Friends,

Let us share here all the interesting articles we come accross, related to AIDS Competence.
Please post the title, the source, the hyperlink to the article and if possible a short introduction with the link to AIDS Competence.

Amis,

Partageons ici les articles intéressants, en lien avec la compétence face au sida.
Veuillez poster le titre, la source, le lien vers l'article et si possible une courte introduction qui fait le lien avec la Compétence face au sida.

Laurence

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New-book-tracks-the-epidemic-to-its-origins

Please read on to the end!

An important reference for our work...

Thanks to Jean-Jacques Frère from the World Bank who drew my attention to this publication.

JL

http://www.otherworldsarepossible.org/other-worlds/birthing-justice...

BIRTHING JUSTICE: We Have Everything We Need Already: Community Control of Education

 

By Beverly Bell

May 7, 2012

 

Welcome to Birthing Justice: Women Creating Economic and Social Alternatives. The series features twelve alternative social and economic models which expand the possibilities for justice, equity, and strong community. They are based in the US, Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Some are national-level, some global-level. Some are propelled by people’s movements, some forced or adopted into government policy. In first-hand narratives, women describe their role in having created the models and show us their unique perspectives and challenges in the movements.

 

Below is the sixth narrative of Birthing Justice.

 

^^^^

Shilpa Jain has served as a full-time “learning activist” with Shikshantar, an India-based people’s movement which aims to regenerate “living and learning communities” grounded in diverse cultures and languages, as opposed to a stultifying colonial-legacy education. Shilpa continues to be part of a movement to nurture different modes of learning, to reclaim and share knowledge that reflects community wisdom and values. What’s at stake is nothing less than who controls information and interpretation, what values are propagated, and what kind of society we end up with. After her time at Shikshantar, Shilpa worked with Other Worlds and she now serves as Executive Director of YES! in California, working with youth changemakers and organizers.

 

Shilpa Jain | Rajasthan, India and California, USA

 

At Shikshantar, we are trying to support the shift from a money-dominant globalized

culture to a more small-scale, relationship-focused culture.

My grandmother never went to school, she never knew how to read or write, and she

was such a wise and brilliant woman. She was incredibly creative, could come up with

songs and dances and games right on the spot. She had tons of practical knowledge on

herbal remedies and healing practices, and she was the most environmentally conscious

person I know. Nothing ever went to waste; she would always make something out of

anything. For her, everything was connected, and all life was important, from the ants, to

the dogs, to the cows, to human beings. Because of her, I started asking about and looking

for more of that kind of grounded knowledge.

My activism has always been defined by what’s doable rather then what are we fighting

against. What are the positive things we can create in the world, and how are they being

created right now? I’m interested in supporting people where their passion is now, as well as trying to unearth their passions through a process of listening and dialogue. There are a thousand entry points to challenge this system and shape alternative possibilities.


Shikshantar means “transforming the way we live and learn.” It encourages individuals and communities to reclaim control over their own learning processes and through that, reclaim their heads, hands, and hearts. Shikshantar’s philosophy springs from the Gandhian principle of Swaraj, which refers to self-rule and radiance-of-the-self. It’s individual and community self-realization and contribution.


Shikshantar supports localization to bring economy, ecology, and education back home. It starts from the premise that we all already have the things we need for contributing to the well-being of our place, whether they’re monetary resources, in-kind materials, our time, our energy, or our home. When we bring these into the flow of sharing as a community, it can serve and support all of us. Believe it or not, but I do: we have everything we need already.


We also support people who want to look at possibilities for learning outside the monopoly of schools and colleges. All around our communities are an abundance of resources. They come in the form of artisans and artists, farmers and business people, home-makers and spiritual guides. Each brings wisdom, creativity, curiosity, imagination, skills, vision, and experience, which can be shared across generations.


For example, Shikshantar considers the entire city of Udaipur [Rajasthan] to be a “learning city.” Children, youth, adults, and elders are engaging in exchanges, community dialogues, unlearning workshops, local media, etc. They’re challenging the dominant model of urban living – with its consumption, waste, alienation, and pollution – and figuring out how to live differently.

I work a lot with families on creating different learning spaces in their neighborhoods, like workshops and festivals. We do all kinds of things: theater workshops, dance workshops, music, cooperative games. We make a lot of crafts with waste materials like coconut shells, rubber tire tubes, discarded paper, scraps of cloth. And we’re into natural and ecological city living – rooftop gardening, rainwater harvesting, solar cooking, bicycle blending. Artists, farmers, healers, and cooks offer their skills to public venues and interactions.


And we try to make a difference. For example, several folks got together to try and stop the use of plastic bags in places like vegetable markets and stores. We also went around to different hotels and did a “green leaf rating” survey to support more eco-friendly and culturally appropriate tourism in the city.

Another major part of my work with Shikshantar has been supporting a Walkout-Walkon Network. “Walkout” is a challenge to “dropout.” It captures the courage and humanity of those who have left a system that doesn’t serve them and instead are creating different paths. These paths include apprenticeships, travel, service opportunities, and entrepreneurship. But it’s not just about walking out of school or college. It’s also about walking out of dehumanizing careers

or toxic products or negative relationships, and walking on to align your values with your practices. We even created a magazine that documents different walkout-walkon experiences of people, as well as great learning opportunities.

Shikshantar is busy launching a Swaraj Multi-versity, so that youth can bypass college and learn via real-world apprenticeships with a peer community. They’ll get practical skills ranging from filmmaking to cooking to composting to desktop publishing. The last part of the program gives them the opportunity to use their skills to start a business that’s locally rooted and environmentally conscious.


Part of the inspiration for my work comes from the idea that the larger system, the superstructure, only has as much hold on us as we continue to give it. The current prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile once told me that instead of thinking about destroying the system, I should think about renouncing it. That’s stuck with me. If we stop trying to fix or destroy the dominant system – and by that, I mean, violent, consumptive and inhumane institutions – and turn our attention to growing diverse points of light and power, we might find ourselves with the world we want to see.

Learning spaces and opportunities are all around us. It’s only our own blinders that are blocking us. The more we can take off those blinders and start to see people and places for their strength and beauty, the more we can really learn and connect. That way, too, we can heal a lot of damage that’s being done over many years and that’s still being done today. The more we can see and listen to each other, I think, the more there is hope.

To learn more about Shilpa Jain’s organization, Shikshantar: The Peoples’ Institute for Rethinking Education and Development, please see www.swaraj.org/shikshantar.

 

 

Inspired? Here are a few suggestions for getting involved!

 

  • Be a mentor to the next generation by befriending and spending time with neighborhood kids or your friends’ children. Share your work with them, invite them to see a documentary, visit a local farm, or just take a walk.
  • Find learning partners and potential teachers in your community. Look for more formal apprenticeship opportunities with artists, farmers, or business people. The NACT Sustainable Agriculture Project keeps a list of farming apprenticeships (www.attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/internships).
  • Since one size does not fit all, explore education alternatives to traditional schooling for you or your  children. The Alternative Education Resource Organization’s website lists democratic schools in the US (www.educationrevolution.org/demschool.html). Don’t see the school you want near you? Check out AERO’s Start a School Program (www.educationrevolution.org/startschool.html).
  • Check out Passageworks (www.passageworks.org), Teachers 4 Social Justice (www.t4sj.org) and Teaching for Change (www.teachingforchange.org) to find resources and action items for both educators and parents wanting to build more just and caring schools.

 

And check out the following resources and organizations:

  • Shikshantar: the People’s Institute for Rethinking Education and Development, www.swaraj.org/shikshantar
  • Skillshare, www.skillshare.com
  • Rethinking Schools Online, www.rethinkingschools.org
  • Alianza para la Educacion Alternativa, www.alianzaeducacionalternativa.org
  • Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA), www.democraticeducation.org
  • Swaraj University, www.swarajuniversity.org
  • Institute for Humane Education, www.humaneeducation.org
  • M.K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule (Dodo Press, 2008)
  • Grace Llewellyn, The Teenage Liberation Handbook (Lowry House Publishers, 1998)
  • Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze, Walk Out Walk On: a Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now (Berret- Koehler Publisher, 2011)
  • Deborah Menkart, Alana D. Murray and Jenice L. View, Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching: a Resource Guide for K-12 Classrooms (Teaching for Change and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, 2004)
  • John T Gatto, A Different Kind of Teacher (Berkeley Hill Books, 2001)
  • Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society (Marion Boyars, 1973)
  • John Holt, Instead of Education (Penguin Books, 1976)
  • Myles Horton et al., The Long Haul: an Autobiography (Doubleday, 1990)

Discover more ideas and download the entire Birthing Justice series here.


Beverly Bell has worked for more than three decades as an advocate, organizer, and writer in collaboration with social movements in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the U.S. Her focus areas are just economies, democratic participation, and gender justice. Beverly currently serves as associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and coordinator of Other Worlds. She is author of Walking on Fire: Haitian Women Stories of Survival and Resistance and of the forthcoming Fault Lines: Views Across Haiti’s Divide.

Copyleft Beverly Bell. You may reprint this article in whole or in part.  Please credit any text or original research you use to Beverly Bell, Other Worlds.

BIRTHING JUSTICE: Water Is Where Everything Intersects -- Water in the Global Commons

http://www.otherworldsarepossible.org/other-worlds/birthing-justice...

By Beverly Bell
May 14, 2012

 

Welcome to Birthing Justice: Women Creating Economic and Social Alternatives. The series features twelve alternative social and economic models which expand the possibilities for justice, equity, and strong community. They are based in the US, Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Some are national-level, some global-level. Some are propelled by people’s movements, some forced or adopted into government policy. In first-hand narratives, women describe their role in having created the models and show us their unique perspectives and challenges in the movements.

