Women & Girls: This Is What It’s Like to Be Sex Trafficked in India at 14 #sdgs #2030Now #agenda2030 #Syria #globalgoals

Sadhna thought she would be helping with housework, until she was drugged and raped.

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Sadhna used to love to fish. Her father would always be waiting for her when she got home, with the oven burning and ready to cook the family meal.

“I used to cuddle up beside him as he’d clean and cook the fish so we could have a meal together,” she says, telling her story to anti-slavery organisation  International Justice Mission . “I miss the wonderful time we had in the village.” 

Sadha and IJM shared her interview and story with Global Citizen. As Sadha looks back at her childhood, she recalls a time when she says she wasn’t afraid of anything.

Brilliant green rice paddies surrounded her family’s small home as far as she could see, and the narrow pathways of her village were shaded by mango, tamarind and coconut trees. When the landowner fell asleep, Sadhna and her friends would shin up the tree and steal the fruit.

As beautiful as these memories remain, however, Sadhna knows her childhood was far from idyllic. She says soberly, “For as long as I can remember, there were problems in my family.”

Her parents were gone most of the time. Most days, they travelled two hours by bus to work in Kolkata; her mother as a housekeeper and her father as a rickshaw driver. They struggled to make ends meet and argued constantly about the family’s poverty.

Each morning, as Sadhna and her friends walked to school, she felt guilty she wasn’t helping more. She remembers, “While I ate my lunch, I always wondered whether my mother and little sister at home had anything to eat.”

But then, in 2010, Sadhna’s family was changed forever: her father died, and Sadhna was left holding everything together.

At just 11 years old, she had to perform the Hindu funeral rituals and start contributing to the family’s upkeep. She sold frayed coconut husks as a packing material, earning just 30 rupees (around 50 cents) a week, but it was never enough.

“I felt like I was left all alone to take care of my family,” Sadhna says. “At age 12 or 13, a girl dreams of her future and her studies, but I couldn’t afford to do that. I would always think how to protect my family or educate my younger sister and take care of my mother.” 

She adds: “I broke down at times, but I didn’t let my mother take notice of that.”

Before long, Sadhna’s family packed up their small hut and went to Kolkata, seeking new opportunities and, once there, both Sadhna and her mother began working 12-hour days as housekeepers.

She stuck it out for three long years, before Sadhna began asking friends to help her find a better job. A girl in the neighbourhood put her in touch with a woman looking for house help, and Sadhna, now 14, went to meet her.

They met in an ordinary house, in an ordinary neighbourhood in Kolkata. The woman led Sadhna inside, and into a room full of strange men, beer bottles, and crushed cigarette packets.

“The lady told me not to worry, as I would get a nice job where I would be able to earn a lot of money,” she remembers—though she knew something was off. “I didn’t like the atmosphere, and I asked them to let me leave. They told me to sit and have a glass of water…I don’t remember anything after drinking the water.”

Sadhna woke up hours later on the floor—disoriented, naked, and afraid. Her clothes were strewn everywhere. She quickly learned that she had been raped, that this apartment was operating as a private brothel, and that she was now their property. She began to cry.

“The lady threatened to expose me to my family and my villagers. She said she knew everything about me,” Sadhna remembers shakily. She begged to leave until the madam relented—instead agreeing to call her back whenever a customer wanted sex. “She told me that two men would be following me, and if I tried to contact anyone she would get my mother and sister killed.”

Terrified, Sadhna told her mother she had found a well-paying job as a housekeeper and hurriedly convinced them to move back to their village. For the next two months, she slept at home and traveled one hour back and forth to Kolkata.

At the house, Sadhna and two or three other girls she never saw would be sold for sex several times a day in three tiny rooms — “not even big enough for a single bed” — hidden from anyone passing by the house. She says: “Those people were constantly calling me up and threatening me of dire consequences if I didn’t turn up. They even sent men to follow me. I had no other option but to go back to them.

And private brothels like this have been growing more and more popular in Kolkata in recent years.

They are based in unassuming houses or apartments, where pimps and madams arrange private meetings between customers and the girls through secret networks, according to International Justice Mission. They are more hidden than traditional brothels in red-light districts, but they exploit young girls just the same.

“She used to take money from the customers in front of me, and I had to go with them even if I didn’t want to,” Sadhna continues. “The customers who visited me at that house didn’t behave very nicely with me. They were so bad I can’t even discuss it now…I felt worthless and couldn’t see any way out of it.”

Event though Sadhna wasn’t physically restrained, she was still trapped. Threats kept her bound by fear, too scared to run. While the stigma placed on a young girl who has lost her virginity made her too ashamed to tell anyone.

