Margaret Gardner

183

Margaret was Practical Action's Marketing and Communications Director from 2000 to 2015. She is interested in the potential of global movements to deliver sustainable change. Passionate about social justice and community, she continues to be excited by the role technology can play in poverty reduction and ambitious for Practical Action's work.

Recommended reading:

Posts by Margaret

  • Insects for food – yuk or maybe not?

    August 19th, 2014

    I’m just back from  Zimbabwe, in Gwanda I met people worried about how they will feed their family –  the rains have failed or at best been poor – so the harvest is likely to be inadequate. Many people will spend months hungry and poorly nourished.

    Yesterday was Food Revolution Day – and while I agree with Jamie Oliver that educating kids about the food they eat is vital, it wont end global hunger. With a rising global population, increased demand for meat and agricultural production hit by climate change how we all  access adequate food must be part of a global debate. We may also need to change the way we think.

    A couple of months ago now I read an article in the Guardian which argued that as we head for 9 million people on our planet we need to find a new approach to food. One of the ideas mooted alongside reducing waste and 3D printed food, was the widespread consumption of insects. My immediate reaction was ‘hurray for waste reduction’,  distrust of printed foods (why distance ourselves even further from nature) and ‘yuk!’ to insects.

    While I’ve been offered Mopane Worms in South Africa and a much recommended snack of fried Locusts in The Philippines, I’ve never been tempted – I don’t even like prawns. But maybe on reflection I’m just not open-minded enough in my choice of food.

    Food chainThe latest edition of Practical Action Publishing’s journal ‘Food Chain’  focuses on insects for food and feed. It points out that

    • Insects are traditionally consumed by more than 2 billion people worldwide;
    • There’s great diversity – about 2,000 species known to be edible;
    • Environmentally there are significant benefits over eating meat (lower emissions of greenhouse gases, low requirement for land and water etc.);
    • There is a huge opportunity for insects as animal and poultry feed (In the EU this is currently hindered by legislation);
    • They are good for you – termites for example are particularly rich in oleic acids, the same type of fat found in olive oil
    • The ‘Yuk’ factor is possible to overcome – think of worms’ lava in Tequila and Beer.

    Turns out Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the UN, is a big fan! “When you consider the imprint of cattle and other stock on the environment you are better off with insects. Insects have a very good conversion rate from feed to meat. There is no way that we can sustain conventional livestock production environmentally if we want to meet the needs of the growing human population”.

    Rather than encouraging the unsustainable growth of a Western type diet shouldnt we be looking at more traditional foods? If 2 billion people around the world eat insects – and appear to like them – they are good for our planet, and can be good for us – Surely the question is why wouldnt we try them?

    So if you have a taste for insects I recommend ‘The Insect Cookbook – Food for a Sustainable Planet’ published by Columbia. Great recipes including Bitterbug Bites, Bugitos and Buffalo Worm Chocolate Cupcakes.

    I don’t think I’m ready for a cricket lollipop yet but if the rather indistinct protein in say my occasional ready meal was made of insect – maybe I wouldn’t mind (or more likely I wouldn’t think about it). Good for people and the environment – what is there to dislike?     insect lolipop

    Insects could be the food of the future.

     

     

    1 Comment » | Add your comment
  • Ofcom report – is the UK addicted to gadgets?

    August 7th, 2014

    UK adults spend an average of eight hours and 41 minutes a day on media devices, compared with the average night’s sleep of eight hours and 21 minutes (source Ofcom).  20 minutes more very day on gadgets than sleeping!

    Good, bad or just neutral? Essentially does it matter?

    We are shaped by the world we live in, the things we do and the technologies we use.

    Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have brought huge benefits. On a personal level I remember in the 1980s my car breaking down, late at night, on a rural road in Lincolnshire and not being able to get in touch with anyone (I hitched a lift and all was fine but it felt scary). Now I’d call for help on my mobile.

