Independence From Poverty

For most Americans, the highlight of every summer – besides their own vacations – is the Fourth of July. It’s the perfect time to get together with family and friends, have a great barbecue and take the kids to see fantastic fireworks (which many parents will admit they themselves enjoy).

Before joining ChildFund International, I celebrated almost 20 U.S. Independence Days in developing countries. When you are far away from home, the celebrations take on a special meaning. The American community usually organizes a daylong event of food, games and music – often held at the American school where all our children attend. The American Ambassador is always on hand, and he (yes, it was always a he for me) reads the president’s Fourth of July message – something that most Americans probably don’t pay much attention to back home in the States. But being far from home, it always brought a tear to my eye.

One year in Indonesia, we organized something special – a parade of states. We divided into home state groups, with one person holding a state sign, and then marched into the school grounds to start off the day’s festivities. I was always amazed how many states were represented.

The countries where I lived also had their own versions of independence or national day celebrations, which citizens rightfully celebrated with pride. I guess most countries on earth (not every, but most) have at one time or other in their history been under the domination of a foreign power. Gaining sovereignty is one type of independence.

The other type of independence – the one I have spent my life working on – is independence from poverty. Many children are born into poverty – they inherit it at birth. But unlike political independence where all citizens of a country can gain freedom simultaneously, independence from poverty is fought for and earned one person at a time.

The children with whom ChildFund works came into poverty through their parents. It is not something that they chose, and the depth and overwhelming nature of this poverty is something that many Americans, I believe, have a hard time fully comprehending. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty and every year, 3.5 million children die from undernutrition.

As we work with communities and also focus on individual children, ChildFund’s goal is for each child in our care to grow up healthy, educated and with opportunities to contribute. We want them to break the bonds of generational poverty, so their own children will inherit opportunity. With the help of many supporters, ChildFund is getting the job done – one child at a time.

Imagine one day the countries of the world celebrating “Independence From Poverty” day. I hope I’m around to join in the celebration.

statedept:

POSTED BY KATHLEEN GUERRA | JUNE 7, 2013

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In Guatemala, we recently hosted the Secretary of State during his participation in the Organization of American States General Assembly in Antigua, Guatemala, a beautiful colonial city that was formerly the country’s capital. As Cultural…

Great to see Secretary Kerry giving an audience to youth in Guatemala! ChildFund has worked with children and youth in Guatemala since the 1960s.

Motherless Children

This is my first Mother’s Day without my mother, who passed away a few months ago. She died just a few weeks short of her 92nd birthday, having lived a long, happy and productive life. She was the matriarch of a large family of eight children, 18 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

No one is ever prepared or ready to lose their mother – even if she is in her 90s. But I feel so blessed that she was such a big part of my life for so long. She taught me many things – from the everyday (how to fold a queen-size sheet by myself) to the useful (how to make a good apple pie) to the very important (how to manage family finances and live within your means). But most of all she taught me what it means to be a mother – how to care for a baby, instill confidence in children and give youth the wings to fly when they are ready – all the time watching over them and helping out whenever they need it.

My first child was born when I was living and working in Somalia. My mother, 65 years old at the time, came to Africa to be with me for the birth. Although she had flown many times before, it didn’t mean she wasn’t nervous about going to a place she knew little about. She was. She described getting to JFK airport, checking in her over-packed bags filled with baby gifts and then going to the ladies room and throwing up. She said she felt better afterwards. Years later she told me she came to Somalia because if something unexpected happened during the birth, she didn’t want me to be so far away from family. That’s what mothers do. Regardless of their own fears, they love and care for their child in whatever ways they can.

What about children who grow up without a mother?

Because of my work at ChildFund, I think about this issue all the time. Every day, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries. The new baby and any older children at home are deprived of the mother they need to nurture them.

In the last 20 years, great strides have been made as maternal mortality rates worldwide dropped by almost 50 percent, reports WHO. But we still have a long way to go to help the remaining half of mothers whose lives are at risk simply because of their economic position.

If motherless children are lucky, they are raised by a loving grandmother. Certainly that happens in countries where AIDS has claimed many parents. Grandmothers often step in to fill that vital role. Other times, widowed fathers marry again, as it is not common, in my experience in developing countries, for men to raise children alone. In the worst-case scenario, we encounter “child-headed households” – children raising children. These children live in poverty that is hard for many to imagine.