“I struggled with myself constantly,” she remembers. “I didn’t know if I could ever come out of this trap and live a normal girl’s life. I had lost all hope of getting out. I felt as if I had no hope left in life and had become a worthless human being.”

The experience changed her. “After that incident, I stopped laughing or mixing with others,” she continues. “I felt totally isolated from girls like me. I realized I had wasted my life and could never be one of them. I felt as if it was the end of the road for me.”

It was on January 8, 2013, that the police finally arrived. Sadhna was with a customer in one of the tiny rooms when officers raided the house. Police and staff from International Justice Mission had been investigating the brothel for weeks, documenting the abuse that Sadhna and another young woman had been suffering — and they were here to rescue them.

As the customer fled outside, Sadhna listened to the raid. She heard the madam frantically begging not to be arrested, terrified of anyone finding out she had been running a brothel.

Sadhna gave her statement to the police, and was taken to a shelter. But it was clear the two months of exploitation she had suffered had taken their toll. Gone was the playful mischief, gone was the energetic smile and carefree spirit.

“I’ll never be able to trust anyone in life again,” she remembers thinking when she was first rescued. “This has shocked me beyond imagination. I stopped caring about anything in life. I had faced the worst experience of my life and didn’t bother anymore about anything else.”

But, after meeting other survivors like herself at the shelter, Sadhna began to open up, and, slowly, return to the fun-loving girl she had been.

“I found out that some of the girls had to go through a tougher time than me in the past,” she remembers. “In spite of these difficulties, they were trying to turn around and do something worthwhile in life. That pushed me to think positively about the future of my own. They motivated me to start going to school, to look ahead in life and to forget the past like they did.”

Sadhan was able to re-start her education, and to rebuild her self-esteem. She rediscovered her talent for music and dancing, and learned how to manage her feelings of fear and anxiety.

To close this painful chapter of her life, Sadhna knew she would have to see the madam held accountable for her crimes.

“I was scared of going to the court in the beginning, but the aunties from the shelter encouraged me to testify,” she says. “I felt by testifying in court I could save the life of another girl like me who would be a victim if this lady got away without a trial.”

Now, aged 19, Sadhna is once again confident and vibrant. She loves maths, and computers, watching horror films, and practicing traditional Hindi dance. Her younger sister has also been living in the shelter with Sadhna since late 2016, and Sadhna hopes to be able to support her sister, so she will never have to live through the same exploitation.

“My dream is to complete my education and get a job as a social worker, to hear the stories of other girls and help them,” she says. “I was quite fearless in my childhood days. Through this phase of life, I started getting scared of people around me. Now I’ve learned to draw inspiration for these experiences and have become fearless again. I’m no longer scared of anything in life.” 

 

Affordable And Clean Energy: Bernie Sanders Introduces Legislation to Rebuild Puerto Rico With Clean Energy #globalgoals #sdgs

Sanders’ new bill would invest billions into modernizing Puerto Rico’s infrastructure.

The tail end of Hurricane Maria’s driving rains and powerful winds retreated from Puerto Rico over two months ago, but the aftermath of the devastating storm is not leaving the island any time soon.

Nearly 3.5 million American citizens are still facing a severely damaged electrical grid, crumbling infrastructure, and apathy from a president who has been roundly criticized for his recovery effort.

However, some are choosing to view the massive operation of rebuilding Puerto Rico as a chance to improve the island, bringing it back better than ever before. Leading this charge is former presidential hopeful and current Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

After visiting Puerto Rico last month, Sanders introduced a $146 billion recovery plan Tuesday aimed at rebuilding Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Notably, the plan calls for the elimination of Puerto Rico’s outstanding debt, and prevents all proposed privatization of any public institutions on the islands.

Aptly named the “The Puerto Rico and U.S Virgin Islands Equitable Rebuild Act of 2017,” Sanders’ plan offers a different vision of recovery than anything previously proposed. The bill emphasizes the importance of placing control of recovery into the hands of local impacted communities, with special focus on the sustainable development of infrastructure, and a clean energy power grid.

As hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans leave the island for the mainland of the US, the bill would also incentivize residents to remain in their homes by offering subsidies to municipalities and homeowners who install renewable energy technologies like solar, wind, and geothermal power systems.

the havoc wreaked by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico were exacerbated by the effects of rampant poverty, high rates of unemployment, and a lack of economic investment by the US government into efficient infrastructure systems.

Sanders’ bill, which is to be co-sponsored by Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), would seek to remedy some of these longstanding social ills by including increased funding to the island’s healthcare and education systems.

