Easing daily life for families, from Morocco to Vietnam

While official policy can effect widespread change, the ideas of people acting alone can spread and inspire others – especially when given time to work, such as a 10-year effort that has resulted in the tagging of 800 sharks in the South Atlantic ocean.

1. Argentina

Sport fishers who used to kill sharks are now helping conserve them. In San Blas Bay – the heart of Argentina’s sport fishing – catching and killing a shark used to be a source of pride, despite declines in shark populations that include critically endangered species. Now, thanks to a project known as Conserving Sharks in Argentina, some 150 sport fishers are instead tagging sharks with identification devices and releasing them back into the ocean, providing researchers with useful information to help design conservation strategies.

Why We Wrote This

Governments and large institutions have the power to make big changes for people that aren’t possible for individuals to achieve alone. In Morocco, increasing parental leave for fathers is recognition of the shared responsibility for children. And in Vietnam, a decade of assessment shows poverty reduction across society.

The effort is proof that anyone can make a difference when it comes to conservation. Sport fisher David Dau was no biologist, but began the project 10 years ago after realizing the harm he and others were causing. He spread his message far and wide, writing magazine articles, giving talks at fishing clubs, and making TV appearances. The approach hasn’t caught on in neighboring countries, but Mr. Dau says he can tell change is taking place. “Today, the trophy is showing the video of the release instead of showing the shark hanging from a hook.”

2. United States

Charles Krupa/AP
A sign marks the Old Burying Ground in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Harvard leaders and some of those they enslaved are buried.

Harvard University committed $100 million to address its historical complicity with slavery. The move follows an in-depth report of the ways slavery shaped and benefited the institution, from the enslaved people who worked on campus to the university wealth accrued directly or indirectly from the plantation industry. The resources will be used to implement the recommendations of the report, which include expanding educational opportunities for descendants of enslaved people and creating partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities.

Harvard is one of many institutions that has profited from the history of slavery. “While Harvard does not bear exclusive responsibility for these injustices, and while many members of our community have worked hard to counteract them, Harvard benefited from and in some ways perpetuated practices that were profoundly immoral,” said university President Lawrence Bacow.

3. Spain

Workday use of Barcelona’s metropolitan bike-lane network grew 49% between 2019 and 2021, according to a recent study. The Metropolitan Area of Barcelona, encompassing Barcelona and 36 nearby municipalities, launched the vast cyclable system known as Bicivía in 2016 to promote more sustainable and healthier transport, and has built more than 400 kilometers (about 250 miles) of paths so far. The study found that scooter use increased 123%, while bicycle use grew a more moderate but still significant 34%.

Paco Freire/SOPA Images/SIPA USA/Reuters
Bikers ride past a tourist bus in Plaza de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain.

Growth was higher in less central regions and coastal areas than in the city of Barcelona, which has had its own network of bike lanes and promoted their use for longer. Nonetheless, the preliminary data is encouraging for city planners. “When the infrastructure is created, citizens are committed to changing their habits and making use of it,” said Antoni Poveda, the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona’s vice president of mobility, transport, and sustainability.
Intelligent Transport, 20 Minutos

4. Morocco

Morocco expanded paid paternity leave from three to 15 days for public workers. While the country’s labor laws grant mothers 14 weeks of maternity leave, fathers have often been left out of the conversation. In consultation with labor unions, the government is also improving conditions for working-class people with an increased national minimum wage and more financial support for families with more than three children.

While the paid leave only applies to workers in the public sector, advocates consider it the beginning of a more equitable parenting dynamic. For Ghita Mezzour, the minister delegate in charge of digital transition and administrative reform, the support is as much for mothers as it is for fathers: “The measure is in accordance with the constitution that stipulates that the education of children is a common and shared responsibility.”
Morocco World News

5. Vietnam

Vietnam’s poverty rate fell from 16.8% to 5% in the decade leading up to 2020, according to the World Bank’s 2022 Vietnam Poverty and Equity Assessment. That’s the equivalent of 10 million people pulled above the poverty line, thanks to rising wages and an increase in formal employment – especially in the manufacturing and services sectors. Foreign investment opened new, better-paying jobs, while international tourism expanded from 5 million to 18 million visitors. Overall, average household wages tripled.

While inequality increased slightly in the second half of the decade, and the pandemic has slowed poverty reduction, the past 10 years have set Vietnam on a promising path. To continue the trend in poverty reduction, the World Bank recommends investing in higher education, ensuring that social assistance programs reach the poorest households, and expanding the country’s tax base.
World Bank

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