NGOs – Don’t take the bicycle’s name in vain!

My PhD is on community bike projects, so I read a lot of NGO policy. I came across an interesting NGO evaluation of a pilot study undertaken in Uttar Pradesh, India.

As a development professional, educator and community bike advocate, this report entitled: The distribution of Aquatabs through a bicycle entrepreneur model in rural India caught my eye.

Expectations .. bicycle entrepreneur distribution model’

Having previously worked on health and community education programs in developing countries I’m always keen to see how development interventions integrate and use bicycles to further connect promote and support positive community outcomes.

When I saw the title of this report I got excited.

I’m always keen to see what is happening in India as it is a hub of social development innovation and experimentation.

I was also keen to read about the specific focus on the ‘distribution’ aspect of a ‘bicycle’ project – I was expecting to read a lot on the use of bicycles in the communities.

I had visions of local community health and WASH workers riding bicycles around rural communities distributing free water purification tablets increasing community awareness for hygiene and clean water practices.

The report is based on the 2011 pilot of PATH’s Safe Water Project. This project was focused on implementing innovative methods to enable commercial enterprises to produce, distribute, sell, and maintain effective household water treatment and storage (HWTS) products for low-income populations in developing countries. This project brief used ‘the bicycle entrepreneur distribution model’ – and it was one of the first of a number of pilot projects that PATH undertook in India and other countries to overcome distribution and marketing barriers that make it difficult for HWTS manufacturers to reach lower-income households and rural markets.

 

NGOs - don't take the bicycle name in vain - Bicycles Create Change.com
Source: PATH (2011).

So I had a look at the report.

After scanning through the first 20 pages, the frown that had formed on my brow got deeper and more pronounced.

I found the contents of the report challenging to read.

There was scarce little detail as to the use of bicycles. Ultimately, the only reference to the use of bicycles in the whole report was that the 8 salesmen used bicycles to travel around to sell the product.

That was it. That was the extent of how bicycles were used in this project.

Talk about a let down!

It had no detail about if bicycles were provided free of change, at a discount rate, were part of a team fleet,  or if the ‘salesmen’ got to keep the bike afterwards. Nothing!

Sadly, the report was squarely focused on ascertaining commercial marketing and private sector avenues for product sales (of Aquatabs) – and not on assessing the ‘distribution’ or ‘bicycle model’ aspect of the project.

As I read the report, it seems decidedly incongruent with the ‘safe water for rural lower-income communities’ and NGO approach I was expecting to read.  The report reads more like a business/economic assessment of a failed marketing case study rather than the bicycles-helps-developing-community first impression I had. Bummer!

I skimmed over the content as I looked for the content I was interested in – which was how bicycles were used.

I found this on page 7…

In this model, BEs sold Aquatabs to rural consumers at weekly markets and through house-to-house visits.

Then this…

The model was implemented in 200 villages with approximately 67,000 households ver a 12-month period (May 2009 April 2010). Eight BEs serviced this area on bicycles, following pre-determined routes and schedules. The BEs were recruited, trained, and supervised by MART and were paid a monthly stipend of Rs 1,500 in addition to their earnings from Aquatabs sales margins.

Then this on page 18..

NGOs - dont take the bicycle name in vain - Bicycles Create Change.com

‘Peddlers’ or ‘health champions’?

I did smile at the irony of a comment regarding training, support and monitoring, whereby:

“Additionally, the BEs felt that their current job lacked pride because they were perceived as “peddlers” (telewalah) rather than health champions, and this limited their ability to interact with local leaders as well as with the community” (p 40).

(Get it…’peddlers’ or ‘bicycle salesmen’..oh dad!  Definitely cultural/vocab humour!)

Where was the ‘bicycle entrepreneur model’ in all this??

In my view, if the bicycle model term was important enough to put into the report heading, it is important enough to explain in more detail that what was provided.

Why is the mode of transportation used to get around important to mention in this project? You don’t see equivalent ‘walking entrepreneur model’ or ‘minibus entrepreneur model’ or ‘(insert mode of transport here) entrepreneur model’ – so what make the bicycle so special to mention here? And if it is special to mention – it’s reasoning needs to be better explained.

