Quality Education: Taco Bell Is Helping All 210,000 of Its Employees Get an Education #SDGs #2030Now #GlobalGoals

All Taco Bell employee are now eligible for scholarships, online classes, and skills training.

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Fast-casual restaurant chain Taco Bell is known for its creative combinations: quesadilla and burrito (Quesarito), tacos and pizza (Mexican Pizza), and tacos and gorditas (Doritos Cheesy Gordita Crunch).

Now, the chain is getting creative with its employee benefits, combining work with educational opportunities for all of its 210,000 workers.

On March 15, Taco Bell announced that employees at the chain’s 7,000 stores nationwide are eligible for education classes at 80 online universities, as well as tuition assistance and college credit for job training at the restaurant.

Discounted classes are offered through Taco Bell’s partnership with Guild Education, which also works with Chipotle.

“When we surveyed our employees, education support was one of the top three things they asked for,” Frank Tucker, global chief people officer at Taco Bell, said in a statement. “The barriers to achieving their education goals were time, money and support.”

Programs like this, which are also available for workers at other fast food chains, such as Chipotle, McDonalds, and Starbucks, can be the jump-start students with a high-school degree or less need to improve future economic prospects.

Although the large majority of Americans have a high school diploma or equivalent, just one in three have a bachelor’s degree, and slightly over 10 percent have a master’s degree. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree can increase earnings by more than $20,000 per year, according to Smartasset.

So far, Taco Bell’s program seems to be working, and not just for employees. According to the press release, 98% of 700 workers who participated in a pilot program stayed with the company for more than six months — much higher than the company’s average six-month retention rate of 64 percent.

And with the company planning on adding 100,000 new jobs by 2022, they may not be only employees working at Taco Bell in the long-run.

Hopefully, the early success of Taco Bell’s will inspire other fast-food and fast-casual employers to provide educational opportunities for their workers, as well. 

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Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions: Thousands of Young People Registered to Vote at ‘March For Our Lives’ last Weekend #MarchForOurLives #TimeIsNow #PressForProgress #SDGs

“That’s a really invigorating number. I mean, damn, that’s awesome.”

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“If you want more justice in the justice system, then we’ve all got to vote,” former U.S. president Barack Obama said at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, “not just for a president, but for mayors and sheriffs and state’s attorneys and state legislators.” 

Two years later, that message still rings true — and in 2018 young people across the country may be starting to take on the mantle of representative democracy for themselves.

As hundreds of thousands of people across the country and around the world marched for gun reform, at least 4,800 young people — and perhaps many more — registered to vote at marches across the country, NBC News reports.

Voter advocacy groups present at the March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C., New York City, and other major US cities included HeadCount, League of Women Voters, and Rock the Vote, according to the NBC News report. 

Aaron Ghitelman, a spokesperson for HeadCount told NBC that as of Sunday 4,800 people had registered to vote at or after the nationwide rallies, with others expected to return their voter registration forms in the coming week.

“That’s a really invigorating number,” Ghitelman told NBC. “I mean, damn, that’s awesome.”

The organization, Mic reports, sent volunteers to 30 cities across the country.

“This was the No. 1 day in our history, by a wide margin. Nothing else was even close,” HeadCount founder Andy Bernstein said Sunday.

The record voter registration at the March For Our Lives is another sign that young Americans are taking their political futures into their own hands, not only through marching and school walkouts, but also through the ballot box.

Youth voter turnout has traditionally lagged behind other demographics. Just under 45% of voters aged 18-29 went to the polls in 2016, compared to more than 70% of voters over 60, according to the United States Elections Project, which uses statistics from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

Youth voter turnout in the United States peaked in 2008, according to the Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). That year, 52% of voters aged 18-29 went to the polls in Obama’s historic election.

Low voter turnout in democratic countries is nothing new — and is not relegated to the United States. Around the world, voter turnout has declined more than 10% in the past 25 years, Quartz reports.

But going to the polls is critical to ensure the 16th Global Goal for Sustainable Development: peace, justice, and strong institutions.

The participation of young people in the March For Our Lives, and the record numbers of voter signups, shows that the trend of low voter turnout is not irreversible.

