Wednesday, October 15, 2008

You Can't Deny the Facts

By David Hylton, Public Relations Specialist

Poverty is a global problem affecting billions of people. In 2002, Christian Children’s Fund conducted a comprehensive study on the experience and impact of poverty on children and youth.

As part of Blog Action Day, we wanted to share with you the major findings of the study. Later today we will share with you stories from children and youth detailing how poverty impacts them. Then we’ll close out the day with a post on our thoughts on how to combat poverty.

Here are the key findings from the 2002 study:
* Children understand poverty as a deeply physical, emotional and social experience. Many children in CCF programs prioritize the psychological and social experience of poverty, such as humiliation, as being more significant than any material deprivation.

* Children are more sensitive to and affected by poverty than adults realize. Children are aware of poverty’s divisive nature and feel its effects in terms of changing and constraining their relationships with family and friends.

* Children experience poverty as a continuously changing condition. This is due to the interaction of several processes at the personal, family, communal and structural level. For example, during times of conflict, distinctions such as those based on gender and ethnicity often grow for children who feel the least valued. “You feel lonely, you feel ashamed,” a 16-year-old girl from Kenya said during the study.

* Children are active contributors to their own well-being. In most circumstances, children do have options and make choices that impact their situation.

* Lastly, the range of experiences felt by children in poverty can be classified into three interrelated dimensions: deprivation (lack of essential material conditions), exclusion (on the basis of age, gender, class, etc.) and vulnerability (with regard to the changing array of threats in their environments).

To understand how poverty affects children, you have to hear it directly from those impacted. While the CCF study was taking place, here’s what one 17-year-old girl said: “Poverty means unequal relationships with others. If you are poor, you suffer from stigma. Others look at you in a certain way like you’re worthless. Feeling unimportant: No one will listen to me, no one cares for me … I’m poor, I don’t count, I’m a piece of dirt.”

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