Culture Planet

Girlfriend Collective Releases “The Wash Bag” to Keep Microfibers Out of Oceans

Girlfriend Collective, the trendy and relatively sustainable activewear brand known for making its matching workout sets from recycled plastic, has just introduced a new product to help lower fashion’s impact. In an email to subscribers on Wednesday morning, Jan. 15, Girlfriend Collective unveiled the Wash Bag, a portable mesh washing bag that traps microfibers your clothing releases in the washing machine, and keeps the synthetic particles from entering waterways.

The Wash Bag is made from monofilament similar to fishing line, so the bag itself will not shed in the washing machine, and it won’t let any microfibers escape — instead, it will only let soap and water in and out. The bag is notably similar to the Guppyfriend bag, which was previously the only (or at least the primary) microfiber washing bag on the market.

But while the Guppyfriend bag retails for between $29.75 and $42, Girlfriend Collective’s Wash Bag retails for $18. The lower price is reflective of the product’s size (the Wash Bag is 15″ tall and 12 1/4″ wide, while the Guppyfriend is 27 9/16” tall and 19 11/16” wide), as well as Girlfriend Collective’s direct-to-consumer business model (Guppyfriend is sold by a variety of retailers, including Patagonia, Reformation, and Package Free Shop).

To use the Wash Bag, fill it up with synthetic fabrics no more than three-quarters of the way full, zip it closed, and throw the entire bag into the washing machine alongside your natural-fiber clothes. (You can also use the bag to hand wash synthetic clothing in the sink.) After washing, hang the Wash Bag to dry, and scrape out microfibers into the trash. This is obviously not ideal, but better in the landfill than in rivers or oceans. To ensure that the fibers remain contained, you can scrape them into a bottle or container, and once full, putting the bottle itself into the trash.

Interestingly, the Wash Bag is Girlfriend Collective’s second product designed to help consumers keep microfibers out of the ocean. The company also sells the Microfiber Filter, a $45 microfiber filter that can be installed on your washing machine. For people who do their laundry in a shared washing machine, installing a filter is not an option — so something portable like the Wash Bag (or the Guppyfriend or the Cora Ball, which retails for $37.99) may be more accessible.

How Do Microfibers Shed?

When fabric rolls around in the washing machine, it sheds microfibers, which are are teeny-tiny fibers (less than 5 millimeters in diameter). This is only a concern when washing fabric made from synthetic materials (think polyester, nylon, spandex, rayon), which will not break down (unlike fibers from natural materials such as cotton or bamboo, which will break down in the water).

Why Are Microfibers Bad?

Microfibers are also a kind of microplastic — so when these tiny fibers shed in the machine, they enter the water pipes, and flow to waterways like oceans and rivers; once there, they become plastic pollution, and are often consumed by fish and other sea animals. An estimated 100,000 synthetic microfibers are shed during every wash cycle, according to Wired.

How to Keep Laundry From Shedding Microfibers

There are a variety of ways to lower the amount of microfibers your laundry cycles release, even if you don’t have the Wash Bag or a similar product. According to Plastic Pollution Coalition, you can: run loads as full as possible (full loads cause less friction and less microfibers to shed); wash with cold water, which encourages less microfibers to release and uses less energy; wash your clothing less often; and wear clothing made from natural materials instead of synthetics.

Original article by Sophie Hirsh –  Source Green Matters

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

To find out more about Plastic Pollution Coalition and ways to get involved, go to their website.


Big Book Club

The benefits of reading stories for children are huge; it fires up their imagination, encourages creativity, helps family bonding and can provide an escape from tough situations.

But it’s not just children who enjoy reading stories; older people aged 65 plus are the most frequent group to visit libraries.

And new charity the Big Book Club aims to bridge the storytelling gap between the two generations.

It was while watching a TV show where four-year-olds meet residents of nursing homes that Lee Price and his wife Katie decided to set up the project.

Lee recalls: “Both Katie and I sobbed our way through the show. Seeing the amazing impact that children reading stories had on older people was inspiring.

“The TV show was a one off project, but we both wanted to make something similar happen in our community on a more regular basis.

“Our daughter Astrix is almost three, and seeing how much pleasure she gets from reading stories with her great-grandparents, and them from reading to her, made us want to create that experience for older people in our local area who may well feel lonely or isolated.”

