The key to ending poverty is empowering people

The key to ending poverty is empowering people

Ending poverty isn’t about charity or top-down interventions. It’s about ensuring people have the tools to build their own better future, writes Mimi Alemayehou as she joins ONE’s board.

Great organizations — whether public, private or non-profit — that operate on a global scale tend to possess some of the same core attributes. They take a long-term view of their mission. They have a can-do mentality, refusing to be daunted by the complexity of the challenges they face. And they have passion: they are relentlessly impatient with the status quo. ONE is just such an organization.

This year, I have the tremendous privilege of joining the ONE team as a board member. I could not be more excited, as I have seen proof of ONE’s highly effective operations, accomplishments and potential first-hand, most recently in the push to have world leaders do more for women’s empowerment in Africa and beyond.

This has always been an issue close to my heart. The paths to ending gender injustice and extreme poverty are inextricably linked, and ONE has been a leader in making this case.
Unleashing the full potential of millions of women and girls around the world is a proven way to drive progress and prosperity, regardless of the country in which they reside. Put another way, we will never fully and finally eradicate global poverty until we fully and finally address women’s empowerment.

Of course, we cannot stop there. Technology that advances the quality of life, along with the energy that powers it, will continue to be an ever-greater part of the ambitions and opportunities of people around the world. Electricity powers more than the lights of towns and villages. It enables human potential through education, infrastructure and digital connections to the world beyond. It is a permanent and constantly evolving necessity.

It’s the same story with broader access to financial services, another issue of great interest to me. Many aspects of financial services for people living in poverty are fluid and unpredictable. However, one fact is clear: the future will present more and better options for financial services for all. The market at the “bottom of the pyramid” will grow, and products will proliferate.

But we need to be careful as this market evolves. We need to keep consumers —especially consumers who are new to these financial services — at the forefront of our attention. They need to fully understand the risks and opportunities of the financial services they purchase, and we need to continually and closely listen to their feedback.

People, not programs or budgets or statistics, are the essence of what ONE stands for. The key to ending poverty is realizing that development isn’t about charity or top-down interventions. It’s about empowering people and ensuring they have access to the tools to build their own better future. This belief is at the heart of everything that ONE does, which is what makes it such a compelling organisation.

So I am arriving as a member of ONE’s board with a tremendous sense of optimism. There are too many areas where the world has fallen short in recent years — from delivering a step change on gender equality, to improving the quality of education every child has a right to expect, to eradicating diseases we already know how to beat.

Refusing to accept this pace of progress will require bigger ideas and a recognition that the combination of good intentions and maintaining the current status quo won’t come close to resolving the big global problems we face. It’s also going to take more partners — partners who recognize both our shared moral responsibility and our shared capacity for change.

ONE’s work is vital and exciting because it embodies that type of inclusive ambition. We recognise that we are all in this together. We will only overcome our challenges by working together. I can’t wait to get started.


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