"Poverty has become part of me,” says 13-year-old Aminata Kabangele from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, African children are still the number one victims of suffering and destitution across the continent, with poverty a key factor pushing them into forced labour, forced conscription and sex trafficking, reports IPS.
Women sand miners in the rural Indian state of Andhra Pradesh are staking their claim on the industry, but must contend with powerful ‘sand mafias’ that operate throughout the state, as well as the lurking threats of environmental degradation and poverty in this largely rural state. But the Undavalli Mutually Aided Cooperative Society, an all-women’s collective in charge of dredging, mining, loading and selling sand, is determined to make this enterprise work, as it provides a decent wage and a degree of decision-making power over their lives.
In Rabat, Morocco, Equipe Media, a news agency ran by a small group of Sahrawi volunteers, is struggling to break the media blackout over Western Sahara enforced by Rabat. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly denounced human rights abuses suffered by the Sahrawi people at the hands of Morocco over the last decades. Yet “There are no news agencies based here and foreign journalists are denied access, and even deported if caught inside,” says Equipe Media’s leader.
The rising death toll of civilians, specifically women and children, in ongoing military conflicts is widely condemned by international institutions and human rights organisations – with the United Nations remaining helpless as killings keep multiplying. Addressing the Security Council during an open debate on children and armed conflict last month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said 2014 was one of the worst years in recent memory for children in countries devastated by military conflicts. IPS looks at the troubling statics released by U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, which says its response remains grossly underfunded.
Meet the women turning cacao beans into hand-made organic chocolates in the town of Caluco, in western El Salvador. Their coca production project not only earns them enough money to support their families, it is also part of a wider national effort to both revive cacao production and boost economic and social development in Salvadoran communities.
Around 30 Palestinian women have conceived babies since 2013 with sperm smuggled out of the Israeli prisons in which their husbands are being held. Bushra Abu Saafi was only the second woman in Gaza to do this – she gave birth to twins one year ago using IVF. Her husband has been in prison for 11 years. She says fertility is being seen as a form of non-violent resistance. IPS speaks to the Palestinian women smuggling new life out of jail.
Widows in Papa New Guinea face an uncertain future – many who reside in rural areas have limited access to education and employment, and struggle to support and feed their children. Other women without sons are at risk of being driven off their own lands by greedy relative, while in extreme cases, some women are still accused of witchcraft - with horrific consequnses. IPS reports on the plight of Papa New Guinea widows, many of whom recently called through local media for the government to introduce legislation to better support recognition of their rights.
Joshua Konkankoh is a Cameroonian farmer with a vision – that the answer to food insecurity lies in sustainable and organic methods of farming. Though his project Better World Cameroon, Joshua now runs Cameroon’s first and only eco-village. “I call it ‘permaculture the African way’ because the concept was coined by scientists and we are adapting it to our old ways of farming and protecting the environment,” Joshua says. He believes such projects could make a huge difference to mitigating food crises and extreme poverty.
In the last 15 years, the number of women and girls at risk of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in the United States has more than doubled, advocacy groups warn, calling for stronger measures to prevent this human rights violation. Recent findings suggest a staggering 506,795 girls and women in the United States have undergone or are at risk of undergoing FGM/C. IPS speaks to the women and victims campaigning for change.
Although four in 10 adults have never heard the phrase “climate change,” many are aware that something is amiss with local weather patterns, a new survey covering 119 countries has found. It reports that awareness of the problem is very uneven. Two-thirds of people in Egypt, Bangladesh and Nigeria, for instance, had never heard of climate change, while in North America, Europe, and Japan, more than 90 percent of the public is aware of it.
In Samburu County, a region in Kenya ravaged by recurrent drought where most of the population lives below the poverty line, climate change has made raising livestock an increasingly unsustainable livelihood. Many households in Samburu don’t even have a daily meal, let alone a balanced diet, as a result. But now locals are planting hardy and edible trees and shrubs around their manyattas (or homesteads), and are reaping the benefits. IPS reports.
