October 24, 2009
October 16, 2009
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When I was at University one of the core modules for my area of study Housing Management and development was DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND THE LAW. Domestic violence was considered in the context of property rights but for the purpose of this article I would like to look at the impact of domestic abuse on the economy.
A tall order perhaps but bear with me whilst I illustrate my point.
The fact about domestic abuse is that it ebbs away at the confidence and self esteem of the person at the receiving end of it. It makes them question their self worth making ineffective in all areas of their lives.
Imagine if you will a woman who is responsible for ensuring that the family is fed, clothed and has to work the land to grow the food to feed the family but is beaten by her spouse on a daily basis!
In some cases she is indeed the sole bread-winner in the family as the man’s income is spent on alcohol! What sort of life would children growing up in such a household have to look forward too!
It is widely accepted well as least in the case of African countries that the economic development of these countries rests with women. That being the case what would happen if women are ordinarily unable to participate in economic generating activities due to domestic abuse?
Does society owe such women the duty of care to secure the economic development of a county? What form should that care take?
I am happy to note that in Nigeria steps are being taken to address the issue of domestic abuse. The idea is to provide some for of safe house for women and children fleeing domestic abuse. You can read the rest of the story here
The question is most African countries are so conservative, how will such a facility go down in society? Will women have the courage to seek support and refuge in such a facility?
What will their peers make of it?
My first job as a Social Housing practitioner saw me in charge of just such a facility here in the UK and it gave women new hope and a chance to rebuild their lives and those of their children.
I am therefore hopefully that this type of facility becomes common practice in African countries too.
As usual your points of view are welcome
October 15, 2009
Today is 15 October 2009 and Blog Action Day 09 is here! Blog Action day sees bloggers around the world write blogs on an issue that affects humanity and this year the theme is CLIMATE CHANGE
I thought I would add a twist to it by looking at climate change and poverty as I strongly believe that these two go hand in hand in the parts of the world where my work is based.
On the whole the people I work with in East Africa are in rural areas and live off the land. This means that they rely on the land for food and financial security. In a typical village with a woodland and river streams, the trees and land will provide building materials for shelter, fuel and the river will provide water and fish. The trees are cut down both for fuel but also to make charcoal that is sold on mostly to city and town dwellers. They also rely on the land to provide recreation and entertainment!
How I hear you ask, well for a start they grow all the ingredients for fruit juice and alcohol, and again trees and animal hides are used in the making of music instruments. There are no cinemas, theatres, Supermarkets, there is no electricity and they cannot turn a tap on for water. This is their lot!
The other type community I work with are slum dwellers. These are mostly folk that have left the sort of life I have described above to try their luck in the city! They live in the most appalling environment you can imagine and I would argue that the folk in rural setting have a much better quality of life than the slum dwellers. Their environment is littered with plastic bags, stagnant water that attracts malaria causing mosquitoes, they may have electricity but this is unreliable and expensive and therefore the most popular fuel here is charcoal and paraffin. They often cook in the same room they sleep in.
The activities of both these communities are bound to have an impact on climate change through land degradation and activists have started to take action to get folk in these communities to change their ways.
On my last visit to Uganda in May this year I met a coffee grower whose family have grown coffee for 50 years! His entire crop is being threatened by a virus called coffee wilt, the same virus affects banana trees. This is a real threat to his livelihood. Coffee trees need shelter from the harsh African sun and this shelter is provided by the banana trees. The same land is used to grow vegetables such as beans, carrots and potatoes in a system called inter cropping. This means that the household has food security and income from coffee.
One morning old man Hassan had a visit from a government official who requested that he gives up part of his land to plant pine trees in order to help the environment. The pine trees would be provided for free and there maybe a cash incentive too! Old Man Hassan said NO and I asked him why?
I have two daughters due to go to university and that has been possible because of coffee and they are about to cost me more in fees and maintenance for pre=”for “>whislt at university over the next 4 years. How will afford to keep them at University if I cut down the coffee trees and plant Pine instead? furthermore, how will we as a family feed ourselves if we give over the land to Pine growing?
I could see his reasoning, there is no welfare state to take care of his basic needs, he has no hope of accessing AID to help him directly with his priorities as he sees them, should he care about planting more trees for the sake of the environment?
I have recently written about the effects of plastic bags on poverty in the developing world and you can read about that here.
Plastic bags are also the route cause of sewer blockages and this is leads to stagnant water in city slums that attract mosquitoes. Our reaction here in the developed world has been to send mosquito nets. In this CNN report Ozwald Boateng and his colleague Hassan Kimbugwe ask why not get rid of the sewers that provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes?
These slum dwellers have found ways of earning an income and cleaning up the environment at the same time. A project in Burkinafaso sees women collecting plastics bags from their streets and making handbags out of them, whilst the women in Uganda make beads out of paper . These projects are very exciting from the point of view that they provide income for the women but also provide a means of recycling both paper and plastic in countries where recycling is not part of the fabric.
They are some tough questions that remain, one that springs to mind
Can we realistically protect the environment and lift folk out of poverty at the same time?
We here in the west are demanding more recyclable materials such as Sisal and as we can’t grow them the developing world is growing them for us. But did you know that this may involve cutting down forests or woodlands?
