Every week St Andrews students have the opportunity to order a veg bag from One World society – stuffed full of organic vegetable goodness, grown locally just down the road from Cupar. The carrots come caked in mud, the onions … Continue reading
Today I decided I would support one of my crazy friends in his campaign for a change. My friend is doing “No Shoes November”, not wearing shoes for an entire month to raise money for Christian aid and has asked his friends to support him in doing so, to reach his goal of £1000. So today, along the cold dirty streets of Cardiff, I walked and cycled to my lectures, to the library and to the pub – explaining to the world my madness as i hobbled. I am an atheist yet ending poverty must be a hope every individual has and they would do what they can to achieve this goal. Right? Well thats what I thought….
Just like any activist, I have days where I lose hope. Today was one of them. After a weekend of meeting inspirational people at the student activist weekend of “Shared Planet”, I thought this week would be full of new momentum to make the world a better place.
At the moment I am involved with trying to organise environmentalist speakers for a society event, organising a sit-in to get my Uni to join the Workers Rights Consortium, working with the Occupy Cardiff movement so we can spread to the 99% v 1% message, working with Oxfam Cardiff on their “Climate Craftivism” event, working with lecturers to organise a teach-out for November 30th and today I took the opportunity to spread to word about poverty by going barefoot for the day.
I spoke to a few people, most didn’t look past the brave act of not wearing shoes and failed to look at the bigger picture.
Coming home with my weathered feet I learn how Occupy Wall Street is being torn apart, I hear how “Frozen Planet” is shown in many countries throughout the globe but as the latest episode discusses issues around climate change, it wont be shown in the majority of countries. At the pub quiz, when the answer that in 1989 the hole in the ozone layer was discovered, an ignorant loud mouth announced her misinformed view that it was a “myth”. I later switched on “Question Time” where I found people complaining about renewable energy and its appearance, followed by another show which asked whether “people power is getting in the way”. I was deflated.
As I let out steam on my wonderfully laid back housemates, I realised how much they accepted society, how much they were willing to just accept that these emergency issues of climate change, of poverty, of human rights abuses, of inequality, was just part of our world. I was asked why I worry about things that I cant do much about. That was what disappointed me most. Is that what the majority of the population thinks? Do they just accept that the world is not working in the favour of equality? And do they not care enough to even try?
In my anti-capitalist stream of thoughts, I begin to wonder whether individuals have been conditioned to behave in this way. It may not have been so clearly brutal as in Huxleys Brave New World, but the neo-liberal ideology has so powerfully convinced the general public of its consumer, hierarchal system of organisation that individuals don’t know any other way.
So Pessimism can be solved through
I am a poor student who can’t afford the middle class escapist lifestyle and thinks way too much, so activism will have to do. After all, at least Occupy St Pauls campaigners are still there. I will cling on to that ray of hope, and go to bed in peace.
Tomorrow is a new day. Anything can happen. And at least tomorrow I will be wearing shoes.
P.S. Please donate – http://www.justgiving.com/NoShoesNovember
What is SCOOP?
SCOOP provides organic, exploitation free or local produce at cost price to all members of the community. The co-op is not-for-profit, is run entirely by volunteers and we have a shop in one of our campus colleges, open once a week from 10-6pm. Students can benefit from the direct experience of running and managing a social enterprise. However, SCOOP is not just a simple management exercise, but an attempt to engage in co-operative living (which is great!) We are mostly a group of people who love to talk about, eat and share good food. We have monthly “Meet and Eat’s” where we cook and share homemade dishes together, make recipe books and a blog as a group and participate in a monthly campus Farmer’s Market along with local producers to get to know the community.
How did it start?
SCOOP started out in 2009 as a seed of an idea in a York People & Planet meeting. One of our members had been to visit Leeds, whose food co-op has been running since the groovy seventies, and was inspired to start one here! The idea grew a little bit at a time, with a small group of people starting out by researching and organising suppliers, local farms and food deliveries and collections from someone’s house. Our student union were pretty unhelpful, seeing it as a complex feat with lots of health and safety issues, and so we developed our own strategies working with the wonderful charity, Sustain, for a bit of extra advice.
In order for the co-op to develop to the stage of a fully functioning shop the founding members worked hard to establish the basis for volunteers to work together to share their interest in good food. We had to determine whether there was a demand for such a service, research suppliers for our stock, run meetings to manage the day-to-day tasks, raise funds to start our orders, advertise for shop and volunteers to help run it as well as working out our legal and spatial position.
