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Strive: Toward a more just, sustainable future

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Existing models and approaches are not leading to progress. Strive seeks out new voices to talk about fresh ideas to create a more just and sustainable world. By IPS News.




Existing models and approaches are not leading to progress. Strive seeks out new voices to talk about fresh ideas to create a more just and sustainable world. By IPS News.




Governments worldwide prioritize school feeding for its multiple benefits

Before COVID-19 hit, in January 2020, 388 million children worldwide were being fed every day at school. Soon after lockdowns began, that number plummeted to 18 million, but just two years later, in 2022, it had recovered, and more — school feeding had reached 420 million children. Labelled the world’s largest social security net by the United Nations World Food Programme, school meals have become essential tools for governments rich and poor globally. Not only does school feeding allow once-hungry students to focus on learning, in many cases the schemes also help to improve nutrition and eating habits, ensure regular attendance, and through buying ingredients locally or in-country, help to boost local and national economies. Today’s guest, Donald Bundy, is Director of the Global Research Consortium for School Health and Nutrition. He told me that he is not surprised at the swift recovery of school meals after COVID-19 — he says it was politically expedient for many governments to bring them back quickly. What he didn’t predict was that the recovery would surpass pre-pandemic numbers, even as governments north and south struggled to overcome barriers such as broken supply chains, growing inequality, and persistent inflation. Bundy points out that school feeding is not an initiative of aid agencies or donor governments. In fact, 98% of the programmes are financed by national governments as investments in their people and future workforce. We also discuss how countries in the global south, such as Brazil, India and Rwanda, are breaking ground for innovative school feeding while outlier northern countries, such as Canada and Norway, are starting to discuss whether it’s time to adopt national programmes. Bundy also explains how fallout from the pandemic pushed lawmakers in the United States to adopt school meals schemes which led to universal initiatives that feed all students in some of the country’s largest cities, like Houston, New York and Washington, DC. Strive on social media Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Resources Global Research Consortium for School Health and NutritionSchool Meals CoalitionSchool Feeding Is Now the World’s Largest Social Safety Net


Voices from the World Social Forum 2024

After interviewing a member of the Nepal organizing committee ahead of opening day, I was excited about covering my first ever World Social Forum (WSF). He suggested that at least 30,000 and as many as 50,000 activists from over 90 countries would attend the three-day event. But day 1 disappointed me. The march through the centre of Kathmandu was large, but not the massive showing I expected to see — perhaps because police in the vehicle-clogged city centre didn’t close roads along the route, but squeezed marchers into one lane of traffic. Again, thousands crowded in front of the stage for the opening ceremony but while it was impressive, it was far from a stupendous showing. But as I hurried to attend various workshops over the next three days I became increasingly impressed. Each session — most held in cold, dusty classrooms in a series of colleges lining a downtown road— was full, some to overflowing. People were eager to squeeze in, to hear colleagues from across the world explain and advocate on issues that affected all of their lives in very similar ways. Between workshops the chatter of those who had finished early — or at least not late like the rest of us — floated through the open windows of classrooms. On closing day more than 60 declarations were reportedly issued by the various ‘movements’, the thematic groups that comprise the WSF. I’m sure they assert the need for change: for peace, equality, rights and dignity — for people, nature and the planet. As usual, I support these calls. But what I learned at my first WSF is that energy and enthusiasm for a world that looks and runs vastly differently than the often terrible one that we inhabit today has not waned among a huge number of people, young and old. I’d hazard a guess that the ones you’re about to hear, who I recorded at the start of the Forum, would be as engaged and energetic if I had spoken with them after it ended, following hours of listening, learning, and networking about how to create a better world. Strive on social media Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Resources IPS coverage of the World Social ForumWebsite of the World Social Forum 2024


