This past week I was thinking about the time I spent in Nepal with Coca- Cola to see the devastation after the earthquake and the global brand’s response to it. The April 2015 4.5 magnitude earthquake upended lives and left cities in rubble. I saw much of it during our travels through Kathmandu and its surrounding towns.
NGOs worked with their partners in the field to provide basic necessities for families, especially women and girls. And, Coca-Cola helped fund programs to empower women’s lives. One such programs I saw was Coca- Cola’s 5×20 program, a global initiative to empower five million women in its supply chain by 2020. Bottlers Nepal Limited committed to empowering 10,000 women in and around Kathmandu to help reach that milestone.
The 5×20 program had a global goal of empowering five million women by 2020. I recently went to see if that goal had been met last year. I was pleased that it had. In fact, Coca-Cola and its partners had helped six million women in 100 different countries reach economic empowerment.
I was happy to see the 5×20 economic empowerment program up close and am happy for the women who now have their own businesses to lean on.
Last weekend Cuba erupted in anti-government protests amid countrywide shortages of food and medicine, as well as constant power outages during one of the hottest months of the year. These protests aren’t new, but questions quickly arose about why the protests started this time.
Depending on who you ask you’ll get a variety of answers. Some cite four years of strict sanctions under the Trump administration while others blame the pandemic. Still, others blame both the sanctions and pandemic as well as a communist regime that has gripped the country for decades.
When I heard the news about the protests I was glad I had recently watched a Netflix documentary called Cuba and the Cameraman. It is a Netflix original documentary from 2017 filmed by Emmy award-winning filmmaker John Alpert that follows the climate of the island and its people over the course of 45 years. It was truly enlightening for me to see how Cubans live and why so many flee to the United States and vow never to return.
During the Obama administration, I was excited to see that he had opened Cuba up to tourism because as with countless other countries tourism dollars go a long way in improving the economy of a country and ultimately the lives of its people. But with the pandemic, that lucrative financial stream to Cuba cut off virtually overnight. The consequences have been devastating spurring protests that are currently ongoing.
If you have followed my travels or have read my blog over the years you know that Ethiopia is my favorite country in the world. There is something about the people, the culture, its beauty and the sheer size of the country I love. Even though I love Ethiopia I have never been under a grand illusion that it is a unified country. There have been mass arrests and killings in Oromia, journalist and freedom fighter imprisonments, and now a civil war with mass atrocities and forced starvation against the people of the Tigray region. In fact, just this week reports of an airstrike on a market near Tigray’s capital Mekele killed at least 64 people and wounded over 100.
Even as war is still happening in Ethiopia’s northernmost region, its national election officially wrapped on Monday without voting in Tigray, of course. Now, ballots are being tallied across the country with the likelihood that the current prime minister Abiy Ahmend will be reelected.
Since last November, Ethiopia and Eritrea’s militaries as well as militia groups from Ethiopia’s Amhara region have imposed heavy atrocities on the country’s northern Tigray region. Reports from the ground from journalists and aid agencies reveal mass rapes, murders, and intentional starvation of 350,000 of the region’s 6 million people. Farmers are not being allowed to plant their crops and food trucks are being turned around at gunpoint.
Yesterday, the New York Times published photos by conflict photographer Lydnsey Addario who captured some of the sufferings in Tigray including rape survivors to children who have been caught in the crossfire.
In the fall of 2020, as the COVID-19 infection rate was peaking in Armenia, the country was rocked to its core by the outbreak of what has become known as the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War—which Armenia neither wanted nor was prepared for. By the time a ceasefire agreement was reached last November, with Armenian casualties in the thousands, the loss of strategic territory, the presence of Russian peacekeepers, and mass displacement of uprooted communities, few could take notice of another longstanding battle still underway—the fight for gender equality for Armenia’s women.
Among those on the front lines of this socio-economic reckoning are a group of women daring to take the uncertain post-war situation into their own hands, with financial emancipation as the first step in leveling the playing field in commerce and business, and, ultimately, gaining influence in shaping Armenia’s future at a pivotal historic moment.
“Substantive decisions about national security and economic viability over the next critical five years must have the entire population pulling its weight,” says Yevgenya Jenny Paturyan, Assistant Professor at the American University of Armenia, Political Science and International Affairs Program. “That includes Armenia’s women, whose resilience and ingenuity during a time of national crises and severe loss are nothing short of astounding. Armenian women always played key roles in the fate of the nation, more so in recent years and months. Women’s participation was instrumental in the peaceful Velvet Revolution of 2018. Women are overrepresented in the healthcare and service sectors, so they are, literally, taking care of the nation’s needs, wounds, hurts and losses right now. Women are struggling to keep COVID-19 at bay and are nursing the nation back to life, with hopes and dreams of a better future.”