The latest edition of Sublime Magazine is currently on the shelves, so do check it out.
As ever, it’s an eclectic mix of interviews, features and reportage all flowing from a concern for sustainable and ethical lifestyles, and this month shaped around the theme, ‘Innovate’.
As for my contribution, I’ve pitched in an awareness raiser on the subject of Microcredit. There’s a taster below, but given that Sublime is a business, you’ll have to buy the magazine to read it all.
What micro-credit has tapped into, and proven time and time again, is that those who live close to the poverty line are just as entrepreneurial as anyone else. What they lack isn’t skill but opportunity. Charity remains a vital need, especially in times of crisis, such as flood and famine. But charity is not an answer to poverty. Indeed, many have argued that it simply allows poverty to continue and enforces the fact that the poor are on the underside of history. As Muhammad Yunus himself believes, charity creates dependency and takes away an individual’s initiative to break through the wall of poverty. As a people group, the poor are too often undervalued and their skills underutilised, and that’s bad for any economy.
Though I doubt it was original to him, Bono (the lead singer of U2) has been quoted as saying, ‘You know that mantra, “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime?” Well it’s missing something. Micro-credit is the fishing rod, the boat and the net.’ To perfectly illustrate the point, Fiona Ramsey of the organisation, Kiva, tells of an Ecuadorian man who was offered a gift of $200 after his house was lost to a fire, which ravaged the slum where he lived. He refused the gift, requesting instead a $500 loan from Kiva so that he could rebuild his house, replace his fishing boat and so continue in his business. As Fiona Ramsey is right to point out, ‘This man is just one example of the poor who want to have a better life, but they want to achieve that with self-respect and dignity. They don’t want charity, they just want a chance. And when they’re given a chance, the poor can be some of the most driven, successful people that you’re ever likely meet.’
The fact is, for many of us, credit has simply become a means to consume, to circumvent that peculiar notion our parents held that if you want something you should save for it. For the world’s poor, however, credit has become a financial tool through which they are able to invest in much needed equipment in order to ply a trade or establish a business. It has also become a source of dignity rather than shame, because it allows people and communities to stand on their own two feet and contribute to development rather than have to depend on the goodwill and generosity of those who have been dealt a fairer hand in life.