Changing Lives One LED Lightbulb at a Time

By: Jacqueline Herrera, Co-founder and Director

 

A while back, I wrote about how excited we were about our partnership with Engineers without Borders, an organization comprised of professional engineers who provide low cost or pro bono services to organizations doing development in the field.
Since we take on some really diverse, and often fascinating projects (aquaponics farms, greenhouses, water purification, etc.), I knew that we would immensely benefit from having an expert weigh in and give us feedback.

Photo: EWB Australia

Photo: EWB Australia

When you are dealing with different vendors across the world, jumping through language barriers, time zones, foreign currencies, and cultural practices, developing a project can get super complicated, super fast. One day we have to know everything about the life cycle of Tilapia, and the next day calculate how fast we can get six greenhouses to provide a daily serving of fruits and vegetables to over 200 children at a partner home. And let’s not even get started on calculating the energy use of a partner home in watts, and dividing that by the hours per day and multiplying it by the cost of kw/h…I lost myself there too!
This is where EWB comes in – we have a dedicated engineer who is able to provide us feedback and guidance on everything from the most trusted vendors in the field, to making sure we are considering all aspects of a project before we sign any contracts, to even helping us decide whether the project should exist at all.

Soweto Slums

Soweto Slums

Our latest foray in development was a solar panel installation at the Good Samaritan Children’s Home, located in the Soweto slums of Nairobi.  The home provides refuge to over 70 children, most whom are babies that were abandoned in the slums. With nowhere else to go, and not enough support from the government’s social services department, the home is crucial to these infants’ survival. Babies are expensive – as I learned recently when I became a mother to my 11-month old daughter – so we brainstormed a way to eliminate some costs for the home so that they would not be under financial strain and could divert what funding they have to hire a social worker, who could facilitate the adoption of some of the infants. Energy was a big cost in the home, so we immediately thought a solar panel installation would work. The home had a large open roof and we began the process of researching solar panel vendors and partners in Nairobi. The cost was upwards of $8,000, which seemed about the right price range. We then asked our engineer to look over the proposal and give us the OK or make suggestions. Instead, he told us something very different, and very exciting.

Our energy use calculations

Our energy use calculations

After looking at the energy use of the home, (which was done by compiling a table of all light bulbs, all appliances, their wattage, hours used per day, etc.), he realized that we could actually almost eliminate the energy cost of the home by simply switching to LED light bulbs – something that would cost about $500 USD. Replacing the bulbs will reduce an estimated 90% of the current energy bills, and save us over $7500 for a project that simply was not necessary.
Solar energy is important and it has its time and place, but the systems are also expensive, complex, and can be high maintenance, which is why we have moved ahead with replacing over 40 bulbs at the home, rewiring the electrical system to support this change, and providing backup bulbs for replacement. Now comes the monitoring part, which we’ll do for one year – monitoring the cost saved and how the home is able to use the funding saved to fund more important aspects of their mission – such as providing love, care, nutrition, and even reunification with families to their children.

With one of the infants at the Good Samaritan Home

With one of the infants at the Good Samaritan Home

We remain grateful and fascinated by all that we learn through our projects, and all the time and guidance that our pro-bono volunteers and partners are willing to give, to make the world a better place for all. Whether you are giving your time, your money, or your knowledge, there is so much you can do to be a part of our mission. Learn more here. And I highly recommend you replace your lightbulbs to LED!

Better Data Is Needed on Vulnerable Children

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Photo: Lumos

As an organization working with vulnerable children around the world, one of the major obstacles we encounter is the lack of reliable data on children in many countries. When dealing with children living in orphanages or outside the home, information is sparse, and yet so vital to making meaningful change. Accurate information is needed to best serve the needs of these vulnerable children, and there is now a movement urging the UN to make sure these children are included in the statistical map. Read the open letter from JK Rowling’s foundation Lumos and support fixing the data gap on vulnerable children: http://goo.gl/OEB5CB

 

Stay True To Your Dreams

today is full of possibilites quote

 

“Don’t look for your dreams to come true; look to become true to your dreams.” -Michael Beckwith

As we start another week, let’s reflect on what dreams are closest to our hearts. Instead of focusing on the end result, let’s work to make every moment count. After all, it’s the journey that matters and with hard work, the rest will fall into place. 

