Every attitude, every gesture has to fight poverty and exclusion. There are many ways to act, regardless of our skills and availability. These messages, these testimonials reflect. Feel free to contribute.

Testimonies are published under the responsibility of the author. They are subject to validation: these will be published only if they comply, in form and substance the spirit of this day as defined in the International Charter for October 17.

 

Testimonies
United States

UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message for World Day for Overcoming Poverty 2021

Poverty is a moral indictment of our times.  For the first time in two decades, extreme poverty is on the rise.  Last year, around 120 million people fell into poverty as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on economies and societies.  A lopsided recovery is further deepening inequalities between the global North and South.  Solidarity is missing in action — just when we need it most. For example, vaccine inequality is allowing variants to develop and run wild, condemning the world to millions more deaths, and prolonging an economic slowdown that could cost trillions of dollars.  We must end this outrage, tackle debt distress and ensure recovery investment in countries with the greatest need. On this International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, we commit to “Building Forward Better”.  This requires a three-pronged approach to global recovery.  First, the recovery must be transformative — because we cannot go back to the endemic structural disadvantages and inequalities that perpetuated poverty even before the pandemic.  We need stronger political will and partnerships to achieve universal social protection by 2030 and invest in job re-skilling for the growing green economy.  And we must invest in quality jobs in the care economy, which will promote greater equality and ensure everyone receives the dignified care they deserve. Second, the recovery must be inclusive — because an uneven recovery is leaving much of humanity behind, increasing the vulnerability of already marginalized groups, and pushing the Sustainable Development Goals ever further out of reach.  The number of women in extreme poverty far outpaces that of men.  Even before the pandemic, the 22 richest men in the world had more wealth than all the women in Africa — and that gap has only grown.  We cannot recover with only half our potential.  Economic investments must target women entrepreneurs, provide greater formalization of the informal sector, focus on education, social protection, universal childcare, health care and decent work, as well as bridge the digital divide including its deep gender dimension. Third, the recovery must be sustainable — because we need to build a resilient, decarbonized and net-zero world.  Through it all, we need to listen far more to the views and guidance of people living in poverty, address indignities and dismantle barriers to inclusion in every society.

Today and every day, let us join hands to end poverty and create a world of justice, dignity and opportunity for all.

15/10/2021
UN Secretary-General António Guterres
International

Statement by Aye Aye WIN - President of the International Committee for October 17

As the new President of the International Committee for October 17th, I would like to thank you all for joining this commemoration. On this day, we gather at the commemorative stone like this one, here at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, to bear witness to the poorest in our society. Replicas of this 'symbol of humanity' exist in many cities and villages across the world and today, many of you will be gathered around them to show solidarity with those leading the most difficult lives and who resist with dignity.

2020 has been a particularly challenging year and the COVID 19 pandemic has shown once again that whenever there is a crisis, the poorest are the hardest hit. It has put a spotlight on the deepening social and environmental inequalities.

To keep safe, we have been given instructions to wash hands, keep distance, stay home. If you are living in extreme poverty, in areas closest to worst sources of pollution and environmental damage, even these small safety measures become a big challenge. How can you wash your hands when you have no access clean water ? How can you keep distance when you share a tiny space in an overcrowded settlement? How can you stay home when your very survival depends on the work you do for the day? In a world of plenty, WHY are so many people still living in conditions of misery? Faces unseen. Voices unheard. Forgotten. Left behind.

October 17th is a chance to speak out and reaffirm that “WHEREVER MEN AND WOMEN ARE CONDEMNED TO LIVE IN EXTREME POVERTY, HUMAN RIGHTS ARE VIOLATED.”

We are members of the International Committee for October 17th. We come from different countries, different cultural, social professional backgrounds and we are UNITED to promote this international day in its TRUE SPIRIT. We honour the people in the frontline of the struggle against poverty and environmental challenges. Your experiences count. Your lives matter. We pledge our solidarity and our commitment to act together to achieve social and environmental justice for everyone. Thank you.

14/10/2020
Aye Aye WIN - International Committee for October 17
International

Message from Isabelle Pypaert Perrin, director general of ATD Fourth World, October 17 2020

Message from Isabelle Pypaert Perrin, director general of ATD Fourth World, on the World Day for Overcoming Poverty, 17 October 2020

In Central America, Diego, who lives in a village up in the bare hills far from everything, loves the books brought each week by the story people. Too far from the closest health clinic, he didn’t survive the illness that took over his body.

