Posts Tagged ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’

Rendezvous with Gulalai Ismail, Commonwealth Youth Award winner from Pakistan

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, E-Magazine, General Information, News & Updates, Take Action

file

Photo Source: Google

Gulalai Ismail, a 28-year-old Pakistani human rights activist from Peshawar, has been awarded the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Award for Excellence in Development Work recently. Gulalai was chosen as the winner from the Asia region out of a shortlist of sixteen extraordinary young people from across the Commonwealth.The award recognizes outstanding young people under 30 whose development projects and programs have had significant impact on their communities, countries and across the globe.

Speaking to me, Gulalai said that we should speak up no matter what, “Silence perpetuates more silence and speaking up will bring change, a smaller and a humble change ” she said.

Congratulations Gulalai for being awarded the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Award for Excellence in Development Work. How does this award affect your work and commitment towards the cause you stand for?

I think this award has increased awareness about the role of young women and girls in promoting democracy, peace and human rights. This award is not just recognition of my work as a person, but recognition of the voices of the women and young people who are working in extremely challenging and life risking situations for their rights and development of their communities. Today, in Pakistan young people makes the largest population dividend, at least 50% of these young people comprises of young women, but unfortunately if we look at the statistics only 18% of women in Pakistan has received more than 10 years of education, 90% of the women are becoming victims of domestic abuse, and millions of girls around the world are forced into early marriages. I believe a decent, peaceful and developed world isn’t possible without investing in gender equality, without making the world a better place for women. This award is the recognition of similar voices.

Can you please tell us a bit about your organization and its work?

Aware Girls is young women led organization, an organization which has been established by girls and young women in 2002 with the purpose of providing a leadership platform to young women where they can get information about their rights, institutes and policies which protect their rights, can strengthen their leadership skills and can act as advocates of change, equality and peace.

Our objectives are to empower young women and girls by strengthening their leadership skills and by creating a conducive environment where young women and girls can exercise their human rights which includes sensitizing communities about different issues and rights of girls and advocating for systems and policies which ensures that young women and girls’ can live a decent life and can exercise their human rights.

We are working on human rights education, girls’ leadership, civic and political empowerment of young women, economic empowerment of young women, sexual and reproductive health rights of young women and on countering and preventing violent extremism in our communities i.e. in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan.

Through our work we are changing the lives of girls for example few years back, Shazia, who was then 14 years old participated in our HIV/AIDS education campaign which inspired her, she took became member of our AIDS Discussion club which was like a leadership incubator for her, she started raising awareness among her peer through peer to peer education about HIV/AIDS prevention. It increased her self-esteem and confidence. When few years later her family told her that she can’t take admission in college because it is against their culture and family values she didn’t accept the decision, she stood for herself and convinced her family that she has to go to college. Today, she is studying in a medical school getting her degree of Lady Health Worker. There are thousands of other stories like this which are encouraging us to keep on going against the odds.

You were just 16 years old when you set up Aware Girls, was it challenging?

Even after working for more than 12 years, it’s challenging. We are still reclaiming our leadership spaces. Our society is yet not comfortable with the idea of a women leader though Pakistan has some amazing women leaders but even then we have to go a long way to create acceptability of women in leadership roles.

There was so much inspiration and sense of responsibility around me, I was determined. I knew one thing only and that was: I have to play my part in making this world a better place, it doesn’t matter how small or big role I play. It would have been really unfair if I would have just let things happen around me and not do anything about it.

How has your father being a human rights activist contributed in your view point considering that it is challenging to voice concerns on extremism and violence in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa?

My father is amazing, he always taught me “Speak up, no matter how shrill your voice is, no matter how huge the opposition is. If you feel like speaking up- just speak up and don’t worry about the consequences”. He himself is a very brave man and has always challenged the structural inequalities in the society, my parents are my inspiration. When we were young, long before 9/11 my father was put in Jail in a Blasphemy Case because he was speaking up for peace and because he was advocating the idea that we shouldn’t support any militant group in Afghanistan. He fought the Blasphemy case for 7 years, only because he spoke for peace and non-violence. But even then he remained brave enough to speak for peace. I come from the family of fighters- so it was kind of okay to start up a venture for empowering women and girls.

We witnessed what happened to Malala Yousafzai when she tried talking about women issues, wasn’t there a threat for you coming from the same place?

Well as I said, we still have a long way to go! It’s not easy to speak up on women rights, to speak against Talibanisation and to speak for Peace while living in the heart of the Province where the militants have a stronghold. But that makes me stronger, becoming weak and fearful is not an option. The only option we have is to be strong enough to reclaim our society; we can’t leave it to the extremists, militants, and to the patriarchal culture.

There is quite a lot of negative propaganda on social media against me, we received threats, we have been attacked as well but all of this just makes me stronger, happier! Because then I know that yes, my work is bringing change in my community- be it a smaller change.

What do you think is different between you and her that protect you from the extremist elements?

I think Malala can’t be compared to the work of anyone. She is extra ordinarily brave, she was in Swat and she was raising her voice at a really young age when everyone was afraid of speaking up. She was already an icon in Pakistan, a young leader who put her life at risk. For me, she is a hero not because she was attacked but because of what she did before she was attacked. She is a role model for the world!

What message do you have for women on International women’s day?

Speak up- No matter how shrill your voice is, silence perpetuates more silence and speaking up will bring change, a smaller and a humble change.

