I call on the international community at the highest level … to adopt the target of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, and so lifting more than one billion people out of it, by 2015.
– Secretary-General Kofi Annan
A Call for Action: Putting an End to Extreme Poverty
What causes poverty?
“Until recently, poverty was understood largely in terms of income – or a lack of one. To be poor meant that one could not afford the cost of providing a proper diet of home. But poverty is about more than a shortfall of income or calorie intake. It is about the denial of opportunities and choices that are widely regarded as essential to lead a long, healthy, creative life and to enjoy a decent standard of living, freedom, dignity, self-esteem and the respect of others.
Possessing little money, little education, few skills for the marketplace and a multitude of health problems, nearly half of all the people in the world live in poverty, without much opportunity to improve their lives.”(www.un.org)
Women in Poverty
PCI recognizes that many of the globally impoverished millions are women; single women in female-headed households, trying their best to create a more productive and positive future for their families.
The WE Initiative is unique among programs for women’s economic empowerment in that it is holistic, integrating social development activities into its core objectives. The WE program model, developed by PCI, is based on a group self-help concept that brings small groups of women together to teach them financial literacy and encourage communal savings and development. The women contribute a small percentage of their hard-earned money towards a group loan fund and then collectively decide how to invest the funds for future growth. Through rotational leadership and self-governance strategies, PCI’s model places equal emphasis on the development of social capital in participating women, increasing their capacity for social engagement, decision-making ability, confidence and self-efficacy.
Children in Poverty
The effects of child poverty are especially troubling. Imagine the immediate stressors for a child living in an impoverished setting. Daily hunger pangs and uncertain living arrangements, even to a state of homelessness. Medical care is a concern, as many of these children have neither health insurance, nor regular visits to pediatricians. What about school? Attendance for the poorest children tends to be spotty and inconsistent, with significant mobility from school to school as the survival needs of their family demand.
Child poverty is a multidimensional phenomenon and can be measured in many ways. Understanding child poverty to the fullest possible extent is vital. While an adult may fall into poverty temporarily, falling into poverty in childhood can last a lifetime – rarely does a child get a second chance at an education or a healthy start in life. As such, child poverty threatens not only the individual child, but is likely to be passed on to future generations, entrenching and even exacerbating inequality in society. (www.unicef.org)
What can we do? What are some immediate and concrete solutions to poverty?
Provide the Basics
Early in life, our poorest babies require basic necessities and support for their mothers and caregivers. The National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN), in conjunction with Huggies’ Every Little Bottom program, generously donated 100,000 diapers to PCI’s California Border Healthy Start (CBHS), to be distributed to families in need in the San Diego community. The diapers were delivered to PCI’s center on behalf of NDBN and are dedicated to providing every child with the supply of diapers needed to remain clean, dry and healthy.
California Border Healthy Start Project serves 85% of local Hispanic families through partner programs such as La Maestra Community Health Centers, San Diego Family Care, Best Start Birth Center, Operation Samahan Community Health Center, Family Health Centers of San Diego and San Diego County HHSA Maternal and Child Health Services Branch.
San Diego’s CBHS program is improving the health of low-income pregnant women, mothers, and their babies in areas that represent the highest levels of poverty and poor birth outcomes in San Diego County by enhancing the capacity of the local maternal and child health social service systems and increasing effective outreach and recruitment into prenatal services early in pregnancy.
Poverty in Africa
In general, the principal causes of poverty are harmful economic systems, conflict, population growth, and environmental factors such as drought and climate change. Poverty itself is a major cause of hunger. All are very important as causes of poverty and hunger in sub-Saharan Africa.
Poverty is the principal cause of hunger in Africa and elsewhere. Simply put, people do not have sufficient income to purchase enough food. Conflict and drought, for example, are certainly important causes of hunger, but the most typical situation is that people just do not have enough income to purchase the food that they need—they could be starving in some slum somewhere, for example. As noted in 2008, 47 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lived on $1.25 a day or less, a principal factor in causing widespread hunger. (www.worldhunger.org)
PCI is playing an important role in the alleviation of global poverty with the Women Empowered initiative (WE), with some of the most dramatic successes occurring through microfinance in Africa. We believe that the economic empowerment of women is especially vital for the future development of these communities.
Microfinance is often defined as financial services for poor and low-income clients offered by different types of service providers. The term is often used more narrowly to refer to loans and other services from providers that identify themselves as “microfinance institutions” (MFIs). These institutions commonly tend to use new methods developed over the last 30 years to deliver very small loans to unsalaried borrowers, taking little or no collateral. These methods include group lending and liability, pre-loan savings requirements, gradually increasing loan sizes, and an implicit guarantee of ready access to future loans if present loans are repaid fully and promptly.
Maweta from Lusaka, Zambia
Maweta Tembo sits among her four small grandchildren in the village of Chiwala, on the outskirts of Lusaka, Zambia. A 72-year-old widow, Maweta has already raised six children of her own, but now she must also care for her grandchildren, whose parents died from AIDS. Each day was a struggle for Maweta. After attending a community orientation, however, Maweta began mobilizing women in her village to form a self-help group.
After only 9 months in the program, Maweta had learned how to read and write, perform basic math and accounting, and was able to save $60 by selling mangoes in her community. Maweta also received a loan from her group, which helped her start a business: buying fast-selling food items in bulk and re-packaging and reselling them in smaller units, at a profit. With the earnings from her business, she is now able to provide for the basic needs and education of her grandchildren.
Ending world poverty is a multi-step process. PCI recognizes the vast complexity of needs, including the necessity of individual approaches for each region, and how each level of poverty comes with its own unique set of problems. The work continues as PCI remains ever committed to putting an end to global poverty.