Genuine participation is about the right to be taken seriously as a human being

October 17th is the United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, a day that ATD Fourth World created and lobbied for. It is day when the voice of people living poverty and hardship is at the centre, where they have the platform.

The theme this year is “Moving from humiliation and exclusion to participation: ending poverty in all its forms”..

Kathy in preparing a presentation to be shared at the Scottish Assembly for Tacking Poverty speaks about how genuine participation is really about the right to be taken seriously as a human being: to have your intelligence recognised, your pain acknowledged and your desire to act understood.
These are her very important words on participation and powerlessness:

Why should money define who we are? We are meant to live in a democracy where everyone’s voice is important. Instead we have a centralised bureaucracy dictated to by career politicians who are not listening or representing ordinary people.

Our society is run by people and organisations even NGOs, who have had money, and who have had opportunities in life and a good education, who go to work then go home again not knowing what the harsh realities really are like to live with. But because of the position and status and power they hold, they think they have a right to have opinions and make decisions about us and our lives. Thus causing barriers, powerlessness and consequences on our lives.

There are some NGOs who, when people feel helpless to know how to help others, are rude and ignore people who live in the realities. We might not have money but we need manners and respect from institutional professionalised charities, and government. People who live in poverty are intelligent. We do have a brain and many talents and skills.

We are much more than something to be decided about, herded from one opinionated social policy to another, born of popular opinion to be pandered too. We are all part of a human family living many struggles. Money, degrees opportunities in life will not define us because it’s only luck that people have those things. We cannot completely control what happens in life but homelessness, poverty can happen to anyone.

Will the hierarchical structures and bureaucratic remits and policies be enough to combat poverty in contemporary times? Is it enough to stop voting because it does no good because politicians don’t listen? Or let charities, that do not represent most of British society, speak for people who cannot access them, and are excluded from having a voice in any process.

Perhaps its time to look at coming away from comfort zones to have a voice, no matter who we are, as equals. It’s our lives that we live, any decisions made about us by others that affects us, means we should expect to have humanity and respect and have a voice and say in all of it. Our lives matter!!!!

Kathy brings home the truth that deep and meaningful participation requires deeply respectful relationships with people in poverty. Can we meet her challenge?

by Kathy and Tom
​ATD Fourth World