What is poverty?

This blog post is written by KCK Trustee Edward Miles.

It’s been a while since I was last in Uganda but I can still vividly remember the time I spent in Katanga slum, for the first time I realised how much we take for granted in the West; clean drinking water, nutritional food, a bed to sleep on and a roof over our head. I’ve had similar experiences over the last few years in Ghana, South Africa and Burma which have got me thinking more and more about the nature of poverty and its different forms.

In 1995, the UN defined Absolute Poverty as;

“a condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services.”

These are the images of poverty that many of us will be familiar with.

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I currently live in Tower Hamlets, London, which despite nestling in the shadow of Canary Wharf and ‘The City’ is regarded as one of the most deprived areas in the UK. Around 60% of children on the estate where I live are said to be living in ‘poverty’. Many of the young people that I connect with in my local area feel hopeless and trapped with a lack of opportunities or ambition. No one could ever argue that these young people are stuck in absolute poverty but their quality of life is far below the majority of young people in the UK.

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I believe that poverty, in its many forms, is primarily about disempowerment. Often this disempowerment is structural within a society, it can be political or it may be about attitudes passed down from generation to generation.

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This is why I get so excited and energised by the work of KCK, empowering children and women in Uganda to be the change within their own communities. The school sponsorship programme will help keep children in school, providing them with a valuable education and breaking the cycle of poverty. The Ewafe Projectwill provide a safety net for children who are abandoned, and a platform for them to rebuild their lives in a safe and loving environment. The KCK women’s initiativesempower women to run their own businesses and overcome their situations of poverty.

Going forward, KCK has a real vision to provide an opportunity for young people living in deprived areas in the UK to come and work with the charity in Uganda. Our vision is to empower children and young people in both Uganda and the UK to grow up to be the change in their own communities.

"Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society's margins, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies."  

– Former UN Secretary General – Kofi Annan