You Think You Own What Ever Land You Land On

This post deviates from the focus of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) due to my desire to further discuss land grabbing.

Land grabbing simply is International land holding where government, corporations, or speculators, own the rights to lands in other countries. Yes, the control of land in another country! This phenomenon goes back to colonial days which SIDS are all too familiar with. Presently, land grabbing doesn’t appear to be a problem within SIDS (probably do to finite land availability), most of it is occurring in Africa and Latin America.

‘Land grabbing’ re-emerged in the context of a spike in global food prices in 2007-2008. Local communities and farmers have been evicted from land they long regarded as their own. In the documentary, Good Fortune, addressing land grabbing in Kenya, Locals discuss their struggles with fighting to protect their lively hoods, community, and even health. They speak on how they are made to feel poor when in fact they do not see it that way. However, further disruption from development is making them poor. In the film it showed the new rice farm is effecting their water causing it to flood good agricultural land and effecting the ecosystem. As land is grabbed and reserved for development, this often has implications for the water nearby. They spray pesticides and other chemicals which contaminate water sources that locals have to drink, making them sick. Locals aren’t sitting back and passively accepting this. Recently, residents of Kirimon in Samburu Central Sub-County have protested over what they say is illegal grabbing of 10,000 acres of public land meant to benefit their community. This is common among targeted communities. They are making their demands, but they fall on deaf ears.

Despite these serious implications, various arguments are made that try to reinforce land grabbing as ‘acceptable’ that are very short sighted in my opinion. A popular stance that reinforces land grabbing is that there is an availability of excess land where investment can be turned into income and jobs for developing countries. Worldwide the areas being targeted for this kind of large-scale investment are being portrayed as ‘empty’, ‘marginal’, ‘idle’ or ‘degraded’ land, largely unpopulated, unused, unproductive, and unlikely to compete with local food production. The World Bank has been key to sustaining this view. Leading people to believe that agriculture needs investment, particularly foreign investment.

Another stance is that large-scale land deals are necessary to deal with food and oil scarcity. Even though this contributes to the environmental exploitation in regard to climate change. Advocates stressed the need to develop alternative non-fossil fuel-derived, renewable energy sources to achieve higher levels of energy security, while at the same time, combat climate change through ‘greener’ fuels. However, both of these arguments oversimplify complex realities. Conveniently, the problem is reduced to mere supply.

Food scarcity is a big motivator, however, they fail to acknowledge that there is already more than enough food in the system to feed the world’s population. In reality, food security is challenged by costs, harvests loss, waste, and the diversion of land use for production of non-food industrial products. We debate oil scarcity but do not acknowledge serious inefficiencies in the management of our finite fossil fuel supply, such as, a huge and increasing global commercial transport sector that moves industrial food and non-food products long distances across the world. They also ignore the fact that industrial agriculture and industrial livestock production are major emitters of key greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane).

In all honesty I don’t get it. I don’t get how we can pretend that this phenomenon is acceptable and ok. Especially in the form it takes on with disrupting lives. Land purchases which ignore the interests of local communities and the local landscapes are both morally wrong and commercially short-sighted. We need action both nationally and globally to stop them. It looks like racism, I can see the colonial roots embedded in this and it’s wrong. Is it just me or does anyone see? It’s environmental injustice. How can you go to a country whose society isn’t built on privatization/that type of ownership and exalt your control and power there?

*As I was researching and writing this I kept thinking about Pocahontas and the famous song, Colors of The Wind.

“You think I’m an ignorant savage

And you’ve been so many places

I guess it must be so

But still I cannot see

If the savage one is me

How can there be so much that you don’t know

You don’t know


You think you own whatever land you land on

The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim

But I know every rock and tree and creature

Has a life, has a spirit, has a name…”



Bowman, Mark. “Land Rights, Not Land Grabs, Can Help Africa Feed Itself.” CNN. Cable News Network, 18 June 2013. Web. <>.

Franco, Jennifer C. “Are African Land Grabs Really Water Grabs?” CNN. Cable News Network, 22 Mar. 2013. Web. <>.

Good Fortune. Prod. Landon Van Soest. Dir. Landon Van Soest. Filmakers Library, 2010. DVD.

Keti, Johnston. “SAMBURU: Residents Protest Land Grabbing.” Daily Nation. N.p., 28 Mar. 2016. Web. <>.

Woertz, Eckart. “The Global Land Grab Phenomenon.” Oil for Food The Global Food Crisis and the Middle East (2013): 143-60. Oct. 2012. Web. <>.

The Media Portrayal of Torture & Its Consequences


Shhh…Don’t say the “t” word

When reading articles regarding U.S torture, you are almost guaranteed to find adjectives such as “brutal,” “harsh,” and “extreme” used to describe the torture by the CIA at Guantanamo (Mirkinson, 2014). Of course, we can’t forget the “enhanced interrogation” phrase that many also like to throw around. Though the findings of the CIA Senate Torture Report concludes that the actions at Guantanamo were indeed torture, it continues to be difficult to find a news outlet that will use the forbidden “t” word.

With the release of the senate report there was naturally an influx of articles and news reports on Guantanamo. Jack Mirkinson of the Huffington Post explains that though the information is newly released, what isn’t new is “the media’s persistent dance around the word at the heart of the entire story: ‘torture’” (Mirkinson, 2014). He references one study, which found that when the Bush administration began using waterboarding as an interrogation method, many major media outlets stopped defining the practice as torture (Mirkinson, 2014). Mirkinson provides examples of some of the country’s largest news outlets, including MSNBC, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, all of which avoided using the word torture (Mirkinson, 2014).

Where the word torture is most commonly found is in alternative news outlets such as Truthout, a nonprofit organization “dedicated to providing independent news and commentary on a daily basis” (Ahmed, 2014). In an article titled, The United States Is Committing Brutal Acts of Torture Right Now, Truthout writer Nafeez Ahmed writes, “Media coverage of the Senate report has largely whitewashed the extent to which torture has always been an integral and systematic intelligence practice since the Second World War…” (Ahmed, 2014). AlternativeNews, The Real News Network, and AlterNet are all additional independent news outlets that not only use the word torture but also explicitly call out mainstream media for failing to do so. The problem remains though, that a large portion, I would suspect the majority, of Americans rely on mainstream news outlets for their information.


The Double Standard

The rhetoric used by the U.S mainstream media in regards to foreign torture, on the other hand, is almost astonishing. One New York Time’s headline reads, Organizations Say Torture Is Widespread in Libya Jails (Stack, 2012). A Washington Post article claims, China must be pressed to end torture by police (Wang, 2015). The list can continue for pages, with no hesitation from U.S news outlets to use the word torture when referring to other countries.

