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World Environment Day

The campaign for this year’s World Environment Day (WED) is all about Air Pollution.


The first World Environment Day was held on June 5th, 1974. Created in an attempt to bring awareness to environmental issues around the world, WED was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 in unison with the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. In 1974, the annual holiday began with the theme “Only One Earth.” Over the past four decades, WED has discussed a variety of environmental issues and challenges relating to desertification, the ozone layer, clean water, climate change, green cities, endangered species, rising sea level, and the state of our oceans.

Annual World Environment Day Themes:

2019 – “Beat Air Pollution” hosted by China

2018 – “Beat Plastic Pollution” hosted by India

2017 – “Connecting People to Nature” hosted by Canada

2016 – “Go Wild for Life” hosted by Angola

2015 – “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.” hosted by Italy

2014 – “International Year of Small Islands Developing States” hosted by Barbados

2013 – “Think. Eat. Save.” hosted by Mongolia

2012 – “Green Economy” hosted by Brazil

2011 – “Forests: Nature at Your Service” hosted by India

2010 – “Many Species. One Planet. One Future.” hosted by Bangladesh

2009 – “Your Planet Needs You – Unite to Combat Climate Change” hosted by Mexico


Other countries that have hosted World Environment Day include Pakistan, Kenya, Thailand, Sweden, England, South Africa, Turkey, South Korea, Russia, Japan, Australia, Cuba, Lebanon, Spain, the United States, Algeria, and New Zealand.


An Earth Anthem was written by Abhay K to commemorate WED in 2013, and has now been claimed as the WED Anthem. The lyrics are as follows:

Our cosmic oasis, cosmic blue pearl
the most beautiful planet in the universe
all the continents and all the oceans
united we stand as flora and fauna
united we stand as species of one earth
different cultures, beliefs and ways
we are humans, the earth is our home
all the people and the nations of the world
all for one and one for all
united we unfurl the blue marble flag.” (1)

(1) K, Abhay (27 April 2014). “Earth Anthem”. Earth Anthem Website.

This year’s World Environment Day is celebrated through 6,306 events worldwide. Every year, schools, businesses, and non-governmental organizations participate by organizing unique and interactive events to inspire a desire to take better care of our environment.

On their website, UNenvironment always includes suggestions on how you as an individual can help with that year’s issue. This year, the #BeatAirPollution campaign suggests you

1. Turn off lights and electronics when not in use

2. Choose heating systems, stoves, and other appliances that are more eco-friendly

3. Refrain from burning trash that may add to air pollution


In addition, most years come with a “challenge” intended to spark discussions on social media. This year’s challenge is called the “Mask Challenge” and calls individuals to post photos of them using masks, illustrating that 9 of 10 people around the world are forced to breathe polluted air.


Photos courtesy of worldenvironmentday.global.

For more information on World Environment Day, you can go to the WED Website here.


Constructing Solidarities in the Global Justice Movement: A Feminist Perspective

Rapporteur: Bansari Patel

On March 13th, 2019, the Center for Global Studies proudly hosted “MillerComm 2019: Constructing Solidarities in the Global Justice Movement: A Feminist Perspective” presented by Manisha Desai. Desai is currently a Professor of Sociology and Asian and Asian American Studies at the University of Connecticut. Her research and teaching interests include Gender and Globalization, Transnational Feminisms and Women’s Movements, Human Rights movements, and Contemporary Indian Society.

In her talk, Desai focused on comparing two global justice movements –  The 2017 International’s Women’s Day Strike in New York, United States, and the 2012 Idle Know More Movement in Ontario, Canada –  to construct solidarities between movements of women activists situated in different local and global systems of power. Across the globe, the International’s Women Day Strike takes place annually in March and brings awareness to the various challenges faced by women globally including: labor laws, reproductive rights, gender violence, and many other causes. Idle Know More is also an ongoing movement that began in December 2012 in Ontario, Canada by three indigenous women and one non-native ally. Idle No More aims to advocate for Indigenous inherent rights to sovereignty and reinstitute traditional laws and Nation to Nation Treaties by protecting indigenous lands and waters from corporate destruction.

The International Women’s Strike, a global movement and postcolonial approach, aims to bring international women together while the Idle Know More Movement, a community organized and decolonizing approach, insists on leaving indigenous people, land, and waters unbothered. From studying these movements, Desai interpreted that Decolonized Feminism has more possibilities and demonstrates dependent traits, while Postcolonial Feminism emphasizes spatial differences and promotes independence. In her closing remarks, Desai concluded that although both movements have different visions, no solidarities can be built without love.

Desai’s talk also brought awareness to problems that women all around the world have overcome and the problems that they continue to face, discussing how these issues can be remedied with postcolonial and decolonial efforts. For example, Desai spoke on how the Transnational Women’s Movements primarily attract educated, higher income women because they have more resources. This trend discourages uneducated, lower income women from voicing their concerns and fighting for their never-ending struggles with gender inequality. During her Q&A session, Desai suggested that Latin American feminists prefer Decolonial Feminism while South Asian feminists prefer post-colonial efforts, inferring that postcolonial and decolonial approaches in a region are based strongly  upon history and geographical location.



Desai, Manisha. Gender and the Politics of Possibilities: Rethinking Globalization. Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009.

________. Subaltern Movements in India: Gendered Geographies of Struggle against Neoliberal Development. New York, Routledge, 2016.

Desai, Manisha, and Kenneth Cuno. Family, Gender, and Law in a Globalizing Middle East and South Asia. Syracuse, Syracuse University Press, 2009.

Desai, Manisha, and Lynn Walter. The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Women’s Issues Worldwide: Asia and Oceania. Westport, Greenwood Press, 2003.

Desai, Manisha, and Nancy A. Naples. Women’s Activism and Globalization: Linking Local Struggles and Transnational Politics. New York, Routledge, 2002.

Grabe, Shelley. Women’s Human Rights: a Social Psychological Perspective on Resistance, Liberation, and Justice. New York, Oxford University Press, 2018.

Gourley, Catherine. Society’s Sisters: Stories of Women Who Fought for Social Justice in America. Brookfield, Twenty-First Century Books, 2003.

Lyman, Linda L., Jane Strachan, and Angeliki Lazaridou. Shaping Social Justice Leadership: Insights of Women Educators Worldwide. Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2012.

Maier, Elizabeth, and Nathalie Lebon. Women’s Activism in Latin America and the Caribbean: Engendering Social Justice, Democratizing Citizenship. New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press, 2010.

Tsomo, Karma Lekshe. Buddhist Women and Social Justice: Ideals, Challenges, and Achievements. Albany, State University of New York Press, 2004.


