with more clothing in their closets and drawers than they could possibly wear to the point of wearing them out. The fact that twice a year I make the annual trip to Goodwill or Salvation Army where I unload all the unnecessary clothing that is supposed to go to the local community but like Norogratz’ blue sweater, most likely ends up somewhere in Africa.

Was some little girl out there wearing my daughter’s favorite dress? I am certain she is.

Rural Ethiopian Girl

Rural Ethiopian Boy

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Faces of Ethiopia

The Faces of Ethiopia: A Photoblog

Ethiopia, a magical land of over 90 million people, is one of the most diverse nations in the world with over 83 distinct languages and 200 dialects. What stunned me the most about Ethiopians is how such a diverse group of people live in peace and harmony. Over half the population is Orthodox Christian and the next largest religious group is Muslims making up around 45% of the population. Despite their different religious beliefs, Muslims and Christians live side by side and oftentimes there can be a mixture of religions within families due to marriage. The main eight ethnic groups also live together peacefully which says a lot about this poverty-stricken nation in the heart of Africa.

While I was in Ethiopia these past two weeks, Oxford University released The Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), ranking Ethiopia as the second poorest country in the world just ahead of Niger. The report claims that although Ethiopia has made some progress, Ethiopia is still home to more than 76 million poor people, the fifth largest number in the world after India, China, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The report also claims that the highest percentage of poor live within the rural areas which is no surprise given the fact that over 85% of Ethiopians earn a living off the land.

Despite the often heartbreaking, overwhelming poverty of the Ethiopian people, the one thing they all seemed to have in common is resilience and resolve with their place in this world. I had never seen so many genuine, welcoming smiles upon their faces despite the hardships they face. I was always greeted with curiosity, warmth and kindness by the Ethiopians I met. Here are some of my favorite faces of Ethiopia.

Faces of Ethiopia

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Women vendors along the streets of Addis Ababa.

First Impressions of Ethiopia

I arrived early Sunday morning into Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, after a long haul flight from home. My day began Saturday at 3 am and after two fights totaling 16 hours I found myself in Africa’s highest capital Addis Ababa which translates into “new flower”.

Street shots of Addis Ababa

Street shots of Addis Ababa

The earliest people living in the Shewa region surrounding Addis Ababa date back to the 9th century and are believed to be the Gurage people. Over the centuries the Somalis and Abyssinian kingdoms laid claim to the land, followed by the arrival of the Oromo in the 1500s. The actual city of Addis Ababa was not founded until 1886 when Emperor Menelik II decided to move his military base from Mount Entoto to the vast fertile plains below of Addis Ababa.

Today, Addis Ababa is Ethiopia’s largest city with an estimated population of over 3 million people and is a magical place where tradition and modernity are intertwined in unexpected ways. Walking down the busy streets of Addis Ababa you can see high rises and western hotels reaching towards the sky juxtaposed with dirt sidewalks, donkeys leaving the market and undeveloped slums. It is a place filled with contradiction. Looking outside the window of my newly built luxurious western hotel lies one of many slums slightly hidden behind corrugated tin fences and walls. Men in well-tailored suits sit outside in a chairs along dirt sidewalks getting a shoe shine. High rise buildings are going up alongside a pell-mell of depressing slums. Everywhere you look is something that makes you scratch your head and wonder.

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Vivekananda Camp, Delhi India

A Snapshot of India

Sometimes it is true that a picture can paint a thousand words. This week’s photo challenge: A Split-Second Story, inspired me to dig deep throughout my vast archive of photographs, each one telling a story of a certain place and time. In my opinion, there is no place on earth that a simple photo can tell so much about a place than India.

India, one of the most populous countries on the earth, is full of color, contradiction, glory and pain. It is a place of wonder, sorrow, fear and hope. India bursts with humanity on every street or corner you pass. You can see it all there – poverty, wealth, good, bad, happy, sad, beauty and tragedy.

Behind the beautiful, lavish parts of India always lies the most abject poverty imaginable. Nothing can prepare you for the stark reality of desperation, misery and despair of walking through a real live slum in the heart of India’s capital. Sometimes the most severe poverty is hidden behind the walls and within the confines of a slum. Other times, it stares right back at you like a hard slap across your face. You try to look away, and ignore the creeping, uncomfortable nagging guilt. But you can’t.

Dignity

Vivekananda Camp, Delhi India

Woman leaving the newly constructed toilet compound thanks to WaterAid.

Irony

Vivekananda Camp

Women living on the street, outside the walls of the American Embassy near Vivekananda Slums in Delhi, India.

In the background of the lush green, beautiful grounds of the American Embassy lies the Vivekananda Camp, one of many unauthorized slums that surround every single part of Delhi. I visited this slum as part of a tour with WaterAid, a global NGO that provides safe drinking water and sanitation to areas around the world that do not have access to it.

The stark contrast between the neighboring American Embassy and the Vivekananda Slum were almost too hard to morally comprehend. These two places represent the immense contradictions and inequalities that can be found all throughout Delhi and India as a whole. One of the greatest inequalities ever seen anywhere in the world is right there staring into your face, making it impossible to not feel deeply distraught.

In the Vivekananda Camp, a slum of approximately 500 households, there is no running water, no sewer lines and people live in absolute dire circumstances. Thanks to WaterAid, improvements to sanitation have been made by the building of a Community Toilet Complex (CTC), a compound containing 20 toilets for women, 20 for men and a few for children as well as a couple of showers, providing some sort of dignity in a place where dignity hardly exists.