NCDs are killing the Caribbean

If I asked you to name the world’s most deadly diseases I’m guessing that you might say HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, cholera, maybe even COVID-19. In fact, those have all been major killers throughout human history – and some like TB continue to be so, especially in low-income countries. But there is one group of diseases that is responsible for the deaths of more than two-thirds of people on earth. Let that sink in for moment. For every three people who die, two are killed by these illnesses, which are known as non-communicable diseases, or NCDs. You probably know about many of them. NCDs include cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and strokes, lung diseases and mental and neurological illnesses. As the name implies, what sets NCDs apart is that they cannot be passed from one person to another. Today we’re speaking with Maisha Hutton, executive director of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition, about the growing impact of NCDs on that region. For example, they are responsible for 80% of deaths in the Caribbean, and 40% of all premature deaths. Before COVID-19, one in three children in the region was overweight or obese – a major contributor to developing NCDs — which is one of the highest rates in the world; it might be even higher now, says Maisha. Besides describing what NCDs look like in the Caribbean and what societies there are doing to tackle the epidemic, Maisha explains why it’s not fair, or correct, to label NCDs as ‘lifestyle diseases’. That’s because the environments where people live have been carefully designed to promote NCD risk factors including alcohol and tobacco use, physical inactivity and unhealthy diets. A quick note about some terms that Maisha mentions: PAHO is the Pan American Health Organization. GDA, traffic light, and octagonal — or stop sign — are different types of warning labels for food packages. GDA stands for guideline daily amount (or guideline daily allowance). Strive on social media Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Resources Healthy Caribbean Coalition Best Buys of the World Health Organization (WHO)


Is Solutions Journalism the answer to cynicism about the media?

If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard a lot of negative talk about the media in recent years. Much of it has focused on the integrity of the so-called mainstream or legacy media that has dominated the information landscape in recent decades, or longer. These attacks, which sometimes actually degenerate into physical assaults, call into question how honestly or fairly these outlets portray the world, including in politics and global issues such as the Covid-19 pandemic. In response, the established media has often seemed on the defensive or facing renewed competition from platforms that claim to be righting the balance in providing coverage of all voices, often amplifying those on the so-called right wing of the political spectrum. But it has been rare to hear about innovative approaches emerging in response to the criticism. Solutions journalism is one exception. It focuses on examining attempts to solve major issues facing societies and then analysing the success of those initiatives. It is, says today’s guest – Hugo Balta, publisher of the US-based Latino News Network – one way of going beyond a simple presentation of the day’s ‘bad news’, and then offering possible ways forward. As I mention in this interview, I know from personal experience that watching the nightly news can be a recipe for frustration and cynicism. I gave it up years ago and instead sought out media that presented more in-depth coverage. That didn’t necessarily mean it was delivering solutions to the major problems of the day, but I somehow felt less detached watching a report that was minutes rather than seconds long. In my own journalism too – although I was initially sceptical about focusing on a single way forward rather than balancing various approaches to an issue – I believe I have naturally gravitated towards reporting about an issue and then exploring possible ways out of an impasse. Balta, who has worked more than three decades as a journalist, says his former approach was very top-down – “It was ‘we know better than you, the public, what you need to know today’. Solutions journalism helped us to flip that, from a top-down to a bottom-up approach,” he adds. “It’s more about listening and getting direction from the audience that we’re working to reach. They’re telling us what they need from us.” Strive on social media Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Resources Solutions Journalism Network Latino News Network


'The international community must act on Afghanistan'

“If you were waiting for a couple of years to see how the Taliban would perform, we now have a pretty good idea. We can see that they have moved, step by step, back towards how they ran the country in their first period in power,” says UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, in this episode. The human rights expert, and colleagues, have released a series of reports in recent months detailing how freedoms in the South Asian nation have been constrained, especially for women and girls, after the Taliban assumed power almost exactly two years ago, as forces from the US and other western powers exited the country. Since then, says the special rapporteur, the Taliban, which calls its government an “Islamic emirate”, have announced about 60 decrees concerning women, all but one of which has further restricted their movement. While the smothering of women’s lives has received the most attention outside of Afghanistan, there does not appear to be any improvement in the humanitarian situation, and it could get worse as winter approaches, says Bennett. “The key humanitarian agencies… report that there is still widespread food insecurity, including child malnutrition. Millions of people in Afghanistan are still dependent on humanitarian assistance, including for food.” It is time that the international community acts on its condemnation of the Taliban’s actions, stresses the special rapporteur. If the documented violations of human rights are not compelling enough, then governments should consider that Afghanistan could become a breeding ground for terrorism. Bennett has also suggested that the Taliban’s actions against women and girls could be treated as gender persecution, which is considered a crime against humanity by the International Criminal Court. And he noted that some Afghan women are pressing for the definition of the crime of ‘apartheid’ to be expanded to include ‘gender apartheid’. Please listen now to my chat with Richard Bennett. Strive on social media Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Resources Richard Bennett's report on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, June 2023 International Criminal Court