Other Resources

Idle No More Website. http://www.idlenomore.ca

International Women’s Strike USA Website.  https://www.womenstrikeus.org/


IASL Receives the Survived Collection of the Rekidai Hoan from the Ryukyu Kingdom

Rapporteur: Laila Hussein Moustafa, Assistant Professor – Middle East and North Africa Studies

On March 5, 2019, the International and Area Studies Library (IASL) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign received a donation from Professor Koji Taira. This collection consisted of diplomatic documents of the Rekidai Hoan from the Ryukyu Kingdom. Professor Koji Taira is an emeritus professor in Economics at the University of Illinois.

The Rekidai Hoan collection provides a partial record of diplomatic correspondence exchanged between 1424 and 1867, a time that spans from the reign of Ryukyu King Sho Hashi to the twentieth year of the regency of King Sho Tai. This period immediately preceded the Ryukyu kingdom’s incorporation into the Japanese state in 1868. The collection also provides a record of contact between the Ryukyu Kingdom and countries such as the United States, France, and the United Kingdom.

The original collection consisted of three separate collections of documents containing 262 volumes and a four-volume supplement of 30 volumes. A complete copy of the manuscript copy is preserved at the National University of Taiwan.

The original copies of the Rekidai Hoan were lost around the time of WWII when bombings from the Battle of Okinawa destroyed the library in which they were housed. The Kume documents became the only surviving record.

A number of complete copies were commissioned for the Taihoku Imperial University library after the year 1936.  In 1950, another new copy was made of the Rekidai Hoan, which was housed in the Department of History’s library in the College of Arts, and the older text was preserved and moved to a secured room in the library.

The complete copy of the Rekidai Hoan can be found today in the National University of Taiwan. It includes 249 volumes and a total of some 17,271 folios.

Scholars have the opportunity to study the materials and use them to shed light on topics relevant to medieval Japan, including Japan’s trade with Southern Islands and the Orient, and its diplomatic relations with Manchuria, Korea, and the southern regions. The collection is also invaluable to researchers because it provides a survey of primary sources in Ryukyuan, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean.

The event was attended by many Japanese scholars and local residents including Professor Koji Taira and his wife, his grandson Ethan, Professor Zong-Qi Cai, and Professor Lynne Rudasill who presented IASL.

The IASL thanks Dr. Koji Taira for donating the collection to the library and ensuring that the Rekidai Hoan materials are available to present researchers and preserved for future generations.  The IASL also thanks Dr. Steve Witt for his participation in getting this important collection donated to the University library at the University of Illinois.


World Health Day

The World Health Organization (WHO) was created on April 7th 1948 as a means to identify, assess, and address how issues relating to health are handled around the world, and in 1950 the WHO agreed to establish “World Health Day” on the 7th of April every year. Today, the WHO employs more than 7,000 people, covering more than 150 nationalities. In addition to working at their headquarters in Geneva, the WHO holds a presence at 150 country offices and 6 regional offices.  

Last year celebrated the 70th anniversary of the WHO, and this year marks the first time where one topic will span two years. Fully committed to this cause, the WHO is extending their campaign to help ensure all people have access to quality health services regardless of where they live or how much money they have. Working under the influence of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the WHO believes Universal Healthcare (UHC) is a right, not a privilege, and that efforts taken towards UHC should include an analysis of health systems and the intersections between quality, efficiency, equity, accountability, sustainability, and resilience.  

A Decade of World Health Day: International Topics

2018 Universal Health Coverage

  • The start of a topic so concerning it continued over into 2019, the WHO decided Universal Healthcare (UHC) needed to be addressed in 2018. UHC is a major concern is many parts of the world, in both developed and underdeveloped countries. The WHO campaign for UHC revolves around the idea that all individuals should have access to quality healthcare, treatments, and services.

2017 Depression: Let’s Talk

  • The idea for 2017’s theme came from the WHO’s belief that awareness of mental health issues can lead to empathy and overall acceptance of people who deal with depression. Their goal was to help reduce or remove the stigma surrounding depression in hopes that, without that stigma, more people will seek out help.

2016 Halt the Rise: Beat Diabetes

  • In 2016, the WHO wanted to create a campaign in response to the rapid rise of diabetes in low and middle-income countries. In their campaign, the WHO supported the process of diagnosis, self-management education, and affordable treatment.

2015 Food Safety

  • Responsible for hundreds of diseases, unsafe food is a major cause of death in many parts of the world. Food can be contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or even chemical substances, and consumption of these contaminated foods can lead to up to 2 million deaths annually. This campaign was created to address prevention, detection, and response of foodborne pathogens and disease outbreaks.

2014 Vector-borne Diseases: Small Bite, Big Threat

  • Focusing on the overabundance of commonly known vectors like sandflies, ticks, snails, bugs, and mosquitos, the 2014 campaign brought awareness to how these little organisms can spread parasites and pathogens. Malaria in itself, transmitted to humans through mosquitos bites, causes more than 660,000 deaths annually, and more than half of the world’s population is at risk for other diseases like dengue fever, japanese encephalitis, and yellow fever.

2013 Healthy Heart Beat, Healthy Blood Pressure

  • The WHO campaign for 2013 sought to bring awareness to a disease that is both preventable and highly treatable. Hypertension, also known as raised blood pressure, is estimated to affect one in three adults, and can cause issues related to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and death. More proactive than most, this campaign was created to try and educate individuals on what they can do to prevent becoming hypertensive.

2012 Good Health Adds Life to Years

  • In response to the growing worldwide life expectancy, the WHO wanted to create a campaign to address the need for long-lasting healthcare, since people are needing healthcare for longer periods of time and more frequently as they age.

2011 Antimicrobial Resistance: No Action Today, No Cure Tomorrow

  • This campaign in 2011 called for an increase in global commitment to safeguard antimicrobial medicines for the future. It focused on the need for governments and organizations to create policy and practices for the prevention and combat of highly resistant microorganisms.

2010 Urbanization and Health: Make Cities Healthier

  • With their slogan “1000 Cities, 1000 Lives”, the 2010 campaign called for public places to be opened up for discussions of health by holding activities in parks, clean-up campaigns, or town hall meetings. In addition, the WHO also wanted to collect 1000 stories of urban health champions who have made a significant impact in their communities.

2009 Save Lives, Make Hospitals Safe in Emergencies

  • Placing an emphasis on disaster response and emergency treatment, this campaign focused on health facilities and those working inside in order to identify how healthcare professionals can better care for vulnerable peoples.

