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Saturday, August 14th, 2010 - 5 comments

Ending poverty: our discussion, our vision

Young people have the talent and creativity to end poverty. It is our inherited problem, and we must solve it together. The Kwasi Selassie Poverty Discussion is a blog space for young people who want to share possibilities, solutions and experiences in the effort to end poverty across the globe.

It is my greatest pleasure to welcome you to my blog – The Kwasi Selassie Poverty Discussion. Indeed, the battle against poverty across the globe is very much an issue for all young people, particularly in the global south.

A powerful generation

As young people, we have demonstrated to the world that we have the power to create change; change that is positive, resounding and life changing. We have brought the greatest events to the world and have created the most exciting memories in sports, politics, arts and culture, information technology and in the promotion of the best practices in the health sector.

As we surge forward to make our world better in the face of the HIV pandemic and climate change, we are challenged by the existence of poverty – in our homes, communities, villages and towns, cities and in our world. It is unbelievable that we continue to see this level of poverty in some of the world’s most blessed nations in natural and human resources.

Africa in focus

Most African countries continue to receive foreign aid to support national budgets despite our ability to farm and feed the world, fuel and run the engines of our vehicles and industrial machines, provide furniture for the best habitable homes and the minerals to beautify our world of fashion. This trend must change and will change.

Our discussion, our vision

On this discussion platform, I invite you to join me to discuss the subject of poverty from the perspective of young people and youth, while paying attention to the possibility of turning our creative minds towards breakthroughs. Poverty is our common enemy, and we must face it head on as we continue to work at eradicating HIV and STIs, Malaria and Tuberculosis, Unwanted and Unintended Pregnancies and Climate Change.

It is my belief that in such tough economic times, young people like myself, living with poverty, often have to find creative ways to get by. In some communities, poverty has lead to innovation and solutions based on little or almost no cash. Let us show the world how we have used our creativity to improve our lives in these trying economic times.

I implore you to look at the questions below and to share your ideas on poverty.

  • What does poverty mean and look like in your own words and in the world you live in?
  • Describe the reality of poverty as experienced by yourself or other young people in the community you live in. You are invited to share videos or photos.
  • Share with us how you or other young people are using creative means to address the  poverty in your/their communities.
  • Also share with me and the rest of the world how your experience or the experiences of other people can be used to address global poverty.

Thank you for taking time to be part of this important exercise and sharing your ideas. I anticipate hearing from you soon.

The views expressed in this blog-post are solely those of the author.

Comments (5)

Poverty is a Conditioning of the Mind « Renewing of the Mind
Saturday 21st August, 2010, 2:26pm

[...] New Visions for the End of Poverty ( [...]

Sunday 22nd August, 2010, 3:25pm

Hi Deryl,

Thanks for sharing your comments on my blog. I do agree with you that poverty is a state of the mind but more so, that its important to empower people with skills and resources to give them livelihoods other than handouts.

You did mention in your comment that "there must be an exit strategy tied to charity". It would be great to have you share with me and the rest of the community of young people what some of these strategy are and more so, how young people can move from charity recipients to charity givers in other circumstances. Please also do respond to the subtopics mentioned on my page if you do have the time. Thank you very much for visiting and sharing your thoughts.

cecilia naadensua quarshie
Sunday 22nd August, 2010, 8:38pm

What does poverty mean and look like in your own words and in the world you live in?

