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Anne Matthews writes of the importance of empowering communities to alleviate extreme poverty.
By Anne Matthews
D9560 Passport Club
Today, nearly 800 million people live on less than $1.90 a day. However, this statistic – although alarming – is not as bad as it seems, especially when you consider the progress made over the past three decades.
The number of people around the world living in extreme poverty (defined by the World Bank as less than $1.90 a day) has declined by one billion over the past 30 years. The numbers started to fall in the 1990s and have fallen rapidly ever since.
This drop is continuing because humanitarian organisations, like Rotary, are working to strengthen local economies and help leaders in impoverished communities. Rotarians know that providing income security and empowering women, people with disabilities, youth, and the extremely poor is essential to economic and community development.
There have also been widespread improvements in health. Life expectancy has increased in developing countries from 50 years to 65 years. People are living longer because we’re making progress in fighting diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS, eradicating smallpox, and getting close to eradicating polio.
Since 1960, the number of children around the world who die before their fifth birthday has fallen by 76 per cent. Economist Steve Radelet says the numbers are still too high, but it’s an enormous improvement.
“Millions of children are living longer, they’re healthier, they’re going to school, and they’re not as poor,” Steve said. “What’s notable about this is that the improvement in child health is universal; the rate of child death has fallen in every single country in the world since 1980.”
Rotarians see the world for what it could be and are passionate about using their own skills to provide sustainable solutions to poverty. Our members train people to become resources for their community, offering advice on new business development, providing equipment and financial management training. By supporting projects that focus on generating income and creating productive employment opportunities, we can reduce poverty.
The old adage, ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’ is as relevant today as ever. While we can’t supply fishing lines to everyone, we can help people develop new skills to make their communities stronger, self-sufficient and sustainable.
An example of an undertaking showing how Rotary has connected to make communities stronger is Seven Women: a project started by Stephanie Woollard, a proud member of the Rotary Club of Melbourne, Vic, and a Rotary Peace Fellow.
In 2006, at the age of 22, Stephanie met seven disabled women who were struggling to make a living amid harsh discrimination, while working in a tin shed in Kathmandu. Stephanie used her last $200 to pay for trainers to teach the women how to make products for sale locally and internationally.
Since this humble beginning, Stephanie has built up the Seven Women team and launched an Australian section for fundraising and a sales avenue to assist the growing project in Nepal. Today, more than 5000 women have been educated, trained and employed by Seven Women.
Stephanie and others like her are shining examples of how Rotarians are using their professional skills and networks to advance social causes, particularly in the area of economic development.
What can you do today to help? It all starts with people like us. Are we ready to pitch in and provide that ‘fishing line’ to help lift people out of poverty?