Rescuing the Poorest of the Poor
There have been claims by organisations local and international that poverty will be eradicated in Bangladesh within the next decade, thanks to the several strategies and policies being introduced and also shared with the government. One such organisation, which has declared to have at least 1 million of the extreme poor out of poverty by the 2015, is shiree, literally translating to 'stairs' in Bangla. shiree aims to support the Government of Bangladesh to achieve the Millennium Development Goal targets on income poverty and hunger. The fund will also be supporting incentives to address account-increased vulnerability as a result of climate change. It will prioritise the needs of extremely poor women and children.
A seminar to be held on October 18 by shiree will mainly focus on differentiating between the poor and the extreme poor living in Bangladesh, says Azim Manji, the CEO of the Economic Empowerment of the Poorest Challenge Fund, commonly referred to as shiree. In commemoration of World Poverty Eradication Day, this daylong seminar will be held at the Bangabandhu International Convention Centre. Azim Manji has over 20 years of experience in managing poverty alleviation initiatives in over 30 different countries. He has spent over five years in Bangladesh working for various development organisations, including the World Bank, ADB and DFID.
While targeting the poorest of the poor and working with the sector prone to extreme poverty, Manji says that he and his team have discovered two aspects to eradicating poverty by 2015 transactional and transformational. “The transactional aspect focuses on asset appreciation and regular flow of cash in a family,” explains Manji; provision of assets such as rickshaws, sewing machines or maybe even cycle-vans to the extreme poor, in addition to which, a regular flow of cash is to be ascertained as well. “This way we can bring at least 600,000 people out of poverty,” says Manji. “The transformational aspect will focus on the rest of the 400,000 people.” In this case, Manji speaks of the various kinds of research work that the team has done practically which shiree would share with the government. “We have worked directly on the fields and have interacted directly with the poverty-stricken people,” says Manji. He says that his team has tried to figure out the easiest and the fastest ways to maintain a regular cash flow in different parts of the country, depending on geographical, economic, social and climatic conditions. He talks about how providing a family, living in a certain area, with a fishing rod and the required set-up would be a lot more fruitful than providing the family with a cow. “There might be a difference of a mere 10 takas,” says Manji. “But that is what differentiates a poor person from an extremely poor person. A person earning between 10-18 takas a day is worse off than the next person earning around 20-30 takas a day. This is probably a literal example of the phrase 'hanging by a thread,' since life does hang by a thread in this case. A woman living in the extreme poor sector of the country, does not know where her next meal will come from, let alone the meals for her children.”
To make their strategies clear to the government and comprehensible to the donor agencies, Manji plans to have traditional pot makers and kantha stitching designers at the conference. “Do you have any idea how much a kantha-stitched bed cover or a sari would cost in London?” asks Manji. He talks about the plenty of available resources here in Bangladesh, which can be used to eradicate poverty. “Bangladesh does not need people from outside. There are plenty of smart people here who can work on poverty eradication!”
The seminar will also have Robert D Kaplan as the keynote speaker, a journalist and a strategist who will be speaking on one of his recent theories the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal becoming the centre of trade and commerce in the next 20 to 30 years.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009