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How to Do Good: Essays on Building a Better World, published by my publisher, London Wall, is a collection of essays by thought leaders, celebrities, statesmen and women, Nobel prize winners, social entrepreneurs, philanthropists and others who are driving and inspiring positive change.

This thought piece focuses on an essay in the book by Princess Astrid of Belgium, who was a special representative for the Roll Back Malaria Partnership from 2007 to 2015. Her essay, entitled ‘World in Action’, makes for thought-provoking, poignant and inspiring reading on how malaria is affecting people worldwide and how much can be done to battle the disease.

Perhaps malaria seems a distant malaise, but it shouldn’t: according to the World Health Organisation (http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/malaria/en/), nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria because it is present in 91 countries and areas. WHO estimates that in 2015, 212 million people had malaria and 429,000 lost their lives to the disease. Of these, 303,000 were children under the age of five.

That’s 303,000 little children dying from a disease that is preventable and curable.

In her article, Princess Astrid shares memories of her travels over the years to areas affected by malaria – of the people she met whose plights are heart-breaking:

‘I have witnessed unimaginable sacrifices made by parents. I have sat with grieving mothers, watched fathers dig graves to hold the lifeless body of their young child, and I have sat in classrooms devoid of healthy students able to learn.’

As a mother herself, Princess Astrid writes, such experiences resonated with her on a deeply emotional level. So they did with me, as I read; I confess there were tears in my eyes.

But the princess is not writing of bleakness, in fact, but of hope:

‘The pain I have seen never leaves me, but it is made less by the profound hope that I have felt radiate through communities thanks to incredible, cost-effective tools… that have revolutionised the way we prevent, diagnose and treat malaria.’

The Roll Back Malaria Partnership has been working to reduce the number of cases – and subsequent deaths – from malaria, with powerful results: it has prevented more than six million deaths from malaria since 2000. Under its Global Malaria Action Plan, RBM plans to reduce malaria mortality rates by at least 90 per cent by 2030. That’s millions of lives saved through such simple and lost-cost solutions as anti-malaria nets.

Of course, to achieve this aim requires investment; more than $100 billion. Note that I use the word investment here, not gift: this is money people will return to economies. For every $1 invested in anti-malaria work in Africa, the Gross Domestic Product increases per capita by $6.75. How so? Because people will live and contribute to communities and economies. Experts estimate that achieving the Global Malaria Action Plan will mean 3 billion cases of malaria averted and 10 million lives saved.

Ultimately, RBM has a very simple aim: eradicate malaria. Here’s a poster from their World Malaria Day 2017:

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[Source]

Imagine, that we have the power to eradicate this horrific disease. Not just the power, in fact, but the responsibility. As Princess Astrid writes: ‘we must all be global citizens and take up our responsibilities regardless of position.’

There are various malaria-action charities, operating in different countries, that you can support (search ‘donate’ and ‘malaria’ online). Just $2.50 funds a net that keeps a family safe from mosquito bites. It really is that simple, and that affordable.


Note: All quotations are taken from How to Do Good: Essays on Building a Better World published by London Wall, with the kind permission of Philanthropy Age.

 

Do Something Good Today

How to Do Good: Essays on Building a Better World, published by my publisher, London Wall, is a collection of essays by thought leaders, celebrities, statesmen and women, Nobel prize winners, social entrepreneurs, philanthropists and others who are driving and inspiring positive change. Each month, I’m focusing on one essay in the book to use as the basis for a thought piece.

For June, I’m focusing an essay by Frédéric Oumar Kanouté. A former footballer who played for clubs in France, England, Spain and China, Mr Kanouté now devotes his time and passion to philanthropy. His Kanouté Foundation has built a ‘children’s village’ for orphans in Mali.

In ‘Life goals’, Mr Kanouté describes how practising his religion and visiting his father’s hometown of Mali opened him up to the plight of poverty-stricken orphans there and fuelled in him a determination to use his position and savings to make a difference.

