Of Oil & Water in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Of Oil & Water in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Of Oil & Water in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

The Author in Riyadh

Like a shimmering oasis the city of Riyadh rises out of the sand.  Located in central Saudi Arabia the capital city is 250 miles from the nearest coast.  Although the Arabian Peninsula is surrounded by water, humans cannot drink saltwater.  Saltwater can be turned into drinking water through a process called desalination however, and desalination is increasingly used as global populations grow.

When my husband and I visited Riyadh in 2012, one gallon of water cost three times a gallon of gas.  We could see why.   The population of the city has grown from 100,000 to over five million in the past century. To supply this precious resource seven desalination plants work to provide about 70% of the potable water for the use of its inhabitants. Desalination is a costly process that takes high energy though, deep underground aquifers and scarce ground water provide the rest.  Our host told us that he had dug a well for a new home that he is building on the outskirts of the city.   When he said that they had to dig 500 feet down to reach water, my husband jokingly asked if they had stuck oil as well. Read the rest of this entry

Tools For Empowering Global Women; Book Review of 100 Under $100

Tools For Empowering Global Women; Book Review of 100 Under $100

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“Women make up half our entire population. When they’re held back, half the world’s potential goes unrealized. But when women and girls are empowered, we’re not just better by half. The world is twice as good.”

-Melinda Gates #BetterByHalf campaign

As we reach the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals and world leaders set forth a new set of global goals leading up to 2030, it has become increasingly clear that women and girls need to be at the center of development initiatives. Why women and girls? As Betsy Teutsch points out in her new book 100 under $100 One Hundred Tools for Empowering Global Women It has to do with what is referred to as The Girl Effect.  This refers to the fact that when you educate girls they tend to marry later, in turn give birth later, and are able to better contribute to the economy. Research has also shown that when women have economic power, more of those resources are invested back into her family than when men do. Women are also more likely to educate their own daughters. This means the next generation will also contribute more effectively to the nation’s economy. Read the rest of this entry

#APathAppears Premieres Tonight On PBS

#APathAppears Premieres Tonight On PBS

“Hope is like a path in the countryside. Originally, there is nothing-but as people walk this way again and again, a path appears.”- Quote from Lu Xun a Chinese essayist, 1921

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Tonight the first of three episodes of the documentary A Path Appears, executive produced and directed by Maro Chermayeff, will air on PBS.  The film is based on the book by the same name written by Pulitzer prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, and follows their reporting on issues around the world that highlight gender inequalities, and vulnerabilities that perpetuate cycles of poverty.  The journalists and celebrity activists Malin Akerman, Mia Farrow, Ronan Farrow, Jennifer Garner, Regina Hall, Ashley Judd, Blake Lively, Eva Longoria, and Alfre Woodard highlight the issues and the hopeful stories of solutions being put into action.  We are given an inside look at the harsh realities of human trafficking, abuse and neglect that marginalize a segment of the population, and are introduced to some of the innovators, and the change makers who lead the way in showing us just how determination and intervention can transform lives.

Last week I was invited by World Moms Blog founder Jennifer Burden and Save The Children to attend a screening of  A Path Appears followed by a discussion panel with Nicholas Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn, Actress Malin Ackerman, Director Maro Chermayeff and President and CEO of Save The Children, Carolyn Miles at the New York Historical Society in New York City.

L to R: Polly Palumbo, Jennifer Burden, Elizabeth Atalay, Tanya Weinberg , and Kyla P'an

L to R: Polly Palumbo, Jennifer Burden, Elizabeth Atalay, Tanya Weinberg , and Kyla P’an

It is eye-opening and tough to watch some of the realities played out in these episodes, but at the same time so important for viewers to gain better understanding of the issues.  Many have the general perception that a prostitute has chosen their way of life, when in reality many are trapped by pimps or in human trafficking rings with no way out. In the film, early sexual abuse of several of the subjects led to their life on the streets without them ever having known a protector to help them identify as a victim and empower them to get help, and make different choices.

Approximately 15% of men in the Unite States of America purchase sex, and few are ever prosecuted. The film highlights a solution that focuses on the demand side of the multi-billion dollar trafficking industry, knowing that making the risk higher would reduce the demand that keeps young girls entrapped in a vicious cycle of being trafficked.

The second episode airs next Monday, Feb. 2 at 10 pm EST on PBS and it entitled “Breaking the Cycle of Poverty.  Save The Children’s early education program is featured in this episode as Nicholas Kristof travels to West Virginia with Save the Children’s Artist Ambassador Jennifer Garner.   I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Garner on this issue of early childhood education as part of the #FindTheWords campaign last October and was amazed to learn that by the age of three many children living in poverty will have heard an average of 30 million fewer words than their peers, putting them behind before they even begin school. Sponsors help fund the important home visits that children like these receive from Save The Children to give them that chance to succeed that every child deserves.

At the event the other night we met one of the stars of the third episode that will air on February 9th, Jessica Posner Odede, who with her husband Kennedy Odede, who grew up in Kibera, the largest urban slum on the African continent, founded Shining Hope For Communities, and with that the Kibera School For Girls.

Educating a girl in urban slums means she will earn more and invest 90% of earnings in her family, be three times less likely to contract HIV, and have fewer, healthier children who are more likely to reach adulthood.-SHOFCO.org

After watching A Path Appears you will not only be more informed on these global issues that impact all of our communities on some level, but have hope, that if enough people led the path of change for the better, and the rest of us follow, that in fact a path to solutions to ending poverty will in fact appear.

Watch A Path Appears tonight 10pm Eastern Standard Time on PBS

Children Of The Millennium & #action2015

Children Of The Millennium & #action2015

 

Photo Credit: C.C. Chapman   http://www.cc-chapman.com

Photo Credit: C.C. Chapman
http://www.cc-chapman.com

Last week my niece Delilah was part of a historic moment in time, when on January 15th of 2015 15-year-olds from around the world joined a movement spearheaded by Save The Children and the ONE Campaign to ask governments to do better, and to involve youth in the process of  building the future they want to see. This was part of the launch of the #action2015 campaign to engage the public in the historic opportunity this year that we all have to shape the future of our world.

My amazing niece Delilah on the far left.  Photo Credit: C.C. Chapman

My wonderful niece Delilah on the far left.
Photo Credit: C.C. Chapman

As the mother of a fifteen year old  daughter as well it is amazing to think that in the year that my daughter was being born, the Millennium Development Goals were set in motion. The eight Millennium Development Goals had been put in place by the then 189 member nations of the United Nations to free people around the globe from extreme poverty and the depravations that cause or are a result of it. In the year 2000 my baby was my universe, so I am grateful that while our lives were so nuclear, steps were being taken to ensure that she would grow up to live in a greater world working towards equality for all.

2015 is significant as this first set of goals expire December 31st of this year, and in 2015 transformative meetings are being held to write new ones. This year will dictate the post-2015 course of action to keep the momentum of progress going. Great progress has been made in the past two decades, child mortality has been halved, the number of maternal deaths have been reduced by at least a 1/4, and the world is nearly (99%) Polio free. In fact Bill Gates believes that by 2035 there will barely be any poverty stricken countries left.

The exciting thing to me is that these facts prove that progress is possible with the right infrastructure in place.  The children of the millennium, our fifteen year olds who have matured with these first set of global goals, and others of their generation, will eventually be the stewards of the next phase of eliminating poverty in this world. In their lifetimes it is possible that they will see an end to global poverty as we know it.