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THE MARKET PROJECT: TACKLING POVERTY WITH BUSINESS CREATION

Setting goals and measuring impact! When targets are set, we are able to determine if we are hitting the mark or missing it. The same is true for economic development goal setting. 

The 17 long-term “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) cast a vision for changing our world. They are a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet.”[1] The Market Project is doing its part, making headway with at least three of the SDGs.

The SDGs include the noble objectives of ending poverty by improving health and education; reducing inequality and spurring economic growth; providing access to clean water; and cultivating stable institutions to further peace and justice throughout the world. Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2015, the Member States are committed to achieving these goals by 2030. 

The Market Project has set its targets to help men and women find hope and flourish through safe, dignity-affirming and healing work. Similarly, the first SDG is to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere.”[2] Through business creation, The Market Project works to create jobs in order to lift them out of chronic poverty. 

Our initial focus is in the north of Uganda, a part of the country where food insecurity and malnutrition are rampant due to 20 years of conflict and pervasive violence.[3] Nguvu Dairy Limited is The Market Project’s business based in Gulu. We are pleased that Nguvu’s workforce includes youth who represent some of the poorest among the population. Almost 60% of the workforce is under age 30, and a significant number have had only primary education. Most are survivors of multiple traumas. A decent job in a trauma-informed workplace has given about 90 men and women at Nguvu the chance to support themselves.

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Savings Groups Launched

Have you ever worried about money? Perhaps the more appropriate question is, “when was the last time that you worried about money?” According to a recent study by the American Psychology Association, 72% of Americans reported feeling anxious about their finances in the past month. In addition, 64% of Americans felt that money was a somewhat significant source of stress in their lives. Clearly, Americans are living with more stress than is healthy. The good news is that those with an emotional support system experienced less stress than those who lacked emotional support.

The support associated with Employee Savings Groups at Nguvu Dairy in Uganda will have that same effect, we believe. These voluntary Savings Groups are a workable alternative to a bank. Many Ugandans do not have enough money to open a traditional account. Others do not have physical access to a bank. The groups promote personal accountability and financial responsibility. There are more than four million Africans who are members of savings groups. The countries with the largest numbers include Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Mali.

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Investing in Uganda’s Youth

 

Uganda’s recent population growth presents real opportunities as well as challenges.  Thanks to its youthful population and the decline in birth and death rates, Uganda has the possibility to accelerate economic growth and reap the associated benefits such as improving health care and education. Economists refer to this as a “demographic dividend.” Others describe it as a “youth bulge.” 

At 90 million strong, the U.S. has its own youth bulge. Millennials (age 20-39) are now the largest generation in the United States, according to the United States Census Bureau.  Generation Z (age 0-19) is not far behind, at 82.4 million, accounting for 25 percent of the US population. On a bar graph, this is quite a “youth bulge,” but it is small compared with the “bulge” in Uganda, where over 75% of the population is under 30.[1]

As countries develop, a key step that leads to flourishing is lowering infant mortality rates, allowing the population to thrive. Young people bring energy, strength and enthusiasm to a society. 

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Helping Others Find Their Place

 

“Every woman’s journey into and out of being trafficked is unique,” says Dorothy Taft, executive director of The Market Project, “However, one thing is certain — trafficking belittles, betrays, and dehumanizes.”

For survivors of human trafficking, aftercare can be a long and challenging process. Feeling safe and supported is crucial, yet many women struggle to find acceptance in their communities. Difficulty finding employment can lead to economic vulnerability or dependence and dangerously increases a survivor’s risk of poverty, being exploited, or re-trafficked. Helping Others Find Their Place” was published on Trafficking Matters, a project of The Human Trafficking Institute.

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MYANMAR DOWNGRADED TO LOWEST RANKING IN US REPORT ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Challenges Facing Survivors

The US Department of State in June released its annual report on Trafficking in Persons. The Myanmar government was given the State Department’s lowest ranking due to its poor record to combat trafficking. Myanmar now is ranked – along with North Korea, South Sudan, China, and Syria – among those doing the least to stop the forced exploitation of women and men.

One of the major reasons cited in the report for the worsening situation last year was military operations that forced the dislocation of many of the Rohingya minority. At least 700,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine State in Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh and other countries.  Both the United Nations and the US Government have judged the military operations as “ethnic cleansing”. Many of those fleeing faced horrific exploitation – raped by Burmese troops, trafficked into the sex trade in India, or forced to work in jade mines and other industries.