It is logical that bicycles would be used in developing contexts for project staff to travel in and around villages. Is this idea still such a revelation that it is still a new idea for NGO practice? I should think not! I was surprised that this was such a basic project feature was so prominently highlighted, yet not explained in this report.

I thought…Maybe it was bad report writing. Maybe the title was deliberately chosen to attract a certain audience. I couldn’t help but be a little miffed by ‘bicycle’ being in the report title where there was no further explanation of its use, especially considering the connotation of bicycles being synonymous with local, grassroots community development.

I felt this was taking the bicycle’s name in vain.

It kind of felt like false advertising. It was akin to supermarkets putting fresh produce into ‘green packaging’, relabelling it as ‘fresh farm produce’ and then charging double to capitalise on the current wholefood/vegan/natural eating health trend.

I ended up having to look elsewhere to find a Project Brief Document that provided some point of reference at least for the role that bicycles had in this project – which was minimal anyway. Surely this should have been in the assessment report? Even after finding this separate document, there was still a lack of detail about the provision, ownership and handover of the bicycle.

Below is as much info about how bicycles were used in this project as the NGO provided:

NGOs - dont take the bicycle name in vain - Bicycles Create Change.com

Note to self: Be wary of how ‘bicycles’ are represented in NGO and development documents.

What a disappointing report!

It was a salient reminder for me about the variation in approaches, purposes and communication styles of NGO programs. Equally, although bicycles are used in some NGOs projects, it is not always in the most productive and positive manner – sometimes bikes are just used to ride and get around!

Equally, although bicycles are used in some NGOs projects, it is not always in the most productive and positive manner.

It was a good lesson – a reminder to be vigilant and judicious when seeing that a ‘bicycle’ is included in a project somewhere. Be sure to look more closely and see to what degree the bicycle is actually used before automatically assuming the project is ‘good’ just on the basis that a bicycle is mentioned.

Despite my personal reservations, I am always supportive of more bicycles being used in communities.

Notwithstanding my critique of this particular report, it is still good to see bicycles being better recognised and incorporated into INGO community project discussions.

Viva la use of bicycles to promote greater health and community development!

Ben’s Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

This guest post comes courtesy of the unfailingly intrepid and seemingly inexhaustable Cass from While out Riding. Cass has been riding for many years and started While out Riding to document his massive exploratory backcountry bike tour which began in Alaska, June 2009. His blog chronicles this trip (which concluded in 2014) and many subsequent riding adventures. His blog is filled with all manner of biking interests, insights and inspirations and is an endless source of biking delight.

This post comes from a stop he made while riding South America in 2012. I found Cass’s blog while searching for community bike projects in South America. I contacted Cass to ask if I could reprint this post as I was impressed by the detail, respect and support his writing exuded for Ben’s local grassroots bike operation and the positive impact Ben was creating in his local rural community. Cass was very happy for me to repost this story and I am thrilled to share it here. Find out more about Cass and his adventures at his blog While out Riding.

Thanks Cass! We can’t wait to see more of your work – happy riding!


I recently had the good fortune to meet Ben, a Peace Corps volunteer living in the Cordillera Blanca. I’d heard about the grassroots ‘bike co-op’ he’d set up in his caserio – a pinprick of a village by the name of Shirapucro – from another PC volunteer on the road to Cajamarca, a few weeks back.

Ben lives up in the shadow of mighty Huascaran, some thirty kilometres from Huaraz – half of which are dirt, and steep ones at that. As a member of the Peace Corps, he’s posted to Peru for two years, earning local wages during that time. In Ben’s case, his work involves promoting environmental issues. He lives in a small, adobe house with his wife, Katie, also a Peace Corps volunteer, working in healthcare.

A dedicated believer in bicycle co-ops – a space that provides communities with access to the relevant tools, and knowhow, to keep their bicycles in cheap working order (the antithesis to the exclusive, high end bike shop) – he soon went about setting up his own. The impetus came after noticing the state of disrepair typical to most bikes in the area, and the way kids hurtled down the lumpy dirt roads outside his house, often returning with scrapes and bruises on their way back up.

