“I think part of the problem is that we are not actually getting in touch with poverty at the core, which I believe is in politics and where all the power is. The elite – they don’t want anything to do with poverty, I don’t think they are interested – it doesn’t sell newspapers.”
On 17 October, the world celebrates International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. But what does poverty actually mean?
The Oxford Dictionary defines poverty as “the state of being extremely poor”. However, it is unclear what classifies as “extremely poor”.
In economic terms, UNESCO distinguishes poverty into two types: income poverty and absolute poverty. Income poverty is when a family fails to reach a country’s predetermined threshold, while absolute poverty is internationally standarised as possessing less than $1 per day.
But none of these definitions tell us very much about what poverty means – and how people understand its significance. In honour of International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the IPF went from East to West London to find out what young people in the United Kingdom‘s capital think about poverty.
Antonina, from Whitechapel, believed that poverty didn’t limit itself to the material, but it had more to do with the “inside” of a person.
“It’s not about finance, it’s also about the inside. Nothing helps you if you are poor inside. No Louis Vuitton bag or something like that.”
In Sloane Square, one of the wealthier parts of London, Sasha, originally from South Africa, shed light on how perceptions of poverty may change according to where we come from.
“Most people here are above the line, or at least they can feed themselves adequately, while in South Africa there are people who eat every three days. So our idea of poverty is quite different in the UK and in the developed world.”
A few metres away was Josh, who voiced his opinion on poverty by saying it was “self-caused”.
“The majority of poverty is self-caused due to unfortunate events for those individuals, but I don’t think it exists in our westernised environment. It’s really rare you see it. We don’t have government, we don’t have famine.”
Ivina, originally from Latvia, believed poverty was an issue to be “dealt” with, but wasn’t sure how this could be done. She said that she sometimes donates money to charities and said that if more people did the same, things might begin to change.
“It was never an issue for me but I do know it exists. It’s something that should be dealt with somehow, I’m not really sure how, and that’s not my job to decide.”
However, Sebastian disagreed with the notion of just throwing money at charities and hoping the problem will be solved. Instead, he blamed continuing worldwide poverty on lack of awareness.
“Poverty shouldn’t be a problem anywhere in this day and age,” he said. “But because we are living a life of elusion, and we are living a life of satisfying the senses, we are not able to connect with people in the correct way.
“There is a turning of a blind eye and I think people with a lot of money in order to settle their conscience just throw money at charities, and that is their sort of escape.