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Archive for the ‘Personal Empowerment’ Category

Nearly 60% of Americans Say Household Income Negatively Impacted by COVID-19 – Yahoo Finance

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TransUnion unveils research assessing pandemics consumer finances impact; launches new consumer educational hub to help

CHICAGO, March 27, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Six in 10 Americans (59%) said their household income has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic an increase of 53% from those who reported impact the previous week. An additional 10% of U.S. adults said they expect their household income will suffer in the future. The newly released research from TransUnion (TRU) found that consumers from the youngest generations, as well as those persons least informed about their credit, perceive the greatest financial hardship.

TransUnion has initiated a survey of adults in the U.S. and abroad to better understand the financial impact of COVID-19 on consumers. This weeks U.S. survey of more than 3,100 adults marked the second in the ongoing research. Additional details as well as resources for consumers looking to minimize the potential negative impact of the pandemic on their credit, and access to self-serve, educational materials can be found on TransUnions COVID-19 website.

Whether its their health, financial well-being or changes in day-to-day living, the lives of tens of millions of people in the U.S. and abroad have been dramatically changed, said Amy Thomann, head of consumer credit education for TransUnion. The aim of our weekly consumer research is to better understand the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and better inform consumers, businesses and government decisions during these unprecedented times.

TransUnions research found that the youngest generations, particularly Millennials and Gen Z, were most impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. While 59% of Americans said their household income was negatively affected by the virus, the percentages were more pronounced for Millennials (68%) and Gen Z (63%).

Furthermore, the research found that Millennials (79%) and Gen Z (74%) were among the most concerned about their ability to pay bills and loans in the next month. This compared to 70% for all respondents and 53% for Baby Boomers.

The concern is growing; survey responders indicated an inability in the near future to pay bills and loans averaging $1,031 a 14% increase from last weeks average of $903. Much of the payment problems are likely due to the fact that 36% of respondents said their work hours have been reduced. Comparatively, last week 45% of respondents said their work hours were reduced. However, this improvement is marred by the fact that this week 16% of respondents said they lost their job compared to 9% last week.

The survey also impressed upon the need for further consumer education in relation to financial options. Of those survey respondents struggling to pay bills, nearly one quarter of the population dont know what they could do to address the situation. This level of uncertainty increased to 41% among consumers that do not know their credit scores. Of those consumers who do not know their credit scores, 80% have not contacted their lenders to discuss options, versus 63% for the overall population.

Consumers are facing many unexpected challenges and its natural that people are concerned about their finances. It is clear that those with the least knowledge about their financial situation or means to act have been the hardest hit. We encourage consumers looking to minimize potential negative impacts of the pandemic on their credit to visit TransUnions COVID-19 website, concluded Thomann.

TransUnions research and credit education tools will be updated in real-time on its COVID-19 website as the company continues to support consumers and businesses from around the globe.

About TransUnion (TRU)

TransUnion is a global information and insights company that makes trust possible in the modern economy. We do this by providing a comprehensive picture of each person so they can be reliably and safely represented in the marketplace. As a result, businesses and consumers can transact with confidence and achieve great things. We call this Information for Good.

A leading presence in more than 30 countries across five continents, TransUnion provides solutions that help create economic opportunity, great experiences and personal empowerment for hundreds of millions of people.

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Contact Dave Blumberg TransUnion


Telephone 312-972-6646

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Nearly 60% of Americans Say Household Income Negatively Impacted by COVID-19 - Yahoo Finance

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April 2nd, 2020 at 7:44 am

The Best Movies and TV Shows Coming to Netflix, Amazon and More in April – The New York Times

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Every month, subscription streaming services add a new batch of titles to their libraries. Here are our picks for April.

For more recommendations on what to stream, sign up for our twice-weekly Watching newsletter here.

Chances are you have a lot more time at home to stream TV and movies at the moment. Maybe youve been checking out some of our recommendations of old favorites, but there is also a batch of great new titles hitting streaming services in April. Heres our pick of the best new stuff, plus a roundup of all the best new titles in all genres. (Streaming services occasionally change schedules without giving notice.)

Brews Brothers

Starts streaming: April 10

Looking to escape with something silly and irreverent? This new slacker comedy comes from the creative team of the brothers Jeff (The League) and Greg Schaffer, who one would hope get on along better than the two fictional Rodman brothers, who run a struggling brewery together. Brews Brothers has some real Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia energy a surprising number of bodily fluids and dildos become involved in their chaotic beer-making process. You can occasionally tell that this is a show about millennials not made by millennials (craft beer is my generations Pinkberry a brewery employee at one point says), but the brothers ragtag group of co-workers is entertaining. And, they have a really cute dog.

The Innocence Files

Starts streaming: April 15

Were the court of last resort, Peter Neufeld, a co-founder of the Innocence Project, which works to exonerate wrongfully convicted Americans, explains in the opening minutes of this nine-part documentary. The Innocence Project can only take on about 1 percent of the cases they receive letters about, and this series breaks down how the American justice system fails people into three parts: the evidence, the witness and the prosecution. Episodes are directed by the Academy Award winners Roger Ross Williams (Life, Animated) and Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side). This series is not a light watch, but it is thorough, damningly revealing how easy it is to be wrongfully put on death row.

Too Hot to Handle

Starts streaming: April 17

If you were disappointed that Netflixs Love Is Blind premiered a couple of weeks before we all headed into coronavirus isolation, have I got some good news for you. Too Hot to Handle is yet another outrageous dating experiment from the streaming giant: Here, we are investigating whether deeper and more meaningful connections will form when sex is banned. In order to create as much unscientific drama as possible, the show is set in a beachside villa populated by the hottest, horniest, commitment-phobic swipesters (if this sounds like Love Island, youre not far-off who are then told that they cant have sex by a digital personal assistant called Lana. Amounts are deducted from the prize money every time there is sexual contact between contestants, and my guess is at this point in this description, you know whether youll be watching or not.

Never Have I Ever

Starts streaming: April 27

Mindy Kaling drew on her teenage years in California to create this half-hour coming-of-age show. We meet Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), a first-generation Indian-American, at the beginning of her sophomore year in high school. Shes determined to get her and her besties boyfriends, but the rest of the school is more interested in the fact that shes out of the wheelchair shed been using since a mystery paralysis took hold after her dad died of a heart attack. Devi is having a tough time, and Never Have I Ever grounds her struggles in sessions with her therapist (a wonderful Niecy Nash) and knowing narration from John McEnroe yep, the tennis player as well as moments of awkward teenage hilarity. Never Have I Ever is a show that respects the complexity of teenagers feelings, and its refreshing to see an actual teenager, Ramakrishnan, play the lead, and do it so well.

