The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

01 November 2007

Click and donate with a difference

There are a lot of click and donate sites, where you click on an icon and the site’s sponsors donate a small sum to a good cause. Here’s a click and donate site with a difference. is a vocabulary quiz. For every word you get right, the site donates 10 grains of rice to help end world hunger. When you get a definition right, the next word is harder; when you get it wrong, the next definition is easier. Continue playing, and with a wide vocabulary or a bit of luck you will be able to donate thousands of grains. The site started on 7th October 2007 when 830 grains of rice were donated. By the end of the month, the daily donation was nearly 60 million grains and rising rapidly.

Recede means: experience, gripe, unmask, withdraw
Naturalize means: ensure, adapt, scamper, multiply
Desiccant means: consultant, drying agent, beginning, level
Vestigial means: humid, trustworthy, shocked, rudimentary

After the first few words, the vocabulary level starts to rise when you get a correct definition, and it will get a bit easier if you guess wrong. The next words to come up were:
Unguent: weary uneasiness, ointment, inducement, pony
Corsair: superiority, limb, devilry, pirate
Dreck: junk, newsperson, lyre, burden
Specular: mirror-like, sham, lacking, diligent
Gemsbok: lodging, trophy, devoutness, oryx
Enervate: love, chat, weaken, verify

Did you get them all right? If so, that’s 100 grains donated. And it goes on and on. Beware. You may find the site addictive. But then the good thing is that you will be giving a lot of rice away:

Daily totals
7 October 2007 830
8 October 2007 5,670
9 October 2007 76,020
10 October 2007 287,960
11 October 2007 4,584,100
12 October 2007 3,541,350
13 October 2007 3,194,630
14 October 2007 4,343,350
15 October 2007 6,403,920
16 October 2007 6,645,520
17 October 2007 12,157,010
18 October 2007 26,703,160
19 October 2007 40,373,060
20 October 2007 16,175,550
21 October 2007 13,276,900
22 October 2007 26,881,930
23 October 2007 30,423,770
24 October 2007 37,670,700
25 October 2007 30,819,620
26 October 2007 29,607,480
27 October 2007 37,056,070
28 October 2007 42,153,550
29 October 2007 48,720,340
30 October 2007 56,893,100
31 October 2007 59,167,790

Total raised in the first month: 537,163,380 grains of rice. That’s a phenomenal growth rate; and the news of the site must be spreading by word of mouth. Could the idea be extended to cover school learning, and particularly literacy and numeracy, with the rewards similar but different to free rice (giving points in heaven rather than actual personal benefits).

Correct definitions: withdraw, adapt, drying agent, rudimentary, ointment, pirate, junk, mirror-like, oryx, weaken

28 October 2007

Mind the GAP

The Gap is a major international clothign company with outlets in shopping malls and main streets across the world. Its brands also include Banana Republic. The company's social responsibility report showed problems – from unsafe machinery to the use of child labour – in the thousands of factories it uses around the world to produce clothing for its retail chains. The company produces garments in 3,000 factories located in 50 countries. It has a team of more than 90 compliance officers who conduct about 8,500 factory visits each year.

In two factories The Gap found under-age workers – though in both cases the children were older than 14. The most frequent violations of The Gap's code of conduct included factories not complying with local laws on annual leave, failure to pay the minimum wage, working weeks in excess of 60 hours, inaccurate record keeping and machinery lacking safety devices.

Following further investigation by The Observer newspaper and TV pictures showing a 10-year-old boy in India sewing clothes bearing the brand’s logo, the company took a decision to destroy the clothes involved. The had boy told the newspaper he had been sold to the factory owner by his family.

The “No Sweat” campaigners have won the argument. No international company these days wants to be seen employing child labour, worse still child bonded labour, or having its clothing made in sweatshop conditions. What is at fault is the system of subcontracting the work to poor countries, where standards are lower and enforcement is much harder (the court system does not always work well, and a bribe can sort matters out).

The economic benefit to factory owners or their subcontractors of employing underage labour makes it hard to stamp out. Even where there are factory inspections and everything seems OK, there may be another plant out at the back which the factory owner will never admit to or open up.

If the practice of employing child labour is to be stamped out, several things need to happen:
• There needs to be more collaboration amongst the clothing manufacturers.
• There needs to be more engagement of the middle classes in the poor countries involved (such as India) so that local opinion shifts decisively against child labour.
• There needs to be much more engagement by opinion formers and the middle classes in the poorer countries where child labour remains prevalent.
• If you see child labour in any form anywhere, then make sure to point this out to the employer that it is completely unacceptable.

Recently, in South India I saw two cases of child labour in micro-enterprise creation projects run by a respected NGO which was completely committed to the ending of child labour in all its forms. The sad fact is that these were “demonstration projects” that the NGO wanted its visitors to see. When challenged, one employer said that the child was a foster son. But we saw the son well-fed and well-dressed and not working; whilst the so-called foster child looked surly and dirty. In a neighbouring street, we saw a sari embroidery factory with a young girl working, and were told that this is what she liked to do “for the company” after school. This shows how easy it is to con the casual visitor, and how hard it is to stamp,out the practice.

One thing to think about is what should children be doing after they have completed their primary schooling. The Millennium Development Goals seek universal primary education, but they and international NGOs are strangely silent on what happens after when young people are still too young to work in countries where secondary education is for the few who can afford it.

The GAP’s full 42-page report is on the company’s website:
Two international campaigns against sweatshops:
Sweatshop Watch, a US campaign against child labour:
No Sweat, a UK campaign against child labour:
And three Indian websites of interest:
Child Rights Information and Documentation Centre:
South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude:
Swami Agnivesh, a leading campaigner against child labour in India: