Be the change you want to see?

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On the 16th of December 2012, a girl was gang raped and brutally assaulted by six men on a moving bus. The brutal incident took place late at night when the girl was returning from a film show along with her male friend. The girl was assaulted, her male friend beaten ruthlessly, and they were thrown out of the bus afterwards. They were admitted to Safdarjung hospital in New Delhi where the girl battled for her life for days. She succumbed to her injuries and passed away on the 29th of December 2012. (source: The Hindu)

As the news of the assault spread, there was an outburst of long held anger amongst people for the lack of security of women in the city. People in large numbers came out to protest on the roads of New Delhi.

Born and raised in Delhi, I love this city but I am also well aware of this deep rooted, ever-present threat the city poses to the security of women. In fact, not just this city, but each and every part of India. Yes, this is the country I grew up in, however I have had my moments of anger and rage in past over such incidents but as the details of this assault unravelled I was shaken up to the core. Like many others I started looking for immediate solutions to the problem of violence against women. I became part of a growing mentality which demanded lynching of men and cutting them in pieces. To give voice to my growing disappointment with the situation I along with a thousand others marched to protest at Raisina Hill against the heinous crime that has been committed and to demand security for women.

It was the first time I had witnessed a protest of this magnitude where people gathered in such a large number to demand justice. The energy and the emotion which brought people together at Raisina hill was worth seeing. People gathered from various parts of Delhi and from National Capital Region demanding various things. There were some who demanded the death penalty for the accused, several others demanding stricter laws for rape, and many demanded greater security and freedom for women on Delhi roads. They wanted freedom from eyes of men continuously singling out women, freedom from violence the women faced within the four walls of their own home, freedom from everyday teasing and harassment. There were many who came to the protest just to be a part of the growing resentment with no demands or agenda, and there were those who thought disrupting the public and damaging property would somehow lead to a solution. For this particular group, this protest became a tool to voice their buried demands which were not latent anymore. People were tear gassed, water cannoned, and Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) (which empowers a magistrate to prohibit an assembly of more than five people in an area) was slapped against the protestors. People were raising their collective voices and I wish the government would have heard them peacefully at that point. Though I do I also agree that the unruly protesters and the anti-social elements in the crowd made the protest take an ugly form.

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It was heartening to see the mass support for the girl and the anger against what had happened. But as I looked around at the men during the protests I developed serious doubts about the protest bringing real results. It made me realize that bringing another law or another short term action will not end this in any way. Laws against rape have been there for many decades but they have not been able to arrest the rising level of violence against women. These protests I felt would lead to more piecemeal institutional mechanisms and fail to address the problem which is so deeply rooted in society.

The protesters criticised the government authorities for their negligence and inaction in the area of security of women and they expected immediate action. This is what everyone was seeking. But we were asking the patriarchal institutions to solve a societal problem for us. We were asking them to change the mindset of the society. We were pointing to those institutions as if rape was just a criminal offence but it wasn’t. It is our problem and we constitute the problem.

This protest raised various questions in my mind regarding women and their position in our society, and it lead me to look for answers outside of the protest. The questions and their answers related to changing the values young boys are taught in our society. These values related to preference for a male child, and the values instilled in the majority of men who were a part of the protests. I questioned if they would be going home and continue to abuse their wives at home for perceived wrongs or slights, or simply because they can. Most importantly I realised that these protests were still propagating among the majority the value of protecting the honour of the society which resides in the women and not the women. By many the victim’s body still remained the sight of honour and people were enraged to protect this honour. As I took the journey back home and as I go on as a student studying gender relations, I wish to be a part of a change where we confront our society for shaming women and revisiting various values in order to build up a society where women can live fearlessly with respect.

Natasha
MIDP student

nrag4@student.monash.edu

+61 410 937 347

The lived realities of gender inequality

Body Form Redfit
Bodyform RED.FIT Campaign

According to the Monash Gender and Medicine website, Gender describes the characteristics that a society or culture delineates as masculine or feminine. However, today there is a call for actions that challenge this traditional gender bifurcation and the polarisation into masculine and feminine.

With three older brothers and a headstrong mother, my understanding of my femininity was a beautiful mash up of floral dresses and boys hand-me downs. I was told to speak up rather than criticised for being bossy. I was a sports scholar and beat the boys at chin-up competitions, I was a music scholar and mastered the cello with delicacy and passion. My education never suggested that my boobs would be a hindrance to my success nor that having a womb would limit my career choices. The reality of ‘real world’ was a slap in the face!