His idea was a simple one: to encourage the children in his village to look after their bicycles, by learning to spot subtle issues before they became glaring problems, arming them with the knowledge to make the necessary repairs, and eventually the confidence to help others too.

Yet despite its simplicity, it’s a startling project. Humble in its execution but magnificent in its vision, in the last few months he’s set up a tiered bicycle maintenance program (from novice to maestro) that now draws a steady flow of local kids, three times a week in the afternoons, to his makeshift workshop. Under a corrugated roof (protection from the high altitude sun in the dry season and powershower rains in the wet season), he teaches anyone who’s interested to learn: everything from positioning a saddle or repairing, to the finer arts of adjusting derailleurs, truing wheels and maintaining hub bearings. Bicycle safety also plays a part in his courses, with a a small test track nearby to teach bike handling skills. In doing all this, the knock on effect is that he’s encouraging people to bicycle, giving it due importance and respect within the community.

Ben hopes news of this barebones co-op will spread to neighbouring villages – already it seems to be doing just that – so that by the time his two years in Peru are up, he leaves behind a community of children and young adults who know both how to ride their bicycles safely, and maintain them for years to come. Hopefully someone will take over the mantle when he leaves.

His budget is small and resources are limited, so if anyone has anything they’d be happy to put in the post – chainbreaks and other specialist bicycle tools are sought after items (the local versions leave much to be desired) – see below for details. And please forward this link to anyone you think might be interested in helping out.

1 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

2 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

3 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

4 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

5 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

6 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

7 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru

8 Bicycles Create Change Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

9 Bicycles Create Change Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

10 Bicycles Create Change Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

11 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

The Need to Know Bit:

Got some spare parts/tools you’re happy to pop in the post? If you can forward this link to anyone who might be interested, that would be great too.

Update: Ben can be reached at:  bdmasters at gmail dot com

Postal address is: Ben Masters, PCV. Casilla Postal 277. Serpost. Huaraz, Ancash. Peru.

Ben visits Huaraz every couple of weeks or so to check email; it’s probably best to contact him first before posting anything. I passed the message on and he was stoked there had been interest.

 

World Refugee Day 2017

Today is World Refugee Day.

Currently, there are 65 million people forcible displaced globally and the number is growing every day.

The UN states that the World Refugee Day commemorates “the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees. This year, World Refugee Day also marks a key moment for the public to show support for families forced to flee.”

To highlight this issue, international organisations such as UNESCO and many others have been actively promoting the stories, issues, data and conversations then need to be talked about as the countries individually and collectively struggle to deal with critical refugee issues.

The refugee crisis is an issue that every country has to deal with.

So below I have 3 ideas for Aussie cyclists to mull over* in honour of today’s theme.

3 Considerations for World Refugee Day 2017 

1. Is Australia really helping the Refugee Crisis enough? 

YES! It is!

SBS reported Australia’s current refugee involvement in a positive light by publishing the following encouraging stats:

$33.9 million has been raised in the last year (2016-2017) by Australia for UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) official partner in Australia) to support the UN’s worldwide emergency and humanitarian programs.

Of the record $33.9 million that Australia for UNHCR has raised:

  • 75% are for UNHCR’s general emergency operations
  • 19% for emergencies in Syria, South Sudan, Iraq & Ecuador
  • 6% for specific projects providing targeted support for women, girls and children
  • $550,000 was raised by the community in NSW, QLD, WA and SA, to support Australia for UNHCR’s appeal for Syrian refugees.
  • There was also a significant contribution from Australia’s Vietnamese community, which has previously benefited from UNHCR support.

NO! Its not!

SBS’s report is a stark contrast to Tim Costello’s moving article entitled Even Poor Countries Are More Generous to Refugees than Rich Australia: Australia’s efforts would suggest we’re losing a sense of our shared humanity published in the Huffington Post.

Tim draws parallels between Australia’s efforts compared to Uganda (one of the top three refugee hosting countries in the world) and poignantly reflects that:

‘I was profoundly moved to witness how this relatively poor nation has welcomed hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese fleeing famine and war. How can it be that such a poor country does so much to shoulder the humanitarian load when we, rich and prosperous with a per capita income almost 25 times higher, do not?”