The pair recruited a series of trustees and formed the charity. Their pilot project will take place in the coming weeks at a local nursing home in Milton Keynes, Bucks, and they then plan to increase their scale and reach.

Lee said: “The Big Book Club is an opportunity to get away from screens, get away from division in society and, most importantly, get into a good book.

“The benefits of children spending time with elderly people are profound, on both parties. While the value of reading almost goes unsaid.

“What we do is really very simple – we encourage reading, learning, and sharing. As well as exploring the books we provide, we think there’s just as much, if not more, to gain from the time spent with someone from a different generation.”

But what they now need are books. The project wants to create a library of stories which both young children and elderly people will find engaging and enjoyable, which they can use on their visits.

In the future The Big Book Club also want to donate books to schools whose stocks may be tired or out of date, giving kids the opportunity to read new and modern stories which reflect the work around them.

Lee added: “We want to make sure the books we use are exciting and treasurable. We only get one shot at a first impression, we don’t want to turn children off from reading.”

If you could fund a children’s book for the project then The Big Book Club have a wishlist at Amazon here:

You can also visit their website to donate:

By Jenna Sloan


NHS lung cancer screening ‘could save 5,000 lives a year’

The NHS could save 5,000 lives a year by introducing screening for lung cancer, say experts.

Prof Charles Swanton, chief clinician at Cancer Research UK and one of the country’s leading cancer scientists, said: “The data are extraordinary. If we had a drug half as good as that, we would have adopted it by now.”

Swanton, whose work is focused on investigating mutations in cells in late-stage tumours that become very hard to treat, urged the introduction of CT screening for people at risk because of smoking or family history, because lung cancer is very curable by surgery if caught early, but often fatal if detected late.

Prof David Baldwin from Nottingham, a member of NHS England’s advisory group on lung cancer, backed his call, saying that the NHS had started a pilot programme that he expected would become national. Prof Sir Mike Richards, the former NHS cancer tsar, recently produced a report on the way forward which supported more targeted cancer screening programmes.

Most experts emphasise the need to prevent cancer by improving lifestyles, particularly in an era when the NHS is hard-pressed for money, cancer is on the increase and drug treatments for cancers that have spread are increasingly costly. Better diets, not smoking, less alcohol and more exercise are known to reduce people’s risk, but early diagnosis and swift surgery could help to save lives.

Baldwin is optimistic that lung cancer survival will increase. “We’re on the brink of real step change in terms of outcomes, I think,” he said. As well as screening, the NHS was speeding up the path from diagnosis to surgery, which would save or extend lives. But inequalities around the country also needed to be tackled. Four times as many patients get surgery in some trusts than others – sometimes because of worries that a frail patient may die in the operating theatre.

Lung cancer survival is about 15% in the UK, one of the lowest rates in Europe, with the best in the world – in New York state – at 25%. The experts were speaking before the publication of two reports – one from the UCL School of Pharmacy and the other, from the thinktank Demos, prepared for the drug company Pfizer – which both called for more money for cancer research and treatment.

The Demos report calls for the government to raise spending on cancer to the EU average by 2030, which would cost £2.1bn a year. The total economic impact, it says, is far more, at £7.6bn a year.

The UCL School of Pharmacy report argues for more spending, including more money for drugs which, it claims, a fifth of the public wrongly think are “bankrupting the NHS”. It argues that about 0.15% of GDP is actually spent on drugs for cancer and that improving outcomes “should be seen as an affordable goal for Brexit Britain even if spending on some treatments rises during the 2020s”.


Original article by Sarah Boseley-  Source The Guardian

Photo National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

To find out more about Cancer Research UK and ways to get involved, go to their website.



Women Rise Up to Nurture Climate Scientists in Africa

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Jan 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – As a child, Kenyan meteorologist Saumu Shaka helped out on her parents’ small farm growing maize and pigeon pea — and learned how the weather can hold food producers hostage.

“Looking back, the yield has declined over the years,” said Shaka, 28, who works with the Kenya Meteorological Department.

A decade ago, her parents would get 25 sacks of maize from their six hectares in Taita Taveta County, southeast of Nairobi.

Today that has dwindled to five bags at most because of erratic rainfall that can also spur crop-destroying pests.

As climate change fuels extreme weather and threatens harvests, Africa needs more scientific expertise to help small-scale farmers adapt, especially women who tend to be hit worst, said Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, director of Nairobi-based group African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD).

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women represent nearly half of farmers in Africa and produce up to 80% of basic food crops.

