A Long Overdue Post…

We all know of the horrors of poverty and starvation and disease. We see it every day on television, with various ads beseeching us to make donations, to help these people on the other side of the world, who are suffering endlessly, while we plonk our fat arses on the couch and munch on our potato chips.

But most of us, who are not insanely rich, don’t think that we can afford to spare $30 a month, even if it does save 10 lives, because then we wouldn’t have the money to both pay our mortgage, and go out to drink on the weekend. We don’t want to lessen our quality of life.

Others don’t feel that feeding a child for a week is enough. So not enough, in fact, that it’s not worth donating anything at all. Maybe we doubt that our hard-earned cash is going to go to the children in any case, perhaps it’ll just line the pockets of the organisers. That’s a risk we’re not willing to take.

Which is fair enough, I mostly feel the same way.

Every time a Unicef representative, or a Medecines Sans Frontieres rep, or a World Vision rep, comes up to me in the street asking me to donate $3 to give a child food for a week, or to give them clean water for a week, I can’t help but think that that is not really going to solve the problem. These are quick fixes, completely dependent upon continued donations.

We are not enabling these people to take care of themselves, to better their own lives. We are not enabling them to be self-sufficient.

And to me, this all boils down to one problem; overpopulation. I don’t mean that the Earth cannot sustain more people, this isn’t about that.

What I am saying is that people in developing countries, nearly all of the time, have more children than they can afford. If a parent can hardly afford to feed herself, how is she supposed to have a decent standard of living, how is she supposed to make the most of her meagre opportunities, while carrying and supporting a child, or two, or three?

If a woman had the choice to limit her family to one, or maybe even none, she would have more resources to devote to herself, or her child, than she would if she were to have five or six children.

As I see it, the only real way to help these people is to provide them with education, and birth control. This includes contraception, and abortions.

Look at how hard it is to get, and keep, a job in this economy now, without the highest of qualifications. It’s like that, times a hundred, in developing countries. It is virtually impossible to do what is needed to have a living, while having a child. This results in women having to rely on men entirely for financial support. Now, these are countries where womens’ rights are still woefully lacking, and these women are abused, raped and belittled daily, in many cases, without the power to do anything about it, because they have become slaves to their reproductive systems.

If these women are given control of their own bodies, we will likely see an increase in educated girls (who might otherwise fall pregnant due to rape or incest, and be married off), we will see women being more represented in the workforce, more able to support themselves, we will likely see a decrease in the number of children people have (leading to less strain on poor families) and we will eventually see a rise in the conditions these people currently live in. This may or may not take some time, depending on the culture of the country, but I’m confident that if the services are offered, there are women who will use them.

If we really want to help, we need to empower the half of the population that carries the burden of childbirth, that does more work than the other half without equal recognition or equal pay (source), and who have been subjugated so long that they do not have the means to empower themselves.

Who are the ones, typically, opposed to this?

The religious right. They seek to legislate based on their personal morality, in countries where the people do not have the power to fight for their rights, like we do in developed countries.

If missionaries and aid workers really gave a damn about poverty and improving the lives of the poor, they would think more long-term than “this child here is hungry now, I need to ask people to feed it for the next 10 days”. They would think, “How can I prevent more children like this from starving every day?”.

So, if you really want to help the poor in a meaningful way, I contend that it starts with stamping out the pro-life movement here, so that funding is cut off, and they cannot spread their evil in countries where people are helpless against it. It starts with supporting the pro-choice movement, so that they can receive the funding required to open abortion clinics and start sex education programs in countries that need it.

I contend that if you want to donate, donate to people who are building abortion clinics, who teach sex education, who seek to make contraception more readily available, and in doing so, you will give the poor the chance to help themselves. I don’t think they will disappoint.

*This hearty writer is a young psychology student from Australia. Catch her thought provoking writings on scornfulprose.blogspot.com.