Soraya Salti teaches entrepreneurship to youth in Middle East and North Africa

Salti INJAZ Al-ArabBy Maegan P. Smith

Soraya Salti, the Executive Director of INJAZ Al-Arab, has just been awarded the seventh annual Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership. (The other winner of the Kravis Prize this year was mothers2mothers, which helps prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS through the education and support of mothers with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa). INJAZ Al-Arab is an organization that utilizes the mentorship of Arab business leaders to inspire a culture of entrepreneurialism and innovation among Arab youth.

Salti became involved with this organization in Jordan in 2001, when the great majority of youth in the Arab world were unable to find employment after graduation. She talks about what a widespread and serious issue this is in the Arab world in an interview with PBS: “[H]ere in Egypt, you find 83 percent of the unemployed are youth. And when I say youth, it’s between the ages of 15 to 29. If you go to Jordan, it’s 30 percent. In Algeria, it’s 40 percent. Even in oil-rich countries like the United Arab Emirates, where you used to have the biggest economic boom, 32 percent of youth are unemployed. Saudi Arabia — you’ve got 35 percent of the youth unemployed.”

Salti recognized this program when she started her work with the organization and began bringing professional leaders and their employees into Jordan’s public schools for an hour each week to share their professional experience with young adults. Through this program, students began to deepen their understanding of the business world and to increase their professional qualifications to operate as independent business owners. Local business leaders began to recognize an increase in talent, skills, and confidence from graduates.

In 2004, Salti expanded the program to a regional level, reaching 300,000 Arab youth. Since its inception, the organization has reached one million Arab youth in 14 different countries, making significant strides in spreading a culture of entrepreneurism, financial literacy and work readiness throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
Salti hopes the program will help regional youth become recognized as an engine for growth and prosperity rather than a burden on their economies. The program aims to boost students’ self-confidence by presenting them with experiences and opportunities that inspire and increase their overall sense of awareness. It also seeks to provide a way for young people to make direct connections to business professionals for better chances of success later on.

INJAZ Al-Arab also has semester-long courses that promote financial literacy, work readiness, life skills, social leadership, and business entrepreneurship. They also provide job placement options by exposing them to career options and helping to promote them in the competitive job market. All of this is accomplished while continuing to engage the private sector in a manner that encourages their collaboration and provides a mutual benefit.

The effects of the program were seen at the 2009 Annual Battle for the Best Arab Student Company, where a team of young girls from a rural Omani public high school won both the best Student Company and Student CEO of the Year, becoming an inspiration for Arab women and demonstrating to the region the opportunities missed by having the lowest female labor market participation in the world.

INJAZ Al-Arab has become a “thought leader” in a region where 72% of private sector CEOs now express a desire to improve the quality of education and the ability of students to transition from the classroom to the workplace. INJAZ’s pioneering public-private partnerships have brought over 10,000 corporate volunteers into public school classrooms and encouraged 13 Ministries of Education to seek innovative solutions through partnership to address the skills gap Arab graduates face.

Salti has also been recognized as a 2006 Schwab Social Entrepreneur of the Year and as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.

For more information about Soraya Salti and INJAZ Al-Arab, visit:

Inocente to Premier at the Cleveland International Film Festival

Cleveland Film FestivalWe are very pleased to announce that Shine Global’s latest film INOCENTE will premier at the 36th Cleveland International Film Festival.  For the past 36 years, the CIFF has been the premier film event in Ohio. Today the CIFF presents a full survey of contemporary international and American Independent filmmaking, with more than 150 features and 130 short subjects from approximately 60 countries.  Last year almost 80,000 people attended to watch films and to meet and mingle with visiting filmmakers from around the world.

CIFF’s mission is to promote artistically and culturally significant film arts through education and exhibition to enrich the life of the community  (In other words, as they say, to “present the newest and best films from around the world, and … do everything in o[their] power to make sure that [their] audience learns something along the way — about other cultures, about the topic at hand, about the experience from the filmmakers themselves.)

