How have companies taken the initiative and joined the campaign to end extreme poverty? In our business in action column we will be looking at initiatives from businesses, both large and small, to contribute to ending poverty.
If I asked you to think of Goldman Sachs, what would spring to your mind? Rich bankers? Excessive pay? Extreme bonuses? What about a $100 million initiative to expand the entrepreneurial talent and managerial pool in developing and emerging economies?
The 10,000 Women initiative was launched in March 2008 aimed at giving women in developing economies education in business and management. Time and again it has been proved that one of the major factors in stimulating growth in developing countries is to facilitate the empowerment of women, and this initiative is doing just that. The program is active in more than 20 countries and has so far reached 2,000 women.
To ensure the education received by the women is relevant to the women, the programme is facilitated at ground level via a network of partner NGOs and academic organisations. The women are receive mentoring and support following on from the programme from staff at Goldman’s and other relevant businesses.
The programme has great success in empowering the participants. An example would be Penelope in Zambia, who progressed from having never touched a computer before entering the programme to the manager of an ICT centre providing instruction and training for others in the use of computers and the internet. You can see more of their success stories on their website here.
As we work towards ending extreme poverty in a generation, we can’t forget the role that businesses can play in creating opportunities like this.
If you know of a business doing interesting work to fight poverty – let us know below, and we might be able to feature it in future weeks.
How can one person act in order to end poverty? Over the coming weeks, we will be publishing a series of blogs to show you how your actions can make a difference.
At the Global Poverty Project we group the actions you can take into six categories: learn, talk, volunteer, buy, donate and shout.
The first of these actions is to learn more. Many people reading this may now be thinking ‘How can my learning more about poverty help end it?’ I will admit that, were I not already involved in the campaign to end extreme poverty, I may be tempted to ask the same question.
We’ve all heard the old adage knowledge is power. As people gain knowledge about issues of extreme poverty, they gain the power to act to bring an end to it. We gain the power to hold our leaders to account for the pledges they make, to ensure that they are working in the correct areas and in the correct way and to encourage others to take action.
To give one example of how learning can give people the power to act to end poverty, have a look at the video below telling Caroline Hurd’s story:
To gain knowledge about issues is also the primary way you can ensure any aid delivered is done so effectively.
In 1987, the ORB embarked on a project to install mills in rural communities in Mali. The project was blighted by a lack of knowledge from the outset. The end result of this lack of research and local knowledge meant that the mills, rather than bringing the community together, generated resentment and discord, the project took a year to complete, rather than the planned three months. Furthermore, the mills had the wrong grindstones installed, leading to all four of them breaking and because there was no written agreement they were never repaired. The entire project was wasted. You can read the full story here.
In the wake of the tsunami millions of people donated clothes to support those affected. However, while well intentioned, it was not fulfilling the primary needs of the recipients of the aid, which were food, water and shelter.
Taking the time to learn more means that you can ensure you’re not inadvertently supporting projects that don’t work, and that you can see beyond the headlines in newspapers about progress in fighting poverty. To help get you started, we have published a list of useful books here, and a guide to learning on the web here.
If you’ve got a story of how you, or someone you know has made a difference in the campaign to end extreme poverty through learning, we would love to hear from you in the comments section below or by upload a video, photo or story to our creative commitments page in the category ‘How I’m helping to end poverty’.
As Kofi Annan identified back in 2008, there are 860 million illiterate adults in the world, and
two thirds of these are women. Out of more than 100 million children not currently in school,
the majority are girls.
MDG3 calls for the elimination of the gender disparity in education for women and girls at
all levels, by 2015. In this visually beautiful video, Kakenya tells her uplifting story and it
illustrates the great things that can be accomplished if we uphold our commitment to achieve
the third MDG.
Her story is a wonderful example of the far reaching effects of women’s empowerment in a
single community. It demonstrates that enabling a female child to go to school, and to get an
education equal to that of a male child, will positively change the lives of all members of her
The story of Kakenya shows how this type of change, or cultural shift, in a community needs
to come from within the community itself, rather than from the outside. And, that change
begins with a conversation.
Providing an education for women and girls equips them with the confidence to speak out,
and to assert more control over their own lives. An education also creates a space in which
women and girls can speak freely, and in which they will be listened to with equal respect.
As Kakenya’s story show us, when given the opportunity to speak and act in an environment
equal to that of their male counterparts, women can, and do bring about incredible change.
Vital Voices is an organisation working across the world with people like Kakenya. They
empower women and girls to create spaces in which to lead and to assert their voices with
confidence, and to transform their communities.
This clip from UNICEF gives a great insight into some of the challenges – and solutions – to enable kids to get into school, and to learn once they’re there.
It certainly reminded me that kids are the same all the world over – they want to fit in. It’s embarrassing to be older than all the other kids in your class, and it’s embarrassing to make mistakes that could make people think you’re stupid. And, for us, it’s a reminder of how important it is to ensure that all kids are supported to get in – and stay in – school from the very start, and to provide second chances for kids who miss out, or fall out of the system.
It revealed some of the complexities of enabling kids to learn well. For many families in the poorest countries, food is sometimes scarce, and it’s hard to learn and concentrate on an empty stomach. That’s why the World Food Program have invested in school feeding programs around the world, with good evidence to say that it improves both attendance and test results when done well.
And, it gives important context, reminding us that getting an education is just one of many things that kids in the world’s poorest countries need to manage. Long walks to and from school. The challenge of affording a uniform and books – even if school is free. Family responsibilities, like the need to fetch water or care for younger siblings.
Yet, despite these challenges, we’re seeing solid progress. More needs to be done, and it needs to be done quicker, but there’s no down-playing the massive achievement of getting 40 million additional kids into school in the last decade.
Getting kids into school is about more than just making it free, and telling kids to go.
As we work towards the achievement of the second millennium development goal, we’re going to need to find more innovative ways to enable the poorest, most marginalised and most vulnerable children to learn to read and write – like this above example.
Each context is going to be different, which means that what works in one place won’t necessarily work in others. But, what we do know is that to make education work for kids (as we’ve talked about before), there are a couple of things we need to focus on:
It’s about learning, not attendance. It’s easy just to think that if we get all kids into school, the learning will take care of itself. It doesn’t. Our aid money often goes to get numbers into school, which is a great start, but it needs to do more to ensure that the kids who turn up really learn, and that the curriculum they learn is relevant to their lives.
Wanted: More teachers. As we’ve made education free in more countries and more kids turn up, teachers have been overwhelmed, and are often teaching huge classes. Oxfam think that to achieve the education millennium development goal with reasonable class sizes, we need an extra 15 million teachers worldwide.
Filling the funding gap. Most of the money to get kids into school comes locally, with the international community agreeing to chip in the rest through the Education for All Fast Track Initiative. But right now, donors are an estimated $16 billion a year short of what will be needed to get all kids into school.