The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty was initiated by Fr. Joseph Wresinski, a catholic priest on 17th October, 1987 when he unveiled a text on commemorative stone at the Trocadero Human rights Plaza in Paris, France inthe presence of 100,00 0 people from all the world.
Fr. Wresinski indicated, “Wherever men and women are condememned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights are respected is our solemn duty.” Eradication of poverty is therefore human rights issue. Fr. Wresinski once said “Fighting poverty is fighting for human rights, the two are inseparable.”
In the year 2000, at the UN millennium summit, member states adopted the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were to be used as a benchmark in their development polices during the fifteen years period. The first goal of the MDGs was “To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.” All the 189 countries that unanimously adopted the millennium declaration pledged in the foreword of the 2015 millennium goal report to “spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from abject poverty and dehumanizing condition on extreme poverty.”
Agenda 2030 is also out and these goals are expansion of the MDGs and are to continue what the MDGs could not achieve. These seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were developed after series of consultation with member states and partners, open working group discussions, global conventions and many more. In the SDGs too, the first goal is to “ end poverty in all forms everywhere.” Both the MDGs and SDGs lay much emphasis on poverty eradication. This indicates that poverty is a great impediment on sustainable development.
On 17th October, 2017 many nations including Ghana and other organisations celebrated the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. I will like to look at the challenges associated to this task and how feasible is poverty eradication in Ghana.
Poverty has different definitions depending on where it is being defined. The UN in 1995 defined Poverty as “a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information.” Social discrimination and exclusion, lack of participation in decision-making, gender inequality and discrimination can amount to poverty. Poverty is a complex societal issue and does not have one basic cause.
Ghana like many other countries has many policies that seek to achieve poverty eradication. There have been Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy I and II, and other policy interventions such as Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), National Health Insurance, school feeding program and many. UNICEF 2016 Ghana Poverty and Inequality report indicates that “ although Ghana has experience steadily increasing growth over 7% per year on average since 2005, and has attained the middle income status since 2010, and with the discovery of offshore oil reserves and per capital growth in the country has remained relatively high, poverty remains prevalent in many areas as a result of inequality,”
Poverty to the ordinary Ghanaian is one’s inability to provide or afford three “square” meal for the dependants or him or herself, obtain some basic needs like shelter, clothes, education, health etc.
Poverty can be caused by bad governance, lack of education, natural or man-made disasters, injustice, corruption, cultural practices, gender inequality, suppression of individuals and denial of basic human rights.
Over the years successive governments in Ghana through various policies tried to fight extreme poverty by improving on community water and sanitation projects, health and population projects, agricultural sector investment project and village infrastructure project. These projects have been able to mitigate extreme poverty in one way or the other.
Despite all these efforts, there is a new phenomenon, which has made the fight against extreme poverty less successful; CORRUPTION, which has given rise to injustice and inequality. Poverty is difficult to be eradicated because programmes designed to fight this crisis, its funds falls in the hands of selfish and corruptible individuals who siphon the majority of the resources for their personal gains.
In UN Guiding Principles on Extreme poverty and human rights, it outlines the fundamental human rights of people living in extreme poverty but due to corrupt practices everywhere in Ghana, the less privileged does not benefit from such right. They are excluded from decision-making, their voices are not heard and mostly some are stigmatised.
Politicisation of crime has also rendered most institutions ineffective making the fight of extreme poverty very slow. Injustice and inequality seems to be the order of the day. Once you are able to tag yourself to political colours in Ghana, any crime you commit goes under the carpet. When one is pursued for an offence committed, he/she terms it as political witch hunting whiles the plantain thief rots in jail, “freedom and justice” indeed.
Poverty reduction is not inevitable. It can be done and achieved by us as Ghanaians if we begin to change our attitude and behaviour towards work and the fight against corruption. Inasmuch we expect much from government to create an enabling environment to create jobs and other social interventions policies, we need to bring out our best and should see ourselves as the government. There should be zero tolerance for corruption. Systems and institutions must work fairly.
Poverty can also be eradicated when the agricultural sector is improved; when we move from subsistence farming to mechanise farming. Agricultural sector should be made lucrative to the youth by providing available markets and extension of social amenities to the rural areas where most agricultural activities takes place. This can reduce rural urban migration. Agriculture can create lot of employment when improved and it can bring many people out of the poverty web.
There should also be investment in human development where education is accessible to both men and women. Gender discrimination and certain cultural practices that retard human development should be discourage.
We are all responsible in the against extreme poverty in our societies and our country, Ghana. Anytime you compromise to any corruptible act, remember your are increasing the poverty rate. God bless our homeland Ghana.
By: Jonas Owusu Ohemeng