In September 2015, the world’s nations adopted a set of “sustainable development goals” to end poverty, protect the planet, and promote the well-being of everyone. Goal 4 is to provide quality education and promote lifelong learning, and governments are called on to “ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care, and pre-primary education…” Uganda’s Early Childhood Development Policy of 2007 states, “learning begins at birth and that whatever experiences a child goes through during these formative years will impact on a child’s learning in later years positively or negatively.” 
Early childhood education is important for many reasons, including its impact on children’s ability to learn. The human brain develops rapidly in the first few years of a child’s life, but the pace of development slows as a child ages. That early brain development lays the foundation for future learning. UNICEF’s The State of the World’s Children 2016 report states: Continue reading “Transforming Children’s Chances through Pre-Primary Education”
I attended two weddings during the last two months of 2015. I was quite pleased with myself when I “recycled” the dress and shoes I wore to the first wedding and wore them to the second as well, reducing my fashion consumption. But as I view photos of myself at those happy events–looking like an “angel” someone said–wrapped in tulle, satin, and shimmer, “angelic” does not describe how I feel. I cannot help but wonder whose dainty fingers might have been used to attach the sequins that made my dress sparkle. Who stitched beaded flowers onto mesh over its “sweetheart” neckline? What kind of price was paid so I could have this beautiful dress, and who bore the real cost? Continue reading “An Ethical Resolution?”
The True Cost (2015)
Written and directed by Andrew Morgan | Produced by Michael Ross | 92 minutes
Rating: PG-13 (thematic elements and disturbing images)
One in six people on the planet work in the global fashion supply chain, making fashion the most labour-dependent industry on earth. “The True Cost”—a breathtaking and heartbreaking documentary—reveals how consumer fashion choices impact these workers, the rest of us, and our world.
Eighty billion garments are purchased each year globally—400 percent more than two decades ago. The industry that once had two fashion seasons annually now has 52 as retailers peddle new product weekly, supplying shoppers with an endless fix of inexpensive clothing.
What is the consequence of this fashion obsession—the true cost of “fast fashion?” According to the documentary, it is the suicides of hundreds of thousands of Indian cotton farmers unable to escape debts to biotechnology and agrochemical companies, the decimation of local garment industries in low-income countries swamped by donations of cast-off clothing, and the toll taken on the earth’s ecosystems as every step in a garment’s life threatens them. Continue reading ““The True Cost” – A must-see for anyone who wears clothes”
“It’s going to be hell,” she declared. It was the first day of classes of the winter semester of 2012, and her foreboding statement expressed her expectations of the three months ahead. She was a St. Thomas University student, probably barely recovered from the demands of exams and multiple paper deadlines all coinciding in one or two horrific weeks prior to Christmas break. She was definitely not looking forward to re-living it. I could relate.
My university education was gruelling. It took a toll on me physically as way too many hours hunched in front of a computer screen aggravated my osteoarthritis and caused my neck to burn with pain. The hunching has also led to a weakening of my pectoral muscles and consequent overcompensation by the muscle attached to my shoulder blade, cramping it and necessitating frequent dates with microwaveable hot packs. I developed stress-induced eczema which caused rashes for the five years of my undergraduate and graduate degrees. (I was a sight to behold, at times!) Then there was the extinction of my social life, family time, and even miniscule moments of relaxation. It was enough to have made me declare in the final year of my undergraduate degree, “University is inhumane.”
I never expected to feel that way.
Continue reading “Post-Secondary Education: Punishment or Prize?”
It only took eight words for Barack Obama to break the hearts of millions of Ethiopians. Alemayehu Mariam was one of them.
Alemayehu (“Al”) Mariam is an Ethiopian lawyer and professor who lives in the U.S., and also a commentator on Ethiopian affairs. This week’s commentary was the most passionate one I’ve read yet. In a response nearly 8,000 words long, Al Mariam expressed shock, anger, and a sense of betrayal upon hearing the man he’d once been proud of convey, what the commentator called, “his total contempt for Ethiopians” in a single sentence.
Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama visited Ethiopia to address the African Union. While there, on July 27th, he took part in a press conference with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. When asked by a Fox News journalist about his “obvious concerns about human rights…in Ethiopia,” Obama paused, looked down, and stated that he was “mindful of Ethiopia’s history,” then followed up with his view of Ethiopia’s recent elections: “…the elections put forward a democratically elected government.”
Someone aware of Ethiopia’s history is unlikely to draw such a conclusion. Did Barack Obama mean what he said?
Continue reading “Obama’s heartbreaking words in Addis Ababa”
Earlier this week, news broke that a trophy hunter had killed one of Zimbabwe’s most famous animals, a lion named “Cecil.” As the story goes, the lion was lured out of Hwange National Park, where it was protected, shot with a crossbow and 40 hours later, as it was still dying, killed with a gun, beheaded, and skinned. It is believed the hunter paid approximately $54,000 to kill a creature that would have brought millions of dollars’ worth of tourism to the park and the struggling nation of Zimbabwe.
After being identified in the media on Tuesday, a dentist from Minnesota admitted to killing the lion, but said he believed the hunt was legal at the time. Within a day Dr. Walter J. Palmer had become an internet sensation, for all the wrong reasons. The public was enraged. The level of vitriol was shocking. The dentist received death threats. One of many protestors picketing Palmer’s office screamed into a megaphone, “Murderer! Terrorist!” Continue reading “What if we could harness the rage against injustice, to help human victims?”
A few days ago, Free the Slaves posted a story from IndiaTimes.com to social media. It was about Air India ground staff being arrested for trafficking Nepalese women to Dubai. The organisation wrote:
One of the worst fears of human rights organisations – that the recent#Nepal #earthquake would lead to massive #humantrafficking from the country – seems to be coming true.
In the comments below the Free the Slaves post, some readers expressed despair because of their desire, as “average people,” to get involved “helping victims or working to eliminate” human trafficking but having little information for how they might make a positive difference. There are ways the public can contribute to assisting people who may fall victim to human trafficking. One way is to contribute to organisations that work towards alleviating the poverty that makes people vulnerable to human trafficking, through building sustainable livelihoods. These organisations also provide humanitarian relief when disasters like the earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25th occur. Continue reading “Human Trafficking – What to do when you feel helpless to help the victims”