What is particularly interesting is the lack of consistency in U.S reporting. A study from the Joan Shorenstein Center at Harvard reveals a significant shift in the way that U.S news outlets have covered torture. From the 1930’s until 2004, newspapers that reported on waterboarding almost always considered it torture; “The New York Times characterized it thus in 81.5% of articles on the subject and The Los Angeles Times did so in 96.3% of articles” (Linkins, 2010). Following 2002 (around the time when the Bush administration began implementing waterboarding), those same newspapers rarely referred to waterboarding as torture; “The New York Times called waterboarding torture or implied it was torture in just 1.4% of articles. The Los Angeles Times did so in 4.8% of articles. The Wall Street Journal characterized the practice as torture in just 1.6% of articles. USA Today never called waterboarding torture or implied it was torture” (Linkins, 2010).

When it comes to other countries’ use of waterboarding, the study showed no reluctance to use the “t” word:

In The New York Times, 85.8% of articles that dealt with a country other than the United States using waterboarding called it torture or implied it was torture while only 7.69% did so when the United States was responsible. The Los Angeles Times characterized the practice as torture in 91.3% of articles when another country was the violator, but in only 11.4% of articles when the United States was the perpetrator (Linkins, 2010).


Development and Torture

Spain and New Zealand join the United States in the group of developed countries that use torture (Gallagher, 2014 & Brooking, 2014). Additionally, the Human Rights Watch has accused France, Germany and the United Kingdom of using intelligence that was gathered by using torture (“No Questions,” 2010). There are, of course, numerous other developed countries that use torture but receive minimal attention (Noack, 2014). Why then, is there little mainstream media coverage of these developed, particularly Western, countries?

It seems that Western, especially American, news outlets are the groups afraid to call Western torture what it truly is. CJ Werlemen, a writer for the Middle East Eye, has no hesitation in calling out the U.S, writing, “Americans are pro-torture and proud of it” (Werleman, 2016). An article in the Iran Daily is titled, Guantanamo prisoner recounts ordeal, tortured by guards (“Guantanamo prisoner,” 2016). To my surprise, alongside Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Burundi, China, Vietnam, Syria, Eritrea, and Iran, the United Nations Human Rights Council recently called out the U.S and U.K for torture (“United Nations,” 2016).

Other organizations and media outlets, though, place a much larger emphasis on developing, non-Western countries that torture. One article by The Guardian is titled, Afghanistan officials sanctioned murder, torture and rape, says report (Graham-Harrison, 2015). Even Amnesty International uses different rhetoric when discussing U.S torture versus discussing other countries that torture. Their headline for U.S torture reads, for example, U.S Needs Accountability for Torture (“Demand Accountability”). Their Mexico torture campaign, on the other hand, reads, Torture in Mexico is Out of Control, followed by horrific descriptions of Mexican torture (“Police and soldiers”). “Out of Control” is quite a powerful phrase and creates a very specific picture of Mexican torture. Amnesty’s current torture campaign states that their “priority countries” are Mexico, the Philippines, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, coincidentally all non-Western countries (“Global Campaign”).

The studies, headlines, and articles show a clear focus on torture in developing, non-Western countries. Though torture occurs in countless developed nations, there is a lack of demand for developed, Western countries’ accountability. The rhetoric surrounding torture in developing, non-Western countries convey barbarism and ruthlessness while weaker words such as “brutal,” “enhanced,” or “harsh” are used to describe Western torture. This language choice is powerful, influencing perceptions and ultimately categorization. Though the same actions may be occurring in two different countries, the way in which each is portrayed impacts the public’s tolerance for those actions. Hearing that the U.S is using enhanced interrogation, for example, is much different than hearing that torture in Mexico is out of control. This discrepancy determines which countries get demonized and which countries are left to perpetrate torture behind closed doors. Hearing “out of control” conveys urgency, but isn’t the CIA’s torture at Guantanamo also “out of control?” When the media, activist organizations, and news sources stop considering an action to be torture, is that action no longer torture? Why does media portrayal appear to supersede international law? Perhaps most importantly, why are developing, non-Western countries portrayed as savage, while developing countries are also committing horrific acts?


Next Week: A summary of findings and conclusion on the relationship between development and torture.



Ahmed, N. (2014, December 23). The United States Is Committing Brutal Acts of Torture Right Now. Truthout. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from

Brooking, R. (2013, September 30). 80% of countries use torture – New Zealand is one. Pundit. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from–-new-zealand-is-one

Country Classification (Rep.). (2014). Retrieved April 7, 2016, from World Economic Situation and Prospects website:

Demand Accountability for Torture and Abuse. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2016, from

Gallagher, E. (2014, February 4). Spain: More than 6,600 cases of torture or ill-treatment by police since 2004. Revolution News. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from

Graham-Harrison, E. (2015, March 3). Afghanistan officials sanctioned murder, torture and rape, says report. The Guardian. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from

Global Campaign to Stop Torture – Focus on priority countries. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2016, from

Guantanamo prisoner recounts ordeal, tortured by guards. (2014, December 14). The Iran Daily. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from

Linkins, J. (2010, June 30). Once America Started Waterboarding, Major Newspapers Stopped Referring To It As Torture, Says Study. The Huffington Post. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from

Mirkinson, J. (2014, April 14). The Media Is Still Dancing Around The Word ‘Torture’. The Huffington Post. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from

No Questions Asked (Rep.). (2010, June 29). Retrieved April 7, 2016, from Human Rights Watch website:

Noack, R. (2014, December 12). Most countries are against torture – but most have also been accused of it. The Washington Post. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from

Police and soldiers rape, beat up, suffocate and electrocute men and women as a way to get supposed ‘confessions’. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2016, from

Stack, L. (2012, January 26). Organizations Say Torture Is Widespread in Libya Jails. The New York Times. Retrieved April 9, 2016, from

United Nations General Assembly, Human Rights Council, Thirty-first session. (2016, February 18). Retrieved April 7, 2016, from

Wang, M. (2015, August 21). China must be pressed to end torture by police. The Washington Post. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from

Werleman, C. (2016, April 5). ‘Americans are pro-torture and proud of it.’ Middle East Eye. Retrieved April 9, 2016, from

Cambodia Fights Back

In 2015 Michelle Obama took a trip to Cambodia and “…met with 10 girls who shared tales of rising early to feed their families and help with farming before heading off on long treks to school and studying late into the night.” ( Michelle Obama, 2015) I don’t know about you but I have a lot of respect for the girls who work this hard to go to school. My best friend from home is a first generation American. Her parents grew up in Cambodia and went to school there. Even though they only did some of their education in Cambodia they still were raised in the culture and have family connections there. Her parent came to the US in 1982. I have spent a large amount of time in their house over the past few years. It has been interesting to see their views on the world including education and see their knowledge of english.The father’s english is still pretty rough and works in a local factory, however the mother works in the passport center and has no problems communicating in english. In result to growing up around these people and noticing the differences I decided to research why these results may be.

