Well, Blog Action Day is here: “Today thousands of bloggers will unite to discuss a single issue – poverty. We aim to raise awareness, initiate action and to shake the web!“
Some facts about poverty:
Almost half the world — over 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.
The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (567 million people) is less than the wealth of the world’s 7 richest people combined.
Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.
1 billion children live in poverty (1 in 2 children in the world). 640 million live without adequate shelter, 400 million have no access to safe water, 270 million have no access to health services. 10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (or roughly 29,000 children per day).
Grenada, and in a wider perspective the Caribbean, are universally classified as third world, impoverished countries. Wikipedia defines third world as “..a name given to nations that are generally considered to be underdeveloped economically“. Despite the [negative] connotation of the term, I think we could comfortably agree that we are a third world nation – our infrastructure and economy is underdeveloped. No argument there.
But do we live in poverty? Are we a truly impoverished nation?
It turns out the answer depends on who you ask and your frame of reference for asking. I did some informal research – well, more like randomly asking people liming around during Happy Hour – and overwhelmingly the consensus was that Grenada and Grenadians, although poor and undeveloped, do not suffer from, or live in, true poverty. It is difficult for us as a nation to call ourselves impoverished when we can look north towards Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, to realise that our economic and social quality of life is pretty damn good in comparison!
It is difficult to pin down the actual definition of poverty. Defined socially it is “a condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information“. Relative Poverty is when “the entire population is ranked in order of income per capita. The bottom 10% (or whatever percentage the government chooses to use) is then considered ‘poor’ or ‘impoverished.’” Absolute Poverty uses a set guideline established by the World Bank – “Poverty is set at an income of $2 a day or less, and extreme poverty is set at $1 a day or less“. But sometimes the simple explanation is the best: “Poverty should be defined by an individual’s inability to affect change in their lives ~ Kathleen McHugh, Save the Children.
Frankly I think Ms McHugh might be on to something. Here in Grenada we are relatively lucky. Our literacy rate is 98%; education is free. 95% of our population has adequate sanitation and water facilities. Our government offers 100% basic healthcare free. Of course some of us live in very nice homes, some of us do not. The “haves” have a lot more than the “have-nots” but this is so the world over. In general Grenadians are able to eat well, the exceptions being the indigent elderly and infirm, and even these people are specifically targeted by community and government social programmes. If the rest of the world disappeared tomorrow, our lands and our seas would be able to provide enough food for our population to survive. (Whether I could survive without Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is another issue! but I digress.) Homelessness is not an issue in Grenada the way it is in more developed countries like the U.S., or in bigger islands like Jamaica. When you see someone here on the street, they are there because drugs, alcohol or some other social disorder put them there; it is not because they do not have, or cannot find, shelter. If you go without [the basics] in Grenada, it is because you want to or you choose to, not because you have to.
There’s always mangoes on a tree to pick, yam to dig up, ballahoo to catch, a yard fowl to stew. We are not hungry.
Almost everyone owns, lays claim to, or squats on some little 2 x 4 piece of our island’s soil. We are not homeless.
As long as our working/middle class and our wealthy (those who can and should) continue to pay taxes and contribute to our economy, as long as all of us participate in the governance and administration of our country, and foster our culture of community, all Grenadian children will be given an education. We are not without knowledge.
We DO have the collective ability to affect change in our collective lives. Here in Grenada and yes, out there in the world.
DISCLAIMER: The above is my personal opinion. Having just spent the last hour in impassioned debate with co-workers about poverty, it’s important I point out that my opinion is not necessarily the opinion of others.
At the start of my Blog Action Day journey I signed up with poverty-elimination advocacy group One.org, and I urge everyone to do so. Collectively we can make a difference.
I have decided to start making monthly donations to Kiva.org, an international micro-finance agency. I’m not rich, in fact I get by in a penny-pinching middle-class way, but I can afford US$25 a month. So I will. I’m going to do it. That’s my economic contribution to the collective. I urge you too to donate, sponsor or contribute to one of the many worthwhile anti-poverty initiatives out there. I believe that, as corny as it sounds, together we can make a change. Check here for some more suggestions for what you can do to help.
https://www.microplace.com/ [Thanks to Alex for commenting!]