Blog 12: Scandinavia, Spain and Ending Thoughts

There are four levels of integration of Muslims in the Scandinavian countries which are the general integration, political, religious, and ideological.

  1. General Integration

The overall success of this level of integration is that noticeable. Complete success would mean Islam and Muslims would be accepted in the countries’ everyday life. The Scandinavian countries fall short of perfect integration in places such as the housing sector. As we have seen in countries all across Europe, Muslims in Scandinavia have a desire to stay within a Muslim community. Along with that, the housing is segregated as well as in the working field. Hand and hand with the segregation is the general negative perception of Muslims held by Scandinavians. It is a mindset much like the one Americans have. We can see first hand in our country there is a lot more that needs to be changed individually before laws really make a difference. This does not mean laws to promote integration are a bad thing. Sweden for example, is promoting equality in the work force be passing laws that will limit discrimination based on religion by allowing women to wear headscarves and such to work.

  1. Political

There appears to be very few Muslims active in Scandinavian politics. Even the few that are may not be considered a devout Muslim. The authors of this section discuss the two different prototypes. One of which is a middle aged man who advocates for the Muslim organizations that they are a part of. This prototype puts Swedish politics as second to the politics of their social organizations. The second prototype is the female convert. They would follow more of a secular approach, much more active in Scandinavian politics and advocating for women’s rights.

  1. Religious Rituals

In many countries, including Sweden, the rituals outlined in the Quran are not permitted by law. However, there are other laws, such as the Freedom of Religion Act that are actively being protested by Muslims to be able to follow their teachings.

  1. Ideological

In Sweden, this level of integration has some hope. Muslims in Sweden reject the controversies and problems found in many Middle Eastern Islamic Countries. They want to promote a more true Islam in Europe which they call Euro-Islam. This stance has required a new look at the Islamic faith that may be good for European Muslims who wish to integrate more.

In Spain there is a long history of Islam. The Ottoman Empire had its roots in southern Spain resulting in an ancient influence. Despite that influence, Spain’s Muslim population is relatively low. Two reasons for that, as discussed through the chapters, immigration has just been opened in the past twenty years also they have no lasting colonies in Muslim countries.

Due to the long history of Islam in the country, there are two main types of Muslims living in Spain. There are the Spanish converts and naturalized Muslims and then there are the immigrated Muslims. Latter group makes up the larger amount of Muslims in the country, but find a much more difficult time integrating. The Spanish converts are built into the culture of Spain. The laws in Spain passed to improve integration of the Muslim communities benefits the nonimmigrants to a much higher degree than the immigrants.

Mosque in Cordoba, Spain built in 987 AD

The conclusion chapter summarizes most of what has been seen throughout the different countries. It walks through the patterns of diversity and unity, the patterns of muslim-europeans interaction, persisting disparities and limits to multiculturalism and the relations with the Muslim world. What stuck out to me was the section on “Islam no longer a transition phenomenon.” The section highlights the shift in the view towards Muslims. Originally they were viewed as temporary. As time went on the immigrants began building mosques and other infrastructure marking their intent to stay in their new countries. The host countries now have to “deal” with the new cultural group. Are we moving towards a new shift in thinking as the Muslim populations grow larger and more prominent or are we still stuck in that second mindset of their presence being a new problem? How long before we will be able to accept the population as our own?


Post 11: Italy

Italy has a slightly different background with the Muslim community than other countries within Europe. Most of their history contained little interaction with the Muslim world. Italy had no colonies in Muslim countries and had few come to their country. There was a brief time, under Musalini’s rule, that Italy proclaimed itself as the protector of the Muslim world. The senitment hardly trickled into the Italian culture. Today most of the Muslims are sunni. Many immigrants are also student that have stayed in the country due to war back home.

Friday Morning Prayer in Milan

In Italy there are certain benefits that religious groups can receive. These benefits originated with the Catholic church, but have since been opened to several minority religions. In order to be recognized by the government an “intesa” has to be signed signifying and agreement has been met. However, Stefano Allievi outlines a few reasons that the Muslim community has yet to do so. The largest issue, Stefano points out, is the fact that most Muslims are not Italian citizens. A majority of the immigrants hope to one day return to their home country. There are other religious groups that are also primarily not Italian citizens, but the Muslims have not been present nearly as long. There are three other issues that come together to basically make Islam an “outsider religion.” These include the different cultural practice or languages used in their institutions, the financial backing from outside countries, as well as the limited amount of Italian converts remaining fairly low.