Poverty as it is defined in the Encarta dictionary is: the stage of not having enough money to take care of basic needs such as food, clothing and housing. However, we can look deeper into the other definition in the same source as ‘a deficiency or lack of something which in my perspective well describes what poverty is.
How does poverty look like in my own world?
Although I find myself living abroad, the world I constantly see myself in is where I come from in one of the countries in Africa. In my perspective and the world I live in which is my home country, poverty can be viewed in different areas as listed below and all these are contributing factors to poverty:

• Education
One of the key things to help raise a country beyond its poverty level is education in the classroom, internationally aware or abreast with what is happening elsewhere apart from one’s own country, media minded, open minded and readiness to learn new things, distinguishing between the fact, the reality and the truth.
According to Wikipedia the adult literacy rate in Ghana was 65% in 2007 , with males at 71.7% and females at 58.3% which is quite impressive from the last time I checked when it was 57%. However, I believe more individuals need to be educated both in the classroom and internationally oriented. Although people go to school to be educated, a high percentage of Ghanaians in my opinion lack knowledge of the reality going on in other parts of the world. This in essence affects the development of the society because the ignorant ones are easily swayed away with tales and deceit from leaders.
From statistics 83 of children are in school, which makes Ghana as the current country with one of the highest school enrolment rates in West Africa. Presently, Ghana has 21,530 primary schools, 8,850 junior secondary schools, 900 senior secondary schools, 52 public training colleges, 5 private training colleges, 5 polytechnic institutions, 4 non-university public tertiary institutions, 8 public universities and over 45 private tertiary institutions. When once calculates the proportion it clearly indicates how many students a tertiary institution takes for one class and one course sometimes beyond 200 students per class. What then happens to the attentiveness of students in class and how teachers are able to coordinate effectively the progress of each student? A million dollar question I suppose .
Considering the percentage of children in school probably in Primary school or elementary level, half a percentage may be the only ones to have the chance to continue and the number keeps falling as the levels continues. This is because of obvious reasons which includes : exams failures, drop outs, lack of finances to support and other related issues making only a few to be educated.

• Tax system
What has been the procedure and level of taxation processes in Ghana? : is one question I have been interested in but never finds the absolute answer to it. Now tax payment has spread to every level that the poor person-selling sachet of water on the street is paying for tax. However, it is sad to realise that many rich people in the country and people in crooked businesses are able to dodge tax payments. It looks as though everyone is paying tax but who can defend if the rich and people in higher authorities pay their tax. In my view, they don’t pay tax but leave it to the poor who earns nothing to pay. With this kind of attitude from the nation how will the nation derive enough money to handle its own infrastructures than to forever keep going in for loans to solve its problems. Even with the poor giving out their taxes, how much reaches the top level knowing the dubious ways our leadership has become in the country with the normal attitude in finances being that by the time it reaches it right level more than half percent of the actual price has gone into individuals pockets.

• Leadership
I have always questioned the living of leaders in Africa. It is very amazing that many people in the west are so ignorant about living in Africa because all they see is hut houses, bushes, forest and other poor living conditions and environments of people in Africa because of course that is what the media is interested in. It has not occurred to any journalist to take documentaries of the living conditions of leaders in African countries like presidents, chiefs, ministers, senators etc. In my home country and other countries in Africa homes leaders live in, is like paradise on earth which is actually more than what celebrities in the west live in. You view a leader’s home and it looks like an entire company or fleet of companies : so huge and so beautiful. With every leader with fleets of cars of which some am sure are not even used in a whole year. You go to countries like China, Finland etc and people resign in matters of months after becoming presidents because the burden alone can cause you a heart attack. You go to places like Sweden, Norway, Finland and other countries and you see a minister in a shop with a normal citizen also shopping for his house. But, not in Africa, because a whole traffic will be at a stop just for a leader to pass by with so much horns as if someone is dying. With this attitude and manner of living of leaders in Africa, how will we not experience poverty as a daily life style?

• Societies rank
Because of the way of life of leaders explained above and living conditions of many people in the country as well as the educational level and opportunities given to the well connected individuals the society is not an equal society. The gap between the rich and the poor is so huge that, one can see someone very rich and one can see someone very poor.