IPS learns the harrowing tales of women who left Cameroon in search of work in Kuwait but were instead sold into slavery and treated “like animals”. Their stories are not uncommon. According to the 2013 Walk Free Global Index of Slavery, about three-quarters of a million people are enslaved in the Middle East and North Africa. For the past seven years, the same report has ranked Kuwait and Saudi Arabia highly for human trafficking and labour abuses. IPS reports.
An international rights group has highlighted the plight of China’s minority Uyghur population and their continuing struggle to find a safe haven elsewhere in the region. Human Rights Watch says the Uyghurs have struggled against the control of the Chinese central government for decades. There are over 15 million Uyghurs in the Western China. Uyghurs are traditionally Muslims. Activists claim they face open discrimination because of their faith. The Chinese deny any form of oppression of the Uyghurs.
The first six months of 2015 were the hottest on record since 1880, states new data released by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Land and sea temperatures both hit record levels while the current expanse of Arctic sea ice has reduced. Heatwaves are becoming more frequent and intense, and pose greater health risks. Heatwaves in both India and Pakistan killed thousands of people this summer. IPS reports.
Councilwomen in India say they are losing precious work time due to poor sanitation that still plagues the country’s rural areas. Many women who hoped becoming council members would lead to a life of dignity, tell IPS they now find their dream crushed. Many do not have access to toilets either in their offices or even their homes. Lack of toilets is a common problem across India, a country of 1.2 billion people that has the dubious distinction of denying adequate sanitation to nearly 60 percent of its citizens. Rural women politicians say the indignity of having to relieve themselves in public is prohibiting them from carrying out their duties.
Small-scale fishing communities were among the first forgotten victims of mega construction projects like the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam on the Xingú River in the Brazilian Amazon. Whole villages, where fishing was a primary source of income and survival, were removed to make way for the dam’s construction. Having lost their homes and livelihoods, many are struggling to receive adequate compensation and adjust to a new way of life away from the river. “Three years ago it looked like my life was over; but I still dream of a new river,” says a local former fisherman-turned-farm labourer. IPS reports.
In a conflict that has claimed over 220,000 lives, it is sometimes hard to see beyond the death toll. But a recent report from leading children’s charity has highlighted one of the hidden impacts of the Syrian crisis – a rise in child labour throughout the region. With over 60% of the current Syrian population living in extreme poverty, an estimated 2.7million Syrian children have dropped out of school to work and help their families survive. IPS reports.
As Nepal’s monsoon rains approach, some humanitarian aid remains tied up in the capital Kathmandu and there are concerns that a rush to build shelters could lead to the same shoddy construction that collapsed during the April 25 earthquake, in which 2.2 million lost their homes. Poor and minority communities are reportedly not receiving aid, which some say confirms the deeply rooted caste system in Nepal which results in human rights abuses towards lower castes.
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict has decimated Gaza’s fishing industry, with thousands of Gazans deprived of a living and unable to support their families as a result. The Israeli navy limits Gaza’s fishermen to a three nautical-mile zone off Gaza’s coast, but even fishermen within that zone have come under fire and been shot, injured and killed or had their boats destroyed or confiscated. Agricultural produce and manufactured goods used to underpin the coastal territory’s economy before Israel and Egypt enforced the Gaza blockade. Analysts and political commentators have repeatedly warned that Israel’s continued siege and restrictions on Gaza could destabilise the region further, leading to more violence and possibly a new war.
Besides providing jobs and incomes for people in the countryside of northern Brazil, cacao producers who choose to go organic are actually helping to accelerate reforestation. Two-thirds of the population of the municipality of Medicilândia is still rural, and a view from the air shows that it has conserved the native forests. Experts praise Organic cacao farmers, saying they are more aware of the need to preserve the environment, and more focused on sustainability. IPS reports.