A Bit of Both
This year, Advantage Africa has been heavily involved in the Make Poverty History Campaign - an attempt to change the unjust policies and practices of governments and global organisations that keep people in poverty. But we have also continued our activities at the grassroots, learning from the stories of men, women and children affected by poverty, disability and HIV/AIDS in East Africa and expanding our work among them.
In southern Uganda earlier this year I met a widowed woman called Betty. Betty (right) looks after fifteen orphaned children in her own small home, (where they sleep on the floor, three to a mattress), depending on casual work and the gifts of well wishers to pay for their food and school fees. Last year she started a small women's group in her village where she is a volunteer midwife and a passionate advocate for preventing the spread of AIDS. Betty is herself HIV positive. All in all, she is a wonderful example of the inspirational people whose work Advantage Africa seeks to support; we recently provided her group with a grant of £400 towards the cost of a new house in which the orphans she cares for can sleep in beds of their own, free of the parasites and skin diseases from which they suffered. Our future work with Betty’s group will help them to find ways of growing crops, keeping livestock and making crafts to provide the secure sources of food and income they need to care for orphans in their community.
We know that long-lasting development comes from teaching a man (or better still a woman) to fish rather than giving him a fish to eat. But it is also important to look at who owns the fishing rights, what the equipment costs, what access there is to market and who controls it, how the fish are distributed within the family and what impact the fishing has on future stocks. In the same way, our work with single parents and people living with AIDS in Uganda will go beyond small-scale partnerships with people like Betty. It will address the access of people living with AIDS to anti-retroviral drugs and the rights of single parents to inherit property and care for their children. It will attempt to influence the people in power to change the policies and practices which keep people like Betty living in poverty. In this way we aim to make an even bigger difference than we could hope for by supporting practical projects alone.
So which is better? To provide agricultural training or campaign to Make Poverty History? To promote self-help development or carry out advocacy? Of course each needs and feeds the other; we really need a bit of both.
With many thanks for supporting the work of Advantage Africa,
Andrew Betts, Director