Furthermore, the bill would provide additional funds to be invested in efforts to prepare for and mitigate the effects of climate change — a reality that could worsen the impacts of future weather-related disasters hitting both the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development, and taking action on climate change is goal number 13. Acting too late to combat the effects of climate change would be devastating to millions around the world at risk from weather catastrophes like hurricanes. You can take action on this issue here.

Even with the support of high ranking Democrats, it is expected that Sanders’ bill will not pass through the Republican-controlled congress, as reported by the Washington Post. Earlier in November, Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Rosselló requested just under $95 billion to aid relief efforts on the island, but Congress has not approved this sum. Sanders’ bill would nearly double that.

As of this week, Congress has allotted $51 billion in aid for Puerto Rico, with another round of cash expected to be approved in December, Reuters reported.

Sanders told the Washington Post that it is Congress’ responsibility to pass legislation that solves the longstanding structural deficiencies of Puerto Rico.

“Congress must work with the people of Puerto Rico to fundamentally transform its expensive, antiquated and unreliable system,” he said.

Zero Poverty: Ending Extreme Poverty … in a Generation #2030Now #GlobalGoals #SDGs #Poverty #ZeroPoverty

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The Zero Poverty Project

1.3 billion people in our world currently live in extreme poverty.

From The Global Poverty Project:

These 1,300,000,000 individuals live on less than what you can buy in the US for $1.25 per day. You might think this buys more in a poor country than it does here, but actually, it’s a figure that’s been adjusted for purchasing power, which means that anywhere in the world, the $1.25 a day measure buys little more than enough basic food, clean water and cooking fuel to make two simple meals.

In the last 30 years, the proportion of the world’s population that live below this line has halved – from 52% in 1980, to 25% today. That’s a decline from 1.9 billion people down to 1.3 billion people.

At the Global Poverty Project we’re passionate about communicating these amazing achievements, and highlighting the opportunity we have to bring this number down to zero – within a generation.

This post summarizes how we can each play a part in realizing this opportunity – moving a world without extreme poverty from its current status of ‘improbable possibility’, to ‘likely reality’. This list is designed to introduce you to the key themes and issues related to ending extreme poverty.

How we think about extreme poverty

We know ending extreme poverty is a big and complex challenge. It has many causes, and there’s certainly no silver bullet or single solution, but we don’t think that this complexity means the challenge cannot be overcome. There are a huge number of smart and talented people all over the world in charities, business, academia, evaluation organisations,government and think-tanks who are building an evidence base of things that work, things that don’t and why.

The big three issues

To see an end to extreme poverty, there are three big issues that we need to see action on – governance, aid and trade. We know that we have the resources (economic, social, political and environmental) to see an end to extreme poverty. But, right now, the world works in a way that keeps some people poor, which is what we all need to focus on to see an end to extreme poverty.

Improving governance structures can ensure that decision-making works in favour of the world’s poorest people. At present, most discussions about governance are framed in terms of corruption. Rather than treating the problem of corruption as an excuse to stop investing in development efforts, we need to get behind those working in communities to counter corruption: by holding local leaders to account, increasing transparency, and ensuring that laws are applied. Corruption is not only a problem that needs to be tackled in poor countries. In rich countries we need to hold governments and businesses to account for any complicity in the process of corruption, or for unethically undermining poverty reduction through actions like avoiding tax or utilising vulture funds to recover illegitimate debts. We’ve posted more about corruption here, including an interview with leading experts here, or you can see the work being done by corruption-fighting organisations like Global Witness and Transparency International.

Next, we need to make sure that aid that’s given – whether through donations to charities or taxes to government – is spent on programs that really work. Foreign aid won’t end poverty – but it’s a vital ingredient that can be used to make investments in things like health, education and infrastructure – resources needed for countries and communities to lift themselves out of poverty and prevent dependence on aid in the future. We’ve written more about good aid here, here and here.

Ultimately, extreme poverty ends when local communities can trade their way to a better future. The amazing poverty alleviation that we’ve seen in the past generation has been led by countries who have joined global markets: in China 400 million citizens have been lifted out of poverty since 1980, South Korea has moved from aid recipient to aid donor by building industry and creating world-renowned brands, and Botswana has grown faster than any other country in Africa by wisely investing proceeds from its diamond mines. Currently, the potential of trade is limited by the rules which work against poor countries, and will need to be reformed before we will see an end to extreme poverty.

