If you go out into the real world, you cannot miss seeing that the poor are poor not because they are untrained or illiterate but because they cannot retain the returns of their labor. They have no control over capital, and it is the ability to control capital that gives people the power to rise out of poverty.
~ Muhammad Yunus, Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty
Well I don't fully agree what Muhammad Yunus said in the previous statement, the Bangladeshi Noble Peace price winner and leading advocate of micro-credit, even though there are certain truth in what he said.
In my opinion, I do think that being illiterate does contribute to perpetual poverty in societies that are increasingly becoming knowledge-based and remaining untrained in the right skill in the right way may keep one trapped in poverty-loop. This is particularly true for urbanized societies where agriculture is no longer the dominating sector in which necessary training/skills were received almost organically from one generation to the next and literacy had nothing to do with growing crops.
But things have changed as society and economic model changed. Yes it might be true that for abject poverty and rising out of it, one may not need sophisticated training or a certificate from educational institution, rather equitable opportunities, level playing fields are the requirements.
In the real world there happens a lot of exploitation and lot of economic repression on the poor and part of that repressive mechanism is control of capital - which Muhammad Yunus often talks about.
When I recently visited few slums in Saidpur, a small town in Northern Bangladesh, I found that even though people may have the required skill that could have ensured a decent living, the system puts in such barriers that they end up earning so poorly that the bare minimum dignity that a human being deserves to live is denied for them. They receive such small amount as wage for the products they produce can best be described as wage-slavery.
|This is how the intricate designs are made. From Saidpur Camp|
In Saidpur we noticed that there is a trend that many boutique houses of Bangladesh who sell luxurious wedding sharees and fashionable men's wear have them produced partly by people in slums of that region because of cheap labor. Even though it pays very poorly, it is better than unemployment for these people.
Because of demand and relevance, few months ago from Porshee Foundation we arranged a training for a small batch and we found out that it was quite beneficial. It instantly became means of income for the trainees, the trainer and their family. The training recepients were mostly young ladies from the camp and since such embroidery work can be done from home, it suited them most as they could take care of their children and earn extra money at the same time.
When a destitute mother starts earning an income, her dreams of success invariably center around her children. A woman's second priority is the household. She wants to buy utensils, build a stronger roof, or find a bed for herself and her family. A man has an entirely different set of priorities. When a destitute father earns extra income, he focuses more attention on himself. Thus money entering a household through a woman brings more benefits to the family as a whole.
~ Muhammad Yunus, Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty
|If we could understand the meaning of unity|
then we would know that - there is no them.
There are only facets of Us
THE PROBLEMS AND CHALLENGES
Improving living conditions
When we came to notice that how the middle men and people higher in the business chain keeps 90% to 95% of the revenue while these workers who does the most time consuming work that needs skill and patience are paid very little, I began to wonder if their work could be marked directly or through a parallel avenue.
In doing so we could ensure that these people get a reasonable wage which will improve their quality of life.
Their make shift houses consist of just a single room, common kitchen, wash and toilet area for families of 20 or more. In that very single room the parents as well as their grown up children in numbers of 3/4/5 live together as well the family of their sons also live together. Its community living but in extremely congested way. So you can imagine the living condition.
One way to improve their living standard if we can increase their income to a descent level.
What came to my mind is if embroidery work they do can be exported abroad where even if it is sold at a moderate price, this can mean fortune for them and may revolutionalize their lives in a matter of months and then they dont have to live in these appalling conditions any more. They could move out of the slums, rent a descent housing and perhaps then can begin to afford to send their children to schools and within matter of months they can be out of the severe poverty.
Material well-being can not be the only goal
While I was thinking about way to improve their life through skill training, it also occurred to me that lets say down the line these people come out of extreme poverty and become better off, how their life will change for better? The most obvious changes will be perhaps they will move into two room separate houses than their single room community style living slums, they might buy television and they might eat more healthy food.
Materially speaking, they might become better-off, but just having tv, or better toilet or more food on the table doesnt indicate real progress when it comes to spiritual understanding. We should be asking different questions such as: are these people becoming more better human beings? Are they living a more ethical life, are they grateful and happy human beings? Or being materially better off they are just the same as most other people whose life is defined by wanting of more stuff and perpetual discontent and disconnect from divine reality. If that is likely the case, we need to think of an education that will not only teach them life-skill, not only may help them to earn more money but also will teach them how to be good, loving, compassionate and caring human beings.
So we have couple of challenges here: a. How to improve their living conditions, b. How to ensure that they are enlightened human beings in mind and heart
Towards improving their living conditions, we could organize additional training. We have seen that many foreign development agencies try to import their program and impose them on people without giving it much thought about their relevancy, they dont care whether these people really want them or whether in long run their programs will benefit them.
Sufis say things are learned by their opposites. Porshee tries learning from bad examples of others that doesnt work or are not helpful in long run when it comes to sustainable human resource development. So our approach would be to talk to these people and find what they really want to do from their heart. Where if investment happen, will benefit them most when it comes to learning and applying a skill. We dont want to impose our agenda, but act in the best interest of them and it is them who should set their agenda.
Thus we wish to do sessions with people in the camp and find out what do they want from their heart and what can provide them sustainable income. For those people who know embroidery, we might try to find out more avenues to market their products, both within the country and internationally. And that's where, you, who is reading this now, may come into play. I am going to that in a moment.
Second thing that may happen for the enlightenment of their mind and heart is to develop such a curriculum which will not only educate them in worldly matters, but will also use spiritual framework to teach them the greater purposes of life, will teach them both the outward purity, cleanliness (to protect them against unwanted diseases) and inward purity and cleanliness. Spirituality is often an ignored component in development work and we want to make a difference in that.
