Tag Archives: Poverty

Today would be a good day to be in a village in Malawi

It’s time for another Monday travel post from me, talking about somewhere in the world I have visited and why I would like to be back there today. One of my goals in travelling has been to challenge the way I see the world and its people, to remind myself that the way I live is not the way everyone lives, and to consider what it means to be a global citizen, and in particular, one of the wealthiest 1% of global citizens.


And so one of my goals in sharing these travel posts is to challenge those who read them likewise. To challenge your perceptions of people and places around the world, and to challenge you in how you respond to your place amongst them.


Today, I’m thinking about a rural village I visited in Malawi. I’m not going to name it, and I’m trying to be very careful about which photos I share, because I am conscious of how easy it is for someone like me with access to this kind of platform to unthinkingly exploit those who do not have the same voice or opportunity I have to share their own stories. I want to be very careful because I know that I do not fully understand their stories, and I do not want to do them an injustice by misrepresenting them. I certainly don’t want you to feel sorry for them. But I do want to remind myself, and hopefully you, that there is much for us to learn from their stories, and to be challenged by, once we realise the privilege and power we don’t even recognise we have compared to them.


What did I love about this village in Malawi?

The hospitality and welcome of the people to an outsider like me.


Their willingness to share so freely what they have, not realising that their generosity with the relatively little they have puts me to shame when I think about all I have and yet how tightly I can hold onto it.


The food (or some of it)! Although I find nsima (maize porridge) itself a bit stodgy and tasteless, I am amazed at the flavour that can be brought to the relishes eaten with it with a few simple ingredients. My favourite was futali, a sweet potato and peanut dish that tastes so much better than I could have imagined combining those two things could.


The landscape. Wide open spaces, fresh air, glorious sunsets, a blanket of stars at night.


What did I learn from this village in Malawi?

The significant reminder that the way I live is not how most of the world lives. The stark reality of the fact that my life is privileged in a way that most people will never comprehend.


The everyday realities of living in a place where the average income is around $2 a day and more than 1 in 10 adults are HIV positive.

The babies room at the village orphanage – heartbreaking

The huge difference a small investment of foreign aid can make, and the exponential difference people willing to live in this place and walk day by day with the community can make.

The simple provision of a water pump like this has the potential to change lives by reducing disease or allowing girls to go to school instead of cart water long distances

And most of all, that too many of the maxims my society seems to unthinkingly live by are actually lies. Having more does not make you happier. Waiting until you feel you have all you need to give does not make you more generous. Having a beautifully presented home does not make you more hospitable. Wealth is not the deserved reward for hard work.  And saying “charity begins at home” does not absolve us from responsibility to care about people in other places, but rather calls us to extend the love and mercy we have learned in caring for our families to those most in need, however far away they may be.


As my government prepares to hand down its budget this week, with predicted cuts coming out of our already depleted foreign aid giving, this challenges me greatly today.

How can you make a difference to world poverty this International Women’s Day?

Tomorrow, March 8, is International Women’s Day and if you’re wondering why that matters, you should read this post from last year. Globally we still have a long way to go to see an end to oppression and injustice for women and girls. But if you want to make a difference, or you want to help end world poverty, there is one key strategy I urge you find out more about and consider contributing to.

I recently celebrated a milestone birthday, and while I wanted to invite a whole bunch of friends to come together and celebrate, I didn’t want them to feel like they should give me gifts, particularly when there really isn’t anything I need. So instead, I asked them to make a donation towards something I am particularly passionate about: the education of girls. My friends blew me away by donating over $2,200 to a project focused on this significant strategy.

Why the education of girls?

For me personally, it brings together a number of my passions. As a church pastor and a theological college lecturer, I’m a teacher – that’s my vocation. I’m also a lifelong student – I have been privileged to have access to education at primary, secondary, tertiary and postgraduate levels. I’m also a woman (obviously) and I’m passionate about seeing girls and women reach their full potential. Add to that I’m a traveller who has visited communities around the world struggling with poverty, and I have seen first hand how the best strategy we know of to break the generational cycle of poverty is education, and in particular, the education of girls. And finally, I’m a follower of Jesus who believes that I am called to proclaim and work for His peace, justice and righteousness in the world today.

Currently there are up to 65 million girls in the world denied education simply because they are girls. And that is a problem not just for them personally, but for their communities, their nations, and ultimately, for all of us. Because educated girls are not married off while they are still children. Educated girls are less likely to have children while they are still children themselves. The children born to educated girls are 50% more likely to survive past age 5. The children of educated girls are much more likely to go to school themselves. Educated women are able to support themselves and their families, and much more likely to invest what they earn back into their communities. It’s a win-win-win-win-win proposition. It really should be a no brainer.

