• August 6th, 2020

Opinion: Is poverty a state of mind?

Tauno Iileka

Not so long ago I read an article by a Namibian student in which he argued that poverty is a state of mind. This is how I understood it: poverty-stricken people need to have the right attitude to get out of poverty, and this made me ponder. Is poverty really a state of mind? Does it really mean poverty is a result of an individual’s attitude to being poor?

Youth activist Pendapala Hangala, in an article published in The Namibian newspaper in 2013, reasons that poverty is indeed “a state of mind of a nation” – not the mind of an individual. If people cannot afford decent food, housing, education, health care and sanitation, do we still say it is their own fault?  

If people had equal access to decent food and other basic human needs, and some individuals choose not to make use of such access, then, yes, poverty would be an individual’s state of mind.  But the reality is, opportunities to fulfil such needs are unequal in Namibia.   

Take Isai Alfred from Ekuku village in Oshikoto region is an example. Isai is a mother of three who was recently reported, in an article published in The Namibian newspaper, to have taken off “into the unknown,” abandoning her young children to fend for themselves. 
Her eldest child, 20-year-old Petrina Johannes, was then forced to take care of her six- and nine-year-old brothers.

Before Isai “took off,” she earned money from working in other people’s fields which she used to feed her family. However, as subsistence farming is seasonal, this was never enough.  

Likewise, Petrina too tried earning money by ploughing other people’s fields and making traditional brew to sell at the cuca shops.  That does not sound like people with a wrong attitude to escape poverty.
As the executive director in the Information and Communication Technology Ministry, Mbeuta Ua-Ndjarakana, wrote in an article published in New Era newspaper recently, the haves do not want to share with the have-nots. That is the “mental” issue here. 

The country’s wealth is unevenly distributed across the population. Fifty-one per cent of the country’s wealth is in the hands of 10 per cent of the population. I was not keen on sharing statistics in this article (for the reason that these are all over the digital sphere), but this particular figure paints a gloomy picture.  
A very small fragment of the country has the highest standard of living. 

Poor people do not have jobs that pay living wages. They neither have access to the country’s most prosperous natural resources, nor the tools that could allow them to exploit the natural resources they do have access to for economic again. 

Maybe the argument should be the other way round. The effect of poverty is a state of mind, because poverty leaves poor people in a mental state of hopelessness and anguish.

It is always easy to put the responsibility to create equal opportunities entirely on the government. In a way, I agree: Government should invest more of the taxpayers’ money into improving the quality of education, health care, living conditions, housing and sanitation. 

And it does! The question is: what is our contribution as private sector and individuals in this quest?

* Tauno Iileka is a public relations practitioner employed by the Omaheke Regional Council. The views expressed in this article are entirely his. E-mail: tauno1@icloud.com

Staff Reporter
2019-11-22 08:24:52 | 8 months ago

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