The Elephants in the Room

Beyond these three issues, climate change and resource limitations are the elephants in the room, threatening the potential end to extreme poverty. The impact of these issues can be seen in the Pakistan floods, and in the record food prices which will mean that 1 billion people go to bed hungry tonight. On both of these issues our challenge is distribution, not scarcity. We aren’t running out of food – there’s more than enough food on our planet to feed everyone. The problem is that the world’s poorest people can’t afford to buy enough of it. In order to realize the potential of developing populations, rich countries have to increase their efficiency in resource use, and support clean development.

Our role

All of the opportunities and challenges of fighting extreme poverty outlined above are technically possible and eminently affordable. Our role is to make them politically viable and increasingly probable.

We can make a start with simple changes to the way that we act on a daily basis and by learning more about the issues so we can make informed decisions, especially about the ethics of the products we buy and the effectiveness of the money we donate.

Beyond that, we can help others realise that it is possible to end extreme poverty, that we are already making significant progress, and that practical steps can be taken to overcome the challenges that remain.

From there, it’s about using your voice as a citizen to join the campaigns and initiatives of organisations fighting hard in your local community to change the rules and systems that keep people poor: ensuring that corruption is reduced, that aid is given in appropriate quantities in the right way to the right things, and changing trade rules to give the world’s poorest a fair chance to lift themselves out of poverty.

Most importantly, it’s about recognizing that the movement to end extreme poverty is led by people in poverty themselves. As we reflect on the changes of the last generation, we can look forward a generation and see a real prospect of extreme poverty not existing. Our role is to get behind the world’s poor, give voice to their aspirations, and work as citizens and consumers to make the end of extreme poverty the legacy that our generation leaves on this world.

Simon Moss, Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer, Global Poverty Project

Women And Girls: Why Women Need Health Funding Now More Than Ever #GlobalGoals #SDGs #2030Now #SheDecides

Every girl and woman can decide what to do with her body, her life, and her future. #SheDecides

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Access to affordable, quality healthcare is a fundamental human right. Yet around the world, hundreds of thousands of women and girls die each year from a lack of access to healthcare, particularly a lack of access to reproductive healthcare.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 800 women and girls die every single day of pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. The overwhelming majority of these maternal deaths happen in developing countries, and many are preventable.

When Donald Trump took office in January 2017, he reinstated the Mexico City Policy (also known as the “Global Gag Rule”) restricting healthcare funding and making it even harder for women and girls to access adequate reproductive healthcare in developing countries that rely on US foreign aid. In response, the Dutch government launched SheDecides — a global initiative that calls on governments, businesses, and private citizens to step up and fill the funding gap to safeguard women’s health.

What is the Global Gag Rule?

Over the last 34 years, the Global Gag Rule has been alternately suspended by Democratic administrations and reinstated by Republican ones, and millions of people have suffered in the process.

The original policy, established in 1984, prohibits NGOs from receiving US foreign aid funding — from the State Department and the US Administration for International Development (USAID) — if they perform abortions, provide information about abortions, refer patients to other services for abortions, or even advocate for policies that support access to abortion.

This affects medical services offered through clinics run by NGOs, particularly in low-income countries and rural areas where such clinics may be the only form of healthcare available to communities.

How Is Trump’s Global Gag Rule Worse Than Previous Administrations’?

President Trump not only revived the original policy, but expanded its scope.

To be clear, US federal funding generally cannot be used to fund abortion services either within the US or overseas — and this has been the case since the 70s — even when the Global Gag Rule has been suspended.

The Global Gag Rule was last enforced under President George W. Bush’s administration and, as in previous administrations that used the policy, only applied to US family planning funds provided by the State Department and the US Administration for International Development (USAID) — about $575 million. Under the Trump administration, the Global Gag Rule’s restrictions have been extended to all US global health assistance (roughly $8.8 billion), affecting programs that provide HIV/AIDS support, maternal and child healthcare, and prevention and treatment for diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.

This greatly impacts healthcare providers in countries like Kenya, where NGOs operate 15% of clinics, and Nigeria — where 70% of contraceptives were provided by the UN Population Fund, from which Trump has withdrawn US funding, and 25% were provided by USAID in 2015.

What Is SheDecides?

SheDecides is not about changing or influencing domestic policies, it’s about governments, businesses, and individuals stepping up to support these healthcare programs in developing countries in the sudden, devastating absence of US funding support.

It’s also not about abortion.

Above all, SheDecides is about making sure girls and women around the world have access to vital reproductive and sexual healthcare and that they are treated as people with the power and agency to decide what to do with their own bodies.

And that’s about more than just abortion — it’s about access to contraceptives and testing that help prevent HIV/AIDS, obstetric care that improves maternal and infant survival rates, it’s about keeping girls in school.

