Let’s make this one thing very clear: female genital mutilation (FGM) is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
As inhumane as it is, FGM is a practice still prevalent in many parts of the world. It has been documented in 30 countries mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, but also in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and North America.
World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM and more than three million girls are under risk every year. In some countries, such as Somalia, 98 percent of girls and women aged 15 to 49 years have been victims of the practice.
WHO describes Female genital mutilation as all “procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”. The practice has no health benefits, on the contrary, it carries a long list of damage for both the women and society.
The initial concern when it comes to FMG is the health repercussions. FMG is not only very painful as an “operation” to undergo but it often means a lifetime of pain for women. A great number of girls die because of complications related to FMG and many more have to live with the sequelae.
Along with physical health, FMG also leads to mental health problems in women who have undergone it. According to WHO, FMG is “likely to cause various emotional disturbances, forging the way to psychiatric disorders, especially post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)”.
Health problems are not the only thing girls and women face when it comes to negative consequences of FGM. For many girls, having undergone FGM means having your life altered. In many communities, FGM reflects a rite of passage, a becoming of a woman.
Maybe romantic to those of us who are not faced with the threat, for victims of FGM "becoming a woman" often means being ready to get married and bear children. Considering FGM operations are done when girls are as young as seven, the direness of the situation is clear.
Consequently, FGM often means losing access to education for girls. Whether it’s missing important school days (weeks, months...) because of the physical repercussions of the practice, or having other responsibilities related to “becoming a woman”, FGM usually means the end of formal education for girls.
This is a vicious loop. Education is a key factor in girls’ and women’s empowerment, especially when it comes to standing up to FGM for themselves and for others after them, but having undergone FGM often means these women can’t access the necessary education.
How can you protect your sexual and reproductive rights if you don’t know you have them?
Efforts to halt FGM usually includes legislative action. Forcing girls and women to undergo FGM operations is a crime in many countries, including those in which the rates are very high like Senegal. Penalties range from prison time to monetary fines.
However, simply banning it is not enough to stop people from keeping on with the “tradition”. FGM is a practice that is extremely entrenched in communities cultural traditions in most cases. It is a matter of social capital and sign of belonging to the community for women. Thus, banning it, although still somewhat effective, leads to different problems such as underground procedures or a cross-border movement to a country where the practice is still legal.
According to WHO, the legal ban on FGM in Senegal for example, provoked fear of prosecution but did not lead to actual change until a community-based program was introduced.
The intervention to a problem as entrenched in culture as FGM needs to be as nuanced as the problem itself. Without changing communities’ understanding of FGM it’s impossible to change their practices.
Amref Flying Doctors is an international non-profit organisation focused on health in Africa and they have devised an effective intervention against FGM in Sub-Saharan Africa. This intervention is called Alternative Rites of Passage and aims to replace FGM with just that: alternative rites of passage.
Because FGM is a part of an initiation to the community, the offer of completely getting rid of it leaves a blank in a traditional ritual. These rituals are important for children as they often mean their “official” acceptance into the community.
Amref Flying Doctors works with cultural leaders and influential people, like the Maasai Elders of Kenya, to endorse Alternative Rites of Passages as a replacement to the inhumane practice of FGM. These rituals include a three-day training for the girls on the topics sexual and reproductive health and rights, self-awareness and human rights. When girls’ education improves, their health improves.
The program doesn’t only mean education for the girls, the organisation also works with different groups like tribal elders, young men, fathers, and mothers. In these forums, local educators trained by Amref Flying Doctors talk to their communities about sexuality, health and rights.
Instead of imposing rules from above that lead to different problems rather than solutions, Amref Flying Doctors' intervention aims to change social norms that are the root cause of FGM at a community level. They include not just the girls but the whole community in the solution so it’s both sustainable and an easier transition.
We can all agree that female genital mutilation is an unimaginable atrocity that needs to stop. If you want to support girls and women (and communities because it affects the whole society) who are under its threat you can donate to Amref Flying Doctors below.
With €30 you’d be paying for an informational meeting for village elders. If you want to fully support one Maasai girl in her Alternative Rite of Passage, a one-time donation of €52 will do just that.
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American Internet celebrity and makeup artist Jeffree Star wants to open his own vegan-friendly fast-food chain.
As reported by LiveKindly, Jeffre Star made the announcement during a live stream on his Youtube channel where he speaks to an audience of 11 million subscribers.
During the video, the makeup guru said that he is "in talks" to start the business. The concept? A vegan-friendly ('that's the real gag") restaurant, selling pink cheeseburgers and cotton candy fries.
Yes, you got that right.
As noted by LiveKindly, this is not Mr Star's first foray into the world of veganism. Over the years, his beauty brand Jeffree Star Cosmetics already launched a series of vegan products like Thirsty, a vegan eyeshadow palette, and, more recently, the four festive vegan lip scrubs.
We'll see whether these business plans will turn out to be something more substantial than a Youtube announcement.
Meanwhile, we can't help but gladly notice that plant-based burgers and veganism at large are gaining momentum across different audiences.
If we want to save our planet and ourselves from climate apocalypse, we need new policies and governmental action. We're not gonna save the Earth changing our household light bulbs.
Extinction Rebellion – a burgeoning social movement to fight climate change that is taking hold in the United Kingdom – is asking for just this: governments must tell the truth about the ecological emergency and enact legally binding measures to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025.
There are no other ways out of this mess: structural change is needed.
