Dr. Susan M. Blaustein is co-founder and Director of the Millennium Cities Initiative (MCI), a project of the Earth Institute at Columbia University established to assist sub-Saharan cities in their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. Through a comprehensive combination of research, analysis, interventions and high-level advocacy, MCI identifies gaps in MDG-related areas, estimates the costs of filling those gaps and supports the Cities in designing integrated development strategies capable of accomplishing the Goals, thereby jumpstarting a period of fruitful social and economic development and making extreme poverty a thing of the past.
Dr. Blaustein came to the sustainable development work of the Earth Institute out of her conflict prevention efforts with the International Crisis Group (ICG), her years as a foreign correspondent in Southeast Asia and her independent study of the roots of the Rwandan genocide. Prior to this, Dr. Blaustein was on the faculty of Columbia University, a Junior Fellow at Harvard University and a lecturer at Yale University, where she also earned her doctorate. The recipient of awards from the American Academy of Arts & Letters and the Guggenheim Foundation, Dr. Blaustein serves on the board of directors of the non-profit Millennium Promise, the lead UN partner in the Millennium Villages. She is completing a book about the Rwandan genocide and lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, with her journalist husband and 15-year-old daughter.
MCI’s signature School2School Connectivity Project (S2S), a partnership with global communications giants Ericsson and Airtel Ghana, the City of Kumasi, Ghana, the Kumasi Metropolitan Education Directorate, Columbia University Teachers College and selected New York City public and private schools to teach the uses of the computer and the Internet in the teaching of the STEM… read more
In sub-Saharan Africa, only 63 percent of girls complete their schooling, according to the World Bank. Yet our own research in the Millennium Cities indicates that girls who continue their education will have far greater opportunities, and they will be in a better position to care for themselves and their families. To celebrate the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl, by “Standing Up for Girls” and their right to a quality education, a number of the Millennium Cities and Millennium Villages Project sites held rallies, marched and participated in debates on girls’ issues.
Two Masters in Development Practice students, Paloma Ruiz Gonzalez and Marianna Costa Checa, used their MDP practicum this past summer to assist the Millennium Cities Initiative in mapping and surveying all health facilities in the Millennium City of Kisumu, Kenya, at the request of the city government and local health officials.
A new survey conducted in three informal settlements in Kisumu, Kenya, examined poverty at the household level, gleaning information on the quality of life experienced by individuals living in such settlements. A follow-up workshop gave researchers a chance to share the information with local residents and hear their thoughts on the needs of poor neighborhoods.
The following is a guest blog, authored by Meagan HoChing, a Harvard University student and volunteer with the Millennium Cities Initiative.
I have recently had the absolute pleasure of spending two weeks in beautiful Kisumu, Kenya. I am working with two other students to perfect what we would like to call “Bloom and Bud,” which involves urban farming with 100% recyclable materials, in an effort to provide food sustainability for those with minimal to no land or food security.
MCI is lucky enough to work with two amazing Ethiopian women from the region of Tigrai, in the north of the country where the Millennium City of Mekelle is located. Both women have gone abroad to become talented professionals and both have resolved to transform the lives of women and young girls in their native region, returning home, one permanently, in order to do so.
Graduate students in architecture and urban design recently presented their findings and design work issuing out of a collaboration between the Urban Design Lab (UDL) and MCI in the Millennium City of Kumasi, Ghana. At the city’s invitation, and with MCI’s facilitation, the UDL came to Kumasi in early February, to devise solutions to revitalize the severely degraded and impoverished areas of Akrom, Adukrom and Sewabah and to design a comprehensive Women’s and Girls’ Center for the vibrant downtown commercial neighborhood of Bantama.
MCI’s Regional Partnership to Promote Trade and Investment in Sub-Saharan Africa held its regional meeting May 7-9, in Mekelle, Ethiopia, where delegations from the three participating Millennium Cities were able to hold extended, frank discussions with their colleagues and with private sector investors, who did not hesitate to describe precisely what it is that local and foreign investors need and look for, in order for their businesses to grow and prosper.
Across sub-Saharan Africa, where MCI is working to help selected secondary cities attain the Millennium Development Goals, more than 150 million adults, or 38% of the adult population, lack basic literacy skills. Fortunately, a number of organizations are working hard to change this. LitWorld, a NY-based NGO dedicated to improving global literacy and a long-time MCI partner, held its third annual World Read Aloud Day on March 7, which presented an opportunity to engage in literacy-building exercises and advocate for global learning opportunities. Students from several Millennium Cities participated, joining others around the world to honor learning and literacy.
There is much to celebrate, this International Women’s Day. Three fabulously courageous women won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, and just a year earlier the United Nations established UN Women, a new agency dedicated to gender equality worldwide and headed by another strong woman leader and role model, former President of Brazil Michelle Bachelet. School enrollments of girls are unprecedentedly high, the world has finally begun to mobilize around safe childbirth and other women’s health issues, and the World Bank is reporting this week that we have achieved the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG), halving extreme poverty, well before the United Nations’ 2015 deadline, thereby easing the lives of hundreds of millions worldwide. Yet a tremendous amount of work waits to be done.