Also arriving:

April 1

David Batra: Elefanten I Rummet

How to Fix a Drug Scandal

The Iliza Shlesinger Sketch Show

Nailed It! Season 4

Lethal Weapon

Taxi Driver

The Death of Stalin

The Matrix Trilogy

April 7

Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020: Part 3

Tales From the Loop

Starts streaming: April 3

This beautiful new sci-fi series created by Nathaniel Halpern (Legion) is based on the paintings of the Swedish artist Simon Stalenhag, which features scenes of giant robots stalking across rural landscapes. Tales From the Loop borrows his eerie aesthetic: The people of Mercer, Ohio, do live alongside robots, but the real threats seem to come from the underground, where people work on a mysterious machine called the Loop that messes with all sorts of rules we take for granted gravity and linear time, to name just two. In Mercer, when a kid says an abandoned house is haunted, he means bricks are flying up into the sky from the chimney. Each hourlong episode tells a different story of how the Loop affects the Mercer community, thoughtfully grappling with big, ethical and emotional questions along the way.

Les Misrables

Starts streaming: April 10

This is not Victor Hugos Les Misrables, its Ladj Lys. The French director does set his film in the Parisian suburb of Montfermeil, also a setting of Hugos book, where Ly grew up and still lives. In this Montfermeil, however, we watch tensions between police and residents escalate into outright warfare. The film opens in 2018, just after France wins the World Cup, as Stphane (Damien Bonnard) joins the police force working in Montfermeil. As the 1995 drama La Haine attests, violence has long been a feature of certain Parisian suburbs, where immigrants and their children forced out of the city discover that the better lives they hoped for in France is hard to come by. The film offers an urgent depiction of modern-day French injustice and racism; by the end, its clear that the films title refers to everyone involved.

Also arriving:

April 3

Invisible Life

April 17

Bosch Season 6

Selah and the Spades


Starts streaming: April 12

The glorious Merritt Wever is Ruby, a married woman in her 30s who has a longstanding pact with her college boyfriend: when he texts her RUN, she replies the same, drives to the airport, gets on a plane to New York, heads to Grand Central and boards an overnight train to Chicago, where she finds said ex, Billy (Domhnall Gleeson). But this is not a neat romantic comedy in which deciding to be together is the end of the story. The pairs desire, fear and longing threaten to burst right out of the train carriages, and they are guarded, unsure if they can trust each other with why they were both so quick to leave their lives behind. This tense half-hour comedy feels a lot like a play, which makes sense its creator, Vicky Jones, has a background in theater production and writing. She also worked with Phoebe Waller-Bridge on Fleabag and Killing Eve, and Run has some of those shows dark humor and dense emotion.

Were Here

Starts streaming: April 23

On this tear-jerker, three of the most charismatic queens from the RuPauls Drag Race franchise Bob the Drag Queen, Shangela and Eureka travel the country transforming small-town residents into drag queens for one-off performances of their own. Were Here owes a big debt to both Drag Race and Queer Eye, and at times it can feel like its working hard to show bigoted locals interacting with the queens. But the transformees personal stories of discrimination, loneliness and empowerment are genuinely moving, and the producers dont shy away from exploring the complexity of being queer in America.

Also arriving:

April 1

Die Hard

The Kids Are All Right

Slumdog Millionaire

April 12

Insecure Season 4

April 25

Bad Education

April 27

I Know This Much Is True

Defending Jacob

Starts streaming: April 24

Apple adds some more A-list muscle to its streaming library with this tense mini-series: Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery star as wealthy Bostonians whose 14-year-old son, Jacob, is accused of murdering a classmate. The eight episodes are suffused with dark blues and grays as the familys merry, comfortable life unspools and long-held secrets start coming out. It turns out Evanss Andy has been battling darkness his whole life, but its all new to Dockerys Laurie, and the pairs differing reactions to a parents worst nightmare are delicately portrayed. J.K. Simmons guest-stars and is, as always, a scene-stealer.

Also arriving:

April 3

Home Before Dark

Risky Business

Starts streaming: April 1

Watching this comedy feels like opening a time capsule and being transported back to 1983, when Tom Cruise was a fresh-faced newcomer and coming-of-age movies centered on rich, peacocking white boys. Written and directed by Paul Brickman, Cruise plays Joel, a teenager whos not as academically successful as his friends, nor as successful with women. When his parents go on holiday, one of said friends convinces him to take a what the [expletive] approach to life and hire a sex worker for the night. Cue ensuing chaos. Risky Business holds up surprisingly well, with a great soundtrack and some standout, stylish moments.

Also arriving:

April 1

Bend It Like Beckham

Blazing Saddles

April 8


April 9

Little Joe

April 16

What We Do in the Shadows Season 2

April 29

Normal People

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The Best Movies and TV Shows Coming to Netflix, Amazon and More in April - The New York Times

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April 2nd, 2020 at 7:44 am

New Bwasa executive rises from the ashes – HeraldLIVE

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The new executive committee has already overcome its first hurdle, with plans for the relaunch placed on hold in wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Vasi said they had instead relied on social media and the press to announce that the Port Elizabeth branch was up and running once more.

She was also excited about her committee and the number of personal sacrifices they had already made to make the relaunch possible.

In a media statement sent out earlier this week, the association said: It is our goal to enter into strategic business partnerships with sponsors, other non-profit organisations, leading companies and business schools, to deliver on the mandate to provide ongoing events and opportunities to advance the interests and needs of women in business.

The 2017 Port Elizabeth BWA emerging entrepreneur winner, Kelly Ferreira, said she was pleased to read about the announcement of a new PE BWA executive committee.

I wish the committee all of the best going forward, and hope that the PE branch is afforded the transparent management and leadership from the BWA head office that it so richly deserves, Ferreira said.

Last year, the Port Elizabeth branch announced its decision to close due to a breakdown in communication with the head office of Bwasa, suspected financial irregularities, a failure by the head office to provide full transparency in respect of the financial status of Bwasa and an alleged lack of strategic direction.

Former chair Heather Dutton said at the time that the decision to dissolve the BWA in Port Elizabeth had not been taken lightly.

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New Bwasa executive rises from the ashes - HeraldLIVE

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April 2nd, 2020 at 7:44 am

From Shelter-in-Place to Worship-in-Place – Lasentinel

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Pastor Kelvin Sauls (Courtesy photo)

No one, having put their hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kin-dom of God. Luke 9:62

During my time in devotion and meditation the last couple of days, and in the midst of people not being able to worship together in sanctuaries, the conversation that Jesus had with the Samaritan woman in John 4 entered my spirit.