    Beyond the personal ICTs have delivered educational benefits, increased political engagement, greater awareness of news, medical uses, etc. The use of mobile phones to locate people trapped by the earthquake in Haiti made me cheer the ingenuity of the people who set up the system. Practical Action’s work which provides vital information to farmers and entrepreneurs often via mobiles, the web or podcasts is amazing – delivering huge benefits for poor people at very little cost. www.practicalanswers.org

    But in the UK has our love of ICTs gone too far? Are we now at a stage where our society, the way we live our lives is being shaped too much by communication technologies? And is it harming us?

    We should at least be talking about it.

    Digital engagement is growing quickly and what we see now will be the start of a more fundamental shift. The same Ofcom report found that the peak of digital understanding is in children aged between 14 and 15, and that children aged 6 show the same level of digital understanding as an adult of 45. My 1 year old granddaughter can’t say very much yet but is a whizz on the IPad!

    I am not setting myself up as a paradigm of ICT virtue – the report made me think about my own habits too.

    Are we building a society

    • Where the norm is quick access to simple bite sized information – with little available or interest in depth
    • Relationships are formed and maintained through the web rather than by face to face contact,
    • Where our interactions with the world are focused via a limited subset of our sensory abilities,
    • Digital, distanced engagement is prioritized and somehow we are less and less present in the real world?
    • A junk food version of life – immediately satisfying but somehow not very fulfilling.
    Gershon Dublon presented homunculus a framework for thinking about how we sense our world and how, at the same time, our world constantly (re)shapes us - the mobile phone homunculus at TEDEX Warwick

    Gershon Dublon presented homunculus a framework for thinking about how we sense our world and how, at the same time, our world constantly (re)shapes us – the mobile phone homunculus at TEDEX Warwick

    This is not to be Luddite. I don’t want to suggest you take a hammer to your IPad or throw out your TV! It’s to argue for a debate over the role of technology and an insistence that it enhances rather than controls our lives. Starting with people is the essence of Technology Justice. And Technology Justice is for the rich as well as the poor.

    The need to start with people is even more vital in the countries where Practical Action works . When you haven’t got a lot of money technology needs to be right for you in the long term as well as the short. Too often technological ‘solutions’ are developed and dropped in without thought to the context or even the reality of people’s lives. I’ve seen big donor, great intentioned, computer donation programmes in Asia – where the computers look lovely having pride of place in a room but where the school has no electricity.

    Ultimately at Practical Action we continue to echo (or in this case paraphrase) the words of our founder Fritz Schumacher – ‘It’s about people stupid!’ Lets talk about people and technology; and the direction  we want to take.

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • 3 shocking stats on inequality!

    July 28th, 2014
    1. The worlds ‘85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world’
    2.  The ‘Wal-Mart family (US based retailers) own more wealth than the bottom 40% of Americans’
    3.  ‘The richest 1% of the UK population are now wealthier than the poorest 50% put together’
    Chris Evans car

    Chris Evans car

    And how do the rich spend their money – well UK radio and TV personality Chris Evans bought in 2010 a $19 million car.

    But why does any of this matter? Practical Actions concerned with the poorest – why not just ignore the rich and let them get on with their consumption?While of course happiness or wellbeing can’t be measured by money alone this degree of inequity is damaging, for example

    Research has shown that more inequitable societies have a greater degree of social problems – murder rates, infant mortality, obesity, and life expectancy – women and men who come from a more equitable society have better lives.

    Too much wealth can give people too much control over the lives of others. Think Rupert Murdoch! (Australian-American news magnate friends with Tony Blair, he strongly supported the Iraq war. His newspapers claimed they could influence the outcome of UK elections. More recently his newspaper empire has been mired in phone hacking and bribery scandals).

    Inequality is destabilizing – economists say some incentives are needed but when inequality gets to the levels illustrated above it can leave those at the bottom feeling angry, marginalized and disenfranchised.

    Sustainability – the consumption levels enjoyed by the rich and sought by many – more and more things – are incompatible with the finite nature of our planet. In our pursuit of trinkets (I’m not a car lover!) we risk devastating environmental degradation. Climate change is happening now.