Kick-starting India

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Books & Magazine, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, India, News, News & Updates, Publications, Regions, Take Action, Weekly news

More than 170 million Indian voters chose Narendra Modi as the country’s 15th prime minister in the world’s largest democratic election. Apparently people wanted to get rid of Congress considering the many scams and corruption scandals that worked against the Congress for example Commonwealth Games scam, telecom scam, discreet distribution of coal mines to cronies etc. It was also said that the Aam Aadmi party was very new in the political arena hence had few chances of victory. So it was BJP the Bhartya Janta Party that came on the front with a sweeping victory. The sentiments were mixed definitely. While some celebrated the success others were infuriated. I guess this is what democracy is all about. The only thing that concerned me was regarding a fair democratic election in place not backed by any agenda so to say. A genuine and transparent voting system in place, allowing people to question the propositions made by the participating parties and then deciding whom to vote for.

Reuters mukesh guptaIndia’s Election 2014 : Modi’s supporters rejoicing in the victory

Photo Source: Reuters/Mukesh Gupta

A lot of people were surprised to see the results where Congress was badly mauled. In the Northern Uttar Pradesh state alone BJP won more seats than the Congress won in the entire country. By dividing the electorate on religious lines and by making use of religious polarization along with communalism like in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and adjoining areas in Bihar and describing Azamgarh, a predominantly Muslim town, as den of terrorists it ran an election campaign that proved to be of its advantage.

So the elections are over now and the truth is that BJP is in power hence I would not like to waste my time debating who should have won. People have a right to choose what they think is best for them. As growth in India flagged, the Congress lost support ending their legacy. The leadership of Monmohan Sigh was lackluster. The Congress party needed to be more inclusive and hard working by not treating the party as a hereditary right of the Gandhis.

So should India’s minorities especially Muslims be afraid keeping in mind the 2002 Gujarat communal riots? The Hindu nationalists and BJP should ensure the safety and justice for the minorities considering them citizens of India who are not unequal. The sooner BJP realizes it the better it is for Narendra Modi’s longevity as the leader of India. Also keeping in mind the Gujarat model that focused on growth, this time BJP needs to have an outward thinking focusing on the inequality of access to economic and social opportunities, resources and justice as growth goes hand in hand with the well being of all.

Narendra’s Modi echoing victory offers reasons to hope that his government will promote prosperity and development for all Indians. Legislating with majority should facilitate socio economic reforms that would prove beneficial in the longer run for the country. Modi faces higher expectations than his predecessor given the election campaign.

Termed as ‘Development Man’ during his mammoth election campaign Narendra Modi the chief of India’s ruling party plays a vital role in the fight against climate justice and trying to make the sustainable development goals a reality. Pushing a vision of prosperity with more electrified cities and wealthier citizens, his promise will undoubtedly have profound implications for the planet over the years to come.

AFPWomen going to vote during the democratic elections in India 2014

Photo Source: AFP

For the developing world like India there are three factors that lie at the heart of sustainability. That would be electricity generation, use of land in agriculture and deforestation and protection of water resources especially when it comes to agriculture. These three factors are intertwined making it challenging for the government to enact with other necessary reforms. The first customary address by the President Pranab Mukherjee struck an ambitious tone on sustainable development.

Looking at the BJP manifesto the importance is given on how much energy they are going to be able to produce, the focus in not on how. The manifesto promises to make the most of gas, oil, coal, ocean, wind, nuclear and hydel power, looking at the diverse supply of energy. Keeping in mind Modi’s pro-business attitude some are optimistic that he will be a force for good in contributing to India’s developing renewable market. Krishna Pallassana the executive director of Climate Group India stresses that Modi believes and has also publicly stated many times that he wants to embrace a clean energy model. Krishna Pallassana is expecting a huge boost to this sector with Modi as a prime minister. Modi’s tenure will overlap with the UN’s attempt in 2015 to sign a legally binding global climate deal and hence Modi has to familiarize himself with the international politics of climate change. There are many issues that need to be smoothed out between India and other big emitters such as US and EU and India’s stance at the talks so far has been less than pacifying. Adaptation and taking on mitigation actions should remain a priority for the new government equaling to those of developed countries. The developed countries are the largest per capita contributors to the grave problem of carbon emissions and until they make a dent in their emissions this issue will not be resolved. This opinion is shared by a large segment of Indian and surely Modi’s government will not differ from that no matter how testing it might seem. By raising awareness among the masses on the impact of climate change will save this grave issue from going into the back seat after elections. It is not an easy subject but more emphasis can be put on it to raise awareness among people.

Gail India Limited, India’s largest natural gas distributors, recently announced that it would purchase natural gas from American Henry Hub, this does indicate that the new government is serious about expanding India’s natural gas grid infrastructure and Nehru National Solar Mission. All the policies and agreements must incorporate the well being of the masses who are often neglected and sidelined in favor of making profits. The governments elected by the people with a hope to see a better future are and should be answerable to the public.

Trimming deforestation that has affected communities with regards to land use must be incorporated in drafting a national policy to reverse deforestation. Critics like Greenpeace India say that environmental considerations often take a back seat to economic development priorities. The Modi government has made it clear that this would not be the case this time. The new government has also stressed on prioritizing water. Water one of the most threatened resources is of particular concern to a country that relies on agriculture. The new government focuses on improving infrastructure of irrigation projects to tackle drought and flood.  The dispute over water rights among Indian states in previous years should be kept in mind and dealt with diligence.

If the priorities laid down by the new government remain true to the cause then it is to be commended as an indication of smart policy. The BJP’s election manifesto offers hints of methods to tackle climate change and deal with the issues regarding development. That includes efficient waste management practices, research and development of environmental sector and guidelines for green building. Reform will be challenging for the government to keeping in mind the lumbering bureaucracy. To achieve growth in order to reduce the ranks of India’s extremely poor in a way that preserves the environment and slows down the contribution to global greenhouse emissions will dominate the debates over India’s development plans for the coming years.

