What happens to children when an armed conflict shuts down hundreds of schools? When a community has no reliable access to clean water, where do they turn for hydration and hygiene? Why do girls in poverty so often struggle to get access to the right menstrual products to manage their periods?

These are some of the questions explored in the six-part documentary series ACTIVATE: The Global Citizen Movement premiering in fall 2019. Developed by National Geographic and Procter & Gamble, and co-produced by Global Citizen and RadicalMedia, the series zeroes in on the root causes of extreme poverty and highlights the stories of organizers, amplifiers, grassroots activists, action-takers, and the people whose lives are being changed. 

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The multi-platform storytelling partnership will feature activists and advocates including Uzo Aduba, Rachel Brosnahan, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Common, Darren Criss, Hugh Jackman, Gayle King, Bonang Matheba, Usher, and Pharrell Williams. 

Episodes will take viewers across the globe to South Africa, Mexico, the Philippines, Ghana, Nigeria, and Peru, as well as across the United States in New Jersey, Arkansas, Tennessee, California, New York, and Washington, DC.

You can find more ACTIVATE content on both GlobalCitizen.org and NatGeo.com, where deep dives on the issues, behind-the-scenes videos, and activist profiles will be featured. 

The series will focus on six key areas — responsible sourcing and gender equality, clean drinking water and sanitation; racial bias and criminalization of poverty; girls' education; plastic waste; and disaster relief.

Here are Global Citizen's key campaign goals explored throughout ACTIVATE: The Global Citizen Movement.

Sustainable Sourcing and Women's Entrepreneurship 

The stats: When we empower girls and women — when She Is Equal — we can grow economies and improve the world. Yet right now, women-owned businesses receive less than a 1% share of the $11 trillion spent on procurement each year by large corporations and governments. When women are held back and can’t access the assets necessary to move up the economic ladder, they become trapped in a cycle of poverty. We need to address long-standing barriers that keep women from participating fully in the workplace, marketplace, and global economies, starting with key institutions and multinational corporations. 

What we’re doing: Global Citizen will call on the World Bank to double its current supply chain sourcing commitment from women-owned enterprises around the world, under the leadership of the new president, David Malpass. We will also encourage multinational companies like Ford and Ernst & Young to procure at least $100 million of their products and services from women-owned businesses over the next three years, with at least half to be spent with women in developing countries.

Clean Drinking Water and Sanitation 

The stats: 844 million people lack access to clean water and 4.5 billion people lack access to proper sanitation. Girls and women, who risk violence when having to use the outdoors for their bathrooms or spending hours every day collecting water, are the worst affected. A lack of clean water and sanitation also holds girls and children back from going to school, exposes them to dangerous illnesses from drinking dirty water, and prevents them from living healthy, full, and dignified lives.

What we’re doing: Global Citizen will continue to campaign with its partners to seek $14 million to $21 million from each from Nigerian state governments to fund clean water and sanitation in the poorest communities. This funding will support sanitation education and behavior change, as well as infrastructure such as toilets, handwashing facilities, and waste management.

Racial Bias and Criminalization of Poverty 

The stats: The US holds 2.2 million people in jails and prisons — more than any other country in the world by far. But the burden of incarceration doesn’t fall on all Americans equally: It impacts poor people and people of color hardest. Cash bail is the hidden enemy driving America’s system of mass incarceration and is responsible for 99% of all jail growth over the past 15 years. In fact, 465,000 Americans languish behind bars on any given night. They have not been convicted of any crime and are solely in jail due to the inability to afford bail. A few days in jail often costs people their jobs and housing, thrusting them into a cycle of poverty.

What we’re doing: Global Citizen will target New York State to stop the criminalization of poverty and set a national precedent for bail reform. We are calling on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to follow through on his promise to end cash bail in New York, thus leading the way for the rest of the country to end this major contributor to the cycle of poverty.

Girls' Education

The stats: With 130 million girls out of school, there is a need to target barriers — like lack of access to sanitation and hygiene facilities, menstrual health education, and products — that hold back girls from getting to and through school. In fact, 23% of schools around the world do not have proper bathrooms — or any toilets at all. As a result, the confidence, dignity, and access to education for girls and women around the world are threatened.

What we’re doing: Global Citizen will call on the South African federal and provincial governments to implement their newly appropriated 157 million rand in 2019 for the Sanitary Dignity Programme in a timely, quality, and comprehensive manner. As part of this, we will call for the Sanitary Dignity Programme to ensure access to quality and safe menstruation products for low-income girls in no-fee government schools, as well as menstrual health education for girls and boys and safe, private, and dignified bathrooms in schools with handwashing facilities and waste management

We will also ask US representatives to support the passage of the bipartisan Keeping Girls In School Act (HR 2153 / S.1171) so we can unlock more USAID funding and partnerships for responses that tackle 14 barriers to girls’ education including sanitation and menstrual health. 

Plastic Waste

The stats: A healthy planet looks after its people, and healthy people can protect the planet. Billions of people worldwide rely on healthy oceans and environments to provide food and jobs. But our oceans and the people who live alongside them are in jeopardy from plastic pollution, and global climate change is threatening ecosystems and the planet with extinction. Addressing environmental challenges is everyone’s business. 

What we’re doing: Global Citizen will support the launch of the first ever United Nations Ocean Action Principles for Business and ask large companies such as Covestro and Maersk to support the principles with million dollar commitments that support healthy oceans.

Disaster Relief 

The stats: Getting all kids in school and learning, especially in times of conflict and crisis, can boost economies, prevent further trauma, empower women, and end extremism. But conflict and crisis around the world, from political upheaval in Venezuela to disasters across Central Africa, are putting our future at risk and 75 million children out of school. We must educate and empower the poorest and most at-risk children today so they can build a better future tomorrow.

What we’re doing: Global Citizen will campaign to support Education Cannot Wait’s effort to raise $1.8 billion between now and 2021 for kids affected by emergencies. We will ask USAID and US senators to increase and pledge new funding to Education Cannot Wait this year and to approve $25 million for the fund in next year’s budget. We will also call on the UK, Ireland and Norway to step up and strongly invest in education in emergencies. 

ACTIVATE: THE GLOBAL CITIZEN MOVEMENT is a six-part documentary series from National Geographic and Procter & Gamble, co-produced by Global Citizen and RadicalMedia. ACTIVATE raises awareness around extreme poverty, inequality, and sustainability issues to mobilize global citizens to take action and drive meaningful and lasting change. The series will premiere globally in fall 2019 on National Geographic in 172 countries and 43 languages. You can learn more here.


Demand Equity

Global Citizens Film Series Focuses on Causes of Extreme Poverty

By Leticia Pfeffer  and  Joe McCarthy