Aside from the violence and conflict in Rakhine State, the Myanmar government did identify more trafficking victims than the previous year.[1] However, trafficking remains a severe problem. The military still routinely coerces men, but also women and children, to act as modern-day slaves, cooking, cleaning, carrying loads, and building infrastructure projects, particularly in ethnic conflict areas.  Children are deployed to front lines as combatants by both the military and ethnic armed groups.  Myanmar police reported 289 sex and labor trafficking victims in 2017, including 54 men and 235 women and girls. Also, police reported 44 cases of trafficking within Myanmar.[2] However, the incidence of children being drafted into Burmese armed forces or ethnic armed groups as “child soldiers” remains unimproved.[3]

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“The Commerce Cure”

Philanthropy Magazine – Spring 2018

For survivors of trauma like war, natural disaster, or human trafficking, psychological healing is only one stage of the recovery process. If they lack a secure economic foothold, they may remain highly vulnerable. But few services exist to help survivors achieve long-term economic security. This is a gap that Dorothy Taft noticed over and over in her long career in overseas assistance. So she founded an organization to help people who have been victimized become stable and self-supporting.

Taft was inspired by Healing Invisible Wounds by Harvard professor Richard Mollica: “During the time of healing after violence, work is the compass that shows the survivor the direction he or she must take to get out of a psychological dead end. Work not only gives survivors an opportunity to earn money and be productive, but also a concrete time and place where they must show up, a familiar cast of friends…and an overall sense of purpose and value.”

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Social Impact Commands Attention

Many large corporations have created “corporate social responsibility” or “CSR” programs that assess the effects of their company’s programs and operations on social wellbeing. They demonstrate their CSR commitment with investments that help address social problems like human trafficking.

CSR programs have helped prevent the horrific exploitation and abuse that come with trafficking. Delta Air Lines, for instance, has trained more than 54,000 employees to recognize the signs of trafficking victims in transit. Partnering with the non-profit Polaris, Delta provided $1 million in support of the National Human Trafficking hotline. Marriott International has trained more than 225,000 employees in 125 countries to identify and report potential cases of trafficking at its hotels and bring protection to victims.

At The Market Project, CSR is not only a program; it is in our DNA. Our vision is to see men and women find hope and flourish through safe, dignity-affirming and healing work. This is the reason we start businesses. We intentionally design our workplaces to be supportive communities and train supervisors in these businesses to recognize and manage the impact of trauma within the work team. We look for ways to help our staff succeed and improve their wellbeing.

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OUR INVESTMENT IN PEOPLE

 

Nguvu Dairy, a business created by The Market Project, cares for its workers and ensures they are paid properly. In fact, we strive to invest in our employees on many levels.

The Market Project’s yogurt business in Uganda now has a workforce that is about 50/50 men and women. We are committed to pay our personnel decent wages. World Bank statistics show that the average Ugandan income (GNI per capita, 2016) is only $630 per year. We are proud to report that even our entry-level workers at Nguvu Dairy are making more than 1.5 times the national average.

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Bringing Hope in Ukraine

The Market Project, in tandem with a Care Partner in Chernihiv, Ukraine, is focusing on the needs of men and women impacted by disability – those who are often “ hidden” in institutions and homes. This population has had limited access to means of supporting themselves.

The Challenge

In Ukraine, there are an estimated 2.7 million individuals living with disabilities and sadly institutionalization is commonplace. This is how one report describes the situation:

Parents who attempt to keep their children with disabilities at home face enormous obstacles. Most schools will not accept children with intellectual disabilities. In addition to limited educational and vocational opportunities for children, the lack of schools creates great economic pressures on families who must stay home with their children. Except for the very few families that can exist on one income, parents of children with disabilities are forced to place their children in institutions. [No Way Home, Disability Rights International]

 

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International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Perhaps you know someone who has suffered physical or psychological harm, or you have been a victim of violence yourself. The Market Project is helping end the cycle of despair, exploitation and violence.

The Market Project helps survivors of violence move from dependence on others to employment to caring for others. The healing work opportunities we create honor the dignity, capacity and creativity of men and women who have faced profound indignities.

In Uganda, we partner with care organizations working with domestic violence and trafficking survivors, former child soldiers, youth-headed households, and traumatized refugees from South Sudan.

Nguvu Dairy Limited, our small business based in Gulu, northern Uganda, produces yummy yogurt! Parents can afford to buy our yogurt and now add dairy to their children’s diet. The business brings nutritious food to a market that lacks dairy.

Nguvu’s production capacity was expanded in September 2017, and about 40 men and women now have dependable work. We are now raising funds to double Nguvu’s number of employees in 2018.

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