Also when it comes to opportunities in jobs, travelling opportunities in organisations and so on, only a few or special ones are given the same favours or chances over and over again , leaving many out of the learning environment. Physically challenged people are not given the opportunity to work in places because of their disabilities and more over, work places in Ghana do not favour them. How many companies in Ghana have lifts for the physically challenged? How many have created pavements for wheel chairs etc in work places? And so on. This leaves them to end up begging in the street, which increases unemployment, or the burden is laid on the family. When it comes to opportunities, for instance in organisations that need people to travel abroad to learn more about other things in other countries, same people or just a specified number are sent day in and day out with the claim of the said ‘representatives’ to come and debrief the others. However, if people do not get the chance to go and learn for themselves they still get ignorant of many things. This leads into different things which includes : the frustrated ones ending in negative lifestyles such as stealing from the organisation (which I testified from a co- worker years past) etc which affects the company and if this goes on in many companies, organisations etc it affects the nation and it financial state.

• Loan system
With members of the society facing poverty issues, it is sad that the nation itself as a whole cannot help itself. Looking at the current financial statement below, what can one say?
Expenditures:--- $1.2 billion
External Debt:-------------- $5.2 billion
The country spends more that it earns and the debt is more than 89% of what the country earns, this really tells how the future is going to look like if amendments are not put in place. How long will the country go in for loans from other societies and when will the country learn to use its finances appropriately. I once made a statement to some friends in abroad that, if other leaders really know the lifestyles of our leaders in Africa, they will not grant loans to the nations. But, of course, those international leaders are not ignorant because they know what they want in return as I always say.

• Natural resources
The country has very rich resources in the following: Gold, timber, industrial diamonds, bauxite, manganese, fish, rubber but is so shameful that the country is not able to make much or nothing out of what we have from our natural resources but rather we export a higher percentage. How many people can afford a gold item in Ghana? Very few because it is very expensive. Consider the small data below:
Importation and exportation
Commodities:--- Cocoa, gold, timber, tuna, bauxite, aluminum, manganese ore, diamonds
Commodities:--- Petroleum, consumer goods, intermediate goods, capital equipment
Wao that is amazing, we import more than we export. What is the country coming up to? Successful nations like China, Sweden, Norway, Swizerland, Finland etc if we check their importation and exportation level, they export and import appropriately to suit the nations need. They make use of what they have more and can produce more in their own countries which in essence helps their economical state. It is amazing we grow a healthy rice in Ghana , but people rather trust more in rice importation because that is more healthy and better in their perspective which is really very sad on their naiveté’s.

• Religion / myths
Another big factor on our poor or bad state of poverty is our religious stands and myths. Many religious leaders have emerged from nowhere with all kinds of lies and deceit of which they have many followers because they have realised the nation is drunk with spirituality. People are not accepting reality to work on them but then believe in lies, which is rather killing the nation’s economy. Even leaders of the nation relate irresponsible, criticism, or things that need real analysis and adjustments to spirituality.

• Culture
In many societies when a child reaches the age of 18, he or she is to be independent, work, and learn to be responsible for himself. Many adolescent of such ages start work , earn a living, rent their apartment, pay their own bills etc. What can we say about my nation? Even people at the age of 30 years still live with their parents, are not yet responsible to rent their own apartments, not responsible to bills such as water, electricity, internet, phone bills etc because the entire family need to share the bills or the parents have to take care of that. This affects the nation greatly and its economy because individuals grow to that stage and still consider themselves the ‘mummy’s child or ‘daddy’s child instead of learning to be fully responsible for their own finances. When this happens and the supporters dies or something bad happens to their finances, many of these children of theirs who have been dependent on their families become thieves or robbers in the society or their work places because they have not learnt how to manage the little they earn. And with the responsibility increasing all of a sudden they need other dubious or sneaky ways to make money which affects the nations finances. This cultural lifestyle of the nature need to be changed.

In my recent visit home, as I told few friends and some saw, I took with me just 4 skirts and 5 tops to use for my entire stay. However as I walked in town and saw the dressings of the youth and the cost of those clothing, I asked myself what the country is leading into. People are no more proud of the nations traditional clothing and the modest lifestyle rather want to live like other people in the West whilst they do not have the slightest idea how the people in those western countries live and afford such stuff. With this kind of living, many will be pressured to have same lifestyles, which will promote and is promoting negative lifestyles amongst the youth in Ghana such as prostituting, stealing etc. This affects our financial state because many men who are dating such girls uses the companies money on them causing financial lose to the nation.

