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Sustaining Pathways out of Extreme Poverty
by ODI, Chronic Poverty Network, ATD Fourth World
Mar. 2018
Sustaining Pathways out of Extreme Poverty - A reflection on the discussions
How can civil society and governments support households who are beginning to leave poverty behind so that they never again fall below the poverty line? This question was the focus of an event hosted by the Chronic Poverty Advisory Network (CPAN) at the Overseas Development Institute.
Chronic Poverty Network’s research on “Understanding and supporting sustained pathways out of extreme poverty” addresses the “disturbing trend in countries like Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania where a significant proportion of rural households that escaped poverty fell back into it during the following 8 to 10 years”.
Its country case studies in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Nepal, Bangladesh and Uganda, aim to show the conditions that have allowed, or failed to allow, a sustained escape from poverty.
CPAN invited reflections on the policy implications of this research from the UK’s Department for International Development, BRAC UK, the ONE campaign, and ATD Fourth World. Speaking for ATD, Diana Skelton appreciated recommendations made about empowerment, rather than dependency, and about mentoring. However, she also had several concerns:
“In Kenya, it is proposed that beneficiaries of social protection be required to engage in public works or training programmes. This kind of conditionality has long been required in countries like the UK—with negative results.
In The New Poverty, Stephen Armstrong shows how impossible it has become for a jobseeker in Britain to qualify for benefits when, for example, they must apply for a minimum of 24 jobs a week via a website but can’t afford transportation to a public library often enough to wait their turn for internet access. The top-down design of conditionality can shut out the very people who are the most in need of protection. It is important to be careful that social protection not become a tool for monitoring, judging, and controlling people.
The process of qualifying for benefits has been shown in some countries to create a sense of powerlessness that humiliates people as well as undermining their own strength.
“The CPAN studies show awareness of how delicate it is to challenge social norms such as gender discrimination. In some countries, the opportunity to change a social norm was connected to social protection as an opportunity for messaging (as in Kenya on the issue of family planning or in Nepal on other health and education issues).
“Work on social norms needs to be rooted in the power differential faced by people in extreme poverty. This is perpetuated by societal attitudes of shaming and stereotyping. Robert Walker of Oxford University has shown that poverty continues to be considered shameful in countries as diverse as Uganda, Britain, India, Pakistan, Norway, South Korea, and China.
This shaming and prejudice undermines people’s strength and resilience, preventing them from overcoming poverty. People in poverty stress the emotional and relational components of poverty as major factors. They speak not only of ‘social mistreatment’ by better-off neighbours, but also of ‘systemic bullying’, where some institutions really beat down people living in poverty.
Regularly experiencing anxiety, fear, humiliation, exclusion, and feelings of inferiority eats away at people’s sense of self-worth.
This is worsened by the fact that they are almost never able to collaborate in the design, implementation, and evaluation of the anti-poverty programmes meant to benefit them.
“The CPAN studies have also used the term ‘escape from poverty’. While the goal of supporting sustained escapes is of course a positive one, I have not heard people in poverty use the word ‘escape’, which suggests fleeing a disaster as quickly as possible.
This image can even create an obstacle to overcoming poverty. For instance, children who manage to succeed in school where their parents failed, or a teenage girl whose training allows her to earn more money than her father can sometimes feel that they need to hold themselves back in order not to betray their families by escaping on their own.
Because relationships are crucial factors in people’s efforts to overcome poverty, it is important that people who do manage to improve their living situations try to help others. A series of escapes sounds individual; but the shaming and stereotyping of people in poverty have to be addressed collectively by society as a whole.
The words that members of ATD Fourth World more often choose are borrowed from the collective struggle of the civil rights movement: ‘We shall overcome someday.’”
ATD is committed to evaluating development with the input of people that programs target. Challenge 2015 is an ATD report on the Millennium Development Goals. The participatory research for the report involved more than 2,000 people from 22 countries, a majority of whom were people living in poverty or in extreme poverty.
* This event was video recorded, you can see the videos below:

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A simple way to improve a Billion Lives: Eyeglasses
by Andrew Jacobs
The New York Times
Panipat, India — Shivam Kumar’s failing eyesight was manageable at first. To better see the chalkboard, the 12-year-old moved to the front of the classroom, but in time, the indignities piled up.
