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Letter to Friends around the World # 104

Everywhere in the world, men, women, and children show tremendous bravery and resourcefulness to survive in extremely harsh conditions. Do we realize these people who are confronted to the wall of misery, see beyond it, and reflect on the world? Are they credited with the intelligence, the capacity for reflexion, and the knowledge necessary to design projects, policies, and community building initiatives required by the challenges humanity is facing in our times?

Joseph Wresinski never stopped teaching us that people who experience poverty are indispensable partners to think the future. Their contribution is irreplaceable as has been shown by the participatory research project on the “hidden dimensions of poverty”, conducted by ATD Fourth World and the University of Oxford. Their involvement in this research, which  rigorous methodology put them on an equal foot with academics and professionals, was instrumental in drawing out and naming the dimensions of poverty, reaching far beyond the sole issue of financial means. These dimensions are often disregarded by projects and policies aimed at reducing poverty. Because of that, these programs and policies don’t reach their objectives, and fail to support those who are the poorest. Therefore, they push them into deeper poverty and isolate them further.

This research put words to a suffering that breaks the bodies, the minds, and the souls of those who are struggling with poverty on a daily basis. It highlights the obstacles to the eradication of poverty and underlines a paradox: those who are living in poverty keep on fighting, but their exclusion keeps their resistance, their struggle walled-in, and prevents them from achieving the real changes they want for their children and the generations to come. This haunts them days and nights. “Will our children profit from the fruits of our endeavours, or will they experience the same poverty as we do?” --- a mother from the Democratic Republic of Congo once asked me.

To put an end to this fundamental injustice we must learn to look at poverty in all its dimension, and to think and act with those who experience it. And so, we will be able to face with them the challenge of their life: overcome extreme poverty for themselves and for all mankind.

Isabelle Pypaert Perrin,
Director General of the International Movement ATD Fourth World