Influencing Positive Change In The World Through Global Education

A few weeks ago the UN Association of Finland organized a school visitation education in Turku, the purpose of which is to educate volunteers willing to visit schools in order to share information about the UN, its principles, and its goals as a non-governmental organization.

In Finland, UN school visitors can be requested through the UNA of Finland:

http://www.ykliitto.fi/koulutus-ja-oppimateriaalit?language=fi

School visits are open and available to all kinds of educational institutions and tailored according to the age and interest of the pupils/students. The visit can include general facts about the UN and its activities, or be focused around a specific topic, e.g. the UN Millennium Development Goals 2000.

Founded in 1945 after the Second World War by 51 states to protect the world from new wars, the UN (United Nations) is the world´s most important co-operational organization. Over the course of the years the UN has of course changed and developed, trying to adjust its operations according to the most important needs and most urgent matters of its member states. In 2013, the UN had 193 member states.

The main goals of the UN are:

– To maintain international peace and security through peaceful means in solving disputes and conflicts

– To develop friendly relations between nations (autonomy and equal rights)

– Generate and accomplish co-operation to solve economical, social, cultural and humanitarian problems

– To advance human rights and their universality

– To serve as a co-operational centre for all nations

According to the principles of the UN, all member nations are plenipotentiary and equal, must fulfill the obligations of the UN Charter, resolve all international conflicts with peaceful means, and help the UN in all actions taken by the UN according to its Charter.

The main bodies of the UN are:

– The General Assembly

– The Security Council

– ECOSOC (the Economic and Social Council)

– The Secretariat

– The International Court of Justice

– The Trusteeship Council

(Sources: Leisma, 2009; printed material produced by the UN Association of Finland).

The previously mentioned UN Millennium Development Goals 2000 are:

1. Eradication of extreme hunger and poverty

2. Achievement of Universal Primary Education

3. Promotion of Gender Equality and Empowering Women

4. Reduction of Child Mortality

5. Improvement of Maternal Health

6. Combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other Diseases

7. Ensuring Environmental Sustainability

8. Global Partnership for Development

(Source: UNA printed material, UN Millennium Development Goals website, quoted 16.4.2014).

Wide-ranged and large goals, but perfectly achievable with commitment from all UN member nations.

Are we close to achieving these goals, or have we already achieved some of them?

I will discuss each of these goals separately in my upcoming posts, with facts and personal thoughts.

 

UN Millennium Development Goals 2000: I. Eradication of extreme hunger and poverty

Previously I wrote general facts about the UN as the world ́s most important co-operational organization. Now, and in my upcoming posts, I will focus on the current main strategic goals of the UN.

The first UN Millennium Development Goal is the eradication of extreme hunger and poverty. The UN, in cooperation with nations worldwide, has already managed to reach this goal.

However, the work against hunger and poverty still continues:

– In the past decades, remarkable progress has been made in decreasing poverty, especially in East Asia.

– Still, about 1,4 billion people worldwide live in extreme poverty => with under 1 € (1,25 USD) per day. Some 1 billion people suffer from hunger. Every day.

– Most of the people living in hunger and poverty are children and youth.

– 70 % of people in extreme poverty live in rural areas.

– Global food prices doubled in 2006-2008. Although prices have gone down afterwards, they are still on a higher level than before the food crisis. High food prices exacerbates the situation of the poor.

– Decreasing/removing poverty obliges wealthy and growing/emerging economies to act more selflessly, e.g. through equalizing the rules of world trade. Developing countries, on the other hand, have to commit to good governance, the eradication of corruption, and respecting human rights.

(Source: UNA of Finland booklet. 2011).

Furthermore, the differences between different countries, regions, rural and urban areas vary largely. Still, every fifth person worldwide suffers from extreme poverty, and each 3,5 seconds one person dies from hunger. Imagine that. Sad numbers, despite the progress that has been made: worldwide, 700 million people less live in extreme poverty, in comparison with the situation in 1990. In numbers, the amount of people living in extreme poverty went down from 2 billion to 1,4 billion between 1990-2008. And the percentage of the poor decreased from 47 % to 24 % during the same period of time.

Still, every 8th person on our planet goes to bed hungry. The number of undernourished worldwide is about 842 million people. Every 6th child worldwide is undernourished, of whom every 4th suffer from severe health and mental developmental disorders. (UNA of Finland. Printed Material. 2014).

