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International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

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October 17, 2017

Today is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. On this date 30 years ago, over a hundred thousand people gathered in Trocadéro, Paris — where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was originally signed in 1948 — to honour victims of extreme poverty and hunger. A commemorative stone was placed in the Trocadéro Human Rights Plaza, marking a meeting point for those that want to gather each year and recommit to the cause. Other countries around the world host similar gatherings, including Germany, Switzerland, Burkina Faso and Canada. This year’s theme of “recognizing that all people must come together to end poverty and discrimination in order to build a sustainable future”  highlights the importance of these gatherings.  

Commemorative Stone for International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

Every country, regardless of size or GDP, faces the problem of poverty, and governments around the world are working to find solutions. For example, the Nigerian government is implementing a program called N-Power, focused on empowering youth through “large-scale skill development” and building inclusion and productivity. While addressing Nigeria’s plans for the eradication of poverty at the United Nations in New York, Assistant Director of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Arnold Jackson, said that the program’s aim is to “drastically reduce unemployment and by extension reduce poverty,” while paying special attention to growth in the agricultural sector. In addition, N-Power will act as a platform for diversifying the economy in Nigeria. This multifaceted program aims to help young Nigerians become “solution providers in their communities.”

In Kenya, the government is looking into offering free secondary education to families starting in early 2018, which would lessen the burden of school fees for many. Savings resulting from this program may help families devote more money to health care, housing and healthy food, among other basic services.

Meanwhile, it may surprise many Canadians to learn that 4.8 million people in Canada live in poverty. According to the 2017 Poverty Trends Report, Canada’s most vulnerable groups are working age adults (14.7%), single working-age adults (42.9%), persons with disabilities (23.0%), children in single-parent families (43.4%), Indigenous peoples (25.3%), and new immigrants and refugees (34.2%). The report also emphasizes the fact that most adults living in poverty are, in fact, employed.

The report also breaks down the regions in Canada with the highest poverty rate, with Nunavut (29%), Manitoba (18.2%) and the Northwest Territories (16.2%) leading the provinces and territories. In a Huffington Post column, Joe Gunn points to the report and asks the reader, “Would you have guessed that Canada’s city with the highest poverty rate is now its largest city, or that some medium-sized cities have poverty rates almost double the levels of Toronto and Vancouver?” Gunn explains that Canada still has far to go in recognizing these injustices.

In response to these concerning statistics, Canadian anti-poverty activists are taking a stand today – much like the thousands that did in Trocadéro in 1987. Chew on This! is an initiative happening across the country as a way to offer some “food for thought” on the country’s poverty problem. Over 80 teams in many Canadian cities will engage people in the streets by offering lunch bags and materials that raise awareness of calls for an anti-poverty plan from the federal government.

Peter Gilmer of the Regina Anti-Poverty group for Chew on This! told the CBC that the cross-Canada October 17th movement is all about bringing greater awareness: “These are not just public policy issues….They’re basic issues that need to be ensured for all of Canada.”

Follow Chew on This! on Twitter to see updates and visit their website to find out where events are taking place on this year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.