As usual if you have a view or thoughts on any of the issues raised here please share them
October 5, 2009
The debate to save the environment continues all over the world, folk. An item that many of us have used for years and perhaps continue to use without due regard is the plastic bag.
The dangers of plastic bags on ocean life are well document but some folk may not be aware of how plastic bags contribute to poverty in Africa and other developing countries.
How, I hear you ask? Well imagine this, in developed countries when we think about assets, to most of us it’s the homes we own, valuable jewellery etc in some developing countries especially in rural areas, their assets are goats, cows, sheep and other live stock. These are what people trade to send children to school, buy anti malaria tablets etc.
Most African countries do not have the means to recycle plastic bags; in addition some folk are not yet aware of the dangers of carelessly discarding plastic bags.
Imagine therefore if you will a situation where a family wakes up and their prized goat is dead because it swallowed a plastic bag that was carelessly disposed of! I have seen this with my own eyes and the despair in people’s eyes when they realised what had happened
Some African governments such as the Ugandan government have realised the effect of plastic bags on the environment and outlawed them in 2007 and incredibly whilst in some circles this was welcomed there was outrage in others.
Some amongst you may donate clothing to send out to Africa, like plastic bags there are no facilities to recycle nylon and other artificial fabrics; these too end up on agricultural land causing untold damage. Please therefore bear this mind, next time you donate an item of clothing to be sent out to Africa.
There is one thing that doesn’t make sense even to me, African women weave the most amazing baskets, which are environmentally friendly, and are free unlike the plastic bags, why then do folk out there chose to use plastic bags instead?
September 30, 2009
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Roman Polanski was recently arrested in Switzerland over a crime committed in the USA way back in 1978. The world of film has vowed to stand by him and many have signed a petition to have him released.
What has caught my attention in all this was a radio interview I heard the other day in which the views of ordinary Swiss and US folk were solicited.
Those in USA were of the view that regardless of what time has elapsed the Swiss authorities were right to arrest Polanski whilst those in Switzerland were of the view that, it was wrong to arrest Polanski especially given the time taht has elapsed and he should released immediately.
A comment from a Swiss woman stood out for me in particular she said,
Switzerland tolerates terrible crimes all the time why are the authorities so fussed about an incident that is over 30 years old?
An interesting if not curious statement to make, and what sprung to mind was all the money that the corrupt african leaders have reportedly hidden in secret Swiss accounts over the years, whilst their country folk die of hunger!
Is this what the Swiss woman was referring to? I don’t know for sure but I certainly wondered.
So is it right that Swiss banks should if it is true allow African leaders to steal from their countries and hide their loot in the Swiss bank vaults? If Africans asked the Swiss authorities to return this loot would they?
Should Switzerland be focusing on this instead of a crime committed in 1978 in which the victim has since dropped the charges?
My answer is of course not, abuse of any sort should not be tolerated regardless of the amount of time that has elapsed.
However the Swiss authorities need to be more consistent in their approach as opposed to being selective as to which crimes they will prosecute
September 24, 2009
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That is according to David Lane speaking at the Pittsburg G-20 . He reasons that Africa has over 1 billion producers and consumers of services of goods. He calls for G20 to make Africa part of the solution to ending poverty in Africa and further more that the next G20 meeting should be held in Africa.
I must say that I agree with him on all accounts.
Yes he is right in the first instance that Africa has an awful lot of consumers and suppliers. Africa is also the producer of some of the high end/value products in the world such as diamonds, gold, petrol, coffee, cocoa etc but these products are merely extracted and taken to consumers elsewhere, and when returned the African’s almost always can’t afford them, and those that can often have to travel millions of millions to be able to consume these products. Does any of this make sense to you?
The next point – the next G20 meeting should be held in Africa and the campaign has started and if you agree please add your name here.
Africa is almost always part of the agenda at these summits with leaders of the richest countries in world pledging more help for the continent, however these meetings are never held in Africa, unlike the COMMONWEALTH HEAD OF STATES
I can imagine that a lot of money is spent at these meetings, imagine therefore what such a meeting would do for the economy of a small central African country, like Rwanda, Burundi or Uganda, unless of course the organisers of such a meeting opted to fly in everything that would be used, including food service staff etc. But even then, there would inevitably be a trickle down of sorts.
The economic benefits aside, if you have a matter to resolve with someone isn’t it best that you go to them and do this face to face. Some of the points that come out these meetings regarding Africa are , MAKE AFRICA LEADERS MORE ACCOUNTABLE, END CORRUPTION, IMPROVE GOVERNANCE, and so on and so forth, but if the leaders of Africa only ever here this on TV and radio, wouldn’t they be forgiven for thinking it has nothing to do with them, a sort of hearsay, Afterall would you take anyone seriously who talked about you behind your back? The natural reaction is one of IF YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY TO ME,,,,,,
Obama and Clinton have led the way to going to the leaders of Africa and given them some tough love and I do hope that the G20 will follow in their footsteps. They are currently discussing how to lift the world out of the recession but surely the recession is worse amongst the bottom billion of Africa.
Can the G20 ever see Africa as a key economic player and not a basket case that needs hand out? Is this indeed the solution to Africa’s ending poverty? Can a whole continent be lifted out of poverty by AID? Of course not treating Africa as an economic partner, a consumer and supplier of goods would go along way to resolving te poverty. food shortages etc experienced by its people.
If you have a view either way, I would like to hear from you as usual