jackfruit of the week (10.15.08): blog action day 2008

Midterms are kicking in this week, and I'm trying to juggle six classes, SIPA's blog, Bayit life (including a three-hour dinner in our sukkah yesterday), research responsibilities and some other stuff I've probably forgotten. Among the fifteen tips my econ professor gave us for taking the midterm:
What to do if you freeze. I hope it does not happen, but rarely it happens. Let me know (I will be around). Leave the classroom for 5 minutes instead of staring aimlessly at the exam paper for 30 minutes. The bright side of freezing is that it happens only once. I have never had a student who froze twice.

Good to know there's a bright side of freezing during a three-hour test. In other, less panic-attack inducing news, today is Blog Action Day, an annual event geared toward getting bloggers around the world to focus for one day on a topic of global importance. This year's topic is poverty, and everyone from TechCrunch to my mom and dad has gotten in on the action.

Much of what I do at Columbia on a daily basis involves poverty, whether the discussion revolves around human rights or global imbalances or gender. A favorite topic of students and professors alike is microfinance, a system that involves giving loans to those with little or no credit, often to help them start or maintain a business. Loans can be given by institutions that specialize in providing financial services to the poor, by regular banks, or by you through organizations like Kiva, which matches prospective lenders to entrepreneurs around the world and lets both parties share information and track progress online. Another hot topic is fair trade, a movement to ensure that workers in the developing world — like coffee farmers and artisans — are given a fair price for the goods they produce.

In northern Uganda, an organization my friend Halle started is using fair trade to boost available job opportunities for women in northern Uganda. Called One Mango Tree, the organization works with women tailors in Gulu and two nearby displaced persons camps, marketing and selling their products in the United States and online. The women are trained by existing tailors and paid fairly for their work, and OMT uses part of the profits to equip them with bicycles and send their children to school.

I'm a huge fan of the work OMT is doing, as well as a proud owner of several of their initial product prototypes, including an early version of the original and the yoga mat bag. If you're looking for a way to help tackle poverty, why not do it by partnering with some amazing, talented women? Check out One Mango Tree for more about their history, goals and products.

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