Working for over seventy years to bring awareness to global issues relating to health, the World Health Organization has devoted itself to the prevention and treatment of many conditions, and the educating of people from around the world. World Health Day not only brings awareness to issues that need it, but it also creates the unique effect of uniting people from around the world in a way no other holiday can. World Health Day stands to remind us that all peoples struggle with health, regardless of social status, skin color, religion, political views, or culture, and with this humanizing of people from different cultures, we begin to see that we are all the same, and all deserving of certain rights like quality of life, education, and health care.


If you are interested in learning more about global health, and the resources available here at the University of Illinois, visit the Global Health libguide. https://guides.library.illinois.edu/mbh/globalhealth

For more information on the World Health Organization or World Health Day, visit the WHO website. https://www.who.int/


Other Resources:

Benatar, S. R., and Gillian Brock. Global Health and Global Health Ethics. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Brown, Peter J., and Svea Closser. Foundations of Global Health: An Interdisciplinary Reader. New York, Oxford University Press, 2019.

Farmer, Paul, Jim Yong Kim, Arthur Kleinman, and Matthew Basilico. Reimagining Global Health: An Introduction. Berkeley, University of California Press, 2013.

Holtz, Carol. Global Health Care: Issues and Policies. Burlington, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2017.

Hughes, Barry B. Improving Global Health: Forecasting the Next 50 Years. Boulder, Paradigm Publishers, 2011.

Kim, Do kyun, Arvind Singhal, and Gary L. Kreps. Strategies for Developing Global Health Programs. New York, Peter Lang, 2014.

Lakoff, Andrew. Unprepared: Global Health in a Time of Emergency. Oakland, University of California Press, 2017.

Leon, Joshua K. The Rise of Global Health: the Evolution of Effective Collective Action. Albany, State University of New York Press, 2015.

Matlin, Stephen, and Llona Kickbusch. Pathways to Global Health: Case Studies in Global Health Diplomacy. New Jersey, World Scientific, 2017.

Packard, Randall M. A History of Global Health: Interventions into the Lives of Other Peoples. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016.

Singer, Merrill. Global Health: An Anthropological Perspective. Long Grove, Waveland Press, 2013.

Skolnik, Richard L. Global Health 101. Burlington, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2012.


A UN Progress Report: The Sustainable Development Goals in 2018

Three years into the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Program, the United Nations has reason to believe ample progress will be made in response to the seventeen goals outlined in 2015. (1) 

Photo courtesy of the United Nations. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs

Goal 1: Poverty

While numerous local and international organizations have identified the eradication of poverty as a global priority, the presence and unpredictability of natural disasters holds serious implications for numerous communities around the world. In 2017 alone, over $300 billion was spent on disaster relief – the majority of it going to the aftermath of three hurricanes in North and Central America.

Goal 2: Food Security, Nutrition, Agriculture

Interestingly enough, the growing problem of climate change seems to have a hold on the rate of world hunger, and it has been noted that the progression of climate change has a direct causational effect on agricultural hubs. In 2017, the percentage of undernourished people worldwide was 11.0, a 0.8% increase from the year before. While a 0.8% increase sounds minuscule, the difference in this situation accounts for 38 million people. It is significant to remember that climate change has serious long-term implications for people, animals, and the environment.

Goal 3: Health and Well-being

Pursuing health and well-being for individuals worldwide is one of the biggest obstacles the UN has set for itself, and while statistics show progress has been made within this development goal, the overabundance of individuals who die from preventable diseases is daunting. The rate of maternal mortality and child mortality has gone down with the increase of access to skilled health care providers, and the number of people affected by HIV has been decreasing slowly over the last few years. However the number of people affected by malaria has been steadily increasing, and the number of people who died worldwide from cardiovascular disease, 

diabetes, cancer, or chronic respiratory disease was more than 32 million in 2016. Overall, Goal 3 is progressing slowly and steadily. However, more needs to be done in response to ending mosquito-related diseases and mortality rates driven by unsafe sanitation.

Goal 4: Education

The world has shown great process when it comes to the number of children worldwide enrolling in early childhood and primary school with an increase from 63% of children worldwide in 2010 to 70% in 2016. Even in LDCs (least developed countries), children are receiving the opportunity to go to school. In addition, there has been a rise in training opportunities for primary school teachers. However, with the focus on primary education, secondary education and higher education has seen little effect or influence from local or international organizations, and while the quality of teachers and the number of students is steadily increasing in primary schools, the lack of electricity and running water still proves to be an issue in LDCs.  

Goal 5: Gender Equality

With all the attention campaigns like #MeToo are receiving, issues relating to gender are on everyone’s minds. But while Americans and other groups in the Global North are rallying around issues of sexual harassment, often we forget other issues more commonly found in the Global South. Achieving gender equality continues to be a challenge where the presence of attitudes towards gender are often directly related to social norms of a community. Legislation has made it possible for more women to be allowed into areas of government and fewer girls to be forced into marriage unions, but the influence of religion and culture makes problems of circumcision, gender-related violence, and unpaid care work very challenging.

Goal 6: Water and Sanitation

The problem of lack of accessibility to water effects billions of people worldwide. But with the presence of countless non-profits focusing on issues of water, the end of the World Water Crisis may be obtainable in our lifetime. If you conduct a simple Google search of non-profit organizations addressing water, you can instantly find a list of sixteen organizations that deal exclusively with water-related projects (although there are many more). With groups like Charity: Water and Water.org who have provided water to 8.4 million and 13 million people respectively, the solution to the lack of water accessibility is clearly attainable (2-3). 

Goal 7: Energy

Access to energy has made some advances, especially in LDCs where access to electricity has nearly doubled since the creation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000.

Goal 8: Economy and Employment

The majority of issues relating to employment are universal. While other SDGs may be more heavily focused on specific regions, when it comes to employment, there are only a few issues exclusive to the Global North or South. Certainly different issues affect different regions more or less, but many problems related to the gender pay gap, informal employment, and unemployment can be seen worldwide. It is significant to note, however, that the gross domestic product (GDP) rose 1.3% globally and labor productivity has grown 2.1% since 2017.

Goal 9: Infrastructure, Industrialization, and Innovation

It’s hard to believe that communities without basic needs have access to 3G broadband networks, but that’s the fact. In 2016, third generation (3G) mobile broadband networks was accessible to 61% of people in LDCs and 84% of people globally. In addition, Goal 9 boasts an increase in global manufacturing and a decrease in carbon emission intensity.

Goal 10: Reduce Inequality

Inequalities in income, export tariffs, and remittances remain prevalent. It appears that not much attention is being given to Goal 10, despite the ever-constant presence of transnational and international inequalities.

