IMAGO Workshop with Seva Mandir

By Elena Serrano

This cry for help is the name of a book that has inspired a generation of researchers and scholars who seek to understand in a profound way the core elements of poor people´s definition of poverty. The research was published by the World Bank in 2000 by a team led by Deepa Narayan. It is based on 60,000 interviews of people living in poverty in 60 countries. Nothing like it had been done before nor has been done since.

In trying to dig deeper into the mindset and emotions of IMAGO´s clients and how they perceive their lives, we reached for this notable study. The voices of those quoted carry centuries of humiliation, shame, vulnerability and despair. And yet the perception of their own lives lights up at the promise of making it better, no matter how many times they have tried. They know through experience that only with organizations of their own will they be able to negotiate with governments, NGOs, traders and local officials to build better conditions for their children and their communities.

The idea of this post is not academic nor even educational. We simply thought that by sharing the many dimensions of being poor in the voices of those with lived experiences, we can tap into the innate forces of change that so closely align with IMAGO´s vision. We know our readers, grassroots organizations and policy makers in the countries in which we work, will be as moved as we are, and thus go out there to amplify these voices, energizing more and more people around the world to make a difference.

It is with great hope, compassion and motivation that we bring you these quotes. It is, for us, a way of saying “Yes, we hear you.

Don´t ask me what poverty is because you have met it inside my house.  Look at the house and count the number of holes, look at the clothes I am wearing. Look at everything and write what you see. What you see is poverty.  (Kenya)

We are ill because of poverty – poverty is like an illness.  (Ghana)

Poverty is humiliation, the sense of being dependent and of being forced to accept rudeness, insult and indifference when we seek help. (Latvia)

Being poor is being always tired. (Kenya)

Poverty is lack of freedom, enslaved by crushing daily burden, by depression and fear of what the future will bring.   We speak of the shame, stigma, and humiliation of poverty. (Ecuador)

Without these simple human signs of solidarity, our lives would be unbearable.  (Ukraine)

Poverty is a curse. Freedom from it brings power.  A powerful man without money is like a sunless sky. (India)

Our hands used to shake badly…now we can even talk to the chief minister.” (Nigeria)

At last those above will hear us.  Before now no one ever asked us what we think.  (Mozambique)

Something will happen, otherwise why have you come?  (Bolivia)