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Monday:  July 28, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Nike Foundation (2)

Thursday
Jul142011

A Small Cash Box Powers Up Girls in Burundi (REPORT)

The precious savings and loans box contains funds for both the building of girl adolescent dreams - and emergencies. CREDIT: M Bociurkiw/HUMNEWSBy a HUMNEWS Correspondent in East Africa

(HN, July 15, 2011) - It doesn't look like much at first glance, but the small tin cash box holds in it a lot of promise and dreams for about 30 girls gathered today in a suburb of Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi.

Not surprisingly, custodians of the box protect it with all they have. Not only does it help funds dreams through small loans, it also helps out members of the Ishaka solidarity group in times of crisis, perhaps to fund funeral expenses.

Little wonder then that the group’s savings are kept in a locked box that has three padlocks, held by three different girls.

This group of girls belong to Ishaka - a project to socially and economically empower girls, aged 14-22 in the two main urban areas of Burundi.

Many of their stories bear painful similarities. Young girls who loose their parents or care givers, or are thrown out onto the streets after becoming pregnant at a young age. They try to fend for themselves, end up having to beg for money or engage as sex workers, become pregnant and can no longer fend for themselves.

Even in relatively normal household environments in Burundi, domestic violence is widespread, says CARE Burundi Country Director Michelle Carter. It is believed that decades of civil unrest has created an environment for domestic violence to thrive. In addition, the unrest and scourge of HIV and AIDS has left behind many orphans.

To make matters worse, discriminatory laws and a patriarchal system make young women more susceptible to early marriage, sexual exploitation and early pregnancy.

Many girls find Ishaka at the depths of utter despair. The solidarity group not only helps boost their self confidence, it extends micro-loans for approved projects and educates the girls on life skills such as how to protect themselves against sexually-transmitted diseases.

Three succesful graduates from Ishaka who run their own businesses in Bujumbura. CREDIT: M Bociurkiw/HUMNEWSIshaka provides financial support so that the girls will not be forced to beg for money from boys and others. The loans are small - as little as $33 dollars, even less sometimes - but enough for the girls to start small businesses. One girl sold enough beer to purchase a rabbit that would be rented out for breeding. That eventually generated enough income for a goat and some pigs, and then school fees. Another borrowed just eight dollars to start an egg business, which eventually propelled her back to school.

Every participant is expected to make a deposit at each meeting: in this case 80% is dedicated towards a savings and loan fund and 20% towards social causes, or a rainy-day fund. At the beginning of each meeting, the savings are carefully counted - in such silence one could hear a pin drop.

"If not for Ishaka I wouldn't be where I am," said one graduate, who has opened up a small farm. "I'm no longer dependent on boys."

Christine, another participant who is a single mother of two, used her first loan to buy and sell corn. Within five months she paid back the loan, used her profits to build a small home and even ended up with some savings. "I put the past behind me and replaced it with dignity," she said.

The mechanics are elegantly simple: a group is self-selected and self-managed, with between 10-30 members. All members must meet and save on a regular basis. Decisions are made collectively, and subtle peer pressure helps ensure compliance.

Carefully tabulating the day's intake of savings and loans. CREDIT: M Bociurkiw/HUMNEWS

A solar-powered and wind-up radios play an integral part of this initiative, by allowing groups to listen to financial literacy and life skills broadcasts.

When asked what skills they would like to pick-up, the girls said they are keen to learn soap-making as it could be easily sold in their community for income.

The Ishaka project has been supported by the Nike Foundation, with funding totalling $2.58 million over three-and-a-half years. More than 12,000 girls have benefited so far, with another 8,000 still to take advantage.

Many participants discover Ishaka by word of mouth, or from CARE staff during visits to various neighbourhoods. In early phases CARE staff provide intensive monitoring, but gradually blend into the background to allow the girls to lead themselves.

One of the wonderful aspects of the project, Carter said, is that it is easily replicable, designed to be scaled-up when necessary. Infrastructure and overhead is kept to a minimum.

To be sure, the graduates, or successful businesswomen, serve as superb role models for the younger participants.

At a recent meeting in June, one 22-year-old gave a passionate lecture on the scourge of HIV and AIDS, and quizzed her younger colleagues on how to protect themselves.

Afterwards, old and young embraced each other and erupted into a spontaneous celebration of song and dance.

Monday
Oct042010

The Nike Foundation's "Girl Effect" (Exclusive report) 

From the ground up – Small-scale, grassroots programs for girls are informed by local expertise, networks and cultural propriety. Here, EMpower and Nishtha (which means “devotion” in Bengali) in West Bengal provide tools and training for girls to educate their peers about issues such as reproductive health. (photo: Nike Foundation) (HN, October 4, 2010) - Most NGOs and UN agencies probably look at Leslie Lane and his dream team at the Nike Foundation with a sense of envy.

