Yes, a garment factory that manufactures products for international clothing companies collapsed outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh, killing more than 800 workers in the deadliest disaster ever in the garment industry. But what really collapsed should be any illusions we have about the true costs to human rights and the environment of the cheap clothes produced by big chains such as H&M and Wal-Mart. I believe we owe it to ourselves—and especially to our children—to understand the ways in which our voracious demand for cheap goods is perpetuating the conditions that allow for such a tragedy to occur, and is helping to keep the women and children who work in these factories impoverished and in debt in spite of their labor. Two resources helping me in this regard are Elizabeth Cline’s Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion and GoodGuide.com, a very easy online tool for learning about the true costs of our favorite products.
Lotus Pedals, a project of the international nonprofit Lotus Outreach, Inc., is changing the lives of vulnerable young girls one bicycle at a time. The mission is simple and profound: give a girl in Cambodia a bicycle so that she can ride to school without risk of rape or abduction by sex traffickers—-a huge outcome in a country where only eleven percent of girls make it to secondary school. Lotus Pedals spends $80 to transport and deliver each bike along with a repair kit, pump, and follow-up support. Last year they gave away 500 bikes and the goal for 2013 is to give away 2,000. Lotus Pedals has an office in San Francisco so next time you want to make a gift that makes a difference…
I watched Bono give the latest TED talk this morning: “The good news on poverty (Yes, there is good news).” It’s a must watch and a thrilling example of evidence-based activism (which Bono refers to as “factivism”)—the use of science, reason, fact and emotion to combat corruption, complacency and inertia. He says, “something as powerful as information and the sharing of information can challenge inequality because facts, like people, want to be free, and when they are set free, liberty is usually just around the corner even for the poorest of the poor.” Treat yourself to thirteen minutes of fact-based optimism and spread the news.
Remember the phrase “speak truth to power?” That sentiment is alive and well at The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), an incredible organization that arms the public with thoroughly reported investigative stories so that they can demand accountability from government, corporations and others in power. I am now working with CIR and every day I learn something new about the environment, education, crime and justice, immigration, the struggles vets face when they return home from war, and much more. I encourage you to check out a recent CIR video called “A Church Divided.” It’s an in depth look at the debate between progressive and conservative members of the United Methodist Church over whether or not homosexuality is compatible with Christianity. Check out CIR’s YouTube channel, The I Files and watch “Prisoners of Tradition” and dozens of other really brilliantly researched pieces.
I just read Behind the Beautiful Forevers, the exquisite narrative by Katherine Boo about life in and around India’s Annawadi slum. The narrative is simultaneously dispassionate and compassionate—and provides brilliant insights into how the world’s poorest individuals live and die, and are used for gain by politicians, corporations, wealthier individuals and even charities. The book is a must read, especially for those making international grants.
P.S. If you haven’t heard, in the current “fiscal cliff deal” the charitable deduction will continue to be coupled with an individual’s or household’s corresponding tax rate. (Therefore, if you are paying at the highest tax rate of 39.6 percent, you can continue to deduct 39.6 percent for charitable giving.) It’s critical that we all continue to let Congress know how important their decisions about charitable deductions are to the future of the nonprofit sector.
Melanie Hamburger, Founder of Catalytic Women has just published a free giving guide, “How to Make Giving a Family Tradition” that I hope you will enjoy and share with others. It’s a terrific resource, created with the invaluable input of Lisa Parker, founder of Family Circle Advisors, the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the School of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania, and Hope Neighbor, Founder of Hope Consulting. Hope, Lisa and I are all members of Catalytic Women advisory board. What a blessing it is for me to work with such thoughtful women! Many thanks to Melanie for creating and freely sharing the 2012 Giving Guide.
I’m not sure what images come to your mind when you think of education for girls in Afghanistan, but this recent photo is one of the best I have received in some time. Trust in Education is a grassroots organization spearheaded by one tenaciously generous man, Budd McKenzie. Budd knows that educational opportunity for girls must include play as well as study which is why the children in this photo have a slide–something not often seen in rural Afghan villages. To learn more about Trust in Education and additional effective and reputable organizations making a difference in Afghanistan, see the list of grantees being supported by The Khaled Hosseini Foundation.
I rarely promote something that has already been highly publicized, but Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn is a worthy exception to my rule. I read the book last year and watched the accompanying documentary on PBS this month. Each is a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world. The authors have now spearheaded a movement—a call to arms for unleashing the power of women and girls through education and economic empowerment. It’s a great resource for those wanting to support change.