Goal 11: Inclusivity, Safety, and Sustainability in Cities

With the steady increase of the human population, many cities around the globe are experiencing a myriad of problems arising from rapid urbanization. The inability to remove waste, the overabundance of ambient air pollution, and the presence of detrimental natural disasters are but three examples of how urban areas are struggling to meet the demands of the growing population, and with the uncontrollability and unpredictability of population growth, Goal 11 in by far an urgent endeavor.

Goal 12: Consumption and Production

As the human population continues to grow, so does our global material footprint. Consumption and production will always have an overwhelming presence on the global economy, but the stress on sustainability is more important now than ever, especially in developed countries where the per capita footprint is more than double that of developing countries. However, the material footprint of developing countries has seen an increase from 5 metric tons to 9 since the creation of the MDGs.  

Goal 13: Climate Change

We’ve all seen the advertisements about saving the polar bears, and whether or not you love animals, it is no joke that animals and ecosystems are being destroyed in direct response to global warming. In conjunction with the Paris Agreement, many countries are starting or continuing to take climate change seriously. With the presence of disastrous hurricanes, rising sea levels, and extreme weather conditions, there is no denying the current state of emergency when it comes to climate change. The United States alone experienced seventeen hurricanes during the 2017 season – the aftermath of which climbed to over $200 billion in damages. (4)

Goal 14: Oceans and Seas

Eutrophication and pollution continue to be some of the biggest problems around the world when it comes to our oceans and seas (5). Every year more and more marine waters are being protected, but without a supportive global network, the state of our waters are in crisis. Eutrophication in itself is estimated to increase 20% by 2050 if more actions are not taken.

Goal 15: Ecosystems

Despite many organizations like World Wildlife Fund (WWF) who have been working hard to protect the world’s animals, the list of threatened species remains lengthy. The impact of humans and their activities, such as unsustainable agriculture and deforestation, have direct effect on the overabundance of habitat loss. Another growing issue, invasive alien species are on the rise and pervasive as ever. But it is worth remembering that issues pertaining to ecosystems are not only disruptive to animal life. Issues of deforestation and land degradation have had a huge impact on human settlements and their quality of life too.

Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies and justice for all

Injustice shrouds our world in a number of ways, including but not limited to human trafficking, child punishment, wrongful incarceration, bribery, and targeted violence. Human trafficking continues to be a global issue, with both boys and girls being trafficked for sex and/or labor. Human trafficking is a tricky problem to solve mostly because, if we do not directly see the effects, we do not give much thought to the problem. But it is vital to remember that human trafficking is happening in all parts of the world – even the United States. The last decade has shown no decline in the number of individuals incarcerated without a sentence, nearly one in five organizations claim they have received a bribery offer, and over one thousand human rights defenders and journalists have been killed since 2015. All three of these issues show little development, and prove that corruption still has a hold on many parts of the world. Fortunately, many countries are creating, and utilizing, national human rights institutions. But all in all, more needs to be done to minimize corruption and expand justice for all.

Goal 17: Global Partnerships

Official Development Assistance (ODA) has decreased over the last year. However debt service as a part of exports has increased steadily in LDCs since 2016, despite merchandise exports declining during the same time frame. Overall, the UN suggests that more financial support needs to be provided to developing countries so that they are can have more resources with which to establish and maintain various development agendas in areas where they need it the most.


Endnotes & Bibliography

(1) “The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018.” UNstats. https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2018/overview/.

(2) “We Believe We Can End the Water Crisis in our Lifetime,” Charity: Water, https://www.charitywater.org/.

(3)  “Opportunity starts with safe water,” Water.org, https://water.org/.

(4) Willie Drye, “2017 Hurricane Season was the Most Expensive in U.S. History” last modified November 30, 2017. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/11/2017-hurricane-season-most-expensive-us-history-spd/?user.testname=none.

(5) Eutrophication is the process in which excess minerals and nutrients ran off in a body of water leading to the depletion of oxygen, the growth of plant matter, and the death of animals within the ecosystem.


Additional Reading

Amutabi, M.N. Africa in Global Development Discourses. Nairobi: Centre for Democracy, Research and Development (CEDRED), 2017.

Dodds, Felix, David Donoghue, and Jimena Leiva Roesch. Negotiating the Sustainable Development Goals: A Transformational Agenda for an Insecure World. London: Routledge, 2017.

Education for People and Planet: Creating Sustainable Futures for All. Paris: Unesco, 2016.

Halbery, Niels. Global Development and Organic Agriculture: Challenges and Prospects. Wallingford: CABI, 2006.

Indigenous Knowledge: Local Pathways to Global Development. Washington D.C.: World Bank, 2004.

Little, Daniel. The Paradox of Wealth and Poverty: Mapping the Ethical Dilemmas of Global Development. Boulder: Westview Press, 2003.

Mal, Suraj, R.B. Singh, and Christian Huggel. Climate Changes, Extreme Events and Disaster Risk Reduction: Towards Sustainable Development Goals. Cham: Springer, 2018.

Mehta, Lyla. Displaced by Development: Confronting Marginalisation and Gender Injustice. New Dehli: Sage, 2009.

Perspectives on Global Development and Technology. Leiden: Brill, 2000.

Picciotto, Robert, Funmi Olonisakin, and Michael Clarke. Global Development and Human Security. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2007.

Shawki, Noha. International Norms, Normative Change, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2016.

Tomalin, Emma. The Routledge Handbook of Religions and Global Development. London: New York, 2015.

UNECE Policy for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women: Supporting the SDGs Implementation in the UNECE region (2016-2020). Geneva: United Nations, 2017.



International Women’s Day 2019

Happy International Women’s Day!

It all began with the Socialist Party of America orchestrated a Women’s Day on February 28, 1909 in New York. This was received with such enthusiasm and passion that, in 1910, the International Socialist Woman’s Conference insisted this day become an annual tradition.

International Women’s Day is celebrated today in a variety of ways around the world. In some countries, womanhood and relationships are celebrated; in others, the day is used to protest issues relating to women’s rights and equity. But the thing they all have in common? Women around the world are celebrated and deemed worthy of respect and equality, and attention is brought to a number of things that are often overlooked or diminished like women’s suffrage, the gender pay gap, or the rights of a woman over her own body, to name a few.

International Women’s Day, Russia, 1917.

Poster from International Women’s Day, United States, 1975.

Historically, International Women’s Day choses an overarching theme each year to encompass and illustrate a specific area of inequality in need of attention. Highlights from the last decade are as follows:

2018: “Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives”

2017: “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”

—A continuation of 2016, this Women’s Day focused on calling for change to include more women in positions of leadership.

2016: “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”

—A frontrunner in 2016, India received International Women’s Day with the opening of four one-stop crisis centers, and celebrated by enabling an Air India flight to be operated by an entirely female flight crew all the way from Delhi to San Francisco.  

2015: “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture It!”

