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  • We are witness to monumental human progress.

  • Over the past few decades, the expansion of the global marketplace

  • has lifted a third of the world's population out of extreme poverty.

  • Yet we are also witness to an astounding failure.

  • Our efforts to lift people up

  • have left behind those in the harshest forms of poverty,

  • the ultra-poor.

  • What it means to be ultra-poor goes beyond the monetary definition

  • that we're all familiar with:

  • living on less than two dollars a day.

  • It goes even beyond not having assets

  • like livestock or land.

  • To be ultra-poor means to be stripped of your dignity,

  • purpose and self-worth.

  • It means living in isolation,

  • because you're a burden to your own community.

  • It means being unable to imagine a better future

  • for yourself and your family.

  • By the end of 2019,

  • about 400 million people were living in ultra-poverty worldwide.

  • That's more than the populations of the United States and Canada combined.

  • And when calamity strikes,

  • whether it's a pandemic, a natural disaster or a manmade crisis,

  • these numbers spike astronomically higher.

  • My father, Fazle Abed, gave up a corporate career

  • to establish BRAC here in Bangladesh in 1972.

  • Bangladesh was a wreck,

  • having just gone through a devastating cyclone

  • followed by a brutal war for independence.

  • Working with the poorest of the poor, my father realized

  • that poverty was more than the lack of income and assets.

  • It was also a lack of hope.

  • People were trapped in poverty,

  • because they felt their condition was immutable.

  • Poverty, to them, was like the sun and the moon --

  • something given to them by God.

  • For poverty reduction programs to succeed,

  • they would need to instill hope and self-worth

  • so that, with a little support,

  • people could lift themselves out of poverty.

  • BRAC went on to pioneer the graduation approach,

  • a solution to ultra-poverty that addresses both income poverty

  • and the poverty of hope.

  • The approach works primarily with women,

  • because women are the most affected by ultra-poverty

  • but also the ones most likely to pull themselves and their families

  • out of it.

  • Over a two-year period,

  • we essentially do four things.

  • One, we meet a woman's basic needs

  • by giving her food or cash,

  • ensuring the minimum to survive.

  • Two, we move her towards a decent livelihood

  • by giving her an asset, like livestock,

  • and training her to earn money from it.

  • Three, we train her to save, budget

  • and invest her new wealth.

  • And four, we help to integrate her socially,

  • first into groups of women like her

  • and then into her community.

  • Each of these elements is key to the success of the others,

  • but the real magic is the hope and sense of possibility

  • the women develop through the close mentorship they receive.

  • Let me tell you about Jorina.

  • Jorina was born in a remote village in northern Bangladesh.

  • She never went to school,

  • and at the age of 15, she was married off to an abusive husband.

  • He eventually abandoned her,

  • leaving her with no income

  • and two children who were not in school and were severely malnourished.

  • With no one to turn to for help,

  • she had no hope.

  • Jorina joined BRAC's Graduation program in 2005.

  • She received a dollar a week,

  • two cows,

  • enterprise training

  • and a weekly visit from a mentor.

  • She began to build her assets,

  • but most importantly,

  • she began to imagine a better future for herself and her children.

  • If you were visit Jorina's village today,

  • you would find that she runs the largest general store in her area.

  • She will proudly show you the land she bought

  • and the house she built.

  • Since we began this program in 2002,

  • two million Bangladeshi women

  • have lifted themselves and their families out of ultra-poverty.

  • That's almost nine million people.

  • The program, which costs 500 dollars per household,

  • runs for only two years,

  • but the impact goes well beyond that.

  • Researchers at the London School of Economics found

  • that even seven years after entering the program,

  • 92 percent of participants had maintained or increased

  • their income, assets and consumption.

  • Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee,

  • the MIT economists who won the Nobel Prize last year,

  • led multicountry evaluations

  • that identified graduation as one of the most effective ways

  • to break the poverty trap.

  • But my father wasn't content

  • to have found a solution that worked for some people.

  • He always wanted to know whether we were being ambitious enough

  • in terms of scale.

  • So when we achieved nationwide scale in Bangladesh,

  • he wanted to know how we could scale it globally.

  • And that has to involve governments.

  • Governments already dedicate billions of dollars

  • on poverty reduction programs.

  • But so much of that money is wasted,

  • because these programs either don't reach the poorest,

  • and even the ones that do fail to have significant long-term impact.

  • We are working to engage governments

  • to help them to adopt and scale graduation programs themselves,

  • maximizing the impact of the billions of dollars

  • they already allocate to fight ultra-poverty.

  • Our plan is to help another 21 million people

  • lift themselves out of ultra-poverty

  • in eight countries over the next six years

  • with BRAC teams on-site and embedded in each country.

  • In July of 2019, my father was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer

  • and given four months to live.

  • As he transitioned out of BRAC after leading the organization for 47 years,

  • he reminded us that throughout his life,

  • he saw optimism triumph over despair,

  • that when you light the spark of self-belief in people,

  • even the poorest can transform their lives.

  • My father passed away in December.

  • He lit that spark for millions of people,

  • and in the final days of his life,

  • he implored us to continue to do so for millions more.

  • This opportunity is ours for the taking,

  • so let's stop imagining a world without ultra-poverty

  • and start building that world together.

  • Thank you.

We are witness to monumental human progress.

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4 steps to ending extreme poverty | Shameran Abed

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/10/23
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