The impact of COVID-19 continues to be shocking and sobering in its impact on EVERY aspect of our lives. Caused by a detour, this encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman reveals two characteristics of Jesus character and leadership: human rights activist and evangelist in realizing Gods kin-dom. On the subject of where and how to worship in John 4:21- 24, Jesus redefines worship as not just the coming together in a particular sanctified place, but as sanctified persons coming together with God in spirit and truth. Hence, the church at worship is not limited to a place somewhere.

Followers of Jesus Christ at worship are a liberatory experience with Gods presence everywhere! Such worship is liberatory, not because of its liturgical nature, but because of its incarnational nature. Incarnation infected by Spirit and guided by Truth! While worship doesnt have to be a test in endurance of boredom, it doesnt have to be a spirited infusion of shallow entertainment. Truth be told!!

John records part of this encounter-by-detour in chapter 4:23-24 as follows, But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship God in spirit and truth, for such is the worship that God seeks. God is spirit, and those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth.

Hence, as followers of Jesus, and not fans of denominations, congregations or pastors, being the church at worship invites an updated understanding of what it means to be the church at worship.

Moreover, it instructs us into upgraded ways of being the Church at worship:

-If you need to shelter in place, you might as well worship in place, beginning with personal worship. The significance of familial and public worship depends on the quality of your personal worship

-In addition to doing worship differently, review, reposition and relaunch your personal spiritual disciplines with friends, family and technology, e.g. prayer, meditation, Bible study, journaling, etc.

-Utilizing technology, unleash your creativity by turning your worship service into worship through service by way of acts in compassion towards humanity and all of creation.

Followers of Jesus Christ at worship is a liberatory experience with Gods presence everywhere! Divine presence characterized by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit as described throughout the Acts of the Apostles:

-celebration of peoples humanity and dignity through the power of visibility

-celebration of multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-generational inclusion

-celebration of incarnational worship in place, reaching beyond the walls of your home

-celebration of equality and equity within community as integral to your spirituality

The Holy Spirit, not dogma or ideology or denomination, is the great equalizer! Hence, such experience can be liberatory worship, because you have direct access to your Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

Followers of Jesus Christ at worship is a liberatory experience with Gods presence everywhere! Liberatory divine presence is also characterized by the pursuit, practice and promotion of truth. Its said that the first casualty of war is truth. If were at war with COVID-19 , then this saying is correct.

With the daily mass denial and mass deception emanating from the White House, we have no choice but to declare President Trump as a weapon of mass distraction and destruction! Truth facilitates freedom and empowerment, hope and constructive engagement. (John 8:32). Truth enhances trust and advances unity. Optimism informed by ignorance and arrogance is an ally to COVID-19 and will result in mass destruction.

Worship in place, re-learn, re-kindle and reset your direct connection with God. For such a time as this, youll realize resurrection EVERYDAY. In the words of that great hymn:

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!

He walks with me and talks with me along lifes narrow way (impacted by COVID-19)

He lives, He lives, Salvation to impart!

You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.

Your daily access to Gods resurrection power will make your worship in place liberatory! People will be blessed! Lives will be saved! COVID-19 will be conquered! God will be glorified!

So, if you miss coming together in a sanctuary at some address, turn your address into a sanctuary, create an altar in your home and get together for worship with family and friends in person or online. Your familial and virtual community will grow in quantity & quality, substance and significance. For such times as these, Jesus redefines worship as not just coming together in a particular sanctified place, but as sanctified persons coming together with God in spirit and truth.

Could this also be what Joshua meant when he declared, As for me and my house, we will worship and serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15). Be safe in your activities! Stay well in your engagements! Be intentional in your advocacy! Serve extravagantly in your endeavors!

Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, Pastor Kelvin Sauls is the former Senior Pastor of Holman UMC. A faith-rooted Community Organizer in the areas of social justice and racial equity, he currently serves as the Network Strategist with Community Health Councils, a City Commissioner with the Los Angeles Housing Authority (LAHSA) and on the Pastoral Team at Peace Chapel Church in South Los Angeles.

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From Shelter-in-Place to Worship-in-Place - Lasentinel

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April 2nd, 2020 at 7:44 am

Avon Steps up its 16-Year Partnership with Feed the Children in Response to COVID-19 Crisis – Yahoo Finance

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This month Avon philanthropy efforts include donations of personal care products to the U.S. anti-hunger organization topping $2 million.

NEW YORK, March 31, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- One of the harshest realities of COVID-19 and the necessity of the social distancing that tragically shutters numerous businesses and puts countless people out of work is a family's sudden inability to access essential supplies and to afford them even if they can.

Avon's partner, Feed the Children, works closely with community partners like schools, civic organizations and food banks to serve the most vulnerable populations and others who may be experiencing difficulty due to a job loss in this uncertain environment. Feed the Children has alerted Avon to the most pressing needs of the most affected communities so it can send vital resources to help keep these families afloat.

This month, Avon donated $2 million worth of personal care products such as soap, body wash and skincare products to Feed the Children to support these families in need during this unprecedented time.

"Avon is proud to have partnered with Feed the Children since 2004," says Avon CEO Paul Yi. "Because of our longstanding relationship, it made sense to work with Feed the Children for their COVID-19 relief efforts. They work diligently to get our products to the people who need them most."

Over the last sixteen years, Avon has donated over 15,000,000 pounds of personal care and beauty products, clothing, shoes and home essentials to Feed the Children for distribution to families in need. In the last six months alone, Avon donations totaled over $40 million worth of necessities, bringing relief to nearly a million families including 3.5 million women and girls in 48 states and the District of Columbia, many of whom have shared their stories of improved self-confidence and empowerment as a result of their Feed the Children x Avon deliveries.

ABOUT NEW AVON COMPANY New Avon, ("New Avon Company") is the leading social selling beauty company in North America, with independent sales Representatives throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. Avon's portfolio includes award-winning skincare, color cosmetics, fragrance, personal care, and health and wellness products featuring brands such as ANEW, Skin So Soft, CHI, and The Face Shop, as well as fashion and accessories. Avon has a 134-year history of empowering women through economic opportunity, and supporting the causes that matter most to women. Avon philanthropy has contributed over $1 billion globally toward eradicating breast cancer and domestic violence. Learn more about New Avon and its products at

About Feed the Children At Feed the Children, we feed hungry kids. We envision a world where no child goes to bed hungry. In the U.S. and internationally, we are dedicated to helping families and communities achieve stable lives and to reducing the need for help tomorrow, while providing food and resources to help them today. We distribute product donations from corporate donors to local community partners, we provide support for teachers and students, and we mobilize resources quickly to aid recovery efforts when natural disasters strike. Internationally, we manage child-focused community development programs in 10 countries. We welcome partnerships because we know our work would not be possible without collaborative relationships. For more information, visit

For more information, please contact Lauren Donner, Vice President, Tractenberg & Co., 212-929-7979 and Susan Small, Public Relations Manager, Avon, 212-282-6066

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Avon Steps up its 16-Year Partnership with Feed the Children in Response to COVID-19 Crisis - Yahoo Finance

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April 2nd, 2020 at 7:44 am

Shaping Culture: Nawal Sari on the intersection of modest fashion and sneakers – Fashion Journal

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Meet the changemakers.