How The Ass used satire to poke fun at Nepal's leaders

Welcome to Strive, a podcast of IPS News, where we chat with new voices about fresh ideas to create a more just and sustainable world. My name is Marty Logan. We’ve all made asses of ourselves at one time or another. But today’s guest actually made a career out of it — not of messing up but of being The Ass, the author of a satirical column that ran on the back page of the Nepali Times newspaper for more than two decades. As full-time publisher and editor of the weekly paper he says that writing the column went way beyond horsing around. In fact, more than once during our chat he describes satire as serious business — it’s a way to hint at what is really going on in the halls of power without playing by the regular rules of journalism, but if you cross a line and hit too hard — or too low — you could find yourself in a heap of — well, you know what. We also discuss the evolution of the Times. It started as a business decision but soon became immersed in war journalism, reporting on the decade-long Maoist conflict. Gradually it developed its brand as a paper that went out of its way to report on the state of the country outside the Kathmandu bubble. Simultaneously it chronicled momentous events including the high stakes, post-war peace process, the downfall of the monarchy, the birth of republican Nepal and the devastating 2015 earthquake. Post-Covid-19, Nepali Times has resumed printing a hard-copy version to accompany its website. But The Ass, aka Kunda Dixit, believes the physical paper has at most a three-year future before mobile phone readership will render it obsolete. The big challenge, larger even than fending off pressure from anti-democratic forces in government and beyond, will be attracting enough ‘eyeballs’ — in competition with Facebook, Instagram and other social media — to finance operations. A quick note: early in the episode The Ass talks about the panchayat, which was the party-less system of government that reigned in Nepal before democracy was restored in 1990. Strive on social media Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Resources The Backside column of The Ass, in Nepali Times


Measuring human rights

Welcome to Strive podcast, where we chat with new voices about fresh ideas to create a more just and sustainable world. My name is Marty Logan. Before we get to today’s episode, if you enjoy Strive I encourage you to share it with a friend so they can check out the show. If you’re listening in a podcast app just click on the share icon (the one with the up-facing arrow). Or you can share a post on our Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn channels. We’re @ipsnews. Today we’re learning about what I think is a fantastic new tool for holding governments accountable to their human rights obligations. Actually the Human Rights Measurement Initiative is six years old, so it’s not brand new, but it was a revelation to me when I came across it recently. What I like is how the Initiative’s Rights Tracker assigns a score to a government’s record on a specific right, let’s say the right to education, based on how other countries with roughly the same level of resources have performed. As a journalist I still believe in the naming and shaming approach but as today’s guest, Stephen Bagwell of the Initiative, and the University of Missouri, St Louis, says, too often governments respond to reports of rights violations by dismissing them as exaggerated or made up. It is much harder to brush off HRMI’s scores, which are largely data-based. I also like a comparison Stephen uses to explain why human rights should be measured: the Sustainable Development Goals. There are all sorts of updates on progress toward the 2030 SDGs deadline, when in fact governments are not legally obliged to attain the goals. But hundreds of countries have ratified the various human rights instruments, like the Convention on the Rights of the Child or the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights — yet no one was systematically tracking their progress on meeting those obligations. One note on abbreviations you’ll hear in today’s episode: ICCPR is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, noted above, and the ICESCR is the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Both are bedrock human rights documents. The former is considered law in 173 countries and the ICESCR in 171 countries. Resources Human Rights Measurement Initiative Nepal page on HRMI's Rights Tracker Strive on social media Twitter Facebook LinkedIn


