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Sunday, September 7, 2008

It takes a village

One week ago today, we were in the air, flying back to the states.

I never thought I’d miss being in South Africa. I never thought I’d be offered marriage while in Cape Town. I never expected, much less have seen, so much abject poverty. I never thought I’d feel so welcomed into a community in my entire life. I’ve never felt so humble…

All I wanted to do was to help. All I wanted to do was to cry. All I wanted to do was fix what was broken. Yet, I couldn’t…

I can’t.

What can I do?

Can I really do something…

I knew that being part of this project meant I would be in over my head. I never realized by how much…

How does one tackle the issue of poverty?

The UN has outlined, through the Millennium Development Goals, with the aid of world leaders and organizations, 8 goals to end extreme poverty by 2015:
  • Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty
  • Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education
  • Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
  • Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality
  • Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health
  • Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases
  • Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability
  • Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

These are many, overwhelming ways to look at the issue of poverty, but not just any one topic will cure it all. As an example, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation believes fighting malaria will be their choice in helping people to get out of poverty.  The Emergent Media Center, with the guidance of Population Media Center and the UNFPA, will be tackling the gender equality issue, more specifically, Violence against Women.

The UN, within the Millennium Development Goals, suggests that ending violence against women will help developing nations to end poverty.  What defines violence? My personal take extends beyond just the physical aspects. Delving further, I guess I’m not the only one thinking this:

Gender Violence throughout a Woman's Life: Phases and Types of Violence

  • Prenatal: Sex-selective abortions, battering during pregnancy, coerced pregnancy (rape during war)
  • Infancy: Female infanticide, emotional and physical abuse, differential access to food and medical care
  • Childhood: Genital mutilation; incest and sexual abuse; differential access to food, medical care, and education; child prostitution
  • Adolescence: Dating and courtship violence, economically coerced sex, sexual abuse in the workplace, rape, sexual harassment, forced prostitution
  • Reproductive: Abuse of women by intimate partners, marital rape, dowry abuse and murders, partner homicide, psychological abuse, sexual abuse in the workplace, sexual harassment, rape, abuse of women with disabilities
  • Old Age: Abuse of widows, elder abuse (which affects mostly women)

It’s incredibly disturbing to know these forms of violence exist, but over time and with the proper direction, this issue will be resolved… right?

I again ask myself,
“What can I do to end poverty; how can I make lives better for others?”

Beyond just this project, I need to make a choice for myself. Do I take on the issue myself?

Can I?

No, I cannot…

…We can.

I am realizing that I need to be a part of something, be a part of some direction; I cannot take on the whole issue myself. I am not superhuman. I might not be able to resolve the issue of poverty myself, but I know with the help of others, as passionate as I am about helping out humanity, we can solve a piece of the issue.

South Africa taught me the meaning of hope and community.

We can be a part of ending poverty.


Sarah Jerger said...

ray... i'm crying. beautiful.

Elaine said...

Nice Ray. Really really nice. Well done.


Heather said...

It's so easy to be overwhelmed, but so important to remember that we still have to try, together. Thank you, Ray.

Meg said...

you rock.

every positive change starts SOMEWHERE.

maybe it's here and maybe it's now.

Heather Conover said...

I'm with Sarah on this one. Beautiful.

Truth be told. We can do this.

Dan Bergeron said...

I think you expressed the thoughts and feelings of many of us.