For any government an agenda that centers on development is indeed a boon for the planet. The question however is how we define development? Instead of a microscopic vision it should be about a telescopic vision that keeps in mind the well being of human species. In today’s globalized world the moves made by one country affects the other. We all are in it together and therefore an outward approach in needed that link the development agenda to a climate agenda. In the ailing economy where many issues are there to be dealt with, climate justice might not draw immediate attention.  It should however be considered of huge importance when designing policies as it is directly affecting us in many ways we don’t want to consider important.

Seeing the new government already beginning to make the link is a smart move. Trying to tap the opportunities in various areas of development has raised hopes of many. With the new regime in charge, the environmental minister has talked about project approvals beginning by the end of June. Modi seeking to press on a ferocious agenda of national development that looks great on paper by putting sustainability at the centre of thoughts and actions  has left experts wondering how much to expect from this new leader and his regime. Only time will tell whether the new regime is capable of delivering the promises it made. Ensuring growth while keeping an eye on the environment would prove to be an intelligent move. We have seen in the past and still experiencing that stubbornness and blinding oneself to grave issues threatening the human race has proved fatal. Instead of being a frog finding himself in a bowl of comfortably lukewarm water while actually sitting on a slow flame should be considered a red flag by the governments. With the benefit of hindsight it would be smart not to let the temperature in the bowl reach the boiling point because it would be too late to jump out.  It is better to prevent environmental disasters than wait till it’s too late.

Time will tell the efficiency and diligence of the new regime in India. With the hope to see the manifesto of the new government becoming a reality it would be fair on the masses to push for it, constantly reminding the government of the promises they made.

Beyond Samba and Soccer

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Books & Magazine, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates, Publications, Take Action, Uncategorized

With the soccer fever at its peak, Brazil the 5th largest country in the world and the largest in South America hosting the mega event, is experiencing disapproval for spending so much money on the sports extravaganza sidelining major priorities like health, education and housing for the Brazilian people.

BRAZIL-WORLDCUP-05-05-2014-03-05-58-454Photo Source: Google

My fascination for this country is not new. It was the first country I traveled to when I was 18 years old. Experiencing the rich culture, the diversity it has to offer, the beats of samba and bossa nova, the magnificent beaches unfolding secrets of the country, Brazil did come a long way after years of colonization and military dictatorships.

Luckily I had an opportunity to visit Brazil again after six long years and to be honest I was welcomed just as before. I felt as if I have returned to a place I knew so well whether it was sitting on Copacabana beach sipping the guarana, going for strolls in Rio or exploring Rio Grand du Sul. Having known little Portuguese I did manage to communicate with the locals and this is what I loved the most about that place. To me Brazil is the many loving people I came across during my visits, listening to their stories and seeing their smiles and resilience made me learn a lot from them.

To be honest seeing the protests on television made me feel terrible. I agree polar extremes exists everywhere but why the insane expenditures on a sporting event. All these governments talk about austerity at some point so why not in sports. Seeing the football nation not happy with “futebol” (football in Portuguese) this time was sad. Football is the religion of Brazilian people and you can see them playing everywhere, in the streets and on the beaches people from various segments of society come together to play. Brazil has won five FIFA World Cup titles hence becoming the most successful national team in the history of World Cup. Interestingly it is the only country that has taken part in all FIFA World Cups since 1930 scoring the most goals and with most wins in the history of competition. The favelas have produced some amazing soccer players and that is the spirit of sports. It brings nations and people together rejoicing in the victory and feeling sad about the defeat. But for the World Cup 2014 in Brazil it is more than that, there is revulsion and discontent seen in many people.

Brazil Confed Cup ProtestsPeople protesting against the World Cup

Photo Source: Google

For the World Cup, Brazil has spared no expenses. For the month long competition there will be 64 matches held in 12 cities across Brazil. The cost incurred on refurbishing old stadiums and building new ones has cost 3.6 billion dollars. After the World Cup several of the new stadiums will be seldom used. If we look at the South Africa World Cup debacle, stadiums that cost a fortune are not being used as people can’t afford it. The displaced persons in South Africa are still struggling for housing. Countries when thinking about hosting such mega sports events should take into consideration their social and economic well being not giving in to corruption along with many organizations and multi nationals associated with it.

This World Cup is undoubtedly extremely costly for Brazil costing 62 million dollars on each match. Moreover displacing the poor, the Brazilian government is holding this event at the cost of unemployed, underemployed and neglected citizens.

EPAPhoto Source: Google

When talking about sustainable development the situation mentioned above does not convey the message of Rio+20 UN Earth Summit. Ironic as it is the country hosting the UN Earth Summit, gathering various UN bodies to talk about Millennium Development and Sustainable Development Goals for the world did resign when it came to staging a short term show which was less about joy and more about profits favoring just a few. The nexus is clear; a portion of the billions spent on cosmetic projects could have cured the ills plaguing the country. Sadly the millions of tourists pouring billions of dollars into the nation’s economy and giving a blank check to the country’s Sports Minister will not benefit the communities that gave us Romario, Pele and Rivaldo nor will it help in improving the quality of life of millions of poor and working class of Brazil.

Now the question is when will the governments start thinking about the millions of poor people in the country and not just give importance to a few billionaires? The Brazilian government could have taken provisions that not only benefited the few billionaires but also the many homeless living in the streets, largely young protesters , coming from working class backgrounds instead of hiding them and their demands from the world’s gaze. Brazil doesn’t need to market itself to the world with a misleading image, thanks to the media these days. A country that promises fun and sun, carnival and sun kissed smiles personifying this beautiful South American nation cannot be hidden from the world anyway.

d29oaDjAS66yuTu-KZW2_w fK7Xi5ciSPKvJHQfS8CGUg

Photos Source: cartoon movement.com

I remember reading about the London Olympics in the year 1948 known as the real austerity Games. The government during that time was determined to do the Games on the cheap. Well despite the austerity and so called raggedness it was considered a success and did make profit too. Looking at the economic backdrop from that period we can spot similarities, a world economy in trouble, why certain measures can’t be taken that benefit the larger community especially the segments that suffer the most because of the excessive spending?