Bringing Light to Women: Gloria Steinem

By Jacqueline Monet, Social Media Manager, Kitechild

Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Random House

Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Random House

It’s Gloria Steinem’s birthday today and as part of Women’s History Month, we couldn’t think of a better time to honor this pioneer of equality. At 82 and still going strong, the feminist icon has said that one of the fundamental issues of the women’s liberation movement has still gone unresolved: violence against women. Steinem has worked tirelessly to bring attention to this important and sad reality, which affects women and girls all over the planet. 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence, according to the UN. Most of the time, women who experience violence, do so at the hands of an intimate partner. When children grow up seeing violence against women in the home, it becomes normalized. “Certainly the question of violence against females is deep and urgent, not only for women but for everybody, since it turns out that violence against females is the biggest predictor of all other violence,” says Gloria. A culture of violence against women, also perpetuates the idea of ownership over women, which contributes to sexual trafficking and child marriages. The abuse of women’s bodies in this way also leads to children that they cannot care for, due to unwanted or forced pregnancies. So, this epidemic also adds to the number of vulnerable and orphaned children in the world.

 

Photo: Suzanne Gamboa

Photo: Suzanne Gamboa

Another important issue that Gloria continues to be at the forefront is the fight for immigration reform. She has spoken out about the economic and gender issues at hand within the immigration debate, as the majority of people crossing into the United States are women and children. “There is no such thing as a border that is proof against poverty, or against the natural migration of workers back and forth. We are simply asking that we have rules that recognize reality so that we do not declare righteous human beings to be criminals,” she said.

Photo:Leigh Vogel/WireImage

Photo:Leigh Vogel/WireImage

Gloria has helped to bring feminism into the mainstream consciousness and along with it, to stop making the word something to be afraid to use. As Gloria says, “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”For all her work she’s done over the years, she received the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama, who said it was to honor her “fight for equality and social justice for more than four decades.” It was there that she was asked what advice she has to impart onto the next generation of women. She had this to say: Don’t listen to me. Listen to yourself … People often ask me ‘Who am I passing the torch to?’ First of all, I’m not giving up my torch, thank you! I’m using my torch to light other people’s torches. If we each have a torch, there’s a lot more light.”

This kind of empowerment is what is needed to bring equality and change to the world, which is what we strive to do. Following Gloria’s lead, we work to empower women to make the best choices for themselves. Our projects support women and girls through education, nutrition and community, which allows women to make their own family planning choices, which leads to less vulnerable children and happier families. We each do have our own torches and it’s up to us to use them to bring more light into the world. And together, we can.

 

 

References:

http://www.npr.org/2015/10/26/451862822/at-81-feminist-gloria-steinem-finds-herself-free-of-the-demands-of-gender

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/gloria-steinem-quotes-feminism-gender-periods-equality/1/626400.html

http://nbclatino.com/2013/11/19/feminist-gloria-steinem-gives-immigration-activists-a-pep-talk/

http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures

http://fortune.com/2015/12/22/gloria-steinem-feminism-turning-point/

http://msmagazine.com/blog/2013/11/20/gloria-steinem-receives-top-national-honor/

http://www.blogher.com/why-gloria-steinem-supports-immigration-reform

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3925120/

Look For The Good

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Cartoon: LeMonde

It’s only been a few months since the Paris attacks and we find ourselves once again grieving for the families of loved ones lost in a terrorist attack. Even as the horrors unfolded, people jumped into action to help one another, offering shelter, transportation and aid to complete strangers by tweeting #OpenHouse and #IkWilHelpen. There is more good than bad in this world, and together we can create a world of peace.

Read more about these everyday heros: http://goo.gl/VCfvc7

 

jim rohn quote

“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.”- Jim Rohn

 

It’s the first week of spring now: a time for renewal and growth. Take control of your day and get this week off to a great start. How are you going to spring into action and #MakeADifference?

 

Menstruation: Normal, Natural and Neglected

There exists a normal body function that affects the education, health and well-being of women all over the world, due to persisting taboos and lack of access to adequate supplies. It’s something that even in America, we’re often uncomfortable talking about: menstruation.

Photo: EcoFemme

Photo: EcoFemme

Even in 2016, most women in India do not use sanitary products for their periods. Instead, they use a variety of materials including newspapers and cow dung, which can have serious health implications. For example, 70% of all reproductive diseases in India are caused by poor menstrual hygiene, which is something that can be greatly reduced through education and supplies. But getting feminine products is often prevented by the social taboos that majorly affect the 355 million women of menstruation age in India. Some of the other consequences from the myths surrounding menstruation is that the women are sometimes considered impure and barred from temples, can be excluded from the community during the duration of their period or forbidden from drinking from the same water supply as the rest of the village. And in addition to the social taboos, the solution isn’t as simple as shipping pads and tampons to India. There are major issues of disposable non-biodegradable feminine hygiene products in India, as many of the items end up being flushed down the toilet, which blocks sewers systems, or end up contributing to India’s landfill problems.

Photo: MyPad: Workers sorting through discarded clothing to create biodegradable cloth pads.

Photo: MyPad: Workers sorting through discarded clothing to create biodegradable cloth pads.

