Summary: In this TED Talks clip, Jacqueline Novogratz discusses issues of poverty, mobility, and public policy. She begins by arguing that poverty cannot be defined in purely economic terms, but that poverty is really about "choice and the lack of freedom." Novogratz tells about her visit to a Nairobi slum, and describes the experience of extreme poverty (tiny shacks, crowding, raw sewage, etc), and the people there who have strong aspirations for a better life. She tells the story of one such person, Jane, who had dreams of a better life. Through access to an organization that loaned money to poor individuals under lenient conditions, and with her small amount of savings (from prostitution), she was able to save money for a sewing machine and started selling jewelry and clothing that she made. Despite the fact that she increased her income to $4/day, which by local standards brought her out of poverty, she was still unable to afford to move out of slums. Her life remained very insecure, and was even driven out of her home from local ethnic riots. Later, she was able to obtain low-cost housing that had been designed to match mortgage costs to income and required savings, and allows the poor to build capital. It gave her new opportunities to escape the Nairobi slums and build longer term financial security for her family. The clip raises several important issues for interesting class discussion, including how do we define poverty? What factors shaped Jane's experience of poverty and quality of life when not in poverty? Was her ability to escape poverty based on her individual effort, or were structural factors involved? What types of public policies and programs were involved?
Submitted By: Paul Dean