Today is the world’s first ever International Day of the Girl.
So what does it mean to be a girl living in extreme poverty?
It means less access to medical facilities, lower access to basic education, lower likelihood of starting or finishing school, and lower opportunities for meaningful work. It means a higher likelihood of being food deprived and a higher likelihood of experiencing violence and sexual harassment.
For girls, discrimination and a lack of power are two of the main underlying causes of child poverty. Therefore, in order to tackle poverty, the empowerment of girls is vital. Healthy, educated and empowered girls are more likely to lift themselves, their families and their countries out of poverty.
One key component of this empowerment is education that provides girls with skills, knowledge and promotes greater gender equality.
Educating girls can make a world of difference. Every extra year of a mother’s schooling is estimated to cut her infant’s chances of mortality by between 5 and 10 per cent. With 9 years education, girls are not only more likely to be literate but also more likely to be healthy, understand their rights and be a force for change. They’re also less likely to experience violence, marry young, or have babies whilst they themselves are children.
But educating girls also has flow on effects for communities and nations. Girls with an education are more likely to reinvest their income back into their families, communities and countries. And an increase of even just 1 per cent in girls’ secondary education attendance, adds 0.3 per cent to a country's GDP.
Clearly, investing in women and girls is not only an act of justice but an investment in health, wealth and development.
Unfortunately there are still a number of barriers that make it hard for girls to get an education. These issues include violence in and around schools, discrimination at school, poor nutrition & health, burdens of domestic work, poor reproductive and sexual health, and economic instability at home. This Gender violence can include physical or sexual abuse, verbal threats and intimidation, and can come from both teachers and students, having an adverse effect on achievement, causing absenteeism and sometimes resulting in girls leaving school altogether.
To address these issues, we must involve and empower girls and women, as well as educating boys and men on the role they can play in tackling gender issues.
If you want to support girls’ education, and empower girls to transform their own lives and the world around them, there are also things you can do...
In the last few days you may have seen some negative criticism about aid. At a time of economic instability, cynics in the media are trying to force the government to cut aid by saying something we know isn’t true – that we spend too much on aid, our aid doesn’t work and that the public doesn’t want to give aid.
We know that this isn’t the whole story and reducing our aid commitments is both dangerous and wrong.
Too Much Aid
The idea that we spend a disproportionate amount of money on aid is an exaggeration. In fact, the UK has only recently committed to spending 0.7% of its GDP on foreign aid. Although aid is only one way of enabling countries to develop and it needs to be used effectively, this is no reason to cut aid altogether. Instead, the discussion should be what can we do as well as giving aid and how should we be spending aid?
Aid Doesn’t Work
Good aid does work. British aid spending has saved lives and made the world healthier, safer and more just.
Even if we only take the progress we have made in vaccination as an example, we have achieved so much. Here are just a few examples;
Through aid to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative more than 2 billion children have been immunised in the past 25 years and more than 8 million children have been saved from life-long paralysis or death. As a result, polio could be the second human disease ever eradicated in the coming years, which would not only ensure none contracts this debilitating disease, but would also save the global economy $50billion which is currently spent on polio prevention and treatment, making polio eradication a good value for money investment.
The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations is supporting countries in immunising more than 250 million children by 2015, which could avert 3.9 million future deaths.
Through The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, 6.6 million people in low and middle-income countries are on AIDS treatment, up from 200,000 a decade ago. Even more amazingly, access to AIDS treatment has increased over 3000% since the beginning of the Global Fund.
Please add your comments below if you have any other examples you would like to share.
Of course we know that aid isn't the only solution. Fairer trade and good governance are just two other essential components of what we know is essential to end extreme poverty. However, we also know that aid is one essential component. In our 1.4 Billion Reasons we describe it like the 'oil' of a bike - helping developing to happen more smoothly and efficiently, but only one essential component to complement the wheels (trade) and a solid frame of good governance.
To reduce the conversation to a blanket statement that all aid is bad is not helpful.
The Public Doesn’t Want to Give Aid
With all this negative media coverage, telling us what we do and do not want - it is vital that you make up your own mind and we show Justine Greening how many of us support aid spending. If you would like to join us, we would encourage you to send your own letter to the Secretary of State, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, to tell them the whole story.
