Inequality and poverty are found in different societal structures. During my previous long-term stay abroad in India, I learned how inequality can be a state of mind. I see similar unequal patterns in Kenya, but from a different perspective. Corruption takes different forms and it happens everywhere in the world – it can be obvious or hidden in the structures of society. Corruption happens in Finland, for example, in a form of “old boy networks”. In Kenya corruption is quite straightforward: favouring one’s own tribe, family and friends happens in every level of society. Bribing is often a necessity when dealing with authorities. In my opinion, the main reason corruption is so prevalent in Kenya is the lack of a common goal among its people to develop the country.
People want to believe in equal opportunities in life. Some say that if you want to live the American dream, then move to Finland. In theory, social mobility is possible in Finland because society provides equal opportunities for individuals to attain what many claim are recipes for success – for example, a free high-class education and comprehensive social benefit system. Despite these fantastic opportunities, social mobility happens only on a small scale in Finland. Thus, even welfare society can’t guarantee equal opportunities for people. In Kenya, social stratification is even tighter and therefore opportunities to change your destiny are very limited. The middle class is growing and economy is booming in Kenya but wealth is still divided at astronomically unequal levels.
The structures of poverty are present in different layers of society: they can be found inside the family, communities, cities, governance and other institutions like gender, religion and marriage. When trying to tackle structures of impoverishment, sustainability plays a huge role when permanent results are the goal – whether dealing with development projects, governmental practices or global transformations. Development projects try to answer to the need for sustainability. Sadly, in many cases, this is not the result in the long run. For example, direct food/ cloth/ medication aid is only effective before the supplies run out, but these solutions are still common practise. (However, in humanitarian crises the need is different.) The main problem in direct aid is the dependency it creates for people receiving this aid. What are the long-term implications on impoverishment of this dependency?
Development, sustainability and structures of impoverishment are intertwined with each other in a complex way. These themes exist both in the local and the global perspective. An example about development from the grassroots level helps to understand the importance of training sustainability, long-term skills and practises.
Food for Life (FFL) is a joint project of the Scouts and Guides of Finland and the African Regional Office of the World Scout Movement (ARO-WOSM). The project is running in Benin and Niger at the moment. This project is part of the larger FFL project concept that is currently operating in eleven different countries. FFL responds to the challenge of food crisis, poverty and food security in Africa by training scouts with agricultural skills like vegetable gardening in addition to entrepreneurial skills. Moreover, strengthening the capacity of the National Scout Organizations and empowering youth are key elements of the project.
In FFL, I like the fact that the objective is to get permanent and sustainable results. The project doesn’t provide food but skills to grow food and survive – as the Chinese proverb formulates it: “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach him to fish and feed him for a lifetime”.
I have had the great opportunity to work with FFL in ARO. These kinds of projects can really create change, even if just on a small scale. After all, small change is part of the bigger picture and change always starts from individuals. Scouting has proven to be a great tool to empower the youth and to implement life changing projects in communities.
More information about the FFL project: http://foodforlife.partio.fi/in-english/
My article in Kudu mail: http://www.scout.org/node/23684
Scouting – WOSM: http://scout.org/