Good stories to tell: Using Agents of change to Reduce Poverty one project at a time.

1 September 2017 | Dawn Maulana | Opinion

Good stories to tell: Using Agents of change to Reduce Poverty one project at a time.

One of the millennium development goals is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Poverty is a global phenomenon that many countries are still battling with. My question as a development practitioner is, can we as a universe eradicate poverty completely especially in these difficult economic climates and inequality issues around the world that make it difficult for poor people to come out of poverty? I beg to differ. I believe that we can rather reduce extreme poverty and this can be seen through the various programs implemented by various Non-Profit Organisations (NGO’s). In South Africa, various polices and legislations have been established in order to try and curb poverty. One of the avenues is through the Corporate Social Investment (CSI) programmes.

South Africa is still haunted by past injustices formed during the apartheid era and this has resulted in the continued vicious cycle of poverty. As we all know, the South African government is over burdened with the delivery of basic services and are often unable to help quickly. Two decades after our transition to democracy, this has induced a sense of impatience over the pace of poverty eradication in South Africa. In order to meet up with all the demands by its citizens, the government has partnered with the private sector and Non-Profit Organisations (NGO’s) to try to speed up change. South Africa has numerous policies governing Corporate Social Investment (CSI) which have ultimately resulted in partnerships between the private, NGO sector and government being forged. These efforts have become an asset to South Africa as together, private, NGO sector and government, try to combat poverty.

From what I’ve witnessed during the past year while on an internship at Tshikululu Social Investments NPC: 

I would like to acknowledge the great work being through these partnerships. Although poverty is difficult to eradicate, it is possible to make a difference in poor communities one project a time. The Private sector has really come to the party and invested millions into the NGO sector who desperately need the funds to help communities come out of poverty.

My first site visit, as a Social Investment Analyst Intern, was to a project in Soweto which was an eye-opening experience, to an organisation called African Children’s Feeding Scheme. Through the visit, I leant how it still does take a village to raise a child and how that it is important to engage communities in projects, so there is mutual understanding. This also creates a sense of ownership and pride. The leader of that community project spoke of how the parents of the children are involved with the vegetable gardens. This projects assists beneficiaries to have an improved living standard by providing nutritious food and income for them. The African Children’s Feeding Scheme also provides training on gardening skills which not only develops the parent’s skills set but also protects the environment.

The second field trip I went on was to Parys in the Free State, where the Field Band Foundation which was having its annual national youth performance event. It was quite an experience I must say. We held a focus group where we got to interact with the beneficiaries of the Foundation. Some of the experiences they shared were around being comfortable with who you are, respect, equality, a sense of self pride, identification, inclusivity, achievement, guidance and reduced peer pressure. What I enjoyed the most was the live performance as all of the above mentioned positive human-attributes were expressed in the way the beneficiaries performed. The bands played so well and you could clearly see the joy on the beneficiaries faces as they played their instruments and put on a professional display.

In conclusion, it is through the policies governing CSI in South Africa that partnerships forged with the Private sector, that NGO’s have become such an impressive asset to our country. Increasingly, the benefits derive to the poorest and historically most disadvantaged of South Africa’s communities. It is possible to improve poor people’s living standards one project at a time. All it takes is collaboration, dedication and hard work.