Rights of Passage - 2005 competition


Eradicating global poverty

By Jane Rich, 17, NSW RUNNER-UP star

We live in a busy world. There are barriers to the protection of human rights in such a busy world. When contemplating this concept I am reminded of the words of the Nobel Peace Laureate, Eli Wiesal, "The opposite to love is not hate, it is indifference, the opposite of life is not death, it is indifference." I then come to the topic of my essay EradicatingGlobal Poverty, the greatest enemy the poor have is our indifference. To create global justice and eradicate poverty we need to build bridges of partnership between developed and developing countries.

We need to make personal, individual commitments to wiping out poverty. What we must not do is view the poverty-stricken as statistics. The poor are real people.

The poor die in hospital wards that lack drugs, in villages that lack antimalarial bed nets, in houses that lack safe drinking water.

The poor die namelessly without public acknowledgement, without public comment, without compassion, without dignity.

I have recently returned from Africa. Allow me, if you will, to take you on an imaginary walk through the streets of Nthandire, a small village in Malawi.

It is still morning when we arrive. We have come over dirt roads, passing women and children, barefoot women and children, incredibly poor women and children. The morning's temperature is sweltering.

As we arrive in the village, we see no able bodied men or young people at all. In fact older women and dozens of children greet us. "Where are they," we ask, "in the fields working?" The aid worker who accompanies us shakes his head, "No." Nearly all are dead, this village has been devastated by AIDS.

The presence of death is overwhelming, it is everywhere, heavy, dark and terrifying.

The grandmothers whom we meet are guardians of their orphaned grandchildren.

One woman we meet has fifteen orphaned grandchildren. I ask her about the health of her children. She points to a child of about four and says that the girl had contracted malaria the week before. The woman carried her granddaughter on her back for ten kilometres to the local hospital. When they got there, there was no quinine, the antimalarial medicine available that day. With the child in high fever, the two were sent home and told to return the next day. In a small miracle, when they returned after another ten kilometre trek, the quinine had come in and the child responded to treatment and survived. It was a close call though.

The cost of quinine to each of us is twenty-five dollars and at the cost of this more than 1 million African children and perhaps as many as three million others succumb to malaria each year.

Our task is to help the impoverished onto the ladder of development and economic growth, to give them a least a foothold on the bottom rung from which they can proceed to climb.

Poverty has many faces. Abject poverty is only one visage of the picture of this world-wide dilemma. Relative poverty exists all around us, everyday. In Australia it is our Aboriginal people who suffer the most.

Let me ask you which country in the world has the highest incidence of leprosy? Do you know which country in the world has the highest incidence of the eye disease trachoma?

The answer is not Tanzania, or Ethiopia or Bangladesh. No, the answer is Australia. These easily preventable diseases, diseases which can be cured by a simple dose of antibiotics, exist in Australia in higher numbers than anywhere else in the world.

How is this possible in a wealthy developed country like Australia? It is because Indigenous poverty is a direct result of colonisation.

Indigenous people, all over the world, side by side with their non-Indigenous counterparts, experience the worst health, the lowest education levels, the highest unemployment rate and the greatest contact with the criminal justice system.

Education is the key to change. Our voices are so necessary in order to release the chains on the cycle of poverty that Indigenous people are trapped in.

How can change be achieved?

It is vital that foreign aid focuses more closely on poor peoples needs. This means more aid being spent on such areas as basic health care and education. Aid should support poor countries' own plans and pathways out of poverty.

It is time to empower international organisations such as the United Nations, UNICEF, the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and many others to do the job on the ground, country to country.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have the experience and technical sophistication to play an important role. They have the internal motivation of a highly professional staff. Yet, they have been used as debt collection agencies, by the big creditor countries. It is time to restore their role in helping all one hundred and eighty two member countries, not just the rich ones, in pursuit of a true eradication of poverty.

In order to eradicate poverty it is necessary to;

Speak to your politicians. Write to them. Email them. Let them know what you think!

Join campaigns such as Anti-Poverty Week in October.

Join with like-minded people; organisations such as Make Poverty History work in wonderful ways to fight against this injustice.

Stay abreast of current developments.

Be aware of your own use of resources. Electricity, gas and running water are luxuries some poor people will never know.


The time to act is now.

We live in a time where the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry, and wealth accumulation. Yet, in this new millennium, many of the world's poorest countries remain imprisoned, enslaved and in chains. They are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free.

The worst thing we can do is nothing. The time for the eradication of poverty has arrived. The time to act is now.