Eradicating Poverty: Advocacy Tips for Liberia CSOs



Advocacy for Poverty

There are a few international development organizations in Liberia focusing on ways to further the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Supports from these organizations are spread throughout the length and breadth of Liberia, and covering nearly all facets of life in the country. There are also local civil service organizations (CSOs) that have a presence in public life, expressing the interests and values of their members or others. Supported by their international counterparts through capacity developments including funding and manpower enhancement, most of these local organizations continue improve their understanding and involvement in furthering the SDG.


Liberia's CSOs vary from community groups, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), unions, indigenous groups, charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, and foundations. While the goals of each of these organizations are different, the central theme is poverty reduction, promoting self-sufficiency, and population empowerment of their communities.

The international organizations and their local counterparts' focus on the communities is very critical because the very issues of poverty are felt throughout the local communities.

The needs for food sufficiency, shelter, medical care, and safety are common threads in these communities based on shared values of human dignity. However, the needs may be more intense and unique in one area than the other based on social and cultural definitions and past experiences involving them.


Poverty is poverty in this part of the world and the essence of poverty here is more than just inequality.

Civil society organizations and their international counterparts need to understand the nature of poverty in the Liberian setting and how different factors may cause or perpetuate poverty through distinctive social processes.


Below, let's discuss the three main factors affecting poverty and what interventions there are to help reduce poverty and possibly its consequences:

 


POVERTY CAUSED BY INDIVIDUAL DEFICIENCIES

 


From experience working in Liberia coupled with understanding of Liberia's economic and political outlook, people are not poor in Liberia entirely because of their individual deficiencies. However, civil society organizations need to understand that there are people who actually believe that individuals are entirely responsible for their own poverty situation. The belief is that:

  • Blame individuals in poverty for creating their own problems, and argue that with harder work and better choices the poor could have avoided poverty

  • Poverty due to lack of genetic qualities such as intelligence that are not so easily reversed.

Although this situation may not be prevalent in Liberia, CSOs can do the following to intervene:

  • Push poor into work

  • Increased emphasis on “self help” strategies for the poor to pull themselves from poverty

  • Advocate for reforms that encouraged employer incentives for hiring the poor.

  • Capacity development alternatives including job readiness and placement programs for the poor

 


POVERTY CAUSED BY CULTURAL BELIEF SYSTEMS

 


Many believe that no culture will do anything to keep its people down into poverty. However, what poverty means for each of the 16 tribal groups in Liberia is important in understanding whether or not some cultures do have some influence on their members social and economic position. What is important here is that poverty resulting from culture does not necessarily blame the individuals for being in poverty. In fact they are thought of as victims of their dysfunctional subculture or culture.


Unlike poverty by individual deficiencies, poverty due to cultural belief tends to perpetuate itself. For example, by the time a child reaches six or seven years old in one of the slums in Monrovia, he or she will have absorbed the basic attitudes and values of his or his subculture. Thereafter, they may be psychologically ready to navigate the most visible features of their subculture.


The key notes to CSOs is that for reasons of poverty that lie in values and beliefs, transmitted and reinforced in subcultures of disadvantaged persons, CSO advocacy should:

  • Help change the culture or the socialization as policy.

  • Understand the culture and with participation from stakeholders, introduce functional cultural aligning alternatives that support rather than undermine productive work, investment, and social responsibility. (Example, prisoner release programs that relocate them to environment that help them to adapt new values appropriate for work; or youth development programs; head start educational programs, and other alternative socialization programs.

  • Improve family well-being

 


POVERTY CAUSED BY ECONOMIC, POLITICAL, AND SOCIAL DISTORTIONS OR DISCRIMINATION

 


One thing that all Liberians agree on is that no individual citizen is a source of being in poverty. They look to the economic, political, and social system which cause fellow citizens to have limited opportunities and resources with which to achieve income and well being.


It can be a daunting task to take on poverty resulting from economic, political, and social distortion or discrimination. Instead, CSOs should focus on who loses out at the economic game, rather than addressing the fact that the game produces losers in the first place.

The tasks here for CSOs in Liberia, due to the prevalence of poverty caused by economic and political governance, is to channel governance and government service management reforms and public-private partnership. This is one of the service areas of Amaka Consulting where we balance public policy research and analysis, public enterprise revitalization, with aligning government with international benchmarks.


CSOs can specifically increase stakeholder outreach and participation, and advance advocacy for change with focus on:

  • Getting more jobs, improve schooling for the poor, equalize income distributions, remove discrimination bias from banking, education, and employment, and assure equal political participation by poor persons.

  • Prioritize interventions into the systems that create the barriers that block poor persons from gaining the benefits of society.

  • Begin intervention at the grassroots level (social movements can exert pressures on vulnerable parts of the system to force desired change) and public pressure including unionization, women's movement, and groups to advocate wage issues and gain employment for persons systematically excluded.

  • Advocacy efforts might also help create and develop alternative institutions which have access, openness, innovation, and a willingness to help the poor gain well being.

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