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Update on Pakistan's Education Emergency


As we described in our blog a few weeks ago, there is currently an education emergency in Pakistan keeping 25 million children from receiving an education, 7 million of whom will never even finish primary school. The March for Education campaign vowed to make March the month where Pakistan focused on nothing but education and they succeeded!

With the support of people like our readers who signed their petition to global leaders to end the education emergency in Pakistan, they were able to get the topic at the top of the political agenda. In his first visit to Pakistan last week, Prime Minister David Cameron alongside Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced the UK is dedicated to a new program of assistance to put 4 million Pakistani children into school by 2015, to train 90,000 new teachers, and to provide 6 million textbooks. You can see footage of the announcement on the Independent's website.

This is a huge win for the Pakistan Education Task Force’s campaign and shows the power of our voices when we band together to help end the issues stemming from extreme poverty. Thank you to all of you who helped make this possible.

However, there is still much to be accomplished in this battle to end the education problems Pakistan is experiencing. They still need more people to sign the petition to continue putting pressure on other global leaders to join Pakistan and the UK in building the education system. 4 million children in school by 2015 is a huge step in the right direction, but that still leaves 21 million children without the chance to attend school.

Let’s keep the momentum going and get even more support behind this campaign so we can make sure no child is left without an education and the chance for a bright future.

Posted by Ashli Alberty in What Can I Do?, Education for column Issue Analysis on Apr 19th 2011, 09:04

What's a quid got to do with ending poverty?


That’s exactly the question I wanted to explore last year so I challenged myself to live on £1 a day for 8 days in the lead-up to Christmas.

Well, to be honest, the timing couldn’t have been worse… after all the Christmas season is the time of indulgence, Christmas markets, gatherings with friends, celebrations… it’s certainly not the time to live on a very tight budget!

However, I put a lot of thought into what I would eat as spending £8 on groceries for 8 days is not much – not in London, and in fact not anywhere in the world! I went through various recipe books and identified a variety of meals with cheap ingredients I would buy and cook.

I ended up going to three different supermarkets to compare prices before I bought all my groceries. I also put £1 aside for ingredients I already had in my cupboard, such as seasoning and spices - which left me with a meagre £7 for 8 days! I was well aware that simply going to the supermarket and picking up random bits and pieces for this little money wouldn’t work (well). Some more thought was required!

I cooked three meals per day – breakfast, lunch and dinner, no snacks.

My first day of Live Below the Line went well…ish. Of course, nothing bad happened, and I ate £1 worth of food, but I greatly missed my additional breakfast ingredients, such as nuts, seeds, dried cranberries and soya yogurt. I guess, missing food makes you appreciate it more when you do have it.

Still needing to get my veggies for the week, I went to my local market and was pretty stoked to only spend £1.66 on all my (fresh!) fruit and veggies. What a bargain!

As I was paying for my produce, the discussion opened up with the market lady, and we talked about my Live Below the Line challenge. She asked me straight away if I had been to any developing country where people live in extreme poverty. Without giving me a chance to respond she continued saying she’s been there, she’s seen it all. “You can’t compare it” were her last words that she repeated a few times before she shifted her attention to the next customer.

So what’s a quid got to do with ending extreme poverty then? The World Bank defines extreme poverty as what you could buy in the US in 2005 for $1.25, today roughly the equivalent of £1 here in the UK. There are 1.4 billion people in the world who live off this tiny amount every day. That little money has to cover everything, health care, education, shelter… not just food and drink.

I knew the market lady was right. I was only Living Below the Line for food and drinks, and although I went to bed hungry a couple of times, I knew I couldn’t, and never attempted to, compare my experience to the struggle 1.4 billion people face every day – the lack of choice whether to spend the little money you have on medication for a sick family member or on food for the whole family, hoping the family member gets better without any medication.

My last day of the challenge was rather interesting… only a couple of days before Christmas I had to catch a plane to Norway to spend the holidays with my family. Although I was rather organised and took my pre-cooked food with me on the plane, I found myself washing all my clothes when I arrived as my food had leaked in my bag. Luckily I could still eat the food otherwise I would have had to go without dinner on my last day of Live below the Line.