How development banks put communities at risk

A 2021 World Bank-financed project in Uganda was supposed to help communities to sustainably manage local areas and to cope with the impacts of Covid-19. But at one site, the Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve, the funding emboldened the Uganda Wildlife Authority. A government body, and the project’s implementing agency, the UWA has long prevented indigenous communities from reclaiming their land near the wildlife reserve. Since 2015, UWA rangers have been responsible for more than 86 attacks, including 34 people beaten, shot, or injured, 15 arrested, and at least 29 killed in the wildlife reserve. That’s according to a new report called Wearing Blinders. Reprisals against the local community accelerated during negotiations over the World Bank financing. Unfortunately, such events are not rare. In 2021, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre recorded over 600 attacks against human rights defenders in the context of business activities. Many of them involved, either directly or indirectly, development banks. That’s according to one of today’s guests — Lorena Cotza of the Coalition for Human Rights in Development, an umbrella group of over 100 civil society groups and author of Wearing Blinders. Our other guest is Ugandan human rights defender Gerald Kankya, director of the Twerwaneho Listeners Club. TLC accompanies communities impacted by development projects, to denounce human rights violations and hold financiers accountable. Days before we spoke, Gerald and his colleagues filed requests for compensation for the families of the Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve in the High Court of Uganda. According to Lorena, development banks often shirk their responsibilities. They claim that there are no links between reprisals against community members and their financing of local projects. She believes that banks’ independent complaint bodies do produce insightful and credible investigations. However in the end, they can only make recommendations, not hold banks accountable. One possibly effective pressure point on the banks, Lorena points out, is that they lend public money and are governed by country representatives. If citizens of these countries raise their voices loud enough, the banks might listen. Resources Wearing Blinders report Coalition for Human Rights and Development Twerwaneho Listeners Club Strive on social media Twitter Facebook LinkedIn


What makes a human rights success?

Welcome to Strive podcast, a production of IPS News. My name is Marty Logan. The largest ever settlement in Canadian legal history, 40 billion Canadian dollars, occurred in 2022, but it didn’t come from a court – it followed a decision by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. In 2016 the Tribunal affirmed a complaint that the Government of Canada’s child welfare system discriminated against First Nations children. (First Nations are one of three groups of Indigenous people in Canada). When I heard about that amount and subsequently how the government was negotiating the details of that settlement, I was astounded. Although I’ve had an interest in and reported regularly about human rights in the past three decades, my most intense experience has been here in Nepal, where for a couple of years I worked at the United Nations human rights office. Nepal’s Human Rights Commission has a long history of having its recommendations virtually ignored by the government of the day. In fact, since 2000, only 12% of the NHRC’s 810 recommendations have been fully implemented. So when I compared the situation in Nepal to the tribunal’s decision and aftermath in Canada, my first question was ‘how’? How could the human rights situation in the two countries be so different that one government was compelled to pay out $40 billion for discrimination while another could virtually ignore recommendations? First, I have to confess that my understanding of the human rights framework in Canada and Nepal was lacking. As today’s guest, Professor Anne Levesque from the University of Ottawa, explains, Canada, like Nepal, has a federal human rights commission (as well as commissions in its provinces). But Canada also has the tribunal, a quasi-judicial body that hears complaints and can issue orders. Nepal however, lacks a human rights body that has legal teeth. But is that the whole story, or are there other reasons why the Government of Canada must – and does – pay up when it loses a human rights case while the Government of Nepal basically files away the NHRC’s recommendations for some later date? Nepal, by the way, is not a human rights pariah. It is serving its second consecutive term on the UN Human Rights Council and the NHRC has been given an ‘A’ rating by an independent organization for conforming to international standards. Resources As a lawyer who’s helped fight for the rights of First Nations children, here’s what you need to know about the $40 billion child welfare agreements – article by Anne Levesque Ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Public advocacy for the First Nations Child Welfare complaint Strive on social media Twitter Facebook LinkedIn


