By Bonaventure Fandohan, Area of Focus Manager for Economic and Community Development
Over the past 25 years, the number of workers living in extreme poverty has declined dramatically despite the lasting impact of the 2008 economic crisis and global recession. In developing countries, the middle class now makes up more than 34 percent of total employment – a number that has almost tripled between 1991 and 2015. However, as the global economy continues to recover, we are seeing slower growth, widening inequalities, and not enough jobs to keep up with a growing labor force.
The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal call to action to end poverty, encourage growth, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. These 17 Goals, which built on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), encourage us to focus our efforts on promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth and achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all. This eighth SDG goal is actively being realized by The Rotary Foundation’s support of Rotarian-led projects to create measurable and enduring economic improvement in lives and communities; for example, Rotarians are helping bring vocational and entrepreneurship trainings to their communities to build capacity for local economic advancement.
Recently, Rotarians around the world have increased global grant applications focused on creating more local work opportunities. In South Korea, the Rotary Club of Youngilman, District 3630, worked with Rotarians from District 3470, Taiwan, to create a mushroom farm and training center for mushroom growers to supporting 20 people with disabilities in the city of Pohang-si. In the same country, the Rotary Club of Cheonan Sky Club collaborated with District 3830, Philippines, to design a program empowering 30 migrant women in the city of Cheonan.
In Brazil, Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Rio de Janeiro partnered with Rotarians from District 1820, Germany, on a grant promoting inclusion of socially vulnerable women. That project, called Mulher Empreendedora, was designed to provide vocational training to 120 women in five communities on topics including fostering entrepreneurship, economic, social and cultural development, citizenship, health and welfare in Rio de Janeiro.
In Texas, USA, the Rotary Club of Sugar Land, District 5890, and the Rotary Club of Torreón, District 4110, Mexico, assisted 210 inmates from the Darrington Correctional Facility by sponsoring innovative educational opportunities through the development of vocational skills before their release into their communities. The Rotarians partnered with Alvin Community College to develop a market-based training that would help inmates in the program get hands-on experience in business, networking, and leadership.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the club Lubumbashi-Etoile, District 9150, and the Rotary Club of Heerleen, District 1550, Netherlands, partnered to sponsor a vocational training program for 450 underprivileged youth to become craftsmen in building and construction, car and equipment maintenance, and other technical areas. This program, designed in partnership with Cite des Jeunes, a local organization, gives at risk youth an opportunity to get or create new jobs in Lubumbashi or neighboring areas.
These examples, amongst many others, show that sustained economic development is not possible without improved employment opportunities. As our efforts continue around the world, we encourage Rotarians to prioritize sustainability and community ownership in projects by involving stakeholders from the onset during the community assessment stage and continuously throughout every aspect of project planning and implementation.