• Partnerships
It is also very important one consider the partnership, coordination and competitors countries the nation is looking up to. Because the nation is better or have upgraded itself in a number of things than many West African countries does not mean the country is well off yet. This is, one way the majority in the society including the leaders are using to get satisfied with on their current level which is so wrong because it leaves many to be reluctant to move on further. If the country keeps comparing itself with countries with still low profile or low way of managing its system, the economical state won’t be developed and poverty level will keep increasing in the society. But then if the country begins to look at itself in different angles like look up to countries such as China and learn from their commitment and struggle to reach where they are, the nation can start somewhere and who can tell the future, one may never know what can become of Ghana.

• Corruption
One major factor, which leaves the society in its bad state of poverty, is the level of corruption in the system. Corruption has not just been a bad practice but as a matter of fact a way of life which has been accepted to be part of the society. It starts from presidency to the least person in the society. One can see how a whole president of state refused to stay in the nations allocated housing for him but rather asked that his house be renovated for him to stay there and so much high standard of living amongst our leaders in the country. Religious leaders are not exceptions, as they take money from the poor as offering to their ‘Maker’ many religious leaders live in ‘Paradise’ houses, clothing very expensive, fleets of cars etc deceiving the poor of the little they have in the name of spirituality leaving the few good religious leaders to do the best they can.
One sad thing is, other people who travel out of the country for study purposes etc who return to help build the nation end up in unsuitable environments. These people learn different honest ways of working to build a nation but as they enter into different industries, companies etc they are forced to dance to the music being played there, that is join in the corruption, keep quiet or resigned.

• Oil
An oilfield which is reported to contain up to 3 billion barrels (480,000,000 m3) of light oil was discovered in 2007. Oil exploration is ongoing and the amount of oil continues to increase. There is expected to be a tremendous inflow of capital into the economy beginning from the last quarter of 2010 when the country starts producing oil in commercial quantities). Although this does not directly relate much to the points listed above, it is my hope this oil issue does not make Ghanaians get stagnant with the hope and believe that, it is alright , we don’t need much force and rush anymore for the economy. In my view, this can either lead to the best of the nation or a disaster causing a huge havoc to the countries lifestyle which will rather make poverty the number one key issue. Nigeria can be seen as an example for Ghanaians to keep alert and be careful the oil does not create problems but rather solve problems.

If the country and other countries in Africa had leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, povery level in Africa wont be a discussion rather ways to teach other countries of our success will be the topic on the table. All the same the key thing is education. If attitudes of people don’t change in the society our poverty level which I see is a big problem will remain the same. If someone travels abroad and comes to Ghana and offeres a hundred euros as a free gift, one will be amazed how the receiver will behave : ohh this is so much a small money and the person wont appreciate it . As a matter of fact that money will be used in a matter of hours in the same day. However, you give fifty euros to someone in Europe and the person will forever thank you. Until people learn to be honest and true to themselves and to the nation, things will remain as they are.

Sources: Read 22.08.2010 Read 2:08.2010

cecilia naadensua quarshie
Sunday 22nd August, 2010, 9:56pm

Share with us how you or other young people are using creative means to address the poverty in your/their communities.

Well am not using any creative means to address the issue on poverty but all the same the question leaves many things my mind. I think it is really a good initiative for individuals or groups to use wherever they find themselves. I may consider a method to use in the near future. These are a few points I think can be used to address poverty in the communities in my country, Ghana.