Although we cannot ever replace the role of a mother, ChildFund’s programs can be a great help in ensuring children have good health, go to school and have the skills they need to face adulthood. But a unique part of ChildFund’s approach – matching an individual sponsor with an individual child – can bring an added benefit to a motherless child. Sponsorship reassures children that someone is watching over them from afar and is concerned for their well-being.

Isn’t that’s what their mothers would have wanted? I know my mother would have.

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Not Giving Up on Those Who Live in Poverty

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As the InterAction Forum 2013 winds down, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, president of World Bank Group, is making some great points. I’ll share a few quotes:

"The World Bank wants to get back to focusing on poverty."

Kim says he plans to open doors “even wider” at the World Bank, adding that he’s “not giving up” on achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

As for post-2015, the World Bank has a goal of ending poverty as we know it by 2030 and plans to publish country-by-country results yearly.

"The opportunity right now to bring forces together to achieve impact has never been higher."

"It is only civil society that can truly make a movement that can really transform society."

Remarkable Change for Children: Sharing a video about ChildFund’s early childhood development programs (ECD) in Sri Lanka. Malnutrition, poor water quality, lack of sanitation and a shortage of schools are among the country’s problems. ChildFund, through its ECD programs, is working with communities to address those challenges; remarkable change is taking place.

newsweek:

Hillary Clinton: Helping Women Isn’t Just a ‘Nice’ Thing to Do
[ed: Hillary Clinton came by Women in the World this morning and rocked the theater with this historical, powerful speech. We’ve transcribed the full thing below. Sorry if this is a Dashboard monster.]
Thank you so much. What a wonderful occasion for me to be back here, the fourth Women in the World conference I’ve been privileged to attend, introduced by the founder, creator, and my friend, Tina Brown. When one thinks about this annual conference, it really is intended to—and I believe has— focus attention on the global challenges facing women, from equal rights and education to human slavery, literacy, the power of the media and technology to affect change in women’s futures, and so much else. And for that I thank Tina and the great team that she has worked with in order to produce this conference and the effects it has created. It’s been such an honor to work with all of you over the years. Though it’s hard to see from up here out into the audience, I did see some faces and I know that this is an occasion for so many friends and colleagues to come together and take stock for where we stand and what more needs to be done in advancing the great unfinished business of the 21st century: advancing rights and opportunities for women and girls.
Now this is unfinished around the world, where too many women are still treated at best as second-class citizens, at worst as some kind of subhuman species. Those of you who were there last night saw that remarkable film that interviewed men primarily in Pakistan, talking very honestly about their intention to continue to control the women in their lives and their reach. But the business is still unfinished here in the United States, we have come so far together but there’s still work to be done.
Now, I have always believed that women are not victims, we are agents of change, we are drivers of progress, we are makers of peace – all we need is a fighting chance.
And that firm faith in the untapped potential of women at home and around the world has been at the heart of my work my entire life, from college to law school, from Arkansas to the White House to the Senate. And when I became Secretary of State, I was determined to weave this perspective even deeper into the fabric of American foreign policy.
But I knew to do that, I couldn’t just preach to the usual choir. We had to reach out. To men. To religious communities. To every partner we could find. We had to make the case to the whole world that creating opportunities for women and girls advances security and prosperity for everyone. So we relied on the empirical research that shows that when women participate in the economy, everyone benefits. When women participate in peace-making and peace-keeping, we are all safer and more secure. And when women participate in politics of their nations they can make a difference.
But as strong a case as we’ve made, too many otherwise thoughtful people continue to see the fortunes of women and girls as somehow separate from society at large. They nod, they smile and then relegate these issues once again to the sidelines. I have seen it over and over again, I have been kidded about it I have been ribbed, I have been challenged in board rooms and official offices across the world.
But fighting to give women and girls a fighting chance isn’t a nice thing to-do. It isn’t some luxury that we get to when we have time on our hands to spend doing that . This is a core imperative for every human being and every society. If we do not complete a campaign for women’s rights and opportunities the world we want to live in the country we all love and cherish will not be what it should be.
It’s no coincidence that so many of the countries that threaten regional and global peace are the very places where women and girls are deprived of dignity and opportunity. Think of the young women from northern Mali to Afghanistan whose schools have been destroyed. Or the girls across Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia who have been condemned to child marriage. Or the refugees of the conflicts from eastern Congo to Syria who endure rape and deprivation as a weapon of war.
It is no coincidence that so many of the countries where the rule of law and democracy are struggling to take root are the same places where women and girls cannot participate as full and equal citizens. Like in Egypt, where women stood on the front lines of the revolution but are now being denied their seats at the table and face a rising tide of sexual violence.
It is no coincidence that so many of the countries making the leap from poverty to prosperity are places now grappling with how to empower women. I think it is one of the unanswered questions of the rest of this century to whether countries, like China and India, can sustain their growth and emerge as true global economic powers. Much of that depends on what happens to women and girls.

