To Reduce Urban Poverty, Empower

Offering a list of policy innovations in several emerging mega-cities, URB.im managing editor Josephine d’Allant argues for empowerment over charity in the battle to improve conditions for the urban poor.

2 minute read

February 11, 2013, 6:00 AM PST

By Melina Cordero


The most effective urban anti-poverty programs, d’Allant argues, are those that provide low-income groups with the “tools to help themselves.” For d’Allant, this means a focus on not only creating, but enabling employment.

D’Allant cites the case of Rio de Janeiro, where the government is expanding access to childcare services in an effort to enable the growth of two-income households. Alongside this, the government is partnering with NGOs to improve job skills and offer training courses to improve employability.

In addition to providing childcare services and training courses, d’Allant argues that increasing access to technology is another effective way to reduce urban poverty. In Jakarta, d’Allant finds pioneering work by IT activist Onno W. Purbo, who is seeking to expand affordable internet access among the urban poor.  This, d’Allant argues, is a major step towards closing the “digital divide,” which is a major barrier to not only employment, but technical skills and employability.

Next, d’Allant offers examples where new government programs are striving to improve opportunities for those facing multiple barriers to employment.  In Mumbai, a program called Mettaa employs blind individuals to give reflexology massages and, in so doing, increases both their self-sufficiency and combats the exclusionary stigmas often faced by India’s disabled.

D’Allant explores these examples further and invites others to contribute on the urb.im blog. In the quest for “just and inclusive cities,” d’Allant writes, programs that enable the urban poor to improve their own welfare are “in many ways more compassionate, and certainly more empowering, than any charity program.”

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