“Evidence shows that by blocking funding to the world’s largest NGO providers of modern contraception, unintended pregnancies and abortions go up,” Marjorie Newman-Williams, vice-president of Marie Stopes International, an NGO that provides contraceptives and safe abortions through clinics in 37 countries, said in a statement. “As a result, women and girls are less likely to complete their education, have a career, or pursue their dreams for the future.”

Every girl and every woman has the right to decide if, when, and with whom she wants to have children.

Why Do Women Need Access to Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare?

Hundreds of women die every day from complications linked to pregnancy and childbirth, but access to prenatal and postpartum healthcare can save the lives of both mothers and children.

According to the UN Population Fund, “214 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods.” Many of these women lack access to safe contraceptives — which can help prevent sexually transmitted infections like HIV/AIDS — while others lack the information about such resources.

A lack of information, reinforced by gender discriminatory norms, can strip girls and women over the power they should have over their own bodies, putting them at greater risk of sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, early marriage, and unsafe abortion.

To date, SheDecides has raised around $400 million, contributed by governments — including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Norway, and Sweden — as well as organizations like Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and individual donors.

The funds are being managed by Rutgers, a Netherlands-based sexual and reproductive health rights NGO, and will be distributed to organizations impacted by the Global Gag Rule so that they can keep their clinics open and provide necessary sexual and reproductive health services without restrictions.

Partnership for the Goals: Foreign Aid Was a Big Winner in the Budget Trump Signed Last Week #2030Now #SDGs #GlobalGoals

Essential programs around the world will receive the funding they need.

 

For months, it looked like US foreign aid would face massive cuts, imperilling programs that support education in disaster zones, food relief in famines, and maternal health.

But, thanks to bipartisan leadership from US Congresspeople and Senators, those concerns have dissipated — for now.

US President Donald Trump signed a federal budget through fiscal year 2018 last week that dispensed with the steep cuts that the administration had called for and nearly maintains existing levels of foreign aid, even increasing funding in various areas.

Funding for foreign aid was $59.1 billion last year and this year it will be $55.9 billion — still a sizable cut, but much less than the $17.9 billion reduction requested by the White House.

Although foreign aid makes up less than 0.5% 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.

By largely maintaining current levels of US foreign aid, essential programs around will receive the funding they need.

Here are five takeaways from this 2018 budget.


1/ Health Funding Increased

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Last year, the Trump administration threatened to cut funding for all maternal health programs through the “Global Gag Rule” and GC mounted the “She Decides” campaign to counter this possibility.

Instead of getting cut by the US government, maternal health programs are getting an additional $15 million to provide women and children with essential services.

Notably, the bill rejects the Administration’s original proposal to eliminate funding for family planning, keeping funding for international family planning programs that are bilaterally funded by the US at $608M

Funding for global health security, which seeks to mitigate the threat of infectious and other diseases, increased by $100 million, and funding for efforts to fight tuberculosis, which has been proliferating around the world, increased by $20 million.

2/ Education Funding Increased

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Funding for the Global Partnership for Education was expected to get cut or stay the same, but it ended up receiving getting an additional $12.5 million on the 2017 commitment, bringing the US total contribution to GPE for 2018 to $87.5 million.

Globally, 264 million children are out of school, either because of conflict and crisis, poverty, a lack of teachers and resources, or some other reason. Girls in particular are prevented from completing their educations because of stigmas and barriers around the world.

GPE is working to ensure children in 89 countries get access to a quality education.

3/ Food Aid Increased

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More than 127 million people were on the brink of starvation last year, and funding calls to stop various famines were made throughout the year.

The US budget responded to this demand by allocating an additional $116 million to Food for Peace, to bring the total US commitment to $1.72 billion.

Food for Peace is a US program that seeks to end hunger around the world.

4/ Various Programs Remained Intact

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The 2018 budget maintained funding for a lot of different programs.

For instance, US efforts to combat HIV/AIDS will continue to receive $6 billion; funding for programs that promote access to water and sanitation stayed at $400 million; and agricultural programs that promote food security will continue to receive $1.93 billion.

5/ There Was Broad Bipartisan Support

Senators and congressman from both major parties stepped up to protect foreign aid funding.

In particular,  we applaud:

  • Hal Rogers, Republican Congressman from Kentucky

  • Patrick Leahy, Democratic Congressman from Vermont

  • Nita Lowey, Democratic Congresswoman from New York

  • Lindsey Graham, Republican Senator from South Carolina

  • And all the members of the Appropriations and State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs committees


It wasn’t all good news, however. A lot of essential programs will be affected by the net $3.2 billion in foreign aid cuts.

