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01.23.2014

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Equality and Sustainability to End Poverty in the World

Although most of the states have a strong will to end global poverty, we know there are still many steps to take and implement to achieve this goal efficiently and sustainably.

Most experts agree on the subject; it is clearly not only a question of growth, although growth, of course, is essential to fight against poverty. For example, China has been able to bring more than 600 million people out of poverty through strong and targeted growth. But we also know that at the same time, economic growth of the country causes pollution and contributes to significant climate changes. In addition, we know that the benefits of this growth have been shared unequally in the population, women and minorities are often set aside in this country.

We know for instance that funds transfer systems can help poor people to buy food, secure housing or invest in livelihoods or whatever they believe their family most urgently needs. In Brazil, however, households’ cash payments have a few strings attached since the fact that families require to have their children vaccinated and enrolled in schools to earn this cash. Moreover, we also know that this financial help is usually given to the woman in the family because they tend to know best how to use money for the benefit of the whole family. In this way, Bolsa Familia (a social welfare program of the Brazilian government) has empowered women to improve education and health while reducing the number of poor people.

Besides, we are aware that poverty reduction can also be green and fair in some countries. For example, Costa Rica revolutionized conservation of its fauna and flora by financially rewarding environmentally responsible inhabitants on the premise that those who maintain natural resources should be compensated for doing so. In this context forests now cover more than 50% of Costa Rica's land, compared with 21% in 1980. Through the United Nations, several other countries are working to replicate this success.

Another example lies in the fact that agricultural reforms prove to be useful to promote growth and equality as well. By building roads, establishing property rights, giving loans, and providing irrigation and better seeds, some governments such as China's have targeted growth to benefit poor farmers, and in doing so have produced nationwide benefits. It's important to remember that around 70% of farmers in the world are women and especially poor women in the countryside who rely on small patches of land, whereas today many support programs are still targeted at men. In this context, the United Nations has estimated that bringing female farmers' yields to the level of those produced by men could reduce the number of hungry people by 100 million.

By the way, we know that good microcredit programs can have environmental as well as social advantages. Originally created for women and others who were excluded from traditional banking system, microcredit has helped to confirm the potential of women across the world, proving that they can be good entrepreneurs if we give them a chance. For example, in the mountains of Vietnam, a poverty reduction program found that men were more reckless and ambitious with their investments than women, and demanded female leadership as a loan condition.

Solar Sister (a social enterprise that provides women with training and support to create solar micro-businesses) in rural South Africa has generated $46 for every $1 invested in solar power. And this fact is especially important when we consider that 3 billion people still rely on wood or some other biomass for cooking or warming their housing.

As a conclusion we can say that balancing economic growth and equality with environmental sustainability is not only possible but essential because no country can reach its full potential without half of its workforce and creative talent. We know it well; gender equality in the workforce grows the economy by increasing productivity and creative capacity. While we need to understand that developing countries will not sacrifice development for the environment, it is also crucial to remember that development comes to a stop if natural resources are exhausted, water polluted and soil degraded in the process. So even if no country has yet achieved environmental sustainability, we know that some countries still progress. Brazil has reduced poverty and inequality while cutting deforestation by 80%. Ethiopia's growth has mainly benefited the poor, and the country aims to become a middle-income nation without increasing its carbon emissions.

Sources:

The Guardian Poverty Matters Blog, Solar Sister, Syminvest

Tags : Microfinance, microcredit, MicroWorld, poverty, Equality, Sustainability, China, Costa Rica, United Nations, Bolsa Familia, Solar Sister