Friday, December 12, 2014

Two New Women Creating Amazing Solutions!

While I've completed the book, I knew there would be new innovators and innovations that would emerge. This week the first two biggies appeared.

Lauren Braun
Lauren Braun has created Alma Sana, an NGO helping to expand immunizations by creating a child's bracelet encoded with the schedule of shots for children under five. So clever, and illiterate-friendly. I plan to track this intiative closely, as it seems end-user friendly and intuitive. The bracelet stretches; when the child receives each shot, the health practitioner punches a little hole in it. You can watch her TEDx talk here.

Here is a close-up of her bracelet:

The second innovator is Dr. Theresa Dankovich - a real humanitarian tech star, the inventor of silver nano-particle coated paper that filters water. The Drinkable Book is in pilot with WaterIsLife. The papers, bound in a book, are torn out one at a time and, when dirty water pours through it, purifies water at a level comparable to tap water! It is quite cheap. Watch below!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

100 Under $100 Countdown: Tool #1 - BREASTFEEDING

Quintessence Breastfeeding Latch-On Challenge in China  - Yushi Zhang

It is 100 days til publication, 3.6.2015.
I will be posting daily, one tool per day. Tool #1 is Breastfeeding, nature's best immunization. A great way to improve infant health, for free!

Follow my daily tweet countdown here, via @BetsyTeutsch at twitter, or by Liking my FB page.  And please spread the word!!

Thanks, Betsy

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Professor Linda Scott Nails It: Data Show Women's Empowerment WORKS

New Delhi students learn circuitry -
Feminist Attitude towards Technology
I am a huge, huge fan of Professor Linda Scott's blog, DoubleXEconomy.  She teaches at Oxford and brings her 4 decades of personal experience in the corporate world and academia, as a single mother, to bear in very trenchant analysis.

This recent blog post, is below, verbatim from her blog. Expect to be hearing alot about what the data shows - empowering women lifts all boats. It is not just an economic theory, it is proven. I write about the Girl Effect alot in my upcoming book (She Writes Press Spring 2015!) - what really impresses me is how long-term the benefits are when you add them up.

The Numbers on Women: The World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report, 2014

Today I am speaking at the Women of the Future Summit in London, an event sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Said Business School, and a number of corporations, including Cisco and KPMG. High profile events featuring some aspect of women’s leadership or economic participation, have become commonplace in recent years.    Women at all levels, but especially those in positions where they can affect institutional decision-making, need to be aware of the reasons for all this flurry of interest from governments, corporations, and multilateral organisations.
As an erstwhile historian of the women’s movement, I can tell you emphatically that no previous generation has garnered positive attention of this magnitude.  Indeed, past leaders have begged for the notice of governments and staged heart-breaking stunts (hunger strikes and the like) to pull public notice to their cause.
So how did this generation’s women come to be the cause of the hour? To resolve this paradox, you must know about the new information on the status of women.  It has been only in the past twenty years that international institutions have disaggregated data by gender and begun to build datasets on women’s circumstances.  Our generation is now able, for the first time in history, to compare measures of gender inequality across nations, to correlate those measures with other metrics on national well-being, and to judge the impact of interventions on behalf of women.
What has been learned through this process of data collection and analysis is now changing everything.  These data show quite conclusively that women all over the world are systematically disadvantaged, not only economically, but in their access to basic services like education, health care, and political participation.
We can now have hard evidence that is not an illusion, a myth, or a stereotype that women are a subordinated group.  Women are massively disadvantaged, in eerily consistent ways, all across the world, in developed and developing countries alike.  However, when interventions to even out these inequalities are successful, an astonishing cascade of positive benefits to whole nations occur.  Not only does national prosperity and competitiveness increase when countries educate their girls and employ their women, but other negative forces that drain resources begin to subside.  Violence is reduced.  Excessive fertility declines.  The disease burden is lightened.  Many believe that various forms of environmental degradation can be reversed by empowering women.  Perhaps most importantly, the positive effect on the well-being of the next generation is dramatic.
In sum, there is a ripple effect that comes from resolving gender inequality that is massively positive for both women and men, that is passed on through generations, and that is measurably beneficial for nations.  And that is why there are suddenly so many events, reports, and programs that try to encourage and cultivate women.
There are several sources who make these data available to ordinary citizens and several institutions have begun packaging the information around various topics.  However, my own opinion is that the best overview–and the most user-friendly–is the Global Gender Gap Report that is published annually by the World Economic Forum.  The 2014 report is being released today.
The World Economic Forum selects key indicators, many drawn from other sources, that allow us to compare items like girls’ educational attainment and female labor force participation within and between countries–and to do so with ease and in confidence that the measures are, indeed, comparable.  The WEF also adds a few measures from their own data collection activities, one of which is their “subjective” equal pay measure–a number that is, for my money, the best indicator of equal pay among many available metrics.
Another aspect of the current moment that is unlike any previous juncture in the history of the women’s movement is the ability for women in all nations to communicate with and help each other.  Now, having the data we need to understand how deeply similar our circumstances are, we also have the means at our disposal to raise awareness, demand accountability, and help each other.  For individual women who have not engaged with the issue before now, becoming familiar with the information provided by reports like theGlobal Gender Gap Report is an important first step.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Plastic Bottle Greenhouses

Greenhouses extend the season, protecting plants and helping to get an earlier start and keep them going longer.
I have seen pictures of greenhouses made of soda bottles but didn't include them in the book, 100 Under $100 - but when the book designer laid out the pages, there was a blank page and I was able to sneak them in - really #101, but without any instructions or stories.

Here is a PDF instructable: it is quite a project - we are talking a few thousand bottles. But in most locals, that is an accomplishable goal.