• Investment
Poverty is a long journey that may or may not be always easy to eradicate until reality comes in the picture especially for the people living in it. Most often individuals live in self denial , refusing to accept the reality of their current states and finding ways to work positively on those issues but rather keep blaming government upon government and other leaders without realising that, a change starts from somewhere and that change is the ‘individual’.
However, one finds him or herself, the question one need to ask is, what do I have and what can I make of what I have. Enough of the complaining and the waiting on manner or miracles or sudden changes, those things are left for life to take care of. Whatever one posses or has, one need to be educated to hold on it and work harder into investing much into that little thing. It could be a small farm the person have. If that is all the individual owns, that person need to be encouraged to keep doing what he is best at and work hard on what he has for now until a change comes in the future. If individuals are taught to appreciate the little they have and work efficiently to reach towards a goal they set for themselves , many things can be avoided . This included the urge individuals in many villages holds on running away to the city to work. Many are not lucky when they leave to the city but rather end up in robbery, prostitution and other indecent lifestyles which in turns affects the entire society. Because it increases unsafe sex leading to high risk of sexually transmitted infections, termination of pregnancies leading to high mortality rates etc

• Support (talents)
Supporting young people in their talents is very vital in the society we live in because it prepares them for a brighter future and it also helps the society as a whole. Young people in the society have not been encouraged or supported with things that will boost their natural talents. There are few organisations like the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana, who from time to time organises *talents shows’ or ‘ varieties shows’ for the many young people who are talented. This strategy in so doing, opens up the future career of many young people. It helps them to recognise and explore to the hidden talents they have or talents they are aware of. In so doing, this helps many young people to discover their future caeers and work towards them. Something like this is a good strategy to avoid unemployment , therefore poverty in the community and amongst many of the youth.

• Education in a different perspective
Education in our society is one that is considered only in the classroom with a qualification on a paper and that ends it. How many of institutions are in Ghana that have units that assist young people with natural talents such as singing, acting, dancing, etc. In many of our institutions, those who decide to focus on the athletic part of the institution and always represent the school become the so called ‘not efficient students’. This actually becomes a reality because there are no allocated times for those sports students to train without missing normal classes. Such people are left with one choice, either to focus on sports and come out with failed papers, drop out or focus on just education. I have a close friend who is so good in many sports activities like high jump, racing etc and he won many medels for his school but according to him, he also wanted to graduate successfully with a good grade from school so he quit school. And now, he so much wish he was in the sports arena but the circumstance in our society’s education does not allow such. If our leaders could amend our education and diverse it and introduce many things , it will help the community members to be comfortable in whatever area they decide to develop in any institution they find themselves in.
All the same if the government is unable to raise such a structure in our society, I think our religious leaders who earn so much money from their worship can come up with educational structures to support people and as well give them the needed basic education as they work towards their natural talents.

• Inspirational groups/clubs
This point I really find it very important to be considered in our community. Poverty is a realistic thing everyone has experienced or have been affected one way or the other either by ourselves or people around us. There are many individuals in our societies or communities who came from nowhere, where raised from nowhere, had lived a terrible poverty life, but today are found ‘somewhere’.
There are great leaders in the societies who were born in villages, had to go through tough times . What to eat was a problem, had to work hard every day, sell before they get some money for school the next day, were abused etc but today have become great leaders in different countries and worldwide and more are yet to become heroes. In my opinion, inspirational clubs, groups or unions could be created in our societies for such people to be members and brainstorm on ways to show themselves to the current young people striving to make it. Just to let them be aware that, ‘they the inspirational group members’ have been in their situation before, and understand what they are going through and these people can be like them if they do not give up. I believe if such groups become official and are recognised young people can be easily encouraged to continue fighting to the top not withstanding their current poverty issues.