“The engagement has really increased and I think it’s an awareness,” Diane Burrows, a vice president of the League of Women Voters in New York, told NBC. 

“People are really understanding the power of the vote and that’s what’s really motivating a lot of them,” she added. “They’re figuring out the importance and power of civic engagement.” 

Environment, Pollution & Life Below Water: Hawaii Is Close to Banning Ocean-Polluting Takeout Containers #Plastic #Hawaii #AplasticOcean #PlasticBan

They would be the first state in the US to ban the foam containers.

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By Erica Cirino, Oceans Deeply

Hawaii, a state with a $17-billion tourism industry and a persistent plastic pollution problem, is moving toward a groundbreaking ban on polystyrene food containers.

While hundreds of cities and counties have passed local ordinances eliminating polystyrene in food containers or in other uses, no legislation has so far been successful at the state level in the United States.A similar effort failed recently in California, while Maryland’s General Assembly is now also considering legislation that was introduced in early 2018.

Internationally, a few nations have imposed strong regulations against the importation and use of polystyrene, including Zimbabwe and the Seychelles, which has banned the use of all disposable plastic items.

All plastic debris is a concern for marine and coastal health because it does not biodegrade and can end up polluting beaches and the ocean, where it breaks up into tiny pieces that can be eaten by marine life. Lightweight polystyrene foam is particularly worrisome in an island state such as Hawaii because it easily blows out of trash cans and eventually out to sea.

“The ban would be a positive step forward in preventing more plastic debris from affecting Hawaiian shores and waters,” said Mark Manuel, Pacific Islands Marine Debris Program regional coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Honolulu.

On Monday, spectators packed a small room in the Hawaii State Capitol building and watched as five senators read public testimony from supporters and opponents of Senate Bill 2498. This is the first time in 10 years that a statewide polystyrene foam prohibition bill has moved through Hawaii’s Senate, according to the Surfrider Foundation’s Oahu Chapter, and follows bans passed in Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii last year.

After the hearing, the members of the Senate’s Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health committee unanimously voted to move the bill forward. If passed by the full Senate, and the House passes its own version, the provision would take effect January 1, 2019, if signed into law by the governor.

The proposed ban wouldn’t forbid all uses of the polystyrene foam, commonly called by the trade name Styrofoam, just the kind used in food service businesses. However, because so many food vendors in Hawaii distribute polystyrene food containers daily, supporters say the ban could greatly reduce plastic litter across the islands and in the surrounding waters. (The popular Hawaiian plate lunch, for instance, is commonly served up in polystyrene containers.) Senator Stanley Chang, a co-sponsor of the bill, said polystyrene foam is one of the most common sources of litter and marine debris in Hawaii. A 2014 study found that polystyrene foams are the most commonly seen visible plastic material at sea.

The polystyrene debris is affecting the quality of our marine environment and harming our wildlife, both in our major population centres and as far away as the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, where birds and aquatic life often die because of their consumption of human-generated debris,” said Chang.

Takeout container pollution is particularly dangerous to marine wildlife. The lightweight material easily breaks into pieces that can be eaten by animals, disrupting their digestive system and contaminating their blood with toxins.

Douglas McCauley, a University of California, Santa Barbara marine biologist, estimates that 98 percent of all albatross chicks found dead on the islands contain plastic, including polystyrene foam. He said Hawaii’s polystyrene foam pollution is contributing to a mess “in a place that should be famous for generating sunsets, good waves, Mai Tais and memories.”

He said, “This ban is not going to fix the problem of plastic pollution in Hawaii, but it will be a big step in the right direction.” McCauley also added, “It will cut back on a particularly insidious form of plastic pollution that is easy to replace and that is known to harm ocean wildlife.”

Hawaii asks residents to dispose of polystyrene foam in the trash. In Oahu, polystyrene is burned along with other garbage at H-Power, its waste-to-energy plant. Elsewhere on Hawaii, it is sent to a landfill. Polystyrene can technically be recycled, but few recycling centers handle the material and there are none in Hawaii.