This Air Max season, Nike Sportswear champions inclusivity in the ever-evolving sneaker culture. Nike has tapped singer-songwriter KLPfor an interview series amplifying the voices of female changemakers who are shaping the future of sneaker culture. The following interview and words are written by KLP.

Sometimes you meet someone who shines such a bright light of positivity, it genuinely inspires you. That was me the moment I met Nawal Sari. She has such a passion for spreading self-empowerment, creativity and cultural awareness. And she does so with such grace, through sharing her own honest experiences with her followers. Having the opportunity to sit down with her and chat so openly about her upbringing, her inspirations and motivations was a moment that Ill carry through life with me.

KLP: Its so nice to meet you, Nawal. How do you describe yourself and what you stand for when you first meet people?

Nawal Sari: It feels like, for me, Im just doing my own thing in my own little bubble. But to put it into words, Im redefining modest fashion by using my platform to show other women Muslim women and every girl that modest fashion is there, and its personal and creative.

Im working on my platforms to basically push that message and inspire other girls, because I never had that growing up as this young Aussie girl. I didnt have a Muslim girl on social media, or in the media, that I could look to and be like, I want to be like her or theres a space for me. Im just on my own little mission to work to change things in my own way.

KLP: I wasnt aware of what modest fashion was. I didnt even know that it was a term to describe a type of fashion. How do you describe modest fashion?

NS: First of all, its very personal. To me, modest fashion is wearing the hijab, having longer pieces that are not as tight. To some other girls its wearing more of a turban-style hijab and doing their own type of thing. So its very, very personal. What Im trying to do is show that modest fashion is present. Its there, its in the world, people need to recognise it and take it for what it is; but its also very empowering for women.

KLP: Its your choice to dress like that and I guess youre trying to say that its up to you and the individual how they want to dress.

NS: Yeah, just as any woman should have the option to dress how she wants, the same applies. I choose to cover, you may choose to do something else. Its totally up to you, its personal, and women should have the right to dress how they want to dress and not feel like they have to conform to something because it makes someone else uncomfortable.

KLP: When you were growing up, did you have anyone that you could see that was visible that you could look up to, be it in fashion or TV?

NS: I wore the hijab when I was 15 or 16, it was in year 10. And at the time, I wasnt looking up to hijabi women. It wasnt until I got onto social media and I saw in the UK and the US that they have hijabi bloggers. I didnt think that was a thing, because I just saw the typical Aussie look for so long. And that appeals to some women, but to a lot of us it doesnt. So I kind of thought there wasnt a space for me in fashion, being a Muslim woman who also wears the hijab.

KLP: This Air Max season, Nike is championing inclusivity in sneaker culture through the likes of Air Max Verona, the new silhouette created by women, for women. Youve spoken about that at length, and youre an inspiration for so many people, how does it feel being a muse in fashion to your followers?

NS: Its crazy. I feel like I just fell into it, I never strived to be like, Im going to inspire women. I would get feedback from women who were like, because of you, I decided to wear the hijab or because of you, I dress more creatively or more personally. Thats amazing, thats what Im here to do.

Before anything I would tell myself, if Im going to put myself on a platform where I have a voice and I have that power, its going to be for something. Im not just going to be there to benefit myself, its going to help other people.

Im still studying, Im still doing my own thing, but I do see it as a career now.

KLP: You have such a strong message and its so genuine. And I guess through social media, you can connect with people all over the world which is amazing. Has there ever been an experience where someone has hit you up directly and said your sense of style has changed the way they think about modest fashion?

NS: Ive had a lot more recently, when Ive been exposed to more mainstream media, where Ive had non-Muslim women come to me and say, because of you, Ive changed my perspective of it all. Im way more open to [modest dressing] now, I see that its empowering.

My mission is to help my own first, of course I want Muslim women to feel the power. But to think that any woman can be more inclusive towards my community, and that when they see a Muslim woman walk down the road, that woman wont be alienated or treated differently because I helped a person unpack [their perceptions], its just another amazing thing that could happen from the whole thing.

KLP: So, do you believe that youve created a catalyst for change among your followers?

NS: I feel like Ive created a space where, if you follow me and you decide to be a part of the community then for sure, its changing things. To think that a Muslim woman can feel like the hijab isnt going to change her whole life and be a thing of I have to chuck out all my fun clothes and do all these things because I think a lot of Muslim women, we thought that. Like, We have to change who we are to be a woman who wears the hijab.

I feel like Im trying to show girls that its a big step, its powerful, its personal. But it can also be creative and fun, and you dont have to totally flip things upside down so you can wear the hijab.

But sneaker culture for me was how I developed my own personal style, because streetwear and sneakers, its a lot more modest than other style spaces. When I finished high school, I was actually working at a sneaker store when I discovered street culture. Its modest and its also really sick, so I can do both and still respect what Im doing. So thats kind of how I developed into my own personal style.

And I think for a lot of Muslim women, street culture and sneakers and everything around sportswear is kind of its like their safe space. Because no ones going to judge you if you walk around in a modest outfit, but its a full-on Nike kit, because its sick. But youre also comfortable and youre wearing whatever you want. So its also how Ive pushed into my own style.

KLP: Okay so last question, why is sportswear and sneaker culture important to you?

NS: Its how I developed my own style. Its how I connected my personality plus modest fashion into what I wear. When I was in high school, I remember feeling like I had to dress a certain way, which is how other hijabis dressed. Which is fine for some, but for me I didnt feel like it was personal enough. So being able to step into the sportswear world, it was not totally foreign because youre wearing longer pieces, looser pieces. I think for a lot of women, thats been really empowering. And now we have the Nike Hijab which has totally changed the game.

KLP: How did you feel when you saw that?NS: I was so happy! I wear it as more of a fashion piece, like I wear it with a hoodie on top or with just like a really cute outfit. And you can do that, theres versatility to it.

Shop the Air Max Verona here and read others in our Shaping Culture series here.

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Shaping Culture: Nawal Sari on the intersection of modest fashion and sneakers - Fashion Journal

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April 2nd, 2020 at 7:44 am

Avon Increases Support to Feed the Children Due To COVID-19 Crisis – Beauty Packaging Magazine

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Avon has partnered with Feed the Children on its philanthropy efforts for 16 years, and is increasing its support now due to the COVID-19 crisis.The company has donated more than $2 million in personal care products this month.