As London hosted the Olympic and Paralympic games this year, we showed the world not only that we cared about sport but that we care about the richness and diversity in the world.
The myths that are being spread are wrong and dangerous, not telling the side of the story that good aid saves lives and produces sustainable solutions for the world’s poorest people. If left unchallenged, this could have a significant negative impact on the lives of the world’s poor.
In the past 30 years extreme poverty has more than halved, from 52% of the world in 1981 to under 25% today - even with population growth.
If this vital component of the development process is reduced now not only will millions of lives be affected, but progress will also be seriously stalled and possibly reversed. We don’t want to regress. We want to see this reduce to 0% in our generation. For the first time in history this could be a reality, but we need to continue all efforts including protecting the UK aid budget.
To do this, we do need your voice to be hard.
Please join us in telling the other side of the story, and sending a letter to the Secretary of State, David Cameron and Nick Clegg. We have created a draft letter for you, but please do edit this to reflect your own thoughts.
When I was 18, I left home for the first time. I remember it well, it was both exciting and daunting - but I wasn’t afraid; because I knew I would always have a home, a support network, and family to return to and rely on should I need them. For too many in our world, leaving home is not a choice but imperative to ensure freedom, well-being, or even survival. The latest, 2011, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) figures show 42.5 million people worldwide are in this position. This overall figure has exceeded 42 million for the fifth consecutive year and it reflects a series of complex and varied issues.
Poverty is not only one of the main causes but also a consequence of this displacement.
Of these 42.5 million forcibly displaced people, 26.4 million were internally displaced people (IDPs), 15.2 million became refugees and 895,000 were asylum- seekers. A refugee is someone fleeing their country who has crossed an international border. Often, displaced peoples who first arrive in a new country are classed as asylum-seekers until their individual case is decided upon and refugee status granted. Meanwhile, IDPs have not crossed an international border and remain displaced within their country of origin. IDPs may reason that it is better stay within familiar surroundings depending on the risk, but sometimes it is not possible to cross an international border- perhaps because of physical barriers such as mountains or rivers, or because other countries are unable or unwilling to accept refugees.
It is easy to see how displacement can lead to poverty and vulnerability. Most refugees leave with very little and what resources they do have tend not to last them very long. Without the protection of their state, many are left unsafe. These individuals are also more susceptible to abuse, exploitation and trafficking as they have few connections and resources to rely on. This is particularly the case for the 46% of refugees, who are children below the age of 18.
Having left everything they know, a majority (four fifths) of refugees find themselves in developing countries. Many head to neighbouring border countries, which are often the easiest to get to. Globally, Pakistan hosted more refugees than anywhere else. Some find themselves in cramped refugee camps, on perilous journeys across borders or even detention centres, where their options and rights are few. Food, education, medical care, housing and work opportunities are often severely limited and difficult to access. This is often the case even when refugees are safe in a host country. They may suffer additional language barriers and psychological trauma from what they have experienced at home.
Poverty may be a consequence of displacement but it is also one of the causes. Extreme poverty can lead to conflict over resources or power struggles due to a lack of opportunity, which can result in unstable environments. Those with few resources to begin with are also less likely to be able to cope with sudden climate change such as drought or severe flooding. This in turn can cause refugee movements.
A mixture of large scale violence, persecution, instability, extreme environmental conditions, extreme poverty and other human rights violations can also create refugees. For instance, in Yemen a mixture of violence, drought and poverty has created displacement. In Darfur, the impacts of attacks by militia have been exacerbated by poor rainfall and drought. And in Somalia, conflict led 300,000 Somalis to flee their homes in 2011 alone.
However action is being taken, both to prevent people becoming refugees and supporting those who find themselves with no other option but to escape. An array of organisations, including UNHCR, the Red Cross and MSF seek to tackle this injustice. Dealing with this issue is no doubt complex but tackling poverty has to be part of the picture. Fighting for some of the most vulnerable people on the planet, from circumstances not of their making, is important, just and a post WW2 promise we have to keep.