At the hearing Monday, opponents to the legislation submitted comments, but they were outnumbered by individuals, scientists, environmental organizations, food vendors and companies. Surfrider Foundation’s Oahu Chapter, a major supporter of the ban, pushed the public to post testimony supporting the bill on social media. In Hawaii’s public schools, teachers asked dozens of students to send letters to their senators. Only one individual – a Hawaii state resident – submitted written testimony in opposition to the bill, stating that polystyrene is “practical” and that the state should instead focus on solving its homelessness problem in order to reduce littering.

“This is a bold bill, but it is way overdue,” said McCauley. “Hawaii is usually a global leader on oceans. People in Hawaii know, perhaps better than any other place on the planet, that ocean health and human health are intertwined. This has been a part of Hawaiian knowledge systems for thousands of years.”

Opponents of the ban – including the American Chemistry Council, Hawaii Restaurant Association, Hawaii Food Industry Association, Hawaii Chamber of Commerce and local polystyrene manufacturer KYD – argue efforts to deal with plastic pollution should focus on litter prevention. They contend that switching to eco-friendly food containers would be prohibitively expensive for small businesses, and that alternate materials would not be sturdy enough to hold classic Hawaiian plate lunches – which are often served hot and drenched in sauces.

This article originally appeared on Oceans Deeply. You can find the original here

Women & Girls: American Kids Are Starting to Draw More Scientists as Female #TimeIsNow #PressForProgress #SDGs #GlobalGoals

In the ‘60s and ‘70s, fewer than 1% of kids thought to draw women scientists.

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You can’t be what you can’t imagine.

It used to be that an overwhelming majority of American children imagined the archetypal scientist to be male. But a new report says that’s finally changing, suggesting a trend toward improved gender representation in the sciences.

Researchers at Northwestern University analyzed 78 studies conducted over five decades, all of which asked schoolchildren to do one simple thing: draw a scientist. When the researchers broke down the numbers, they found that, although a large majority of children in every study drew men, more children in recent decades have been drawing female scientists.

In one of the earliest studies dating back to the ‘60s, just 28 of nearly 5,000 boys and girls drew women when asked to draw a scientist. And all the children who did were girls.

On the other hand, in “Draw-A-Scientist” studies conducted from 1985 to 2017, about 28% of nearly 21,000 kids drew women, though girls were more than eight times as likely to draw female scientists than boys.

“Given that children might see a greater representation of female scientists [today] and are more often seeing female scientists in media marketed toward children, we wanted to know: How are those cultural changes influencing children’s images? Have children’s stereotypes changed along with them?” David Miller, one of the Northwestern report’s authors, told TIME. “The basic finding is that, indeed, yes.”

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The study’s findings also reinforced an idea popular among gender equality advocates — that gender stereotypes are learned and reinforced rather than innate.

According to the research, children under six tend to draw male and female scientists about equally often, and only begin associating scientists with men as they get older.

For researchers, the study’s findings are encouraging, but they’re also a renewed call to action. Gender representation in science is moving toward equality, but the field is still largely male-dominated. Except for health sciences, where women are more equally represented, only about 20% of published scientists in the US are women.

And children pick up on that gender disparity.

“I think it reflects the environment children are in,” Miller told Mashable. “Women do indeed remain a minority in several science fields. If you look at children’s media, there’s still more male than female scientists depicted. If children are exposed in this environment, we shouldn’t expect them to draw equal numbers of female and male scientists.”

 

Reduced Inequalities: 5 Ridiculous Refugee Policies You Should Know About #WeAreDisplaced #Refugee #RefugeesWelcome #SDGs #GlobalGoals

The worst refugee crisis since World War II has brought out some countries’ inhospitable sides.

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Although it no longer dominates headlines, the world is still facing its worst refugee crisis since World War II. According to the United Nations, there are more than 65 million displaced people worldwide, including 22.5 million registered refugees, who have fled war, persecution, hunger, and natural disaster in hopes of finding safety and security across international borders.

While countries like Canada — where many families have privately sponsored and supported resettled refugee families — and Germany — which is welcoming asylum-seekers as a way to revitalize run-down towns — have responded to the increasing numbers of refugees arriving at their borders with compassion and humanity, others are less hospitable.

Some governments have done everything they can to close their borders and slow refugee arrivals, giving rise to some shocking policies. These are the five of the most ridiculous refugee policies in place right now.

