It is one thing to know that you are poor but being reminded that you are poor takes poverty to a new level! This new level boarders your privacy and dignity. However poor you are, you can afford to be dignified!
Even though poverty won’t allow the poor to lift -up their head; dignity won’t allow them to bow it down! The global pandemic has seen an increase in acts of charity. While this is commendable, what is disturbing is the way some of the donations are made.The global pandemic has seen an increase in acts of charity. While this is commendable, what is disturbing is the way some of the donations are made. Click To Tweet
Accountability to Donors VS Dignity of the Poor
Giving which seeks to satisfy the ego of the giver undermines the dignity of the poor! Giving one or two packets of ‘’Ugali” then posing for a photo (to be posted on social media) with the family receiving the donation is an insensitive and inappropriate gesture that undermines the dignity of the poor!
I have no problem with giving. I also understand that some people and organizations fundraise to donate to the poor and may need photos and videos as evidence that the donations were made to those deserving.
There is a thin line between accountability to donors and maintaining the privacy and dignity of the poor! How do we know when this line is crossed? The line is crossed when individuals and organizations give to feed either their ego or that of their donors. When individuals and organizations (including churches) give to feel good about themselves- they are feeding their ego rather than the poor!
Publicized giving is a potential trigger for ego gratification. Another indicator to guard against feeding your ego in the name of donating to the poor is this- Always consult with the poor on the kind of help they will need. No one is too poor to contribute ideas on how they should be helped.
I know this opens a pandora box of scholarly debate on real need, perceived need, and felt the need. My good lecturer Joab Esamwata was passionate about meeting the real need as opposed to felt and perceived need.
Stampede in the Kibera slum during a donation
Let me break it down the way he did during my undergraduate class; the felt need is that which the poor think will address their problems. Sometimes it could be true because they know their context, sometimes it is not necessarily the silver bullet to their problems.
On the other hand, the perceived need is that which the outsiders (donors) think will address the issues of the poor, sometimes it may not necessarily be the answer because of lack of understanding the context, but sometimes it could go a long way in addressing the problems of the poor.
The question then becomes, how do you arrive at real need? Real need is arrived at in a participatory approach-as result of the dialogue between the donor and the community to benefit from the interventions. It is not merely accepting all that the donors propose or blindly providing for the wish-list of the beneficiaries.
Global Pandemic sees an Increase in Charity.
Addressing real needs calls for challenging the underlying assumptions made in arriving at both felt and perceived need by asking the question of why? This is a conversation between the potential donor(s) and the community in a respectful and dignified way.
Poverty is multifaceted, in addressing poverty, one needs to appreciate the different dimensions of poverty; social, physical, psychological, and spiritual then identify the underlying causes and determine the best interventions.
In the long run, poverty will be alleviated, not just by donations, but by challenging the structural causes that perpetuate injustice (social and economic) exacerbating inequality and marginalization.
We cannot address issues of poverty if we are not concerned about the root cause! Nelson Mandela puts it that overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity, and a decent life!
Giving that Takes Away Dignity of the Poor
To Feed your Ego, do not Publicise their Poverty