Following an inspiring public lecture by Stephen Lewis, Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University, and a panel of local activists from the Ryerson community last Monday, my passion for the ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’ campaign has been reignited. By realizing how marginalization and oppression affect millions of people around the world, we can ignite a sense of urgency within ourselves to act in practical ways within our own communities to combat many of the world’s large, complex problems on a personal level.
Globally speaking, the statistics are dire. There were 1.4 billion people living below the International Poverty Line ($1.25/day) as of 2005, with an additional 64 million pushed into that category by 2010 as a result of the world economic crisis. (UN)
69 million school-age children are not attending school, with only 89% of the developing world’s children being enroled in a primary school (UN, 2008).
As of 2010, there was one women in a parlimentary position for every five men worldwide. In some regions within Southern Asia, Western Asia, and Northern Africa, only 20% of working-age women are employed. (UN)
9 million children die every year before they reach the age of five (UN, 2008).
350,000 women die annually during pregnancy and childbirth. Over 1 million children are left motherless every year (UN).
Every day, 7,400 people are infected with HIV/AIDS. Every day, 5,500 people die from AIDS-related illnesses (UN). Every 45 seconds, a child dies from malaria (UN).
884 million people do not have access to safe drinking water (UN). 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation services (toilets and latrines) (UN).
Developed countries only provide 0.31% of their GDP to foreign aid to help solve these issues (UN). The UN reccomends they give 0.7, more than 100% more than their current statistics, in order to effectively aid the developing world’s needs.
The 8 paragraphs above provide statistics from the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals. The statistics, as you can see, are all from the UN. Field practitioners, working in all of the above areas, have often related to me that the UN is underestimating its stats.
There’s definitely a need for something to be done. But, you may be asking, what can I do? How can I play a part in ending poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, achieving gender equality, increasing child and maternal health, combatting HIV/AIDS, achieving environmental sustainability, and fostering global partnerships?
The answer is simple. You can advocate, volunteer, and/or donate.
a) Write your parlimentary representative
Know who represents you on specific issues. The Federal Government deals with, among others, issues related to foreign aid, employment insurance, citizenship, money and banking, and national defence. If any of these issues resonate with you, click here to find your Member of Parliment’s (MP) mailing address and email. Send them a letter outlining what you would like to see changed.
The Provincial Government deals with, among others, laws and programs related to the environment, education, property and civil rights, hospitals, and social services. If you would like to see the Ontario Government act in a specific way on any these topics, click here to contact the proper person to hear your opinion.
The Municipal Government is responsible for, among others, such services as public transit, libraries, emergency services, tax collection, social housing, and child care. You can contact your City Councillor to work on improving such services. Find out who your councillor is by clicking here and then find their contact information by clicking “Find out more about [your ward]” at the top of the page that follows.
Remember, these individuals are elected representatives, voted in by you and your community. Their primary purpose is to cater to your needs.
b) Get people talking
One of the simplest ways you can make a difference is by talking with others at work, school, or in your neighbourhood about issues that matter to you. Relay information on how to affect change locally, and you’ll start a movement without even realizing it.
Interested in personally getting involved to help improve the situation of other Torontonians, in relation to some of the issues mentioned above? Here are some personal reccomendations for organizations to look into volunteering with:
Poverty and Hunger: United Way
Education: TDSB Adult Literacy Program
Gender Equality: 416 Community Support for Women
Social Services: Family Service Toronto
HIV/AIDS: AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) Toronto People with AIDS Foundation (PWA)
Environmental Sustainability: Greenpeace
Global Partnerships: United Nations’ Association in Canada
General: Volunteer Toronto
All of the above organizations accept donations, and you can find out more about where your money will go through their website or by calling their office. You can also ask at your bank for charity giving options. The biggest misconception I find is that people expect they have to give hundreds of dollars a year to make a difference. Sometimes, $5/month is all that’s needed to affect positive change within your community.
Consider making a difference today, for a brighter future tomorrow.