It is a sobering and honest point he makes that ‘we’re losing a sense of our shared humanity, which for a country built on migration is, at best, ironic’.

It is a very interesting article to read.

World Refugee Day 2017
Source: Huffington Post/Tim Costello Twitter

2. Ride for Refugees Event

Aside from wider political and economic furor – cycling and biking events are a great way to promote social issues and get people involved – so today is no exception!

There were many biking events and rides this year, but my cycling event for World Refugee Day 2017 goes to Nepal’s ‘Ride for Refugees’. This is the second year this event has run and 2017 saw a turnout of over 500 people. Spotlight reports that people riding included ‘government officials, diplomats, refugees of diverse nationalities and local residents of the Kathmandu Valley showed their solidarity with refugees — both in Nepal and globally — by participating in the second annual “Ride for Refugees” cycle rally south of Patan’.

Aside from riding  in the critical mass event with all the locals, celebrities, ex-pats, supports and the like, Kathmandu is hosting an array of ‘Refugee’ events throughout the city including a photo exhibition, site visits and discussion meetings.

 

World Refugee Day 2017
Source: Spotlightnepal.com. (From L to R) Swiss Ambassador to Nepal Jörg Frieden, UNHCR Representative in Nepal Kevin J Allen with Miss Nepal Asia Pacific, Sahara Basnet and Miss Nepal Earth, Rojina Shrestha at Patan Dubar Square for ‘Ride for Refugees’
World Refugee Day 2017
Source: UNHCR

3. The Nashville Food Project Celebration

To keep the fun and community in perspective I’d like to acknowledge a smaller grassroots honorable mention from last year (2015) – undertaken by The Nashville Food Project. You cannot go wrong with friends, family, food and farming!

As stated on their website, this lovely inclusive event was a collaboration and art project for World Refugee Day included such a meal. The Nashville Food Project joined friends from the First Center for the Visual Arts, the Center for Refugees and Immigrants of Tennessee, Oasis Center and members of their International Teen Outreach Program, Bhutanese gardeners and neighborhood gardeners at the Wedgewood Urban Garden.   

“I just loved sharing a meal with all these people who came together around growing food, volunteerism, making art and celebrating World Refugee Day,” said TNFP Garden Manager Christina Bentrup. “There were people and foods from both around the world and from different neighborhoods around Nashville, It was a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-generational group of folks celebrating community and diversity. It doesn’t get much better than that.” 

The group also turned recycled bicycle parts into art for the garden (see below) and then had a big community pot luck lunch together!!

At the end of the event description on their website is a great squash recipe, which to me highlights the significant interconnection between community, food and garden.

What a wonderful way to celebrate the day!

World Refugee Day 2017

World Refugee Day 2017
Source for these 3 images: Nashville Food Project

 

How did you celebrate World Refugee Day 2017?

How about next year planning some grand celebratory biking plans that will bring together locals, refugees and community?

Infuse it with welcomeness, fun, inclusivity and of course… biking!!

Best of luck for next year’s bike-themed World Refugee Day event!


*Note the two  news articles used for point ‘1. Is Australia really helping the Refugee Crisis enough?’ should be taken as a stimulus to explore your own reflections (and reasons for your answer) to this question. The two articles included have been artbitrarily selected as two opposing points of view on this topic and are not to be taken as definitive or sole proof of (or any other variation of) this position. So please use your amazing brain. Research and make you own mind up based on the best quality and relevant information.

International Women’s Day 2017

Happy International Women’s Day  – A quiet ride to celebrate.

I have just returned back from celebrating International Women’s Day 2017 (IWD). It is late now, just past midnight in fact, so technically it is the day after IWD. I’m late as I had spent the afternoon and evening going for a wonderful IWD ride. So before my IWD night officially ends, I thought I would put up a quick considerations to mark the occasion.

International Women’s Day Background

For those who don’t know, International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

International Women’s Day has a long history in the West dating back to 1909. In 1975, the United Nations General Assembly made the holiday globally recognized by inviting member states to declare March 8 a day for women’s rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment. Since then, the UN creates an annual theme for International Women’s Day. Today also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity and the theme for this year is Be Bold For Change.

