4 steps to ending extreme poverty

武星星
武星星

发布于2022-08-02 10:49来源:转载 0 评论 0 点赞

We are witness to monumental human progress. Over the past few decades, the expansion of theglobal marketplace has lifted a third of the world's population out of extreme poverty. Yet we arealso witness to an astounding failure. Our efforts to lift people up have left behind those in theharshest forms of poverty, the ultra-poor. What it means to be ultra-poor goes beyond the monetary definition that we're all familiar with:living on less than two dollars a day. It goes even beyond not having assets like livestock or land.To be ultra-poor means to be stripped of your dignity, purpose and self-worth. It means living inisolation, because you're a burden to your own community. It means being unable to imagine abetter future for yourself and your family. By the end of 2019, about 400 million people were living in ultra-poverty worldwide. That's morethan the populations of the United States and Canada combined. And when calamity strikes,whether it's a pandemic, a natural disaster or a manmade crisis, these numbers spike astronomicallyhigher.

My father, Fazle Abed, gave up a corporate career to establish BRAC here in Bangladesh in 1972.Bangladesh was a wreck, having just gone through a devastating cyclone followed by a brutal warfor independence. Working with the poorest of the poor, my father realized that poverty was morethan the lack of income and assets. It was also a lack of hope. People were trapped in poverty,because they felt their condition was immutable. Poverty, to them, was like the sun and the moon --something given to them by God. For poverty reduction programs to succeed, they would need to instill hope and self-worth sothat, with a little support, people could lift themselves out of poverty. BRAC went on to pioneer the graduation approach, a solution to ultra-poverty that addressesboth income poverty and the poverty of hope. The approach works primarily with women, becausewomen are the most affected by ultra-poverty but also the ones most likely to pull themselves andtheir families out of it. Over a two-year period, we essentially do four things. One, we meet a woman's basic needs bygiving her food or cash, ensuring the minimum to survive. Two, we move her towards a decentlivelihood by giving her an asset, like livestock, and training her to earn money from it. Three, wetrain her to save, budget and invest her new wealth. And four, we help to integrate her socially, firstinto groups of women like her and then into her community. Each of these elements is key to thesuccess of the others, but the real magic is the hope and sense of possibility the women developthrough the close mentorship they receive.

 Let me tell you about Jorina. Jorina was born in a remote village in northern Bangladesh. Shenever went to school, and at the age of 15, she was married off to an abusive husband. Heeventually abandoned her, leaving her with no income and two children who were not in schooland were severely malnourished. With no one to turn to for help, she had no hope. Jorina joinedBRAC's Graduation program in 2005. She received a dollar a week, two cows, enterprise trainingand a weekly visit from a mentor. She began to build her assets, but most importantly, she began toimagine a better future for herself and her children. If you were visit Jorina's village today, youwould find that she runs the largest general store in her area. She will proudly show you the landshe bought and the house she built. Since we began this program in 2002, two million Bangladeshi women have lifted themselves andtheir families out of ultra-poverty. That's almost nine million people. The program, which costs 500dollars per household, runs for only two years, but the impact goes well beyond that. Researchers at the London School of Economics found that even seven years after entering theprogram, 92 percent of participants had maintained or increased their income, assets andconsumption. Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, the MIT economists who won the Nobel Prizelast year, led multicountry evaluations that identified graduation as one of the most effective waysto break the poverty trap. But my father wasn't content to have found a solution that worked for some people. He alwayswanted to know whether we were being ambitious enough in terms of scale. So when we achievednationwide scale in Bangladesh, he wanted to know how we could scale it globally. And that has toinvolve governments. Governments already dedicate billions of dollars on poverty reductionprograms. But so much of that money is wasted, because these programs either don't reach thepoorest, and even the ones that do fail to have significant long-term impact.

We are working to engage governments to help them to adopt and scale graduation programsthemselves, maximizing the impact of the billions of dollars they already allocate to fight ultrapoverty. Our plan is to help another 21 million people lift themselves out of ultra-poverty in eightcountries over the next six years with BRAC teams on-site and embedded in each country. In July of 2019, my father was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and given four months to live.As he transitioned out of BRAC after leading the organization for 47 years, he reminded us thatthroughout his life, he saw optimism triumph over despair, that when you light the spark of selfbelief in people, even the poorest can transform their lives. My father passed away in December. He lit that spark for millions of people, and in the final daysof his life, he implored us to continue to do so for millions more. This opportunity is ours for the taking, so let's stop imagining a world without ultra-poverty andstart building that world together. Thank you.


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