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Business, Society
Vancouver ranks amongst one of most preferred cities to live in the world once again. According to the 18th annual Quality of Life survey by Mercer, a global consulting and investment organization based in Toronto, Vancouver ranked at 5th , offering the best quality of living and working worldwide for residents and expatriate employees. Vancouver is the only in North American city amongst the top 10 – despite its skyrocketing housing prices. In a survey published last month, Vancouver also got into the top 5 cities with the most expensive real estate markets in the world. On the other hand, economic uncertainty in Europe, hasn’t deterred Western European cities to get top spots.  Vienna takes again the first place, followed by Zurich (2) and Munich (4) . Meanwhile,   New Zealand’s Auckland grabbed the third place. Mercer evaluated the local living conditions in more than 440 cities worldwide (230 were included in this year’s list)  and were analyzed according to 39 factors, grouped in 10 categories – including politics, social-cultural, environment, health, education, public services, recreation, consumer goods, housing and natural environment. The research is aimed to assist companies to ensure their employees receive fair compensation and meet their  needs while working abroad. Other Canadian cities also ranked fairly well in the survey — Toronto (15), Ottawa (17), Montreal (23) and Calgary (32). ‘Quality of living continues to be high in Canada with a stable political environment and positive social benefits, offering a very desirable and safe place to live and work for residents and expatriate workers,’said Gordon Frost, Leader of Mercer’s Talent Business in Canada, in a press release. ‘Our sustained high ranking is attractive to multinational corporations and their employees as they look to expand in Canada and provide significant opportunities to both Canadians and workers from abroad.’ In the United States, San Francisco (28) ranks highest for quality of living, followed by Boston (34), Honolulu (35), Chicago (43), and New York City (44).  In North America, Monterrey (108) and Mexico City (127) take the lowest spots and for the Caribbean, Havana (191) and Port-au-Prince (227). South American cities Montevideo (78), Buenos Aires (93), and Santiago (94) remain the highest ranking cities for quality of living, while Bogota (130), La Paz (156), and Caracas (185) rank lowest in the region. The city with the world’s lowest quality of living is Baghdad (230). The survey also studied personal safety and compiled a list of cities based on internal stability, crime levels, performance of local law enforcement, and the home country’s relationship with other nations. ‘Heightened domestic and global security threats, population displacement resulting from violence, and social unrest in key business centres around the world are all elements adding to the complex challenge facing multinational companies when analysing the safety and health of their expatriate workforces, ‘ explains Ilya Bonic, senior partner and president at Mercer, in a statement. As for the personal safety list, all the aforementioned Canadian cities  ranked 16th, in contrast with  US cities, which didn’t make the top 50. ‘Canada’s major cities continue to be much safer than every US counterpart. This is extremely appealing for ex-patriate employees looking to bring their families with them as they move abroad for work,’ Frost explains. In addition, the report reveals that most North American cities are safe for expatriates, but Mexican cities are ranked relatively low, because of the drug-related violence. Monterrey is the highest ranking Mexican city at 108th, whereas Mexico City takes the 127th place. In the rest of the American continent,  Kingston (199), Tegucigalpa (201), and Port-au-Prince (211) show the lowest levels of personal safety and at 96th Montevideo is South America’s highest ranking in personal safety; while Caracas (214) is the lowest. Unemployment, economic crisis and political unrest in some of the countries, are factors that explains these low rankings in personal safety in Latin America and the Caribbean. Globally, Luxembourg tops the personal safety list followed by Bern, Helsinki, and Zurich, all three in the second place. Whereas, Baghdad (230) and Damascus (229) made the  bottom of the list.
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Business, Society
The 7dayringproject is a brand new local initiative dedicated to promoting girls’ education, founded and run by two third-year UBC students in the Sauder School of Business, Taylor Davis and Peony Au. The inspiration for the project came from Davis’ trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia after her first year where she helped host business workshops for local entrepreneurs with UBC’s Arc Initiative. It was here that she met Salem Kassahun. Kassahun owns Salem’s Designs, creating and selling beautiful handcrafted Ethiopian jewellery, textiles, and gifts in Addis. What inspired Davis and Au to work with her is that in addition to being a strong businesswoman, Kassahun also seeks to benefit her community with every business decision she makes. From empowering her employees through training and fair wages to sponsoring the schooling and education of children in the community, she does her part to fight Addis’ overwhelming poverty and leave the world in a better place. Noticing the “7 day ring” in Kassahun’s shop one day, Davis learned it represents the seven days of the week and serves as a reminder that we have two choices every day: to make the most of it or let it pass us by. After buying a ring for herself, Davis says she “fell in love with the personal reminder to seize everyday.”