• Individuals / groups abroad
Another very important factor is the young people in abroad. When one is young and very naive , the only thing learnt from the people who travel abroad is that : all is well in abroad and lots of money is earn easily. This becomes obvious when young people go for holidays in abroad , make money, return home, buy cars, and live a very high class lifestyles making others believe that once you get yourself located in abroad, money comes to you easily which is nothing than a dream that can never come true. One time someone wrote a comment on ‘facebook’ that ‘America is hard ohh those in Ghana should stay and appreciate what they have. I couldn’t believe all the comments that came after it were full of insults or blames on the person who posted it. Such as if you don’t get nothing there, why are u still there, some also said you earn like 15,000 dollars a year why are you complaining. It is very sad because these people do not know the financial state and manner in Europe. Yes that 15,000 is a lot of money to earn in a year. But lets do this rough work: the persons financial life could be as example:

Monthly rent: 700 dollars ( a year 8,400)
Monthly internet bill: 40 dollars (a year 480)
Monthly water bill: 30 dollars (360)
Monthly fon bill: 50 dollars (600)
Money bus ticket: 100 dollars (1,200)
Monthly food expenditure: 200 dollars (2,400)
Clothing etc : 100dollars a month (1,200)
TOTAL :14,640 dollars per year
Hospital, outings to a restaurant and other stuff not added.
Now how much is the person left with? What helps many people to survive in Europe which many people in Africa do not know is the credit system. You can credit anything and pay in bits so that way people are able to live the way they want and pay their debts in bits. Today many people are highly in debts to houses they credited, cars they credited etc.
Some students travel to Europe for 6 months holiday, they are hosted by friends, they pay no rent, water, nothing and at the end they are able to save so much money and take home to live a luxurious lifestyle leaving many to believe that , Europe is full of money. People go to conferences and workshops abroad and are paid thousands of dollars, which many times leaves many very ignorant of the fact that they are being given such money because they are really working hard with their minds in a confine place. And they will raise such amounts of money in reality after a month or two if they are to do normal jobs as everyone in the European society.

Seriously, if young people in Europe will educate people in their countries in Africa about the reality, people will be content with what the nation has, and work harder to achieve their dreams no matter where they are. Many people in Ghana made it to the top without having to go to abroad to do un suited jobs like cleaning etc upon all their qualifications as doctors etc. If our young people in our community are told the truth and the reality, they will work hard to invest into the nation’s economy and this will contribute the society’s standard and poverty level.

• Youth groups
The final thing that I think can be used to address poverty issues in our communities is raise all kinds of groups whether they are literates or not. Just like PPAG’s strategy of youth groups or peer educators groups where young people gather to talk about their sexual and reproductive health issues, these groups can meet to discuss poverty, the way forward, how to build the community together, how to encourage each other , how to build on each others natural talent and so on.

(forgive me for any grammatical error, which am sure are more, i wrote in a rush and am very tired and can’t go through to check, i hope my comment makes small sense )

Edwinah Orowe
Monday 23rd August, 2010, 5:31am

you know the biggest issue right now is that many programmers the ones working in the field of youth work and this is primarily the bigs shots with the money, first they perceive young people as victims almost always and this therefore affects the way the relate with young people!!! Then just how much do the rpogrammes respond to the realities of young people in the many contexts that they finds themselves in??? Truth be told, many programmes have own agendas and true and real youth empowerment economically has never been a principle within that agenda, no wonder young people are perenial volunteers and forever being exploited in the name of volunteering.... these people who ask them to volunteer... have they ever thought they can volunteer??? there are big names who do not pay volunteers!!!!! never knowing that out of that volunteer stipend they would pay school fees or whatever else thay need!!!! If i had a moments i would say.... redefine engagaing with youth!!!! go back to the drawing board!!

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Guest Editor

Ishmael Kwasi Selassie

Youth Worker/Advocate, Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana


Ishmael Kwasi Selassie is an advocate of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for young people. He has worked with the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana since 2002 in various capacities. Currently, he works as a Training/Capacity building officer at PPAGs Learning. Recently, Selassie was selected as a member of the UNFPA Global NGO Advisory Panel representing youth-led and youth-serving NGOs on the Panel. Selassie continues to be strong advocate for young people with a current focus addressing poverty and livelihood challenges facing young around the world with particular emphasis on poverty among the youth of Africa.

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