Articles originally written for IBTimes UK
I wrote these two articles in occasion of Human Rights Day ( 10 December). However, these topics are always relevant as thousand of people worldwide constantly face persecution for being gay and hundreds of thousands are victims of extreme poverty and cannot free themselves from the chains of injustice.
Every day should be Human Rights Day as injustices are still too many and more efforts are required to achieve a just world, more equal and less barbaric.
Human Rights Day 2014: Only holistic approach can eradicate poverty, says FXBVillage founder
According to the UN’s Eight Millennium Development Goals, by 2015 it is possible to reduce by half the amount of people who starve worldwide, achieve acceptable working conditions for everybody, reduce gender inequality, successfully combat diseases such as HIV and malaria, reduce child mortality, improve maternal conditions and ensure environmental sustainability.
However, although some countries have managed to tackle poverty and achieve some goals as the deadline is approaching, millions of people in the world are still in extreme poverty. Their conditions are, most of the time, worsened by conflicts and violent insurgences that halt the development of countries.
Albina Du Boisrouvray, founder of FXBVillage - a sustainable and community-based programme which delivers lasting solutions to extreme poverty worldwide – believes that poverty can be tackled in the long term only if aid is delivered using a holistic approach.
“No one single intervention in isolation will ever be enough to target the diverse, but interconnected challenges that those suffering extreme poverty face – interventions have to be integrated,” she told IBTimes UK.
“In 1986, following the death of my son Francois-Xavier Bagnoud in a helicopter crash, I pioneeredthe FXBVillage model to deliver what I saw as the five drivers of poverty eradication at the same time and in an integrated way: healthcare, housing, education, nutrition, and business,” Du Boisrouvray said.
“These drivers are all interconnected, each relying on the other four to help break the cycle of poverty for good. After all, there is no point building a clinic if once patients return home they have no clean drinking water; no point building schools if once children go home they have no food.”
Business training and prevention are key
Du Boisrouvray believes that the most successful way to tackle poverty permanently is to provide business training for poor people in order to make them independent from external aid.
“We don’t want to create a population of people who rely permanently on aid, but instead enable people to stand on their own two feet,” she said.
“The key driver to breaking the cycle of poverty in the long term is the extra all-important link of business training to create income generating activities.”
Du Boisrouvray also explained that a common obstacle to achieving long-lasting poverty eradication is the lack of attention on preventive action.
“Prevention suffers from a perceived lack of urgency and funding is all too often dedicated to fire-fighting, moving the international community’s attention from one crisis (famine, war, pandemic) to the next, with no long-term view.
“Preventative action can save governments millions of pounds spent addressing large-scale problems that have reached crisis point.
“Governments and international efforts therefore need to move their focus away from short-term costly interventions when problems strike, and instead invest more time and resources in addressing the root of these problems on the ground in developing countries.”
A success story
The FXBVillage model provides assistance to about 80 to 100 families in impoverished areas over a three-year period, and has been doing so for the last 25 years. It provides people with training in several fields, ranging from healthcare to business. The aim is to foster a culture of self-sufficiency.
One example of how the FXBVillage model has achieved this is the case of Nite, a widow from Uganda who had been left to care for 11 children on her own after her husband was killed in the Ugandan civil war.
“After her late husband’s family took her home from her, Nite moved back to her birthplace to start a new life, but found that she was totally unable to support herself or her children,” Du Boisrouvray said.
“In 1994, Nite was accepted onto an FXBVillage programme; she was given a cow and her children were enrolled in school and given school supplies. After 10 years she had three cows, two pigs and some chickens, as well as land on which she was growing pineapples and coffee and a plot that she used to build a house for her eldest son.
“This had provided enough income to put all her children through school, two of whom went on to university, and one who got a job abroad.”
Human Rights Day 2014: Gay Ugandans ‘need a global response, not sanctions’
The Ugandan government is trying to implement a new anti-gay bill, months after the previous onewas annulled by the constitutional court.