In the beginning stages of research I came across an article which discussed the education reform which is taking place currently in Cambodia. “The ESP 2014-2018 has an increasing focus on the expansion of Early Childhood Education, expanding access to quality secondary and post-secondary education and Non-Formal Education, Technical and Vocational Education.” ( M.,2014)This plan was implemented a new minister of education entered the office in 2014. This man is named Hang Chuou Naron and the plan he implemented not only focused on the previously mentioned aspects but “He wants to end corruption in Cambodia’s schools.” ( Robbins, 2015) When I read that his goal was to crack down on corruption i had some doubt however when talking to my friends mom I learned that his plan was actually making a difference. Oum Sang (2016) said, “The education system in Cambodia is not the same as here. Everyone gets treated different, if you have money you’ll get better education. There’s still corruption going on over there but their government is working very hard to get rid off it for the last couple of years.’ This was encouraging to hear because corruption is something that is so relevant, yet so hard to address.
The ESP is a well laid out plan and made sure to focus on the children who are being damaged by the “…major constraints surrounding the education sector, including the issue of its governance, contribute to sustain a wide gap between stated education policies and actual practice, thus further diminishing working children’s chances to benefit from a school education.” ( Kim, 2011) In order to do achieve this the ESP laid out “seven key sub-sectors: Early Childhood Education, Primary Education, Secondary and Technical Education, Higher Education, Non-Formal Education, Youth Development and Physical Education and Sport.” ( M., 2014)

In addition to corruption the new minister of education also pointed out that education has not been successful in the past because it is so deeply connected with Cambodia’s economic development. He identifies that there is a skills mismatch in Cambodia. “So we have investors coming in; they look for [a] skilled labor force – we don’t have enough. But at the supply side we have many graduates that cannot find jobs.” ( Robbins, 2015) The economic struggles of the country of course also affect the access and quality of children’s education. Luckily through the new minister of education and the ESP the areas of weak funding have been identified. In result, the “ teachers now earn an average of 550,000 riel a month. That is about $137 in American money. In May 2015, their minimum salary ​will increase to 650,000 riel, or about $162. The overall budget for education will increase to $440 million.” ( Robbins, 2015 ) You may be wondering (as I was) where such a large sum of money will come from. To answer this question I discovered that “The Asian Development Bank… is a new resource for Cambodia’s education reform. The bank is giving ninety million dollars to Cambodia over the next five years.” ( Robbins, 2015)

The ESP recognizes that education reform and this abundance of money can not make a successful change if not used wisely and with the corporation from all parties involved. In result they will focus on “implement the strengthening of the partnership between the Government and communities and parents, the development partners, the private sector and non-governmental organizations.” ( M, 2014)

This plan sounds like it will be a great improvement and from Oum Sang’s testimony I learned that she still has family in Cambodia, so she has an idea of what education is like currently. She said “I think they have a better education system these days.” The fact that she has seen a change is very encouraging. However it is no secret that coming back from a “73.6% literacy rate” (of the entire population), lots of corruption, and the government only spending 2.6% of their budget on education is no easy thing to come back from. ( Cambodia, n.d. )

Do you believe that Cambodia will be able to make a comeback? How would you go about fixing such complex issues?


Health Care and Risk Behaviors


As I mentioned in my introduction blog post, I’ve been interested in the topic of  poverty and homelessness in Pakistan and the effect the two have on Pakistan’s children. Pakistan has it’s issues revolving around affordable housing for low income people, leading many to live within slums, or katchi abadis, with inadequate water and sewerage systems. Living in poor conditions can really take a toll on a person’s health, not only physically but mentally, and the health of children living in poverty is what I’m interested in writing about today.

First of all, I’d like to talk about Pakistan’s overall health care system. According to The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Biennial Report on Pakistan, the country does have “a well-developed and multi-tiered health infrastructure” in place, but access to healthcare is where the difficulties lie. It is mentioned by WHO that security-compromised areas in the north, as well as many natural disasters that followed a huge earthquake that struck Muzaffarabad in 2005 are some of the reasons behind poor accessibility to health services (Abid). There’s also an issue of access depending on location. Urban areas typically have more health resources than rural areas.

Then there’s the issue with funding. Only 0.5% of Pakistan’s GDP is spent on health (WHO). (For some perspective, the U.S. allocates 17.6% of its GDP toward health care) (Kane). Most people in Pakistan must pay for health expenses out of pocket. Pakistan receives a lot of foreign assistance for health, and is the 6th largest recipient of official aid in the world. In 2007, Official Development Assistance (ODA) was given to Pakistan with a value of 2.2 billion US dollars (Abid).

. . . . .

Of course, without an accessible health care system many people will suffer, especially those living in poverty. Street children in Pakistan are effected greatly without access to healthcare. One reason being that sexually transmitted diseases are very common among street children and very few of them get the attention and care they need. The AZAD Foundation, a Pakistani NGO that works with street children found that 4 out of every 10 street children they examined were infected with STD’s. (IRIN) Sexual exploitation is a very big issue among street children. For many of them, sex is the only commodity they have to offer in exchange for food, shelter and drugs, otherwise known as “survival sex” or “transactional sex.” It is not uncommon for them to exchange sex for as little as a dish of rice. A lot of them are also forced into gangs where they are pimped out for cash. Living this lifestyle can become a vicious cycle because many of these children start off in the sex industry at a young age and when they grow up it becomes the only way they know how to make a living. Sometimes they go on to become the leaders of gangs themselves, leading other young street children to do the work for them. A UNICEF evaluation report on street children mentioned that 80%-90%of street children are victims of sexual and physical abuse by adults and older children within their own gangs. (Aman)

And the authorities aren’t any help; police officers are guilty of partaking in sexual acts with street children as well. An NGO that works to protect the rights of street children, the Initiator Human Development Foundation (IHDF), found that policemen account for 60% of the sexual abuse that Pakistani street children are subjected to. (AFP) It’s really heartbreaking to think that the people who should be keeping them from harm are the ones inflicting it. Luckily, IHDF provides medical facilities, along with shelter, vocational training, and rehab to street children, and has been doing so for the past 16 years. There are a few other NGO’s, such as Nai Zindagi, that help provide medical assistance to street children. Nai Zindagi is an NGO supported by UNICEF that runs Project Smile which is open 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. It provides them with a safe location to go that has food, counseling, clothing, and trained health and social care professionals who can refer them to more intensive medical care and drug treatment. Treatment for drug abuse is definitely a big need for these children.

