For social justice activists, the rapid speed with which news crosses the globe has led to an incredible opportunity allowing us to react to human rights issues as they occur.
Our modern technological world has planted a seed of comfort in our minds with knowing that we are never truly alone in a time of crisis. We now have the ability to find out about, and spread information across the world of abuses or wrongdoings as they emerge. We can act instantly to support human rights defenders and innocent victims on the front line of catastrophes.
However, the number of people who fight for the most basic human rights is astounding. Even though it's easy to get discouraged, we must stay positive that we can make a difference in an individual's life no matter how far away they are.
It's crucial that leaders in the tech industry use their resources and innovations for the greater good and support human rights issues. All of the issues that concern us, whether it's freedom of speech, women's rights, corporate accountability, or clean water and sanitation, are brought to our attention because of the courageous people at the forefront of the issues -- leaders and activists included -- who are risking their lives and freedom to become advocates for change in their community.
Lately, I find myself more inspired than ever by initiatives that are improving lives all over the world.
Thirst for Survival
Years of Water is a company determined to hydrate developing countries one village at a time. The company recognized that in many of these countries, there isn't yet a long-term and durable solution for facilitating access to drinking water.
Let's start off by mentioning a few devastating facts from the World Health Organization:
- Of the 1 Billion people that lack access to clean water, 3.5 million will die this year from a water-related disease
- 1.5 million of those deaths will be among children under the age of five.
- 98% of all those deaths will occur in the developing third world.
Water crises affect communities in a deeper way than we may realize. It's already devastating to imagine a life without clean, usable water-but without this basic human right, life becomes completely focused on survival.
Women and children are forced to devote several hours every single day to retrieve something we have in an instant. Without clean water, the health of an entire community is put at risk which leaves little time for children to get an education, or develop interpersonal skills.
As if it couldn't get any worse, many of these third-world countries use this basic need as a means of controlling people. If the ability to control the limited water supply ends up in the wrong hands, it can be used as leverage to manipulate people and exploit their needs.
Years of Water has come up with a solution to this strife called The Water Elephant. Ultraviolet waves are used to kill bacteria with a hand operated purification system for home use. The UV wavelength is emitted from an LED bulb that is generated by a hand crank, removing the need for chemicals or expensive parts.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this revolutionary product is the fact that it's maintenance free, allowing people to have the water they deserve every day.
Freedom of Speech
For many of us, hearing the acronym VPN denotes thoughts of binging on the latest season of House of Cards. However, there is one Virtual Private Network service that began with the intention of helping global citizens whose voices have been silenced in times of turmoil. An unbelievable 8 out of 10 people are confronted with internet censorship in the world.
Growing up, I didn't realize how lucky I was to be able to express myself without fear. Now, with access to a free internet, we have the ability to communicate unlimitedly.
I never hesitate to search online, upload a photo, or be open about a political opinion, when was the last time you logged into Facebook and didn't see a meme about Donald Trump? If you live in a country where you have the ability to share your opinions online, you have something that many people in the world can only dream about.
For this cause SaferVPN takes part in letting citizens in societies with oppressed freedom of speech the opportunity to spread their message. These citizens need access to online security tools.
By using a virtual private network, they are able to hide their IP address by encrypting their internet connection, allowing them the freedom to receive and distribute vital information. Who would have thought the same service that allows you to watch all your favorite shows abroad could save lives.
Recognizing the lack of unrestricted internet access and freedom of expression worldwide, SaferVPN decided to partner with the non-for-profit Advancing Human Rights and their human rights crowdsourcing platform Movements to establish #UnblockTheWeb. Through this partnership they offer their VPN technology to those who need it most- activists and dissidents living in closed societies. These are individuals who would otherwise be unable to access the web freely and express and educate themselves online.
It's easy to put on our blinders and stress over aspects of our lives, however, with the help of technology making our world feel smaller and smaller, hopefully we all become more inspired to help one another.