According to Jamali in his article “Why the US doesn’t have a Muslim problem, and Europe does”, there are a few key differences in the different regions that affect the “Muslim problem.” His main source creates a limited view on what is going on resulting in a small bias. Jamali uses his family and personal experiences to explain what he sees. He follows up his personal observations with facts and statistics that compliment them.

The basic problem that Jamali is addressing is that Muslims in Europe (or Germany in his case) do not feel European. They immigrate to their new country but never fully assimilate. The feeling of isolation, Jamali argues, leads to the large number of individuals heading to Syria to join ISIS. On the other hand, Muslims immigrating to the United States have “no conflict ‘between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.’” In his personal opinion, Jamali never felt anything other than American despite living in an all white New York suburb.

There are possibly a few different variables to the equation that Jamali also points out. To start with, there are around 19 million Muslims living in Europe, 4.2 million of which are refugees. Muslims are also moving towards becoming 8% of Europe’s population. The United States has only 3.3 million or 1% of the population. In Europe, many in the Muslim community are part of the working class and live in poor neighborhoods. In the US, Muslims “make up 10% of US physicians, are the 2nd most educated group after the Jewish population, [and] are as likely as other American households to report an income of $100,000 or more.”

Based on the facts provided by Jamali, Muslims in America seem to be doing better off than their European counterparts. This may be do to America’s history of immigrants and acceptance built into the constitution. It could also be do to the fact that there is are significantly fewer Muslims in the US population so the modern culture does not feel threatened by the influx of foreigners.

Since the article was published in 2016, the United States has gone through a few changes that may lower the feelings of contentment for the American Muslims. There is a general sense of fear among the American public that was reflected in the 2016 elections. The new head of the US government has already moved towards legislation and opinions that show anti- Muslim sentiment. How these next four years will play out for the Muslims in America or abroad no one knows.

Blog 10: The UK and Equality

Salman Rushdie was an English novelist of Indian descent. He was educated in the English school system and was a highly regarded writer. Salman’s publication of The Satanic Verses came as a surprise to many Muslims across the world. Despite their sect, sunni or shi’a, Muslims came together in protest. The Ayatullah Rouhullah Khomeini went as far as pronouncing Rushdie an apostate. In other words, the leader of the Iranian revolution said it was okay for Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie.The Satanic Verses

The Muslims in the U.K. looked at this betrayal of their faith with mixed feelings. A majority were against the writings and the meanings portrayed him Rushdie’s novel. There were several demonstrations against the book including a ritual burning of it. Considered blasphemy, there was an appeal made to apply and ancient British law against it that was applicable to blasphemy against Christianity texts. At the same time, many modernist supported Rushdie’s right to freedom of speech and his ability to write the novel.

The main thing brought out by Salman Rushdie was the need for the British Muslim community to become more politically organized.

Compared to several other countries in Europe, the limitations to Muslim assimilation in the U.K. are few depending on which section of the population that is observed. There are several Muslims that have made it to the upperclass of the U.K. and appear to have assimilated with no obvious difficulties.

The working class however, fields a few more burdens. Many of these are based on the views of multiculturalism, or the lack of acceptance of such. There is still a general distaste for dark skinned individuals by the whites in Britain. To these individuals, they accept the idea that there will be multiple cultures in the U.K., but they do not accept the equality of the individuals. Recently there has been a push, led by Daniele Joly, for “making a place for Muslims in British society.”

The largest problem debated is the one on school. It is here that we see the Muslim communities hesitance to fully assimilate into the Western culture of the U.K. Muslim communities support separation of girls in school, as well as allowing time for prayer, respect for Muslim dress, and halal meat in school meals. The school systems are working with the Muslim communities to meet as many of these accommodations as possible.

Basically, in years past there have been roadblocks provided by the government that prevented the Muslim communities from a smooth road to assimilation. Today, there are more guidelines to promote equality and reduce racism, at least on the government level. Now the communities have to look to move outside their home communities if they want to assimilate.


The Musawah organization gets their name from the word “equality” in Arabic. Based of their name, you can get a basic understanding on what they are are about. More specifically, the Musawah organization is working towards equality within the family.

There are a few key messages I would like to highlight:

– Equality in the family is the foundation for equality in the society. Families in all their multiple forms should be safe and happy spaces, equally empowering for all.

