Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty,” Mother Teresa.
We are all familiar with the words poor or poverty. We have different terms, such as “cost of basic goods” and “daily calorie intake,” and other key indicators to understand poverty. We have numbers, percentages, statistics and other multi-dimensional criteria to comprehend levels of poverty. There are plenty of research and case studies. But do these numbers or definitions engage with the feeling, the real heart-felt emotional landscape, of poverty?
What if we dare to question why some people are poor? Is it because of their family and environment, or because of God, or because of the nation? Bangladesh is not a poor country but a poorly managed country. The people who are blessed with opportunity (whether it’s God-given or snatched) are solvent and those who are not blessed are called poor. Actually, they should be called deprived as they are denied any kind of opportunity.
“A poor man with nothing in his belly needs hope, illusion, more than bread,” said a French author and a soldier in World War I, Georges Bernanos. We need to show them the light and the hope which will give them courage to come forward, and give them the understanding that they also have power and potential to change their state by hard work. We need to create opportunities for those people who are mostly called poor.
Being an employee of the development sector I feel that we have lot more to do, and especially to do something which will be sustainable. There are a few organisations that are coming forward to create opportunities but their efforts are not enough to serve the majority of the poorest communities.
I had the opportunity to visit the project area of a national NGO in Rangpur. There, I came across the condition that is termed poverty or vulnerability. People are surviving on virtually nothing. I just cannot explain their condition.
I met a very old woman there. Her living standard is really beyond comprehension. She has a small room, and eats only once in 24 hours. She has two sons and three daughters but no one is there to take care of her. They are busy with their lives. People from her neighbourhood sometimes feed her or else she starves. She was very unhappy with her life. I still remember her look, which was asking so many questions silently!
I felt very ashamed in front of her because we could not protect her from poverty, nor could her own people who refused to take care of her. Think about our parents and ourselves when we will be older; will there be any secure mechanism to take care of us?
A national NGO provides resources to national and international NGOs working in Bangladesh through two challenge funds: the Scale Fund and the Innovation Fund. The Scale Fund provides NGOs opportunities to take large numbers of people out of extreme poverty using tried and tested methods. The Innovation Fund challenges NGOs to design and implement innovative approaches to reducing extreme poverty in urban and rural areas of Bangladesh.
The UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Government of Bangladesh (GOB) have formed partnership to lift people out of extreme poverty by 2015. This project is taking care of about 244,000 beneficiaries through several national and international NGOs to lift them out of extreme poverty. What will happen after 2015?
Can’t we create any opportunity to assist them in sustainable graduation? Can’t we be the change makers? Maybe the day is not so far when these questions will be answered, which will lead to real solutions. As the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift — that’s why they call it the present.” Is this applicable for these people? They are living through their history, mystery, yesterday and tomorrow but they do not discover any present which may be defined as a gift. We must turn their present into gift so that they will be able to think their life is blessed not cursed!!
The writer works with EEP/shiree.