In Europe, Lucile’s baby is taken from her just two months after his birth. She herself was placed in foster institutions all her life. So many families around the world are broken up, judged as incapable.

Also in Europe, when Jean and Hugo’s family, pushed out of everywhere they tried to live for years, finally find a place to settle where they seem to be tolerated, the land is the most polluted in the region. Today, the level of lead in Hugo and Jean’s blood is way too high.

And from Africa, in the midst of the pandemic, Djuma, just eleven years old tells us: “This is the worst time I’ve ever known. We have nothing left! We’re hungry. My parents aren’t allowed to go out or they’ll get a fine we won’t be able to pay. So that means I’m the one who goes out looking for something to eat.

All of these children, deprived of the basics, whose families don’t even have a decent roof over their heads, nothing to eat, no access to clean drinking water or basic health care.

All of these children out of school and those who take the risk of going out to sea without being sure to arrive somewhere alive.

All of these children torn from their families, even deprived of a birth certificate that would give them the right to exist in this world. If so many children and their families are still experiencing these injustices, isn’t it because we have never taken the on-going catastrophe of poverty seriously? And yet poverty kills more people than wars and epidemics.  

Since forever, each crisis that engulfs the world has a vital impact on those who have nothing. Every challenge the world takes on without them, pushes them further to the bottom.

Today, what are we waiting for? Let’s join in with the people in greatest poverty and invent this world we all want together.

They know it all from experience. They’ve faced up to violence, flooding, wildfires, drought, polluted soil, and unbreathable air. Well before any of us did this, they were sorting our garbage, risking their lives at times.

Well before we started talking about a world ecological crisis, they alerted us to environmental damage because they live and die where no one wants to live.

They are thinking about the future too. Their daily efforts are for tomorrow and they want their children to grow up caring about others, in solidarity, and with a sense of the common good.

Because of the epidemic, hundreds of millions of children have not returned to school. And millions among them will end up like the children who, even  before the epidemic, were not expected at school. Are we going to accept to live without all of these minds, as we have always lived without the intelligence of people in poverty? And yet, a big part of the intelligence and heart we need to invent our future, lies with those children, young people and adults we are forgetting.

The ones who go through the worst, teach us that we cannot separate social justice and environmental justice: there is only one justice. And the inspiration for that one justice comes, first of all, from those who know no justice. The ones who stand up to the impossible  together day after day, in the most degraded places on our planet.  

And if we start today to team up with them everywhere—in our institutions, neighborhoods, villages— tomorrow’s earth will give every human being respect for their equal dignity.

See video
14/10/2020
Isabelle Pypaert Perrin
Ireland

Reflection on the 17 October World Day Commemoration

I have had the privilege of participating over the last 20 years in the annual commemoration of the World Day for the Eradication of Poverty on the 17th October, first at the Famine Memorial and later at the nearby Human Rights and Poverty Stone, on the Custom House Quay, Dublin.

With each passing year, I have grown in my understanding and appreciation of the significance of this important happening. For at its heart is a profound human expression which manifests itself in direct contradiction to our prevailing world order and its powerful inequitable forces.

Instead, as is the norm, of people living in poverty identifying and being defined as excluded, on the margins, voiceless and with no stake in society, now on this World Day and in this local setting, they are centre stage, their experiences are acknowledged, their history is honoured, their resilience is admired, and their contributions are valued.

Their life stories and testimonies, delivered with great courage and dignity, speak not only of the pain and suffering so sadly typical of lives of consistent poverty, but of their dreams and hopes for a better future and a fairer world for themselves and for their children. These moving personal sharings are not a plea for charity and benevolence, but rather they are the desperate cry of a denial of fundamental human rights and the urgent demand that these rights, universal in their nature and import, be respected.

Those of us who are present listen in silence and humility, and are educated. We are renewed and reinvigorated in our personal commitment to work and live for a new world order where no one is left behind. We are reminded that there can be no workable pro-poor reforms, no social levelling up, no environmental sustainability, no durable solutions to economic poverty, unless the intelligence, knowledge and experience of people struggling against poverty are recognised and included.