Besides the protesting youth the heroes of yesterday like Romaria and Rivaldo coming from humble beginnings to hoist the World Cup in 1994 and 2002 respectively also criticize the government’s exorbitant expenditures. For Romario serving as a congressman in Rio de Janeiro and a World Cup dissenter, the C.B.F (Brazilian soccer federation) is a “disgrace”. According to him corruption in football be it C.B.F or FIFA is the reason for all evil. Yes for all those people coming out in the streets with loud demonstrations, the World Cup is about donning the canary yellow outfit and cheering for their country rejoicing in the much loved game, for them it is not about multimillion dollar stadiums or being sidelined by the social, economic and political injustices.

While trying to get the views of my friends, most of them were just excited about the game, enjoying the reverie like myself. I have also put a facebook profile picture donning the yellow Brazilian T-Shirt. It is not that they are not for sports or for that matter soccer, the reason why most are unhappy is very clear.

“The overall Brazilians could never afford a FIFA ticket; small bars who would transmit the games have to pay absurd fees to FIFA, making it impossible to be done. In a nutshell, this is it. This world cup is not for us, at all, just for some rich alienated foreigners. The nations may be coming together, but at the cost of our blood and homes. If this is the price, I really rather to keep them apart and our children alive.”

 Leticia Zenevich

“They could organize a real world cup, as will be done with the European championship soon. In several countries in stadiums that already exist, so that millions don’t have to be spent on stadiums as in Manaus, that is going to host, how many, 4 games?”

Rodolfo Pedro Sello

“A short term revenue generation /immediate job creating action through a FIFA World Cup vs a long term sustainable development through investment in health n education. You tell me what should be priority and a much more solid option?”

Taimur K Bandey

“General discourse has two general tendencies, these days: 1) Elitist and fewer representatives 2) Non-elitist and more representatives. You are right but for “bigger” picture you need to study about contemporary economic models, of how trillions are spent on defense and when it comes to giving shelter, governments cant find a penny, about how billions are spent in festivals and when it comes to improving social conditions of under-privileged, we can’t find a penny and so forth. It was not event specific. If a World Cup had to happen in Brazil, it should have catered for local sensitivities and address them instead of putting a superficial exhibit of billions lost in entertainment (for the privileged)”

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi

 The protests clearly demonstrate that this World Cup is not going to be a feast of national unity, putting on a temporary great show setting aside the grievances of many people. Sad to see that instead of becoming a feel good moment of national pride this event was commercially and politically exploited to a great extent.

So who should be held accountable? Definitely the ruling government blinded by the money pouring in for their personal good and these big corporations. FIFA, the Federation Internationale de Football Association, is a non governmental organization founded in 1904. FIFA is responsible for administering the World Cup and other international competitions of international football. The organization located in Switzerland is marred with allegations and accusations of corruption and money laundering. FIFA is also criticized for its lack of accountability and transparency. Seeing the grievances of general public of hosting nations the accountability of FIFA matters when it comes to the business of football and governance of sports. Effective governance of such institutions is important and a matter of general public interest. It is interesting that the wealthy nations preach and talk about democracy, good governance, accountability and transparency but when it comes to practising these ideals we look for backroom deals.

 Just to avoid similar sentiments in the future it is important to pay heed to where the problem lies and try to find a solution. It is not just about World Cup, when it comes to Olympics we see similar behavior filtering out the realities of life. The life of under privileged, we don’t consider important. Yes they are important only during the time of elections, when we beg for their votes, making false promises.

 Time and again FIFA demonstrated that it has no fiscal, hierarchical, supervisory and public reputational accountability. Efforts to reform FIFA from within or as a consequence of public pressure, media and watchdog organizations can result in a positive change.  Moreover as FIFA doesn’t fall under the relevant jurisdiction for corruption policing, accountability needs to be indirectly applied by national and international governments such as European Union or European Council. There should also be a legal accountability through regulation and enforcement of legislation on FIFA’s marketing partners. International Olympic Committee does set a precedent by showing the importance of multiple mechanisms of accountability working in harmony.

 FIFA and the member organizations and confederations do have the ability to be an actual force in change.  FIFA deals with more countries than the United Nations and interestingly these countries are more responsive to FIFA’s policy change than UN. With transparent and good governance in sports things might not look bleak as it look today.

Brazilian-artist-BoneA graffiti artist in Brazil

Photo Source: Google

As FIFA continues to make more money it is time that the demands of the protesters in the streets should be heard too. FIFA needs to be careful in this matter to avoid their legacy being tarnished.  With the growing criticism all the people involved in this show can’t hide anymore behind the false do good publicity stunts.

We are not against sports, we never were. We are against the use of sports as a cudgel of putting an over the top, pompous show. Use of sports as a neoliberal Trojan horse is what we are against. We definitely don’t want capitalism to seep into the things we love including “futebol”. Count everyone in your celebration next time as everyone living on this planet wants to enjoy life.

 world-cup-2014-brazil-soccer-footballPhoto Source: Google

What is LOHAS?

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates, Publications, Take Action

 While researching on various aspects of sustainable development I recently came across an acronym which people involved in the green movement have been tossing around for a while. I have been involved in the green movement but as a relative newcomer this acronym came as a surprise to me. So to avoid further suspense this acronym was none other than “LOHAS”. Coming up with new movements and trends it is impossible not to have new phrases and acronyms in our daily lexicon. Becoming a hottest trend within companies and consumers across the globe LOHAS stands for Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability.