 

Below is the seventh narrative of Birthing Justice.

 

^^^^

In case after case around the world, water is being turned into a good for sale and for profit. Driven by a different vision and by economic necessity, a global counter-trend is growing to assure that household water be free or cheap, accessible, and safe, and that the earth’s water be kept pure and flowing. Marcela Olivera is a part of this movement. In 2000, she played a key role in organizing the massive protests in Cochabamba when residents of the city forced the Bechtel Corporation to give up control of the municipal water system, thereby restoring water as a human right for all instead of as a source of corporate income. This victory has been repeated elsewhere in Bolivia and around the world.

 

Marcela Olivera | Cochabamba, Bolivia

There have been a series of policies implemented in Bolivia intended to privatize our natural resources. One of these directly impacts people’s everyday lives: it’s the move to privatize water by giving contracts to multinational corporations to manage the municipal water supply and other sources of water. In Bolivia, there was a huge public outcry against this in 2000 and 2005 and, in the end, we were able to reverse the policy.

Now that’s the official, romanticized version of what happened, but nobody sees what’s happened since then. The struggle over who controls water is ongoing.

No one seems to pick up on how closely water issues are related to other urgent things that are now happening in Bolivia. Water is the one issue where everything intersects; it crosses over into political issues and economic issues in every country. In the struggle over water, people have also been fighting to have their voices heard and to better their living conditions. I think it’s really important that we understand that. Even the fact that Evo Morales is president now is really a result of the water war that broke out in 2000.

 

What we’re fighting for is effective, participatory control by the people over our social resources of water, health and education, as an alternative to private control. This is going on all over Latin America.

 

We’re not searching for one solution, a single model of how to do things. I don’t believe there is a single solution to our problems. Our realities are all so diverse that it would be impossible to say, “This will work for everybody.” There are a lot of possible solutions out there. What’s going to be really important now, in the midst of our fights to control our own resources, is to connect with people on a human level. I think that’s where we have to start, with the human side of things and then, from there, to move on to bigger things, bridging the distances between us – not just the physical ones, but gaps in technology, communication, and sometimes even language.

One thing that we’re taking away from globalization is that it’s not just about the economic policies that are being imposed on us. It’s also about bringing us into contact with one another. We’re building alliances among ourselves that respect those differences and the diversity of experiences. That’s the great thing about it. One of the connections that’s happening is between women. The group I work with, Red VIDA [Inter-American Network of Vigilance for the Defense and Right to Water], is run by women. In fact, it’s a Latin America-wide water rights network of unions, non-governmental organizations, and grassroots groups, but women are the driving force. If you look at the outreach committee, it’s all women; we’re from El Salvador, Uruguay, Mexico, Bolivia, Brazil, and the US. The name says it all: the word ‘network’ is feminine in Spanish.


I believe women are organizers by nature, because we’re very sensitive and because we have the ability to show what we’re feeling. But women are still marginalized; there’s a kind of invisibility around the work that women do on water issues. For example, I notice that the organizing work is mainly done by women, but then the one who always stands up in front of the meeting to explain how everything was organized is a man.

I think it’s fantastic that women have stepped up and are leading the way in the fight over water rights. In our continent, at least, the face of the movement is the face of a woman.

To learn more about Marcela Olivera’s water rights network, Red VIDA, please see www.laredvida.org (Spanish language only).

Interview translated by Ocetelo Baena.

 

Inspired? Here are a few suggestions for getting involved!

 

  • Corporate Accountability International has a webpage overflowing with ways to challenge corporate control of water by supporting local water rights and fighting the privatization of our water sources (www. stopcorporateabuse.org/water-campaign).
  • Fight for clean public water so that residents can drink the free water that should be their right instead of having to buy it. Online, check out Water Justice (www.waterjustice.org) and The Rights to Water and Sanitation’s “Ways to Influence” webpage (www.righttowater.info/ways-to-influence). The Food and Water Watch “Take Back the Tap” curriculum teaches young people about the need for clean and affordable water and shows them how to advocate for it (www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/take-back-the-tap/curriculum).
  • Help preserve public infrastructure and services in your community. Stop attempts to privatize them by raising your voice in opposition to cutbacks to public services like art and physical education school programs, public transit, community gardens, and libraries.
  • Use what can be shared in common instead of bought, like books at the library. Some libraries have great video and music selections, too. 
  • Consider Creative Commons licenses rather than copyrights for your writing, photography, and other creative ventures. A Creative Commons license facilitates sharing information and material using the “some rights reserved” instead of the “all rights reserved” approach. Learn how to license your work online (www.creativecommons.org).
  • Use Open Source software and support the developers who share their work with the world. Source Forge’s website shows you how (www.sourceforge.net).

 

And check out the following resources and organizations:

  • Blue Planet Project, www.blueplanetproject.net
  • Our Water Commons, www.ourwatercommons.org
  • Water Justice, www.waterjustice.org
  • Red VIDA (in Spanish), www.laredvida.org
  • Food and Water Watch, Other Worlds, Reclaiming Public Water, Red VIDA, and Transnational Institute, Changing the Flow, Water Movements in Latin America (2009), available online at: www.otherworldsarepossible.org/other-worlds/changing-flow
  • Brid Brennan et al., Reclaiming Public Water: Achievements, Struggles, and Visions from around the World (Transnational Institute, 2006), available online at: www.tni.org/detail_page.phtml?page=books_publicwater
  • Maggie Black and Ben Fawcett, The Last Taboo: Opening the Door on the Global Sanitation Crisis (Earthscan, 2008)
  • Maude Barlow, Blue Covenant: the Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water (The New Press, 2007)
  • “Blue Gold: World Water Wars,” directed by Sam Bozzo, Purple Turtle Films, 2008, available online at: www.bluegold-worldwaterwars.com
  • “FLOW,” directed by Irena Salina, Oscilloscope Laboratories, 2008, available online at: www.flowthefilm.com
  • “Thirst,” directed by Deborah Kaufman and Alan Snitow, PBS/POV, 2004, available online at: www.thirstthemovie.org
  • On the Commons, www.onthecommons.org
  • Jay Walljasper, All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons (The New Press, 2011)

 

Discover more ideas and download the entire Birthing Justice series here.


Beverly Bell has worked for more than three decades as an advocate, organizer, and writer in collaboration with social movements in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the U.S. Her focus areas are just economies, democratic participation, and gender justice. Beverly currently serves as associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and coordinator of Other Worlds. She is author of Walking on Fire: Haitian Women Stories of Survival and Resistance and of the forthcoming Fault Lines: Views Across Haiti’s Divide.

Copyleft Beverly Bell. You may reprint this article in whole or in part.  Please credit any text or original research you use to Beverly Bell, Other Worlds.

 

 

BIRTHING JUSTICE: One System for All -- Universal Access to Health Care
http://www.otherworldsarepossible.org/other-worlds/birthing-justice...

 

By Beverly Bell

May 18, 2012

 

Welcome to Birthing Justice: Women Creating Economic and Social Alternatives. The series features twelve alternative social and economic models which expand the possibilities for justice, equity, and strong community. They are based in the US, Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Some are national-level, some global-level. Some are propelled by people’s movements, some forced or adopted into government policy. In first-hand narratives, women describe their role in having created the models and show us their unique perspectives and challenges in the movements.

 

Below is the eighth narrative of Birthing Justice.

 

^^^^

Julie Castro is a young doctor from France, a country that proves that it is possible for a nation to offer quality health care for all. All legal residents have access to coverage, and immigrants gain the right to access after three months. Those served by the medical system – including the very poor and the gravely or chronically ill – are likely to receive better care in France than anywhere in the world. Moreover, the sicker you are, the less you pay. Dire illnesses, like tuberculosis or cancer, some chronic conditions like diabetes, and major operations like open-heart surgery, are covered by the social security at 100%.


The French system’s slogan is, “Everyone contributes according to his resources and receives according to his needs.” And this is not just rhetoric. Ever since the 1940s, France has made budgetary decisions to turn this dream into reality. But in France, as in many other countries, the logic of the market is now slicing away at universal access. As has been proven elsewhere, and as some in French civil society are now realizing, a strong health care system can only survive if the population fights to protect it.

Julie Castro | Paris, France

My interest in health emerged as a way to take action in the fight for social justice. During my medical studies, I did internships in Africa and India and worked in a refugee camp along the Thai-Burmese border. At the same time, I became more aware of the anti-globalization movement. It appeared to me that it was addressing the structural causes of ill health: inequality at both the global and local levels. Today, while I’m working on the fight against AIDS in Mali, I’m also one of those defending the idea that access to public health in France is a right.

Even with its problems, the French health system is a good one. It’s a distributive system. Universal access to health care is one basic value.


Our system offers equity, not making any distinction according to class, race, or gender. It could be summarized as ‘one system for all.’ In theory, poor people don’t have to pay when they go see a doctor. Today, if you arrive in a bad state in a public hospital in France, you’d be cured – wherever you come from, documented or undocumented, whatever your language, all in the same way a government minister would.

Another practical advantage, I think, is the quality of care.  Even if the infrastructure is overwhelmed and lacks people, the quality of public health care is still good. In France, the best doctors and best care are to be found in the public hospitals and in the university teaching hospitals.

