Saturday, February 20, 2016

Touched by 'Three Generations of Women Beggars'

Charles Makakala Jr.

"We need to look at beggars with different eyes, not as a scourge on society, scum by some peoples’ definition, but as human beings who got transplanted from their natal homes by poverty; drought and lack of food security; patriarchy; insufficient infrastructure to accommodate their needs" - Leila Sheikh on 'Three Generations of Women Beggars'.

Indeed. When you are born to a mother that is 14, living on the streets from a family of beggars - unless something miraculous happens - your lot in life is already cast in iron. That is not right. 

When I was living near the city centre I used to take night walks around the places where [they] sleep. Once I saw an old woman with her back completely bent - she could hardly carry herself. The sight was heartrending, I wanted to cry out loud. The world can be a terribly cruel place to the best of us, but at least we have some hope for tomorrow. For others, it is completely hopeless. And that is just inhuman.

We can look at the government for the solution - and surely it can do more - but probably we the people have something that we can do. I once worked part-time for Compassion International, an organisation which helps linking children from poor communities with sponsors abroad to provide for their education. There were thousands of sponsors from the West, and these were normal individuals pledging USD 25 or more per month to care for these children. I saw no record that there was a Tanzanian contributing to the sponsorship program even though the amounts were pretty small and the beneficiaries were children in their own nation. 

We have talked about this in this forum I guess. We need to institutionalise philanthropy. Unlike Westerners, many Africans are probably contributing to the welfare of many people in their extended families. I have a colleague who has had the burden of taking to school and college four or five of his siblings. I have seen firsthand how this can hold a person back. But the question is: what about people like Tumaini who come from families where there is no one to fall back to? If we only divert half of the funds we contribute to have the senseless extravagant parties and ceremonies (oh, the madness!), this could be achieved.

Poverty is not a laughing matter and for many supposedly well to do Tanzanians, including myself, it is just a life shock or two from being a reality again. That is why we take national development quite personally. That may be our only hope in the future.


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