My inevitable, charming, coming-of-age-whilst-raging, feminist phase coincided beautifully with the year I was an Officer Cadet in the Royal Air Force at University. My occasional drunken ramble about the importance of women at the top to influence bottom-up equality grew tiresome for my uninterested contemporaries. I seethed with rage but also embarrassment when the new Senior Student of my Squadron asked all the women in the room to return to the kitchen at our annual dinner. The room erupted into laughter, sidelong looks cast in my direction. I was visibly frothing at the mouth but powerless to react in the face of such collective mirth.

The experiences are endless, everyone has their story to tell of perpetual and insidious inequality, some more severe than others. There are moments of optimism however, this weekend I watched a new sanitary towel advert from the UK that literally brought me to tears. They were tears of triumph, a shiver ran down my spine and I boldly shared it on my Facebook feed (only momentarily concerned about offending someone somewhere) with a “F*** YES”. Here was a small action by two big companies that was challenging what it meant to be ‘feminine’ in my culture.

I could not quite believe what I was seeing; women, frigging bad-ass physically active women. Unapologetic for their physical power, their disinterest in the need to be ‘pretty’ palpable in their ambivalence towards the imperfections their activities slashed across their bodies. Blood, red, hot, oozing from elbows, knees, foreheads, noses, mouths, toes…and they don’t give a s*** because blood is a regular part of a woman’s life.

The tagline for Bodyform’s new advert? “No blood should hold us back”. It’s a powerful move, it’s a strong statement, it’s an acceptance of a woman’s lived experience into the mainstream of UK society. Its women saying, we bleed and we’ll be damned if that’s going to make a difference anymore.

Would it traditionally be considered unladylike to discuss this sort of thing in public, hell yes. Do I believe it is possible to be ladylike and discuss such things, absolutely. Could Bodyform shift this refreshing and empowering campaign to the next level with an initiative that supplied subsidised sanitary products to displaced women across the globe, well yes.

Since being asked to write on Gender, every day produced something new and wonderful, or frustrating and harrowing, as food for thought. From the ‘small issues’ produced by everyday sexism that Western women face on a daily basis, to the experiences of marginalised communities in less stable states, we can see that gender inequality is an issue for both the developed and developing nations as it impacts everyone.

There was the petition started in the UK demanding dress codes are reformed for women at work. There are the grand debates surrounding Brexit and how women will have the deciding vote. Amber Heard’s reputation has been dragged through the dirt for trying to escape a violent relationship, one that no one else in the entire world outside of that courtroom should possibly imagine they have the right to comment on. All the while refugees are disappearing into the Mediterranean and Fortress Europe continues to drag its feet on a solution to the refugee crisis.

And then there was Angelina Jolie, the Hollywood star out to change the lived experience of displaced peoples as UN Special Envoy. Newly appointed as a visiting professor in practice for the London School of Economics recently announced MSc of Women (note women, not gender), Peacekeeping and Security. There were mixed reviews for this revelation, the most prominent question being “is she really qualified to teach at a post-graduate level?”

There was however one voice that shone out to me, that of Aljazeera correspondent, Bina Shah that focussed on the important issue here. She takes a practical approach to this news and appeals us to steer our attention to the MSc itself, what it’s really teaching and what a graduate will be able to do with it.

These are similar questions I asked of the various Masters programs I was considering. I landed on Monash for its emphasis on ‘practical experience’ and the promise of career-readiness, graduating with more than just the ability to eloquently debate whether we should be bothering at all.

A debate made even more frustrating when one reads statements such as this gem from Kofi Annan: “gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition, promoting sustainable development and building good governance”. Good luck with dissecting that revelation for a specific proposal, William Easterly certainly died a little inside hearing that one.

Having spent a semester now being asked to challenge existing development trajectories (such as the above) and human rights institutions – to understand how we as the new generation of development workers should be expected to move forward – I find Shah’s closing comments, at once striking for their clarity and harsh in their reality:

“If you want to stop women being raped in times of war, you’ll need a different kind of degree: the one that teaches us how to stop war and how to stop women being used as its spoils. And I’m not sure there’s a university course out there that teaches that as yet”

Gender remains to be one of the most pressing issues of our time, and a hurdle in achieving equality. Regardless of the academic research to understand inequality, how can a university course teach how to mitigate, and overturn the lived realities of gender inequality? Will there ever be a university course that does? Can you teach students how to address such global pressing issues safe in their lecture theatre? Or is there no real substitute for hands-on, in-the-field experience?