Once we had established ourselves as in demand and a workable project we approached the Senior Management Committee of our University with a portfolio of everything we had achieved and our aims for the future. After a bit of convincing they gave us the space we needed to open a shop and when we applied to the York Alumni Fund for a grant we were awarded £1260 as a start-up fund for jars, scales and shelving etc.! We are now open every Wednesday from 10-6pm and have weekly meetings to discuss the running of the shop as well as our overall goals for the future.
Where next for SCOOP?
The co-op is now a student society, which our members thought gave it some long-term security, and is so popular and supported that we aim to open twice a week in the near future and would like to move to a more central position on campus with a much bigger shop space. We would love the shop to be open every day during term time like it is in Leeds so that students always have a choice about where to exercise their buying power, in an ethical co-operative where their opinions are taken into account – or in an impersonal chain supermarket?
Why do people love SCOOP so much?
The co-operative is run entirely by its members and so each person’s opinion is highly valued and listened to. Any decision is made using consensus-decision making which is a powerful way of coming to a conclusion that is supported by everybody in the group. If one person disagrees about something then they can block the decision from going ahead and a discussion is had about how the idea could be improved. This idea of sharing skills, working together for a similar aim, coming together as a community and helping each other to develop valuable skills is something which takes into account how important every single person in a group is. And SCOOP provides the most yummy, ethically-sourced food around, and that is the best thing since sliced bread!
A Fairer Education in Africa
Education is not a finite resource like drugs or energy, it’s self-perpetuating. It’s also empowering; enabling people to take control of their lives and have more say in how things are run. Education programmes are popular with charities and governments, but as with a lot of development, there’s devil in the detail.
Particular devils that are widely overlooked are the obstacles that girls face in getting to and staying in school. Money is increasingly there for building schools and improving teaching, but not enough attention is being paid to how gender remains a major factor in determining who actually gets access to it.
One organisation dedicated to rebalancing these injustices is Pathways Togo (www.pathwaystogo.org). Since its founding in 2010, Pathways Togo has been building more and more support for girls and young women to get a high school and university education through scholarships, mentoring and workshops.
The young women who have earned scholarships with Pathways Togo have overcome many of the obstacles typical of girls struggling to get an education in rural Africa. High on the list is pressure to marry young through arranged and often polygamous marriages. Furthermore early pregnancies, lack of access to sanitary products, and personal safety and health issues make attending school and studying at home impossible for many girls. Domestic duties also limit girls’ time to attend schools; many are expected to do childcare and work in family farms and businesses.
Paying for school is also a serious challenge for many students. Where boys remain priorities in families, girls will often have to depend on brewing and selling alcohol, moving away from home, and selling street food in order to support themselves and continue their education.
Others have had more support from within their communities, with many families investing a great deal in their children’s education. One young woman had narrowly escaped an arranged marriage at age 11, and with support from her sister had been able to earn enough money to continue through school, earn a scholarship from Pathways Togo and eventually progress to university.
Many of the young women Pathways Togo has worked with have felt that the presence of strong female role models has made a great difference to their lives and those around them. While these are undoubtedly signs of progress, the work still to be done is vast.
The support of volunteers who can raise funds for scholarships, and help provide training and workshops for girls and young women is what keep organisations like Pathways Togo doing what they do. Governments and international organistions are investing heavily in education, but without this crucial work to address the gender gap in education, more education investment risks exacerbating the gender gap in wider society.
Between the 1st & 7th March students from across the UK and US are taking action against sweatshops as part of the International Week of Student Action Against Sweatshops.
Students at University College London are planning to host a Global Supply Chain exhibition to lay bare the exploitation within the supply chains of two different product categories. Continue reading
Waking up at 5.30am on a dark frosty morning is not my cup of tea to be honest and realising it is still dark outside is not the greatest feeling either. But nevertheless me and few other students meet-up at the halls and begin the walk to the Royal Mail distribution center in Derby to join striking workers at the picket line. Continue reading
So about 5 weeks ago I started studying Law at Bristol University for the first time. Oh.my.god. Yes, it’s much more difficult and time consuming than I had thought, or even planned! Bang goes most of my time basically, hence my lack of time to write. You’ll be glad to hear however that the last month hasn’t been totally steeped in legal jargon and visits to the library. There is an amazing group/society called the Bristol University Sustainability Team (BUST) who are doing some really exciting things. Continue reading