But the system is under great threat now. A sentence you can hear everywhere is, “There’s a hole in social security” [the fund which pays for health care, retirement, and other social benefits]. We’re told, “Okay, the health system is too costly, money is lacking, we have to spend less.” Now in the hospitals, doctors are told not to prescribe too much of this or that, and all health workers are even trained not to use too much gauze – because it’s all reimbursed by social security.

Talking about a hole is a flawed statement. Long-term benefits – like lives saved, illnesses prevented, and years of work spared – aren’t included in this consideration. It’s an ideological stance, a question of where we decide to put our money.

 

We already see how this is playing out in the US. American medicine has a reputation that you can be dying in front of a health facility, and they’ll ask you, “Do you have insurance?” And, if you don’t, you just die. This is very shocking to many French people. The other thing that we observe from this side of the ocean is the stigmatization of very poor people.

Cutting the budget so we move toward a US model is only one answer to “filling in the hole.” The direction we should be taking is to improve prevention and start to truly tackle the social determinants of health [the conditions in which people are born, live, and work, which are determined by social factors such as income levels and power]. This implies, of course, substantive shifts in many policy sectors: housing, labor market, education.

Translated by David Dudar.

Inspired? Here are a few suggestions for getting involved!

 

  • Demand that government-funded research of pharmaceuticals be available to all medical researchers and not simply given to private corporations for profit-making. Fight for the availability of affordable medicines around the world. Medecins Sans Frontieres has a campaign for the access to essential medicines (www.msfaccess.org).
  • Organize to change state health care legislation. Visit the Universal Health Care Action Network’s State Connections map to find out what groups organize around health care justice in your state (www.uhcan.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&lay...).
  •  Join the Healthcare-NOW campaign to pass HR 676. It would establish an American national universal health insurance program by creating a publicly financed, privately delivered health care system that uses the already existing Medicare program (www.healthcare-now.org/campaigns/win-win).
  • Get involved with the movement for a single-payer national health insurance system. Health professionals can link up with Physicians for a National Health Program by becoming a member or checking out their actions suggestions (www.pnhp.org/action/activism).

 

And check out the following resources and organizations:

 

 

Discover more ideas and download the entire Birthing Justice series here.


Beverly Bell has worked for more than three decades as an advocate, organizer, and writer in collaboration with social movements in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the U.S. Her focus areas are just economies, democratic participation, and gender justice. Beverly currently serves as associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and coordinator of Other Worlds. She is author of Walking on Fire: Haitian Women Stories of Survival and Resistance and of the forthcoming Fault Lines: Views Across Haiti’s Divide.

Copyleft Beverly Bell. You may reprint this article in whole or in part.  Please credit any text or original research you use to Beverly Bell, Other Worlds.


Photo courtesy of Julie Castro

BIRTHING JUSTICE: This Land Is My Teacher: Preserving Native Agriculture and Traditions

http://www.otherworldsarepossible.org/other-worlds/birthing-justice... 

By Beverly Bell

May 25, 2012

 

Welcome to Birthing Justice: Women Creating Economic and Social Alternatives. The series features twelve alternative social and economic models which expand the possibilities for justice, equity, and strong community. They are based in the US, Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Some are national-level, some global-level. Some are propelled by people’s movements, some forced or adopted into government policy. In first-hand narratives, women describe their role in having created the models and show us their unique perspectives and challenges in the movements.

 

Below is the ninth narrative of Birthing Justice.

 

^^^^

Nayeli Guzman is a young Mexica woman who went to New Mexico to be part of the effort to restore traditional agriculture. Throughout the US, Native, Chicano, and other peoples are rejecting industrialized agriculture and are growing their own food instead, thereby reclaiming the health of their traditions, culture, bodies, and land. They are contributing to one of the largest movements in the US today: creating a sustainable food supply chain. Here, Nayeli talks of one such program at the Tesuque Indian Pueblo, where she and other farmers are using long-abandoned farmland to grow long-abandoned crops, building up seed libraries, and teaching others ecological methods for growing food.

Nayeli Guzman | New Mexico, USA

Damn, I should have brought my beans! I wanted to show you my collection. One of my favorites is called powami, a Hopi ceremonial bean. There’s a really beautiful one called Maine Yellow Eye, which is all white and right at the part where the bean sprouts, there’s a little yellow moon on there. There’s another one called Provider. When you put it against the sun, it looks like an oil spill from your car. Man, those beans are so beautiful.

We cooked some red Mexican beans for the harvest festival, and everyone loved them.

It’s always good to be able to give food. It’s the best, dude. We don’t think of what we’re producing in terms of money, but just in terms of health and food for our families.

 

Farming was in my prayers for a long time. This land is my teacher; it’s my altar. It’s at the heart of my culture. We’ve always done that. We’ve strayed so far from it that I feel we have to go back, no matter where we come from. I’m just being responsible to the struggles my ancestors went through. They fought for tierra y libertad, which means land and liberty. In fact, we’re still going through that struggle today, with our food and even our genes being colonized.

 

A goal of this program is for the Pueblo to become completely self-sustaining so that during the growing season, people don’t have to purchase what they can grow themselves. Another goal is to preserve the traditional way of life here. We need to keep the traditions alive. We need to preserve the seeds. We need to preserve the soil. We need to preserve the planet.

 

What we want to do next year at the Head Start is to have each kid have their own little garden. This year our program was too young to do that, but we were able to deliver pumpkins for Day of the Dead. The kids carved them´and gave them to us as gifts, like a little thank-you note. We want to have workers from the Tesuque farm program go in and help them maintain the gardens.


We are also working with the senior center, giving them food from the harvest. For our harvest festival we gave them squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, all kinds of things. We’re trying to stay connected with the elders and to keep them around as long as possible.

 

We sell food at the farmers’ market, and people on the Pueblo can order the food they want from the fields. Part of me feels like we should be giving the food away to the people because we’re growing it on their land. But if they’re able to work, they should be farming for themselves, at least having a little plot of corn.

 

A few have become inspired to go out there and do it themselves. And I’ve noticed a higher level of pride among the people about being Native and preserving their way of life.

I see this plan spreading to different communities, not just the reservations but all over the place. I see other communities coming over here and learning, and taking that back to their people and starting it up all over again. We see it happening on a global scale already. There are farmers meeting together from all over the world. We need to all work together as land-based people and not look at what color we are or where we come from, because the land is not like that. Creator is not exclusive, so there’s no reason we should be. They tell us, “The more biodiversity you have, the richer your soil is going to be.” It’s like that with people. The more different kinds of people you have, the more we’re going to be able to survive. That’s why we need everybody working together. We can’t compartmentalize ourselves. That’s what industrial agriculture does.

If people would only open their eyes and their ears and their hearts to living in community, everything would work so much smoother. It’s not a Native thing. Community is a human thing. It’s already in us, we just have to bring it back out. One person can grow corn, one person can grow something else, and they can share. That’s how people used to survive way back when.


What we’re doing is very simple. These ideas are not an alternative for us, they’re just a way of life. We’re just doing what Creator meant for us to do.

 

Inspired? Here are a few suggestions for getting involved!

 

  • Just Harvest USA bridges the healthy and local food movement with the farmworker rights movement. Join them (www.justharvestusa.org/getinvolved.html).
  • Grassroots groups all over the US are forming food policy councils to strengthen food systems that meet local needs. Consider joining one near you, or starting your own (www.foodsecurity.org/FPC/council.html).
  • The US Food Sovereignty Alliance brings together food justice initiatives to organize for domestic food sovereignty and link up with the global movement for food sovereignty. Consider having your organization join (www.usfoodsovereigntyalliance.org).
  • Organize a local campaign to protect your community from corporate farming and other corporate takeovers of natural resources. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund runs the Democracy Schools to help you get started (www.celdf.org).
  • Organize a plant or seed swap. Boycott corporate-owned seeds, especially those owned by the largest agro-corporations such as Monsanto and Syngenta. Get involved with campaigns against agro-giants; check out the Organic Consumers’ campaign against Monsanto (www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/index.cfm).
  • Sign up for the Community Food Security Coalition’s policy email list for monthly updates on federal policy that affects community food security. Check out their platform for the 2012 Farm Bill (www.foodsecurity.org/2012FarmBill.html).
  • Encourage your or your child’s school to buy local and healthy food through farm-to-school programs.
  • Organize with other parents or students to make it happen (www.farmtoschool.org).
  • Share a garden space with your neighbors or friends. Share your harvest with those you love (and those you haven’t met yet!).

 

And check out the following resources and organizations:

 

 

 

Discover more ideas and download the entire Birthing Justice series here.


Beverly Bell has worked for more than three decades as an advocate, organizer, and writer in collaboration with social movements in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the U.S. Her focus areas are just economies, democratic participation, and gender justice. Beverly currently serves as associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and coordinator of Other Worlds. She is author of Walking on Fire: Haitian Women Stories of Survival and Resistance and of the forthcoming Fault Lines: Views Across Haiti’s Divide.

Copyleft Beverly Bell. You may reprint this article in whole or in part.  Please credit any text or original research you use to Beverly Bell, Other Worlds.

http://www.otherworldsarepossible.org/another-haiti-possible/withho...

Withholding Water:
Cholera, Prejudice, and the Right to Water in Haiti

Part I

By Deepa Panchang
May 31, 2012

Cholera is something they sent,” says graffiti on Port-au-Prince walls, “to finish killing off the rest of us.”