*All links are provided for the reader’s further exploration of referenced topics and do not necessarily reflect the author’s own opinions.

Continue reading “The lived realities of gender inequality”

6 Tips for Networking From an Introvert

Photo: themuse
Photo: themuse

Scenario: you get an email inviting you to attend xyz event. You won’t know anyone there but you know you should go because:
1. Interesting things will happen that you’re actually interested in;
2. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people;
3. Opportunities are still built on a foundation of who you know and who knows you, so you got to play the game to be in the game;
4. It’s summer season for TV in the US and there’s nothing else to do on a Thursday night.

If, like me, your initial reaction is a feeling of immense dread, heart palpitations, and imagined scenarios of accidentally spraying a VIP with food when you speak, then I have some tips for you that I’ve learned along the way after pulling off the greatest con of all time*.

I have fooled others into thinking I am an extrovert.

Life of the party. Witty small talker. Fantastic dancer (maybe not).

Truth is, I am an introvert. I prefer small groups, one-on-one interactions, and then being able to unwind with a book and a glass of wine afterwards. I just practiced being an extrovert.

The beginning of my transformation began with a Roman summer in 2014. Jet lagged, but still fresh faced, I was at the beginning of a six-month internship. It was only as I stood lost at the front of the work cafeteria that I realised it had been a long time since I was the new kid on the playground. I had to re-learn how to make friends, and fast, because gelato for one is just sad.

As such I present to you the playbook.

The Playbook Vol. II : Suit up. Win friends. Be awesome**.

1. Fake it til you make it!
That’s not to say you should lie about yourself and introduce yourself as Thor and tell everyone about the time that you saved the world. As Neha’s mum says “If you tell the truth you don’t have to have a good memory”. You might forget which world it was that you saved.

However, you can pump yourself up and imagine you are Thor, and carry yourself like Thor. Imagine his sense of confidence, and mimic it. Just don’t try to speak like Thor.

2. Arrive on time
This tip is purely tactics. Think about it, it’s an introvert’s worst nightmare to walk into a crowded room and have people look at you and then turn back to their groups. All the while you’re left hovering near the entrance unsure as to where/how to proceed.

However, if you go by the informal observational statistics that nobody arrives on time, you therefore have better odds of controlling the scenario. If you’re there first then the next person to arrive has to talk to you. Otherwise they look like a jerk, and so would you if you don’t talk to them. This is not exactly a hostage scenario, but it kind of is. The less people there are in a room, the more likely they will have to talk to you. Just don’t forget that you have to talk to them too.

End result, by the time the room is at capacity, bumping with awkward introductions, you’ve already made alliances and have someone/group to talk too, with the smug realisation that you’re not the awkward person who just walked into the room. Though you should be nice and invite them into your conversation.

3. Make medium talk
Small talk is awkward, and as the name implies, small. It often fails to give insight into a person, and bonds are more tenuous. The idea behind medium talk is that it enables a more insightful level of conversation, and can leave a greater feeling of satisfaction of having engaged in a meaningful way with another person. This article explains it with a bit more depth.

The advantage of using a medium talk approach at networking events is that it can help to get conversations flowing, and leave a greater impression on the other party.

So next time, instead of flailing for topics after the typical “what do you do?” question, try asking others like “what brought you here tonight?”, or perhaps “What’s something you like that most people don’t?”.

For better ideas have a trawl through this Reddit post “What kind of questions would you ask to make medium talk, instead of small talk?”, and post your suggestions in the comments below!

4. Know who you are
As we’ve established, you’re not Thor. Though you might pretend to have the confidence of Thor. Just superimpose that sense of confidence onto your own persona.

To do that, you need to work out who exactly you are, and what it is that you are known for. It’s the 101 of reality TV, bring your own brand (BYOB).

Example: Amanda Taylor, witty blogger by day, gelato aficionado by night (seriously guys, if the gelato is icy in texture, it’s ice-cream. NOT GELATO).

