Kakamega and Kisumu, Kenya, September 2, 2016: In Western Kenya, poverty has put girls at risk of becoming pregnant and dropping out of school. But a program in the region seeks to empower the girls by giving them transportation, in the form of bicycles. For VOA, Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kakamega and Kisumu, Kenya.
Loise Luseno, a local resident of Kenya talks of how she herself had to drop out of school last year because of lack of conveyance facilities. Their society anyway isn’t very supportive of girl education and this problem of commutation hampers their fututre furthermore. Her parents are just subistence farmers who earn $30 per month, barely enough for food, school fees and transportation.
She also speaks of how teenage girls drop out of school because of their pregnancy as a common phenomena and how the motorbike riders in her area treat these girls when they’re seen walking to school. “They normally stop us on the road, when we’re on legs. They told us they would carry us. When they carry us, they start disturbing us to drop out of school which is not good.”
Ainea Ambulwa her school teacher, also a member of a part of the Bicycle Supervisor Committee and ensures that the girls maintain the bikes’ good condition. He states that the recurring poverty is a big challenge. When these girls or their family members use these bikes to carry heavy loads of items, they break and they can’t afford to service them.
The World bicycle Relief, based in Chicago, USA, manufactures bicycles and distributes them to another charity called World Vision. In 2015, the group set up a production plant in Kenya. The cost of production of a single buffalo bicycle costs around $180, but with the help of donors, they have distributed more than 7000 bicycles countrywide, most of their recipients being girls. The owner, Peter Wechuli says, these bikes have certainly improved the girls’ lives but the 100 kilometres distance of Kisumu from the plant remains a problem with limited resources but they aim to make the lives of these girls better for a brighter future.
This bicycle usage will not help the girls to complete their education, but also transport them into a better future as a better human being (VOA)
The series is produced and directed by Munish Raizada.
‘Transparency: Pardarshita’ is a 6 episode Hindi language documentary series, states Dr. Raizada from Chicago. The series documents the sentiments of the India Against Corruption Movement (Anna Andolan) and explores the trajectory of the movement along with the backstage scenarios that led to subsequent political developments. The political developments finally gave birth to a new political party, the Aam Aadmi Party.
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Raizada further stated that the web series, Transparency; Pardarshita gives an in-depth analysis of the functioning of Aam Aadmi Party, whose genesis lies in the famous anti-corruption movement. The analysis is based on the narratives of various members of the political party, along with political analysts and journalists that followed the developments closely.
In the 6 episodes, the story revolves around chase for political funds (Chanda). The web series is not only a commentary on the genesis of India Against Corruption movement and subsequent political developments, it is also a fascinating tale of hype and hoopla, goals and misses, power struggle and drama- all intertwined in the chase for Chanda! All in 5 1/2 hours of engaging content!
Alternative politics was the reason, because of which the AAP was formed. The plot of the story thus, revolves around tracing those promises of clean politics and transparent political funding.
Raizada further enumerated the three founding principles of AAP, viz. financial transparency, internal vigilance and decentralisation of power and told that the series will remove each and every layer that led to the dismantling of all the three principles of AAP by the power centres of AAP.
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Transparency web series also has three melodious songs weaved into the narrative. Introducing songs in a documentary series is a one of its kind experiment in India.
Dr Raizada is a Chicago-Based medical specialist (neonatologist) who was an active participant in the India Against Corruption Movement at forefront as well as a core member of Aam Aadmi Party. He is himself the anchor of the documentary series. Through this documentary series, he has tried to show the actuality and ascertain the issue of political funding which led to the carnage of the trust of thousands of people and core volunteers of the party like him who dreamt of a Corruption-Free India.
Thailand’s poverty rate has been rising in recent years despite steady, if slow, overall economic growth, a new World Bank report says, widening the gap between rich and poor in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.
“Taking the Pulse of Poverty and Inequality in Thailand,” launched last week, says the country’s poverty rate jumped from 7.2% to 9.8% between 2015 and 2018, adding nearly 2 million new people to the ranks of the poor. Inequality, as measured by household consumption, also spiked in 2016 for the first time in four years and has eased little since.
Analysts see a direct link between those figures and the results of last year’s general elections, Thailand’s first since a 2014 military coup led by then-General Prayut Chan-ocha, now the country’s prime minister.
Pheu Thai, a party tied to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, won the second most votes and the largest share of seats in the popularly elected House of Representatives, the lower house of the National Assembly, with strong support from some of the country’s poorest provinces in the North and Northeast.
A junta-appointed Senate and Election Commission finally tipped the contest to form a majority government in Prayut’s favor, but the numbers echoed the lasting disaffection of the country’s poor.
“Plummeting incomes were clearly a major factor in the opposition’s strong showing in the 2019 general election. That is why Pheu Thai did so well — especially given that rural farmers and also urban households continue to be attracted by the populism of Thaksin,” said Paul Chambers, a political analyst and lecturer at Thailand’s Naresuan University.
Thaksin was first elected prime minister in 2001, after the shock of the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, and reelected four years later only to be kicked out of office by a military coup in 2006. The telecoms tycoon now lives abroad, avoiding a 2008 corruption conviction that he disputes. However, the subsidies, cash transfers and other populist policies he pushed have left him and his proxies with a loyal following among the farmers of Thailand’s rural North and Northeast, who feel left behind by an urban elite cloistered mostly in the capital, Bangkok.