– We use a holistic framework that integrates Islamic teachings, universal human rights, national constitutional guarantees of equality, and the lived realities of women and men.

– We believe that equality and justice in the Muslim family are necessary and possible

Through these key messages we get more of a scope into what the organization is about. It is mostly focused on the Muslim family where there is still a large amount of inequality, but is not limited to that. The musawah organization also works with Islamic teachings instead of against them. The Quran is cited and looked towards for answers which is useful especially to the more traditional families.

I was impressed with the approach that the Musawah organization has taken. It is the first I have heard of an organization starting with the small level problems in the family, most likely because American families are considered fairly equal. Based on the other articles I have read that have pitted the Western culture against Islamic teachings, I find it interesting that they use Islamic teachings to promote their messages.

Post 9: The “Other”

The thing that first caught my attention of the film My Escape, was that all of the video was caught on smart phones by the refugees themselves. It made the experience more realistic because it was shot from their point of view. I was shocked mostly because, despite my excessive work with refugees, I still have an image of them being poor and underprivileged. Most of the groups shown in the film however, were middle class citizens like I am. my escapeI was also amazed at how willing many of them were to put their story on Facebook or Youtube. I am used to refugees from say North Korea, who will not let their faces be in a picture or names be used for anything to protect their families left behind.

I appreciated all of the different stories brought together. It did not just focus on refugees fleeing from one country, but from several countries. Not all of them made their way by boat. Some of the families had to walk through the Sahara Desert and its brutal heat. Each story was different. It also highlighted the fact that the people fleeing did not only have to worry about the police, but also the possibility of traffickers or kidnappers. Knowmy escape 2ing who to trust must have been difficult. In every situation, the refugees could only bring what they could carry. Even that was often sifted through by the smugglers or robbers along the way.

The comic in the Foreign Affairs article provides a similar insight into the path of a refugee. It lacked a lot of the detail that the film provided. I appreciated how it stick with just two families instead of several. In this way, we were able to see how things did and did not go according to plan.

Neither film nor article addressed the role of Islam directly. I based on the two, I would not say that it played a huge role in the refugee crisis at all. Both portrayals focus more on the travel section of the refugee crisis and not their arrival into the new country or the reasons as to why they left.

The article, Islam and the West: Narratives of Conflict and Conflict Transformation, describes the story of intercultural confrontation through the Western view and the Middle East. They both have similar views about the other one being inferior. While some views may be present, such as Islam in the Middle East, they are frequently blown out of proportion, the Middle East holds only a small percentage of all Islam. Some views are even conflicting, such as inarticulate women completely covered by veils versus the bellydancers that are both attributed to the Middle East.

The basis for the views are rooted deep in history as each set themselves apart from the “others”. The Christian West often described Islam as the low sinners. Most of the claims made by the Christians were out of being self conscience. The Muslim world cared little about the emerging west until the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1492. After this point, The Muslim world began to see the oppressive tendencies of the West as they began to colonize in the Middle East.

The article also describes the story of intercultural compatibility which looks towards the similarities of the groups instead of searching for cultural differences. First, it takes the stress off the conflicts between groups and puts equal importances on conflicts within groups. It is important to recognize the difference. Not every one in the West has the exact same view point, and neither does everyone in the Middle East. By accepting that there are subcultures within the over arching culture, many disputes could be solved. Second, just as tension can be found in history, so can many similarities. Besides the fact that Islam and Christianity stem from the same Abrahamic monotheists tradition, it also brought together the West with the progression of the Far East. The two cultures are intertwine even more so today. There are large Islamic migrant groups living throughout the West as well as western commercialism present all throughout the Middle East.

I agree that intercultural compatibility is a great start to solving conflicts. Conflicting parties often get stuck in the “us” vs “them” mindset and focus on the extremes. As similarities are found, the two parties are brought on to more equal playing fields. It is much more productive to discuss solutions with someone of similar values or ideals than someone viewed as below you.

Post 8: Expression of Self

Zemni and Parker explain the “failure of integration” of Muslims in Europe in an interesting way. The two point out that the failure of integration is often put on to the incoming cultures. Europeans have accepted that there is a multicultural presence in their countries as a way to deflect the direct accusations of being racist. The view of Multiculturalism causes in Europe does not encourage healthy acceptance of cultures, but one of hostility.