This day is important for many reasons, but  with the World Economic Forum prediction that the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186, the struggles of many women in disadvantaged situations is more acute than ever.

Therefore, International Women’s Day (IWD) is an opportunity to raise positively contribute to

  • celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women because visibility and awareness help drive positive change for women
  • declare bold actions you’ll take as an individual or organization to help progress the gender agenda because purposeful action can accelerate gender parity across the world.

International Women's Day

Two Awesome Historical Stories of Heroic Cycling Women

I got a real kick out of reading Peter Zheutlin’s article about his amazing great great-aunt Annie Cohen Kopchovsky’s ride way back in 1895 and the legacy that this event has had since in helping women to break boundaries – inspirational!

Another historical piece by fellow bike Blogger Nicola from Women Who Cycle offered some insightful comments when considering the impact and connections between bicycles and specifically American women (based on a Wisconsin stimulus).

 

International Women's Day
Source: Bike Penticton

IWD 2017 – Who, what and how?

IWD is not all about women – it is equally important that our brothers and the gorgeous men in our lives are also recognised! In fact some of the most staunch feminists I know are men.

There are many places to find out what is on this IWD. Some people offer ideas such as hosting your own events, for others who might want time alone or to be with friends, there are numerous suggestions on ways you can celebrate and share the day.

International Women's Day

How are riders around the world celebrating International Women’s Day 2017?

For the cycling community, regardless of what gender you are  – IWD guarantees a plethora of events, celebrations, awards and all kinds of reasons to get together for a ride – for example:

  • There were celebrations and rides all over the world, although coverage of these reports varied in detail and depth for example Malaysia, India and  the UK.  There was also a massive march in New York City, which some friends of mine attended and said they saw a large cycling cohort represented – hooray!
  • More locally, the Bushrangers MTB Club celebrated more women registering in the club than ever before.
International Women's Day 2017
Source: Total Women’s Cycling

 

Quiet time to reflect and give thanks

Personally, I celebrated International Women’s Day 2017 in low-key style. This year I wanted to mark the day with simplicity, gratitude and in a way that acknowledged the ordinary and everyday.

Instead of going to a big event, I opted instead to take a solo ride along the coastline and have time to reflect. For me, this was a more honest and personal way to ruminate and commemorate on the processes of womens’ struggles.

As I rode, I thought about my life and the lives of others.

I thought about the current situation of fellow sisters throughout the world, the amazing progress the world has made and areas that still need improving. I thought about how I impact the world, and how I felt I was making a difference and where I though we needed more change.

I took time to stop and gave thanks.

I watched the bay and listened to the lapping of the waves. It was a stunning afternoon. The ocean breeze was cool and reassuring, the sunset spectacular and full of promise for the next day and I was very grateful to be alive and riding my bike.

What did you do to commemorate this day?

What ever it was – Happy International Women’s Day!

UN: Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report

Today’s post focuses on the recent UN: Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report by the UN Transportation department. The report is officially entitled Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling: policies a & realities from around the world and was released September 2016. This 70-page report is focuses on investigating issues of active urban transportation in middle and low-income countries. It outlines current major road accident risks, and describes some effective interventions that are being employed to save lives and increase mobility for improved future livelihoods.

 

UN: Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report

It identifies a few key concerns that are no surprises

  • active transport is safer
  • better for the environment
  • uptake is restricted due to a lack of infrastructure and investment
  • unsafe roads are a major social issue
  • increasing impact and amount of road deaths
  • transport is a key issue as it generates nearly ¼ of all carbon dioxide emission and is the largest contributor of greenhouse gases

Handy Acronyms for dinner parties
NMT– (Non-motorized transport) – such as walking, cycling animal carts, skateboarding, cycle rickshaw, hand-carts
IMT (Intermediate Modes of Transportation) is a broad term for low-cost transport that essentially fills the mobility gaps needs between walking and having a car. So push bikes are included as are low engine-capacity motorbikes and tricycles often with adaptions such as side cars, trailers and other load bearing modifications.
SDG – UN Sustainable Development Goals

Data collection
Stakeholders from government and civil society in 20 countries were surveyed three times over a 3-month period (March – May 2016). Stakeholders were invited to suggest other research participants as well to expand the research pool.

