Earlier in the year we debated two consumer giving projects, Project Repat and TOMS Shoes, to discuss whether their business models promote good aid practices. Both have made recent additions to their businesses, so we want to see if these changes will change our views.
For those who didn’t read the first blog, Project Repat purchases secondhand t-shirts that have been sent to Kenya from local markets and then rebrands and resells them in the US to support development projects back in Kenya. Now they’ve launched their No More New product line as part of their Kickstarter Campaign that ends on the 16th December. The campaign is asking backers to pay $30 to help fund their next trip to Kenya, and in turn they receive a choice of one of the items they bring back as they work to standardise their product line with their small business partners on the ground in Nairobi.
Our biggest concern with their business model before was whether or not it was scalable and sustainable. This new move to support and train small business owners and local artisans in Kenya (mostly women) to make new products made entirely out of secondhand t-shirts is definitely a step in the right direction of scaling up and creating sustainability. It also allows the community to be involved and drive their own change as active participants in the business.
TOMS was originally just a company that for every pair of shoes it sold would give another pair of shoes to a child in need. Now they’ve expanded their business to include eyewear.
I know what you’re thinking – does that mean for every pair of sunglasses they sell they give a new pair of sunglasses to a child in need? Thankfully, no. For every pair sold, TOMS provides medical treatment for sight-threatening conditions, prescription glasses or sight-saving surgery in Nepal, Cambodia and Tibet. You can find out more about their new eyewear model on their website.
With their shoe business model, our biggest complaint was that although the “one for one” idea is effective for consumers, it’s not as beneficial for the recipients. The shoes are still just another handout and this model creates dependency on TOMS to continuously supply these children with new shoes as they wear out or grow out of the old ones. Simply giving away shoes fails to create any sustainable development or growth for the community.
This new eyewear business model still falls short of creating sustainable development, but it does create more long-term benefits for the individuals receiving treatment or surgery. As it says in the video, the majority of blinding conditions in developing countries are either preventable or curable so they are helping support these communities that currently lack access to treatment services.
So what do you think of these new additions to Project Repat and TOMS? Are these promoting good aid practices?
This has been a huge year for the Global Poverty Project UK, seeing the 1.4 Billion Reasons presentation reach over 35,000 individuals throughout the country since our launch in 2010. Now in the last few months of 2011, we have trained and mobilised 15 Global Poverty Ambassadors in London and the South East in partnership with The Co-operative Membership to help us take the important messages of extreme poverty even further into local communities on a truly grassroots level.
These Ambassadors were recruited to deliver the presentation to small community groups and organisations in their local communities to champion the message that extreme poverty can be ended and progress is being made, and to promote actions that can create real change.
“Becoming a Global Poverty Ambassador is about how we can all play a role to end extreme poverty. It will give people the skills to really make a difference in the communities that we serve. This is an exciting opportunity to harness the passion people have to change the world. It’s an incredibly powerful message for communities to hear and will enable people to take that extra step.”
And it’s already working! One of our Ambassadors, Roxanne Fox, recently delivered the 1.4 Billion Reasons presentation to a small group at her church and immediately felt the importance of this Ambassador Programme.
Read below to hear why Roxanne thinks taking out this message is so important.
For a long time I have had a burning desire to do something meaningful as a contribution towards helping the world’s poorest. My biggest challenge was always finding a suitable outlet for my compassion. I felt like I was caught in a cycle of feeling burdened, wanting to do something then left feeling desperate and simply carrying on with my daily routine.
Things changed a few months ago when I was personally impacted by the 1.4 Billion Reasons presentation and subsequently applied to be involved with GPP through the UK Ambassador Programme. As an individual who is passionate about taking a stand against injustice, I realised that delivering the presentation would be a great way for me to empower my community to take action in the fight against extreme poverty.
Having recently presented 1.4 Billion Reasons for the first time, I am now even more excited about being involved with the programme. The feedback after the presentation was so encouraging; individuals voiced how they felt positive and hopeful about the possibility of ending extreme poverty. Many admitted that they often feel overwhelmed by stories of poverty but the presentation helped them to see that if we all do our small bit, we can make a big difference. I loved hearing someone say that the action points suggested for individuals felt ‘accessible’. For many of us, the desire to make a difference is suppressed by the vastness of the issues. Yet, it was evident that the audience no longer felt disillusioned. Rather, there was a real sense of, ‘Yes, we can do this…together.’