They are also largely responsible for preparing, storing, and processing food.

But in many cases, the FAO says, they have limited rights, mobility and access to resources, information, and decision-making power, making them more vulnerable and less able to adapt to climate change impacts than men.

“This means women’s continued under-representation in climate change research is no longer acceptable,” said Kamau-Rutenberg, noting that few have opportunities in science education.

AWARD is leading the One Planet Fellowship, a new initiative that will train 630 African and European scientists to use a gender lens to help African smallholders adapt to climate shifts, unusually offering Africans the opportunity to serve as mentors.

Under-investment in African scientific research capacity means “we still don’t even know the specific ways climate change will manifest in Africa,” said Kamau-Rutenberg.

In September, the three-year career development program welcomed its first cohort of 45 fellows from Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Zambia, Malawi, Benin, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Togo, Mali, Ethiopia, and Burkina Faso — over half of them female.

The aim is to “set an example and dispel the myth that there are no African women scientists ready to step into leadership,” Kamau-Rutenberg added.

AWARD collaborates on the initiative, worth nearly $20 million, with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, France’s BNP Paribas Foundation and Agropolis Fondation, the European Union, and Canada’s International Development Research Centre.

‘Firsthand Experience’

As one of the inaugural fellows, Shaka is seeking home-grown solutions to the challenges faced by farmers like her parents, who are battling to grow enough food on a warming planet.

Her research focuses on cost-effective “climate-smart” agribusiness techniques to help young people boost jobs and food security, which she will promote on social media platforms.

African scientists “have firsthand experience and solutions that are practical and applicable to their societal set-ups within their individual countries,” she said.

Women scientists, moreover, are better able to understand the specific challenges in designing community-tailored solutions to help fellow women, said the senior meteorologist.

Droughts and floods, for example, impose a health burden on women, who have to walk long distances in search of water and stay alert to the risk of waterborne diseases, she noted.

Pamela Afokpe, 27, an AWARD fellow from Benin, said “in-continent” experts could relate to the needs of African farmers more easily.

Afokpe, a vegetable breeder with East-West Seed International, is working to get more farmers growing indigenous leafy vegetables in West and Central Africa by helping them access high-yielding varieties resistant to pests and diseases.

Up to now, a limited number of African experts have contributed to the landmark scientific assessments published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which synthesizes research and guides policymakers.

Out of 91 lead authors of the 2018 IPCC special report on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, only eight were from Africa, as were just a tenth of the 783 contributing authors.

South Africa’s Debra Roberts, co-chair of a working group for the IPCC ongoing sixth scientific assessment report and the first female co-chair from Africa, said the panel’s work showed tackling climate change required all of society to respond.

“Women have different lived experiences and views on the problems and solutions,” she said.

“We need to hear those voices if we are to be able to identify context-relevant solutions from the scientific literature. There is no one-size-fits-all,” she added.

Over the IPCC’s three decades of operation, there have only been three female co-chairs, two of them on the current report, she noted.

“We have a long way to go still,” Roberts told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.

Energy Priorities

Women also need to be involved in the practical design of climate solutions, such as expanding off-grid solar power and clean cooking, which can reduce drudgery and minimise health issues linked pollution, said agricultural experts.

As forest loss and climate change make resources scarcer, women have to go longer distances to gather fuel-wood, which puts additional pressure on their time, health, and personal security, said Katrin Glatzel, a research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Dakar, Senegal.

In Mali, a public-private partnership has provided 1.6 million people with more efficient stoves, reducing pollution by half compared to a traditional three-stone fire, she noted.

Glatzel said it was important to include and empower female scientists and farmers in the switch to cleaner, modern energy, so that their concerns could be addressed.

A 2019 survey by charity Practical Action in rural Togo found women prioritized energy for pumping drinking water and processing crops, while men favoured mobile-phone charging and heating water for washing, she noted.

In northern Benin, meanwhile, a solar-powered drip irrigation system means a cooperative of 45 women now fetches water once or twice a week rather than daily, she added.

Bringing women on board with technological innovation for rural energy services is key “to ensure that end products meet their needs and those of their families,” she said.

Original article By Busani Bafana for Thomson Reuters Foundation-  Source Global Citizen

Photo on Unsplash

To find out more about African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) and ways to get involved, go to their website.

To find out more about the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and ways to get involved, go to their website.