The photo on the left is from an article posted here.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Dayo Olopade's The Bright Continent - Kanju v Jugaad: Doing More with Less

Writer Dayo Olopade
Dayo Olopade is a fascinating tour guide on a trip through 17 African countries. Her recent book The Bright Continent: Breaking Rules & Making Change in Modern Africa is not just a great read, but she writes from the inside out as a 21st century phenomenon - a global citizen. While reared in Chicago and wholly American (though her Ivy League credentials are not one of a "typical" American), her parents are Nigerian immigrants. 

Unlikechildren of immigrants of the past who strove to assimilate - especially if their families left because of poverty and discriminitation in their countries of origin - this new 2nd generation is different. They travel freely between the old country and the new, cross-fertilizing and understanding more about their cultural DNA. They also serve as change agents, bringing ideas and skills back and forth between Africa and the USA. This is increasingly common in the form of tech transfer, but in Olopade's case, she is transfering her observations and insights, useful to anyone interested in global development and travel to Africa.Thus did Olopade spend three years in Africa, embedded in local culture. While American, with American experience, insights, and an topnotch education, she also was able to interpret what she saw with the help of family, language skills, and the ability to blend in - and experience wholly unavailable to non-black Americans hanging out in Africa. I found her personal story as fascinating as those she describes.

She reports on a wide variety of developments, many of which I learned about researching my  upcoming book, 100 Under $100: One Hundred Tools for Empowering Global Women. My interests were micro:  the tools that help with the basics, like solar lamps, clean cookstoves, vaccinations, latrines, water treatment.  She focuses on business models and methods of getting things done, but our interests often overlap; we are reporting the same phenomenon, though using different structures.

Jugaad, a term used by Indian engineers and designers, loosely translates as "frugal engineering". When designing for the world's lowest income customers, tools must be designed in the simplest way possible to get jobs done. If they break, there's no one there to fix them, and spare parts would be hard to distribute. Using the simplest technology consuming the least amount of materials keeps costs down; just so the tools work.

Olopade's book is a tribute to kanju, creating systems to distribute goods and services when conventional networks and infrastructures are lacking, a whole informal economy that replaces schlerotic or non-existent bureaucracies and infrastructures.  Given a hopelessly ineffective public school systems, creative entrepreneurial educators run private schools at very low prices, to much better effect. Given the absence of sanitation and sewers, ecosan centers have sprung up.  MPesa (included in my book, I'm happy to say) has revolutionized banking and money transfer in Kenya. Previously unbanked people can now send, receive, save, and invest money. It's amazing. 
Enjoy Olopade's interview here - she is a rising star.

Kanju doesn't substitute for effective infrastructures; hopefully systems will develop to provide better health care, for example. But it's great to read her descriptions of the vitality and plain chutzpah of Africans grabbing opportunity and creating value. Wish there were more women for her to write about. But their exclusion from so many realms is what motivated my book.

Monday, August 25, 2014

100 Under $100: One Hundred Tools For Empowering Global Women

Here's the gorgeous bookjacket design.

The photo is of Vijaylaxmi Sharma, an opponent of forced marriages.  She resisted one at age 13 and is now a leader and role model.  Tool #95 = Eradicating Forced Marriages of Girls.

I tested this cover out with a group of STEM summer high school program students at Brown University. When I asked them if it was confusing that there is no mechanical tool in this image, they said "The girls ARE the tools for empowering their lives."  So true.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

School Bag Solar Lights - an Old Idea Reborn

Hindustan Times Photo: the school bag is fitted with a solar 
charger and LED light - voila! - lights to do schoolwork at night.
Fitting backpacks with solar charging panels is not a new idea, but the bags have been luxury items. Anusheela Saha, an Indian designer has reinvented them, putting LED lights on slum school children's backpacks, assuring they will have light at night.  The first batch, manufactured in China, are coming in at about $25 a bag.  Mass production would lower costs. Here is the story from the Hindustan Times:

The brilliant idea came to 34-year-old creative designer Anusheela Saha when she was talking to her domestic help, “She told me about the problems her children faced while studying at night. There are frequent power outages in her slum. This got me thinking.”
Saha’s solution was simple. Attach solar panels to schoolbags that collect energy during the day to power an LED light in the night. The bags are also equipped with a nifty device that converts a child’s movement into electricity as they walk around during the day. 
The backpacks look like regular schoolbags but turn into a lamp when their front pockets are unzipped. Solar panels are attached on the sides, and can power the lamp for over eight hours.
“Children are out in the sun, walking to and fro to school, playing in the fields. While they are doing that, the panels attached to their bags get activated. Any physical activity they undertake while carrying their bags also adds energy. A regular school day will charge the inbuilt lamps to work for eight hours,” Saha explained.
“There is no dearth of sunlight here so why not use this readily available source to benefit the masses?” she added.
One would think such an idea would be immediately picked up by manufacturers but after facing several rejections, Saha eventually had to approach a local tailor to give shape to her vision.
The solar panels are imported from China. “I didn’t use locally made panels because they are heavy,” she said. As a result the bag weighs just 600gm and is easy to carry.
The idea isn’t exactly new and similar bags are available at leading stores but they come for Rs. 4,500 and up.
Saha intends to distribute the bags for no profit. The first batch was produced with funding  from Salaam Balak — an NGO working for the education of poor children. Despite this, Shah incurred a production cost of Rs. 1,500 per bag.
So far, 22 backpacks have been given to students studying at the Shastri Park centre of the NGO for free. “I do not want to burden the families by the cost of these bags so I am looking at avenues for crowd funding where people can make donations for this initiative,” said Saha.