The biggest discrepancy between the rich and the poor in the world lies in access to basic human rights. It is a right or freedom that all humans in the world are entitled to, regardless of their nationality, gender or religious persuasion. Which is why a rights based approach to poverty is one of the most effective and fundamental ways to combat world poverty and help the disadvantaged.

A rights based approach to fighting poverty is effective because it involves providing and securing rights for those who have gone without, as well as educating them to the fact that they are entitled to such rights. With increased awareness, poverty stricken communities and individuals then gain the agency, self-determination and the power to ensure the continuation of those rights.

India in the first decade of the new millennium is in the enviable position of maintaining high levels of economic growth. Still it continues to be home to millions and millions of poor people, women, men, youth, and children-who suffer high levels of malnutrition and hunger. Poverty in India is still rampant despite an impressive economic growth. An estimated 250 million people are below the poverty line and approximately 75 per cent of them are in the rural areas. In general, poverty can be defined as a situation when people are unable to satisfy the basic needs of life. The definition and methods of measuring poverty differs from country to country. According to the definition by Planning Commission of India, poverty line is drawn with an intake of 2400 calories in rural areas and 2100 calories in urban areas. If a person is unable to get that much minimum level of calories, then he/she is considered as being below poverty line.

What are human rights? ‘Human rights’ is a phrase that is thrown around, but what does it mean and what are the fundamental human rights? The idea that humans have rights is centred on the belief that by being human, you are entitled to certain legal, moral and natural privileges. Some of the most important and basic are a right to food, shelter, peaceful governance, education and human security in the case of conflict or emergency. The rights of women and children are also especially important, with women and children in developing countries generally being the most disadvantaged groups.

When did the movement emerge? The movement emerged in the 1970s following the atrocities of war in the 20th century and particularly the genocide that characterised World War II. While the concept of human rights and liberties dates back to Classical Greek times, what is referred to the humanitarian movement and the official declaration of human rights was an aftermath of these events in which so many suffered.

How do aid organisations take a rights based approach? Aid organisations that are concerned with fighting poverty and the lack of human rights in the developing world do so by making disadvantaged people aware of their rights and helping to secure them. Through food, education and health initiatives, these organisations aim to the resources available to them in the developed world to help secure them and create communities that can continue to maintain these rights for themselves. An example of a rights based initiative is a child sponsorship program.

According to UNICEF, at least 80 percent of the world’s population lives on less than $10 a day. In parts of Africa, that figure drops to just $1 a day. Nearly half the world’s 2.2 billion children live in poverty. Of those, 24,000 die each day because of sickness or starvation. In some of the poorest countries, one in five children dies before age 5.

We in the West are much more fortunate. Few of us have ever known real hunger or deprivation. We have our own sorrows and difficulties, but, thank God, we (and our children) more often than not have food, clean water, shelter and medicine.

Also, in this “global village” of ours, don’t we have a collective responsibility to support those most in need? At the first Human Solidarity Day in December 2006, U.N. officials pointed out that not only should everyone be joining together to help the poorest people but we should also find ways to break the poverty cycle.

Crucially, every little bit helps. Every cent adds up. Every action spreads a little ripple. Every prayer is heard. We can each act as advocates for those little ones without a voice. We can demand more effective political action. We can learn more about the causes of world poverty and how it is best addressed. We can donate, raise funds, and support both our church groups and international support groups. We can make a very real difference to an individual child through child sponsorship. A child can be fed, made well and educated through our personalefforts.

And we can tell others within our sphere of influence that child poverty isn’t someone else’s problem. It’s ours, too. And we can make a difference.

I shall leave you with this one last thought. I have heard this said several times recently, if everyone in the western world gave one $ 1 each poverty would be eradicated.


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