Equality Wellbeing

‘It’s a miracle’: Helsinki’s radical solution to homelessness

Tatu Ainesmaa turns 32 this summer, and for the first time in more than a decade he has a home he can truly say is his: an airy two-room apartment in a small, recently renovated block in a leafy suburb of Helsinki, with a view over birch trees.

“It’s a big miracle,” he says. “I’ve been in communes, but everyone was doing drugs and I’ve had to get out. I’ve been in bad relationships; same thing. I’ve been on my brother’s sofa. I’ve slept rough. I’ve never had my own place. This is huge for me.”

Downstairs in the two-storey block is a bright communal living and dining area, a spotless kitchen, a gym room and a sauna (in Finland, saunas are basically obligatory). Upstairs is where the 21 tenants, men and women, most under 30, live.

It is important that they are tenants: each has a contract, pays rent and (if they need to) applies for housing benefit. That, after all, is all part of having a home – and part of a housing policy that has now made Finland the only EU country where homelessness is falling.

When the policy was being devised just over a decade ago, the four people who came up with what is now widely known as the Housing First principle – a social scientist, a doctor, a politician and a bishop – called their report Nimi Ovessa (Your Name on the Door).

“It was clear to everyone the old system wasn’t working; we needed radical change,” says Juha Kaakinen, the working group’s secretary and first programme leader, who now runs the Y-Foundation developing supported and affordable housing.

“We had to get rid of the night shelters and short-term hostels we still had back then. They had a very long history in Finland, and everyone could see they were not getting people out of homelessness. We decided to reverse the assumptions.”

As in many countries, homelessness in Finland had long been tackled using a staircase model: you were supposed to move through different stages of temporary accommodation as you got your life back on track, with an apartment as the ultimate reward.

“We decided to make the housing unconditional,” says Kaakinen. “To say, look, you don’t need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems.”

With state, municipal and NGO backing, flats were bought, new blocks built and old shelters converted into permanent, comfortable homes – among them the Rukkila homeless hostel in the Helsinki suburb of Malminkartano where Ainesmaa now lives.

Housing First’s early goal was to create 2,500 new homes. It has created 3,500. Since its launch in 2008, the number of long-term homeless people in Finland has fallen by more than 35%. Rough sleeping has been all but eradicated in Helsinki, where only one 50-bed night shelter remains, and where winter temperatures can plunge to -20C.

The city’s deputy mayor Sanna Vesikansa says that in her childhood, “hundreds in the whole country slept in the parks and forests. We hardly have that any more. Street sleeping is very rare now.”

In England, meanwhile, government figures show the number of rough sleepers – a small fraction of the total homeless population – climbed from 1,768 in 2010 to 4,677 last year (and since the official count is based on a single evening, charities say the real figure is far higher).

But Housing First is not just about housing. “Services have been crucial,” says Helsinki’s mayor, Jan Vapaavuori, who was housing minister when the original scheme was launched. “Many long-term homeless people have addictions, mental health issues, medical conditions that need ongoing care. The support has to be there.”

At Rukkila, seven staff support 21 tenants. Assistant manager Saara Haapa says the work ranges from practical help navigating bureaucracy and getting education, training and work placements to activities including games, visits and learning – or re-learning – basic life skills such as cleaning and cooking.

“A lot of it is really about talking,” says Henna Ahonen, a trainee social worker. And that is “easier when you are actually doing something together, rather than in a formal interview”, Haapa says. “The connection is just … easier. You can spot problems more readily.”

Hardly any of the tenants come straight from the street, Haapa says, and those who do can take time to adjust to living indoors. But after a three-month trial, tenants’ contracts are permanent – they can’t be moved unless they break the rules (Rukkila does not allow drug or alcohol use; some other Housing First units do) or fail to pay the rent.

Some stay seven years or more; others leave after one or two. In 2018, six tenants moved out to lead fully independent lives, Haapa says. One is now a cleaner, living in her own flat; another studied for a cookery qualification during his five years at Rukkila and now works as a chef.

Ainesmaa is on a two-year work experience programme designed to lead to a job. He says the opportunity to sort himself out was priceless: “Look, I own nothing. I’m on the autism spectrum. I think people are my friends, and then they rip me me off. I’ve been ripped off … a lot. But now I have my place. It’s mine. I can build.”

Housing First costs money, of course: Finland has spent €250m creating new homes and hiring 300 extra support workers. But a recent study showed the savings in emergency healthcare, social services and the justice system totalled as much as €15,000 a year for every homeless person in properly supported housing.

