On International Day for Eradication of Poverty, the United Nations General Assembly asks us to imagine a world without discrimination. For those of us who live in developed countries, our experience with, and perspective on, discrimination is likely quite different from those who live in extreme poverty. That’s why we must – as the U.N. advocates – recognize people living in poverty as critical partners for fighting the developmental challenges we face worldwide.
Involving children and families in creating solutions to the problems they face is a key tenet of ChildFund’s mission. We know that when people are engaged in the act of change, then that change is much more likely to be sustained over time.
ChildFund works to bring about change and promote equality on many levels, but here’s one child-focused example I wanted to share from the APHIAplus (AIDS, Population and Health Integrated Assistance Plus) program in Kenya. Funded by USAID, this program is implemented through a partnership among ChildFund, Pathfinder International, Cooperative League of the USA, Population Services International and the Network of AIDS Researchers of Eastern and Southern Africa.
A little earlier this year, the project partners put on an art and photo exhibition aimed at helping children and youth imagine a better world. Called Nipe Nafasi’ – a Swahili word meaning “give me a chance” – the exhibition invited children to submit art and photos illustrating issues that affect them in their daily lives.
Weslyne, 13, entered a photo he took of the Dandora dumpsite, which is close to his home. Covering 30 acres, this overflowing dumpsite takes in about 850 tons of solid waste generated daily by Nairobi’s 3.5 million inhabitants. It’s the largest dumpsite in Africa, and was declared full 40 years ago.
Weslyne and his family have to live daily with the stench and the filth. Birds, pigs and people thrive in the dumpsite, scavenging the heaps of rubbish for food and materials like scrap metal and polythene bottles and bags that can be sold. Weslyne explains that the dumpsite also attracts children and youth who would rather scavenge than go to school. His photo shows a young boy drinking water from a bottle found at the site.
Just by taking this photo, Weslyne has found a way to speak out for change. On International Day for Eradication of Poverty and every day, we must listen.
Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, who was recently named as Children’s Ambassador, attended the art exhibition.