    And then there’s gender – writing this I started looking for stats on the financial control women have across the world. Turns out they are pretty hard to find – the figures normally quoted by the UN ie “women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food, but earn 10% of the income and own 1% of the property.” are estimates. The just released Human Development Report 2014 (HDR) identifies being a woman as a marker of vulnerability – not surprising but still shocking! Yet investing in women and girls is one of the best ways to deliver sustainable development. Society is unequal and even more inequitable for women.

    And justice…….

     

    Practical Action is an organisation driven by our values – the way we see the world is that for all of us, poor and rich, life could be transformed for the better through a refocus on well being, equity, Techology Justice and sustainbility.

    I overheard a critique of someone – not me – recently. The critical person said ‘passionate about the problems but not so articulate about the solutions’. I am passionate about the solutions! We at Practical Action have so many we are already delivering and more that together with others we have still to discover. But I’ll leave you to read some of my and others past blogs to discover those.

    $19 million car – imagine the cost of a service!

     

     

     

    (source for the statistics – Oxfam,  Politifact, New Economics Foundation)

     

     

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Explaining Practical Action to my dad!

    July 24th, 2014

    My father visited us last weekend for my daughters 18th birthday. Lots of nice food, some wine and good conversation. But he has been reading the Daily Mail and after years of supporting my work in international development he suddenly decided to quiz me.

    His big question – or lots of questions wrapped into one  – was ‘how do you differ from Oxfam, why is is what you do important and what do you believe in?’

    I started with the last question first and the official Practical Action answer ‘we believe in Technology Justice: A sustainable world free of poverty and injustice in which technology is used to the benefit of all’.

    He doesnt drink alcohol but even so his eyes glazed over – too much jargon I suspect. I tried the simpler answer we believe in working together with people to develop and deliver practical, sustainable solutions. And we are good at it!

    For people who live in areas covered by water during the monsoon season, such as the riverine areas of Bangladesh, it is impossible to grow crops. Practical Action has developed a technology to allow farmers to grow food on flooded land.

    Harvesting crops from a floating garden in Gaibandha, Bangladesh

    I always find examples help people understand best what Practical Action does and I love our work on podcasts and floating gardens. So talked about new solutions to old problems such as podcasts to disseminate animal health information to farmers in Zimbabwe. My dad loves animals and is deeply committed to their welfare. So he started to look interested at this.

    I also talked about rediscovering and re-engineering old solutions to new problems, such as using ‘floating gardens’ for Bangladeshi farmers made landless by river erosion. They are great – the rafts are from the stems of water hyacinths which are a weed and they enable communities to grow food during the monsoon. The original floating gardens were developed by the Aztecs – which I always think is pretty wow!

    Getting into my flow I started talking about Technology Justice and used another example – drinking water.

    My dad loves history so I talked about the Romans building pipes and acquaducts to get fresh water into their cities. About the Victorians in UK cities engineering sewage systems to take away waste. And yet how even today lots of poor people in the developing world dont have access to clean water and decent sewers, so lots of people including lots of kids get ill and die.

    For me this is technology injustice hitting you in the face. We have the knowledge and technology to prevent these deaths – we should be able to do soemthing about it.

    I think – or maybe hope-  at the end of the conversation my dad thought we are a clever organisation, making practical things happen, working together with people. I could tell he loved some of our stories and suspect he’ll be looking at our website – may even read this! But I suspect next time I see him Ill get more questions – Im hoping they will be about how you build a floating garden. I might catch him testing one out on his pond!

     

     

     

     

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Fritz Schumacher said ‘the gift of knowledge sets people free’

    June 11th, 2014

    I’m sitting in a tiny, overly hot hotel room in London  planning how to talk about knowledge with our international directors tomorrow.

    Our work on knowledge sharing – maximising the benefits of everything we do by sharing with the people who need to know the details of our work and/or learning – how to do it – is brilliant!