Positive feedback such as this is confirmation of the potential impact and momentum that could result from more and more people having the opportunity to see 1.4 Billion Reasons.
Being a Global Poverty Ambassador has afforded me the chance to channel my energy into something that feels significant; a way to reach audiences as well as the world’s poor who will be positively impacted by the movement towards change that the presentation promotes. How exciting to be involved with something that has such incredible potential to change the world.
For the final blog in the “More than Money” series, I’ve chosen to discuss an issue that often comes to mind for people when deciding whether or not to reach into their pockets to donate to development charities. It’s also currently one of the biggest barriers to ending extreme poverty, and stands in the way of progress in the development of important areas like health and education in many developing countries.
If you haven’t guessed it already, I’m talking about corruption.
For such a small word, corruption is packed with a lot of meaning. From small bribes required to gain access to public services to government officials pocketing foreign aid money, there are many different levels of the problem and it can seem overwhelming to try and tackle it. Although its occurrence is prevalent in both rich and poor countries, the consequences of corruption disproportionately affect people living in poverty.
As the clip by the ONE Campaign illustrates, developing countries do not necessarily lack the manpower or resources to overcome their own obstacles; it’s simply that they’re being held back from doing so. According to Transparency International’s 2010 Global Corruption Barometer, people living in poverty are twice as likely to have to pay bribes for basic services like health and education and more than 20 countries have reported significant increases in petty briberies since 2006, like having to pay money to their child’s school for illegal “mandatory contributions.”
Corrupt Public Officials
Having to pay additional money for services that you can barely afford in the first place puts a serious burden on people living on less than USD$2 a day. For instance, corruption increases the cost for connecting a household to clean water by up to 30% on average in developing countries, leaving many to forego services. Likewise, the average maternity ward patient in Bangalore pays around USD$22 in bribes to receive adequate medical care. This is unacceptable when there is currently 884 million people without access to clean water and only 63% of births in developing countries are attended by skilled health workers.
People living in poverty can’t afford another barrier standing in their way to these types of vital resources and services.
It’s also extremely damaging when desperately needed foreign aid money sent to developing countries for health, food or education programmes never gets past corrupt government officials. Estimates in 2006 showed that 50% of allocated health funds in Ghana never made it to the clinics or hospitals. In that same year it was discovered that the Kenyan government had spent USD$12.5 million on luxury cars for government officials’ personal use, while almost 50% of the country lived below the poverty line.
Unlike in many rich countries, poor communities are often powerless to hold their governments accountable and lack the ability or resources to ensure these situations stop happening.
Like Erik from Mozambique says in the video, “the battle here is access to information.” Organisations like Transparency International are working to make sure people living in poverty and the global community are able to access these types of statistics and information and then equipping people with the tools to be able to battle corruption in their communities. This is so important because as Rakesh from Tanzania points out, “the way change is going to happen is that people are going to make this happen. It’s not projects, it’s not great NGOs, it’s not great leaders, it’s people themselves.”
The Movement to End Extreme Poverty
People themselves are crucial to the entire fight to end extreme poverty. As we’ve discussed throughout this series, there are many sides to poverty beyond the dollar amount and unfortunately they can’t just be solved by foreign aid and NGO assistance. Local people in these poor communities need to be empowered and enabled to create their own change in the areas we discussed over the past few weeks; health, education, gender inequality and corruption.
That’s why we at the Global Poverty Project are building a movement of people who support actions like buying fair trade, putting pressure on governments to uphold their commitments to poverty alleviation measures, and staying informed on current poverty issues to support local efforts so that together we can see an end to extreme poverty in our generation.
As we’ve shown over the past few weeks in our “More than Money series”, there are many different sides to extreme poverty besides just a lack of money. This week’s topic goes even further beyond the tangible issues of health and education and focuses on the issue of gender inequality.
If you’re a girl growing up in extreme poverty in a low-income country, you are at a severe disadvantage from your female counterparts in richer countries. The inequality gap is much larger between men and women in these poorer countries, providing very little opportunity for the female population to see their capabilities realised.
As a girl living in extreme poverty, you are more likely to:
• Have a lower education. 53% of the 67 million children missing out on school are girls, and according to the Global Campaign for Education UK, there is not a single country in Africa that sends more than half its girls to secondary school. And despite the knowledge that a child born to a mother who is able to read has a 50% better chance of surviving past the age of 5, two-thirds of the 759 million illiterate adults are still women.
