Friday, 30 August 2013

Schools tackling obesity and malnutrition

This blog, written by Wikichild co-ordinator Melinda Deleuze, is part of the Wikiprogress Series on Health and Child Well-being. Discussing what schools can do to tackle childhood obesity, the post also leads up to the Wikiprogress September spotlight on Education and skills.

Every time I return to the United States, one of the first things that strikes me is the number of overweight children I see in the airport. During the summer months, the focus has been on feeding hungry American children nutritious food. There are hundreds of programs run by churches, nonprofits and civic groups which receive USDA reimbursements for that purpose. In Arkansas alone, more than $97,000 in grant money was distributed. Now that school is back in session, the aim is not only to give children the nutrition they need, but also to tackle the widespread issue of childhood obesity. 

Child and adolescent obesity is exceedingly prevalent in the US, Canada and Greece. It is also on the rise in most developed countries and in Asia. Over the past 3 decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled. Today, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese. Approximately 12% of children ages 2 to 5 are obese and 18% of those ages 6 to 19 are considered obese. The figures are higher among African American and Hispanic populations, where nearly 40% of the children are overweight or obese. 

          Percent of overweight children*                            Percent of children who eat breakfast every day*
                11, 13 and 15 years old                                                        11, 13 and 15 years old
Obesity has many negative consequences, and last week the American Medical Association pronounced childhood obesity a disease. Obese children and adolescents are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnoea, and social problems. Also, school children suffering from obesity are at higher risk of developing psychological problems. An obese child is at a higher risk of becoming an obese adult. Therefore, iIt is important to intervene earlier in life in order to combat and reverse adult weight issues that could cause severe health complications.

Schools play an essential role in tackling obesity among children and adolescents by establishing a healthier diet, increasing activity and educating about food and nutrition. In America, there are 32 million students who eat school lunches and 12 million who eat a school breakfast every school day. Ensuring that these meals are healthy and nutritious is part of the solution to childhood obesity, as well as improving children’s overall health and wellness. In January 2012, standards for school meals in US public schools were updated to the following criteria:  

• Ensure students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week;
• Increase offerings of whole grain-rich foods;
• Offer only fat-free or low-fat milk;
• Limit calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size;
• Increase the focus on reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats, added sugars, and sodium.

Schools are required to meet these standards in order to receive federal meal reimbursements. Fewer children ate school lunches after the standards began to take effect, especially those who paid full-price for their lunches; however, breakfast consumption at school increased. More schools provided grab-and-go breakfasts, breakfast in the classroom and second-chance breakfasts, as well as traditional breakfasts served in the cafeteria at no charge. Additionally, in July 2014, schools nationwide will be forced to remove junk food, soda and sugary snacks from their vending machines and menus. Some other recommendations in order to improve diets are encouraging parents to bring non-food treats for birthday celebrations and selling non-food options for fundraisers. 

     Percent of children who eat fruit daily*       Percent of children who exercise at least one hour daily*
                   11, 13 and 15 years old                                                        11, 13 and 15 years old

A school’s curriculum and efforts to increase physical activity can have a major impact on reducing obesity. What children eat at school is only part of the problem, because their amount of physical activity has a serious impact on their weight. Quality exercise can burn up just about anything a child ingests. Unfortunately, only 9 states require recess at the elementary level, while 41 states do not. Physical activity could be added to the classroom, for example by having students act out words, instead of sitting in chairs the entire lesson. Also, schools should not allow physical activity to be withheld (e.g. withholding recess) or used as punishment (e.g. making a student run laps). Another idea is to perform a “walkability assessment” to determine the environmental factors which deter students from walking to school, such as unsafe crossings and broken sidewalks. 

Schools can also use the classroom to teach children of all ages about eating nutritious, well-balanced meals. Gardens offer great opportunities to educate younger children about how healthy food is produced, while providing a fun and physical activity. Fruits and vegetables could also be used to teach shapes and colors. Teachers of older students could use fruits and vegetables from the garden when learning about weights and measurements. Also, adolescents should learn about counting calories, burning calories and daily nutritional value charts. Children who have a healthy association with food and who understand the benefits of a balanced diet will be at a lower risk for obesity.