Interest in the policy beyond the country’s borders has been exceptional, from France to Australia, says Vesikansa. The British government is funding pilot schemes in Merseyside, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester, whose Labour mayor, Andy Burnham, is due in Helsinki in July to see the policy in action.

But if Housing First is working in Helsinki, where half the country’s homeless people live, it is also because it is part of a much broader housing policy. More pilot schemes serve little real purpose, says Kaakinen: “We know what works. You can have all sorts of projects, but if you don’t have the actual homes … A sufficient supply of social housing is just crucial.”

And there, the Finnish capital is fortunate. Helsinki owns 60,000 social housing units; one in seven residents live in city-owned housing. It also owns 70% of the land within the city limits, runs its own construction company, and has a current target of building 7,000 more new homes – of all categories – a year.

In each new district, the city maintains a strict housing mix to limit social segregation: 25% social housing, 30% subsidised purchase, and 45% private sector. Helsinki also insists on no visible external differences between private and public housing stock, and sets no maximum income ceiling on its social housing tenants.

It has invested heavily, too, in homelessness prevention, setting up special teams to advise and help tenants in danger of losing their homes and halving the number of evictions from city-owned and social housing from 2008 to 2016.

“We own much of the land, we have a zoning monopoly, we run our own construction company,” says Riikka Karjalainen, senior planning officer. “That helped a lot with Housing First because simply, there is no way you will eradicate homelessness without a serious, big-picture housing policy.”

Finland has not entirely solved homelessness. Nationwide, about 5,500 people are still officially classified as homeless. The overwhelming majority – more than 70% – are living temporarily with friends or relatives.

But public-sector planning and collective effort have helped ensure that as a way to reduce long-term homelessness, Housing First is a proven success. “We’re not there yet, of course,” says Vesikansa. “No model is perfect; we still have failures. But I’m proud we had the courage to try it.”

The mayor agrees. “We have reduced long-term homelessness by a remarkable amount,” he says. “We must do more – better support, better prevention, better dialogue with residents: people really support this policy, but not everyone wants a unit in their neighbourhood … But yes, we can be very proud.”

Original article by Jon Henley –  Source Global Citizen

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

To find out more about Housing First and ways to get involved, go to their website.

To find out more about the Y-Foundation and ways to get involved, go to their website.


Queen’s Brian May Embarks on ‘Veganuary’ to Protect Animals and the Planet

Queen guitarist Brian May is giving up animal products for the first month of 2020 as part of a New Year’s resolution known as “Veganuary.”

The rock star is documenting his dietary journey on social media and is calling on other people to join him if they feel inspired. He said he felt moved to pursue Veganuary after watching friends embrace a vegan diet and learning about the moral and environmental consequences of animal products.

“My reasons?” he wrote on Instagram. “(1) To lessen the suffering of animals. (2) To lessen the load on our groaning planet. (3) For my health. And… as an animal campaigner, it has been bothering me for a while that I still eat animal-derived food, that has caused indignity and pain to a non-human animal. So I will try to move along the line.”

The first couple of days went “Ok,” May wrote. He’s learning what he can and can’t eat, relying on the support of accommodating restaurants and his family, and craves some of his favorite animal products like eggs and prawns.

Still, May is enjoying his plant-based meals.

“There are SO many great vegetables in the world — artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, roasted parsnips, new potatoes, and a rocket and tomato salad, perked up with olive oil and balsamic vinegar from dear old Luciano Pavarotti’s home town,” he wrote in one post.

Veganuary is more than a stunt — it’s a full-fledged advocacy organization. Founded in 2014, Veganuary encourages people to try a plant-based diet and reduce their consumption of animal products.

More than 250,000 people took the Veganuary pledge in 2019, the organization notes, and hundreds of restaurants, stores, and brands supported the cause.

In recent years, the vegan diet has become more accessible and mainstream. Brands such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have allowed meat lovers to find convincing alternatives to beef and chicken. Celebrities such as Beyoncé and Leonardo DiCaprio have championed plant-based diets, and documentaries such as The Game Changers and What the Health have made compelling cases for abandoning animal products.

The plant-based movement is driven by environmental, animal welfare, and health concerns.

Animal agriculture is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. It also causes deforestation, habitat destruction, desertification, and pollution. Scientists have urged people to adopt a “planetary health diet” that reduces meat consumption as a way to protect the planet and limit the threat of climate change.