• Marry younger. Since girls living in poverty are more likely to quit school earlier, or get no education at all, they are often married off much younger so they are no longer seen as a burden on their family. This means that currently 1 girl in 7 in developing countries marries before the age of 15 and 38% will marry before they’re 18 (Girl Effect).
• Have children younger, and more of them. Just as girls marry younger because of leaving school earlier, they also begin having children sooner. In developing countries, 14 million girls aged 15-19 give birth each year, meaning one-quarter to one-half of girls in these countries become mothers before the age of 18 (Girl Effect). Furthermore, the majority of African countries have a crude birth rate in the range of 30-40 per 1,000 people compared to 13 in the UK and 14 in the US (World Bank).
• Earn less wages. With lower educational attainment for women in developing countries, it’s obvious that they would make far less money than men who often have more years of education. But even for educated women in the workforce, there are only 117 countries that have equal pay laws and women still earn 10-30% less than their male counterparts (UN Women).
• Acquire a deadly disease like HIV/AIDS. The World Health Organization estimates that 60% of the people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are women. Women in developing countries are overexposed to the virus because of the occurrence of older men (who have numerous sexual partners) having sexual relations with younger women, the higher prevalence of violence against women and forced prostitution, and gender-related barriers to accessing preventative services, amongst other things.
• Die during pregnancy or childbirth. For girls and women in developing countries, pregnancy and childbirth are currently among the leading causes of death and disability. 99% of the 358,000 women who die of complications during pregnancy or childbirth each year live in developing countries, where only 63% of births are attended by skilled health workers (White Ribbon Alliance).
Is this the fate we want for our daughters and sisters? Of course the answer is no. So why do we allow this to happen to millions of women in the developing world? You can support organisations like the Girl Effect (who made the video below that many of you would have seen before) to help bring justice to these girls and women around the world who deserve an equal chance in life.
For the second blog in this “More than Money” series, I’ve chosen to focus on the topic of education. As the above clip notes, education is one of the best ways to break the cycle of poverty, with Nelson Mandela going so far as to say “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Yet obtaining an education remains far out of reach for many people living in extreme poverty for reasons that go beyond money.
Free for the Rich, Costly for the Poor
Rich countries – where people most able to afford to send their kids to school –provide an education at least through secondary school for free (some through university), yet poor countries that are full of people living on less than USD$2 a day charge a fee for at least secondary school if not primary school as well.
So for those of us who grew up in places like the US or UK, going to school was such a normal part of life that it was as expected as taking your next breath. Yet for kids growing up in many developing countries, going to school is a luxury reserved primarily for those living above the poverty line. For instance in Pakistan, almost half of children from poor households are not in school, compared to only 5% of children from the richest households (UNESCO).
Out of Reach
For those families living in poverty whose kids are in school, further barriers continue to stand in their way. Many rural villages lack access to schools. This leaves communities to either create makeshift schools in their homes, old buildings or in open spaces with unqualified community members stepping in as teachers, or to send their children to walk long distances to and from the nearest school each day, or to simply not send them anywhere at all.
These are just two factors that contribute to the 67 million children around the world who are presently being denied their basic human right of receiving an education, 95% of whom live in developing countries.
Not All Education is Good Education
For those lucky children who manage to make it into a classroom, many of them are still leaving without a good education. The 2011 Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report reveals that millions of children in low-income countries are leaving primary school with reading, writing, and numeracy levels far below what is expected for their age group. Overcrowded classrooms, lack of teachers, high teacher absences, and lack of teaching materials are a few of the circumstances that contribute to problems we see in places like Pakistan where nearly two in three rural school children (aged 6-16) cannot read a basic story (March for Education).
Without providing a good education for these kids in developing countries to equip them with the skills and qualifications they need to be able to get a decent paying job, we risk the chance of trapping them in a never-ending cycle of poverty.
What Can We Do?
So the inevitable question is, now that we know what the problems are, what can we do? There are amazing campaigns you can join like Send My Sister to School (who made the video above) who are putting pressure on governments to do their part to create Education For All. With less than 4 years to go to complete the MDGs, it is imperative that we close the funding gaps needed to help each of those 67 million children obtain their right to a good education.