    I remember hearing of a group in the Democratic Republic of Congo who had communicated with our technical enquiry service about the design of a micro hydro system to power a village – the report was branded IT (as in Intermediate Technology even before my time with Practical Action) but only now after many years were they in a position to put it into action. And they intended to build – they had been dreaming, waiting for the right time.

    Fulkumari from, Nawalparasi, Nepal with her improved crops

    Fulkumari from, Nawalparasi, Nepal with her improved crops

    On the other hand I recall talking with a woman in Nepal who through Practical Answers had learnt about low cost home produced organic pesticide – the immediate impact on her crop was fantastic and the increased income had transformed her life and that of her family.Beyond this our work in Publishing and Education is so impactful. Have a look at ‘Engineering in Emergencies’ to get a sense of how vital our knowledge work is.

    Not to go on and on but ….

    Another form of knowledge sharing is through our consultancy service – this is a great example of working together with Action Aid in Afghanistan.

    And I’ve just heard that our podcasting, which is making a massive and practical difference to poor farmers in Zimbabwe, is shortlisted for a prestigious award as one of the most impactful technologies of the century for poverty reduction.

    Fritz Schumacher in Small is Beautiful talked about how ‘the gift of knowledge sets people free’ and for Practical Action this remains central to our thinking.

    So you may ask – what’s the problem why do your international directors need to discuss?

    In part it’s about how big donors  – in part it’s about us. How big donors work is all about delivering certain out puts – and knowledge isn’t considered an important output important by most. With Practical Action it’s about us finding the resources – irrespective of donors to grow our knowledge work. We have evidence that shows our knwoledge work helps many millions of people every year.

    Knowledge of course isnt all thats needed to get rid of poverty, but not sharing what you learn about what works for poor families so others can replicate is just wrong!!

    Looking forward to hosting the knowledge day tomorrow.

    And as far as knowledge is concerned – my ask of you is to tell people about Practical Action. We are exciting and our work is too!

     

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Loos, murder, rape – the status of women in our societies

    May 31st, 2014

    Listening to the news this morning I realised that the two young girls in India, aged 14 and 16, who had been gang raped  and murdered  died as they had gone into the fields looking for a discreet place to go to the loo. Somehow it made it even sadder. Sanitation is a pretty easy fix given money and will to provide latrines, sludge management and hygiene education. It’s truly do-able.

    Girls from Bengo school, Gwanda, Zimbabwe helping to construct new toilets

    Girls from Bengo school, Gwanda, Zimbabwe help construct new toilets

    The girls remain nameless as it’s illegal under Indian law for the media to identify the victims. The fact that we don’t know their names seems somehow wrong – but that may just reflect our news norms in the UK – we want to sympathise personally and share in grief and support.  It also makes them  representative of the millions of young girls who each day risk attack just by looking for somewhere to go to the toilet,  walking to fetch water or firewood for their families, or carry maize to a mill for grinding.

    Women are frequently at risk – you only have to look at some of the other stories from India.

    But the stories from India are not alone.  Also on the Today Programme this morning were reports of a woman in Sudan convicted of changing her religion from Muslim to Christian, who has been sentenced to death (commuted for 2 years – and hopefully for life!). She was forced to give birth in a prison cell (rumoured to have been shackled throughout). And a third which told the story of a pregnant woman in Pakistan stoned to death in public by her own family for marrying the wrong man. The man she married had already murdered his first wife by strangling but was let off prison as his son forgave him.

    The school girls kidnapped in Nigeria are no longer in the news.

    What draws these stories together is a view of women and girls that somehow says we are lesser  – viewed as unimportant, as processions or to be controlled. We have no voice.

    At Practical Action we work on the practical things in life – like loos. We also work with people trying to help them – women and men – gain voice. We call this material and relational well-being – material well-being is about having the things you need for a decent life, relational well-being is about having a say in your society and how things are shaped. Both are needed for sustainable development.

    I was horrified by each of these stories.