Indigenous peoples must continue to challenge human rights violations

Welcome to Strive podcast, a production of IPS News. My name is Marty Logan. Today we are starting a new series focused on human rights. For people working to create a more sustainable and just world – as we are – a human rights based approach makes sense as it starts from the premise that only by recognizing and protecting the dignity inherent in all people can we attain those goals. Today’s guest, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, has immense experience in human rights. She is the founder and executive director of Tebtebba Foundation, which works to improve the lives of Indigenous peoples in the Philippines, her home country, and beyond. She was the Chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples from 2005 To 2010, and UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples from 2014 to 2020. We cover a lot of ground in this episode — from Vicky’s analysis of her time as special rapporteur to recent rhetoric around ‘building back better’, the circular economy and other touted economic reforms, versus the reality on the ground. Indigenous communities are facing growing pressure from both states and the private sector to extract the natural resources that they are trying to protect. This dichotomy between the words and deeds of these powerful actors must be continually exposed and challenged by Indigenous peoples, says Vicky. Asked whether governments of poorer countries are doing enough to protect human rights, without hesitating Vicky answers no. But she also points out that these countries are themselves pressured by international agreements, brokered largely by rich countries, that leave them with few options but to exploit natural resources. She also tells me about an exciting project — the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, a body of 23 global experts, is creating a General Recommendation on Indigenous women and girls. Among other things, it recognize the individual and collective rights of Indigenous women, the latter including respect for their rights to land, languages and other culture. Vicki says it is the first time that a UN treaty body is developing a recommendation focussed on Indigenous women. Resources Tebtebba Foundation UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigneous Peoples Strive on social media Twitter Facebook LinkedIn


More students on the move in an increasingly complex world

This is our third episode on the ongoing movements of people around the world. You can listen to the previous ones, the first about climate migrants and the second on remittances, on any podcast app. If you’re like me you were surprised to learn about the international students trapped in Ukraine after the Russian invasion in February. In fact, the country had more than 75,000 students from abroad in 2020 according to the Ukraine government. That figure highlights how student movement globally has changed in recent decades, with many scholars, particularly from the global South, bypassing traditional destinations like the US and UK for lesser known and cheaper centres. But one consistent trend is growth: in 2000 the number of international students globally was estimated at 2 million and by 2019 it had tripled to 6 million. Our guest today, Rajika Bhandari, understands intimately the movements of international students. She was one herself in the 1990s, travelling from India to the US, where she eventually settled and began a career examining how students travel to learn in foreign countries. Author of the recently published book America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility, Rajika tells me how certain aspects of the international student experience have remained the same, including financial challenges and adaptation issues. Meanwhile other issues have emerged, like the global rise in nationalism and the growth in academic refugees — young people who flee crises in countries like Ukraine and Afghanistan but are not treated like ‘official’ students in their receiving countries. Rajika also puts a unique spin on a decades-old topic — explaining how the ‘brain drain’ that steals the young minds that represent the potential of poorer countries is morphing into ‘brain circulation.’ This post-modern movement can have multiple destinations, including students’ home countries, but those nations must be aware and engaged in attracting talent to come home. Resources Rajika Bhandari’s website. Check out the collection of articles on various aspects of international students. Rajika Bhandari’s book — American Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility Strive on social media Twitter Facebook LinkedIn