Feed the Children works closely with community partners like schools, civic organizations and food banks to serve the most vulnerable populations and others who may be experiencing difficulty due to a job loss in this uncertain environment, Avon states. The organization has alerted Avon to the most pressing needs of the most affected communities, so it can send vital resources to help keep these families afloat.

Paul Yi, CEO, Avon, says, "Because of our longstanding relationship, it made sense to work with Feed the Children for their COVID-19 relief efforts. They work diligently to get our products to the people who need them most."

In the last six months, Avon donations totaled over $40 million worth of necessities, bringing relief to nearly a million families including 3.5 million women and girls in 48 states and the District of Columbia, many of whom have shared their stories of improved self-confidence and empowerment as a result of their Feed the Children x Avon deliveries.

Avon Increases Support to Feed the Children Due To COVID-19 Crisis - Beauty Packaging Magazine

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April 2nd, 2020 at 7:44 am

My Gymnastics Coach Used to Fat-Shame Girls, and It Shaped the Way I View My Body – POPSUGAR

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Personal Essay on Gymnastics and Fat-Shaming

"Fat girls don't flip fast," the gymnastics coach I had throughout elementary and early middle school told us as she explained how to get enough height in our tumbling passes. It's called "setting" before you connect a back handspring, front handspring, whip back, etc. into a flip, you have to reach your arms up by your ears so the flip goes high up in the air. If your arms are far apart, or as my coach warned, "fat," you won't get as much height. I never quite seemed to think about "fat girls" or my body the same after that.

I'll always remember the slight, sometimes overt, comments my coach, a former gymnast herself, made about our bodies at a time when puberty was top of mind. We were learning about it in the classroom, and some of us were already facing its wrath. At one practice, she jokingly (but not so jokingly) compared the size of all of our calf and glute muscles. Then, she told a few of the girls that if they weren't careful, they'd grow up to have big butts.

There were other instances where my coach specifically targeted one girl on our team whom she constantly pointed out as too "jiggly." She'd pinch the girl's stomach and make snide remarks about needing to speak with the girl's mother to find out what food was available at home. My coach would scold the girl for her "thick" thighs and demand she run extra rounds of stairs at the end of practice. The most distressing part? She'd always say these things through a smile, sometimes mitigating the severity of her words with a laugh.

Body-shaming by coaches and other authority figures and the resulting unhealthy relationship with body image is a common theme when you talk to gymnasts on the elite level, too. Five-time Olympic medalist Simone Biles, UCLA superstar Katelyn Ohashi, and former elite gymnast Mattie Larson have all spoken about body-shaming they endured in the sport. Biles mentions in her book, Courage to Soar, that she remembers falling during her floor routine at the 2013 US Secret Classic and overhearing another coach say, "You know why she crashed? Because she's too fat." Ohashi was shamed for her curves prior to her collegiate career and was called a "bird that couldn't fly." And Larson, who developed an eating disorder in her teens, explained to Vice News in a 2018 documentary that at the now-closed-down Karolyi Ranch in Texas, former national team coordinator Martha Karolyi would go around during training-camp meals and praise gymnasts for having small amounts of food on their plates.

The things you're told as a young gymnast, good or bad, stay with you. (One study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology in 2006 concluded, based on surveys, that retired gymnasts "reported more eating disorders and negative views of their experiences than did the current gymnasts.") Even after switching gyms a number of times and no longer working with my original coach, I still felt her comments stick.

After over a decade in the sport, my life without gymnastics began freshman year of college. When I was a senior, I wrote a personal essay recalling how, when I first went away to school, I used to stare down warily at my hips and cup them in my hands as if to hold them in when they started to blossom. I also became near-obsessed with working out. I'd go to the campus gym for two hours per night, six days a week. Why? Well, the thought of losing the abs you could see through my leotard this "perfect" gymnast's body was terrifying. My roommate even shared her concerns when I'd come back to the dorms at 11 p.m. fresh off a long sweat session.

Though I never developed an eating disorder while competing in gymnastics or thereafter, I did show signs of disordered eating. There was a period of time when I punished myself for indulging in sweets by doing extra crunches on my bedroom floor. I was hyperaware of what my body looked like. These were all things I had to work through once I quit gymnastics. It took a few years, but I learned that rest days are important and so is enjoying the food you eat, exercise is not a punishment, and my body can still be beautiful and athletic without meeting standards set by a sport fixated on attaining perfection.

I heard similar sentiments when I spoke with Betsy McNally, a former gymnastics coach who also competed in the sport for over a decade through level 10 (level 10, for reference, is right below the elite level). Now she's a personal trainer and nutritionist who teaches gymnastics boot camps, called Betsy Bootcamps, across the country to instruct families, coaches, and gymnasts about the importance of proper nutrition for athletes and how to foster positive body image and a safe environment. She doesn't want things to escalate for them like it did for her.

At 14, McNally was told that she was "too heavy" to be good at gymnastics and that her weight was holding her back. She describes in her memoir, Binges & Balance Beams, that her coaches started displaying her and her teammates' weights on a chart at practice. She fell into a downward spiral of "not eating" and sprinkling fiber powders on her meals, so she'd stay fuller for longer. No one ever taught her which foods would give her energy and what would help her recover from workouts, she said. No one was there to talk about how to eat to promote a healthy lifestyle; instead, it was all about restriction. And the worst part, as it is for many gymnasts, were the lingering effects.

After gymnastics, McNally turned to bodybuilding competitions and modeling, becoming "obsessed" with her physique and looking fit. She struggled with the "vicious cycle" of restriction and binging in the bodybuilding world, and those comments from her gymnastics coach remained. Though McNally can't diagnose eating disorders or refer athletes at her boot camps to eating-disorder specialists that's out of her scope of practice she can educate them on the importance of nutrition that she's learned not only through her professional work but through her own experiences, too.

It's in the nature of gymnastics (and in the rules, for that matter) to strive for perfection, but I realize now that, as much as I love and appreciate those years as a gymnast, this fight for the elusive "perfect" led me to grip onto what I deemed to be my own imperfections. I can't sit here and pretend that the sport didn't shape me as a person in positive ways. I owe a lot to it my courage, my attention to detail, my splits but the body-shaming is not just exclusive to the elite level of gymnastics; it's on all levels, and it has longterm effects.

And it's not just in gymnastics. Take former professional runner Mary Cain's November 2019 op-ed video published on the New York Times website. In it, she details the ruthless and unhealthy atmosphere on the now-shut-down Nike Oregon Project team cultivated by her coaches and spearheaded by Alberto Salazar (note: Salazar was banned from the sport for four years due to a doping scandal). Cain was conditioned to shed pounds at a dangerous rate because it would make her "faster," and she, too, was weighed in front of her peers.