    But strange attitudes to women, women somehow invisible are not just something that happens in countries far away from those of us who live in the UK.

    Not on the same scale but a story closer to home had me shouting at my Twitter feed the evening before.  It was an image of the UK Prime Minister David Cameron meeting Jimmy Carter to talk about how we remember those people who died in the holocaust – the meeting consisted of  lots of men in suits. Not one woman. 2 million women died.

    (I do know there are women on the Holocaust Commission – my question s why when there are 7 people visible around the table are all of them men?)

    And finally – on my catch up weekend – I came across the just released list of the 100 most powerful women in the world.  Angela Merkel is ranked number 1 – probably politically not completely aligned with me but even so as a woman taking centre stage she made me smile! And it felt very good to read a news story about women, women with power and  influence, that could make me smile.

    Let’s remember the girls in India. Let’s work to make women more visible, let’s work to make women around the world less afraid, let’s aim for an equitable view of women and men.

    I want to hear great stories of women doing brilliant things as I listen to my radio in the morning – not stories of oppression that just make me so sad. And I want those great stories to be because we have a world in which women are free to flourish.

    6 Comments » | Add your comment
  • Poverty, carbon and Sudan

    April 24th, 2014

    If you were to rank countries in terms of their carbon emissions, where do you think Britain and Sudan would come?

    The answer is we would come 10th and Sudan (including both Sudan and South Sudan) would come 91st. In the UK we produce  8.5 tonnes of carbon per person, Sudan just 0.3. I was therefore shocked when I read some of the comments readers left about a Guardian article on our work in Sudan, written by our own Mary Gallagher. The article talked about women, our LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) clean cooking project in Darfur and how we are using carbon financing to help scale it up.

    Some readers questioned whether the work is environmentally friendly – others, much more worrying to me, whether in a carbon constrained world these women should be allowed to use up precious carbon – or should be forced through lack of other options to continue to use wood as fuel.

    I visited this project in 2009 when the work on LPG was just starting.  I am tempted to write THIS IS DARFUR and ask you to imagine what it was like. In reality there was very little water and for poor people little food. The conflict meant that every time a woman left her village she faced the threat of attack. Due to deforestation there were few trees and women had to walk huge distances to collect firewood.

    One woman I spoke with talked about the pain in her neck of carrying heavy burdens  and then placed her hands over her heart and talked about the pain she felt there too (literally not figuratively). Beyond the drudgery, the possibility of assault and rape there were also issues with burning precious wood. Basically the smoke from the cooking fires can kill you –4 million people a year die as a result of indoor air pollution. You die from cancer, from chronic pulmonary disease, etc.  Young children (carried on their mums back or kept inside for safety) are particularly vulnerable.

    I care hugely about climate change but if I was to suggest who should make sacrifices to protect our planet. I wouldn’t start with these women.

    As the project progressed, word of its impact spread from woman to woman. The stoves also started to appeal to women who were just unable to collect fire wood and so were burning charcoal. Practical Action realised that there were opportunities for different forms of financing. As I said before, working for Practical Action, I wouldn’t say that these women have no right to use up some carbon – when we in richer nations use so much. But carbon financing offered a great opportunity to reach out to more women and to help them and their families. Because of positive benefits for the environment – cooking with charcoal uses twice as much carbon as cooking with LPG and the move away from wood fuel allows for the possibility of the forests starting to recover and because of the strength and determination of the women the project is flourishing.

    Reading the comments on The Guardian website, I remembered the women I met, I was also very aware that I drive a car and have a gas cooker. I wondered about the carbon usage of those people who had commented negatively – how many times the carbon usage of a woman in Darfur?

    But above all as I wrote in my comment on The Guardian website – in a very sad week in the news  I wanted above all to encourage people to rejoice – we have so little good news in our world – this truly is a positive story.

