I am joining Blog Action Day 2008.
Today, 10/15 is called "Blog Action Day", when bloggers around the world unite to discuss a single issue - poverty.
If you are not familiar with what it is, please visit Blog Action Day 2008 website, and join the event.
There are 3 ways for you to participate:
1) Publish: write about poverty on your blog, and your thoughts on solutions.
2) Donate: Donate to a micro-finance loan or charity.
3) Promote: Spread the word!
1) Thinking about poverty in Japan (as "what's happening in Japan" is the core theme of this blog)
When we use the word "poverty", we usually refer to developing countries where there are starvation, homeless people, etc.
This is the Human Development Index chart, and you can see that Japan is one of the most developed nation in the world.
* This chart is licensed under public domain
I have seen a TV program that shows how convenience stores throws away food that is still able to eat- but has exceeded the use-by-date (shoumi kigen, in Japanese). I have heard some people goes to trash cans to find those trash foods... Japanese people are generally very far from poverty and starvation.
However, there still is poverty problem in Japan- called "the working poor problem".
There was a vicious circle in the Japanese companies when they were in a depression - they tried to lower the HR expenses, they started to decrease full-time employment and increased part-time workers with low salary and intense labor.
This data is a bit old, but you can see how lower-range salary workers are increasing whereas higher-range salary workers are decreasing.
With such environment as a background, some people came to be called "working poor" - they are working hard, but not gaining enough salary to maintain their (or their families') lives, and "working poor" has become a social concern, with TV programs created and books published about the issue.
"Poverty" is a problem in developing countries, "working poor" is said to be a phenomenon in developed countries not only in Japan... Korea, US, UK has similar problems, where cost of sustaining lives is relatively high.
So I've talked about people who are working but poor. As you know there are people who can't find jobs and not working hence poor. Another social problem in Japan is people who abandoned to make efforts to work. They are called NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) , Hikikomori (not coming out of the house) or Jitaku-keibi-in (Guardian of my house- ironically referring to themselves not going out of their houses, and claiming that they are guarding their house). Some of them are watching the internet the whole day, watching BBS such as 2 channel or watching video sharing sites such as Nico Nico Douga.
Although I agree that most of these people are "consumers" and merely consuming the contents. But because they are watching the net the whole day, and because they have so much time to kill, some of those people becomes "creators" and start creating astonishing things- contents, programs, etc. I am hoping that some day, we can make a system where we can help them monetize those creations.
Japanese society has created people who are not very good at communicating with others, and those people have a lot of difficulty working at normal companies. Nevertheless, some of them has talents that the "company employees" rarely have, and I am greatly interested in those talents. They are not properly evaluated by the public now... but I am hoping someday, we can make a system where we can cultivate those talents and help them gain reward out of those talents and works. I think websites like Nico Nico Douga helps to cultivate those talents.
2) KIVA- a way you can help people
I am a member of a service called KIVA, which is also supporting "Blog Action Day".
It's actually a great system where you can go to the website and register, search on entrepreneurs in developing countries who are looking for people to loan so that they can start/grow their business and make their dreams come true. You can search by gender, sector, region etc.
There are many virtues about KIVA, but one of them is that 100% of the money you give goes to the entrepreneur that you selected to support. There are many programs out there in the world such as "foster parent" program etc, but basically those organizations take a bunch of money for their operation and give what is left to the people. KIVA is good because you get to select who you are supporting, you can give 100% of the money to the person you want to support.
Another great thing about KIVA is that you can start loaning from 25 USD per loan. Also, as you do not have to pay monthly fee or anything, you can lend when you have some money, you have no obligation when you don't.
I have supported a 51 year old woman in Nigeria who has been selling drinks for a long time but learned to produce Nylon within the past 2 years and want to sell more drinks and Nylon production. Gosh, she learned how to create Nylon while running her store selling drinks... I think that's great!
I have supported a cameraman in Ghana who has been a general photographer for 10 years and shoots videos too, and wants to expand his photo studio. I love shooting photos and videos too, and it is my pleasure to support him.
I have supported a Mexican woman who started a business because she had to support herself and her family after her husband's death... Look at her crafts- they are so cute, and I am hoping she can buy more materials to make more crafts.
I have supported a butcher in Togo- you should really see this photo of the huge meat!
I have supported 2 women's group of farmers in Samoa- this and this. Those photos with the bright sun and the group of women with strong expressions in their faces made me imagine about the vegetables they grow... I hope I can visit them one day to taste the products they grew :D
Anyone can have their own reason to pick who they support... but KIVA gives us a great opportunity to do so, and I am a great fan of this service. Although I am not rich and am not able to give a lot of money, I feel I am helping their lives. Getting emails for their repayments makes me happy as I know those people are making progress :D
3) So last but not least, this is the Blog Action Day 2008 promotion video!
Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.