However, this doesn’t mean that as individual citizens we can go on a carbon spree without consequences. Or that all the ways to reduce our personal carbon footprints are equally ineffective.
Different studies highlight that there are four effective ways to cut on your individual carbon emissions. And no, changing light bulbs is not one of them.
While we should keep asking for top-down changes, it’s also good to remember that we can start making an impact on the environment right now by adapting our lifestyle.
1) Eat a plant-based diet
I enjoy the flavour of meat a lot and I’d find it difficult to go 100 percent vegetarian (let alone vegan) right now. Nevertheless, I can considerably decrease my meat consumption. This is already highly beneficial for the environment.
Moreover, I can advocate for meat alternatives like plant-based or clean meat.
2) Avoid air travel
Flights are a notorious source of gas emissions. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to avoid flying. Many jobs require travelling on a regular basis and even though in many cases a virtual meeting will do just fine, there are still some occasions in which your physical presence is needed.
How to solve this ethical dilemma? One solution might be to donate some money to carbon offsetting schemes. These projects can go a long way in fighting carbon emissions.
3) Live car-free
Research shows that living car-free saves about 2.4 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year (while a plant-based diet saves 0.8 tonnes of CO2 equivalent every year).
I’m lucky enough to live in the Netherlands, a country where it's easy to move around without a car. This is possible thanks to an efficient public transportation system and the omnipresent cycle lanes.
In this case, it’s interesting to notice how my personal decision to live car-free is supported by environmentally friendly public policies.
4) Have a small family
If someone doesn’t exist, she doesn’t have a carbon footprint. This reasoning might seem at the same time cynical and stupidly obvious. But it’s also true.
According to Population Matters, having one fewer child is 25 more effective in cutting carbon emissions than living without a car.
What else could I do to reduce my carbon footprint?
Support Cool Earth, a highly effective organization that we thoroughly vetted.
Cool Earth is not only an offset scheme. It provides grant funding to rainforest communities, supporting community work in rainforest protection and ensures their voice is heard in agreements about the future of the rainforests. At the time of writing, 234,436,540 tonnes of CO2 has been stored as a result of their projects. Their Asháninka project shields millions of acres of forest from loggers, with 901,679 acres saved to date.
You too can help to save our planet. A more liveable Earth is just a click away 👇
It’s known that many celebrities support noble causes. After all, if you’re a celeb, you supposedly got the visibility and the money. So, you’re particularly well-suited to help other people.
Some VIPs go the extra mile and found their own charitable organization.
But are these celebrity-powered charities effective? Or even: are they doing any good?
To answer these questions, we picked five charities founded by celebrities and ran them through our Kinder Vetting Framework. Let’s see what came out.
Our selection of charities below isn't based on any scientific criteria. We browsed lists of celebrity founded charities and tried to pick out a balanced list
These are the charities that we picked:
The Lopez Family Foundation. Co-founded by journalist Lynda Lopez and her sister singer Jennifer Lopez, the Lopez Family Foundation “advocates and invests in policies and programs that make a positive, measurable impact on communities and makes quality healthcare and health education available for underserved mothers and their children.”
Born This Way Foundation. A charitable organization created in 2012 by Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta “with the goal of creating a kinder and braver world” (we can’t help but sympathize with such aim).
The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. Created in 1998, the foundation was established with the mission of protecting the world’s last wild places.
The Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation was founded in 2003 by Angelina Jolie as a “conservation and community development program in the Samlout Protected Area” (Cambodia).
The Kinder Vetting Framework
At Kinder, we developed a vetting framework to assess the performance of charitable organizations. At the moment, it’s made of two steps but we’re working to add another two in the near future.
The first step is called Initial Screening. With it, we examine the transparency and accountability of charitable organizations by evaluating their official websites.
In particular, we evaluate the charities on five parameters.
This is a fairly low initial threshold. To pass the Initial Screening, you need a score of 95.
The second step is called Organizational Competence. With it, we try to determine whether a charitable organization is competent and well-suited to solve the problems it’s addressing.
If an organization fails the Initial Screening, we usually don’t vet it on its Organizational Competence. Our aim in the next months is to start reaching out to all the organizations that fail the Initial Screening, share our results with them, and ask if they’re willing to improve their score.
So, to start with, we just wanted to see whether the five celebrity-run charities passed the Initial Screening.
I asked our in-house research team to have a look. This is the screenshot that they shared with me:
Again, to pass the Initial Screening you need to score at least 95. None of them did.
Quite discouraged, I read the notes the research team attached to the screenshot.
All charities with the exception of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation lack relevant information about their strategic plans. At the same time, DiCaprio’s organization needs to improve on other parameters like publishing its financial statements.
The Born This Way Foundation’s website was deemed “quite minimalist” by the research team, lacking information about key staff members and financial statements. Similarly, the Lopez Family Foundation should expand its website to include financial statements, strategic plans, relevant information about key staff members, and contact information (they don’t even have a contact form).
Obviously, the fact these five charities don’t pass the Initial Screening doesn’t mean that they’re inherently inefficient. It just suggests that they should work more on their online transparency and accountability.
In general, Kinder is not in the business of bashing charities and we would never share an organization’s poor results without discussing them with the relevant stakeholders beforehand. In this case, we made an exception since these five charities are exceptionally well-backed.
And if you’re Lady Gaga, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lopez, Oprah Winfrey, or Angelina Jolie and want to improve the Initial Screening score of your foundation don’t hesitate to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Header Image: The Wolf of Wall Street © Paramount Pictures