    If you would like to know more , hear one persons story, get a sense of how we are scaling up this work or even donate https://practicalaction.org/nafisa

    Sudan

    2 Comments » | Add your comment
  • EU needs to take action on climate change now!

    March 20th, 2014

    Our world leaders are working towards action on climate change – not a grand top down plan but a bottom up approach whereby all countries will set out their intended national contributions on the basis of what’s fair and equitable. The contributions are then pulled together to form the agreement. The intention is that this treaty will be agreed and signed at a meeting in Paris at the end of 2015.

    Should we be worried about this? I think so – let me explain why

    1. My action’s bigger than your action!

    Have you noticed that governments have a tendency to talk up commitments but somehow when it comes to delivery everything is smaller or somehow more difficult?  One current example –where there has been confusion at least over funding – is the Green Climate Fund.  It’s a UNFCCC flagship programme intended by 2020 to provide by $100 billion a year to assist developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change.  It started operations this year after three years of planning but so far has been mired in debate about the level of finance to be provided by governments and what can be provided by the private sector.  Currently  only a fraction of this sum has been pledged so far, mostly to cover start-up costs’ according to Climate Finance and Markets 

    Kenyan women march against climate change2.  Maths – will the sum of the parts be enough?

    Today 49 less developed countries (LDCs) are calling for the process towards the Paris meeting to be speeded up. They worry that looking at all the commitments as a whole it just won’t be enough to deliver a maximum 2 degree average temperature rise, protect vulnerable countries like Bangladesh and/or that the timetable will be so elongated that by the time all of the pledges are in there won’t be sufficient time to work out if what’s proposed is enough.

    3. What about the poorest and most marginalized people?

    Keeping average global temperature rises to 2 degrees will now require urgent and transformational action. However even if we do managed to contain warming the impacts on poor people often living in the poorest and most marginal areas will still be significant. Their voices and needs are not sufficiently heard and represented in the climate change processes. Read our East Africa director, Grace Mukasa’s blog where she talks about the current unreported drought in Kenya.

    4. Why now?

    Today and tomorrow we could see the EU lead the way – leaders are coming together for a crucial EU Council meeting where they could decide Europe’s climate and energy targets until 2030. They could set ambitious targets supported by binding actions, they could lead the world on climate change action and by their decisions prompt other countries to be ambitious, to make declarations early and to adopt legally binding frameworks.

    Paris is still the best hope for global action on climate change. Now is the time to work hard and push for action. But even if we get a deal in Paris we are still likely to exceed the 2 degree rise. So climate adaptation must go up the agenda on the UN and all the countries attending the talks. Practical Action will be pushing for this at the next UN climate talks in Peru in December.

    Take action https://twitter.com/TheCCoalition/status/446611628130189312

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Watson to save Africa or is small still beautiful?

    February 28th, 2014

    Have you heard about IBMs super computer Watson? It was made to compete on the US TV game show ‘Jeopardy’ which it won! It has 200 million pages of content, can answer questions in natural languages and is said to be artificially intelligent.

    It’s now being deployed in Africa to solve the pressing problems of agriculture, health and education.  Such are the transformative powers of Watson the IBM project has been called Lucy after humankind’s first ancestor.

    On March 3rd 2014 The Tyranny of the Experts written by the economist Professor William Easterly is published.  He argues in it that there is an obsession with fixing the symptoms of poverty without addressing the systemic causes. Moreover that freedom and assuring people’s rights and thus choice are key to building sustainable development.

    Maybe unfairly (and I have only read the preview of Easterly’s book available on Amazon) I would characterise there two approaches as ‘science will find a way though’ versus ‘democracy is the answer’.  There are lots that I love and think true in what Easterly says but ultimately my concern is that we are seeking a one size fits all model.

    We have to start with people and they are complicated – individually and even more so when we come together as societies. Data can help but ultimately you/we have to listen. Democracy is the best system we have, but asserting people’s rights is not enough.  Rights without options or access can lead to massive frustration.