—This year marked the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historical document that outlines the agenda for discerning women’s rights.

2014: “Equality for Women is Progress for All”   

—A memorable moment from this year came from an unexpected source: Beyonce Knowles posted a version of her song “Flawless” overlapping with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech “We Should All Be Feminists”.

2013: “A Promise is a Promise: Time for Action to End Violence Against Women”

—The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) highlighted the extremity of imprisoned women.

2012: “Empower Rural Women — End Hunger and Poverty”

—This year, the ICRC made a call to action to find women who had gone missing during times of armed conflict, underlining the responsibility of parties to search for missing individuals and provide answers to their families.  

2011: “Equal Access to Education, Training and Science and Technology: Pathway to Decent Work for Women”

—2011 was a triumphant year for International Women’s Day in some parts. Hillary Clinton launched her “100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls through International Exchanges”, and President Barack Obama proclaimed March to be “Women’s History Month”. The Red Cross brought attention to the importance of preventing rape and sexual violence around the world, and Australia created a 100th anniversary commemorative 20-cent coin.

—But this year wasn’t entirely progressive. At Tahrir Square in Egypt, swarms of men came out to harass women who were celebrating the day and standing up for their rights, all the while with Egyptian police and military standing by and refusing to take action.

International Women’s Day, Brazil, 2018.

As always with International Women’s Day, it is necessary to remember that, in many countries, not all actions are received openly. Progress made is not always progress kept, and as women’s movements and groups press on, we have to keep in mind that despite what progress we see being made around the world, there are many more unseen obstacles that still need to be addressed.

This year’s theme is “Better the Balance, Better the World”. Trying to create a visual representation of what gender equality looks like, this year’s event showcases a “hands out balance pose” where participants raise their hands in unison to illustrate a balance of equality. Visit the International Women’s Day website to see people taking part in #BalanceforBetter, and remember to celebrate all of the women in your life today, all the while remembering that educating about and advocating for women’s rights is one of the first (and easiest) steps you can take to create a better balanced world.  

The march on Washington D.C. fueled by the pussyhat project was accompanied by 600 sisters marches around the United States.


For more information on the theme and events associated with this year’s International Women’s Day, https://www.internationalwomensday.com



Breneman, Anne, and Rebecca A. Mbuh. Women in the New Millenium: the Global Revolution. Hamilton Books, 2006.

Canadian Women taking Action to Make a Difference!: International Women’s Day — March 8, 2000. Status of Women Canada, 2000.

Choitali, Chatterjee. Celebrating Women: International Women’s Day in Russia and the Soviet Union, 1909-1939. 1995.

Kateri, Akiwenzie-Damm, Rowan Blanchard, Melanie Campbell, Tammy Duckworth, America Ferrera, Roxane Gay, Llana Glazier, Ashley Judd, Valarie Kaur, Cindi Leive, Ai-jen Poo, David Remnick, Yara Shahidi, Jill Soloway, Jose Vargas, and Maxine Waters. Together We Rise: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Round the World. Dey St., 2018.

Kerr, Joanna, Ellen Sprenger, and Alison Symington. The Future of Women’s Rights: Global Visions and Strategies. ZED Books, 2004.

Mijares, Sharon G., Aliaa Rafea, and Nahid Angha. A Force Such as the World has Never Known: Women Creating Change. Inanna Publications and Education Inc., 2013.

Murphy, Padmini, and Clyde Lanford Smith. Women’s Global Health and Human Rights. Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2010.

Sklar, Kathryn Kish, and Lauren Kryzak. What were the Origins of International Women’s Day, 1886-1920? State University of New York, 2000.

Walter, Lynn. Women’s Rights: A Global View. Greenwood Press, 2001.


Sustainable Development Goal 5: The Role Men and Boys play in Gender Equality

Gender inequalities have persisted around the world for centuries, and despite the progress that is made each year, millions of women living today still face issues of oppression simply on the basis of their gender. Great strides have been made in the last decade, especially in regions of Sub-Saharan Africa where the ratio of girls to boys in primary schools has risen from 85/100 to 91/100 [1]. But despite advances towards global gender equality, numerous problems are still prevalent around the globe relating to women’s health and reproductive rights, education, legal rights, and gender-based violence. In response to these needs, grassroots organizations, non-governmental organizations and governmental institutions have largely come together to establish projects and demand accountability for the success of these projects.

An Intergovernmental Organization, the World Bank, is known for their focus on development and presence of infinite resources, and has taken “gender into consideration” in 99% of all lending endeavors [1]. While the task of ending gender inequality proves to be daunting, numerous organizations around the world agree that the alleviation of global gender inequality could have direct effects on transnational and international development. In an article titled “Why Gender Equality is Key to Sustainable Development”, Mary Robinson suggests that “women are the most convincing advocates for the solutions they need, so they should be at the forefront of decision-making on sustainable development” [2]. Especially in areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, and western Asia, women can already be seen in areas of provision and labor — advocating for their children and communities, while also tirelessly working for economic and structural development. How is it then, if women give so much of themselves to their families, their culture, their countries, that they often have no choice in issues and decisions relating to their own lives or bodies?

Women in the Global North are being enabled to become agents of their own change in this, the 21st century. However, women living in the Global South face many more challenges and have many more obstacles to overcome due largely to how their cultures and communities are structured. While numerous non-profits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have begun to target gender inequality, some argue their intentions only focus on how women and girls see themselves. But, while this approach is valuable, agendas should also take into consideration the role that men and boys have in perpetuating gender inequalities. In their article titled “Towards a New Transformative Development Agenda: The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality”, John Hendra, Ingrid FitzGerald, and Dan Seymour insist that “women and girls alone clearly cannot achieve transformation of gender relations and the structural factors that underpin gender inequality” [3].

While it is easy to simply place blame on men for the discrimination and oppression women face, the reality is much more complex. Cultural values and community structure often dictate oppressive or discriminatory behavior against girls, even before they are born. Hendra et. al. insist that “expectations of women and their role in the domestic sphere” as caregivers, and only caregivers, “are extremely hard to change” [3]. But with the growth and adaptation of economic structures and the participation of leaders “at community and family levels to treat boys, girls, women, and men equally”, discrimination can be challenged, equal employment opportunities can flourish, and women in the Global South can begin the process of self-empowerment [3]. 

Grassroots groups and NGOs alike agree there is a need for both women and men to see the importance and effect of gender equality. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) is but one example of an NGO that highlights the idea of gender equality driven development including men and boys. While SIDA conducts numerous projects around the world, addressing issues in need of attention in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America, they appear to be the most active within the continent of Africa. In Tanzania they are working to help women start their own businesses; in Mozambique they have established support that protects and promotes women’s reproductive and sexual rights; in South Sudan they have joined forces with UN Women to encourage women in academic and politics; and in Zambia they have tried to jump start the local health care system by demanding accountability and fighting corruption in the local health care system [4].

