Poverty and its different faces

In my years of travelling, I have seen poverty in different forms, not only in Africa, the US and in different countries in Europe, but also in my home country Sweden, and even though it might not look the same over the world, it’s just as eye-opening and heartbreaking each time.

The media of the western world have a way of portraying Africa as a continent filled with poverty, hunger and diseases, but what many people do not know is that India, a single country, have more poor people than the whole of Africa, the second largest continent on earth. When I first heard it, I could not believe or even begin to understand the poverty that I would meet when coming to India. However when here, I thought I would witness a much more rough reality than I have, a much more visible truth. Taken into consideration, most of the time I’ve spent in Auroville.

  •  According to Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), 8 Indian states have more poor people than 26 of the poorest African nations combined, which is a total of more than 410 million poor. India is estimated to have a third of the worlds poor. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10609407)

What has struck me every time is the street children.  I have younger siblings,  an 8 year old sister and my brother who is 3 years old. The children I see walking the street are the same age as my sister, and the siblings they are caring with them, the same age as my brother. They walk through the streets with a pure confident only a child can have, playing around and filling the streets with noise and movement, however when the opportunity might strike they have to put on the role of provider and use the routine they’ve been thought to beg. It is such a contrast from where I am from, where we take so much for granted as parents, and we learn to take so much for granted as kids. Witnessing poverty in real life and not on film or on the news, in papers and in books, is another reality.

I use to work as an telecom fundraiser for NGOs that works with peace and development related issues and it is astonishing to see how we today are so overloaded with information that when we are presented with a reality that might not affect our own directly we just tend to shut the information out. Therefore I believe that the methods used is presenting extreme picture of poverty in order to make an impression with the reader, leave a mark, and with this comes the consequence of generalizing and creating a picture of poverty only when it is in its most extreme.

What I was reminded of during this journey was something that I learned when visiting Cape Town, South Africa. It is important to remember that poverty in itself does not always portray as media portrays it, being slums, beggars and homeless people, poverty exists behind closed doors and in the heart and the minds of people as well. I was explained that poverty does not always have to do with money and material in possession but rather, being poor is lacking the most important things in life that makes it worth living, such as love and happiness, an expression I hadn’t come across until then.

However if we’d stop projecting the pictures of poverty, writing about our experiences to share, the problem would surely not go away. So I wanted with this blog post to add another writing to the billions of writings about poverty. Share with you the situation I have experienced, and hope to set of a line of thoughts that will contribute to something good.

Safi Sabuni, Linnaeus Universtiy

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