Finland proved baby boxes keep babies alive. Here's how they'll work in India.
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New parents everywhere know the first rule of parenting is keep your baby alive. Unfortunately, there are many factors that can make this a challenge.

That first year of life is the hardest because it's when babies are the most vulnerable. Couple that with a low socio-economic status, and this fundamental task may start to feel daunting.

However, about 80 years ago, one country — Finland — came up with something ingenious to help parents keep their babies alive: a box.


Finnish-style baby box. Photo by Matthew Yglesias/Flickr.

It's not just any box; it's a box with a cushioned bottom that doubles as a crib. The box also comes with a bunch of useful items to keep a baby healthy and happy like clothes, a towel, diapers, bibs, and a toy.

Despite their simplicity, the boxes worked. Within five years, infant mortality rates plummeted and kept falling after that. It's no surprise Finland still offers them to parents now.

As long as the mother goes to a prenatal visit within four months of becoming pregnant, the family gets to choose between a stipend or a baby box. Amazingly, 95% of families choose the box.

In the wake of Finland's success, several other countries have created their own versions of the baby box. However, people in low-income nations, like India, have unique needs.

Few know that as well as Karima Ladhani, a Doctor of Science candidate in global health at Harvard. When she came across an article about Finnish baby boxes, she started thinking about how they could be adapted to serve low-income families in South Asia.

Photo of one Indian mother and child the Barakat Bundle team met. All photos via Karima Ladhani.

Infant mortality rates in South Asia are among the highest in the world, which is largely due to lack of infant and maternal health care. Ladhani knew a baby box had to include more than basic baby accessories if they were going to truly make a difference.

Like any good academic, she decided to take a class about interventions for improving global health to try and refine her idea. Before she knew it, her idea had developed into a fully realized project that ended up being runner-up in the Harvard Business School New Venture Competition.

Suddenly, she had a $27,000 grant to work with. Ladhani thought, "OK, now we need to think about this in a serious way."

Ladhani then had a team behind her, many of whom had familial ties to India. So developing their baby box there seemed a simple decision.

As fate would have it, Ladhani met the president of the Public Health Foundation of India, K. Srinath Reddy, at a conference in Boston, and he was able to connect her with doctors on the ground there.

Once they had support from the heath care community, it was on to testing baby box prototypes. The way they picked items for the box was incredibly careful and deliberate — each one is proven to help reduce preventable infant and/or maternal mortality rates.

Ladhani (right) takes notes while families in India go through her baby box items.

After they were reviewed and approved by a neonatologist, it was off to India.

They sat down with more than 100 families and asked for their input on everything in the box.

They left the boxes with the families for a month, came back, and observed what was and wasn't working for them. They did two rounds of this kind of testing, each time refining the box to better fit parents' needs and wants.

Three years later, they've landed on a final prototype — a cradle made from locally sourced bamboo that they're calling the Barakat Bundle.

The cradle swings, has a mosquito net, and — because it's bamboo — is sustainable. It comes with a thermometer and other medical supplies, baby clothes, a blanket, sanitary napkins, and health education pamphlets for new parents.

After final rounds of safety testing, they plan to start selling the Barakat Bundle in the United States by the end of 2018. With every cradle purchased, a cradle gets sent to a family in South Asia along with all the supplies.

Indian families seeing one of the earlier iterations of Barakat Bundle.

"This allows families to, one, have access to a beautiful, portable cradle and, two, start their baby with a legacy of giving," Ladhani says.

The Barakat Bundle stands to make a huge change in infant and maternal health in South Asia.

And it wouldn't have been possible without grants that support research rather than the final product.

According to Ladhani, there aren't many grants that give you the leeway to do exploratory research without a guaranteed return on investment. The grant they received as a GenH finalist, for example, is an exception.

However, now that they're moving into distribution, Barakat Bundle needs more support. So if you're about to become a parent or know someone who is, consider buying one of their cradles. Not only will it help keep one baby healthy and happy, it'll do the same for a family in South Asia where such a gift could be lifesaving.

Barakat means "blessings" in Arabic. What could be a greater blessing than helping to keep babies alive?  

Courtesy of Creative Commons
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After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

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The story touches so many hot buttons at once—power, wealth, tradition, sexism, racism, colonialism, family drama, freedom, security, and the media. But as I sat and watched the first hour of just Oprah and Meghan Markle talking, I was struck by the simple significance of what I was seeing.

Here were two Black women, one who had battled sexism and racism in her industry and broke countless barriers to create her own empire, and one who has battled racism and sexism to protect her babies, whose royal lineage can be traced back through 1,200 years of rule over the British Empire. And the conversation these women were having had the power to take down—or at least do real damage to—one of the longest-standing monarchies in the world.

Whoa.