While SIDA has been working very hard in the past decade to empower women and free them from gender-oppressive situations, the NGO insists that global gender equality is is important for everyone – not just women and girls. SIDA argues the presence of gender inequality stems from “stereotypical gender norms” that restrict women and men into what society expects of them through expectations of masculinity, standard norms, and gendered expectations [4], and they suggest that, if these systems of gender norms were done away with, people could live more freely as individuals, and development could occur at a more rapid pace.

Despite a continuous growth in the number of organizations worldwide who address gender-related obstacles, issues of gender inequality can still be found in many countries. But with the help of libraries and similar institutions, technology and education are at the forefront of development initiatives that focus on gender equality. The Sustainable Development Goals (and their predecessor – the Millennium Development Goals) have provided a much-needed platform for numerous global issues, and without the publicity and awareness made via the United Nations, many injustices around the world might never be addressed. Achieving gender equality continues to be a challenge in regions where the presence of attitudes towards gender are often directly related to social norms of a community.

Overall, changes in legislation have made it possible for more women to be allowed into areas of government and fewer girls to be forced into marriage unions, but the influence of religion and culture makes problems of circumcision, gender-related violence, and unpaid care work very challenging. However, in conjunction with groups like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, the Pan-African Women’s Organization, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and more, the people and organizations fighting for the eradication of gender inequalities may be better equipped than they were several decades ago, and as each of these organizations (and others) pledge their allegiance to the UN SDGs, and as more awareness is created, the easier it will be for equality to become attainable.



Pieces of this essay were taken from Mia Adams’ IS 585 final research project. A one semester course offered by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IS 585 focuses on various aspects of International Librarianship. Under the supervision of Professor Steve Witt, students were expected to construct a policy report at the culmination of the semester in response to one of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals outlined by the United Nations.  



[1] “Improving Gender Equality in Africa.” World Bank. http://www.worldbank.org/en/region/afr/brief/improving-gender-equality-in-africa (accessed October 17, 2018).

[2] Robinson, Mary, “Why Gender Equality is Key to Sustainable Development.” World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/03/why-gender-equality-is-integral-to-sustainable-development/ (accessed October 17, 2018).

[3] Hendra, John, Ingrid FitzGerald, and Dan Seymour. “Towards a New Transformative Development Agenda: The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality.” Journal of International Affairs, no. 1 (2013): 105-122.

[4] Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). Our Fields of Work: Gender Equality. https://www.sida.se/English/how-we-work/our-fields-of-work/gender-equality/ (accessed October 12, 2018).

All photos courtesy of the Woman Stats project. A wide variety of maps can be found at http://www.womanstats.org/maps.html


Global Trends in Higher Education

Rapporteur: Thaddeus B. Herman

Around 20 individuals came to the first event of the spring semester held by the Center for Global Studies: Global Trends in Higher Education. This event brought together three experts in the field of higher education to converse on some of the latest trends in an increasingly globalized world.

The first to speak was Walter McMahon, an economist who studies the development, financing, and macroeconomics of education. His recent work on the rate of total return from higher education shows that under-investment in the US is leading to sub-optimal rates of growth and development. McMahon began by stating that human capital plays a central role in growth and development.

A main thrust of Mcmahon’s presentation was that there are social benefits of higher education besides earnings. But despite this, there have been rising tuition costs at both universities and community colleges, in part due to an increase in privatization happening in the US, UK, Canada, Germany, India and Malaysia. And while a trend such as privatization may make sense in many industries – for example, steel – those industries don’t have the same “spill-over” benefits into society that higher education does. McMahon stated that his research shows the humanities, history, education, and political science have larger social benefits than fields like business and engineering. These social benefits are seen in populations who have received higher education, and they include better health, greater longevity, better-educated and healthier children, smaller families with less poverty, increased probability of having a college-educated spouse, and greater happiness.

The next to speak was Helaine Silverman, a professor in the department of Anthropology. She is also the Director and Co-Originator of the Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management Policy (CHAMP), a strategic research center dedicated to the critical study of cultural heritage and museum practices around the world.  The structure of CHAMP is interdisciplinary, as it works with many units on the University of Illinois campus such as anthropology, architecture, landscape architecture, business administration, music, English, the classics, urban and regional planning, and the school of information sciences, to name a few.  

Silverman began by asking the question: “What does heritage have to do with global education?” “Everything”, was the emphatic answer. There are heritage claims being made for Jerusalem by Jews and Muslims, as well as other groups around the world. There are conflicting conceptions of national identity; immigration informs debates about the heritage of countries. This contemporary reality motivates CHAMP to offer coursework addressing the past and the present. In the US there are no free-standing departments of heritage studies, they are embedded in departments of anthropology, architecture, or others.  

The final speaker of the event was Allison Witt, the Director of International Programs in the College of Education where she teaches Global Studies in Education and is the Program Leader for the International Education Administration and Leadership program. Witt began by pointing out that higher education has always been global to some extent. The US higher educational model is cobbled together from many other international models. She placed US higher education in the larger context of how the international engagement of the United States has changed from a development focus (post-WWI and WWII) and moved more recently towards the use of Higher Education as a form of soft power.  

Since the 1980s, with a large cut in public support of education instigated through the economic policies of Reagan and Thatcher, there has been a shift towards a more competitive framing with academic institutions having to compete for grants, students, and funding. There is a large field of literature dedicated to the study of this shift, identifying this trend as “Academic Capitalism”Witt continued her talk by next focusing on study abroad, which she pointed out is tied to benefits for students and communities. The university is seen as a hub of innovation globally and has research relationships with universities around the world. This global focus was then explored vis-à-vis the original mission of a land-grant institution, which was the opportunity for local individuals to receive technical training in agriculture and engineering.

Witt suggested we need to move towards a collaborative model of global engagements. Teacher education is inherently a collaborative process, as it requires higher education to work with K-12 in equal partnerships to train teachers. Models need to be developed where we work closely with partner institutions and schools, where institutions reciprocally exchange preservice teachers in local schools, and where local teachers are engaged as both participants and hosts.


Global Knowledge and Governance

Rapporteur: Thaddeus B. Herman

On 4 December 2018, nearly forty people joined a panel to discuss the intersections between global knowledge and governance. After an introduction of the panelists by Steve Witt, the director of the Center for Global Studies, Brian Dill, Department Head and Associate Professor of Sociology, began the day’s proceedings with a look at international tax governance. Dill identified Amazon, Google, Starbucks and Apple as tax evaders  — meaning they look for legal loopholes in order to find ways to avoid taxes. There has been a recent outcry by governments and a big push on how to capture the big corporate transactions that take place; prompting legislation. Dill explored ways in which international taxation is being governed and identified currents systems as those that exacerbate inequality and advance the interests of those who write the rules.