As Ugandan parliamentarians ensured the bill will be most certainly passed in December, to give a “Christmas present to people”, gay rights activists have been warning that, if turned into law, the proposal would allow the persecution not only of homosexuals, but also of anyone suspected of supporting homosexuality.
Homosexuality is already a crime in Uganda. However the new proposed law criminalises:
Members of the LGBT community who will risk seven years’ imprisonment and the exclusion from employment due to the criminalisation of those who ‘aid and abet’ the promotion of homosexuality.
People who own property in which “unnatural sexual practices” occur.
Activists and advocates in the LGBTI community who will be also banned from publishing, broadcasting and distributing of information “intended to facilitate” homosexuality or providing funding that is viewed as promoting homosexuality.
According to 2014 Nobel Peace Prize nominee Frank Mugisha, who is executive director of Uganda’s umbrella organisation Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), politicians from western countries should engage in constructive talks with Ugandan leaders to prevent a crackdown on homosexuals.
“The international community should engage with our politicians,” he told IBTimes UK. “When my colleague and friend David Kato was killed in 2012 for his advocacy work, many politicians worldwide condemned the murder. This means that leaders want to help defeat homophobia in certain countries.”
However, Mugisha believes that applying sanctions to help tackle homophobia in Uganda, as the US threatened to do, is not the right approach to defeat the problem.
“The international community should engage diplomatically and respond in positive ways; if they really want to put sanctions, they should only expose and target politicians and religious leaders who promote homophobia. They cannot target a whole country.”
Uganda’s anti-gay bill
The anti-gay bill was first put forward in 2009 by MP David Bahati. It originally proposed a death sentence for homosexuals.
The proposed legislation, which was later amended and condemned gay Ugandans to life imprisonment, was dropped two years later, after the murder of David Kato sparked international outcry.
It was only in August 2014 that Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed the bill into law prompting many countries to condemn its decision to criminalise homosexuality.
Shortly after, however, the law was annulled by the country’s constitutional court on the grounds that the parliament had passed it without the required quorum.
Religious propaganda and misinformation
Mugisha explained that the main cause of thewidespread homophobia in Uganda is religious propaganda and misinformation.
“The church in Uganda is very homophobic and we need other churches to come and engage in constructive talks and teach our religious leaders to preach the good gospel,” he said.
“Misinformation is another problem; many Ugandans fear homosexuals because they think we want to recruit children and make them become homosexuals. Thus, Ugandans want to protect their culture, and this protective behaviour has been enhanced by the media, which been very active in promoting homophobia.
“Furthermore, many leaders keep claiming that homophobia is not part of the African history. But African presidents are out of touch with reality, because there is homosexuality in our history and leaders claim that gays are ‘un-African’ only to gain popularity and votes.”
Thousands of gays will be ‘homeless and jobless’
Mugisha also warned that the proposed legislation would also punish anyone suspected of promoting homosexuality, including landlords in whose properties “unnatural sexual practices” occur.
“If the bill is signed to law, many landlords will fear prosecution and will refuse to give a house to anyone suspected of being homosexual, with a result that gay people will not be able to rent and will end up being homeless,” said Mugisha.
“Gay Ugandans will also have difficulties in finding a job as the bill criminalises people suspected of ‘aiding and abetting’ the promotion of homosexuality,” he said.
“Therefore, employers will likely refuse to hire LGBT people who express their identity openly, in order to avoid prosecution.”
Not only a Ugandan problem
Mugisha said that the problem of homophobic laws does not just affect Uganda. In fact, homosexuality is illegal in at least 20 African countries.
The latest on the list is Nigeria, which last year introduced the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill, imposing prison sentences of up to 14 years on those found guilty of involvement in gay organisations. Gays who publicly demonstrate their sexuality can be jailed for 10 years.
According to Human Rights Watch, Cameroon brings more cases against suspected gays than any other African country.
“This is not just a Ugandan problem,” Mugisha concluded. “Homosexual laws have been recently passed in Gambia and Nigeria while Kenya is proposing an anti-gay law.
“We need a global response for a global problem.”