The symbolism of the 17 October World Day commemoration where people in poverty come in from the margins to the centre, find their voice and seek validation of their rights serves not as some piece of comforting public theatre for us. Rather, it is a challenge to all present, individually and collectively, to critique, to reimagine and to create a more just and equal world where the scourge of poverty – and its pernicious companions of discrimination and injustice – is finally eradicated. It is an occasion that teaches us that the persistence of poverty is not only dehumanising to those who are affected by it, but, in essence, is dehumanising to us all.

It was Joseph Wresinski, the initiator of the 17 October commemoration, who, in 1987 before a gathering of 100,00 people at the Plaza of Human Rights in Paris, articulated the truth inherent in this thought-provoking and inspiring World Day – a time to be lived out and made real on every day of every year.

“Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights are respected is our solemn duty.”

Mark Hogan,

Member of the Irish 17 October Committee.

8th October 2020.

Message first published on the website of the National Irish October 17 Committee

09/10/2020
Mark Hogan
International

Isabelle Pypaert Perrin, October 17, 2019

Isabelle Pypaert Perrin, Directeur general, International Movement ATD Fourth World, October 17, 2019

“There are no dreams in my head: other people don’t like us.” Anastasia says out loud what so many children think inside.

There are so many children who are not expected to be anywhere, who are constantly criticised for making noise, for being distracted, or for not knowing their lessons. They never hear “good job!” even when they can recite lessons by heart. These are children who are insulted from across the street, who clench their fists when their families are attacked or when people speak badly of their parents. They are children who live in slums, who are driven from place to place, and who cannot attend school regularly. With their parents or alone, they often must flee their country without knowing if they will be welcomed anywhere.

Children living in poverty are first and foremost children who, like everyone else, like to laugh, play and be with others. But in their hearts they are certain of one thing: if the world could understand their parents as they do, then people would make room for their families and life would change. From a young age, they have realised how tough their lives are and have been trying to help in any way they can.

“I want to work to help pay the rent,” Kevin, age 10.

They see how their parents are struggling like the mother who earns a few coins by selling plastic bottles and who, with her family, lives in a house without a proper roof. When it rains, everything gets wet. Her biggest concern is protecting her children’s school bags.

As young children, they learned to keep quiet to protect their families from suspicious looks and embarrassing questions, lest they be separated from each other. Fatimata, whose blind parents struggled to earn a living, once told us:

“We often had nothing to eat. But despite everything, we went to school.

Our education was fed by our parents’ courage. Without them, we would never have been able to learn anything.” Children can see that their parents are exhausted. They know that, alone, no one can solve that many problems: “We have to support our parents!” says Alma. When implementing children’s rights, shouldn’t our main priority be taking seriously what holds a special place in their hearts?

All children know that no one can live alone, without friends, without someone who respects them. Some take action, such as the Tapori children who live in a large city where war has been raging for years. Their mission is to be “friends of the friendless”. They choose to visit others their age, former child soldiers whom everyone is afraid of. They make friends with refugee children from neighbouring countries who they know are alone or mistreated.

“A child is a child,” they say, “so why are some children set apart?”

Elsewhere, children are living on the streets, near markets. They have left their villages where the arid land can no longer feed everyone. While they are subjected to deprivation and violence of all kinds, they look after each other, protect the youngest, help each other, and ask us for books… When implementing children’s rights, shouldn’t we follow children into the world they want for the future?

In the street library, Eva is focused on drawing. She stops when she hears police sirens and looks troubled. So many parents in the neighbourhood are in prison. She goes back to concentrating on her drawing. When it is done, she bursts with joy and runs to show it to everyone, and everyone joins in with her laughter.

“I would like to be a light,” says Angelo who is repeating his first year of primary school, “because light shines. It’s beautiful and you can see it. I would like to be a light. That way, my head would be useful!”

When implementing children’s rights, shouldn’t we let every child’s light shine?

Around the world, children and young people are increasingly challenging us by demonstrating to call for an end to the destruction of living things. They are urgently calling for action to slow down climate change so that life on earth can continue.

Isn’t it equally urgent that these young activists be able to connect with the children and their families who stand up to poverty in their daily lives? What are we doing to help them? Will they be able to count on our ability to unite, to share our experiences, our energy, our know-how to make progress in respecting nature and every last human being?

Some children are leading demonstrations while other children keep quiet about their dreams and everything they are undergoing. When implementing children’s rights, shouldn’t we be taking all children seriously? May we seek them out because we need them to create a better world for everyone.

18/10/2019
Isabelle Pypaert Perrin