INOCENTE is a personal and vibrant coming of age story about a young artist’s determination never to surrender to the bleakness of her surroundings. At 15, Inocente refuses to let her dream of becoming an artist be caged by being an undocumented immigrant forced to live homeless for the last nine years. Color is her personal revolution and its sweep on her canvases creates a world that looks nothing like her own dark past. INOCENTE is both a timeless story about the transformative power of art and a timely snapshot of the new face of homelessness in America: children. The challenges are staggering, but the hope in her story proves that the hand she has been dealt does not define her, her dreams do. Please click here to view the trailer.


Wednesday, March 28 separator 11:55 AM
Thursday, March 29 separator 6:30 PM

*Tickets are not yet on sale. Visit for more information

Trader Joe’s Joins the Fair Food Campaign!

protest-trader-joesBy Naomi Hernandez

Trader Joe’s has become the latest chain to sign a Fair Food Agreement with the Coalition of Immolakee Workers after over a year of intense pressure including online campaigns and protests against “Traitor” Joe’s.

“We are truly happy today to welcome Trader Joe’s aboard the Fair Food Program,” said Gerardo Reyes of the CIW. “Trader Joe’s is cherished by its customers for a number of reasons, but high on that list is the company’s commitment to ethical purchasing practices. With this agreement, Trader Joe’s reaffirms that commitment and sends a strong — and timely — message of support to the Florida growers who are choosing to do the right thing, investing in improved labor standards, despite the challenges of a difficult marketplace and tough economic times.”

This is only the latest success for the CIW, which has been working to improve the wages of Florida farm workers since 1993.  The coalition works on several goals, but the Fair Food Campaign is their most prominent one.  A groundbreaking approach to social responsibility in the US produce industry, the campagin combines the Fair Food Code of Conduct – a set of labor standards developed in a unique collaboration among farmworkers, tomato growers, and the food industry leaders who purchase Florida tomatoes – with a small price premium to help improve harvesters’ wages.

The average household income for a farmworker in the US is between $15,000-$17,500 a year, well below the federal poverty line.  This is a contributing factor to the prevalence of child labor in agriculture – families need the extra income just to survive. Tomato pickers in Florida receive the same basic rate of pay now as they did thirty years ago.  When adjusted for inflation, their wages have actually dropped by half over that period. They usually earn 50 cents per every 32-pound bucket of tomatoes.  Average workdays consist of 14 hours and they are not able to get overtime. The harsh working conditions along with the limited wages has led the CIW to devise their action plans against the corporations which are most exploitative of this system.

The CIW has various strategies to put pressure on important food chains in the United States and they’ve been successfully implementing those strategies since 2001 with their Taco Bell boycott. The boycott lasted for four years and incited boycott committees in almost all 50 states, which eventually led to an agreement with the chain in 2005.  McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Bon Appétit Management Company, Compass Group, Aramark, Sodexo, and Whole Foods have all since signe don as well.

Although support within the fast-food industry and other sectors of the food industry has grown and the CIW has been able to reach several agreements with different chains and food service providers, they have turned their focus to the supermarket industry, which they believe lies at the heart of their campaign. Whole Foods Market was the first supermarket to sign an agreement with the CIW, but it wasn’t until February of 2012 that they got the support of a second major supermarket chain, Trader Joe’s.

Protests against Trader Joe’s have been ongoing for the past year throughout their locations across the country. Trader Joe’s has actively resisted pressure from the coalition and other groups, but finally relented in February.

The CIW’s next target is supermarket chain Publix, and to reach their goal they are planning a 6-day fast on March. Other giants in the supermarket industry that they seek to make an agreement with in the future are Ahold and Kroger. The coalition sees the supermarket industry as the remaining obstacle in their goal to make significant changes for the rights of farm workers.

The coalition has grown from a small community initiative to a powerful and influential body with an expanding public presence. They seek to grow and to keep promoting meaningful change and through their campaigns raise awareness and reach necessary agreements that will produce a fair system between the food industries and farm workers.