Finally, if schools notified parents about their children’s state of health and informed them of ways they could help, then parents could reinforce good eating habits and encourage activity. Several programs have begun sharing students’ body mass index (BMI) scores, along with fitness test results, with parents. This height-to-weight information allows parents to continue conversations with their children and bring in a pediatrician if necessary. This program was piloted in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and obesity among 5 to 13 year old students decreased 6% in less than a decade. If schools decide to notify parents about their child’s BMI, they should respect the sensitivity and confidentiality of the information in order to avoid bullying and eating disorders.

Changes need to be made, in both the school and home settings, in order to improve the health of children. Early interventions are the best way to tackle obesity issues. There are several resources available to schools and parents to facilitate change and increase healthy habits:

Wikichild co-ordinator  

*These charts and data are from the UNICEF Report Card 11: Child well-being in rich countries

Thursday, 29 August 2013

How do gender norms relate to migration?

Wikigender, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Scalabrini Migration Center (SMC), Wikiprogress and Wikichild would like to hear your views on the linkages between the social norms that discriminate against women (such as harmful practices, restricted access to resources, limited decision-making power, or violence against women) and migration processes.

In September, the OECD Development Centre will publish an issues paper looking at migration from a gender perspective, based on new findings from the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI). Wikigender, IOM, SMC, Wikiprogress and Wikichild would like to invite you to participate in an online discussion on the topic from 2 September at 9am until 15 September at 6pm (GMT+1). The main findings of the discussion will be featured in the issues paper and the outcomes of the discussion will be synthesised in a final report and available on Wikigender. The debate will focus on the following topic:

This online discussion will be a unique opportunity to discuss, exchange views and best practices on this issue. Participants are invited to share findings from their research or their own experiences of migration with other members of the discussion. The discussion will focus on the questions below:

How do gender norms relate to migration?
  • How do discriminatory social norms and practices (for example, women’s lower status in the family, violence and discrimination against women or restricted access to resources) relate to female migration? Do they act as an incentive to migrate for women?
  • Which discriminatory social norms and practices hinder female migration the most and why? What can be done about it?
  • Do social norms play a role in female migration in terms of choice of destination?
Impacts of gendered migration patterns
  • What role do social networks play in enabling female migration?
  • How does female/male migration impact on family dynamics in both the country of origin and destination?
  • How does increased female migration impact on gender norms in origin and destination countries?
  • Do you have examples of more restrictive social norms imported by migrants to their communities of origin?
Policy and data
  • What are the good practices (policies, initiatives, campaigns or programmes) that ensure women migrants’ human rights in both the country of origin and the country of destination?
  • What are some of the key indicators that are or could be collected to better understand the social and economic outcomes for female migrants? How can this be measured? 
We invite you to leave your comment in the section “Contribute!” of the discussion page. Here is the link: and the hashtag used in Twitter is #migration

Estelle Loiseau
Wikigender Co-ordinator

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

What Should International Development Look Like After 2015?

This blog post, written by Global Voices' Ayesha Saldanha, is part of the Wikiprogress Series on Post-2015. It gives an overview of the Millennium Development Goals, the discussion around the new development framework, and what the OECD suggests for Post-2015.