Once I googled LOHAS I soon discovered that this term was coined in late 1990s.  LOHAS refers to segment in the market that is focused on environment, healthy lifestyle, sustainable living and social justice.  It incorporates the businesses and consumers alike. There are a number of industries, corporations, products and activities that are designed to be eco-friendly, sustainable and healthier for the planet as well as people. It can be seen as a growing movement where the LOHAS consumer keeps in mind the values and belief systems before making their purchase. A common example of this can be the emerging trend of organic food though its buying power is limited in the hands of a few. Moreover the LOHAS movement still needs to further assimilate in the markets not limited to few places and people.

Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability is built on the work of a sociologist Paul Ray who undertook extensive research in the mid 1990s in United States. He found out that 25 % of the US population could relate to the concepts of sustainability, health and social justice and how they desired to live their lives.  The 25% of US population was termed as “Cultural Creatives” by Paul Ray describing them as leaders of cultural change. LOHAS defined the emergence of a global trend based on conscious choice in a wide range of industries. However it was difficult to define this cultural phenomenon from the market perspective. Encompassing things like organic foods, eco-tourism, alternative medicine as well as energy-efficient appliances and solar panels. LOHAS describes the marketplace for such products and services and the consumers who buy these.

It should be noted that the known LOHAS market is limited to few developed countries and it still needs to reach the developing world. The trend however has seeped into many places where a level of consciousness has pushed certain type of consumers to spend money on products that are produced in a sustainable way. Hence LOHAS besides being a market segment limited to few countries is a growing awareness where people worry about the environment and want their lifestyles to be eco-friendly. This has given rise to corporate social responsibility too, which didn’t exist few years ago, making corporations responsible for environmental protection during manufacturing and also looking after the workers’ rights.

Even today the big businesses fail at times for example the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh that led to a loss of thousands of lives is a case in point. There are many other incidents both reported and unreported around the world that should be kept in mind when looking at the progress of Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability. This does not mean that we should undermine the little efforts but we have a long way to go.

When it comes to organic food which is just one aspect of LOHAS it should be noted that the organic products cater to a certain segment of society, those who can buy it. There must be an extra effort behind the production of organic food without using pesticides but it also limits the buyers. It would be great if healthier options are available to the consumers from various segments of the society depending on their income. The approach of catering the elite class will not save the world as the majority has the power to bring change not a small percentage of population. There is a need for policies that keep in mind the values and belief systems of LOHAS targeting a greater number of population, only then will it be fruitful.

certified-organic01Photo Source Google

It is not a secret that organic food helps protect the environment, minimize soil degradation and optimizes the productivity and biological diversity resulting in healthier lifestyles. But what about the higher cost of organic products? For some people eating organic food and buying organic products is not feasible as it costs more. Here in Pakistan there are barely few shops selling organic products and products like wheat and oil can be three times the price when labeled “organic”. To advocate the importance of buying organic products it is also important that they are sold at reasonable prices so that more people can make better choices.  In some developed countries there might be more options to choose from keeping in mind the healthy choices and budget.

While ushering in spring, we can also think about growing our own food. There might be certain constraints but it is not impossible. While living in Germany I met a very interesting girl almost my age, in her early 20s, when I asked her whether she has a Facebook account so that I can add her when I leave. She said no, that not only came as a surprise to me rather it came as a shock. How can anyone not have an account on Facebook? But later I realized that she was very much living in the real world. Baking her own whole-wheat bread in the morning, it’s appetizing aroma spreading across the building to making her organic tea from the herbs picked from her kitchen garden. She had made a door bell herself too instead of an electric one. And yes I can’t forget borrowing her bicycle which was her favorite mode of transportation. Unlike me preferring a car to travel around and not caring where the food products are coming from, whether it is eco friendly or not. I was inspired to see her lifestyle which she developed out of love for mother nature nothing else, she didn’t know about LOHAS. Making sensible and conscientious choices is the responsibility of everyone.

Awareness has led to a lot of consumers paying attention to claims such as organic, green, eco friendly, environmentally safe and sustainably made. However it is easy to make a claim and difficult to prove it which leads to a lot of people misled about various environmental attributes associated with the products. The marketers have the responsibility to use correct terminology in packaging and promotion for the consumers to better understand it.

Just like trade commission operational in some countries to protect the interests of consumers, green guides should also be provided to consumers providing a list of definitions of terms like ozone friendly, biodegradable, carbon offsets , recycled and other related terms. The various certifications and seals are important only if they give you enough information and are backed by solid standards.

It boils down to the question, are you adopting LOHAS? Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability might be a swift growing consumer trend but are you really living LOHAS?

The big multinationals are claiming to go LOHAS such as The Body Shop or Cadbury. The Body Shop, founded in 1976 pioneered in volunteering where The Body Shop employees had to volunteer for a month about a cause they chose like fair trade or recycling etc.   In many ways they paved a way for “conscious consumerism” movement. The Body Shop realizing that human rights and environmental responsibility are interlinked, to build a sustainable supply chain stepped up it’s efforts, focusing on promoting sustainable alternatives that can improve living and protect the forests too. Moreover the fair trade logo seen on some chocolate bars like Cadbury dairy milk’s bar means that the farmers from developing countries are looked after when it comes to them being fairly paid. Nike is also making organic sportswear and claims to become a responsible global citizen. Nike also adopted some good practices over a period of time when it realized the unfair work practices. Similarly Ford is producing hybrid SUVs. The big corporations everywhere should become part of the LOHAS market as it will not only let them join the green population trying to make a difference but can also help them boost their sales.

