Thursday, April 28, 2011

An overdue post - Part II.

We all know of the horrors of poverty and starvation and disease. We see it every day on television, with various ads beseeching us to make donations, to help these people on the other side of the world, who are suffering endlessly, while we plonk our fat arses on the couch and munch on our potato chips.

But most of us, who are not insanely rich, don't think that we can afford to spare $30 a month, even if it does save 10 lives, because then we wouldn't have the money to both pay our mortgage, and go out to drink on the weekend. We don't want to lessen our quality of life.

Others don't feel that feeding a child for a week is enough. So not enough, in fact, that it's not worth donating anything at all. Maybe we doubt that our hard-earned cash is going to go to the children in any case, perhaps it'll just line the pockets of the organisers. That's a risk we're not willing to take.

Which is fair enough, I mostly feel the same way.

Every time a Unicef representative, or a Medecines Sans Frontieres rep, or a World Vision rep, comes up to me in the street asking me to donate $3 to give a child food for a week, or to give them clean water for a week, I can't help but think that that is not really going to solve the problem. These are quick fixes, completely dependent upon continued donations.

We are not enabling these people to take care of themselves, to better their own lives. We are not enabling them to be self-sufficient.

And to me, this all boils down to one problem; overpopulation. I don't mean that the Earth cannot sustain more people, this isn't about that.

What I am saying is that people in developing countries, nearly all of the time, have more children than they can afford. If a parent can hardly afford to feed herself, how is she supposed to have a decent standard of living, how is she supposed to make the most of her meagre opportunities, while carrying and supporting a child, or two, or three?

If a woman had the choice to limit her family to one, or maybe even none, she would have more resources to devote to herself, or her child, than she would if she were to have five or six children.

As I see it, the only real way to help these people is to provide them with education, and birth control. This includes contraception, and abortions.

Look at how hard it is to get, and keep, a job in this economy now, without the highest of qualifications. It's like that, times a hundred, in developing countries. It is virtually impossible to do what is needed to have a living, while having a child. This results in women having to rely on men entirely for financial support. Now, these are countries where womens' rights are still woefully lacking, and these women are abused, raped and belittled daily, in many cases, without the power to do anything about it, because they have become slaves to their reproductive systems.

If these women are given control of their own bodies, we will likely see an increase in educated girls (who might otherwise fall pregnant due to rape or incest, and be married off), we will see women being more represented in the workforce, more able to support themselves, we will likely see a decrease in the number of children people have (leading to less strain on poor families) and we will eventually see a rise in the conditions these people currently live in. This may or may not take some time, depending on the culture of the country, but I'm confident that if the services are offered, there are women who will use them.

If we really want to help, we need to empower the half of the population that carries the burden of childbirth, that does more work than the other half without equal recognition or equal pay (source), and who have been subjugated so long that they do not have the means to empower themselves.

Who are the ones, typically, opposed to this?

The religious right. They seek to legislate based on their personal morality, in countries where the people do not have the power to fight for their rights, like we do in developed countries.

If missionaries and aid workers really gave a shit about poverty and improving the lives of the poor, they would think more long-term than "this child here is hungry now, I need to ask people to feed it for the next 10 days". They would think, "How can I prevent more children like this from starving every day?".

So, if you really want to help the poor in a meaningful way, I contend that it starts with stamping out the pro-life movement here, so that funding is cut off, and they cannot spread their evil in countries where people are helpless against it. It starts with supporting the pro-choice movement, so that they can receive the funding required to open abortion clinics and start sex education programs in countries that need it.

I contend that if you want to donate, donate to people who are building abortion clinics, who teach sex education, who seek to make contraception more readily available, and in doing so, you will give the poor the chance to help themselves. I don't think they will disappoint. 


  1. Plus, it's hard to get a job in a third world country when there's barely any to begin with. Lose-lose situation, really :/

  2. The issue that this doesn't address is the fact that the life span of adults in these countries is a lot lower due to disease and war. Many of the hungry kids are not a product of over crowded families but instead have been orphaned.

    In addition, it is difficult to get people in these countries to agree to any form of contraception because they do lose so many children to malnutrition and disease.

    I do think we need to be educating and helping but in countries where there is seldom basic medical care, the thought of elective abortions seems to be one of the last ones on peoples minds.

  3. That's the point though, isn't it... they're losing all these children to malnutrition and disease, when if they had less children do begin with, they would have more resources to devote to food and medical care.

    Perhaps it's the last thought on *missionaries'* minds, but it's certainly not the last thought on womens' minds who have been raped or abused or want to finish their schooling instead of being married off. Yes, those women do exist.

  4. Well, yeah, missionaries are typically not going to be pro-abortion. Why don't the pro-abortion people raise some money and send their own missionaries? It's not like there are rules about who gets to send relief.