1. In one French town, it’s illegal to feed refugees.

Calais, in northern France, used to be the the site of the “Jungle” — a makeshift refugee settlement occupied by migrants from countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. In 2015 and 2016, thousands of refugees, including many unaccompanied children, set up camp in the Jungle as they attempted night after night to sneak across the English Channel to seek asylum in the United Kingdom.

But in October 2016, citing public health, crime, and terrorism concerns, French authorities dismantled the Jungle, forcing around 9,000 of its residents to move elsewhere. To discourage refugees from forming another settlement in Calais, the city’s mayor enacted decrees effectively banning humanitarian organizations from distributing food to migrants. Since the camp was destroyed, French politicians have also committed to preventing large gatherings of refugees in public spaces.

2. In Saudi Arabia, refugees aren’t refugees

In late 2015, Amnesty International asserted that Saudi Arabia was hosting a grand total of zero resettled Syrian refugees. By late 2016, the Saudi government claimed that it was hosting as many as 2.5 million.

Strange as it may seem, both of these things may have been true.

To be officially considered a refugee, a displaced person has to register for refugee status. That status, and countries’ obligations to protect refugees, are outlined in a 1951 United Nations convention which most UN member states have signed. However, Saudi Arabia, along with other Persian Gulf countries like Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, never signed it.

So, when migrants fleeing violence enter Saudi Arabia, they’re not registered as international refugees, and therefore usually have to go through Saudi visa processes. This might not sound like it would make a big difference, until you consider that the Saudi government can, and often does, deny visas to migrants whom it would otherwise be illegal to deport under international law. This means that some refugees, like Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, have to make tough decisions, like between rotting in a Saudi jail or being deported back to a country where their people are experiencing ethnic cleansing.

3. Immigration officials can seize asylum-seekers’ jewellery in Denmark

Nestled between two of the world’s most desired destinations for asylum-seekers — Germany and Sweden — Denmark has become a bastion of anti-refugee policies over the past few years.

These policies came to a head in early 2016, when the Danish parliament approved a law that would allow officials to seize cash and valuables valued at $1,450 or higher from asylum-seekers entering the country, supposedly to pay for the government services they were going to use during their stay.

Initially, the law was used simply as a way to deter migrants from entering the country, but in June 2016, Danish immigration authorities seized around $11,000 from a group of Iranians who had flown to Denmark to seek asylum.

Some critics of the law have compared it to the Nazi policy of stealing valuables from Jews as they were removed from their homes during the Holocaust.

4. Australia’s military blocks refugees from reaching its shores

They call it “Operation Sovereign Borders.” In Australia, military officials patrol the waters seeking to intercept asylum-seekers traveling to the country by boat in order to send them (or even tow them) back to Indonesia or India.

If refugees’ boats end up making it to Australia’s shores, they’re not allowed to stay in the country while their asylum cases are processed. Instead, they’re sent to processing centers on the tiny island nation of Naura, which Human Rights Watch says is rife with “appalling abuse,” or Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, which the UN has described as an “unfolding humanitarian emergency.”

If migrants are granted asylum, they’re still not allowed into Australia. Rather, they have to resettle on whatever island nation they were detained.

While the Australian government is starting to close the processing centers on Nauru and Manus Island because of well-documented human rights abuses at the facilities, asylum-seekers being released from those centers still aren’t allowed in Australia. Instead, the Australian government is exporting them to the United States.

5. In the US, asylum-seeking toddlers can represent themselves in court

Since 2014, more than 200,000 unaccompanied children — mostly fleeing violence in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador — have traveled through Central America and Mexico, braving rape, robbery, and death from exposure to seek asylum in the United States.

When they arrive in the US, half of these children don’t have lawyers to represent them as they present their asylum cases in immigration court.

As the saying goes, “If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.” Well, not in this case.

Asylum cases are heard in civil court rather than criminal court, so the government is not required to appoint free lawyers, even if the defendants are children. According to one immigration judge, children as young as three are capable of representing themselves.

“I’ve taught immigration law literally to 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds. It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience,” the judge said during a deposition. “They get it. It’s not the most efficient, but it can be done.”

According to Kids in Need of Defense, a legal nonprofit that represents immigrant children pro-bono, children without legal representation are five times more likely to be deported back to danger than those who have lawyers.

Environmental Degradation: These Tribes Gathered to Share Why They’re Fighting the Trump Administration #SDGs #GlobalGoals #

They want to save their ancestral lands from mining and drilling.

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Less than four months after the Trump administration decided to strip most of Bears Ears National Monument of its federal protections, Native American elders gathered to share why they’re fighting to preserve their ancestral lands.

On Sunday, members of a coalition of the Navajo Nation, Hopi, Zuni, and Ute Mountain Ute tribes met to speak out about the significance of the area that houses thousands of Native American cultural sites.

“Bears Ears is what sustains us and what has sustained us through life growing up. And it will sustain our kids in the future,” Tara Benally of the Navajo Nation said before a backdrop of red sands and low-hanging clouds.

In 2016, President Barack Obama designated about 1.35 million acres of Utah land around two flat-topped hills as Bears Ears National Monument, after a petition from the very tribes who gathered Sunday.

But the hard-earned win was short lived.

In December 2017, Donald Trump stripped around 85% of that land of its federal status, leaving it open to mining and other industrial use.

“I’ve come to Utah to take a very historic action to reverse federal overreach and return the rights of this land to your citizens,” Trump said when he announced the decision.

But revelations in recent months from both the New York Times and the Washington Post provided evidence that lobbying efforts from extraction companies, not concern about federal overreach, influenced Trump’s decision to shrink the national monument.

Earlier this month, the New York Times published a review of emails it obtained from the Department of the Interior suggesting that officials were very interested in figuring out how much oil, coal, and natural gas in the area was available for mining. This, after the Washington Post reported in December that a uranium company heavily lobbied the Trump administration to open the land to private use.

The same day as Trump’s decision, a coalition of tribes, including the Navajo Nation, Hopi, and Ute Mountain Ute, sued the Trump administration to restore the monument back to its 1.35 million-acre size. They argued that Trump’s drastic reduction essentially eliminated Bears Ears, “authority that the Constitution vests solely in Congress.” That lawsuit is ongoing.

At Sunday’s gathering, tribal elders expressed concern over what extraction would do to the land.

“Losing Bears Ears to a cloud of industrial smoke from extraction and mining does not keep that preservation of life for us,” Benally, of the Navajo Nation, told HuffPost.

“We do not want or believe that mining is good for our people,” said Clark Tenakhongva, the vice chairman of the Hopi tribe. “It may bring revenue, but what are we doing to the Earth?”

The Trump administration has given no indication that it is considering reversing its decision to shrink the national monument. But the coalition of Native American tribes is dedicated to doing anything it can to counter the move, including taking the issue to court and lobbying for congressional action.

Clean Water & Sanitation: Mad max Fury Road?? 10 Pictures of How People Get Water Around the World {+Nigeria} #SDGs #GlobalGoals #2030Now #WaterCrisis #Water

Water is the common denominator of life.

All around the world, water is a precious resource, the common denominator of life. When it’s reliable and clean, people tend to take it for granted. When it’s the opposite, it can become the crucial fact of a person’s existence, something that, if left unaddressed, prevents anything else from happening.

Roughly 2 billion people don’t have reliable sources of clean drinking water and one child every minute dies from preventable waterborne diarrheal disease.

By 2050, demand for fresh water is expected to grow by more than 40% and around a quarter of the world’s population will live in places where water resources are endangered, according to the United Nations.

But the management of water isn’t always so vexed and, in many places, its delivery is a miracle of modern engineering.

More than 90% of New York’s tap water reaches the city through the sheer force of gravity as it courses downhill from upstate aquifers.

Throughout the sprawling streets of Mexico City, buildings sit atop aquifers so depleted they’re sinking into the Earth. That means that water sometimes fails to flow reliably to houses and trucks have to bring water to people out of reach of the municipal pipe system.

In 2014, China completed one of the biggest engineering projects of all time to ship water nearly 1,500 miles to Beijing, averting a water crisis that had loomed over the country for years.

South Africa’s capital Cape Town, meanwhile, could become the world’s first city to run out of water. For the city’s poorer residents, the water crisis is nothing new.