And boy I was challenged many times during the 8 days! Once I became extremely hungry and thirsty in central London and had to take the hour long journey back home to eat my food before spending another hour heading back into central London to meet friends. I also had to reject free food from friends, drink nothing but tap water and even not eat at a farewell dinner!

Live Below the Line certainly opened my eyes and gave me a glimpse of what it’s like to live without having the choice of quickly grabbing food and drink while out and about. But I never compared my situation to that of 1.4 billion people worldwide.

My attempt on doing the challenge was not to compare the situations because, as the lady from the market stall said, there is no comparison! How could I possibly compare my challenge to someone living in one of the poorest countries in the world, where 70% or more of the population lives on £1 or less a day? How could I compare myself to someone who has no choices about how to spend their little money?

My aim was to raise awareness of and get discussions going about this inequality – and raise funds for the Global Poverty Project who created the campaign in Australia in 2009 with the Oaktree Foundation.

Can you do it? Show those 1.4 billion people that you care and that you want to see an end to extreme poverty within a lifetime.

Sign-up now to Live Below the Line in the UK, Australia or the USA.

Posted by Uschi Klein (Guest Blogger) in Hunger, What Can I Do? for column Live Below the Line on Apr 18th 2011, 06:27

Promoting Volunteering

I don’t know about you, but I get a little tired of hearing about how lazy, idle and morally degenerate my generation (I’m 22) supposedly are. It just doesn’t fit. For a start, many of my friends work long hard hours in the third sector for little or no pay, and lots have spent summers volunteering their time and energy for development projects.
We all know that so-called ‘voluntourism’ – combining volunteering with travel abroad - has attracted a fair amount of debate in development circles, and can be a little controversial (for more on the merits and shortfalls of short term voluntourism see this post.
An ad for a new initiative to encourage volunteering abroad - launched by David Cameron and funded by the Department for International Development - raises another important question. Watch it for yourself here:

Which images or words stuck with you after watching? How do the volunteers come across? What message do you take away from this ad?
Let’s leave aside for a minute the issues that surround the actual projects themselves – it looks like the International Citizen Service will be working with some really great organizations (like our friends at VSO and Restless Development), and I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I’m criticizing the vitally important work that they do. Instead, I want to ask some questions about the way this ad portrays young volunteers, and crucially, what kind of motives it encourages.
It advertises the “ultimate volunteering experience”, a chance for 18-22 year olds to be part of “the UK’s global volunteering A team.” Is that an appropriate choice of words? The ‘A team’? The emphasis on the experience that you, the volunteer, have? In my mind, I now have all kinds of macho men on action adventure missions – not a picture that corresponds to my own experiences of volunteering in Uganda a couple of years ago.
Voluntourism, if done right, can be beneficial for all concerned. Educating people about development issues is crucially important, as is challenging prejudiced assumptions and stereotypes about other cultures and countries – and arguably there’s no better way to do this than to go and immerse yourself in a foreign culture.
Obviously this isn’t and shouldn’t be the primary aim of overseas development projects.
But I’m not convinced that this ad reinforces the kind of values or encourages the kind of attitudes that you might assume motivate effective volunteers or inspire a lifelong sense of social responsibility. Listen to the language, the phrasing and the overall tone of this ad, and tell us what you think – here at the Global Poverty Project we’d be really interested to know if this kind of thing would appeal to you, or if it’d more likely to put you off!
A few examples that concern me:  
  • “You go across hoping to change Africa. You return knowing Africa changed you.” - from this ad, I don’t get the clearest idea of exactly WHO the government considers it most important to make a difference to.
  • “Doing this training has given me so much knowledge”- that may well be the case, but is that the point? Should volunteering in Africa be promoted as training or practice for working in the ‘real’ world, or as something that looks good on your CV?
  • “You need to be there, you need to feel it, you need to see these things.” – I’m not sure about this tone. I wouldn’t want to give people the impression that if they personally don’t have the resources to voluntour, that they then can’t contribute to the fight against extreme poverty in other important ways – by getting involved in campaigns to change the structures – unfair trade practices or illegitimate debts for instance - that keep people poor.
The idea is that the new ‘International Citizen Service’ will enable young people from the UK to “make a real difference to some of the world’s poorest people”. Cameron’s own message was that the "International Citizen Service will not only help the world's poorest communities, but it will be a life changing experience for our young people: giving them new perspectives, greater confidence and higher aspirations."