Many street children have drug addictions and start using at a very early age. Reasons for drug use vary from being used as a coping mechanism, to reducing hunger, to peer pressure. Drugs are very accessible on the street. Heroin is a common drug among the children and it is used to help them fall asleep and keeps them from feeling hungry. Unfortunately using heroin by injection can lead high risk of HIV/AIDS. Between sexual abuse and intravenous drug usage, about 49 percent of street children are at risk of HIV/AIDS.


Apart from heroin it seems that inhalants are the number one choice for street drugs among the children, due to the cheap cost. A lot of them sniff volatiles for a high and they are easily accessible, especially because volatiles are common byproducts of many industries in urban areas. There are serious long term effects for using solvents such as irreversible brain damage, and respiratory depression, as well as sudden death. It is said that the children abuse solvents more than drugs, because of the cheapness. In a scholarly article by the Journal of Urban Health researchers found that over four fifths of the children they sampled began their drug usage because of peer pressure. Peer pressure is a big factor because most of the street children don’t have any contact with family, so street gangs become their families. Knowing this statistic has been helpful in that Project Smile (run by UNICEF as mentioned above) has begun teaching peer outreach and communication skills to the children, as well as effective ways of reducing risks associated with drug use and sexual behaviors. Thankfully in the past couple decades more research has gone into the topic of the effects that living on the streets has on children of Pakistan, and has led to the development of many NGO’s that can help them, even if the national health care system can’t.



Abid, Ni’ma Saeed. WHO-Pakistan Biennial Report 2012-13. Rep. N.p.: n.p., 2013. WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office. World Health Organization, 10 Apr. 2013. Web. 4 Apr. 2016.

World Health Organization. Pakistan. WHO EMRO | Health System Strengthening | Programmes | Pakistan. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2016.

Kane, Jason. “Health Costs: How the U.S. Compares With Other Countries.” PBS. PBS, 22 Oct. 2012. Web. 04 Apr. 2016.

“Number of Street Children on the Rise.” IRIN. N.p., 04 May 2005. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

“Children Sexually Abused on Pakistan’s Streets.” Dawn. AFP, 26 Aug. 2011. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

“Most of the Street Children Are Boys.” The Express Tribune. N.p., 28 May 2010. Web. 7 Apr. 2016.           

Aman, Aslam. EVALUATION OF SOCIAL REINTEGRATION OF STREET CHILDREN PROJECT. Rep. Islamabad: UH&H Consulting (Pvt.), 2012. UNICEF. Web. 25 Mar. 2016.     

Sherman, S. S. “Drug Use, Street Survival, and Risk Behaviors Among Street Children in Lahore, Pakistan.” Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 82.3_suppl_4 (2005): Iv113-v124. Web.

Abortion Access in South Africa



Throughout the last past month, I have researched and reported on facets of reproductive justice, and how they are experienced by women all over the world in a globalized context. In the last two weeks, I have discussed sexuality and sexual exploitation:. This week, I will be talking about abortion.

Highly contested and strictly regulated around the world, I will be reporting on abortion access in South Africa. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the number of abortions carried out through the continent of Africa rose from 5.6 million in 2003 to 6.4 million in 2008 — a statistic that is attributed to the “increase in women of reproductive age” (“Facts on Abortion in Africa”). Yet, for the growing number of abortions, only 3% were performed in safe conditions (“Facts on Abortion in Africa”). Currently, only four countries in Africa have “relatively liberal abortion laws”: Zambia, Cape Verde, South Africa, and Tunisia (“Facts on Abortion in Africa”).

But interestingly, each of these countries have some history of conquest and colonization: British and Dutch in South Africa, British in Zambia, French in Tunisia, and Portuguese in Cape Verde. This goes to suggest that there may be more of a financial means for abortion services in these countries.

That is why I am particularly interested in South Africa. A staggering 91% of abortion-related deaths fell between 1994 and 1998 (“Facts on Abortion in Africa”), so, it could be arguable that it is more valuable to spend time focusing on other African countries — particularly those with access barriers. At the same time, though, I believe that it is insightful to look at the disparities of abortion access, and how they still manifest today.

In 1997, “The Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1996” became law (Dickson 277). This law allowed for the termination of pregnancy “at the women’s request during a period up to and including 12 weeks after gestation, and under defined circumstances” past that point (Dickson 277). Formerly, the “Abortions and Sterilisations Act of 1975” (Dickson 277) required a woman to obtain permission from her doctor, as well as recommendations from two other medical professionals (Dickson 277). As a reflection of these stricter regulations, illegal abortions took place rampantly prior to 1997. According to researcher Kim Dickson, roughly 6,000 to 120,000 illegal abortions took place for every 800 to 1,000 legal procedures per year (Dickson 277). That could be 120 illegal procedures for every legal one.

In talking about South Africa, however, it is important to think about colonization and development: not in context of the United States, but more so in thinking about Europe. Often time, people characterize Africa as underdeveloped. It is often forgotten that South Africa, in particular, is very developed and holds a healthy GDP. It is not that South Africa is lacking in skills and knowledge. Rather, it has faced a long history of discrimination.

From 1948 to 1996, structural discrimination was rampant. South Africa ruled under a system called apartheid: the geographical and developmental separation of races (South African History Online). The system started with land grabbing in 1913. The 1913 Land Act prohibited Black South Africans from accessing vast amounts of land, except in specified areas, to make room for Europeans developers to farm and enlist cheap labor (South African History Online). In a series of events fueled by white supremacy and racial segregation; political, economic, educational, and physical spheres were separated and made unequal. This marginalized and disenfranchised people of color — the vast majority of which make up South Africa — for over eighty years.

Due to the disparities faced by people of color, legal abortion prior to 1997 were really only available for white women. In 1998, 69% of legal abortions were provided to white women: although white individuals made up only 12% of the population at the time (Dickson 278). This means that there was a definite imbalance in women of color seeking illegal abortions, but with the end of apartheid in 1996, marginalized women received more freedoms — right?