Increasingly blurry vision forced him to give up flying kites and then cricket, after he was repeatedly whacked by balls he could no longer see. The constant squinting gave him headaches, and he came to dread walking home from school.
“Sometimes I don’t see a motorbike until it’s almost in my face,” he said. As his grades flagged, so did his dreams of becoming a pilot. “You can’t fly a plane if you’re blind,” he noted glumly. The fix for Shivam’s declining vision, it turns out, was remarkably simple. He needed glasses.
More than a billion people around the world need eyeglasses but don’t have them, researchers say, an affliction long overlooked on lists of public health priorities. Some estimates put that figure closer to 2.5 billion people. They include thousands of nearsighted Nigerian truck drivers who strain to see pedestrians darting across the road and middle-aged coffee farmers in Bolivia whose inability to see objects up close makes it hard to spot ripe beans for harvest.
Then there are the tens of millions of children like Shivam across the world whose families cannot afford an eye exam or the prescription eyeglasses that would help them excel in school.
“Many of these kids are classified as poor learners or just dumb and therefore don’t progress at school,” said Kovin Naidoo, global director of Our Children’s Vision, an organization that provides free or inexpensive eyeglasses across Africa. “That just adds another hurdle to countries struggling to break the cycle of poverty.”
In an era when millions of people still perish from preventable or treatable illness, many major donors devote their largess to combating killers like AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. In 2015, only $37 million was spent on delivering eyeglasses to people in the developing world, less than one percent of resources devoted to global health issues, according to EYElliance, a nonprofit group trying to raise money and bring attention to the problem of uncorrected vision.
The World Health Organization has estimated the problem costs the global economy more than $200 billion annually in lost productivity. “Lack of access to eye care prevents billions of people around the world from achieving their potential, and is a major barrier to economic and human progress,” said Madeleine K. Albright, the former secretary of state who is also involved in the group.
The initiative’s backers point out that responding to the world’s vision crisis does not require the invention of new drugs or solving nettlesome issues like distributing refrigerated vaccines in countries with poor infrastructure. Factories in Thailand, China and the Philippines can manufacture so-called readers for less than 50 cents a pair; prescription glasses that correct nearsightedness can be produced for $1.50.
But money alone won’t easily solve systemic challenges faced by countries like Uganda, which has just 45 eye doctors for a nation of 41 million. In rural India, glasses are seen as a sign of infirmity, and in many places, a hindrance for young women seeking to get married. Until last year, Liberia did not have a single eye clinic.
“People in rural areas have never even seen a child wearing glasses,” said Ms. Sirleaf, who was president of Liberia from 2006 to this year. “Drivers don’t even know they have a deficiency. They just drive the best they can.”
On a recent afternoon, hundreds of children in powder-blue uniforms giddily jostled one another in the dusty courtyard of a high school in Panipat, two hours north of New Delhi. The students, all from poor families, were having their eyesight checked by VisionSpring, a nonprofit group started by Jordan Kassalow, a New York optometrist who helped set up EYElliance, that works with local governments to distribute subsidized eyeglasses in Asia and Africa.
For most, it was the first time anyone had checked their eyesight. The students were both excited and terrified. Roughly 12 percent were flagged as having weak vision and sent to an adjacent classroom where workers using refractor lenses conducted more tests.
Shivam, the boy who dreamed of being a pilot, walked away with a pair of purple-framed spectacles donated by Warby Parker, the American eyewear company, which also paid for the screenings. “Everything is so clear,” Shivam exclaimed as he looked with wonder around the classroom.
Anshu Taneja, VisonSpring’s India director, said that providing that first pair of glasses is pivotal; people who have experienced the benefits of corrected vision will often buy a second pair if their prescription changes or they lose the glasses they have come to depend on.
Then there is the matter of road safety. Surveys show that a worrisome number of drivers on the road in developing countries have uncorrected vision. Traffic fatality rates are far higher in low-income countries; in Africa, for example, the rate is nearly triple that of Europe, according to the World Health Organization.

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