Read More

newsweek:

Hillary Clinton: Helping Women Isn’t Just a ‘Nice’ Thing to Do

[ed: Hillary Clinton came by Women in the World this morning and rocked the theater with this historical, powerful speech. We’ve transcribed the full thing below. Sorry if this is a Dashboard monster.]

Thank you so much. What a wonderful occasion for me to be back here, the fourth Women in the World conference I’ve been privileged to attend, introduced by the founder, creator, and my friend, Tina Brown. When one thinks about this annual conference, it really is intended to—and I believe has— focus attention on the global challenges facing women, from equal rights and education to human slavery, literacy, the power of the media and technology to affect change in women’s futures, and so much else. And for that I thank Tina and the great team that she has worked with in order to produce this conference and the effects it has created. It’s been such an honor to work with all of you over the years. Though it’s hard to see from up here out into the audience, I did see some faces and I know that this is an occasion for so many friends and colleagues to come together and take stock for where we stand and what more needs to be done in advancing the great unfinished business of the 21st century: advancing rights and opportunities for women and girls.

Now this is unfinished around the world, where too many women are still treated at best as second-class citizens, at worst as some kind of subhuman species. Those of you who were there last night saw that remarkable film that interviewed men primarily in Pakistan, talking very honestly about their intention to continue to control the women in their lives and their reach. But the business is still unfinished here in the United States, we have come so far together but there’s still work to be done.

Now, I have always believed that women are not victims, we are agents of change, we are drivers of progress, we are makers of peace – all we need is a fighting chance.

And that firm faith in the untapped potential of women at home and around the world has been at the heart of my work my entire life, from college to law school, from Arkansas to the White House to the Senate. And when I became Secretary of State, I was determined to weave this perspective even deeper into the fabric of American foreign policy.

But I knew to do that, I couldn’t just preach to the usual choir. We had to reach out. To men. To religious communities. To every partner we could find. We had to make the case to the whole world that creating opportunities for women and girls advances security and prosperity for everyone. So we relied on the empirical research that shows that when women participate in the economy, everyone benefits. When women participate in peace-making and peace-keeping, we are all safer and more secure. And when women participate in politics of their nations they can make a difference.

But as strong a case as we’ve made, too many otherwise thoughtful people continue to see the fortunes of women and girls as somehow separate from society at large. They nod, they smile and then relegate these issues once again to the sidelines. I have seen it over and over again, I have been kidded about it I have been ribbed, I have been challenged in board rooms and official offices across the world.

But fighting to give women and girls a fighting chance isn’t a nice thing to-do. It isn’t some luxury that we get to when we have time on our hands to spend doing that . This is a core imperative for every human being and every society. If we do not complete a campaign for women’s rights and opportunities the world we want to live in the country we all love and cherish will not be what it should be.

It’s no coincidence that so many of the countries that threaten regional and global peace are the very places where women and girls are deprived of dignity and opportunity. Think of the young women from northern Mali to Afghanistan whose schools have been destroyed. Or the girls across Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia who have been condemned to child marriage. Or the refugees of the conflicts from eastern Congo to Syria who endure rape and deprivation as a weapon of war.

It is no coincidence that so many of the countries where the rule of law and democracy are struggling to take root are the same places where women and girls cannot participate as full and equal citizens. Like in Egypt, where women stood on the front lines of the revolution but are now being denied their seats at the table and face a rising tide of sexual violence.

It is no coincidence that so many of the countries making the leap from poverty to prosperity are places now grappling with how to empower women. I think it is one of the unanswered questions of the rest of this century to whether countries, like China and India, can sustain their growth and emerge as true global economic powers. Much of that depends on what happens to women and girls.

Read More