In 2000, the member states of the United Nations made a historic commitment to achieve eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. The MDGs focus on some of the world’s most pressing development issues, such as poverty, gender, health and basic literacy. With 2015 fast approaching, a conversation has started about what progress has been made, and what still needs to be done. What should the post-2015 goals be?
The MDGs are: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women; reducing child mortality rates; improving maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing a global partnership for development.
Progress so far has been uneven, both between regions and countries, and within countries.
In May 2013 the United Nation's High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (HLP) presented its recommendations for global development priorities beyond 2015. These have been greeted with both praise and criticism.
On Twitter the hashtag #post2015 is being used to debate the post-2015 development agenda.
On his blog, Matt Andrews of Harvard's Kennedy School questions whether developing new goals is worth it:
As groups meet to develop post-2015 MDGs I ask: What were the MDGs meant to achieve? Did they achieve this? What evidence is there? Does the evidence really support having post-2015 global goals and targets? Or should we just focus on growth…
Economists Richard Kozul-Wright and Jayati Ghosh write at the Guardian's Poverty Matters blog:
Making inequality part of the development policy agenda has already gained traction. But to make lasting progress, it will be necessary to move beyond MDG-style targets and instead consider a global new deal allowing different economic strategies providing benefits for all.
Image from UN Millennium Development Goals Facebook page.
Image from UN Millennium Development Goals Facebook page.
It has been argued that a key weakness in the MDGs was that they were written without the participation of the people whose lives they were meant to improve. As Megan Williams of the Australian Council for International Development notes at Make Poverty History Australia:
Over 15 years ago, a group of people sat in a room at the United Nations and imagined what it would take to eradicate extreme poverty, and in what time frame it could be achieved. Without much outside consultation they presented eight Millennium Development Goals to the world, which in the years following, galvanised popular action, were written on billboards, marched through streets and painted on buildings. [...] This time instead of being locked in a room discussing what comes next, the conversation is spilling over into boardrooms, parliaments and communities around the world.
This video posted on YouTube by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) shows how the UN gathered the opinions of people around the world to present to the HLP :
Indonesian student Andhyta Utami (@Afutami) has uploaded a presentation offering a young person's perspective of the post-2015 agenda.
At the Local First blog, John Coonrod of The Hunger Project comments:
In the year 2000, world leaders created the Millennium Development Goals – eight time-bound goals to significantly cut poverty in all its forms. MDGs such as access to pre-school, primary education, good nutrition, safe water and sanitation all require effective local governance. Yet very little was done to “localize” the MDGs.
Coonrod then lists ten priority actions he believes the world community should take to ensure that the post-2015 agenda adheres to the principles of “Local First”, including investing in grassroots civil society and guaranteeing that women’s voices are heard.
Chudi Ukpabi, a international development consultant, focuses on Africa in a blog post at The Broker:
Tackling issues like poverty, inequality, food security, water security and environmental degradation will remain necessary for international development after the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015. It is my contention that – in the upcoming decades – African countries will need to define and bring their own priorities in terms of social, economic, cultural and political issues, into the debate.
Also at The Broker, Saskia Hollander responds to the HLP report:
It is all too easy to be fooled by rhetoric. Despite its promising transformative discourse, the HLP falls short of recognizing and tackling the economic and political power structures that hamper the desired transformative shifts.
And Indian campaign Wada Na Todo Abhiyan expresses its concerns:
We commend the Panel for their efforts to reach out to a diverse set of stakeholders and make the process participatory, which was a point of discontent with the way the current MDGs were formulated, and appreciate parts of its intent but also have some serious concerns around the fundamentals of the Report. At a glance, the huge shift as the Report states is of “partnership”, i.e. of turning to the private sector as well as civil society “within market principles”, making us quite worried and wary. Further, this big shift comes without a clear articulation of corporate accountability; it is limited to government “prompting” the multinationals, suggestions for companies to internally strengthen their mechanisms, “integrated reporting” and corporations being accountable to their shareholders (which they anyway are).
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which helped to develop the MDGs, is calling for a development agenda not only aimed at the global and universal level, but also at the national level with specific targets adapted to the capacities of countries. It has summarised this two-level approach:
1. Level one: Establish a small set of global goals reflecting universally-agreed outcomes.
2. Level two: Each country translates the global goals into specific targets and indicators which reflect their specific level of development, context, responsibility and capacity. They should also include equality dimensions including gender equity and, where possible, make full use of data disaggregated by sex.

Acknowledging that the world has changed since the MDGs were formulated, the OECD has focused on eleven elements to help adapt to the new realities.


On his blog, Dan Smith of International Alert calls for the debate to continue:
My worry is that the positions taken in the HLP report, more than two years before the UN General Assembly votes through the new development goals, will be about as comprehensive and nuanced as official position-taking will get. From here, I would expect positions to narrow, to lose their challenge and depth while gaining in technocratic legitimacy. Accordingly, it seems time the debate gets properly under way so that doesn’t happen.
This post is part of a series by Global Voices bloggers for the OECD engaging with post-2015 ideas for development worldwide. The OECD is not responsible for the content in these posts.

This post first appeared 9 July, 2013 on the Global Voices blog.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Protsahan, Encouraging Girls Through the Arts in India

This blog post, written by Global Voices' Ayesha Saldanha, is part of the Wikiprogress Series on Post-2015. It discusses the role of gender equality and how the OECD engages with post-2015 ideas for development worldwide.

