Opportunity International Australia is driven by the complex needs and aspirations of families living in poverty. When planning for a family’s participation in our programs, we explore its journey to freedom, its pathway out of poverty. We ask: “What will give the family choices?” and “What will give the family purpose?”
We see women as the agents of change in developing countries. Women are the heroes of the story. They are the ones who are not only agents of change in themselves and their families, but also in their communities.
Several loan recipients I’ve met believe it’s important to help their community as well as run their little businesses. When they have the opportunity to do something completely out of their comfort zone – like becoming the health champion of their village – they embrace it with gusto.
In India, we partner with a health leader program where women learn to be the health champions in their community. Kum Kum is a health leader in Uttar Pradesh who teaches her community about preventative health, first aid, nutrition and women’s health. She’s a leader and highly respected. When Kum Kum visits another village, women go to her with their health problems. While she can’t treat their concerns, she gives them advice and encourages them to see a doctor if appropriate.
Before they become health leaders, many of the women I’ve met don’t have an identity apart from, at best, someone’s wife or daughter-in-law. After becoming businesswomen and health leaders, the women are important in their community. They are the shop keeper who sells food and clothing, or the go-to person in the community on health issues, or they help at the local school. So, it’s a journey from lack of options to choices, fulfilment and purpose. That’s to us why we exist. That’s our purpose. That’s why we do what we do and that’s why our supporters journey with us - to help these women to be agents of change.
Opportunity has a broader social mission than economic change. Poverty is not just about money. It has many faces, so it’s more useful to look at it in terms of power. Is a woman empowered? Can she make decisions in her family? Is she at risk? Is there a domestic violence issue in her home? So, we partner not only with financial organisations that can make loans, we partner with family violence counsellors. We partner with health education organisations. And we measure movements out of poverty.
We also measure a raft of social indicators. For if there is no school, or if families are always sick from the polluted water in the well (because there are no toilets in the community and everyone defecates in the open), then how can a woman run a little business? How can she be a businesswoman if she is always sick? How does she educate her children if there is no school? We need to know about those things as well. That’s why we’re concerned with water, sanitation and health. We fund water and sanitation programs. We fund health programs. It’s different for different people in different environments.
There's no silver bullet to poverty alleviation and that's why when we look at impact we look at the whole effect of our programs on the lives of families living in poverty. Their pathway out of poverty. How they are progressing on the journey out of poverty.
If you would like to help families make the journey out of poverty click here.