The incentive based model which is often employed by western development agencies are fundamentally flawed (eg. people are paid in poor nation to go to school which in long run destroy the real value of education for a poor parent and the moment the project stops, they stop sending their children), so instead of that we wish to work with motivational model and nothing is more motivational than spiritual and haqiqat based model.
For example if someone is taught the real value of education instead of being paid for going to school, one will try their best to finish their education. There is an inner motivation that works. But if we offer cash to parents to send school (incentive), first of all it keep them ignorant to the reality of why they should put effort to educate themselves and secondly it destroy the relationship of people and real inner urge for education. We have seen everywhere when development agencies work with poor people, they fall into this trap.
We believe that if we remove spirituality and higher values of human life, it is going to be a broken system. We believe that if everything is done ultimately to earn more and more money, then there is no end to it except it will produce greedy, selfish and demonic human beings who are perpetually affected by the disease of the heart called "endless want." This create one eyed monster who interpret the world through the lens of greed and want and money. This destroy higher qualities of man.
Thus from Porshee we are planning to develop a syllabus targeting mostly the young women beginning from age 8 to 20. We wish to teach them basic literacy, math (so that they can manage their affairs and are not cheated in day to day transactions), basic health and hygiene concepts, health issues particular to women, how to take care before, during and after pregnancy, child health etc. In addition to this, we wish to introduce spiritual teachings specially tailored for people with very little educational background. We want to keep it very simple, we want to go back to very simple examples and parables that our greatest teachers of humanity traditionally employed in their revolutions of heart with the goal to produce human beings who are civilized in mind and heart.
We believe human societies have got their priority wrong when they invest heavily in producing stealth bombers, smarter and smaller cell phones and larger television models while millions of children to go bed hungry in the world. We believe its possible to set our priorities right again and that begins by putting spirituality back into the equation, by not forgetting why we are here and our responsibilities towards God first, then ourselves and to other human beings.
HOW YOU MAY HELP?
There might be a number of ways you can help, some are very easy, some needs effort while other needs extra-special effort.
First please send your prayer and well-wishes to the work of Porshee. We are a very young organization and find ourselves to be utterly small in terms of our capabilities. Despite that we are unique in a sense that all people involved here are professional in their own field and dont rely for their livelihood for their work for Proshee. Thus so far we have almost zero administration cost. All the donation collection goes toward the beneficiaries. There is no remuneration accepted by its core Team. This is done for the sake of Allah, fisabilillah, not for monetary compensations.
Secondly I am looking for places where the embroidery skill of these people can be utilized, marketed. It could be sold in a local boutique shop or at some friends store if you know any such outlet. We could receive the requirement, create sample and send for approval and can take it from there. So if you are living in say USA or Canada or Spain or anywhere right now and reading this and you may know or feel inspired that yes you may try give us some sample work requirement, some order that ultimately can be turned into a business for yourselves, a Social Business where the goal is not profit maximizing but helping others for the sake of the One, a spiritually powered Social Business so to speak. It could be just 10 set of clothes only to begin with.
Few Sample of Works from Saidpur Camps - more sample can be shown if requested to sadiq(dot)alam@gmail(dot)com
|Cover for Cushions/ Pillow|
|Part of a Wedding Saree (Traditional Women's wear for Wedding)|
|Another sample stitch work that is done by hand|
If you know any boutique house that may be interested, please do drop me a line here sadiq.alam(at)gmail(dot)com or add me in Skype for chat (Skype id: sadiq.alam). You could easily turn this into a sustainable business for you, while these people can in return get a good living because we will eliminate the middle men who does nothing but turn these people into wage-slaves.
I’m encouraging young people to become social business entrepreneurs and contribute to the world, rather than just making money. Making money is no fun. Contributing to and changing the world is a lot more fun. ~ Muhammad Yunus
Here is a video of one of the person we interviewed in a camp who does beautiful embroidery work and some of her skills can definitely be marketed anywhere in the world. She and many like her can produce wonderful works with very little budget - that be perfect starting point for any business if anyone is interested to market it or order in small quantity.
|Click on the Video to watch on Youtube|
Thirdly, you could donate towards the training and education of these people. You may donate via Paypal or Bank Transfer or International Money Transfer.
Bank / International Money Transfer
Please contact me, sadiq.alam(at)gmail(dot)com for details. I may provide you bank accounts of USA, UK or Bangladesh or you use a service like Western Union Money Transfer for convenient and fast transfer
|If we could understand the meaning of unity then we would know that - there is no them. There are only facets of Us|
“Our possessions are not ours- God has given them to us to cultivate, that we may make them fruitful and profitable in His Service, and so doing we shall please Him.” ~ St. Francis de Sales
Allah sent revelation to his beloved Messenger David, "On the Day of Judgment some people will appear with just one credit of good works in their account and yet in exchange of that I shall command them to enter Paradisal Garden.
David asked, "Oh my Lord! Who are these people?"
Allah replied, "Those believer servants who run to fulfill the need of his brother/sisters. His intention is to fulfill the need, whether through himself or through others."
~ Sacred Tradition of Islam, Hadith Qudsi narrated by Ali
The Almighty has declared, "O my servants! Spend in the Way of Allah, and for you shall be spend."
One who consciously fulfill the need of others in time of distress, his/her needs shall also be fulfilled by God in return when there are no other apparent means of assistance. ~ Spiritual Law