Global Tax Governing Schemes

In his presentation, Dill talked about the movement to regulate global taxation known as Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS). This was initiated by the G20 countries in 2014. Overall, there has been a rising capacity within corporations to find loopholes to shift profits from one entity to another, eroding traditional tax bases. Set to take effect in January of 2019, BEPS is a multi-governmental policy.

However, as Dill pointed out, the BEPS process has largely disadvantaged poor countries. Although the consultation process began to discuss how to implement new tax policy in 2014, countries from the global south were not invited to join the conversation until 2016.

Dill asked the audience to reflect on how many countries around the world have been denied development opportunities because of the deprivation of these resources?

The next speaker of the event was Zsuzsa Gille, Professor of Sociology and Director of the LAS Global Studies program. Her talk centered around global rules and rulemaking.  She began by identifying the effect that an increasing globalized world has had on the strength of the state, suggesting it has generally been weakening over time. But at the same time, Dr. Gille notes there are more regulations and rules being generated to govern the behavior of the state. States may no longer be the primary actors in regulations Gille suggests, since the nature of regulations has changed.

Dr. Gille made the distinction between governance and government, where the former dictates regulation that bears on the actions of the latter. Actors which have influence over governance are identified as Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs), Supranational Organizations (such as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, or the IMF), and private entities such as corporations. Global governance, Gille stated, is almost never influenced by a single actor, but rather through a regime of many different actors.

Tangible consequences to political outcomes.

She drew an interesting conclusion between political outcomes and how we treat the regulation of both big and small things within the EU. The regulation of big things could be over human rights for example, while regulation of small things could be over what shape of fruit may be sold within the EU.

Dr. Gille made the claim that there is a connection between increased time spent on discussion over the little things, such as regulation of the shape of fruit which is ok to sell within Europe, and the recent rise of the populist movements of the right.

Transitional Justice

Colleen Murphy, Professor of Law, Philosophy and Political Science at the University of Illinois, was the next to address the enraptured audience. Murphy opened by stating that when we are dealing with the question of an increasingly interdependent world, we need to look at the theory of transitional justice —that is the idea that societies which are emerging from extended conflicts deal with the wrong-doing of millions of people.

Murphy outlined many different examples in the world where societies have had to deal with the transition from an extended conflict to a more orderly society. Countries in South America and Africa, including Sierra Leone, South Africa and Egypt; Asia with the Kmher Rouge of Cambodia and the Sri Lankan Civil War; and Columbia with the recent end of 52 years of conflict between the government and the rebel group FARC.

Within societies who are transitioning, there are a range of responses that deal with past wrongs. These include:

  1. Criminal Trials on both a domestic and international level.
  2. Truth commissions
  3. Reparations of victims
  4. Memorials
  5. The barring of groups from serving in particular public capacities.

Scholarship on Transitional Justice

The body of scholarship on transitional justice tries to understand why particular societies make specific choices in how to deal with past wrongs and which wrongs they will focus on. Why are choices made?  Scholarship is disseminated in academic journals, but also reflected in the practice of NGOs that act in many places around the world, for example the International Center for Transitional Justice.  Lawyers are often heavily involved with these NGOs and work closely designing implementation of responses.

Murphy identified three worries about how scholarship is currently practiced, and suggested it may not be as global as it needs to be.  Firstly, there is a disproportionate exclusion of practitioners from the global south. The global body of scholarship is largely composed of scholars from the global north who go to the global south and advise them on what should happen. This may be erasing agency and expertise of actors in the global south. Secondly, the way in which the knowledge is generated may be limited because it fails to capture the characteristics of different groups who are in transition. This could include, for example, the gender dimensions of wrong-doing, but also needs to be further complicated to see how caste and gender interact. Thirdly, there is a worry that the aspiration to globalize knowledge and practice transitional justice is often defined as the “tool kit”, a prescription to be applied anywhere without taking into account the local context. In these situations, there is a danger of overlooking local viewpoints.

Conspiracy and Lizard People

The final speaker of the day was Timothy Wedig, professor and Associate Director of LAS global studies. His talk focused on the impact on governance of knowledge that may not be accurate. He began by pointing out that conspiracy theories are corrosive to democracy and that paranoia is no basis for a system of government, since often paranoia produces toxic outcomes. While paranoia may be effective at gaining support, it produces poor policy decisions.

Governance requires good input. Wedig noted that recent polling data shows that 67% of Egyptians believe the U.S. controls ISIS in order to take over Syria; 55% of French citizens believe vaccine dangers are being hidden by the government; and 4% of Americans believe in lizard people.

Wedig pointed to research that shows belief in one conspiracy theory is highly correlated with belief in others. Sometimes this leads to individuals believing in two or more highly contradictory theories. Individuals may simultaneously believe that we have never gone to the moon and that there are secret moon-bases controlled by Radioshack. Research also shows that social isolation increases as individuals subscribe to conspiracy theories.

Wedig outlined two results of a large belief in conspiracy theories. Firstly, there is an erosion of trust in governance, institutions, and norms, which leads to a perceived, or actual, loss of legitimacy. Secondly, there is an increased penchant to assign blame to specific groups, increasing hostility and violence against the government or the “other”.

Conspiracy’s Impact on Policy

In terms of conspiracy’s impact on policy, Wedig identified several ways in which policy can be affected. Using climate change as an example, he identified that climate change is a conspiracy created by one of many actors. Conspiracy can lead to confusion about what scientific consensus and data mean. It allows for an easy manipulation of ignorance. Conspiracy encourages movement toward ready-made escapes from scary realities which enables individuals who do not want to think about the impact of climate change to look the other way.

Wedig ended by suggesting the best ways in which we can resist conspiranoia. He said first of all, those that are lost have to find their own way back. We need to stop debating those who engage in conspiracy theories, it only legitimizes their own position. We need to decipher how knowledge is created and advanced, and include discussion of methods, peer review, process of research, and the difference between fact and opinion. And as scholars, we need to make our own work accessible and transparent. This includes outreach in order to have conversations with non-academic audiences. If we publish an article, we should write a version for the general audience and publish it in spaces where the public can interact with it.


Figure 1: BEPS is an initiative by the G20 countries to decrease tax evasion by large international corporations.

Figure 2: In 2008 the European Union chose to allow the sale of ‘odd’ shaped fruit and vegetables.