I thought it was interesting that in the data collection, only ‘stakeholders’ were invited to participate. So this means only people from ‘a range of independent or university institutes, global agencies, non-government organisations, consultants, individual activists or government officials’ participated in this study. The rationale given was that they these people were ‘more likely to have insight into and knowledge of NMT policy status and access to data in their region, country or city’ (p 10).

Summary of key findings

  • 1.3 million people died in road accidents last year = one every 30 seconds.
  • Need for nations/cities to have some level of (national) NMT commitment
  • Increase in global awareness to the intersection of poverty and transportation about the UN SDGs.

 

Key NMT policy themes

Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016
Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016
Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016
Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016

 

What are the current types of NMY commitment – Transport Policy, funding policies for facilities, National Policy, Infrastructure Acts, related-by-laws, Strategic Frameworks, etc.

Type of supporting policies that will support the overall NMT commitments: vehicle parking restrictions, public transportation and all kinds of policies such as traffic calming, enforcement, education, budgets, encouragement policies, end-of-trip and others.

Local MNT planning – putting people before transport, favouring NMT over motorised transport, network establishment, safe infrastructure, increase mode shares, regulations and enforcement, more equitable allocation of road space, encouraging greater NMT, options of financial assistance for increased NMT use.

The quality of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure– across the board, current bicycle infrastructure is “almost routinely to be of poor or haphazard quality, disconnected and insufficiently part of a network” with only a few exceptions in South Africa and Brazil (p 25).

Funding for NMT – Nairobi (Kenya) is the only place to “commit to ensuring 20% of its existing and future road construction budget is allocated to NMT and public transport infrastructure and services” (p 26).

Data quality and institutional capacity – data is a major substantive gap in NMT planning and for transportation planning

 

Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016
Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016

 

Other interesting discussion points were
-public transport transformation or improvement
-Focus on vulnerable groups in African NMT policies
-Impact and stats on road deaths

Quotables from the report

  • A key government official from one of Africa’s largest economies told us that ‘the use of cars … is based on a colonial legacy of associating motorised transportation with education, affluence and elevated status in society. Therefore, the attitude towards NMT tends towards negativity. Thus the use of bicycles, walking and wheeling are associated with the poor’ (p 35).
  • Nigerian transport officials have described to us how ‘acquiring a car is a goal for most citizens who believe riding a bicycle [or walking] is less safe, less convenient, and less attractive, making the forecast decline of NMT a self-fulling prophecy….’ (p 35).
  • When speaking about India – ‘The marginalisation [of NMT] is seen in the backdrop of an emerging automobile culture linked with rising incomes, post-liberalisation and skewed notions of modernity. The continued dominance of motorised modes seeks to claim a larger share of road space mirroring the social power structure’ (Joshi & Joseph 35).

Outcomes and recommendations
The report then concludes with a country NMT summary for each of the participating nations, that identifies:
1. National NMT commitments
2. Civic society and social enterprise
3. For some countries, there is a focus box with extra details on a pertinent issue, facts, project or factors – which are insightful and very pertinent.

Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016
Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016

 

The UN: Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report goes to the heart of my PhD research, and I was very excited when I found it. To date, it has been frustrating for me as a researcher investigating the intersection of poverty, gender, culture and location – as there has been such recognition gap in the academic and grey literature about the impact of transportation on rural and impoverished countries. With publications like this report, access and use of bicycles are now (finally) gaining attention. Such a pity it took until this year for such a report to be published- but better now than never!

I like this report as it is clear, informative and easy to digest. It condenses critical content well and is also unique in having what I think, is quite a positive view for future transportation improvements.This report will go a long way in promoting and communicating the complexities, restrictions and issues involved in people being able/not to access transport, as this is such a critical development issue – there is no point building more health clinics and hospitals if people cannot physically get there to benefit from such services!