5. Power pose
This one is my favourite. Watch this youtube video on power posing by social psychologist Amy Cuddy. The theory presented is that “standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success”

So shake your tail feathers out, get your Wonder Woman pose on, and then go work that room like the queen/boss that you know you are.

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6. Say ‘yes’ to every invitation
Because, practice makes perfect.

So the next time you’re standing at the precipice, wondering if you dare say yes to a networking event, or anything else that scares you, I hope these tips will help to provide you with a shot of courage to say yes and to take that leap.

As the saying goes, you’ll never, ever know if you never, ever go.

I’d also love to hear your tips for networking, or medium talk suggestions below.

*Not all claims are based on fact.
**Not endorsed by Barney Stinson

 

The net value of authentic networking

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If I had to sum up in two words the ‘key’ to networking and communication within my experience of the development sector, it really is as simple as be yourself. Believe me I both know and hate how cliché that sounds, but as my mum (and many others before her) have told me time and time again if you tell the truth you don’t have to have a good memory. Well as someone who absolutely does not have a good memory this quote has always resonated with me as a reminder of the true value of authenticity.

I often feel as though ‘networking’ carries this underlying feeling of immense dread, particularly with students. I distinctly remember when I first began the MIDP program being invited to numerous networking events. In my head I pictured this to be politely making small talk with older people in suits, while simultaneously staring down the waiters/waitresses carrying trays of mouth-watering appetisers, boy was I wrong!

In 2015 I was selected as one of eight students as an intern for the Monash University Global Discovery Program, launching in New York. In the pre-departure briefing it was drilled into us that a key part of this program would be to expand our networks. We were after all spending our days meeting with people in key leadership positions across a variety of organisations, ranging from the development, finance, media, technology and political sectors.

To say I was nervous at our first meeting with Katherine Oliver, a senior principal at Bloomberg Associates is a gross understatement. In the words of Eminem my ‘palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy.’ However within the first five minutes my nerves had subsided. Katherine opened with a statement about her childhood and how one small but humorous experience shaped her life perspective and thus career trajectory.

There were two learnings I derived from the way she communicated with us. Firstly, small though Katherine’s childhood analogy may have been, it almost humanised her, despite her status as one of the most powerful figures in New York, and this was vital in creating a comfortable and relaxed environment. Secondly, the importance of using personal narrative to engage and leave a lasting impression.

Upon returning home the eight of us were invited to a high profile alumni dinner. On my table I was the only female and the youngest by approximately 30-40 years. I will admit I expected nothing more than moderate small talk or to largely be ignored. Again, boy was I wrong!

Being the ‘youthful’ guest I was somehow able to capture everyone’s attention through divulging my own personal narrative and particularly decisions and life experiences that had lead me to pursue a career in the development sector and landed me in New York for the internship.

We went from awkwardly nibbling at our bread rolls to each sharing stories of the past, highlighting key life events, vividly describing hilarious family stories and thus creating an open, social and informal environment, where we were really given the opportunity to learn about one another on a personal and professional level. What’s better? A good 8-10 business cards were exchanged that night, solidifying professional relationships.

Although certain situations may call for it, networking doesn’t always have be rigid and formal. The key is to assert your emotional intelligence and identify ways in which to ‘break the ice’ with your counterpart to really keep the conversation flowing. Also don’t forget to leave something tangible, whether that is a business card, linked-in add or the all-important follow up e-mail to guarantee you’ll be a face and name that won’t be forgotten easily.

I want to draw back on the idea of ‘authenticity’ in communication, a notion often undervalued in professional contexts, at least I feel it is. How many times have you heard the phrase ‘this is a strictly professional environment’ and how many times has that made you fearful of doing or saying the ‘wrong thing.’

My question is who defines what exactly constitutes as professional communication, and is our current interpretation of this concept necessarily applicable in all contexts. Does it always have to translate into stiff and awkward behaviour, and a competition to see who can best impress prospective employers and hand out the most business cards?

Don’t get me wrong, by no means am I suggesting you down as many of the available alcoholic beverages as possible and proceed to rambunctiously intrude on each and every conversation, giving everyone a friendly ‘slap on the back’ (yes I have seen this happen). What I’m trying to get at is once you’ve built rapport with the person it’s okay to drop the front, there’s nothing wrong with staying true to yourself. In fact people are often drawn to you when you’re more relatable and exuding ‘good vibes,’ and believe me this doesn’t happen when you’re feeling pressure to impress and put on a ‘perfect’ front.

