Manifesto for the Extreme Poor | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 04, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 04, 2012

Manifesto for the Extreme Poor

Where are we now, sonar Bangladesh? The scale of extreme poverty in Bangladesh is deplorable. 25 million citizens of Bangladesh -- girls, boys, men, women, of flesh and blood and dreams, just like you and me -- suffer daily. They are left to survive without access to services such as health care, education, safe drinking water or sanitary facilities, because they cannot afford to buy these services. They have no skills or assets with which to earn sufficient money in an economic system which makes no room for them. They cannot eat the minimum required calories to be healthy, and their children are stunted. Unable to afford land, they are pushed to the furthest corners of our country, where they face the hazard of cyclones and floods which threaten to wash away their homes and family members. Among them are mostly hapless girls and overburdened women, forced into subhuman conditions, denied a basic right to life, by us.
Us? We. We who can read, we who can lead, we who are in a position of privilege. We who do not have to beg. We cannot allow this grave injustice to continue indefinitely. We must set clear goals and allocate sufficient resources to entirely eradicate this ridiculous lack of compassion and common sense. As we fought for an independent Bangladesh not too long ago, now we must fight for an independent, fully Inclusive Bangladesh.

Join us in the fight for a fully inclusive Bangladesh:
Let us refuse to allow our children to suffer malnutrition and brain damage. Let us refuse to allow our girls to be denied education and earning potential. Let us refuse to embarrass ourselves before the global stage, or before our God. We will be judged by how we treat our weakest. Let us hold our government responsible for its people. It's poorest, most oppressed, unsupported, beautiful, resilient, precious people. Let us rise as a nation of educated, compassionate visionaries who care for their elderly, their disabled, their children, their minorities and all of their vulnerable ones. We need to create an enabling environment for them to live decent lives.
How do we do this? What needs to be done? Is it rocket science? Why are we baffled perennially by the poverty problem? Is it beyond our means, financially? What would it take? How much would cost to root out extreme poverty in Bangladesh? Let's tackle it, once and for all. Let's put our brains and hearts together and sort this out.

Developing recommendations for a Manifesto for the Extreme Poor:
If all the experts and citizens who cared came forward to make a list of recommendations for the government, what would such a list look like? We have undertaken an initiative, consulting stakeholders across the nation, to put together a list of actionable recommendations that support the honourable Prime Minister's vision of a poverty-free Bangladesh by 2021. We believe poverty is a national issue, not a political one, and we hope each and every person in Bangladesh will stand behind us in working towards a fully inclusive Bangladesh that we can all be proud to be a part of! Join us in this campaign.

The writer is Head of Advocacy, shiree*

*The Economic Empowerment of the Poorest (also known as shiree) is a livelihoods programme funded by the government of UK in partnership with the Rural Development and Cooperatives Division of GoB. However, this Manifesto belongs to all the people of Bangladesh; shiree is simply a facilitator.

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