Well done UN Transport department on your thoughtful and informative report – it is wonderful to see bicycles (and walking) being placed firmly on the international development policy agenda.

 

Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016
Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016

Monitoring Child Labour on Bikes

The Art Bike that I have been working on for Sunday’s presentation is about Child Labour. I’ve been looking into the global statistics and issues involved with child labour and it is not surprising that poverty and circumstance play a massive role.

Child labour is a very difficult phenomena to quantify and collect accurate data on – and often results from different sources can be quite different.

The basis for my Art Bike is that 780 million children worldwide are engaged in some form of illicit labour work. Child labor, as defined by the International Labor Organization, is “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.”

The current situation

How is this linked to our experience? Matt Berg of the Borgen Project outlines that:

  •  Australia annually imports $16 million worth of tobacco produced by child labor, including tobacco produced in the U.S. Tobacco cultivation is extremely labor intensive and children are often subjected to serious health risks including nicotine poisoning.
  • Most cigarette smokers in Australia are unaware of the origins of the tobacco they consume.
  • According to the ILO, 168 million children worldwide are engaged in child labor as of 2013.Of these 168 million children, 85 million are engaged in what the ILO deems “hazardous work.”
  •  According to a study conducted by the ILO in 2004, the benefits of eradicating child labor would “outweigh costs by nearly six to one.”The sub-Saharan African region has the second highest number of child laborers in the world; about 59 million in 2012.
  • According to the Pew Research Center, children aged five to 17, or 21.4 percent, are involved in child labor while 10.4 percent are engaged in hazardous work.
  •  Agriculture accounts for 60 percent of child labor according to the ILO.Only one out of five children involved in child labor is paid for his or her work.The majority of children in child labor perform unpaid family work.
  •  About 60 percent of children in Ethiopia are engaged in some form of child labor. Many of these children work in the mining industry; an industry that poses some of the biggest dangers for child labourers.

The ECLT Foundation

The problem is often culturally systemic and driven by lack of access and opportunities to alternatives. However, there are a number of organisations that are working hard to address these issues – and most interestingly for me, is an outfit in Tanzania called the ECLT Foundation (Eliminating Child Labour in the Tobacco Industry Foundation.

Tanzania is interesting, because, although it is not in the current top 10 countries for child labour, its data on child labour is staggering. Agriculture is one of its primary and major industries, so one in every three Tanzanian children work to contribute to their family’s household income – and this is even more alarming as most child labourers live in rural or remote areas where most are engaged in hazardous conditions.

Child labour in the Tanzanian tobacco industry.

According to ECLT:

  • 84% of the parents of children working on the tobacco farms come from poor and very poor socio-economic backgrounds.
  • According to the 2006 Tanzania Labour Force Survey, 20.7% of children are engaged in child labour in Tanzania.
  • Tanzania’s main tobacco-producing areas tend to have low primary school enrolment.            
  • Most child labourers in Tanzania are unpaid family workers and work in addition to attending school.

To address such critical issues and to protect vulnerable children, the ECLT partnered with Winrock International and the International Labor Organisation to sponsor a conference convened by the Tanzania government—resulting in a commitment to action to end child labour in agriculture.

Using bikes to monitor and report on child labour.

Most interestingly (as I have highlighted in the quote), the ECLT ‘formed and supported Village Child Labour Committees on issues of child labour, identification, and monitoring. Because it is common for families to live six hours by foot from the nearest village, we also provided bicycles to committee members so that they could reach as many children as possible’ (ECLT.org). Yet again another incredibly worthwhile and productive use of bicycles to crest significant positive change for not just individual children, but families and communities alike. Bravo!!

 

Source: ECLT.org

Darfur Aid Workers

Much of the research I have been looking at so far has been on projects in stable communities. However, when emergency situations breakout, then personnel are deployed to wherever help is needed. One area of project work that is very interesting (and disturbing) to me, is: aid workers in high stress situations, such as internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.This is a case study which I was seriously considering as a focus for my research: to see how bicycles could be used in IDP camps to increase women’s safety and access to facilities.