Cain is an advocate for more women coaches, and I agree that we need them. But my experience shows that women are not immune to falling prey to, and perpetuating, these negative cultural messages. We all need to work together to change the fundamental ways in which we educate and support young women in sports.

As McNally told me, "I really like to think that I'm part of a movement where we're changing, shifting completely, the whole result of the sport and focusing more on being positive and educating girls." But the real people struggling, she noted, are "people like me and you." We, as McNally explained, experience the residual effects later in life where it "manifests in eating disorders and people not loving themselves just because of a stupid comment."

McNally and I spent some time talking about how the focus on appearance and weight and lack of education on healthy habits and nutrition caused us to have missed opportunities in our gymnastics careers. "I really would have been good at the sport, but nobody ever taught me balance," she said. Still, she was able to use the struggles she faced for a purpose greater than her own. "I took a bad thing and I made it a good thing," she said, "and that's what makes us stronger and better people."

Hearing McNally say this made me feel seen. Self-love can be hard to come by. Gymnastics did teach me to be proud of my strength and to believe in that strength. My former coach's body-shaming can't take away that feeling of empowerment, but it wasn't until after those transitional years in college that I could abandon the microscopic lens I used to view my body through; that I could detach from this idea of what a "perfect" body should be.

For gymnasts or former gymnasts going through similar experiences, I have a message: It's OK to love the sport and, at the same time, acknowledge that there are deep-seated issues in how girls' bodies are judged. It's OK to thank the sport for what it's given you and recognize what it took from you. It's OK to grow into the person you now are and will become knowing that perfect isn't who you are. And that's exactly how it's supposed to be.

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My Gymnastics Coach Used to Fat-Shame Girls, and It Shaped the Way I View My Body - POPSUGAR

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April 2nd, 2020 at 7:44 am

Joint Letter: Re: Restrictions on Communication, Fencing, and COVID-19 in Cox’s Bazar District Rohingya Refugee Camps – Bangladesh – ReliefWeb

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Sheikh Hasina Prime Minister Old Sangsad Bhaban Tejagaon, Dhaka-1215 Bangladesh

Dear Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,

As authorities around the world struggle to cope with the spread of COVID-19, it is crucial that States act to protect the most vulnerable, including refugee populations.

We, the 50 undersigned organizations, have welcomed the Bangladesh governments efforts to host the Rohingya refugees who were forced to flee atrocities perpetrated by the Myanmar Army. We also commend the Bangladesh Government for working closely with the humanitarian community on COVID-19 preparedness and response in Coxs Bazar District, including efforts to establish isolation and treatment facilities.

Now we write to urge you to lift ongoing mobile internet restrictions and halt the construction of barbed wire fencing around the Rohingya refugee camps in Coxs Bazar District. These measures threaten the safety and well-being of the refugees as well as Bangladesh host communities and aid workers, in light of the growing COVID-19 pandemic.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads to Bangladesh, unrestricted access to information via mobile and internet communications is crucial for slowing the transmission of the disease and saving the lives of refugees, humanitarian workers, and the general population of Bangladesh. Lifting restrictions will not only enable community health workers to quickly share and receive the most reliable and up-to-date guidance during this evolving pandemic, but will also help in coordination with community leaders. We urge you to ensure refugees, local communities, and aid workers alike can freely access mobile and internet communications, in the interest of protecting human rights and public health.

Since September 2019, Bangladesh authorities have prevented Rohingya refugees from obtaining SIM Cards and directed telecommunications operators to restrict internet coverage in Rohingya refugee camps in Coxs Bazar District. According to Bangladeshs Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mahbub Alam Talukder in Coxs Bazar, authorities have confiscated more than 12,000 SIM Cards from refugees since September and refugees report that in some instances authorities have prohibited the use of mobile phones altogether.

These restrictions should be lifted in light of the governments recommendation to those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to contact the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, hotline. Without a phone or SIM Card, abiding by this instruction is impossible. Furthermore, without access to mobile and internet communications, aid workers and others will be forced to deliver critical health information in person, heightening their risk of exposure to COVID-19 and slowing the effectiveness of the response.

Access to information is an essential component of an effective public health response to a pandemic. On March 19, experts from the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe called on all governments to ensure immediate access to the fastest and broadest possible internet service in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that, [e]specially at a time of emergency, when access to information is of critical importance, broad restrictions on access to the internet cannot be justified on public order or national security grounds.

In addition to providing access to information, there is a critical need for the government to take extra precautions to ensure the safety and well-being of the refugees. On March 24, Commissioner Mahbub Alam Talukder told media that in response to the spread of COVID-19, All activities will be suspended in every camp. . . . However, emergency services with respect to food, health, and medicine will continue as usual. The Bangladesh government should ensure that protective measures, including provision of sufficient personal protective equipment, are available for the aid workers and volunteers providing these essential services in accordance with the Inter-Agency Standing Committees Interim Guidance on COVID-19 response operations in humanitarian settings.

During this time, the Government of Bangladesh should work in close collaboration with international humanitarian organizations and Rohingya-led groups to disseminate accurate and timely information on COVID-19 and mitigate the risk of the virus spreading into the camps and in adjacent host communities.

The government should further balance travel restrictions to ensure that additional humanitarian health workers can safely enter the country and camps without facing undue bureaucratic impediments.

We also write to share our concern regarding the construction of barbed-wire fencing around refugee camps. On September 26, 2019, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal announced plans to construct barbed-wire fencing and guard towers around Rohingya refugee camps in Coxs Bazar District. Various statements by government officials have made it clear that the purpose of the fencing is not to protect the Rohingya, but rather to confine them. The Bangladesh Home Minister told journalists the reason for building the fencing was to ensure that the Rohingya do not leave the camp and join our community. Construction on the fencing began in November 2019.

This construction is motivated by concerns arising prior to the global outbreak of COVID-19, but now risks not only harming refugees but impeding the response to the pandemic. The Bangladesh governments construction of fencing to enclose the Rohingya refugee camps has created heightened distress, fear, and mistrust among Rohingya refugees, posing greater risks to public health and needless obstructions to humanitarian access as it will become harder for refugees to enter and exit the camp for services.

In constructing barbed-wire fencing to confine Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh risks mirroring the behavior of Myanmar authorities, who presently confine more than 125,000 Rohingya to more than 20 internment camps in five townships of Rakhine State. Instead, Bangladesh should ensure proper access to health care with ease of mobility. This is particularly crucial for those most vulnerable in the refugee camps, including those living with disabilities, older people, and children.

Rohingya refugees remain vulnerable as they depend on humanitarian assistance. It is critical to maintain humanitarian access to the camps at this time. It is equally important to prepare the Rohingya communitymen, women, and youthto be capacitated to support their community at this time. Rohingya community volunteers will be the first responders in this crisis and must be equipped with personal protective equipment and trained accordingly on health and hygiene promotion.