Same goes for many people scattered throughout Nigeria, where more than 57 million people do not have access to safe water.

Residents of Flint, Michigan, know all too well how devastating a polluted water system can be after extreme iron levels were first reported in tap water in 2014.

Here’s a look at how people in various parts of the world get their water.


India

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South Sudan

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Guatemala

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United States, New York

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China

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Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

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Mexico

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Nigeria

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Sweden

 

United States, Flint, Michigan

 

“Around the World” is a new photo essay series that allows Global Citizens to get a sense of how experiences and contexts vary around the world. Every few weeks we’ll show you the differences and similarities between water sources, school treks, local ecosystems, and much more.

Partnership For The Goals: “Foreign Policy” The US May Withhold Foreign Aid from Poor Countries That Don’t Vote With It at UN #2030Now #GlobalGoals #SDGs

Either you’re with the US or you’re against the US.

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The United States is far and away the world’s biggest donor of foreign aid — at least for now.

This aid — which has come in the form of economic, health, educational, climate, and other assistance — has helped millions lift themselves out of extreme poverty, while also furthering US interests in key strategic regions.

But now, the generous foreign assistance packages doled out by the world’s largest economy are under threat for poor countries that fail to get in line with the US on UN votes, according to an internal State Department memo obtained by Foreign Policy.

“It is the opinion of the U.S. mission to the U.N. that all U.S. foreign assistance should be reevaluated to ensure that taxpayers dollars are spent to advance U.S. interests, not to fund foreign legacy programs that provide little or no return on investment,” the memo said, according to FP. 

In all, 40 countries that frequently cast UN votes that differ from that of the United States, including Iraq and Egypt, could lose some or all US aid going forward, according to the report. Specific programs that face cuts, according to FP, include a job training program in Zimbabwe, climate change program in Vietnam, and a school construction program in Ghana.

The memo comes months after just eight countries voted with the United States on its UN resolution declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

After that vote, the US sent out ‘friendship’ invites to countries that either didn’t vote on the resolution, abstained, or voted with the US.

“We will remember it when, once again, we are called up to make the world’s largest contribution to the U.N., and we will remember it when many countries come calling on us to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit,” US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said at the time

The memo, “America First Foreign Assistance Policy,” also falls in line with US President Donald Trump’s “America First” platform, which prioritizes “Americanism, not globalism.”

Although foreign aid makes up just 1% of all US spending, its impacts around the world are enormous — and enormously positive. Foreign aid has helped increase access to health care around the world, provide quality education to millions of children, and help communities become more resilient to climate change. 

Still, more than 800 million people still live in extreme poverty, and foreign aid can play a major role in helping them secure a better, more prosperous future.

Clean Water & Sanitation: 5 US Laws That Reinforce Period Taboos #JustSayPeriod #Menstruation #Period #MenstruationMatters #GlobalGoals #SDGs #ItsBloodyTime

Tampon taxes and substandard sex ed continue to prop up period taboos.

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Across the US, millions of girls, women, and their allies across the gender spectrum have raised their voices and talked openly about their periods in an effort to destigmatize menstruation.

Their efforts have certainly paid off. Nationwide, cities and states continue to pass new laws that make pads, tampons, and other menstrual health products more accessible. In 2016, New York state passed a law to repeal the sales tax on pads and tampons. That same year, New York City became the first city to dispense period products for free inside public schools, homeless shelters, and other municipal facilities.

In 2017, the state of Illinois followed suit, making tampons and pads free inside public schools.

In addition to making it easier for women and girls to manage their periods, the new laws chip away at period taboos that too often fuel silence and shame around menstruation.

But they’re just the beginning.

Despite the massive movement to destigmatize menstruation, period injustices persist across the US. And nationwide, advocates are working hard to counter these five laws in particular that prop up period stigma.

1// No Safety Net Program Helps Women Who Literally Cannot Afford Tampons and Pads

The US provides a few safety net programs to assist poor women and low-income mothers in need of a hand-up. There’s the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program designed to help low-income families with young children afford food. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program — also known as food stamps — provides a small food allowance that helps people below a certain income level afford groceries.

Those programs certainly help uplift millions of women around the US, but neither one covers period products.

