Are you aware?

Film Recommendation: Wasteland

Filmed over nearly three years, WASTE LAND follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he photographs an eclectic band of “catadores”—self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz’s initial objective was to “paint” the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives.

This documentary effectively explores issues of environment and sustainability, social exclusion, ‘development,’ and the ability of art to bring about change in the lives of marginilised people and raise awareness of such issues.

The film was a strong reminder of why we use forms of self-expression to empower communities. It is so encouraging to see a world famous artist working so closely with an important group within society that often gets forgotten. Not only was the art resulting from this project phenomenal, the stories of the catadores are unforgettable. I would recommend taking the time to watch Wasteland, as there are so many things that we can learn from it, about wider global issues, individual stories, the power of art and what can be achieved through it. One can’t help but be inspired.

Written by volunteer, Stacey

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Why focus on women?

seventy per cent of the world’s 1.3 billion people living on less than US$1 a day are women or girls.[1]

This is an unacceptable truth and a reason for Aware’s newest programme, Wool For Women. This art-based empowerment programme aims to train and work solely with women to create sustainable income through craft. Many aid and community development projects focus on women’s empowerment, so what is the value of working with women?

Investing in women and girls’ health, education, and livelihoods has a multiplier effect on poor communities around the world. In the long run, no Development project can succeed without a commitment to gender equality. The United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) # 3 is to ‘promote gender equality and empower women’. One of the best paths to accomplishing this goal is in the economic realm, because women and girls yield economic returns for society, which impacts families and the community as a whole.[2][3]

Women are the ‘poorest of the poor’, and the ‘third world woman’, because she cares for the children and maintains a traditional home, bears a greater burden of poverty and lack of mobility. A greater market orientation for women redistributes not only money, but also the fulfilment of basic needs and personal aspirations of her family and community. Through microfinance and capability training, letting women manage the money increases the likelihood that the entire household benefits. Whereas men are more likely to spend financial aid or income on personal livelihoods, women invest in food, education and medicine.

Women’s lack of participation in the economic sphere is a structural problem. According to the OECD Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI), family codes, violence against women, civil liberties, ownership rights, and other social and cultural institutions limit the access of women to employment, inheritance and financial loans.[4] That is, ‘the ability of a woman to transform her life through access to financial services depends on many factors—some of them linked to her individual situation and abilities, and others dependent upon her environment and the status of women as a group’.[5] Women’s lack of control of capital is one facet of how the cycle of poverty and powerlessness replicates itself throughout generations.

Women in Cambodia have an immediate need for work and money, and a strategic need for equal rights. Aware is excited to take part in working towards both of these goals with the commencement of Wool for Women.

[1] The World Bank. 2012. Gender Equality as Smart Economics. Washington DC: The World Bank.
[2] United Nations. 2011. ‘Millennium Development Goals.’ Accessed 15 March 2011.
[3] The World Bank. 2012. Gender Equality as Smart Economics. Washington DC: The World Bank.
[4] Organisation for Economic Co-opeartion and Development (OECD). 2012. Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI). Paris: OECD.
[5] Cheston, Susy, and Lisa Kuhn. 2001. Empowering Women through Microfinance. Research sponsored by the Women’s Opportunity Fund. UNIFEM.

Written by volunteer, Sara

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Sustainable Development – what does that even mean?

In a recent article in The Conversation about sustainable development raised some interesting points on government’s lack of initiative when it comes to implementing policy.

Basically the article’s conclusion is that without a united vision for a country or a world for generations to come sustainable development falls flat within policy creation.

The author, Mike Burbridge writes:

Let’s be clear: we are all the same. We care about improving our quality of life as we see it. But we all have different views about the time frames that encircle our decision making. Sustainable development doesn’t: it is blind when it comes to time. There is simply no question: sustainable development requires that we think about generations to come. It requires that decisions we take or policies we announce today take into account the effects on tomorrow’s generation

What does this have to do with Aware you ask?

Well, we’re offering up our vision for a sustainable future and sustainable development. We’re suggesting that encouraging self-empowerment through art, crafts, and education will create new visions for what sustainable communities could look like.

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