Animals raised in factory farm conditions, meanwhile, essentially live in a constant state of physical and mental pain. Many people are beginning to question why animals such as cows, chickens, and pigs aren’t afforded the same basic dignity as dogs and cats.

Finally, animal products, particularly those raised with hormones and antibiotics, have been linked to a range of health problems, such as different kinds of cancer and heart disease.

For May, the celebrated rock icon, these reasons were enough to try out Veganuary. He’s not pressuring his fans to join the quest, but he would love support.

“I will be looking at your comments to see how your [Veganuary] went, those of you good folks who are joining me,” he wrote on Instagram. “If you’re not, don’t worry. We all have our paths to tread. I wasn’t ready to do this last year, but was so impressed by the success of almost all my SAVE-ME team that I determined to try it out this year.”

Original article by Joe McCarthy –  Source Global Citizen

Photo by Rustic Vegan on Unsplash

To find out more about Veganuary and ways to get involved, go to their website.


California Officially Bans Hair Discrimination

California just became the first US state to ban discrimination against natural hair at school and in the workplace.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act into law in July and it officially went into effect in the state on Jan. 1. State Sen. Holly Mitchell led the effort to pass the legislation that incorporates hair-based discrimination associated with race to the state’s anti-discrimination law, according to the Hill.

The prominence of hair discrimination caught Newsom’s attention after a video of high school student Andrew Johnson being forced to cut off his locks before a wrestling meet went viral in 2018.

“Far too often, Black people are shamed and excluded from jobs or school because of objections to natural hairstyles, but courts have been slow to recognize that bias against natural Black hair is a form of race discrimination,” Ria Tabacco Mar, director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, told Global Citizen via e-mail.

The CROWN Act recognizes how Eurocentric beauty standards are harmful and perpetuate discrimination and bias.

“Professionalism was, and still is, closely linked to European features and mannerisms, which entails that those who do not naturally fall into Eurocentric norms must alter their appearances, sometimes drastically and permanently, in order to be deemed professional,” the text of the legislation reads.

Workplace policies prohibiting natural hair — afros, braids, twists, and locks — disproportionately affect black people and are “likely to deter black applicants and burden or punish or punish black employees more than any other group,” according to the CROWN Act. Black women are twice as likely to feel pressure to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards in order to be taken seriously at work compared to white women.

Discrimination against people based on race is known to encourage exclusion and impoverish certain groups of the population who are already disadvantaged by lack of resources and services. Racial discrimination in the workplace is one of many systemic barriers that make it difficult for black people in the US to escape poverty, including lack of access to education, high incarceration rates, and more. In 2018, 23% of black people in the US lived in poverty.

California paved the way for other leaders across the country to make an effort to end hair discrimination. New York City released guidelines to prevent hair discrimination in February, and New Jersey is awaiting Gov. Phil Murphy to sign the state’s CROWN Act soon.

“California has taken an important step toward ensuring that all of us have the freedom to work and learn regardless of how we wear our hair,” the ACLU’s Tabacco Mar said.

Original article by Leah Rodriguez –  Source Global Citizen

Photo by Prescott Horn on Unsplash

To find out more about the CROWN Act and ways to get involved, go to their website.

To find out more about the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project and ways to get involved, go to their website.


How Health Workers Are Reaching a Nomadic Tribe in Sub-Saharan Africa

Access to health care is essential, and a priority to United Nations member states who committed to achieving universal health coverage by 2030 — but for a nomadic tribe that moves between countries, it’s easy to be forgotten.

The Ateker tribe, also known in Uganda as the Karamojong, located in the northeast sub-region of the country, are a nomadic and pastoralist group who roam between Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, and Ethiopia in search of food.

Their migratory nature puts them at risk of falling between the cracks of formal health systems, so a special effort must be made to locate Ateker people and provide them with health services.

In Uganda, trachoma, an infectious eye disease which can lead to blindness, has been eliminated as a health problem in 46 out of 50 districts, according to Sightsavers Uganda. However, the disease is still prevalent amongst the Ateker population.

To treat these communities who are typically very remote, health teams often need to travel across treacherous terrain — on roads that are rough and that sometimes cross flooded rivers. In some cases, where vehicles are unable to travel, health workers climb hills and rocks on foot to reach communities to provide eye screenings, health advice, medication, and even perform surgeries.