Scientists have shown that the cholera pathogen came to Haiti with foreign UN troops who carried the bacteria in their bodies, and whose military base was dumping its sewage into a nearby river. The imported disease has claimed more than 7,000 lives and continues to ravage communities across Haiti. Despite billions in post-earthquake aid dollars and hundreds of humanitarian NGOs, the country still faces a dearth of water and sanitation services, further fueling the epidemic. Nearly half a million internally displaced people (IDPs) still live since the 2010 earthquake in makeshift camps under tarps, torn tents, and pieces of old fabric and cardboard, an ideal environment for cholera.
The situation raises serious questions about the humanitarian mechanism and its priorities. Why do so many people still lack the most basic of services? What factors are guiding humanitarian agencies’ decisions to provide or withhold them?

Read more about the results of a study answering these questions in this multi-part series. The first article focuses on how neglect of humanitarian standards and lack of commitment to human rights led to deliberate decisions to cut services that left hundreds of thousands without water and sanitation, thus allowing cholera to spike. In the next article, we will examine NGO personnel’s negative perceptions about residents of the displacement camps, and how these perceptions abetted their decisions to deny services. The final piece takes a step back to look at the political dynamics that have historically left large gaps in water and sanitation infrastructure in Haiti, and how these trends continue. Throughout, we highlight grassroots groups that are working towards Haitian-driven alternatives.

Days after a cholera outbreak was announced in October, 2010, local Port-au-Prince organizations Asanblé Vwazen Solino (Solino Neighborhood Assembly) and Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye (Noise Travels, News Spreads) scraped together shoe-string budgets, designed a flyer, and plunged into a steam-roller campaign. Says Esaie Jean-Jules, the Information Coordinator with Solino Neighborhood Assembly, “We rented a vehicle, put a sound system on it and printed flyers in Creole explaining how cholera is contracted, and how people can combat the disease by handwashing and treating water. We climbed on top of the truck and used a microphone to tell people these things everywhere we went.”

These groups were driven by the belief that all people deserve to be cholera-free. Now, a year and a half after this first-line response and even the first protests demanding accountability from the UN, recorded cholera deaths have surpassed 7,000, with almost 550,000 people infected.[i] Actual numbers could be much, much higher.

The conditions allowing for this epidemic are human-made. The poor humanitarian response has aggravated the spread of the imported pathogen. We’ve known since 1854 - when the physician John Snow discovered the source of a London cholera epidemic and put a stop to it – that clean water is all it takes to sever the fecal-oral route on which the bacteria depends. However, few of the people still living in hundreds of internal displacement camps have access to clean drinking water. There are more than 4,000 camp residents for every one water source (i.e. a tank or other receptacle) and only 30% of those have an adequate level of chlorination, according to the most recent data. As for sanitation, which is important for keeping fecal matter away from water sources, there are more than 110 camp residents for every toilet.[ii]

The Pan-American Health Organization has stated that cholera could infect 200,000-250,000 this year in Haiti.[iii] In a recent alert, the organization Partners in Health warns us, “When the rains came last year, the number of cholera cases nearly tripled from 18,908 in April to 50,405 in June. This year could be worse, but it doesn't need to be.” This fear has already become truth, however: with another rainy season drenching the country, cholera is again on the rise.

How could the same pattern – vast under-provision of water and sanitation leading to a rainy-season surge in cholera cases – be repeating itself? To begin answering this question, we must look at the organizations in charge of the humanitarian response and why they have failed to provide the necessary services. Although government is normally, and ideally, the final party responsible for providing services like water and sanitation, circumstances made it virtually impossible for the Haitian government to assume this responsibility. It has longbeen grossly underfunded, particularly for provision of public services, due in part to a history of debt and requirements on foreign aid that included the slashing of social sector budgets. The situation has deteriorated with the earthquake which battered the Haitian government, damaging or destroying every high-level government building, killing thousands of employees, and obliterating infrastructure and records. Exacerbating the government’s current incapacity has been the fact that earthquake relief dollars have overwhelmingly bypassed it. While $6 billion have been disbursed to Haiti, including private donations from more than one in two US households, only one percent has gone to the Haitian government.[iv] Instead, almost all donations have gone straight to large non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These are agencies such as the Red Cross, Save the Children, and CARE, typically headquartered in capital cities of industrialized nations, that one commonly thinks of when donating to crisis-relief.

NGOs were thus the only ones endowed with the funding and capacity to carry out the needed relief. And they took on a responsibility towards Haitians to provide services, known in the jargon of the aid world as “the humanitarian imperative.” They also took on a responsibility to the taxpayers in the US and elsewhere who have paid much of their bill. In fact, ‘non-governmental’ is actually a misnomer since many of the agencies, like Save the Children and Catholic Relief Services, get at least half of their funding from the US government.[v]

In assuming these responsibilities, NGOs began coordinating among themselves through the UN humanitarian system, which hosts what are dubbed “cluster meetings.” The group of NGOs involved in water and sanitation meets as a “WASH [water, sanitation, and hygiene] cluster,” which divided the city up into slices of NGO turf, with each NGO agreeing to take responsibility for water and sanitation in certain camps. Although the governmental water agency, DINEPA, co-coordinates the cluster, it’s those with the resources and capacity – the NGOs – that really make the who, what, and where decisions. If they decide not to provide services to particular camps, those camps simply do not receive services. So, as a body vested with authority by the UN, acknowledged by the Haitian government, and run by well-financed NGOs, we can legitimately ask: why did they not deliver? Why were interventions that could have stopped or at least slowed cholera in its tracks not implemented on a mass scale?

Hoping to answer some of these questions through research I was doing as a graduate student of public health, I conducted a study of IDP camps and foreign NGO officials in Port-au-Prince to gauge attitudes towards the humanitarian work being done in the WASH sector in 2011. My research partner, Silvan Vesenbeckh, and I interviewed internally displaced people (IDPs) in 16 camps, 52 individuals working for major NGOs doing WASH work in these camps, and relevant officials with the International Organization for Migration and UN agencies. I analyzed the transcripts of all these interviews, categorizing respondents by type (NGO official, UN official, camp resident, etc.), and used qualitative analysis techniques to identify trends in themes and opinions among each type of respondent. What I’m sharing here are the results of that analysis.*

Overall, the interviews pointed to a lack of commitment to human rights and humanitarian standards that led to NGOs’ deliberate decisions not to provide aid. And, as will be discussed more in the next article, thenegative perceptions about camp residents prevalent among the NGO community were significant factors leading to the relaxation of standards and negligence of human rights. They reflect what is destructive about the overarching ways NGOs interact with recipients of aid and with Haitian society more broadly.

Rights? “Virtually no mention of it” 

A commitment to human rights in post-disaster work is important for at least two basic reasons. First, all human beings, particularly in times of catastrophe and extreme poverty, deserve a certain level of basic necessities – such as water, shelter, freedom from violence. Second, people’s poverty and need should not subject them to aid provision that is disrespectful, culturally inappropriate, insufficient, or without their input. In other words, the process of providing aid is just as important as the aid itself. (To translate this to an example we can more likely relate to: it’s not okay for a physician to offer lower quality treatment to her Medicaid or Medicare patients than to her privately insured ones.) A human rights approach requires NGOs to implement policies that make their programs more sensitive to vulnerable groups – such as ensuring that latrines are not set up in a way that aggravates gender-based violence, setting basic standards of quality and quantity in how much water people get, and ensuring that the camp committees they partner with are gender-representative. Human rights also introduces accountability, meaning that although international human rights treaties are usually legally binding only for governments, they also constitute a set of guidelines that NGOs often use as guidance, and that aid recipients can use to hold NGOs to their word.

However, the absence of human rights commitments was evident at all levels of NGO operations in Haiti, beginning with formal project mission statements and plans. My review of the Haiti coverage on the NGOs’ websites, as well as their Haiti progress reports published one year after the earthquake (in the cases where such existed), revealed that only one out of the 14 explicitly mention the right to water or sanitation. Only two of them had any mention of human rights at all.

What about NGO officials? Were they talking about human rights, like the right to water or the right to health? The WASH cluster – composed of NGO representatives discussing water and sanitation – was the perfect place to examine this. When asked about human rights, one aid worker put it bluntly, saying, “There’s virtually no mention of it in the WASH cluster.” The majority of NGO officials we interviewed had the same assessment. Corroborating this, a text search of the WASH cluster mailing list dialogue (which scanned 791 email messages between NGOs from 2010 and 2011), turned up only one message with a mention of “human rights,” and it did not relate to water or sanitation. Given that the cluster is where NGOs coordinate most water and sanitation decisions, the lack of human rights commitments in cluster discourse and NGO consciousness bodes poorly.

“Sphere Standards are not applicable in Haiti”

One way to measure agencies’ commitment to the principles of human rights, even if they are not using the language, is through their adherence to the “Sphere Minimum Standards in Disaster Response.” Commonly known as “Sphere Standards,” these are widely recognized guidelines for provision of basic needs in disaster settings. The Sphere Standards are well-known among the international humanitarian community and often talked about in cluster meetings. They require, for example, that aid-givers provide a minimum of 15 liters of water daily per person, and at least one toilet per every 20 people. While these numbers certainly do not represent achievement of rights, they at least set a floor in moving towards them.

Although the Sphere Standards are used as guidance in humanitarian settings around the world, of the 17 NGO officials in Haiti who discussed Sphere Standards in their interviews, all of them stated that these standards were not applicable or realistic in Haiti. In particular, they said, they would not aim to build one toilet for every 20 people. Why not? Camps are too crowded for toilets, said some. Camp residents have access to toilets in neighborhoods, said others. Camp residents we spoke to disputed both of these claims, with the overwhelming majority saying more toilets were vital, often pointing to spots in the camp where they’d like to see facilities installed. Yes, camps were crowded, they said, but that made proper sanitation all the more necessary.