That’s a big deal for the lowest income Americans, especially those receiving public assistance benefits. In Mississippi, public assistance recipients receive as little as $170 per month — or just $2,040 per year.

At the same time, Jezebel.com estimates that women spend about $61 a year on items to prevent free-bleeding. That means women who receive public assistance in Mississippi might have to devote 3% of their total income toward purchasing tampons, pads, and cups.

Fortunately, several cities and nonprofits have launched efforts to ensure that low-income girls and women, like those residing in New York City’s shelter system, can get the expensive period products they need.

2// State Prison Enforce Arbitrary Pad Limits

Until February, women in Arizona’s prison system could only access 12 sanitary pads per month — nowhere near what many women need when they have their period.

If inmates wanted more, they had to ask prison guards who often denied their requests. Arizona’s arbitrary pad-rationing provision forced women to ration the way they manage periods, “free bleed,” or rely on unsanitary, solutions. They were also unable to get tampons.

But the rules began to change when State Rep. Athena Salman introduced a measure to supply more pads and tampons to women in prison. She enlisted former inmates and women’s rights advocates to testify about their experiences before an all-male congressional committee. Their testimony had a big impact, inspiring the committee to unlock the bill for a full House vote.

But a few days later, the chairman of the state House of Representatives killed Salman’s bill.

His decision only served to fuel the movement to ensure women have access to the materials they need to manage their menstrual health. A passionate response by women across the US and the world motivated the Department of Corrections to change their guidelines regarding pad access.

As of mid-February, female prisoners can now access up to 36 pads per month. The new rule by the Department of Corrections is a good start, but several issues remain. The increased pad-ration has not been codified into state law— which means it can revert back to the 12-pad limit— and women still have to ask for permission to get more pads if needed.

3// The ‘Tampon Tax’ Treats Pads Like Luxury Items

Tampons, pads, and other menstrual health resources are essential to women’s health. And yet, the vast majority of US states treat period products like luxury items by slapping high sales taxes on them.

Across the country, food, prescription medications, and other items considered basic necessities are free from sales tax. But of the 45 states that impose sales taxes, only 7 — Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania— exempt pads and tampons.

“Basically we are being taxed for being women,” California lawmaker Cristina Garcia said when she introduced a bill to remove the tampon tax. “Women have no choice but to buy these products, so the economic effect is only felt by [women[ and women of color are particularly hard hit by this tax. You can’t just ignore your period, it’s not like you can just ignore the constant flow.”

 

4// Insufficient Reproductive Health Education Entrenches Period Myths

Most wealthy nations teach sex education and menstrual health early and often in order to counter myths and enable young people to better understand their bodies. In the Quebec province of Canada, for example, sex ed begins in kindergarten. And children in Ontario learn about consent by grade one.

But the US approaches sex ed much differently than its northern neighbors.

In fact, only 22 states mandate schools to teach reproductive health. Just 13 require that the information shared by health educators be “medically accurate.”

That means generations of young people across the US have not received complete and detailed information about their bodies in their schools. That early misinformation can fuel knowledge gaps later in life.

According to the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 64% of American women can’t identify the cervix in an image of reproductive organs, for example.

And a lack of information only serves to reinforce myths and stereotypes about menstrual health, especially among men who may — as Popular Science describes — consider their menstruating girlfriends as “crazy, demanding, or overly emotional.”

“Boys’ early learning about menstruation is haphazard,” wrote the authors of a 2011 study on period notions among adult men. “The mysterious nature of what happens to girls contributes to a gap in boys’ knowledge about female bodies and to some negative views about girls.”

5// What’s Inside Your Tampon?

Unlike laws pertaining to food, medications, and other items we put inside our bodies, no regulations compel tampon and pad manufacturers to disclose what chemicals and materials are inside their products.

In 2016, Congresswoman Grace Meng from New York introduced a bill known as the Menstrual Products Right to Know Act, which would force manufacturers to disclose ingredients in tampons, pads, and menstrual cups on the packaging.

“We want women to be able to know what chemicals are in these products, which come in direct contact with our bodies,” Meng told the New York Times.

Meng’s bill has stalled, but activists across the US have stepped up their efforts to demand information and, in the process, break the silence that fuels period stigma.

