Sidebar: Voices of the Poor

The World Bank’s “Voices of the Poor” report collected comments from thousands of people in order to understand poverty from their perspective.

Poverty is much more than income alone, the report said. Wellbeing is peace of mind, good health, food, safety, freedom of choice. It is a dependable livelihood. It is belonging to a community.

The report describes ill-being as a lack of work, shelter, food, water, and clothing, but also polluted and risky living environments, bad feelings about the self, anxiety, and powerlessness. A few excerpts:

• “After one poor crop, we need three good harvests to return to normal.” – a Vietnamese man

• “People place their hopes in God, since the gov- ernment is no longer involved in such matters.” – an Armenian

• “Men rape within the marriage. Men believe that paying dowry means buying the wife, so they use her anyhow at all times. But no one talks about it.”– a Ugandan

• “The waste brings some bugs; here we have cockroaches, spiders, and even snakes and scorpions.”– a person in Brazil

• “Teachers do not go to school except when it is time to receive salaries.” – a Nigerian

• “For a poor person everything is terrible - illness, humiliation, shame. We are cripples; we are afraid of everything; we depend on everyone. No one needs us. We are like garbage that everyone wants to get rid of.” – a blind woman from Moldova

• “I repeat that we need water as badly as we need air.” – a woman from the Kyrgyz Republic