According to other officials, Sphere Standards “don’t apply in urban settings.” This is patently false according to Sphere’s own published guidance and a Sphere Standards expert we consulted. Moreover, it has not been standard practice in other countries to change the rules in urban areas. No one cited examples of the standard being changed in this way anywhere else.

Regardless, the WASH cluster took these officials’ opinions to heart, and, in mid-2010 adopted a modified standard for toilet provision, declaring that 100, instead of 20, people per toilet was an acceptable goal for NGOs. That’s one port-a-potty for 100 people to use as their primary bathroom, and an overfilled, under-maintained one at that. In actuality, the average number of people per toilet among the camps I sampled was 177.

Moreover, a few months after the cholera outbreak, the WASH cluster announced the termination of free water distribution to camps by the end of March 2011 – just as cholera cases were making a resurgence with the rainy season.[vi] Free provision of water was simply “not sustainable,” wrote the cluster in its announcement.

Today, as a result of these intentional decisions on the part of foreign NGO and UN officials, the overwhelming majority of camps have no water or sanitation. As of March 2012, two percent of IDPs had access to water trucked into the camps (down from 48% in March 2011). There were 3991 functional latrines for the camp population of nearly half a million.[vii] With the deluge of new rain in 2012, camp residents trudge through often ankle-deep mud and water that snakes its way into the plastic shelters worn down from more than two years of facing the elements. According to the most recent statistics from the WASH cluster, in half of all camps people are forced to defecate in open air. This means people often tie up human waste in plastic bags and toss it into a nearby drainage ditch. Children, being children, don’t always bother with the plastic.

These ingredients for a renewed upsurge in cholera have already proved their potency. Doctors Without Borders issued urgent appeals this April, reporting that admissions to its cholera treatment centers in Port-au-Prince and a neighboring city tripled in less than a month. Yet treatment is hard to come by. Half the NGOs working in the Artibonite region, where the disease was introduced, have now reportedly left. A letter is circulating in the US Congress demanding that the UN and international community step up the response.

At the end of a typical day in a camp, residents scrape up what food they have been lucky enough to find that day while aid workers retire to leafy restaurants to shake off the heat over a fish filet or cocktail. One has to wonder whether this is the kind of disconnect that makes conceivable the decision to cut off water to a camp, or to treat bathrooms as optional luxury items. But what do officials themselves have to say about this? Why the neglect of humanitarian standards and human rights guidance? In the next article, you’ll hear quotes from NGO officials suggesting that their detachment from local populations and skepticism of camp conditions led to beliefs that IDPs were exaggerating their desperation, systematically trying to con the system. This often overtook officials’ genuine concern for IDPs’ well-being. We’ll also get a glimpse of Haitian groups working towards the health and leadership of their fellow Haitians and in particular, the most vulnerable, driven by their underlying belief in human rights.

*Respondents’ names are not given as interviews for the study were conducted anonymously.

Sign these petitions telling the UN to take responsibility for introducing cholera into Haiti and to help stop the epidemic: Just Foreign Policy Petition & Baseball in the Time of Cholera Petition.

The study described was part of a Master’s thesis at the Harvard School of Public Health. For a copy of the full paper, contact deepa.otherworlds@gmail.com. Special thanks to Professor Stephen Marks and Silvan Vesenbeckh at the Harvard School of Public Health, Professor Mark Schuller at the City University of New York, and Ben Depp for sharing his remarkable photography.




[i] Just Foreign Policy, “Haiti Cholera Counter,” May 30, 2012, http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/haiti-cholera-counter.

[ii] DINEPA, “Présentation des résultats Enquête EPAH / WASH,” April 2012.

[iii] “Haiti’s Cholera Crisis,” New York Times, May 12, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/opinion/sunday/haitis-cholera-cri...

[iv] Vijaya Ramachandran and Julie Walz, “Haiti: Where Has All the Money Gone?” Center for Global Development, Policy Paper 004, May 2012, http://www.cgdev.org/content/publications/detail/1426185.

[v] Including grants, contracts, and in-kind donations such as commodities and services from the US government. KPMG, LLP, Save the Children Federation, Inc Financial Statements  (December 31, 2010), 3, http://www.savethechildren.org/atf/cf/%7B9def2ebe-10ae-432c-9bd0-df...; and Catholic Relief Services, 2010 Annual Report (2010), 40, http://crs.org/2010-annual-report/.

[vi] WASH Cluster Situation Report, Haïti. March 23, 2011.

[vii] DINEPA, “Présentation des résultats Enquête EPAH / WASH,” April 2012.

Deepa Panchang is the Education and Outreach Coordinator for Other Worlds. She has worked in advocacy for human rights in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. You can access all of Other Worlds' past articles regarding post-earthquake Haiti here.

Copyleft Other Worlds. You may reprint this article in whole or in part.  Please credit any text or original research you use to Deepa Panchang, Other Worlds.

BIRTHING JUSTICE: Challenging Globalization Head-On: Women Confronting Poverty

 http://www.otherworldsarepossible.org/other-worlds/birthing-justice...

By Beverly Bell

June 1, 2012

 

Welcome to Birthing Justice: Women Creating Economic and Social Alternatives. The series features twelve alternative social and economic models which expand the possibilities for justice, equity, and strong community. They are based in the US, Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Some are national-level, some global-level. Some are propelled by people’s movements, some forced or adopted into government policy. In first-hand narratives, women describe their role in having created the models and show us their unique perspectives and challenges in the movements.

 

Below is the tenth narrative of Birthing Justice.

 

^^^^

Mary Ann Manahan helps rural women in the Philippines build their knowledge, strength, and political voice. Here she speaks of how women are creating alternatives to violence and poverty in their lives. They use strategies for change that start at the household and community, and then connect to the global level, so they can confront the crippling impacts of globalization.

 

Mary Ann Manahan | Manila, Philippines

It’s very inspiring for many young feminists and young activists like me to see how, in the midst of globalization, the most vulnerable women are using collective action to build their strength. These are people who are considered victims, who’ve faced decades of being battered by wrong agricultural policies and by their husbands, of not being taken seriously by the government or even by their male counterparts in the farmers’ movement.

 

Women are called “shock absorbers” because they are the first to feel the crises caused by the economic and social insecurity of globalization, and right now specifically by the financial crisis. Essentially, the global economy is being run on the backs of women, especially women in the global South.

 

But, even in the most vulnerable sector of society, women have strength. They get it from within their family and from interacting with fellow women.

 

In my many interactions and dialogues with women in the rural and informal sectors – not only in the Philippines but around the world – I see women bonded by the same ideals and vision: they need to get out of poverty and they can do that through concerted political action. And they hold the long vision that they can actually change the world.

 

Many of the women that I work with are trying to link what’s happening at the local level, through their lived experiences, with the national and global levels. They see that their problems are no longer limited to their localities or communities. Since globalization has made the issues global, so too are their strategies, solutions and alternatives – but also while trying to change their government and emphasizing the importance of the local economy. What they do is to try to understand the bigger picture, locate themselves in it, and see how they can get out of the situation.

 

Trying to grapple with very complex processes and how they traverse household and community levels, you would be surprised that the women actually get it right away. They say, for instance, “When the global food crisis struck last year, it was really difficult for us to get cheaper rice. So as a coping mechanism, we moved the schedule of eating to have a brunch – no snacks anymore – and then dinner.”

 

One strategy the women have used is information and education campaigns. They go house-to-house and talk to women in the communities. They call for a meeting in someone’s house. They normally open up with topics that are very dear to the heart of the women or issues that plague their communities.

 

Another important piece is confidence-building. Having been battered so much, they don’t normally have the confidence to present themselves as women of knowledge, or women who can actually insist on their rights. Central in their interactions is women’s rights and the importance of changing gender relations.

 

Once they have enough knowledge and confidence, another strategy is doing trainings to improve their skills in light of government policies. They’re now ready for a much bigger arena of engagement: collectively going to the mayors and local executive to insist, for example, that we have a policy where 5% of the budget goes to gender and development projects. They also want to be recognized formally as stakeholders who should be consulted when it comes to the development projects and policies that will affect them and the whole community. Many of the women leaders engage with national congress in passing pro-women and pro-reproductive policies. Rural women have also pushed for recognition as agrarian reform beneficiaries and as farmers.

 

Another strategy which is equally important is networking and coalition-building, linking up with other sectors in Filipino society. These women understand that they can learn a lot about what can work in their own circumstances from other experiences. At the same time, you know, there’s a lot of strength in numbers. They see that as long as they’re together in a collective, they can have a louder voice. In 2001, recognizing the need for an all-women network, they built a national coalition of rural women. That coalition is actually making a lot of dents in getting support services for themselves as farmers and producers, at the local, national, and even the global levels. These women are carving out a space to survive collectively in this very tumultuous time. It’s a very beautiful experience.

 

To learn more about Mary Ann Manahan’s organization, Focus on the Global South, please see www.focusweb.org.

 

Inspired? Here are a few suggestions for getting involved!

 

 

And check out the following resources and organizations:

 

 

 

Discover more ideas and download the entire Birthing Justice series here.


Beverly Bell has worked for more than three decades as an advocate, organizer, and writer in collaboration with social movements in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the U.S. Her focus areas are just economies, democratic participation, and gender justice. Beverly currently serves as associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and coordinator of Other Worlds. She is author of Walking on Fire: Haitian Women Stories of Survival and Resistance and of the forthcoming Fault Lines: Views Across Haiti’s Divide.