Last year, a headline newspaper in South Africa published an article addressing the rise in illegal abortions. Police have discussed efforts to “crack down on illegal abortionists” — a profession that has newly been undertaken by “ruthless opportuntists” (Peters 1). The article continues to address the visibility of propaganda that advertises quick and easy procedures (Peters 1), which readily attracts an “influx of immigrants” that “come to the city” and engage in “unsafe “behaviors, leading to unwanted pregnancy (Peters 1).

Researchers around the world know the plight of unsafe abortions. Often times, abortions conducted by untrained persons result in extreme pain and death (“Facts on Abortion in Africa”). This may be characterized with underdevelopment in Africa, but the fact is, women want safe abortions, and they cannot get them. Furthermore, lack of safe access relates more to European taboos that “date back to colonial codes” (Okeowo 1). Even though South African apartheid is over, there is a clear “mistrust of the state” (Peters 1). While policies are updated and cultural shifts occur, there continues to be a culture of misinformation and exploitation.

How can the westernized world change their views about South Africa (and much of Africa, the continent) in order to disregard myths about underdevelopment?  How can we truly take the cost of colonization and globalization into account?

Works Cited

Dickson, Kim Eva et al.. “Abortion Service Provision in South Africa Three Years After Liberalization of the Law”. Studies in Family Planning 34.4 (2003): 277–284. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.

“Facts on Abortion in Africa”. Guttmacher Institute. Guttmacher Institute, Nov. 2015. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.

“The History of Separate Development in South Africa”. South African History Online. South African History Online, n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.

Okeowo, Alexis. “Africa’s Abortion Wars”. The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 Dec. 2011. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.

Peters, Sherlissa. “Illegal Abortion Continues to Thrive”. Independent Online. Cape Times, 13 Jul. 2015. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.


Paint it Green

My last post focused on a new method of agriculture, which, among other things, takes into account the effect agriculture has on the environment. This post is mainly about how the economy can take into account impacts on the environment. This concept is referred to as the “green economy.” The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) defines the green economy as “one that results in improved human well‐being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. It is low carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive” (2012).

One loosely associated group or movement attempting to further green economics is The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB). TEEB has developed one way for conceptualizing how ecosystem processes/structures can translate into economic value. For example, trees are a biological structure, which have the function of anchoring the soil. Less soil erosion leads to better soil for growing crops for food, which is an ecosystem service. Food has obvious benefits to humans, which can be economically quantified. However, one major problem with measuring and studying the green economy is that there is not one unified system, and translating ecosystem services into exact economic value can be difficult. TEEB uses a system of aggregating value to find the total monetary value of an ecosystem, which requires evaluating the value of an ecosystem to people over space and time. Macroeconomic indicators are starting to take into account environmental impacts, and offering monetary benefits for environmentally sustainable practices ( de Groot et al., 2010).

The green economy is linked to many other ideas, such as sustainable development and low carbon development. These ideas, which fit in with the green economy, predate it, but are now being merged into it. At an international scale one example of these practices is the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) program, in which richer countries pay poorer countries for limiting deforestation. This requires the determination of the value of forests. The forests in Ethiopia are tentatively valued at approximately 2.5 to 4% of the nations total GDP (Sisay, 2015).

In addition to specific sectors, entire economies can be made “green.” This goal is being realized in some places through the UN Partnership for action of green economy (PAGE). The second country to benefit from this is Peru. The greening of the economy, especially in terms of biotrade is expected to “not only benefit the economy but also improve human well-being, enhance social equity and protect the environment” (UNEP). One other country that could benefit from this initiative is the aforementioned Ethiopia. In spite of the fact that Ethiopia has had tremendous economic growth, they have not been immune to adverse environmental conditions which are currently causing famine in that country (Arai, 2015). Maybe if Ethiopia included the environment in its development calculations it would have been better prepared for this eventuality, though REDD is a step in the right direction.

Green economy is an important step in achieving sustainable development. Both Economics and environmental science (as well as sociology, geography, etc) must realize and account for the impact of one on the other. International Development, of course, must take into account all of these factors to work towards a sustainable, equitable and prosperous future for all.


Arai, Ghelawdewos (2015). Famine and Development: contradiction in terms of the Ethiopian context. Ethiopian Observer. retrieved from:

Allen, Cameron & Clouth, Stewart (2012). A guidebook to the green economy. UNDESA: division for sustainable development. retrieved from:

de Groot, Rudolf et al. (2010). The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity: The Ecological and Economic Foundations. Chapter 1:Integrating the ecological and economic dimensions in biodiversity and ecosystem service valuation. TEEB. retrieved from:

Sisay, Andaulem (2015). Ethiopia to determine value of forest cover. Africa Review. retrieved from:

UNEP (2016). Greening Peru’s Economy. United Nations Environment Programme: environment for development. retrieved from:



Sexual Harassment: An ongoing issue that goes beyond the workforce in Sri Lanka


          Along with the micro-level issues I have explored in the previous blog posts, sexual harassment is an overarching issue that has unfortunately become commonplace in Sri Lanka. Sexual harassment is prominent in the workforce, but women are also subjected to this poor treatment throughout other domains of life. Since this issue continues to be one of the many human rights violations Sri Lankan women face, it requires advocacy on both a local and global level.  

                   Sexual harassment and violence against women has been an ongoing issue not only at Sri Lanka’s EPZ factories, but throughout other parts of the country as well, such as public transportation. Common forms of sexual harassment and violence that Sri Lankan women experience in the vicinity of factories and on public transportation include touching/ groping, sending/showing pornographic material, verbal abuse, and rape (Perera-Desilva, 2015). Sexual harassment against women has become so commonplace throughout Sri Lanka partially because women and their bodies are objectified due to social stigma. “Pejorative terms and phrases have been coined to label female factory workers as things, such as, ‘Garment baduwa’ (garment object), ‘garment kaalla’ (garment piece), and ‘Kalape kella’ (Zone girl)” (Perera-Desilva, 2015, 67). Furthermore, three-wheeler taxi drivers have been proven to be key figures in this sub-culture because they are involved in helping prostitution rings, finding hotels and guest houses for young couples for sexual activities, and locating places for illegal abortions (Perera-Desilva, 2015). This is an important point because women walking by a three-wheeler parking lot or taking a three-wheeler are subjected to unpleasant sexual remarks and gestures. Three-wheelers are located throughout Sri Lanka and sometimes are the only means of transportation women can utilize after a tiring day of work. This abuse is unfortunately unavoidable and, as a result, women are systematically dehumanized by their male perpetrators.