We are very pleased to announce that the Sumner M. Redstone Charitable Foundation has donated $650,000, to help us towards our vision of a world without extreme poverty! Mr Redstone’s total giving now stands at $2.1 million, due to a previous donation and current pledges. We join Hugh Evans, Founder and CEO of the Global Poverty Project, in thanking the foundation and Mr Redstone, “I am delighted with the continued generous support from Sumner Redstone.”
So where will the money go?
Hugh Evans went on to explain, “We have important plans to lead an iconic campaign in New York to coincide with the UN General Assembly meeting in September. His donation will directly contribute to the campaign, helping us call for action from a generation who want to stamp their role in history and are looking to make a huge difference,” .
Mr Redstone’s previous donation went towards supporting the End of Polio Campaign, which is a partnership between the Global Poverty Project and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In the last twenty years, cases of Polio have been reduced by 99% but continued attention and investment needs to be maintained if it is to be eradicated. Nevertheless, the progress that has been made by the campaign, governments and groups is undeniable. As Mr Redstone says, “It is incredible evidence of what global collaboration can achieve “.
Mr. Redstone is well known in media circles as the Executive Chairman of Viacom Inc. and CBS Corporation. He began his career in Law as the Law Secretary with the U.S. Court of Appeals and at one point served in the Military Intelligence Division during World War II. His involvement in media can be traced back to joining National Amusements, Inc., which is now one of the largest motion picture circuits in the United States. Through the Sumner M. Redstone Charitable Foundation and through personal donations, Mr Redstone has supported a wide range of projects and organisations connected with health, education and research as well as The Global Poverty Project.
In response to his recent donation Mr Redstone said:
“I am proud to further my support of the important work of the Global Poverty Project. I am also pleased that both CBS Corporation and Viacom are among the many organizations that are providing support to the Global Poverty Project and I urge other philanthropists, foundations and media outlets to join them to help end extreme poverty on our planet,” .
Let us hope that others, including you, are inspired by his call to action and support organisations, campaigns and efforts to tackle extremepoverty!
The UN’s Annual Monitoring Report, analysing the progress made towards the Millennium Development Goals, was released recently. With only three years to go before the deadline is reached, now is an important time to reflect on the progress made – or lack thereof.
There was good news as the number of people in extreme poverty fell in all regions. In 1990, 47 per cent of the world was living on less than $1.25 a day, but by 2008 this had fallen to 24 per cent. Other targets on drinking water access and slum-dwellers were also met and exceeded respectively. With regards to health, there was positive news as levels of access to HIV treatment widened, rates of tuberculosis fell since 2002 and global malaria incidents, as well as deaths, decreased.
It also reports on other achievements in furthering primary school education and tackling child mortality rates. There is now greater equality between the number of girls and boys in primary education. Enrollment in primary school has generally increased, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa; between 1999 and 2010, enrollment rose from 58 to 76 per cent. In addition, more children are living past the age of five, with the number of under-five deaths dropping from more than 12.0 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010, worldwide.
Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, reflected positively on the results in the report: “These results represent a tremendous reduction in human suffering and are a clear validation of the approach embodied in the MDGs. But they are not a reason to relax.”
This is because despite these gains, progress was uneven and positive results were not shared equally across and within regions and countries. For instance, few or slow gains are being made in some areas such as secure employment, gender equality, maternal healthcare, child malnutrition, sanitation and hunger. Indeed, nearly half of the population in developing regions – 2.5 billion people – still lack access to improved sanitation facilities. At this rate, 2015 targets in this area will not be met. Meanwhile, estimates reveal that around 850 million people are living in hunger in the world. Alarmingly, close to one third of children in Southern Asia were underweight in 2010.
Ban Ki-Moon is right to be cautious, especially in current economic climates: “The current economic crises besetting much of the developed world must not be allowed to decelerate or reverse the progress that has been made. Let us build on the successes we have achieved so far, and let us not relent until all the MDGs have been attained.”
It was over a decade ago that world leaders agreed to the Millennium Development Goals and it is clear that much has been achieved. Nevertheless, as the 2015 deadline draws closer, it is also clear that there is still much more to be done. Not to mention looking forward and planning what will happen beyond 2015.