Those taking action are calling for us to join them
Refuser la misère
Letter to Friends around the World # 105

Recently, in Port-au-Prince, Mary-Love enrolled in a primary school. A 16 year-old, Mary-Love has hardly ever attended school; she has spent her childhood courageously helping her mother to support their family, which has been severely affected by deprivation and gang violence in her area. At the enrolment centre, Mary-Love had to defend herself; her motivations were called into question! This young, tenacious girl reminded me of Nathalie, a 17-year-old mother living in France whose daughter was admitted to hospital. Nathalie stayed at the hospital with her daughter. The nurses commented: ‘She’s a bit young to be a mother of two children. We’ve let social services know. But she is a very good mother to her daughter. She really looks out for her and the father visits every afternoon with their baby’. The father of her two children is 19. He completed his education at a special school for those with learning difficulties. Though he doesn’t really know how to read or write, not well enough to fill out the forms in the hospital. Nathalie, who did well at school, takes care of it all. Her partner is proud of her. She also looked after her younger siblings up until they were placed in foster homes. She would have happily continued to look after them, but she was told she was too young.

Where do they find – all these women, full of courage and drive despite a poverty-stricken childhood and adolescence, despite a precarious adult life that started too soon, despite a tough future on the horizon – the will to even dare to take on such responsibilities in spite of the looks that are cast upon them from the outset?

In this Letter to Friends Around the World, several articles highlight the contributions of women who are taking action as they experience and encounter great challenges, who are taking initiatives and bringing about changes in their society and environment. They are joined by other adults, children and young people who also share with us their inventive and courageous contributions, as well as the work and activities they are undertaking.

Dare we let ourselves be moved by all these people who are doing everything they can so that their family, the people around them, can overcome the poverty that surrounds them? In these children, young people and adults, lies a great deal of the intelligence and feeling needed to shape the future. If they are left alone, their efforts will not bring about the profound changes expected of them. They are calling for us to join them, for us to follow in their footsteps so that our actions strengthen theirs, and so that the world can finally change!

Isabelle Pypaert Perrin

Director General of the International Movement ATD Fourth World