Visit: for more information.

Children participating in rural Indian politics

Pooja Gujjar, deputy sarpanch, bal panchayat, Government Upper Primary Sanskrit School, Chaudhula village, Rajasthan.

Pooja Gujjar, deputy sarpanch, bal panchayat, Government Upper Primary Sanskrit School, Chaudhula village, Rajasthan.

By Naomi S. Hernandez

Pooja Gujjar, an 11 year-old girl from the village of Chaudhula, Viratnagar, Rajastan, in India, holds the position of deputy leader in her school’s Bal Panchayat, which is an initiative across rural India supported by various non-profit organizations that encourages children to form groups that follow a parliamentary system that improve their lives. The Bal Panchayat is modeled after the Gram Panchayat, which is a local governing institution in the villages. The initiative fosters the practice of democracy and encourages the children to draft demands and seek change in their environment and actively engage in the political process. “Before the Bal Panchayat the other students would take their complaints to the headmaster,” Pooja says. “But now they come directly to me.” The Bal Panchayat sits in meetings with the Gram Panchayat in Chaudhula, and the concerns and petitions of the children are taken into consideration.

As a candidate, Pooja had to create a political campaign to get support and identify issues that were important to her. One of her campaign promises was to get more children into schools. She has also taken up the cause of building a kitchen in her school because the conditions under which the school children’s meals were cooked were unsanitary. She, along with the other members of the children’s Panchayat, were able to get the measure passed by the Gam Panchayat and soon their school had a brand-new and safe kitchen. Pooja, within her role as deputy leader, is able to generate real change that affects those in her community and particularly the children of Chaudhula and is an influential member actively participating in the political system.

Read more about Pooja at:

US House Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade holding a hearing on proposed rules to protect child farmworkers from the most dangerous tasks

1-year-old America is already in the fields with her family - what is in her future? The US House Small Business Subcommittee is holding a hearing on it 2/2/12. Still from The Harvest/La Cosecha.

1-year-old America is already in the fields with her family -- what is in her future? The US House Small Business Subcommittee is holding a hearing to decide on 2/2/12. Still from The Harvest/La Cosecha.

The US House Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade is holding a hearing entitled The Future of the Family Farm: The Effect of Proposed DOL Regulations on Small Business Producers on February 2, 2012, on proposed rules to prevent child farmworkers from taking on the most dangerous tasks. The new rules are intended to make paid farm work safer for the hundreds of thousands of children in the United States who labor in agriculture. They would not apply to children working on their parents’ farms.

“Sixteen children died at work in the US last year, and twelve of those were fatally injured while working on farms,” said Zama Coursen-Neff, deputy children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The rules need to change to ensure that the most dangerous farm jobs are done by adults, not children.”

On September 2, 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would make revisions to existing regulations pertaining to the employment of youths on farming and ranching operations.  Yesterday, February 1st, the DOL announced updates to the parental exemption portion of the proposed changes to better address farmers’ concerns.  The hearing will examine these rules so that members may better understand their potential effect on small business farm operations as well as youths working in or training for occupations in agriculture.

The subcommittee Chairman Scott Tipton (R-CO) issued a statement yesterday saying he believed “the rule altogether should never have been proposed” as it “would change long-standing and proven programs.”  Current child labor laws derive from the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act when agriculture was exempted from the protections given to children in other industries.  Children working in agriculture are permitted to do more work at younger ages than children working in other industries, they suffer more fatalities than they do in non-agricultural industries, and their work-related injuries tend to be more severe than injuries to children working in non-agricultural industries. Clearly something does need to change.

Witnesses include Nancy J. Leppink, Deputy Administrator Wage and Hour Division speaking on behalf of updating current child labor laws and Chris Chinn, Owner, Chinn Hog Farm testifying on behalf of the American Farm Bureau, Bob Tabb, Deputy Commissioner, West Virginia State Department of Agriculture, and Rick Ebert, Vice President, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and others speaking against new child labor protections.  You can read their statements on the Committee’s website.