I was reading an interesting article the other day about the revolving doors of poverty which reminds us how fragile the climb out of poverty can be and how easily progress can be swept away by things outside of a person’s control – such as ill health or a bad harvest.
The article reminded me of one young woman called Sosina who age 18 was married with one child and an older husband who suffered from bouts of ill health. The local community organisation we supported identified Sosina and family as being particularly vulnerable – they had no income and neighbours could no longer help them. Sosina was offered training in sewing and was provided with a simple sewing machine. Things were going well, Sosina was generating an income and slowly but surely her income became sufficient to live on. But then the sewing machine broke and Sosina became pregnant with her second child. Very quickly the family moved back to square one. The community organisation decided to offer Sosina’s husband a small job taking care of the communal showers we had helped them build, doing light cleaning and taking money from customers. After a while he managed to get the sewing machine repaired and Sosina sat with him outside the shower rooms, taking in work and when she could she taught him how to sew. Because of the central position there was a steady flow of customers and the couple managed to bounce back from the setbacks. Sosina also joined a women’s self help group and saved whatever money she could to invest in her business and for use in case of emergencies. She received training in how to run her business and grew in confidence through talking with and being supported by other women. She also learnt about reproductive health. A woman in the group who had received training in growing vegetables in her back yard taught Sosina how to produce nutritious food for the family. Gradually Sosina’s future looked brighter and she was more able to withstand any setbacks that might happen.
Our experience has taught us that the first steps out of extreme poverty can be very difficult. That’s why we ensure there are different levels of support at the local level such as community organisations and self help groups and why we provide a range of activities for the poorest so that not all their eggs are in one basket. It is also why we train the community organisation how to work with and influence local government to ensure land rights and resources for their community. All of this can help prevent the poorest from being trapped in the revolving door of poverty.