We urge you and your government to uphold the rights of Rohingya refugees to health, freedom of expression and access to information, and freedom of movement. We also call on the Bangladesh Government to ensure non-discrimination between refugees and citizens in accessing timely COVID-19 testing and treatment.

We strongly believe these protections will also benefit overall public health in Bangladesh.

We thank you for your attention to these issues, and we offer our assistance and support to protect the lives and well-being of all those within the territory of Bangladesh, including Rohingya refugees.


Minister of Disaster Management and Relief Enamur Rahman

Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mahbub Alam Talukder



2. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

3. Action Corps

4. Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma)

5. Amnesty International

6. Arakan Rohingya National Organisation

7. Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network

8. Association Rohingya Thailand

9. Beyond Borders Malaysia

10. British Rohingya Community UK

11. Burma Campaign UK

12. Burma Human Rights Network

13. Burma Task Force

14. Burmese Rohingya Association in Japan

15. Burmese Rohingya Community in Denmark

16. Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

17. Canadian Burmese Rohingya Organization

18. Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative

19. Emgage Action

20. European Rohingya Council

21. FIDH International Federation for Human Rights

22. Fortify Rights

23. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

24. Global Justice Center

25. Human Rights Watch

26. Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention, Binghamton University

27. International Campaign for the Rohingya

28. International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School

29. Justice For All

30. Justice4Rohingya UK

31. Kaladan Press Network

32. Karen Womens Organization

33. Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability

34. People Empowerment Foundation

35. Pusat KOMAS, Malaysia

36. Queensland Rohingya Community

37. Refugees International

38. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

39. Rohingya Action Ireland

40. Rohingya Association of Canada

41. Rohingya Global Youth Movement

42. Rohingya Human Rights Network

43. Rohingya Peace Network Thailand

44. Rohingya Refugee Network

45. Rohingya Today

46. Save Rohingya Worldwide

47. Society for Threatened Peoples Germany

48. U.S. Campaign for Burma

49. Unitarian Universalist Service Committee


Excerpt from:
Joint Letter: Re: Restrictions on Communication, Fencing, and COVID-19 in Cox's Bazar District Rohingya Refugee Camps - Bangladesh - ReliefWeb

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April 2nd, 2020 at 7:44 am

50 nations promised cash to fight Covid. Few, like India and Bangladesh, are doing it right – ThePrint

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As the world grapples with COVID-19, governments face a daunting challenge: limiting the adverse impact of a pandemic that has ground economic activity to a halt, affecting people at a scale rarely seen before. More than 50 countries, including the United States, have announced some form of cash transfer or social assistance to help tide over the immediate challenges faced by their citizens. While many of these efforts are one-off measures to mitigate the immediate impact, some may turn out to be more long-term depending on how widespread the economic and human cost of the pandemic turns out to be.

Delivering on these promises will require an enormous increase in the capacity of states to make payments to their citizens, or government-to-people (G2P) transfers, as they are widely known. Every government transfers money to people in some formpublic sector salaries, pensions, scholarships, grants and vouchers to the poor, and so onso there is existing capacity, including delivery mechanisms, to draw upon. But in most countries existing systems will not be adequate, either in volume or coverage, to help those affected make it through the economic disruption. The immediate challenge is how to make G2P transfers efficiently, equitably, and at scaleand how best to use technology to do so. And once the crisis is passed, the development challenge remains: How can digital technologies help accelerate global efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and eliminate poverty?

Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have attempted to answer some of these questions in a three-year project at Center for Global Development (CGD), culminating in our newly launched Citizens and States report. It has taken us on a journey through three continentsAsia, Africa, and Latin Americato understand how digital technologies are shaping the future of governance.

Also read: Modi govt needs to open the JAM for public contributions. PM Care alone cant deliver

The potential of ID, mobiles, and payments to improve the capacity of governments to deliver more effective, inclusive, and accountable programmes is huge. This trinity has been termed JAM in India.

People in Indian villages receive food subsidies and pensions using the countrys biometric ID, Aadhaar. Community health workers in Bangladesh deliver maternal health services using their mobile phones. Agents in rural Kenya are at the frontlines of the mobile money revolution that is now a global phenomenon.

Governments are creating the infrastructure to harness the power of data to monitor the delivery of services and subsidies in real time, improving accountability of providers and voice of the citizens.

Developing countries are transforming their ability to deliver public services, subsidies, and transfers. Leveraging the almost-universal coverage of Aadhaar, bank accounts, and mobile phones, India now electronically transfers nearly $350 billion to over 800 million people every year. The just-passed US plan to give $1,200 to every citizenincluding in some cases by checkwill be far more logistically challenging for the US government than transferring the payment digitally, as India has been doing for government payments for the last seven years, and far more subject to errors and fraud. Many developing countries will similarly struggle to distribute payments, but others have built up robust systems that they can now leverage in a crisis.

Digital technologies are changing the lives of people in the developing world. With the spread of digital identification, access to financial accounts, and mobile phones, citizens increasingly demand the same convenience and responsiveness in dealing with their governments that they experience in their personal lives. In turn, governments around the world are moving rapidly to harness the power of technology to improve their ability to serve peoplein other words, increasing state capacity in an increasingly interconnected, digital world.

Also read: Govt funds start-up to produce device that reduces presence of coronavirus in closed space

Is a capable state a good state? The record suggests not necessarily. In developmental terms, state capacity can only be assessed relative to some specified objectives. For these, we can turn to the global development consensus, as embodied in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They represent an ambitious elevation of aspirations relative to the Millennium Development Goals, placing new emphasis on the nexus between the state and the individual.

In the current dynamic and evolving context, how can digital technologies play a positive role to achieve the ambitious objectives and targets embodied in the SDGs? What can we learn from the experiences of digital reform in developing countries? What can we say about the future trajectory of digital governancethe guiding principles, the harmonisation of policy design and technology, and the challenges going forward? Finally, how can technology both empower citizens and improve state capacity?

The SDGs recognise the importance of JAM; ID, mobile communications, and financial inclusion are intrinsic goals in themselves, in addition to being possible instruments to help achieve other goals and targets.

The objectives of SDGs should motivate governments to use digital technologiesespecially ID and paymentsto improve delivery of public services, subsidies, and transfers. Without an effective ID system, beneficiary lists are often replete with nonexistent individuals or ghosts, resulting in misuse of scarce public resources. Without increased access to financial accounts, it is difficult to pay beneficiaries electronically instead of in physical cash. Finally, without the capacity to gather feedback on the quality and timeliness of public services and payments, it is difficult to identify bottlenecks and improve the efficiency and accountability of service provision. Digital technologies, appropriately designed and implemented, can address these issues, improving the capacity of states to improve the efficiency and equity of delivery mechanisms over a broad range of public goods and services in developing countries.