“That is partly why Thaksin was able to rise in the early 2000s, because of grievances over this disproportionate allocation of resources,” said Harrison Cheng, an associate director with consulting firm Control Risks who follows Thailand.
He said the concentration of wealth and power in Bangkok has continued under Prayut.
The World Bank report backs him up. It shows poverty hovering steadily at about 2% between 2015 and 2018 in Bangkok while rising everywhere else, nowhere more so than in the strife-torn South. Riven by a Muslim insurgency, the South became the country’s poorest region in 2017, only just edging out the Northeast with a poverty rate of about 12%. The South again topped the Northeast in 2018 with a poverty rate just over 14%.
The report ascribes the latest rises in poverty and inequality to droughts, slow economic growth and falling incomes among both rural farmers and urban businesses.
The bank says Thailand has now seen four such spikes since 2000, more than any of the other nine Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries.
The report’s author, Judy Yang, attributes that, at least in part, to slow wage growth during the period, slower than in any of the bloc’s other large economies.
“If you are a household, what really pulls you out of poverty is getting a better-paying job, getting more income, getting labor market income,” she said.
What also sets Thailand apart is its political turmoil. The coup-prone country has seen four swings between military and civilian rule since 2006, governments cut short by controversial court orders and several rounds of mass protests, some of them deadly.
The World Bank said many of Thailand’s poverty spikes coincided with regional or global financial crises or with drought but added that periods of political instability also tend to depress consumption and investment, which can drive incomes down and poverty rates up.
Cheng, of Control Risks, said his conversations with clients confirm that Thailand’s volatile politics have kept many potential investors at bay, holding the economy back.
“A lot of the investors are staying away and taking a wait-and-see approach for a long, long time now,” he said.
“If they are not in Thailand already, they will be thinking very seriously about whether they should do so because what if there’s a change in government again? What if there are massive street protests like in 2013, 2014? Are you going to repeat the 2010 Bangkok standoff between the Red Shirts and the military?” he added, referring to Thaksin supporters by their color-coded apparel of choice.
Cheng said the constant and sudden turnover in governments has also fostered a habit of short-term policy prescriptions on poverty and inequality that have done more to soothe the symptoms than cure the causes.
Chambers and Cheng agreed that if the latest bout of bad numbers gets worse, Prayut’s problems will also be increased by swelling ranks of not just the poor but also of disenchanted voters.
The World Bank report proffers poverty and inequality figures only up to 2018 but adds that “trends beyond this year are not optimistic, given continued low economic growth rates and stagnant wages.”
Another severe drought devastated farmers last year as the country’s gross domestic product growth rank sank to 2.4%, its lowest since 2014. GDP forecasts for 2020 are even worse, owing much to the novel corona virus outbreak, which has hit the country’s important tourism sector hard.
To counter those blows, Prayut’s government has ramped up and introduced new social welfare programs for the poorest households and last week approved a stimulus package expected to pump some $12.6 billion into the economy.
The World Bank recommends that authorities continue to strengthen the country’s safety net and create better jobs for low-income earners in the short term. In the longer term, it says giving all children equal access to health and education opportunities would be the best way to make future generations more prosperous and more equal. (VOA)
Kenya’s Amboseli National Park is home to herds of elephants that have been the target of poachers trafficking in the illicit trade in ivory. Now a program that has brought women on board in the fight against poaching is gaining traction.
At the start of another day at the Olgulului-Ololarashi Group Ranch, 23-year-old park ranger Purity Amleset, the leader of this all female ranger unit, sets out the day’s plan with her team, ensuring that each member has her orders correct.
Today’s task: locating an elephant and her newborn calf.
Dubbed “Team Lioness,” the ranger unit is made up of eight women whose core duties involve protecting wildlife within the 1,230 square kilometer stretch of parkland that surrounds Amboseli National Park.
They are chosen for their academic achievements, physical stamina, integrity and discipline.
Amleset says joining an all-female ranger unit has been beneficial to the traditionally patriarchal Maasai community.
She says her community held the view that women and girls were the weaker sex and that girls could only do menial jobs and housework, which included only raising a family. However over the course of time, the female rangers have been showing and telling them the importance of being a ranger just like the menfolk.
Gateway for poachers
The Olgulului-Ololarashi Group Ranch’s proximity to the Amboseli park makes it a likely gateway for poachers who may seek entry into the national park to hunt illegally.
Patrick Papatiti, the commander of the Olgululului Community Wildlife Rangers has about 76 rangers under his charge. He says integrating women has not been easy.
“We have the same mentality even within the male ranger unit, the same mentality that ladies cannot do it. But surprisingly we have the best young women who can run, who can move faster than these guys, who can go long(er) distances than these guys,” he sad. “So from that, working together helped us to clear the norm that these are the same ladies the same girls that you see in the village.”
Despite the challenges, in the end James Isiche — the regional director for East Africa from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) — says starting an all-female ranger unit was a risk worth taking.
“Communities in Kenya are male-dominated, but this particular one is extremely male-dominated,” he said. “So getting young ladies to engage in what is seen as a man’s job is a huge success and what we (are) seeing is that it’s encouraging other girls to step up and say that ‘when I finish school I also want to join the female lionesses.’” (VOA)