‘My faith has been the engine,’ he writes, and then two lines that leap off the page: ‘Sometimes we say faith is only in the heart, but I don’t think that’s true. It is in the hands as well.’ The Quran, he points out, talks of ‘those who have faith and do good’, not merely ‘those who have faith alone’.

I am reminded of Stoic philosophy, of the importance of civic responsibility and doing good deeds. Doing, not merely dreaming or planning or discussing or promising – actually doing good.

Mr Kanouté writes that when, someday, he meets his maker, ‘He won’t ask me how many goals I’ve scored, but instead will hold me accountable for how I behaved on this Earth, and how I helped others.’

As the Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote in Meditations: ‘Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.’

Imagine if we all thought like that. Imagine what a different world it would be.

But being good is not enough! We must not just strive to be good; we must DO good. We do not need to be philanthropists; we need to DO philanthropic work.

Work. The word is a misnomer in this context, don’t you think? Is it work to do good? Is it a hardship, a chore, a trial? No: it is, in fact, a joy, the true source of inner peace and fulfilment – the key to salvation.


Note: All quotations are taken from How to Do Good: Essays on Building a Better World published by London Wall, with the kind permission of Philanthropy Age.

You can read more about Mr Kanouté’s work in his interview with Philanthropy Age at http://www.philanthropyage.org/society/making-difference-frederic-oumar-kanoute

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How to Do Good: Essays on Building a Better World, published by my publisher, London Wall, is a collection of essays by thought leaders, celebrities, statesmen and women, Nobel prize winners, social entrepreneurs, philanthropists and others who are driving and inspiring positive change. Each month, I’m focusing on one essay in the book to use as the basis for a thought piece.

For May, I’ve chosen an essay by Forest Whitaker. Mr Whitaker is widely known as an actor, director, producer, but it is his humanitarian work that makes him a true inspiration. He is the founder of the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative (WPDI), the co-founder of the International Institute for Peace (IIP) and a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Peace and Reconciliation.

In How to Do Good, Mr Whitaker has written an essay that is so beautiful and hopeful, it brought me to tears. He writes:

‘There is a divine spark within every human being that gives all of us the capacity for extraordinary goodness: to love, to create, to help, to forgive.’

Every human being… that opening line alone makes me want to dance in a field of wildflowers with my face cast heavenward. No matter your story – your past, your mistakes, the limitations you face every day – there is a divine spark within. Such a beautiful attitude, and we should all have it.

The essay ‘Guiding light’ explores how to help young people who are affected by conflict – all kinds of conflict in all kinds of countries, from the gangs of LA to the tribal youths of South Sudan. How do you help young people growing up in challenging environments, youths who have been exposed to fear and rage and loss and violence? How do you empower the adults of the future to choose their own path, to form their own communities, to be peacekeepers, in cultures where liberty may be something that must be fought for? The answers are not straight forward.

Take child soldiers, for example, with whom Mr Whitaker has worked. According to the organisation Child Soldiers International, an independent human rights organisation which campaigns for an end to under-18s being used in warfare, ‘Tens of thousands of children are recruited and used in conflicts around the world. They are often abducted, beaten, and forced to commit terrible acts.’ (Source: ‘Letter to US Congress’). The daily life of these children is appalling, and yet Mr Whitaker found while working with the children that the solution is not so simple as to ‘rescue’ a child from the soldiering. Being a soldier gives the child a purpose, an identity and a place to belong. The child is part of a community, and may have food and shelter that otherwise would not be available. Cast the child adrift, and they are alone and lost, with fundamental needs unmet.

‘We need to do more for these children,’ Mr Whitaker writes, ‘to fill that void in their lives with love, an education, a community to give them a new purpose and allow them to find an opportunity to succeed. The light has never left these children. We just need to help them rediscover it.’

How many children with that beautiful light burning within are in need? In our own communities, and abroad, the answer is: so many. Too many.

Anything we can do as individuals to nurture that light is worthwhile. But just think what we can achieve if we work collectively, using our own ‘capacity for extraordinary goodness’ to foster in young people the same extraordinary goodness.