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Tory Burch

Courtesy of Tory Burch

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This March marks one year since the start of the pandemic… and it's been an incredibly difficult year: Over 500,000 people have died and hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs. But the pandemic's economic downturn has been disproportionately affecting women because they are more likely to work in hard-hit industries, such as hospitality or entertainment, and many of them have been forced to leave their jobs due to the lack of childcare.

But throughout all that hardship, women have, over and over again, found ways to help one another and solve problems.

"Around the world, women have stepped up and found ways to help where it is needed most," says Tory Burch, an entrepreneur who started her own business in 2004.

Burch knows a thing or two about empowering women: After seeing the many obstacles that women in business face — even before the pandemic — she created the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009 to empower women entrepreneurs.

And now, for International Women's Day, her company is launching a global campaign with Upworthy to celebrate the women around the world who give back and create real change in their communities.

"I hope the creativity and resilience of these women, and the amazing ways they have found to have real impact, will inspire and energize others as much as they have me," Burch says.

This year's Empowered Women certainly are inspiring:

Shalini SamtaniCourtesy of Shalini Samtani

Take, for example, Shalini Samtani. When her daughter was diagnosed with a rare immune disorder, she spent a lot of time in the hospital, which caused her to quickly realize that there wasn't a single company in the toy industry servicing the physical or emotional needs of the 3 million hospitalized children across America every year. She was determined to change that — so she created The Spread the Joy Foundation to deliver free play kits to pediatric patients all around the country.

Varsha YajmanCourtesy of Varsha Yajman

Varsha Yajman is another one of this year's nominees. She is just 18 years old, and yet she has been diligently fighting to build awareness and action for climate justice for the last seven years by leading school strikes, working as a paralegal with Equity Generations Lawyers, and speaking to CEOs from Siemen's and several big Australian banks at AGMs.

Caitlin MurphyCourtesy of Caitlin Murphy

Caitlin Murphy, meanwhile, stepped up in a big way during the pandemic by pivoting her business — Global Gateway Logistics — to secure and transport over 2 million masks to hospitals and senior care facilities across the country. She also created the Gateway for Good program, which purchased and donated 10,000 KN95 masks for local small businesses, charities, cancer patients and their families, immunocompromised, and churches in the area.

Simone GordonCourtesy of Simone Gordon

Simone Gordon, a domestic violence survivor and single mom, wanted to pay it forward after she received help getting essentials and tuition assistance — so she created the Instagram account @TheBlackFairyGodMotherOfficial and nonprofit to provide direct assistance to families in need. During the pandemic alone, they have raised over $50,000 for families and they have provided emergency assistance — in the form of groceries — for numerous women and families of color.

Victoria SanusiCourtesy of Victoria Sanusi

Victoria Sanusi started Black Gals Livin' with her friend Jas and the podcast has been an incredibly powerful way of destigmatizing mental health for numerous listeners. The podcast quickly surpassed a million listens, was featured on Michaela Coel's "I May Destroy You," won podcast of the year at the Brown Sugar Awards, and was named one of Elle Magazine's best podcasts of 2020.

And Upworthy and the Tory Burch are just getting started. They are still searching the globe for more extraordinary women who are making an impact in their communities.

Do you know one? If you do, nominate her now. If she's selected, she could receive $5,000 to give to a nonprofit of her choice through the Tory Burch Foundation. Submissions are being accepted on a rolling basis — and one Empowered woman will be selected each month starting in April.

Nominate her now at www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen.

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When 59 children died on Christmas Eve 1913, the world cried with the town of Calumet, Michigan.

Woody Guthrie sang about this little-known piece of history.

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AFL Labor Mini Series

A one-man drill operation

In July 1913, over 7,000 miners struck the C&H Copper Mining Company in Calumet, Michigan. It was largely the usual issues of people who worked for a big company during a time when capitalists ran roughshod over their workers — a time when monopolies were a way of life. Strikers' demands included pay raises, an end to child labor, and safer conditions including an end to one-man drill operations, as well as support beams in the mines (which mine owners didn't want because support beams were costly but miners killed in cave-ins “do not cost us anything.")

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Few child actors ever get to star in an award-winning film, much less win a prestigious award for their performance. That fact appeared to hit home for 8-year-old Alan Kim, as he broke down in tears accepting his Critics' Choice Award for Best Young Actor/Actress, making for one of the sweetest moments in awards show history.

Kim showed up to the awards (virtually, of course) decked out in a tuxedo, and his parents had even laid out a red carpet in their entryway to give him a taste of the real awards show experience. When his name was announced as the Critics' Choice winner for his role in the film "Minari," his reaction was priceless.

Grinning from ear to ear, Kim started off his acceptance speech by thanking "the critics who voted" and his family. But as soon as he started naming his family members, he burst into tears. "Oh my goodness, I'm crying," he said. Through sobs, he kept going with his list, naming members of the cast, the production company, and the crew that worked on the film.

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