As Vice-President and Managing Director of the foundation, the Briton, Lane, has at his disposal a healthy bank account, the freedom to do targeted, long-term interventions - and a crack team of professionals that are able to develop and monitor projects in developing countries with a business sense.

What's more, Lane says, he isn't encumbered with the branding side of Nike - or having to squeeze PR points out of the foundation's projects around the world.

"We've really been given the space to address the issues surrounding adolescent girls. We're not about building markets….We're really free to work where the greatest need is for adolescent girls and not to be driven by a marketplace approach," said Lane.

The six-year-old Nike Foundation is obsessed with the so-called `Girl Effect' - empowering adolescent girls to take better care of themselves, become active and energize other girls so that they can protect themselves from scourges ranging from HIV and AIDS to sex slavery. In many parts of the world, girls are forced into early marriages, have children before they enter adulthood and are seen as little more than assets by family and community members.

Lane cited as an example of what Nike gets back from the foundation's work is learning a lot about social networking - or about specific markets - and that knowledge gets pushed back to colleagues on the brand side. "There is transfer of learning going in from across two very different worlds," he said. And for the Foundation - access to a pool of top professionals from one of the world's most successful and widely-known brands.

"Our advantage, in some ways, is that we are actually small, and the whole concept of the foundation is to really work with multiple partners and agencies and individuals interested in this area to help move the whole agenda forward. We can get very entrepreneurial and leveraged obsessed when we do our work," Lane said in an interview with HUMNEWS following the Clinton Global Initiative summit in New York, where the foundation premiered the fantastically compelling three-minute `Girl Effect' video.

Lane, himself a veteran of the international business world - he has an MA in Chemistry from Oxford and a MBA from Harvard and before heading Nike's global running business worked with Roll International and Bain and Company - says he collaborates with "a balanced team that combines professionals from brand management as well as knowledgeable people with field experience from the development side". The foundation tries to maintain very close relationships with its programme partners in the field, spending as much time with them as possible. The nimble nature of the organization allows it to easily shift course mid-stream if evidence shows the need for adjustments.

The foundation, which is supported by Nike Inc. and the NoVo Foundation, is unique in the sense that it has an exclusive focus on adolescent girls in the developing world. They define the `Girl Effect' as: `improving a girl's life in order to improve the lives of those around her; her brothers, sisters, parents and beyond. As an educated mother, an active citizen and an ambitious entrepreneur, or prepared employee - she can break the cycle of poverty.

The Foundation cites stark statistics that underpin its focused mission: nearly half of girls in most developing countries are married before they turn 20, and about half bear children while still children themselves. Half of sexual assaults are against girls younger than 15 and young girls disproportionately carry the burden of HIV and AIDS; in Sub-Saharan Africa 76 percent of infected youths are females.

Keeping girls in school pays incredible dividends, the foundation says. With just seven or more years of education, a girl customarily marries four years later, and has 2.2 fewer children. An extra year of primary school boosts future wages by as much as 20 percent, and an extra year of secondary school by as much as a quarter.

Lane knows better than many how to achieve results against a ticking clock: he was a competitive runner in high school and a college rugby player and rower.

Lane credits the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), which this year incorporated a plenary session on girls and women, for placing issues related to adolescent girls front and centre. "There was strong recognition that the power of adolescent girls could actually have impact on the many issues that face the attendees of CGI - whether it be health, education, peace and security, or economic growth. Girls were emphasized as a tremendous resource for positive change."

When asked what project he is particularly proud of, Lane points to the foundation's support of an initiative to address the issue of child marriages in the Amphora region of Ethiopia. In less than two years, families are seeing the value of keeping girls in school longer. "We've been able to show people the value of the girl," said Lane.

Lane says more emphasis is being placed on his foundation and others in the development field on results-oriented programming. "The real shift in development is coming with people that are very much focused on outcomes than on inputs: you can distribute a certain number of (anti-malaria) bed nets, but making sure that the outcome of those bed nets being used effectively to control malaria is really an outcome-based orientation."

Asked whether the message to invest in girls is getting through to African leaders, Lane says he is seeing a shift. "We are very much at a tipping point: there are some real visionary leaders in Africa that have recognized this already. There is programming and agencies and people are working very hard to continue to tell these stories (of success). " He pointed to a conditional cash transfer programme directly to girls in Malawi that has had a tremendous effect on the reduction and prevalence of HIV infections among girls there.

--- Reporting by HUMNEWS'  Michael Bociurkiw.