Mr Whitaker’s hope for the future is that one day ‘these lights will come together to form a human flame of enduring peace – a fire bright enough to drive out any darkness’. That is a vision to inspire and galvanise.

That, it strikes me, is the only vision of the future that is worth believing in.


Note: All quotations are taken from How to Do Good: Essays on Building a Better World published by London Wall, with the kind permission of Philanthropy Age.

Today I’m launching a new theme on my blog: thought pieces, which initially will be inspired by a book published by London Wall, my publisher:

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How to Do Good: Essays on Building a Better World is a collection of extraordinary personal stories from thought leaders, celebrities, statesmen and women, Nobel prize winners, social entrepreneurs, philanthropists and others who are driving and inspiring positive change. (You can watch the book trailer at https://vimeo.com/205395055/f3c7f9e06d.) It’s published in association with Philanthropy Age, the leading source of philanthropic news, views, trends and analysis for the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.

In the book, UN Women executive director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka writes a sobering and thought-provoking essay on pay inequality between men and women.

Did you know that on average women worldwide take home 24 per cent less in their pay cheque than men? That in the US, African American women earn 60 per cent of what white men earn?

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Information like this is sensational – and yet it rarely creates a sensation. In my own industry, publishing, research by the UK’s Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society found that female authors earn 20% less than male authors. So where a male writer earns a £1 royalty on a book sale, his female counterpart earns only 80 pence. Why? Is she an inferior writer, less gifted? Not at all. She is simply a woman.

What’s more, not only does that female writer deserve equal pay for doing an equal job, but she also deserves credit for the many hours of caregiving and domestic work she’s no doubt doing – for free.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka states the simple facts of this issue in her essay:

Globally, women do two and a half times more unpaid care and domestic work as men. The economic value of this work is estimated to be anywhere between 15 per cent of GDP in South Africa, to a staggering 39 per cent of GDP in India.

The repercussions of this inequality are far-reaching. Millions of women worldwide are living in poverty, their hard work unvalued.

Why exactly is a woman’s work so poorly valued? Why, as Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka points out, does a male golf caddy earn $17 an hour while a female caregiver earns just $9? ‘Why should carrying golf clubs be worth so much more than carrying children?’ she asks.

The discrepancy horrifies me. When I think of the female teachers who taught my children, the nurses who gave them their vaccinations, the governess who looked after me when I was a young child – these women give so much; their contribution to society is so important and far-reaching.

In the UK, The Fawcett Society is the leading campaign organisation for women’s equality and rights
at home, at work and in public life. It outlines the following reasons for the gender pay gap:

* Discrimination against women

* Unequal responsibilities caring for children and other relatives

* An uneven spread across the labour market (‘feminised’ sectors like care are less well paid, and only one in ten people in the well-paid trades is female)

* Men being promoted over women to the most senior posts

It’s outrageous that such a situation exists in 2017, especially when you reflect that equal pay was legislated by the government 45 years ago, and discrimination is illegal.

What can be done? Well, first and foremost we can all be aware of this issue, and know that solving it really matters. As Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka says:

It matters because it is an evident injustice and because it condemns millions of women and families to lives of entrenched poverty. It is a global, systemic problem that needs concerted attention and action to change the way that we value and support women’s work.

The solution isn’t simple, but we need to push for:

* Transparency and accountability over pay – with penalties enacted for inequality

* Free or subsidised access to good childcare, so that women can work

* Initiatives to open male-dominated professions to women

* A supportive workplace culture with regard to leave for parents, and flexible working arrangements and hours that allow women and men to both work and care

* An easier, and cost-free, path for women to make tribunal discrimination claims

Ultimately, all of this is predicated on a single need: that we all, men and women, agree that equality is not a luxury but a basic human right.

What do you think of this issue? Have you encountered the gender pay gap? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Note: All quotations are taken from How to Do Good: Essays on Building a Better World published by London Wall, with the kind permission of Philanthropy Age.

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