How can individuals and states be helpful in removing worldwide hunger and poverty? Very often us who do not face these problems directly in our daily lives forget about, or at least neglect, these severe problems that more than a billion people worldwide have to face in their daily lives. Many of whom are children. Do we have tunnel vision? Are we blind to face reality?

I remember a hot Summer evening, walking back to my accommodation in the town of Siem Reap in Cambodia. A small local boy ran after me, begging for money, claiming that he needed one dollar so that he could buy milk for his little sister. He continued following me, reaching out his hand so that I would give him the money he asked for.

Actually, most part of the journey was the same. Everywhere I went, people were begging for money. I didn’t count, but afterwards I thought I should have calculated how many beggars went by during my stay in Cambodia. Some I gave money, but had I given every beggar what they asked for, I would have run out of money in no time. Realizing that, and seeing the behavior of other tourists, I sometimes felt heartless. I was not able to help them all, at least not in the way they wanted me to.

Yet, in some way I helped. I traveled all the way to their country, supporting the growing tourism industry of Cambodia. And now I am sharing some of my experiences through writing, which I hope will influence at least some people.

The beggars and the poor in different countries and regions are not begging for fun. They need help, and support. If they had other means, and knew better ways of improving their lives, they would act differently. But like in Abraham Maslow’s theory of motivation, and hierarchy of needs, we all need to be able to fulfill our very basic needs first: to get enough water and food to survive. As long as this need is neglected, an individual will use whatever possibilities he or she knows to satisfy the very basic needs of life, clean water and enough nourishing food, in order to survive.

Us who have never experienced the lack of clean water or food can not really understand those who suffer every day. If we claimed to really understand what it feels like to be hungry every day, and not having enough to eat, we’d be lying.

So, how can each one of us help in eradicating poverty?

According to macroeconomics, the best way to eradicate poverty is to create employment. Poverty alleviation through sustainable strategic business models, with an emphasis on the word sustainable, is certainly one way of helping the poor. Giving people the opportunity to work themselves out of poverty, with a fair pay. I ́m not going to get into depth with this issue in this post, but we all know that sustainable and ethical business takes care of labor rights, and does not employ children.

There are many other ways of helping the poor: supporting reliable organizations that employ professional staff involved in different kinds of projects aimed at removing poverty and improving the lives of the poor(est).

Micro-lending, direct support, and money sent home by family members working in other countries are also ways of helping. Adopting a child from a poor country (can be a long and difficult process).

There are many ways to help, and help is always possible. “Where there’s a will there’s a way”.

Can you come up with others than those already mentioned in this post?

“It’s impossible, said pride.

It’s risky, said experience.

It’s pointless, said reason.

Give it a try, whispered the heart”.

 

 

What is “The Land of The Lucky Children”?

My journey a couple of years ago to Cambodia, the Land of Peace and Prosperity, was a didactic experience and an eye-opener in many ways. Not only did I learn about the history of the homeland of some of South East Asia ́s most amazing archaeological sites, including the re-known Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm + hundreds of other temples, but also about the contemporary way of life in this amazingly beautiful country, neighborhood by Thailand in the West, Laos in the North, and Vietnam in the East.

Yet, not so many decades ago, the Land of Peace and Prosperity was the centre for a bloody civil war, the Cambodian Genocide. In 1975, orchestrated by Pol Pot, the local communist party the Khmer Rouge, invaded the capital Phnom Penh, driving Cambodian citizens out of their homes. Innocent people were forced to prison camps, where they had to work like slaves with little or almost no food allowed. Every non-communist was under life-threat, especially doctors, teachers, non-communist politicians, and other intellectuals. Many were killed. According to estimations, more than 2 million innocent people lost their lives during the Khmer Rouge regime. Women were commonly raped, and many children, including girls, were forced to become child soldiers. One of these children managed to flee to the United States with her brother, and is today a national spokesperson for the Campaign for a Landmine Free World. Loung Ung has also shared her experiences and her story in two of her books: “First They Killed My Father – A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers”, and “Lucky Child – A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites With The Sister She Left Behind”.

What do wars/civil wars teach us?