For more information on the event, a supplemental libguide of the same name can be found here http://guides.library.illinois.edu/cgsbrownbag12418



The Mortenson Center, Dr. Valeda Dent, and the Importance of Rural Village Libraries in Uganda

Photo courtesy of St. John’s University

On Monday November 26th, the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs held their 28th Annual Mortenson Distinguished Lecture. The speaker was Valeda F. Dent, Dean and Professor of the University Libraries at St. John’s University in New York.

In her presentation titled “Evaluating the Impact of Rural Village Libraries in Uganda: A Mixed-Methods Narrative”, Dr. Dent went into detail about her research on Rural Village Libraries (RVLs) and their impact on people in Uganda. Dr. Dent’s journey began when a librarian from Uganda enlisted her expertise to gage how a rural village library was being received and utilized by local patrons. Twelve years later, Dr. Dent is still conducting research on how RVLs are being used to bridge gender gaps, encourage literacy, empower democracy, and catalyze economic change.

Dr. Dent spoke at length about an idea she calls the “humanitarian effort”. She explained that we, as humans, feel an urgency to help others less fortunate than us. But as westerners, often we neglect to take issues of sustainability into consideration. Often we assume problems in the developing world have simple solutions and we believe these problems can be solved simply by hosting a fundraiser or collecting materials. But in response to this, Dr. Dent implores us to remember that many problems developing countries face are deep-rooted in complex social, cultural, and/or political constructs that often take years to understand and uproot.

Dr. Dent mostly discussed how her research has evolved over time. Initially, she believed her question revolved around how RVLs were being used to add literacy, and she looked into how RVLs help to prepare young children for school. But unexpectedly, she discovered there were underlying trends overlapping the following eight categories:

Women & Girls                                   Secondary School Children

Primary Caregivers                            Preschool Children

Gender & Stereotypes                        School Readiness

Literacy                                            Economic Development

While an analysis of any one of these categories could easily stand on its own, Dr. Dent believes they all come together under the umbrella of RVLs. While RVLs have had a longer time to come to fruition in West Africa, examples from East Africa can still be found. RVLs in Uganda are typically used to hold supplemental materials for secondary school children. This provides a unique dynamic, because most of the books are in English. But Dr. Dent’s research shows that despite the lack of materials in local languages, numerous individuals from the community will come and use the library. Many children venture to Kitengesa (one of the libraries observed by Dr. Dent) with older family members, and even though they cannot read yet, they see their parents, grandparents, or siblings reading, and they mimic the action. This frequent visiting and mimicking leads young children to develop an appreciation for the library and reading, to develop reading skills more efficiently, and to increase school readiness. Also in her research, Dr. Dent has discovered that in many communities, libraries are the only safe space for girls; libraries provide a place for girls to exist free from harassment and abuse, and when given a place where they can be themselves, young girls are free to learn and dream. Especially in rural areas where girls are exposed to more traditional gender roles and expectations, RVLs are being utilized as a space where women can feel empowered and girls can seek to learn what and how they want.

On a more general note, Dr. Dent referenced Nancy Kranich’s book Libraries and Democracy: The Cornerstones of Liberty within this discussion, suggesting that libraries can lead to democracy. Little research has been done in East Africa relating to these assumptions. But the overall increase of literacy, as seen through the introduction and sustainability of RVLs, suggests that if people are literate, they are more likely to involve themselves in the democratic process. If people are illiterate, they often assume they have no power, or that they can have no influence on policy or politics. Overall, RVLs around the world are largely overlooked because of their size or their contents. But as seen through the extensive research Dr. Dent has been involved with in the last decade, RVLs are doing a lot more than they are given credit for. RVLs provide an environment for children and adults to learn. But even more than that, RVLs provide a space where secondary students can feel encouraged, women and girls can feel free, and everyone can feel as though they can have a hand in politics, economics, or education.


If you missed the event, and would like to listen to the lecture, you can find a recording of Dr. Dent’s presentation on the Mortenson Center website. Just go to the Event Page using the link below, and click “Watch The Recorded Lecture”.

Mortenson Center Event Page for Dr. Dent’s Presentation 

Mortenson Center Event Page 

If you are interested in learning more about how RVL projects are being utilized on the continent of Africa, you can visit the “Friends of African Village Libraries” (FAVL) website that focuses on libraries in Ghana, or the East African branch of FAVL called “Uganda Community Libraries Association” (UgCLA) that focuses on Uganda.

FAVL   https://favl.org/

UgCLA https://espensj.wordpress.com/


If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Dent or her research, you can visit her faculty page at St. John’s University or her Academia page.

St. John’s University https://www.stjohns.edu/about/leadership/university-administration/valeda-dent-phd

Academia http://stjohns.academia.edu/ValedaFrancesDent


Published Works by Valeda F. Dent

Dent, Valeda F. “Multiple Research Methods as a Way to Explore the Longitudinal Impact of the Rural Village Library in Africa.” Qualitative & Quantitative Methods in Libraries, 2015, pp. 17-28.

______________. “Observations of School Library Impact at Two Rural Ugandan Schools.” New World Library, vol. 107, no. 9/10, 2006, pp. 403-421.

______________. Rural Community Libraries in Africa: Challenges and Impacts. Hershey, Information Science Reference, 2014.

Dent, Valeda Frances. “An Exploratory Study of the Impact of the Rural Village Library and Other Factors on the Academic Achievement of Secondary School Students.” ProQuest LLC, 2012, pp. 1-210.

________________. “A Rural Community Library in Africa: A Study of Its Use and Users.” Libri: International Journal of Libraries and Information Sciences, vol. 55, no. 1, 2018, pp. 39-55.

________________. Keeping the User in Mind: Instructional Design and the Modern Library. Oxford, Chandos, 2009.

________________. “Modelling the Rural Community Library.” New Library World, vol. 107, no. 1/2, 2006, pp. 16-30.

_________________. Qualitative Research and the Modern Library. Oxford, Chandos Pub., 2011.

Dent, Valeda Frances, and Geoff Goodman. “The Beast had to marry Balinda: Using Story Examples to Explore Socializing Concepts in Ugandan Caregivers’ Oral Stories.” Oral Tradition, vol. 28, no. 1, 2018, pp. 55-76.

_______________. “The Intergenerational Impact of a Rural Community Library on Young Childrens Learning Readiness in a Ugandan Village.”

________________. “The Rural Library’s Role in Ugandan Secondary Students’ Reading Habits.” International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, vol. 4, no.1, 2015, pp. 53-62.

Dent, Valeda F., and Geoff Goodman. “Rural Library Services: Historical Development and Modern-day Examples from West Africa.” New Library World, vol. 109, no. 11/12, 2008, pp. 1-21.