According to a research institute based in US known as Natural Marketing Institute nearly third of the US population adopts LOHAS values based on social concerns and environmental safety. Considering the world is not just comprised of US, Japan, Taiwan or Western Europe that are the recognized LOHAS markets. This global trend needs to have a greater outreach where businesses and governments are taking necessary steps to adopt LOHAS.

On an individual level creating awareness is a step forward. Learning about LOHAS, it’s concerns, priorities and values can also help people to make better choices. It does not only centre on buying green products rather by taking small steps like saving energy, reducing carbon footprint, recycling and saving water also makes you part of the Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability community.

Starting from personal development by seeking out new experiences and learning one can start taking interest in mind-body-spirit connections by taking yoga and meditation classes to exercising regularly. It is about seeing the connection between our own health and health of the environment.  The small steps taken on an individual level can contribute to LOHAS. If we look at the mode of transport, depending on the vehicle an annual commute will release two to three tons of greenhouse gases. Using public transport or bicycle depending on the distance is a better choice. Bicycles have a tiny manufacture and carbon footprint. Again keeping in mind the deplorable infrastructure in some places and long distances people do end up using cars. But if you have an option to choose from, go for it. Simplifying one’s lifestyle is related to sustainable living focusing on what you need rather than what you want.

Growing your own food if you have enough space is also a positive step. Nothing tastes better than the vegetables from your own kitchen garden. Growing your own food gives a productive physical activity letting you distress yourself get fresh air and sunlight. It also enables to clear one’s head. When you grow your own food you don’t worry about the contamination and in the end seeing the seeds blossom under your care gives a sense of pride. It helps reduce wastage of food which we can’t afford in this era where many are without food and shelter. Even if you don’t have a backyard or a kitchen garden you can still grow your own food. By taking pleasure in this hobby while contributing positively to the environment is fulfilling and satisfying. At home one can save energy by switching off extra lights; we should admit that we do sometimes neglect that. Similarly recycling at home can be done by utilizing the empty bottles and jars for storage etc. We can also save water and avoid the wastage of water at homes. By taking these small yet valuable steps on an individual level enable us to contribute positively.

Embracing eco awareness and sustainable lifestyle has a positive impact on the people, communities and environment. Sustainable living besides seeking to optimize the use of natural resources also includes reuse. It is a system of living where people become producers rather than consumers only. It does take time and patience to practice a sustainable lifestyle. Passionate about saving the planet we can make it a reality. The only outcome of sustainable living is health.

Developing a sustainable living does require practice and time. With the passage of time these useful habits of sustainable lifestyle becomes a routine. I still sometimes use canned spinach from the grocery store when the season is not right for the homegrown spinach. I still eat fruits that I can’t grow myself. But whenever I switch off extra lights or give extra care when using water or recycle at home I take few steps closer to sustainable living. For my grandparents these practices were practically second nature. With the technological advances our generation first needs to unlearn and then learn to live sustainably. It will be a journey of learning things that are no longer common knowledge and have been nearly forgotten. It is true that we are learning with the passage of time. We have a long way to go but with awareness we can surely make it.

 imagesPhoto Source Google

Time for LOHAS Quiz- How LOHAS Are You?

Take this quiz from the researchers at the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) to find out whether you’re living LOHAS. Answer the questions with rarely, sometimes or usually, then add your points to see which segment you’re in. If you’re response is rarely, give yourself 1 point; for sometimes, give yourself 2 points; for usually, score 3 points.

  1. I care about maintaining excellent physical health.
  2. I care about protecting the environment.
  3. I care about sustainable agriculture practices.
  4. I care about using renewable energy sources.
  5. I tell family and friends about the benefits of purchasing environmentally friendly products.
  6. I care about women’s issues.
  7. I care about social consciousness.
  8. I prefer to buy products from companies whose values are like mine.
  9. I like choosing environmentally friendly products and services.
  10. I’m willing to pay 20 percent more for environmentally friendly products.

26-30 Points: You’re a LOHAS consumer. You care deeply about the environment and society, and you act on those behaviors. You likely buy a lot of organic foods, drive a fuel-efficient car and live in an eco-friendly home. People look to you for advice and information on the environment and society.

20-25 Points: You’re a NOMADIC. You care about some of these issues but not all of them all of the time. You take action in some parts of your life but have not totally adopted a LOHAS lifestyle.

15-19 Points: You’re a CENTRIST. You are slightly more conservative than your LOHAS and NOMADIC peers. While some of these behaviors and ideas appeal to you, they are not top priorities in your life.

10-14 Points: You’re an INDIFFERENT. You are committed to other immediate concerns in your life and don’t think a great deal about the quality of the environment and society.

The Minor Workers on Labor Day

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Books & Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, India, News, News & Updates, Publications, Take Action, Uncategorized

It is ironic that on 1 May I witnessed something that was contrary to the reason why we get this day off here in Pakistan. Considered more of a break rather spring holiday when government and private organizations, educational institutions and markets remain closed, 1 May is celebrated across the world as an International Labor Day.

Sipping my chilled drink casually I happened to have a glimpse of another family sitting right next to our table. One striking and odd happening I noticed was that two little girls were accompanying them as their domestic help and were asked to sit away from their table. They must be about 10 to 12 years of age and were there to look after the kids in that family, carrying their belongings.

My previous article was on education for sustainability and how important it is for young children to be educated as they are our future. No doubt it is one of our basic rights to get quality education. I felt uneasy seeing what was happening before my eyes and at the same time I felt helpless too. Writing about various human rights and problems of the world I couldn’t do anything to stop them from doing what they were doing. I just had to filter this reality and move on. I feel guilty even today. Those two girls into domestic labor are not the only ones, there are many hidden from our eyes working in the factories, at home, picking rags and begging on the streets. It does make me question that when I am writing about the right to education don’t I include them? All those millions of children with an uncertain future not even knowing or caring what sustainability is all about.