My mentor once told me, something that stood out to her when we first started communicating was the honesty and vulnerability in the way I spoke, the way I would reference personal life experiences explain my perspective and detail what I want to do and why, and in her opinion not afraid to constantly ask questions (truth be told I was a little afraid haha..). She constantly reiterated that if I remember nothing else as I navigate my way through this sector, to retain that open and honest communication in all my personal and professional interactions. This goes to show, the way in which I communicate, something I’d always assumed would be my downfall is in fact something that she believes is integral to one’s journey within the sector.

I hope after reading this, you have to some degree seen some value in my mum’s favourite phrase- If you tell the truth you don’t have to have a good memory. Yes, I truly do believe this applies to networking and communication in the development sector.

Neha Patil
Creative Advisor

Four things to think about when you think about poverty

Across the Mekong River
At first sight, this could seem an image of poverty, but if we were able to zoom in and look closely, we would find so much diversity, knowledge and nuance. “Across the Mekong River”, Feb. 2016.

What images come to mind when you think about poverty? Those images carry some reality, but they are also charged with political discourse, academic knowledge, misconceptions and judgement. More importantly, they have been painted with the brush of context, or in other words, your experiences. What I would like to do here is to add more “paint” to the pictures; give you a few other brushes that may help you to bring poverty from Pollock’s abstraction to the rich and dynamic compositions of Van Gogh. For those with experience in international development, the following points remain to be basic premises/debates within our field.

 

1. People living in poverty are, first of all, people
This is the first thing to remember when you think about poverty. Those TV commercials where a kid from Africa is starving and surrounded by flies, or an indigenous woman is begging, can fool us into assuming that we “see” and understand poverty. After all, we experience discomfort, compassion and sometimes we may even donate money to the advertised causes. However, seeing the deprivation may make the obvious invisible: people with less resources still have real lives. They have common and unusual interests. They feel ashamed, offended, disappointed, proud and, yes, happy.

Sometimes they live close to you (not necessarily in a third world country or another town). In Latin America, for instance, they may just be across those walls that separate the rich from the poor neighbourhoods. Also, people with scarce resources are knowledgeable. After all, education is not only experienced in school and not all who are poor are left without the opportunity of acquiring a formal education. What I am saying is that there are not “poor people”, rather there are individuals that experience poverty.

 

2. Everyone deserves the opportunity to better themselves
The previous statement has a second and important implication: lives have worth. This premise is a moral compass for development practitioners, although a contentious issue for those who see life as having intrinsic value (worth on its own) or instrumental value (leads to something else). Terrorists, can be argued, share an instrumental view on life since the violence they perpetuate against others has ‘political or social objectives’ (Butler 2002, p. 3). Pro-life defenders may identify themselves as those on the “intrinsic life worth” spectrum. I do not mean to focus or support any of these arguments, I merely suggest that poverty is not an intrinsic human condition, and everyone deserves the opportunity to better themselves and pursue happiness.

Ruthless business practices illustrate just one way in which human lives become a secondary matter and where opportunities for the most vulnerable are barely existent, or even considered. In India, for example, the change from organic to high-yield cotton seed production has been heavily promoted by Monsanto (multinational corporation), and supported by the government. This has lead to mounting debt as farmers are forced to buy Montsanto’s seeds in order to sell their crop. Eventually, overwhelmed by the debt and dishonored, they take their own lives (thousands have). Cultural expectations weigh on the farmer’s’ decision, but even if the suicides stopped, families would remain hungry and fearful for their livelihoods since few alternatives remain. One such alternative is to migrate to cities and sell their land at a loss. Furthermore, the new seeds do not necessarily increase cotton production in the region and the land is becoming infertile (for more see the documentary work of filmmakers Nandan Saxena and Kavita Bahl). The transformation of the agricultural industry seems to obviate that lives are at stake.


3. Poverty is created, and is a wealth issue
Poverty has always been present to some degree, but throughout history men have designed the conditions for wealth exacerbation and extreme deprivation. An article by Co-exist (Fast Company) provides a deeper explanation of these issues, but what should be highlighted is that colonisation was the first international process from which richer nations were able to extract wealth from poorer countries to alleviate their own lack of resources and grow economically. The ways in which wealth is unfairly distributed today are more complex.