When I saw the old woman leaving the Community Toilet Complex, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She was moving slowly, at a snail’s pace, with the help of an old wooden cane. She was heading back into the deep confines of the dirty, dingy slum, to her home.  I watched her gait with wonder and hope. She had to be in her eighties and most likely spent almost all her life without a proper toilet. Finally after all these years she had the one thing every human being on this earth is entitled to: Dignity. It brought tears to my eyes for the simple things we take for granted.

Less than a third of people ( 772 million people) have access to sanitation in India, and 90 million people in India do not have access to safe water per WaterAid.  Over 186,000 children under five die from diarrhea every year. With 17% of the world’s population (over a billion people), the water crisis in India is only getting worse and is becoming life or death for millions of people.

-WaterAid

This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Split-Second Story. To view more entries, click here

 

Note: Right after I posted this today I saw the following tragic press release from WaterAid. Lack of toilets reportedly linked to murder of Uttar Pradesh girls . Via @WaterAidAmerica

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“Three Myths that Block Progress for the Poor”: The 2014 Gates Annual Letter

For the past year and a half I’ve been honored to be a part of an exceptional group of women bloggers using our voices on our blogs and through social media to help try to change the world. As a proud member of the Global Team of 200 and Mom Bloggers for Social Good, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about and share with you some of the amazing things different non-profits are doing around the world to save lives and end poverty.

Kibera slum, Nairobi, Kenya Boys sit on a boulder overlooking the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo credit: Gates Foundation

Kibera slum, Nairobi, Kenya
Boys sit on a boulder overlooking the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo credit: Gates Foundation

Jennifer James, founder of our social good team, has worked particularly hard with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It has been fascinating to be a part of some of the work this amazing foundation is doing at changing the world and saving lives.

INDIA / Bihar / Jamsaut village / 23 March 2011 Bill and Melinda Gates with children at an Anganwadi centre in Jamsaut village near Patna. Photo Credit: Gate Foundation

INDIA / Bihar / Jamsaut village / 23 March 2011
Bill and Melinda Gates with children at an Anganwadi centre in Jamsaut village near Patna. Photo Credit: Gates Foundation

Yesterday, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation released their co-authored 2014 annual report which contains some exciting findings and predictions in the world of social good.  

2014 Bill and Melinda Gates Annual Letter

This year’s letter, “Three Myths that Block Progress for the Poor,” addresses three misconceptions about the global effort to end extreme poverty: Poor countries are doomed to stay poor, foreign aid is a big waste, and saving lives leads to overpopulation.

In fact, life is better for more people around the world than it has ever been. People are living longer, healthier lives and poverty rates have been cut in half in the last 25 years. Child mortality is plunging. Many nations that were aid recipients are now self-sufficient. Bill and Melinda want to tackle these myths because too often they give people a reason not to act.

-Bill and Melinda Gates, 2014 Annual Letter

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Whole Planet Foundation announces new micro entrepreneur partnership with BRAC

Whole Planet Foundation, a non-profit run by Whole Foods Market, recently launched a new exciting initiative in the world of microfinancing. For the first time ever a donor can now give directly to specific projects around the globe which will give Whole Planet supporters an opportunity to choose exactly where their donation goes.

2013 Tanzania Pilinasoro BD- at business in market

Tanzanian farmer assisted by BRAC and Whole Planet. Photo credit: Whole Planet Foundation

This month, Whole Planet is piloting a program in Tanzania where 68% of the population is lives on less than $1.25 a day. In Tanzania, Whole Planet has partnered with BRAC, Whole Planet will be able to empower micro entrepreneurs like Jackline to alleviate poverty in the region of Mbeya, where Theo Chocolate, sold in Whole Foods Market stores, is sourced. BRAC began working in Tanzania in 2006 by providing micro finance and small enterprise development programs in Tanzania to create opportunities for the poor in agriculture, livestock and poultry.

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View Finder Workshop: Helping children see their world through the eyes of a camera

Have you ever had an experience in your life that has changed you forever? For Babita Patel, a humanitarian photographer, that fateful day happened during an assignment to one of the poorest places in the Western Hemisphere: Haiti. In Babita’s words here is that moment that changed her life.

I WAS WALKING THROUGH CITÉ SOLEIL, the largest slum in the Western Hemisphere located in Haiti, one of the poorest places on Earth. Trash littered the streets and dirty stagnant rainwater was often used as latrines. The sun pulsated directly overhead, bleaching the blue sky to a blinding white. Sweat droplets raced down my spine and pooled at my lower back. Children dressed in rags – or for some, in nothing at all – played a spirited game of soccer with a half-inflated ball. I snapped a picture of a group of rambunctious kids, only to have eager young hands grab at my camera to see the image captured on my screen.

Haiti Babita Patel

“Praying”. Photo credit: Dumas (one of the students). 

The novelty of the reproduction faded and most darted off between the shanty houses. One remained, diligently pointing at each face on the screen, as if ticking them off in his head. He stopped at the last one. His own. He let out a burst of pure, innocent, giggling glee and scampered off. Alone, I realized that for people who have next to nothing, a mirror is an unattainable luxury. This child only met his reflection by process of elimination. For he knew which ones were his friends and which one was the stranger.

I was struck dumb. For I never realized a person could walk through life without knowing his own physical self. But photography can change that. It lets a child see himself and his world through different eyes. By learning tangible skills and creating new avenues of self-expression, he can contribute to his life and his community.

And thus, the seed for View Finder Workshop was planted.
Babita Patel.
founder, humanitarian photographer

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