What I mean to say is that each culture has its own distinct customs through out Europe. Muslims for example, can easily be seen by the headscarves they wear or their practice of praying five times a day no matter where they are at.

Countries such as France have set laws to keep church and state separate. For the native citizens, this changes their daily routine very little. Muslims, however, are no longer allowed to wear their headscarves. When the Muslim society does not conform to the practices of France, they are seen as the aggressors actively rebelling against the government. The natives do not take the time to consider the practices of the new culture.

The Europeans are stuck in a mind set that, if the Muslims do not strip themselves from their religious identity, then they have no desire to be apart of the countries identity. The blame is put on the outsider. Europeans could open their minds, and try to mix the cultures so that Muslims feel comfortable in their new country. Taking away the religious aspect of a culture does a wonderful job of alienating a people group. There is then little desire for Muslims to want to join in a culture that actively works against them.

The Islamic gender system and the French gender system are solutions to the same problem. The Islamic culture acknowledges the fact that a woman’s body and looks provide a distraction to the men in the society. The distraction prevents the government workers and leaders from performing their duties to their full capabilities. To solve this problem, the Islamic gender system developed. Women are required to cover themselves with loose garments and headscarves. They are also not allowed to be in direct contact with men out side of their families. The men also wear loose garments so as not to advertise their bodies.

The French society and feminist movement strives for equality among men and women. There is still no perfect equality, but the women of France now have a right to vote and are making gains in government positions.  In their strive for equality, the French are taken aback by the oppressive nature of the Islamic gender system. The French women take pride in their ability to express their own bodies and not have to hide them. The headscarf poses a threat the to freedom of individualism that many French Citizens have fought for. It looks to cover what is unique about each and every woman. headscarf distinction

I understand where the French are coming from in wanting the women to feel free to express themselves in anyway that they choose. The French seem to believe that the headscarves are forced on the women and if given a chance that the women would choose not to wear the scarves. The opposite seems to be true. Many women who receive the fines for violating the ban have been young women recently converted to the faith. By banning the religious symbol from the public spaces of France, the state has taken away a very obvious way of the Muslim women of expressing who they are. It forces the Muslims to fit into the French culture and strips them of their unique individualism.

Blog 7: Myths in Islam

sunset templeIn his paper, Muslims in Europe: A short introduction, Justin Vaisse brings up four myths about Muslims in Europe.

Myth One: Being Muslim constitutes a fixed identity, sufficient to fully characterize a person.

Myth Two: Muslims in Europe are, in one way or the other, inherently foreign, the equivalent of visiting Middle-Easterners who are alien to the “native” culture.

Myth Three: Muslims in Europe form a “distinct, cohesive and bitter group,” in the words of a 2005 Foreign Affairs article.

Myth Four: Muslims are demographically gaining on the “native” population.

I will not go into details about each one, but I would like to highlight a couple of the myths. To start with, I love the fact that Vaisse addressed myth number one. Often times, without thinking, we group people into certain cultures and define them solely on that culture. Vaisse points out specifically a survey that listed Muslims along with Eastern Europeans. That is similar to comparing oranges and fruit. It is more comparable to group Muslims with Catholics or Orthodox which are other religious groups. We do not look at Catholics as simply Catholic, so why do we separate Muslims so that is their only identity.

I would also like to highlight the ideas to disprove myth number three. The article, and myths, focus on Europe, but as an American I will bring this home. There are many people who hear the that an individual is Muslim and jumps to several conclusions based on what they have heard on tv or other interactions. Most of the views are negative especially after the events of 9/11. Following stereotype judgments is a slippery slope with any group, Muslims included. Vaisse points out that the Muslims in Europe are quite diverse. They are split by country differences as well as country of origin, social status, affiliation, and political views. In other words, the Muslim community is just as diverse as any other large group of people shoved into a single characteristic.

It is important to make a distinction between the religious and political dimensions of Islam because they are two separate aspects. The religious aspects are universal across the religion, for the most part, it is what unifies the culture. The politics however can change. It is similar to how a christian could be against welfare programs while he holds a luxurious position in his company. Then he loses his job during the recession and his political views swing a bit more liberal now that he relies on the welfare programs. Political views change and if we do not acknowledge that, then we deny that muslims can assimilate into new cultures.