But ironically, I knew that such a context as Darfur Aid would be too distressing for me to maintain researching, so it was a very deliberate and strategic move away to focus more on positive bicycle aid contexts. I remember thinking to myself  that I would burnout if all I heard were repeated stories of suffering……

But even so, although not directly related to my current research area, the scope, scale and variety of international aid and development work still fascinates me, so out of interest, I often find myself still looking into what work my fellow IAW brothers and sisters are undertaking around the world. Some of what I found recently indicates that there is increasing research regarding International Aid Worker (IAW) burnout and job stress.

I chose this particular article because it is a reminder of the massive range of projects, work and aid that is disseminated worldwide, most of which we never hear about in the West. I find it grounding to read outside my comfort zone (or research area), not just to keep up with current affairs, but also to remind myself that there is a whole army of people and organisations around the world doing incredibly noble, dangerous and immediate aid and development work. Most of it is in extraordinarily more difficult conditions than mine. It helps to keep my head in check and reframes my reality just that little bit clearly. It also keeps me honest and modest.

I have summarised a selection of the research undertaken by two UAE academics who were reporting on the psychological impact that IAW experienced whilst working during the Darfur war in Sudan.

Main findings:

  • 31.6 years was the mean age of the 53 IAW (Sudanese and International Aid Workers) researched (20-55 year old).
  • 50% of Aid Workers in Darfur could be classified as ‘non-psychotic psychiatric cases’.
  • The vast majority of Aid Workers in Darfur were local Sudanese who have a significantly higher rate of burnout and secondary traumatic stress compared to their International AW counterparts. Three main reasons for this were:
  1. They themselves are victims and are displaced
  2. They speak the local dialect so experience the full force of stories in detail
  3. They can relate more personally to the stories of the victims
  • Working in a stressful environment and exposure to prolonged extreme job stress means that many (qualified and experienced) aid workers stop doing their jobs – this has an immediate detrimental effect for victims.
  • There is a tendency of ‘maladjusted’ individuals who chose to be aid workers.
  • Due to exposure to trauma, IAW can indirectly or secondarily develop the same symptoms as the traumatised victims they are working with.
  • In females and hospital based emergency teams, burnout usually involves experiencing ‘a variety of psychological disturbances and distress that exceed the aid workers ability to cope and thus leads the person to total collapse’ (Louville et al, 1997:144 as cited in Musa & Hamid, 2008).
  • Burnout was positively related to general stress and secondary stress.
  • Burnout was negatively related to ‘compassion satisfaction’.

 

Compounding Factors:

-Direct contact with highly traumatised victims

-Hostile environment

-Aid victims tend to blame the IAW for supply shortages or service problems

 

There are 5 types of ‘burnout’ identified in IAW:

  1. Emotional (depression, anxiety, irritability)
  2. Interpersonal (self-distancing, withdrawal, ineffective communication)
  3. Physical (sleep disturbances, exhaustion, illnesses)
  4. Behavioural (alcohol abuse, aggression, cruelty)
  5. Work-related components (poor performance, tardiness, absenteeism)

 

Secondary trauma – 4 main aspects:

  1. Empathy with victims – increased vulnerability to internalising trauma and increasing trauma related pain
  2. Recovery time – listening to distressing stories repeatedly without sufficient time to process
  3. Reactivation – Having own past trauma experiences triggered by working with victims who are/have experience/d a similar situation to the IAW, especially in the case of the local Sudanese AW.
  4. Fragmented Contexts – current psychological approaches for IAWs are focused on individual services not team-orientated.  In a working situation like war, operations are never experienced individually; it is always with others, so there is a fragmentation between the experienced context with the follow up service (the team that works together is best debriefed and counselled together as well as individually – not just dealt with separately or in isolation to other team members).

 

General conclusions:

Certain conditions increase AW suffering.

Aid organisations need to create positive work climates to adequately include:

  • Adequate training
  • Cultural orientation
  • Psychological services

I hope the findings I have summarised here will stimulate your thinking about these critical ideas, and that you share and discuss what these findings mean in relation to your understanding of the world.

 

 

Musa, S. A., & Hamid, A. A. (2008). Psychological problems among aid workers operating in Darfur. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, 36(3), 407-416.