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Themba Simelane
 
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Poverty my ass?

26 August 2013, 18:57

POVERTY MY ASS?

“Poverty of goods is easily cured; poverty of soul, impossible.- Michel de Montaigne

The global and acceptable standard framework for measuring poverty is measured on the basis of the amount of income that individual or a household will need to consume in relation to survive the degree of poverty on their part. Household living below the stipulated amount of money defined as the accepted and standard living income, are then referred to as living below a poverty line. A simple standard definition of poverty is the one that defines impoverishment as the state of lack and scarcity of resources for daily human consumption.

Living conditions within these settlements are typically poor with residents facing a range of basic livelihood challenges, including poor access to basic sanitation and water supply, solid waste accumulation, recurrent shack fires, safety and security risks, and a range of health hazards.-40 - Mark Misselhorn


Here are some of the daily realities experienced within any impoverished household:


If you have not fought over a slice of bread or bread crumbs with your siblings or got a hiding from your parent for eating the left overs only because it was the last meal of the day for the whole family, then you have not experienced poverty at all. (Yes I did!)


If you have not gone to bed without food because of unemployment in your family, or simply there was no breadwinner, then you have not experienced poverty at all. (Yes, it happened to me!)

If you haven’t walked to school more than 20 km barefooted in the middle of winter on your first year of school (because I did) and could not even feel your cold feet as they were numb, then you have no slight idea what poverty is.

If you have not walked kilometres to attend school, sought water, medical care, because there were no access thereof in your neighbourhood, then you have no slight idea what poverty is. (Yes I did!)

If you have not dropped out of school as the only option to support your impoverished family, then you have not experienced poverty at all.

If you have never assumed parental responsibility before you could turn a teen, by raising your siblings, nephews or niece as if they were your very own kids, then you have no slight idea what poverty is. (Yes I did!)

If you have not bunked school as a child because there was not a single drop of water or a handful of washing powder to wash your clothes, then you have not experienced poverty at all. (Yes I did!)

If you have not made up your bed out of dirty laundry and laid it all evenly on the muddy floor because you did not have mattress to sleep on, then you have not experienced poverty at all. (Yes I did this too!)

If you have not woke up from your sleep by drips of water on your face because your corrugated roof was leaking, then you have not experienced poverty at all. (Yes, it happened to me!)

If you have not missed a job opportunity because you had no taxi fare, or anyone to borrow from, then you have no slight idea what poverty is. (Yes, it happened to me!)

If you could not fall asleep because you had one thin blanket on a cold mid-winter night, then you have not experienced poverty at all. (Yes, it happened to me!)

If you have not withdrawn from people and felt emotions of shame, judgement humiliation and embarrassment because you felt that you were being judged for being poor, then you have no slight idea what poverty is. (Yes, it happened to me!)

If you have not peeped over your neighbours’ yard to envy their groceries and properties, because you had none, then you have not experienced poverty at all. (Yes I did!)

If you have not knocked at your neighbour’s door to ask for a mere bowel of mealie meal so as to feed your family, then you have no slight idea what poverty is. (Yes I did!)

If you have not suffered from eye infections or itchiness because you were using paraffin stove to prepare a meal, then you have not experienced poverty at all. (Yes, it happened to me!)

If you have not lived in fear of getting robbed or killed because of unemployed youth in your neighbourhood, then you have no slight idea what poverty is. (Yes I did!)

If you have not suffered from diarrhoea or lost someone over poison because they ate expired food from dumping sites, then you have not experienced poverty at all.

If you have not felt the embarrassment due to the shameful reputation of your alcoholic parents in your neighbourhood, then you have no slight idea what poverty is. (Yes I did!)

If you have not lived with bitterness, resentment and unforgivingness towards your parents because you feel that they have raised and abandoned you into poverty, then you have not experienced poverty at all. (Yes I did!)

If you have not attempted suicide because you lost hope for a better life and see no possible way out of poverty, then you have no slight idea what poverty is. (Yes, I thought a bit about it!)

If you have not been mocked, teased by your peers and acquired low-self esteem because you wore shabby, torn school uniform, then you have not experienced poverty at all.(Yes, it happened to me!)

If you have not walked with shame knowing that you have smelly armpits or stinky breath because you could not afford deodorant or toothpaste, then you have no slight idea what poverty is. (Yes I did!)

If you have not lost your loved ones, personal assets such as identity documents and clothes due to disastrous fires and droughts on illegal settlements, then you have not experienced poverty at all.

If you have not seen or resorted to crime as the last option for poverty survival, then you have no slight idea what poverty is. (Yes I did a bit of petty shopliftings! Art books and materials mainly)

If you have not thought or worked on prostitution as the only means of feeding your children, then you have not experienced poverty at all.

If you have not felt that you were overlooked, abused and taken advantage of, simply because you were poor, then you have no slight idea what poverty is. (Yes I did!)

If you have not consulted a witch doctor for a portion of luck and wished on a lotto bet to escape poverty then you have not experienced poverty at all.

If you have not gazed at white people with hate and avengeful look and blamed them for your poverty situations due to Apartheid, and later prayed about it, then you have no slight idea what poverty is. (Yes I did!)

It is only through human empathy that a report by UN in 2004 described poverty saying:


Poverty can be conceptualized in terms of absolute deprivation suffered by the population. A person suffers from absolute deprivation if he or she cannot enjoy the society’s minimum standard of living to which everyone should be entitled.


In my lifetime under poverty stricken conditions, I have personally experienced and witnessed the above inhuman and excruciating realities. Poverty is depressing and deadly for billions of people across the world. Hence the passion to write about it and create voice through which many can initiate dialoque and address poverty in their own unique manners.



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