  5. I agree for the most part. But as for World Vision, they actually use the money to build up communities up to a self-sustaining level, "helping them to help themselves, so even though $3 isn't going to be a miracle, they do really good work with the money raised.
    Other than that, I absolutely agree with your points.

  6. Chia; Well that's what I'm saying, isn't it. People who want to provide abortions and contraception need funding. They get this funding from the government, only if we elect in a government that wants to send these services to countries that need it.

    Also, they can only raise their own funds if the public supports them, which is precisely what I'm encouraging. I'm saying the public needs to support pro-choice, rather than pro-life.

    Vic; What kind of help do they provide to help people sustain themselves? Just curious. Because all I've heard from World Vision is pleas to give them money to send them to school for a month, or give them food for 10 days, and such.

  7. To be honest, I haven't done my research properly, so I might just embarrass myself, but this is what I've heard. When someone sponsors a child, the money doesn't go just directly to food and clothing etc., but the family gets training and resources to start, for example, farming. Then they can sell their product and, besides (obviously) earning money and being able to grow their business, they can invest in other people's goods or services, thus growning the local economy. I should try to find out some details, but I think that's the gist of it.

  8. Many people are against abortions for religious reasons, contraception, on the other hand is easier now, especially with patches, and newer forms of contraception which probably will be available in the future. From a health standpoint, I don't think abortions is the better option at all.

  9. Vic; If that's true, that's quite a bit better, but even in such a situation, women almost always get the raw end of the deal..

    Diamond; I fail to see how that is relevant.

    Yes, people are against abortion for religious reasons. Nobody is forcing them to have or perform any.

    There are people against contraception for religious reasons, also.

    I am aware that contraception is easier, but it is still not accessible in the third world, and not even 100% effective in the first world, so the fact remains that unwanted pregnancies continue to occur, and probably will continue to occur for many, many years.

    Obviously abortion is not a BETTER option than contraception, however it is the safest, least expensive option in the event of an unwanted pregnancy.

  10. "Well-designed programs can bring down growth rates even in the poorest countries. Provided with information and voluntary access to birth-control methods, women have chosen to have fewer children in societies as diverse as Bangladesh, Iran, Mexico, Sri Lanka and Thailand. "

    I'll just leave this here as further support for my argument.

  11. You quite often rail against religion and I will say that the catholic church needs to tell the world that contraception is ok, but that's not the problem here.

    The problem is AIDS infected men who believe that raping a virgin will cure their AIDS. The problem is lack of education and Western interference. When people talk about our "obligation" to the other countries in the world, I want to ask, what gives us the right? All cultures went through periods of starvation, and hunger, and every culture has a story of a time that was bad for their people.

    I feel like the West in general needs to step off and let this play out - because we're not saving lives anyway, we're not teaching men to fish, we're just creating a situation where these people will be downtrodden forever out of our misguided good intentions.

  12. Really? The religious head of millions of people proclaiming that condoms make the problem worse, or do not work, is not the problem?

    I think that's a pretty huge part of the problem. Obviously, rape is also a massive problem. But if condoms were more widely used, surely the number of AIDS-infected bastards will decrease, leading to a decrease in 'cure-rape'.

    Rape in Africa is an entirely different kettle of fish altogether, and one I think has little to do directly with western occupation.

    What gives us, as people, the right to try and help other people, is basic humanity. That's what. Sure, we may fail sometimes, but that doesn't mean we stop trying. Does it make a difference whether the suffering happens in your home country or abroad? Do all people not deserve the same compassion?

    It's not the west in general that needs to step off... it's western religion that is currently spreading fatal lies that needs to step off.

  13. One western religion though. I feel like you need to isolate catholicism in this, because it's the only one not advocating for condoms and women's rights. It just also happens to be the biggest.

    I just don't think we're actually doing any good. We're hindering the natural progress of the civilization. There was a time when the most advanced civilization was in Africa.

  14. How can you tell what the 'natural progress' is? Some societies just devolve instead of moving forward.

    Sure, Catholicism is what I'm talking about.. do other western religions contribute in a significant way? I just wasn't aware that any religion apart from christianity felt the need to evangalise like this.

  15. You mentioned Africa - we have a president who believes in polygamy, that showering after having unprotected sex with a woman who is known to him to be infected with HIV will make it ok, a youth leader (extremely vocal) who calls on all woman to have more babies to support his political party, we have abortion clinics but new born babies are still found stuffed into rubbish bins or down storm drains - some still alive and that, if a woman accepts 'taxi money' after being raped then she was actually grateful for the experience. There are free handouts of condoms at all clinics but most are not used as it is not 'manly' to wear one. Beetroot & garlic cure aids as does raping a virgin. Difficult to find one as woman, although well protected by our constitution, are used & abused as & when the feeling takes a man. They are mere articles to be traded (labola) & used in menial positions. That religion has it's cross to bear for the ills of Africa is quite obvious - from Livingstone to the present they still are at it.


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