Copyleft Beverly Bell. You may reprint this article in whole or in part.  Please credit any text or original research you use to Beverly Bell, Other Worlds.

 


Photo courtesy of Mary Ann Manahan.

 

 

 

BIRTHING JUSTICE: Not Wasting the Waste: Creating Environmental Sustainability

 http://www.otherworldsarepossible.org/other-worlds/birthing-justice...

By Beverly Bell

June 9, 2012

 

Welcome to Birthing Justice: Women Creating Economic and Social Alternatives. The series features twelve alternative social and economic models which expand the possibilities for justice, equity, and strong community. They are based in the US, Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Some are national-level, some global-level. Some are propelled by people’s movements, some forced or adopted into government policy. In first-hand narratives, women describe their role in having created the models and show us their unique perspectives and challenges in the movements.

 

Below is the eleventh narrative of Birthing Justice.

 

^^^^

S. Ushakumari is a horticulturist who has been working with a public interest research organization, Thanal, for the past 22 years. Part of her life’s work is a movement which is sweeping the globe: zero waste. Instead of seeking to “manage” waste, this philosophy and campaign aim to eliminate it. Zero waste considers the entire life cycle of material objects – natural resource extraction, processing, production, transportation, consumption, and disposal – which is exhausting the planet’s resources and creating increased pollution. Zero waste re-examines consumption with an ethical, economic, and environmental eye. It starts with the humble elements of waste reduction: re-using, recycling and composting. But it goes further, requiring companies to change the way they design and manufacture goods so that they are free of toxins, and getting government to change policies and laws. Ultimately, zero waste aims to create a society that lives sustainably on a finite resource base. In the process, it strengthens local economies with jobs, reduces energy demands and thus climate change, and saves local governments money that is spent cleaning up industries’ messes.

 

S. Ushakumari | Kerala, India

Zero waste came to us as an alternative to the current waste management paradigm of burning or burying, which is actually wasting the waste itself.

 

Tourists like to come and visit [the town of] Kovalam but, in the past ten to fifteen years since globalization hit, the state of Kerala has been having a problem of excessive waste. The figures showed that the tourist flow was actually going down in Kovalam because of waste. The tourism department became very concerned. They had what they thought was a good idea: burn the waste and make it disappear. Like a miracle.

 

When we [at Thanal] came to know about the incineration and problems associated with it, we held a press conference as a first step to starting a campaign, which the media took up in a very positive manner.

We also communicated with leaders in the community who really felt attacked by the idea of incineration, because it’s a thickly populated area.

 

Then the tourism director at that time, who was a medical professional, had a discussion with us. He asked, “Why you are you opposing this?” We gave him all of the written documents against incineration. Then he said, “Okay. Because of the information you gave me, I stopped the project. But, now, I need to solve the problem. Can you help me out?” He said, “Come up with some ideas and we’ll support you.”

 

Discussions with the Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance [GAIA] gave us the idea of zero waste. We started by identifying the kind of waste that was in Kovalam. We found out that almost 70 to 80 percent of the waste could be recycled or reused.

 

Women in the town got inspired by the whole idea of an alternate approach to waste management, and that’s how we began. With the support of the tourism department, we started a zero waste center, which was a resource education center to do training with women, students, farmers, and policy-makers. Almost immediately, we were training up to 400 women – not very many men actually came forward – and also some local organizations who were working with street children.

 

Some of the women were interested in developing an enterprise. In 2004, they started the Pioneer Paper Bag Unit. They talked to hoteliers in and around Kovalam and got the hotel industry to start realizing the problems with the materials they were wasting, including newspaper. They were just dumping it in the city garbage which was, in turn, getting dumped into some corner of the city premises. Some of the hoteliers started freely giving their waste paper to the Pioneer Paper Bag Unit. The unit made paper bags to give back to the hotel, so it was like completing the cycle. They also got one-sided papers [sheets in which one side is blank] from some of the computer centers and they made notebooks. I can happily say that the unit works in an economically sustainable manner.

 

Another material we started using was coconut shells, because Kerala is known for coconut. We found a good craft person, and we got him to train a few women. Most of these women had no idea of art, and now they make beautiful things out of the shells.

We’ve started recycling another resource, waste cloth. There are almost 140 tailor shops in Kovalam where foreigners come to get Indian clothes because they’re very cheap here. The tailors cut the clothes and they just dump the waste somewhere or burn it. Luckily, we got an artist who was working on waste clothes, who held trainings for women. They started producing lot of beautiful products, like banners and wall hangings, backpacks, and bags. I like to call it “patch-working women’s lives.”

 

So, we had three products: coconut shells, waste clothes, and the Pioneer Paper Bag products. Once they mastered production, the next issue was marketing. So we started an enterprise development program, which was run initially by three women.

 

More important than the numbers has been the capacity that’s been built among women who are closely associated with the zero waste centers. You should come and see it; only then would you believe what change can happen to these local, illiterate women. One woman in the Pioneer Paper Bag Unit, Seema, she was just sitting at home when she heard about our training program. She came forward, but she was very shy. She couldn’t even talk in public. In the last five years, she’s actually become a leader in the Unit, and she’s also a part-time enterprise development program person. Now you should see her, the way she talks to any kind of person: government official, minister, delegate coming from outside the county, anybody. There are a lot of similar women. Actually, we were never thinking about empowering women at that point of time, but through zero waste, it happened.

 

Also, in ten schools in the area, we’ve started a program called bio-diversity and food security. We’re promoting worm compositing, which means all the organic waste that is generated from the children’s lunchboxes or public lunch program goes to the worm compost, and then into the gardens in the schools. The children and teachers are getting hands-on training in bio-diversity and food security to make the cycle complete. The vegetable gardens are producing almost 20 to 30 percent of the vegetables for the noon meal programs. And now the children are collecting seeds and starting the same program in their homes. They come from the urban poor, and they’ve understood the mportance of bio-diversity. I am sure this connection between food, waste, and the toxics will reach other schools in Kerala.

 

We hold a summer camp and organize explorations for the children, and we sometimes take the parents also, so it becomes a regular outreach program for the community with film showings and everything. We also thought, let’s have the children learn the skills for making toys with non-toxic materials. We’ve reached a point where now, the children have started understanding climate change and how it’s linked to the waste issue, how it’s linked to the food production system, how it’s linked to industrialization processes.

 

The zero waste team is working with the government for a program in schools in Kerala. They’ve come out with a handbook for the schools, and they conducted workshops for the teachers with this manual. We have 14 districts, and in every district, a few schools will be piloting this idea to create zero waste schools. Once the children understand the problem of waste, they’ll be able to carry the message back home. Some schools are also doing water and energy conservation.

 

We’re also working at a state-wide policy level. One of our main zero waste campaigners was invited to be part of a governmental team to frame the state of Kerala’s waste policy. And this team’s final zero waste document was released in 2008 by the honorable president of India.

 

One of the important programs that we started is poison-free farming. Once we understood what kind of pesticides the farmers use, we started discussing with the local government, with the women’s groups, with the local farmers, who are mostly men. All the women understood that the pesticides were creating problems for themselves and the children. And they said, “We want to be trained in organic farming.” We trained them how to ban toxic pesticides, how to make local, organic manure, and things like that. We started with three women and within one year’s time, it grew to three groups of women.

One of the beautiful parts of the whole project was, once we started farming, the children started eating vegetables. That was a real eye-opener for the mothers.

 

The chief, or president, of the local government really got interested in the program because he was also basically a farmer. He said, “The local government can put some money to take this program forward. In five years time, we have to completely change this village into organic.”

 

When we started organic farming, as I said, all the women came forward, but we understood that involving women still wouldn’t solve the issue of pesticides. We had to change the farmers, the men, also. Initially, we were not into marketing the organics. Our idea had been that the poor people should eat the food, so we encouraged that, and they were doing it. But then we thought, “Let’s start organic marketing, so we can motivate more male farmers to change their agricultural practices. At least it can be chemical-free, it can be pesticide-free, and it can be fertilizer-free later on.” And that really worked. It’s just very small-scale farming, but one can see the improvements in the productivity and in the diversity of the crops we cultivate. And because of our work, the Minister of Agriculture has framed an organic farming policy for the state of Kerala.

 

The idea from Kovalam has gone all over the world now, which I think is the most beautiful part of the project. At least six or seven states are now modeling their zero waste programs after the one in Kovalam. Other countries — like the tourism department in the Philippines — are keen on implementing a zero waste program.

 

I think zero waste is what Gandhiji taught us. He didn’t coin the words ‘zero waste’, but what he told us about self-reliance, about non-violence, it’s all the principle of zero waste. The basic philosophy, the basic efforts, the basic understanding, is the same.

 

To learn more about S. Ushakumari’s organization, Thanal, please see www.thanal.co.in.

 

Thanks to Suchi Daga for help in editing this interview.
Photos by THANAL.

 

 

Inspired? Here are a few suggestions for getting involved!

 

  • Re-assess what you need and learn about the repercussions of what you buy. Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff (Free Press, 2010) provides detailed information about the global materials economy and suggests policies and actions that could make it more fair and sustainable. Visit The Story of Stuff Project’s website to see a fact filled 20-minute animation about the root causes and effects of consumption.
  • Changing our individual consumption habits is important, but ultimately corporations produce the majority of the world’s waste, fueling climate change. National government and international governing bodies are the only ones who can regulate this waste, yet feeble efforts at regulation often result in benefiting the big polluters. Check out Basel Action Network for more on international regulation of toxic waste (www.ban.org).
  • Lobby elected officials for stronger industry regulations and on other environmental issues. Get started with Pesticide Action Network’s action guide (www.panna.org/get-involved/action-center/hold-leaders-accountable).
  • Learn more about real solutions to climate change and see how you can get involved at The Story of Stuff Project’s Cap and Trade Take Action webpage (www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-cap-trade/act).
  • Most of the food sold in the US travels 1000 - 1500 miles. Work to eliminate enormous levels of waste in the form of fuel by strengthening your own local economy. Lobby to make local and national laws friendlier to businesses that buy and sell local products and to family farms that bring their harvest to neighborhood markets. Check out Georgia Organics’ Action and Advocacy webpage to see one example of effective advocacy for a stronger local economy (www.georgiaorganics.org/takeaction.aspx).
  • So much of what we buy new and packaged in plastic can be bought or found used. Salvage construction materials, visit your dump’s ‘swap shop,’ dress up your wardrobe at used clothing stores, and use your local junk yard for car parts.
  • Everyday opportunities to create less wasteful habits include:
  • Hanging your clothes out to dry instead of using the dryer;
  • Lowering the temperature of your hot water heater;
  • Asking your local grocery store, farmers’ market, or CSA to phase out plastic bags. Many cities have banned plastic bags from their store checkout lines. Lobby your city to do the same; and
  • Avoiding bottled water. Visit Corporate Accountability International’s water webpage to tell your governor to think outside bottled water.

 

And check out the following resources and organizations:

 

 

 

Discover more ideas and download the entire Birthing Justice series here.


Beverly Bell has worked for more than three decades as an advocate, organizer, and writer in collaboration with social movements in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the U.S. Her focus areas are just economies, democratic participation, and gender justice. Beverly currently serves as associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and coordinator of Other Worlds. She is author of Walking on Fire: Haitian Women Stories of Survival and Resistance and of the forthcoming Fault Lines: Views Across Haiti’s Divide.

Copyleft Beverly Bell. You may reprint this article in whole or in part.  Please credit any text or original research you use to Beverly Bell, Other Worlds.

 

http://www.otherworldsarepossible.org/another-haiti-possible/birthi...

BIRTHING JUSTICE: And You, What Are You Waiting For?: A World without Slavery

 

By Beverly Bell

June 16, 2012

 

Welcome to Birthing Justice: Women Creating Economic and Social Alternatives. The series features twelve alternative social and economic models which expand the possibilities for justice, equity, and strong community. They are based in the US, Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Some are national-level, some global-level. Some are propelled by people’s movements, some forced or adopted into government policy. In first-hand narratives, women describe their role in having created the models and show us their unique perspectives and challenges in the movements.

 

Below is the twelfth narrative of Birthing Justice.

 

^^^^

Today there are up to 27 million slaves in the world, more than at any time in history, even including during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.[1] In many cases, the slave systems are facilitated by the spike in global trade in a quest for global profits. Though that trade is often called ‘free’, what is in fact free is the movement of the captives across borders – free as in easy – and their labor – free as in unpaid.

 

Haiti is home to one form of slavery propelled by economic desperation. Parents who cannot feed or school their children regularly give them away in the hopes that the family receiving them will offer more than they themselves can. Instead, the children usually end up in forced servitude, as restavèk or “stay with’s.” Anywhere from

225,000 to 300,000 restavèk work every day from before sunup to way after sundown.[2] The children are as young as three, with girls between six and 14 years old comprising 65% of the population.[3] They are often sexually and physically abused.

 

Helia Lajeunesse is part of a group of restavèk who are raising visibility of and opposition to the system. The survivors are joined with other social sectors who are working for a more just economy, since abolition resides largely in eradicating the economic desperation of parents.

 

Helia is also part of a global movement of people working toward a world where

no one is commodified, and where the dignity and rights of each can flourish.

 

 

Helia Lajeunesse | Port-au-Prince, Haiti

The restavèk system is modern slavery. When a family takes in a restavèk to live with

them, they stop doing any work in the house. The restavèk child has to do everything. If

the child doesn’t work hard enough, they beat them. The child can’t eat with the family,

and usually doesn’t even eat the same food – just scraps. He or she sleeps on the floor,

often in the kitchen. They don’t pay the child; they just give them a little food. They never send him or her to school. The family views that child as an animal.

 

It’s such a horrible system and it’s due to the economic situation of the country. You might have a family that has a lot of kids; that family can’t afford to give the child even food so they send him or her to the home of someone else, in the hopes that that person can provide better care.

 

Let me give you an example from my own life. I had five children. They lost their father.

I couldn’t feed them. I was obliged to give four away, even though the youngest was only three years old. I only kept the littlest who wasn’t even a year old then.

 

When I went to Washington to talk about restavèk, what made me so sad was to go to a museum that had an exhibit on slavery. I saw a picture of a woman with a hoe, a basket under her elbow, and a rope around her waist. That’s how my life had been as a

restavèk. It made me cry.

 

Here’s my story. My mother died when I was seven months old. I went to live with my grandmother, but she died when I was five. My relatives didn’t have the means to care for me, so they gave me to someone. I went to live at that person’s house as a restavèk. I was the one who got up first and went to bed last. Whatever work had to happen there, I was the one to do it. I got up at 4:00 to make the fire and cook the food. I was the one who had to go get the water and carry it back up the mountain on my head. They didn’t give me any food from what they ate; I had to go out into the street and scrounge around to get my own food. They used to beat me on the head.

 

One day, I was coming back from delivering food to the child of the house, which I had to carry on my head to her at school every day. There was a man holding a school under a thatched hut. He called to me, “Come be part of this school.” I said, “No, I can’t, because when I go home, my aunt [the common term for the guardian] will beat me.” He said, “You should come.” I went. Then when I went home, I said, “There was a man holding a school today, so I attended.” She said, “What? You went to school?” I said, “Yes, and could you please give me a little pencil and a notebook?” She asked me what I thought I was doing and started beating me.

 

Poverty and misery made me not know how to read and write, or count in my head, until I was a grown-up.

 

Through my childhood and youth, I escaped three times and went to different homes, four in all. But each time, I suffered as badly or worse than before. I was abused so much. Misery was killing me.

 

When I was nine years old, the child of the home fell down at school and hurt her knee. I told her mother that. The mother called the police to come arrest me, and I spent a day in the police station. Everyone said to her, “Your daughter just fell down. You shouldn’t do that to this girl.” So she came to free me.

 

I said to myself, “One day, my life is going to change.” Despite that, though, I kept on

suffering misery.

 

A young man started liking me, a person of good faith. He brought me to Port-au-

Prince and he got us a little room to stay in. He gave me five children. We were living in such poverty. Then in 2004, a gang of men broke into my house. They raped me and my oldest daughter. My husband tried to protest, and they took him away; we’ve never seen him again. My daughter got pregnant, so then I had a grandchild from rape. I was raising five children and a grandchild all by myself.

 

That’s when I found KOFAVIV, the Commission of Women Victim-to-Victim. It’s made up of women who’ve been raped and who were restavèk. They supported me and embraced me and didn’t let me go. They got me health care, got me tested for HIV-AIDS, and found a psychologist who could talk with me. They also got me to be part of a reflection circle, which is sharing about what you’re suffering with a group of women and learning how to move forward. Only then did I learn that my life wasn’t over.

 

But even though my life got a little better, I still suffer so much because my son and my daughter aren’t with me. The reason is that the person who killed their father is close by, and they say they don’t want to come to the neighborhood where I live. As long as that man is around, they’re scared he can come back for them.

 

So my 18-year-old daughter is still living as a restavèk. That hurts my heart so much. Here I am struggling against the system, but I still have a child who is in it. I can’t live in peace. I know that family isn’t treating her well. They haven’t even put her in school.

 

I’m struggling to end slavery in Haiti because I know how I suffered. Even though my life hasn’t changed 100%, it’s not the same way it was. Now I can advocate for people, I

can travel to the US to stand up in front of crowds of people and speak.

 

We do a lot of things in KOFAVIV. We’re working with victims, women who were

restavèk, to help them re-establish their lives. We also embrace children who are restavèk today to help them not get discouraged by life. We have a school that we’ve established in Martissant where children who don’t have a mother or father, or who were raised as restavèk, can now go study. We do professional training for 50 youth.

 

Another thing we do is raise the level of consciousness of people who keep restavèk children. (But I have to tell you, it’s not just families who have restavèk; people also treat their own children this way.) We do theater with them, tell them stories and jokes, try to create a relaxed ambiance. We help them understand that when someone lives in their house, they shouldn’t view her or him as a restavèk. That person is a child. Make their lives easy. Send them to school, give them knowledge. Look on that child as though it’s your own child.

 

We also help parents in the countryside who think they’re doing their child a favor by sending them to go live with a family in town. They think their child is fine. We encourage them to do whatever is within their means to keep their child with them and not give them away into servitude.

 

We’re also getting neighbors to know they have a responsibility, too. We encourage people, when they know a family is mistreating a child, to try to go talk with them. We say, “If you hear someone beating a child in their home, go knock on the door and talk to the person. Tell them to stop beating the child. Tell them that this is a human being and they need to treat them well.” If you go talk a first time and a second time and nothing changes, the third time you can take another level of action. Go talk to the police.

 

When we can’t confront the person directly because we’re worried about what will happen to the child afterward, we put a tape recorder outside the violator’s window to record them beating the child. Then we take that tape to the radio station. The family hears it on the radio and is ashamed, and hopefully gets a different understanding about treatment of the child.