May Day, Labor Day or International Workers Day recognizes the efforts of the working class. It acknowledges the hard work and sweat which they pour into the lives to keep the cycle going. And then there are those children who shouldn’t be working but work to feed their families. I once thought that there might be an international day condemning child labor but I didn’t want to wait for the day to write about it.

 UQB

Photo Source Google

When we are talking about a sustainable future we need to keep in mind the ulcers that plague the society, child labor being one of them. Here we did get to see many advertisements commemorating Labor Day and it being a national holiday many shows were dedicated to it. Then why it failed to create awareness on the simple issue that children shouldn’t be allowed to work, here I am not talking about kids working in the factories or kids begging on the streets but domestic help. It is a choice which that family had to make and they not only conscientiously went for it rather segregated the girls and made them sit away from the table where they were eating. In Pakistan child labor in domestic service is very common. Domestic work is usually done by female domestic workers. These children do not go to school, work for long hours and are separated from their parents for long periods. These children often face the risk of physical or sexual abuse from their employers.

The employment or hiring of anyone below the national minimum working age is known as child labor. According to ILO 2010 report there are 215 million children around the world involved in child labor.  Because of the lack of data it is difficult to estimate the magnitude of child labor in many developing countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Vietnam to name a few. The problem of child labor is not only limited to developing economies. Many reports evaluate the severity and frequency of child labor in more than 197 countries. The shocking aspect is how widespread child labor really is, with numerous countries at a high risk.  A report classified UK as medium risk with rate of child labor incidences just 2% lower than that of Pakistan, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

The root cause of various problems including child labor no doubt is economic disparity. If we want a better future for the world we need to take along the impoverished segments of the society. It is important to attack the structural causes of inequality, rejecting the autonomy of financial markets that are solely based on personal gains to solve the world problems.  It is also important to fully understand the complexity of this issue pertinent in the world today. Developed nations mostly grow up with the notion that every child has a basic right to education. The basic right to have a childhood is also stressed upon. Hence it is mournful that every child doesn’t enjoy this period in one’s childhood. It is also important to highlight that every family has a right to life and to live we need money. Every individual has a right to work and make a living to be able to survive. Looking it through the window of child labor these two rights are at odds. Sometimes in order for the family to survive the children tend to help out sacrificing school.

balloonBangladeshPhoto Source Google

Considering it’s poverty that is the triggering factor, when working towards the Millennium Development Goals the unequal distribution of wealth and the monopoly of few economic giants should also be taken seriously. The concentration of world’s resources in few hands is the root cause of most of the problems clearly. In today’s world we do come across many charity organizations working simultaneously and many nonprofit organizations voicing similar concerns but in the end it is the powerful that maintain control not letting anyone or anything break its strongholds. The mindsets based on profits have been affecting millions and a dire need of a holistic approach is needed to face the monster of inequality.

Keeping in mind Agenda 21 that talks about eradication of poverty in order to increase production and sustainability to meet the needs of world’s majority seems a distant dream at the moment. Connecting the dots is important; in order to build a better future we need to invest in the present. That does not only include monetary investment rather an investment of our time to think and to feel the need to take action. Children are our future, we need to invest in them and make sure that they get their rights. That doesn’t mean that I am looking forward to a cataclysmic change but yes I do look forward to see the decision and policy makers taking serious measures to put a full stop on this.

Pakistan is among 10 nations where children are freely exploited. The government agencies have failed to deal with the problem and stop the increase in child labor both at homes and industries. For the parents struggling to make ends meet education is not their priority sometimes parents themselves sell children into labor. Here the issue of child labor is on the rise. Sadly many laws passed by the government are not enforced properly. There is a need for accountability. Child Labor especially child domestic labor no doubt has become a global phenomenon but just like every other issue it is the developing world or the marginalized segments that are affected by it the most.  According to ILO many countries in Sub Saharan Africa are a leading concern including Ivory Coast, Ghana and Mali. It is no secret that many young children are made to work in picking cocoa.  West Africa grows cocoa as a commodity crop primarily for export. With the rise of chocolate industry over the years, the demand for cheap cocoa has also grown. Many cocoa farmers resort to child labor. Surrounded by intense poverty the children of West Africa begin working at a young age many are sold to the traffickers and farm owners. Once taken to the cocoa farms the children are exposed to dangerous work environment and deprived of education. Many as young as the age of 7 have been seen working on the farms. The bags they often carry are bigger and heavier than the children themselves. Using dangerous tools to expose the cocoa beans these children don’t even know the taste of chocolates which the privileged enjoy bragging about the brands of chocolates. Exposed to various chemicals and insecticides these children cannot even complain. This unfair trade still continues today as I write though the levels may have been reduced still little progress can be seen in this trade making the reduction insignificant.  Violating ILO labor standards it has short term and long term effects on the lives of children. They have little hope to break the cycle of poverty. The governments of West African countries lack the resources and commitment to investigate the violation of labor laws. In addition to the chocolate industry the textile industry of Brazil, Turkey, Paraguay, Bangladesh, China, India Burkina Faso and many others in the list use a large number of child laborers.  The apparel industries also engage young children during cotton cultivation. Similarly in the sports, footwear and leather industry child workers are working in huge numbers. There are many factories in the world today that have employed children like cloth, sports goods and other factories. These factories should be held accountable and there should be a proper check and balance ensuring that these practices are not in the supply chain of these factories. To eliminate child labor putting controls in existing businesses is essential. The policies and procedures should be in place and communicated well monitoring and improving labor standards. Prevention no doubt is better than cure. The optimism shown by ILO in some reports saying that we are moving in the right direction is inapt. There is a need to speed up the efforts engaging governments and policy makers to enforce effective laws making it illegal for young children to work.

child-labour1Photo Source Google

However this again points out to the crux of the matter and that is poverty that pushes for such bizarre actions. Economic growth is a requirement for sustainable development. Seeing the expression “sustainable development” everywhere these days does make one think what exactly it is about? Is it really possible to pursue sustainable economic growth without harming the environment and the societies? Does it mean that if we are pursuing prosperity today we are putting the future of our children and grandchildren at stake?  Seriously working on the issues of sustainable development including economic growth in developing countries, corporate social responsibility and other issues using real world examples in important.