However, there are options being explored by advocates such as Anshu Gupta. Gupta founded a recycling center in New Delhi, where volunteers create cloth sanitary napkins for the women of India. Gupta created the organization to help change the social stigmas that surround menstruation and find a way to provide cheap, environmentally-friendly feminine hygiene products. These biodegradable pads are now being issued by the millions by the MyPad  and the Not Just a Piece of Cloth campaign. Gupta found that these products “gave these women, who neglect or are ignorant of this critical health issue, a sense of dignity and self-respect.”

Thyra Khuri Bishwa Karma, 16 years, Narsi village “ I get scared of snakes. There is a village called Mumuri where a girl got bitten an when people come and see us at the chaupadi. I feel ashamed. I feel so ashamed.”

Photo: Poulomi Basu, Time Magazine: A 16 year old girl in a chhaupadi hut.

Why is this important? Because without the proper sanitary products, women’s lives are greatly impacted.It’s difficult for many women to gain access to these necessities and live their normal lives because of stigma surrounding menstruation. In some parts of Kenya, for instance, women who are menstruating are prevented from interacting with livestock, preparing meals or eating any animal products. In some communities in Nepal, the banishment of menstruating women, known as chhaupadi is a common practice. Once a month, these women are forced to live in makeshift huts and are forbidden from socializing or sharing food with their families. This practice is not only damaging to a woman’s emotional state, but very dangerous, as it leaves the women exposed to the elements and to abductions. Mothers are taken away from their children, and the women are subjected to physical and emotional abuse from spiritual leaders, who believe the women have been possessed by demons.

 

Photo: WASH United: Schoolgirls in Kenya on National Menstrual Hygiene Day

Photo: WASH United: Schoolgirls in Kenya on National Menstrual Hygiene Day

Because of taboos like these and the lack of supplies, many girls are prevented from attending school while they have their period. In Kenya, girls miss an average of 20 days of school per year, according to a Duke University study. This puts girls at a disadvantage to achieving education equality and dissuades communities from investing in the education of girls.

 

Photo: Kitechild: School children at the Fiwagoh home, showing the harvest from our greenhouse project, that works to fund their education.

Photo: Kitechild: School children at the Fiwagoh home, showing the harvest from our greenhouse project, that works to fund their education.

As an organization that focuses on the quality of care and educational opportunities of vulnerable children in their communities, this is a huge concern for us. Education is pivotal to breaking the cycle of poverty. We work to raise the quality of life for vulnerable children, especially those living in orphanages. We know that poverty is the main contributing factor that leads to children living their lives in an orphanage. Most of these children have one or both living parents, but their families simply cannot support them financially. If we can break down the barriers that prevent children from getting their education, like obstacles related to menstruation, we can help people permanently rise out of poverty. By escaping the cycle of poverty, more families will be able to care for their children in their home, which is infinitely better for the well-being of all involved.

One of the most important things we can do is to bring attention to this issue and not be afraid of having frank conversations about menstruation. Nancy Muller, of the NGO Path,  sees the fear of discussion as a major obstacle to helping these vulnerable women and girls. “People prefer not to think about it or talk about it. It’s a challenge to secure funding because menstruation is not seen as a critical or life-threatening issue,” said Muller.

Photo: Mic/Getty Images: Quote from activist Jennifer Weiss-Wolf on the tax of feminine hygiene products.

Photo: Mic/Getty Images: Quote from activist Jennifer Weiss-Wolf on the tax of feminine hygiene products.

Even in America, there is a lot of work to be done for the accessibility of sanitary products, but luckily, progress is being made. Chicago just banned the tax on tampons and pads, by a unanimous vote. And the New York Assembly has just passed Linda Rosenthal’s legislation to exempt feminine hygiene products from state sales taxes. Rosenthal calls taxes like this, “a regressive tax on women and their bodies.” Activists in Canada have also been successful in getting their government to repeal taxes on pads and tampons. It seems that more and more states and countries are waking up to the importance of accessibility to sanitary products… and as we keep bringing attention to women’s health issues, things can only improve for women and girls everywhere.