Migrant workers’ remittances fund development—make it easier for them

I hope you had a chance to listen to our last episode, Environmental disasters creating more migrants within countries. We talked about the rising number of people who are forced out of their homes because of climate or environmental disasters. Nearly 30 million men, women and children in 149 countries were displaced in 2020, temporarily or for good and the signs are, that those numbers will only grow. Today we’re continuing our series of conversations about people on the move globally, talking about remittances and the migrant workers worldwide who send these earnings home to their families—$200 each month on average according to today’s guest, Pedro de Vasconcelos. He is the Senior Technical Specialist/ Coordinator at the Financing Facility for Remittances of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, or IFAD. The size of global remittances is astounding—$554 billion US dollars in 2019. More surprising to me is that this sum is greater than combining all of the foreign direct investment (FDI) and overseas development assistance (ODA) sent to the countries of the developing world. In effect, the workers of the world’s poorest countries are doing more to lift themselves out of poverty than anyone else, but that’s not something you often hear in development discussions. Of course we couldn’t have this conversation without noting the impact of Covid-19 on remittances and migrant workers. Here in Nepal there were horrifying stories in the media of groups of workers, many in Persian Gulf countries, who were forced out of work during lockdowns, eventually ran out of money, then food, and had to rely on the kindness of friends and even strangers, until they could raise enough cash to buy an air ticket home—when flights were available—or just wait out lockdowns. Pedro predicts that Covid-19’s impact on remittances will be a wake-up call to the public and private sectors about the crucial role that the earnings generated by the world’s migrant workers play in keeping economies afloat. If those involved can sync their efforts to ensure that the money can be sent home as efficiently as possible and that workers are given more and better options to use their earnings, it is possible to imagine a day when migration for work will be a choice and not a necessity. Please listen now to my conversation with Pedro de Vasconcelos. Thanks again to Pedro de Vasconcelos of IFAD for sharing his time with me, especially for agreeing to a second interview within days, and when he was travelling, after online connection problems during our first chat. If you have any thoughts about this episode, you can share them with us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn—our handle is IPSNews. We’d also love to hear your ideas for future episodes about People on the Move around the world. Don’t forget—you can follow or subscribe to Strive on Spotify, Google, Apple Podcasts and most other podcast players. My name is Marty Logan, you can email me at mlogan(at) Strive will be back soon and is a production of IPS News. Resources Financing Facility for Remittances, IFAD Nepali Migrant Workers stuck overseas — article in Nepali Times newspaper Strive on social media Twitter Facebook LinkedIn


Environmental disasters creating more migrants within countries

In the final months of 2021 you likely saw countless media reports of migrant men, women and children getting blocked at borders trying to enter various countries. Two flashpoints were the Mexico-US border and the border between Poland and Belarus, but there were many others. What you likely didn’t learn from the media was what happened to tens of millions of people who left home, often as a last option, because of conflicts or an environmental emergency but who relocated—at least temporarily—to another part of their own country. Nearly 40 million people in 149 countries made such moves in 2020, an astounding 75% of them for climate or environmental hazards. (The others were displaced by conflict). Today we’re speaking about this with Diogo Serraglio of the South American Network for Environmental Migration, or RESAMA. Here in Nepal the annual monsoon usually spawns destructive and deadly floods and landslides that shatter the lives of hundreds, even thousands, of people. Many of them rig up temporary homes almost immediately or are housed in emergency shelters nearby until they can rebuild on their land. But in some cases the displaced simply give up and leave, hoping to recreate their lives in a new place. Eventually, if things go well, they will be absorbed into the neighbourhood and the larger community. Diogo tells me this is a normal scenario globally—people who migrate to a new place within a country find themselves on their own to construct a new life. But, work IS happening to create international frameworks to provide direction on how displaced people should be treated; the challenge is to translate those peerless promises into hot meals and housing where people actually end up. Covid-19 has made that much more difficult, explains Diogo. One note before we start—Diogo refers to the UNFCCC. That is the acronym of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the body that hosted COP26 last November and the 25 previous meetings. Please listen now to my conversation with Diogo Serraglio. Resources RESAMA UNFCCC Taskforce on displacement Global report on internal displacement, 2020 Strive on Apple Podcasts Strive on Twitter Strive on Facebook IPS News