Personally I learned at least the following facts:

– Democracy protects human rights

– Bad governance (including a high amount of corruption) can be disastrous in protecting equality and for economic development in a state

– Wars are disastrous for the well-being and general development of a country.

– The aftermath of wars, and genocides, together with a high level of corruption, will influence the economic development of a region for years, even decades.

Cambodia is still today, although developing, one of the poorest countries in the world. Cripples are a common view on the streets – legs or arms or both missing, these people are crawling on the streets trying to find a way to make a living – mainly by begging from tourists. War makes people suffer not only physically, but also mentally. Many parents, unable to work, prefer sending their children to the streets, earning money to the family e.g. through selling souvenirs or books to tourists.

Garment workers are transported on the back ́s of open vans like animals to factories, where they work for long hours with a monthly pay of no more than a maximum of 100-150 USD. Due to the amount of medical workers killed during the civil war, good doctors and hospitals are still missing. Local people who can afford it commonly travel to Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam in order to get professional medical treatment.

I must admit that I feel uncomfortable buying clothes with a label stating “made in Cambodia,” especially after personally seeing the local conditions.

As a tourist in Cambodia I was considering whether my journey really was of benefit for the people, and if it actually is morally and ethically right to buy clothes produced in Cambodia. What do you think?

 

Female Leadership and Gender Equality

“I never pay attention to age or gender. There are just too many other more important things to consider.” (Martha Stewart, Founder, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia).

If everyone thought like Martha Stewart, we wouldn´t need any further discussions about the state of female leadership or about its future. But in reality, we are far from gender equality in leadership worldwide.

Currently, only a good four percent of all Fortune 500 CEO´s are female. This is, however, an increase from the two percent in 2007.

How can this be explained? According to some research/ers, women seeking leadership roles face persistent and pervasive barriers, including gender bias in leadership opportunities, gender inequalities in family responsibilities, inflexibility in workplace structures, and inadequacies in social policies. (Kellerman, B. and Rhode, D.L. 2007).

There is, however, evidence of strong female leadership in history. The eldest proof of female leadership comes from Egypt: Queen Cleopatra, who reigned 51-30 BC, was not the only Egyptian female pharaoh, but the last and probably the best known. She first ruled jointly with her father and later with her brothers, but became eventually a sole ruler.

Other strong female leaders throughout history are Joan of Arc (leader of the French Army 1412-1431), Isabella I of Castile (Queen of Spain 1451-1504), Catherine de Medici (Queen of France 1519-1589), Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587), Elizabeth I (Queen of England 1533-1603), Amina (Nigerian Queen 1560-1610), Mbande Nzinga (Angolan Queen 1582-1663), Catherine the Great (Empress of Russia 1729-1796), Victoria (Queen of England 1819-1901), Tsu-hsi (Empress of China 1835-1908), Liliuokalani (Last Monarch of Hawaii 1838-1917), Golda Meir (Prime Minister of Israel 1898-1978), Indira Gandhi (Prime Minister of India 1917-1984), and Margaret Thatcher (Prime Minister of England 1979-1990). (http://www.womeninworldhistory.com/rulers.html 20.10.2013).

Many of these women were born into monarch families and thus did not have to work their way to influential and powerful positions.

Today, the number of powerful women across the world is larger than ever. The most powerful woman, according to Forbes´ ranking, is Germany´s Chancellor Angela Merkel (http://www.forbes.com/power-women/#page:1_sort:0_direction:asc_search: 20.10.2013), followed by Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil, Melinda Gates, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sheryl Sandberg and many others. It is interesting that so many of the 100 most powerful women worldwide are actors, entrepreneurs and musicians, including Beyonce Knowles, Lady Gaga, Angelina Jolie, Oprah Winfrey and J.K. Rowling.

In the Nordic countries, the proportion of female leaders is higher than in most other parts of the world. Why?

Gender equality is at core of the Nordic identity. We share many common features simultaneously with varying gender equality policies. To enhance gender equality in the Nordic region, the Nordic countries share and learn from each other´s experiences through political discussions and test most effective strategies in order to achieve common goals.

Despite of decades of work in this sector, the labor market and educational sector in the Nordic countries remain more or less gender divided, characterized by men still holding most leading positions, and women having the main responsibility on the home front. Prostitution and (domestic) violence against women and children still remain two major unsolved problems. (http://www.norden.org/en/about-nordic-co-operation/areas-of-co-operation/gender-equality/gender-equality-in-the-nordic-countries 20.10.2013).