          In addition to garment workers, nearly 29% of female journalists in Sri Lanka have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace (Adaderana. Ik, 2015). This percentage could easily be a lot higher because many cases of sexual harassment and abuse within the workplace are not reported. Incidents of sexual harassment are usually disregarded due to the lack of support from colleagues, and complaints lodged are also typically ignored by the organization (Adaderana. Ik, 2015). For example, when one of the female victims, a Colombo-based English language journalist reported sexual abuse to a female colleague, she was advised to ignore the incident “for the sake of peace;” her Department Head also asked her to withdraw her complaint and sign a document claiming she had “misunderstood” the situation (Adaderana. Ik, 2015). The lack of a support system from authoritative figures is problematic because if colleagues and organization heads are ignoring sexual harassment allegations, not only do female workers have no one to speak to about their experiences of sexual harassment, but they inevitably feel trapped in this abuse. There is ultimately a power imbalance between female workers and male perpetrators; female workers are inexplicably forced to obey the commands of their sexual aggressors because they are viewed as their “superiors.”

          According to Fokus, a forum for women and development, the kinds of sexual harassment that take place in Sri Lanka are abundant, whether it be in the workplace, the street, or in public transportation. Forms of sexual harassment can range from catcalls on the street to the dangerous practice of asking for sexual favors in return for workplace benefits (Gomez, 2013). Sexual harassment was made a criminal offense in Sri Lanka in 1995. Specifically, section 345 of the Penal Code criminalizes sexual harassment and the offense carries a punishment of up to five years imprisonment if found guilty (Gomez, 2013). However, this law has lost its effectiveness because violence against women has become a widespread behavior in Sri Lanka. In other words, the number of reports incidents are negligible because some female workers may feel embarrassed and will not want to ‘make a scene’; the fear of retaliation and repeated acts of violence also keeps many women silent (Gomez, 2013). Therefore, the most effective and long-lasting solution to the problem would be for both victims and bystanders of the violence to speak up against sexual harassment in order to raise more awareness.

          Women activists have been actively trying get the international community to proactively engage with the state to secure justice for these women who have experienced sexual harassment and abuse (Gomez, 2013). Global UN campaigns have been enacted to end violence against women and girls. These campaigns include the UNite to End Violence Against Women, which focuses on global advocacy, strengthening partnerships and efforts at the national and regional levels, and leading by example through the UN leadership; states are encouraged to enact, strengthen and enforce laws regarding violence against women (United Nations, women watch). Another important campaign is Say No to Violence Against Women (UNIFEM), which is a global effort using the internet to promote advocacy to fight sexual harassment and violence. The movement seeks to make ending violence against women a priority for all governments (United Nations, women watch). These global campaigns are important because not only can they help to deteriorate acts of sexual harassment and violence in Sri Lanka, but they can also make a positive impact in other countries in which sexual harassment and violence remains a prominent issue. Overall, activists play a crucial role in stopping this ongoing issue because remaining silent only condones this type of behavior.

          Lastly, along with these significant campaigns, activists and demonstrators in countries all throughout Asia, including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal have joined India’s protest movement against sexual violence (Burke, 2013). Despite the united anger against this issue, the social stigma attached to victims that I discussed towards the beginning of this post remains a major problem throughout Asia. However, protesters and activists are not giving up that easily. Specifically, Khushi Kabir, one of the organizers of a “human chain” to protest against violence against women in Dhaka, Bangladesh, said its aim was “to show that people are not going to just let this movement die down” (Burke, 2013). This motivation and determination is key because power is in numbers; the more people who take a stand, the more likely instances of sexual harassment and abuse will receive the attention they deserve. Kabir also addresses that although previous protests on sexual harassment and violence have typically been dominated by women, men are now joining the fight as well. Overall, people from all different parts of society are joining the protests, including lawyers, schoolchildren, teachers, theatre activists and personalities, industrialists, etc. (Burke, 2013). If this grassroots activism continues to expand and grab the attention of more citizens, then victims over time should hopefully be ensured justice and freedom.


29% of Sri Lanka female journos sexually harassed at workplace: Report. (2015, March 9). Adaderana.lk

Burke, J. (2013, January 4). Rape protests spread beyond India. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Gomez, S. (2013). Violence against women in Sri Lanka. Fokus: Forum for Women and Development.

Nadeesha, V. N. (2015). Psychological counselling for women garment factory workers of Sri Lanka. Asian Journal of Women’s Studies, 21(1), 65-76. Retrieved from

United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women: Campaigns. (2012). Retrieved from  

Microfinance and Digital Payment in Peru

I am overwhelmed by the lack of available research and information on indigenous development policies and earth-centric development thinking. I am convinced that this critique of development exists within Peruvian indigenous peoples’ groups because I saw alternative development at work while I lived in Peru. Like I previously wrote, the farmers I worked with were deeply in tune with the earth and practiced traditional Quechua farming. There is no way that the Quechua ideals of development and sustainability corresponds with those of the Western, consumerist world. Yet I have not been able to find any information on these ideals I have imagined. At the same time, cell phones proliferate even in remote Andean villages and most of the articles I have read (both in US and in Peruvian newspapers) on development routinely focus on economic development. Because of this lack of information and because of the present consumerist culture in Peru, I have decided to turn the other direction for this post and to look into microfinance in Peru.

Surprisingly, less than one third of Peruvians have bank accounts which means about 10 million Peruvians do not use financial services and rely wholly on cash and barter trade. This is in part due to Peru’s rugged terrain which makes accessing physical banks extremely difficult. One example of the increasing popularity of finance in Peru is Bim which is a digital payment service that can be used through mobile phones. Because of this, Bim is an easy-to-use financial service and even makes an effort to use short, and simple words during transactions “for example, instead of making a deposit. We say ‘Putting money in the phone’” as the managing director of Peruvian Digital Payments, Caroline Trivelli explained to The Guardian. By 2021, the Peruvian government hopes to be able to provide at least 75 percent of all adults with access to transaction accounts.

While more and more people across the world have access to transaction accounts which is great, account owners are also increasingly vulnerable to abuse.  As Elisabeth Rhyne wrote in The Guardian “A woman in Peru bought theft insurance at a street kiosk only to find, after a robbery, that she did not know and could not find out how to claim against the policy.” Many customers are also unsure of the effects of credit ratings or how to lodge complaints. This article also highlights the importance of simple language to highlight essential information, including that “[r]esponsible lenders and regulators should verify that clients understand key facts before signing off loans.”