For example, $49 million was removed from emergency migration and refugee assistance, a staggering 98% cut. The world is currently facing the largest refugee crisis in recorded history and countries cannot afford to be withholding aid.

The Economic Support Fund, which supports emerging economies and establishes trade partners, was cut by $713 million; diplomacy programs were cut by $890 million; and funds for UN peacekeeping campaigns were slashed by $528 million, meaning other governments will need to pick up the slack.

Foreign aid fared better than expected in the 2018 budget, but this funding cycle will only be covered through September 30, and the negotiations on 2019’s budget, which will start at a 30% cut once again, have already begun.


Environment & Pollution: McDonald’s Will Phase Out Plastic Straws From UK Restaurants #BanPlastic #2030Now #SDGs

The trial will start across all 1,300 fast food outlets in May.

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McDonald’s will be phasing out plastic straws from its restaurants across the UK — in its latest environmentally-friendly effort.

The fast food chain will start trialling paper straws instead of the plastic ones at all 1,300 British outlets in May, in announced on Wednesday on Twitter.

Straws will also be kept behind the counter so customers will have to ask if they want one.

“Customers have told us that they don’t want to be given a straw and that they want to have to ask for one, so we’re acting on that,” said McDonald’s chief executive Paul Pomroy, in an interview with Sky News . “Straws are one of those things that people feel passionately about, and rightly so, and we’re moving those straws behind the front counter.” 

“If you come into McDonald’s going forward, you’ll be asked if you want a straw,” he added. “The other thing we’re looking to do is to move to recycled paper on the straws and biodegradable paper straws and that test, I’m really proud to say, will start next month.” 

The plastic straws in the fast food restaurant can actually already be recycled, but most people still throw them in the rubbish bin.

McDonald’s is “really close” to all of its packaging being recyclable, according to Pomroy. In fact, the only item of packaging that can’t currently be recycled, he said, are the plastic drink lids. But the chain hopes to find a solution to the plastic lids “within the next year.

Some 3.7 million people reportedly visit McDonald’s every day in the UK, with around 90% of the British population visiting at least once a year.

The announcement comes just a week after McDonald’s pledged to cut emissions in its restaurants and offices by 36% and across its supply chain by 31% by 2030, compared to 2015 levels.

It’s also part of a huge drive to cut down on single-use plastics, after the David Attenborough documentary “Blue Planet II” last year drove home exactly what plastics are doing to the marine environment.

On Wednesday, the government announced that England will be getting a deposit return scheme for bottles and cans — a system that has achieved a 97% recycling rate in Germany. It will mean customers pay a small amount extra — to be decided in a consultation later this year — when they buy their drinks, which they will get back when they return the container for recycling.

The scheme is part of the government’s 25-year plan , which aims to “set the global gold standard” on eliminating plastic, according to environment minister Michael Gove.

Sustainable Cities & Communities: This African City May Be the First Ever With 100 Million People Living in It {Lagos!!}#GlobalGoals #SDGs #2030Now

It would be the biggest city in a world of 14 billion people, according to a new study.

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By Henry Ridgwell

LONDON—The world could see its first city with a population of 100 million by the end of this century. That is the conclusion of new research into the speed of urbanization in many fast-growing countries in Africa and Asia, which suggests even small cities could balloon into huge metropolises in the coming decades.

By the end of the century, the world’s population is forecast to reach up to 14 billion. Eighty percent of those people will be living in cities, according to new research from the Ontario Institute of Technology.

“We are now seeing the urbanization wave headed through China, it is toward the latter part of its urbanization. And now it is headed for India, and then we will see it culminate in the big cities of sub-Saharan Africa,” co-author and professor Daniel Hoornweg told VOA via Skype.

That could mean the first 100-million population city, and the top candidate is Lagos, Nigeria.

Africa and cities

Today its population is 20 million, not the largest, as that accolade belongs to Tokyo with about 38 million people, but one of the fastest growing. In two generations, Lagos has grown a hundredfold. By 2100 it is projected to be home to more people than the state of California.

“Lagos, Dar Es Salaam, Kinshasa: These are the cities that are looking at four- to five-fold increases in population. By the end of the century, the lion’s share of large cities, the top 20 if you will, most of those will be in Africa,” Hoornweg said.

Lagos sprawls across 1,000 square kilometers, an urban jungle of skyscrapers, shanty towns and everything in between. Its population grows by 900 people per day.

The poorest residents, often migrant communities, live in slums by the lagoon. Amnesty International has warned of ruthless forced evictions to make way for new developments, which have left more than 30,000 people homeless and 11 dead.

