Poverty StoplightFundación Paraguaya has developed a tool to help families self-assess their poverty level and develop a personalized plan to improve their status.

Named the Poverty Stoplight, the initiative uses technology and various methodologies to create a custom poverty elimination plan, breaking down an overwhelming situation into smaller, more manageable problems and putting families in charge of their situation.

First, families take an online visual survey to determine their level of poverty. They are assessed on six different groups of poverty indicators: Income and Employment, Health and Environment, Housing and Infrastructure, Education and Culture, Organization and Participation and Interiority and Motivational.

Through a technology software developed by Hewlet Packard, each family receives 50 poverty indicators of red, yellow or green (red = extreme poverty, yellow = poverty, green = not living in poverty). For instance, fetching water from a contaminated river is an extreme poverty/red indicator, while having a water faucet in the house is a green/non-poverty indicator.

Trained members under Fundación Paraguaya work with each family based on their strengths and weaknesses in each category. The mentors make families aware of the tools they have within themselves that can be used to build a life out of poverty.

The Poverty Stoplight technology also provides information on neighbors who are not living in poverty and may be able to help them build homes and businesses.

The goal is to disrupt the typical cycles families in poverty go through, improving their status for their children and future generations.

The Paraguayan Government has been using the technology to refocus social workers on the main problems contributing to poverty.

A Google map overlay of Poverty Stoplight families highlights main poverty contributors, such as lack of proper vaccinations, clean water or proper sanitation. This overview allows social workers to provide the proper help to families in need and give them a jump start towards a better life.

Poverty Stoplight has had much success in helping impoverished families build a better life. In its first three years of operation, they have been able to help the welfare of around 18,000 families (92,000 people).

USAID has been a big contributor to the program, providing $500,000 in funding alongside other donors (who donated a total of $1 million). “This replicable project illustrates how relatively small amounts of foreign assistance can generate promising, tangible steps toward reducing poverty,” notes USAID.

Based upon a family’s motivation and the skills they have, a plan can be constructed to not only reduce their level of poverty but to eliminate the poverty cycle altogether. The customization of the project and effectiveness of the technology is what makes Poverty Stoplight as promising as it is.

Casey Marx

Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in Sri Lanka
In many ways, poverty in Sri Lanka reflects its tumultuous history.

From 1983 to 2009, this South Asian country of 20 million was embroiled in a civil war pitting the rebellious Tamil Tigers against the state government. Rebel forces controlled the north and east of the island nation while the army held the center and south. Seven years after the Tigers’ defeat, poverty persists in the former rebel provinces. But progress has come steadily for the Sri Lankan people.

A recently released World Bank assessment of Sri Lankan poverty finds that less than 7 percent of Sri Lankans now live below the poverty line. This is down from 22.7 percent in 2002, 15.2 percent in 2006 and 8.9 percent in 2010. Increasing wages, urbanization and greater domestic demand for goods have contributed to the decline. As more Sri Lankans obtain jobs in industrial and service sectors, wages grow. As wages grow, so too does demand, generating more jobs.


Poverty in Sri Lanka


However, this decline is not uniform across the country. Mullaltivu, Mannar and Kilinochchi districts in the north have poverty rates of 28.8 percent, 20.1 percent and 12.7 percent, respectively. The eastern district of Batticaloa has a rate of 19.4 percent while the Monaragela district has a rate of 20.8 percent. Information regarding most of these districts was limited until the early 2010s, as the war made survey collection impossible.

Men and women have also not seen uniform gains. While men have a labor force participation rate close to 80 percent, only 40 percent of women are active in the labor market. They also have an unemployment rate of 6 percent, which is twice as high as men.

Additionally, social service programs are limited in Sri Lanka, so not only do women suffer from a lack of employment, they also do not receive government assistance to get them through times of need.

A key challenge to be overcome by Sri Lanka is its low tax rates. According to World Finance, Sri Lanka has “one of the lowest tax-to-GDP rates in the world.” Investing in education, rebuilding infrastructure and redistributing societal wealth become difficult without adequate taxation. This leads to the absence of the skilled workers and roads necessary for businesses to flourish.

Still, with stability comes development and with development comes wealth. Following the cessation of hostilities, Sri Lankans were able to use their talent to diversify away from agriculture into industrial and service jobs, lifting millions out of poverty as a result. Sri Lankan leaders also recognize the need to spread the wealth, giving hope to millions more.

Most notably, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said, “A priority for us is the creation of more jobs that will minimize poverty and provide for prosperity for ALL Sri Lankans.” He plans to do this by making the country more attractive for foreign investment. “Towards this, we need to enhance our capacity to successfully compete in global markets while creating the necessary space for investments to come in.”

Overcoming poverty is a process. It requires stability, which Sri Lanka achieved in 2009. It requires individual initiative, which the Sri Lankan people have shown in diversifying their economy.

Finally, it requires government investment in education, infrastructure, health and social services. This final piece is essential to solving Sri Lanka’s poverty puzzle — and with strong leadership and support from the global community, Sri Lankans can look forward to a brighter future.

Dennis Sawyers

Sources: Department of Census and Statistics – Sri Lanka, The World Bank, World Finance
Sources: Borgen Magazine