    22626So in terms of approaches to development – and although I’m seeped in Practical Action I must caveat with these are personal views

    • We have to change our course – consumerism leading to our current 3 planet living, testing the finite nature of our planet is leading to ecological disaster. The impacts of climate change are being felt first and hardest by poor people living on marginalised land. Taking action on climate change has proven a struggle in a democracy where significant changes are needed now but the full impact won’t be felt for decades.
    • Development should be at a human scale, we should start with people their choices and needs, looking at measures of wellbeing not just economic growth. People should have a voice and be listened to in development that impacts them.
    • We have to share and set up rules that promote sharing not greed and gargantuan acquisition – a world where the richest 85 people have the same wealth as the bottom 3.5 billion is a world where something is very wrong.
    • Technology has a huge role to play – but technology needs to know its place as a servant not the prescriber of solutions. Big isn’t always better.
    • Above all warm words need to be matched by action. The world needs to prioritise sustainable development but also to fund it. That means taking tough choices when it comes to government spending – huge bonuses for bankers or bailing out people?

    Reading the article in The Guardian about IBM’s Watson I was reminded of a passage in Small is Beautiful written in 1973

    ‘In the urgent attempt to obtain reliable knowledge about his essentially indeterminate future, the modern man of action may surround himself with ever growing armies of forecasters, by ever growing mountains of factual data to be digested by ever more wonderful mechanical contrivances. I fear the result is little more than a huge game of make-believe and an ever more marvellous vindication of Parkinson’s Law. …Stop, look and listen is a better motto than ‘look it up in the forecasts’ ‘

    40 years on there is still huge wisdom – encouragements to pause and think – to be taken from Small is Beautiful.

    But to go back to Watson – I love the Benedict Cumberbatch  version of Sherlock Holmes – so what could be better than a Sherlock quote on Climate change (I may be stretching its meaning)

    ‘I think you know me well enough Watson to know that I am by no means a nervous man. At the same time it is stupidity rather than courage to refuse to recognise danger when it is close upon you’

    The Final Problem

     

    2 Comments » | Add your comment
  • DFID Minister Lynne Featherstone visits Practical Action

    February 24th, 2014

    Today Lynne Featherstone MP, Minister at the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) visited Practical Action to say ‘thank you’ for our campaign for safer cities.  The public’s response has been brilliant raising twice as much money as anticipated. What’s more every £ given to the campaign is matched £ for £ by DFID!

    UK International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone MP and Practical Action CEO Simon Trace

    UK International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone MP and Practical Action CEO Simon Trace

    Why is it important to create safer cities?

    For the first time in history, more people live in towns and cities in the developing world than in rural areas.  People migrate to cities hoping for more opportunity or driven from the countryside by hunger, lack of water, no way to make a living, war or violence.

    One billion people now live in slums.

    Cities can be places of opportunity for people with power, money, and education.  But for poor people, especially women and girls, cities are often places of fear and inescapable poverty. There is huge inequality.  For example a study by the African Population and Health Research Centre in 2002 found in Nairobi, Kenya, that for every child who died in the best area of the city 20 children died in the worst.

    Alongside this massive inequality are issues of dignity and voice – Slum dwellers are viewed as a problem, something to be sorted or made invisible. I remember talking with Kanchi in Nepal. As a young girl she had worked as a waste picker, and when I asked her what was the worst thing, she didn’t say the filth or the long hours– she talked about people calling her names and abusing her. Slum dwellers are not recognised for the enormous contribution they make to the life of a city – as waste pickers, water vendors, small entrepreneurs, etc.

    Access to services in slums and attitudes to slum dwellers both need to change.

    The matched funding from the DFID in response to the public’s fantastic generosity to our Safer Cities appeal will support our work with people living in slums in Bangladesh and Nepal who typically lack access to basic services, decent employment and secure homes – things we take for granted in the developed world.  They also face economic, political and social exclusion, making them difficult to reach.

    It was great to have DFID say thank you for our work. It was also great to hear Lynne Featherstone talk about her commitment to working with women and girls and how together we can begin to explore how to help even more people escape poverty.

    No Comments » | Add your comment