Migrating towards a better future

Many of you reading this post would likely say that you enjoy travelling overseas.  For individual reasons, there are those of us who are not always satisfied keeping within our own country borders, held back from roaming around new places, discovering new things.

As an Englishman living in Vietnam, there have been times when the systems have felt against me here in Saigon (the acquisition of Martha’s birth certificate a particular low point).  There are days when you want to close your eyes and re-open them back amongst more familiar surrounds and comforts.

At the same time, the benefits on offer to my family living over here are significant, and there are so many things I cherish about my day-to-day.  I am lucky: I have a good job; access to credit and to purchasing power; access to information; the ability to set up a bank account in a matter of minutes; a driving licence; a work permit.  All of which give me a sense of security and belonging here.

Several years ago, CARE launched a project in Bangladesh, India and Nepal, exploring ways in which we could support Nepali migrants who were forced to travel, live and work in India and Bangladesh.

The project is called EMPHASIS, and perhaps unwittingly, for anyone in the UK reading this who has ever bought a National Lottery ticket, you yourselves may have helped contribute to the work of EMPHASIS, as the initiative was funded by the Big Lottery Fund – http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk – which uses some proceeds from UK Lottery ticket sales to invest in overseas programmes.

Last year I was in Kathmandu, Nepal, working with colleagues there on extending this project, and last week I got to visit one of the EMPHASIS Community Centres in outer Delhi, and in doing so got to meet an incredible group of people…

<a Continue reading

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Choosing to be active

I have been in Dhaka this weekend, speaking at a conference about sustainable development in South Asia.  Sunday morning’s national papers in Bangladesh carried articles about the event, but also featured news about a tragic incident which took place in the city on Saturday evening.

Whilst conference delegates were stretching their legs between the day’s final session and the evening buffet dinner, a fire broke out in a garment factory in Ashulia, on the outskirts of Dhaka.  Reports currently offer figures of 120+ factory workers who perished in the blaze, and many people are still unaccounted for.

Another story about a factory fire in Asia.  This time it was Bangladesh, most recently it was one in a factory in Pakistan which made international news.

We are familiar with the “sweat-shop” issues raised so publically in the 1990’s, in terms of the disturbing conditions to which factory workers across Asia can be subject.  Many organisations since then, including CARE, have addressed the often hugely complex issues associated with the manufacture of items such as garments and electronics, and have successully run development programmes on factory floors, with factory owners, and in conjunction with the global buyers who sit at the top of the chain. Continue reading

Human Wellbeing in the 21st Century

About 4 years ago I won a memorable hand of poker at Las Vegas’ Bellagio Casino (the one with the musical fountain display out the front, and which George and Brad robbed in Ocean’s Eleven).  Two red aces and $200 better off, and I’ve not since then allowed myself the chance of losing these winnings by making a return visit.

If I was a gambling man, I would put money on the fact that next time round I’d almost certainly come away empty-handed…

The Bellagio Initiative, a much newer institution than the casino, caught my eye last year not just because of the euphoric memories its name stirred within me, but because of the organisations who had established it, and the mission they had set themselves – namely, the collective pursuit of answers to some of the world’s most pressing and current questions. Continue reading

Women’s empowerment: the responsibility of business?

Yesterday, I spoke at a United Nations Global Compact event in Delhi, convened by CARE India, and debating the role and responsibilities of business, in terms of how they address women’s empowerment.

As catchy opening lines go, it’s very possible that half the readership of this blog (yes, both of you) may not instantly be gripped by the idea of 1,500 words on anything just described.  You’d be forgiven for this, of course – it is Friday, a week from Christmas, and there are better things to be doing.

Believe me, there was a moment stepping up to join the panel yesterday when being an Englishman and talking about women’s empowerment and business in the Indian context (during New Delhi’s own centenary week since it was first established under colonial rule) made me wonder what I’d in fact let myself in for. Continue reading