Education has changed quite a bit in the past century. The system is often blamed for many of societies shortcomings. Part of this is due to the fact that the curriculum tries to force the backgrounds, beliefs, and personalities into a rather inflexible agenda. In an attempt to keep things equal and not discriminate, the school systems leave religion out of their teachings. Because of this, students do not understand the fundamentals of the other backgrounds in their communities. Without guided discussions, the next generation will learn to believe possible lies or incomplete truths. This leads to a less inclusive and hostile community.

templeLack of education also leads to social rifts. How so? Well immigrants often get pushed to the outskirts of town with little assimilation into the native culture. The natives have little knowledge about their new countrymen and begin to develop their own ideas and prejudices. The cultures never mix perfectly and the immigrants are left with the less profitable jobs. Immigrants often become part of the lower class leading to more judgments about their sense of character. Of course, this tragic chain of events is not true for every case. It does, however, apply to several different Muslim communities that struggle to fit into their new homes. Once again it cause struggles for the Muslim community, many of whom are immigrants into their European country.

Ramadan is a holiday celebrated by Muslims, marked by a month of fasting and prayer, to draw closer and humble themselves before God. In other words, this holiday is a time that the Muslims set aside their differences and celebrate their suffering. We often view the religion as one of aggression and hatred. If we were to look closer and educate ourselves on the true beliefs, we would see a much more loving side.

Post 6: The Review

For several weeks we have looked into the different reasons poverty has come about. There are several different “poverty traps” that countries fall into such as poor education or health or politics. Poor Economics refers to this trend as the S curve. The people on the left are the individuals often caught in these traps. The people on the right prosper. The according to the Poverty Trap Theory, the only ones to move are the individuals right around the middle, where the curves transition.

There is no denying the fact that there is an overwhelming amount of people considered poor. There is also no denying that a majority of the poor do not move out of the lives they live. Some of which simply cannot move up. Some of which do not want to change the way they live.

The question then is how to solve the problem, as we have been looking at for the past four or five weeks. Sachs’ main argument is to bring in outside stimulation. He believes that the problem could be solved if an outsider came in and taught the locals how to make a better living. Teach the local population how to farm more efficiently, for example, and they will then be able to make a better living and escape the poverty trap. Easterly does not quite agree. In his opinion, nothing will change unless the idea for reform comes from the local population. No matter how much money is given to jumpstart a program, it will not stick unless the people take hold and make it their own.

Between the two, I find myself agreeing more with Easterly. Many people simply do not enjoy being told what to do. We think, as humans, that our way is the best way. Of course, we enjoy free money and will participate in any organization that NGOs set up as long as we were paid to do so. However, after the money stops we are more likely to revert back into our own ways. In some ways, the local population needs to be aware of the malpractice going on. Education of the proper way, as Sachs suggests should not be thrown to the side.

In other words, there needs to be a balance between the two. It is extremely important that the local population is informed about the corruption in their society. In some cases, this is enough for the population to want a change. For some cases, the local population needs proof that the new way is better.

For the next point, here is a review of SDG Goal #1: End poverty in all forms everywhere and SDG Goal #2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Both of these goals are touched on in Poor Economics by Banerjee and Duflo. They both provide several examples of research in poor economies and how they worked or did not work. I appreciated the details of the research. There were names and specific cases to support each side of the debate. However, to some degree there were too many cases. The names and countries became muddled and hard to keep track of. Each example is a case study. In some countries, direct funding seemed to work to support more hospitals. In another country, interfering with the attendance of the clinic nurses actually made the system worse.

There are no over arching sets of data to show how any one method has helped around the world. Although we see similar trends in multiple countries, the reasons behind them vary so that there is no blanket solution. Poor Economics did a wonderful job at pointing out the problems and a few select cases that improved, but lacked evidence to show a solution for the world.

Blog 5: Working towards Equality

Through Chapters 8 and 9 of Poor Economics, Banerjee and Duflo present two arguments backed by several case stories. The difference between the two boils down to the mind set of the family or business taking part in the micro-credits. Through several case studies, it was discovered that the poor in parts of Africa and India follow a similar saving pattern. Since they live on practically no wages, the poor use the money they make for what they consider necessities. They hardly find enough money left over to save. If they do have a higher yield than average, they find it hard to hold on to their savings. The poor have a hard time opening savings account to hold on to their money so they form support groups within the community.