An initiative is born

In the spirit of social entrepreneurship, Davis and Au teamed up to bring the 7dayring to Canada. With their combined specializations in human resources, marketing, and accounting and their a mutual passion for “doing good” with business, the 7dayringproject was born! The process is simple: the project purchases Kassahun’s rings from Ethiopia, sells them in Canada, covers its distribution and operation costs, and donates the proceeds to the Girl Fund of Imagine1Day, an organization in Ethiopia dedicated to gender equity and girls’ education.

THE7DAYRINGPROJECT from Nano Clow on Vimeo.

With so many issues involving poverty that need addressing, I asked Davis and Au why they chose the cause of girls’ education to support. Davis took the lead, recalling Kassahun’s sponsorship of a young girl named Kiddist, a daughter of an employee. In their community, Kiddist had little opportunity to attend a strong educational program. Noticing her potential, Kassahun sponsored Kiddist’s schooling. Now, Kiddist is the top of her class, in the top four in Addis and is set to receive a full-ride university scholarship. “We want to create more success stories like Kiddist’s and to foster the next generation of female leaders, like Salem!” It’s very clear that Davis and Au have high hopes for the 7dayringproject and a passion to push the initiative as far as it will go. Davis explains, “the heart of the project really goes back to the fundamental purpose of the Arc Initiative – to use your skills and education to have a positive impact.”  Jumping in, Au says the initiative feeds her drive to empower people to find their potential. With Christmas just around the corner, the 7dayring is the perfect gift for the do-gooder in your life who’s passionate about making a difference in an ethical way. Because the project buys the rings straight from Ethiopia through Kassahun, it aids in injecting money back into the Ethiopian economy, allowing Kassahun to continue helping her community. The ring not only represents the importance of seizing every day, but each purchase also supports girls in Ethiopia to do the same thing by making education a reality for them. Click here to visit the 7dayringproject’s website, learn more about their story and business model, and purchase a ring or two!

Why initiatives like the 7dayringproject matter

In 2015, the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a series of commitments that aim to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change. Two specific goals of the SDGs are the deliverance of quality education and gender equality. In development work, it’s well known that empowering women and girls is key to breaking the cyclical nature of poverty, and to empower is to educate. Due to harmful gender stereotypes, poverty, and early pregnancies and marriage, many girls and young women don’t complete their educations. According to UNESCO statistics, 31 of 57 million children not in primary school are girls while 493 million of the world’s illiterate population are women. Just how important is girls’ education and how much does it really contribute to fighting poverty? UN Women notes that improved education accounts for 50% of economic growth in OECD countries, a group of wealthy Western nations, in the last fifty years. Half of that growth statistic is a result of more women in higher education. For developing countries, ensuring girls are able to obtain and complete primary and secondary educations will be a difficult task, as they must also deal with other dimensions of poverty, such as health, to render education effective. In spite of this, the value of ensuring girls’ educations is no less important. In a PR statement, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova confidently states, “We know increasing the education of adolescent girls and young women carries impact across generations. We know education is the best cure against transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child. We know it is the best way to avert child marriage. We know if all women completed primary education, we could reduce by 70 per cent the number of women dying in childbirth in sub-Saharan Africa – saving over 100,000 lives every year.”  
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