Fighting female genital mutilation and cutting in Asia

Welcome to Strive, a podcast by IPS News. My name is Marty Logan. I suspect that most of you have at least heard of female genital mutilation, or FGM. It’s a practice that happens in numerous African countries, in which girls’ genitalia are removed or cut, for cultural or religious reasons. FGM has been condemned globally for years and campaigners continue working to end it. But what might surprise you is that FGM happens in Asia too. And not just in one or two countries. According to today’s guest, Keshia Mahmood from Malaysia-based non-profit ARROW, the practice occurs in as many as 13 countries in both Southeast Asia and South Asia. That shocked me. I think I’m pretty well informed, and I lived in Malaysia for four years, but I didn’t know about FGM happening there. Interestingly, the United Nations joint programme to eliminate FGM works in 17 countries, but none of them are in Asia. Keshia explains why FGM in Asia — which she refers to as FGM/C, or female genital mutilation or cutting — has been so under-exposed, but how that started changing after its elimination was included in one of the Sustainable Development Goals, whose deadline is 2030. Still, ending it will be a huge challenge, in part because practising communities believe that it is a much less invasive version of FGM than those performed in African countries. Another impediment is the growing medicalization of the practice, which lends it an air of legitimacy. Keshia also discusses a new initiative co-led by ARROW called the Asia Network to end FGM/C, and some of the avenues it is pursuing to support partners working on the ground to end the practice. They have their work cut out for them: every year more than 1 million girls in Asia are cut in the name of culture and religion. Resources Asia Network to end Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting Sustainable Development Goal 5.3 United Nations joint programme on FGM Strive on Twitter Strive on Facebook IPS News


Citizen leads drive to repatriate temple gods looted from India

Welcome to Strive, a podcast by IPS News. My name is Marty Logan. The illicit trade in idols and other historical treasures looted from temples, archaeological digs and various sites globally has been estimated at $100 billion a year. A more telling figure might be the nearly 18,000 villagers in India’s Tamil Nadu state who turned out to welcome home a god figure stolen from one of their temples. More revealing still is the image of a single villager who, seeing a stolen god displayed in a Singapore Museum, falls to the ground and starts to pray. Vijay Kumar accompanied that villager to the museum, and has witnessed idols lovingly replaced to their ages-old spots in Tamil Nadu temples. For 16 years he has been working to repatriate gods and goddesses looted from India over the years, and the challenges remain huge, he tells us in today’s episode. For example, in 2020, police seized 19,000 stolen artefacts in an international art trafficking crackdown. 101 suspects were arrested with treasures from around the world, including Colombian and Roman antiquities. One activist estimates that in France alone there are 116,000 African objects that should be returned. But Vijay is encouraged by the successes of citizen-led movements like his own, which began with a blog, Poetry in Stone, then the launch of the group India Pride Project. Success can be measured in the growing number of artefacts returned to India: 19, from 1970-2000; 0, from 2000-2013; but 300+ after 2013. That includes roughly 250 items valued at about $15 million, which were repatriated in October, among the treasures looted by disgraced art dealer Subhash Kapoor, the subject of Vijay’s book, The Idol Thief. Today’s conversation is packed with information, including Vijay’s opinion that countries like India and Nepal, where idols are part of the living heritage and still prayed to daily, should be treated differently than countries whose artefacts are looted from buried remains. He also has advice for would-be activists — in the murky world of art repatriation, be very, very wary about accepting money from anyone. Resources The Idol ThiefUnited Nations convention on cultural propertyReport: Facebook's black market in antiquitiesVijay Kumar on TwitterStrive on TwitterStrive on FacebookIPS News


‘Trauma and struggle’: Being Black in America

Welcome to Strive, a podcast by IPS News. My name is Marty Logan. Today we’re talking about the aftermath of the horrendous murder of George Floyd in 2020 and the protests that ensued. But first, this is the fourth episode of the show, and we’d really like to hear what you think of it. So could you please take a minute to rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Thank you! The brutal murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 horrified people around the world. The weeks of massive demonstrations that followed, and the often violent response by police, left many of us captivated and inspired others worldwide to take to the streets in solidarity. Racial justice activist and organizer Larry Dean would normally have been leading people onto the streets of Chicago, as he had been doing for a decade—but this killing struck him to his core. Instead he went back to his family home to try to tune out the world. Today, Dean looks back on those dark days and can identify some shafts of light in the movement for racial justice and equality in the United States. But are they bright enough to reveal a path to autonomy and freedom for Black people, one that can overcome a biased justice system, impoverished schools, police budgets that are still ballooning in many cities and many other barriers? Listen now to my conversation with Larry Dean to find out. Resources BYP100Strive on TwitterStrive on FacebookIPS News