“[Periods are] something that happens to almost half of the population,” Lola cofounder Jordana Kier told Vogue. “This isn’t something that we should be embarrassed [to discuss]. Women should be empowered to make informed decisions about their bodies.

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Environment and Pollution: A Beach in Hawaii Has Become One of the Dirtiest Place on Earth #GlobalGoals #2030Now #SDGs

Kamilo Beach lies at the easternmost tip of the Hawaiian Islands. Grassy green hills slope down toward the sand, and dark volcanic rock has birthed tidepools throughout the beach. It could be the perfect spot for an afternoon of relaxation amid the sound of crashing waves. 

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 But few people spend time lying on this beach. 

Those who visit Kamilo Beach are more likely to be scientists, activists, and volunteers. They spend their time cleaning up some of the world’s 8 million tons of plastic that find their way into oceans and then onto beaches like Kamilo each year.

Kamilo Beach, which translates from Hawaiian to “twisting or swirling currents” is more often known as “Plastic Beach.” It’s one of the dirtiest places in the world.

Last month, Hawaii Wildlife Fund, an ocean conservation organization, picked up 15,000 pounds of trash over the course of just one weekend at Kamilo Beach.

Centuries ago, native Hawaiians would gather giant evergreen logs that floated down from the US Pacific Northwest and landed on the shores of Kamilo Beach, using the logs to build dugout canoes.

Today, instead of collecting trees or other natural materials, Kamilo Beach is a hook for the world’s plastic debris. Trash from Japan, Russia, the US, and other countries finds its way to the Big Island of Hawaii’s Ka’u coastline, and the most southern tip of US where Kamilo Beach is located. Over 90% of this trash is plastic.

“This plastic sand is coming from all around the Pacific rim, swirling into a vortex which eventually brings it to these shores. This is the place where Hawaiians came to find bodies of people who were lost at sea. Nowadays, this beach is where we come to find what our throw-away society has done to the environment,” environmentalist Charles Moore told Hawaii News Now. 

Plastic at Kamilo Beach has been an issue for decades.

HWF regularly cleans up Kamilo Beach, but because of its location the beach is consistently bombarded with plastic waste.

“The Hawaiian archipelago acts like a sieve, collecting debris that was floating around the Pacific Ocean and accumulating it along our shores,” Megan Lamson, director of HWF on Hawaii’s Big Island and survey diver for the Hawaii’s Division of Aquatic Resources, told The Huffington Post. 

“My shoes were filling up with little bits of plastic. That’s never happened to me before at any beach,” Suzanne Frazer, a volunteer with HWF, said back in 2007. 

Ten years later, HWF continues the endless battle to stave off the massive vats of plastic, large and small, that migrate to the Hawaii’s eastern coastline. Volunteers from recent beach cleanups have similar takeaways as Frazer.

“If you were to dig up the sand through the rocks and sift through it with your hands, you’ll find more plastic than sand,” Alison Teal said. “It’s so sad to see it covered in everything you can imagine.”

Each year, volunteers clean up between 15 and 20 tons of trash from Kamilo Beach and its surrounding nine-mile-long coastline.

Once plastic enters the ocean, UV rays break it down into smaller and smaller microplastics. This creates a swampy soup of plastic debris that can collect on massive scales, such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Plastic can take hundreds to thousands of years to break down completely. Fishing line, for example, lasts for 600 years in oceans. 

As long as people continue to use plastic at current rates, beaches will remain covered in garbage. There is simply not enough human power to keep up with beaches like Komila that act as convergent points for ocean currents carrying plastic.

While HWF’s efforts should be applauded, beach cleanups shouldn’t be the only answer for places like Kamilo Beach.

Ocean activists like Megan Lamson believe the solutions must come from reducing plastic and finding alternative methods to an unsustainable material.

“The solution is not to encourage more people to come to Kamilo to clean up,” Lamson told the Huffington Post. “The solution will come with [humans] reducing our dependence to plastics, especially single-use items that we can do without.”

Innovative solutions are all around. And bizarre-sounding inventions like edible water bottles, and mushroom packaging are just some ideas for the future that can transform “Plastic Beach” back to its natural habitat.