While in Kampala, Global Citizen met with Dr. Johnson Ngorok, country director of Sightsavers Uganda and a member of the Ateker tribe, to discuss the group’s lifestyle and how health organizations are reaching this remote population.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Tell me about your childhood growing up in the Ateker tribe.

I’m from the Napak district in northern Uganda. I was fortunate that my father had six years of education, which was enough for him to write and get a job as a policeman. He took his children to school, although everyone else, as per tradition, would move around. In my time, if you had the opportunity to go to school, that was great. I went to schools in the Karamoja area.

What is the Karamoja area like?

The area is semi-arid so there are issues with a lack of water. Cattle rearing and farming, which these communities are involved in, is an adaptation to the harsh climate. Most of Uganda is very green but this area in the northeast is very dry and crop farming doesn’t do very well. The nomadic life is one in search of water and pasture. When you finish the water and grass in one area, you move on. People move together in groups of about 20 to 100 people.

What issues do these communities face?

Hygiene is a big issue, especially latrine coverage. People settle in homesteads — which we call manyatta — and there are lots of huts in the manyatta. These are permanent structures which people keep coming back to as they return from various areas.

There is less than 5% latrine coverage in manyattas, so most people go to the bush — which attracts flies. Also, the cow dung from people’s cows is also a source of breeding flies, which is a hygiene problem.

Water is not easily available and people walk a long distance to get it, so when they get, they need to prioritize how they will use it. Will it be for washing your face or will it be used for cooking? They will definitely choose cooking.

How do the government and health organizations reach these groups?

The roads are so poor during the rainy seasons, and you need a vehicle to cross rivers and go through the rough terrain to reach these communities. There are also a lot of mountains in the Karamoja area and communities that live in the mountains. Reaching them is terrible and difficult — we have actually not [yet] reached them. All four districts we have not eliminated trachoma in are in Karamoja. It’s a challenge. How do you reach people in the mountain?

Because they have a low level of education, they may not see the importance of the service you are providing, so they want food, not eye treatment.

However, when a person like me speaks their language, they say, “What? You are Karamojong?” and I say, “Yes, I am.” When I explain it in their language, I tell them that if they don’t take this treatment, they will go blind. Traditionally, they believe that if you perform a surgery, you are going to remove their eye, but we try to explain to them that we cut on top and push the skin up so the eyelashes no longer touch your eye. I think when a person like me explains it, they are more accepting because I am one of them.

How do you locate the communities in order to provide them services?

We work with local leaders amongst them, who are a little bit educated, in order to find out where the group has migrated. They don’t have basic Nokia phones, you have to track them down. Sometimes they have routines like going to certain areas during certain seasons.

There are old people who stay back in the manyatta. It’s the young people who are nomadic and move around with the cows. The young people occasionally come back with meat and milk for the elderly who remain. So we get to know the whereabouts of the nomadic people by asking around.

Tell me about providing eye care in these areas.

These surgeries are performed anywhere. The idea with trachoma procedures is just to pull back the eyelashes. It’s a simple operation, but very useful and because it doesn’t require going internally into the body, it can be done anywhere. We try to maintain hygiene, so we will try to do it in a church or school if we can find one. When we find a building, we create an operating room and fumigate it for hygiene. We also carry tents, so when we can’t find a suitable place, we put up a tent.

When we are in deep remote villages, these surgeries are not done by doctors, they are done by clinical officers who are like medical assistants. They are trained to perform these surgeries; it takes one year of training to become an ophthalmic clinical officer, which is like an opthamologist assistant, and you can perform these simple eye procedures.

What unique challenges are there when providing a service to people who regularly travel across borders?

When we do mass drug administrations or surgeries, we [sometimes] go to a place only to find that our target group has moved to another country and we can’t provide that service.

To work around this, there are cross-border meetings, for example between Kenya and Uganda, and we share information so that when the group moves to another country, they get the service from there, and when they come here, they get the treatment here. Otherwise, there will be cross-border infections and these diseases won’t be eliminated.

I think we have established a strong connection with health services in Kenya. South Sudan, on the other hand, is very difficult because they don’t have health programs on their side, so when these groups travel there, they cannot receive care.

Original article by Jacky Habib –  Source Global Citizen

Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

To find out more about Sightsavers and ways to get involved, go to their website.


Brighton Dolphin Project

Brighton is one of the most popular tourist spots in the UK. Around 11 million people visit every year, and for many it’s the draw of the sea which makes it so popular.