Gender equality is recognised as key to development, though it is yet to be fully achieved in any country. United Nations member states pledged to achieve eight Millennium Development Goals, including gender equality, by 2015. Progress has been uneven, and now the question for the international community is what the post-2015development framework should be.
As the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has noted, gender equality as a development goal is “unfinishedbusiness":

Although there has been progress in some areas such as girls’ access to primary education and women’s economic empowerment, the level of achievement has been uneven across regions and within countries. There is no chance of making poverty history without significant and rapid improvements to the lives of women and girls in all countries.

The OECD suggest that increased investment in the following five policy areas could have catalytic effects on development beyond 2015: Keeping girls in school; improving reproductive health and family planning; economic empowerment; supporting leadership; and stopping violence against women.
 Helping girls realize their dreams
Protsahan in India is an example of a social initiative that – without waiting for government action – is directly addressing these issues at a grassroots level, affecting the lives of hundreds.
They work to educated is advantaged girls from slums and red light areas through creative arts. It was established by a young woman called Sonal Kapoor and is run by a team of young people, many of them volunteers.
Kapoor was prompted by an encounter with a woman in Delhi who was sending her eight-year-old daughter to a brothel in order to support her five other daughters – and was planning to strangle the seventh child she was pregnant with if it turned out to be a girl.
Protsahan means “encouragement” in Hindi. A blog post from 2011 outlines their philosophy:

How many times have you blamed the country, the politicians, the mafia or “anyone” for the prevailing issues? It’s a fact that the economic gap, the growing discrepancies between evolving and degrading sections is so stark that it can be labeled as alarming now. While a small portion is growing wealthier, another section of the society is depleting with each passing day. [...] We have envisioned a way to do our bit, to hold some hands and to realize dreams for the less fortunate. [...] Our kids want support not just sympathy. They want a chance to live a better life, to contribute to the building of a better society. We want you to be a part of this initiative and help in the transformation.

The following video introduces the organisation's work:

The power of art
Protsahan offers a curriculum based on art and creativity that then allows the children to go on to study in government schools – and to change their communities. Kapoor explains:

These children come from very tough backgrounds. As a creative medium, the arts stimulate cognitive development, encourage innovative thinking and creativity and engender understanding.


A group of girls is currently writing, shooting and editing a film on the problem of open defecation, which will subsequently be screened in their communities. Kapoor (@ArtForCause) tweeted:


Photography is another skill being taught:



The girls at Protsahan recently performed in a play looking at the issue of violence against women:

American blogger Nicole Melancon (@thirdeyemom) visited Protsahan and posted a compilation of her photos:

Development post-2015
As the world looks ahead to what the post-2015development framework should be, it's likely that true gender equality will only be achieved with the creativity, innovation and support of concerned citizens as well. Protsahan is an example of what is possible at the local level.

For more on this topic, see the Wikiprogress post-2015 portal , Wikichild and Wikigender platforms.  

This post first appeared 8 August, 2013 on the Global Voices blog.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Join Wikiprogress America Latina

This blog is part of the Wikiprogress focus on the Wikiprogress America Latina Network, see their blog site here

In preparation for the 5th OECD World forum, Wikiprogress America Latina will start a series of discussions around Well-being, Quality of Life, Progress and its relationship with the design and implementation of public policy. Watch this space for updates and further information about the dates and themes so that you can share your experiences and perspectives with us.

To set the tone we would like to share with you a publication based on the Latin American Conference on Measuring Progress and Fostering the Well-being of Societies, that was held in  Mexico City in October 2010. The event gathered senior researchers from Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. 

Their discussion about measurement of progress and well-being in the region has been compiled into 35 articles in the book The Measurement of Progress and Well-being. Proposals from Latin America.

With different perspectives, the contributions touch on three fundamental questions
  • What do we want to consider as progress in the 21st Century? 
  • What should we measure? 
  • How can we use this knowledge and measurements for public policy?

We invite you to read the publication and to send us your comments via this blog or to Also to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

To join the Wikiprogress America Latina:
Send your details to
Like us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter

See the Wikiprogress America Latina category for more publications.

Wikiprogress America Latina Team.

This blog first appeared in Spanish on the Wikiprogress Latin America blog site, here