Despite the insecurity and risk of exploitation that come with using financial services, a report published in Microfinance Information Exchange presents data on Peruvian use of microfinance services. As the report succinctly states “the main findings are: (1) 69 percent of the respondents rated their relationship with their loan officer as good, and 28 percent rated the relationship as average; (2) among clients who did not use their loan to pay back another loan, most said they benefited from their loans; (3) Approximately 50 percent experienced issues regarding loan repayment, and these issues increased with the number of loans taken; (4) Around 27 percent of clients could not recall if they knew the interest rates they would pay before accepting their loans; (5) Roughly 60 percent were not aware of the existence of complaint mechanisms available to them.”

Microfinance is not just an economic activity but a social one. Dean Karlan of Yale, Markus M. Mobius of Harvard, Tanya S. Rosenblat of Iowa State and Adam Szeidl of UC Berkeley came together to investigate how the use of microfinance might be used to determine the level of trust in two shantytowns in Lima. Approximately 25 local sponsors were recruited as loan officers and “were assigned a credit line based on their capacity to pay. They were allowed to use 30 percent of this credit line for personal loans or loans to other members of their household at a preferential rate. They participated in a training session held by the credit officer, explaining the program, how to sponsor clients, and what to look for in responsible client.” In the end, the study concluded that “both prices and social relations matter for allocating credit in Peruvian shantytowns.”

In conclusion, microfinance and non-bank financial transactions are playing an ever increasing role in the Peruvian economy despite my idealized vision of earth-centric reform to development and how I thought indigenous peoples connected to the land would espouse the ideals of truly sustainable development. I can see lots of positive aspects of microfinance and increased financial literacy and stability for rural Peruvians. However, I am still struggling with combining microfinance with my ideals of earth-sustaining and culture-preserving development that does not focus on output and consumption as markers of advancement.



Works Cited:

“Africa Agro-banks Interested in Credit Technology of Peru Agrobanco.” Andina: Del Perú Para El Mundo. 16 Mar. 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2016. <>.

Collyns, Dan. “Peru Mobile Money Scheme Could Herald a New Dawn for Nuevo Sol | Dan Collyns.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 09 Oct. 2015. Web. 05 Apr. 2016. <>.

Karlan, Dean, Markus M. Mobius, Tanya S. Rosenblat, and Adam Szeidl. Measuring Trust in Peruvian Shantytowns. July 2009. Web. 5 Apr. 2016. <>.

“MICROFINANCE PUBLICATION ROUND-UP: MFI Client Satisfaction and Consumer Protection in Peru; Mobile Microfinance Users Predicted to Triple by 2020; Mobilizing Savings Through Agency Banking.” MicroCapital. 1 Apr. 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2016. <>.

Rhyne, Elisabeth. “Do Lenders Make Clear the Risks of Microfinance Loans? | Elisabeth Rhyne.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 17 Mar. 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2016. <>.


From Development to Deviance: Sexual Exploitation in Tenancingo, Tlaxcala, Mexico


Tlaxcala-Puebla Metropolitan Area

(“Puebla-Tlaxcala (Metropolitan Area, Metropolitan Areas)”)

In extending conversations on Reproductive Health to discuss realities affecting girls and women around the world, it is important to discuss sexual exploitation, especially in the context of development. Sexual exploitation — or, more specifically, commercial sexual exploitation, or prostitution — is a practice that occurs across the world: from New York City, to Tlaxcala, Mexico, to Worcester, Massachusetts. In applying a gender lens, sexual exploitation as a whole disproportionally affects women. While it certainly not only women that contribute to the estimated statistic of 20.9 million sexually exploited persons per year (“Global Sex Trafficking Sheet” 1), girls and women make up 98% of sexually exploited individuals (“Global Sex Trafficking Sheet” 1).

But before discussing how this manifests in Tenancinco, I want to introduce some contemporary discourse around sexual exploitation. Recently, Amnesty International has been known for its call to decriminalize all aspects of “sex work” (Murphy 1).While the organization has firmly stated that it does not ally with “sex work that … involve[s] coersion, sexual exploitation, or abuse” (Murphy 1), the article “Sex Workers’ Rights are Human Rights” features very little discussion on the fundamental power differences involved in sexual exploitation in the vast majority of instances. That is, victims of exploitation are subject to abuse or an unfulfilling lifestyle, in which they are led to believe that prostitution is their only choice. In some cases, people are physically enslaved; held captive to the sex trade industry. Other times, “pimps” will inflict emotional and verbal abuse, leading the victimized person to believe that they do not have any viable options if they were to exit “the life” of prostitution. In any case, sexually exploited individuals are reminded that there will always be a demand for sex each time they are purchased — a moral discussion that Amnesty International directly avoids.

What I want to make very clear is that, while there may be an argument to be made for people who make the informed, enthusiastic choice to engage in “sex work”, the majority of the time, people do not choose to exploited.

Coming back to the theme of the blog, sexual exploitation is worsened with the pressures of development and globalization. A prime example of this takes place in Tenancinco: a small city within the state of Tlaxcala, Mexico — about eighty miles southeast of  Mexico City (Pearson 1). Otherwise surrounded by mountainous areas (“Puebla-Tlaxcala”) consisting of poorer, rural populations (Lakhini 1), Tenancinco is near the metropolitan area of Puebla-Tlaxcala; an area that has been industrialized in the past half-century. The state of Tlaxcala is a major producer of “textiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, automotive parts, handicrafts and other goods” (“Puebla-Tlaxcala”).

However, the conditions in Tenancinco worsened as factory jobs throughout the Tlaxcala region proved to be undesirable (OECD). As time went on, more and more of the town’s economy was sustained by sex trade (Pearson 1): first throughout Mexico, and now in New York as well. Today, there are generations of boys that grow up “aspiring to be traffickers” (Pearson 1). The Guardian writes: “This improbable crime story began in the 1950s after industrialisation, when working-age men returned home from neighbouring states to find few opportunities beyond badly paid factory jobs. Pimping and trafficking, which they had seen while working away, was a way to get ahead, and many set up small, family-run sexual exploitation rings” (Pearson 1).

As mentioned before, Tenancinco is surrounded by impoverished regions, extending into Southern Mexico and Guatemala (WBUR). Many of the people in these areas identify as  indigenous; a facet that is not indicative of privilege in Mexico (Lakhini 1). A common practice is for a family of traffickers to send a young man to these neighboring communities, particularly, a man that is trained to entice young women with promises of a better life: more money, a better lifestyle, and love (Lakhini 1). The young women are then brought to Tenancinco, where they are sexually exploited, while physically and emotionally enslaved (Lakhini 1).