Also read: After demonetisation and GST, slow response on corona is latest disaster of centralisation

Digital technology, including ID and payments and supported by mobiles (JAM), can enhance state capability to deliver a wide range of policies and programmes relating to multiple SDGs in the areas of sustainability, social protection, and governance. Improvements can include better accountability, service and user empowerment, greater equity, and sometimes fiscal savings. The latter can come mainly from three sources: lower transaction costs, eliminating ghost and duplicate beneficiaries (both within and across programmes), and reducing leakages in subsidies delivered through G2P and P2G payments as well as goods delivered through digitally controlled supply chains. Shifting from physical cash payments to financial transfers, for example, can ease the burden of managing cash on frontline service providers, such as teachers in the case of education supplements in Bangladesh.

Gains are not automatic, however. Technology is only a tool. Even as it opens up new opportunities, its impact will be shaped by institutional and economic conditions as well as the aim of the reforms.

Technology amplifies the power of data, and its impact on development depends on how this power is used. States can use data to improve service delivery, but they may not be benign users of data. The rapidly evolving tools available to governments also have the potential to leave marginalised groups behind, or to further isolate them. New checks and balances will be needed to ensure that digital technology serves the needs of all citizens.

JAM is a flexible platform, and it is being applied in different ways. The principles that follow are based on cases to date, but there is still a great deal to learn about the introduction of digitised service programmes.

Also read: 10 steps Modi govt should take to manage economic fall-out of coronavirus: SC Garg


Universal access to well-functioning ID, connectivity, and financial inclusion has to be a first principle when considering moving citizengovernment interactions in this direction.


The primary aim of reform should be to improve quality and inclusion, with fiscal savings a secondary objective, to be obtained from efficiency gains.

Digital approaches can open the door to new ways to approach targeting. Because they enable benefits to be provided accountably to well-identified recipients, governments can invoke soft targeting through moral suasion and other indicative approaches.

Incentives throughout the delivery chain are a critical counterpart to accountability and need to be factored into rollouts and reforms. If digital reforms eliminate avenues for diversion and corruption, margins for service providers will probably need to be increased to compensate for reduced opportunities to exercise their discretion.

It is essential to have effective policies and procedures in place to monitor technology failures and grievances and to resolve them, especially as reforms move important elements of delivery out of the hands of local officials and towards more remote systems and data.

Even programmes seen as good by the majority of beneficiaries and customers can increase the marginalisation of vulnerable groups. For this reason, there needs to be a special focus on such groups when assessing the impact of changes. This can include technological challengesfor example, to provide alternative options for authentication through an ID system.

Reforms can also involve transitional frictions such as reconciling data errors and inconsistencies as previously manual or scattered systems are integrated. These problems will be more serious for groups with less capacitythe poor, elderly, or womenwho are frequently the most dependent beneficiaries of public programmes.

Choice and Voice

Digital technology should empower citizens by increasing agency, expanding choice, and strengthening voice through better and more effective use of feedback systems.

Digitised delivery systems generate enormous quantities of data, much of it in real time, which can provide critical feedback to programmes and transition towards a system of real-time governance.

Because benefits are personalised and attached to the beneficiary, they can be made portable, subject to logistical constraints. The exercise of choice by users provides a second important real-time feedback signal to program administrators.

User responses can provide a third feedback loop, operating in almost real time. This can include star ratings of distributors and beneficiary surveys through robocalls as well as phone-based systems for filing complaints.

Although elements of the approach could be included in many programmes, not all jurisdictions will have the motivation and capability needed to operate a full real-time governance feedback system.

Ensuring the long-term political sustainability of real-time feedback systems is difficult, but transparency can help build citizen demand and buy-in. The results generated by feedback systems will need to be readily available and easily accessible to the public to establish it as a citizen expectation and a useful tool for civil society.

Cross-cutting goals: Gender equity and financial inclusion:

Even as digitising programmes can contribute to more effective service delivery, it can support womens empowerment and provide a stimulus to financial inclusion. These are useful steps towards the goal of changing gender norms, although this is a much longer-run proposition.

A growing body of evidence shows that women and other marginalised groups such as ethnic and linguistic minorities, as well as differently abled persons, face extra structural barriers to adopting the JAM components.

Surveys paint a broadly favourable picture in most cases but point to the need for attention to the constraints on women that limit their agency. This can dilute the gains from digitising programmes or even cause more difficulties.

The road from digital transfers to full use of financial accounts is long, but specific measures can help. By and large, very few of the women receiving transfers into bank or mobile money accounts are doing more than cashing them out. They are financially included, but more in a formal sense than in a real sense.

Also read: Pay safe, stay safe: Modi govt encourages digital payment amid coronavirus scare

There is a large unfinished agenda to extend JAM access and use. JAM cannot be used as a delivery platform for services unless it is widely accessible. While there has been spectacular growth in coverage, the cross-country picture is uneven, including in reaching the poor and vulnerable groups who are often the highest priority for service. Similarly, the wide gap between leading use cases and others indicates how much further there is to go in using JAM to reform citizenstate engagement. Addressing this challenge will require strategic approaches that build on natural synergies, especially since ID systems, mobile communications, and payment systems are multi-use platforms that can be applied to many programmes and services.

Governance will need to evolve as citizens increasingly adjust toas well as demanddigital first interactions with the state. There are still many questions around the longer-run implications of digitisation. While digitisation of government payments has been motivated largely by the objective of governments to improve the efficiency of public expenditure, we have yet to see its impact on revenue mobilisation, especially in developing countries. To what extent ubiquitous citizenstate digital payments (both G2P and P2G) would lead individuals to change their preferences for cash versus financial transactions is also an open question. The impact of digitisation is complexfor example, the trade-offs between greater transparency and accountability of transactions enabled by digital ID and payments on the one hand and the incentive to deliver better services by those who benefited from the previous system on the other. digitisation would entail significant realignment of incentives between the government, its intermediaries, and citizens.

More monitoring and research are needed as the use of JAM extends to more countries and programmes. While this report has sought to build on available evidence, this is still sparse. Few system reforms are adequately monitored, so provision for thisincluding client surveysshould be built into their design at the start. There is also a need to better understand how the shift towards digital mechanisms influences social and gender norms over the longer run.

Alan Gelb is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD);Anit Mukherjee is a policy fellow at the CGD; and Kyle Navis ispolicy analyst at CGD.

This article is an edited excerpt from the authors report Citizens and States: How Can Digital ID and Payments Improve State Capacity and Effectiveness?, released by the Center for Global Development. Read the full report here.

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50 nations promised cash to fight Covid. Few, like India and Bangladesh, are doing it right - ThePrint

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April 2nd, 2020 at 7:44 am

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