Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Poverty: A view out of Ghana

So today - for those that don't know - is International Blog Action Day, the theme of which this year is poverty.

Have been racking my brains and mulling over what to write - something catchy, something witty something that would definitely illuminate the problems and provide the proverbial solution(s) - and of course that didn't happen. There is just so much breath, scope and depth to the issue that to try and sum it up in one post would be impossible. I guess that is why there is such an action day though - I do look forward to reading the other blogs about the topic. I have already read the Ghanaian ones!

My route to and from work takes me past the Accra International Conference Center and I noted that there was another sign up for yet another conference - one really begins to wonder if Ghana is the land of conferences. It seems we have been having quite a few this year focused on a myriad of topics related primarily to development issues therefore a link to poverty.

I began to wonder about my own role as a development worker as a part of the solution - or dare I say the problem - in this whole notion of development. It made me wonder if the approaches, the methodologies, the focus and the support is what in fact is needed, or even demanded. I also wondered if we - as the development community - despite the purity of heart and purpose, the halos, the noble intentions and all that - could ever exist without this phenomenon called poverty. A bit raw perhaps in terms of how I have stated it, but yes - do we really want poverty end?

There is a poem I keep posted on my wall at work that reminds me of the type of development worker I don't want to be :

The Development Set
by Ross Coggins

Excuse me, friends, I must catch my jet I'm off to join the Development Set;
My bags are packed, and I've had all my shots
I have traveller's checks and pills for the trots!

The Development Set is bright and noble
Our thoughts are deep and our vision global;
Although we move with the better classes
Our thoughts are always with the masses.

In Sheraton Hotels in scattered nations
We damn multi-national corporations;
injustice seems easy to protest
In such seething hotbeds of social rest.

We discuss malnutrition over steaks
And plan hunger talks during coffee breaks.
Whether Asian floods or African drought,
We face each issue with open mouth.

We bring in consultants whose circumlocution
Raises difficulties for every solution --
Thus guaranteeing continued good eating
By showing the need for another meeting.

The language of the Development Set
Stretches the English alphabet;
We use swell words like "epigenetic"
"Micro", "macro", and "logarithmetic"

It pleasures us to be esoteric --
It's so intellectually atmospheric!
And although establishments may be unmoved,
Our vocabularies are much improved.

When the talk gets deep and you're feeling numb,
You can keep your shame to a minimum:
To show that you, too, are intelligent
Smugly ask, "Is it really development?"

Or say, "That's fine in practice, but don't you see:
It doesn't work out in theory!"
A few may find this incomprehensible,
But most will admire you as deep and sensible.

Development set homes are extremely chic,
Full of carvings, curios, and draped with batik.
Eye-level photographs subtly assure
That your host is at home with the great and the poor.

Enough of these verses - on with the mission!
Our task is as broad as the human condition!
Just pray god the biblical promise is true:
The poor ye shall always have with you.

Will their lack of poverty plunge us into our own? One wonders at the end of it all, whose poverty alleviation are we concerned about.

See all the other blogs and posts at:


Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

Oh Denise, how your own words and Ross Coggins's underline the very sarcasm I view poverty with. And how you captured the cynicism (I am sorry but I certainly don't mean your kind self)with which I view all plans, meetings and conferences that discuss poverty while gouged over food. But the few people who really care can still make the difference. I believe! Denise, keep on doing what you do, and keep writing.

(You know for a while I was afraid you'd already left Ghana permanently. Will we see you tomorrow at Frankies?)

Sijui said...

Denise, perhaps this is a classic example of proverbial "is the glass half full or is the glass half empty?"

There is a fantastic blog that I regularly visit, the author consistently amazes me by demonstrating his personal mantra 'poverty is nothing more than possibilities and opportunities' and he does so by chronicaling either his own or others entrepreneurial and social initiatives using the cutting edge of information and technology.

Almost all these initiatives have at their core the possibilities and opportunities transformed from poverty.

On this blog action day themed around poverty, nothing could be more illuminating :)

Denise said...

Hey Nana Yaw, still around but bogged down with meetings :-D. It is easy to become cynical in this type of environment - and as a result become complacent.

I guess Sijui's comment below is a good reminder that there is still a lot to be done, and there are people actually doing something about the issues we tend to only complain about.

Denise said...

Hi Sijui, thanks for the link. I spent quite sometime browsing and catching up on a number of issues - amazing uh? Of course I have subscribed!

The Evangelist said...

Hey there!

I am happy to have found this blog and to read your thoughts!

Keep blogging and I'll keep reading!!