Oladipupo Aiveomiye lives in the Ilaje-Bariga shantytown.

“The threat of being evicted, the threat of being chased away overnight has gripped people to the extent that they cannot even work or operate in this area,” he said.

Young continent

Across Africa the median age is younger than 20 and the fertility rate is 4.4 births per woman. Even small cities are forecast to balloon in size. Niamey in Niger could grow from less than 1 million today to 46 million by the end of the century; Blantyre in Malawi from 1 million to 40 million.

Asia, too, will witness huge urban growth, with Kabul in Afghanistan projected to hit 50 million people.

Hoornweg says despite the associated problems of slums, poor sanitation and pollution, increasing urbanization can be a good thing.

“Cities, by their nature, because of a more compact lifestyle, can provide a quality of life higher than anywhere else with less energy per unit of GDP,” he said. “So, cities actually provide a really important opportunity. We will not get to global sustainability without big cities.”

Many cities in the West are predicted to plateau or decline in size. By the end of the century, only 14 of the biggest 100 are forecast to be in North America or Europe.

Women & Girls: British Schoolgirls Are ‘Wearing Shorts Underneath Their Skirts’ to Protect From Up skirting #GlobalGoals #SDGs #2030Now

A teachers’ union boss says girls are increasingly worried about sexual harassment in school.

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“Upskirting” is the practice of taking a photo under a girl’s or woman’s skirt.

And schoolgirls are having to wear shorts underneath their skirts to protect themselves from the intrusive practice, according to the leader of Britain’s largest teaching union.

Dr. Mary Bousted, co-general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said society had gone “backwards,” and argued that upskirting is the result of sexual harassment becoming normalised.

“That makes schools, for many girls, not a safe space,” Bousted told the Independent. “Although girls enjoy school and do well at it, they do not feel safe in school. And that leads to girls not willing to go into public spaces in school and girls wearing shorts underneath their skirts so that if anyone puts a phone up their skirts they are not going to photograph anything.”

Last year, a report from the NEU and UK Feminista found that 37% of girls in mixed sex education have experienced some form of sexual harassment at school, and 24% had been subjected to unwanted physical touching of a sexual nature.

And with more young people having access to camera technology on their smartphones, it’s becoming easier to take and share indecent images.

“It is highly unlikely someone would have brought in a camera and developed a photo — but with a camera phone you can just press a button and send it round,” Bousted added to the Daily Telegraph. “It can happen in an instant: sending it around, and then giving the name of the girl — that is the worst thing, the absolute humiliation, the embarrassment and shame. Social media just provides a new vehicle, another way that girls can be harassed.”

The Fawcett Society, a gender equality charity that defends women’s rights in the workplace (named after leading Suffragist Millicent Fawcett) has previously urged the British government to make upskirting illegal.

It’s already illegal in Scotland — and making it a criminal offence in England and Wales was also considered by justice secretary David Lidington in September after a campaign was launched by a young woman called Gina Martin last year.

Martin launched an online campaign to #StopSkirtingTheIssue and criminalise upskirting after two men photographed her at British Summertime Festival in London’s Hyde Park. The Metropolitan police refused to prosecute, and she has since gathered nearly 100,000 petition signatures to change the law and make it illegal under the Sexual Offences Act of 2003.

Now, Martin’s campaign has received cross-party support from MPs within the Conservatives, Labour Party, and Liberal Democrats, with champions including police high commissioners, and global law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

She spoke about the issue live on ITV’s “This Morning” with Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby on March 22.

Good Health & Well-Being: What the Eradication of Smallpox Taught Us About Vaccines #Health #Vaccines #GlobalGoals #SDGs

Rumors once circulated that the smallpox vaccine could turn you into a cow.

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Smallpox is truly a disease out of a horror film.

Your body would erupt all over with fluid-filled bumps, both externally and internally, and 30% of those who caught smallpox died.

Over thousands of years of human history, this nightmarish disease killed the rich and the poor alike, from Egypt’s Pharaoh Ramses V to Louis XV of France to maybe even the Native American Pocahontas. Smallpox was one of the major reasons for the downfall of the Aztec empire.

As recently as the 20th century, as many as 500 million people died from smallpox — it killed more people than all of the wars in that century combined.

The only tool to fight smallpox was a vaccination that prevented you from getting the disease in the first place.

The vaccine was first scientifically tested by the British physician Dr. Edward Jenner in 1796, after he and others observed that milkmaids exposed to cowpox developed immunity against smallpox. The smallpox vaccine was the first use of vaccination to control an infectious disease. It launched modern-day immunology.