Finland was the third country in the world to grant women the right to vote in 1906. Finland also had a female president for twelve years (2000-2012), Tarja Halonen, who was re-elected in 2006. Today, 85 of the 200 seats (42,5 %) in Finnish parliament are occupied by women. Nine of 19 ministers are female.

In Finland, the number of women in leadership and management roles has grown in the past years in both private and public sectors. Women are also higher educated than men. In some industries, however, the proportion of women is clearly smaller, and there is a tendency of a higher ratio of women leaders in industries already dominated by women. Women leaders are on the average higher educated than their male counterparts. On a European level, Finland has one of the highest numbers of female leaders. In the number of female c-level executives, however, Finland ranks as the third last country in whole Europe.

On a European level, women account for about a third of all director and chief executive roles. In whole Europe, about 30 per cent of all public companies have one or several women at executive group level, compared to 90 per cent in the United States. In the past year, the number of women in board´s has slightly grown in the past years. The European Commission has appealed to European firms in order to speed up the change. Some European countries, e.g. Norway, use contingencies for board members. Although these contingencies have increased the number of women as board members in Norway, the number of women in middle management or at executive level remains the same. Of all board members in Europe only about 12 per cent are female. In Finland and Sweden the same number is about 26 per cent. In Finland this can perhaps be explained by a corporate governance recommendation from 2010 according to which a company board must be represented by both genders. This CG recommendation has led to an increase in the amount of firms in Finland that have both genders represented on board level, from 50 to 80 per cent.

Board members are, however, selected according to knowledge, competence and experience – not by gender. Board members are expected to have deep knowledge in their field of business and experience from different operative roles, usually gained through leadership and management roles in that specific organization. Thus, the more women represented in an industry – the more women in leadership roles. Equality improves work welfare and advances productivity. (http://www.ek.fi/ek/fi/tyomarkkinat_ym/tyoelama/tasa_arvo/naiset_miehet/naisten_osuus_johtotehtavissa.php 20.10.2013).

As stated by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngucka on October 18th 2013 in New York, women´s leadership is central to peacebuilding. (http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2013/10/ed-speech-on-women-peace-security 20.10.2013).

UN Women is the leading organization promoting gender equality, women´s rights and women´s empowerment. Its Sustainable Development Goals addresses following three target areas of gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment:

–          Freedom from violence against women and girls

–          Gender equality in the distribution of capabilities – knowledge, good health, sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights of women and adolescent girls; and access to resources and opportunities, including land, decent work and equal pay to build women’s economic and social security.

–          Gender equality in decision-making power in public and private institutions, in national parliaments and local councils, the media and civil society, in the management and governance of firms, and in families and communities. (http://www.unwomen.org/~/link.aspx?_id=981A49DCB34B44F1A84238A1E02B6440&_z=z 20.10.2013.)

Violence, both physical and psychological, is the most comprehensive abuse of human rights, taking place in all countries globally. One third of all women worldwide have experienced either physical or psychological (or both) violence at some point in their lives.

“Violence against women and girls tend to increase at times of crisis and instability, notably during and after periods of upheaval and displacement associated with armed conflict and natural disasters, but also when people are dealing with uncertainty. There can be increased domestic violence when men are unemployed, even if (sometimes especially if) women are bringing in income. Insecurity that results from high levels of organized crime in societies may also be associated with increased levels of violence against women or higher rates of femicide. In some situations of armed conflict, violence against women is widespread and systematic – for instance, where forms of sexual violence such as rape, forced prostitution, or sex trafficking are used by armed groups as a tactic of warfare to terrorize or displace civilians or to benefit parties to the conflict”. (http://www.unwomen.org/~/media/Headquarters/Attachments/Sections/Library/Publications/2013/10/UN%20Women%20post-2015%20position%20paper%20pdf.pdf 20.10.2013).

More about these important issues in UN Women´s publication “A transformative stand-alone goal on achieving gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment: Imperatives and key components” (http://www.unwomen.org/~/link.aspx?_id=981A49DCB34B44F1A84238A1E02B6440&_z=z 20.10.2013).

What are your thoughts about female leadership and gender equality?

How are these issues dealt with in your country?