Civil society must build on protest movements

Welcome to Strive: Toward a more just, sustainable future, a new podcast by IPS News. My name is Marty Logan. 2020 was a year of tremendous upheaval. The murder of George Floyd, followed by global Black Lives Matter protests, Covid-19 and the stark light that the pandemic shone on inequality within countries and between the global north and south, protests and brutal repression after elections in Belarus, ongoing demonstrations for climate action led by youth around the world, to name just a few. Civil society, that is all sectors of our lives that are not family, government or for-profit, played a central role in all of these movements. But are those actions leading to positive results that will change people’s lives for the better? Today’s guest, Lysa John, Secretary General of CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society groups, responds unequivocally yes. She points to past examples like the campaigns to recognize women’s right to vote and for legal recognition of gay rights. In these tumultuous times, she argues, what civil society must do better is channel the energy of the movements on the streets into medium and long-term projects to build alternatives to existing structures. Please listen now to my interview with Lysa John. If you enjoyed the conversation, make sure that you follow, favourite or like Strive on your podcast player. If you thought it was great, why don’t you give us a review on Apple podcasts? It will help to raise our profile so more people can hear what we’re doing. Between episodes you can catch up with us on Twitter and Facebook at ipsnews. My name is Marty Logan. I’ll be back soon. Strive is a production of IPS News. Resources CIVICUS websiteStrive on TwitterStrive on FacebookIPS News


Community inclusion currencies: money for the people

Do you think it’s possible to transform communities that are stagnating from a lack of currency into places where people’s income-generating activities create a vibrant, self-sustaining circular economy? It is in parts of Kenya that are using the community currency Sarafu, according to today’s guest. Shaila Agha is Director of Grassroots Economics, which developed Sarafu. She tells us how coupling the currency—which is traded via wallets on mobile phones—with a development initiative, like more sustainable farming techniques, can transform communities. They go from places where a shortage of Kenya shillings can squelch economic activity to being communities where each person is given an equal chance to participate and is rewarded for being an active member. This is such an intriguing initiative and seems so full of promise. That probably explains why the number of users has jumped 500% since January 2020, and why Sarafu could soon be expanding from Kenya into Cameroon. A bonus is that the currency works on blockchain technology, making it fully transparent, a feature that attracted a recent investment from UNICEF’s Innovation Centre. If you enjoyed this episode of Strive, please help spread the word by rating or reviewing the show on Apple podcasts. You can also subscribe, follow or favourite Strive on any podcast app. Stay up-to-date with us between episodes on Twitter and Facebook, at IPS News. You can email me at Resources Grassroots Economics Strive on Twitter Strive on Facebook


Civil society leading Covid-19 mask campaign in South Asia

Footage of flames engulfing bodies at makeshift funeral pyres and stories of people dying in cars as drivers desperately raced from hospital to hospital seeking a bed. These scenes marked the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in India just months ago. Nepal was similarly walloped: staff turned away people at intensive care units and patients attached to oxygen cylinders were being treated in parking lots. Other South Asian countries were less affected but overall Covid-19 has officially killed 450,000 people in the region since 2020. With vaccines expected to arrive painfully slowly in coming months—India for example has fully vaccinated just 6% of its population, Nepal 4% and Pakistan 2%—mask wearing needs to be the priority, says the guest on today’s episode of Strive. Maha Rehman is Policy Director at the Mahbub ul Haq Research Centre at Lahore University of Management Sciences, in Pakistan. She is also a leader of the NORM mask-wearing intervention taking place in four countries in the region, and beyond. She describes NORM’s early success in Bangladesh and how finding a way to embed the programme in local communities in each of these very different countries will be key. If you enjoyed this first episode of Strive, please help spread the word by rating or reviewing the show on Apple podcasts. You can also subscribe, follow or favourite Strive on any podcast app. Stay up-to-date with us between episodes on Twitter and Facebook. If you have something to say to me directly email me at Resources NORM mask initiativeStrive on TwitterStrive on Facebook