 

We talk to the press and radio about our work. We held a march in Port-au-Prince with thousands of people. We wore T-shirts that said, “I’m against the restavèk system. And you, what are you waiting for?” We did theater in the street, the press was there, everyone saw it. It was beautiful. We gave flyers with the same message to everyone who passed on foot and in cars.

 

We’re seeing a lot of response from our work. I don’t say that everyone is becoming 100% aware of how wrong this slavery is. We’re only in Port-au-Prince; we need it to change out in the countryside, too. But still, we’re seeing people change the way they’re treating the children who are living with them and their own children. For example, there was a woman who used to beat the restavèk child a lot. We invited her to the march. She brought her husband and the child who was living with her. That child used to sleep on a piece of cardboard in a kitchen. Even though the woman didn’t give the child a bed, at least now the girl has somewhere clean to lie down. And now they send the child to see her own family in Jacmel; they didn’t used to do that. The girl is going to school, too. We asked her, “How is your aunt treating you?” She said, “She doesn’t beat me anymore. She even plays with me.”

 

I feel that this slavery will end. It’s an enormous struggle. But just like I’ve learned and am speaking out, everyone will become aware that this system has to end. We need people to stand up for this, not just in KOFAVIV, but in the US, too. I ask everyone to lend their participation, whether it’s through their courage or their ideas, to help this struggle advance, and to stand strong in the work we’re doing.

 

We’re going to continue struggling to do away with this system completely. I can’t

say how soon this will happen, but it will. That’s certain.

 

Note: This interview was taken before the January 12, 2010 earthquake.

 

To learn more about Helia Lajeunesse’s organization, Commission of Women Victim-to-Victim (KOFAVIV), please see www.kofaviv.org and www.beyondborders.net.

 

[1] Kevin Bales, Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy (University of

California Press, 2004), 8.

[2] UNICEF, in its report Haiti 2010-2011: Mid-Year Review of 2010 Humanitarian Action Report, estimates 225,000. Child right advocates typically put the number at 300,000.

[3] US Department of State’s Office to Combat and Monitor Trafficking in Persons, Trafficking in Persons Report 2009, US Department of State, www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/

tiprpt/2009/123140.htm (accessed June 27, 2011).

 

Inspired? Here are a few suggestions for getting involved!

 

  • Not for Sale can connect you to organized efforts to end human trafficking and slavery. Its website provides detailed action items specific to academic, faith, business, and artistic communities (www.notforsalecampaign.org/action).
  • Don’t support manufacturing made by enslaved people. Know who made what you buy and whether they use child and forced labor (www.free2work.org/companies).
  • Learn where specific examples of slavery exist in your community and around the world with Not for
  • Sale’s slavery map (www.slaverymap.org).

 

And check out the following resources and organizations:

 

 

Discover more ideas and download the entire Birthing Justice series here.


Beverly Bell has worked for more than three decades as an advocate, organizer, and writer in collaboration with social movements in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the U.S. Her focus areas are just economies, democratic participation, and gender justice. Beverly currently serves as associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and coordinator of Other Worlds. She is author of Walking on Fire: Haitian Women Stories of Survival and Resistance and of the forthcoming Fault Lines: Views Across Haiti’s Divide.

Copyleft Beverly Bell. You may reprint this article in whole or in part.  Please credit any text or original research you use to Beverly Bell, Other Worlds.

 

“Under Tents”: International Campaign Launch for Housing in Haiti

"The quantity of people who are homeless in Port-au-Prince today is not acceptable. We need the support of other governments, like the US, to demand that the Haitian Government create a social housing plan. We are looking for allies to help our advocacy. We are asking simply for quality homes where people can live." - Jackson Doliscar of the grassroots group Force for Reflection and Action on Housing (FRAKKA).
                                       
Haitian grassroots organizations and international allies are launching an urgent housing rights campaign today, July 2, calling for permanent housing solutions for the nearly 400,000 people who are still living in displacement camps more than two years after the earthquake.
                                       
As part of the Under Tents campaign, Haiti’s homeless are demanding that the government immediately halt all forced evictions until public or affordable housing is made available. They request that the Government of Haiti, with the support of its allies and donor governments in the U.S., Canada, and Europe move quickly to: (1) designate land for housing; (2) create one centralized government housing institution to coordinate and implement a social housing plan; and (3) solicit and allocate funding to realize this plan.

The campaign will press for US Congressional and European Parliamentary action, raise international awareness about the crisis through news media, mobilize international grassroots pressure through a petition, and build an international support movement especially with US and international housing rights organizations.
                                       
Under Tents is a joint initiative of dozens of Haitian grassroots groups and international allies who are committed to a solution for earthquake victims. The hundreds of thousands still living under shredded plastic tarps and tattered tents face high rates of gender-based and other violence, lack access to clean water and toilets, and combat a surge in the cholera epidemic. One in five is also at risk of imminent forced eviction.
                                       
To add your name to the petition, click here.

For updates, check out the campaign's website, Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter at @UnderTentsHaiti.

Here is another critical scope for Community Life Competence!

Please take the time to read this article from my friend John May

JL

Sorry the FT article link went dead. Here it is in full.

An issue that has been long neglected
By John May, Financial Times
July 7, 2012

When Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb in 1968, the world population, then 3bn, was growing at an unprecedented rate due to spectacular declines in mortality levels. Unless countries decided also to “talk fertility down”, as Australian demographer John Caldwell put it, rapid population growth was poised to undermine development.

Many countries, particularly in Asia and Latin America, embarked on organised family planning programmes. As an additional impetus to socioeconomic development efforts, these programmes helped to reduce fertility by 0.5 to 1.5 children per woman. The governments of countries such as South Korea, Thailand, Mexico, and later Iran, all recognised that their population was growing faster than their economies and they were heading for greater poverty. Lowering fertility was seen as a prerequisite for development.

When women were given a range of voluntary family planning options, family size fell from six to two children or fewer. Bangladesh, a conservative Muslim society with low literacy and high infant mortality, used door-to-door visits to provide family planning and today it has near replacement level fertility of two children per woman. By contrast, in Pakistan, which was richer and had a more urbanised and slightly better educated society, the government’s top-down, over-medicalised programme failed.

A coercive sterilisation campaign marred the emergency period in India (1975-1977) and China enacted the one-child policy in 1979. Meanwhile, a number of countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, claimed that socio-economic development was the first priority and resisted investing in large-scale family planning programmes.

In the early 1990s, two US foundations funded meetings of leaders of women’s groups from around the world to prepare for the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). The planners of this initiative wanted to switch the foreign aid money dedicated to family planning to women’s many needs for health, education, property rights and legal autonomy.

Population and family planning were framed as coercive, while there was little attention to the coercion of women forced to have pregnancies they did not want.

The Programme of Action agreed at the ICPD in Cairo married unambiguous human rights and gender sensitive approaches to family planning while underscoring the need for continued efforts to slow population growth, particularly in Africa. However, women’s advocacy groups chose the term “reproductive health” as the only appropriate way to address family planning, which was considered one part of broader health interventions. After the conference, the words “family planning”, “population”, and “demographic” became politically incorrect. As the focus was taken off family planning and concerns about rapid population were silenced, foreign aid budgets for family planning declined markedly, starting in 1995.

The reaction to this shifting of priorities was extreme in the US, where family planning and abortion became highly politicised issues. The US had reversed its policy toward family planning at the Mexico conference in 1984 and periodically withdrew its funding to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) over its alleged support for abortion in China. Succeeding Republican and Democrat administrations alternatively suspended or reinstated federal funding to US bilateral family planning assistance. The 2000 Millennium Development Goals ignored population and family planning for fear of antagonising social conservatives and religious opponents, although a MDG target for reproductive health was added reluctantly in 2005.

The momentum of the family planning movement before Cairo, which had achieved much, was lost. It seemed as if the population bomb had been defused. International attention shifted to other urgent problems, such as the HIV/Aids epidemic, humanitarian crises, good governance and climate change, with HIV/Aids taking the lion’s share of health funding. Efforts geared at health sector reform also diluted the focus on family planning. As a result, programmes have become woefully underfunded over the past 17 years. Commodities stock-outs are frequent. It is estimated that 215m women around the world do not want another pregnancy soon or ever but are not using modern contraception. In the Philippines, where the bishops resist permitting women to use modern contraceptives, there are half a million unsafe abortions a year.

The situation is particularly worrying for the 16 per cent of the world population living in countries where women give birth to an average four to seven children. The most rapid population growth in the world and the harshest effects of climate change are colliding in the Sahel – the band of ecologically vulnerable nations stretching from Senegal to Somalia. In Niger, 75 per cent of girls marry before the age of 18 and one in five women over 40 has 10 children or more. Currently, 12m to 18m people in the Sahel are hungry and the UN Environmental Programme describes feeding people in the Sahel as “mission impossible”.

Access to family planning is first and foremost a human right. It is also an issue of public health and, in the long run, sustainable economic growth. From Burkina Faso to Yemen, any prospect of capturing the demographic dividend (as happened with the Asian tigers when rapidly falling fertility rates ushered favourable dependency ratios) is being swept aside by a tsunami of hungry, uneducated angry young men.

As the world population, now 7bn, races towards a projected 9.3bn in 2050, the London summit brings back to the global development agenda an issue that has been for too long neglected and obscured by ideology.
.......................................................................
The writer is Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington, DC, and the author of ‘World Population Policies: Their Origin, Evolution, and Impact’, Springer, 2012.

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