Prostitution is so embedded into the culture of Tenancinco, traffickers seem to have no problem with visibility. Across the landscape of modest, working-class dwellings, families of traffickers will have built extravagant properties, adorned with excess decoration, some say in order to block the windows (Moreno-Taxman 20). Additionally, on highways leading out of Tenancinco, “nighclubs and motels” are conveniently placed as areas for “motorists” to solicit sex (Lakhini 1). Even public celebrations will feature “revelers as caped pimps”, that outwardly “parade their prostitutes” (Pearson 1). While Mexico has attempted to take legal action, the culture of sexual exploitation is so prevalent, it has become fairly accepted (Pearson 1).

Recently, sexually exploited individuals have been trafficked into the United States: particularly to the neighborhood of Queens in New York City (WBUR). Since then, United States law enforcement has been involved in the criminalization of families in Tenancinco (Lakhini 1). But once again — is the United States doing the right thing? After all, it is because of powers in the United States that communities in the Pueblo-Tlaxcala area cannot find desirable and sustaining work. While I believe that any trafficker should be criminalized, it is important to look at the societal implications of sexual exploitation.

What would happen if industrialization was never implemented in Mexico? How many girls and women would be saved from sexual exploitation?

Works Cited

“Global Sex Trafficking Sheet”. Equality Now. Equality Now, n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

Murphy, Catherine.”Sex Workers’ Rights are Human Rights”. Amnesty International. Amnesty International, 14 Aug. 2015. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

Lakhani, Nina. “Tenancingo: The small town at the heart of Mexico’s sex-slave trade”. The Guardian. The Guardian, 4 Apr. 2015. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

Moreno-Taxman, Karlene. “Human Trafficking Mexico: International Human Trafficking Victims from Mexico to Your Community”. Eastern District of Wisconsin. United States Department of Justice, n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

OECD. OECD Territorial Reviews: Puebla-Tlaxcala, Mexico 2013. OECD Publishing, 2013. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

Pearson, Erica. “Small Mexican town of Tenancingo is major part of sex trafficking pipeline to New York”. New York Daily News. Daily News, 3 Jun. 2012. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

“Prostitution Pipeline To U.S. Begins in Tenancingo, Mexico”. Here & Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson. WBUR, 30 Jun. 2014. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

“Puebla-Tlaxcala (Metropolitan Area, Metropolitan Areas)”.  Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática, Mexico. City Population Data, n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.



Sweden’s Superior Education

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( This graph shows where Sweden is ranked in teacher pay.)

My current career goal is to become an elementary school teacher. I have been through quite a few education courses in the past few years. During these classes we discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the US school system. We also spent time looking at countries whose educations systems excel. During these discussions Sweden was often brought up. In result to this I decided to really delve into the differences between Sweden and the other countries we have looked at. The first vantage point I want to look at is basic demographics of the teachers. The second point will be from an economic standpoint, and the third will be from a social standpoint.

I was surprised to find that Sweden actually landed pretty close to the US when comparing teacher demographics. The Guardian (a newspaper in Britain) posted an amazing blog, which compared many aspects of schooling in different countries. The graphs showed that 66.5% of teachers are female, the average age of teachers is 46, students per classroom average at 2, and the average teacher has 16 years of teaching experience (Marsh, 2014). In result to these statistics being so similar to the US I was curious as to what was making the difference in Sweden’s school systems success.

In result to Sweden being an economically stable country and a country whose citizens ( the majority at least) do not need to worry about simply making ends meet, this allows them to realistically enforce school attendance laws and provide free education for everyone. In my preliminary research I found the Swedish school system website. Currently the very top of the page has the following quote.  ” From the age of six, every child has equal access to free education in Sweden. The Swedish school system is regulated through the Education Act, which ensures a safe and friendly environment for students. The act mandates nine years of school attendance for all children from the year they turn seven.”  This act and attendance policy does not explain the difference in schooling in quality can not be the explanation however because these are similar findings to America’s. Next, I decided to check out how the Swedish government uses it’s funds in relation to education.

          I thought maybe the difference would be found in the amount of funding the government is providing elementary education with in particular. I found that during 2011 Sweden’s annual expenditure for primary schools only $10295 (equivalent to USD) which is higher than the average expenditure for other countries ( Education at a Glance, 2014) . This could not be the solution because the same study found that the US spends even more at $10958 dollars per year (Education at a Glance, 2014). Finally, from the economic stand point I thought maybe it was the pay in which teachers received. I figured that maybe if teachers got paid more they would be more willing to put in the extra time to make excellent lesson plans. Sadly, for the Swedish teachers and my hypothesis, this was not the case. The median salary for teachers in Sweden is a whopping $31.60, this is dismal compared to what the poorly paid teachers in the US make which is $41.46 (Marsh, 2014). In result the hunt continued.

        Next, I decided to look at the social factors which affect the education systems and how students view their education. From the reading I did I found that Sweden’s education system gives the students a great deal of leeway deciding what direction they want their education to go in. This is realistic because of a few cultural factors, first the culture impress the need for education on it’s youth and the parents are very engaged/ child centered. I found that this culture of intrinsic values is implemented at a young age. A policy profile for education in Sweden discusses that “An important task of the preschool is to impart and establish respect for human rights and the fundamental democratic values on which Swedish society is based. Each and every person working in the preschool should promote respect for the intrinsic value of each person as well as respect for the environment.” (Taguma, 2013).

        This is not all good though, found one reading which said that many Scandinavia students are being raised not understand that the world isn’t all about them. In some cultures this trait may even be desired, however “The Swedish minister of education is calling for more discipline in schools.“ (Hansegard, 2014) Because the“Swedish-school results have been falling in international comparisons and Swedes look enviously at countries like Finland, which has more discipline in schools and where teachers retain an old-school authority they have lost in Sweden.” (Hansegard, 2014).  Finally, I came to the realization that the Swedish school system isn’t actually superior. They are by no means one of the worst systems, however they are not the superpower I originally thought. Looks like my hunt for a superior education system continues.

Have you heard of techniques that worked really well in other countries? What were they? What about your education system did you find worked really well?



Hansegard, J. (2014, February 10). Is Sweden Raising a Generation of Brats? Retrieved April 02, 2016, from

Education at a Glance 2014. (n.d.). Retrieved April 02, from States-EAG2014-Country-Note.pdf  

Education in Sweden. (2015). Retrieved April 02, 2016, from

Marsh, S. (2014, September 05). How the job of a teacher compares around the world. Retrieved April 02, 2016, from  

Taguma, M., Litjens, I., & Makowiecki, K. (2013, May 02). Quality Matters in Early Childhood Education and Care. Retrieved April 01, 2016, from policy profile – published 05-02-2013.pdf