The case studies showed that in many cases, the poor were not opposed to saving for future investments if they could do it right away. For example, when given the option to buy fertilizer right after the harvest instead of waiting for planting season, more farmers took the deal. They understand that investment would provide more. If they buy the fertilizer sooner, the poor will not sell it if another emergency comes up that they would have used the cash for otherwise. In these situations, Banerjee and Duflo would argue that micro-credits might be of good use. Farmers or Entrepreneur could take a small amount of credit to buy the fertilizer and then pay back each year with the more abundant yields.

There are some instances, however, where there simply no will to move up. For these cases, micro-credit would do little good. Just because a family could invest in a barn to house a few more cows, it would do little to change the current situation of the family. Therefor, it would be better to place the money in other things such as health funds and new clothes. Another example of the micro-credit not being a great idea, is when the investment does not equal the same as the yield. Just because the small shop could fill up their store does not mean that it is all being sold. It would not be in their best interest to invest more money in inventory. They would then not make any larger of a profit making it difficult to expand.

I believe micro-credit works on a case to case basis. It is hard to say it always works or never works as can be seen in the few example provided. I do think it would be a good idea to provide the service and educate as many small businesses and entrepreneurs about the system as possible. We cannot rely on the idea to solve the poverty trap completely, but it may be able to help out in percentage of cases.

The country of Lesotho has a micro-credit system in place. In 2005, there was a conference held by the Central Bank of Lesotho to review the policy and legal framework of the micro-finance system. They recognized the importance of small businesses and entrepreneurs in the prosperity of the country. The main issues discovered during the conference were the limited access to markets and institutional support.

Millennium Challenge Corporation Meeting

As discussed in Poor Economics, micro financing does not have as much impact on the economy as the government might have hoped. It does help out with certain groups such as the women workers. Prior to 2006, women found great difficulty in finding credit. Since then the government has put in to place several reforms to provide more micro financing services to the women workers. So not only has the government worked to make improvements among the poor, but they have made great strides into bringing about women’s equality in the workplace.


Blog 4: The downside to health

The Sub-Sahara African country of Lesotho has been struggling to make great strides in protection of human rights. The new generation of “cheetahs” have made some progress though. One particular example is ‘Mathabiso Mosala and her work for women’s rights. She has worked hard for the past fifty years in part with the Lesotho National Council of Women (LNCW).

mosala1In the past women have had very few rights. Almost like ownership, a woman could not do anything without a man present. She was owned by her father, her husband, or even her son as he became man of the house. Several women in rural areas are still not aware that they can now open a bank account without their husband’s company.

Mosala is proud to announce she has trained over 5,000 people. Women in Lesotho now know how to make money for themselves. Although education is not required to make money, the LNCW still has goals to educate the women so that they would be able to read and understand the laws of the land. Mosala has worked with many foreign donors and spent a majority of her life advocating for women. She was notated for a seat in the Lesotho Senate, where she has severed the past 5 years. LNCW now acts as an umbrella organization for 13 other organizations working not just for women’s rights, but HIV awareness and caring for orphans and the elderly. Mosala was not going to take her country the way she came into it. She set out to make a change and made a pretty good impact.

When it comes to freedom, Lesotho is in the majority of what Freedom House calls “part-free”. This is a recent development, as they were previously listed as a free state before 2015. There has been a large amount of political instability including a failed coup against the prime minister Thomas Thabane. les3The Polity IV Index shows an almost even split in the time split between factionalism and a polity. The early 2000s was a time of transition due to events of State Failure.

The Young African Leader Initiative (YALI) has a program in the country of Lesotho. The program works with young individuals who want to lead Africa in a new direction. The students come from all over the continent to work towards the same goal. It is a sort of hands on learning experience to teach the youth of Africa tools to create a democracy. YALI’s presence in Lesotho shows hope in the right direction for the country.

Once again we are going to bring it back to Poor Economics by Banerjee and Duflo. Specifically the question of ‘What are effective health investments?’ Prior to reading this week, I would have thought that any aid in the health department would be a good investment to the individuals living in a poor society. It appears that is not the case.

It is true that many times poor countries are unable to afford the right amount of health care. Sachs argues that poor health can lead to a poverty trap. It is then in our best interest to help the next generation receive the right health care so that they are able to move above the poverty line. For example, many children under the age of 10 suffer from diarrhea. The disease is easily preventable by chlorinating the water or adding sugar and salt into their diets. The chemicals to do so are actually quite cheap and could be easily purchased by many people. The same goes with mosquito nets that could help prevent malaria.

