Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Attending two poverty reports

So, on I went this morning to the launching ceremony of two reports issued by the Ministry of Social Affairs and UNDP. With titles like "The Mapping of Human Poverty& Living Conditions in Lebanon, in 2004"and "Poverty, Growth, & Income Distribution in Lebanon," I knew these were two reports that I didn't want to miss.

The ceremony itself was a classical Lebanese event. It was a bit late, first of all. Many of the people present seemed to know each other, which made me feel like that, in many ways, this was a social get-together for the usual crowd. Mostly older people. Though there were the younger women there as well. Then the event officially started with a national anthem, where people had to stand up and women and men alike had to boast how our country is a "manbitun lil rijal."Anyway... the whole thing was an interesting presentation of 2 important reports (at least because it's good to have that data available to us), though I do wonder why the publication of reports about poverty does not seem to invite low-income individuals. Because such presence would definitely create a different dynamic than having all of us middle class people looking at these statistics and treating them as charts and figures.

Thankfully, there were plenty of handouts for me to take home, as well as the reports themselves. Because there was a lot to process in those two hours. Some things stuck, however. Like, how female headed households represent only 14% of families in Lebanon, but 44% of them live in poverty—mostly those whose heads are women widows. How a change in the health conditions or physical ability of the breadwinner is one factor of sinking into poverty. How many low-income families are actually older couples, or families with many children to support. How there may not be a large number of people living in extreme poverty, but there is a large percentage of people who are living below the poverty line. And, very importantly, how there should be policies that are biased to low-income people and families.

Ya3ni, to make a long story short, these reports are good to have out there, and you usually do get to learn one or two things from attending the launching of them; but mostly, as many of the attendees there noted, it's about what we do with the reports that matters: how we use them to come up with viable initiatives and policies; making sure that all these resources that went into making these reports will ultimately become a good investment into improving the lives of low-income individuals and families and dealing with the socio-economic and cultural problems that locks them into poverty in the first place.