But it can be difficult to relate to a vast blue ocean as something to respect and protect when you can see very little of the marine wildlife who live under the waves.

The Brighton Dolphin Project are trying to change that, by encouraging people in Brighton and the surrounding areas to build a deeper connection with the ocean and the wildlife which lives there.

Simon McPherson, a manager at the Brighton Dolphin Project, explained: “We aim to engage, inspire, and excite everyone in the community about the incredible marine life that can be found right off our coastline, and what can be done to protect it.

“We were set up as we realised many businesses and individuals feel a close connection to the sea – for many of us it’s a big part of why we live here. But few are aware of the diversity of marine wildlife that can be found under the waves, or the threats to its existence.”

Since the project was set up two years ago, they have welcomed thousands of visitors to their Dolphin Discovery Centre on Brighton seafront and run a series of wildlife watching boat tours around the Sussex coastline to help visitors connect directly with ocean wildlife.

Volunteers have also held workshops about local marine life in schools, organised beach clean ups and launched a unique initiative to record and log the different species of dolphins and other sea creatures who live off the coast.

Since 2017 visitors and residents have reported more than 100 sightings of marine life, including three different species of dolphin, one species of porpoise and two species of seal.

Simon said: “We cannot hope to better understand these remarkable animals, as well as how to protect them, without reliable and regular data.

“This has led to a disengagement of people who want to take action as they may see their ocean as a big blue space devoid of wildlife, as so little is seen above the surface of the water. It is challenging to inspire pride and wish to protect something you cannot see.

“We want to inspire our community to act now to collect data on marine mammals and unite to become a community of ocean champions.”

The Brighton Dolphin Project need more wildlife sightings to continue their research. If you live in the area, or are visiting, and spot a dolphin or other marine animal then please send in the information, along with any video or photos.

The project also need volunteers to train as wildlife guides who will educate visitors on boat trips about the marine life to be found in the area.

If you think you can help visit to find out more, or find them on social:

Twitter: @BriDolpProject

Instagram: @brighton_dolphin_project



By Jenna Sloan


Majority of US States Want to Accept More Refugees

Since the Trump administration issued an executive order in September that provided US governors with the option to stop accepting refugees, more than 30 states have expressed the desire to continue with resettlement programs — and Missouri can now be added to that list.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson sent a letter Monday to the US State Department indicating that the state will continue to resettle refugees, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“Today, Missouri’s population includes thousands of refugees who have become vital members of our communities,” Parson wrote in his letter. “I am confident this demonstration of compassion will mark the first step in these immigrants becoming patriotic and productive fellow Americans.”

Parson faced pressure from groups like the International Institute of St. Louis, which works to resettle refugees and even encouraged visitors to its website to write letters to Parson asking him to support refugee resettlement in Missouri. Refugee resettlement has broad bipartisan support among US citizens.

There are nearly 30 million refugees worldwide, the most ever recorded, according to the United Nations.

Refugee status is given to those fleeing persecution or conflict. However, the UN also mentions natural disasters and “severe socio-economic deprivation” as two other major global drivers of displacement. Climate change, by driving the rise of sea levels, drought, and the frequency of natural disasters, can also lead to displacement, and the number of displaced persons due to climate-related issues will likely only increase in the coming decades as climate change continues to intensify.

Most refugees are unable to choose a resettlement country. Those who end up in the US are often first recommended by the UN’s refugee agency, according to USA for UNHCR. Once recommended, they must go through an extensive screening process that includes background checks by federal agencies such as the FBI, and multiple in-person interviews. Then, once resettled, refugees can find themselves in new and unfamiliar communities, and not all of them can speak English before arriving in the US.

The US, once the world leader in refugee admissions, has seen rates of refugee resettlement hit “historic lows” during the Trump presidency, according to the Pew Research Center. The administration also intends to admit no more than 18,000 refugees during the fiscal year 2020, which would be the lowest amount since 1980.

So far, 33 states have written to the Trump administration to say they wish to continue to accept refugees, according to Quartz. The remainder of the states have until Jan. 21 to write to the administration to indicate where they stand on refugee resettlement programs.


Original article by Brandon Wiggins-  Source Global Citizen

Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

To find out more about the International Institute of St. Louis and ways to get involved, go to their website.

To find out more about USA for UNHCR and ways to get involved, go to their website.