So here’s my challenge to you this International Women’s Day.

Find out more about how the education of girls can transform the world and consider how you can play a part in it. Here are some ideas for you to watch, listen to, think about and contribute to:

I showed the video below from the US government at my birthday. It gives a brief but powerful overview of some of the incredible stats on how educating girls can make an exponential difference.

Another helpful overview video comes from the girl effect.

Earlier this week, I joined with politicians, celebrities, and everyday women all over the world in posting a Throwback Thursday photo of myself at school.

Melinda Year 3
Me in Year 3*

This was in support of Up For School, who are hosting a number of IWD events around the world, and have what they hope will be the world’s largest petition – one I’d encourage you to sign – urging our governments to keep the promises they made in 2000 to ensure the right to education for those who are denied it.

There are plenty of organisations working in developing countries to overcome barriers to girls’ education. Making a donation to one of them will make a huge difference. This is a link to World Vision Australia’s Education for Girls project.

And finally, if you’ve got a bit more time to learn more, watch one or more of these inspiring TED talks by people like Ziauddin Yousafzai (Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Malala’s father) or Liberian Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Leymah Gbowee.


* Just in case you’re wondering, I’m not screwing my nose up in the photo because I’m at school. I loved school! But as my fellow Aussies should understand, there was a fly on my nose I was trying to blow away when this photo was snapped. True story!

Why do we need International Women’s Day?

For her

March 8th, today, is International Women’s Day. Lots of countries have some kind of celebration to mark the day, but still plenty of people question whether we should have a special day to celebrate women, or why there is no International Men’s Day.* (I remember as a child wondering why there was a Mothers’ Day and a Fathers’ Day but no Kids’ Day, but as I got older the answer to that question became pretty obvious, as I think the answer to this question should be!)

For me, IWD is less about “celebrating women” – while that is lovely, I absolutely agree we should celebrate the value of all people regardless of gender. For me, IWD is more about recognising that gender inequality exists in the world and it is an injustice that affects ALL of us, male and female.

… and for her
… and for her

A couple of years ago on IWD, I posted a Facebook status with some statistics from the UN – that women make up 51+% of the world’s population but earn 10% of the world’s income and own 1% of the wealth. Those are some pretty sobering statistics that I would hope prompt some reflection on all kinds of injustice in the world. What I didn’t expect was the statistic that was created in response – 100% of the men who commented on my status made light of it in some way. And these are not men I would have called sexist, chauvinistic or people who belittle women in any way. Just ordinary Aussie (Christian!) guys. That’s why I was so surprised. That’s what reminded me that we still need International Women’s Day.

I have previously written about how as a Christian I don’t always like to accept other labels, including feminist, because of the baggage of other people’s perceptions. But as a global citizen, there is no question for me that I need to speak up about what is probably the greatest injustice in the world today, because women are human beings just as men are, and until they are treated as such we are all suffering.

… and for them.

It remains terrifyingly true that 1 in 3 women will experience sexual assault during her lifetime. 75% of the 21 million victims of human trafficking each year are female, with the majority of those forced into sexual slavery.

The new World Bank report notes that despite many improvements, women continue to trail behind men on EVERY SINGLE economic measure.  There is no country on earth where women have wage parity with men. (And this is not simply about a man being paid more than a woman for the same work, although that still happens more often than you might think. The bigger problem is systemic:  jobs typically done by women are far less valued than jobs typically done by men).

This UNESCO report shows that 2/3 of the world’s illiterate adults are women, and that girls are disproportionately excluded from education. The education of girls benefits everyone, and has been demonstrated to decrease infant mortality rates, reduce HIV rates, and generally reduce the factors that lead to poverty. Not poverty for women, poverty for everyone.

So … some good things to share from today. Check some of these out:

1. UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s IWD 2014 message on how equality for women benefits everyone

2. Google’s doodle video celebrating IWD 2014

3. Buzzfeed’s list of 22 inspirational Australian women

4. Reuters article on why educating girls can help eradicate poverty

5. World Vision’s project for the education of girls – how for $35 you can make a huge generational difference and help eradicate poverty

6. And if you’ve got a bit of time, watch Chimamanda Adichie’s 30 minute TEDx talk  … especially for any woman who has ever felt she needs to apologise for being smart or opinionated or just for being female … and for any man who doesn’t understand why we still need feminism. (Thanks Tamie for putting me on to this!)

* For any men still wondering, there IS an International Men’s Day (November 19) but thanks for reading to the end to find out! In many places around the world it’s also pretty much International Men’s Day tomorrow, and Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday ….