The past week has been eye-opening for the public, especially residents of the United States, in terms of understanding the complex effects of immigration on children and families. The media has been saturated with stories and images of children and families forced to separate at the US border because of the government’s cold-blooded migration policies. In just six weeks, over 2000 children and babies have been separated from their families. In many cases, parents and children have gone weeks without speaking to or seeing each other.
The public's reaction to children being separated from their families grew exponentially almost over the span of a few hours. Thousands of people from all over the world, including President Trump's fellow Republicans, strongly condemned the government's actions. And on Wednesday, June 20th, President Trump caved to public pressure and signed an executive order to end the practice of separating families at the border.
The US Government announced the “zero-tolerance” policy in May, aiming to significantly decrease the flow of immigrants from Central American countries. In short, the policy coming into effect means that everyone who enters the United States illegally will be prosecuted. Previously, people caught entering the country illegally were deported but didn't face criminal charges, and they definitely weren’t separated from their children.
With the "zero tolerance" policy pre-executive order, children and parents who were arrested entering the country illegally became separate legal cases that go down different bureaucratic rabbit holes. Legal experts claimed that reuniting families could take months and in some cases, where the parent has been deported without their child, it could become nearly impossible.
In their effort to discourage people from immigrating to the country and to keep them away from the borders, the US Government outright tried to use children as collateral. After visiting a Texas shelter for migrant children under 12, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics Dr Coleen Kraft argued that the treatment of these children is “government sanctioned child abuse.”
However, the world refused to turn a blind eye to this violation of children's and human rights. The public outcry caused enormous political pressure and the White House caved.
This is an important win for the families, yet, it's only the tip of the iceberg. The executive order, first of all, does nothing to reunite the 2300 children who are already separated from their families. These children are left by themselves, waiting, in the unpredictable system. Secondly, the order doesn't change anything about the harsh conditions of the "zero-tolerance" policy. People, children, are still prosecuted upon entering the US; they are still put in cages, only this time with their families.
If anything, the incredibly fast pace of this whole situation is a testimony to the power of individual and collective action against injustice. Every person who tweeted, who called their senators, who donated to charities working for immigrants has a role in President Trump signing the executive order. Yet, we still have a lot more to do. If you want to know what you can do, here are four organizations that are working hard to protect children and immigrants' rights:
© Header image: Associated Press/Evan Vucci
Uttar Pradesh in India is not a great place to be a woman. Quite the opposite in fact. The northern Indian state has high levels of violence against women, who are often failed by the police and the legal system leaving them waiting a long time for a fair trial and justice.
Tired of the poor justice system, Sampat Pal Devi founded the Gulabi Gang, an organisation that aims to challenge the deeply patriarchal structure of her society.
As a group that now boasts 400,000 women who wear pink saris and carry large sticks to beat offenders, they have not gone unnoticed and are making a mark in Northern India.
"Yes, we fight rapists with lathis [sticks]. If we find the culprit, we thrash him black and blue so he dare not attempt to do wrong to any girl or a woman again."
However, Gulabi Gang isn’t just about beating local abusers. The group’s main focus is on empowering women, promoting equality and challenging stereotypes. This is carried out through several practices including training women in self-defence, persuading families to educate girls and putting an end to child marriage.
The Gulabi Gang also hope to empower women by providing them with resources that'll help them gain economic freedom. They organise events with companies where women can be hired. They currently collaborate with a local business, which employs over 500 women and allows them to earn up to 150 rupees a day.
Considering only 27 percent of Indian women are in the labour force Gulabi Gang's work is quite impressive.
Pal definitely knows what she wants for the women in India and is not afraid to be considered a controversial figure in order to get it, saying:
“Society will only change if we eliminate the inherently subordinate role given to women. This is a revolution that has to come from us. Therefore, besides having established self-help and legal counselling groups to address individual cases, we focus on programmes to achieve their emancipation... If we women don't save ourselves, nobody will”
The Gulabi Gang are really taking women’s rights and empowerment into their own hands and are considered a force to be reckoned with across the globe. Although Sampat Pal Devi’s direct approach might be seen as controversial in some circles, there is no denying she is making an impact.
After graduating from Gaza’s Islamic University with an engineering degree, Majd Mashharawi looked around in her city to see high unemployment rates, war-torn infrastructure and blockades limiting the supply of resources and materials.
In 2016, Mashharawi and her friend Rawan Abddllaht decided to do something about the state their city was in and invented a new form of brick made from rubble and ash in order to, quite literally, rebuild the city from its ashes.
Costing just half the price of traditional bricks, Mashharawi’s replaces sand and aggregate with her new formula called "GreenCake" to produce a lightweight brick from materials that would have otherwise been wasted.
Not only materials needed to produce GreenCake are easy to find and cheap: GreenCake also has a positive environmental impact. The innovative brick uses ash from local restaurants and factories that would have otherwise been dumped into a landfill, posing environmental threats.
Mashharawi and Rawan’s efforts did not go unnoticed and the pair won first place in a local startup incubator, supplying them with funds to create their first 1,000 bricks in 2016.
Mashharawi didn't stop with building Gaza from its ashes but also decided to work on saving it from darkness. She and her team are expanding into renewable energy technologies for people in Gaza. The city only receives three to six hours of electricity a day, which affects it's residents severely in many ways, from the quality of life to education, from socialising to economic growth.
But According to Mashhrawi, "[T]he region has a resource that can be harnessed: an average of 320 days of sunshine a year, making solar energy an ideal source of electricity production."
The SunBox, one of her projects, aims to address this: it is a solar energy technology that generates 1,000 watts of electricity, enough to power four lamps, two laptops, two phones, an internet router and a small refrigerator for a full day.
Mashharawi made it to Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business 2018 list, and rightfully so. She is finding sustainable and realistic solutions to her local communities problems that can be extended to many other places in the world, and she's doing all of this while sticking it to the patriarchy.
Three years from now, you may be able to buy a very special brand of meat in your neighbourhood supermarket. In that, no defenceless animal was raised and slaughtered to produce it.
Yes, thanks to the efforts of some brilliant minds in biotechnology and meat production, cultured meat is finally on its way towards becoming a commercial reality.
Mosa Meat, a Dutch startup, recently announced that it had raised 7.5 million euros to commercialise cultured meat — meat produced from animal cells rather than slaughter — and bring it to the market by 2021. In this initiative, the startup collaborated with Bell Food Group, a Swiss meat producer, and M Ventures, a venture capital firm.
“Replacing traditional meat production with cultured meat would have a huge impact on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, it would free up a large number of resources that are now used for meat production worldwide and will completely disrupt an old-established and currently unsustainable industry,” said Alexander Hoffmann, principal at M Ventures. “We’re incredibly excited to be leading this investment into Mosa Meat, a company at the unique cross-section of food and biotech.”
It’s clear that the global livestock will not be able to sustain the exploding world population for long, which is why the idea of cultured meat could be a lifesaver in the coming decades. Professor Mark Post, a pathfinder in cultured meat production and the co-founder of Mosa Meat, realized this early when he began trying to create the world’s first cultured beef burger, succeeding in 2013.
This marks yet another giant stride in finding sustainable alternatives in terms of food consumption. Here’s hoping that more such brainwaves follow soon.