In the beginning, there were many doubters.

The vaccine was decried as unnatural and dangerous. Rumors circulated that it could maybe even turn you into a cow.

But as hundreds of thousands of lives were saved, communities and nations slowly began to embrace this life-saving tool.

Over the next two centuries, the scientific community figured out how to efficiently and cost-effectively produce the smallpox vaccine in larger quantities. By the middle of the 1950s, most of the developed world had eliminated smallpox.

Seeing that success, a band of doctors put forward a radical idea. They believed smallpox could literally be wiped off the face of the Earth. To achieve this goal, they launched the world’s first-ever global health campaign to attack the disease in its last stronghold: India.

Under the auspices of the World Health Organization, a diverse brand of rebel physicians and scientists moved to India to work with the Indian government.

This eclectic group included an elegant couture-wearing French physician, a Czech epidemiologist, a devout Christian who had spent his life in global health, and a young American anti-war protestor who had found his way to an Indian Ashram in the Himalayas.

Many in the establishment called them crazy, but, creating new models for public health engagement and breaking some rules along the way, they set out to do what had never been done before: eradicate a disease.

Critically, the Indian government joined hands with this unusual team, mobilizing 33,000 district health workers and 100,000 additional field workers in the largest public health campaign ever launched in a country.

This army of Indian health workers visited an estimated 100 million homes. In a time before cell phones and GPS, workers went door to door looking for smallpox. Every time they found a case, they vaccinated everyone around the affected person.

In four years, smallpox was eradicated from the Indian subcontinent. Shortly thereafter, a disease that had been the scourge of mankind for thousands of years was consigned only to history books.

So, what does the lesson of smallpox eradication show us?

It shows us that sometimes the impossible really is possible if you dream big, work relentlessly, and yes… maybe break a few rules. It tells us that a diverse group of people, even in the middle of the Cold War, can link hands and cross divides to save lives. And it tells us that countries like India can lead the way. Because of that, I now watch with admiration as Prime Minister Modi declares that India will try and eliminate tuberculosis by 2025, five years ahead of global deadlines.

Finally, in an age when many take for granted the value of vaccination, the eradication of smallpox should remind us that millions of us are alive today because of vaccines.

Quality Education: This Refugee School Is Giving Hope and Free Education to Kids in Uganda #GlobalGoals #SDGs #2030Now

Children displaced by conflict in surrounding countries find community at Coburwas.

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By Halima Athumani

In 2005, four young Congolese refugees in western Uganda opened a school for kids like themselves, separated from their families when they fled conflict in neighboring countries.

Today, the school boasts about 500 students and continues to provide free education to unaccompanied refugee children or those whose families cannot afford to pay.

The school name is a combination of Congo, Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda and Sudan — the countries of origin for refugees living in western Uganda. It was named by its four teenage founders who live at the Kyangwali refugee settlement.

“So, with friends we thought, maybe we can find ways to bring new hope to our community and that’s when we started creating Coburwas international youth organization to transform Africa,” said Joseph Munyambaza, now 27.

The boys did manual labor to raise money. Munyambaza remembers that with the first $150 they earned, they bought textbooks for the initial 16 students.

“We used to work in the community, work for farmers and then they give us small money, which we’d use to buy text books and other materials for the most needy children,” he said. “And among ourselves, we would serve as tutors. We now have our own farms, so we farm and when the crops get ready, we use the products for food.

The school also sells some crops from the farm to cover costs. Families that can afford it are encouraged to pay about $16 in fees. Outside donations help cover teacher salaries.

The first class was held under a tree that still stands in the school compound. The school now boasts four classroom blocks, serving 500 children from lower to upper primary classes.

Many residents who have lived at the Kyangwali refugee settlement for about seven or eight years say they won’t return home to Congo until stability is assured.

Okoboi John Bosco, the head teacher at Coburwas, says the school has helped refugee children build new lives.

“Some of them, as early as this age of theirs now, they are talking of some early projects that they can venture in to help the community,” he said. “So I see there is already a big change that has taken place in their lives, and I think the long term change is yet to come as they pursue their studies. And I believe with such initiatives within the refugee settlements, the best can be achieved from these kids.

Ten-year-old Ketrashatrawori Ibambas, who is in primary six, wants to be a doctor “because the people in this community are suffering from cholera. And they are lacking doctors, so I need also to be a doctor so that I can be able to prevent any other diseases.”

The school may soon see more new students. A fresh wave of communal violence in the northeastern DRC has pushed tens of thousands of Congolese refugees into western Uganda this year. The U.N. says most of the new arrivals are women and children.