Understanding the complex relationship between economy, society and environment keeping in mind the global inequality should me our main concern. The consequences of unchecked and badly managed development are costly, irreversible and negative. Sustainable development does give us a new way of thinking to manage human impact on the world. An impact that can generate lifelong benefits for everyone, giving million of children around the world a chance to be children and not some cogs in a machine. Eliminating child labor and improving conditions must be a collaborative process including all stakeholders taking on responsibility.

Everyone has their part to play in this including governments, nonprofit organizations and consumers. The worry stricken faces of the girls I saw that day are vivid in my mind.  All the individuals before hiring help, just like the family I watched, should be aware of the role they can play. It is high time we turn the childhood dreams into a decent future. There is a need to develop a multi-stakeholder response system that guarantees the protection of all the children especially the ones facing economic and social challenges. However we should not forget that it is illegal for children under minimum age of employment to work emphasizing and ensuring that children below minimum age enjoy their childhoods in school. Protection in the law and its practice safeguarding young workers should also be emphasized protecting them from abuse and exploitation at work place. These various days celebrated to highlight the importance of issues are not about having a day off to relax, it is about taking out time to think and instead of looking for just one day to feel obliged to think on one particular issue we can do it every day. We need to be informed and we need to be humans.

geneva conference

7th European Conference on Sustainable Cities and Towns

Written by admin on . Posted in General Information, Green Economy, News, Take Action, Upcoming Events

  Get set to join over 200 leading international experts in the field of local sustainability at Geneva 2013, from 17 – 19 April! 30 Break-out sessions will focus on the most pressing topics facing European cities, including climate adaptation and local resilience, sustainable procurement, developing zero carbon communities, funding sustainable actions, the Reference Framework for Sustainable Cities, transport and land use, urban water management and biodiversity as a means to stimulate the green economy in cities. Space is limited – register now to benefit from the insight and knowledge of more than 150 European and international experts. Workshops on-site provide the opportunity to gain practical insight into a range of sustainable areas in Geneva. These workshops are almost full – take this opportunity to secure your place in the one that most appeals to you! We are pleased to share with you the Final Invitation to the conference, which contains all the latest information on the conference programme, Break-out Sessions, Workshops on-site, social events, confirmed speakers and much more. For more information and how to register, follow the link: http://www.sustainablegeneva2013.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/FINAL_INVITATION_GENEVA_2013.pdf  
sustainability post

Weekly News #5 / Join the E-discussion: 4 February – 1 March Environmental Sustainability for the World We Want: Moving From the MDGs to Post-2015

Written by admin on . Posted in General Information, News, Take Action, Upcoming Events, Weekly news

(shared post)  
The UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda has proposed that environmental sustainability be one of the four core dimensions in a post-2015 development agenda, along with inclusive social development, inclusive economic development, and peace and security.  Based on this and the outcomes of Rio+20, there is growing consensus that the post-2015 development agenda will need to apply an integrated approach that includes environmental sustainability as a central component if we are to achieve the future we want.You are cordially invited to join us in this e-discussion “Environmental Sustainability for the World We Want: Moving From the MDGs to Post-2015”, and help to define how best to reflect environmental sustainability in the post-2015 agenda. 
This e-discussion is part of the first phase of the global thematic consultation on environmental sustainability which aims to look broadly at what we have learned from the Millennium Development Goals and to bring forward new thinking and experiences related to integrated approaches that link economic, social and environmental sustainability and touch on cross-cutting issues such as gender equality, human rights, young people, inequalities and the partnerships necessary to make progress.  Building upon the 90 discussion notes that have been received, this first e-discussion provides an additional opportunity for people from around the world to help frame the priorities for the dialogue moving forward. The discussion will address the questions outlined below.
We invite you to participate in your preferred language, to share your views, experiences and questions with citizens from all over the world.
We encourage you to review the Framing Paper for background information to help in thinking about the following questions that will be discussed over the next four weeks:
Week 1: Capitalizing on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and MDG7 Achievements and Addressing the Gaps 1.        How and to what extent can we build on lessons learned from MDG7’s achievement in developing our post-2015 development agenda? 2.        How can the post-2015 agenda address any gaps related to environmental sustainability in the overall MDG framework?
Week 2:  Addressing Development Challenges in a Changing World 1.        Which global trends and uncertainties may influence how environmental sustainability is framed in the international development agenda over the next 10-30 years? 2.        What new elements and considerations would need to be incorporated into the post-2015 agenda for it to be environmentally sustainable and adequately capture the essence of the world’s evolving development/financial/social/ economic/ environmental/etc challenges?
Week 3: Framing Environmental Sustainability in the Post-2015 Agenda 1.        In the spirit of the outcomes of Rio+20, what are the barriers and enablers to gradually moving towards environmental sustainability? 2.        Building on the MDGs and the outcomes of Rio+20, how would you envisage a conceptual framework for the post-2015 agenda that can help drive a transition to an environmentally sustainable future? What are the key characteristics?
Week 4: Consensus and Divergence 1.        What are the topic areas where a consensus is evolving and where further dialogue is needed?
Follow us on Twitter at  @Environment2015