Although debate exists around this topic, it cannot be denied that how we create and manage wealth impacts and defines poverty. This is why eradicating it by 2030, the first objective of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, is an effort that has to come from and be directed at a grassroot, governmental and international level. Hopes remain though, because if we can create the conditions for poverty, we can also design a world without it.

 

4. Poverty reduction is a shared responsibility
International development practitioners usually become researchers or field practitioners attempting to understand how the most vulnerable can be empowered through diverse approaches and become agents of social change within their contexts. Yet, professionals across all areas have to consider their role in this fight against poverty. How are we in our own areas worsening or improving the lives of our communities, or conditions in our environment? From protecting and ensuring the rights of new employees as the CEO of a startup enterprise; to lending your accounting skills to a selected charity, or advocating for refugee issues awareness, all are valid strategies and ways in which we can contribute to reduce/eradicate poverty.

So I leave you with these final questions which I hope will add some more colour to your paint:
Do you think all human beings deserve to experience a basic level of comfort for the mere fact of being human? What do you think this would entail? Please leave a comment to share your answer or any thoughts in relation to this article.

Reference
Butler P, 2002, ‘ Foreword: Terrorism and Utilitarianism: Lessons from, and for, Criminal Law’, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, vol. 93, no. 1, DOI: 0091-4169/02/9301 -0001

What’s your grind?

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Here we are in Vietnam, in the small village of Di Linh. The past couple of days have been very busy, and the two young boys arrived again to pick me up at my little hotel. We start the morning by a small roadside food stand eating ‘pho’ as breakfast and planning the activities of the day. We then jump onto motorcycles and ride along the chaotic highways of the village just to arrive at another house for the first interview of the day.

I came to the Di Linh with the intention to study the coffee industry, one of the biggest agricultural industries in Vietnam and the world. Di Linh is the home of several coffee farmers who are responsible for large amounts of coffee production in Vietnam. Coffee, no matter how small a grain looks like, represents the second most traded commodity globally, and is one of the most loved and consumed grains. The passion for coffee around the world inspires me, and for the last few years, I’ve developed a keen interest in understanding the trends associated with its production, distribution and consumption. The story for the producers, is however, saddening.

Vietnam happens to be the second largest exporter of coffee in the world, and farmers here share similarities with coffee farmers in the world who are mostly of indigenous heritage and owners of a few acres of land. Coffee is their primary source of income and most family members participate in its production. However, conditions associated with production and sales make it difficult for them to afford their basic needs.

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In the last few years, Vietnam has attracted giant coffee roasters and processing companies such as Nespresso and Kraft. It appears though that coffee farmers have not benefitted enough despite these companies making significant profits. Put differently, coffee production is booming in Vietnam but for the farmer, it comes at high costs. Coffee farmers in rural areas, in an attempt to meet up with the growing demand for coffee, become vulnerable to environmental hazards. Exploitation of resources in order to meet the growing demand of the world has left these farmers with terrible environmental consequences that worsen their livelihoods.

‘Observing the life of coffee farmers, they appear to be in an endless poverty cycle with no way out. This phenomenon is almost identical everywhere; penniless coffee farmers, profiting brokers (intermediaries) and coffee roasters. The only difference between Vietnam and other coffee-producing countries is that coffee in Vietnam is pretty new’

In countries like Mexico, my home country, things are no different. A few years ago, National Geographic reported, how a fungus known as “la roya or rust” has been killing coffee plants across the major coffee producing states of Mexico and other countries in Latin America. Consequently, coffee production dropped by 70%, and this exacerbated issues of poverty for coffee farmers. Further, climate change issues and unfavorable trade agreements have negatively affected the welfare of numerous indigenous people farmers.

Limited government support to small scale farmers, the lack of sustainable practices, vulnerability to environmental changes, and lacking technology and technical support all present coffee farmers with significant disadvantages. The vast majority of coffee farmers depend (without choice) on intermediaries or ‘brokers’ offering prices for coffee which do not benefit the farmers. These challenges perpetuate issues of poverty.

Perhaps, about one in two people reading this article consume coffee. This suggests that we can make a difference. As consumers, we carry a huge responsibility. We need to be aware of the products and the brands we purchase. By opting for sustainable coffee and fair trade brands we can help coffee farmers out of poverty and preserve the environment. We can make a difference.