Even when the price was dropped to nearly free, many families still would not provide the preventative substance. The culture relies much more on doctors and corrective procedures. This is where the investment should be placed. More regulations should also be placed on practicing doctors, many of which are not qualified for the service they provide. In many ways, the doctors are doing more harm than good by providing services that make the patients think they are receiving proper aid.

Education is important for the population to know that it is much cheaper and healthier to do the small and simple preventative steps instead of unnecessary extravagant procedures.

Blog 3: Changing cultures

Much like the United States, Subsaharan Africa went through a time calling for change in government. About 50 years ago, many countries pushed for more democratic governments. They were ready for equality and freedom. Several of the candidates promised exactly that. However, not long into their reign power made the leaders greedy. The “Big Man” or hippo generation refers to this time period. Democracy was not present in Africa by any standard except for the three countries: Botswana, The Gambia, and cheetahMauritius. The dictators cared little about hiding their power. The countries wanted more freedom and were given even stricter and more corrupt regimes focused on little more than personal gain. Man were able to stay in power for years or even decades because of their prosperous economy.

Today that is not the case. The “Big Man” generation could not hold up long after their main source of power ran dry. As the elites eyes were opened to the economic problems of their country, they began to notice the political and social problems as well. The end of the Cold War and Apartheid brought about a movement of change. The “Cheetah” generation is this new idea coming out of Africa embracing the movement of change. It is not necessarily defined by an age group, but by a wave of new thinking. This new generation is fed up with the dictators of the past. Many are calling to the Africans abroad to come back to their home countries and help rebuild democracy.

Both of these terms has a focus on internal change. It was not because the Western world wanted to change African countries, but African countries that went through a change. They decided on their own that their countries needed a new start. The civil society is grouped around bettering their countries.

As I said in my last blog post, most of us think of Africa as a place that needs our help to feed their starving children. In some cases we might send money for individuals to buy food. Other times we might send over our own food. Either way, we want to help get the starving individuals out of the “hunger-based poverty trap”.

In Poor Economics by Banerjee and Duflo, the very idea of such a poverty trap is debated. The basic idea is that by not getting enough calories, an individual does not have enough energy to work for money to buy food for more energy. The simple solution seems to be to give more food or money so that the individuals can afford food.

As discussed in the book, that is not always where surplus money goes. Humans often take their extra money and spend it on other things. We see this even among college students in America. We all complain about being broke and living off ramen noodles, but many go out and buy drinks with their friends on the weekend. The poor may not have the luxury of partying, but when they get a little bit of surplus, they have things they have dreamed of purchasing. By growing accustomed to a certain diet, it makes it easier to justify using the money to buy delicacies.

Refugee Camp for accused witches

Modern day Witch hunts are an interesting phenomenon. I personally had no idea that the medieval practice still existed. It appears, though, that the idea of witches are still very much apart of several African cultures. They may not fully believe witches are real, but the cultural context is used to benefit society. There is no proof to say exactly what motivates and individual to accuse a woman of being a witch, but the timing is hardly a coincidence. During droughts, for example, when food is scarce, there happen to be several more “witches” “discovered”. One theory is that these women are removed in order to limit the amount of mouths needed to be feed in the poor community.

An update on Lesotho:

SDG Goal 1: No Poverty

Lesotho was doing rather well in 2011 but seems to be on a downward track on several indicators of poverty. Overall, they are much better off than they were in 2002 by a long shot. The GDP for example was just short of 776 million in 2002, but jumped to 2.8 billion in 2011. By 2015 it has dropped slightly to 2.3 billion. The Poverty head count ratio actually shows a higher ratio for recent years than in 2002. So the country may be richer, but the individuals in poverty has not gotten any better.

SDG Goal 3: Good Health and Well beinglesotho

In 2004, Lesotho was at an all time low for life expectancy after birth. Ever since then, the expectancy has been on a gradual rise. From 2007 to 2012, after several projects to refurbish hospitals, the country is doing a much better job at providing general health care.

SDG Goal 4: Quality Education

Enrollment into primary schools seems to be on a downward trend. This could be of course due to the smaller amount of children eligible for primary school. It is not yet a concern, but should be watched.

SDG Goal 7, 13, and 15: Clean Energy, Climate Action, and Life on Land

CO2 emissions have made a massive jump from 2007 to 2008. This may be an indicator of more production, but it also goes against the quality of the climate.