The projects themselves might help to break down pernicious cultural stereotypes, and foster a kind of thinking about the world that goes beyond what the world has to offer me. But does this advert for those projects also do that? What impression does it leave you with?

Posted by Becky Driscoll (GPP Intern) in What Can I Do? for column Perspectives on Poverty on Apr 5th 2011, 11:38

Aussie TV challenges you to Live Below the Line

Global Poverty Project Australia Board Member and Australian of the Year Simon McKeon was on Sunrise on Monday, challenging Australians - and people all over the world to get involved in Live Below the Line.
Watch it above, and sign up below:
United Kingdom -
United States -

I'm hungry. In fact - I'm ravenous.


Dennis Marcus Lived Below the Line in September 2010. He shares his experience with us here.

I’m hungry. In fact – I’m ravenous. Not even for quantity of food, but just for something that has taste. Anything has set me off in the last four days – the smell of a microwaved meal, walking past any cafe or just even talking about food leaves me in a fantastical weak-kneed state.

Why am I so hungry? Because for eight days, I’m living below the line – in extreme poverty.

1.4 billion people around the world live on less than what you can buy in the US for a $1.25 a day (2005 ppp). It’s enough for some rice, some vegetables, cooking fuel and some clean water to make two basic meals. Then there’s 10 cents left over for everything else in life – housing, transportation, education, clothes, healthcare – anything else they might need to survive.

So what’s happening?
We've made great progress - reducing the proportion of the world's population living in extreme poverty from 52% to 25% since 1981 - in my lifetime.

In 2000, 190 world leaders came together to the UN to create the Millennium Development Goals - eight goals that will halve extreme poverty by 2015. From 20-22 September 2010, the UN met to discuss the progress of the MDGs and how we can ensure we achieve them. It’s was vital meeting to the future of those 1.4 billion people.

So for eight days I was only allowed to spend 93p a day on food, with which I’ve been able to buy some muesli, milk, fruit and pasta – or put differently: a marathon of boredom for my taste buds.

Why am I living in extreme poverty?
I’ve been very lucky in my life – the example of my family has both been quite daunting but most of all inspirational. My South African family gave up so much, in some cases even their lives, for what was the challenge of their generation – ending apartheid.

When I was ten, at my granddad Oupa Natie’s 80th birthday in South Africa, I ended up sitting next to an old man on the sofa in our lounge. I had no idea really who he was – but no person has had greater impact on my life. Nelson Mandela was one of Oupa Natie’s oldest friends. I was in awe of him that day and I immediately went to find out everything I could about him and the giants that he stood shoulder to shoulder with (it’s him I blame my innate geekiness on!).

Reading about how these men dreamt and hoped for a better world inspired a life-long desire to make a difference. It’s a desire that has informed my life so far – and it’s why I’m living below the line.

Raising funds
So far the generosity of people at work has stunned me – I’ve even revised my target up to £750. My boss has also generously agreed to match anything I raise up to £1000.

It’s been an amazing, tough week. I’ve come face to face with only a fraction of the challenge of extreme poverty – having to make careful decisions about what to buy, when to eat, when to go hungry. That hasn’t even included the other decisions. For example – what would you do if you were in charge of the spending and a member of your family became ill? Would you pay for them to go to the doctor or would you pay to feed your family? If you pay for the doctor, then your family goes hungry. If you feed your family, you can only hope that your brother, your sister, you mother or father – whoever it is – gets better.

I’m not sure I could make that decision.?But this week has shown me that a partnership of people can take action – governments and leaders, charities and local communities, people living in extreme poverty themselves and people just like us. Working together we have and can achieve great things as we face the challenge of our generation.

Dennis eventually raised £2400 from his 8 days Living Below the Line. You can sign up with thousands of others taking the challenge at:

UK -
AU - 

US -

Posted by Dennis Marcus (Guest Blogger) in What Can I Do? for column Live Below the Line on Mar 29th 2011, 10:59