 

References

https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/blood-money-the-race-to-crack-indias-lucrative-menstruation-market

http://time.com/3811181/chhaupadi-ritual-nepal/

https://www.good.is/features/issue-36-the-bloody-truth

http://jezebel.com/free-tampons-for-everyone-1762358570

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2016/03/16/tampon-tax-ban-new-york/

http://jezebel.com/the-majority-of-women-still-use-euphemisms-to-describe-1761939612

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/may/28/we-need-to-talk-about-periods-why-is-menstruation-still-holding-girls-back

http://www.globalonenessproject.org/library/films/not-just-piece-cloth

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/may/28/we-need-to-talk-about-periods-why-is-menstruation-still-holding-girls-back

12 Steps for Gender Equality

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Photo: Solo Imaji/Barcroft Media: A human rights activist in Indonesia on International Women’s Day

 

The Guardian recently released a list of 12 steps we can take to achieve gender equality. One of the first things we can do is include women and girls in the discussion of policy-making. Other steps to take is to make education gender-sensitive and to encourage girls in technology and the sciences. Read the rest of the steps: goo.gl/7prlFJ

Believe You Can and You’re Halfway There

believe you can

 

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” This Motivation Monday quote comes from Theodore Roosevelt and we think it’s the perfect inspiration to start this week off with. Sometimes it’s hard to see how things will get better, but it’s important to have a vision for the future, so you can achieve your goals. Believe, act and make a difference!  

Maintaining the Spirit of International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day was this past Tuesday, but one day is not nearly enough to honor the achievements of women around the globe. The IWD is not just a time to celebrate all that women have done, but to talk about the work that still remains for the world to reach gender equality.

Honoree Malala Yousafzai attends the 23rd Annual Glamour Women of the Year Awards hosted by Glamour Magazine at Carnegie Hall on Monday, Nov. 11, 2013 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Malala Yousafzai at the Annual Glamour Women of the Year Awards on Nov. 11, 2013. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

One major component of achieving equality will be securing education rights for girls. 31 million girls should be in primary school and 32 million girls should be in secondary school, but are kept from receiving their education, according to the UN. But, more and more people are standing up for the right to an education. Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban in 2012 for boldly going to school. She has since gone on to speak up for the rights of education and became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. As more people follow in Malala’s footsteps, education will become a given right for girls, which will lead to healthier families, less violence and more economic stability. For us, this issue is very important because more educated women leads to less poverty and poverty is the number one reason why children live in orphanages. And as women gain education, marriages are delayed, which helps to eliminate unwanted pregnancies, which is also a contributing factor to children in orphanages.

In this Aug. 9 2011 photo, Gloria Steinem laughs during an interview with The Associated Press, in New York. Four decades after she helped found the women's movement, the feminist icon is in a reflective mode, writing a memoir and participating in an HBO documentary on her life. "Gloria: In Her Own Words" premieres Monday, Aug. 15, 2011, on HBO. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Gloria Steinem during an interview with the Associated Press on Aug. 9 2011 in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Thanks to women like Gloria Steinem, we have come a long way on the road of women’s rights. We have more opportunities than ever to become the women we want to be. However, there are still problems that need to be addressed in the workplace. Women are still left behind when it comes to pay equality, earning only 80 cents for every dollar a man earns. Furthermore, America is only one of three countries that does not have paid maternity leave laws (the other two being Papua New Guinea and Oman). As we near the 2016 presidential election, hopefully further legislation will be passed to protect and support women.

Indire Ghandi.

Indire Ghandi.

Violence against women is still an epidemic that needs our attention in order to be eradicated. 4.5 million people are victims of forced sexual exploitation and nearly all (98%) are women and girls. Around the world, 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence, according to the UN. As Indira Ghandi’s quote points out, we cannot have a peaceful world while violence is still a reality for so many. The UN and other organizations are working on fixing this through educational initiatives and working with men and boys to bring an end to gender-based violence.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks after receiving the 2013 Lantos Human Rights Prize during a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. The New Hampshire-based human rights organization awarded its highest honor to Clinton for her efforts to promote human rights for women and through Internet freedom. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton receiving the 2013 Lantos Human Rights Prize  on Dec. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

This year was the 105th International Women’s Day and looking back, there has been so much achieved in the name of social justice and civil rights in the past century. We currently have a woman in the democratic primaries and women now earn the majority of college degrees. Reflecting on how far we’ve come, I can only imagine what strides will continue to be made, as the world becomes more just and equal for all people. This year’s theme for IWD is “Pledge for Parity,” and that’s a pledge well-worth making.

 

Resources

http://fortune.com/2016/03/08/international-womens-day-trivia/?xid=soc_socialflow_twitter_FORTUNE

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/emma-saloranta/building-a-planet-5050-by_b_9385690.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erica-diamond/international-womens-day-_32_b_9409482.html

http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/08/africa/iwd-uganda-child-sex-worker/

http://www.one.org/us/

http://mashable.com/2014/03/08/quotes-international-womens-day/?crlt.pid=camp.sSKhte5VSQZh#_LjXHSpyxSqS

http://www.unicef.org/education/bege_70640.html

http://www.biography.com/people/malala-yousafzai-21362253#synopsis

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/02/whats-really-behind-the-gender-wage-gap/462363/

http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/paid-family-leave-obama-work

http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women

http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/prevention

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/storyline/wp/2014/12/11/women-are-dominating-men-at-college-blame-sexism/