“Over the past five years, the Namibian economy registered an average growth rate of 4.3 percent. However, with an unemployment rate of 29.9 percent, poverty incidence of 26.9 percent and HIV prevalence of 16.9 percent, a large portion of the Namibian population remains vulnerable.” – UNDPA
Serving as the founder and chairperson of the EM Love Foundation has given me a rare insight in both the corporate thriving economy, this especially in the private sector, and simultaneously a grief-stricken eye in the second economy which is abounding with Namibians earning minimum wage and others stricken in poverty. This we have seen to be the reality over the years working with community members. We see an influx in poverty and a widening gap between the poor and the rich.
This further isolates the impoverished, making it difficult to access opportunities, and thus the gap between the poor and the rich widens. This has a tremendous effect on the impoverished communities because it means that people are being born into poverty and generations thereafter stay in poverty. There seem to be minimal opportunities for those born into poverty to cross over to the high-income group and break the poverty cycle.
This is because the economic situation deepens, children have to become providers at a young age, because they simply cannot afford to spend time in a classroom, this means that job opportunities are minimal without the background of an education, which later translates into an inability to better their economic situations and so they cycle persists as they have their own children.
This, in essence, paints the image of the poverty cycle. Although the reality and stories differ from person to person, the common denominator is an inability to break out of the cycle of poverty that manifests itself, generation to generation.
It is my belief that the key lies in finding the breaking point of the poverty cycle, where one can interject and create opportunities for the poor. This, many would say, lies in first breaking the mentality of immobility, coupled with opportunities and harnessing alternative thinking which can create the gap and ability to do better for oneself. An opportunity can be granted, but with it, is a need to harness it and make it work to your advantage.
This requires that philanthropic companies and individuals grow from a place of simply giving handouts, and assist those who are impoverished, have access to opportunities because as the saying goes – give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
We have also come to understand that we need to grow from simply speaking and donating clothes and food, but grow to a more sustainable helping model, which is to have job seeking start kits, where we help develop Curriculum Vitae’s, or have sessions where we expand the entrepreneurial thinking and potential in a particular community and then develop a model that allows for purchasing the raw materials or access to information and opportunities.
There lies an informidable power in giving power back to someone. In having the person see things from a different perspective and understanding the power, they harness in alternative thinking. In that, as opposed to giving handouts, we are saying that the power lies in your hands. You have the ability to break yourself out of where you find yourself, you can harness that power and use it for good. That is something that stays long after anything we can give that is tangible, it as an intangible gift that will (we hope) create future leaders and have a ripple effect among families. If there is one thing we hope to achieve, it is to empower the poverty cycle breakers. To have one person become the point of reference as to when a family’s economic situation changed. That one person changed the quality of life of generations and a whole family will one day find themselves having access to clean water, sanitation, and decent housing. We can only dream.
*Mavis Braga Elias is a Civil Engineer by qualification and a Marketing Officer by profession. A philanthropist at heart and founder of the EM Love Foundation. She won the Vivid Philanthropist award in 2015 and the Queens Young Leaders Awards 2018. Find her on Twitter- @mavisbraga
2019-05-22 09:34:54 3 months ago